Saturday, September 25, 2004

the post-emerging church?

Emerging Church and Church Posted by Hello

Jason Clark blogged about FutureGen 2005 and the post-emerging church, which prompted a bit of discussion on his site.

Jason had commented on this before; Darren Rouse actually predicted the post-emerging church on 30 January 2004 and just last month, Graham Old said it would arise in 2 years.

What is the relationship between "church," "emerging church," and "post-emerging church?"

Perhaps it's most helpful to think of the emerging church movement (Emergent likes to call it a "conversation;" Bill Bean prefers "phenomenon") in the same spirit Richard Foster of Renovare displays when he discusses The Six Traditions of the Church in his wonderful Streams of Living Water. (These traditions are also listed and described on Renovare). I think this approach brings humility, a character trait we could well use in this discussion.

I suggest that those of us in the emerging church conversation err badly if we come to the point of thinking that we're the ones with the best bead on things. At the same time, I further suggest that on some matters it very well may be that we are riding at the top of the some of the Spirit's waves.

Just as it's easy for a member of Christ's church to believe that the expression of her own God-gift is the most important activity for the church today, I suggest a local church, a denomination, a parachurch organization, or a movement can make the same error.

I, for example, have a passion to see the church operate well as an organization, balancing both executional excellence with holistic spiritual relationships. All the time I'm thinking about mentoring, coaching, leadership, effective meetings, how to run projects well, etc. But I don't delude myself into thinking that organizational excellence is the issue today that's nearest to God's heartbeat. I am but a cog in a larger Kingdom-machine.

Similarly, consider Jason Clark's recent post of "summary of outcomes" stemming from an emergent leadership gathering that occurred near the end of August. Jason lists:

1 - gender diversity,
2 - racial and ethnic diversity,
3 - denominational diversity,
4 - church tradition diversity,
5 - internationalization, and
6 - justice

among some other internal concerns.

Are these important issues to consider? Yes. But where is the gospel? Where is spiritual formation? Why didn't they merit a mention? I suggest it's because the leaders of emergent don't see emergent church and church as a tautology. Their organization addresses very specific concerns that their leadership believes are worth addressing.

Similarly, I suggest that the emerging church - by the very definition of "emerging" - is not an enduring phenomenon. It is addressing very specific concerns in a very specific season of the church's history.

Ironically, it is a modern impulse for us to rest calmly within the parameters of emerging church concerns and circles: we've figured it out; we can rest; we blog and convention and read and hang out and surf with the coolest folks in the church today and we have the most turbocool thoughtleaders. Now we should, of course, celebrate and joy in our friends and leaders, but we must watch out carefully for complacency and inclusiveness.

I recently visited a church that was following the Willow Creek Seeker Model. When I made an appreciative comment about the church being more traditional, one of the elders of the church looked at me quizically. "Traditional?" He didn't realize that the Willowesque non-denominational church is The New Traditional and that many are moving beyond its comforting confines into more uncharted territory. And uncharted territory has a tendency to become charted.

Now I don't mean to imply that the emerging church phenomenon has necessarily reached its fullest maturity in all quarters, but I do suggest that the post-emerging church is an inevitability. The church will become or is becoming post-emerging (and, of course, different parts of the church will do this at different times or not at all). And we should celebrate that transition with the same enthusiasm as when we sense our own spirits entering a new season where we find ourselves emerging farther up and deeper in.


john chandler said...

Thanks for the thoughts Steve. I have very much enjoyed the reading and participating in the conversations regarding the emerging church. It is not always fashionable to talk about church structure in these circles, but structure can be quite beneficial, and I appreciate you saying so.

I've been looking to pare down my blogroll, because it is difficult to keep up with them all. Your's will stay... :)

Baus said...

Could you say more about the matters of which you suspect "we [the church emerged?] are riding at the very top of the Spirit's wave" ?

If you have posted on these things previously, feel free to simply point me there.

Stephen said...

thank you john.

gregory, let me respond personally to your question:

1 - I would say that it's been freeing for me to realize that my personal theology is not an exhaustive encyclopedia but rather an outline. See

for more on that.

2 - Then I would say that the practical implications for transpropositionality have been very, very helpful for me in developing a real and actual spirituality that transcends mere information. See


for that.

Those are two waves that have crashed over me.

Hope this helps!

Baus said...

Thank you for the personal response.
I wonder, however, if you mean to say that appreciation of transpropositionality, to whatever degree, is a distinctive of the "we" you mention.
I took your original comment to mean that it may well be that we are at the top of a wave in a way that others might not be. I think that kind of claim is perfectly acceptable... but I'm just not sure it fits with regard to transpropositionality.

To answer more personally: I am not an evangelical myself. And while I am somewhat familiar with the sort of "propositionalism" in the evangelical movement --much of it coming from the legacy of G.H.Clark and C.F.H.Henry, I suspose-- I don't find it at all a prominent conception of spirituality. Rather, I find a much, much more "experience" oriented praxis at work in, for instance, the very prominent "Praise & Worship" phenomenon. As you know, this is almost always accompanied by "the talk," but the ostensible "information" given also seems to be more on the order of a hug than a treaise... full of anecdote and experiential description, all with the aim of being a catalyst to further experience (as opposed to "acquisition of propositions").

Stephen said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stephen said...

Hi Gregory,

Thank you for your informed comments and the opportunity to say a bit more. While the ec wouldn't consider transpropositionality one of their buzzwords (it's a 'mapper creation) nevertheless, I do believe the idea of "information is not the ultimate means of spiritual formation" is a pretty common ec meme. I think that what ec had done is to - ironically - put words to what other church traditions (such as those who "Praise and Worship") area actually doing.

Anonymous said...

"Wow, exactly the kind of stuff I've been thinking about. Very succinct. Post-Emergent; I like that! "Darryl" sent me here after one of my last posts on a related matter.

I haven't figured out how to post on blogger without having to set up a blog...

Stephen said...


Unfortunately, Blogger comments limit your ability to id yourself unless you have a blogger log in.