Monday, September 25, 2006
What is the Emerging Church?
Someone I recently met online asked me to explain to them what the emerging church is and where it came from. Here was my reply:

You asked what the emerging church is and where it came from. Let's see... it started in the mid-nineties with a handful of evangelical pastors and authors who started noticing a shift in our culture and began asking themselves how the church needed to change and adapt to remain relevant to this new culture. Initially the conversation revolved around "generational" differences, in other words, how to reach out to the Gen Xers. But it soon became apparent that the shift was broader than just young people. Our entire culture (for the most part) had transitioned from a Modern to a Postmodern world over the past 40 years or so; so church leaders began asking themselves what church in a postmodern context would look like. Over the next decade three overlapping streams of the conversation gradually emerged.

One stream, labeled by Ed Stetzer as "Relevants", have focused on worship styles and ways of "doing church". It was assumed that to reach postmoderns we would have to make church "cool" (e.g. coffee, candles, fine art, hip music, ancient liturgical elements, etc.) However, the point wasn't to be "trendy" so much as it was the missionary impulse to contextualize the gospel and worship to the local culture - in this case, early 21st century postmodern culture. I think it's mostly a good impulse. Granted, it can get a little faddish and formulaic at times, but on the other hand, I think we should be able to embrace experimentation and diversity in the ways we worship God, and to change our old habits and traditions in order to more effectively reach non-churched people. The key influencer in this stream has been Dan Kimball of Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA with his books The Emerging Church and Emerging Worship.

Another stream, which Stetzer calls "Reconstructionists" has been more concerned with the structures and methods of church as a whole, not just with what we do in worship. There has been a lot of talk about the problems with big, institutional mega-churches and how they can become all about the show and the systems without encouraging authentic Christian community or spiritual transformation among its members. The reaction to this brand of contemporary Christianity has led many to look for smaller, more intimate expressions of church: house churches, cell churches, incarnational communities among the poor, etc. Reconstructionists have rejected the business-like models of church structure and leadership that have dominated both contemporary megachurches, as well as the older, more traditional churches, in favor of more collaborative, horizontal models. Some of these folks can be very anti-institutional, and tend to reject entirely the very idea of paid clergy, buildings, ministry programs, and the like - though of course there are varying degrees and not all reconstructionists go to that extreme. Spencer Burke from the Ooze is probably the best example of an extreme Reconstructionist that I know of, and George Barna's latest book, Revolution, focuses heavily on this trend.

The third stream, represented by the folks over at Emergent Village - folks like Brian McLaren, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and many others - is what Stetzer calls "Revisionists". However, since Stetzer means that term derogatorily, I prefer to call them "Re-Envisionists", as in re-envisioning our faith and what the gospel is really all about. This stream focuses on theological dialogue that has much overlap with the first two streams (inasmuch as worship styles and church structures are themselves theological issues). There is an openness to diverse viewpoints, and a willingness to question traditional evangelical assumptions, though there is still a deep commitment to the historic Christian faith as expressed in the early ecumenical creeds (e.g. Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, etc.) In fact, I think the descriptors of this stream of the emerging church listed over at the wikipedia entry are actually really good:

Missional living
All believers are missionaries who are sent to be a blessing to the culture around them through a lifestyle that brings God's kingdom here on earth through verbal evangelism, social activism and however God has gifted the individual.

Narrative theology
Narrative presentations of faith and the Bible are emphasized over propositional presentations such as systematic theology which are viewed as reductionism.

Generous Orthodoxy
An ecumenical understanding of doctrine which attempts to move beyond the conservative versus liberal impasse in Christianity while honoring the beliefs and traditions of premodern, modern and postmodern Christian denominations. This generosity also extends to dialogue with non-Christian religions and non-religious people for some emergents.

A commitment to emulating Jesus' way of living, in particular his loving of God, neighbors and those normally considered enemies. An understanding of the gospel as one centered on Christ that is a message about the Kingdom of God and reconciliation between God, man and creation.

Biblical Interpretation
An openness to consider a plurality of interpretations as well as the impact of the reader's cultural context on the act of interpretation in contrast to the primacy of the author's intent and cultural context. The influence of postmodern thinkers such as Jacques Derrida and Stanley Fish can be seen in the emerging church approach to interpreting Scripture.

Favouring the sharing of experiences and interactions that are personal and sincere such as testimonies over scripted interactions such as propositional, formulaic evangelistic tracts and teaching. Emerging Church participants are thus true to the social constructs of their local narratives rather than to any absolute, ahistorical, cross-cultural authority.

Creating a safe environment for those with different opinions to talk and listen with an attitude of grace when there are disagreements as opposed to the dogmatic proclamation found in historic Christianity.

