The New Christians

The New Christians


A (Better) Taxonomy for the Emerging Church: The Innovators

posted by Tony Jones

I introduced Flory and Miller’s book,  Finding Faith: The Spiritual Quest of the Post-Boomer Generation, earlier this week.  As sociologists, Flory and Miller have no axe to grind, thus I find their taxonomy of the emerging movement inherently more honest than mine or Kimball’s, Dricoll’s, McKnight’s, Pagitt’s, McLaren’s, or Stetzer’s.

And, honestly, they’re not really categorizing the movement, per se.  They are looking at the ways that the post-Baby Boomer generations have religiously responded to the globalization/pluralism/postmodernism of the early 21st century. And one of the things they make clear beginning with their first book is that post-Boomer spirituality is significantly different than Boomer spirituality.


Their first category is actually the one into which they put the emerging church, and also existing churches that are dramatically rethinking their patterns of life and ministry.

After describing some of the same churches, authors, and networks that will be described below, Flory and Miller describe the ethos of the Innovators as a group of Christians who are “disillusioned or dissatisfied with the form of Christianity they have received,” and thus, “seeking a more holistic approach to faith that combines both the cognitive and a greater sense experience of the divine,” they are “almost completely uninterested in rational, propositional expressions of their faith.”  

Noting that the Innovators are “solidly middle class,” Flory and Miller note that the critical faculties learned in college and graduate studies enable the Innovators to reflect critically on the patterns and institutions of Christian life inherited by their generation.  

In this way, the Innovators offer the most radical break from Baby Boomer and Seeker Church Protestantism:


These groups, whether newer “emerging” churches or more established ones, frame their approach in contrast to what they see as an overly institutionalized and inwardly focused church, seeking instead one that is focused on building community, both within the religious group and with the surrounding community, and engaged in various ways with the larger culture. 

These churches are innovating in terms of their responses to the larger culture, introducing forms of ritual and symbol into their worship services and creating new forms of religious life that emphasize community and belonging, as well as service both within the church and to the larger community.

From their observations, Flory and Miller list four primary characteristics of Innovator churches:

First, there is a prevalence of visual representations and expressions of the sacred; second, most of these congregations tend to be small in size and high in commitment; third, there is a general disinterest in established forms of religion; and fourth, there is both an inward experience and an outward expression of the spiritual.

They go on to conclude that the Innovators occupy a precarious position in American Protestantism, for they seem to face the possibilities of either becoming co-opted by institutionalized Christianity or fading from influence.  To occupy a middle ground between these two, it seems, is unlikely.



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Kelly Powers

posted August 6, 2009 at 6:49 pm


Tony, when you say you find this book more honest than…(the people you listed) is that really valid since Donald Miller is associated and seems to be in favor of the Emergent church movement. What makes him or Flory more honest than someone like a Mclaren, a Driscoll, yourself, or anyone else. I have grown up in the church since I was 3, became a born again Christian and came to follow Jesus at the at of 6, I have been in various types of churches, SBC, Pentecostal, Charimatic, non denominational, CMA, what makes them more honest than me? I just find that statement very off base.
Now I have not read the book, but I can relate to things of what makes church appealing to different types of people, why some are turned off. People want real people, real truth, real answers, real spiritual leadership, not fluffianity.
Anyways, I am truly looking into this emergent church movement, honestly, but seeing many dangerous signs of 2 Tim. 4:3-4 with people just following teachers that tickler their ears and they are falling away from sound biblical doctrine and what it means to know Jesus truly as Lord and Savior.
Kelly Powers
ROOTED http://www.rootedinchrist.org



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Kelly Powers

posted August 6, 2009 at 6:50 pm


Tony, when you say you find this book more honest than…(the people you listed) is that really valid since Donald Miller is associated and seems to be in favor of the Emergent church movement. What makes him or Flory more honest than someone like a Mclaren, a Driscoll, yourself, or anyone else. I have grown up in the church since I was 3, became a born again Christian and came to follow Jesus at the at of 6, I have been in various types of churches, SBC, Pentecostal, Charimatic, non denominational, CMA, what makes them more honest than me? I just find that statement very off base.
Now I have not read the book, but I can relate to things of what makes church appealing to different types of people, why some are turned off. People want real people, real truth, real answers, real spiritual leadership, not fluffianity.
Anyways, I am truly looking into this emergent church movement, honestly, but seeing many dangerous signs of 2 Tim. 4:3-4 with people just following teachers that tickler their ears and they are falling away from sound biblical doctrine and what it means to know Jesus truly as Lord and Savior.
Kelly Powers
ROOTED http://www.rootedinchrist.org



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Jules

posted August 6, 2009 at 7:51 pm


I will have to read this book. It seems they have touched on some observations I have noticed as well. Would love to hear what they have to say. Thanks for the heads up!



