The New Christians

The New Christians


So, You’re Disappointed with Emergent…

posted by Tony Jones

Nick Fiedler is the latest to jump on the meme that emergent is fizzling, and he’s disappointed. I am loathe to respond to posts like his. In fact, I rarely read them because I find them utterly depressing, and they tend to occupy my mind in the place of the more noble and kingdom-based endeavors that I’d like to be focusing on.  But because I am personally implicated in many of the comments, I thought I’d chime in.  Others, like John D’Elia and Julie Clawson already have, as have Mike, Jonathan, Makeesha 1 and 2, Drew, Carol, Jonny.

Emergent tree 3.jpgFirst, some historical perspective (that a young buck like Nick lacks): there have been fallow times in emergent before this. For instance, in 2001, we left the auspices of Leadership Network, Andrew Jones had moved to the UK, and Mark Driscoll jumped ship (or was pushed overboard, depending on whom you ask). A group of us met at Tim Keel’s favorite monastery outside of Kansas City. For two days, we parceled out jobs — events, website, writing, networking, church planting — and left with a great deal of energy.  And then…nothing happened. No one did anything they’d agreed to.  Why? Because everyone was doing emergent at the margins of our lives, and so it wound up on the priority list below family, work, friendships, and many other things.  It wasn’t until the Emergent Convention in 2003 that we gained any real steam, and that was only because of the energy of Mark Oestreicher and Youth Specialites. To be honest, I pretty much throught he thing was over until that convention.


Second, none of us signed up to start a movement, so your disappointment is misplaced. You wrote — and others have recently — that you hoped that emergent would revolutionize the church in America (in 5 years?!?), yet you dropped out of church and toured the world with a book contract under your arm. Meanwhile, every one of the founders of emergent is deeply engaged in a community of faith, doing the hard and private work of maintaining personal relationships and dealing with the messes that are inevitable when people live in community.

Third, I bet you’re not disappointed with Shane Claiborne. That’s because, to this point, Shane has made the very noble decision to live a chaste life, and he has committed his whole self to an irresistible revolution. Meanwhile, most of the founders of emergent are raising children and paying mortgages and coaching YMCA t-ball. 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.

Fourth: In the comment section, you note your disappointment that no one took you up on your idea that we develop ” some sort of unemployment for pastors that got let go because of theological reasons.” To that I have two responses: 1) That’s what denominations do, and we’re not a denomination, and 2) If that what you want to see happen, then do it! That’s what we’ve done in emergent — we’ve tried to make things happen. Now that you’re back from your world tour, I’m looking forward to seeing what you do to make your corner of the world into what you want it to be.

Fifth, many of your commenters bemoan the fact that the leaders of emergent have “sold out” with book contracts and paid blogs. Since you are under contract to write a book, you know that there’s very little money in religious non-fiction writing, and the money is getting less. And I don’t know to whom they’re referring other than me. For the record, I make $5 per day blogging for Beliefnet. I’ve made less than $1,000 on book royalties so far this year. So everyone can stop casting aspersions on our finances.

Sixth, some commenters wonder why Brian, Doug, and I have “stepped back” from leadership. First of all, that’s not really true. And secondly, I’ve seen lots of guys who started organizations and ran them for the rest of their lives: Dobson, Falwell, Schuller, Wallis, etc. I have no interest in that.

Seventh, you and your commenters seem to suggest that, while we’ve made suggestions about changing the church in the past, we’ve quit doing that. Instead, all we do is fight the critics. In fact, Doug and I are throwing a big party this fall called Christianity21 — it will highlight many new voices in the movement and will give the microphone exclusively to women. Will you be there? Will any of the commenters who say that nothing new is happening and that new voices aren’t being heard? Those who started emergent were at the National ReEvaluation Forum in 1998; those who will take it into the next chapter will be at Christianity21.

Lots of stuff is happening:

  • Amazing new voices have risen up — Nadia Bolz-Weber, Sara Miles, Pete Rollins
  • I regularly read some blogs of people I think will be the next fresh voices.
  • Books are probably not the future
  • Tim Keel, Chris Seay, Karen Ward, and Danielle Shroyer are faithfully leading churches
  • Gatherings are being planned

The only question for you, Nick, and for everyone else is, What part will you play?



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Tom. F

posted June 5, 2009 at 2:36 pm


I am not let down by the follow through (or lack thereof) by emergent; rather I am a bit surprised on how little impact its had for all its hype a few years ago.
Few converts, recycled ideas and theology from liberalism, and no major mark in the church planting landscape. All the while the conservative theology that emergent spent so much time initially bemoaning and telling us all was a dead end, has flourished and born much fruit in changed lives.



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Jonathan Brink

posted June 5, 2009 at 2:49 pm


Very well said Tony.



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Jim Marks

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:11 pm


@Tom F. I don’t think you’re paying very careful attention. The whole crux of the complaint from Nick and several of his commentators is that there are -too many- new faces in the movement and that getting them all up to speed on what’s going on is wasting time rehashing old ground. Few converts? If that were the case, the old skool wanna-be class warrior revolutionaries wouldn’t be bemoaning the fact that their indie coffeehouse kick ball team got turned into the X Games. As for all these claims that nothing is getting done, how long did it take Luther to get his new church off the ground? More than ten years, and in that time they already had their first schism and the whole deal was born with multiple denominations at work. It is patently absurd to think that emergence has somehow failed or died or lost its way simply because it has failed to change the world in just 5 or 10 short years. As for all this fruit the Evangelical church is supposedly growing, I think that’s a pretty suspect claim. All I’ve seen from Evangelicalism in the past 20 years is people being recruited to join rock concerts where you wave your hands slowly back and forth and then pray out loud. You can tell it’s prayer because its the closest thing to silence Evangelicals ever permit and they overuse the word “just” while they’re talking to make the prayer sound humble. Some of these rock concerts happen at stadiums with big name traveling groups. Some of these rock concerts happen in churches on Sunday mornings. But the upshot of the whole thing seems to be simply about growing the numbers so that churches become mega-churches and mega-churches become giga-churches and giga-churches become Wal-Marts and the only thing that’s required to be a member is that you wave your hands to the music and you believe really really hard that you’re going to Heaven when you die and everyone outside the club is going to Hell. I find very little in that model that I either want to emulate, or utilize as a measuring rod for the work we do.



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Shawn

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:13 pm


Boom! Roasted!
Seriously though, the “hype” never seemed to me to be coming from those leaders of the emergent church. The whole emerging church thing is not something whose influence can be easily measured. But when I am encouraged in ministry through blogs (like this one), when I get to visit Jacob’s Well, when I talk with friends about Brian McLaren’s books, I know that nothing’s dead. … and I wonder if “it” can even die?
Anyway, good stuff, Tony.