Emerging Church groups also typically emphasize the following elements:

* A flexible approach to and continual reexamination of theology which causes them to see faith as a journey rather than a destination, and to accept differences in beliefs and morals.
* A belief in creating communities built out of the creativity of those who are a part of each local body.
* A holistic view of the role of the church in society. This can mean anything from a higher degree of emphasis on social action, building relationships with the surrounding community, or Christian outreach.
* Creative approaches to worship and spiritual reflection. This can involve everything from the use of contemporary music and films to liturgy, as well as more ancient customs, with a goal of making the church more appealing to postmodern people.

In addition to these descriptors (or wrapped up together with them, rather), I would say that for me, a key shift in my understanding that has occurred thanks to the emerging church conversation is the recognition that the gospel is a lot bigger than just my own personal salvation (i.e. getting into heaven when I die). The gospel, rather, is about the kingdom of God, which is both a future hope and a present reality, and that "salvation" goes beyond forgiveness of sins to a radical transformation of my whole person as well as the whole world. This kingdom reality is about a way of life, the way of Christ, which we are called to begin following right here, right now as agents of the kingdom, working for justice, compassion, love and joy in the world around us. I have to say that this is a lot different than the gospel of personal salvation from hell, sin management, and dispensational (i.e. "Left Behind") eschatology that I grew up with. For instance, issues of social justice (e.g. care for the poor, fighting economic exploitation, overcoming racism, gender equality, care for the Creation, peacemaking, etc.) are no longer just "liberal" issues, but really are concerns that are central to the gospel message and to Christ's own mission on earth.

I hope that clarifies a little bit. Everyone here is welcome to comment or ask questions of you'd like me to clarify or expound further on a point.

Update: You may also want to read my follow-up post, The Converging Church.


posted by Mike Clawson at 9:12 AM | Permalink |


At 9/25/2006 10:49:00 AM, Blogger Missional Jerry

Excellent explanation.


At 9/26/2006 09:54:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

Dear Mike,
That was a great explanation and I really appreciate all of the clarification that you brought to the sometimes elusive definition of "emergent":) As someone who has only recently heard of the emerging conversation, it is always interesting to hear about it from those who consider themselves a part of the emerging church.

However, I also wanted to be the first to ask a question:) In the description that you provided you noted that the emerging church wants to be relevant to the current postmodern culture, while at the same time remain true to the historical developments of Christianity, namely the ancient creeds and core beliefs of the early church.

Furthermore, you highlighted the fact that emergent churches tend to have, "a flexible approach to and continual reexamination of theology which causes them to see faith as a journey rather than a destination, and to accept differences in beliefs and morals." So my question is how does one walk the fine line of being open and accepting while at the same time holding to these core beliefs? I know that is a huge question, but it is a question that I find to be very personally challenging in my own spiritual walk and in my attempts to live it out. How do we determine where there can be difference and where certain core beliefs need to be upheld? I'm sure that this is a challenge that many emergent churches and, I think, churches throughout history have had to face, so I wanted to know some of your thoughts on this question. Thanks and God bless:)


Nick Price


At 9/26/2006 11:17:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Great question Nick! You're right, it's a hard one to answer. I guess I'd say that I've tried to hold to the maxim: "In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity (love)."

Then of course, the question becomes, what are the essentials? To answer that I find myself trying to go as far back into church history as I can, to the early church when the set of essential beliefs were a lot smaller than they are for most denominations these days. I think the great ecumenical creeds (Apostles, Nicene, Chalcedonian) summarize well the basics of Christian faith.

The other thing I'd say is that I try to view the Christian faith more as a story of God at work in the world, and less as a set of doctrines that must be believed. Our church finds it's identity in the story itself and by seeing ourselves as part of the ongoing story - not simply through believing all the same doctrinal propositions.

And even when it comes to the basic story or essential doctrine, I'd want to allow individuals the room to doubt and question. We might say "Well, this story is how we define our faith community corporately, but you are welcome here even if you're not sure and are still deciding whether you accept the story for yourself or not."

I guess I feel the freedom to say that because I no longer think that a person's "eternal destiny" hinges on whether or not they believe entirely the right set of doctrines. I don't think our doubts and disagreements cancel out God's grace. Salvation is not a reward God offers in exchange for right belief. So while essential doctrines are important in terms of giving shape and identity to the community of faith, I don't feel the pressure to make sure everyone in the church has all their t's crossed and i's dotted when it comes to doctrine. (Not that we ignore it, but we're just more patient about letting people develop their beliefs over time.)

But that's just how I'm looking at it these days. Does that answer your question?



At 9/26/2006 06:15:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Here is the real scoop on the emerging church

Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. He who does not love Me does not keep My words (Jn 14.23)

You can talk love, love all you want but if your doctrine does not agree with the 'ABSOLUTE" truth of the Bible, your on a different road, not heading to heaven.

Please repent before its too late.


