Mar 302008

if you’re curious like me (or, have a StrengthsFinder theme of INPUT, like me), I’ve wanted to know what really happened behind the scenes, and how this whole emergent church thing blossomed, and it was something years in the making, mostly unintentional, from what I gather. And it’s become a bigger thing than I’d ever imagined, as this photo from my neighborhood Barnes & Noble shows:

The New Christians' books for sale

A whole table section named after Tony Jones’ new book!? And, some other emergent church history goodies, excerpted from Books @ Leadership Network blogboring title. great insider info. ::

… I came across this blog series, The History of Emergent by Jason Mitchell [ht: faithmaps via knightopia]… here’s what Jason’d blogged:

… this intriguing book, as it “pulls the curtain back” to give the readers at an insider look at how this whole “emergent church” conversation started and developed over the past 5 years or so.

Read that full blog entry for free Chapter 1 download and more context >>

Jan 182008

With the turn of the century, there’s a lot of new developments in the church world — which is exciting for some, confusing for others. Particularly, the new kinds of churches being described as emerging church or emergent church, are all over the map (and around the world) in terms of what it looks like, what they believe, and how they worship. And, if one adds “missional church” to the mix, one’ll get some contemporary evangelical churches under the big tent too.

There’s been more than a handful of attempts at explaining what the emerging church is by using taxonomies, categories, types, classifications, and/or models. Here are some of the more oft-quoted articles about emerging and/or emergent churches::

Five Streams of the Emerging Church: Key elements of the most controversial and misunderstood movement in the church today by Scot McKnight (in Christianity Today, February 2007)

Understanding the emerging church by Ed Stetzer (in Baptist Press, January 2006), 3 descriptors were proposed: Relevants, Reconstructionists, and Revisionists; for more background and context about this article, see Ed Stetzer’s blog entry on Understanding the Emerging Church

Four Models of Emerging Churches by Wess Daniels — a more nuanced listing of 4 proto-typologies and their influencers: deconstructionist, pre-modern, open Anabaptism, foundationalist (ht: emergent village; January 2008)

Darrin Patrick lectured at Covenant Seminary on “streams of the emerging church“, presenting 3 main streams: Conversational, Attractional, Incarnational (ht: emergent village; October 2007)

An Emerging Church Primer by Justin Taylor (at 9 Marks, a broadly reformed perspective)

And, Mark Driscoll (Mars Hill Church, Seattle) in “A Pastoral Perspective on the Emergent Church” (in Criswell Theological Review, Spring 2006) re-stated Ed Stetzer’s categories, but has more recently reframed those into: Relevants, Revisionists, and Relevant Reformed, including himself in the latter, cf. Conference examines the emerging church (Baptist Press, September 2007) though he was interviewed in 2006 citing 4 categories, adding Relevant Reformed to Stetzer’s original 3.

For more comparative opinions, see Mark Driscoll’s Critique Gets Mixed Response over at emergent village.

And what would Tim Keller say to the emerging church? Keller has added his comments at Tallskinnykiwi’s Anabaptism and the Emerging Church and emergingpensee’s Should Emerging Church Settle?

[update 10/8/08] Doug Pagitt on video weights in with Emergent and Emerging Church Distinction | see Emergent Village for their network of on-going conversations | history of how emergent church emerged | read September 2008′s month-long Emergent Blogologue (a blog-based conversation) between Christian futurist Bill Easum and Tony Jones, in 5 parts (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) | Scot McKnight observes that “Emergent is no longer just emerging. It has in many respects emerged.” in McLaren Emerging (CT, Sept 2008) and blogs about emerging movement fairly regularly at

Jul 092007

Here’s a brief history of the “Emergent Church”, excerpted from the paper presented by Tony Jones at a 2007 Wheaton Theology conference but rejected from the publication of the conference proceedings::

What Is the Emergent Church?

First off, the name: Emergent. The tags, “emerging church” and “emerging leaders” were being used by organizations like Leadership Network in Dallas back in the late 1990s, particularly as they sponsored some of our early work; under Leadership Network, we had been called the “Young Leaders Network,” the “Theological Working Group,” and “Terra Nova.” By 2001, we were out on our own, and felt that we needed a name, a banner, of sorts, under which we could gather. In May of that year, about six of us were on a conference call, brainstorming possible names.

Then Brian McLaren, a devoted environmentalist, said, “You know, when a forester visits a forest to determine its health, she doesn’t climb up into the old growth trees. Instead, she gets down on her knees and digs around in what they call the ‘emergent growth’ at the forest floor. In the ecology of the American church, there are lots of organizations who are tending to the old growth trees, but we seem most interested in what’s taking place on the forest floor, at the emergent church level.”

