The ‘Emerging’ Church arose over the last couple of decades as a ‘conversation’ about new approaches to doing church, rather than any kind of organised form of Christianity. The approaches have been quite varied: Churches in cafes; businesses premises run by Christians hosting weekend services; ‘organic’ communities discussing spiritual matters; and so on. Some have cynically suggested that the Emerging Church represents a conglomeration of what is and is not liked about traditional churches by those restless with their own spiritual communities.
The polarising and triumphalising tendency of some Emergents has seen them suggest that institutional churches are largely preserving lifeless and outdated traditions at the expense of building God-connections with people who live in the real world. This is grossly oversimplified and what some Emergents call ‘church’ has been embraced as ‘outreach’ for decades, if not centuries, by traditional groups.
Also, traditions are built quickly and any new group can become institutionalised if it grows and is around for long enough. (Maybe some of these will be cannon fodder for the next generation of revolutionaries!). Denominations offer protections, support and synergy for Christians and need not be demonised as stuffy and stifling.
I challenged one popular Emerging Church advocate, pastor and author several years ago who was forced to admit that his church was incapable of addressing all elements of Christian discipleship and therefore needed institutional churches more than he was previously prepared to acknowledge.
Surely, whatever is both biblical and workable can be as traditional or as revolutionary as it likes. Let’s embrace and respect diversity (‘and’, not ‘either/or’). Remember that we’re all on the same side, ‘kicking in the same direction’, and there’s no time or place to be tackling each other, or to be ‘playing the man’ rather than the ball!