At 9/26/2006 08:43:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Anonymous (or should I say, Jose?),

Funny how the scripture you quoted seems to say the exact opposite of your comments right below it. You quote a verse from God's Word that says it's all about love, and follow up with an assertion your own that it's all about doctrine. Maybe you need to take a second look at your own beliefs and make sure you haven't let the doctrines of man turn you away from what the Bible really teaches.

BTW, for future reference, if you're not willing to sign your name to your posts then you're not welcome to comment on my blog. We're about relationship and dialogue here, not anonymous pot shots.



At 9/28/2006 11:19:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

Dear Mike,
Thanks for responding to my question. It really means a lot and you did a great job of answering it.

I do have other questions. Sadly, one of them was raised by the Anonymous Blog Sniper, so I feel bad about asking it now, but I feel that it is an important one to ask.

However, I would like to rephrase it if I might. As a religious studies major in college, I came in contact with people of many other faiths. I read Sufi poetry with Muslims, meditated with Buddhists, and discussed Gandhi's interpretation of the Bhagavad Gita with Hindus. What I came to realize in all of this is that while we have a story, other people have stories as well and people follow different faiths because of their belief in these stories. So my question is this: How do we affirm the good in those stories while at the same time introduce them to the story of Christ, which I believe fulfills and completes those stories? How do we remain missional and proclaim the truth in the face of other stories that people affirm as true? Basically, my question is a question of Absolute Truth, or perhaps we should call it the fullness of truth.

McLaren, in "A Generous Orthodoxy", talks about how he wishes to see Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Hindu followers of Christ, but I feel like he does an inadequate job of explaining what that would look like, so I am looking for further clarification.

Thanks for your patience in being willing to answer these questions. I sincerely look forward to your response:)


Nick Price


At 9/28/2006 12:40:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Hi Mike,

Is Rick Warren (Purpose Driven Life author)part of the emerging church movement? It seems like his mission is very similar to yours and his books have gone around the world as "best sellers". I know Brian McLaren is having quite a hit with his books as well. The interesting thing is that historically their publishers have been hard line "mainstream" evangelical "fundamentalist" publishers. What do you think about the shift to emerging?


At 9/28/2006 11:58:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Seeker,

It's hard to say who's "in" and "out" of a movement like the EC, since it's primarily a conversation. Rick Warren has been in "conversation" with EC folks at times, but no, generally speaking, his "Purpose Driven" stuff wouldn't be considered in the exact same vein as the emerging church. That's not to say there's anything wrong with it. I'm sure there's plenty of points of overlap. But Warren is more a part of the contemporary mega-church movement, which some might see as a generational forerunner of the emerging church (megachurches being a product of Modernistic Baby-Boomer church preferences while the emerging church, and especially the "Reconstructionists" among the EC, could be seen as more Gen-X, postmodern reaction to the megachurch movement).

I think a lot of EC folks might also say that while Warren's five principles are good, there is a danger in making them appear as a formulaic, pre-packaged model for all churches or all Christians. Do they oversimplify certain complexities? Are the relevant in other cultural contexts? Do they ignore or leave out other important church principles? These are all questions that might occur to an emerging Christian in regards to Warren's Purpose Driven stuff.

Plus, a lot of folks I know are just sick of seeing the 40 Days of Purpose done at every single church you pass, as if it's a magic silver bullet to get people to come and to transform your church in 40 days. For postmodern people who value authenticity so highly, it can all start to seem way too prepackaged and over-hyped.

But again, that's not to say there isn't good there too. I think most emergents would affirm what he's doing and wish him the best. If it's good and worthwhile, than we'll claim it and use it, regardless of what label it wears.

I hope that answers your question.



At 9/29/2006 06:30:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Thanks Mike,

Becuase of Rick Warren's wide open mind and ecumenic point of view, I thought he would be close to Brian McLaren's and the EC point of view also.

Thanks again,


At 9/30/2006 10:39:00 AM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey Nick, more good questions!

You asked:
"How do we affirm the good in those stories while at the same time introduce them to the story of Christ, which I believe fulfills and completes those stories? How do we remain missional and proclaim the truth in the face of other stories that people affirm as true? Basically, my question is a question of Absolute Truth, or perhaps we should call it the fullness of truth."

I'd say that you've answered your own question; or at least, I'd answer in the same way. I believe that Jesus is the fullness and fulfillment of truth, but for Jesus to be true doesn't mean that every other belief and every other story has to be completely wrong. It seems to me that there are plenty of points where these other religions overlap with Christianity; and there are plenty of points where they are speaking to issues that Christianity doesn't even really address and in these areas too they may be speaking truth. For instance, I have a friend that is a Zen Buddhist and a Christian. From what he's told me of Zen Buddhism I don't see much that conflicts with Christian belief, and I also see a lot of truth in it that complements my Christian faith. If a Zen Buddhist says something true, I want to affirm it as truth, as God's truth, regardless of who said it.

As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:22, "All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God." In other words, we can claim truth wherever we find it, because it's all from God.

