Emerging Mini Movements

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.

18 thoughts on “Emerging Mini Movements

  1. Excellent post. I just finished writing on emerging theology and had to note how the movement is not at all as unified as it was a few years back.
    These are absolutely not mutually exclusive movements. Instead, they are different streams coming out of the same ideals, each taking a part of the whole work of the Spirit (I think). Just as in church history there can be many expressions of the same Spirit, even at the same time. The trouble is not these different expressions, but rather when people and leaders become to see only their movement as right, and begin to see only their particular expressions as the only expression of that movement.
    Things harden, then fracture. If we can hold a bond of unity within these movements I think the church can be transformed, letting people with particular passions and gifts find their place within one of these streams.


  2. I am very much not comfortable with this kind of “external” classification. If people want to self identify as one of those and group with like minded folks that’s one thing but I think it invites divisiveness for someone to do it from the outside TO others…ie sort of forcing folks to align with one of those groups.
    I’m none of them and all of them. so there. 😛


  3. i just read Patrick O’s comment.
    I don’t like the way unity is used in much of churchy conversation. We are still unified, very unified – anyone at Albuquerque this weekend at the CAC emerging conference would say that we are more unified than ever…we’re just not uniform.
    Conformity and uniformity is different from unity and I for one am so glad that this isn’t becoming some strange uniform group. If 1000 catholics and protestants, old and young, rich and poor can gather together sharing in worship, prayer, conversation and dreaming…we are unified.


  4. Whether we like it or not, like Mark I see a sort of inevitability to it in the life of any movement. And while you may indeed be “all of them” I doubt you’re all of them to the same degree. Seeing denial of diversity as part of what got the monocultural mainstream into the mess in the first place I would rather affirm divisity.


  5. Matt,
    Great post and I have passed it on to my husband Tom who does not blog or follow bloggers himself – mainly because he is digitally challenged. however he is very interested in things like this. In his recent book The New Conspirators he talks about the 4 streams that he sees emerging in the church – missional, emerging, monastic and what he calls mosaic or multicultural. it is at this point the smallest of the 4 streams but we feel needs to be taken very seriously if the church is to have a future because we are moving into a more multicultural future in all of our countries.
    We live in a neomonastic, multicultural community but are constantly disillusioned by the lack of diversity that we see in many of the emerging church streams. We will be in Australia in October and I know Tom will be looking for examples of what is happening there to share so he may be in touch with you.


  6. This flow of conversation is precisely why I have so tried to push the doctrine of the Holy Spirit more to the front. Christian theology, and with it the church, long put aside the Holy Spirit, using the doctrine only for tinsel or for light effects, decorating or adding excitement. This meant all the things the Spirit is said to do was pushed into other topics, such as Christ. That doesn’t seem at all a problem until we see how this works out in practice.
    With Christ, without Spirit, there becomes a need for a centralized form of Christ that is the model for a church. This is often a particular emphasis of Christ’s ministry and coupled with this is a particular emphasis on particular leaders. Because they feel they have the representation of Christ, others are lesser or wrong.
    The Spirit, we are told in the NT, is the one who both empowers and organizes those in the church, giving different gifts, passions, goals, all within the unified reality of the kingdom of God. We are unified in Christ through the Spirit. Our unity in Christ comes out of our diversity in truly being who the Spirit is calling us to be.
    With a Spirit understanding we can embrace those who do differently and commend them, doing our part as they do theirs, all to transform reality into this thing that is so, so, so much bigger than any one movement, emphasis, or goal. And in that is my hope for the church.
    My frustration is that the Spirit is ignored and people fracture, thinking their passion and gift has to be everyone’s. That’s one of the biggest faults I’ve seen in church leadership–the pastor generalizing his or her own call as being everyone’s.
    This is also why I still like to use “emerging” as a blanket term for the various strands, even as there seems to be breaking away by particular people within these streams. There really still is a unity without conformity happening, as Makeesha notes (something she wonderfully experienced even), and we can acknowledge what is still the goal of the grassroots, even as leaders and organizations feel the burn of institutionalization.
    One stream that is mission, I think, from contemporary emerging emphasis is the stream of contemplation. The monastics side seems to have more of a social, extroverted, community orientation about them, rather than mystic. Not that there aren’t mystic emerging folks around. They just don’t like the social gatherings… but also tend to be excluded as an important emphasis.
    Emerging has to be unity and diversity, unity from diversity, if it is to press on as a major influence of transformation. We’re at a really key point, I think, of seeing if it can hold on where so many other movements stumbled.


  7. matt –
    who’s denying diversity? I’m saying diversity is GREAT, I celebrate it. these “threads” are certainly present but that doesn’t mean there is a lack of unity and it doesn’t mean that they are static or rigid and I would hate to think that just because someone has an emphasis on something it means they have to “break off” and when others impose labels and classifications in this modern compartmentalized scientific way it sometimes gives the impression that there isn’t unity.


