People in the SBC are asking questions about churches like Mars Hill in Seattle, Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan and The Journey in St. Louis. One of these churches has no connection to a denomination, and the other two are doing things differently than most of the churches in their respective denominations. But all three are having significant impact in their communities with the Gospel. This has a lot of us paying attention, and many are also curious about their connection to the "emerging church." Dr. Mark DeVine, Associate Professor of Christian Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a very interesting and helpful article for the Midwestern Journal of Theology, which is now available for download via his blog (download the PDF).
DeVine's article, Fast Friends or Future Foes: The Emerging Church and Southern Baptists, takes a look at the nature and manifestations of the "emerging church" with the aim of helping Southern Baptists engage the phenomenon with honesty and wisdom. He rightly identifies some serious problems and relevant strengths within this diverse conversation. Are Mars Hill, or the Journey "emerging?" Some, like Gibbs and Bolger say they are not. Others, like Ed Stetzer say they are, but that they belong to one of three different branches of the emerging church. In the end, DeVine leaves the debate about who's in or out to others and celebrates what churches like The Journey are, and are doing. He can therefore say,
I expect that the emerging church movement will yield much that Bible loving believers must reject. But I also believe it could yield much sound wisdom and practical insight that will help us reach new generations for Christ and plant healthy churches in the very heart of cities once given almost completely over to the devil. Time will tell.
One of the things I like about Dr. DeVine is that he is not only a valuable academic, but also a servant to our churches and a popular interim pastor in MO. His love for God and his people is evident in his desire and work to see healthy churches reaching their communities with the gospel. DeVine's paper is helpful and I encourage everyone, especially Southern Baptists, to read it.