When newspapers pick up on a religion story, there's a good chance it's old hat to insiders. So now that the Denver Post and the Press-Enterprise of inland Southern California have written stories on emergent churches, are they really still emerging?

First, in case you don't know, "Emergent is first and foremost a friendship, a network of warm and mutually encouraging relationships," according to the official Emergent website. The idea is that Christianity, as we often see it, is outmoded. Postmodernity has taken hold in our culture and the church needs to adapt or die.

In a sense, emergent churches are to Gen-Xers what mega churches are to Baby Boomers. The Denver Postexplains: "Throughout its history, evangelical Christianity has shown it can change with the times, altering methods but not the message. … The emerging church has its roots in the mid-1990s, when young evangelical pastors noticed large churches brimming with boomers were lacking 18- to 30-year-olds."

So, Xers began their own churches to meet their peers' needs. "Missionaries don't try to teach people English and then teach the Christian message. They learn the language," said Scott Thumma, faculty associate in religion and society at the Hartford Institute for Religion Research in Connecticut. "This is attempting to learn the language of a new generation and conveying it in that language." That language often means having couches, lava lamps, worshiping by painting, reciting poetry, journaling, and meeting in bars.

The Denver Postwrites that the "emergent" churches have their roots, and often their financial backing in the megachurches they react against. "The Journey is backed financially by Foothills Community Church in Arvada, [Colorado] a large Southern Baptist church. It's not unusual for emerging churches, despite doing things differently, to lean on megachurches to get started." Other emergent churches join larger churches, while some are more like youth programs that have their own services, but are still part of a megachurch. New Life Church, founded by National Association of Evangelicals president Ted Haggard has a "Saturday Night" service for emergent types.

In California, "between 2,000 and 3,000 mostly 20-somethings attend Day 7@Harvest, the Sunday-evening service the church began three years ago to reach an age group that statistically is least likely to attend organized services. The youth-oriented service features a praise band, guest Christian musicians and a production crew that broadcasts services live on the Internet. It's MTV-meets-the-church, said youth pastor Steve Wilburn."

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Both articles note that the point of these new church styles is not the style. "We have plasma screens, lava lamps and funky furniture," Wilburn said. "Our desire through the lava lamps and crazy this and crazy that is to let people know there is a God in heaven who loves them and he has a plan for them."

Scum of the Earth (that's the actual name of the church) founded by the Christian band Five Iron Frenzy says, "They want to sing, they don't want to be sung to. They don't want to go to church to listen to a sermon, watch a drama skit and go home without talking to anyone. They want to offer a spare bedroom to a stranger who got kicked out of the house. Most of all, they come to Scum of the Earth Church to connect with kindred souls."

The MTV generation's distrust of anything polished, marketed, political, or conformist is driving the trend. "You can come in here and not have everyone stare at you," said one Scum of the Earth member, "who until recently wore dreadlocks and still stands out with nine body piercings."

Will emerging churches replace megachurches as Gen-Xers move toward the mainstream? There's some debate whether the megachurch will die out, or if the smaller, less organized emergent churches will need the support of larger churches. We're waiting to see what emerges once Emergent becomes mainstream.

Weblog will return with Monday, December 29. Have a merry Christmas.

More articles:


  • China cracks down on unofficial worship | For members of China's unofficial Christian congregations, this is a season of fear as communist authorities crack down on unauthorized worship, detaining activists and bulldozing churches. (Associated Press)

  • China rejects US criticism of religious restrictions | China has rejected a US government report that criticized Beijing for harassing and detaining followers of unofficial churches and for suppressing Falun Gong and other groups labeled cults. (Associated Press)

  • China rejects U.S. rap over religious rights record | China rejected U.S. criticism of its religious rights record as unfair on Sunday, saying the United States should put its own house in order and stop meddling in the practices of other nations. (Reuters)

  • Also: Do They Know It's Christmas? | Seasoned journalist David Aikman is author of the new book Jesus in Beijing: How Christianity Is Transforming China and Changing the Global Balance of Power. He spoke to NRO about the state of Christians in China. (National Review)

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  • After villagers built their church, officials razed it | The Chinese Premier boasts of religious freedom but correspondent Hamish McDonald finds evidence to the contrary in Liugou village. (The Age, Australia)

  • Church demolitions make mockery of China's religious liberty | There was a church on a hill in this little village, looking out over the landscape of cornfields, coalmines and quarries where many of its people work. Then, in June this year, about two weeks after it was completed, officials from nearby Shahe city arrived with a team of workmen and set about demolishing the little church. Now collapsed beams and walls mark where it stood. The mangled cross is rusting on the ground. (Sydney Morning Herald)