So, we settled on the name “Emergent” and bought the domain name, “” And we started connecting with others around the globe who were examining the same shifts from modernity to postmodernity that had so intrigued us and had, really, brought us together starting in 1997. The alt.worship crowd in the U.K. became friends, and we made connections with people in Australia and New Zealand. The success of Brian’s book, A New Kind of Christian, brought a great deal of attention, too, and increasingly, Emergent Christianity has become a “brand” of its own, for good and for ill.

Both Emergent Village, the organization with which I am affiliated, and the broader emerging/emergent church movement have grown steadily in recent years. But the growth has not been particularly quantifiable, as other ecclesial movements might be. In fact, some (like Dwight Friesen) have suggested that church growth in the 21st century might not reflect the linear, organizational growth structures of the industrial age, but instead the open source growth typified by the Internet and by pandemic viruses. In open source–also known as “scale free networks”–growth looks more like a non-hierarchical web, with hubs of potency that, in turn, foment new strands of growth.

Download the full paper (and accompanying powerpoint) from Tony Jones’ Theoblogy blog.

May 182007

I’ve been occasional conversational partner with the emergent church/ emergent village thing. I have no official roles or titles, never been to one of those secret meetings, but I have a handful of friends who are more on the “in” and even other non-Anglos got published in their latest book, An Emergent Manifesto of Hope. When my friend Steve Knight, a member of the National Coordinating Group for Emergent Village, affirmed what I said as a more concise summary of what the emergent church conversation is about. I’ve pulled it from the depths of the comment thread at BlogMinistry:

I think the first comparison of emergent being like abstract art is mostly fitting. “Emerging church” is a very broad label to describe the many kinds of new churches being formed in the 21st century that are different in small or big ways from the previous generations of church. “Emergent church” is not a definition, not a movement, not a theology. “Emergent church” is best described as a conversation about theologies and/or practices of doing life in the way of Jesus. So, “emergent” is a very broad umbrella that brings together people from all kinds of theological persuasions for conversations, imagination, and other kinds of things. The point is not to work at arriving towards a consensus for a statement of faith. It’s an opt-in conversation, so if you’re okay with having friendship and/or fellowship with other people who don’t share your same identical theological framework, you too can join the emergent conversation.

So rather than reading through verbose narratives about the history of emergent / emergent church / emergent village, maybe this summary above will be helpful to those who wish for a more definitional approach to all things church and all things theological. And, maybe I’ll one day get an (elusive?) answer to why their multi-author book got published by a big-time publisher, when most multi-author volumes are usually passed over.

Oct 052006

While attending a family friend’s wedding reception last weekend, I sat near a person learning improv comedy. One of the basic principles in improv is “Yes, and” — this opens up dialogue and keeps the comedic flow going. The thing is, dialogue takes a lot of time and effort, and being the busy Americans that we are, it seems we don’t have much time for it.

Like internetmonk, I dislike arguing. Some people like arguing and do it for sport with no hard feelings or after taste. It’s been my experience that most people get their feelings hurt when intellectuals do battle. I’m tired of remarks that begin with “some things that I disagreed with” [caveat: click thru for context b/c I pulled this quote out of context to illustrate my tiredness with 'disagreement'] or “that does not mean that I endorse everything“… maybe it’s my wishful thinking, but I’d think that very few people agree and endorse 100% of what someone else says or writes. Do most people have a different default mode?

Believe you me, I was not oblivious to the blogosphere’s buzz about the Desiring God conference with Piper, Keller, Driscoll, and others. Roger Overton has a nice link list of summaries to the conference [ht: faithmaps]. And, CT did note that “Piper does scare some people.”
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Aug 282006

What a full day! So after my sermon yesterday morning, I needed to get myself rehydrated. Stopped by the Tenleytown Whole Foods and grabbed a bottle of Naked Juice Mighty Mango. Then an afternoon nap, leftovers for dinner, and get our monthly skypecast going. I looked around for a way to record the skypecast, and there are a handful of softwares out there you’d have to pay for to record. PrettyMay was the most generous in its trial/demo version, and allows you to record up to 30 minutes for free. So that’s what I used.

We recorded our 2nd Asian American Emergents skypecast! Our turn out has doubled, this time including Emergent Asia’s Sivin Kit, as well as Ben Pun, David Park, Peter Ong, Tim Liu, and Theo Wong.

