For those of you who want to criticize the tone of this post, please make sure you read my previous posts on the emerging church. One is listed at the bottom. Take this post in the spirit is was intended and lighten up.

Today, at 12:32pm, while most of you were having lunch, the Emerging Church was taken off of  life support.emergingheadstone

The Emerging Church was not around long enough to be declared alive, so the announcement of its death comes with an apathetic “ho-hum” for many of you. But it is true. Stop the “What is the Emerging Church?” seminars. Edit the “Beware of Brian McLaren Sermons.” And don’t even entertain starting an Emerging blog. As far as I can see, the Emerging Church is dead at 15.

It got some cries out, made some very good points, called for changed, and then died. Its leaders are disappearing or have disassociated themselves from the movement. Publishers won’t even entertain books with this title. Those, like myself, who were very well acquainted with the “movement” get nauseous when the topic is even brought up. In fact, I am nauseous now.

Did this even last as long as the “Jesus Freaks”?

Supposing I am right, let me conduct a funeral. Please, step up to the mic and tell of your association with the movement. No takers. Ok, let me. Better—I will give an autopsy. As a sympathizer of the “movement” I feel I am quite qualified to do so.

Why did the emerging church die?

1. Lack of Tact Theory: I remember learning in seminary that when one pastor replaces another, the new pastor must be very careful not to attempt change too quickly. One thing at a time. Work with wisdom. Slowly, slowly, slowly. Don’t come in and beat up the old way of doing things thinking that your passion and belief in the necessity of change with be shared by others. It won’t. In fact, your demand for change will solidify people in their own places. You will be politely asked to leave. The emerging church lacked tact. It never gained the ear of the home base. Movements such as this need to be changed from the inside out, not the outside in. That is unless you are willing to go all the way and break completely from the home base (e.g. the Reformation).

2. The Offense Theory. The coup did not work. The elephant in the room (the Emerging Church) was forced out. They assumed that Evangelicals would listen and exit the building with them. But what happened was not unlike a disrespectful teenager who thought that he suddenly had it all figured out through a series of unadulterated epiphanies. He tugged on the shirt of his parents letting them know how much more he knew than them and he was blown off because of arrogance. “Tsk, tsk” was the reply, “I remember when I thought I knew it all.” While the Emerging Church, as well as teenagers, do have some very good things to say and should be listened to, it is the (almost total) disregard of Evangelicalism’s values that caused them to lose their audience. Evangelicals were offended.

3. Misidentified Evangelicalism Theory. It certainly is the case that Evangelicalism needs to reform. In fact, one of the Evangelical principles is that we are always reforming (semper reformanda). In principle, Evangelicals are not scared of change. When this principle is denied, it is no longer Evangelicalism, but some form of Fundamentalism. Emergers failed to realize the shared DNA with Evangelicals and belittled them instead. They, most of whom were former Fundamentalists (not Evangelicals), mistakenly identified Evangelicals with Fundamentalists. Therefore, their cries of change, their proclamations of enlightenment, served only to belittle Evangelicals. Ironically, their judgmental spirit of Evangelicalism backfired and caused them to look more like Fundamentalists than than those whom they criticized. It was a Fundamentalism of a different kind, but the attitude was the same. Grace left the emerging building.

4. Heretical Tolerance Theory: Oh, and then there was that. The Emerging church refused to stand up for anything. As the old song goes, “You have to stand for something or you will fall for anything.” The Emerging Church fell. It ran out of fuel. It called on everyone to leave their base and fly with them. Many of us came along for the ride. The problem is they never did land anywhere. They just flew and flew. They wanted to wait five or ten years to decide who they were. In the meantime, the fuel ran out. They did land and it was (mostly) not on friendly ground. From there they definitively cried out against Evangelical orthodoxy kicking us in the most sensitive areas: Abortion, Atonement, Justification, Assurance – and then there was the attempted burial of our belief that homosexuality was a sin. Oh, did I mention the attacks on Hell and the Exclusivity of Christ? They quickly moved from an insightful teen who might have some good things to say to crowd of disconnected enemies on the attack.

Of course, as I said, there were many of us who flew these skies with them. Some even identified with the movement believing it has many insights. But soon, most began to parachute out. It was too late for the band-aid of the Emerging/Emergent distinction. One after the other, people jumped. When its most prolific insiders jumped (along with a few pilots), it was over. We landed and acted as if it never happened. “Emerger who? Never heard of him.” And we pull our hat down over our eyes and move on.

To be fair, there is a very real sense in which the ethos of the emerging church will never die. It was not really born in 1994. It will take a new form – a more orthodox form. But that is for another discussion.

(If you have no idea what the emerging church is and would like an overview, see here.)

C Michael Patton
C Michael Patton

C. Michael Patton is the primary contributor to the Parchment and Pen/Credo House Blog. He has been in ministry for nearly twenty years as a pastor, author, speaker, and blogger. Th.M. Dallas Theological Seminary (2001), president of Credo House Ministries and Credo Courses, author of Now that I'm a Christian (Crossway, 2014) Increase My Faith (Credo House, 2011), and The Theology Program (Reclaiming the Mind Ministries, 2001-2006), host of Theology Unplugged, and primary blogger here at Parchment and Pen. But, most importantly, husband to a beautiful wife and father to four awesome children. Michael is available for speaking engagements. He can be contacted at [email protected]

    148 replies to "Obituary: The Emerging Church (1994-2009)"

    • Brutally Honest

      Emerging Church assumes room temperature…

      C. Michael Patton carries the obituary: Why did the emerging church die? 1. Lack of Tact Theory: I remember learning in seminary that when one pastor replaces another, the new pastor must be very careful not to attempt change too……

    • Jason C

      I’ve heard decapitation is a good way of making sure vampires stay dead.

      Chop of the head, burn the body, and scatter the ashes in running water.

    • Hawke

      I am surprised the Emerging movement made it this far.

    • dac

      I don’t suppose this will stop the fault finder blogs from continuing their “ministry” though.

    • ScottL

      This was an insightful statement: ‘But what happened was not unlike a disrespectful teenager who thought that he suddenly had it all figured out through a series of unadulterated epiphanies.’

      I don’t think we need to say this arrogantly, but it is important to know that we have come from some place. Even with the Reformation, it wasn’t about chucking out everything done and taught previously. But it was a reformation. And, as you state, we are in continual need of being transformed and change.

      Interestingly enough, the Emergent Village have recently begun to talk about a reemerging of the emerging church. I believe we need to guard against being overly obsessed with movements. We just need to get on with walking out the kingdom of God as the church. It’s that Christ-centred and simple stuff.

    • Kara Kittle

      I have one question about heresies. Is a heresy such because some church fathers accused other church fathers of it because they didn’t agree with them?

      Who gets to determine what a heresy is? It seems ridiculous to accuse others of heresy when a person has a relationship with Jesus and reads the Bible. From what I have seen, calling someone’s theology a heresy really is just putting them down for not seeing it the same way.

      So the Emerging Church had some questionable viewpoints, all churches do. If we accuse them of heresy then it borders on us taking the place of God to enforce our own ideas about what someone else’s relationship should be. It does not work that way and we become dictators. No one should ever be discouraged from seeking God according to their ability to understand and calling them heretic just causes them to fall into failure and seek other forms of religion that is more accepting.

      God made it very specific in the Bible what actions He does not approve of, and what He does approve of. And I think to take up the “heretic bashing club” is a form of pride and arrogance…like saying “look at me, I agree with the church fathers against you so I am acceptable before God and you aren’t”.

      Some church fathers also said it was acceptable to be anti-semitic and not help the Jews being persecuted.

    • Sara

      Umm…from where I’m sitting there’s lots of healthy emerging churches and communities still meeting, sharing the Gospel, and living out lives of faith. I don’t think I would call that “dead”–though at times I am tempted to call my traditional church service that.

      Good points Kara.

    • ScottL

      Kara –

      It seems ridiculous to accuse others of heresy when a person has a relationship with Jesus and reads the Bible.

      Mormons and JW’s would claim this as well. What to do since we know they hold to some very off-base, heretical things.

      You are correct that we must be careful of being dictators. All should be done with humility, the glory of God in mind, and with a desire to see people know the truth. But, historically, most are recognised as heretics not because they didn’t believe a specific theological nuance about eschatology or that the gifts of the Spirit ceased or still exist. This has to do with more central doctrines like the Trinity, divinity of Christ, personhood and divinity of the Spirit, Jesus is the only way to be reconciled to God, etc.

    • Paul


      its so dead i couldn’t keep interest in this post long enough to finish it

    • eric quek

      A question from one who appears to be ignorant. On what basis when the statement says: Why but not ” on what information, facts ” that it is taken off life support. Like other blogger I see many churches traditional also on life support and some are taken off life support

    • Cadis

      like fundamental truths?

      1) Divinely inspired scriptures which were inerrant in the original writing;
      2) Christ’s virgin birth and deity;
      3) Christ’s substitutionary atonement;
      4) Christ’s resurrection, and
      5) Christ’s personal and imminent second coming.

    • Dr. G.

      Is this respectful to the Emergent Church? Does it break blog rules?

    • Carl Holmes


      your disdain for all things emergent is noted. I have stuck around and read you because I have thought you are a fair minded gentelman scholar. I take back my impression.

      To impune a person, let alone a belief, soely based on what you see as leadership that are parachuting out is very, very divisive. Stop talking like that and engage the issues.

