A Response To Ed Stetzer’s “The Emergent/Emerging Church: A Missiological Perspective” -- By: J. Matthew Pinson

Journal: Journal for Baptist Theology & Ministry
Volume: JBTM 05:2 (Fall 2008)
Article: A Response To Ed Stetzer’s “The Emergent/Emerging Church: A Missiological Perspective”
Author: J. Matthew Pinson


A Response To Ed Stetzer’s “The Emergent/Emerging Church: A Missiological Perspective”

J. Matthew Pinson

President, Free Will Baptist Bible College
Nashville, Tennessee

I want to thank Dr. Stetzer for a stimulating and enjoyable treatment of the emerging church. I agree by and large with most of what he said. My comments below will reflect my appreciation for his approach and engage him on some significant questions regarding the emerging church.

Learning From The Emerging Church

Dr. Stetzer and I would agree that the emerging church has a great deal to teach conservative evangelicals, but many of us just don’t want to admit it.1

For example, in being more of a postmodern, or at least antimodern, movement, the emerging church rejects seeing life as something akin to a scientific experiment or assembly line. It wants to see life as more organic; the best way to solve human problems is more organic. Thus, for example, the way one should engage in evangelism is not hitting someone with a five-step process or a four-page tract. Rather, one should engage in relational evangelism, seeking a more organic or natural approach. Similarly, for instance, the emerging church correctly—and biblically— sees the church as more of a living organism than a bureaucratic organization.

The emerging church also rightly wants to emphasize community over individualism. And I think the best parts of the emerging church want to emphasize authenticity. I fear we are seeing movement away from this. But there is still an emphasis on authenticity over against consumerism in some strains of the emerging church, from which we can learn. We can also applaud the emerging church’s emphasis on justice and the alleviation of poverty, which dovetails with their stress on incarnationality. These are vitally important priorities for the church of Jesus Christ. The emerging church should be commended for their commitment to engaging the culture—not necessarily becoming just like the culture, but engaging it—particularly by engaging the arts, rather than by being anti-art and anti-culture and anti-intellectual.

Emerging church practitioners should also be commended for their openness to tradition. This is something we saw more of in the early days of the emerging movement but are starting to see less of now. I think this observation is shown in Dr. Stetzer’s paper, particularly his citation of Leonard Sweet, who worries about the emerging church stopping at liberalism and not going back to all 2, 000 years of Christian tradition. There seems to be increasing ambivalence in much ...

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