many kinds of emerging church

With the turn of the century, there’s a lot of new developments in the church world — which is exciting for some, confusing for others. Particularly, the new kinds of churches being described as emerging church or emergent church, are all over the map (and around the world) in terms of what it looks like, what they believe, and how they worship. And, if one adds “missional church” to the mix, one’ll get some contemporary evangelical churches under the big tent too.

There’s been more than a handful of attempts at explaining what the emerging church is by using taxonomies, categories, types, classifications, and/or models. Here are some of the more oft-quoted articles about emerging and/or emergent churches::

Five Streams of the Emerging Church: Key elements of the most controversial and misunderstood movement in the church today by Scot McKnight (in Christianity Today, February 2007)

Understanding the emerging church by Ed Stetzer (in Baptist Press, January 2006), 3 descriptors were proposed: Relevants, Reconstructionists, and Revisionists; for more background and context about this article, see Ed Stetzer’s blog entry on Understanding the Emerging Church

Four Models of Emerging Churches by Wess Daniels — a more nuanced listing of 4 proto-typologies and their influencers: deconstructionist, pre-modern, open Anabaptism, foundationalist (ht: emergent village; January 2008)

Darrin Patrick lectured at Covenant Seminary on “streams of the emerging church“, presenting 3 main streams: Conversational, Attractional, Incarnational (ht: emergent village; October 2007)

An Emerging Church Primer by Justin Taylor (at 9 Marks, a broadly reformed perspective)

And, Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church, Seattle) in “A Pastoral Perspective on the Emergent Church” (in Criswell Theological Review, Spring 2006) re-stated Ed Stetzer’s categories, but has more recently reframed those into: Relevants, Revisionists, and Relevant Reformed, including himself in the latter, cf. Conference examines the emerging church (Baptist Press, September 2007) though he was interviewed in 2006 citing 4 categories, adding Relevant Reformed to Stetzer’s original 3.

For more comparative opinions, see Mark Driscoll’s Critique Gets Mixed Response over at emergent village.

And what would Tim Keller say to the emerging church? Keller has added his comments at Tallskinnykiwi’s Anabaptism and the Emerging Church and emergingpensee’s Should Emerging Church Settle?

[update 10/8/08] Doug Pagitt on video weights in with Emergent and Emerging Church Distinction | see Emergent Village for their network of on-going conversations | history of how emergent church emerged | read September 2008’s month-long Emergent Blogologue (a blog-based conversation) between Christian futurist Bill Easum and Tony Jones, in 5 parts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) | Scot McKnight observes that “Emergent is no longer just emerging. It has in many respects emerged.” in McLaren Emerging (CT, Sept 2008) and blogs about emerging movement fairly regularly at

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20 Responses

  1. solomon li says:

    controversial issue dj. interesting to boot.

    i have not read the so-called emerging or emergent church writings, but it seems that there are some extremes going on there to try to get away from what is perceived as a failed evangelical mega-church seeker sensitive model to a degree… along with other interesting things.

    so far as i know they’re in line with a lot of old school pietism (as in the movement). it’s difficult and mirky to trace… and furthermore, what do they mean by their terms? often, it seems like they’re so ambiguous on what they believe… like in the term “missional”. what is that? i know there have been many an article which pre-supposes the wrong thing, and yet they don’t give us anything concrete.

    fascinating subject though. there are a few things right that i see there… but then again, there’s a lot of questionable things like the abandonment of the authority of the church. without structure under whose authority are you? how can you be held accountable for things like church discipline?

    then again, they’re right in saying that it’s not about bringing people “into” church, but rather it’s a challenge for Christians to not settle into complacency and go out there to engage people… to obey the mission of God to preach the gospel…

    oi… what a headache…

    thanks for the post dj!!!

  2. andrew jones says:

    dj- this is a great resource

    maybe i should email you my 5 models of emerging (postmodern) church that I wrote in 1999 and was published by GenNext? let me know.

  3. djchuang says:

    Andrew, thanks for posting your article on 5 models of emerging church, circa 1999! Great read, and a bit entertaining at that 🙂

    Solomon, perhaps this is part of the milieu of the 21st century, that words are losing their concrete meaning, and people can (largely) define the meaning of the words they use. Thus, it seems ambiguous to try to understand exactly what some emerging churches believe or doesn’t believe. Some people say that “certainty is over-rated.” And, I think, it’s being called an emerging church because it is still in process of emerging, and it is not yet an emerged church that knows its contructs, structures, and definitions.

  4. andrew jones says:

    you are very welcome.

  5. Joel says:

    I’m still reading about what the Puritan’s have to say about ecclesiology but thanks anyway.

  6. eq2 gold says:

    This was helpful, thank you for tackling this.

    I have also noticed, like you said, “many proponents of Emergent, Open Theism, and the New Perspective on Paul claim ‘No one understands us!' “

    I find that frustrating, especially when they say (for instance, I have read people say this about Piper), “Nope! He still doesn’t get it. :)” regarding NPP. It strikes me as “we’re elite and know what it is all about, and nobody understands what we believe (except Wright, of course).” I find it immature and ridiculous, and it really bothers me.

    That being said, you’re response “No, some understand you quite well, you just don't like the critique” is exactly what I’ve thought every time I hear people complain!

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