Thursday, November 17, 2005

What Is the Emerging Church Movement? Part 7

In this series of posts, I'm trying to understand the emerging church movement before I attempt any critique or offer any concerns.

I want to commend to you a brand-new book, published by Baker Books, entitled Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, by Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger, both of Fuller Seminary.

I expect this book to quickly become a standard reference in the ongoing conversation. Key leaders within emerging churches are also recommending it as the best book currently available:

  • “Quite simply the best book yet on the emerging church.” (Andrew Jones)
  • “If you want to be truly conversant with emerging churches, this is the book to read.” (Brian McLaren)
  • “The best book available on the emerging church.” (John R. Franke)

Gibbs and Bolger spent five years interviewing participants in the “emergent conversation.” Rejecting a definitional approach that would clearly demarcate who is “in” and who is “out,” they have chosen to label as Emerging Churches those faith communities that are engaged in particular processes.

Gibbs and Bolger first identified churches “that take culture, specifically postmodern culture, very seriously.” They next identified nine activities/practices that were common to these churches. Very few of the churches they surveyed exhibited all nine. So they broke it down into three core practices and six derivative practices. Their expansive definition, build upon these nine practices, is as follows:

Emerging Churches are those
1. who take the life of Jesus as a model way to live, and
2. who transform the secular realm,
3. as they live highly communal lives.

Because of these three activities, emerging churches

4. welcome those who are outside,
5. share generously,
6. participate,
7. create,
8. lead without control, and
9. function together in spiritual activities.

Boiling it down to one sentence: “Emerging Churches are communities who practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures.” Or another way of saying the same thing: “Emerging Churches are missional communities arising from within postmodern culture, consisting of followers of Jesus seeking to be faithful in their place and time.”