"Emerging" or "emergent"? Two words, often used to describe what is happening on the edges of the Christian Church world. Two words, often confused and confusing. Two words, that leaders my age think they understand – but often do not. This article from the Criswell Theological Review, written by Mark Driscoll, Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, is very helpful in understanding the movement.
The sociological analysis of church 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 is helpful. He notes that there are at least three developing threads in the 3.0 version of church, not all of which are good nor helpful but all of which are in the conversation – a conversation that Mark finds to bring mixed emotions:
As a pastor I find the entire conversation encouraging,
stimulating, and frightening. What I find encouraging is the
groundswell of interest among Christians who do not want to separate
from culture like fundamentalists, or simply baptize culture like
liberals, but want to earnestly wrestle over the nature of the gospel
and how can it be most faithfully contextualized in culture. What I
find stimulating is the growing focus on doctrine and the way it forces
people to reconsider their doctrinal positions and dig more deeply
since pat answers to tough questions are no longer sufficient. But,
what I find frightening is the trend among some to drift from what I
consider to be faithful conservative evangelical theological
convictions in favor of a less distinctively Christian spirituality. The
result is a trip around the same cul-de-sac of false doctrine that a
previous generation spent their life driving around while touting their
progress. [note – emphasis added].
Maybe it is the old youth pastor in my, but I appreciate what is happening in the Relevant Emerging Church … great preaching, commitment to biblical teaching and preaching, and a commitment to the gospel with Jesus at the very center … all with an eye to being used by the Holy Spirit to communicate meaningfully to the world as it is — not as we wish it were. But we need to heed Driscoll's warning:
The only hope is a return to the true gospel of Jesus Christ as
revealed in Scripture. The gospel must be unleashed in the world
through the Church for the transforming salvation of sinners and their
cultures. If the gospel is lost, as I fear it already has been among some
Revisionists, then tomorrow will be a dark day for the truth about
By the way, I know that some think I'm selling out my John MacArthur heritage when I speak well of Driscoll or others similar to Mars Hill. I encourage you to actually listen to his messages first. Read what he has to say and evaluate it all in light of the Scriptures. I think you'll find that all right functions of the church are there … though the forms are different. But you know, we had the same battle when we did church in the 60's.