Of course, as C.S. Lewis said, "If you are a Christian, you are free to think that all these religions, even the queerest ones, contain at least some hint of the truth... But, of course, being a Christian does mean thinking that where Christianity differs from other religions, Christianity is right and they are wrong." That's pretty much how I'd look at it too.

As for McLaren's comment that one can remain a Buddhist or Muslim or whatever and still be a Christ follower, I think his point was that we aren't saved through a particular religion; we are saved through Jesus. I think he was speaking primarily of the outward forms of faith, the practice of these religions, rather than the points of belief where these religions differ from Christianity. A Buddhist Christ follower would believe that Jesus is the Way the Truth and the Life, but she might also still go and pray to Jesus at the Buddhist temple with her family, using the same rituals she's used to. Or a Muslim Christ follower might still go to worship at the mosque with the understanding that his prayers are offered to Jesus as the Son of Allah. He might even continue to honor Muhammed's words as wise and true, but would honor Jesus' way above Muhammed's if it came down to it (which I'm not sure it always would).

After all, if Yahweh was willing to make an exception for Naaman the Syrian to continue to worship in the temple and through the rites of the Assyrian god Rimmon (2 Kings 5:18-19), then I don't see why he wouldn't make the same exception for others of his followers in other faiths.

I think the point is that God doesn't care about the place or the rites of worship or the religious labels we wear, he cares only that his followers worship him in spirit and in truth. I would think that could happen in a Buddhist temple a mosque or a synagogue as easily as it could in a Christian church (sometimes maybe easier, as I often find that being a "Christian" gets in the way of my really worshipping the living God with all my heart, mind and strength). If Jesus didn't care whether the Samaritans worshiped on the mountain or in Jerusalem, why should he care where we worship him now?

Anyhow, I think that's more or less what Brian was getting at; but even if it isn't, it's what I would say.

Thanks for asking!



At 10/03/2006 05:14:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

I really enjoyed reading your summary and the resultant dialogue. Thanks to all of you for your thoughtfulness and graciousness in discussing these things. ("anonymous" commenter excluded, of course)



At 10/18/2006 04:33:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

The emergent church is: A movement endorsed by a man called Brian McLaren, Donald Miller and Bono U2. These people have created their own philosophy/theology (apart from the true interpretation of Scripture) creating a "cultural relevant" philosophy. This philosophy, includes God to the point where God's Word begins to infringe on people's comfort zones, ignoring that all men will be judged according to Jesus' Words on the Great Judgement Day. Emergent people are pricked and bothered when God's Word is taught as the absolute truth.

2 Peter 2 declares:

Destructive Doctrines

But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be afalse teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction 1does not slumber.

Doom of False Teachers
For if God did not spare the angels who sinned, but cast them down to hell and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of bSodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, making them an example to those who afterward would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, dtormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)— then ethe Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations and to reserve the unjust under punishment for the day of judgment, and especially fthose who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, whereas hangels, who are greater in power and might, do not bring a reviling accusation against them before the Lord.
Depravity of False Teachers
But these, ilike natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure kto 4carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, 5carousing in their own deceptions while mthey feast with you, having eyes full of 6adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. nThey have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of oBalaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man’s voice restrained the madness of the prophet.
These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness 8forever.
Deceptions of False Teachers
For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of 1corruption; qfor by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into 2bondage. 20 For if, after they rhave escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are sagain entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. For tit would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: “A dog returns to his own vomit,” and, “a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire.”


At 10/20/2006 03:39:00 PM, Blogger Julie

these guys just get more and more amusing...

cool dude - your opening line rocks and shows the extent of your education and utter lack of knowledge about the emerging church...


At 12/27/2006 08:58:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous

Mike -

"Somehow" I stumbled upon your blog a few days ago. We have in common many favorite authors and films. In fact, I told my wife last night that if I (we) were to ever start a church - it would like Via Christus.

Your words both torture and challenge me. In scanning some of your blogs, I realize how so many of the things that are my heartbeat aren't represented in our current church. (I salivated at your leadership reading list - man, how fun it must be to be part of those discussions!) I'm both saddened and convicted. I'm not sure if it's because our church lacks vision, or the skill to put feet to it all. I've poured my guts into the ministry, but am frustrated at how "johnnie-one-note" we've become. Perhaps that's our role to play in the Body? We keep plucking our one note, and somehow God composes a symphony?

In any event, I'm encouraged and thankful that you - and Via Christus exist.

His, and yours,


At 2/08/2007 08:42:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Dear Mike,

I am just learning about the Emerging Church, maybe in the last 2 weeks. Where have I been? Not sure but with my head in the sand, I guess. Nevertheless, I am hungry to learn more because it is resonating. I came across your blog and it has been very helpful in trying to get a handle on the EC.