      The Emergent Church is dead? I truly think not. Have you seen the work of Jacobs Well in Kansas City, have you seen what Doug Pagitt and Tim Keel are sharing? Have you taken the time to read them at all?

      The Emergent Church is working on getting the helenistic moorings out of the church and focus on the church that Jesus would love. Jesus did not establish churches that were hierarchal, loveless and bent on growth at all cost so we can survive. We are working on what it means to be a church that loves it’s neigbor with wreckless abandon, who takes Pauls command to meditate on whatever is lovely, whatever is noble, whatever is pure to a new level. We want to be engaged in our community. We want ministry to be the practical outworking of our faith… not something we go and “do”.

      Quit passing around vitrol and calling it holy water. Engage the issues. Listen to the conversations. Listen to the post modern culture and find out for yourself why people are leaving church in the millions. We are doing what we can to bring them back into the church, to egage them, to love them. After all, was that not the greatest commandment?

    • JoeS

      Michael, I think your obit is premature. As a high school youth volunteer, I still see Emergent influencing our students, whether through the cool church down the road, or the stranglehold it seems to have on a number of young evangelical youth pastors. I think it will take another 10 years for it to either return to the fold in some way, or to finally cut ties and become its own religion, where it will be absorbed into all the other new age universalist cults.

    • mbaker

      It seems that whenever an essential doctrine is entirely changed by man to make it read as what they define it, rather than how God defines it, that puts it in the camp of the heretical. That’s a hallmark of cults – replacing Christ with a leader/leaders/ followers who exalt themselves and their doctrines above His, thus putting themselves on an equal level with Him.

      That was Christ’s complaint with the Pharisees. They so changed the word of God by adding their own traditions that it was almost unrecognizable. Funny how even that word ‘legalistic’ has been defined to include folks who don’t want to see God’s word polluted.

      In all fairness, however, I think some of the emerging churches were more about redefining the methodology (i.e purpose driven lifers) or making the gospel more ‘relevant’ to the culture. There are notable exceptions of, course, across all denominational lines.

      What resulted, instead of more converts, was many churches setting a poor example by imitating the culture around them to draw new folks in, simply by offering them a sanitized version of popular trends. The hard parts of the gospel were left out. People lost sight of the real commission of the church, (or were never given it), which was not to merely attract and entertain people who wouldn’t ordinarily attend church, but to give them Christ’s permanent life changing message rather than a culturally relevant one that changes with the times.

    • Dennis Elenburg

      Michael, why declare the Emerging Church dead this week?

      To borrow from Nietzsche:

      “The Emerging Church is dead. She remains dead. And we have killed her. How shall we comfort ourselves, the murderers of all murderers? What was holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet owned has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood off us? What water is there for us to clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we have to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we ourselves not become gods simply to appear worthy of it?”

    • C Michael Patton

      Carl, I can understand why you might say that, but I think that if you read this blog post carefully and see some of my other posts, you would not make such an overstatement about my disdain of all things emergent.

      I have been very careful when talking about this, but trust me, my post evidences much truth from what I can see.

    • C Michael Patton

      Dr. G.,

      That does not make any sense.

    • C Michael Patton

      Dennis, I think Nietzsche was speaking as an outsider. I am not. 🙂

    • C Michael Patton

      Joe, as I said, the emerging ethos has elements that we all share and has been around a lot longer than the emerging church. I am sure that you will always see these elements.

      What I am saying is that, I believe, the “emerging church” as a movement is dead.

      I am sure there are still some out there. Therefore, its death is not without qualification. Aren’t doctors saying that when the heart stops death is still a process? 🙂

    • C Michael Patton

      Besides Carl, even if it was true that I am not being fair in this, does one disagreement cause you to depart so quickly? I never shoot for perfection with my readers. 🙂

    • C Michael Patton

      Eric, it is not about any particular church, but the emerging church as a movement. Just like the Jesus Freak movement is dead.

    • Steve in Toronto

      The emergent church served a very useful role in that it made it possible to separate (small “o”) orthodox Christianity from it evangelical wrapper and reintroduce the history faith into mainline denominations who had come to believer that to be a orthodox Christian you had to be a republican and a homophobe. We should all be grateful for the revival of historic christianly that is taking place in the churches like the PCUSA, and the ELC and the United Methodists. If the emergent church success in accomplishing nothing else it will be viewed by history as a great success.

      God Bless

      Steve in Toronto

    • Kara Kittle

      Good point there….

      That is why I am so tough on people on believe in doctrine above the established teachings of Jesus. He is Lord. And to answer Scott L., that is true, but also we must remember that if they claim to read the Bible and follow Jesus from it, they will be held accountable to God and not us for it.

      Certainly things can be taken as heresy, but look at this also…all Christians were once called heretics because we didn’t follow the norm and worship the Caesar as a god. The only reason now we aren’t still called that is because there are no more caesars. But some churches still dictate who are heretics and because of that there have been millions of people who have been killed and otherwise suffered because of that.

      I would never call anyone a heretic because I just don’t feel as a Christian that I get to make that call. I will say that if a church is based in a doctrine that is obviously against what Jesus taught then I do have the right to challenge them on that and not call them Christian.

    • EricW

      Cadis on 04 May 2009 at 11:09 am #
      like fundamental truths?
      1) Divinely inspired scriptures which were inerrant in the original writing;
      2) Christ’s virgin birth and deity;
      3) Christ’s substitutionary atonement;
      4) Christ’s resurrection, and
      5) Christ’s personal and imminent second coming.

      “imminent”? As in … it’s been nearly 2,000 years and counting so far….

    • Kara Kittle

      The emergenct church obviously did not follow the norm, so call it bad, spank it and send it to bed without supper….

      That reminds me of the Charismatic dancers in white dresses and ballet slippers….

      CCM with ATMs….

      Flag waving, ram horn blowing and rollerskating…

      Snake handling…

      Must we really pick apart every religious display of expression, which we have in this country the freedom to show? If we must then it should be wrong for Christian Native Americans to dance at powwows…it should be wrong from Quakers to contemplate…and it should be wrong for Baptist men to shut their wives up and shout amen when the preacher tells them to shut their wives up.

      The emergent church just decided to go at it a different way. But that guy from Fresh Fire Ministries…now that was a little off base. Let’s get back to what Jesus said and he was very happy when people found joy in worshipping Him. If there is no joy then it needs to be revived.

    • Kara Kittle

      Do you want us to give a day and an hour?

    • Jason C

      Eric, see partial preterism. 😉

    • EricW

      To clarify – I’m not belittling or denying belief in Christ’s second coming, but even though one can read the NT documents as expecting His return in the authors’ lifetime, the fact is that Jesus hasn’t returned yet (unless you are a full Preterist and believe He fulfilled all the Second Coming statements in 70-73 A.D.).

      Perhaps “5) Christ’s personal and sudden second coming” might be more in keeping with what Jesus said about it.

    • Jason C

      And especially in light of everything else that has been presented, pay careful attention to both the chronology of the predicted Messianic Kingdom (it follows after Rome), and the timing of the predicted Messianic Kingdom (it not only follows after Rome, it is set up while Rome still exists). This is such a powerful predictive verse for the coming of Messiah and His Kingdom, yet futurism completely eviscerates it with its insistence that the whole first century world has to be recreated (i.e. rebuilt Jerusalem, rebuilt Temple, rebuilt nation of Israel, reconstituted Roman Empire) in order to fulfill prophecy that was clearly fulfilled in the original first century world.

      From the above link.

    • Steve in Toronto

      Re: Eric W
      Of your 5 points only points number two and four are in any of the ancient ecumenical creeds and although I subscribe to them (with some reservations about the virgin birth: the fact that Paul never bothered to mention it , the very ambiguous nature of the word Virgin in Hebrew , the fact that I can not imagine any of the apostles actually asking Mary or Joseph if they actually had sex as well as the fact that it seems to suggest that sin is some sort of genetic mutation carried by sperm does give me some pause). I think you can make a very good case that the concept of inerrancy makes no sense out side of the context of the enlightenment and if you make the Penal substitution theory of the atonement your litmus test for orthodoxy you have basically written off the just about every Christian that lived before the reformation and at least 50 percent who have lived since. What’s wrong with just restating the Apostles and Nicene Creed and just calling it a day?


      Steve in Toronto

    • EricW

      Steve in Toronto:

      The list came from Cadis (comment 11.), not I. I merely cut-and-pasted his/her entire comments into my reply in order to make a comment about point 5.

      On a side note, Dr. Ann Nyland in her THE SOURCE NEW TESTAMENT says that the word parthenos means a young woman of marriageable age, whereas the word parthenios specifically means a virgin. If she’s right, then all the arguments and defenses and debates and apologetics re: whether Matthew and the LXX were right to translate Isaiah 7:14 with parthenos become moot, for if she’s right, then parthenos was the proper translation for almah, as parthenos says no more and no less than almah re: Mary’s actual virginity, but instead is the proper Greek translation of almah. 🙂

    • Dave Z

      Steve in Toronto wrote, “to be a orthodox Christian you had to be a republican and a homophobe”

      Why is it that if I disagree with the homosexual lifestyle, it is instantly assumed I have a phobia? A phobia is a mental illness. So I am mentally ill if I say homosexuality is wrong?

      Or we can focus on the “hate” aspect implicit in the term. I live in CA. and got a little tired of the bumper stickers that read “Stop the hate, no on 8.” Since when is disagreement the same as hate? I assume you and I would disagree on homosexuality. Does that mean you hate me? Steve, why do you hate me so?

