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The emerging church is not blond male with a goatee

[originally posted at One Great City – Chicago: Surprising Insights from 2006 Congress on Urban Ministry]

Rev. Soong-Chan Rah: The Emerging Church

Within a decade or so, the majority of Christians in the United States will be non-white. I can say that with confidence because all the sociological trends, all the ways the white church is declining and all the ways the immigrant church, the African American church, the Spanish-speaking church is growing by leaps and bounds. Within a decade, in every metropolitan corner of the United States, we are going to see more non-white Christians than white Christians.

Why is it that the leadership is still all white? Time magazine does an article on the top 25 evangelical leaders. Twenty-three of those spots are filled by white evangelicals. Why is it that the face of the "emerging church" is always white? I look at invitations I get to conferences on the emerging church, and it's the same old story. They'll have a leadership of 40 people, and one or two will be non-white. The message is that the next generation of leadership that is supposed to come out of this emerging church movement is a perpetually 29-year-old blond male with a goatee.

The emerging church is not that 29-year-old blond male with a goatee. The emerging church is the young black male in the urban setting. The emerging church is the young Latina female. The emerging church is the second-generation Haitian American. The emerging church is the child of Brazilian immigrants. That's the true emerging church. And when we talk about leadership, we have to see that the leadership of the next generation cannot be all white because that's what we've had to put up with for the last 50 years.

The white captivity of the church means that there is time when those of us coming from the boundaries, not in the existing power structure of the American evangelical church, need to take on greater positions of leadership. Even though we might feel we're not up to the task, even though our self-image tells us we're not good enough, not strong enough, or not white enough, it's time for us as young Asian Americans, Caribbean Americans, Native Americans and Latino Americans to start taking on the mantle of leadership.

(Rev. Soong-Chan Rah is Senior Pastor of Cambridge Community Fellowship Church, Cambridge, Massachusetts. He is a contributor to Growing Healthy Asian American Churches, and was recently appointed to the faculty of North Park Theological Seminary, Chicago, Illinois.)


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9 responses to “The emerging church is not blond male with a goatee

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  2. Sivin

    The emerging church includes some Chinese guy who’s not too sure whether he’s pure Chinese, living in a country with a majority of Muslims, trying to figuring out how to be a pastor in a Lutheran denomination tired of being boxed in formulations that confine more than really define, willing to explore conversations moving beyond existing boundaries, seeking to have imagination on how church is genuinely local and yet globally connected, historically faithful and yet creatively looking into the future … this is already becoming a long sentence. .. there’s more… yet to be discovered. 🙂

  3. dpark

    I’m a little confused by this article to be honest. I understand by what he means demographically, that by the numbers, we need to step up to the plate, but does he really mean “emerging church”? Many pastors that I’ve met seem very suspicious of emerging church, and the “conversation” is only beginning to grow into other ethnic groups. I know it’s not like this everywhere, but in the Southeast US, I can’t even imagine any Korean church that I know of that would even get their arms around the notion of emerging church. I don’t know what it’s like in the Northeast, but maybe we’re lagging behind. We’re good for grits though — really good grits.

  4. djchuang

    Honesty is always commendable, in my book anyways. I think the generic term “emerging church” here is used to refer to the church in the near future, that looks a bit different than today’s church. “Emerging church” is the broadest umbrella term, if you will, that refers to changes that are happening in a number of churches that look something different than churches as we know it today or yesterday.

    To distinguish, “emergent church” is more of a subset of “emerging church”, and “emergent” welcomes conversations about church, faith, and theology, without a specific doctrinal statement to confine (and constrain) the dialogue, working off of the theory that all truth is God’s truth.

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  8. mannrc

    Can it be that the emerging church is an effort to treasure what is old, of righteousness and obedience,and also be open to the new, of grace and mercy? What do you think?

  9. randplaty

    Yeah he shouldn’t use the term emerging church if he means “church of the future” because emerging church means something completely different to the rest of us. If he is using emerging church in the sense of a postmodern church movement, then he shouldn’t be citing the top 25 evangelicals from TIME. Either way, the article is confusing.

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