There's an interesting discussion thread on the main Emergent Village Web site (posted in part and linked to below) in response to a prediction by Kester Brewin, author of the book "Signs of Emergence: A Vision for Church That Is Always Organic/Networked/Decentralized/Bottom-Up/Communal/Flexible/Always Evolving," that 2008 will see the collapse of the "emerging church" as a popular project. Says Kester:
It’s just a hunch, but I sense that some of the key players are less and less willing to work with that particular language. I think that, whereas a few years ago people were excited by the prospect, people are getting used to/bored/fed up with ‘emerging church’ as a concept, and will thus leave it behind. Not that I think that that means ‘game over’ for all that people like Emergent stand for — far from it actually — but I think people may increasingly assimilate those ideas into their practice without taking the name. (I think for some time this has been foreseen in the collapse in usefulness of the term ‘emerging church’, which is so tired as a phrase it has begun to mean nothing.)As new as I am to the Emergent discussion, Kester's comments strike a chord. I, too, find the term "emergent" wearing a bit thin. And I wonder if, by holding this converation largely outside of our respective churches, we aren't missing an opportunity to engage our faith in a rich, meaningful way within our churches.
Like many people, I sought out conversation partners via the emergent movement because I'm dissatisfied with my church's seeming disinterest in challenging its members to radically live out the faith in Jesus that we profess. I want and need to be held accountable for my life -- not just for my behavior in the pews, but for the way I reflect Christ in my home as a father and parent, at my workplace as a supervisor, in the voting booth as a citizen, walking past the homeless, how I earn and spend my money, who I invite into my home and show hospitality, what food and entertainment I consume. And I strongly believe that should be the role of the church, both lowercase and capital "C." My hope was, and is, that together we in the emergent discussion can prepare, instruct and encourage one another to go back to our churches and enact our vision for Christ's body. When all the coffee is drunk, all the talking is done, all our hopes and fears are laid out on the table, all our wounds licked and healed, in the end we have to be the kinds of church we're all hungering for, to show our fellow congregants what a truly dynamic, engaged, biblical kind of faith life can look like.
For all its many qualities, and despite Kester's mistaken (I believe) reference to the "emerging church," this wonderful conversation is not a church. In some cases it's inspired people to form new churches, but really it's a means to an end. It's a communal effort to examine the Gospel with fresh eyes and to develop a vision for Christian living and mission that binds up inextricably personal salvation with social and political and economic justice. It recognizes the Kingdom of God is a present reality today and demands our participation, that God's kingdom is not simply a place where pious people aspire to spend their eternal rest.
Unless we put this emerging vision into action in our own lives, in our own churches, the emergent conversation will amount to a flash that generated considerable heat and yet failed to shine any light.