You may or may not have heard of some loose entity known as the “emerging” or “emergent church.” Mark Driscoll, pastor of a mega-church in Seattle called Mars Hill, gave a lecture at Southeastern Seminary on the main three streams of thought out there in this non-denominational lumping. At one time he was connected with some folks as part of this “emerging” whatever-you-want-to-call it. So he speaks as a former ‘insider’ and does so quite honestly, and difficultly, since some of the men are/were his friends and he knows their families and vice versa. This would no doubt be a difficult lecture to give.
In case you don’t feel like listening to the hour long lecture (but it goes quick because he is absolutely hilarious), I’ll briefly summarize some of his main three divisions, of which only one he really refers to as “emergent.”
1.) “Cool/hip churches.” These are churches which are completely evangelical, and are willing to consider different ways of ministering to a totally different audience than we had 50 years ago. As far as methods and what each church looks like-that will be different-but they may look a little different than your church (possibly). However, they are distinctly Evangelical and do not compromise the gospel. Such names in this stream include Donald Miller, Dan Kimball. However, they probably don’t fit into “emerging church” status.
2.) “Emergent Village”-These are churches who in seeking to win the lost, have really, in Driscoll’s opinion, lost touch with the true gospel. He calls them “revisionists”-wondering what God really meant when He said stuff about homosexuality, gender differences, and atonement/symbol of the cross. Reaction to scripture is not obedience, but dialog and conversation. Such names include Brian McClaren, Rob Bell (Velvet Elvis) and Doug Pagett. Unfortunately some of their professed influences include John Dominic Crossan (a dude from the Jesus seminar-denies Jesus’ resurrection), Marcus Borg (panentheist-no creator/creature distinction), and Ken Wilbur (wrote A brief history of everything-a Buddhist intrepretation).
Some of McClaren’s books are A Generous Orthodoxy and A New Kind of Christian (which won the Christian book award several years ago). NPR’s religion editor calls him the “new Martin Luther.” Winsome and relational, he has a strong following.
However Driscoll questions whether or not these churches are actually growing. They’ve compromised to reach people, but they really aren’t doing that.
3.) Calvinist stream-These are young, reformed (at least in regards to salvation)
pastors who see an importance in a return to expositional (verse-by-verse) preaching, usually an hour long, elders, more charismatic in worship, and have more of a connection to the historical church. They agree culture has changed, and need to think of new methods to reach the lost. Such include having night services as well (Seattle has more dogs than kids, but many singles), hosting secular concerts in a building they purchased, and more relational evangelism-specifically hospitality.
Pastors include Driscoll, CJ Maheney, Sovereign Grace folk, Matt Chandler, Acts 29 Church planting network.
They tend to be younger but are willing and to sit under older men and be taught by John Piper, D.A. Carson, Tim Keller, and J.I. Packer. Those are names I trust.
Driscoll closed his lecture with some questions that folks in his camp are asking: Why are so many people into video game “World of War Craft” or Ultimate Fighting (the demographic which is least churched 18-34). Paul looked at the idols at Mars Hill and saw what they believed. His goal is to have people take a peak into these cultures and see what’s going on-then they will know how to minister to them. To be biblically faithful and culturally fruitful.