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Death of Emergent Round-Up

posted by Tony Jones

Nick Fiedler: We didn’t want Emergent to become the new club, but we wanted it to
organize so that through gatherings, cohorts, and online social
networks it could create it’s own grouping and lovingly force some
voices out into the open. That happened a little. But it seems that
recently we have lost hope in the Emergent movement. It took it’s hits
from the conservatives and instead of coming out stronger for it, it
sort of fizzled.

Anthony “Postmodern Negro” Smith: The shift is taking place. Folks are out and about playing their role
in this emerging Jesus-movement in the United States and abroad. That’s
why I’m curious about the disappointment people are describing with
Emergent Village. Emergence are everywhere in the kingdom of God. So…as
I step out into the missional stream this morning looking for God’s
activity @ the local hub I will pray for those who are disappointed. I
pray they find their place in this wonderful Jesus-movement that is
sprouting up all over the country now.

Jonathan Brink: Emergence isn’t a fad that requires me. It’s not something that I can
control. It’s something I can only participate in. It’s happening
whether I like it or not. It’s unwieldy and chaotic. It goes here when
I want to go there. It makes me wait when I don’t want to, and calls me
when I’m busy. Kind of like the Holy Spirit. And it is in these moments
that my own intentions are questioned. And I don’t like that. Who does?

Zach Lind: [Embedded video interview with Nick.]

John D’Elia: What the Emergent movement has happily avoided is the unchecked,
unmanaged expansion and hubris that killed off Promise Keepers
(remember them?). For the complaints I’m reading from Emergents about
people in the movement making a living at it, money has not become
either the driving force or life blood of Emergent ministry. That’s a
great thing. That’s a sign of wisdom and prudence and maturity (sorry
for the traditionalist litany there) that PK and other flashes in the
pan never had.


Jonny Baker: i liked the way emergent blew open a conversation in the US
and gave permission for questions. to be honest it was a conversation
we’d been having in the uk for about 1o years before but it was always
about networking, practice at the grassroots, and working out what it
meant to follow in the way of christ in your (postmodern or whatever)
locale. if you are disappointed fair enough. but get some people
together and live some stuff out and connect with some others doing the
same thing – that’s it!

Makeesha: If EV isn’t your thing, whatever, it’s only a small piece of the
whole movement ofEmergent.jpg christianity anyway – but there’s no reason for
anyone to distinguish themselves APART from EV. I have seen quite a few
“oh by the way I’m not Emergent anymore” posts lately and I don’t feel
offended, I just think it’s weird. OK, so you’re not emergent anymore,
SO WHAT? What the hell ARE you doing?

Josh Brown: The Emerging Church and to a lesser extent the receptical of the
conversation, Emergent Village, are now neutered versions of what they
could be. The protectors of the conversation have A) either sold out or
B) still talking to hear themselves talk. And in it’s place is just
another cliche marketing veneer straight out of Grand Rapids. The
degree of difference between all of the hodge podged groups that fall
under the emerging/missional/resurgence banner is the degree to how
much of a UFC pride fighter Jesus really is. Other than that it’s the
same colored conversation, just a different shade.

James Mills: I have made some deep and long lasting friendships with some people
in this conversation. These people have challenged and shaped me and
helped me to become a more faithful carrier of The Name. This
conversation sustained me through a very difficult displacement from
the church I used to be a part of. And like so many other people have
said, this conversation became something more. It became a place. A
community. A network. a web of relationships. And while I don’t know
many of the 24 people who met in Washington to dream new ecclesial
dreams together have a hard time understanding what they hope their
efforts will produce I am not concerned about the outcome.

Jonathan Stegall: But this is how culture works. We cannot have a revolution of the
way church functions in a decade, or three decades, if we look more
broadly at the emerging church. It is essential that we learn a
sustainable perspective on change, in order to find out how Emergent
Village specifically, and the broader emerging church in general, can
affect change on the church at large.

Matt Scott: We (the emerging church) have always accepted new guys into the
fold, this was never ment to be members only club, and if someone acted
out of hand they weren’t rejected, they were loved. Now you want to
start talking about new guys pushing you out of the circle? What the
hell, we don’t even like cirlces here, and if we do draw them, we make them so effing big we put people in them that don’t want to be.

Drew Tatusko: If there is frustration over the lack of revolution, it is because the idea of revolution was and still is
something bound for inevitable failure. Feeling disenfranchised should
not be confused with a revolution because it is not. Selling all that
you have and following Christ to permanently alter systems that
reinforces classism, unfettered capitalist greed at the expense of
millions to incite local change, and a reified free-market religious
ethos more akin to success in business than love of neighbor  – well
that’s revolutionary. It’s revolutionary because it’s political and
social. You can’t have a revolution without it emerging from this place
and revolutions require leaders who sacrifice everything they have to
the point of death. No revolution has been without this kind of
charisma and none will be. It’s also why I despise “revolutionary”
branding like the image of a Hugo boss glasses wearing, goateed face 20
something drinking free-trade coffee while wearing a Che Guevara
t-shirt listening to protest music as if that is a revolution. That is
capitalism and you have been bought by a brand. Sorry to inform you
that what you thought were changing actually co-opted your myopia.

