Who/What are “emergent Brethren”? Here’s another piece of history, with some suggestions for moving forward…

Steve Longenecker of Bridgewater College recently published “The Brethren in an Age of World War,” a source book of Brethren history, covering the years 1914-1950. He begins the book by telling the story of Raymond and Laura Cottrell, who in 1913 left the United States as mission workers in India. Both were medical doctors, and served in India until the late 1940’s. He ends the book by describing the formation of Brethren Volunteer Service, which happened about the same time the Cottrell’s returned home.

Along the way, Brother Longenecker makes the case that during this era of Brethren history, we shifted from being mission-minded to being service-minded. In the early 1900’s (and before), our members (especially our youth) were encouraged to give their lives for mission. By the mid-1900’s (and continuing to today) our members are encouraged to serve.

I believe the emergent/missional church will again pick up the mission-minded approach to discipleship—prayerfully seeking the places where God is at work in the world—and combining it with the service-minded approach to discipleship, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and even loving our enemies. We must reject the “church as club” model, which invites people into a church that doesn’t reach out to the world at all. We must also reject “service in the name of service only”, which seeks to serve other people but not tell them in whose name we serve.

The task of the emergent church will be to put these pieces together as we live our faith in the communities surrounding our churches, and in the world around us.