The Rev. Dr. Karyn L. Wiseman, Assistant Professor of Homiletics
This worship description is an example of an Emerging Church. Like other Christian traditions, they believe in the transformational power of Jesus and tell his story every chance they get. They are not focused on bricks and mortar. They are all about mission, living within their community in intentional ways, worshiping in a passionate and contextualized manner, and ministering with communal outreach. The Emerging Church is a movement clearly reflected within some mainline denominations, but exists outside of any denominational structure as well. The Emerging Church is focused on attracting both churched and unchurched folks to create new communities of faith. It is focused on being the body of Christ incarnationally in the world – being the hands and feet of Christ in their daily walk. Some within the Emerging Church
self-identify as emergent, while others are just trying to find a new way to reach people regardless of labels. However, they all fully embrace the fact that our culture has shifted from a “church culture” to a “secular culture.” Those within the movement believe that the Church will survive only by embracing that fact and by intentionally changing to create communities that reflect this new paradigm.2
The Emerging Church Movement is attempting to revitalize the church, much like Luther did 500 years ago. Changing times have throughout history called for different methods to spread the gospel. The church is constantly being reformed and changed – sometimes subtly and sometimes with cataclysmic results. This movement wants to tap into the changing dynamics of postmodern culture to create a new landscape to experience God.3 The interesting thing about this movement is it cannot be fixed or defined universally – it is expressed in a number of very different realities based on the needs of that particular community of faith. Culture is still shifting, and the church needs to be flexible enough to shift with it – thus the evolution is not complete. So they are living into what they believe the church might be in the future. They are living into a reality where the church is relevant to a younger, postmodern generation and to their needs; however, it is not limited to any one age group. Emerging Churches see themselves as a community being the church in the world instead of folks “going to church.”4 For some, the Emerging Church is going too far, but the last time I left a traditional worship service I can say definitively that I did not hear my pre-teen say, “Mom that was so cool. I was engaged and thought church was something for me.” He is the audience, the congregation, of the future. Will his needs be met by the traditional church? I don’t yet know. But I hope the Church continues to stretch and grow to meet the needs of the generations to come. If not, he, like others, will be looking for the nearest Emerging Church to call his faith home.
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4 Dan Kimball. The Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations. (Grand Rapids, MI: Emergent YS/Zondervan, 2003), 95. This phrase, while difficult for many to hear, is an important dynamic for church leaders to grasp. Many postmoderns and emerging church participants have experienced church in this way in the past and crave a different way of expressing their faith. The phrase clearly does not reflect the reality for many in the traditional churches who passionately worship, do vital ministry, and live missionally. These persons typically have not found that in their own experiences with the traditional church.