      Lighten up and stop making inappropriate accusations. You sound just as intolerant as those you denigrate.

      Also, coming from a PCUSA background and being aware of the deep divisions that exist there, I don’t see them as a great examples of effective Christianity. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a denominational split in that group, same as we have seen in the American Baptists within the past few years, and over many of the same issues. PCUSA membership has been in freefall for years, and I think (without checking) that the same is true of ELC and UM. I’m surprised you hold these groups up as models of effective Christianity. They seem far closer to sub-merging than e-merging.

    • Minnow

      So, CMP, were you the attending physician or have you just received the news and feel duty bound to pass it on? Most obits at least try to point out the good in a beings life.
      I wonder, since the extremes of fundamentalism are no longer listened to by most of the Church should we declare fundamentalism dead as well?
      I think perhaps the “movement” complete with the anointed “leadership” could very well be “dead”, perhaps because it never was alive, at least not in the way traditional Church tried to define it. It would make life pretty simple if we could say the emergent Church was a cult/movement that is now defunct. The more probable reality is that the Emerging Church is merely a shift in thinking by a significant number of believers away from saying it right and toward doing it right. Those who hold to more traditional forms of Building-based Christianity are unhappy because their buildings, ministries, organizations etc. are no longer being funded. Just a thought.

    • Carl Holmes

      I admit to sucumbing a little bit to overstatement. I apologize for that and no, I do not depart so quickly.

      I am just a little irked by the way the church seems to try and divide and conqueor and talk of what divides us and not that which unites us.

      I wish I saw more of that. I really and truly do.

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks Carl, and I agree. (Even if the post comes across as if I don’t)

    • mbaker


      I think the new evangelical church that is ’emerging’ should be about re-introducing some of the foundational concepts of Christianity regarding moral values that the emerging and other churches watered down in response to the radical fundamentalists. They went to the other extreme, and became more about political correctness.

      Whether it’s a Jerry Falwell, a Republican, a ‘homophobe’, or a liberal politician or a Supreme court decision defining it, the moral values of God are not subject to change for his people. We are still to love the sinner and hate the sin, as Christ does. What He defines as sin, however, was also historically defined in the early church as such, and still applies now to any church with Him as the head of it.

      I went to an emerging church for a while, which began as a moderate Evangelical church, which honored Christ first. Then I saw a form of watered down morality and values creep in, along with sermons which were more topical on current issues, than upon the central issue of preaching the gospel to all, and serving as Christ served.

      It was a soft, feel good, I’m okay, you’re okay low key, self-promoting gospel about individual actualization and such, rather than placing the emphasis on every Christian fulfilling the commission Christ gives us all as His people, to proclaim His gospel, and to make converts in His name.

      Folks can get that from Oprah and Dr. Phil.

    • C Michael Patton

      Minnow, I was there at bedside performing last rites. I was practically part of the family ;).

    • Dave Z

      My take on CMP’s article is not so much that the Emerging Church is dead and gone, but that it no longer has the ability to generate the level of interest and debate that it used to have. We’re a little tired of it. It’s 15 minutes are done. It’s been “talked to death.”

      Then again… the response to this thread may indicate the EC is still twitching.

    • Cadis

      The list was not mine but a copy and pasted definition of the word Christian fundamentalist. Wikipedia’s definition is….

      The inspiration of the Bible by the Holy Spirit and the inerrancy of Scripture as a result of this.
      The virgin birth of Christ.
      The belief that Christ’s death was the atonement for sin.
      The bodily resurrection of Christ.
      The historical reality of Christ’s miracles.

      I was addressing the insinuation that fundamentalist drove emerger’s from the church. That they were bucking against fundamentalism more than evangelicals. My response was.. define fundamentalism. I addressed it to Scott seeing he made mention the problem was not in petty disputes with the emergers but in more core issues. The core issues he touched on were similar to the defining points of a fundamentalist. I was tongue in cheek accusing Scott of being a fundamentalist. Seeing I think there is a phobia of fundamentalism.

    • C Michael Patton

      Dave, good observations.

      Here is what I figure as well. If there are no responses to this blog post on other “emerging” blogs, I would take that as another sign of the end. However, not everyone responds to me!

    • Michael L


      I finally got to read the entire article on the Emerging / Emergent Church / Movement. Great article ! I’m going to recommend it to the TTP class tonight at Stonebriar !

      That being said.
      1) The headstone, even though quite cute, says “Emerging Church”. As in your article, there’s no such thing. How can something that doesn’t exist die ?
      2) Also as per the same article, being “Emerging” is more an attitude to be open to discuss things, more so than having a set doctrine. As long as there are believers that will entertain the “Semper Reformanda”, won’t there be emerging believers ?

      Besides that, I have the faint impression that in this article the word Emerging should be replaced with Emergent

      But then again, what do I know… I’m just an ex-Roman Catholic who’s going through the TTP, is thinking about and discussing most doctrines outside of the ones accepted as Historical Christian Orthodoxy.. and even those can be food for thought as my current reading list can demonstrate.

      In Him

    • C Michael Patton

      Mick, I can certianly understand the confusion. Really, it comes down to the death of the conversation with the designation “emerging.” No one wants to associate with it any longer. From here, however, we do have some fundamental fatique with “all things emerging” among emergers and otherwise, whether they are Emergent or emerging. It inability to define itself (which it never really aspired to do) gave forth to an inability to propery defend itself. It should have never been termed “emerging” to begin with. It gave the impression that the way of thinking represented was something new.

    • Stan Hankins

      The flower fades, the grass withers, but the Word of our Lord stands forever.

      “Master, should we root up the tares?” ‘No, let them grow with the wheat, lest you uproot the wheat with the tares. Let them grow together. Then at the end I will seperate them, bind up the tares into bundles and burn them.”

    • Steve in Toronto

      Re Dave Z: Not all evangelicals Christians are Republican and not all evangelicals are Homophobic but there are a lot of both inside the fold and they are very loud and often in positions of leadership. What I am concerned about is when we put sexual and specifically homosexual sin in a special box and say god has a special problem with is as apart from all the other sins that afflict the body of Christ. I know that my divorce was a sin (even though my ex wife was metal ill, a drug addict and left me to boot) but no matter what the the culture says in a very real sence I am still married to her. As judged by the law I am an Adulterer (my second wife is also a divorcee to add insult to injury) but I am also a redeemed sinner saved by grace innocent in the eyes of God simultaneously saved and sinner. I would never argue that being gay is not a sin (yes I am arguing that the inclination not just the sex act is a sin) but I am convinced that they can still be Christens regardless of weather or not God allows them to conquer this particular sin. And as such we are obligated to treat them as our brothers and sisters. The evangelical preoccupation with this one sin that affects at most 5% percent of the population is extremely unhealthy.
      God Bless
      Steve in Toronto

    • Stan Hankins

      Steve in Toronto,
      I think the reason the sin of homosexuality is singled out so much is that the world is trying to say it is NOT a sin. In other words, there is not a movement out there that says stealing or murder is just an alternate lifestyle. But the radical homosexual movement is in full combat mode, and if a Christian stands up for what the Word of God says he is labeled “homophobic”.

      Homosexuals can be saved. Just like fornicators can be saved. But not if they insist that it is ok to be a homosexual. They must repent and believe in Jesus and forsake the wretched perverted sin — of which the Bible is very clear on.

      Trust me on this: In the near future, preachers will be forbidden to preach against homosexuality. Have you seen the “hate crimes laws” they are passing? But we MUST stand on the Word of God. It is all we have.
      God bless you Steve,


    • Stan Hankins


      I totally agree with you that they can be saved — even if they have a lifelong struggle with the sin. I agree on that. There are many sins I too struggle with and probably will till I die. So you make a good point.


    • Howard Pepper

      As a fascinated observer of trends in Christianity and particularly the American church world (and a former Evangelical) the title caught my attention, Michael. And you delivered with some interesting specifics. I’m a little puzzled by both the tone and the content, however. As to tone, is the intent seems more than reporting of observations–celebrating or even mocking, perhaps? I’ll let you tell us what the intention was.

      On content: as Sara raised, by some measures, the Emerging movement seems to be quite alive and kicking. I don’t attend or pay it close attention, so I’ll assume you are at least onto something as to it floundering, maybe losing some of whatever sense of focus it had. But the things you listed as “kicking us in the most sensitive areas” seem to be things that surveys keep showing are ongoing areas where not only the general “Christian” populace, but also a significant percent of Evangelicals have concerns, doubts, or even flat-out disbelief.

      And I don’t think the reasons for that, and the trends in that direction have diminished, and are probably still building momentum. I don’t have direct knowledge of this, but I’d not be at all surprised if about as many “Emergings” have left to even more “liberal/heretical” ground as have gone back to more mainstream Evangelical affiliations. If someone has any stats, either confirming or disconfirming that, I’d be interested.

      From my surface knowledge of the movement (based primarily on McLaren’s books and skimming a few others’), I was having trouble seeing why he and the more “left” of their leaders kept resisting any affirmation of what I think some of them sensed: that the central story of incarnation/sacrifice/atonement/resurrection was brilliantly, in a then-familiar yet unique literary genre, tied to a historical figure and a few broad historical events, and to Hebrew prophecy and Torah, with all the compelling, important details invented and filled in. And that, even after that, it took a long period of bitter in-fighting and splitting with the predominant (and also “emerging” post-Temple) Judaism of the day to come to that “faith once for all delivered…” that gradually became orthodoxy.

