It’s gone so far now that we’re blogging about how we’re tired of talking about the topic we’re blogging about. Again. Oh, don’t worry — I’m no better. So here we go again, but this time it’s Scot McKnight posting on the latest bruhaha with some new info, or new perspective on old info. I bring this up not because we need to say it once again that there’s discussion about the continued use of the term “Emergent,” or for that matter, “emerging.”
What I found interesting about Scot’s piece was the history he outlined for the word “Fundamentalism” and the word “Evangelical.” Both words have undergone a change in meaning culminating in its abandonment by some who no longer identified with the revised meaning of the term. In this fashion, it makes perfect sense that the emerging church would undergo the same shift, and that missional will follow. Already in the missional conversation there are some moving away from the term as no longer helpful — despite a 50+-participant synchroblog on the meaning of missional, the word remains a bit slippery.
As I said in my Saturday post I was and am quite intrigued by the fact that in a recent listing by Mark Sayers of 5 Things We Got Wrong in the Emerging Missional Church, and Andrew Jones’ two additions, three of the seven items have to do with the definition of terms. This suggests to me that either it’s more important than we realize to properly define what we mean by missional now, or else it’s already too late.
Scot mentions the network that he and Dan Kimball are beginning, along with some others. Doctrinally, the network affirms the The Lausanne Covenant, which is more typically evangelical than Emergent Village is presumed to be. Most significantly, it affirms the role of evangelism in the life of the church and the purpose of God. Dan and Scot both contend that the emerging church is not evangelistic enough (Dan will also apply this charge to the missional church in a forthcoming article), even if it began with this as its prime concern. Somewhere in this mix, the emerging church is bring brought closer to the missional church. Despite his diagram and discussion, C. Michael Patton doesn’t quite have the missional stream defined very well. It was in fact a parallel form of emerging church — some used the term mission-shaped church, or fresh expressions, or whatever… but it evolved on its own, sharing a lot of overlap areas with the emerging church and Emergent.
I’m also struck by how a lot of the conversation in recent weeks aligns with an article I co-wrote back in June and July with Jamie Howison for the Anglican Journal on the emerging church. I’ve read a lot of comments since writing that piece that have come up since, with the same theme. (The article is, I believe, slated or publication next month.)
The one thing everyone seems to agree upon is that regardless how we tag ourselves or each other, we still like one another and intend nothing malicious in any term-shifting that takes place. I do like how we still seem to have relationship first in the matter… which means that new alliances and new labels are undertaken not for the sake of distancing from another, but in order to help bring clarity and help bring expression to what each of us feels needs emphasis. Of course, this is “emergent” behaviour in the classical sense of the term. The church is, in fact, continuing to emerge and change. I do hope it’s becoming more mature as we go. In any event, I think that Dan, Scot, and company are on the money in their emphasis for their new network. I still hate the word evangelism, but regardless, it’s an attempt to focus the church on what she ought to be about, and that’s a good thing.