Despite the fact that the emergent/emerging Church is a fairly nebulous and relatively undefined concept, without a centralized organization or structure, they chose the term terms emergent/emerging to describe the movement.

What does that the Emerging church see itself as emerging from?


3 Answers 3


Evangelicalism. The early leaders of the Emergent church were members of a special project of Leadership Network, a non-denominational parachurch organization designed to help implement church growth/creativity projects for evangelical leaders. Originally, it was a special project aiming at the millennial demographic, which at the time was roughly college aged and showed signed of being a major demographic gap in large evangelical churches. As many of these leaders began to grow in size and popularity they became less affiliated with their traditional churches and more influenced by postmodern theology and philosophy. Though they typically receive harsh criticism from evangelicals for being difficult to pin down, there seems to be a self identity that the Emergent Church is a progressive development of Evangelicalism.

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    Only the very oldest Millennials would've been college age, I would've thought it was more focused on the last of Gen X.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Nov 22, 2015 at 0:17
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    I think this is on the right track, but I would like to see some citations before I would be willing to make it the accepted answer. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 21:50
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    @JamesShewey I've gone back and forth between citing the sources because most of them trace back to very non-neutral sources. I.e. online discernment ministry bloggers who aren't taking a neutral approach and so they mingle the facts which themselves are neutral with their theological appraisal and often in a directly combative tone. I've tried to summarize the facts myself without breaking the neutrality that would make for a good answer. For example: apprising.org/2008/09/09/emerging-church-pastor-doug-pagitt Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 21:56
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    Chris Roseborough at Pirate Christian radio has extensively researched them and has conducted several interviews and reviews of their self understanding but it would be a fairly monumental task to comb through the podcast archive and cite them one at a time. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 21:57
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    The problem as best as I can tell is that the people who have spent the most effort to finding and tracing the history of the movement are those who are critical of it. Most emergent church is only very loosely identify as emergent. So in other words I would doubt my ability to find sympathetic sources, but I will try to edit with a few sources in the near future. Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 22:15

According to Wikipedia, which cites two sources, the Emerging Church sees itself as emerging from the "inherited church".

Emerging churches are fluid, hard to define, and varied; they contrast themselves with what has gone before by using the term "inherited church".


  1. Stuart Murray, Church After Christendom, (London: Paternoster Press, 2004), 73.
  2. Ian Mobsby, Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church: How are they authentically Church and Anglican, (London: Moot Community Publishing, 2007), 20

What is the Emergent church emerging from?

The word “emergent” is more of a marketing term than a doctrinal one. It coveys an image similar to a butterfly leaving a cocoon. In this way it implies an almost evolutionary or progressive change from the traditional.

The appeal is mostly at a feeling level and as it is so non-specific, many can be drawn to it.

As society transitions away from a Christian truth based world view, the non-Christian feeling based world view is in ascendancy. Words are often selected and used more for their efficacy than their accuracy.

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    Seems like a reasonable conjecture, but I wonder if you have any sources to add weight to this answer?
    – Flimzy
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 23:18

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