I’m sure there are others with a more precise handle on this than I. But I seem to hear/read “missional” and “emerging” in reference to postmodern theology/practices of church as interchangeable terms. This bothers me. I like very much the term “missional” but I’m not as keen on “emerging.” Here’s why…
Basically, it seems to me that “missional” defines itself constructively, regarding what it is for/about. Being “missional” or engaging the “missional” conversation means a certain approach to the gospel, Scripture, theology, church, the kingdom of God, spirituality, and ministry that is trying to work out God’s cross-formed, Spirit-animated mission in the world.
“Emerging,” however, defines itself negatively, by what it is moving away from or leaving. In many cases, it seems that “emerging” people, ministries, churches, etc are basically saying, “We’re not like this or that conservative evangelical or fundamentalist _______ in our theology, or practice, or whatever. We are emerging from that.”
That statement could be true and could be good, but that doesn’t seem to change the fact that it is necessarily negatively defined in reference to what it isn’t instead of by reference to what it is. “Missional,” on the other hand, says what it is or seeks to be about. This just strikes me as a better, more healthy way to talk about oneself.