The emergent church is a fairly new movement in the Protestant church that considers theological questions about the church and the Bible. Rather than accepting historical church traditions as absolute, emergent church members seek to experience their faith in today's world and seek solutions for today's problems. The emergent church philosophy of religious relevancy has helped attract younger adults back to attending church, but is controversial among both evangelical Protestants and mainline Protestants.
Unlike those in the emergent church, evangelical Protestants feel that the Bible is the absolute truth. They believe that belief in Jesus Christ is absolutely necessary for salvation and that a person must accept that salvation and be "born again." The word "evangelical" comes from the Greek "evangel" meaning the Good News of Jesus; evangelicals believe in spreading the Good News of Jesus.
Like those in the emergent church, mainline Protestants do not feel that the Bible is absolute, but tend to take the content of the Bible in context. They see that different interpretations of Bible scripture are possible. Mainline Protestants do not see conversion as necessary for salvation like evangelicals.
However, many mainline Protestants, like evangelical Protestants, also see the traditions of Christianity as being important. Many mainline Protestants fear that the Bible and traditional Protestant Christianity itself may be lost in the emergent church movement. Evangelical Protestants further protest that the gospel is truth and should not be challenged.
The emergent church, also called the emerging church, is considered post-Protestant, post-evangelical, and postmodern. Whereas modernism is associated with unquestionable truth, postmodernism questions power bases and emotionally manifested ideas behind what is called truth. While modernism sees only one answer, postmodernism sees the possibility of several different answers as well as the possibility that there may sometimes be no immediate or simple answer.
Emergent church members, usually young and white, look for deeper meaning in scripture and ask theological questions such as, "How do we know this is the truth?" and "How do we know this happened?" They believe that following Jesus' teachings today means different things than it did hundreds of years ago. They seek relevancy and feel the Bible can be, and has been, interpreted in many different ways. The emergent church believes that Christianity must be concerned with having a global perspective and not only thinking of the power of the white, middle-class, status quo; emergent church members see the church as having done so traditionally.
Emergent church ministers often wear jeans and allow guitars and modern music during services. The contemporary culture of the emergent church is usually quite informal and couches often replace pews. A face to face communication style where each member is seen as having a voice to be heard is the goal of most emergent church congregations.