Why I Am Not Emergent

Recently, people have been stopping me on the street and saying to me, “Michael, you’re a well-respected voice of reason in these uncertain times; tell me, what do you think of the Emerging Church Movement? And also, nice shoes!”

Well, my good friends, I feel the time has come for me to give a public answer on the question of the Emerging Church Movement, or ECM as the kids are calling it these days. After an exhaustive few days of studying their blog and reading their book, I feel both compelled and qualified to speak. I am not now, nor will I ever be a part of the ECM, for the following five reasons:

1) I can’t afford the clothing. Instead of normal clothes, like khakis and a polo, the ECM has adopted as its uniform a kind of gothic/grunge/indie look. In the rush to sell out to the idol of relevance, even their leaders are dressing like they just crashed their Vespas into an Urban Outfitters. Do we really need another part of the body of Christ so bent on cultural appropriateness that they make people buy a whole new set of clothing just to fit in? Until and unless the ECM starts wearing normal people clothes, I will never be emergent.

2) ECM people don’t believe that the Bible has any value. The following quote comes from Brian McLaren’s book, The Last Word of the Temptation of Christ, and it serves as a kind of manifesto for the movement. In it, he states:

“I … book … bad for … reading … to … bible.” (pg 45-86, selected)

Could their position be any clearer? They hate the Bible! Without the firm foundation of biblical truth, is it any wonder that these people are casting about for other spiritual guides to fill the void? Until and unless the ECM returns to the Bible as the foundation of the Christian faith, I will never be emergent.

3) The ECM prays sky-clad to the moon-goddess. The ECM has embraced something called “Celtic Spirituality”, which is basically the same thing as Wicca. The primary mode of worship in Wicca is stripping naked and praying to the Moon Goddess and her Horned Consort. Horned? Like the Devil? Yes! Instead of studying the scriptures, these young people are composing grimiores, watching Lord of the Dance, and reveling in the pagan mysticisms of the Wicca-Celtic black arts! Nowhere in scripture does it say that we should allow Celtic culture to influence Christian culture; in fact, the Bible doesn’t even mention the Celts! Until and unless the ECM leaders renounce public nudity, Wicca, and Celtic Druidism, I will never be emergent.

4) The ECM has embraced postmodernism. Instead of being at home in the mechanistic formalism of the International Style, the ECM has whole-heartedly embraced a return to wit, ornament, and irony. Whether it’s the eclectic referencing of Sterling’s Staatsgalerie Stuttgart, the elusive angularity of Thom Mayne’s University of Cincinnati Student Rec Center, or the sweeping monochrome expanses of Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Bilbao, this kind of flagrant collapse of foundationalism has no place in our church. How can we offer any hope to people if we ourselves have forsaken the certain foundations of the past to embrace the uncertainty of the present? Until and unless the ECM steps back from the precipice of postmodernism, and returns to the firm footing of foundationalism, I will never be emergent.

5) ECM people eat their young. I don’t want to gossip, so I won’t name any names here, but I have a friend who is part of an emerging church in Seattle, who heard this story about this other emerging church where, instead of taking communion in the normal way, they eat their own young! Is this really the sort of thing we want to be encouraging in our church? I mean, it’s one thing for the Irish to do it, like say if they had a big famine or what not, but for the church to embrace it as a sacrament is outrageous! What ever happened to wine and bread? Until and unless the ECM publicly renounces child cannibalism, except in cases of extreme Irish famine, I will never be emergent.

I have attempted to contact the leaders of the ECM to discuss my concerns, but both emails were returned unopened. Since they refuse to dialog on these issues, my only recourse is to air these concerns publicly, in the blog-o-net. I hope that this post can be the start of a broad conversation. I’d like to hear from you, so feel free to post in the comment section below. Regardless of whether you agree with me, or if you disagree with the ECM, whether you are Fundamentalist or a Conservative Evangelical, all opinions are welcome.

132 thoughts on “Why I Am Not Emergent

  1. grace


    This is destined to become a classic reference article concerning the emerging church movement.

    I hope it gets lots of mileage. :)

  2. ScottB

    I shot milk right out of my nose when I read this. Or I would have, if I had been drinking milk. Come to think of it, I don’t like milk. So this post would never have made me shoot milk out of my nose, no matter how funny. But still, great post.

  3. Pingback: Subversive Influence » Scratch that, I’m no longer Emergent.

  4. Karen and Bobby

    You have totally cleared up this entire emergent “thing” for me Michael! Thank you! Now I can comfortably go back to my mega-church and stop asking questions. I know for sure that those crazy emergents are out of control!

