One of my daughters sent me the link to an excellent article on the demise of Emerging Church at WorldMag.com.
Reading a new book or going to a conference about the emerging church is a waste of time and money unless it’s to understand the movement as a recent historical one. The emerging church movement has ended. Andrew Jones, a leader of the movement in the U.K., wrote about the demise at the end of 2009. Rob Bell, the founding pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grand Rapids, Mich., delivered an April 4 sermon on the Resurrection that marks, in my opinion, the end of an era. Bell recounts how Mars Hill started out to be a different kind of church without the baggage of watered-down “seeker” churches and the religious legalism of “traditional” churches. In a moment of wonderful honesty Bell admitted that Mars Hill had become a big institution that wounded people in similar ways as the churches many Gen-Xers swore they would not mimic. Jones affirms much of Bell’s experience on his blog.
Mars Hill and other churches born out of the emerging church era are no longer new, trendy, “cool,” nor innovative. These formerly “cool” churches are full of singles, married couples, growing children, balding middle-age men, and so on, who are all trying to figure out how to live a redemptive life here and now while confronting daily struggles with sin, repentance, grace, loving the poor, marriage, raising children, the recession, ailing parents, etc.
I suppose Church History tells us that groups either hear from the Holy Spirit and are led by him to be part of the diversity within the universal church, or they fall off the edge in to heresy. I expect we will see this happening with the Emerging Church crowd, the authentic will be revealed for what it is. The difference is whether it is some eager Christians trying to rediscover the ancient gospel or whether they are making up a new one. I think the packaging of the gospel, and the styles of worship, gathering and proclaiming, are all open to being adapted to the times.
Whether the Emerging Church is really dead now, I have yet to make up my mind. I think we may see the similar experiment going through the same cycles, with new names, over the next decades.