Of course there is many more than these but these are the most recent attempts to explain what the emerging church is to me.
Now when you ask someone who is in the emerging church (EC) (Though I prefer emerging conversation I will be using the more common term) one will get a variety of different answers. Some see it as exploring the Body of Christ as a community. Critics of course see this as being too ecumenical as the EC is more open to different traditions in the Christian faith than they are. Yet, this is not the same as watering down the theology of the Christian faith to “get along”, rather in my experience it seems most of those involved have a deep grasp of their theology and still are open to discuss with open hands the differences and commonality that bonds us as believers.
Recently I attended Trail Blazers Ministries in Bozeman MT and there you will find that we all have different backgrounds. Some are from the Presbyterian, Southern Baptist, AoG, Church of Christ and myself being from the Vineyard. I am sure there are others so if I left you out I apologize. In this divers background we discuss openly our differences which is at times a challenge…
One challenge is when we do not agree. It is easy to just pull up our own theological security blanket and hide under it and not listen and try to understand where the other is coming from. I may not agree Baptism is necessary for salvation or with the Preterits view in some of its conclusions, yet to listen I can gain insight to their view and better understand why or how someone come to their conclusions.
The other challenge it that sometimes the other’s view has strong points that I have not fully considered. In that I often must return to the drawing board of my own theology and take another look at my own view to see if they hold up as strong as I believe they do. Sometimes I am amazed that I need to change a view and sometimes I am amazed I find my view as stronger.
Disagreement is not a sin. Hating someone you disagree with is a sin. (1 John 4:20-21) Yet also a discussion is needed so that the Truth will come out. (You can’t read Acts without noticing this.) The challenge also in to love the other we disagree with. I see this in practice at Trail Blazers Ministries.
EC is not about a single person’s view on homosexuality or whether the bible is inerrant versus authoritative. It is the community of believers exchanging ideas, thoughts, their weaknesses, their strengths, and mostly their love for one another despite all of these things.
We must remember no one but Jesus has sole and complete knowledge of all Truth is. As a believer we have an advantage that we know The Truth personified in Jesus.
Now for some the EC is about being missional, which in itself has many different definitions. For example there are a few different definitions as this article states: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2008/march/16.56.html If in the general sense meaning that we see that we are part of the bigger view of God as opposed to a “self centered” identity as far as a church I would say yes we are missional. Of course I think it almost impossible for any church not to have some self centeredness. This attempt at not allowing the mission of the Church as a whole to be about us is one of the core things I see the EC as doing.
The other definitions I would say that do not fit is that we are trying to be a seeker friendly or purpose driven model redressed as missional. It is not that those models are wrong it is just that the EC have chosen to grow the church the hard way; one person at a time without gimmicks. I don’t think we are just out to grow our church and have done outreaches were we did not even mention our church as to make it seem we had an agenda other than love or serving someone else.
Another point that wraps much of this up is the idea of approaching others without an agenda. This is admittedly tough yet how many times have we approached someone or engaged in a conversation with a whole other conversation in our own minds. We begin to “prospect” the other as someone we might invite to church or if they are “saved” or not… yet with all this dialog in our own minds we often miss that we are to love the other person whether they are saved or not. If one can forget the other voices which for the most part are not “God’s Voice” I believe one can start to hear what God might desire for that person. In that the conversation can center on Love for the other as God has more love for others than we could ever muster.
So once again, I write in a feeble attempt to explain the EC yet feel that much is left out. The only way to truly understand it is to become part of it and engage in the teaching of Jesus as he stated, “"`Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: `Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt 22:37-40)