Can we please dispense with using the phrase “emerging church”? I’ve never been a fan of the term, for the following reasons: 1) What does “emerging” mean in reference to the church? Isn’t the church always in transition? 2) Why do we need a label to define something so broad and fluid? Defining “emerging church” is almost as futile as defining “postmodern.” 3) Labels like this scream “buzzword to sell books!” to me. How many gullible pastors, youth pastors, and otherwise interested Christians have bought “emerging church” books just to see what all the edgy fuss was all about?
Now, before I am attacked for any of this, you must understand: I am a fan of much of what we might call “emerging.” I love Rob Bell, prefer liturgical worship (candles too!), and generally agree with the admittance of “mystery” into the epistemological discourse of Christianity. But I do not like the fact that “emerging” or “Emergent” is a thing. I don’t like the fact that suddenly there is this debate about whether emerging is a good or bad thing (as if there are two clear cut sides on the issue!). I don’t like that we’ve elevated the last ten years of history to be some revolutionary epoch of massive church change. There have always been shifts in how Christianity is understood and contextualized. Why are we getting so worked up about it now?
There are larger questions about trends in Christianity that we might be concerned about (and that probably implicate the “emerging church”): namely, the trendification of the faith. If anything really worries me about “emerging” things, it is that it has tended to make Christianity “hip” (in the “I’m not a fundamentalist, anti-environment, gay-hating prude!” sort of way). I’m not so sure “hip” is a thing Christianity should be… or can be. There is much more to say about this, and much more I will say about this. Stay tuned.