Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Emergent (Behind the Scene) Leader

Emergent’s national coordinator is Tony Jones, and Emergent Village has a line-up of significant leaders, and then there are others who exercise leading voices like Brian McLaren and TSK and Steve Taylor and Jordon Cooper and I’ll not try to be even representative because there are so many. But there is one no one talks about:
John Raymond at Zondervan. Perhaps I’m biased, but John knows about as much as anyone about things emerging, he is connected to many of its leaders, and he plays a significant role behind the scenes with publications and events.
I’ve known John since he was a kid; his father was my college basketball coach. After a college degree and some ministry at Bella Vista Church in Grand Rapids, which was cutting-edge at the time (a new kind of Christian in formation), John came to Trinity and was a student and lived in our home one year. He helped me coach the very first baseball team that our son played on (Lukas and John have both gone on to bigger and better things). However, one of the funniest evenings Kris and I have ever had was the night we decided to empty a closet of old clothing. John not only helped, but added fresh, painful, critical commentary on everything we had ever worn. When I pulled out my peach-colored polyester slacks John went into an uproar, and he provided potent commentary on my old leisure suits. Kris and I still laugh everytime we decide to give away old clothing to Amvets — wondering what John would say.
What I saw in John then and still today is a rare combination of knowing theology and trends but at the same time a fierce desire to see it have life in the local church in innovative, fresh, and culture-bridging ways. After some time as an executive pastor, John got back into publishing and is now a major asset at Zondervan. He connects Zondervan with cutting edge ministries — and so he knows all the Willow folks as well as the Emergent folks. I don’t know what role he plays in acquisition of authors and manuscripts, but I do know he’d have a significant voice at any table that needs to know what is going on in the church today.
When I began thinking more seriously about the emerging movement, John was one who told me about major resources and major thinkers, and he was the first one who told me the difference between emerging and emergent. In fact, even after spending a lot of time reading and thinking and talking about the emerging movement, John always brings fresh light to whatever I’m saying or thinking.
Hence, his role this year at NPC with the Critical Concerns Course on the Emerging Church. John was behind it all — facilitating, organizing, thinking, planning, and guiding. I’m sure Tony would say John had a big role in this event, but he also knows John is more than a publication connection, but a leader in the movement.
That’s why he wears shorts and shirts that cover up (if he has a belt) and wears the tell-tale sign: a soul patch.

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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted March 1, 2006 at 9:34 am

I am not sure what I find more encouraging- that there are leaders behind the scene like John or that there are people like you who honour them. Thanks for reminding us how much goes on in this movement that we do not see.

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posted March 1, 2006 at 10:33 am

Zondervan certainly plays a HUGE role in this “conversation”. As I recall they were one of the major sponsors of the conference I attended in SD. I was excited each day with all the “goodies” left on my chair. One was a beautiful Italian leather NIV Bible. It takes their support– money, time, talent,and leadership to help give the emerging church a platform of communication.
Who’d ever thought that Rupert Murdock would play a part in the emerging church?
He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy who would wear flip-flops. :) I mean, he seems like the kind of guy most folks in the emerging church (or Jesus for that matter) wouldn’t like based on some of the things he supports, yet here we find him playing a part in the emergent church.

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Mark Eberly

posted March 1, 2006 at 11:18 am

I’m glad to hear about the heart of John. I recently did put together a tentative bibliography of “emerging church” sources for a dissertation/project and noticed that Zondervan contributed a majority of books on the topic. My post-modern mindset wondered if perhaps the emerging movement was being “pushed” by Zondervan (in order to sell more books) rather than a vehicle through which the emerging leaders finding expression.
This helps to allay my suspicians along with fact that a majority of the sources were not even books but articles, web articles, dissertations, and music.
Thanks for the info.
In Christ,
Mark Eberly

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posted March 1, 2006 at 12:21 pm

In the years i have known John, since he has become part of the emerging church circles i have seen him go through 3 or 4 very distinct hair style changes. I am not sure what that means theologically, but he is not only adventurous in thinking, but also a very progressive hair thinker.

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Scot McKnight

posted March 1, 2006 at 2:03 pm

And I’ve known him longer than you and I’ve seen many changes — whereas I’ve had one hairdo for about 25 years. Bald and short on the sides.

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Gary Raymond

posted March 1, 2006 at 3:26 pm

To all of you: I’ve known John the longest and the deepest and I can affirm much of what you have shared. John has always been an avid reader, a concerned critic, a genuine son and friend, a listener to God, invested in the best for God’s church, creative thinker, and all those other positive qualities that make him a respected man and one that can be trusted with his views. And Scot, save those pants–what goes around, comes around!! Hair styles are John’s way of saying, “He’s still emerging..”

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Scot McKnight

posted March 1, 2006 at 4:03 pm

Emerging sons from emerging fathers!
And nothing about my hair changes or your hair changes?

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John Frye

posted March 1, 2006 at 7:29 pm

I’m happy to applaud John Raymond as well. He’s been a very good, loyal friend; he was a terrific executive pastor at Bella Vista Church, and he’s been informative to me as to many about all things theological that have to do with “church.” John is one of those amazing types who can take in tons of information–through reading, conversation, and variety of media–and then crunch it down to the essentials.
Gary, Scot just wishes that there were 3 point lines when he played for you. Apparently he has a miraculous long shot.

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