Emergent Movement as Protest

Written by Mark Van Steenwyk : November 1, 2005

Scot McKnight’s blog is probably on my top five favorite blogs.  Reading it is always a treat. Recently, he posted 10 ways in which the Emergent Movement is a Protest Movement:

  1. It protests too much tom-fakery in traditional
  2. It denounces the divisions
    in the Church.
  3. It sees cock-sure certainty as a cancer.
  4. It refuses to separate action from articulation.
  5. It wants individualism absorbed into incorporation.
  6. The Emerging Movement?s mindset is against marketing the gospel.
  7. The Emerging Movement despises the idea that Church is what takes place on Sunday Morning.
  8. The Emerging Movement rejects the hierarchy and pyramid structure
    of many churches.
  9. The social gospel cannot be separated from the spiritual gospel.
  10. The Emerging Movement wants to be Worldly.

For the most part, I resonate with every point (except 10–at least as McKnight articulates it). I find myself struggling with being associated with the emergent movement…but not because I disagree with the ideals of the movement, but because I feel that institutional expressions like Emergent–which is the face of the movement–seems to counteract some of the driving protests of the movement.  I’d love to hear your thoughs about these 10 protests, as well as how well you think the Emergent is doing in incarnating these protests.

Mark Van Steenwyk is the editor of He is a Mennonite pastor (Missio Dei in Minneapolis), writer, speaker, and grassroots educator. He lives in South Minneapolis with his wife (Amy), son (Jonas) and some of their friends.

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Viewing 8 Comments

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    I think the emergent movement IS a protest movement, I just think that a lot of the things they are protesting against are things they are reincarnating in a different form. For example, they may despise what happens on Sunday morning, but often that just means having something only slightly different happening on Saturday or Sunday night. A protest movement is a good thing, but without a positive vision that's significantly different, it's just a protest movement and nothing more.
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    I agree. It's like protesting dress socks by wearing striped toe-socks. They're still socks, they just have individually-seperated spaces for the toes to go into.
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    I don't mind doing things the same way...but if you're going to criticize the way things have been done, you need to offer a real alternative. I feel that many emerging churches have offered some real interesting alternatives and have been creative. But many of our most notable examples have not. My problem is that the further we move along, the less people seem willing to innovate.

    Having said all that, I sometimes think that we expect too much. You and I may say that a church likes Solomon's Porch is almost the same things as a regular church...but the subtle difference are often a VERY big deal to people. Let's face it--there is a lot of differences among churches. It is all how you look at it. If we get overly simplistic it is easy to say something like: "that church is like every other church--they sing and meet together and read their is THAT new?"
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    "I find myself struggling with being associated with the emergent movement...but not because I disagree with the ideals of the movement, but because I feel that institutional expressions like Emergent--which is the face of the movement--seems to counteract some of the driving protests of the movement."

    That's like you took the thoughts right out of my head. My sentiments exactly.
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    I'm just saying that we don't always call a spade a spade. If you're making major differences, then say it, but if you're making small changes, don't call them big ones. Any pastor worth their weight in salt should have at least a cursory understanding of the ecclesial landscape and should understand that they're not offering a revolutionary new thing. Call it what it is.
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    I know where you are coming from, but I'm not sure that everyone sees that landscape the same way. For me, cosmetic changes in churches (elements of style and whatnot) are superficial, but to some people the changes are profound. There are so many variables that can factor in to how people perceive change, and we need to be sensitive to that. However, from my perspective I think that the sorts of changes people trumpet as major changes are in fact minor in the grand scheme.
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    By the way, for me, toe socks are a HUGE innovation. They are on my top five "cutest things" list:

    1) My wife
    2) Puppies
    3) Kittens
    4) Baby Bunnies
    5) Toe Socks
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    It's weird, because minus # 1 and # 5, that's my "most fun things to punt" list.


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