    • C Michael Patton

      Scot, it obviously can’t be completely dead since I just wrote a Facebook quiz and it is one of the three options!

      When I say “dead” I am certianly not talking about the ethos which is behind it, but the front of the line garments that it wore called “emerging” or “emergent.” I just don’t find that it is acceptable anymore to be identified with all that both emerging and emergent morphed into over the last decade. When I say this, I mean acceptable among those who took the name in the first place, not simply among those who were critical from the beginning.

      I am sure that I could be wrong.

      Would you say that the Emerging Church is alive and well?

      Better: Are you comfortable being called Emerging?

    • C Michael Patton


      Attempting to stick to the point of this post, I will do my best to clarify some things here in twitter-like size.

      In as far as the Emerging Church in America was a child of Evangelicalism, belonging in the same general conservative circle, it has died. It is hard for them to disown their parents. It was, for better or worse, an insider “movement.”

      However, that is not to say that it has not had a great purpose in many ways. I believe it has. I still stand by my “Will the Real Emerger Please Stand Up” article that I wrote a few years ago when everyone was trying to figure out who they were and whether I was one or not.

      I do think that people like Scot McKnight and Dan Kimball will carry on this ethos in a more strategic manner in other ways with more stable associations.

      The emerging ethos is always needed and never dies. It exists in every tradition, pushing it forward and broadening perspectives. In this, it is not a Protestant, Eastern, Western, Catholic, or Orthodox thing. In fact, Liberals have had their “emergers” (think Barth).

      In some ways, the emerging circle is shared by what have been known as “progressives.” But, I guarantee, if “progressives” ever was seen as a movement the way the emerging church was, it would die also.

      There are simply too many misunderstood caricatures that arise when movements are perceived, but have no real internal stabilizing structure by which to be IDed. This was case with the Emerging church, I believe.

    • Michael L

      Thanks for the clarification.

      And then I have to answer… “So ???”…

      “The King is dead….. Long live the King !!”

      For those that don’t know the historical content, these are the words that were uttered in England when the King would die… obviously at a certain point it became “The King is dead…Long live the Queen” and soon it’ll be the other way around… but you catch the drift.

      The point I’m trying to make is that perhaps one “group” that called themselves “emerging” or “emergent” has passed on due to the negative connotations, but the thoughts and inquisitive nature I recon has not. Perhaps they are now called “Seeker minded Evangelicals” or “Investigative Evangelicals”, but as long as they’re not calling themselves “Questionable Evangelicals” I’m ok with that 😉

      As long as the atmosphere of dialogue in a kind and loving fashion, without compromising the core foundations of our beliefs, as long as this remains…. I’m not sure I quite care under which name it exists. I think you’ll always find me there.

      So yes, I guess you could have put me on the “emerging” evangelical side of things more than on the fundamental side of that spectrum. But evangelical nonetheless. From the charts in the article it looks like I’m in good company over there 😎

      After all… we’re all “Simul Iustus Et Peccator

      In Him

    • C Michael Patton


      I think the biggest problem was that many emergers were Evangelicals who did not seem to really love or acknowledge the spirit of Evangelicalism, their own heritage. Disenchantment was the only message. It never took on the tone of reformation as it could have, but looked more like a restorationist movement.

      However, I don’t want to do something that I have continually challenged people not to—lump them all together. But one of the reasons why I write of the death is because they were lumped all-together and nothing could stop it.

    • Michael L

      Once again.. thanks for the clarification…

      In that sense, I can see why it died.. it’s a sociological axiom that if people that group together, either voluntarily or involuntarily, don’t have anything to identify themselves with, their association will die.

      Nations, social movements, etc.. A lot of them die out when the leaders or country or “you-name-it” disappears. The glue that holds them together is gone and they fall apart.

      Since the emerging Church never created this identity for themselves to start with (as I understand it).. it was doomed to wither from the start.

      But then again…. if the “inquisitive” Evangelicals can be called “emerging”, I’m sure it’ll continue. Only just under a different name.

      In Him

    • C Michael Patton

      Good comments. I like the name “progressive Evangelicals” but, you know what, properly understood, that is redundant.

    • hebrewtattoo

      Emergent is not dead, rather it is just not relevant anymore.


      It was always at its core moment about techniques, and as Ellul says, such things are only temporal in a society.

    • mbaker

      I agree with you, hebrewtattoo. Those emergents who disagreed with the concepts of hell and other essentials of the Christian faith might well be classified as questionable as to their essential beliefs that the whole precept of Christianity was valid in the first place. I would not classify them as true emergents in the sense that CMP has written about here, but more along the lines of trendy type folks like those who like to drive the latest cars and wear the latest fashions.

      Most emergents I’ve run into are just wanting something new and different in the way of presentation. They want to always be on the cutting edge, be it Christianity or the latest innovations in technology or whatever. They tend to separate that which ‘works’ and that which doesn’t rather quickly, and make their value judgments accordingly.

      It’s more of a group mindset that brings these folks together, in my view, than a true religious movement. We see the same thing in the radical fringe charismatics.

      And no offense intended at all, CMP. Just another perspective to consider as to why this didn’t last.

    • Jonno

      Sorry to burst your bubble, especially since you got all those favourable responses, but I’ve been following the EC for a few years now and it is well and truly alive and well. Perhaps it has been distanced from Evangelicalism, and that may be a good thing. Perhaps it is because of this distance that Evangelicals don’t see it every day (‘out of sight, out of mind’) and think it’s failing. But the reality is that the EC–cohorts, communities, gatherings, call them what you want–is alive, always reforming, always looking at new ways of being the church, always looking to welcome whomever will join the conversation. And because of its native ability to reform and grow, it is still very relevant to all seeking, loving, inclusive people from a myriad of faith traditions. Please be informed.

    • C Michael Patton


      Sounds like you are talking about the spirit of the emerging ethos. That is something that has always been around. The the packaging and iding of this ethos with the Emerging Church is what I am talking about.

    • C Michael Patton

      Also, you are forgiven for bursting my bubble 😉

    • mbaker

      To be fair, I should add in #56 above that such folks are the innovators and inventors in our society, and so serve a good purpose as far as human progression goes, because they spur us on to be creative. But, as far as Christianity goes, we certainly don’t need them to re-invent the wheel. That, I think, is the real point they miss in their zeal to ‘improve’ upon traditional things.

    • Jim Marks

      If you write something and then have to append “don’t react to just this, you have to read everything I’ve written before on this subject”, then what you wrote is poorly written.

      The intent of this post is clear. Be glib, be dismissive, be funny. Funny I applaud. Glib has its place. Dismissive is rarely associated with compassion.

      I have nothing to say on the substance of your position about emerging church, dead or otherwise, but the simple truth is, this is poorly written and you admit as much by insisting it requires unprovided context to be correctly understood. That’s simply not how blogs work and if you want to be taken seriously you should know better. And if you want to pull off this kind of humor, you must know better.

    • C Michael Patton



      I do intend to be taken seriously and I was not trying to be funny on this post.

      There is no “just kidding” that I will follow up with tomorrow. The spirit of this post does include a little background of knowing where I am coming from.

      I appreciate your comments, but they are awefully harsh for a first post. I certianly don’t claim to be a great writer, so being “poorly written” may be part of my MO. I would just suggest that you don’t read my stuff? That might make you feel better?

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • As much as I’d love to rejoice with you, Dr. Patton, I gotta humbly disagree. Bell just scored MORE time in Christianity Today (and is still making heads turn even among fundamentalists like me), Pagitt is still generally accepted, McLaren’s books are still selling rapidly, the love of all things vague (which is why I could never be Emergent – even God “boxes” Himself by telling us things about Him) is still eating up young wannabe “cultural cool” Christians, we still have to read this author or listen to this guy to even get a idiot’s version of what they believe on anything – oh, and did I mention that Emergent Village is still running?

      As much as I’d like the movement’s vague, theologically weak and Gospel-powerless corpse to see six feet under (I’d personally adopt the social action child and change its name from Social Gospel), it’s still alive and like the rebellious teenager, it needs to grow up and release it doesn’t have all the answers and it needs to listen, just a wee little bit, to those who have been around just a little bit longer, which clearly doesn’t happen?

      P.S. What’s your perspective on Rob Bell’s interview? As ever I think trees died in vain for that interview to appear in CT, but then Bell isn’t my favourite “preacher” in the world…

    • I meant realise not release…it’s 2.21am in London LOL

    • C Michael Patton

      I don’t know that Bell has ever claimed to be a part of this movement. I would certainly say that he has some of its rougher characteristics, but, formally speaking, I don’t consider him an emerger.

      His interview, from what I could tell was dodgy on the Gospel to put it as nice as I can.

      You could be right about the life of the movement.

    • C Michael Patton

      Once again, I think it is important that people realize how much I agree with much of what has come out of the more Evangelical side of the emerging movement. I hope that those who lead it can continue to challenge people from within rather than be so critical.

    • C Michael Patton

      By that last post I mean that I am not rejoicing in this post. Just observing.

    • Stan Hankins

      I see you struck a nerve! Good! Keep it up bro.

    • Stan Hankins

      Sorry, one more thing. If you really want to know how dangerous the emerging church is, read a book called, The Truth War, by John MacArthur. It uncovers and exposes many of the lies of the emerging church.
      btw, anything by John MacArthur or Chuck Swindoll is worth reading and will bless your heart. And read everything Spurgeon ever wrote.
      Good night and Grace and peace!

