Emerging Downunder
Edinburgh to Build a Bear

Why They Don't Say Emergent

"Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be". Absolutely hilarious! I only read the sampler PDF, cheap and stingy as I am, but what I read was really funny and actually quite clever.

223 Emergent CoverHeres a couple of guys practicing, as far as I can see, emerging-missional ministry in a fabulously Reformed way and at the same time telling people why they are not 'emergent'. You have to see the irony of the whole thing! Especially funny is the use of postmodern graphics on the front cover and then an innocent rib-poke at postmodernism. Beautiful! Classic! And the fact that it poses as an "anti-emergent" book gives it an automatic thumbs up by virtually every critic under the evangelical sun.

I haven't read the whole book and I have never met these guys - at least if they have shown up to any of our Emerging church roundtables or events, then they probably didn't introduce themselves - but what I briefly googled about them seems great and I think I will like them when I finally get to meet them one day.

Ted Kluck is a well-received writer. I don't know much about his ministry - whether emergent ministry principles are employed or not - but his writings certainly take the necessary relevant form. Kevin DeYoung is Senior Pastor of University Reformed Church that supports "green" church planting and portrays its worship as "missional". His church is described with words like "mission minded" and "pilgrim" which is all very good. The missionaries sent out from his church seem to be doing wonderful contextually sensitive work overseas - exactly the same qualities and signs I would look for in an emerging-missional ministry back in the home country. And I was especially impressed with URC's one officially sponsored mission agency listed on their website - which I will not name due to its sensitive nature but you can look yourself. And I bring it up here because its a great example of what "emergent" looks like . . . without using the tag.

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Their sponsored ministry [still unnamed here] seems like a really well-run holistic effort, reaching out in "areas of social, family, vocational, and physical needs, through services in education, health, and counseling." They play Middle Eastern music on the website and use "Storytime" in the community which I imagine works a lot better in communicating to the Eastern mindset than a 3-point propositional oratory. Their half-day immersion experience includes a visit to the Mosque at prayer time and listening to the Imam, which is exactly what I was doing a while ago. All sounds very post-colonial to me. I love it! So cool to see a traditional church allowing this level of cultural engagement and a style of communication that is narrative and not purely propositional . . . as is appropriate in this context.

Did somebody just say "Propositional"?

The real fun starts when a new Christ-Community starts forming from a very different non-Western culture like this, and they decide NOT to attend a Western style church where people dishonor God by leaving their shoes on for worship and placing their scribbled-on Bibles on the floor as if it were an ordinary book, and to . . well you get the picture. Rather, they start to form a community colored by their existing culture and allow Christ to build it His way.

But churches and missionaries who do this under the "emerging" banner get creamed for it.

Roger Oakland in his harsh critique against the emerging church called "Faith Undone", critiques what he calls 'emergent missiology' in which groups like YWAM allow their converts or 'Messianic Muslims' to visit the mosque and say their daily prayers but accept Christ as Savior. These new converts, Roger quotes from Charisma magazine, "continued in a life of following the Islamic requirements, including Mosque attendance, fasting and Koranic reading, besides getting together as a fellowship of Muslims who acknowledge Christ as the source of God's mercy for them".

Although I applaud Roger Oakland for a criticism that at least lands in the right place, I cannot agree with Roger's conclusion that the results are "disastrous". I also think Roger's either/or approach to engaging culture is quite juvenile compared to the more typical 6 stage scale many missionaries in emerging culture try to employ when considering the level of cultural engagement [from C1 as traditional church using outsider language all the way to C6 representing a full immersion and perhaps in danger of syncretism]

But generally speaking, what Roger condemns as "emergent missiology" is just the same old missiology that has been around for a very long time and it could probably be embraced by Reformed folk under the banner of sensitive contextual mission strategy . . . IF it doesnt have the horrible word "emergent" attached to it. Its more a matter of word-play than compromise.

So the moral of the story, as I see embodied here, is to fully obey Jesus by crossing barriers with the gospel and to do it in a culturally sensitive way so that a new community starts to emerg . . .ooopps . . . i mean. . . organically mature . . . while remaining simply structured and using existing appropriate native forms of organization, communication and cultural manners, all to honor God who has sent us just as He sent the Son . . . and never ever ever ever ever ever EVER use the word "emergent" or you will not be invited to speak at a Reformed conference!

As if that matters to you.

And it reminds me of that post I wrote called "How your Emerging Church Can Stay in Calvary Chapel, Inc." This also reminds me of when James MacDonald told everyone why he was not emerging but the sound track on his website was a special theme song composed by none other than emerging worship leader David Crowder. LOVE IT!!! I took a screen shot that still makes me laugh.


And this book will make you laugh also. Everyone seems to like it. I haven't read a bad review yet. Even Don Carson liked it, although he might have missed the irony. I might have to forgive the publishers for not sending me a review copy and just buy the whole book to see what else they authors say.

If you have never read a book on emergent theory, [and if I was critiquing this book a bit more seriously, i would question whether the authors had or not - but then i have only read the first two chapters] then I recommend Steven Johnson's Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities, and Software as well as the best book on how emergent theory impacts the church on mission which is, of course, Kester Brewin's Signs of Emergence.

Blurb for Kester's book - "Drawing on the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Christ, as well as urban theory, art, and social practice, Kester Brewin calls the church to dispense with tired structures and re-emerge as a networked, bottom-up organism that is responsive to the needs found in the urban environment."

hmmmmmm . . . . if emergence finds a basis in the incarnation of Christ, and we are told to consider the ant and its emergent behavior (Prov. 6:6) . . then why is it such a bad thing???

SORRY - my mind was slipping away to the BIBLE for a brief distracted second there . .

right . . back again . .

And if your reading list of emerging or emergent books contains no books at all on the missiology that informs it [what DO they teach people in Seminary these days???] then just start picking up any books you can on mission and get your head around the idea that we all have to think like missionaries in our own culture if we are to fulfill the Great Commission in our back yard and see new communities of Christ appear . emerge . . . get planted . . . whatever you call it . . .

Anyway, Ted and Kevin . . . congrats on a great book. May you continue what you are doing and never be "emergent."