Posted by: minnow | May 10, 2009

Death Knell

Have you heard?  The Emergent/Emerging Church is dead.  At least, according to C. Michael Patton of the Parchment and Pen blog it is.  I am not certain what preceded his declaration or why he thinks he has the authority to declare such.  But, just hop over to The Carnival in My Head, One Hand Clapping, Missio Dei, Emerging Women, Evolving in Monkey Town, Emerging Pensees, Losing my Religion: Re-Thinking Church, Decompressing Faith, or any of the many blogs you can find on their blog rolls, if you want to know the truth.  While I often read the blogs I just listed I most appreciate Kathy Escobar at The Carnival in My Head.  Why? Because, this woman walks out what I believe is meant by the term the Emerging Church.

At The Refuge, Kathy and others with her are the Church emerging.  They have come out from under what has imprisoned Christ’s image.  They are not afraid to get their hands dirty.  And, they are not ashamed to say, “The job is too big for us. It needs God.”  I am blessed by Kathy’s witness, her faith, her passion.  But, I am mostly encouraged by her willingness to admit, “I am not there  yet.”  Personally, I am not even close to being there.  Thus, I need people like Kathy Escobar to keep whispering, “I think I can! I think I can!” because it helps me to think I can as well.

I am angered by Patton’s blog declaring the death of the Emerging Church.  Usually I find what the P&P blog has to say at least thought provoking, even when I do not agree with its point of view.  However, this post is disappointing.  His arrogance offends me and actually seems out of character for Mr. Patton.  I have no doubt that Mr. Patton loves the Church, and embraces what he considers its evangelical tradition.  My own experience, however, causes me to wonder if Mr. Patton is not deceived.  He seems to believe that the true evangelical is ever reforming and willing to examine its practice while holding firmly to its core.  Based on my own experience, I must disagree.  And, the voices from the Emerging Church I most often listen to would probably disagree as well.

Mr. Patton claims to have been a sympathizer of the Emerging Church movement.  And, in his post he declares that he will always embrace the movement’s “ethos”.  (If you do not know what ethos means do not bother looking it up; an ethos according to Webster’s is: “the distinguishing character…moral nature, or guiding belief of a person, group, or institution.”  I submit that Mr. Patton and many like him do not actually understand, let alone sympathize with the EC, and by not truly understand cannot embrace its “ethos”.  Their insistence that the EC have a cemented doctrine and be organized under specific leadership is evidence enough for me. 

Granted, I do not speak for all emergers.  However, I think it is fairly safe to say that what most emergers have in common is that they are coming out from under (emerging from) some sort of oppressive or ineffective system.  It dawned on me as I participated in the comments on the P&P blog that part of what may be contributing to the confusion over just what the Emerging Church is, is the fact that there are really two groups that are “coming out from under” the more traditional Church umbrella.  The first group could possibly be described as “seeker friendly”.  They opt for a more contemporary service and usually offer a fairly dynamic kids program.  They probably do not preach a lot of hell fire and damnation but if pressed the leadership, at least, would most likely line up along those lines and if you want more in depth teaching you can always find some kind of Bible study among the many and varied small group offerings.  In reality this country club-like fellowship is simply a new wrapping for the same old controlling spirit, legalism, and self oriented religion.  These are probably the fastest growing “Churches” but their primary focus is still internal.

The Emerging Church I consider myself to be part of is more interested in day in day out practice then in saying and believing all the “right” doctrine or attracting the masses to a building.  It desires to be Christ’s hands and feet in a hurting world and in letting that world know God loves it.  These emergers have been controlled, ignored, and patronized.  We are tired of hoops, dictators, and waste.  In general we are weary of watching while top heavy organizations squander their resources (both personal and financial) on fluff and entertainment (primarily seen on Sunday morning).  But the part of “what it means to be emerging” that really galls the more traditional Church is that we are also more willing to see God and good  in unusual places, we are not likely to condemn the homosexual to hell because we are not sure hell even exists, at least not as the everlasting place of torment we were once told about in Sunday school, and we are not too sure the guy in the pulpit has a better story to share then the alcoholic who has managed to stay 24 hours sober.  We may not be considered “orthodox” but what many of us have seen of orthodox does not exactly convince us we are missing much. 