Paul Glavic: Is there room within EV or greater emergence for people who don’t hate
Rick Warren but are becoming increasingly interested in re-claiming the
gospel’s missional Kingdom emphasis? Or is this a conversation about
being pissed off about all of the same things? If that’s the case, then
screw the “conversation,” because it’s nothing like a Messiah who
esteemed what he saw as good within the diverse people he encountered.

Julie Clawson: So those of us who are part of this thing called emergent – who are
passionate about this call to live in the kingdom of God and thrive on
this conversation are wondering what do do. We already experienced the
droves of deserters who left because emergent doesn’t 1. hate women
like they hate women, 2. hate gays like they hate gays, or 3. believe
in a certain type of hatred of God towards Jesus on the cross (or all
of the above). Then there are all you guys who paved the way for this
conversation to even exist saying that you are disappointed that new
people joined and spoiled your fun. We are looking for guidance and
then read comments like Josh’s on your blog “maybe it’s selfish on my
part, but i just don’t feel like helping anybody else along.” It hurts
to be rejected like that. To those of us who still appreciate the
conversation and who see the good it is still doing to those who are
just now joining in, it’s a slap in the face to be told that we are
dead or fizzled out. I am the first to admit that emergent needs a lot
of help right now, but different isn’t dead, just different.

Carol Howard Merritt: There is the hope for revolution, but then there’s a pernicious
elitism that questions people who join the conversation later, or who
might be a part of a denomination, or those who fall under that most
amorphous and damning category-the people who “just don’t get it.”

Mike Clawson: It kind of sucks that so many people are wanting to pull the plug on
Emergent Village right when so many women and minorities are just
stepping up into leadership (e.g. the recent DC gathering). The big
white males that these folks have been complaining about so much are
stepping aside/making room for these others, and that’s when they all
decide to leave the party? Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

Yours Truly: Martin Luther King didn’t coach t-ball; neither did Ghandi. Start a
revolution if you want, but that’s not a price that I’m willing to pay.



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Mike Young

posted June 7, 2009 at 3:57 pm


I find the drama rather amusing. I posted the following a good while ago during a similar flair up regarding emergent church. It still applies to me anyway…
emerge |i?m?rj| verb [ intrans. ] “move out of or away from something and come into view”
There was an interesting question that I ran across on the emergent village weblog several weeks ago. It actually arose on Andrew Jones’ blog, Tall Skinny Kiwi: “Emerging Church–does the hat still fit?” The responses range from yea to nay. (funny how that usually works) Some of the “nays” seem vaguely similar to fans of an underground band screaming “SELL-OUT” when “their band” makes the big-time. Sort of a “it-was-great-while-this-was-my-little-secret-club–but now-that-everybody-does-it-I’ll-trash-it…” kind of thing. Others seem a little more legit in that they are frustrated with the marketing of the term among many who simply misunderstand what’s going on as merely “the next big thing.”
I think as long as “emerging” was a verb, it was a helpful term for those of us whom it described. We were “moving out of or away from” institutions, cultures, religious structures, etc. that we were finding increasingly inadequate or problematic. What began to “come into view” was the number of people who shared our discomfort and relationships began to form. Where the word began to become uncomfortable was its evolution into a noun: “Emerging Church”, “Emergent Service”, and maybe even the early clamor heard when “emergent village” was formed and events, books and other product “emerged.” I do not necessarily have a problem with the “noun” expressions of emerging faith. I’ve bought many of the books and attended several of the events. Most of these nouns have broadened my spiritual imagination and provided new motivation to continue my journey following God in the way of Jesus. As long as the missional verbs continue to drive the institutional nouns, this will continue to be a helpful place, and a helpful term (at least for me).



