What Is Emerging in the Church?

This post is in response to a synchroblog initiated by Julie Clawson.

A couple of months ago I read through Jonathan Brink’s interesting article Is The Emerging Church Dying or Maturing on the Emergent Village weblog. It seems to be very relevant to this topic.   At one point he comments:

Emergence suggests transformation but it also reveals that we’re not finished.

I have been thinking about this statement and its implications ever since.  More than anything what is emerging is the willingness to question all our assumptions about life, faith and God, which in some ways is scary but in others is very refreshing.  Christianity in its beginnings was a countercultural movement that brought transformation and change to every society in which it took hold because those that followed Christ questioned the assumptions on which their cultures were based.  But unfortunately in many societies this countercultural movement was lassoed, bound and stifled.

It is not so much a matter of what is emerging but of what is being transformed and how willingly we allow ourselves to ask the questions that will bring about this transformation.  And it seems to me that we are in a time in which our view of faith, of God, of the kingdom of God and of what it means to be a follower of Christ are all being questioned and hopefully transformed.  And that I think is a very healthy point to be at because change happens at the grassroots level where ordinary, everyday people are grappling with how to follow Christ in a turbulent and rapidly changing world.  It is my hope that we will never become so caught up in what is emerging that we become complacent and stop being transformed.

Tom and I have been involved in the emerging church conversation since the mid 1990s when it first emerged in the UK.  We have watched with interest its spread downunder and throughout North America and its struggles with theology and the shaping of spiritual practices.

I have watched with even more interest in the last few years as the movement here in the US has grappled with issues of justice, inequality and the need to listen to more diverse voices – women, Latinos, Africans and Asians.  In the future I hope that the issues of climate change and our need to live more lightly on the earth could move from the periphery to the centre of this movement too.  But I am sure that other issues I am not even aware of will continue to emerge and shape this movement and those that follow it.

A couple of months ago I wrote an article for the MSA Seed Sampler on What Will Shape Spirituality in the Next Decade? I expanded it on my blog to three articles that looked at the trends I felt will have most impact over the next 10 years –

What I appreciate about the emerging church is that it is engaged in grappling with aspects of all these issues, as well as some others that I have not mentioned here.  It is not hiding its head in the sand and pretending that the world is not changing or that we don’t need to change in order to be effective followers of Christ in the future.

We live in a world in which the rate of changing is increasing and I think that the conversations the emerging church has initiated and continues to participate in will become even more important in the future.  Yes I think the movement is maturing but I hope that as it matures it will not become comfortable and settle into a conformist way of doing things.  I love the concept of transformation because it does imply an ongoing process.  My hope for the future is that the emerging church can continue to challenge all of us to recognize that we are on a journey of continual transformation that needs to engage each new issues facing the church in the future.