Emerging Church Beliefs

June 4, 2007 at 6:59 pm 10 comments

This past Friday and Saturday I spent seven hours at an event called Emergence 2007 – a Zondervan/National Pastors Convention Regional event. The event was held in West Seattle at Mars Hill Church with Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Doug Pagitt, and Karen Ward as guests. The event was organized in a conversational manner with host Krista Tippett. There were hundreds of people in attendance, many who are Mars Hill Church members or attendees. Mark, Dan and Doug have been voices in this emerging church conversation for over 10 years now. I’m not sure how long Karen Ward has been involved in the emerging church conversation, but I do know she has been an influential leader in the emerging church for many years and her voice is a welcome addition to the conversation.

I am very familiar with Dan Kimball and his involvement in the emerging church, and have been following Mark Driscoll’s movement locally for the last seven years. Even though I live in the Seattle area and have many friends who attend Mars Hill Church, I have never attended a gathering at Mars Hill Church where Mark was speaking. I did attend a Film and Theology night many years ago when they were meeting at an old church in Ballard, but it was a small gathering. In the past year I have downloaded and listened to at least one of Mark’s podcasts in response to friends who have chosen to leave the faith community I have attended for the last 13 years to attend Mars Hill Church. I know many people who will commute from the suburbs into the city to attend Mars Hill Church – especially those who would be classified as Gen Xers.

Much of the conversation this weekend seemed to focus on areas of agreement between these differing voices, and there was definitely a sense of the more prominent and loud voices of Doug and Mark dominating the conversation, though Krista did an excellent job of directing the conversation and attempting to give room to Dan and Karen to speak. I was surprised that the controversial topic of emerging church beliefs concerning women was avoided, but this was probably a good idea since the conversation was held in Mars Hill Church where a traditional complementarian view is strongly promoted.

One question that seemed to raise controversy/heated discussion:

Question for Mark Driscoll: Would you accept Doug Pagitt as a member of Mars Hill Church? (my paraphrase)

Answer: No.

In his response, Mark proceeded to conduct an informal membership interview. It seemed straightforward enough, with Doug failing after a few questions (I don’t remember all the questions or details but the inerrancy of the Bible question was a big disqualifier.) The discussion didn’t appear to be controversial, but I sensed a certain amount of sub-text or undercurrents in the conversation that only those inside the emergent circle would possibly pick up on.

Another question:

Question for all: What is the difference between emergent and emerging? (my paraphrase)

The host invited Dan Kimball to respond. While Dan was composing his thoughts, Doug leaned over and commented that the difference is in the spelling. A few who heard this side comment chuckled, but the conversation that followed didn’t really seem to clarify but rather contextualized the evolution of the terms. I found this interesting and after some exploration and further discussion offer that perhaps “emerging” is merely culturally relevant packaging of modern theology, while “emergent” is more of a rethinking of modern theology and a response to the dying of many modern churches all over the world because of the mass exodus of the emerging generations once they are free from parental rule.

Overall, what I enjoyed most about the conversation was hearing the stories and getting to know these voices a little bit better. All four who were involved in this conversation have differing views on many issues, but in the spirit of Christ have been able to maintain friendship with one another to some degree.


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  • 1. revolution  |  June 5, 2007 at 2:15 am

    the difference between emerging and emergent is more than spelling. it is the difference between liberal theology and semi-conservative theology.


  • 2. Elizabeth Chapin  |  June 5, 2007 at 2:30 am

    revolution –
    well said, that the differnce between emerging and emergent is more than just spelling, but to narrowly define it in vague terms like liberal and semi-conservative is not much more helpful. I really don’t think emergent has evolved a set theology that can be classified as liberal in any context. Within the recent modern context theology was classified along a continuum from liberal to conservative, but with the rethinking of the post-modern era, these continuums are breaking down.

  • 3. jeff greer  |  June 7, 2007 at 4:45 am

    post-liberal, post-conservative…those are better terms to use, kind of what you were saying there wendy 🙂 good stuff!

  • 4. revolution  |  June 8, 2007 at 11:03 pm

    i think i have a post-headache

  • 5. Lon  |  June 15, 2007 at 12:01 pm

    awesome, i’ve been following mars hill and the emerging/emergent church for quite a while, great notes! thanks.

