Think the “Emergent Church” was Ineffective? Think again.

on November 21, 2014

Brian McLaren is right. The “emergent church” movement is growing. Not as a collective group, but as a savvy, scattered chain ever-present in the fiber of the Church.

The backstory of the emergent church started in the late 1990s and early 2000s when a group of postmodern Christians found popularity emphasizing leftist political agendas over traditional Christian teaching and absolute truths.

In a recent column titled, “More on the Emergent Conversation” McLaren, a founding member of the emergent movement, wrote:

The conversation continues to grow, not by creating a new slice of the pie, but by seasoning nearly all sectors of the pie. Even where the word “emergent” is not used, ideas from emergence leaders are being considered and adopted, leading to new experimentation and openness.

Much of the Mainline Protestant world has opened its arms wide to the emergent conversation, from bishops to parachurch organizations to denominational leaders to local pastors to grass-roots activists.

America’s Founding Father James Madison wrote, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power, than by violent and sudden usurpations.” Similarly, gradual and silent are emergent movement strategies. It is working. How do I know? One word: Millennials.

In McLaren’s blog he noted the emergent’s target of youth, writing, “Key next steps may include the creation of a national, trans-denominational campus ministry, collaborative and transdenominational church planting and “branding,” new approaches to theological and ministry education, and the development of a new genre of progressive Christian worship music.”

Already, the emergent church has taken shape in historically faithful Evangelical communities as youth ministry lay leaders and lay leaders, pastors, and high-profile seminary and Christian college professors and Millennials in the Church are caught in the crosshairs.

Just consider for one moment the shifting worldview of today’s young Evangelicals. A 2014 Public Religion Research Institute survey found that 43 percent of young Evangelical Protestants support same-sex marriage. According to Relevant magazine, nearly 80 percent of born-again Millennials have had sex and 2/3 have been active in the last year. Even more worrisome is that the Christian Post reported that 1 in 3 Evangelical young people do not believe Jesus Christ is the only path to God.

How did this happen? Conservative Christians were looking out for liberal slogans and screaming emergent creeds. Oh no, the emergent movement was much more clever. While they will not always confess to be emergent, some will identify as part of the evangelical left or religious left. Some more prefer labels like progressive Christian. But theologically speaking, they are very much the same. There are no pronounced liberal political efforts on the surface, and often times come in the sympathetic name of “peace” and “tolerance.”

Dan Kimball was another founding member of the emergent movement, but he recognized the unorthodox mission and left the fold. Now the author of They Like Jesus but Not the Church: Insights from Emerging Generations, Kimball shared with Relevant magazine, “When the whole emerging church discussion began, it was primarily about evangelism and mission to emerging generations…That’s why I got into it, and it was fun and a thrill to be part of.”

“A lot of the things discussed and then even becoming beliefs is pretty liberal theology,” said Kimball who also notes the emergent’s target of Millennials. “My concern is seeing younger Christians especially who don’t know these theological issues were discussed before and the results of the discussions throughout Church history get caught up in thinking this is a new expression of Christianity when it is pretty much classical extreme liberalism in a new, cooler wrapper.”


  1. Comment by Dusty H on November 21, 2014 at 6:46 pm

    Satan won’t tell you day is night. Satan will come to you disguised as a wise man and say, “Your clock is wrong, it’s not 2PM it’s really 3PM”. Believing him, we turn our clocks ahead one hour. The next day Satan comes to us again in his disguise and says, “Your clock is wrong, it’s not 2PM it’s 3PM.” And again we listen and turn our clocks ahead another hour. Satan returns again and again for 10 more days to tell us the clock is wrong, and every day we comply by turning the clock ahead one hour, after all who are we to disagree with such a wise man. Suddenly to our amazement we realize, but can’t figure out why, 3AM is the middle of the afternoon and 3PM is the middle of the night!

  2. Comment by Dan Horsley on November 22, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Liberals’ way of doing ethics is bizarre.

    “I have a gay son,
    it is my duty to try to convince Christians that they ought to celebrate sexual perversion.”

    I don’t see any future for this religion, given the observable decline in the pro-sodomy churches. “Our church supports sodomites!” is not something to get the masses stampeding into church. They can get plenty of pro-sodomy propaganda on just about any TV sitcom or drama.

  3. Comment by Ngallendou on November 24, 2014 at 4:10 pm

    The very meaning of “liberal” is to remain “free from rules,” including the law of Christ. The NT word of “emergent” remains “creep.”
    Whilst conservatives make many mistakes, erring to the right and to the left, they retain the “rule” and sometimes swerve back towards it.

  4. Comment by Elizabeth on December 2, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    Relevant magazine’s report that nearly 80% of born again Millennials have had sex and 2/3 were active in the last year is missing an important qualifier about the marital status of the study’s participants.

  5. Comment by Patricia Neyland on December 15, 2014 at 8:35 pm

    We need to stand up and be strong for what we know is right…stand against the enemy…to do this we must be clean, baptised and full of the Holy Spirit, or we will be overcome by the enemy, just as the sons’ of Sceva were….we need to know our God and be prepared to die for Him if necessary, not go out unarmed in to the battle…the watered down, compromising doctrine that is seeping into all the Penticostal churches, disguised as tolerance for each others differences, taking on exactly as the world is preaching to their followers…should not be tolerated by discerning christians…be faithful to what our God has taught us..don’t be afraid of man…for what can he/they do to us…if God is for us, who can be against us…be a New Testament christian, not a new age failure…we have a future in the Heavens, not here….

  6. Comment by Project Samizdat on March 6, 2016 at 1:58 am

    A major concern is how Emergent Church thinking is congruent with, and even originating from, power centers in the surrounding culture. An example of this was the late Phyllis Tickle and her desire for Seminary students to study physics…

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