I was just reading Mark Sayers latest reflection on the emerging missional church: The Emerging Missional Church Fractures into Mini Movements.
Mark classifies the emerging mini movements as follows:
Neo-Anabaptists: “Some have called this movement the new monastics … This movement tends to be pacifist, favours incarnational living amongst the urban poor, and has a strong distrust of power, sees contemporary Western Culture and Society as being controlled by “Empire” and thus favours an approach of prophetic action by small grassroots Christian communities.” Eg. Shane Claibourne
Neo-Calvinists: “This group views reformed theology as way out of the morally relevatist mess created by postmodernity. Whereas traditional Reformed theology viewed gifts of the spirit with suspicion, the new calvinism tends to have a charismatic edge.” Eg. Mark Driscoll, Tim Keller.
Neo-Missiologists: “This group is also highly influenced by the missiology of Leslie Newbiggin and Paul Hiebert and favours an incarnational mode of church, that is not ‘attractional’ but rather missional. This group also borrows some of its eccleisiology from House Church theorists …” Eg. Frank Viola, Alan Hirsch
Neo-Clapham’s: “…the Neo-Clapham’s take an approach that is global, large scale and campaign driven … Much of the energy of the Neo-Clapham’s can be found in various movements such as Make Poverty History, Fair Trade, Human Trafficking, Blood Chocolate, and so on.” Eg. Jim Wallis, Tim Costello, Bono
Digital Pentecostals: “This movement is a recent development within Pentecostalism in the West, specifically developing out of Australia. While Pentecostalism classically was defined by outward expressions of response to the Holy Spirit, the digital pentecostals create experiential spaces through cutting edge media and technologies in which participants can respond to the Holy Spirit … In many ways this the second generation of Gen Y kids who have come of age being influenced by Hillsong.” Eg. Joel Houston
Neo-Liberals: “Whereas traditional liberalism was born out of an attempt to create a theology that fit with modern sensibilities, the Ne-liberals find themselves creating a new theology in response to the post-modern context. Interestingly this group seems to be finding more and more in common with mainline liberal Churches in the United States than they do with Evangelicals.” Eg. Emergent
Blenders: This group would have placed themselves in the emerging church camp five years ago, but in response to the move away from evangelical theology by many of their former travellers (the Neo-Liberals) they have re-affirmed their commitment to evangelical theology. This group also seems to be questioning some of the assumptions of the Neo-Missiologists…” Eg. Erwin McManus, Dan Kimball.
This is probably a more Oz-centric reading of the situation than some of you would be used to, but being an Aussie myself that doesn’t bother me so much 🙂
A few reflections of my own
I agree with his overall thesis, the fracturing should be obvious to everyone by now, but I am not sure these mini movements are yet as cohesive as Mark suggests. For example, any of you who read this blog with any regularity would be aware of my strong Neo-Anabaptist leanings. But, if you have read that much, you would probably also be aware that I place a high value on cultural diversity and have some difficulty identifying with the Neo-Monostic path given its strong Celtic-centric tendencies. So I don’t see the 1:1 correspondence between Neo-Monastic and Neo-Anabaptist that Mark does. I am just as concerned with injustice, but I tend to focus on racial-cultural injustice over socio-economic injustice. In other attempts at movement categorisation that multicultural focus has landed me closer to Erwin McManus of Mosaic.
But other attempts at categorisation have seen me pigeon holed in with Alan Hirsch and other Neo-Missiologists. There is truth there too. I am a huge Heibert fan and strongly identify with many missional thinkers and bloggers. But again, my advocacy of multicultural church over tribal church puts me somewhat at odds with that camp. Given the sizable gathering we recently had in Sydney for people who were, similar to myself, interested in multicultural mission over tribal mission I wonder if we have an emerging stream here that Mark has missed. Furthermore, if any of you have been reading Alan Hirsch’s blog in the last week you’d be aware that Neo-Anabapstist and Neo-Missiologists paths are far from being mutually exclusive.
I also have qualms about locating Hillsong here. Though its true that they’re missional and incarnational in their own way, it is very much in their own way and they’re never really participated in this broader emerging missional conversation. Can they then be said to be part of the fracturing if they never danced with the rest to begin with? It’s good to acknowledge what they’re doing is different, but I think the situation would need to be defined more broadly to give justice to what’s going on.
Coming then to the so-called Neo-Claphams, I see this as a phenomena that many have participated in to greater and lesser extent. Can it be said to be a coherent stream? I am somewhat skeptical. Particularly when so much of this is mainline too.
Part of the problem with Mark’s classification here, I think, is that he identifies some streams by their theology and others by their methodology. That invites overlaps which threaten to undermine it’s usefulness. This brings me to the so-called Blenders. Mark differentiates them as evangelicals having already teased out Neo-Calvinists and Neo-Anabaptists and Neo-Penticostals as distinct categories. What forms of evangelicalism are left? Is there any evidence that the Neo-Missionals are any less committed to the Lausanne Covenant than these blenders? I don’t see it. This seems more of an “I don’t know what to call them yet category.”
I think what needs to be acknowledged here is that while the emerging missional church has fractured, these mini-movements are far from being mutually exclusive. Some of what differentiates is theological (anabaptist v calvinist v pentecostal), some is methadological (attractional v missional, megachurch v microchurch v parachurch) some is historical (reacting to emergent v indifferent to emergent v never had anything to do with emergent). I am not sure if any of the groups were are seeing emerge can be defined this easily.