    • mbaker


      Loved that book! Whether we agree with all of MacArthur or not, or each other or not, that book is certainly a realistic and truthful look at where Christianity, as a whole is, nowadays.

      If nothing else, it will start us believers to start examining ourselves to see where we really do stand, both individually and corporately. And that’s always a good thing, no matter what denomination, or particular set of Christian beliefs we adhere to.

      I highly recommend all Christians read that one too, and I’m not usually a fan of ordinary, run of the mill Christian books, per se.

    • Kara Kittle

      There is nothing new under the sun…as the old preacher said one time.

      What bothers me is the disdain of other groups in these blogs. It has nothing to do with Christianity but rather loyalty to our own doctrines. So I will ask like this…

      What makes a Christian?
      1:God made us this way
      2:God keeps us this way
      3:God elected us this way

      So then by that reasoning…
      1:God made Arminians, Pelagianists, Emergers
      2:His grace keeps us in relationship with Him in our doctrines
      3:He must have known but still gave us grace.

      So let me see, if you apply TULIP to Arminians and Emergers, then we must be right. Circular reasoning you say? Abuse of logic you quip? I just want to know who died and made us God to determine if our brother or sister in Christ is falling by the wayside by not taking up our doctrinal stance. And to tell you the truth, some people are just not made to carry on the burden of doctrines they can’t understand or don’t even want.

      Two men went down to pray…

      Which one did Jesus say was more justified?

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Very good post CMP! Are you trying to get as much notoriety as I-Monk did with his proclamation of the eventual death of Evangelicalism?

      Competing posts,eh?


    • C Michael Patton


      Nah, everyone knows what Evangelicalism is (at least they think). About 3 percent of the population has heard of the Emerging Church. 🙂

      I imagine.

    • I appreciate that Bell has never officially made himself part of the movement, but (and I am subject to correction on this): He loves vagueness like them, he has major leaders in the Emergent movement speak at his church (most notably, Doug Pagitt comes to mind) and he shares their epistemological outlook. He may never have purposely added himself to the movement, but inadvertently he’s right in the middle of it…

    • C Michael Patton

      I agree, but it is this inability to define itself in any way that even comes close to putting up the sails that is the cause for its dying. Stagnit criticisms without many answers. When they do attempt to provide them it seems they stumble and fall doctrinally.

      As I said in my article above, there are about 5 distinct ways one can be emerging, but this does not mean they are Emerging. It could simply mean that they are liberal or Evangelical. In the end, the only real way to find a common denominator is to go so low that it does not really make for a movement. Are Emergers those who are dissatisfied with Evangelicalism? No one ever said it was perfect. Are Emergers those who are REALLY dissatisfied? What do they want to get rid of or change? Some doctrine. Some just the importance of doctrine. Some essential doctrine. Some ecclesiology. Some missiology. Some epistemology. Some just want candles.

      I root for many types of emergers. But there are so many that I don’t and are simply so far outside the bounds of Christian orthodoxy, it is hard to believe that they even want to call themselves Christian anymore.

      I will continue to represent and root for the ethos that is “always reforming,” but the emerging “movement” as it stands is so spoiled that it needs a reboot (and a new name). It also need grace. Emergers so often seem like depressed and critical Evangelicals.

    • ScottL

      Kara –

      In #24 comment, you said – I would never call anyone a heretic because I just don’t feel as a Christian that I get to make that call. I will say that if a church is based in a doctrine that is obviously against what Jesus taught then I do have the right to challenge them on that and not call them Christian.

      No one is expecting you, in and of yourself, to start pointing out heretics and heresies. This is something that has been done historically through councils gathering to discuss and pray about major issues. It’s always been about teamwork, and again, we must stay humble in all of this. I am not belittling your contribution to the body, but I am recognising that claims of heresy are not going to rest on you, nor on me, nor on any one person. This has always been considered over a good long time as wise leaders have gathered together under the purview of God in the decisions. And the goal and motto of such is not division, but rather the goal is to be unity and edification for those who truly want to walk with Christ and follow Him as the Scripture reveals Him.

      In the NT letters, we find Paul and the others, unfortunately, having to deal with heretics, which were called false apostles, false prophets and false teachers. And Jesus empowered us to be able to do this when necessary (Matt 16:13-20; etc). We don’t go around doing it arbitrarily or whenever we feel like it. Again, it takes wisdom, accountability, prayer, and much pain in considering such because of the sober seriousness of the situation. And, if it was left to mine, your’s, or anybody’s feelings, I am sure we wouldn’t step out in it. But Scripture and the history of our brothers and sisters gives us the courage that, at times, it will be necessary for the unity, edification and strengthening of the body of Christ.

      Do know I am not encouraging us to just kick out all emergers, emergents, and whatever other movements we want to be a part of. But, we have to be willing to consider and discern in these things. It’s not just about me, Jesus and my Bible. We are connected to one another, to a history of believers for thousands of years, and are called to walk out the things of Scripture. And this might call for discipline at times, but again, with humility and wisdom, not arbitrarily.

    • […] Church: RIP? Posted on May 5, 2009 by bkingr C. Michael Patton has written an obituary for the emerging church after 15 years. It got some cries out, made some very good points, called […]

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP: “I will continue to represent and root for the ethos that is “always reforming,” but the emerging “movement” as it stands is so spoiled that it needs a reboot (and a new name). It also need grace. Emergers so often seem like depressed and critical Evangelicals.”


      CMP: “There is nothing a preacher likes more than a hearty “amen” while preaching. I don’t get too many of those (at least at first!) The “amen” normally represents that what you are preaching or teaching, the people already agree with. In this case, you are probably just confirming their prejudice. They already agree with what you say and they like that you are holding the fort. This is not always bad, but this is not my purpose.”

      Okay, I take back my “amen”. And I’m leaving the fort now and going to watch from the sidelines with my extra large bag of kettle corn and diet Pepsi. You seem more than capable of holding your own. Chuck Swindoll and Dan Wallace would be proud of you. Not to mention Apostle Paul. And perhaps even our Triune God too.

    • Kara Kittle

      Unfortunately a lot of people indeed do that.

    • Kara Kittle

      And he also called Peter such things. We are still suffering from that one. And the question about the councils…they themselves were formed by the opinions arising from bigotry to begin with, so how can we trust the validity of them? And it is real easy to call someone a false prophet, I have seen people who know the Bible very little and call someone that, only to find out later they did it because their pastor told them to, because their doctrine defines it.

      False prophets have abounded plenty throughout history. Think of Smith Wigglesworth, is he one because he didn’t fall into the same line of thinking as C.S. Lewis? Do we call people heretics or false prophets because they are, or because we are told to?

    • […] on the death of the Emerging Church. You should read his other articles on the church too. Visit Parchment and Pen to read them. Tagsamerica Apologetics atheism bad theology Bible book book review books […]

    • Jr

      C Michael: Which leader jumped ship? Is there a link to this?

      I’ve always thought the “movement” needed to rid itself of the noise at the top. McLaren has gone so far overboard and he has come out of the closet, in my opinion, as being a liberal politician – cloaking his ideology with spiritual words. His true motivation has become very clear. Nobody will take the things this group says seriously if folks like him get all the press. It’s up to the genuine folks in the movement to separate themselves from all the noise at the top. If not, then they will not escape the label of nothing more than the other side of the Red Sea for the exodus of disgruntled, self-important, and pseudo-intellectual evangelical prisoners.

    • […] the full obituary here. By the way, RIP in my context does not stand for Rest In Peace. Can you gues what I mean by […]

    • Julie J

      I received your post in my email and it piqued my interest for sure, but out of my own ignorance I need some clarification: are there specific notable EC leaders who have “left” the movement? Are their churches floundering or new churches failing to be started?
      I followed your discourse on EC theology a couple of yrs ago but haven’t heard much since then. My husband’s boss–our pastor– ate up everything Rob Bell but I haven’t seen any of it over the past yr. Are these signs in themselves of the EC demise?
      I am just curious and didn’t find the answers in any of the posts.

    • Julie J

      addendum to above post: …understanding Bell isn’t officially part of the EC mvmt but certainly shares similarities and also shared limelight for quite a while, even within the dreaded evangelical (not Fundamentalist–I took your FB quiz!) Southern Baptist Church….

    • Russ

      When airlines went commercial, barnstorming “died.” When the new age went mainstream, the hippie movement “died.” The emergent church isn’t dying, it’s just becoming mainstream. It wasn’t ejected from the building, it OWNS the building.



    • ScottL

      Kara –

      And he also called Peter such things. We are still suffering from that one. And the question about the councils…they themselves were formed by the opinions arising from bigotry to begin with, so how can we trust the validity of them?

      No doubt some have abused those words in Matt 16:13-20. I don’t see them as giving precedence for some hierarchical, infallible structure. But they do give room for the church, especially in its leadership roles and functions, to exercise discipline, as seen throughout the rest of the NT. And that might call for recognising some things are heresy and ungodly.

      I think you are making an unhelpful sweeping statement to say that councils were ‘formed by the opinions arising from bigotry to begin with’ and also questioning their validity. I think it’s fair to conclude that people like Athanasius were not bigots. He, and the council with him, were dealing with some bad stuff in Arius’ theology that Jesus was a created being. Ouch! And also, remember that our fuller understanding of Christ’s divinity or the Trinity (I’m not saying it’s all 100% clear) come because of very helpful councils through our history.