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Mr. T!

posted June 7, 2009 at 4:00 pm


I’m sure you’re all familiar with that repetitive line about modern christianity being too oriented around personal salvation, a gospel of personal salvation and ONLY Personal Salvation, at the expense of the other things we read about in the NT. It’s difficult for us to move beyond being “me”-centered and to act like our own perceptions, experiences, and opinions are as limited as they really are. We can become prisoners of living inside ourselves.
You’ve heard that lick about living in a crass consumerist culture and how damaging it is to feed this selfish materialism and consumption with no regard for the unseen negative effects on others. And, perhaps, how this spirit has infected the church, where we merely become consumers of religious goods and services. We might start to give everything our own little consumer rating. “Cater to me!”
How about the cult of personality? Remember that tune by Living Color and Vernon Reid’s gnarly guitar riff? Yep.
I once heard a preacher say that if I were the only one to ever follow Jesus, he still would have died on the cross for just one person. When he was on the cross, I was on his mind. Interesting perspective.
The living Jesus has certainly delivered some serious personal salvation to me, and continues to do so. Nobody knows the trouble I’ve been… um, I mean “seen”. But the emergent conversation has saved me from having to walk away from church. I am willing to wrestle with the teachings of Jesus, difficult as they may be, but the kakamamie messages I hear from christians in the public sphere… ugh! Give me a break. Christians could stand to be more Jesus-centered. Jesus is attractional. He should be lifted up in more ways than cheesy emotive worship tunes or boring, dusty liturgy and restrictive traditions, structures, and, Lord have mercy!, church politics.
After doing some time as a worship leader in a “seeker sensitive” church [ugh!], I wandered in the wilderness for a stretch… dreaming of a church [literal dreams; I'm an old man] that incarnated interpretive faith community in different ways than I had witnessed. Specific dreams and specific ways. And then I stumbled into Solomon’s Porch and there were all of those dreams already in practice. Huh! I can only imagine.
If someone says something like emergent “fails to offer a truly different process to match their convictions. We can talk about “postmodern theological hegemony” all day but in reality you walk into a significant emerging/ent church/gathering you will (in the end) find the same process with a different aesthetic. That is about it.”, they simply don’t know of what they speak. I’ve been living the dream for 8 years now.
I’m sorry Solomon’s Porch hasn’t become a model and exported its practices and style throughout the U.S. and the world. No I’m NOT!!! That approach is ridiculous, outmoded, and dysfunctional. We do the difficult and messy work of becoming a theological, interpretive community where all are welcomed and encouraged to participate. We are more than a Sunday service, a statement of faith, a set of doctrinal distinctives, a worship style, some reasoned intellectual propositions, or followers of one “responsible” white male pastor. We are all responsible for being implicated by the bible narrative and the inspiration of brave forebears in the faith, and putting that inspiration and faith into action. The Porch is not flawless [by a long shot] or for everybody, but it is practicing the faith in different ways and with different underlying philosophies than I’ve encountered.
Every individual person and faith community has to be responsible for figuring these difficult things out for themselves, doing the hard, messy work, and allowing the Spirit of Jesus to mold and guide and inspire. The end result should be a community that’s both greater than the sum of its parts and reflective, in some way, of the Kingdom I’m sure you’ve all read about. Not toxic and repressive and reflective of the dysfunctional aspects of the culture at large.
If emergent has failed, then at least it saved one person. And it was all worth it.



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Mike L.

posted June 7, 2009 at 4:20 pm


The Buddha said, “If you find the Buddha, kill it”. I think this can be applied to the Emergent conversation. If we ever find (define) Emergent, we should kill it too.
I think people starting “finding” Emergent or in other words, they began defining it, identifying with it, and noticing it as a thing unto itself rather than a change in our own larger communities. If Emergent yields fruit, it won’t be seen under any Emergent banner. It will be seen by the changes it has on Christianity, and the world. If Emergent is successful in 20 years, it will be completely gone, and Christianity will be a little closer to the message of Jesus because of these conversations.



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Tim

posted June 7, 2009 at 5:17 pm


I’m not disappointed in Emergent! Largely from a distance, I’ve benefited from the conversations, books, podcasts, blogs, etc. With the changes in context there has to be a place where, “We need to talk…” can happen. Thanks for making it happen. Salaam, peace, shalom.



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Annie

posted June 7, 2009 at 8:46 pm


“We (the emerging church) have always accepted new guys into the fold,”
Can I just point out that I am totally excluded by this statement?
Yes, I’m obnoxious.



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Mike Young

posted June 7, 2009 at 8:57 pm


Love it Annie



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brian

posted June 7, 2009 at 9:03 pm


I first note that any failure either actual or perceived is mine and do to a lack of personal character, spiritual strength etc. I have not been part of “the conversation” or any conversation other then one or two blogs for years. For years I have asked questions, I E questions of origins, literal vs figurative, Christian vs non Christian etc. salvation, hope eternal life, Jesus, the atonement, etc. After many years of asking these questions in the faith community, I have come to learn Church is the very last place to discuss spiritual issues. I was listening to a very prominent Teacher and Pastor on youtube, then listened to his sermon in total. He was and is very eloquent and convincing on the surface. He spoke of how the Bible answers perfectly all scientific issues the scriptures discuss. I E The Water Cycle so we get Job 36:27-28 Isaiah 55:10-11 or Genesis 1:2-9, Psalm 104:6-9,describe plate tectonics or Leviticus 13:46 the nature of infectious diseases. Im sorry but I dont see it. I really do not. This fine pastor, and I mean that with deep respect, also spoke about a literal flood accounting for all the natural features we now observe. I may be wrong but I don’t see it.
Many of us struggle with the what we now know, but that we look to the emergent and other streams of the faith to try to find answers, the old streams are all dried up in many ways.



