The strengths and weaknesses of the emerging church

I'm currently about 60% of the way through Don Carson's Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church. While he has many criticisms of the emerging church movement's approach to the nature of truth, at the same time it is not only negative things that he has to say Rather, he also devotes some substantial time to some of the positive elements that the emerging church movement has brought to greater attention. Although I'm not yet done reading through the book, I think that at this point I can already reccomend it to those of you looking for something to read. While the book is a heavier read than light fiction, at the same time Carson seems to have a way with words such that it flows rather easily.

What I wanted to share with you here is approximately a paragraph of Carson's book (from p. 55/56):

Although these Christians were steeped in one particular theological tradition, they did not come across as arrogant, even when they were encouraging deep confessionalism. Their denomination was poorly represented in the demographics of their city, so the growth they experienced was not achieved by stealing sheep from sister churches of similar pedigree: it was mostly conversion growth. Penetrating the sealed apartment blocks and yuppie culture of a major city is never easy, but hundreds and eventually thousands were converted, generating a congregation where the mean age was late twenties or early thirties: it was the postmodern generation that was most powerfully affected. Across two decades this church planted numerous other congregations in their large metropolitan area and then reached out to help plant still other churches in other metropolitan areas. The irony is that while this sounds like an outstanding examplar of the emerging church movement, this church - Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City - is thoroughly unlikely to identify itself as a candidate for emerging rolls. The reason I talk about this church should nevertheless be clear: it displays all the strengths of the emerging church movement while avoiding most of its weaknesses.

Interestingly, as my pastor brought to my attention on Sunday, Tim Keller, the pastor of this church, was also recently granted the opportunity to present the gospel with the national media standing nearby. (How many church leaders are written about in both the New York Times and People Magazine within the same week? That said, the two articles are quite different - with each author drawing different things from the sermon and I think also missing the point of it) Everytime I've thought about this the first phrase to come to mind has been "wow!". I was listening to the Ordinary Means podcast last night, and since have been digesting the comment made by one of the hosts that most christians seem to be functionally deists. Just how often do you really expect to hear an answer to your prayers?

I think that I may have mentioned this in the past, but one of the things that I really appreciate about the PCA is its emphasis on urban evangelism. One ministry outlet of the church that I've been talking about is the Redeemer Church Planting Center and you can find an interesting video on their resource page. Tim Keller brings out in the video that cities are (in his words) "the influence centers a particular region or culture." On a more biblical note, Tim Keller also begged viewers to consider where the Apostle Paul went on his missionary journeys.


My co-pastor and I have been tossing around the idea of doing something like this in the False Creek area. However, I'm hesitating because I don't want this to become a one-man (or two-man) show, i.e. where the pastors are doing all the work. It would be great if some of our people already living in that area would catch a vision for something like this. I'm not talking about planting a church that would look exactly like Langley or Cloverdale or whatever. It would be Reformed, but it would reflect the cultural background of those called into it.


How would you (or anyone else out there) define the "Emerging Church" trend, in your own words (i.e. one or two sentences). Do you think Wikipedia does a good job of summarizing the topic?

Movements are always hard to delineate, but I suppose that I can give it a shot. I'd call it a post-modernist attempt to redefine Christianity, with a corresponding reduction in claims to absolute truth (ie. not all emergent leaders seem to see Christ as the only way for all). Brian MacLaren and others within the emergent movement have been known to allude to views talking of Christ paying for human sin on the cross as being ideas of divine child abuse.

The wikipedia summary seems OK, although you might want also to take a look at an article by Don Carson summarizing things which is linked at the bottom of the wikipedia article.


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Here's a website that I've found that seems to generally discuss a balanced perspective on the "emerging church", discussing both the good and the bad, and how we can apply the good aspects:

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I've starting reading through a few articles on that site you mentioned... and one thing that I've found strange/troublesome thus far is that one individual's description of his own church's mission statement includes being heretical.