The emerging conversation is interesting because it is comprised of people from such varied backgrounds, post-fundamentalists to post-charismatics and everything in between. These people from every different stream converge in the conversation, and they approach church in a multitude of expressions, everything from monasticism to club church.
As only Jamie could say:
"The truth is, the emerging church (or the church in the emerging culture) is an amorphous matrix of complex, overlapping influences, ideas, histories, etc."
So how do you describe that? Possibly the definition is to be found at the point of intersection. My conclusion is that the commonality in all of this is the willingness and desire to dream and imagine what the church could/should be.
Barna in Revolution says:
"The Revolution is not about eliminating, dismissing, or disparaging the local church. It is about building relationships, commitments, processes, and tools that enable us to be the God-lovers we were intended to be form the beginning of creation." (HT to Cindy)
Maybe in the attempt to define, we end up confining our dreams to only what we can imagine, conforming our desires to what others say is acceptable. Perhaps if the spark of dream is too quickly put to the task, we lose the potential of what the flame was to become.
John O'Keefe discusses this in his recent post titled emerging/evolving. Here are a few quotes, but you'll want to read the whole thing in order to get the full context.
most in the "emerging church" are simply "evangelical" with different music, and they burn a few candles.
"emerging" is much more - it is a desire to go deep into scripture and open it from the inside, to find what is real in the word of God and remove all the traditional stuff that covers it.
you see, if the "emerging church" is just like willowcreek with different music, then what value does it have?
the idea of emerging has been to be "true" to what we believe God is speaking, and how we believe God is working in his people today.
but i think we lost most of that search in a fight started by others. we have found some people who are against the idea of emerging, so we hide our heads in the sand and stop saying what we think is real because we may offend someone.
if that is what "emerging" and "emergent" have become, then i am uncomfortable with that - because i do not believe we must settle, i believe God is telling us to move up, move on and move into the world we live in.
I hope that we will allow the winds of the Spirit to fan the flame of imagination which I believe is only a spark of what God has begun and intends to do within the emerging conversation. I pray for His breath to ignite the dreams with the hearts of His people.