Maintenance Exhaustion: A postscript to the debate on emerging church

Author: Jonathan Ingleby is a co-editor of Encounters and Postgraduate lecturer in mission at Redcliffe College.


The debate about ‘emerging church’ is thought to be a debate about theology, more specifically missiology and ecclesiology. In some cases it is. I notice that even the term ‘emerging church’ can provoke a theological debate (see the conversation posted on the discussion board of the last edition of Encounters, where one assumption is that ‘emerging church’ necessarily suggests that behind the term lies a postmodern epistemology which is unfaithful to the gospel). Certainly those involved initially in the Base Ecclesial Communities in Latin America (see Article 2) might want to claim that their whole movement was empowered by a different ecclesiology – less ‘high’, less hierarchical, less priestly – than that of the mainline Roman Catholic church of their day. As for the movement among Muslim Background Believers to establish their own fellowships rather than join already existing Christian formations, this too might express theological differences – in the case cited in Article y a profound difference over theological language, for example.
Nevertheless, I wonder whether, in Britain particularly, there is not something else going on at the same time, something much more simple, which you could call ‘maintenance exhaustion’ and which might be revealed not by theological reflection but by a little sociological analysis. Let me explain.

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