Thursday, September 25, 2008

Jesus Creed vs. Out of Ur: Emerging Church Lives

A few days ago, a staff-written post for the Out of Ur blog operated by Christianity Today’s sister publication Leadership declared the emerging church “dead in nomenclature—if not in spirit.” (See “R.I.P. Emerging Church: An overused and corrupted term now sleeps with the fishes.”) The anonymous blogger began by talking about the death of the term “emerging church,” but before long seemed to suggest that the movement itself was over. “As the emerging church rides off into the sunset,” the writer said, new networks were taking its place.

The blog post irritated a lot of folk, not the least North Park University professor Scot McKnight.

Early, very early, yesterday morning (12:30 AM, to be exact), McKnight posted a response to Out of Ur’s insinuations on his Jesus Creed blog. Ur seemed to say that not only “the word ‘emerging’ was dead but also the emerging church … Tommyrot!," Scot said.

You can feel the heat of Scot’s vehemence.

Scot took a deep breath, counted to ten, and then explained. Terms don’t make a movement. And terms don’t end a movement. And Scot is really, really tired of explaining all the terminological nuances within the phenomenon called “the emerging church." He has certainly been one of the most articulate observers of the movement.

As he explained in his 2007 Christianity Today article, there are five major streams that flow into Lake Emerging. People swim in different streams, some (like Scot) in more than one. If the term is dying, the currents are still there. If it isn’t Lake Emergent, Scot and friends will still swim in Lake Whatever. People are forever doubting the usefulness of labels like "conservative," "fundamentalist," "evangelical," and "feminist." After a while, all movement labels carry excess baggage. They create general impressions that often do not fit the people who are conservative, fundamentalist, evangelical, feminist, or even "emerging."

Nevertheless, Scot says, a lot of young church leaders are rightly concerned about the evangelical turn to neo-fundamentalism, and they are looking for ways to present a perishing world with a holistic gospel.

Scot admits (as Out of Ur suggested) that a new network is being born, but it is “not a sister/brother alliance” of Emergent Village. It's not there to take the place of the emerging streams. Instead, the new network will focus on evangelism, a dimension that has been weak in some emerging churches. Scot and friends are building the new evangelistic alliance on the foundations of the classically evangelical and seriously holistic 1974 Lausanne Covenant. That's a good place to start, because doctrinal questions and rumors that circulated around Emergent and emerging have weighed down some noble efforts. The Lausanne Covenant is as sound as doctrinal statements come. The new network shouldn't have to rebut rumors about flawed doctrine.

Scot promises to reveal more details of the new network soon. Read his entire reply to Out of Ur here.

Forget labels, do ministry.


Nate Myers said...


Thank you for your gracious yet challenging post here. The way you handled this tough issue is one of a few posts/comments I've seen that consistently raise the level of discourse on this issue rather than descending into buzz-words and generalizations.

I appreciate your consideration of Scot's history as a balanced leader on this issue; especially your thoughts here on the different "currents" existing that transcend the labels we slap on them. I like what Scot and his friends are doing, because it's in the spirit of building what is "emerging" into a movement that encompasses all of what God cares about, which includes evangelism and transformation.

Nathan Myers

adam matthew said...
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