The Politics of Emerging
James K. A Smith offers a powerful critique on the “emerging church” movement at The Ooze:
For the last few years, our family was a member of an inner-city church in Los Angeles: a community of incredible ethnic and socio-economic diversity with an effective outreach to former gang members from crews like Lennox 13. Since moving to Grand Rapids, we’ve joined another urban congregation with an intentional focus on diversity, racial reconciliation, and community empowerment (in a very disempowered neighborhood). And our family has chosen to live in the community with hopes of being agents of redemption. What does the emerging church have to say to these communities—with horrible public schools (and so little if any postsecondary education) trapped in cycles of family disempowerment because of drugs and incarceration? I’m just not sure that my neighbors, or those that live in the vicinity of our church, are asking the question that, up to this point, the emerging church has been trying to answer. They don’t subscribe to Regeneration Quarterly (and couldn’t afford to if they wanted); and—as a very important indicator of class—they don’t have internet access in their homes. So they’re not reading The Next Wave or The Ooze. While the emerging church wants to be “urban,” in my town it largely ministers to the young urban professionals living in the hip new condos downtown on the riverfront. But how can the emerging church reach those folks living on south Division or at Eastern & Franklin—places those people in the condos won’t drive after dark?
While I don’t have time this morning to reflect on this a great deal, there is a certain socio-economic reality to the conversation of the emerging church. In the same way, it’s not a coincidence that “seeker-senstive” churches are more often than not located in areas with a high socio-economic status. Rich folks (relatively speaking) often have the luxury of finding a church which meets their needs. Poor folk rarely do. And for many poor folk, the concern is less on spiritual fulfillment and more on how to keep the bills paid.
Is there any wonder that the primary form of worship in The Nation here in West Nashville is apocalyptic, pentecostal, and mainly focused on the hereafter?