Recently one of my friends on Facebook initiated a discussion about the emerging church movement. I started researching this movement and realized I know a lot of people who have been drawn into this movement.
What is the Emerging Church?
I found the following article entitled "What is the Emerging Church?" by Matt Slick to be a good basic description of the movement:
The Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry
Here is a list of common traits of the emerging church:
1.An awareness of and attempt to reach those in the changing postmodern culture, specifically people in their teens and twenties.
2.An attempt to use technology, i.e., video, slide shows, Internet.
3.A broader approach to worship using candles, images, sounds, smells, etc.
4.An inclusive approach to various, sometimes contradictory belief systems.
5.An emphasis on experience and feelings over absolutes.
6.Concentration on relationship-building over proclamation of the gospel.
7.Shunning stale traditionalism in worship, church seating, music, etc.
8.A de-emphasis on absolutes and doctrinal creeds.
9.A re-evaluation of the place of the Christian church in society.
10.A re-examination of the Bible and doctrine.
Quotes from those involved with the Emerging Church
The Bells started questioning their assumptions about the Bible itself—"discovering the Bible as a human product," as Rob puts it, rather than the product of divine fiat.
"Emergent church movement is just about making God relevant in the culture in which we live. How do we avoid creating a "church culture" where we have our own traditions, language, and heritage and then take it out to the world and tell them they have to fit into our model? Why can't we take current music styles and language, and show God through it, so it is relevant to the people who are seeking Him? Jesus came and dressed, looked, and talked like the people He came to serve, and we should do the same."
"Life in the church had become so small," Kristen says. "It had worked for me for a long time. Then it stopped working."
Some of the ideas behind this movement seem shallow:
-It is born out of rebellion against tradition.
-It seems to idolize youth, like the culture we live in.
-It seems to idealize constant change for the sake of change.
-It wants its meeting places to be trendy and un-churchlike.
-It wants its services to be different, fast-paced and full of emotion.
The focus of this movement seems unnecessary to me. This movement is so focused on "using technology" and "making church culturally relevant" and emphasizing "aesthetic experiences" over logical teaching. As a disclaimer, I think technology is great - I think we should use any tool we have to preach the gospel BUT - God doesn't need any of these things. The God I know is omnipotent and omnipresent. I can picture a group of ten retirees in a rural church building or a group of believers around a campfire experiencing the presence of God just as easily as twenty-somethings watching a fast-paced video message.
I also think it's short-sighted. This movement is so against tradition, structure, meetings, bureaucracy, organization...but we have those things so that churches can last past one generation.
The most dangerous possibility of this movement is "This rejection of traditionalism (regimented service, hymns, organs, a dress code, "we've always done it this way", etc.) has made it easier for those who don't like absolute truth statements, who reject exclusivism (that Jesus is the only way). They are thus drawn to very casual settings where they can also more easily reject traditional doctrines such as the Trinity, the deity of Christ, and his physical resurrection." (Slick, see link above) In my opinion, hymns/choruses, organs/guitars, etc. - those things don't matter, they're just trends or personal preference. When a group starts changing doctrine or truths found in Scripture, it moves outside God's kingdom.
As long as God is the center of a church and that church's goal is to go to the people of all nations and make them Jesus' disciples and baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and teach them to do everything Jesus has taught, then that church hasn't stopped working. And it definitely isn't small. Instead of rejecting the church, I think people should embrace the Truth being taught and should work alongside fellow believers.
The God I know doesn't need to be "made relevant". The God I know IS.