    :0) Karen

  5. robbymac

    Enlightenment! Oh, sweet intellectual illumination leading me out of the dank, dark caverns of ecm absurdity!

    ‘Course, now I have to rewrite two years’ worth of blog posts…

  6. Pingback: Pat Loughery @ Mt. Si Vineyard » Blog Archive » Strike that; I’m not emergent/ing after all

  7. jeremy bouma

    I am at Princeton Theological Seminary right now sitting in on a 30 person Emerging Church Caucus with Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, Karen Ward, et al. I’ll be sure to bring up your concerns with the Emergent Board :)


  8. aly hawkins

    Your mind is both brilliant and very, very sick. And I love you, too…but in a less questionable way than Chad.
    My favorite are the Google ads. The Most Powerful Wicca and Magical Jewelry and Discount pagan & wiccan supplies. That rawks.

  9. michael lee Post author

    Thank you, soulpastor. Your public vow to forsake infant cannibalism gives me hope that the ECM can lay aside its abberant behavior, and return to the one true faith.

  10. Joe

    Why does the church keep looking to marketing gimmicks and fads like there is something there that will save them? Hello the answer is Jesus! That is the only thing that saves. Quit trying to make it so complicated! :)

    Ecclesiastes 1:9 (NIV)
    9 What has been will be again,
    what has been done will be done again;
    there is nothing new under the sun.

  11. michael lee Post author

    paul, i have no idea what you’re talking about … what’s the Oscar Myer Wiener arguement? And is it any relation to Richard Meier?

    And, for the record, I have always been apposed to sky-clad goddess worship, and opposed to infant cannibalism.

  12. Bob Robinson

    I have another scandalous fact to bring up:
    I’ve seen people in the ECM drinking beer at their leadership meetings! There’s pictures that prove it!
    Until they abstain from alcohol, to show their spiritual maturity, I too will not be emergent.

  13. Nathan

    I like weiners, I like Guinness, but not children so much…
    They’re far too chewy and get stuck in your teeth.

    My gut hurts from laughing. Great post.

  14. theoldbill

    Ojections to ec folk eating their young might be primarily due to demographics – a disproportionate number are young and, therefore have young children. Add a few years. Children become adolescents. . . might not be so bad. . .

  15. Pingback: The Upward Way Press » Think Again

  16. michael lee Post author

    Old Bill, it sounds to me like you’re just looking to excuse their behavior until circumstances change it for them … I must insist that non-irish-famine infant cannibalism isn’t the sort of thing we should just wait for people to outgrow.

  17. Tim White

    It’s true – how can you say a portion of the church is emerging? It’s like that scene from Ace Ventura when he’s birthed from that Rhino costume, right? The church being birthed out of a, er…Rick Warren costume? bleackkkk.

  18. Jennifer

    Oh my…that is the funniest thing ever.

    I posted on my blog about a converation between my son and our emergent pastor last night that almost proves the point about eating the young…

  19. Pingback: Epicjourneys » Great Post

  20. Chad


    I think there are a few of us here who aren’t sure about emergent… but we are sure that it’s critics eat their young.

  21. Dee

    Congratulations. You have succeeded not only in not being enlightening, but you are not funny either. If it comes down to having to choose only between your kind and the emergents–I’ll choose the emergents.

  22. Chad

    No, Dee is correct. Michael is neither funny nor enlightened. He is also a poor poker player and can only play songs in C major. He walks funny too.

  23. Bill

    FUNNY! Thanks for a great laugh. It was made all the better that I though you were totally serious after the first paragraph.

  24. Clark

    I’ve been trying to decipher the whole emergent thing for myself recently and this cleared things up tremendously! Thanks!

  25. Pingback: addison road » Blog Archive » Why I Am Not Emergent

  26. michael lee Post author

    Grey Owl, thank you for joining the growing list of Emergent people willing to renounce non-irish-famine infant cannibalism.

    To all who enjoyed it, thanks! It was fun to write.

  27. Grey Owl


    Wait, what does “irony” mean?

  28. Luke

    After reading this post, I thought I’d finally found a church home, and rushed out to join the nearest emergent church. First, I couldn’t find one. Anywhere. Then, when I finally did find a church that claimed to be one, I was deeply and tragically disappointed… I AM Irish, and I’ve seen what those young turn into…

    Oh, well. The faith journey continues.

  29. Mark

    Combining “Children’s Church” and a class on “Cooking for Young Marrieds” just seems like an idea destined to have its day. One grounding thought, though… is it possible that the Urban Outfitters wardrobe is more an expression of a common lifestyle and not so much a uniform? It seems to me that the polo shirt and khakis are just as much a uniform for MegaChurch America. I would personally very much prefer nude worship to the thought of ever again dressing like a Circuit City Manager to fit in with the leadership at church.

