From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
The Emerging Church is a label that has been used to refer to a particular subset of Christians who are rethinking Christianity against the backdrop of Postmodernism. In order to explain fully what it is, it is necessary to look at what it is moving away from.
During recent centuries, Christianity was influenced significantly by Modernism in the sense that it sought to take the individual narratives of the Bible and drill down towards a set of underlying truths, or "meta-narrative", that underpinned them all. This set of underlying truths was then packaged up into a Christian worldview that members of the Church were expected to adopt. These worldviews often contained a lot of cultural baggage as well as theological stances. While disagreements regarding these worldviews were common, this generally resulted in the creation of other denominations with their own distinct Christian worldviews rather than a questioning of the general worldview concept.
By contrast, Postmodernism has been characterised by the deconstruction of coherent worldviews that are based on a particular version of underlying truth. The reasons for this are beyond the scope of this article, however, it is clear that Christianity has also been influenced by this. Individual Christians who chose to reject the particular Christian worldview that they have previously held are now more likely to subsequently question the very idea of having a Christian worldview at all rather than create an alternative one. This has lead to a process where by the individual will deconstruct each area of their Christian worldview and analyse it piece by piece. While every individual Christian experiences his or her own unique journey through this deconstruction process. One observed phenomenon is that many Christians subsequently start to reconstruct their Christianity thus finding a faith that, while basically Christian, is very unique to them. One definition of the Emerging Church is that it is the collective noun for individuals who are emerging from this process of deconstruction and reconstruction of Christianity.
While there is no co-ordinated organisation behind the emerging church globally, and no guarantee that the Emerging Church will mature into a coherent movement at all, the term is becoming increasingly common currency among both leaders of Emerging Church groups and Emerging Church thinkers. Many of these leaders and thinkers have written books, articles and/or blogs on the subject.
So far, Emerging Church groups have typically contained some or all of the following elements:
- Highly creative approaches to worship and spiritual reflection. This can involve everything from the use of contemporary music and films through to liturgy or other more ancient customs.
- A minimalist and decentralised organisational structure.
- A flexible approach to theology whereby individual differences in belief and morality are accepted within reason.
- A more holistic approach to the role of the church in society. This can mean anything from greater emphasis on fellowship in the structure of the group to a higher degree of emphasis on social action, community building or Christian outreach.
- A desire to reanalyse the Bible against the context into which it was written, in search of a reconstructed theology that is free from Modernist baggage.