The Five Types of the Emerging Church

So in my continuing analysis of the Emerging Church, I have decided to assign scientific names to 5 different categories of the movement. I have heard that Mark Driscoll has done the same thing. I haven’t heard his lecture on the subject, so anything found here is no reflection or purposeful subversion of his categories.

Type 1: Emergentus – Destructicus

This first genus-species of the emerging church is one of the earliest forms. This category includes the early emergent thinkers who first began to see the need for change. Many, if not most, of these thinkers have a decent knowledge of philosophy and began to apply the postmodern rubric to the then modern church. They looked around and said, “everything must change”. Their early work was met with considerable hostility as they sought to take their congregations on a spiritual journey. Brian Mclaren is probably the prototype for this group. The previously reviewed ANKOC is their banner. On the positive side Emergentus Destructicae tend to emphasize the discontinuity between the American evangelical church and the church of the first and second century. The problem is that their solution is less than satisfying. The closest they have come to putting forth a theology is A Generous Orthodoxy which is in the end, gobbly-gook. It says nothing constructive and does not affectively push towards a solution. These are the nay-sayers, the doomsday prophets of the evangelical movement. This group sells unrest and mistrust in the system.

Type 2: Emergentus – Savvae

This second group is by far the savviest of the crowds. Included in this classification are the ermergent folks with good hair-cuts and decent theologies. This crowd tends to be at least a decade younger than Emergentus Destructicus and are far better looking. Rob Bell is the archetypical Savvae. The leaders of this crowd have a degree of education much like the Destructicae, but tend to spurn their degrees. Many of these pastors are seminary grads who were disenchanted by the process. They are the strongest theologians of the Emergentus genus. Their theology, though, tends to be deeply influenced by late 20th century post-liberal and post-conservative writers. There is a touch of N.T. Wright, Hauerwas, and even Jurgen Moltmann. They have a bit of the ideas of corporate justification and liberation theology. This causes them to be some of the most socially conscience of the Emergenticae. They combine style (of which they have a ton) with a skewed sense of substance. This substance is very fluid and can quickly devolve into relativism. It is difficult pin these leaders down. What would they die for? What would they change their haircut for? They tend to sell cool as well as an intellectualism that has difficulties at the core of their beliefs.

Type 3 Emergentus – Megas

This third group is an odd development. This group has taken all the trappings, theologies, and methodology of the mega church movement and given it cooler clothes. They have moved their service from Saturday night back to Sunday night. They still have the goal of getting as many people as possible into the doors of the meeting place. (They wouldn’t like the word Sanctuary or even Worship Center). Dan Kimball is the clearest example of Megas. This group has style but is completely devoid of substance. They like to think of themselves as Savvae but are in fact poor parodies of the others. The focus is completely on the weekly worship service and nothing more. They sell cool and just cool.

Type 4 Emergentus – Shruggus

Next we have before us the least vocal and active of the Emergentae. This groups is part of non-emergent churches and is simply sympathetic to the plight of the rest of the genus. They read emergent books and still go to traditional or seeker churches. They would change churches, but don’t really fell like. It as if they say, “But I’m le tired…” Donald Miller fits tis category nicely. They are taking the “We’ll outlive the rest of our church, so lets just wait until then to do anything” approach. This group looks at the plight of evangelicism and shrugs. They sell a nonchalance and low level cool.

Type 5 Emergentus – Paedius

This last group is the scariest of the Emergentae. They are the children of the revolution. Many of the leaders of this crowd have no theological training or very little. They simply didn’t like the church of their youth and wanted a cool church. These church are youth groups who have never grown up. They attempt to recreate the buzz of a youth group with all the feelings of a “big people” church. They completely lack depth but love the idea of depth. They are socially active, because they see their Savvae cousins are socially active. Everything they do is mimicking one of the other Emergentae. They are the little brothers trying dearly to fit in. Unfortunately for all involved this church causes the most danger. They lack theological training and accountability. They are a law unto themselves and are in danger of trampling the sacraments under foot. (I know I show a bit of my bias with that statement) They sell style above all, yet the lack the depth of Savvae and the thought-out shallowness of the Megas. I have purposefully omitted a picture here to avoid overly vilifying any one person or church.


About futonreformer

I am a pastor in the PCA serving in Myrtle Beach, SC. I am a sixth generation Tampa native and I love the Rays and Bucs!

3 responses to “The Five Types of the Emerging Church”

  1. shakkahop says :, continuing our discussion here. my thought was that the emergent church has caused a rather heart felt passion in finding God in a way that may not be consistent with the way presented and widely accepted by their parents. i consider this worship, seeking after God.

  2. -R says :

    hmmm…I see a lot of the emergent church also reacting to cultural stigmas as well as to the neo-conservative ethnocentric evangelical American politics of this day and age.As postmodernist tendencies seep through the cracks of our broke ass and decrepit sense of Christianity, it seems that the emergent church seeks to seek after God in reaction to the past instead of sincerely seeking God for the purpose of seeking him alone. “Cool” is positioned as idolatrous looking glass for which to see god in a way that suits the individual! It enables people to create God in their image. I’m Guilty as Charged Cool is cooler than God.

  3. Nicholas says :

    Ooohhh, Thought provoking categories…of course there may be a tinge of generalization dispersed within your point and proof examples, but you do put forward some descriptive faces to the divisions. Of course their could be a hundred and one different emergent sub-genres that focus their traditions and theological framework on different time periods of the X-tian church, but I do think that you have missed a category here… one for our emerging brothers that are delving into the mysteries of Christ’s transcendence that can be found in, say, the Anglican tradition…

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