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Chad Holtz

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:13 pm


Tony,
Good, reasoned, hopeful response. Thanks.
Chad



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Ben

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:19 pm


This has always been my biggest criticism of those who were in, for a lack of a better word, leadership in the Emergent/Emerging circles. They never seem to take responsibility for their actions or the movement that was created by them.
To state that you “didn’t sign up to be in a movement” is like saying that you had sex before marriage, got a girl pregnant and then said, “I didn’t sign up to be a parent.” Either the leadership was attempting to be naive or they simply desire to not take responsibility for they started.
So either the leaders are a bunch of victims because they got challenged when they started to go public about their non-movement or they are not held responsible because they don’t want to be linked with their previous actions or what happened due to their active participation in the Emergent.
It seems that everytime someone pokes, Tony gets pissed. So much for the conversation.



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Andrew

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:27 pm


People who are disappointed seem to be misplacing their hopes. There are going to be no big changes, no sweeping revolutions. Life just goes on as it always has. The question is, are you making YOURS worthwhile?
If something is helpful to you, make good use of it. If not, move on.
Good thoughts Tony.



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Vicki Allen

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:34 pm


Tony,
From where I’m sitting, paragraphs 2 and 3 seem to contradict each other. Paragraph 2 talks about conventions and actions, and setting out to carry out the agreed upon actions. Paragraph 3 says that none of you signed up to start a movement. Were the conventions and actions of paras 2 something other than starting a movement?
Please clarify.
Thanks,
Vicki



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Ted Seeber

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:36 pm


I’ll throw out the same thing, paraphrased here, that I’ve already put on two blogs so far.
10 years isn’t enough to give up on a movement like this. The Emergence folks like to make a big deal of non-demoninationalism, but they are following the typical life cycle for *any* religious sect in *any* religion- and that means at *LEAST* another four decades of persecution for their ideas.
The first several Popes were all murdered by the Romans. Did you know that? Mormons still are considered a cult by most Christians- 150 years after Joseph Smith. Zen Buddhism is in Japan and not Tibet for a very good reason- the very same reason the Dali Lama came from Shangri-La, not New Delhi.
I’m very much a traditionalist (though in my own religion, I’m not, way too young and too much a child of Vatican II) looking in on your movement, and even I can tell that Emergence has a long ways yet to go; we’ll all be in our graves several centuries before that kind of change happens.
So don’t give up on the revolution- because 10 years is just the beginning.



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Tim

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:37 pm


Disappointed
Wars of choice
Wars of necessity
Rwanda, Congo, Iraq, Pakistan
While I dip my chips in dip
Burgers sizzling on the grill
Sacrificial atonement
Or not
Words fly
Millions die
Hunger
AIDS
HIV
Disappointed
I throw up in my mouth
Because we have the luxury to be
Disappointed
What is wrong with us
Take up your cross
As long as it is not inconvenient
Or the music is
Too traditional
Too contemporary
Follow me
Sell all
Give to the poor
After you’ve decided
Who has been saved
And which group has fizzled
Disappointed
What did you expect
We’re all sinners
7.2 galaxies short of the glory of God
Disappointed
Grow up
Get on your knees
With a towel
And basin of water
And start washing feet
I’m talking to you Tim
Christ
He had the right to be disappointed
Nailed down
While his buddies were running free
That’s disappointment
Yet he didn’t leave the church
Because they disappointed him
Grow up
I’m talking to myself



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Larry

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:37 pm


Tony, your link to Nick’s post is borked.
More substantively, those who are looking for “leadership”, are, I think, missing the point of emergent, if a new Martin Luther were to “emerge” I don’t see how he could be “emergent”. Emergent isn’t based on the modern hierarchical system of top down control, it is more organic, networked, consensual. It doesn’t look like the modern church and the “movements” associated with it because it cannot look like the modern church and be true to itself. If you judge its success or failure by using metrics that are not consistent with what Emergent is, by using metrics better suited to church growth movement, for example, you cannot expect your measurements to be meaningful or accurate. A “movement” (for lack of a better word) that in large part stands against the modern, hierarchical domination systems cannot itself be a hierarchical domination system and it is rather silly to judge it as if it were.



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eugene

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:41 pm


I love the question that you end with:
“What part will you play?”



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David

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:43 pm


For the record, I make $5 per day blogging for Beliefnet. I’ve made less than $1,000 on book royalties so far this year.
Seriously? how do you live. I see nothing wrong making profits with books/blogs, in fact I pitched in 50 cents or a dollar of that royalty check this year. Better royalties might produce more blogs/books etc. Anyway I never saw you or doug in this with making money your main motivation, but it should be a natural outcome.



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Susan

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:47 pm


I’m sure Martin Luther had a few fallow days. And I’m sure his detractors called it “fizzling.” Whateva. Just keep doing what you are doing.



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Rev Dave

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:53 pm


@Jim Marks THIS!
Also, I’m with Shawn: how can anyone really quantify the impact and ripple effects of this (non)movement? I’m a mainline pastor, I’m old (nearly 40!), I’m tragically unhip (don’t even have a blog!), my congregation isn’t evangelical or reacting to it nor are they conversant with emergent as a movement…yet, we’re extremely missional, we are welcoming, we’ve done an all-church multi-week study of McLaren’s “Finding Our Way Again”, I just finished a sermon series based on Tickle’s “Great Emergence”…and of course we’re flawed in many ways.
Which I guess is a long-winded way of saying I know I’ve been affected by emergent and I think our congregation has too, but who would ever know? And how would one measure that affect if they did know? I can’t imagine our church is alone in this.



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Brian

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:57 pm


Ben,
Your point would hold some validity except for the fact that the “didn’t sign up for a movement” disclaimers were there from the beginning. The whole thing started with conversations and now those conversations are more widespread. The fact that you call Tony and others “leaders” “for lack of a better term” indicates that you understand that they never signed up to lead a movement. Why you can blame Tony for reiterating that now, is beyond me.
Vicki: except that at those conventions it was clear that this “thing” would be different…not a movement, not a denomination etc.
Tony, my initial reaction to reading the post you responded to was somewhat similiar: “Okay…go do it!”



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Jules

posted June 5, 2009 at 3:57 pm


First of all it has always been about the body gathering. Second, how can Tony or any other take responsibility for something that at the end was a conversation! I never knew truly in my 9 plus years in the conversation who Tony and the “super friends” really were. I pray he nor any of the rest said leaders take any responsibilty because they were never my leader nor the start of my journey! That is all for now.



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Chris

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:12 pm


Tony – I haven’t always (often?) been a fan of what you’ve written in these pixels, but I love – LOVE – this post. Whether in a traditional denomination or in a non-denominational movement, people seem to want the superhuman from their religious leaders. Give me a break. Especially in a porous movement such as Emergent, what is preventing others from stepping up and doing dynamic ministry?
Personally, I love your third point, about the balance of family and work (yes, even for church leaders who feel called to serve in the church, church can be/is “work”). I, too, take time to go to PTA meetings and throw a ball to my children in the back yard … all things that sap time and energy away from my attempts at revolutionizing the Lutheran church (ha!). We live in this Kingdom, dear friends, and we have this-Kingdom dues to pay, even as we anticipate (and, depending on your theology, work toward) the New Kingdom of Christ.



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david

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:13 pm


thanks for this tony.
you do good work.



