Monday, July 11, 2005

PBS on the "emerging church"

Emerging, or just this decade's fad?


At 8:30 PM, Blogger Thinking in Ohio said...

I went to their convention this past May with a few Wesley grads... these guys (McClaren, Paggit, Jones) have a diminished view of Scripture and a open view on theology--way off the orthodox path. I've also read a book by McClaren. But some of their "methodology" and ideas(not necessarily what you read in this artile) are quite appealing to the 20 to 40 crowd. You'd be surprised, I think, to find how "emergent" Dayspring might even be (especially in their small-groups). I think their methodology is going to be effective with the "lost" generation of gen-X'ers--where evangelical and mainline churches are currently failing. I don't know how the youngest generation will take to the emergent church practices. But their theology is both weak and dangerous, in my opinion.

At 8:54 AM, Anonymous Brad E. said...

I've read the book also, DT....might tend to agree that the theology is somewhat diminished. But the emerging church idea is not going to go away. Like we've discussed many times in seminary classes, Christian history is more oftent than not a "pendulum", whereas one movement emerges to counter the calcification of a previous movement. From these guys' standpoint, its time for another movement to come and shake the church from it's recalcitrance. WHat did the established church say about Wesley and his "classes"? I think these guys are at least seeking to recapture the fundamental spirit of NT Christianity - namely, discipleship and worship in the context of intimate community. Without a doubt our churches have become WAY too "spectator". Blessings on you, brother.

At 12:06 PM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...


Tell me how DaySpring is emergent. Would like to hear about that. Hope it is not the shallow and diminished parts. Help me out here.

On the whole, of what I have seen of the "emergent" is here today and gone tomorrow with its best attributes already practiced in effective churches. Just my hunch...

At 8:37 PM, Blogger Thinking in Ohio said...

I think Brad summed my comparison well when he wrote, "these guys are at least seeking to recapture the fundamental spirit of NT Christianity - namely, discipleship and worship in the context of intimate community" Dayspring does this well both in their corporate worship service on Sunday and in their small group ministries during the week. The EC also has a huge fixation with pratical ministry outside the church, yet another similarity.

I think the emergent church is recapturing the spirit of Wesley in their heavy emphasis relational ministry and in their doctrinal view of the church... we can dog their theology and their view of scripture till the cows come home--and we need to, but they are fostering "community" through their methodology.

Just as an example, the emergent church leaders (McClaren, Paggit, Jones) who spoke at their convention in Nashville don't even teach and preach the way traditional ministers do. Everything from beginning to end is a "dialogue". They do share thoughts, ideas, concepts, but they spend an equal amount of time in Q&A. Several of the workshops ended with small groups sitting in circles with the speakers just working through their ideas in conversation. They also taught in groups or in pairs, seldom individually. One would share and open the floor for questions, then another would share and do the same. There was a constant dialogue between the group leaders and the audience that fed a sensation of involvment I've seen few other places. I think most of the EC's methods are an expression of this "relational" context. I consider this "very good" and very, very appealing to my generation--you minister in a similar fashion at Dayspring. How many pastors delegate their authority to "small-group pastors" in the church? You strive to preach a bit like Johnny Carson speaks, right? Your style of preaching is very engaged with the congregation. I was in a discipleship group with you--very "emergent" in that it was accountable, relational, discipleship with a ministry-outreach focus.

Just one thought, a lot of critics point to the candles, incense and yoga as attributes of the EC; but having been to their convention and read a book (and that's still very limited knowledge) I think these guys are a whole lot bigger than that little box. I'd recommended McClaren as a good source to read--I think you'll like some of what he has to say.

Most of the guys I attended the conference with wrote the whole thing off because they have a liberal view of scripture and process theology. They need to be critiques and perhaps rejected on those grounds, but these guys still have a lot to say to us in the matter of methods. To compare them to Warren or Hybels would be a very poor comparison. Those guys are great, but they're church-growth centered. The EC has far less to do with church growth and methods that "work" in that sense than they do with the church itself. They're methods bleed from their theology on the church, not out of the practical push for evangelism, if that makes any sense.