I have been a Christian for about 35 years now, most of that time in the traditional church. However, I have been uncomfortable with the traditional church for many years, mainly with the top down church government. But, most of all, with the division in the body. Something is grossly wrong with our divided body. This is not the way He had it planned, in my opinion.

My wife and I have been looking for a church now for 2 years with nothing in sight. So, we are out of church but still very much in His kingdom, and very much part of His body but no where to lay our heads, so to speak.

I am in the process of rethinking this whole church thing, then in pops the EC, in to my field of vision that is. On to my question.

In the last 5-6 years, my life has been focused on the Jesus in us, the mystery of Christ in us. It has been an awakening, excting discovery, one that has somehow eluded me in the past. Christ is in us and wants to live through us.

Most of my church experience has been reversed with the emphasis on what can we do for Christ rather than what He wants to do through us. Letting Christ live through us rather than us exerting well intentioned self-effort to "win the world for Christ". Self led lives as opposed to Spirit led lives.

In my short 2 weeks of research on the EC, I have not seen much about the Christ in us or Spirit led life. Where does this fit with the EC thinking?

Thanks again for your blog,


At 2/09/2007 01:59:00 PM, Blogger Mike L.

I just found this post which is a very good description of EC. But I have one important comment. I'm disturbed that the more conservative evangelical participants in the conversation are insistent to add limits to the level of re-envisionment that can take place. In your description you made an intentional point that I believe was meant to fend off critiques by saying...

"...though there is still a deep commitment to the historic Christian faith as expressed in the early ecumenical creeds (e.g. Apostles Creed, Nicene Creed, etc.)"

Why must you add that? In your attempt to fend off critics you are also fending off those of us that on the far left end of the theological spectrum of EC that don't want that limitation of creed and belief still imposed on us. It seems like the moderate post-evangelicals in the EC are unwilling at times to go far enough left in their generous orthodoxy. By adding that line aren't you still being dogmatic even though you may have drawn the line a litter further than traditional evangelicals?

I guess the truth holds that anyone going one step further left than you will always be a heritic in your eyes. You've just pushed the line further left, but instead I would hope the EC objective is to do away with the line or as Mclaren points out in New Kind of Christian - find a position completely above the line (i.e. off the scale).


At 2/10/2007 03:35:00 PM, Blogger truthkeeper

Yo Herb
I to have been saved since 1972. I have been on the trail of the EC for awhile now. Still a lot of things that don't ring true to my spirit. I have been looking for some sort of dialog with older Christians with no luck to talk over these things. Just from some of the comments on this blog I see the same "look down your nose at those who don't jump totaly on your bandwagon" if you question their direction or beleifs.That was the same in the 70s and we se where that got us. I have been asking some of these same questions for years and have had people look at you like you have 2 heads. I can't get behing the things about worshiping Jesus at some cults place of worship. I've been operating outside the box for so many years I wonder if there really is a box!!
Maybe we could get something going among older beleivers and see if we can get up to speed without the top down comments form the younger folks who complain about the older people not giving them a chance.

Thanks for the blog to allow the oppurtunity to meet other like minded people.


At 2/10/2007 06:17:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous


Thanks for the comment. I am trying to get my arms around the EC thing but I guess it is not something one should expect to fully comprehend. If we get our arms around it then it is probably not the EC stuff.

But, there are many things I like about what I have read and researched regarding the EC. Hey, I am even using the initials EC so I guess I am making progress, acting like I am anyway.

I do not feel like I fit in the traditional church but not sure I fit in the EC either so what is left? My focus has been on a walk in the Spirit, letting the Spirit lead/live through me as oppossed to a Christian walk based on self-effort. Instead of asking what I can do for God, my perspective has been on what He wants to do through me. Big difference and I am not interested in being a part of a church that is man-centered. Unfortunately, God-centered or Spirit led churches are few and far between.

I am just beginning to understand this mystery of Christ in me. I hunger to learn more, fellowship more with His children that are also interested in understanding His life in us and how He wants to live through us. What an amazing thing that the Son of God lives in me, in us.

Not sure how this relates to the EC, maybe it doesn't. Seems like the various church movements, models that have come and gone since I have been around are just that, movements/models that come and go. I am not interested in being part of a movement just want to be part of His body, led by His Spirit.

How about you, Mike, where are you with life? With the EC? With the church thing?



At 2/10/2007 09:34:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

The preceeding comment was to you. I mistakenly put Mike.




