Some of you may see the title of this post and skip it if for no other reason than that you are tired of seeing Emergent-bashing on this blog. Heck, even if you aren't tired of "bashing," maybe you're just tired of the topic itself.
And I understand that. When all of this Emergent stuff got going I took some comfort in the thought that it was just another church fad that would get its fifteen minutes of fame before fading away into relative unimportance. And frankly it does appear to me that some of the early names in the movement are starting to lose a little bit of the flurry that first surrounded them.
But an important realization hit me yesterday as I began reading Dan Kimball's They Like Jesus but Not the Church: there is a real, serious problem that the Emergent movement is really, seriously trying to address, and we need to really, seriously do the same thing.
Now I am not entirely sure that the Emergent movement will prove itself to be the answer, especially not in its early, more radical forms. In fact I find Kimball's thought in general to be much more palatable than others because he seems less extreme, and, well, less obnoxious (if I can be frank, and that of course isn't to say that us non-Emergents are never obnoxious).
The fact of the matter is that megachurches reach the boomer generation but utterly fail to reach the 18 to 30 year olds. Attractional churches don't attract young people, plain and simple. This problem has become so real to me that I even find myself driving past large church buildings and thinking, "When all of the adults who go there now kick the bucket in however many years, that church will be empty."
Kimball draws a comparison that has haunted me since well before I started his book, "I once heard someone explain that the church in America is not above what happened in Europe...Their great cathedrals and church buildings once were filled with people, but now they sit almost empty on Sunday mornings and serve as tourist attractions...With the increasing [church] dropout rate of people in emerging generations, it could be our destiny that in thirty or forty years, all of our recently constructed megachurch buildings...will end up as virtually empty tourist attractions." (16)
Is the Emergent movement itself a fad? I'm not sure yet. But I am really confident that we need to take seriously the realization that they have been much quicker in coming to than most of us non-Emergents, namely that America is rapidly becoming post-Christian, and we who want to see the name of Christ glorified by the most people possible need to be serious about how to reach the emerging generation with the gospel.
So yes, I'm even a little sick of all this Emergent talk myself. But heed their urgency and think seriously about how the church accomplishes its mission to the world in America. Maybe that's why yet one more post on the Emergent movement is worth our time.