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Korey

posted August 6, 2009 at 9:17 pm


I don’t think Donald Miller, author of Blue Like Jazz and others http://www.donaldmillerwords.com/, is the same as Donald E. Miller, http://www.usc.edu/schools/college/crcc/about/staff/miller.html



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Kelly Powers

posted August 6, 2009 at 9:40 pm


I see, did not realize different Miller, my bad on that one. I am not familiar with Donald E. Miller. So my last post/twice by accident, disregard.



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Eddie Green

posted August 7, 2009 at 6:34 am


I wish someone would explain to me what the institutional church is. We used to moan about it on the Ooze years ago. It just seemed to mean all the things we didn’t like.
The indented paragraph you quoted sums up British Anglicanism. The Reformed Catholic tradition with its parish focus and representative ‘hierarchy’. Which is where the brit Post-Evangelicals all ended up 10 years ago and at present is the centre of open evangelicalism.
Is that all Emergent is? Americans becoming more British?



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Mary

posted August 7, 2009 at 10:28 am


You know what’s really annoying about Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt? When discussing theology, Tony Jones and Doug Pagitt always stay on the defensive and never go on the offensive. Listen to a conversation between Doug Pagitt and Todd Friel to see what I mean. During the entire conversation, Todd Friel asks Doug Pagitt about his view of hell. Why can’t Doug Pagitt respond and ask Todd, “Todd, if you believe in hell and that everyone who doesn’t share your faith is there, are the Jews who died during the Holocaust in hell right now”? Please emergent leaders! Every now and then you must go on the offensive in your theological debates. Don’t let fundamentalists think that they are rooted in truth, and you are just wishy-washy.



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Jules

posted August 7, 2009 at 11:45 am


Edward Green? May or may not remember me, I’m “a268chic” over at theooze or was there. Anyway….
“I wish someone would explain to me what the institutional church is. We used to moan about it on the Ooze years ago. It just seemed to mean all the things we didn’t like.”
As someone who used that a lot back in the day at TheOOZE. For me it wasn’t about what I didn’t like, but I can see how it can be perceived that way. “IC” for me was about stating the difference between the gathering and the institution. Yes, I don’t like for church to be institutionalized. Not a fan. I don’t believe scripture supports something as we in our Western society has made it. Paid pastors, clergy, ect. So for me, that is what I meant by IC. And I mean that on ANY level, emergent church, baptist church, what ever denominational name you want to put to it. So I feel for many of us that is what we meant back then. I could be wrong, I’m sure there are others who used as you say. I just know how I meant it.
“Is that all Emergent is? Americans becoming more British?”
I don’t want to sound rude, because it isn’t how I want it to come across, but I hope it isn’t that Americans want to be more British. I think it is that the social climate and the full realization of globalization is finally impacting American culture and the churches. So I guess it could come across that we are wanting to look more British when in fact it is just how the social climate through globalization is happening.
Edward it was so nice to see you! since I’m not around theooze much it is always nice to find old oozers around and spark conversation!
Jules



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Ted Seeber

posted August 7, 2009 at 2:06 pm


As a post-Vatican II and thus post-Baby Boomer Roman Catholic, I’m not sure I see a separation between community, civilization, and an institutional church- to me these are all one and the same. Part of that is being a Post Vatican II Catholic, where we’ve concentrated extremely hard on building community; but looking back in history, building communities (communes and monasteries and small kingdoms) and building civilizations (The Holy Roman Empire, the great universal morality laws about Just Warfare, every king in Europe receiving the power of the crown from the Vicar of Christ, under our once and future High King, Jesus Christ) goes right back to the Dark Ages for the Church- we were the protectors and builders of civilization after the fall of Rome.
So unless you’re talking about some sort of a traditionalist backlash 500 years too late to the destruction the Reformation caused to community-building, I don’t see the problem; the Church has always been and will always be, first and foremost, a community of saints, whether Militant, Suffering, or Triumphant.



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Edward Green

posted August 17, 2009 at 11:43 am


I remember Jules!
And i was being provocative. :-)



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