What is EDGE-X?

Evangelize the Lost, Disciple the Found, Give back to the Community, Edify the Church, all to eXalt the Savior.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


Hey everyone!
This was the paper I wrote for my Emerging vs. Emergent argument. This was probably one of the worst papers I have ever written, so feel free to critique away. I will probably go off  from this paper for my senior thesis. Anyway, I hope you find it enjoyable (maybe even laughable at my mistakes). 
Emergent vs. Emerging
by Adam Keeton

Christianity in America today is a very difficult subject to define. In the broadest terms, we can define Christianity as a religion revolving around the figure of Jesus Christ. By using the broadest definition, we encompass sects such as Mormonism and Jehovah Witnesses, which many mainline Christian denominations do not define as “true Christian” because they do not follow a Triune God as set by the Ecumenical Councils during the formation of the early church. Many mainline Christians do not consider the Mormon Church to be truly “Christian” and more of a split-off sect from Christianity. For the purpose of this essay, we will define Christianity as a religion which follows the Triune God as set forth by the Ecumenical Councils; Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses are religions in their own right.

When studying the movements of the Christian church in the twenty first century, it is important to define the key terms differentiating the different movements. Two large groups that are frequently confused are the Emerging and Emergent movements. Although these two groups appear similar in name, their name is the one of the few similarities between the two.

The emerging church is a name giving to progressive churches in Christianity in the twenty first century that diverges from the traditional methods and practices of historical Christianity. Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger put it this way,

Emerging churches are communities that practice the way of Jesus within postmodern cultures. This definition encompasses nine practices. Emerging churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities.”[1]

Although these are vague descriptions of what that church looks like, in essence, emerging churches still follow the same doctrine and theology of traditional Christianity, but put a modern twist on the methods of reaching out to the community. For example, many emerging churches shy away from the traditional forms of worship, whether it is liturgical—formally structured—or non-liturgical and may change up the music style or structure of the service every week, substituting liturgy or scripture readings on some Sundays in favor of more music or sermons. The message of the pastor or priest is the main focus in most emerging churches, although the Eucharist—or Communion—may also be a primary focus.

Emerging churches focus heavily on scripture and use it to teach and guide the congregations. Many believe it is the true, inspired words of God and that it is infallible. In this right, many emerging churches are fundamentalist in approach and answer questions with absolutes, rejecting relativism.

Another way to look at the emerging church would be to look at the five focuses of the community. According to Scot McKnight in Christianity Today, Emerging churches focus on five specific areas: prophetic speaking, praxis-oriented faith, emphasis on orthopraxy versus orthodoxy, post-evangelical theology, and political leanings.[2] Much of the pastors’ sermons of the emerging churches preach exceedingly convicting sermons dipped deeply in imagery and exaggeration, much like the prophets of the Old Testament. This prophetic speech develops a sense of urgency in the congregation to then live out their faith, known as praxis.

The urge to live out the message makes the congregation more focused on right-practice (orthopraxy) rather than right-thinking (orthodoxy). Even though the congregation is more focused on right practice, doesn’t mean they diminish orthodoxy. Many emerging churches preach a heavy emphasis on orthodoxy, yet preaching correct orthodoxy leads to orthopraxy; if a member of the congregation is not practicing what they are hearing then they do not have right doctrine.

Yet despite the efforts to hold onto orthodoxy, the orthopraxy has changed much of the views of traditional theology within the emerging church, creating a post-evangelical theology. In post-evangelical theology, systematic theology is diminished and a more inclusive gospel is preached. To emerging Christians, exclusiveness divides and does not preach the love of God. In their minds, humanity should be focusing on what different religions have in common rather than arguing over the differences. Criticism of the emerging movement strikes the hardest in this area of post-evangelical theology. Many emerging churches do not accept post-evangelical theology, but still embrace traditional evangelism with new methods and style put on the gospel message.

