The emergent church has caught a lot of flak lately from mainstream (and in some cases not-so-mainstream) Christianity. A good friend and respected spiritual leader in my life recently called Emergent a cult. While i agree that some of the more outspoken and noticeable members of the emergent movement lean toward irrational and contradictory statements of faith, there is room for open and honest deconstruction (theoretical and symbolic not literal[that comes later]) of modern Christianity and more precisely the role of the Christian Church within a modern society. i'm not about tearing down tradition, but Jesus is. I don't hold to any creed over that of personal revelation through careful study and application of Biblical text and teaching. however, having said that, i value well thought out theology, I desire to have a more concrete faith and the Emergent following is too free flowing for my taste. I get where they are coming from and i believe the approach to be necessary for reform and ultimately solid direction in this present age.
The truth is, if we took off the emergent label, our values, systems, and even complaints are mostly shared. I've been "saved" since i was 13 and the church's obsession with hierarchy and ineffectual efforts to be meaningful in the daily community life, not to mention the horrible job of public relations we have endured, are problems that laypeople, pastors, youth, regional, and national leaders have been struggling with for my entire spiritual journey. The denial and need for answers along with Mainstream Christiany's (MC) inability to answer them is a clear interval for birthing this "movement". It would be different if MC was making headway or if that "Old Time Religion" were still "good enough for me", but the fact remains that out of every 100 new converts only 30 (give or take, thanks Barna) will be lifelong followers of Christ and out of that 30 only 9 will find what we might consider the deeper faith. Most will be tempted or goaded away by other pursuits only to come back to the faith later in life after the whims of youthful desire have died away. Some will be destroyed and broken by the church herself, and still others will simply be unimpressed and disillusioned by the lack of challenge and depth that the church has to offer.
You can see where the problem lies even without a clear or feasible solution. The church cannot attain the vibrant life it once enjoyed by following the patterns and trends of the last 40 years of spiritual practice or last 200 years of dogmatic arrogance. At the same time pandering to social or generational relevance is not the way either, and although some have hijacked the bandwagon (so to speak) of the Emergent faith to look and act this way, the same can be said about mainstream Christianity. There are crazies on every side of the Christian faith. Every creed deals with this. Lashing out is not the answer, there was a time that Catholicism was the center and the fringe and reformers were harshly treated with persecution that started in name calling and ended in demonizing. MC is on rocky ground and needs to treat the center with more dignity and the fringe with more grace. There are some things that we can learn from this new thing and some things that need to be condemned before infecting new converts with animosity or unfounded cinicism. It seems to me, after sharing in the faith with some of these communities that they understand this dynamic better than we do. The emergent leaders are especially careful and aware of the fact that todays fringe eventually becomes the center itself. Personal Growth, Spiritual Hunger, And Relational Faith are end goals we can all agree on, lets do our best to ingrain those traits into our own congregations instead of overly concerning ourselves with who's evangelism is truer or whose methods are more Christ-centered.
The truth is we are all seekers, let us seek.