Monday, August 30, 2010

The Emergent Church & the Church of the Nazarene

Some have requested some additional background information on the issues related to the Board of General Superintendents' recent Statement on the Emergent Church. Here is a brief introduction to the conversation:

There is a little ambiguity to the title "Emergent Church," because it is not an official group or organization. Although some have labeled themselves as members or leaders of the "Emergent Church Movement," there is no official body with this name. It is additionally confusing because many people automatically assume that anything politically, theologically, or biblical liberal should be labeled "emergent ideology." However, this is not the case.

Here are a few tenets often [rightly] associated with the Emergent Church:
1. Mostly a part of Western Culture, specifically North America. Connected to the young adult generation (Technological Generation, Generation Y, whatever name you would like to give it). Also made up of pastors and church leaders specifically organizing ministry geared towards this generation.
2. Relationships and Community are very important. Christianity is not an individualistic religion, but can only be lived out in the fellowship with other believers.
3. Connected to their strong emphasis on community, social justice issues are very important -- both locally and abroad.
4. More concerned with living out what it means to be a Christian than being able to articulate correct doctrine. This is not to say that right beliefs are important to the emergents, but living out these right beliefs is much more important.
5. Concerned with taking care of God's creation. Believe that God is working to redeem all of his creation, because all of it was effected by sin.
6. Place a great emphasis on experiential Christianity. Emergents often connect with God the most in worship services that have moving music, art components, and hands-on methods of expressing love to God.

Here are a few overgeneralizations or incorrect beliefs about the emergent church, but that some believe to be true:
1. Emergents have a disregard for biblical authority.
2. Emergents worship creation, as if "Mother Nature" were real.
3. Emergents often align themselves politically with the democratic party (which is probably true), and this makes them less orthodox or biblical Christians.
4. Emergents are intentionally trying to "take over" the Church of the Nazarene doctrine and leadership.
5. Emergents are heretical.

Here are some legitimate concerns about the Emergent Church:
1. Church involvement and personal piety can be left behind for the sake of social justice. Individuals may spend less time in God's Word or praying than doing good works. (both need to happen in balance).
2. There are definitely some who are extreme on the emergent side of the spectrum. Of these few, some of the overgeneralizations may be true. However, they are not true of the Emergent Church as a whole.
3. Any theological concept/method that deconstructs the basic tenets of the Christian Faith should be rejected. (Basically, if it disagrees with the Apostles' or Nicene Creed, it's probably not orthodox).
4. Because the Emergent Church is connected to the culture of our day, some of the other cultural identifiers of today can also creep into the church. We need to stay away from moral and religious relativism.

Some Guidelines for Future Conversations:
I mentioned some of theses in a slightly different form in my post about Overgeneralizations and Stereotypes.
1. Conversations should be held in a Christ-like manner. Underhanded comments, public ridicule, and untrue/unfounded assumptions about another's character have no place in such dialogue.
2. Be up to date with contemporary Biblical scholarship from trustworthy sources. At least some of what is being labeled "liberal" is actually the generally accepted understanding these days.
3. Some conversations should happen behind closed doors, not on blogs, e-mail, for facebook.

Well, that should be enough to give you a general background on the discussion. I would be happy to talk more on this issue with anyone interested!


  1. I say blow out the candles and get back to basics. Preach the gospel, makes disciples and pray in the power the Spirit and then we can all get back on focus.

  2. Good job Keith! I have found summation to be one of the best I have come across. Keep up the good work. You have a great and informative blog


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