      What I’ve noticed, and I believe Michael did refer to it, is that the emerging church generally wants to disregard historic, orthodox Christianity. But, the thing is that we are not in a vacuum. We have come from somewhere. We are a very small blip in the line of a huge cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Yes, we’ve made some bad mistakes in our past, and today as well. But we cannot deny the family we’ve come from. If that’s our line, then shall unfortunately be tagged as arrogant as well.

      Again, this stuff is not arbitrary that we do on a whim. They are done with thoughtful wisdom and consideration and prayer and accountability.

    • mbaker


      I don’t think anyone here is saying the emerging church as a whole is heretical, but that some of their beliefs and methods are questionable at best. There are pockets of them who do teach there is no hell, and God is just love, love, love., period. That certainly isn’t about individual differences in what most churches call non-essential doctrines, like whether or not spiritual gifts or etc; are for today in worship services, or sprinkling or water immersion when it comes to baptism. That some are teaching there is no hell actually denies God’s word itself. That should certainly be considered false teaching for any Christian who uses the Bible as their standard for Christian practice.

      And we should be concerned, because that is the danger in any denomination or movement when they depart from the foundation Christ has given for us to build on, they are in essence building a different foundation through replacement theology. They are then leading people farther from God’s truth than closer to it.

      That’s how cults crept into the church, and became established religions of their own.

      Every new movement begins with dis-satisfaction, as someone above pointed out. In order to establish a move of God however, it must be based upon Godly principles, obviously, rather than just offering something new and different with no real basis except they think the traditional church is behind the times. In essence there’s nothing wrong with a church wanting to update the way they worship, but redefining the Bible to suit the new agenda is a whole other thing.

    • Jonathan Brink

      Michael, I don’t know if you realize how naive this post makes you sound. I can only assume your obituary is representative of your own interest and not the broader measure.

      First the emerging church conversation is shifting out of an evangelical conversation to a broader base conversation that includes Catholics, mainlines, charismatics, etc. If you have been to The Emerging Church Conference in Albuquerque NM, you would have seen that. But oh yeah, YOU WEREN’T THERE with the 900 people in attendance. Nor were you with 300 of us at the The Great Emergence conversation in Memphis listening to Phyllis Tickle explore how emergence is inevitable.

      Publishing is not selling almost anything with the word emerging or emerging church but it’s not ignoring it either. David Dark’s The Sacredness of Questioning Everything (Zondervan, 2009), or Pete Rollins The Orthodox Heretic, (Paraclete, 2009), or NT Wrights, Justification, (IVP Academic, 2009) are just three examples.

      And if it’s dead, why did the Christian book sellers association host a panel a month ago looking at the dialog. And why did Christianity Today cover it.

      And why did Emergent Village just convene 24 representatives to DC this last week to reimagine the organization?

      I would encourage you to broaden your horizons. If you’re simply not interested in the emerging church, why not just say that?

    • C Michael Patton

      Thanks Johathan. Interesting.

      Again, I am not saying that the way of thinking is not still present, but it has certianly gone through changes (as this way of thinking always does). The “emerging church” proper seemed to serve as the skin which was shed (is shedding) revealing many different animals that are yet to be formally classified. One, most certianly, may be a revival of the Evangelical ethos. Another, just a new form of Christian spiritualism. Another is just Liberalism. (I won’t name names here, but you can guess). Finally, there will always be the most postmodern of them all, which represent those that are still flying (or think they are).

      And yes, I was talking to a friend, a major editor for a publisher who does all things emerging, and he said speaking of emerging, “We don’t want to touch that anymore.” The publishers will publish what sells. Certianly books on spiritualism will always sell. So will postmodern books on new ways of thinking. But its identification with the “emerging church” is coming to an end in my opinion. It will simply take on different forms as people begin to land. And this is what has happened. The formally united “emerging church” is being divided into the deaded categories simply because of the law of idenity. If you don’t identify yourself, people will eventually identify you (no matter how much you don’t want them to).

      It is really not that big of a deal. What comes around goes around. There is nothing new. Its all good in a lot of ways and will continue to be used by God to help shape the church. We need it.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      Ran out of kettle corn.

      Jonathan Brink: “Nor were you with 300 of us at the The Great Emergence conversation in Memphis listening to Phyllis Tickle explore how emergence is inevitable.”

      Brink is a big fan of Tickle: “Today was day one in The Great Emergence conference. To a large extent it was a deeper summary of each part of the book, including some of the keys dates, pivotal moments and events that helped create what we’re experiencing now. [Phyllis Tickle] made a significant point about how this turn is deeply affecting the concept of Sola Scriptura.

      One of the things that caught my attention was Tickle’s comment that there are forty-four specific events that underline the move away from Sola Scriptura. I would love to see what those 44 are but that would be like icing on the cake. The final subject in the turn away will be how we address homosexuality in the church. She reiterated that it’s not if Sola Scriptura ends but when…

      The central point of Tickle’s book is, “Where is our authority?” And much of the underlining question for those in this conference is the step and subsequent journey out of traditional church expressions and into new ones.”

      Phyllis Tickle from her book, The Great Emergence:

      The next assault in this progression of assaults [upon Sola Scriptura] was the ordination of women to the Protestant clergy… The ordination of women was followed, of course, by their elevation to the episcopacy in the Episcopal Church in the United States. Clearly the battle of “Scripture only” was being lost. Now there was only one more tool left in sola scriptura’s war chest… Enter “the gay issue.

      To approach any of the arguments and questions surrounding homosexuality in the closing years of the twentieth century and the opening ones of the twenty-first is to approach a battle to the death. When it is resolved—and it most surely will be—the Reformation’s understanding of Scripture as it had been taught by Protestantism for almost five centuries will be dead. That is not to say that Scripture as the base of authority is dead. Rather it is to say that what the Protestant tradition has taught about the nature of that authority will either be dead or in mortal need of reconfiguration.

      And that kind of summation is agonizing for the surrounding culture in general. In particular, it is agonizing for the individual lives that have been built upon it. Such an ending is to staved off with every means available and resisted with every bit of energy that can be mustered. Of all the fights, the gay one must be—has to be—the bitterest, because once it is lost, there are no more fights to be had. It is finished. Where now is the authority?” (pp. 100-101)

    • C Michael Patton

      “And why did Emergent Village just convene 24 representatives to DC this last week to reimagine the organization?”

      Because of what I am saying?

      Look Jonathan, I am a part of this movement in a lot of ways. I don’t think that there is anything inaccurate about what I have said here. I did not say it without qualification. But I do think, between you and I (and everyone who reads this), that if this way of thinking is going to have a stabilizing affect, the first replacement pastor needed to die. It is a good thing for the cause. Once this happens, people are much more willing to listen to the next. He just needs to calm down and speak with more tact as an insider. (I hope you get what I am saying).

    • Kara Kittle

      That’s right, there are those who do teach against certain truths in the Bible regarding hell and love. I think though that teaching is not new. I don’t want anyone to think I am against all churches or pastors and accusing them of mass religious persecution.

      But I do feel that it is just as damaging to people the effect of religious bigotry as with unorthodox teachings. Once again you are the voice of reason and I appreciate that.

      I do feel though that religious bigotry needs to be addressed. Do these leaders teach dogma rather than truth? Some do. And those who do should be dealt with because it sort of gives the rest of us a black eye when dealing with non-believers. My friend who is Conservative Jewish was called a Christ-killer by a nun when she was only 7 years old. She then grew up assuming all Christians felt this way and was surprised when I did not. So I let her share with me some of the things she has been taught, from within her own faith and from our faith.

      It is one thing to confront people on actions or deeds…that is what we are supposed to be doing. But confronting people on the basis of who they are that they don’t have a choice in being, such as ethnicity, then we are wrong. And to say things about a baby who absolutely cannot help it, that is greater wrong to the person that the baby is.

      I would rather people challenge me on my words if I post them, rather than where I attend church. Because the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. But if we have a deep desire to please the Lord and to do His will then we should not challenged on that. If I seek the Lord, and He answers, then I have indeed done what I should have done.

      My Jewish friend is very humanist. And I am presented with a challenge, how do I effectively minister? She does not want me to talk about Christianity that sounds like I am proselytizing. So I have to wait until opportunities to arise and then answer. But I have found out that if I see her as who she is rather than what I want her to be, then her humanity is not offended. She is not an opportunity for me to get brownie points with God. She is simply a person who needs to see a Christian who is what they say they are. That is why I seem more critical of Christians, because we are making a claim that most often is difficult for many to live under dogmas. Don’t put on people more than they can bear.

      mbaker, I think you take time in your answers to think what you are going to say and that is probably your training as a journalist. I said before that I write plays and write all blog posts as though I am having dialogue. You are the perfect antithesis for my central character. You make me thoughtfully respond to you in a quiet manner. You do a great job at that. And that is why I like reading your posts.

    • C Michael Patton

      What is with all the drive-by emerging shootings? I thought it was a conversation? Do I smell?

    • mbaker

      Thank you very much, Kara.

    • Kara Kittle

      Haven’t you been around long enough to know that there are indeed some people who are shooters? You talk as though you never realized there was shooting going on before. LOL.

    • Brendt Waters


      I quit reading the comments after a while. I figure if commenters aren’t willing to actually read what you wrote (and it’s evident that many didn’t — esp those blasting you), then I shouldn’t bother reading what they wrote. Heck, it was your arguments that got me to *dial it back* in negative opinion of emergence.

