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The On Being Project

Dispelling myths about the emerging church

“It is said that emerging Christians confess their faith like mainliners – meaning they say things publicly they don’t really believe. They drink like Southern Baptists – meaning, to adapt some words from Mark Twain, they are teetotalers when it is judicious. They talk like Catholics – meaning they cuss and use naughty words. They evangelize and theologize like the Reformed – meaning they rarely evangelize, yet theologize all the time. They worship like charismatics – meaning with their whole bodies, some parts tattooed. They vote like Episcopalians – meaning they eat, drink, and sleep on their left side. And, they deny the truth – meaning they’ve got a latte-soaked copy of Derrida in their smoke-and-beer-stained backpacks. Along with unfair stereotypes of other traditions, such are the urban legends surrounding the emerging church – one of the most controversial and misunderstood movements today.”

— Scot McKnight, from “Five Streams of the Emerging Church”


Josh Kron’s article in The Atlantic and Sarah Pulliam Bailey’s dressing down of the journalism behind the piece has kindled interest in the emerging church movement again. But neither person offers a clear guide to what the emerging movement is. McKnight’s saucy explainer in Christianity Today (published in 2007, no less) is a good start. He dispels some myths about the emerging movement and lays out “the five themes that characterize the emerging movement”: prophetic, postmodern, praxis-oriented, post-evangelical, and political.

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