You can listen in to part 1 and part 2 online. Part 1:

Part 2:

I felt good that I’m no longer the only Asian face interested in the emergent conversation. It’s also fascinating to hear how the emerging church conversation in Malaysia started up and has many similarities (far as I know) to how it started in the US. It really is best labeled as a conversation.

And, Tim had these great thoughts as a closing remark:

In my experience, AsAm churches tend to be even more conservative in terms of practice than American churches. They tend to be slower to adapt to changes and are rarely forerunners in ministry innovation. Many people (such as Dan Kimball) see the emerging church as a response to the contemporary worship movement. But in my (Chinese) church, we are barely contemporary. We still have those who feel that drums are of the devil. So I think the Asian churches maybe just need more time to catch up. Also, I wonder if anyone else notices the overlaps between the postmodern culture and the Eastern/Asian worldview? For example, preaching in narrative and in non-linear flow of thought is normal for Asians. When I preach to the 1st genearation adults in my church, they love to hear stories and narrative. Its already part of how they communicate. Another example is the emphasis on community and relationships in the Emerging church. Its already is a central part of asian culture. So in a lot of ways, I could see the AsAm church very welcoming to some aspects of the emerging church if it is presented in the right way.

Oct 252005

Some great recent conversations in the blogosphere about church diversity, or the lack thereof. Don’t have the time to add my own thoughts and comments, but I’m tired of holding back all these links in my draft folder. Here’s some I’ve found, in no particular order:

…what about some other brothers and sisters?

“Every emergent gathering I’ve been to in recent years is extremely white concerning skin tones. What possibilities of inter-racial and ethnic working together are being talked about…and actually done…within the Emerging Church…especially in North America?”

Postmodernegro in The Church, Embracing Grace, and Racism links to Jesus Creed’s Church, Embracing Grace, and Racism Part 1 and Part 2, who used tapas, salad, and other foods to describe diversity models, whereas I had used ice cream flavors to describe multiethnic churches, similiarly.

Quite a thread going at funkateer74′s xanga about the lack of diversity in the “church that is emerging” conversation.

“I really don’t see real racial reconciliation coming out of the emerging church just yet. It really seems like a largely white movement here in the states.”

One Voice podcast is finally online with Mark La Roi, who had previously noted that God is not colorblind!

“I don’t believe that the different colors of people are “races”. Why? Because if you accept the term “Human Race” as valid, everything else is sub-division. I’m not sub-human, are you?”

More personally and poignantly, Andrew Seely ponders on his own ethnic identity:

Or this just is an ongoing issue between how I see myself, how others see me. … It is my hope that people look beyond the initial appearance that I carry with me and look deep into my character in God’s eyes.

And, this Leadership Journal article slipped through my radar, from Spring 2005: An Army of Ones: Does diversity in the church work? This was a panel discussion of sorts with Craig Keener, Larry Osborne of North Coast Church, and Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church.

[update] Plus, let’s not forget the lively thread over at Seeking Diversity in Emergent, with 46 posts to date, and counting.

Aug 032005

Here’s a few thoughts on multicultural churches from a PCUSA perspective, by the denomination’s moderator, Rick Ufford-Chase.

… I’ve spent time in several churches that are making a serious attempt to build a multicultural community. They are diverse in their approaches. One thing that is becoming clear to me is that, like most churches, there are no guarantees of success, and those that are successful know that they can never stop being intentional about their work in building culturally diverse communities.

In order to qualify as multicultural, there must be above twenty percent non European-American members. There are many different models (an anglo church nesting a new or developing church, a church that remains essentially a “traditional” U.S. Presbyterian worship service but has racial diversity, churches that are trying to embrace a variety of cultures in their worship, congregations that are attempting to move with a neighborhood as it shifts from European American to multicultural to an entirely different make-up, congregations that bring a strong focus on trying to work on racism, etc.

There’s also a Postmodern Negro (aka Anthony Smith) and his perspective on Diversity and the Emerging Church.

… I came to this conversation not because I wanted to see “diversity”. Diversity wasn’t the telos that has brought me here. What has brought me here are some of the similar features in my thinking and practice of Christianity and Emergent. Emergent is singing the same song I am singing in many ways. I believe diversity is something that should be intentional but not coerced. … Diversity, in our culture, in many ways, has become somewhat of a ethic of coercion foisted upon the dominant culture. Such an understanding of diversity does not embody the peaceableness of the gospel. Diversity is something, I believe, that is the outworking of participating in the very life of God. When we break bread together, pray together, fuss, fight, dialogue, debate, share our joys, our sorrows together God may see fit to bless with His Spirit to guide our bodies to reflect the sociality of the Father, Son, and the Spirit.