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I’m back – “e”merging Church January 8, 2007

Posted by Cobus in church, David Bosch, Emerging Church.

It’s been nearly a month without blogging. I’ve been part of a outreach-group at a holiday resort near Bela-Bela (Northern part of South Africa), and then went down to T.O. Strand (East-coast of South Africa) with a friend.

So I thought a lot about this emerging terminology. There is the whole emerging/emergent question, which I understand very little about. Seems like an American issue to me? I even understand less about it now that I heard Tony Jones and Doug Paggitt saying that they didn’t think about emerging when they thought about the name emergent. Well, whatever, that’s not really the issue for me.

Are we talking about “E”merging or “e”merging? So, what’s the difference? Well, whether I’m grammatically correct with this I’m not sure, but here goes. We use a capital letter to indicate a name for something. Classic example. The “Reformed Church” refers to a specific denomination, or church belonging to a specific theological sub-group. A “reformed church”, will refer to a church that has experienced a certain change in the way they practice theology etc. (Don’t want to go into a discussion on what it means to be reformed right now).

Now, on emerging. It’s been bugging me for a long time now. It seems as though we talk about the “Emerging Church” as a single concept. As a noun. As something you can be part of, or not part of. David Bosch (Transforming Mission) use the concept “emerging” to talk about an “emerging missional paradigm” in 1991. It is a way of thinking about mission, or theology of mission, that is busy emerging, developing, appearing, especially in the light of post-modernism.

Some are afraid that “Emerging” is becoming institutionalized, maybe “Emergent” as well? I don’t know. Thing is, I want to keep “Emerging” a verb, and not a noun. So, when I’m talking about the “emerging church”, then it is the church that is busy changing, busy redefining itself in the light of it’s changing context. Busy trying to figure out how they are going to be church tomorrow. It’s a church that doesn’t hold fast to church practices that have no meaning, and a church that is willing to rethink their theology, and doesn’t hold onto a certain theological tradition, or even worse, certain theological ideas, simply because that is the way it was done. To me this is “emerging”, in the verb sense of the word. Of course it is also a church with a reason to emerge, thus a church that is asking certain questions which causes them to consider emerging.

Of course, I have certain ideas that I think should be part of the emerging church, the church moving towards tomorrow, and trying to figure out how they will be church. But that’s another story for another day. For today. Let’s keep “emerging” a verb. And keep in mind that it’s very easy for an English verb to become a noun. From a word describing a certain action, something happening, to a word describing a certain institution, organization, or group, whether they want the label or not.

That’s it for now. I’ll change the blog banner when I have some time. May it be  a moving 2007 for the church, and for your congregation. A year in which we will be defined by verbs, and not nouns.


1. Glenn - January 9, 2007

Hey Cobus,

Welcome back!

“Emerging Church” has gotten to be a catch all term to describe most anything new and different in doing church. The term has become a straw man for those who fear what is ahead. There is no emerging church pope dictating anything. So, to say the emerging church believes this or that is inaccurate. The whole emerging church thing is often referred to a conversation. In this conversation a lot of questions are being asked and a lot of things are being discussed. Some really great things (and some junk) will result.

I like the whole verb idea. One thing about the conversation is that there has been too much criticism and not enough action and alternatives.

2. storbakken - January 9, 2007

Thanks for your post. I enjoy your site and look forward to reading more. I’ve added you to my blogroll. Hope you don’t mind. God bless.

3. Roger Saner - January 10, 2007

Cobus, I like your suggestion of using “emerging” as a verb. This makes it an action, a doing – which means it will keep changing too. Maybe it should also be like a signpost along the way where we stick something artificial into the group to point the way – but that signpost isn’t the destination.

In terms of Emergent/emerging church – “Emergent US” is the official body of the emerging church in the States (i.e. they employ Tony Jones as administrator) which exists to broker conversation between the different people involved – and is also what people refer to when they say “Emergent” (or at least it should be). The emerging church (and I agree with you on the use of capitals) is that bit of the global church which is heading somewhere exciting in terms of the Gospel and mission…and so many other things.

Here’s a note on nomenclature by Ed Stetzer who helpfully divides emergent types into 3 groups for the sake of understanding (and a quibble).

4. emerging South Africa - February 5, 2007

[…] February 5, 2007 Posted by cobus in Emerging Church. trackback OK, so I finally got round to fixing the banner. It’s such a small change, I thought I have to let you know about it. Check out the reason for this here […]

5. Re: What is the emerging Church? « my contemplations - April 25, 2007

[…] reading some of my other thoughts will clear up some of these ideas. Especially why I belief we should remember emerging to be a verb and not a noun. Just a thought Roger, you said way back then that ““Emergent US” is the official body of […]

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