Wednesday, July 12, 2006


Emerging Church
by Dan Kimball
272 pages
Zondervan (March 1, 2003)

  • What is church? How can we be that?
  • How can we be church before a skeptical culture with an ill-informed (by us) notion of church and Christianity?
  • What is a disciple?
  • What would happen if we filtered every program, position, budget item, and event through the filter of our identity as church and as disciples? What would remain? What is keeping us from doing that?
  • How can seminaries train future pastors to be poets, theologians, and philosophers? How would disciplines and methods change in order to accomplish this training?
  • What are the regular tasks of shepherds (of animals)? How do these tasks translate into the function of pasturing? Of the tasks pastors currently do, what should change, what should stay, and what should go?
  • If we went back to Scripture, clarified the essential nature of the church, and then translated that essential nature into our particular cultural language, what would our local church look like? [sub questions: What is the essential nature of church? What is our cultural language? What comprises the process of cultural translation/contextualization?] [resource disciplines: NT scholars, theologians, sociologists, cultural anthropologists, missiologists, and local church practitioners]
  • How do we develop the skills necessary to remain flexible AND avoid massive pendulum swings in times of great cultural change?

NOTE: This is a rumination ("1. The act of pondering; meditation. 2. The act or process of chewing cud." American Heritage Dictionary) in search of synergy ("1. The interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.")


See CC License

“Unless otherwise noted Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”


  1. And that's what how emergent thing leaves you. Knowing less than when you started.

  2. I disagree. Questioning is the but the beginning of knowing.

  3. I would say the fear of the lord is the beginning of knowledge but that is being snarky.

    My beef with much of the Emergent movement is that the underlying given to them is that the present church is unbiblical and doomed. Yet they rarely put forth any clearly biblical answers. Instead they sow division and discord.

    When I see Barna and the likes sell all they have and lay it at the feet of the apostles, then I will take their "back to the NT church" approach seriously. Till then they are just critical (not the academic type, the planting tares type).

    Yes, lets question what we do. But no, all our theology is not up for debate.

  4. Understood and point taken.

    On Barna, I'm not currently a fan of his--he seems to have jumped on the wagon and sold books--now I'm being snarky.

    Honestly, Barna's writings are very different from most of the emerging church stuff I read. Some emerging church people are selling all they have and starting church plants, reaching people that the traditional church is not reaching. These practitioners are asking questions that the church--all of us, not just traditional--need to ask.

    If more modern churches (and, I admit, I do have an anti-modern church bias; though I try very hard to keep it undercontrol and in the open) asked questions like, What is church?, things might be very different.

  5. Agreed. The funny thing is that the most likely outcome of the Emergent movement is another denomination (for those that remain in the faith). I haven't heard anyone say that but if you look historically, that is the case and will be very funny.

    I guess your original post was not in line with all emergent thougt (that I have heard) because you want to incorporate semniaries into the solution whereas they just want to bulldoze them and build a community garden or soemthing.

  6. they (we) probably will become some sort of denomination. the church is messed up this side of heaven.

    I am curious, though, to know who the "they" are that you have been reading or listening to. The emerging church folks I read and speak with do not necessarily want to bulldoze seminaries. In fact, one has partnered with Fuller Seminary, creating an alternative educational program.

  7. I have a hard time distinguishing between the house church people, simple church people and the emergent people. The people I have met that take various forms of these names think that church should be without structure including profesional ministers. They also talk of the "pagan" practices of the current church model.


    If the folks where you are at are less the Frank Viola type then I stand corrected. The people I know are hard pressed to find anything good about our current churches.

  8. Some may have been inspired by Viola, but the one's I've read do not mention him. Further, many are pastors of churches that have elders and the like, so they have no problem with church structure, etc.

    There are issues with the emerging church, just as there are issues with the modern church. It is all to easy for all of us to become like the world rather than translating God's truth into cultural language. This has been a problem since around AD 33 (and before).

    I would recommend Kimball to your reading. He is the pastor of an "emerging" church and is a biblical, theological thinker. This particular book offers a good primer to the more "conservative" side of the emerging church.

  9. Hello -

    Dan here - thanks for the kind words and I do think you are understanding me - the other fellow seems to have over-generalizations of "emerging" and "emergent" things.

    I also agree with your house church thoughts too.

    Peace in Jesus,


  10. Dan,


    Too often I hear generalizations, sometimes from those who have not actually read anyone even loosely connected with the emerging church. It's too bad really. For my part, I try to open conversation when I can; starfish by starfish, I hope to make a difference.

  11. Dan,

    Since the emergent church does not have a doctrinal statement as a movement, anyone can claim that they are part of the emergent movement when in fact they could be anywhere from high church to pagan. In truth, the majority of the emergent writings that I have read were on blogs and essays online.

    The majority of what I have read seemed more of a defense of not being schooled in biblical doctrine and an excuse not to take a stand on anything other than the church is messed up.

    That being said, I browsed your blog and I was really supprised by what I saw. Lots of well thought doctrine, firm stands on biblical issues and church with structure. I don't know that your chuch is for me but it does not have to be. It was clearly biblical and rooted in the faith (I know you don't need my endorsement but it never hurts). Most of what you write about is not that radical.

    It seems to me that what has happened is that lots of disafected people are hijacking a movement's identity.

    Also - you need to update your blogger profile so that it points to you blog address, not your old blogger address.

    Laura - Thanks for opening up the discussion. This is what I love about the web. When would I have had this conversation in my church?
    btw - Are you really stoked that Dan Kimball commented on your blog? Come on now, be honest!

  12. There is indeed lots of variety in the "visible" emerging church; but then, many movements and denominations are like that (speaking as an American Baptist (or is that former AB...I'm so in flux). We must be discerning, but we must also make a concerted effort to hear the range of voices and to understand them as they understand themselves before them.

    SOAPBOX: If more folks on the conservative end of Christianity would take the time to converse with the range of folks in the emerging church (I speak here to friends, like those with whom I work and attend school at Talbot), they may just find they have more in common than they thought. Frankly, if the conservative end only criticizes, we may well snuff out the aspects of the emerging church that are valiantly attempting to return to Scripture and the church of which Jesus is head. As person with one foot in each world, I can tell you there is a ton of miscommunication and tension that need not occur if we would only listen to each other honestly and respectfully. SOAPBOX:END

  13. oh...and yes, I am stoked about the author commenting on my blog!

    Thanks Dan.

  14. hi laura and carl -

    thanks for the comments - and i love the openness about truly looking into people's beliefs (or a church's beliefs) or actually reading someone's writings to determine things.

    you will find a wide diversity among the various emerging and emergent circles, so as you said Laura - it is wise to look at each "starfish".

    Bye again and thank you!