In the interview, Todd Hunter mentions “two big problems” with the Emerging movement. (I have my own problems with the movement but we’ll discuss those at another time). Todd’s problems with the Emerging movement are:
“First, the emergents are so sensitive to issues of community, relationship, egalitarianism, and being non-utilitarian in their relationships, that evangelism has simply become a synonym for manipulation—a foul ball, relationally. If you and I were work colleagues and I built a relationship in which I could influence your journey toward Christ, that would be considered wrong in these circles. I cannot be friends with you if I intend to lead you to Christ. “
As Todd points out, the Emerging Movement isn’t something you can “broad-brush”. It’s much too slippery to get a handle on enough to make any real, substantial criticisms, (which is one of my problems with it, but I digress).
In Todd’s response I would tend to agree, as he states it, but I would also agree with those who feel it’s manipulative to make friends for the purpose of evangelism. I guess I would amend Todd’s statement to say, “I cannot be friends with you only because I intend to lead you to Christ.” It’s the recruitment motive that bothers me, and I think a few others, when it comes to targeting people as conquests rather than learning to love people no matter what their faith, or whether or not they eventually become followers of Jesus. I think what has to be intentional is our love of others, not evangelism itself. I believe in intentionally loving someone and praying for God to reveal Himself to them, but I do not believe in intentionally targeting someone simply to convert them to my faith.
One helpful question I believe we should ask is, “Am I willing to be someone’s friend for the rest of my life, even if they never convert to my faith?” If at any point in the relationship I would abandon the friendship and move on to a better prospect then, I believe, we’re not really fulfilling the Lord’s command to love others. Love isn’t conditional. It should remain and be sustained regardless of whether or not it is reciprocated. Love should continue apart from agreement on matters of faith.
Todd’s second problem is the one I take the most issue with.
“Second, after 10 or 12 years of the emerging church, you have to ask where anything has been built. Evangelism has been so muted and the normal building of structures and processes hasn't moved forward because there's no positive, godly imagination for doing either evangelism or leadership.”
Thanks for saying this for all us who value the proclam,ation of the Gospel and the use of wise method as opposed to the emergent organic way.