Why talk about this again? One simple reason: too many continue to use the terms inaccurately, so I thought I’d post a little blog on how to use these terms a little more accurately. I’ve tired of hearing us talk around one another and so I’m asking, especially for our critics, to listen long enough to consider the following items. Call them “Seven Habits of Successful Emerging Discussions.”
First, avoid using “emerging” and “emergent” interchangeably: in spite of plenty of folks making it clear that “emergent” is an association of persons and gatherings with the Emergent-US or Emergent-UK, and “emerging” being a much wider phenomenon, many continue to use these terms interchangeably. Distinguish the two if you can.
Second, in spite of his readership and influence, try not to equate Brian McLaren’s nonfiction and fiction with exactly what he believes and exactly what that is is exactly what everyone, young and old, far and wide, here and there, believes exactly who considers himself or herself connected to the emerging movement or emergent. This is unfair to Brian and to everyone else.
Third, learn that not all emerging/emergent churches use candles and incense and other luminaries and other ancient and adapted worship environments. A reporter recently told me she had been to a few emerging places of worship and was disappointed because she didn’t see any candles — she said it shocked her that the “churches” looked like “churches.”
Fourth, please do not assume that everyone, everyone, everyone in emerging circles is postmodernist in epistemology, or assume that all postmodernists deny truth completely, or assume that postmodernists deny all metanarratives, or assume that metanarratives include the gospel, or just keep saying that emerging folk deny absolute truth. This in spite of many, many, many who have said over and over that none of this is accurate.
Fifth, begin using the definitions that have been offered and spoken of so many times that they are patently the obvious place to start:
1. Emergent-US’s “Order” statement.
2. Wikipedia’s definition.
3. Gibbs and Bolger’s book, Emerging Churches.
This is perhaps my biggest plea. In the last month or so I’ve seen several prominent evangelical leaders resort to stereotypes and simplicities and miss an opportunity to communicate genuinely.
Sixth, please don’t say that it is hard to describe a group that refuses to define itself, in spite of #5. They’ve done so — over and over.
Seventh, recognize that the emerging movement and emergent are bigger than the USA and North America, that there are emerging folks all around this globe, and that some of the most interesting missional work is being done in those contexts.
I appeal to you as a Christian to a Christian to listen to your brothers and sisters long enough to understand how these terms are being used. In Alan Jacobs’ absolutely briliant book, A Theology of Reading, the Christian obligation in reading is to listen because listening is the first ingredient in a hermeneutics of love.