There are many folks attempting to define and describe the "emerging" church. For a laugh you should take a look at the wikipedia definition. Unbelievably imprecise. How postmodern is that?
There are not many who have been observing and writing about the emerging church for as long as I have. When I started Next-Wave I didn’t know that it would become a "journal of the emerging church." I was born in 1949, early in the baby boomer generation. I was one of those raised in the 50s and 60s, who didn’t trust anyone over 30 and who wasn’t particularly appalled by sex, drugs and rock and roll. I raised all of my children as Christians. However in the mid-90s my oldest son was quite adamant that he did not believe in God. When he was 15 this did not seem like too big a deal. However, when he was a senior in college I was more concerned.
I did everything in my power to "get him saved." I took him to evangelistic churches. I preached to him. I witnessed to him. I gave him books. It was upsetting that years of Sunday School and Christian education had failed to bring him "into the fold." I tell you all of that so that you will understand my motivation. I became very interested in evangelizing what I thought of as generation X. In 1995 I accidentally became a pastor and by 1998 I had closed a church and was waiting on further orders from God.
It was around that time that I asked my friend, Rogier Bos, to design and start Next-Wave. I thought it was going to be about reaching Gen-X. Instead, it was all about postmodernism, post evangelicalism, terms I had never heard of, but that Rogier was very familiar with because of his thesis work and his exposure to Leadership Network.
I started Next-Wave because I was discouraged. In my opinion, the Builder generation did a poor job of evangelizing the Boomer generation. I was seeing the Boomers make the same mistakes our parents had made. Putting down music, clothing, hairstyles and other cultural accouterments that have absolutely nothing to do with the life of the spirit or with being a Christ-follower. I didn’t see much happening in the group I was associated with at the time and in Christianity at large to reach young people.
However, it wasn’t long after starting Next-Wave that I became aware that I had no reason to be discouraged. I saw that God was raising up young leaders around the world who wanted to reach their peers. They were experimenting, risking, sacrificing and struggling to do what God was calling them to do. In other words, I saw the next generation’s church "emerging."
One thing that was very clear is that this was not an organized effort or "movement." But that God was doing something from a grassroots level, all over the world. Even today when you Google "emerging church" in the News section you get some pretty odd responses.
Of course, it is now time to relabel this thing that God is inspiring, this thing that God is doing through those he has called to minister to their younger non-baby boomer peers. It is no longer "emerging" because it has "emerged." We can see it now, for sure. Why in some ways, it has become copyrighted, trademarked and branded! Critics are making a living from criticizing it. Publishers are making money by publishing about it.
Do you see the progression I am talking about here: Gen-X to Postmodern to Emerging to _________ ?
Here’s my question, what will we call this thing in the next few years, for having once emerged, a thing can no longer be emerging.