I tend to write too much, I hope this clarifies my statement. I thought the PBS article was unflattering, but relatively impartial... the critics had their input and say, but I don't think they're entirely justified. Critique them on their theology, but their methodology is highly personal, relational and community fostering.

At 8:43 PM, Blogger Thinking in Ohio said...

I think you'd make a great "emergent-Wesleyan" pastor. But it's hard to recontruct a traditional congregation into this relational blend of worship. Are you ready to plant a church yet? Let me know when and I'll join you!

At 9:37 PM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...


Oooooh. I love that last post. Planting an "emerging" highly relational church. Your names go on the Hall of Fame at WBS if you have the guts to do it.

Wish I were younger. On the other hand, that might not stop me from one more.


At 8:21 AM, Blogger Brad & Meg said...

DT -

Good insight on the EC. Matt is right, also. The EC isn't doing anything that "effective" churches aren't doing. Maybe the problem is that SO FEW churches are effective (or seem that way). Without a doubt the vast majority of churches are not discipling and creating community (cf "What Makes A Disciple?" module from MF's class "Princ and Pract of Disci). Dayspring is more effective than most because from the offset we've committed to these "EC" kind of behaviors. Nothing novel about it. But most churches arent doing it. Mine certainly is not. We've adapted the standard fare of the holiness movement - a strong focus on preaching/teaching, on SS participation, and even holy living in your private life, but so little "discipleship through community."

To answer your Q, DT...I've about a hairs breath from leaving and planting a church. It's intensely difficult to reconstruct a church of mostly elderly saints. I love them, but sometimes I see ministry so differently.....but I stay put til God moves me. I need to remember this is likely more about ME growing than it is about the church.

At 11:52 AM, Blogger Thinking in Ohio said...

Why is church planting a growing movt? Because it's easy, fun or even effective? Not the first two, anyway.

I think it's becoming something of a last resort for many pastors, not because it's easy, but because its necessary. We have a calling to fulfill, but find it very difficult to complete within the politically charged and traditionally bound "established" churches. Too often the ministry of the church becomes solely about the "wants" of the people who keep the lights on.

These emergent leaders I named--they're all church planters--surprised? Brad is right, these ideas and methods have been around they're just now being articulated by a common thread of voices.

Brad, why don't we plant churches? Because we're not Paul--we're not tentmakers--we're full-time employed pastors who went 30 and 40 thousand dollars into debt to learn how to be pastors. Now we're scraping by to support our families. Church planting is a bi-vocational calling--one I want to pursue. If not leading the plant--joining the team where ever they are.

At 3:57 PM, Blogger Matt Friedeman said...


We plant because if we don't we die. And we spent about three decades not planting which means, of course, that we have an inordinate amount of churches dying and not enough getting birthed.

Simply nose counting led us to this rocket-science conclusion.

Planting is easier and funner than trying to move an stiff-necked people with no apostolic vision.

You and Brad need to do it. We have far fewer holiness churches per capita today because we forgot that the holiness movement - at its zenith - was a planting movement.

May it happen again! And may a few with some real guts lead the way.

Hint, hint.


At 9:00 PM, Blogger Brad & Meg said...

DT, our prof said: "Planting is easier and funner than trying to move an stiff-necked people with no apostolic vision." After having experienced both a church plant and an established church, I couldn't agree one iota more. This (current church)is INFINITELY harder than the first three years of DaySpring combined. I'm fighting battles that (in kingdom persepctive) are foolish and irrelevant. Most of my "victories" are with the unchurched - those whose shadows won't darken our hallowed doorsteps. And the fat sheep just send me anonymous notes about how I don't visit them enough.

Are we "able" enough, DT, to plant churches? Maybe not. But I'd rather risk all to create even one small community of Scriptural authenticity. The only question is, where and when? God knows both.


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