3 Types of Folks in the Emerging Church

Kara Powell | Sep 9, 2009

Photo by Sarah Noltner

In Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional, my friend and former co-worker, Jim Belcher, reminds us that the emerging church is a very big tent. That’s probably part of what makes it so difficult to know exactly what the emerging church is; folks who feel they are part of the emerging church often look very different from each other.

Jim cites 3 categories of the emerging church tent described by church planter Ed Stetzer:

  1. Relevants—taking the same, “historic gospel” but contextualizing it to emerging culture
  2. Reconstructionists—taking the same gospel but questioning and revising much of how we think about church
  3. Revisionists—questioning and revising both the gospel and the church

Even folks within the emerging church movement who span these three categories disagree with each other—let alone those outside of the emerging church. It’s so challenging to strongly believe in what we believe and yet not criticize or even judge those who believe differently.

Like Jim, I like a phrase from Leslie Newbigin when he says we need to stand with “proper confidence”—a confidence that is strong and true and yet is chastened by the sense of humility that comes from recognizing that we are sinners saved by grace. All of us.

I’'d have to say that my favorite thing about the emerging church movement is that it’s causing many of us to ask good questions about the way we think about God and live as the church. Personally, it’s caused me to try to ask whether parts of me are more influenced by what I’'ve accumulated from the middle class American evangelical church or by Jesus Christ.

I’'m wondering: what questions are you asking today about the church? If you’'re not asking any questions, how do you feel about that?

Kara Powell

Dr. Kara Powell is the Executive Director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI), a faculty member at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Fuller's Chief of Leadership Formation. Named by Christianity Today as one of “50 Women You Should Know,” Kara serves as a Youth and Family Strategist for Orange, and also speaks regularly at parenting and leadership conferences. Kara is the author or coauthor of a number of books, including Growing Young, Growing With, The Sticky Faith Guide for Your Family, Sticky Faith Curriculum, Can I Ask That?, Deep Justice Journeys, Deep Justice in a Broken World, Deep Ministry in a Shallow World, and the Good Sex Youth Ministry Curriculum. Kara lives with her husband Dave and their three children, Nathan, Krista, and Jessica, in Southern California.


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