What Every Pastor and Every Christian Needs to Know About the Emergent Church Movement

“Brian McLaren: Christians in denial over evolution of faith,” screamed one headline.1 Another reprint of the same article quoted him as saying, “Evolutionary Christianity has freed me.”2 When we wrote about the Evolutionary Christianity teleseminar series, we said it was unclear what exactly the ‘rockstar of the emergent church’ (not our moniker for him) had to add to a discussion about evolutionary Christianity. Given the favorable press his teleseminar session received, it seemed worth revisiting it.3

What is the Emergent Church? And who is Brian McLaren?

The Emergent Church is one of the fastest-growing movements in American Christianity today. They are hard to ‘nail down’ with definitions, as definitions are one thing they work studiously to avoid. Generally, they emphasize social justice and acting in the community over ‘dogma’ and doctrinal correctness. They look for new ways to engage in postmodern culture, and embrace the culture themselves to varying degrees (though some in the Emergent Church would strongly disagree with this characterization, or any characterization, of their views). This “Lest we offend approach” has much appeal to Christians wanting to engage the culture, but many would also not realize that they value dialogue and draw heavily from Eastern and Catholic influences on spirituality. It smacks of a ‘many ways to God’ type religious views.

Brian McLaren describes himself on his website as an “author, speaker, activist, and public theologian.” He is a former pastor and has authored many books on various topics, including A New Kind of Christianity and Naked Spirituality, most recently. He was included in Time magazines “25 Most Influential Evangelicals”, and was described there as an “elder statesman” of the emerging church. Widely hailed as a “rockstar” of the emerging church, he is controversial for, among other things, fasting during the Muslim holiday of Ramadan a few years ago….

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