I like Andrew Jones. He's a missionary who's been around for ages, and probably has the most complete history of the emerging church movement (blogged, not in a book).
I'd like to draw a few quotes from him, firstly from Emerging Church Movement (1989 - 2009)?:
"In my opinion, 2009 marks the year when the emerging church suddenly and decisively ceased to be a radical and controversial movement in global Christianity. In many places around the world, the movement has already been either adopted, adapted, or made redundant through the traditional church catching up or duplicating EC efforts."
"In 2009, the emerging church either grew up, stopped being offensive, switched gear from experimental to normal, became the new mainstream, or a bit of each."
Andrew fleshes it out a bit more in his 10 types of emerging church that will no longer upset your grandfather, which he lists as:
- Culture-based communities
- GenX, Postmodern, and "Emergent"
- The new-monastic orders and intentional communities, as well as Celtic churches
- House churches, simple churches, organic churches
- Cyberchurch and virtual online communities
- Alternative worship/fresh expression/new-liturgical churches
- Pub churches and coffee shop churches
- The contemplative prayer movement
- Christians who dont go to church, sometimes called "Churchless" Christians" or "believers who don't belong"
- Social enterprises leading to missional communities
Andrew is wondering what the contribution of the emerging church is now, or if its contribution has already been made (by affecting the mainstream) and that now there isn't a necessity for its existence.
I've always thought that the value of the emerging church conversation is because it operates at a higher/more abstract/more general level than theology/church/practice. The conversation (at its best) is about how we have a conversation with others who are different to us, about how we hold our faith, about how we approach our theology, and about how the bigger stories which we live within shape us and our faith.
I'm glad the conversation has helped contribute to new forms of church, but the conversation isn't done.