Discussion of the Emergent Church can be very polarizing. Do a Google search and you will find Christians stating categorically that EC is a heterodox movement – others claim it to be the very salvation of the Church. Between the poles of hyperbole, there is a need to understand who the EC is and what this movement is both saying and bringing to the wider Body of Christ.
Dr. Alan Roxburgh, president of Missional Leadership Institute, church consultant and teacher at numerous seminaries around the world discusses the EC in his latest newsletter. Although many might see Al as one of the bishops of this movement (Brian Mclaren calls Al a mentor of his), he both applauds and asks some tough questions in his article – placing the EC in context:
The second half of the 20th century in North America produced dominant forms of church life shaped by the emergence of the suburbs as the overriding form of social life for the white middle classes which shaped mainline denominations and the evangelical churches that followed in their footsteps. The rapid formation of corporatist denominational systems (copied from the incredibly successful corporations of capitalism) resulted in the diffusion of branch plant congregations across the country led by professionals who knew how to provide the appropriate religious goods and services for attractive congregations based around some form of brand loyalty or seeker interest in what was being offered.
The post World War II world which produced this form of society has been coming to an end for some time now and with it the forms of church life shaped around it.Over the last dozen years, just as happened in the ‘40s and ‘50s of the last century, a growing number of voices have been critiquing the captivity and colonization of the churches to the cultural systems described above. At the same time, modernity itself has been undergoing massive shifts in its meaning and forms. The result is that more and more younger leaders have been raising critical voices about the forms and practices of church life in North America. They argue we are in a new kind of world and a new world needs a new kind of church.
Therefore, at one level, we are witnessing movements among younger leaders seeking to engage the church in a radical shift of its habits and practices from those of the last fifty years.
At their best, these younger leaders want to challenge the North American church to a conversation about faith and mission in the midst of what they deem a postmodern transition. They want to engage in conversation about the philosophical, theological, methodological, and cultural challenges we face in our fast-changing world. At their worst, they become a new form of seeker-driven churches which use art, music, the digital revolution and the aesthetic pastiche of the moment to create new experiences.
At their best they courageously and joyfully enter the worlds of Goths and tattoo parlors to form Christian life in, with, beside and for people who would never be welcome in most congregations. At their worst they become the purveyors of more experiential, artsy, aesthetic forms of religious goods and services.
Read the whole article here.