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Rick Bennett

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:24 pm


I put a form of this in the comments section at the blog posting mentioned:
Following Tony’s advice, I will be beginning something.. a new group for the post -Emergent Crowd. If Emergent is the Dark side, this is the darker side for those interested in moving on to something else and having different discussions. Among the topics in these groups (feel free to beging your own Cohorts- but we need to call them something else):
These are highlights. A full list at Nick’s blog and in the future my blog:
1) A discussion of the wierd names associated with the Democratic Party of Minnesota and whether Doug knows anything about farming. A submeeting will discuss whether Doug should remove his facial hair for the remainder of the campaign. Another meeting will discuss Doug’s selling out by using an acronym for his campaign (SMART) if there is interest.
2) A discussion of Tony Jones’ book on the didache, followed by an intervention to force Tony to write about something that will pay the bills in the future.
3) A discussion of why do so many of these Emerging Christians have such poor taste in movies and music. Why do they listen to so much whiny crap by whiny white guys with guitars? Why do they like crap like American Beauty? Do they like Coldplay because it appeals to their longing for the crappy worship music of their youth camps?
4) why Lebron James is not a king, but more of a Little Lord Fauntleroy. Ohio residents are not invited.
5) Who is more emergent? My previous listing is required reading (look it up).
6) A discussion of why so many in Emergent (not the “leaders”) are so self serious and have no sense of humor, especially when the mockery is towards them.
7) Self defense classes and required readings of “Art of War” to prepare to have a gang war against the New Reformed camp. it will be kinda like that scene in Anchorman, only bloodier. The pacifists will win and quickly repent.
8) a study of justice issues and politics from a pragmatic and realistic realm, with no white guilt involved… ok maybe a little.
9) a discussion of officiating in major sports. We will invite Tony to discuss what makes a strike a strike. This will not be a metaphor for Scripture, but focus on the issues of real importance, such as NBA officiating, the debacle of officiating in the Super Bowl and the strike zone. No discussion of soccer or NHL allowed.
10) There will be an event which will invite 51 women to speak and 49 men, thereby mirroring the percentages in the USA. 74 of these speakers will be white, while 13 will be black. It will get compicated with Latino and Latina speakers. We will invite 4 gays or Lesbians, but it could be up to 10. We will even invite speakers from other countries, but we will deny that they are there, or shun them during the breaks.
The event will be called 2010 Christianity. And it will happen in 2011.
and beer will be involved. Lots of beer. And no Vegans are invited. Sorry, but I would not want to offend you. Also, if you think we should follow Kosher laws regarding shellfish and pork, you will have to begin your own group.
Lets all beging our own groups. Then groupings won’t matter. And then if we invite each other to be a part of them, we can add them to our resumes so we can actually get a job.



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Ben

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:26 pm


Brian-even if you say that you didn’t sign on for something doesn’t mean that the actions speak differently. The whole conversations thing is great but if that was all they wanted it to be, then how did it turn into conventions, books, etc.? Come on now.
I stated for “lack of a better term” because Tony doesn’t want to be called that. Really the Emergents used symantics perfectly because they didn’t want to use words that would box them in, so they couldn’t be held responsible later.
I am not blaming them, I am simply stating what they are and what they refuse to call themselves, even though they clearly are. But to continually get pissed because they don’t like the fact that people call them what they are because they have symantically convinced themselves that they aren’t is just ignorant at best.



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Chad Holtz

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:26 pm


I particularly liked the Claiborne reference. After reading The Irresistible Revolution I thought the only way I could be faithful to Christ was to move to India and start working with lepers. Then I was reminded that I am being faithful to Christ while I shepherd the disciples at my local church as their pastor, while I be a good husband and father to four children, while I visit the sick and neglected in our community and even while I make a friend at the gym. Friends now call me after reading Claiborne’s stuff and wonder how they can be faithful. I reminded one of them, a 4th grade school teacher, that if he went to India who would be a Christian male witness to the kids in his science class? Who would raise his 3 kids in the ways of the Lord?
Each of us will live out the call to discipleship in a myriad of ways in a myriad of contexts. We serve a diverse God in a diverse Kingdom. I am grateful for that.
P.S. Tony, not to beat a dead horse, but this applies to those of us in “sinful” denominations, as well. :)
peace,
Chad



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Carla

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:31 pm


I’ve read Nick’s post a few times now and I still can’t quite figure out what he’s disappointed about. I don’t mean that sarcastically. I really can’t. I know there are people who had high hopes for a totally reformation of the church, that there are people who saw emerging churches and books and conversations and put all their hopes for a faith they could hold onto into those baskets. But it seems to me that those hopes and expectations were there long before there was anything “emerging” to talk about.
And I can’t quite figure out how Nick can accuse people of selling out when they write books or blog for pay and then suggest that the problem is that not enough people were allowed to write books or blog for pay or that those who were writing and blogging somehow didn’t do enough of something they apparently shouldn’t have been doing at all. You can’t expect people to lead something and then criticize the means by which they get paid for their leadership. Did Nick expect great things to happen on volunteer time? As you say, nearly everyone in those early conversations–and nearly everyone in the current conversations–has relationships, jobs, ministries that demand their time and attention. That’s exactly why we are all in this together; no one can do it alone.
If there are people who want to step away, that’s their choice, but they ought to do so without dismissing the very good work that is being done all over the country–all over the world–by people who continue to believe that God is up to something new and that we need to be paying attention. It won’t be a sudden shift or even a decades-long shift. But this has never been about the people, the leadership, the progress. It’s been about faithfulness to what God seems to be doing in the lives of people.
Yes there have been conferences and books and blogs. So what? They are attempts to figure out how to keep living out this calling. Some have been helpful, some haven’t. I don’t understand why those things define a conversation.



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Mark Van Steenwyk

posted June 5, 2009 at 4:39 pm


Disappointment can be a good thing if it moves people to a deeper engagement in their context and it fosters a desire to gain a new vision. As negative as I have sometimes been about Emergent, I would never say that somehow Emergent disappointed me (or that Tony or any of the leaders of the movement disappointed me). Emergent has had its part to play, but whatever the Spirit is doing, it is so much bigger than EV. So it is good that folks that put such grand hopes in Emergent are feeling disappointed. Perhaps they are now free to put their hopes in something deeper as they roll up their sleeves to be a part of the work the Spirit is instigating all around the world in neighborhoods and marginal places.
By the way, my only quibble with what you’re saying Tony is the claim that y’all never set out to start a movement. That may not have been your intention, but from my understanding of movements (which I’ve studied a fair deal), Emergent Village is certainly a movement of sorts. If it quacks like a duck…
But so what if it is? I’m engaged in movement building and organizing in my own circle of neo-Anabaptist radicals.