At 2/11/2007 01:17:00 PM, Blogger truthkeeper

Thanks for the response.
There is a lot of things to like about the EC but some things tha tdon't sit well with old timers like me. I have never been one to beat people up for looking at things differently but ther are a few things I feel can't be changed just to fit the current culture.
I don't see much [could be I need to look deeper] about the role of the cross in our lives and how the words in the scripture that says to come out and be seperate come into play. I'm sure Mike can answer that.
I have spent time dealing with all those social issues with not a lot of results. I spent several years working the streets of Denver. It seemed that all we accoplished was enabling the people to remain in their lifestyles. I have also spent a lot of years learing how to live by the leading of the Holy Spirit and that seems to be the check I get with some of these things. I am open to learning but not just for the sake of knowledge.Maybe Mike would like to begin a link where those of a like mind could dialog about this with his answering questions. It's sometime hard to get anywhere when there are too many voices involved.
What do you think Mike??
My name is Jim and I am as old as I sound [70 in March]!!



At 2/11/2007 04:46:00 PM, Blogger truthkeeper

I cover some of this in another post but wanted to get it all out there in one ost to make eaiser reading.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

What are some of the easy questions I have for these folks??

#1- where is the cross in all of this? Not only taking up ours each day but the idea of dieing to yourself and taking everything that we come to Jesus to the cross knowing that we may never pick it up again because it was something we learned and honed to a fine skill using the ways of the world and not from an open heaven.

#2- How can we use the things of the world knowing there are only 2 forces at work here?? If there is only good and evil at work, doesn’t it stand to reason that all that is not good must then be evil?

#3- Why must the gospel be updated to fit a culture that seems to be totally against everything that Jesus taught? It seems to me that the culture has become what it is because we have always [maybe to wide a brush] watered it down in hopes of attracting the unsaved. Is that not how we gained all the wishy washy Christians that think there are more than one way to God?? Does not Jesus say the only way to God id thru Him? Do we now think He is disguise as budda or some other god that resides in zen or any number of cults?? I am unable to understand how anyone could be worshiping Jesus in any of those cults. Can we dialog with them and maybe even be friends? Surely, but must we approve of their lifestyle? I think not. I have worked for and been friends with a lot of gay people but never once let them believe it was OK with God. I did a lot of work among addicts but always let them know to get right with God there had to be repentance and a change in them. I don’t see a whole lot of talk about repentance [I’m sure it is there somewhere and I will continue to look] in this movement and I am wondering how someone comes to Christ without it.

I thought the letter from Brian to his readers & critics were great. I have been thru church splits and total collapses and it is not fun. I think I grew more because of them rather than becoming wounded but that’s just me. I think that in this day and age people think [or maybe just use that as an excuse] they are being attacked when someone asks them a tough question. It appears an easy way to avoid answering for those following what they consider a movement without understanding what’s behind it [shallow Christians-too many of them around]. I see that in the EC movement but then again they appear in all new movements. They are those just looking for something or someone they feel is able beat up on whoever or whatever they feel wounded them rather than dealing with the problems on their own. I see that as the reason most new waves become a denomination under a different name!
I am in total agreement about the “Body of Christ” coming together in unity so we can get on with it, I just feel it make take more than we thing. I have always preached [yes I have preached in the OC and was sort of run off for the messages-they seem to rub those hiding in buildings the wrong way] that we must come together before we have to go underground or we will be unable to know who or where we can gather when the time comes. Christians seem to be depending on some sort of government to make laws that will help them accomplish whatever for god rather than changing hearts because they see Jesus in us and that really rubs me the wrong way!! Whatever laws are passed do no good because they fail to deal with the heart issue!!

Tell me where I’m wrong here and why!!!



At 3/07/2007 02:33:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hey guys (Herb, Jim & Danutz),

Thanks for your comments here on my blog. I'm sorry I haven't responded before now. Truth be told, my "Recent Comments" program doesn't seem to pick up comments from my older posts, so I didn't know you had posted here until just now. I'll do my best to reply to your questions. Keep checking back here.

Thanks for stopping in.



At 3/07/2007 02:43:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson


You asked:

"In my short 2 weeks of research on the EC, I have not seen much about the Christ in us or Spirit led life. Where does this fit with the EC thinking?"

I'm not entirely sure what you mean by those terms "Christ in us" or "Spirit led life". I think I have an idea, but I'd probably have to sit down with you face to face and have you explain it to me to make sure I'm not misunderstanding you.

However, I think it's entirely possible that folks within the emerging church may be talking about very similar ideas, just without using that particular language. For instance, when you talk about Christ in us and working through us, that sounds a lot like what emerging church folks say when they talk about Incarnational ministry. That is, we are to be Christ to the world. We are his hands, his feet. He works through us, rather than us just trying to serve him through our own efforts. (I too have been burnt out on trying to serve God through my own strength and willpower.)

I don't know if this is the same as what you are talking about, but it seemed similar.

The other thing I might mention is that the EC is a conversation, and everyone brings to it what they have to offer. So if you don't see some things being talked about much in EC circles, maybe that's because we need you to join in and add it to the discussion yourself. :)




At 3/07/2007 03:16:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson


In regards to my statement that many emergents still hold to the ancient creeds you asked:

"Why must you add that? In your attempt to fend off critics you are also fending off those of us that on the far left end of the theological spectrum of EC that don't want that limitation of creed and belief still imposed on us. It seems like the moderate post-evangelicals in the EC are unwilling at times to go far enough left in their generous orthodoxy. By adding that line aren't you still being dogmatic even though you may have drawn the line a litter further than traditional evangelicals?"

