Let me make a distinction again, because I’m hearing it enough and it is helping some people to see more of what is going on, it puts much of the critique into a smaller niche, and it frees us up to think more of what is going on.
Emergent refers to the official organization (or whatever you want to call it). There was a lot of chat about this when Tony Jones became National Coordinator — and I say good for Emergent and good for him. But, some didn’t like it because (1) it got too structural and (2) it gave the impression once again that Emergent was the center of the Emerging movement. (I have lots of respect for Emergent, even when I disagree with certain positions taken.)
Emerging is bigger; it is global; it connects all kinds of house church movements and cell groups and brothers and sisters out there toiling alone in danger and deprivation for the gospel. Those folks are often not blogged about, but we know they are there.Read up on some of the international blogs.
Now, I am persuaded that Emerging movement is the better expression when it comes to “emerging movement” vs. “emerging church.” Why? Because the latter gives the impression that there is some official church out there. There isn’t — though there may be some day. I liken this to the Jesus people of the 60s and 70s, and to the seeker-sensitive churches of the 80s. It is a movement. But, I could be wrong and I’m glad to learn it.
But here’s the key: the Emerging movement, as a wide-spread, global attempt to live out the gospel and reach out with the lived gospel, has plenty of things going for it — and what I like most is that it is challenging the Evangelical movement/church to a clarify what the gospel really is. It is moving beyond old social vs. spiritual categories and in so doing is embracing a big, big gospel for big, big world issues that are both individual and systemic.
Now here’s a line of thinking I sometimes use with classes and groups, and which I’ve probably mentioned in passing in a blogpost and which I think might help us think about the Emerging gospel of this generation:
Read Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55
then read Jesus’ inaugural sermon in Luke 4:16-30
then read Matthew 5–7 and 11:2-6
then Acts 2–4
And ask this question: is that not what Jesus thought Kingdom was all about? A socio-economic and spiritual Kingdom at work on earth (as it was in heaven) for the good of others and the world?
And, so it seems to me, this new generation is challenging my generation to see if that is the gospel we’ve been preaching and living. I happen to think they have the longer end of that stick and that gospel stick is pretty important, don’t you think?
I’m less afraid of a big gospel than I am of a little gospel.