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Mykel Pickens

posted June 5, 2009 at 5:04 pm


Hey Tony….want some cheese with that whine?
emergent=failure



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John D'Elia

posted June 5, 2009 at 5:11 pm


Tony,
As one who is as often a target as a beneficiary of your work, I’m glad the Emergent coalition (if that sounds better than ‘movement’) has been impacting the broader church. I happily said as much at: http://ministryintheuk.blogspot.com/2009/06/im-not-disappointed.html



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Dan Ra

posted June 5, 2009 at 5:14 pm


RICK BENNETT! HAHAHAHAH you’re number 3 is so dead on. I would always complain about how other emergent folk (mostly white men) would have the worst taste in music, i.e. Coldplay and other soft rock. I love my folk and stuff. But damn, if you really want to be embedded in the beauty and ugly in our culture, listen to some Young Jeezy and see what hard life is really about.
Anyway, I’m really torn up about all of this. As a young Asian-American Emergent male, Emergent is still vibrant and life-giving. I say this because there are so many within Asian-American Xian circles that, frankly, need freeing from their notions of Christianity. Emergent did that for me several years ago.
What Emergent is trying so hard to get away from (its exclusivity) is maybe the thing that is killing it (if it’s dying at all, which I talk about below). Emergent has always been way too intellectually exclusive, which is bad for me because I love novel theories/theologies. It didn’t necessarily start off as a movement of the ground, although it talked much of it. So Tony, what you say about you and others actually having community to take care of makes a lot of sense. And frankly, I agree. The ones who are really disappointed are maybe the ones who had no ecclesial responsibility to begin with. They found Emergent to be the symbol of their pride and disdain for “Christians” as they saw them. But you talk of Shane Claiborne. Didn’t he even not care for the whole thing anyway?
I don’t think there should be any hoopla. Emergence is definitely happening. Regardless of what anyone says, it is, because I see it with faith communities. They’re being shaken up at the core. They’re understanding that God demands more than the idols set up.
Ah… maybe Emergent has become an idol that no longer performs the magic that people want.



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Brian

posted June 5, 2009 at 5:41 pm


Ben,
I guess I just don’t see how a convention= a movement. Is Youth Specialties a movement?
My point is simply that this claim of not being a movement is not a new claim. It’s been a stated objective from the beginning. That some have tried to label it as something it was never intended to be is not the fault of those involved. That it shares some characteristics with other organizations or movements doesn’t make it such.
I mean, would you call Sidney Crosby a lacrosse player? “Oh, come on! Sidney, you score goals, you shoot with a stick, you make goalies look bad! You’re a lacrosse player!”
I’m being a bit silly, I know, (and not mean-spirited…I hope I don’t come across as such.) In the end though, I think you’re being unfair in this case.



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Ben

posted June 5, 2009 at 6:05 pm


Brian-
My point is, they continue to use this as a cover for not taking responsibility. Sooner or later, the excuses get old and people just want leaders to state that they did become a movement.
It would be like an employee stealing something, you know about it but never state that they are doing it. Claiming ignorance in the end doesn’t save you in the long run and it denegrates your character in the process.
I am not saying that they never made the statement, I am more sick of the fact that they continue to state it and then not take responsibility. We see the same problems in the Charismatic circles now and how they act naive when these leaders fall. It’s gross misconduct within the present-day church.
You’re not being mean spirited, we are conversing. Tony should love that, haha.



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Taylor Burton-Edwards

posted June 5, 2009 at 6:20 pm


Putting on my emerging missional hat for a bit here…
Tony, I don’t get the value of this “emerging is dead” meme, either. It’s just not the case.
One of the real problems with denominations (and remember, I work deep in the bureaucracy of one) is that their “agencies” can get the idea that it’s their job to DO church for the people, or TELL them what to do (which amounts to about the same).
The emerging missional way has always said this was completely backwards and detrimental. Church isn’t limited or defined by what denominations do. It’s what communities of people who are following Jesus live out wherever they are, in whatever ways they do that. A healthy Christian-community/institutional relationship isn’t one where the denomination DOES church FOR the community, but rather one where the institutional bodies focus on aspects of our life as communities that other kinds of bodies don’t do as well– issues, perhaps, around policy, polity, fiscal accountability, and forging effective partnerships with other institutions, locally and internationally.
The moment the INSTITUTIONAL entities think “the church is going to die if WE don’t do something” is the moment that they start actively killing Christian community by their anxious overfunctioning beyond their remit. Likewise, the moment that communities decide “the church is going to die unless we get rid of all institutions” is the moment that they start actively damaging themselves, because like it or not, they’re still going to be faced with dealing with some of the issues that institutional structures do better than face to face community structures can.
Emergent Village was/is ONE institution that has been a valuable mediator of conversation and some action over the years. At its healthiest, it remembered that if it tried to BE “the movement” itself, it would actually be killing said movement, or if it tried to LEAD the conversation, rather than be one institution among others that helped to mediate it, it would really be foreclosing that conversation.
And there are others. And if the emerging missional way has real life in it (and I believe it does!), there will continue to be others. But all of these are institutions… not a substitute for lives lived in community and witness on the ground. Institutions can be good when they’re not killing important things. But they’re never sufficient as an embodiment of the way of Jesus. Necessary, probably. But never sufficient.
So when I read this latest “meme” what I hear is folks who may not have understood what Emergent has been up to… and what a lot of us in a lot of other places, institutionally and face to face, are trying to accomplish in our different ways.
Phyllis Tickle is right that no one knows how this “emergence” will turn out. That also means no one knows what institutional forms it will also take on (or that will be taken on or even assimilated by it) over time, and which it will let go of, etc.
But that one re-defines its work and its form… that’s more to be expected that lamented, I believe.
And I do think this emergence we’re going through, but more than that, the necessary re-orientation of church to the mission of God in Jesus, is the real thing.
Keep up the good work, Tony.
Peace in Christ,
Taylor Burton-Edwards



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Makeesha

posted June 5, 2009 at 7:12 pm


I have been blown away by the activity that has exploded out from Nick’s post. It demonstrates one thing to me – people still care.
Tony said it well, and with less profanity than I did – “What part will you play?”
and my follow up would be – what are you already doing?
I honestly believe that people are pissed about the lack of activity and existing echo chamber because they’re either a) not doing anything themselves or b) not telling their stories and not hearing those of others.
Community cannot grow and thrive if everyone just does stuff but doesn’t share the stories of what they’re doing in order to inspire and provoke. Community cannot grow if all we do is talk but it cannot grow if all we do is do…because eventually, someone needs inspiration, provocation, encouragement, education, etc.
The loudest voices of people telling others to shut up and do are those who aren’t doing shit. So frankly, I don’t really care to hear it.



