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.