Monday, February 05, 2007

Ed Stetzer on the "Emerging Church" movement

9. What is your perspective on the emergent church movement?

I am not sure there is a movement... There are many conversations and organizations under the umbrella of what has been called the "emerging church."

It is not a big secret that I have written some things that well-known emergent leaders do not like. I have the unfortunate distinction of having been called "unhelpful" by the head of Emergent( However, there are also some who think that anyone who says something kind about some emerging church leaders must be apostate. My hope is that we can be discerning enough to see the good as well as the bad, and to know the difference.
I want pastors who lead biblically-faithful churches in emerging culture to be in the SBC. I think that when we start throwing around labels without discernment, we will “preach them out”—much like we did to many contemporary church leaders in the 90s. I just don’t think we need another purge of biblically-faithful, God-centered churches, that do things differently than we do.

I do think that there is some serious theological error in part of the “emerging church” and I have written about it (see below). We need to speak clearly when the clear teaching of scripture is disregarded or misunderstood. Furthermore, there are some emerging churches where there is solid theology but an unhealthy emphasis on Christian liberty (language, alcohol, etc.). We need to speak honestly about the need for discernment and maturity in such contexts. But, most importantly, we need to rejoice when we find a biblically-faithful church in emerging culture, just as we would a biblically-faithful traditional church or a biblically-faithful Purpose Driven church.
With that said, let me excerpt and summarize some of what I wrote about the Emerging Church in an earlier article. See

I do believe that some are taking the same Gospel in the historic form of church but seeking to make it understandable to emerging culture; some are taking the same Gospel but questioning and reconstructing much of the form of church; some are questioning and revising the Gospel and the church. I have identified three arenas in which emergent leaders are working.
First, there are those I call “relevants”. These are young (and not so young) leaders who some classify as “emerging” that really are just trying to make their worship, music and outreach more contextual to emerging culture. Ironically, while some may consider them liberal, they are often deeply committed to biblical preaching, male pastoral leadership and other values common in conservative evangelical churches. The churches of the “relevants” are not filled with the angry white children of evangelical megachurches. They are, instead, intentionally reaching into their communities (which are different than where most Southern Baptists live) and proclaiming a faithful biblically-centered Gospel there.

Secondly, there are those I refer to as “reconstructionists”. The reconstructionists think that the current form of church is frequently irrelevant and the structure is unhelpful. Yet, they typically hold to a more orthodox view of the Gospel and Scripture. Therefore, we see an increase in models of church that reject certain organizational models, embracing what are often called “incarnational” or “house” models. They are responding to the fact that after decades of trying fresh ideas in innovative churches, North America is less churched, and those who are churched are less committed. If reconstructionists simply rearrange dissatisfied Christians and do not impact lostness, it is hardly a better situation than the current one.
Lastly there are those I identify as “revisionists”, many of whom are are being read by younger leaders and perceived as evangelicals. They are not—at least according to our evangelical understanding of Scripture. We significantly differ from them regarding what the Bible is, what it teaches, and how we should live it in our churches. I don’t hate them or question their motives and I won’t try to mischaracterize their beliefs. But, I won’t agree with them. ”Revisionists” are questioning (and in some cases denying) issues like the nature of the substitutionary atonement, the reality of hell, the complementary nature of gender, and the nature of the Gospel itself. This is not new. Some mainline theologians quietly abandoned these doctrines a generation ago. Does that mean we cannot learn from them? Certainly not. I read mainline theologians like Marcus Borg and George Lindbeck like others in the past read Karl Barth. These are good thinkers, but deeply wrong on issues I hold as important. I read many emerging church writers the same way. They ask good questions, but I am driven to Scripture for the answers.
Let’s affirm the good, look to the Scriptures for answers to the hard questions. And, yes, let’s graciously disagree when others hold views contrary to our best scriptural understanding of God, Bible and church.


Blogger J. K. Jones said...

Some within the movement are starting to have a negative influence, even in rural West Tennessee where I am from . Mainly, it’s the new way of interpreting the Bible, some seem to follow.

The part where any interpretation of the Scripture is just my own interpretation is the thing with me. I’m supposed to buy that anytime I think that I have determined what the Bible “actually says,” I am “as far from what the text says as possible.” I’m supposed to get an interpretation of any given passage from what amounts to as group consensus on the issue. It’s almost a perspectival view of truth.

Truth is just my perspective? If truth is just perspective, is the truth that ‘truth is just perspective’ a perspective or an absolute, prepositional truth? Seems strange. The only perfectly true and accurate authority for faith and practice is the Bible. The basic rule is to find the plain meaning of Scripture according to the original intent of the author who God inspired.

Sorry for the long comment. I just wanted you to know you are not alone in your concerns.

12:17 PM  

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