What I am really trying to find out from those who know better than me, is what specific things emergent alone has to offer the church at large. I think this is a very worthy question. If there are none, then we might as well just move on. If there are some, then we all need to know them. If there are only a few, then let’s own them and press on. If there are hundreds, then let’s stop and re-think everything we are doing.
And there is no point in vagueries. We need to know specifically, what are we missing that emergent has to offer?
I don’t think that any of the following qualities I’m about to list are unique to the emerging church. But they could possibly be gifts that can be shared and appreciated by the church at large.
I also don’t want to suggest that there the emerging church is all good either. Not at all.
With those two qualifications, here’s a random list of some of what I appreciate about the emerging church:
- Gospel – The emerging church is concerned that some have shrunk the Gospel to what happens after we die; that we’ve made it too individualistic and other-worldly. They suggest that the Gospel is about individuals and it does involve the future, but it is also about God acting through Jesus to heal, renew, and restore the reign of God to all creation.
- Missional focus – The missio Dei (mission of God) is a key theme in Scripture, and something that the emerging church wants to recapture: that mission is derived from the very nature of God, and we have been sent into the world for the glory of God.
- Church – The emerging church wonders if there is more to church than what is experienced in many modern churches. They long for a church that expresses what it means to be the people of God living in and for God’s world.
- Holism – The emerging church rejects dualism and believes both body and soul are good, and believes that good ministry concerns itself with both.
- Justice – The emerging church believes that advocating for the oppressed and speaking out against injustice is part of our biblical mandate.
- Arts – We are created to be creative. The emerging church believes that art is sometimes the best way to express reality.
- Communal – The emerging church works to remember that the church is primarily a people, not a place to meet.
- Culture – The emerging church attempts to understand culture (modern and postmodern culture) and develop ways of responding to culture.
- Narrative – The emerging church is concerned that we read Scripture properly, not only for propositions but also to understand the biblical story as a sweeping narrative of God’s ongoing work of redemption. They want to read the parts that make us uncomfortable and that sometimes get ignored. They reject the idea that the Bible is a how-to manual on how to live a better life. Instead, it’s an account of God and his story, to which we’re invited to enter. As someone’s said, “We focus our efforts on trying to figure out if our lives could be relevant to the story of God, not if the Bible can be relevant to our lives.”
It’s often said that the emerging church is good at diagnosing problems and not as good at offering solutions. Actually, the emerging church offers a number of emphases and aspirations that I think are beneficial and worth thinking about for the church at large.