      I have to wonder, though, if theories 1 and 2 (and evangelicals’ bad reaction thereto) didn’t lead to theory 4. In the early days of the EC, the embracing of goofiness and the decision not to make any decisions seemed to be fairly uncommon occurrences. But those with “discernment” got out their mile-wide brushes and painted everything that moved as absolute heresy. While it’s not right, is it any wonder that the really radical stuff, that *had* been kept on the down-low, started seeing the light of day and getting more common?

      In other words, if Horatio and I disagree on an issue, I may just keep my mouth shut in the spirit of pursuing unity. But if Horatio keeps punching me in the face, I may not continue to keep my mouth shut.

    • […] From Parchment and Pen: […]

    • mark licitra

      heard a song once. “they will know we are christians by our love, by our love. they will know we are christians by our love.” this post and subsequent discussion is DEFINATELY what that song was about.

    • Dave Z

      “And why did Emergent Village just convene 24 representatives to DC this last week to reimagine the organization?”

      Ummm….because they see it’s dying and NEEDS to be reimagined?

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      “heard a song once. “they will know we are christians by our love, by our love. they will know we are christians by our love.” this post and subsequent discussion is DEFINATELY what that song was about.”

      I agree. It’s LOVING to address aberrant doctrine.

    • […] Read the article  – well worth the time. […]

    • mbaker

      “And why did Emergent Village just convene 24 representatives to DC this last week to reimagine the organization?”

      That’s sort of a why did the chicken cross the road kind of question. The answer to that very old joke is : to get to the other side.

      That’s what we should be asking the emergent church: just where is the other side, if they’ve pretty much abandoned Evangelicalism, and yet made no cohesive statement as to where they stand as a majority?

      Hopefully, their upcoming conference will give us a better clue.

    • […] Read the whole thing here. […]

    • Minnow

      What is with all the drive-by emerging shootings? I thought it was a conversation? Do I smell?

      Q # 1: Who has been shot?
      Q # 2: Strange you should point that out after declaring it dead. Maybe trying to make it something it never claimed to be, demanding it live up to some criteria for an “organization”, and claiming to be a sympathizer has a little something to do with where you find yourself in the “conversation”.
      Q # 3: Yes.

    • Minnow

      Sorry–it wouldn’t let me edit. I should have had quotation marks around the first sentence. It’s CMP’s comment # 94.

    • C Michael Patton


      1. Me
      2. Notice the past tense. More evidence.
      3. Dang.

    • Truth Unites... and Divides

      CMP: “Do I smell?”

      Minnow: “Q # 3: Yes.”

      CMP: “3. Dang.”

      Witness the love in an Emerging Conversation.

    • Minnow

      #108 # 1 Paybacks are well…Actually, I didn’t notice any shooting, so my bad. Besides why would you want to converse with the dead. Isn’t that some other sort of spiritualism? 😉
      # 2 I apologize profusely for the poor grammar–my mixed tenses. Notice I also use the present tense when saying you insist it “live” up to some criteria for an organization. And to think I used to be an English teacher. Dang.
      # 3 We all do. You’ll survive. <3.

    • Minnow

      <3 for some Facebook pages is a heart. I was just trying to send a little love but it probably gets lost in translation.

    • C Michael Patton

      Minnow, I am into Ghost Hunters so necromancy is a vice of mine. 😉

    • Kara Kittle

      I still don’t know the emergent church, is it like Rick Warren’s church? And is it like the CCM, the Church Community Movement?

    • Minnow

      Kara–No to Rick Warren and I don’t know anything about the CCM but will guess no there as well. We are possibly best understood as discontent gray hairs and anti-establishment youth, sort of the new hippie only we’ve replaced LSD with lattes. ;p…humm… Now I’ve opened a can of worms. But at least TU&D might agree with me.

    • Kara Kittle

      Is it like that episode of King of the Hill when Bobby went to traveling revivals with the rock star skateboard preacher? Bobby wanted a tattoo so he could be representing and wore a t-shirt that said “I hate Satan” and Hank told him to take it off and Dale Gribble quipped that Hank must love Satan.

      Was it like that? Rock and skateboarding? I remember people used to say “I don’t like Chrisitan rock but if it makes kids respond then it must be ok”.

      CCM is church community movement. It usually involves superchurces I think.

    • Kara Kittle

      If emerging church hold music artists that are like rock singers then it is earlier than 1994. I seem to recall White Heart and Petra and Stryper making big waves way back in the late 1980s and they were just evolved from other artists like Keith Green.

    • Minnow

      Kara–I was being a bit too smart for my britches as my mother would have said. I honestly don’t know what others think of when they think Emerging Church. I think some of what has been stereotyped about the EC is a way to try and poke fun or belittle. One of the biggest complaints is that the Emerging Church won’t define itself, won’t produce a statement of faith, won’t stand on any solid ground. As a result, those who want something to fight against have tried to produce their own “working” definitions or have confronted those they see as the “leaders” of the movement when really the “perceived” leaders are just some of the more outspoken in the conversation. Some folks, like Brian McLaren, have written books that have captured the attention of a fairly large audience. Some who call themselves “emerging”, think McLaren is the Christian version of Gandhi and affirm every sylable he utters. Other’s, who also think of themselves as “emerging” could not care less about McLaren or the criticism more traditional folks level against him. I think the emerging church for me (and remember there is a very broad spectrum of those calling themselves emerging) has less to do with the format on Sunday morning (or whatever day of the week the “group” gathers) and more to do with day in and day out living. Despite CMP’s point of view, many are still talking about the Emerging Church and their personal journeys. You might consider checking out some of their blogs if you’re wanting an EC perspective.

    • Howard Pepper

      In reflecting on this long thread, I realized it’s interesting that only perhaps once, if that, did Phyllis Tickle and her fairly recent book, “The Great Emergence” come up. She’s Episcopalian, and looking from primarily a scholarly/journalistic view, not trying to do theological critique of either the Emergent/Emerging movement or the larger trends she also calls “emergence.”

      I read the book twice, as it is packed with a lot of history, trends, and interesting insights that, however, can sometimes be a bit fuzzy and hard to grasp clearly. One thing she does, without making it clear in much detail, is seem to lump the movement that Michael rightly ties to an Evangelical birth with a much broader trend that makes up her “Great Emergence.” I do think her basic thesis is right, that what is currently going on in religious thinking, particularly in America, is the early to mid stages of something that will ultimately be at least as impacting as the prior three great “re-do’s” (not her term) the church has gone through roughly every 500 years. (The latter is a relatively weak aspect of the thesis, I feel.) The last was the Reformation.

      I won’t further review this fascinating, if somewhat puzzling book here… one can consult Amazon or the blog by Rachel Held Evans, where she posted, a couple months back, a review/reflection on it I wrote, with a short thread of responses following.

    • Kara Kittle

      Oh Emerging Church is out of more than one denomination. It must be like making the church not so anitquated. More like the progressive movement. I understand now. I think it is an undercurrent in Christianity and a lot of people are applying emergent theology without really realizing it.

      I attended a church that was like that, the praise and worship leader was a man who had earrings and played only current music that appealed to him and not the rest of the congregation. On saturday nights they hired a building to have a rock concert in and play only the harder music and invited no one but teenagers becuase this was how they viewed youth ministry. To them it was not making a change in the children’s lives but giving them what they wanted and that was music they liked and games and free food. So by packaging it as youth ministry it did not really move these kids to coming to church and there was actual little ministry.

      The church was an established one from the 1930s. It held to the old fashioned way of doing things until just that year. I thought it was strange when they began having movie night in the church fellowship hall. And not even Christian movies.

    • Minnow

      Kara–It seems we are not speaking the same language. I do not think the emerging church I would identify with is particularly interested in attracting people to a “building”. Maybe the truth is two strains are “emerging” from the more traditional Church. One may be “seeker friendly” (to use a popular term). Those I consider myself to be a part of are just as disappointed in that format as the more tradional one. I personally see it as new wrapping for the same old controlling spirit., leagalism, and manipulation. The other emergers are more interested in practice, being hands and feet in a hurting world and letting that world know God loves it. They are also more willing to see God and good in unusual places.

    • Kara Kittle

      I think you are right. This emerging church thing is so incomprehensible we seem to be scratching our heads over it. If someone could just tell me one church that is an emerging church so I can look it up on the internet then I might understand.

    • […] has to say at least thought provoking, even when I do not agree with its point of view.  However, this post is disappointing.  His arrogance offends me and actually seems out of character for Mr. Patton.  […]

    • Lisa Robinson

      Minnow, in your last statement (#120) you describe emerging as a missional church. The inference is that an evangelical church is not missional. Is that the conclusion you are drawing? There are evangelical churches that are very outward focused and missional but are not emerging.

    • Minnow

      Lisa–I said much about the emerging Church I embrace that has nothing to do with being evangelical. Please try to avoid picking out strands to counter. My experience with evangelical is that many, not all, do a lot more talking then doing when it comes to being missional with the ultimate goal being to fill the pews. Nation wide 2% of all christian Church budgets goes toward foreign missions and only 8% leaves the building for any purpose at all, so to suggest that any of us as an “organization” are particularly missional is a stretch.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Minnow, I am not trying to argue with you or pick strands to counter. In fact, just the opposite is true. The reason I ask, is because there are evangelical churches that do have, in practice, missional focus, but are not be considered emerging. I actually go to such a church and what drew me to was the fact that the church was not interested in building up internal programs but purposed to take God out to the community, both here and abroad. In fact, in the message today on grace giving talked about how dollars should be invested in people and establishing God’s kingdom outside the walls of the church. He personally hoped that we as a church would never have to build another building.

