Reprise: Why We’re Not Emergent

Why We're Not Emergent

Remember 2008?

George W. Bush was finishing his term as president, and Barack Obama was battling John McCain to take over. We were in the middle of the Great Recession. Apple launched its App Store. And we were dealing with something called the emerging church.

The emerging church is a distant memory now, but back then, leaders like Brian McLaren were trying to rethink not only the church but key doctrines of the faith.

In early 2008, Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck released a book called Why We're Not Emergent: By Two Guys Who Should Be. I somehow managed to book them for an interview. I still remember dialing them on Skype from my basement.

16 years later, the emerging church is dead. Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck are much better known. And I don’t think my interview existed anywhere except on my computer.

So I dug it up, edited it, and I’m reposting it. Although some of the issues have changed, many of the ideas they talk about still apply. The interview also gives us a taste of what a 30-year-old DeYoung sounded like before he became as well-known as he is today. (I appreciate that he pushed back at the premise of one of my questions.)

I hope you enjoy this old episode. You can listen below, or find The Gospel for Life podcast on your favorite podcast app.

Key Ideas

  • We must real-life struggles and challenges faced by individuals, such as helping a 45-year-old mom dying of breast cancer, rather than just giving generic spiritual advice.
  • It’s important to value both good doctrine and love within churches, as highlighted in the context of the seven churches of Revelation.
  • Never undervalue the worth and work of ordinary churches and uncool pastors.
  • If you want to fix the church, preach the word.


"I think we would have been ripe for the picking, I guess, for the emergent church. And some of our critiques were, you know, that evangelicals didn't seem to care about the poor. They didn't seem to care about social justice. And I think that's probably what made the emergent church attractive at the time was, Hey, it looked like here are some folks like us who seem to care about this stuff, you know, who seem to be concerned about it." (Ted Kluck)

“Visiting these uncool churches, thinking about the churches we grew up in, there are PhDs worshiping next to hourly workers and everything in between. And you just see this kind of really cool diversity and, you know, people learning from each other, people living their lives together in community." (Ted Kluck)

“The Bible teaching that we've gotten has just been so meaningful and much more meaningful than any other kind of trendy demographic thing that you might look for in a church.” (Ted Kluck)

“I think if we would stop chasing after relevance, we would be so incredibly relevant to our culture if we would be willing to be who we're called to be and be different, not in the way that we all have to dress differently and listen to different music, but we'd have a different ethic and ethos and culture. I think that's the relevance that really matters.” (Kevin DeYoung)

Books mentioned:


Download a PDF transcript of this episode.

Darryl Dash

Darryl Dash

I'm a grateful husband, father, oupa, and pastor of Grace Fellowship Church Don Mills. I love learning, writing, and encouraging. I'm on a lifelong quest to become a humble, gracious old man.
Toronto, Canada