  • China cracks down on unofficial worship | The Christmas carol "Deck the Halls" blares over the speakers of the warehouse store as the toddler lunges for a plastic Santa. His mother grabs him by the seat of his pants and hauls him back. (Associated Press)

  • Christmas shows China's dilemma with Christianity | Millions of Christians who belong to "underground churches" will celebrate Christmas shivering in farm fields or quietly singing hymns in parishioners' homes, praying the Chinese police will not hear. (Channel News Asia, Singapore)

  • China pushes Christmas shopping while crushing Christian worship | It's a classic Christmas shopping moment in the unlikely setting of central China - though one that is becoming more common as Chinese, few of whom are Christians, adopt the holiday as a festive shopping season. But for members of China's unofficial Christian congregations, this is a season of fear as authorities crack down on unauthorized worship, detaining activists and bulldozing churches. (Associated Press)


  • 'Hidden agenda behind slashing X'mas holidays' | Kerala Congress (M) leader and revenue minister K M Mani on Saturday took strong exception to the Centre's decision to defer Christmas holidays to January for the Kendriya Vidyalayas and alleged that the move formed part of "the BJP's hidden agenda". (New Kerala, India)

Sri Lanka:

  • Sri Lankan Buddhists target Christians for monk's death | The death of one of Sri Lanka's most venerated Buddhist monks while on a visit to Russia, has sparked allegations that he was murdered by Christian fundamentalists who he had long criticized, and the fear of a Buddhist backlash at his funeral slated for Wednesday. (OneWorld, UK)

  • Sri Lanka on alert for communal trouble at monk's funeral | Sri Lankan police went on alert on Tuesday amid fears of inter-religious violence during the funeral of a Buddhist monk known for campaigning against Christian conversions, officials said. (AFP)

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  • Newly appointed Iraqi Christian leader calls for unity | The newly appointed leader of Iraq (news - web sites)'s largest Christian denomination—the Chaldean Catholic Church—called for unity in this country threatened by sectarian strife. (AFP)

  • Iraqi Christians prepare for Christmas | Surprisingly to many, another religious community in Iraq, the Christians, have had a comparatively peaceful time since the fall of Saddam, as Middle East Correspondent Mark Willacy reports from Baghdad. (ABC Online, Australia)

  • Iraq Christians fear Muslim extremism | Iraq's Christians prepare to celebrate Christmas amid fear caused by the political vacuum and lack of security nine months after U.S. and British forces took over the Arab country. (UPI)

  • New Chaldean patriarch calls Iraqis to unity | Emmanuel III Delly took possession of his office as Chaldean patriarch by calling all Iraqis to unity, at a time when Christians are wary of rising signs of Muslim fundamentalism. (Zenit.org)

Religious Freedom report fallout:

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  • US report on religious freedom rejected | Kuala Lumpur: Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has rejected a United States' Government report that listed Malaysia as among countries that did not practise religious freedom. (Daily Express, Malaysia)

Religion relations:

  • Sharing space, saving identity for three faiths | For Protestant congregations burdened with high costs of maintaining churches, renting out space - to other faiths, or, more commonly, to other Protestant denominations - has become crucial to making ends meet. (New York Times)

  • A model of Islamic tolerance Focus / Kuwait | Unlike in many Muslim countries, Kuwait allows its Christian residents to worship in peace. (Bangkok Post, Thailand)

  • Off on Yom Kippur? It's probably time to work a holiday | With jobs to be filled on Dec. 24 and 25, Jews are volunteering and, in some cases, being volunteered for duty. Under a silent bargain, Christians will fill in for them on their holidays. (New York Times)

  • Lessons in peace | Given his long years as a priest, it's not surprising that the Rev. Elias Chacour's conversation tends toward small homilies on brotherhood and reconciliation. What may surprise is the degree to which he both embodies and lives his sermons. The 64-year-old Israeli-born cleric is an Israeli citizen, a Palestinian and a Melkite Catholic. He is also founder and president of Israel's first Christian-Arab-Israeli university, Mar Elias. (William Raspberry, Washington Post)

  • Introducing young readers to Islam | No child is too young to become a cosmopolitan multiculturalist. And now that Islam is a hot topic in America, not to mention probably the fastest-growing religion in the world, two new books offer the discerning young reader a glimpse of the Islamic world. (Nicholas D. Kristof, New York Times)

