I want to spend this post telling you a little more about today’s emergent churches. No, this is not just a different denomination coming onto the scene but instead is a paradigm shift taking place in the church itself and many times within existing church structures, even at the individual congregational level.
Let’s look as some more words about this from Harvey Cox in his book The Future of Faith
Emergent congregations are especially well equipped to live creatively in the newly post-Western Christianity. They are careful not to confuse the life and message of Jesus with the “Western” elements in which it has been packaged. They try to assign equal weight to both the message and the context so that a new version of the old story can take shape. They strongly underline “living the message” rather than simply proclaiming it. They experiment with settings, like cafes, in which two-way exchange rather than one-way preaching is possible.
Not only does the present trajectory of Christianity suggest a growing distinction between faith and belief; the trend has been visible for quite some time now.
This is the first time I think I have brought up the idea of the “western” elements. Post-Western Christianity as mentioned above is about how the church is growing rapidly in non-western countries primarily in Africa and South America. Their version of Christianity is very much different from ours. As said above they are very much into “living the message” and are not as influenced by past theologians thoughts on what is necessary to “believe” about Christ. In other words they go back to the principle of the early followers of Jesus.
These non-western churches are giving establishment church hierarchies a pain in the…. They just don’t believe that they have to buy into all of the interpretations and beliefs, some say baggage, of their parent church. They are probably giving the Pope and many other church leaders ulcers with this attitude. Many in fact embrace the concept of liberation theology and many are also Pentecostal in nature. So, as many claim Christianity is still growing throughout the world but the vast majority of the growth is from “maverick” churches in other parts of the world.
Most growth in the U.S. is now occurring in non-denominational churches that are freer to reject parts of the baggage of the past. To the dire shock of some, these churches experiment with different settings in which a diversity of beliefs is not only tolerated but actually encouraged.
Today’s emergent movement is taking place in all of the examples above. We are finally trying to get back to the messages of Jesus and to put all the human interpretations onto the back burner of our faith where they belonged all this time. Today’s emergent movement is about stripping the two millennia of packaging away from Jesus so that we can see the original content and that is certainly a very good thing in my mind.