  • 6. tsfgodguy  |  August 3, 2008 at 2:42 pm

    OK, I’m a year late but I spent a week at Doug’s church during the Emergent Summer Institute a few years back. I pastor a church that I would say falls into the catagory of emerging (reaching the postmodern communitee and those hurt by church and Christians in the past in contemporary fashion).

    Emergent, to me, is a group organized by some of those you mention above with the main voices having very different views than I do including not believing in hell, lack of respect for the Turth of the Scripture, and lack of belief in salvation through accepting Christ as Leader and Forgiver.

    What I thought to be interesting while in Doug’s church and with Emergent leaders is any time I was asked about my church and I discribed it, they would say “Oh, then you’re an Emergent church.” and I would say “No we’re not.”

    I believe there is a purposeful attempt within Emergent to confus people about the difference of the two to appear larger and mroe influential than what is reality. Sadly, they have been pretty successful.

  • 7. Elizabeth Chapin  |  August 3, 2008 at 6:15 pm

    tsfgodguy, yes a year has passed since I posted this – and in that time there has been more conversation about what’s considered emerging and what is emergent. Since Emergent Village is a loosely organized group, many people now associate “emergent” with this group of people and those who are the leading voices. Others, like you, who are concerned with the views of some who call themselves emergent are choosing to identify with the term emerging. In this age of change, I’m sure we will see even more changes in the meaning of these terms in the coming year.

  • 8. DysfunctionalParrot  |  September 25, 2008 at 2:54 pm

    Those I know in the movement spend a great deal of time re-defining words such as “grace” and “freedom”, as is the case with most post-modern liberal movements.

  • 9. Fayette  |  January 21, 2011 at 12:56 am

    PAISE JEHOVAH & JESUS CHRIST My KING of GLORY Amen: Seems to me I am have about 2 years to catch up on. Praise JESUS. Folks, I have come to know about the so called church named emergent ? Notice the last 4 words spell GENT ?

    I was at My Pastor’s house for Prayer group Wednesday-19-Jan.-2011; He had printed material written by Rick Warren. I did not read the 4 page print out; BUT held it in My hands & I can assure you or anyone, that it DID NOT FEEL GOOD & DID NOT FEEL RIGHT WITH MY SPIRIT. At the time I had not read the print out. Praise JEHOVAH. DECERNMENT; I HAVE & IT’S A GIFT FROM JEHOVAH THROUGH JESUS CHRIST BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.

    Since then I have been on internet re-searching on

    Number 1 reason is they use the message bible & the message bible has to many incorrect verses, & does not line up with other Bibles. Some words have been left out. Other words included that should not be there. BEWARE Folks. Especially Rick Warren & anyone who agrees with any pastors or leaders from emergent churches.

    Fore warned is for-armed. Toss away the message book it’s not a Bible. JEHOVAH is not blind, deaf, & dumb now is HE ? Of course not, we ALL know that. Seems to many around the world many of you in the false religious church emergent are, yes ! Praise JEHOVAH.

    What a ruddy cheek; & many of you have a hide on you as thick or even thicker than a hippo ?; to try & change JEHOVAH’s Way of doing
    the CHRISTian thing. JESUS CHRIST is the same yesterday, today, & to-morrow, and for ever. GLory Be To JESUS CHRIST & ABBA Father.

    Folks : +hell+ is a dreadful place–and surprise, surprise, there are & will be many false Profets preachers, teachers, Apostles, leaders, & the like; males & females in +hell+ now & will be in the future. And it’s for EVER & EVER. SCARY ISN’T IT ? MY OATH. BEWARE FALSE TEACHERS & PASTORS. HalleluJAH to JEHOVAH. Amen:

    Shalom Folks, may JEHOVAH Bless Us ALL In JESUS’s Name. From The Daughter Of THE MOST HIGH GOD, AND THE APPLE OF HIS EYE. Aussie Kanga. Friday-21-Janurary-2011.

  • 10. Butch Wistrom  |  June 28, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    Colossians 4 Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words. 5 For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.

    6 As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, 7 rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it[b] with thanksgiving.

    8 Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. 9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; 10 and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.

    2 Peter 14 Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.

    17 You therefore, beloved, since you know this beforehand, beware lest you also fall from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error of the wicked; 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

    To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

    2 Thessalonians 2:10-11 \”And with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved. For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false.\”

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