Last night my student group at school sponsored a lecture by Will Willimon. In the course of this lecture he illustrated various characteristics of what it means to be an Emerging Evangelical.
This refers to two main characteristics. One is that those born after 1980 are referred to as the Emerging Generation. This notes the age of many who are lumped into this category. It is a study of contrast when one compares many of the religious tastes of Emerging folks vs. Boomers or Gen Xers. Emerging Generation folks don’t seem to as consumed by that which makes us different. The idea of diversity is more than a buzz word for emerging folks-it’s often a reflection of reality. In terms of church, being ecumenical is also a reality and more than a mere program name as it is for those of older generations. Willimon pointed out to us that often this characteristic comes from the notion that Emerging folks know they don’t know it all.
The second connotation of this term refers to the reclaiming many of this generation are trying to do with the older, traditional liturgical styles. It’s often funny to me how many Boomers want to advertise “contemporary” worship in their churches and they are singing songs that are 20 years old. This is NOT contemporary. This is not hip or cool either. I am encouraged that many in the Emerging generation have figured out that the church should not be in the business of trying to be “relevant” in terms of music and worship. We know there is better stuff on MTV. We don’t come to church for a concert or to be entertained. This reclaiming of historical liturgy, I believe, comes from the compelling notion that we need something different in church from that which is found in society.
I will not spend a huge amount of time writing on this term as it is a favorite subject of mine and I will be writing more and more on this over the coming months and years. I will say that Willimon pointed out (and I agree with him) that we are seeing a reaction now to what can be called Traditional Evangelicalism. The works of Charles Finney, D.L. Moody, and Jerry Fallwell have finally been disputed to the point their fallacies have outnumbered their merits. Being evangelical is becoming something, I hope, that is not exclusive both in polity and practice. Newer writings of William Abraham, Will Willimon, and others advocate a more inclusive sense of the term to better mirror the nature of Jesus Christ himself. People like Howard Snyder have reclaimed the notion of Missio Dei to link the ideas that mission and evangelism are intertwined and not easily separated.
All of this to say that I am encouraged that we may be turning the corner into a new day of theological reflection that would choose to reclaim traditional terms rather than merely concede and attach “neo” or “post” to the beginning of that word to denote a difference. I am biased but being evangelical (note the “e” and not “E”) is the very essence of living a Christian life. It is a life that seeks holiness A ND reconciliation with all that this life has separated by human sin. It seeks to live as something different from this world but not justified on the terms of being SEPARATE from this world. It is the idea that we are to GO and MINISTER to ALL who we come in contact with. It means we are to LIVE Jesus Christ just as much as we SPEAK Jesus Christ.