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Blake Huggins

posted June 5, 2009 at 7:37 pm


I think what has bothered me the most here (and this didn’t necessarily come from Nick) is this idea that people who got involved with all this early on are somehow cooler, hipper, or more emergent than the rest of us. To me, that flies in the face of everything this has been about, not to mention Jesus’ ethos. So if that is where we’re going count me out.
I don’t really get the whole “selling out” thing either. I think people have different callings. Not every one is cut out to be a Shane Claiborne, and I think that is a good thing. It makes it more enriching. Sure, we have to always ask ourselves if we’ve moved too much toward the center (and I do think that is possible). But I don’t understand the categorical castigation of those who have chosen a different “less cool” (at least in the eyes of the critics) path. That’s seems really arrogant to me. I think we need both. The tension between the two is good.
That being said, I think my major disappointment, if you want to call it that, has been that most of the “conversation” lately has been rehashing old stuff and going through the same rejections of traditionalism. When is the last time a key emergent figure was taking on some hardcore liberal fundamentalists instead of those of a more evangelical flavor? I for one think we have something to offer there and I’d love to see some of this go in that direction. And, you know, maybe it’s our fault. By “our” I mean the average Jane or Joe who has a blog, is involved with the conversation and as some sort of other ministry as well. Maybe we need to be the one’s who start that instead of waiting on someone else. I don’t know.
And for what it’s worth, I’d be at Christianity21, or the Moltmann Conversation, or Rob Bell’s thing with Pete Rollins in a heartbeat if I could afford it. And I don’t mean that in negative way. I understand that these things cost. But there are many of us who have benefited from the conversation, indeed whose faith has been saved by the conversation, who lack the resources to engage at deeper level by attending these events. We’d love to, but we just can’t. I guess I’m wondering how that group of people can be involved. Will audio or video be made available from these events? How can the reach go beyond those whose church has the money to send them to something like this?
I think the most important thing to remember in all this is that is has only been 10 or so years! That’s not very long. I’m on board with Phyllis Tickle’s hypothesis. I think we’re on the cusp of some radical change and evolution in the church. And I think emergent is one part of that, maybe in the front-runner. But to think that all of that is going to happen in a decade or less is a bit naive I think. It’s going to be gradual, for better or worse.



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josh

posted June 5, 2009 at 7:58 pm


i would just like to say that i have now started getting pop-up ads on your website (within the last week) in separate windows. i use a mac. this has only happened to me once before. and this scares me. please tell beliefnet to real it in. embedded liberty mutual and filtrete ads are kosher. but pop-ups aren’t.



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josh

posted June 5, 2009 at 8:00 pm


and i just got hit with an opinion mart survey on the way when i posted my comment. double lame.



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Drew Tatusko

posted June 5, 2009 at 8:36 pm


i don’t use a mac and i think they are too expensive (how very un-emergent of me as the stereotype goes). but i do use ad blocker meatware in my brain that ignores advertising or only pays attention to it in order to call it out as something coercive and idolatrous. also use firefox to block pop-ups and other crap i choose not to consume. if beliefnet did not use ads, they would need public donations to float the bill.



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Julie Clawson

posted June 5, 2009 at 9:20 pm


Thank you Tony.
Love this part – “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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John

posted June 5, 2009 at 9:35 pm


“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.”
Man, sometimes I feel like parenting and coaching are revolutionary acts in this hyper-consumerist culture that short-changes our kids and narrows the vision of parents.



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Mike Clawson

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:02 pm


Great post Tony. You hit the nail on the head.



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Julie Clawson

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:05 pm


John – “Man, sometimes I feel like parenting and coaching are revolutionary acts in this hyper-consumerist culture that short-changes our kids and narrows the vision of parents.”
that’s why i love it. it’s about holistic life. hardly anyone is going to go the commune route, but we can all do this thing as part of life.



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Korey

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:17 pm


I’ve never been to any conventions, gatherings, or anything. I don’t know Tony or anyone who comments on his blog or any of the names, authors, or “leaders” that come up. I discovered Emergent/emerging/whatever the hell you call it, as I was being drawn back to the faith (was raised free methodist) through initially Marcus Borg’s The Heart of Christianity. I suppose I’ve moved toward a more conservative or orthodox acceptance of historic creeds over the last 5 years as I’ve been influenced by the “conversation”. I’m more comfortable embracing beliefs and wrestling more deeply and honestly with scripture and tradition. I’m quite average and don’t even manage to coach little league. I have two sons and work a regular fulltime job. I’m slowly working on other aspirations, but I’m not very successful and can get easily overwhelmed.
So Tony is a leader to me only in the sense any author of a blog, a book, a newspaper column that I like influences me. I think some significant change is afoot in the last 5 years or so globally. Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence lays out a compelling case for dramatic slow cultural, religious, and political change. I suspect there isn’t a lot of correlation between our perceptions about the status of these sorts of movements/changes and the actual status. What are we using to make these assessments? I mean, maybe she’s overstating it? I don’t think so, but I thought John Kerry would get elected in 2004.
I like your blog, so whether this movement is dead or whatever, it seems like you keep writing interesting things so I’ll keep reading for now. And these events you’re planning, I keep looking at them and consider attending. Who knows?!



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Mike Clawson

posted June 5, 2009 at 10:26 pm


how can anyone really quantify the impact and ripple effects of this (non)movement? I’m a mainline pastor, I’m old (nearly 40!), I’m tragically unhip (don’t even have a blog!), my congregation isn’t evangelical or reacting to it nor are they conversant with emergent as a movement…yet, we’re extremely missional, we are welcoming, we’ve done an all-church multi-week study of McLaren’s “Finding Our Way Again”, I just finished a sermon series based on Tickle’s “Great Emergence”…and of course we’re flawed in many ways.
Which I guess is a long-winded way of saying I know I’ve been affected by emergent and I think our congregation has too, but who would ever know? And how would one measure that affect if they did know? I can’t imagine our church is alone in this.

That’s awesome Rev Dave. That’s exactly the kind of stuff I love to hear about, and I think there’s a lot more of it out there than any of us realize. I think Nick, et al. are just missing the big picture if they think Emergent has failed in what it has been attempting to do.



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Erik Ullestad

posted June 6, 2009 at 12:19 am


Emergent was never a revolution…but it also doesn’t have to remain merely a “conversation” either.
I think emergent should be a CENTRALIZED conversation, not one that happens on the fringes. Of course, this is much messier than creating your own community of like-purposed people.
Emerging and established churches are in symbiance with one another…they need each other to fully exist. The principles that emergent adheres to need to be applied in existing congregations in order for a true movement to take place. This is the road less traveled…but it is the one that makes all the difference.
In the end, we are talking about RENEWAL and not DEVELOPMENT. People with emerging sensibilities need to invest (or re-invest) in their own congregations and renew what already exists…not leave and create a new church.
To quote the wisdom of the fictitious Jimmy Dugan in A League of Their Own:
“It’s supposed to be hard…the hard is what makes it great.”
Emergent will only be great if it takes the hard road of renewal. I pray, for the sake of the church, that it will.



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Rev Dave

posted June 6, 2009 at 12:44 am


Thanks, Mike. I’m sure you’re right, there’s a lot more out there than we can possibly realize. And there are probably more connections between us than we know. (e.g. you and I met a couple times last year at up/rooted and at McLaren’s EMC stop in Chicago. Which, I’m not really sure what that proves other than perhaps just how hidden we all are from one another. Ok, I have no idea what I’m saying here. Moving on…)
@Makeesha “Community cannot grow and thrive if everyone just does stuff but doesn’t share the stories of what they’re doing in order to inspire and provoke. Community cannot grow if all we do is talk but it cannot grow if all we do is do…because eventually, someone needs inspiration, provocation, encouragement, education, etc.”
Exactly. This is certainly something our congregation struggles with. We are just bad at telling our story – even to ourselves! I couldn’t tell you how many times I’ve had a conversation with someone from my church about a ministry our church is doing and they’ve never heard of it. Of course a lot of factors come into play with that…but mostly I think we just don’t know how to talk about what we do, we just do it.
I know one of my obstacles is – ooh! Hold on, Steven Wright is on Letterman – now, what was I saying?
So, how about it folks, how do you tell your story? Where do you go to share so as to inspire and provoke? I’d love to hear more about that.



