5 Suggestions to the Emergent Church

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : December 15, 2004

I know that the emerging church is hardly monolithic.  But generally speaking, here are five suggestions for the emergent church:

  1. Don’t forsake working with existing networks of churches.  Working exclusively with churches like yours isn’t going to help the Church overall.  We have a lot to learn from the variety of traditions and if we will ever have something to teach them, we need to stay in contact with them if they are to learn from us. 
  2. Take your time learning from traditions before you implement their practices and beliefs.  The growing number of neo-evangelical churches using icons is more a sign of consumerism than it is a deep appreciation for Eastern Orthodoxy.
  3. Rethink Pneumatology.  Unless our praxis is shaped by the Spirit, then we will end up with yet another set of static models.  Postmodernism allows us to conceive of dynamic systems that work as open sets.  Let’s utilize this philosophical freedom to conceive of ways of being and doing the church that orients us towards life and growth, rather than falling into new ways of limiting one another.  This area is of utmost importance, since how we conceive of Pneumatology effects our understanding of authority, leadership, decision-making, mobilization, cultural engagement, etc.
  4. Challenge homogeneity.  If you value diversity, social justice, and decentralized ways of conceiving of authority (which many emergent churches do), then you have to decide whether or not these things are more important than numerical success and ecclesiological influence.  If you value these things (which most emergent folk see to say they do, but with limited actual expression), then take a stand and be willing to struggle.  I’ve known people to start churches that affirm these values, but compromise upon them because they don’t "work" very well.
  5. Be Different. This one is actually two separate ideas: On one hand you need to realize how similar your church may be to the churches you criticize.  Keep trying to move towards faithfulness–be a reformation which constantly reforms.  On the other hand, allow yourself to be different from culture.  Sometimes our quest for relevance can lead us to stand with culture in areas in which we ought to be prophetic.  Following Jesus isn’t cool.  And the church shouldn’t strain to be either. 

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2 Responses to “5 Suggestions to the Emergent Church”

  1. keith on December 16th, 2004 4:20 am

    Some great observations. May I suggest also “Keep mission-focused, rather than overly concerned about what it means to be ‘emergent-shaped’” Shape will develop more out of engaging in mission than out of conferences (or blogging!) about emerging church!

  2. Van S on December 16th, 2004 10:05 am

    Amen, Keith.

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