  • Again, Jews fault Mormons over posthumous baptisms | A Jewish group says it is considering legal action in an effort to stop the Mormon Church from posthumously baptizing many Jews, especially Holocaust victims. (New York Times)

  • Christmas Spirit | Christian and Muslim Iraqis celebrate holiday (Knight Ridder News Service)

  • Religions urged to reconcile for peace | The ceremony was designed partly to convey the idea of the participants that Judaism, Christianity and Islam must reconcile to advance peace in the Middle East. (UPI)

France bans religious expressions in schools:

  • Off with that scarf! | After years of debate and a six-month study, a French government commission has recommended, and President Jacques Chirac has endorsed, a ban on "conspicuous" religious clothing in public schools. The ban would include large Christian crosses and the Jewish yarmulke, or skullcap. But the impetus behind the proposal is the increasing use of the headscarf by Islamic girls. (Editorial, The Providence Journal, Rode Island)

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  • French move against headscarves ridiculed as missing the point | A law banning the Muslim headscarf and other religious symbols from French schools will only aggravate a sense of segregation, several teachers and social scientists say. (Inter Press Service)

  • Veiled opposition comes out in force | French Muslims March to Protest Proposed Law (Washington Post)

  • Religious symbols in France | President Jacques Chirac made the wrong decision on Wednesday when he announced his support for a legal ban in state-run schools on what he called "conspicuous" religious symbols. (Editorial, New York Times)

  • In France, scarves and secularism | In supporting a ban on Muslim head scarves and other conspicuous religious symbols in his country's public schools, French President Jacques Chirac has called forth some startling ironies. (E. J. Dionne Jr., Washington Post)

Church and state:

  • Exclusive photo essay: God in the temples of government: Part II | As a follow-up to her first project on religious images in Washington, D.C., public buildings, HE intern and photojournalist Carrie Devorah took more pictures of religious images and also gathered three U.S. stamps with religious themes. (Human Events)

  • Pope notes role of Christianity in Europe | Pope John Paul II said Monday that an expanding Europe must recognize the important contributions that Christianity has made to the continent over the centuries. (Associated Press)

Gay marriage:

  • Strong support is found for ban on gay marriage | The latest New York Times/CBS News poll has found widespread support for an amendment to the United States Constitution to ban gay marriage. It also found unease about homosexual relations in general, making the issue a potentially divisive one for the Democrats and an opportunity for the Republicans in the 2004 election. (New York Times)

Anglican church:

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  • Sceptic priests could face trial by heresy courts | The Church of England is preparing to crack down on heresy and sloppy worship among clerics by forcing them to take an unequivocal public oath to uphold Church law. (Telegraph)

  • Christmas heightens pain of rift | Some Episcopalians in new churches (Associated Press)

  • Defection threat over gay clergy | One of the nation's most prominent Anglican priests has converted to Catholicism over dissatisfaction with gay and women clergy, as a delegation of conservative Anglicans goes to the Vatican for talks that could lead to more defections. (Melbourne Herald Sun, Australia)


  • An ailing Pope aided by circle of confidants | They belong to a close-knit group of papal aides who have known Pope John Paul II, his thoughts and his practices for decades. Here, they are known simply as "the Apartment," in reference to the pope's home in the grand apostolic palace. In the waning days of the pontiff's long reign, the Apartment has increasingly acted as his eyes, ears and interpreters. (Washington Post)

  • New law requires Roman Catholicism classes in Spain's schools | The conservative administration of the Spanish prime minister, José María Aznar, has passed a law to strengthen the presence of the Roman Catholic Church in the Spanish schools. Under the law, all students must take a class each year on Roman Catholic dogma, taught by church appointees and intended for practicing Catholics, or an alternative, secular class on world religions that education officials say offers a historical approach but opposition party leaders contend is similar to the Catholicism class. (New York Times)

Mel Gibson:

  • Flexing muscles in religion's battle | No Australian has had more fame combined with wealth than Mel Gibson, yet, while still in his 30s and at the height of his career, he was crippled by a deep emptiness behind his glittering celebrity. (Sydney Morning Herald)

  • Gibson film on Jesus: By the Book or for screen? | The portrayal of Jesus in agony is at the heart of the controversy surrounding Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ.' Gibson says he relied on his own research to make the film `realistic.' (Associated Press)


  • Blind Boys of Alabama | These days, more than ever, religion is a touchy subject in America. When the Blind Boys of Alabama sing, however, often-troublesome issues are beside the point; their faith is a staff, not a cudgel. The only thing they ask you to believe is that their faith brings them joy, which they express through their voices. (Variety)