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Jamie Arpin-Ricci

posted June 6, 2009 at 9:03 am


While my formal involvement with EV ended several years ago, the relationships have not. Neither has the impact of the conversation (yes, real conversation) that has continued through blogs, books, phone calls, coffee meetings, etc. I live in an inner city community and pastor a small (and strange) little church we planted, in no small part due to the influence of Emergent Village. I would suspect that there are many, MANY stories of this kind of “revolution”. The impact of EV is not only difficult to measure, but too young to evaluate in such terms.
Does EV need its affirming critics from within? Absolutely. Have they always been welcomed with grace? Not always. However, I would suggest that the most effective and essential correction you can provide is to live the alternative you are expecting- right where you are, in your community.
As Tony recognizes, there are high prices attached to this kind of “movement”, prices that, on the local level alone, can be overwhelming. If you have the freedom (i.e. singleness, resources, etc.) to participate at a higher level than others, do it now, because it won’t get any easier.
Therefore, while I affirm the need for prophetic voices to challenge (and encourage) those who have gone before us (be they leaders or instigators), let us first start with a bit of humility and gratitude.
Thank you, EV, for all you have done and continue to do. I most certainly could not have done it.



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Brian

posted June 6, 2009 at 11:15 am


Ben…I guess I feel it’s unfair for you to expect anyone to take responsibility for your expectations when they were explicit from the beginning that this would be no movement, regardless of your or anyone else’s expectations.



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Dennis Coles

posted June 6, 2009 at 11:50 am


If no one else will, I will name the elephant in the room: comparisons of Emergent to the Protestant Reformation are preposterous. McLaren, Pagitt, Tony Jones, et al cannot in any way shape or form be compared to Luther, Zwingli, or Calvin. In fact, those who make such comparisons demand that they not be taken seriously.
The Protestant Reformation was an epochal change in the history of Christianity. The movement that is analogous to this now is the global explosion of Pentecostalism.



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Darren King

posted June 6, 2009 at 1:23 pm


Dennis,
Tony, Brian, Doug, and others would themselves tell you that what they are doing, and what EV is doing in general, is only PART of the epochal shift going on right now. And they would also admit that they are as much products of the shift as they are agents of that change. I would point you to Phillis Tickle’s the Great Emergence for more details.
And, in response to the original disappointment rant, when I read that post my immediate thought was “Wow, this guy has a really naive view regarding how change, and especially revolutions, take place”. His rant spoke more to his misconception than to anything substantively true about a failure of Emergent, IMHO.
The truth is, for anyone who has studied history, these epochal shifts are brought about by multiple factors, over long periods of time – and we can only do so much in terms of speeding their spread.
And, as such, Tony was right on in his conclusion. The only real aspect of the whole endeavor that we CAN substantively control is our own commitment to the cause.



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Ryan

posted June 6, 2009 at 3:24 pm


I can say that for me, Emergent Village put words to my struggle with the church. I found hope, struggle, and honesty within it’s cohorts, friendships, and literature. I may not agree with every direction it has taken in the past, but Emergent Village is a community and community does not solely exist for the individual. If nothing else, Emergent Village opened my eyes to the universal church, and for that, I will always be grateful. Regardless of what shape it takes in the future, I will speak of emergent with fondness and appreciation, whether I completely allign with it or not.



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Your Name

posted June 6, 2009 at 3:52 pm


I’m going suggest that the emerging/ent movement has had some good successes. Yet it is now suffering the marginalization of what happens when any movement lets the publishing/media world confine it to a sub-culture within a global organizaiton (i.e. Chrisianity.)
A couple of the major successes is how the emerging/ent conversation has influenced the mainline evangelical church in how we approach worship and church. While the vast majority of mainline evangelicals aren’t going to engage with the emerging/ent line they are, at least, moving towards understanding that the primary mission of the church is to reach the unchurched. That is a win.
Another win is the influence of the conversation in helping stodgy ministries across the world understand and embrace some components of contextualization. Also, it has definitely caused many churches which had been rooted in a traditionalist genre to branch out and embrace a more progressive ecclesiological praxis. These are good things we often forget.
Now that said I have, and have had, deep reservations about some parts of the conversation. As Alan Hirsch recently pointed out at Q in Austin one of the big things that many of the “emerging/ent” (though he didn’t use this word/term explicitly) fail to offer is a truly different proces to match their convictions. We can talk about “postmodern theological hegmony” 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.
Another area that has contributed to the maliase has been that the emerging/ent has not truly offered a “postmodern alternative” but is just hypermodernity. (Of course it can be argued that North America is not, nor will be, truly postmodern or that we can get there.) The result of the whole conversation has been recycled/repackaged theological liberalism in destroyed jeans, campy tshirt, and horned rim glasses. Just a different way of presenting the same thing.
I am hopeful but let’s be honest the whole conversation is now about being MISSIONAL not emerging/ent. Not that this is a bad thing.
peace, love, and keep Jesus First
PJ



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Todd Ewing

posted June 6, 2009 at 9:15 pm


Tony, as I said before in an email (and you were gracious enough to respond); the emergent movement has given me hope. Has is solved all the problems in Christianity? No, it cannot; and as someone has said above, movements take time. As Phylis said in Memphis, changes are taking place. It will take time. I am still sort of locked in place at a conservative college, but I still have hope that in time, my opportunity to serve the movement will come.
Peace



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Zach Lind

posted June 6, 2009 at 11:10 pm


Hey Tony,
I did a video chat with nick regarding this whole deal. Check it out here:
http://www.findingrhythm.com/blog/?p=1745
Maybe you’ll find it of interest.
Peace,
Zach



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Brian Merritt

posted June 6, 2009 at 11:42 pm


Tony~
I think that you sort of nailed it on the head. When you are active in a faith community it is extremely difficult to devote your time to running everyone’s expectations of a movement. Plus, throwing family in there…well good luck at changing the whole world. It is hard enough to begin the process of transforming our own lives that I think that most of this disappointment distracts us from the purpose of loving mercy and walking humbly with God.
You also are right about how little anyone makes in publishing unless they are part of a small cadre of xian lite writers. I don’t think that most people understand this. I don’t think Kierkegaard was a sell out, or Calvin or Erasmus. Whether you write for a blog, with a crayon or publish a book I think it is the words that are written which are important, not the size of the contract.
At least this has stirred up some good posts.



