I have NOT been walking a journey that fully identifies with what has been termed the "Emerging Church." In fact, I have had a difficult time pinning down just what the term "emerging church" refers to.
However... I have been reading Eddie Gibbs' book "Emerging Churches" which has brought clearer understanding to me re "Emerging Church" and is allowing me to see that some of the more recent "Emerging Church Dialogue" (according to Gibbs) has many similarities to where God has brought me in my journey.
First the background: According to Gibbs the emerging church "movement" first focused on developing megachurch type churches that were geared toward the postmodern gen-xers. Then, there were attempts to develop a church-within-a-church model in which the "postmodern" church existed within the context of a larger "boomer-style" church. Also, there have been attempts to develop small communities (house churches) as a style of church that would reach out to the postmodern generation.
BUT... says Gibbs... the shift now is AWAY from focusing on the FORM that the church should take and, instead, seeking to understand "what the life of Jesus means." Gibbs quotes Zander Dieter who planted gen-xer churches in all of the previously-mentioned ways but now has no desire to pursue "church planting." Instead, his desire is to "form communities of people that produce apprentices of Jesus who live in the gospel and communicate and draw others in a matter of course to the way they live." He says, "I want to form apprentices in the life of the kingdom."
If this is where the "Emerging Church" dialogue has arrived, then I can readily connect with this aspect. Gibbs offers an entire chapter called "Identifying with Jesus" in which he claims that this is now the key message of the emerging church. I want to highlight this aspect with the following quotes from this chapter:
"Our commitment is to be a missionary at all times. Everything we do in our lifestyle, in what we say, in how we treat people, that's all our witness. It's all mission... We are definitely all missionaries and evangelists."
"Emerging churches take up this challenge, creating 24/7 missional communities that seek to express the kingdom in all they do."
"It is not about church form but about the kingdom. The kingdom transcends all forms... The answer does not reside in church structure but in the way of life modeled by Jesus and what that life looks like in our context today."
"They do not seek to start churches per se but to foster communities that embody the kingdom. Whether a community explicitly becomes a church is not the immediate goal. The priority is that the kingdom is expressed."
I know there are many aspects to what is called "Emerging Church" and I don't even pretend grasp all of it. Nor am I interested in debating the various aspects of it. But I, for one, have been "emerging" into the paradigm that has been described by these quotes. It's not about some church form (not even "house church" form), it's about living a Jesus-life, all day, everyday. Community life supports the Jesus-life-in-us, not the other way around. We live with Jesus in the world as our primary calling--each and every day. We gather with others to support that Jesus-life and to build up one another. I believe in keeping community life SIMPLE (New Testament style) so that it SUPPORTS our life-with-Jesus-in-the-world rather than hinders it.
The key paradigm shift that I would love to see everyone emerge into is that it is not about living for the church (in any form) but simply living for the Kingdom--with and for Jesus. Perhaps this is exactly what is happening!