Stetzer tackles issues surrounding emerging church
CAPE GIRARDEAU – What is the emerging church and why does it matter? NAMB Missiologist Ed Stetzer answered such questions at an Oct. 31 luncheon hosted by the Missouri Baptist Convention’s (MBC) church planting group during the MBC’s annual meeting.
“The emerging church movement is a reaction to the failings of the evangelical church,” Stetzer said, adding that 89 percent of Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) churches are not experiencing growth through evangelism, and that part of the problem is a refusal to reconsider unnecessary cultural roadblocks preventing communication of the Gospel.
“The problem is found in how we live and how we look,” Stetzer said. The church is supposed to live differently from the world, but look similar. Lottie Moon wore the clothing style of the people to whom she brought the unchanged Gospel. However, far too many people in the church today are living no different than the culture even while looking different in things that don’t matter.
“I have deep concerns that we be both biblically faithful and culturally relevant,” Stetzer said. “Too often the church sits around arguing about personal preferences rather than caring for the lost.”
In dealing specifically with the emerging church, Stetzer noted the difficulty in defining the movement. He also admitted that it is not a movement without error.
“Every time you engage a new culture, some will go too far and some don’t go far enough,” he said.
Stetzer noted that the emerging church is not a monolithic movement, but instead can be characterized as having three streams of thought. Stetzer labeled the first group the “Relevants,” and characterized them as church leaders who are trying to make their worship more contextual to their own culture. Within the SBC, this group maintains conservative theology and values.
He called the second group “Reconstructionists.” They often hold to an orthodox view of the Gospel even while finding the current form of church to be irrelevant. They seek to work in new ways about the form of the church even while keeping the biblical mandates.
The third group within the emerging church movement is the one that receives the most press. Stetzer called this group the “Revisionists.”
“Revisionists are willing to make changes to fundamental theological understandings, but that when the Gospel has been changed, then the church has lost what it means to be Christian,” he said.
He closed the session by challenging pastors to grow and plant churches that are characterized by both biblical faithfulness and cultural relevance.