With everyone writing obituaries for the Emerging Church movement, I feel the need to take a timeout to remember some positives about the movement. Although the Emerging Church has been mixed, and in many ways lost momentum and splintered, it was a significant part of my journey. Here are five things I loved about the Emerging Church.
1. On a personal level: My initial intro to the Emerging Church movement came in a seminar with (yes, believe it or not) Doug Pagitt and Mark Driscoll…together. At a low point in my life and faith, feeling burned and burned out, they talked about a postmodern (hey! remember that word??) approach to faith that was more about Jesus than institution; more about life in the way of Jesus that made a difference in the world, and less about getting people over the goal-line of decision and their rears into heaven. All of that resonated with me deeply.
I was working through all sorts of things that threatened to shipwreck me. But during that time books like Brian McLaren's The Church on the Other Side and More Ready Than You Realize, Len Sweet's Postmodern Pilgrims, an Origins conference with Erwin McManus (and many of his books), all of these kept my vision and heart for faith and the church from falling apart. And even though I now find myself pushing back against both Driscoll and Pagitt from my tiny speck of ground in the middle, I'm eternally grateful that at just the right time God allowed our paths to cross.
2. On a theological level: Whether they were ever really connected with the Emerging Church or not, people like Todd Hunter, Dallas Willard, Rob Bell, and Ruth Haley Barton were all introduced to me through the EC. And they have all had a profound impact on my thinking about God and faith. Todd Hunter gave me an expanded view of the Gospel and the Kingdom that continues to shape me today—and he did it at various Emerging Church type gatherings. Rob Bell, while cool and all, proved to be a game-changer for me. He introduced me to William Webb and the redemptive hermeneutic. His simple explanation of Webb's take on the redemptive arc in Scripture set in motion an internal movement that led me to a completely different view of women in leadership and has shaped Evergreen for the better.
3. On a pastoral/church level: The Emerging Church conversation broadened my ecclesiastical horizons and helped me to see God at work in all kinds of expressions of Church. But even more so, it gave me the freedom to think outside the boundary lines I had previously limited myself to regarding what Church could and should be. It introduced me to a more organic approach, shaped my thinking about flattened leadership structures and, in a sense, gave me "permission" to try something as crazy as church in a pub.
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