Do you know why I know the Emerging Church is not dead?  Because, I am part of the Church emerging and I have never been more alive!  Nor have I ever seen more signs of life in the Church around me than I see in my fellow confused, frustrated, questioning, struggling, Christ seeking (following, worshipping) emergers.  See you on the journey, Minnow

PS: Happy Mother’s Day!



  1. Good job minnow, you said exactly what some of us have been wondering for a while now. We heard in church today about a man who had grown up in church (our pastor’s nephew) and had knowledge of God but took 29 years to have a relationship with God.

    That’s the problem with most theology. It teaches us about God, but doesn’t teach responsibility as a believer in a relationship with Jesus Christ.

    I can understand a little now about Emergers. To me it sounds like they try to actually do something and not just sit on the sidelines waiting for God to do something Reformed so they can cheer about it.

    Be ye doers and not hearers only…good post minnow.

  2. I personally am disappointed in Patton for declaring an undead movement dead. The “God-box” is still being destroyed for whatever reason

    We need doctrine and lifestyle – but it would seem in the Emergent world, doctrine is the problem, which I would agree with Patton that is it not.

    Yes, theology doesn’t tell you about responsibility, because in that case, you’d have a million applications for a million people. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit to take the information and help the believer apply it.

    I share Patton’s disdain for the Emerging Church, but it would seem that for some “Emergers”, the verse has become, “Be ye doers and for God’s sake, stop hearing some Book already, and that is fast becoming a popular view.

  3. Kara and K.–
    Thank you for stopping by.
    I am running on 24 hours without sleep so I will have to wait until morning to comment further. One question K.–The part of the emerging Church I discribe here–is that also distasteful to you?

  4. If you mean the general distrust for “prepackaged” doctrine that seems to be the rage on the blogosphere, then yes, it concerns me a little, especially when the NT is fraught with references to sound doctrine, teaching, etc. It seems that the balance the Apostle Paul spoke of in 1 Timothy 4:16, “[Watching] your life and your doctrine” is being ignored, and it deeply saddens me.

    If you mean a desire to love God not just intellectually but practically, then not at all, and I gladly welcome it. We need more believers putting that knowledge in their heads to use for the glory of God. I just don’t see why doctrine has to have all the shots taken against it.

  5. K,
    When you say emerging church, would you include the Wesleyans and Methodists in that sphere?

    In North Carolina where I just lived 9 years and moved from….

    On WGHP Fox 8 news one night there was a report about a Wesleyan pastor who decided to have Bible studies in a local tavern while drinking alcohol, because he says John Wesley and the Christian churches did this in the great evangelism times. A certain Methodist church in the town I lived has a bar in their fellowship hall. And a radio preacher did say live on the air that all preachers needed to go to strip clubs “to understand what the people who frequent the place go through in their lives”.

    Those were three very well established churches those men were from. So when we say lifestyle, what do we mean? Whose lifestyle is more appropriate?

  6. Not necessarily. You’d have to look at each individual Methodist/Wesleyan congregation.

    I’m not saying a particular lifestyle is wrong – I’m just saying we don’t have to throw out doctrine to have a truly Christ-centred lifestyle.

  7. Kara–The best advice I can give when trying to understand “Emerging Church” is to STOP thinking denomination and building. I know there are many “emergers” I would not partner with because I do not agree with their witness. These are throwing out doctrine just for the sake of thowing out doctrine. They are suggesting all roads lead to God and it does not really matter how we live. I do not hold to either of those points of view. I am NOT saying doctrine is unimportant. I am saying we reveal what we actually believe by how we live and how well we love–God, ourselves, and others. For example, I believe that if my fellowship does not use its Building to meet needs (inside and outside of the Body) on a daily basis then we should rethink why we have a building.
    K. We may be closer to the same page then I originally thought. I believe there are fellowships that walk out what they see in the gospels. I just have not found them.