      Having just taken World Missions as part of my curriculum, I would have to say you are right about that statistic and I personally was shocked at that low percentage. Although, I don’t think that average can be generally applied to all evangelical churches because to do so would lump them all into the same category and that would be unfair, no?

      I would further contend, that to have a missional mindset is intensely evangelical, or should be, since evangelicalism is built on Matthew 28:19-20. So to say that missional is an antitheses to evangelicalism I think is a mis-statement although I can see how one would make that conclusion based on the lack of mission efforts of many. I think the dividing line though between evangelical and emerging would be the stance on doctrinal certainty. But I don’t think doctrinal certainty, or the promotion of propositional truths, should in any way negate a mission ethos.

    • Kara Kittle

      Not all evangelism is based on that because some churches use Acts 2:38 as their basis and baptism in that evangelism.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Kara, Acts 2:38 is for the purpose of living out Matt 28:19-20. The gift of the Spirit enables believers to do that. It is not for the purpose of exalting the Spirit but exalting Christ.

    • Kara Kittle

      Ask the plethora of my relatives who are Jesus-Only, they refuse to accept Matthew 28. I grew up with Matthew 28 but my relatives don’t agree with it.

      So what I am saying is this. There are people who do indeed use Acts 2:38 as the basis for their evangelism and baptism because they will not ever ever ever use Matthew 28. I believe I know what I am talking about and you can ask around and find this out for yourself.

      The Oneness churches base their doctrine on Acts 2:38 and will not ever accept Matthew 28. Trust me. And if you don’t believe me call any pastor of any Oneness church and just ask them.

    • Lisa Robinson

      Kara, this may sound rude but it is not intended that way. It matters not what Oneness, or Jesus only or Pentacostals or even non-Pentacostals believe or say. What matters is what Jesus said and the commands that He gave concerning His expectation about His purpose and plan. He told His disciples to make more disciples (Matt 28:19-20) by going out starting locally then eventually through the whole earth to testify of Him. But they needed supernatural enablement to do that because they had not received the gift of the Spirit so He told them to wait for it.(John 14:17,26; 16:13-14; Acts 1:8). The power, which all believers now have, is to testify of Christ, again pointing to Acts 1:8.

      If a church bases their doctrine on Acts 2:38 without seeing how that correlates to Jesus’ redemptive plan and purpose, and the transitional significance of Acts with respect to that purpose, then I would say that is quite unfortunate. The purpose is to testify of Christ and make disciples, which is why missions is so important (also see Colossians 1:28)

    • Kara Kittle

      When I commented that Oneness believes it was not a commentary on whether or not they believe in missions as far as the Great Commission goes. But you will have to see that there are people who view missions differently than what you do.

      Oneness people do indeed evangelize. However my comment was regarding the fact that they do not accept Matthew 28 to base thier evangelism on. You might just argue with me on whether or not is right they do that. I was simply informing you that they do that.

      The missional mindset of Oneness is not on Matthew 28 but Acts 2:38. If you dislike that, argue with them on that.

    • minnow

      Lisa–Sadly preaching and practice do not always line up. The fellowship my family has been a part of since moving here calls themselves evangelical, missional, spirit led, Bible preaching, and several other interesting adjectives. They house a foodbank and 10-20 volunteers (out of a 300 plus congregations which is not to say all the volunteers attend the fellowship) serve aproximately 50-100 families each Saturday morning. At one time the director was given a small stipen and a portion of the “mission’s budget” went to the food bank. However, hard economic times have cause those items to be cut from the budget. Several individuals in the fellowship are involved with various lay ministries around town including: Youth for Christ, Firstway Pregnancy Center (an abortion alternative ministry), and Teen Challenge. While the pastor enjoys pointing to these “outreaches” the fellowship neither organizes groups to serve in them nor funds them as a fellowship. I am NOT lumping all Churches or even all evangelical fellowships in the same pile. I am only making my comments based on my personal experience and statistical research. I do not know how visible your fellowship makes its budget but if it owns (or is in process of owning) its building and has more then one pastor on staff I would be surprised to find out that more than 10% of its budget goes out the door. If it numbers over 100 in the congregation I would be surprised to find more than 20% serving within the congregation let alone out in the comunity in some kind of organized fashion. If either of these things is true it is indeed a unique fellowship, at least to my personal experience.
      Finally, there is a huge difference between making disciples and making converts. The former requires relationship while the latter only needs a charismatic sales pitch.

    • […] is a good (fun?) article which has some intense truth in it. Read it all HERE Comments […]

    • Nicholas

      I should state, I have no idea why I am writing on a blog that has readers who believe in a Young Earth. What is the point. Obviously I am out of my element, and I am not dealing with people that would be interested in facts and figures (if the pole is any indication).

      However, I will note that I am disappointed in emergent, as someone who had been part of the conversation I express my disappointment here

      That being said, I am disappointed with Christians that refuse to accept science or inform themselves. . so whatever.

    • MikeK

      Wow, you guys still talking about this? I thot EC was pronounced dead LAST year! No wait, or was that two years ago…

      Move along folks, nothing to see here…

    • […] been sympathetic to the Emerging Church conversation, has written an excellent blog post entitled “Obituary: The Emerging Church (1994-2009)”. In it he says there are four main reasons for the death of the Emergin Church: 1. Lack of Tact […]

    • Joe White

      It seems to me that the EC positions can usually be summed up:

      ‘We care more about missions than you do.’

      ‘We care more about the poor than you do.’

      ‘We care more about peace than you do.’

      ‘We care more about the environment than you do.’

      ‘We care more about justice than you do.’

      and so forth

      It is a smug, holier-than-thou approach that gets pretty old, pretty quick.

      They are great at critiquing others, not so great at receiving correction themselves.

      While ECers claim to ‘walk humbly’ and ‘honor the church in all it’s forms’, I’ve seen little of it unfortunately.

      It’s disappointing to see people with so much energy and passion for God using that passion so destructively and divisively.

    • […] Patton declared the death of the movement earlier this year. It’s already passing in many ways out of the public eye; it’s dubious that Rob Bell […]

    • RCGWho

      Unfortunately, the whole movement has gone viral. It’s on the campuses and campus ministries, in the churches right down to folks like Jack Hayford you thought would never fall for the stuff. It’s infected everything. Now you can be a Stuff White People Like christian who sits around arguing with an imported beer in one hand and a cigar in the other and feel godly cuz you talk sex trafficking. Ugh. Now I have to send my kids to college and help them navigate around the full on secular Marxists and their “support group”–the pseudo secular christian Marxists. Fun.

    • scott b

      Um, I observe several of the largest Emerging churches in the area and around the country in very good shape. They may be in the process of renaming themselves, but for the most part many of them are doing very well including one of the most liberal Emerging churches in the country.
      Now maybe start ups are not happening anymore and that is the real good thing…no more off-spring and eventually the ones in existance will die out. May take decades, but they will eventually die out.
      Anyway, it will be a good thing if the Emerging church movement is dead, but I think it is still at a crawl as a movement, but those still alive are pumped and running full bore.

    • […] Kind of Christianity. Brian is one of the leading voices in the emergent movement (a movement that many say is now defunct), which is simply a postmodern reclothing of theological liberalism. I’ve […]

    • […] it’s ok that such a movement is in its fade-out stage (or was already dying out, as others posted previously). And something new will arise. It might look and seem better than the emerging […]

    • Danny P

      Im sure the “prolific insiders” will have a special place in heaven.

    • […] “The Emerging Church was not around long enough to be declared alive, so the announcement of its death comes with an apathetic “ho-hum” for many of you.  But it is true.  Stop the “What is the Emerging Church?” seminars. Edit the “Beware of Brian McLaren Sermons.” And don’t even entertain starting an Emerging blog.  As far as I can see, the Emerging Church is dead at 15.” (ref) […]

    • mary mae

      the emergent church may be dead..but the movement is very alive and moving at a rapid pace taking many leaders along with it, and steering many believers down a less than biblical path. I only wish it would die the death that you speak of!

    • […] “The Emerging Church was not around long enough to be declared alive, so the announcement of its death comes with an apathetic “ho-hum” for many of you.  But it is true.  Stop the “What is the Emerging Church?” seminars. Edit the “Beware of Brian McLaren Sermons.” And don’t even entertain starting an Emerging blog.  As far as I can see, the Emerging Church is dead at 15.” (ref) […]

    • Mike Clawson

      Hey, remember back in ’09 when everyone was saying the emerging church was dead?

      Good times, huh?

      How’d that prediction turn out for ya? ‘Cause as far as I can tell, we’re all still here, doing our thing.

      Maybe we’re all just a bunch of emerging zombies, or vampires, or some other kind of living dead just wandering around with all these wild geese everywhere…

    • C Michael Patton

      Emerging what? Oh yeahhhh… Weren’t they like the Jesus Freaks or something?? 😉

    • […] However, today things have changed. No one blogs about it. No one claims the name anymore. No publisher would dare accept a book about the emerging “thing” that happened in the forgotten past. Why? because around the year 2009, the identity of the emerging church went silent and many (some, enthusiastically) put up gravestone over its assigned plot. In fact, I even paid my respects. […]

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