My purpose with this post was primarily descriptive, not prescriptive. I wasn't saying that all Emergents must hold to the ancient creeds, but just that most Emergents I know do. Most people I'm familiar with in the EC do still stand in the stream of the historic orthodox Christian faith, if not in the more recent conservative interpretations of that faith. However, there is still the freedom within the EC for others to continue the conversation into new areas - even those places that seem to contradict the ancient creeds. As I see it, most people in the EC are more concerned with orthopraxy than perfect orthodoxy. As long as we are still following the command to love God and love others wholeheartedly, perfect theological agreement doesn't seem like quite so important a concern.

That being said, I don't personally find a commitment to the Apostles Creed all that limiting. To me it simply describes the basic story of our faith. Again, it's not a prescription of what has to be believed, but more a description of the story that gives identity to the Christian faith community. I don't see much reason why I would want to throw any of it out.

And I like the ecumenical nature of the ancient creeds. These are statements that, for the most part, have been affirmed by nearly every branch of the church throughout history. I see them as things that bind us together - not as things that draw lines of further division.

But perhaps you see it differently. As I said, in the EC there is room for those conversations as well.




At 3/07/2007 03:17:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson


You've given a lot more to respond to. It may take me a while to get back with you.

Thanks for your patience,



At 9/03/2007 08:23:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Dear Mike,

I like your blog. You have given me a lot to read and think about. My husband and I attend a relatively new emergent church in Abbotsford, BC. I am the Director of our children's ministry programs. I am still learning so much and I am fascinated to read about other emergents and churches. I have started blogging about my own faith experiences leading up to the emergent church - sort of what got me where I am now, and what I am doing and experiencing now that I am here. If you're interested, our church is and my blog is



At 9/15/2007 04:46:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Hi Dani, thanks for dropping by. Great blog btw. Keep writing! And good luck with the new church. :)


At 9/21/2007 08:29:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Hi Mike,

Your blog showed up when I was doing a search for information about what is an emerging church. Thank you for the explanation. It's probably the clearest and easy to understand articles that I've read about this subject. Honestly, I guess I wasn't paying much attention because I just never really heard of the term "emergent" until a couple of years ago when my husband and I were looking for a new church to attend after a move to a different state and a career change.

I don't really have much else to say right now...just thanks for the good explanation, and I'll probably be reading your blog more.



At 5/08/2008 06:30:00 PM, Blogger Sheri

I thank you for your explanation - I ran across it while performing a search for answers, and found them here.

I have a concern, a very large concern, regarding my own church. My pastor has recently (in the past year) begun making statements which echo those here in your explanation, and a large number of the congregation has gotten concerned, so much so that they have left the church. The problem I have it, at least in my case, our pastor has strayed completely away from the Bible, and honestly rarely reads any Bible verses or refers to any Bible verses during his sermon, instead preferring to have missionaries speak or play videos of other emerging church supporters - in essence we are not worshiping the Bible, but rather worshiping the ideals of current-day humans. I can't help but think my pastor (and I wonder if the emerging church) has strayed too far from God's Word, and to far towards his own human desires. The Bible is two parts - law and love. I'm not hearing either in my "emerging church."


At 6/30/2008 01:16:00 AM, Blogger vboo2

Last time I checked, Allah didn't have a son. Ask any Muslim. Allah and Yahweh are not the same person, cannot be the same person because the Christian God is triune whereas Allah is only one god. So how is it that a Muslim can worship the one true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who laid the foundation of the Church on His Son, not the god of the Arabs amd Mohammed at his mosque? Boy, if they found out the true God of the Bible (Jesus) was being worshipped, heads would roll!
Namaan did not ask permission to worship God at his master's pagan temple, only to be forgiven for even entering it and kneeling down as he helped his master go there! That's a far cry from worshipping God there. The verses prior to these two that were listed make mention of Namaan asking for " much earth as a pair of mules can carry, for your servant will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord." In reality, Namman was planning to worship the Lord somewhere other than the temple of Rimmon. The Muslim or Budhist who comes to Christ can no longer be a Muslim or a Budhist, but as a new creation in Christ and out of gratitude for their salvation I would hope that they would want to establish another place of worship outside of these Satanic places. Christians are to be salt & light and to avoid the appearance of evil. How is this accomplished by continuing in old, bad ways? Maybe the Muslim is scared for their life, but the Budhist?
Just another clue that this emergent church stuff is not of God, imo. But, perhaps the emergent church is leading us up to the appearance of...guess who? The antichrist!!! Hmm - what is the identity of that One World Religion, anyway? Watch out, people. Be careful whom you listen to and follow - lots of folks have itching ears these days. Don't be like them.
Sheri, get out of your church and find another Bible-believing one. He's a wolf or he's decieved, but either one is bad.


