What Happened to the Emergent Church?

What Happened to the Emergent Church?

The Emergent Church Seeks to be Biblically Relevant for Postmodern People

Ten to fifteen years ago, it seemed that every time I turned around I heard something about the emergent church. I wrote about this in my dissertation, with one long chapter devoted to the topic. My thoughts on the emergent church were greatly influenced by Phyllis Tickle’s mind-blowing book The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing and Why.

What is the Emergent Church?

It’s an effort to reclaim church practices from a biblical perspective to reform them to be relevant in a postmodern culture. The emergence movement seeks to reimagine church in fresh, new ways to connect with a disenfranchised society that is open to spirituality, albeit apart from the traditional church.

At the time I speculated it was easier to find a book on the emergent church then to actually find an one in real life. Though I don’t think this was true, it certainly seemed that way. After all, the very nature of the emergent church shunned structure, organization, and hierarchical leadership. These traits made emergent churches hard to find.

Our Churches Must Emerge

When I write about the church in this blog, it’s usually from the perspective of emergence. I want to see our present-day church practices emerge from what they are to produce something more meaningful that abounds with relevance for today’s spiritual seekers.

When I talk this way, it often comes across as criticism, but I only want what’s best for the church—that is, for us as followers of Jesus—so that the church can become more than what she presently is. I write about the church because I love her and want to see her reach her potential. I want to see the church emerge to become something grander. I long to see the emergent church and wish to be part of one.

Instead of looking for an emergent church, the better solution might be to start one. Click To Tweet

A Fad or a Trend?

All this talk about the emergent church, however, was a decade ago. What about now? It’s been years since I’ve heard the phrase mentioned. Was the emerging church movement a fad that arrived for a moment and left just as quickly?

No. The impetus for the emergent church still exists. It’s just that we don’t hear that phrase anymore. Despite this, however, around the world people—who love Jesus but gave up on his church the way it’s currently practiced—are seeking out new expressions of faith community. They are emerging to do something new and something fresh. But by their very nature, we don’t hear about them. This is because the philosophy of an emerging church shuns self-promotion and distrusts marketing.

The interest in emergent churches is still there, even if the label has slipped away. Perhaps instead of looking for an emergent church, the better path might be to start one.

Discover more about this idea in the post on micro-churches.

[Read more about this in Peter’s upcoming book, Jesus’s Broken Church.]

Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.

1 Comment

  • Mike Cleveland Posted May 20, 2020 1:09 pm

    My frustration with the Emerging Church movement was its consistent, and almost infamous, lack of clarity in all communication. The gospel was assumed and hinted at, yet swallowed up in words purposefully unclear and confusing. We are not told to “go into all the world and hint at the gospel” or to “go into all the world and assume all know the gospel”, rather we are to preach it, to proclaim and declare it, for both the church and the world need to know that Jesus shed His blood to atone for their sins, and that the good news means we are right with God by faith in Jesus’ finished work.

    Burn candles all you want, paint the walls and shun marketing all you want, but whatever you do, CLARIFY and PROCLAIM the gospel of Jesus Christ, for THAT is the church’s message!

    Colossians 4:3-4 (NIV) And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. 4 Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should.

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