Orginally published on Monday, January 15, 2007 at 7:01 AM
by Earl Creps
Commenting on the Emerging Church has become a cottage industry. The phrase itself produces around 850,000 Google hits. Plus, you can be blessed by 2800 graphics, but, surprisingly, no videos (at least per Google). After several years of near-silence, the evangelical publishing industry finally weighed in with books that explained the EC, books that criticized it, and books that helped its practitioners practice. Some of these resources have been really helpful while others have done little more than ask questions like, “how many candles in an emergent service does it take to foment heresy?”
Questions like this suggest the presence of some contrarian theories, naughty, impolite interpretations of the emergent phenomenon. These theories may not be said out loud very often, but I have heard them, or something like them, in my travels. Maybe you have too:
1. Generational Dismissal: What we’ve got here is youth ministry for young adults led by Generation X. The deconstructive and counter-cultural tendencies of the EC are not theological so much as they are driven by fairly well-known traits of thirty-somethings: cynicism, blaming Boomers for everything, and a slacker mentality toward ministry that sacrifices productivity for yet another trip to Starbucks.
2. All Teched Up: The EC is mostly a creation of the internet. Easy electronic connectivity allows young leaders to find each other, build a critical mass of ideas, and basically portray the movement as much larger and more influential than it is on the ground. Subtract the internet and related technologies, and the whole thing grinds to a halt. The EC does not have the ideas to thrive without IT support.
3. The Priesthood of Artistic Believers: Emergers are simply exercising leadership based on talent, rather than position. As what amounts to a movement of intellectuals and artists, the EC is creating an “aesthetic priesthood” as a 1:1 replacement for Boomer-style CEO management. If you aren’t an artist or a writer your role may be something like scraping the candle wax off the floor after the worship service, er, dialog gathering, er, spiritual formation journey, or whatever you call it.
4. Lawyering Up: Someone said this one to my face the other day. The EC is really no different from conventional church, but, if it were different, it’s bad, really, really bad. I thought this claim sounded like a defense attorney working a jury on Law and Order, or like the latest OJ Simpson book that was never published: “I didn’t kill her, but if I had…”
1. Have you heard any of these contrarian theories? Are there others you could add to the list?
2. Is there truth to any of these contrarian theories, or is the EC just getting payback for its criticism of conventional church?
3. How would you refute any of these theories?
About the Author: Earl Creps has spent several years visiting congregations that are attempting to engage emerging culture. He directs doctoral studies for the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri (http://www.agts.edu). Earl and his wife Janet have pastored three churches, one Boomer, one Builder, and one GenX. He speaks, trains, and consults with ministries around the country. Earl’s book, Off-Road Disciplines: Spiritual Adventures of Missional Leaders, was published by Jossey-Bass/Leadership Network in 2006. Connect with Earl at http://www.earlcreps.com .
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