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NIck

posted June 7, 2009 at 12:03 am


Hey Tony,
You numbered your post so I think I will number my response.
1. I like you.
2. I hope that one day we can go hunting with your dog, even though I am from Alabama I have never shot a living thing.
3. I am glad Emergent is changing.
4. Although I fully support your need to do what you need to do, I wish that you were still the national co-ordinator of Emergent.
5. I am going through culture shock right now, not in big ways, but in ways that it is very weird to come back to a Christian nation when being in ‘atheist’ nations. (This makes coming back to the south weird.)
6. I have a blog that no one reads and one day I wrote about disappointment. Disappointment that was fostered because of my own unrealistic expectations.
7. I value the people in the trenches.
8. I don’t have space to talk about church, because I have separated myself from church.
9. I hope that the new grassroots way of Emergent will included communities that aren’t churches.
10. I am trying to find my place in this world. I have crossed off churches, but your question about what part am I going to play is what keeps me up at night. My wife is going to get a degree and join organizations that help the less fortunate, I don’t know what part I am going to play.
11. Maybe I am just wondering if there is a place in the conversation for someone that doesn’t want to be involved in church, and I am finding via email this week, that there is, in the very fringe grassroots level.
12. I am sorry if you were implicated by me or commenters that stopped by, as for them, I haven’t met most of them.
13. Sometimes I am disappointed with Shane Claiborne.
14. I am glad there is money to be made with books and writing, and capitalism, more power to us all.
15. I like that the conversation is a conversation, but I don’t want to have to come over to a comment section to talk with you.
16. I am sorry for offending you personally, if I have done that.
17. Can we go hunting sometime?
18. . . .



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Jesse Turri

posted June 7, 2009 at 2:08 am


Tony, after watching Zach’s video, it dawned on me that Nick, in his own way, is volunteering to be the new Coordinator of Emergent! I think he would be perfect for job. Seriously though.



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Mr. T!

posted June 7, 2009 at 3:17 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 time… 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 like Alan Hirsch, or Nick, above, or PJ 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.” [hey PJ! Good to see you over here. :>)], 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.
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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Aideen

posted June 7, 2009 at 7:28 pm


This is the bit I resonate with the most:
“You wrote — and others have recently — that you hoped that emergent would revolutionize the church in America (in 5 years?!?)”
If we really wanna be sure we’re following God, we need to move ssllloooowwwwllllyyyy, always in prayer and waiting on the Father. Otherwise we’ll strive and burnout and run out of steam. Something’s in the air; if it’s really a move of God (which I believe it is), it will happen in God’s timing, not with human ingenuity. In our modern era of instant coffee, microwaveable meals and twitter apps on your iphone, we expect everything to happen right away. God, by contrast, likes to let things marinade a little.



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Daniel

posted June 7, 2009 at 11:58 pm


No “movement” that is ultimately built on the shifting sands of feelings and culture will last…at least in any recognizable form. Nor will movements that are based on the foundation of any ideologue. However, the church built by Jesus Christ will last, and it will be recognizable because it’s built on the unchanging foundation of His Word.
Is “emergent” part of Christ’s church? Or are they building on another foundation. Of course I must ask myself the same question every day.



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Todd Erickson

posted June 8, 2009 at 9:24 am


I keep seeing the statement “8. I don’t have space to talk about church, because I have separated myself from church.”
He leaves the conversation, but then gets ticked that other people are talking about the things that he prefers.
Man…There are thousands, if not millions of churches out there slowly dying because they’ve replaced the leadership of Christ with a folk Christianity that rewards them for their judgment and political affiliation, and they only listen to the voices in their own congregation. Who will be the voice from the wilderness coming to them to tell them where they have strayed if everybody abandons them?
These are our brothers and sisters. Yes, they’re difficult, and cantankerous, and bent, and the whole “church politics” thing is nuts.
But abandoning them just leaves them wallowing in their situation. And leaving, and waiting for somebody else, somewhere else, to make a solution…
If the Emerging/Emergent movement is truly about starting a new church, then it’s a statement, not a conversation. And so far, the statements are not anything new, just in a different order.
What has God called you to do? Have you been listening to Him? Or just to your own discontent?



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autumn

posted June 8, 2009 at 12:09 pm


I am really proud of Shane for doing the right thing, and it’s a shame that you’re cutting him down.



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Alan Stucky

posted June 9, 2009 at 10:57 am


A thought from an Anabaptist.
For what it’s worth, I’m a Mennonite who is also a fan of Anabaptist history. I’m also highly interested in emergent/emergence/the-large-discussion. At points I’ve found great similarities between what’s happening now and what happened about 500 years ago among the real radicals of the reformation.
The important thought is this. The first re-baptisms happened January 21, 1525. There was an amazing flurry of activity, writing, and martyrdom within the next 10 years. Seminal discussions about what in meant to follow Jesus in a new way happened in barns, bars, caves, and all kinds of other secret locations. Within 10 years the movement also experienced a massive breakdown that almost destroyed Anabaptism completely (namely the Anabaptist takeover of Munster: crazy story check it out sometime). Out of that disaster, Menno Simons (the man whose name led to the name “Mennonite”) worked diligently to re-form the Anabaptism and keep something very important alive.
My point is this. Just because emergent/emerging-church/whatever had a burst of energy and then is slowing down a bit doesn’t mean it’s dead. (Do note that Anabaptism is not dead and many of the EC people have relied heavily on hardcore Anabaptists like John Howard Yoder, Stanley Hauerwas, Glen Stassen and many others for inspiration for the current rethinking of church.) Also, as with Anabaptism, just because other people try to deny it’s existence, stamp it out, or declare it dead, doesn’t mean it is.
peace and courage,
alan stucky
http://www.thewanderingroad.wordpress.com



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kristi

posted June 9, 2009 at 3:44 pm


to todd: you assume that nick is walking away from some community in which he has a voice. but what if he’s walking away from someplace where he feels he is not valued, not heard?
not all of us who are not in church are “abandoning” others; it’s quite the other way around. we feel abandoned. we have invested our lives in ministry, in serving, in pouring into others, only to be shit on time and again.
of course, i have seen amazing things happen. and i’m grateful for “emergent” thinking, even though i still couldn’t tell you exactly what it is…and my husband has been part of this conversation since the beginning.
as someone who pretty much shares what is on her mind, i think for me emergent meant being able to be honest about my questions about God. it meant learning about community. what “brothers and sisters in Christ” really means.
in our 2-year quest for a church, i have become very disillusioned with all of the churches that call themselves “emergent,” who identify as such. it really doesn’t mean much to me anymore.
and i appreciate anyone who will say publicly on a blog to a group of ministers/leaders/Christian authors that he has walked away from the church, at least for now.
maybe we need to be focusing on WHY these people are walking away from church. because it’s not just nick. i could send you a list a mile long of people who fit into “emergent” mindsets who are no longer in a church, who sometimes tell us “we don’t even know if we are Christians anymore.”
lots of days, i feel like that too.
now, if we could just gather all these friends into one place, we’d have a kick-a@@ church… :)



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SteveC

posted June 10, 2009 at 4:42 pm


We did a fairly decent two-part interview with Tony a couple of years ago on our podcast regarding Emergent, trying to understand it, challenging him and even fighting a little bit. It was fun, he was gracious and dished it out as much as he took it. You can go to iTunes and search for Stupid Church People and it should pop up somewhere in the list.
As for “doing something” – I’m involved in my community, I help coach my kids teams and I criticize the church for it’s failings. That is what I do!! Why do I have to start or get involved with a church for my voice or criticism to be valid. I also tend to criticize GM for it’s failings too, but it doesn’t mean I need to run out and start a car company. To me criticism (including the use of sarcasm and humor) is a necessary part of this process and it makes those who think they are the only ones “doing” anything think about what they are “doing”.
And as an aside: Kristi I love what you wrote. It’s for folks like you that i started my little stupid blog. Take care everyone.



