Hammett on Emerging Church – Intro

[Update: The original title for this series was “Emerging Church Hammering”. Out of respect for John Hammett, because it did not fairly reflect his intentions towards the emerging church, I have edited the titles]

So . . . what about the latest ‘hammering’ on the emerging church? I don’t respond to many of these critiques, and I tried to avoid this one, but since my name is in Hammett’s paper, and since we have mutual friends, I thought i would throw down some thoughts over the next few days that might clarify some things. Heres an intro.

I find it interesting that from all the lectures given at the Evangelical Theology Society’s conference, including some by emerging church people, only John Hammett’s critique on the emerging church and subsequent warning gets wings on the web. Goes to show – if you say something critical about the emerging church, there is a legion of web journalists who will quickly back you up and help you graffitti your criticism on the wall of the blogosphere. Not saying Hammett was looking for such high readership on purpose. But it happened anyway.

I was virtually introduced to Dr John Hammett last week through 3 encounters:

1. Before I read his paper, Mark Thames of Demarkation, gave props to two people – me and John Hammett. Mark’s wife, Dawn, refers to John as “Jesus’s best friend”. So . . like it or not . . I am intrinsically linked in friendship, as well as in denominational fold. Mark and I are both consultants for BGCT and John Hammett is also Baptist. In other words, we are brothers around the baptist coffee urn and you will not find me bad mouthing him or his ministry. Or even his critique of what he sees as “emerging church”

2. I found Hammett’s “An Ecclesiological Assessment of the Emerging Church [pdf]” posted on the A-Team Blog. Well thought out and presented. I have problems with his source material, but more on that later.

3. Baptist Press releases the article “Baptist Scholar Sounds a Warning to Emerging Church” which was quickly sliced up and offered to the other critics. Another warning to beware the emerging church.

Well . . have a read and a thought and let me know what you think. In the meantime, I will jot down some of my own thoughts as part of a short series that i hope will bring another level of clarity to those just entering the discussion.

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Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name “Precious” :-)

5 Comments

  • Perhaps I am a bit naive, and I’m by no means a theologian, but I’m reading the ‘Baptist Scholar Sounds a Warning’ article and I just get a sense there are scars, misunderstanding, and hurt underneath such a rigorous defense.

  • Andrew,
    I just read the article, and I must say that I think what you read in it is the fundamental difference between theoretical and practical. Hammett’s largest primary concerns seem to be that not everyone is affected by postmodernism (in the academic sense) and that the writers and thinkers in the movement have diffuse, vague concepts. I’m glad to read that. One of the quotes from page three (#11) is right on the money saying churches of all denominations, but it never says all churches which is what Hammett seems to read.
    I’m a seminary student/community missionary/ et. al in a community where traditional evangelical church is the norm. There are nearly two evangelically minded churches for every square mile in this city, and most are in decline because they don’t reach the needs of the community. The aspect of the “ECM” that appeals to me is not academic, it is practical. It is the missional mindset of people, Christ-followers, believers, Christians working in their communities, not BECAUSE of post-modern culture, but BECAUSE that is what we are supposed to do. Whether or not we are affected by post-modern culture largely depends on our context. A post-modern ministry in an Amish community is probably not a missional church.
    I took a break from writing a paper on the chasm between academic systematic theololgy and practical theological praxis to read this, and I’m now considering a revision of my introduction. This is a great illustration. It isn’t that academia’s assessment is wrong, it is that they are asking irrelavent questions. They’re trying to define “emerging church” because they need a definition, and missing the point that EC isn’t a denomination of the church like Baptist or Methodist, it is a people focused – kingdom focused mindset that permeates denominations. I am still a baptist. I still desire to lead people into a kingdom relationship, but I’m not willing to simply talk about how it should be done, I want to develop an affective praxis for my life.

  • toby, when we were in lancaster, PA, our family dressed up like Amish. My kids wore the hats and bonnets. They thought i was a backslider with a ponytail
    i have to preach at a retirement home in a few months – and i will preach from a black Bible and sing hymns from a book. That, for them, is their context.
    so i agree – yes – its an appropriate missional response to whatever context the Father sends us into

  • Part of the divisve issue with critics of emergent, as you and many others have noted here Andrew, is that they see in “emergent” what they want to see. To them, it is a movement definable by the terms “emergent” and “postmodern”. Words, of course, each person uses in different ways, either negatively, positively, or neutrally.
    I’m a supporter of emerging things and folk but anxious about how the word “emergent” gets disconnected from respective local contexts. All parties included do this by the way: the logo-ization of Emergent Village, which often is mistakenly identitied as representing all of emergent folk, especially creeps me out.
    Wendell Berry has been especially helpful to me in the latest leg of my journey in the Body of Christ. If anyone has the time, check out his essay In Distrust of Movements, where he cleverly and playfully admonishes people who support movements (including himself of course). It’s a great read.

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