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Defining the Emerging Church





1. Don't stereotype the emerging church. I often encounter people who project themselves as knowledgeable about the emerging church and write blogs, articles and even books about it. Yet within a few minutes of reading what they write it becomes apparent that their entire take is based on extreme overgeneralizations.

I have read some bizarre things written about emerging churches and what they do in worship. But these descriptions rarely ever list church names or describe actual visits the writers have made to emerging churches. The assessments are based more on hearsay and urban legend. I've been to many emerging churches and can say that nothing comes close to the caricatures of these churches painted by misinformed "informers." So instead of basing your opinion on hearsay and saying, "All emerging churches are ... " try limiting it to, "This specific church is ..." And before that, make sure what you are saying about a church or leader is actually true.

This does not mean that I think all the criticism is invalid. Because of the diversity of the emerging church there will be theological differences. I personally have concerns when anyone emerging—or for that matter, anyone in the church—strays from the core historical orthodox doctrines of the faith. But when I have those concerns, I address them with specific individuals rather than making generalized statements.

2. Pray for emerging leaders and the future church. There are many leaders who are passionately and prayerfully planting new churches and taking risks in their existing churches—all for the sake of the gospel being known in our emerging culture. The overall statistics in America don't look too good right now for the future church, and many emerging churches are at the forefront of trying, by the strength of the Spirit, to be missionaries in our culture today. Rather than speak poorly of them or question their motives, pray for those who are leading emerging missional churches.

3. Remember, the church is always emerging. Since Jesus left us with the Great Commission and His Holy Spirit, the church has always been emerging. Various expressions of the body at large have "emerged" continually throughout church history and altered the way we function. For this reason, we shouldn't be afraid of change.

In 1970, Larson and Osborne commented on what was emerging in the church at the time. They wrote, "If the church be true to its Lord, it may never properly say it has emerged." Indeed, the church was emerging then, it is emerging now, and it will continue to be emerging years later.

Somewhere in the world right now is a 6-year-old who in 2040 will write another book called The Emerging Church. He'll identify what is emerging in his era and there will probably be critics who don't like change and who will point fingers. Yet may he, along with all the emerging churches and emerging leaders of the future, continue to be passionate about bringing the eternal truth of the gospel of Jesus to the ever-changing emerging cultures of whatever time in which we live.


Dan Kimball serves as the primary teaching pastor at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif. Author of several books on the emerging church, he has become a leading voice in the movement. For more information, visit dankimball.com.

 

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