Friday, October 23, 2009

Kimball speaks out on the Emergent movement

It seems I am on an Emergent theme lately. Over at the Christian Post Dan Kimball has spoken out against the changes that have occurred in the Emergent movement since its inception. He writes:
"My entry into the emerging church world was because of the reality of the increasing amount of people who aren't Christians and weren't experiencing the joy of salvation and knowing Jesus in this life and the reality of eternal heaven and eternal hell in the life-to-come is a reality."
Kimball has historically represented a branch of (what came to be known as) the Emergent church that emphasized personal evangelism of the non-churched and de-churched culture. Recognizing the anger and angst many feel regarding the traditional church, Kimball (et al) were attempting to provide a platform in which the message of Christ would be brought to these people groups in a way they could understand and relate to. In a very real sense, the movement that Kimball represents is simply a trendier, hipper version of Willow Creek (or, perhaps better stated, "the Willow Creek for 20-somethings").

In the article, which oddly seems to have been gleaned from blog posts, Kimball defended the original intention of the movement--or at least what he believed what was supposed to be its intention. He writes,

"If you were to have asked me about what the core of the emerging church is, I would have responded with 'evangelism and mission in our emerging cultre to emerging generations.' And from that, other things were of course included, alternative worship, discussions on ecclesiology etc. as a means for fruitful growth of disciples of Jesus. Underneath, the reasons for desiring change was an outright passion and desire for seeing emerging generations ... experience His grace, forgiveness and joy of following and knowing Him.

However, Kimball believes this emphasis on Jesus, salvation and the reality of heaven/hell no longer seem to find a place in the Emerging movement. He goes on to say,
"Today, I certainly sense if you asked someone what is 'the emerging church' it would mean a whole lot of different things than that. In fact, I don't even think the word 'evangelism' comes up when I start hearing about 'the emerging church' for the most part anymore."
For those of us who have been sharp to criticize the emergent movement it is important that we understand there are various sub-groups within the movement. Driscoll, for example, though he has reputiated the movement theologically nevertheless still fits within it methodologically. Kimball and those of his guild also represent a version of the movement that is much more in line with historic Christianity (though perhaps still open to the same criticisms that can be leveled against the broader seeker-sensitive movement).

I appreciate Dan and his willingness to affirm historic truth as well as to distance himself from those who refuse to do so. Though we have never met, I've always liked Dan (at least as I know him from messages and books). While I do tend to think of his methodology as "silly", (and even some of his presuppositions and methods unbeneficial to the cause of Christ) I do sense in him an honest desire to see people come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord. Despite our differences, I thank God for Dan Kimball.

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