Wow. I certainly did not expect my "death" post to get the kind of attention it has been receiving.Thanks to everyone who has been responding both positively and with some push back. I thought I would add just a couple of caveats to the "death" post especially in response to this comment I got from Jesse:
Sorry I'm a first time visitor, and didn't read the full article carefully (it's late, I'm tired). But as a committed member of an emergent cohort, a dedicated follower of Jesus, but someone who can't bring myself to attend church or sometimes even call myself a "Christian" - I just simply could not disagree more. The "movement" as a label and as a "fad" may have died out in popularity (your point about Capitalism is a good one) - the reality "on the ground" is very different. Some examples: I was just on a 3 hour flight in which I talked to a random woman about the emerging church for the entire flight. We both felt a connection, a solidarity, and a sense that we were in the same adventure with God and the Church, moving into something new. It was awesome. I just got off the phone with a sibling who expressed that going to church is impossible. It's not bringing her closer to God, but actually the opposite. I just posted a blog about plans for our emergent cohort Sunday gathering. There's no leader. No agenda. No pastor. No denomination. But there will be community, love, and hopefully a lot of Jesus. check it out here: http://emergentcentralohio.blogspot.com So, while I understand it may *look* like the emergent church is "dead" - the reality is that for many of us, its only just coming alive.
Let me first say in direct response to Jesse that I am thankful for your relationship with Jesus, the growing sense of Christian community that you are experiencing, and the way you are inviting others into that same redemptive walk with Christ. My post was in no way meant to invalidate what you are experiencing nor the kind of community you are participating in.
Three years ago I attended a conference in which one of the speakers made the announcement that the era of the large church was over and that the churches that would be "emerging" and in existence in 50 years would look much like the group Jesse has described (small, communal, open, organic, etc.). My first thought was, "Oh, Great! (In my best sarcastic voice). Just when I finally get to pastor a church that runs over 1000, the big church days are over! My timing as a pastor is just about as good as my timing in buying real estate."
I think the Church, for all sorts of reasons, will always have vital spiritual small groups like the one Jesse describes. (In the 18th century there were Methodist societies, in the 19th century Quaker meetings, in the 20th century there were Young Life groups or house churches). But eventually (like the Methodists, Quakers, Young Life, and many house churches) the group either erodes, connects with a larger Body of Christ for strength, accountablity, and sustainability, or it becomes its own structured institutional church. The Church has always had groups of people discontented for a variety of reasons with the state of the current church and thus leaving either permanently or for a time in order to have an experience of vital faith and community.
So when I say the EC is dead I don't mean that groups that have started as "emerging" fellowships will necessarily die. Many will continue and probably flourish. And probably several more will be started. The church I pastor was formed as part of the 19th century Holiness movement. Although obviously the Church of the Nazarene is very much alive and PazNaz is certainly doing fine, the 19th century Holiness movement that established the church in 1905 (and by that I mean the primary forms, practices, and patterns that defined the movement in 1905) is essentially gone. (The only people attending seminars today on the 19th Century version of the Holiness Movement are church historians). That vital movement that birthed the church will always be a part of its DNA, but the Holiness movement has changed dramatically in the last century (in both positive and negative ways I'm sure). But it is very different nonetheless.
So a major part of what I think is essentially dead (or dying) in the EC conversation is the expectation that in 50 years what we now think of as the institutional church will be replaced by "emerging" communities of faith. Three years ago it made for a pretty interesting seminar. Today I think most folk would roll their eyes a bit at that notion.
I also don't think that the questions that formed the emerging conversation will go away soon. The church will continue to wrestle with how to respond to the various "posts" (postmodernism, postliberalism, post-Constantinianism, etc). The church will also have to continue to wrestle with shifting political perspectives. Its my own view that even more than shifting theological views that it is the shifting political perspectives of young evangelicals that has caused much of the tension between "traditional" and "emerging" camps. Nevertheless, I think the institutional church has turned out to be more quickly adaptable and young evangelicals have been rising up into positions of leadership faster than anyone expected.