Because of the post-evangelical theology, much of the focus in the emerging church is not on preaching the gospel of Christ, but rather preaching the love of Christ by helping the needy. Politics is one outlet the love of God can be preached. Many emerging churches focus on social activism and try to get involved in the communities they are around, supporting political candidates that do the same.

The emergent church follows many of the same patterns of the emerging church. They have a praxis-oriented faith, a strong emphasis on orthopraxy, and are very political. However, the emergent church does not preach as prophetically and their theology is mostly post-evangelical. According to Jason Carlson, “Emergent identifies itself as, ‘a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ’.”[3] These churches are not united under a doctrine or a specific denomination, but an organization known as “The Emergent Village.” Emergent churches are from various denominations and various background and do not have one set theology they fall under.

According to The Emergent Village, in order for a church to join, they need to agree to four practices: commitment to God and the way of Jesus, commitment to the church in all its forms, commitment to God’s world, and commitment to one another.[4] After reading the entire website and all its practices, the church only mentioned “God” fourteen times, “Jesus” four times, the “Holy Spirit” zero times, and the “Bible” zero times. Purely reading the website, the practices seem like they are more focused on a social gospel than a traditional evangelical gospel as historically presented by the established Christianity.

It is important to note the difference between the two church movements. The main differences are in organization. The emergent church is organized through one central organization called The Emergent Village. The Village holds annual conferences and keeps in regular contact with their members. The emerging church has no formal structure, but is a popular label given to certain churches—whether self-titled or given by other churches—that are changing the way they are practicing Christianity in the twenty-first century. The emerging church is not a formal organization, although many pastors of the different churches communicate with each other. The second major difference is that emerging churches tend to be mostly from mainline Protestant “mega-churches”, where emergent churches are evenly spaced between all denominations of churches of all sizes.

In history, Christianity has gone through several natural movements. In the churches most formative years, several Ecumenical Councils were established in order to decide on what direction the church was going, and what doctrines and teachings were deemed canonical or heretical. Later, after the church became more formally established, several movements broke out among monks and friars in an attempt to reform the church, which cumulated into the Reformation Movement in Germany, led by Martin Luther. When Christianity moved to America, Protestantism exploded into hundreds of different denominations primarily divided by location. Within these movements, many different doctrines emerged, forming many of the foundations of the churches in existence today.

Two major revivals broke out during the spread of Christianity in America: the First and Second Great Revivals. These arose because the church was becoming ineffective in reaching the needs of the people of the day. The church was either too hierarchical or too formal for many members. Much of the revivals were focused on current issues of the day that was relevant to Americans.

For example, as America emerged as an independent nation, individualism became a more common theme. The church adapted to this changing culture and focused on the individual, emphasizing individual conversion experiences. In addition, the government was increasing democratic, pushing many democratic ideals onto the church. Churches became increasingly democratic and focused on the lay people rather than the traditional hierarchy of bishops and presbyters.

It was during the Second Great Revival that Mormonism took hold. In this revival, many Christian denominations were focused on primitivism, the idea that their movement was founded on and was restoring the church back to the early days of the formation of the church; that the followers were mimicking the lifestyle and practices of the early apostolic church. It was in the movement that Joseph Smith founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint.

Many of Joseph Smith’s ideas on God, Jesus, and eternity were not widely accepted by the majority of Christians of the day. Almost immediately, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was pushed away from traditional Christianity and was considered its own group. Thus, even to this day, many Christians do not consider Mormonism part of Christianity because of their radical views of God, Jesus, and eternity.

Yet, these revivals still exist today. The emerging church is one of these revivals attempting to make Christianity relevant to the people of America again. Statistics show that 3,500 churches close each year and eighty percent of churches have plateaued in attendance or are declining.[5] The church is not doing well and is not reaching the younger generations. Most young people are not interested in church or Jesus or even attend any church. The emerging church arose to tackle the increasing decline in church attendance.

