Guest / Limited Access /

One spring sunday morning, I was on my way to visit Mars Hill Bible Church, one of the largest and youngest churches in the country, with 10,000 meeting weekly for worship in a converted mall outside Grand Rapids, Michigan. As I took the freeway exit, unsure of the exact directions, I noticed a bumper sticker on the car in front of me. "Love wins," it said, in distressed white type on a black background. In the rear window was a decal with an intricate pattern—half Art Deco, half Goth tattoo—that incorporated a cross and a fish.

Neither the bumper sticker nor the tattoo-decal alone would have induced me to set aside my hastily scribbled directions and simply follow the car straight to the Mars Hill parking lot. But I knew I'd found my mark when I saw the passenger lower the sun visor, look into the makeup mirror, and meticulously adjust his hair.

Gentlemen, start your hair dryers—not since the Jesus Movement of the early 1970s has a Christian phenomenon been so closely entangled with the self-conscious cutting edge of U.S. culture. Frequently urban, disproportionately young, overwhelmingly white, and very new—few have been in existence for more than five years—a growing number of churches are joining the ranks of the "emerging church."

Like all labels, this one conceals as much as it reveals. But the phrase "emerging church" captures several important features of a new generation of churches. They are works in progress, often startlingly improvisational in their approach to everything from worship to leadership to preaching to prayer. Like their own members, they live in the half-future tense of the young, oriented toward their promise rather than their past. But if their own focus is on what they are "emerging" toward, perhaps ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only
Hurt by Success
Christian bookstores hit hard by competition from Wal-Mart.
Current IssueThe Value of Friends Who Don’t Look, Think, or Vote Like You Do
Subscriber Access Only
The Value of Friends Who Don’t Look, Think, or Vote Like You Do
When you limit your social circles, you limit your opportunities to grow.
Current IssueManga Mania
Subscriber Access Only
Manga Mania
The Japanese Bible series has sold more than the Jesus Storybook Bible. So why is it not taking off in Japan?
RecommendedMormons and Christians: So Close, Yet So Far Away
Mormons and Christians: So Close, Yet So Far Away
What should we make of claims that the two faiths are on a path to reconciling?
TrendingResearch Says: Young People Don't Want Hip Pastors
Research Says: Young People Don't Want Hip Pastors
A study of 250 congregations suggests that youth and young adults want substance rather than style.
Editor's PickRandy Alcorn: God Wants You to Find Your Happy Place
Randy Alcorn: God Wants You to Find Your Happy Place
Why happiness and holiness don’t have to be in conflict.
Christianity Today
The Emergent Mystique
hide thisNovember November

In the Magazine

November 2004

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.