At 7/13/2008 02:53:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

Sheri, thanks for visiting. I can't speak for your pastor or his beliefs, but if it's any comfort, I can tell you that my emerging church has spent the past two and a half years studying our way through Luke and Acts, and this in-depth study of the Bible has only confirmed our "emergent" leanings. Perhaps your pastor has strayed away from using the Bible, but I wouldn't assume that if he went back to it, that that would necessarily lead him away from his emerging views. After all the emerging church movement has always encouraged a greater depth of engagement with scripture, not less.


At 7/13/2008 02:59:00 PM, Blogger Mike Clawson

vboo2, your belief that other religions are entirely "Satanic", your biblically incorrect use of the term "antichrist", and your reference to the extra-biblical idea of a "One World Religion" (which is figment of dispensational conspiracy theories, not biblical eschatology) is quite revealing as to your underlying theological assumptions. Of course you are welcome to express your own opinions here, but please try to keep the slander to a minimum.


At 8/02/2008 04:57:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous

Hi, Mike

I found you by following some other links about the organic church. This emergent church thing gives me a sorrowful, sick feeling in my stomach. I'd so love for it to be bible-centered and Christ-centered. So much of it looks so good. For example, the relational aspects and the missionary leanings, etc. But . . . (you knew that was coming, right? sorry. I truly am.)

I've read most of the Koran (still working on it). There's no way that the Allah of the Koran is the same as YHWH. If you think I'm being unkind, then read the Koran yourself. They're just not the same person.

The ahadith make this even more clear, though I've only read excerpts and stories from some of them. Far be it from Allah that He should have a son. Allah is the most skilled of deceivers. Allah unlike YHWH) is willing that many should perish and He purposely leads them astray. These are not direct quotes, but they are not, in any way, untrue to the words of the Koran. And they are only among the more mild bits.

You cannot be a Muslim and a Christian. Ask any serious Muslim theologian--any of them at all.

I'll reserve any specific comments on Buddhism and Hinduism as I haven't studied them extensively, but I'll only say that I don't believe YHWH has changed His mind about worshiping other gods before or beside Him. Hinduism, certainly, requires the recognition and respect for many, many other gods, none of whom could be likened to our loving creator.

Another thing that hurts my heart concerning this matter is the idea of being receptive and tolerant to differing morals. We may disagree on whether the volume of the worship music should be quite so high and still both be right from a certain point of view, however there are certain things listed as plainly as possible in the bible as sin and I believe they are sin. That doesn't mean I despise the people practicing them, but they cannot be brethren in the Lord and still insist on clinging to their sin. We cannot in good conscience sanction their chosen lifestyle. This would not only be untrue to scripture, but it would also be unloving. Why should we lie to people. Some things are sin. If we're following Christ, we won't be doing them. If we're doing them habitually and proudly, we're not following Christ.

I expect you'll see this as intolerant, but I simply can't read the scriptures any other way and be honest and true to what my spirit and my mind are telling me. I don't understand why God takes sin so seriously--not really. My mind can formulate logic for it, but I don't think I'll truly understand until I stand in God's presence. Nevertheless, I love Him and trust Him and believe He will not do anything that is not holy, just, and merciful.

The last thing I'll mention is the EC's loose interpretations of scripture. Yes, I believe there are special interpretations of scriptural passages that might be only for my community at this very moment, and I believe God speaks through scripture to each generation and that the word of God is alive and powerful and sharp. I also believe it is true and that it really does mean what it says it means (in additional to the more amorphous interpretations relevant to our momentary situations.) I can't for the life of me see why the EC would have a problem believing that Jesus is coming back, literally and physically, as He so clearly said He would?

I can only be left with the conclusion that if all the things I've read here are true of the EC in general, the EC has some real problems. There are so many good things about it, so many lovely things, that this is a grief to me. I would love to get involved in it if it were scriptural, but from reading this and reading scripture, I have to conclude that it's way too far afield, way too compromising.

I pray that God will protect you and help you as I believe you truly desire Him.

God bless,



At 7/22/2009 08:15:00 AM, Blogger dianas_view

Thank you for posting this description of the Emergent Church. It's the best succint description I've seen thus far.


At 7/02/2011 02:43:00 AM, Anonymous Hil

It is sad that those of us who see the error of the emergent church and are desperately trying to warn others are viewed as hostile and mean.

It doesn't matter whether or not someone gives their real name. That is not the point. The point is whether or not we read Christ's words for what they say, or for what we WANT them to say.

Mike, for you to be so unkind as to tell someone they are not welcome on your blog - essentially because they disagree with you - is not Christlike.

I pray you all repent too. Don't look for your ears to be tickled.


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