Conversely, the emergent church is a new movement of Christianity away from its traditional roots and into its own path, similar to the way Mormonism diverged from traditional Christianity. The emergent church has The emergent church has “moved beyond the practice of simply adapting the methods we use in order to reach the postmodern world for Jesus Christ.”[6] The emergent village has called into question many traditional evangelical doctrine, many of which form a foundation for Christianity.

According to Mark Driscoll, who many consider one of the leading emerging pastors, the emerging church started in the late 1990’s as an attempt to reach Generation X for Christ.[7] Believing that trying to narrow the focus down to one generation was too narrow-minded and did not encompass the whole gospel of Christ. Driscoll states that “the emerging church is sort of a catch-all phrase for those younger churches and pastors that are trying to figure out how to ‘do church’ in a post-modern world.”[8]

In an attempt to make the gospel message of Jesus relevant to the people, Driscoll states that the emerging church has four “teams” they are a part of. He compares these to four lanes on a highway. In the first lane are the emerging evangelicals. Emerging evangelicals are people are doctrinally the same as traditional Christians, but are “trying to figure out how to make Christianity more relevant, more applicable for people who would otherwise have no interest in Jesus or church.”[9] Many of these churches have newer worship songs, use a multimedia worship experience, and are heavy on church planting and evangelism.

In the second lane are the house church evangelicals. This movement agrees along the same line as the emerging evangelicals on doctrine, following traditional Christian doctrine, but disagree on the methods. While the emerging evangelicals are focused on “big church”, house church evangelicals are trying to do away with large buildings and pastors and focus on meeting together in houses and coffee shops to do church themselves.[10] The styles of the house church evangelicals are very similar to early church in late antiquity or in the westward movement of churches in America in the early 1800’s.

In the third lane are the emerging reformers. Emerging reformers are emerging evangelicals but place a high emphasis on some of the major church contributors such as Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon, A. W. Tozer, J. I. Packer, Billy Graham, Francis Schaeffer, John Piper, and Ed Stetzer.[11] Emerging reformers are highly focused on evangelism and church planting with a spotlight on missional work.[12] In addition, they also emphases freedom in worship and are charismatic, meaning they believe in all the spiritual gifts as presented in the Bible and preach them as living and active in the church today.

The final lane is the emerging liberals, which is where the emergent church falls under. Driscoll states these churches are problematic because “they call into question the many Christian doctrines that should not be questioned, particularly by those who claim to be pastors.”[13] These people ask questions such as “Is Jesus the Son of God?”, “Was Jesus the Savior?”, “Is there a hell?”, “Do you really need Jesus to get to heaven?”. Many of those in the emerging churches are following these liberal leanings, not only asking doctrinal questions, but also asking fundamental Biblical questions such as “Is homosexuality really wrong?” and “Is it really bad to have sex outside of marriage?” Because these groups are going away from the Bible and what it says, Driscoll says they are inevitably “sawing off the branch we are all sitting on.”[14] Because these people do not follow the Bible in its entirety, they branching away from traditional Christianity and forming their own group. Driscoll says that, “If the Bible lies about Jesus, we’ve lost everything.”[15] Biblical accuracy is critical to understand God, Jesus, and the place of the church. When people picking and choosing what they want to follow, we might as well throw the whole Bible out, because if all of it cannot be trusted, none of it can.

Driscoll says “the fourth lane—that of the Emergent Village, I believe that they have totally gotten off the highway and are lost in the woods.”[16] Jason Carlson states that, “Prominent leaders within the emergent church are on record denying objective truth, promoting relativism, and questioning a number of the core doctrines of biblical Christianity.”[17] Because the emergent church is questioning many of the doctrine that form the core of Christianity, they, like the Mormons before them, are branching away from traditional, Biblical Christianity, and are embracing a more liberal, social take on the Bible, where Jesus’ primary mission to the world was to help people, not save them from their sins.[18] Dr. John MacArthur is very critical of the emergent church, calling it “carnal”, “worldly”, and “unsanctified”.[19]

In the end, the emerging church surfaces as another revivalist movement in American history as attempting to make Christianity more relevant to the postmodern culture of today. By changing the way church services are run, updating the style of music, and presenting the gospel using different language than it has been for centuries, the emerging church tackles the problem of declining church attendance. Similar to the First and Second Great Revivals before them, the emerging church is making Christianity more accessible to the people.

