Emerging Churches: What are they?

The second chapter in Bolger and Gibbs’ work seeks to outline their understanding of the Emerging Church. They helpfully point out that it is not a thin veneer of coffee houses and candles, but is a totally different mindset. I’m suprised by how much I am ’emergent’ in spite of working in a pretty traditional denomination (UMC).

They outline the development of the emerging church movement and discuss the ways in which emerging congregations have been established as a “church within a church” model. The UK practicioners seem to be much more in favor of these models than the US folks. It seems like this model would be the most obvious route for our United Methodist Churches in Oklahoma. However, I can see where the emphases for the dual congregations would be in great conflict. In particular, with my background I can see where the conservative evangelical churches would have real problems with some of the aspects of an emerging congregation.

Bolger and Gibbs describe nine practices (influenced by Alisdair MacIntyre’s understanding of practices) that are common on emerging churches.

The three major practices they describe are:
1.) indentifying with the life of Jesus
2.) transforming secular space
3.) living as community

because of these major practices, emerging communities of faith:
4.) welcome the stranger
5.) serve with generosity
6.) participate as producers
7.) create as created beings
8.) lead as a body
9) take part in spiritual activities

I can really connect with these objectives, and in many ways I can see how the rural congregations I serve have an “in” on objective #3. I bring #1 & #2 as pastoral commitments, even though I sometimes forget that ‘identifying with Jesus’ is different than a traditionally evangelical model in significant ways. There seems to be some organic ways in which rural churches can be emergent. This whole rural sidetrack is important because of the emergent church’s commitment to missional involvement in a particular cultural context (a commitment I believe should be central to all Christians).

It looks like the remaining chapters will describe how these 9 take place in the practices of emerging congregations. I look forward to reading more.

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