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  • For a timeless song style, a chance at the big time | When this Cold Mountain opens nationwide on Christmas, the hope at Mount Pleasant Home Primitive Baptist Church on the outskirts of Birmingham is that it will accomplish something more meaningful than a glamorous trip to Hollywood. They hope it will introduce their kind of music — a powerful and beautiful but relatively obscure form of a cappella choral singing known as Sacred Harp — to a broader audience. (New York Times)


  • In post 9/11 United States, books can keep faith alive | Christmas approaches, amplifying the bitter irony of the spiritual basis of conflict - and its resolutions. (Baltimore Sun)

  • Readers find comfort in popular books with spiritual themes | The brightly lit aisles of Crossroads Bible Book and Music on Oak Valley Drive buzzed on a recent snowy evening as holiday shoppers browsed through books on religion, prayer and other spiritual topics. One title in particular caught my eye, "Mere Christianity," by C.S. Lewis, then ranked as one of the 20 best-selling books at Christian bookstores nationally. (The Ann Arbor News)




  • Chick-fil-A aims beyond its heavenly bill of fare | One way that Chick-fil-A acknowledges God is by closing its doors on Sundays so workers can go to church or just stay home with their families and rest. It sponsors foster homes. Its kids' meals typically include character-building books. And Chick-fil-A is hugely profitable. (Robert King, St. Petersburg Times, Florida)

  • Christian merchandise wades into culture's secular waters | Christian books on the bestseller lists. Christian hip-hop in the Top 10. Christian computer games for the kids, Christian movies at the multiplex, Christian greeting cards in Hallmark stores, Christian clothing - from poke-bonnet modest to baggy-pants X-treme - on the Web. (Denver Post)

Carl Henry:

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Church life:

  • Religion on credit | As the collection basket goes around the pews at Catholic church services, more and more parishioners just let it go by. Instead they're saying, charge it! (Daily Herald, Chicago suburbs)

  • A church love built | It's 10 on Sunday morning, and the Italian Mass at Sacred Heart Church, the last Italian church in Boston's North End, has begun. The place is full of people from Medford to Quincy who return to their roots in the neighborhood along with natives who never left. (The Boston Globe)

  • Faithful endure another year of scandal, schism | Religion touches on the search for meaning, the struggle for holiness, and the dream of peace — all areas of conflict in 2003. Yet there was celebration, too, as Pope John Paul II marked his 25-year jubilee. Significant stories included: (USA Today)

  • Family for Christ's work | Preacher's son follows in dad's footsteps, beyond (Biloxi Sun Herald, Mississippi)

  • Church's days numbered | Faced with a dwindling congregation, Starview United Methodist Church struggles to continue. (York Daily Record)

  • Infamous Atlanta strip club to be used as church | What was once a house of sin will soon become a house of worship. (Fox News)

  • 'A test of faith' Barefoot itinerant minister draws attention | Joseph, who said he is in his thirties, has no permanent home, job, or church. "I don't need it," he said. "I go where I can tell people about Christ." (Elizabethtown Bladen Journal, North Carolina)


  • Amid season's bustle, Christians seek the spiritual | Often there is a moment, an instant, when something inside knows it is Christmas. The pressures of buying gifts and preparing food fade in importance and there's a connection to something beyond, something sacred. (Rochester Democrat Chronicle, New York)

  • For the love of Jesus | Honk if you love Jesus? Then there'll be a whole lotta honkin' goin' on, because everybody today loves the entity whose birthday is celebrated Thursday. (Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Spiritual renewal: Commercial Christmas | Ignoring excess, sharing gifts of time and love are ways families can teach children true meaning of holiday (Las Vegas Review-Journal)

  • Christmas bans a mistake: Jensen | Banning Christmas celebrations in schools and businesses for fear of offending non-Christians was a mistake, Sydney Anglican Archbishop Peter Jensen said. (The Age, Australia)

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  • Santa arrives, Christ missing | While many have learned about Santa's role in the holiday, few, it seems, understand the connection between Christmas presents and Jesus Christ. (Shanghai Daily News)

  • Jesus rules in the sequel | Santa, the Eastern Temple Worms and the Dragons of Destruction may make for a good story, but in the end they pale by comparison (Paul Park, Los Angeles Times)

  • Christians prepare for holiest of holidays | In churches around the region, the faithful gather to celebrate the birth of Jesus with sermons, Christmas pageants and community fellowship. (St. Petersburg Times, Florida)

  • Charities tap holiday market | Catalogs showcase projects for needy, make plea to help (Chicago Tribune)

