Emerging Church: Ten Year Retrospective on Next Wave

Ten years ago i was interviewed by Next Wave regarding church on the new edge. Now, a decade later, the term has changed to “emerging church” and we are still talking. Actually, the Next-Wave online mag is one of the very best resources for emerging church stuff and its an honor to be a part of their Ten Year Retrospective.

Pull up a chair, load up these pages, pour yourself a coffee, and have a read of Next-Wave’s ten year retrospective on the emerging church in USA given by a number of players including myself and aggregated by the emerging church historian extraordinaire, Stephen Shields.

6A00D83453083969E2010536Cfc79D970B-800WiTen Years Out: A Retrospective on the Emerging Church in North America

A Retrospective on the Emerging Church in North America Pt. 1 – How would you characterize the current state of the emerging church conversation? What’s positive? What concerns you?

A Retrospective on the Emerging Church in North America Pt. 2 – Some are saying that we should not use the term “emerging church” any longer because as it’s come to represent such a broad diversity of interests, the term now precipitates confusion. Do you agree? Why or why not? What do you see as the future of the emerging church conversation?

OK – be honest. Did I do OK or did my answers totally suck? How would you answer these questions?

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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” :-)

19 Comments

  • You rock … How do you respond to Tony’s comment, “It concerns me when bloggers in the UK (and elsewhere) criticize what we’re doing in the US when it’s clear they’re not really in touch with our context.”
    You strike me as the most in touch dude I know – we don’t always see eye t eye obviously but I’d drink the Andrew Jones Kool-Aide any time.

  • becky – history should inform you: dont EVER drink kool-aide from anyone named Jones!
    tony is probably right in saying that the brits are not really in touch with the uk context and vice versa. each country is so unique on so many levels you really have to spend a long time in the country and travel around to tune in.
    i dont know what uk bloggers he is talking about. probably not me because i have lived a quarter of my life in USA and only 5 years in UK.
    but the usa really is a unique context and you have to spend a good amount of time to figure that out.
    what do you think?

  • Well, so far you haven’t actually served me Kool-aide, so I’m safe.
    Good points – It’s not just geography but ecclesiology. As a US Episcopalian, I feel a kinship with the UK Anglican Fresh Expressions stream. Having any one group promote themselves as the church of the 21st century because that is a sheer impossibility given the complexity of American religious landscape. For example, in the US, Christian is often shorthand for Evangelical (which has a far different meaning in the US than the UK). Even saying one is an Episcopalian carries with it a nuance of meanings.
    Where I sensed this global tension though was when one particular strain of Emergent as dominated by author/speakers began to take center stage, thus creating an imbalance where the global story wasn’t being told. The whole branding of Emergent Church ™ seemed to signal a move that the commercial component of this had morphed into that which it was protesting. That seemed to be the driving force of many to abandon the names emergent/emerging/emergence as that debate was getting in the way of the work.
    Then again, as a friend pointed out to me – six white dudes on the cover, what’s emerging about that? I’m tired of having this debate especially when I can find multiethnic and women led ministries that are doing some amazing work though they aren’t part of the official conversation. The fun stuff is always on the fringes anyway.

  • Hey Becky,
    Wanted to jump in and ask you when you can submit an article for Next-Wave about the multi-ethnic and women-led ministries that are doing amazing work. Next-Wave is not part of any official conversation. We are just trying to document what God is doing around the world. Unfortunately, it seems that the six white guys on the cover have done a lot of the writing about the subject matter, particularly in books and online.
    But hey, get together with your friends and others and start sending those articles, we will gladly publish them.
    Charlie Wear

  • Thanks Charlie – I’m having this discussion with Scott as we speak. A good chunk of the problem is that a lot of the people I met just don’t want to get into the ring because they lack the necessary ontological equipment to engage in what often de-evolves into a theological whizzing contest. Also, they are practioners, so the focus is on their ministry not building up their publishing/speaking credentials.
    I can think though of a number of US based women who have been involved in the discussion for some time and was wondering if they were approached and said no or if they weren’t asked.

  • Hi again Becky,
    Most of what appears on Next-Wave has been published on a blog. Over the years I have stayed current on several dozen writers and when I see something good I ask them to publish it. Of course, there are interviews of authors and other leaders, but unless we know about the person, we won’t be able to interview.
    What is needed I guess are people aware of what women and others are doing who will write articles about them. Does that sound like someone you know? 🙂
    Charlie

  • I sent Scott a list of female bloggers and also suggested the Latin Leadership Circles – I noted where I had emails in hand. In addition, I am having a copy of Rising from the Ashes: Rethinking Church sent to him and told him he was free to run excerpts from that. Also, i gave him Andrew’s blog posting about Christian female bloggers that’s worth checking out. There’s a lot of amazing stuff happening once you peel away the Emergent Church ™ brand and dig below the surface – it’s like moving away from shopping at the MegaMall and looking for the farmer’s market and out of the way fair trade shops. Takes a lot more effort but really worth it in the long run.