  8. Minnow,
    As I come along here very slowly in understanding, emergers don’t necessarily go to church? Or they go all the time?

    Is it like an undercurrent of Christianity that flows just below the surface, like house churches and small groups?

  9. Ok I read some about it at

    I take it is more than just churches who preach doctrine but living out what they see as the Gospel of Jesus Christ and seeking opportunity everywhere they look.

    I never grew up in a church that preached and defined doctrine, that’s why when someone called me Arminian I was confused because I never heard the word before. I grew up independent Pentecostal but not a doctrine pushing one. So perhaps that is why I am so confused because apparently this emergent church is like mine, only I did not realize it because I know so many people who are doctrinal.

    Am I getting warmer?

  10. I would say I am a member of a fellowship which is both passionate about doctrine and are passionate about community outreach and being “a city on a hill”.

    I just wonder whether some (not all) in the Emergent conversation act as though such a mix is impossible.

  11. K–You are probably correct especially when I think about some of the most outspoken emergers (or at least when I think about what has been said about them by more consrvative evangelicals. I can tell you that I for one am very excited to hear that your fellowship is passionate about community outreach and doctrine. I have been looking for a fellowship that gave more than lip service to outreach and have recently quit attending an organized fellowship. Instead I am serving with other Christ followers at a food bank once a week, meeting with another couple as often as possible for fellowship and a loose kind of accountability, and seeking conversation with as many others as I can. Like I mentioned in this post I am hardly “there” yet. I dream of being the “called out” ones 24/7 and the “called out gathered” at least weekly where we can share with one another what the Lord is doing in our midst.
    Kara–I think you are probably in a great place as far as understanding because your heart is not hardened to looking at people as individuals and not just groups. I hope that I am able (as I get distance from some of the “Church hurt” I have experienced) to see more good in what I have left behind than bad even though I do not plan to ever go back to a Building-Based Christianity. My family (or most of it) is still invested in the fellowship we began to attend when we moved here and I want to be an encourager in their lives. Well I am enjoying this dialogue. Thank you both. We seem to at least be in the same chapter if not on exactly the same page.

  12. Minnow,
    I grew up in a Catholic community and even though my school was predominantly Catholic it was still a public school. It had at one time been a parish school and if you have ever been in rural Ohio you will know what I mean. The church was just across this tiny little road and all the Catholic kids went there.

    But I was not Catholic, I was Pentecostal and I learned some interesting things. I assumed (at 8) that everybody spoke in tongues and they assumed I had confirmation. LOL. I remember the day they came to school and all of them were talking about their new confirmation names and then asked me what mine was. I had no clue what they were talking about.I remember being the only kid in school in the morning of Ash Wednesday. That was a long time ago but through my experiences being the different kid I learned a lot.

    We don’t always have to stay there at 8 years old. That is something I had to look at in their lives as well. They can be Catholic and I can be Pentecostal and when friction arises (and it did many times) I know who to look toward for wisdom.

    I have always said whatever you call yourself then be that to the best of your ability.

  13. uh, my smiley came in the wrong place…what’s up with that..LOL. I was saying “at eight years old”…i typed 8 and that happened..LOL.

  14. LOL!
    Kara–Thanks for sharing. When I was little my three best friends were all Catholic. I grew up Presbyterian. I don’t know how many times I was told I committed a “Mortal Sin”. Now when I think about it I just laugh. I remember one summer out in front of my house I spent a lot of time marching up and down the side walk praying in what I called “Swedish”. Having no concept of tongues at the time I didn’t realize what I was really doing. I did have the sense I was praying though which was really cool.

  15. Minnow,
    Your story is so good, speaking Swedish…LOL. I like it, proves that even Presbyterians can be charismatic…which is what I have always thought…Pentecostalism is an experience shared across denominational lines.

    Good story, I appreciate it bunches.


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