  • Bethlehem & beyond | Hope and fear in the Holy Land. (Paul Marshall, National Review)

  • Christ back in Christmas | Christian leaders have issued Christmas messages that urge people to look to the life of Christ as a role model for living in a turbulent world. The most senior church leader for the nation's 5 million Catholics, Cardinal George Pell, said Christ was not a fierce prophet, a warrior or a political agitator, yet he still changed the way ordinary people thought. (The Australian)

  • Christmas: Not just for Christians | Followers of other faiths say they appreciate the beauty of the season (The Argus, California)

  • Grim warnings for churches | Jakarta's Catholic cathedral was full to overflowing on Sunday morning, despite grim warnings from police and Western embassies that extremist attacks should be expected in the lead-up to Christmas and the New Year. (The Australian)

  • When in doubt . . . |. . . Just Say 'Merry Christmas' I know those Christian-sounding words ought to feel odd coming from my lips—I'm a third-generation atheist of Jewish ancestry, and I'm almost evangelical in my lack of faith. But they feel fine. (Blake Gopnik, Washington Post)

  • 'Don't separate Christmas from Christianity' | First Minister Jack McConnell called on public bodies not to "separate the link between Christianity and Christmas" today after holding talks with church leaders. (The Scotsman)

  • Public schools face challenge of multicultural holidays | Although the trees are up because it's Christmastime, Principal Michelle Barrera doesn't want to be quite so obvious about it. The non-Christmas trees exemplify what happens during the holiday season at public schools, which face the challenge of keeping students from various religious backgrounds included. (San Antonio Express)

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  • Indonesian Christians to mark Christmas amid terror fears | Al-Qaida linked militants are feared to be targeting churches in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, this Christmas, but priests and preachers aren't canceling yuletide services. "It would be capitulating to fear," said Rev. Andrew Lake, an Australian who heads an Anglican congregation in Jakarta. "Worshipping and serving God are still the highest priority." (Associated Press)

  • Nativity scenes prompt controversy | Downtown Princeton is alive with Christmas cheer. But none of the hundreds of decorations adorning the town is as alive as the Nativity scene on the Gibson County courthouse lawn. (WFIE-TV, Indiana)

  • Here's why it's 'X-mas' | Everybody knows about the fights over Nativity scenes, Ten Commandments displays, et al, but I thought you might appreciate some actual quotes. (Human Events)

  • America's controversial Christmas trees | For an overwhelmingly Christian country which prides itself on freedom of expression, removing "offensive" Christmas trees and censoring school Santas may seem curious. (BBC)

  • Time to take a stand against Christmas-phobia | Protests are staged if someone even hints at celebrating Christmas in a public forum, and some folks avoid saying the word "Christmas" in any context if they can go with "Happy Holidays!" or "Wonderful Winter Break to Ya!" or some other inoffensive phrase. (Richard Roeper, Chicago Sun-Times)

  • Questions about the Nativity | We assert the truth of a proposition by saying it is "gospel," but even a casual reading of the most sacred texts of Christianity shows that common notions of "truth" do not apply. (James Carroll, The Boston Globe)

  • Christmas is not celebration time for everyone | People often express shock when they find out that I don't celebrate Christmas. Then they find out why. I was born and raised Muslim. (Malecia El-Amin, The Dallas Morning News)

  • Religious restrictions or religious censorship? | This week as Christians prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, Fox News Channel will be looking at the many ways the principles and symbols of Christianity are disappearing from public life and examine the causes and consequences. (Fox News)

  • Some turn cold shoulder to Christmas | Not everyone has reason to celebrate the holiday as the majority of the American populace does. These naysayers come from many perspectives, and with different reasons. Some are even Christians. (Richard Nilsen, The Arizona Republic)

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  • Spiritual directors can help us find our personal connection to God | While Jackson-area clergy prepare altars with candles and poinsettias for Christmas Eve services next week, some believers will celebrate the birth of Jesus in their own fashion. (The Jackson Citizen Patriot, Michigan)

  • Heaven comes down to Earth | On the question of whether the S.U.V.'s in heaven will have cup holders for all the manna, the Scriptures offer few clues. But this has not stopped Americans from seeking their own answers. (New York Times)

  • Reason and faith, eternally bound | One might have expected the forces of Reason to be a bit weary after a generation of battling postmodernism and having its power and authority under constant scrutiny. Reason's battles, though, continue unabated. Only now it finds its opposition in the more unyielding claims of religious faith. It is a conflict between competing certainties: between followers of Faith, who know because they believe, and followers of Reason, who believe because they know. (New York Times)

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