What the Emerging Church is Protesting

Kara Powell | Sep 8, 2009

Photo by Keagen Henman

My friend and former colleague, Jim Belcher, sent me a copy of his new book, Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional. As described in the book, Jim and I, along with Mark Oestreicher (now at Youth Specialties), worked together in late 1990s to launch the Warehouse Service at Lake Avenue Church. As is often the case when I read books written by my friends, this book feels very much like Jim—very thoughtful, lots of good stories, strong analysis.

The goal of the book is to offer an approach to church and community that avoids the polarities often created by the emerging church and the traditional church. This is a worthy goal, one that resonates with my own experiences with both types of churches. Both types feel on targetand yet missing the markat the same time.

Ill be blogging about Jims book for the next few days. Here is a list of What the Emerging Church is Protesting according to Jim:

  1. Captivity to Enlightenment Rationalism (too great a focus on reason at the cost of experience and other forms of divine revelation)
  2. A narrow view of salvation (too much focus on justification, not enough focus on sanctification)
  3. Belief before belonging (the sense that a person has to agree with doctrine before becoming part of the faith community)
  4. Uncontextualized worship (simply adopting ancient or “traditional” practices without thinking about current culture)
  5. Ineffective preaching (a focus on head knowledge, generally delivered as 3 points and a poem)
  6. Weak ecclesiology (overly concerned with the survival of the institutional church at the sacrifice of mission)
  7. Tribalism (a church that separates itself from culture instead of engaging with it)

The way that Jim has phrased these areas of protest, as well as how Ive paraphrased them, would probably cause even those vehemently opposed to the emergent movement to agree that at least some of these nuances of the traditional church are problematic.

This book was a good reminder of how much I love the church. Ive been in church leadership for a few decades so Ive seen the good, the bad, and the ugly—the very ugly—in the church. Yet in the midst of all of our flaws, the church is the body of Christ, sharing Christs love and grace with the world.

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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