  30. corey

    holy snot, this is good stuff.

    oh… I mean… this sucks… You’re not funny. or enspired. or inlightened. or straight.

    The Disciples of Dee

  31. Pingback: Subversive Influence » Contemplative Kids & Emergent-No

  32. Pingback: PhilThreeten

  33. Carl

    Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, (2 Peter 3:3)

  34. aly hawkins

    Affirmative on the scoffing (in a good-natured kind of way). Negative on the walking lusts thing. But thanks for the reminder, Carl.

  35. Morphea

    Ahhh, prooftexting. I love prooftexting.
    Walking lusts. I like that. I’m fielding an unholy obsession with the lead singer of Stellastarr* these days and actually caught myself experiencing high levels of lust whilst walking home from work the other day.
    Come down, sweet Jesus.

  36. tallskinnykiwi

    ahhh . . hate to take issue but the Bible does mention Celts.

    the original celts migrated from central europe to many places including galatia. that is why the words “gaelic” “celt” “Gaul” (in france) and the book of “Galatians” in the Bible are all connected.

    but apart from that – your research is exemplary and your argument compelling.

    i think i will refuse to be emergent also.

  37. Dan

    You must have gone to the Lighthouse Trails Research training school on what the emerging church is with some consulting by Carla by emergentno. You have found us all out.

  38. Pingback: speakingbeauty » props to Addison Road blog

  39. Mark

    Do I have to sell my Vespa? I have been thinking for some time that it really is a tool of Roman domination anyway but now I realise that it is contrary to scripture as the two wheeled transport of God is the Triumph Motorcycle … though I’m not sure how it is possible to arrive in a Triumph? I also came across this warning in scripture against ECM clothing “you put on clothes but are not warm” Haggai 1… surely the Lord is saying that those who wear baggy cotton t-shirts and ripped jeans are of the Devil… He is calling us to be attired in the appointed and annointed attire.. thick multi-couloured arran knit jumpers and corduroy trousers with sensible shoes … anything else is surely apostate!

  40. Steve Bufton

    I don’t have any children. Does that mean I couldn’t be emergent even if I wanted to be?
    (On the other hand, I suppose most emergents don’t have any children any more either… )

  41. Pingback: less travelled » not emergent

  42. Michael Giobbe

    A reflective, well-reasoned and timely response to a burgeoning crisis. Crisis, I say. Burgeoning. Of course in these confused and uncertain times, it may be that many who dress casually, ride Vespas and eat their young during Celtic Moon Goddess rituals–naked, of course–don’t even know that they’ve become Emergent.

  43. aly hawkins

    HELLO…tagline alert! “A burgeoning crisis. Crisis, I say. Burgeoning.” Emphatic, yet not at all alarmist.

  44. Michael Giobbe

    Thanx, Aly. I’m honored more than you can know to be taglined in my first post to the blog. (Now, of course, the temptation is to audition for the tagline every time. One I must resist, for the good of my soul).

  45. Pingback: Sacred Journey » Blog Archive » You Might NOT Be Emergent If… - Blog of Mark Traphagen

  46. Pingback: Jesus Creed » Blogs of the Week

  47. CJ

    Ok, OK, I won’t eat any more of my children. Just don’t say anything to the remaining kids though. It is amazing how well behaved they are now.

  48. Pingback: richard cleaver » Blog Archive » Theological Worldview

  49. Derek

    This article is laughable. Was the guy who wrote it serious? Next time he writes something he ought to put some more thought into it. I’m not necessarily part of the ECM, but I know enough to realize a poser when I see one.

  50. Morphea

    Excellent, Michael. Blog prooftexting. Way to flood this clever man with 20 million links just to shut him up.

    Funny, you’d thing this many postive responses to your entry would preclude any need for people to do the chin-stroking “Hm. This guy needs to think this through a little better.” but I guess I’m dead wrong. After all, popularity doesn’t mean quality. I mean, look at Britney Spears.

    You just might be the Britney Spears of Emergent Church satire.


  51. Morphea

    Oh, crap. Those weren’t links. They were pingbacks. DAMN YOU, BLOG IGNORANCE!! I take back my admiration of your link-flooding.


  52. Jon Russell

    Sarcasm has become a vice amoung the ECM flock. He actually had me going until the “eating the young” part!!! However I attend Imago Dei in Portland and rumors have gotten to us about that Mars Hill Church in Seattle. LOL I was starting to question my allegiance to my celtic wiccan roots.