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Stushie

posted June 7, 2009 at 11:42 pm


This must be a Holy Spirit thing. I was led to write a post about this last night…:)
http://glenkirk.blogspot.com/2009/06/after-emergent-post-emergent-church.html



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Your Name

posted June 8, 2009 at 1:53 pm


The Emergent conversation continues to be a valuable resource to me. I went through a period of evangelical, mega-church fall-out, questioning whether the Way of Jesus was really working. My experiences and conversations first with Up/Rooted in Chicago and now with the new Cobb Emergent Cohort in Atlanta have strengthened my faith, opened my mind, and allowed me to overcome prejudices that kept me from enjoying the fullness of God’s grace. I am hopeful, emergence is ever changing. To keep moving forward we have to let go of what is behind. I look forward to what Spirit will do in shaping new emergences.



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Ted Seeber

posted June 8, 2009 at 4:31 pm


Or Men Without Hats channeling Tony 20 years in the past:
I don’t want to be a Messiah, Messiahs die young.



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NIck

posted June 8, 2009 at 5:21 pm


I don’t think it’s fizzling. My disappointment is my own.
Sorry to start something that ended in needing a roundup.
Thank you for all of you in the trenches.
I will always be in for conversating.
Tony do you respond in comments?



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Becky R-P

posted June 9, 2009 at 11:20 am


Young people can be awfully impatient, and I suppose all of us are tempted to want some instant gratification.
We have to remember how deep change happens – it does not move in a smooth trajectory like a rocket, but in jerks and fits and starts like a 74 Vega standard shift with a bad clutch trying to start on a hill.
I think that (unfavorably) comparing emergent/emergence/emerging to the 16th Century Reformation is ridiculous at this point, b/c both the “Reformation” label itself and its rock stars were finally settled on by history many, many years after the dust settled, not in the midst of everything. While in the midst of it, one can make great guesses as to who “started” something, but the perspective you need won’t come until the shift has happened and you’re into the post-shift phase.
In addition to the danger of being impatient is the danger of being parochial. In that regard, I don’t know that I would start “emergent” with Brian, Doug and Tony anyway. What about the UK? The folks in the C of E and Methodist churches are 10 or 15 years “ahead” of us in this “conversation”, and I’ll bet many Americans can’t name more than 3 people from over there.
If we have to name names in this country, why start w/ Brian et al.? Take a longer view of the post-industrial age historical movement and you come up with folks like Dorothy Day and N. Gordon Cosby and MLK, Jr. and THEIR current day heroes, including, of course, Gandhi. But here’s the cool part – some of the people who worked very closely with these people, who carried on the revolution, DID have lives that involved normal things like homemaking and cleaning houses. Think Rosa Parks.
What we need to do is worry a lot less about whether Emergents are up to snuff as far as their place in history and remember why this “emergence” is happening at all: “Christian” modernity created the most polarizing, bloodthirsty culture since humans climbed out of the trees. In that regard, Brian is absolutely right about one thing: Everything MUST change.



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stushie

posted June 9, 2009 at 2:11 pm


Nice to see Dorothy Day getting a mention in the comments of this post. She is one of the most under-rated Christian movers of the 20th century…possibly because she wasn’t holy or saintly enough for mainstreamers.



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Geoff

posted June 9, 2009 at 7:22 pm


i might just not get the emergant movement, but to me, it seems like it is a lot bigger than just churches and movements and all that.
it seems like an aknowledgement that there has been a huge change in our society. it seems like affirming that there is a different way of thinking about god and how we see our faith lived out.
that is not a movement, it is not a way of holding a church service. there may be ways of adressing that, which come out of the shift, but to me emergence is the shift more than the response.



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randy buist

posted June 10, 2009 at 2:53 pm


So I coach volleyball and not t-ball. But I have lots of friends who have no job, no money, and have sacrificed so much in the name of Jesus Christ, the kingdom of God as partially realized eschatology, as well as living as missional people. To say that people haven’t sacrificed? I guess I can only say, “Welcome to the conversation.”
And for those who still have $500 in their bank accounts and have been around for more than a few years, they’ve likely been labeled heretics by more than one reformed theologian in America.
From Grand Rapids. :)



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Theresa Seeber

posted June 11, 2009 at 1:24 am


Well, what about yours truly? :-) I too posted on this. And yes, I am attention-seeking. You thought I was kidding about being a groupie? LOL



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