  8. Thanks for sharing Christine. I would love to discuss this further with Tom. Of the classification schemes I have seen so far, I though his was one of the best. My only qualms were (1) what I read didn’t seem to have a much of a space for the Driscoll’s of this world, and (2) the word ‘mosaic’ seems to have too much of a McManus copyright attached to it for me to feel fully comfortable using it for myself. Oh, that and we now have to decide where Kimball and Co fit in! The October trip to Oz wouldn’t happen to be for Black Stump in Sydney by any chance? If so I would love to catch up and would be happy to line up a few ‘Mosaic’ connections.


  9. Steve, actually if I were to talk about the Oz scene exclusively I would have put it slightly differently. I don’t know anyone I would classify as a blender over here.


  10. Patrick
    “Our unity in Christ comes out of our diversity in truly being who the Spirit is calling us to be.” Nice phrase.
    I think the fracturing, at least as far as the Australian scene is concerned, has a lot to do with the media success of Emergent, aka the New Liberals. As Emergent increasingly consolidated their reputation as the voice of the emerging church there was more and more push back by less liberal groups. The New Calvinists split off early, the Missionals proceeded more cautiously, keen to keep the conversation open even as they differentiated themselves, and the Dan Kimball block consolidated the trend, prompting even the TSK to change vocabulary.
    I personally found the Emergent story too monolythic, too US centric, too philosophical. As they consolidated their identity I increasingly felt left out of their much hyped ‘inclusiveness’. Obviously I wasn’t alone.
    I am not saying the whole conversation has become balkanised, mind you, I am not saying unity has died, I frequently converse with people from all these strands. Maybe ‘fractured’ was the wrong word. But what I am saying is that the geography of the conversation has become much lumpier. Strange attractors have emerged.
    And this is, mind you, typical of systems displaying emergent behaviour.


  11. Matt, I think you’ve exactly described the US scene as well. I wish I had your post and comments a week ago when I was writing a paper on this stuff. Very succinct and exact.
    Fractured is an appropriate word on some levels, especially the higher levels of leadership. In Webber’s book, Listening to the Beliefs of the Emerging Church, there are all the signs of the streams moving different directions–most noticeably with Mark Driscoll.
    The push back is, I think the exact reason. Folks like Kimball and others no doubt were tired of responding to charges against the emerging church that they did not themselves believe. Everyone was forced to discuss the particular beliefs of a few people. The media (and the older churches) sought to understand emerging in the light of old models, and then it became easier to fall back into old models as a response.
    You weren’t alone in feeling left out. With emerging, however, as I think Makeesha would agree, the core of the movement isn’t in those at the top. We just have to keep pushing back and not let ourselves be defined.
    Makeesha, you’re absolutely right about Pentecostals and charismatics being also abusive at times. But your language about “spirit-embracing” is precisely what I’m trying to get at. We’ve (church and theology) ceded all discussions of the Spirit to people who have only a particular bit to add, no more profound than baptists or presbyterians–just a different side of things. Pentecostals don’t really have more profound theology of the Spirit than anyone else. That’s why a more substantive, holistic understanding is needed, which is precisely what I see in emerging church thought with all its various strands. But, by ceding discussion of the Spirit these new expressions lose their own theological grounding, fall back into older dependence on less adequate theology, and then start illustrating the old problems. We who don’t get caught up in that still have to deal with the effects.


  12. Rather than speak of an emerging church fractured into mini-movements, one could speak of “emerging trends in the Church”. Or typically, things which emerged in the church recently. Within different groups you’ll see various combinations of these.
    The main things that come to mind:
    – Emerging theological trends (often from simple evangelical to something more broad)
    – A renewed interest in justice and wealth/poverty issues
    – The missional revolution
    – Different styles of worship & church practice


  13. Yeah, that’s a fair call. I am expecting the diversity within the church to increase over time, but for Christians to be less disturbed by it, as increasing cultural pluralism will tend to relativise this internal diversification.


  14. Eric – thank you, THAT’s what bugs me about this kind of talk – it’s presented as some sort of negative or “I told you so”. I like your expression much better.
    At first blush, my thought at reading the original posts was “yeah, so what?”


  15. New schema!
    Must… rate… self…
    Neo-Anabaptist: +6
    Neo-Calvinist: +0
    Neo-Missiologist: +4
    Neo-Clapham: -5
    Digital Pentecostal: +8
    Neo-Liberal: +2
    Blender: -2
    *siggggggh* That feels better.
    — %< —
    It strikes me, though, that 5/7 is a high rate of neonicity. But not quite high enough:
    We definitely should speak of Digital *Neo*-Pentecostals, since the current generation haven't all that much in common with pentecostal theology from the early part of last century. Comparing Joel Houston with his father Brian or grandfather Frank shows this pretty clearly.
    That just leaves the blenders — but hang on, they're neo-emergents!! Goodness, could we handle any more newness of life?
    Negative, ghost-rider, the pattern is full.


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