5 Things to Love About the Emerging Church
Bob Hyatt's eulogy for a departed movement.

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.

January 22, 2010

Displaying 1–9 of 9 comments


February 05, 2010  1:15pm

The emerging church is great. I am so thankful for where God is taking us in America today. We aren't perfect, but like Paul says in philippians for whatever reason the Gospel is preached and that is good. what is the bible

Report Abuse


January 27, 2010  6:46pm

"...but apparently commitment to creedal formulations wasn't good enough for some people and their equally loud voices narrowly defined even "orthodoxy" for their rhetorical/ideological ends." Nathan, As I think about Church history I can see that repeated over and over again. Where the creed itself becomes the orthodox bunker from which to hunker down, and weather the repetitious and transitory issues that hammer the church in it's life. Anyway, I think you have pointed out how we have gotten where we are today...sad as it is, we don't seem to know when to loosen up a bit to allow ourselves opportunity to explore the wor(l)d of G-d.

Report Abuse


January 25, 2010  1:17pm

@ sheer i hear what you are saying. and, to a degree, agree with you about how lightning rod/controversial voices got all the attention. i do think people did say things like, "Hey, we're not here to develop a uniform theological identity because this is about missiology and ecclesiology for us, not so much about baseline dogma." I do agree too that those voices were not forceful enough and were, ironically, "out-narrated" by people who, frankly, didn't really understand where people were coming from. (i.e. that horrific armchair book by Carson, the equally horrific mangling by DeYoung and ??, and the nightmarish lectures at Master's) further demonstrating the very critiques the EC was raising...thus adding irony to irony. I agree, the foundation is sound, but apparently commitment to creedal formulations wasn't good enough for some people and their equally loud voices narrowly defined even "orthodoxy" for their rhetorical/ideological ends.

Report Abuse


January 25, 2010  11:33am

Nathan, Though I agree with you in principle that the Emerging Church had a pretty low bar, it still allowed a representation of it's theology to grow uncheck. And I think what killed the whole EC movement was the passivity of the participants to not challenge that image/theology which seemed to evelope the movements goal, and overshadow any and all dialogue. My greatest frustration was not being able to get one person to say, "well, no, we're not all on the same page as far as theology goes, and thats what makes this an interesting dialogue." You see, the problem wasn't so much the issue of dialogue as it was that no one who wasn't involved (take me for example) knew where everyone who was involved was coming from. Over time I just read, and read, and read, found that...well, wow...loosey-goosey in terms of theology would be putting it politely. Some of the participants in the conversation weren't even Christians by any definition, but yet...there they were, influencing discussions that they had no concept of what the subject was truly about, and they were paid heed too. Look, I like me some new re-imagining of the Church as much as anyone else does, but jack-hammering the foundation out is not a smart way of remodeling a house. Our foundation is sound, it seems to be the rest of the historical structure that needs a wee bit of an overhaul. Lets not throw out the baby with the bath water. I say keep the discussion going, but also keep the foundation...never hurts to talk, but once you start jack-hammering the foundation...yeah, nothing worthwhile is going to stand on that.

Report Abuse

Jim Vining

January 23, 2010  10:41pm

Nice post Bob. Whatever label people put on it, you have identified some highlights of the faith from the past 20 years. May we continue to lean into the calling of what it means to follow Jesus faithfully - today.

Report Abuse


January 23, 2010  3:02pm

these are good words and probably reflect where the majority of people influenced by EC experienced the value of the conversation. so much for it being the bastion of all things evil and horrible...a great cabal of people who hate the church and institution. the ongoing need to speak of "its demise" or write obituaries is strange to me and a little bit immature. (yes, that's for you URL.) there's no need to hold the EC conversation up to standards of achievement they never claimed to value OR to crow over it's failure to reach goals it never set for itself. it just sounds like sour grapes from people/institutions that were on the receiving end of the deserved rebukes/critiques the conversation raised.

Report Abuse

Jake Johnson

January 23, 2010  10:22am

Thanks for posting this Bob. Much like you I found a renewed love for Jesus and Christianity through the emerging/emergent streams. Though I have differences with many of the more prominent leaders who now represent those streams, the reality is that God used what they did to impact many lives for good.

Report Abuse


January 22, 2010  6:52pm

I think Jesus presented his disciples with many choices where they had to choose between following him or their interpretation of the law. Do we really think He isn't doing that today? The most important question for me is, "Am I growing in my love for God and others?". Another good one is am I kind or compassionate. Another is "Is the way I am following Jesus congruent with how he lived his life?

Report Abuse


January 22, 2010  6:17pm

Glad to hear your positive obituary. I have spent a lot of time hating everything emerging. I still mostly hate it, but you do a great job of highlighting some positives. Cannot get on the "redemptive hermeneuitic" train though. God's word is where truth comes from. Not culture. It was written the way it was supposed to be heard period. Jesus had no problem confronting error- so why wouldn't he say what he meant the first time, rather than wait 2,000 years for culture to finally be evolved enough for it to tell us what he really meant but didn't tell us. Other than that- Thank you emerging church for pointing out weaknesses in the church and helping us address them!

Report Abuse
  • Seeing God on the Silver Screen
    An interview with Kevin Harvey on how engaging pop culture might be the best way to share the gospel.
  • Have Stethoscope, Will Travel
    Nurse Kelly Sites talks about her experience battling Ebola overseas
  • Actively Seeking Change
    Daniel Ryan Day talks to us about his attempt to live intentionally different
  • Digging For Truth
    Josh McDowell on the Bible's truthworthiness, the internet, and the future of the church