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steve m

posted June 10, 2009 at 6:36 pm


For those of you thinking Emergent is dead please send me your books on the topic. I have pastors in Ghana West Africa that are asking for Mclaren and anything re emergent topics. Im serious about this the container leaves in 2 weeks there is time to send it to me!! I can take case lots too 4murray@gmail.com
thank you
steve murray



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Jon Trott

posted June 11, 2009 at 5:08 pm


Tony… While I wouldn’t call myself “emergent” (because I’ve been trying to follow Jesus since 1973 and get a little freaked by labels), I certainly am glad for your voice and all emergent voices. Please don’t get discouraged, and don’t get too hung up on the critiques of others. Listen, sure. You might learn something. Take what is helpful and apply it. But don’t let the new frame turn into the old frame. That is, don’t get hung up on preserving something, holding onto something, or “defining” something. Isn’t that how our present Evangelical mess, at least in part, came into being?
To all — and myself — Define yourselves by serving Jesus, not by looking at and pointing out each other’s failures. Heck, we *all* have plenty of those. Wanna see mine? I can give you a long list, and my friends a longer one, and my enemies a reeeeeeaaaaallly long one (some of which I would contest!). Sound familiar?
Love God. Love your neighbor. Bear witness to that which is true. Pray for me as I try… I’m certainly praying for you… right now.
Blessings,
Jon Trott / Chicago



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Rocky

posted June 12, 2009 at 7:22 am


Do those who call themselves Emergent really accept Christ as Savior, love, worship and obey Him or do they design a new type of “Christ” in their minds and follow Him. Those practices used to be called idolatry when the “pagan” nations made up their own gods. Or is that where we are again?



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Your Name

posted June 13, 2009 at 11:09 am


Tony, Nick, Rick, Julie, Mike and all
I also feel a sense of loss with the change in Emergent. I am a BIG fan of the emergent reformation and hope and pray it continues to develop – even if there is no formal structure to Emergent Village.
I see 3 distinct groups still in the conversation:
1. The reformers – those who recognize the need for change in thought/theology/praxis/values/apologetics/etc and care deeply that Christianity has become “enslaved” by modern radical individualism and wants to free it. They are grieved that Christ has become a commodity in contemporary Christian culture and want to find a way out of the mess.
2. The Cartesian cult – those desperately trying to defend the accommodations made to modern philosophy over the past 500 years and want “Christian” thought to remain the same. These are the emergent fighters and defenders of “absolute truth” – the ones desperately trying to “pin it down” so they can expose the errors of emergent.
3. The late adopters – those who recognize that this is a significant conversation and not quite sure what side they are on but they want the conversation to continue so they can understand and learn more. Most recognize or feel that “something is wrong” but they aren’t quite sure what it is.
I actually hope and pray that the conversation continues for all 3 groups. I love the reformers, we need the critics, and the conversation is too valuable for the people listening in.
Nick – I share your frustration
Tony – I understand your dilemma
Emergent Leaders – I pray that you figure out a way to keep the conversation going.



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Brad Cecil

posted June 13, 2009 at 11:12 am


Sorry last post is mine I didn’t mean for it to be anonymous



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SuzanneWA

posted June 13, 2009 at 11:44 am


What is the PROPER definition of “Emergent?” If it means a radical, reformist vision of Christ in the New Millinium, then perhaps its time has come. But as far as “redefining” Christ, THAT has been “done to death” over the years. Christ is, was, and will be – Christ. He NEVER changes; it’s our perception of Him that takes on the “new” views of where He stands in the world today. If it means a “new” way of MISSIONS and proselytizing, then MAYBE we need to look into it. However, if it’s just a “money-maker,” leave it alone!!



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Austin

posted June 15, 2009 at 1:12 am


I don’t really understand all this drama. Why do we need to label ourselves and make organizations and leadership teams or whatever else is going on in Emergent? It seems to me that worrying about creating more institutions and organizations and movements and groups and camps is only going to make people disappointed. Our salvation lies in Christ, not our specific theological tribes.
As a big fan of what I suppose can be considered emergent literature (McLaren, Bell, Claiborne, what have you), and somebody who is ever increasingly discontent with status-quo Christianity, I’m disappointed that the emergent response to the insufficient parts of the American church is simply to create another little party for like thinkers to group together and battle those in other camps.
Just love Jesus and serve Jesus, and have a dialogue in that context. These labels and arguments accomplish nothing but perpetuation of a broken system.



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Hando Ferreira

posted June 15, 2009 at 8:13 am


Hi, everyone.
I am new to this conversation, I hesitate to call it a movement. As I have read and thought and prayed about the emergent church I have become excited by the potential. I believe passionately that the emergent church (people like us) is called to bring about the presence of Christ within existing church structures. We are to embrace and encourage each other where we are. If this “conversation” becomes just another breakaway church movement it will be dead as a world wide phenomenon within 5 to 10 years.
Right now I am having conversations with people across the whole spectrum of Christianity and even beyond. I am connecting with people that I would find it hard to function with in a church context. These “conversations” are helping me come to the realization that my “understanding” of theology and doctrine is maybe not as important as supporting and in turn being supported by my brothers and sisters in Christ.
Given time, the “emerging” Christians will gather as we are drawn together not by doctrine or theology but out of a genuine relationally grounded care and love for one another. I believe that this will happen through a “gentle rain” rather than in a flood, at least I hope so.



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Kris

posted June 17, 2009 at 5:30 pm


I appreciate the honest and humility in point 4. I admire Shane and his vision greatly. My wife and I long to be used significantly by God, but with two little girls, a rented house still unsold in New Mexico while we serve in the UK, the price often feels so steep already that we struggle to think we could sacrifice any more. Thanks for validating our struggles.



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Your Name

posted June 19, 2009 at 9:39 pm


Austin – I’m not emergent, nor do I want to be. But I was reading this thread and I thought it was hilarious that you are rebuking your leaders for “grouping together and battling those in other camps” instead of just “loving and serving Jesus”. Hmmm. Why even “battle” on this blog, then? Why not just “love and serve Jesus” and hope for the best instead of “battling”.



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Scott Williams

posted July 6, 2009 at 12:01 pm


how can i get in on this $5 a day deal? wowo



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a

posted February 9, 2010 at 8:49 pm


I am so sick of the. non demom church and word of faith,prosperity stuff….also the coffee centric goal of churches…can you see Jesus going down the rows of the common church today getting a sip of coffee as he passes? makes me sick. We have lost the holiness of the alter of Christ. We have traded it for commercialism. sad state of affairs…



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