On the other hand, the emergent church appears as a break from traditional Christianity. Because they are questioning many vital doctrines of the Bible and claiming Jesus is not who the Bible says he is, the emergent church, like the Morman church, is diverging from Christianity into its own sect. Where this path will take them in the fourth lane of the highway, as Mark Driscoll explains it, nobody will know. Only time can tell.

[1] Gibbs, Eddie, and Ryan K. Bolger. Emerging churches: creating Christian community in postmodern cultures. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Academic, 2005.
[2] McKnight, S. (n.d.). Five Streams of the Emerging Church | Christianity Today | A Magazine of 
            Evangelical Conviction. ChristianityToday.com | Magazines, News, Church Leadership & Bible 
            Study. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from 
[3] Carlson, Jason. "Emerging vs. Emergent Churches: Clearing up the Confusion." Worldview Weekend
with Brannon Howse. http://worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=1645 (accessed November 29, 2010).
[4]Values & Practices." Emergent Village. http://www.emergentvillage.com/about-information/values-
and-practices (accessed November 29, 2010).
[5] YouTube - Emerging vs. Emergent. (n.d.). YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Retrieved October 18, 2010,
[6] Carlson, Jason. "Emerging vs. Emergent Churches: Clearing up the Confusion." Worldview Weekend
with Brannon Howse. http://worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=1645 (accessed November 29, 2010).
[7] YouTube - Emerging vs. Emergent. (n.d.). YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Retrieved October 18, 2010,
[8] Ibid.
[9] YouTube - Mark Driscoll on the Emerging Church. (n.d.). YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Retrieved October 18, 2010, from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=58fgkfS6E-0&feature=related
[10] Ibid.
[11] Ibid.
[12] YouTube - Emerging vs. Emergent. (n.d.). YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Retrieved October 18,
[13] YouTube - Mark Driscoll on the Emerging Church. (n.d.). YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Retrieved
[14] Ibid. 
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid.
[17] Carlson, Jason. "Emerging vs. Emergent Churches: Clearing up the Confusion." Worldview Weekend
with Brannon Howse. http://worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=1645 (accessed November 29, 2010).
[18] "YouTube - John MacArthur on the Emergent Church pt1 ." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. .
[19] Ibid.
By the way, I hate the conclusion, just so you know. 
Following His Call, 
(1 Timothy 4:16)


  1. Hello Adam, I think that Some of the emergent/emerging church people have good intentions, but from what I've seen, they seem to want to leave behind the "Dusty Trails" of the Word and seek "New Paths". The problem is that if they're not careful, they have turned a social gospel into a social system, sans gospel. Without the gospel message being presented in some form or fashion, they take Jesus from the divine ruler of time and eternity, the judge of all, and make him Only a social reformer. He wsa Totally a social reformer! But, he was so much More.

    I think with some tweaking, this would be very presentable. I'm wondering where Rob Bell falls in this world? I recall watching his dvds with John Roach and most of what he had to say seemed good at the time....but I've read some things about him and his way of questioning scriputre that is rather ominous.

  2. Like I said on facebook, Rob Bell is an emergent pastor, not emerging. The main difference is emerging churches do not diverge from the Bible, but emergent churches do. What I did not get in my paper, which I wish I would have was that modern churches need to drop the name "emerging" all together because it is confusing to the average person and they need to start separating themselves from emergents, claiming they are a separate group.


What do you think?