Backlash to the Emerging Church


Recently I received a letter with a rather withering criticism of CRM for being “sympathetic” to the emerging church movement. I think portions of my response are worth posting here so there is no misunderstanding as to our perspective on this movement.

Regarding the “emerging church” and CRM’s relationship to this renewal movement, I believe it is important to understand that this movement is not monolithic. It is very diverse. It should also not be confused with “Emergent” which is a specific organization here in the U.S. but which does not, however, represent the totality of “emerging churches” by any means.

The emerging church movement as a whole reflects a variety of theological perspectives, some of which I would agree with and some that would give me pause. But overall, I personally believe this is a movement of God which stands squarely in the flow of the great, historical renewal movements of the past 2000 years.

As in almost all renewal movements throughout the history of Christianity, it’s messy. That’s to be expected. There are always excesses,muddy thinking, and some level of deconstructionism that takes place when such change occurs. That was even true of the Protestant Reformation. I saw it myself in the Jesus Movement of the sixties and seventies in the U.S. and astute observers see many interesting similarities to today’s situation. Regardless, CRM is committed to serve the emerging church and to help in any way possible to develop and empower the leadership of this movement.

What God is undoubtedly doing is raising up, on the cultural fringes, a new generation of people who are faithfully and wholeheartedly followers of Jesus and true to the bible, but they are committed to living that faith out in an increasingly secular, postmodern world. From my experience, what I believe is most unsettling to the traditional Christian establishment is not primarily the theological nuances and questions that emanate from emerging churches, but forms and ecclesiological expressions that are outside the acceptable box. While some would attack the emerging church on theological grounds, my suspicion is the real backlash is primarily cultural. In many respects, the emerging church movement is profoundly biblical.

3 Responses to “Backlash to the Emerging Church”

  1. Patrick Oden Says:

    Sam, a perfect response.

    One reason why I’m excited that CRM is interacting with the emerging church is because I think that the emerging church has a lot to offer in its explorations. It is pursuing a freedom of discovery like the church hasn’t seen for a very long time. However, this freedom, this leap into uncertainty, means there certainly are mistakes being made. These mistakes are being seized upon by opponents as defining the movement. Even as the opponents should be rightly responded to, it’s also clear that because the emerging movement isn’t settled these mistakes still may in fact come to define and maybe even undermine the emerging church. Certainly the communication outwards often undermines the important messages.

    You all can be amazingly beneficial as you listen, watch and teach, speaking back into the emerging church, helping it best keep from falling off the cliff.

    I think you’re exactly right that the movement is profoundly and holistically biblical. But the trick is to keep it on that path, and not, like so many movements, become irrelevant because it emphasized distractions.

    cheers, Patrick

  2. James Creasman Says:

    Sam, you have once again hit the nail on the head.

    Although I am thoroughly modern in my outlook and tastes, I agree with you wholeheartedly. The issue is more cultural than theological. It is extremely hard for us in the modern-culture dominated evangelical American church to see and appreciate biblical expressions of faith in other cultures (such as postmodern) without feeling that something is wrong.

    Praise the Lord that he is so much bigger than our traditions and he is continually raising up servants who will embody the Gospel in ways that lost people can taste and see. “I came to seek and save the lost…”

  3. Peter Says:

    Hi…ur site appeared in my Google search for emerging churches in Singapore… I moved from the US to Singapore about a year ago…still haven’t found a church I feel comfortable in. Do you know of an emerging-bent church here? Can you share some contacts? Thanks…

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