January 27, 2021

Three Streams in the Post-Evangelical Wilderness

By Chaplain Mike

Here at IM, we recently noted that Scot McKnight joined a conversation at Patheos on “The Future of Evangelicalism” with his article “The Old Coalition Is Passing.”

In his article, Scot observes that the old coalition of evangelicalism has become fragmented into “alternatives and elements” rather than an identifiable coalition. In particular, there are three movements within evangelical faith and practice that have grown into prominent streams:

…first, the ancient-future movement spearheaded by Robert Webber; second, the emergent/emerging movement spearheaded by young thinkers and leaders like Brian McLaren who knew that fundamentalism and the neo-evangelical coalition weren’t listening to the youth culture; and third, the revival of Calvinism among the NeoReformed, spearheaded — almost singlehandedly, I think — by John Piper and those who flocked to his side. Within this NeoReformed movement is the massive influx of Southern Baptists, who were formerly neither as vocal in their Calvinism nor as concerned with the older neo-evangelical coalition, but who are now undoubtedly a (if not the) major voice in the NeoReformed and fundamentalist awakening among some evangelicals.

These, says McKnight, are not the only alternatives—certain evangelical denominations, prominent megachurches and parachurch ministries maintain positions of influence, for example. However, these three particular movements have attracted a lot of adherents and attention in this post-evangelical era.

Over the next three weeks, we here at IM will devote several posts to each of these three streams running through the post-evangelical wilderness.

We are doing this precisely because we are NOT experts with regard to these movements. We want to learn more. We want to hear your experiences. As pilgrims trying to negotiate the post-evangelical landscape, we are interested to hear of your involvement and interaction with these three groups that have grown so much over the past 10-15 years.

Please join the conversation.


  1. Isaac (the poster formerly known as Obed) says

    This’ll be fun 🙂

  2. I haven’t read or heard anything by Robert Webber, but I’m wondering if the house/simple-church movement is considered to be part of the ancient future movement. And, if not, which (if any) of these three streams are homechurchers fishing in? Just curious.

    • It could, but the ancient future movement shows a strong appreciation for the universal church and orthodoxy, especially as seen in the period of the creeds. So the traditional model is not frowned upon, and is in some ways more appreciated (especially the liturgy).

      However, the house-church movement does fit in some descriptions of a stream in the emerging church.

      As Ed Stetzer wrote, it fits the “Reconstructionist” stream of the emerging church:
      “The reconstructionists think that the current form of church is frequently irrelevant and the structure is unhelpful. Yet, they typically hold to a more orthodox view of the Gospel and Scripture. Therefore, we see an increase in models of church that reject certain organizational models, embracing what are often called “incarnational” or “house” models.”

      • Thanks, Rick. I think you may have pegged a lot of what the house/simple church movement is about — though I suspect my own particular simple church fellowship is a bit of a hybrid mutant on the evolutionary tree of Christianity. Mainly, we’re just group of close Christian friends and family who — after our larger, more traditional church fellowship fell apart — have found home church to be a very cost-effective, low-maintenance way to continue our fellowship and our friendships in Christ. But we really don’t have any long-term plans or ambitions for conquering the world. We just love each other, and we love Jesus — and we’re kind of skittish about hanging any additional ornaments on our tree.

  3. The history lesson is greatly appreciated. It doesn’t answer all of the questions, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. The discussion on the neo-reformed will be particularly interesting. Like neo-evangelicalism, it may draw in a lot of elements which are not truly “reformed”. For example, Martin Luther was a reformer, but he definitely was not “reformed” – in a Calvin/Zwingli sense.

  4. What about Word of Faith/Prophetic movement? It’s older, though ’emerging’ in new, contemporary forms. We may not want to take Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Bill Johnson, Rick Joyner, and TD Jakes seriously, but they have massive followings and tons of money. And globally they have huge export power multiplying across Africa and Latin America especially.

  5. I minister in the midwest in a city of less than 100,000, so honestly, most of my experience with these is through reading and conferences and college ministries rather than churches who fit these groups in my observation. I am unfamiliar with Webber, but have heard the term ancient future used by emerging churches. My perceptions of authors in the emerging and neo-reformed camps have been much like dating used to be. My first perception was “Wow!”, then I got to know them (or at least their writing). No strong dislike developed, just a more realistic perception.

    It seems to me that the influence of the emerging movement is waning ;if not among thinkers and organizations, at least in the trenches of ministry. Their prophetic voice has been heard. It has been headed by some and ignored by others, but their positives are being absorbed into the mainstream. Most young churches in our area that identify with this movement are “emerging” in all the ways that Dan Kimball first explained as least important (ie. ascetics and worship styles), and poor children’s ministry. This is unfortunate because I had hoped to learn from them in the area of promoting family discipleship as they began to have children. note: best book on the emerging church is “Why We’re Not Emergent; by Two Guys Who Should Be”

    In my experience, the reo-reformed seem to be Mark Droscoll as much as Piper, thou I enjoy reading both. Again, its not a big topic among churches here (except one) That fascinates me about Driscoll (if not the whole movement) is that he labels himself as reformed (actually he has a hip descriptive name that includes reformed or Calvinism: sorry cant remember the name but its in Vintage Church) and then goes on to describe his theology in very Armenian terms.

    Looking forward to others thoughts and experiences

  6. Only slightly off-topic: This morning my ipod accidentally started an old iMonk podcast, and Michael’s familiar voice said he was speaking “from his reserved seats high above the evangelical circus…”

    I had to smile, and I thought of John 14:1-4 as those familiar words took on a new meaning.
    I will be glad when all the ‘streams’ of Christendom flow together again on day and we all take our reserved seats along with Michael.

  7. Headless Unicorn Guy says

    Does the “Neo-Reformed” stream have anything to do with the Hyper-Calvinists and what this blog has called the “Truly Reformed”?

  8. Since when should the Church listen to the youth culture? Shouldn’t the youth culture be listening to the Church?

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