Not only are there strengths and weaknesses within the EM movement itself, but there are also outside factors which can help us examine its potential.
Many people see the EM church poised to reach several of the needs and orientations that people now have due to cultural change in Western society. Michael Moynagh lists various key changes, such as:
- the fading out of churches – churches that pop up ‘outside of the box’ can attract people’s attention;
- the urban struggle for time and money – churches can revise what expectations are placed on their congregations and how they find and use their financial and human resources;
- hyper choice (personalised consumerism) – people are looking for churches that meet them on a personal level and share their values (this would also need to be challenged, as an encounter with Christ and his church should challenge some of our values, not simply cater to all our personal preferences);
- spiritual spending – people’s consumer choices are often towards ‘products’ in which they hope to find “identity, acceptance, belonging, connection to the whole and meaning” – all of which the church and faith in Jesus can supply. Another inroad for EM churches is their emphasis on social justice – the secular world is becoming increasingly sympathetic to ‘good causes’, and they are more likely to connect with churches who want to ‘make poverty history’ than with those who are only pointing their fingers at “litmus test issues as homosexuality and abortion”;
- experience economy (shopping, eating, and activities are geared toward not just another boring consumption, but creating atmosphere and memories – ‘an experience’) – there is an opportunity to create churches that don’t just have ‘services’ comprised of standard segments, but instead where rich experiences can be created, where the synergy of creativity, atmosphere, community, transformation, service and symbolic actions combine to help people enter into an experience of God’s Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven”;
- liquid lives (people live flexibly with transitions, ages, expectations and life choices) – times, demographics and expectations can be remixed into a surprising ‘church cocktail’; and,
- relational recreation (people’s relationship-building is shaped by their choices of leisure and consumption) – so church groups can gather and evangelise enjoyably, centred around relationships and shared leisure preferences, rather than having to approach people with whom they have little in common.
In light of these changes, Moynagh sees huge opportunities for churches to be mission-minded in various forms. He argues there are open doors for traditional church (established models), rooted church (locality based), brand church (marketed as a particular style to a specific network), liquid church (personalised, mobile, flexitime), workplace church, and hybrids of any and all of these models. McLaren is concerned that “a large number of people who grow up in our modern churches…will leave and never return” – and therefore, there is not only a great opportunity, but also a huge responsibility to re-express the Christian faith for life in the emerging postmodern culture.
But taking on this responsibility isn’t as overwhelming as it may seem – many people are naturally responding to changing environments and subconsciously adjusting way they express their faith and ministry. Many people who have never heard of an ‘EM movement’ can be found doing things that look very much like it. Moynagh tells of a young couple who started simply relating with the young people in the estate where they live, which has now led to creating an open home to develop towards a Christian community: “Till we heard you speak, we didn’t know it was called ‘emerging church’”.
Newness and Adjustability
Another opportunity the EM church presents is simply in its newness – when a movement is young and still growing, it is much easier to adjust its shape and direction, creating and modifying new, healthy church cultures. This is especially encouraging because although I have identified some weaknesses, there is still enough flexibility and freedom to question and change in the EM movement so that any weaknesses may be overcome before they are entrenched in the movement’s foundations and structure.
Furthermore, Jonathan Wright has even suggested that the battle for women to be truly seen and treated as equals in the church might be simply sidelined if church is recreated in a new form (such as the EM paradigm), and thus role descriptions and prejudices of how a leader should look or behave (which in many more established churches are subconsciously shaped or even explicitly written towards a male bias) can be simply bypassed.
 Michael Moynagh, emergingchurch.intro (Oxford: Monarch Books) 2004, pp.59-74
 Ibid.,, p.68
 James F. Engel, “A Search for Christian Authenticity” in Mike Yaconelli (ed.), Stories of Emergence: Moving from Absolute to Authentic (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan) 2003, p.122
 Mt 6:10
 Michael Moynagh, emergingchurch.intro (Oxford: Monarch Books) 2004, pp.76-83
 Brian McLaren, “We’re Not Finished” in Mike Yaconelli (ed.), Stories of Emergence: Moving from Absolute to Authentic (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan) 2003, p.226
 Michael Moynagh, emergingchurch.intro (Oxford: Monarch Books) 2004, p.27
 Frank Viola also writes of EM church strengths and weaknesses with this hope in “Will the Emerging Church Fully Emerge?”. Online: https://www.emergingchurch.info/reflection/frankviola/index.htm
 Personal conversation, November 18, 2005