Nadia Bolz-Weber, a Lutheran pastor in Denver, wrote a definition of the emerging church for Sojourners. Here’s a the majority of the article, but if you want to read more, here are the links for the article, her church, and her blog.
Christian communities that emerge out of very particular cultural contexts where the traditional church is basically irrelevant. These cultural contexts are more often than not urban, youngish, and post-modern.
Emerging church is not a worship style. I know emerging churches that do traditional liturgy with jazz (Mercy Seat), who use electronica (Church of the Beloved), who are a capella Gregorian chant (House for All Sinners and Saints), and who do nothing but old-time Southern gospel (House of Mercy).
So, when traditional churches in the suburbs are wanting to attract young people (with all the good intentions in the world) and they ape some kind of worship style they read about in a Zondervan book by starting an “emerging” worship service, it’s a bit … ironic.
There is nothing ideal about these communities. Yes, we need more generational diversity. And yes, we have the same number of issues and problems as other churches. All I know is that about 95% of the people who come to my church were not actually going to any church at all when they joined us.