An admittedly controversial element of post-evangelicalism is that many in the emerging movement are skeptical about the “in versus out” mentality of much of evangelicalism. Even if one is an exclusivist (believing that there is a dividing line between Christians and non-Christians), the issue of who is in and who is out pains the emerging generation.
… [Some] say what really matters is orthopraxy and that it doesn’t matter which religion one belongs to, as long as one loves God and one’s neighbor as one’s self. …
This emerging ambivalence about who is in and who is out creates a serious problem for evangelism. The emerging movement is not known for it, but I wish it were. Unless you proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ, there is no good news at all — and if there is no Good News, then there is no Christianity, emerging or evangelical.
As McKnight is one of the leading intellectuals in the emerging church movement, the fact that he insists on evangelism and the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus shows that not all within that movement struggle with this issue.
So I offer here a warning to the emerging movement: Any movement that is not evangelistic is failing the Lord. We may be humble about what we believe, and we may be careful to make the gospel and its commitments clear, but we must always keep the proper goal in mind: summoning everyone to follow Jesus Christ and to discover the redemptive work of God in Christ through the Spirit of God.
I should add that for Churches of Christ, at least, the in vs. out question is tougher than for many. We have a tendency to draw ever-tightening circles for who is in, leaving out many within the Churches and all outside the Churches. And this is not only un-Biblical, it’s deeply unattractive to the lost — as well it should be. This is likely the biggest issue the Churches struggle with: who really is saved?
But there’s a second level of in/out we also tend to get wrong. We treat our converts as in and those not yet converted as out. We often publish directories with asterisks by the names of un-baptized spouses, just so everyone knows not to ask that guy to lead a prayer or pass a communion tray.
However, many churches have taken the opposite tack. They figure that conversion is more likely and more effective when we invite the lost into our church community — not as teachers of doctrine or as elders, but as volunteers in as many areas as possible and as part of our community events. If a pre-convert wants to lead a prayer in small groups, let him. Why suggest that God won’t listen to his prayer? Or that his words are beneath our holy ears? Why not let someone not yet converted oversee the Fall Festival if she has the talent and heart for it?
As a result, in some church plants, there are more visitors than members. And when they go bowling together, the group is likely to have more non-members than members.
And this is not because they don’t care about souls. It’s because they care about souls so much that they can’t help but love these people — and they hope to love them into the church.