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Friday, April 16, 2010

Question of the Week:
What are Emerging Churches?

"Those who stand for nothing fall for anything."
~ Alexander Hamilton."
What is the emergent church movement? And how does it differ, or not, from biblical principles?
T. Anne

A distinction should be made between the particular group called the Emergent Church (associated with Brian McLaren), and churches simply labeled “emerging.” The one characteristic common to both groups is thorough dissatisfaction with traditional church practices.

Last week’s Q&A addressed how the Christian church evolved into so many
denominations. Generally, each time a new denomination evolves, it breaks away from an existing church due to conflicts over specific doctrines, practices, or authority. The new church is largely similar to the church from which it divides itself.

Emerging churches criticize the Christian church as a whole strongly enough to take a more drastic stance, reshaping themselves from scratch, purposefully attempting to be as dissimilar as possible from traditional churches.

Too many established churches certainly have put unreasonable emphasis on tradition, human theology, politics (of both church and government), control, and their individual purpose from God. They’ve made church increasingly about religion at the expense of love for God and neighbor. As a whole, western churches are long overdue for make-over and revival.

But several dangerous tendencies exist in the start-over-from-scratch-philosophy. Hyper-criticism breaks down cooperation and unity in the worldwide Church, between both congregations and individuals. Efforts to be dissimilar from traditional churches may undermine key truths central to faith. In the effort to be non-religious, unbiblical attitudes and beliefs become common. Sensitivity to the needs of individuals creates a religion of social activism. The desire to be non-offensive censors out mention of sin, Christ’s blood, and the judgment of God to come. More emphasis is put on humanist philosophy than on God.

This is not an exhaustive list of problems. It’s not possible to examine and evaluate all the practices and beliefs of emerging churches in this short space. It should be noted that some emerging churches seem to establish a solid base of faith and practice.

Churches which designate themselves as “emerging” deserve a close and cautious study. The best way to know what might be wrong with them is to know what should be right about any church. I offer my own definition of the core beliefs for faith in Jesus Christ, titled “Foundations,” and invite you to click on the link for more information.

A last note about the emergent church movement associated with Brian McLaren. Its key principles are in direct conflict with the Bible, such as: salvation is taught to be a gift of Jesus which does not require informed faith; Jesus is rejected as the exclusive way to God; the second coming of Christ and future judgment are rejected; personal experience is emphasized above biblical truth.

Because my field of expertise is the Bible and I’ve not studied emerging churches at length, comments of clarification (preferably with citations) are welcome.

© 2010 Anne Lang Bundy
Image source:

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This post originally appeared at Bullets & Butterflies. To see additional comments, click here.


  1. I'm excited to be up at bat! I'm heading on over...

  2. You know, the picture above brings up a terrifying reality ... in order for a wolf to dress in sheep's clothing, a sheep has to die.

    A wolf can do little harm so long as he must prowl outside a united flock. Once the flock begins to divide and scatter, the wolf is empowered. Once a wandering sheep is overcome, the wolf has means to disguise itself and slip into the flock wearing the guise of that sheep, to wreak havoc.

  3. T ~ You probably thought this question would go unanswered? It was an important one, and I needed to set up the "Foundations" post, and do it at the right time. Thanks for asking.

    Clifford ~ Your metaphor is powerful, and saddening. May the Lord make us faithful to not only Himself, but to one another.


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