  • yes – and even inside EV there are good things also like that.
    Dan – Richard has been a friend for 20 years and we still keep in touch (3x in the last week)
    I wrote about him in an article i did for Christianity Today called What did you go out to see?
    its a part of the broader “church emerging” that is really important and also part of America dealing with its past of colonial ecclesiastic abuse.

  • Andrew – agreed. When I was in Chicago for AAR 2008, I was very impressed by some of the stuff coming out of the Chicago area EV cohort for example. (The one in New York City imploded so I’ve also seen the flip side.) Such is the nature of an open source organization.
    It’s when things become branded where a small self-selecting group of author/speakers (with assistance from their publishers) become elevated as the “authoritative leaders” that things tend to go to hell in a handbasket. The starfishes seems to morph into spiders to use a best-selling book analogy. I am a major fan of starfish but spiders as a rule of thumb scare me. This phenomenon is by no means limited to one particular organization or even the United States, as I’ve seen a bit of branding creep over from your side of the pond.

  • the branding thing came up in this next-wave report. i thought we were talking about the emerging church – not any one particular group. If we were talking brands and organizations, then i probably should have mentioned The Boaz Project which will also be celebrating ten years very soon – but we still dont have a website or a high visibility – but that has been an advantage for us and a means of getting into many countries and movements. more starfish than spider.

  • I’m referring to the commercialization of a brand – the creation of McChurch as it were. We talked about this in earlier posts regarding the author/speaker conference circuit where the goal seems to be more to promote a person’s products than to have a communal focus where all can participate. The prosperity preachers appear to be the worst here but it’s a web that any published Christian author can easily get trapped in – even the best starfish can turn into spiders if they’re not careful.
    The Boaz Project is an excellent example of using branding in a positive manner – one does need street cred to prove one is not a Christian charlatan. Also, Proost UK presents a very good model for how one can disseminate resources so that the focus remains on the work and not on the individuals.

  • Andrew, I read the article. It’s nice.
    It seemed as though Charlie and Becky were at a bit of a loss for the multi-ethnic crowd; it seems important to me that the “powers that be” who are aware of the marginalized voices and are friends with them, share those friendships within their circles of friends. It’s important for those who are in the public eye, who have favor so to speak, to make room for folks like Richard, Randy, other indigenous leaders and marginalized voices around the world. This, it would seem, is their feeling as well.
    If any of you is interested, there’s a journal out of New Zealand called AlterNative that you might find of interest; moreover, you may find folks who are multi-ethnic and willing to contribute to your 10 year retrospective.
    Thanks for trying to not keep this “in house.”
    Peace.
    Dan

  • i think it would be wonderful to read a piece that covers the emerging church conversation that’s been taking place outside of north america. so much of the story in the us (and to a lesser degree in canada) revolves around emergent village and coverage of that organization made the piece published more na-centric.

  • is it just me or is Tony Jones becoming the very embodyment of TSK’s critique that the conversation in the US has become both US centric and distilled down to ‘Emergent VillageTM’
    It seemed like his caveat was an excuse to only talk solely about emergent villiage and also to talk about it as the be all and end all of the emerging church over the last ten years

  • Hi matybigfro,
    With respect, Tony and the rest of the EV board definitely do not see EV as the end-all and be-all of the emerging church conversation either in NA or in the world. And they eliminated the coordinator’s position in an effort to move away from Emergent Village TM and all that connotes.
    fwiw,

  • Stephen – Good points. But the conferences, publishing lines, etc. are all very US-centric where with a few exceptions it’s geared for postevangelical white males with PhDs who are largely academics not practioners.
    My hope is that in this down economy that we can use this time for some creative re-imagining. Andrew’s been amazing at helping to spearhead that discussion and I appreciated your kind offer for me to send you names of folks, who could contribute to Next Wave.
    (On a side note-My suggestion for anyone planning author tours, conferences, etc. in the US is to prayerfully consider postponing the tour or thinking of ways to get one’s message out that doesn’t involve asking people to shell out money. And if you released a book in 2008, think about holding off on the next book until 2010. I’m noticing that even some big name authors who released multiple products in 2008 (pre-financial crash) didn’t have the sales that were expected and that some conferences didn’t sell out like they would have even two years ago. (What seems to be happening is that all but the most die-hard fans by one of their books.)
    You can’t milk a cow that’s dry – and I predict a bit of a backlash towards those who try to convince people to pay money to buy too much product and attend events that are “life changing,” “transformative” and the like when folks can’t make their monthly bills.

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