Islam has its five pillars. Buddhism has its eight-fold path. Evangelicalism has its four spiritual laws. And now the Emerging Church has its seven layers of conversation.

Last month I was part of a small gathering of church leaders that hosted an evening with Brian McLaren. And the conversation turned as hot as the chutney. A number of participants were eager to discuss the criticisms that have been levied against the emerging church in recent months. The hijacking of the emergent movement by those merely interested in new worship trends rather than more substantive issues aggravated others. Everyone was looking to McLaren to chime in.

Always more likely to defuse than to detonate, McLaren entered the spicy conversation casually while slouched into the sofa with beverage in hand. He cautioned us against judging where others were in the "emergent conversation." Leaning forward, he outlined what he saw as the seven layers of the emergent conversation. "We all enter at a different layer," he said, "but everyone should be welcomed into the conversation no matter where they may be."

Based on McLaren's description, I've outlined the seven layers below.

I've added my own titles and used the imaginary "Seeker Community Church" to illustrate each point.

Layer 1: Style

Seeker Community Church realizes they're ineffective at reaching the coveted 18-32 year old demographic. They send a few staff members to a conference and they come back with goatees and candles.

Layer 2: Evangelism

After trying every facial hair permutation, Seeker Community Church discovers that to actually communicate the gospel to a younger generation they've got to learn to speak their language. They hire a former youth pastor to start an evening worship service with ...

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