  53. Morphea

    Dudes, just as an FYI – I live in Seattle, and Mars Hill is not emerging one bit. They’re a seeker-sensitive fundie Sandy Patti concert who brag that they’ve got Goths in their congregation.

    But not gay Goths. And their women are submissive.

    They do eat their young, though. That’s why they’re such aggressive recruiters, because their next generation of fundies is the main entrée.


  54. MacIke

    While I am not into ECM, as I have just heard about it… I am somewhat sympathetic. Every complaint raised is exaclty the same I have complained about the Baby Boomer churches, esp the seeker driven church and other models.


  55. Jono

    Hey Michael, what kind of shoes do you have on? Would POMO-churches be considered as apart of the ECM? I hear the pastors at Freedomize don’t wear shoes. They be POMO. I think.

  56. john

    aww man, that is funny as hell…. (i’m guessing you aren’t really seriously against the ecm at heart, right?)

  57. Pingback: between now and not yet » Blog Archive » why i am not emergent… setting it straight

  58. Pingback: The UnChurch » Blog Archive » WHY I AM NOT EMERGENT

  59. Pingback: //re:generative divergence » Blog Archive » ‘Why I Am Not Emergent’

  60. bob

    Hey Michael-

    This is good stuff… I was wondering if I could have permission to publish this in next Month’s Next Wave?

    Also, I’ve started a new Adventures in Emerging column that consists of photopieces like so

    I’d love to feature some of the ones you’ve done like this one

    What do you think?

  61. Sharolyn

    What was the order? Did it go

    1) Brian McLaren’s 30 page article, “why I am emergent” (which I am not finding online)


    2) James McDonald’s “Why I am not emerging”


    3) This?

  62. michael lee Post author

    [quote comment="35157"]What was the order? Did it go

    1) Brian McLaren’s 30 page article, “why I am emergent” (which I am not finding online)


    2) James McDonald’s “Why I am not emerging”


    3) This?[/quote]

    Pretty much, except that I didn’t really read the McLaren article. (For a guy with ECM sympathies, I’ve read almost none of McL’s stuff. And the stuff I have read I didn’t particularly care for.)McDonald’s salvo came during a time when it seemed like every single “authoritative” voice in the evangelical and fundamentalist circles were giving their opinions on why the ECM was a heretical monster from the 9th circle of hell.

    The one thing that they all had in common was a total lack of understanding of what the movement consisted of, heavy reliance on conjecture and hearsay, and an incredibly condescending tone. It’s my hope that this parody managed to capture all of those things.

  63. Sharolyn

    I read the parody before I knew anything of the EC, and thought it was hilarious. It stands on its own, yet makes more sense now that I have done some reading.

    I’m shocked that you haven’t read McLaren! I thought he was Mr. Emerging Church. I’m still learning.

    How were you introduced to the emerging church? I had never heard of it before Addison Rd.

  64. Chris seay

    Dude…for the last time get this straight….. I was not completely nude at the full moon festival. I was wearing RC Sproul boxers the whole time!

    great piece of work! my hat’s off to you for making me smile today.


    Chris Seay

  65. John Frye

    I agree with TSK. This analysis of and warning about the ECM is the best researched I’ve seen. It makes D.A. Carson look soooooo uninformed.

  66. The Real Chad

    ECM does public nudity? Why didn’t anyone tell me?

    You have no idea how many churches and religions that I have been kicked out of for practicing public nudity or even suggesting its practice. It’s unbelievable.

    I thought when you were restored to an unbroken relationship with God, that you were supposed to drop the “fig leaf” and shed the animal skins for your natural created coverings. Coincidently, I have lost several church jobs for using a fig leaf.

    Why is this so frowned upon? Is it because of the raw intensity of the sideways frown?

    Well, from now on I am ECM through and through. Bring on the tasty babies!

  67. Pingback: [ christians * at * large ] » links for 2007-10-01

  68. Pingback: Why I’m Not Emergent… «

  69. Jon

    Did you by chance read what you wrote at all? Im not part of the emergent church but I have done my fair share of research on the topic, and im pretty sure you just called it a cult. Its not a cult, its not gothic or mystical, its simply a group of people contextulizing the gospel to fit a culture without changing the gospel. Please do research before you post something like i heard my friend say they eat people.

  70. Chad

    Remember “Reality Bites?” I still know how to precisely define “Irony,” because of that movie.

    Plus, that was when Winona Ryder was super hot and not a klepto.

  71. Pingback: a great old post on The Emerging Church Movement. | Missional Living

Comments are closed.