A friend asked me what the relationship between Emergent and Emerging Church is, and I decided to post the answer here. The question has been up on several occasions in the blog sphere during 2008, and this sums up my thoughts on the matter… (have a look at the next post)… 

Well, I would say that Emerging Church is a global conversation that mainly emerged out of an observation that the Western world has changed rapidly and is no longer a Christian culture (if it ever has been, that is!) – its postmodern, post-Christendom, neo-pagan etc… The Western world is a mission field and as Christians and as churches we need to align ourselves to that fact… whether it be how we do church, mission, evangelism, speak about our faith, worship, theology… you name it, people enter the conversation through a number of ways!

Emerging Church emerged almost simultaneously in different parts of the world – the UK, Australia, New Zealand, North America etc from the later part of the 80’s and became a more solid and global phenomenon around 2000, a lot thanks to the Internet. It owes inspiration from a number of places… the Alternative Worship movement that came out of UK, the Missional church movement etc etc… Its now everywhere – from Brazil, South Africa, Europe to Japan. Stuart Murray once described it as an “explosion from the grassroots” and I think he’s spot on.

Emerging Church is made up of a multitude of “voices”, some more prominent than others – but no voice can be said to be THE spokesperson for Emerging Church. There’s no official organization, no official leadership. These voices may be individuals – bloggers, theologians, pastors, missionaries, or just normal people like you and me – or churches and Christian communities or more or less formalized networks and organizations.

Many people equate the Emergent (Village/Church/movement) with Emerging Church, I and would say this couldn’t be more wrong. Emergent Village is but one voice within the conversation – however, its been influential and particularly dominant within the US context.

To say that Emergent and Emerging Church is the same thing also neglects the fact that Emerging Church is a global phenomenon, not just a North American one… and this, if you would ask some of us that live in other parts of the world, is a tad bit annoying to hear or read. I’ve read countless dissertations that forget this or make this mistake, and this confusion has to some extent managed to undermine a lot of what the conversation has stood for (because Emergent has managed to stir quite a lot of controversy among evangelical/conservative circles and now anyone that’s associated with the conversation is deemed suspicious or just an outright heretic. Many now abandon the term emerging church, have a look at this post).

So, there you have it and I hope it clears some of the confusion. Be blessed!

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