Residual Church and Emerging Church

1903364248.01.LZZZZZZZ.jpgI was up again at 4 this morning, reading and surfing, drinking way too much tea, refusing to shave or look good as a part of my Sunday morning ritual. I was reading “Aftershocks: the End of Style Culture”, (by Steve Beard) in the bathtub and I stumbled on his unpublished PhD dissertation fragment from 1991 on postmodernism.
In this fragment, Steve Beard mentions “emergent and residual social formations”.

That got me thinking – emergent church and residual church. Residual is a more value-free term than “traditional” or “mainstream” (words we apply to existing church rather than emerging).

Residual Church: The existing church that remains, that has existed and functioned previously and the impact of which still remains. The early church in the Book of Acts (emerging at the time) was influenced by the synagogue structure, secular assemblies (ecclesia) and Temple culture. Emerging Church today is paritally inherited from Residual Church and Residual Church is challenged and impacted by Emerging Church.
Both are cool. New and Old Wineskins have their place and appeal to different demographics. Both are needed. The Residual Church of our fathers and the Emerging Church of our children.
What kind of church will you go to today?


Andrew Jones launched his first internet space in 1997 and has been teaching on related issues for the past 20 years. He travels all the time but lives between Wellington, San Francisco and a hobbit home in Prague.


  • brad says:

    what kind of church will i go to today?
    i get to BE today at the “happenin’ house” community=that=is=church kind of a place. think i’ll maybe enjoy it …
    p.s. just curious – what could be some terms for a church that’s moving from residual to emerging and beyond?

  • scotty says:

    post residual
    pre emerging

  • davidt says:

    You’re awesome. That’s so cool, in the tub, reading some PhD’s disertation. Were you bloggin in the tub?

  • scott says:

    I am in a residual church trying to come to grips with the emergent world. I think that most residual churches are in steep trouble, but some are going to have to come through the emergent movement alive and stronger.
    Do you have resources or friends doing the same kind of thing?

  • aola says:

    I’m staying home..

  • Andrew says:

    Was I bogging in the tub???
    No . . . but I have to confess that I did have my computer next to me in the tub with the WiFi signal reaching it – the signal is a little weak in the bathroom and I have to unplug the power for safety reasons.
    Dont try this at home!!!

  • john says:

    “Church” is Christ’s body, wherever those who are found in Him gather together. I don’t think Jesus is very interested in the terms we come up with to try and describe changing “church cultures.”
    We (in our western culture) have a wealth of time and resources to sit around and blog, watch movies, hang out with friends. Most people in the world live hand to mouth and struggle to simply survive. Most Christians in the world (non-western church) struggle with questions of “should I go to church today even though I know my husband will beat me when I return?” or “how will i feed my children when I lose my job and get kicked out of the village for following Jesus?”
    I’m not worried about what “church” I’m going to today. No, I’m worried about whether my life is making an impact for eternity among those who don’t know His name.

  • Daniel says:

    A noble sentiment, John, but a bit misdirected, I think. My experience is that those of the emerging movement aren’t narcissistic as you imply. They are concerned about the decline of the Church in the West, burdened for the souls of countless millions who will never have the chance to hear the Truth should that trend continue, and seeking to do something about it in spite of the suspicion with which many of their spiritual fathers and mothers (not to mention brothers and sisters) view them.
    Your desire for authenticity is admirable, but no less admirable than their desire for efficacy. In the end, both of you are concerned with whether your lives are making an eternal impact.

  • john says:

    I’m not attacking the “emerging movement” by itself. I’m just tired of the continuous barage of books, blogs, meetings and movements all trying to build up and revive a dying church in the west… when, in reality, the core and foundation is sick and dying. We don’t need more thought, more philosophy, more strategies, more… We as a culture are fat in knowledge and resources already.
    We simply need one individual… one at a time… to obey Christ’s call to deny self and reach the lost.
    We have enough information… enough Christian books, radio stations, churches, tracts, magazines, how-to manuals, talk shows, counselors, camps, clubs, cafes, movements, parachurch organizations…….
    How much do we need?
    In the 10/40 window today, over 80,000 people will die and plunge into hell… most of them not hearing of Jesus even once.
    100,000+ children roam the streets of Bombay (India) today not knowing who their parents are, never have brushed their teets, scrounge for scraps to eat in the garbage piles, never had a bath.
    Jesus is just looking for simple servants to just do what He’s already told us to do. He’s not looking for brilliant people but broken ones. Men and woman willing to serve and suffer so that others can hear the good news.

  • Daniel says:

    “Of making many books there is no end, and much study wearies the body,” huh? =)
    You make very important points, John, and you communicate them with passion that is obviously authentic. But I suppose that you and I disagree on a fundamental level. You say, “We don’t need more thought, more philosophy, more strategies…We simply need one individual…at a time…to obey Christ’s call to deny self and reach the lost.” I disagree–I think we need both. The church of every age has benefitted from both, and I find a call in Scripture for believers to be both tactical and strategic, with a focus both local and global. From my perspective, one of the great strengths of what-the-Church-is-becoming is that it encourages ALL Christ-followers to absorb themselves on both levels.

  • john says:

    Maybe one must see the other side of the coin before they understand. Have you ever travelled through Asia, or the Indian sub-continent?
    Do you know that the western church (mainly US) sends less than 1/10 of 1% of it’s resources to reach the 97% of the unreached in the 10/40 window?
    I’m all for learning, discussion, deep thoughts and such… but, in reality today, it is at the expense of *billions* living another day without even hearing *once* the Gospel. What about them?
    A great story from Amy Carmichael who sacrifice and spent her life to reach the lost:
    The tom-toms thumped straight on all night, and the darkness shuddered round me like a living, feeling thing. I could not go to sleep, so I lay awake and looked; and I saw, as it seemed, this:
    That I stood on a grassy patch, and at my feet a ravine broke straight down into infinite space. I looked, but saw no bottom; only cloud shapes, black and furiously coiled, and great shadow-shrouded hollows, and unfathomable depths. Back I drew, dizzy at the depth.
    Then I saw forms of people moving toward the edge. There was a woman with a baby in her arms and another little child holding on to her dress. She was on the very edge. She lifted her foot for the next step… Then, to my horror, I saw that she was blind. Before I could say anything she was over, and the children with her. Their cries pierced the air as they fell into the inky blackness of the ravine!
    Then I saw more streams of people flowing from all quarters. All were blind, stone blind; all walked straight toward the edge. There were shrieks as they suddenly knew themselves falling, and a tossing up of helpless arms, catching, clutching at empty air. But some went over quietly, and fell without a sound.
    Then I wondered, with a wonder that was sheer agony, why no one stopped them at the edge. I could not. I was glued to the ground, and I couldn’t even yell; though I strained and tried, only a whisper would come out.
    Then I saw that along the edge there were sentries set at intervals.
    But the intervals were too large; there were wide, unguarded gaps between. And over these gaps the people fell in their blindness, unwarned; and the green grass seemed blood-red to me, and the ravine yawned like the mouth of hell.
    Then I saw, like a little picture of peace, a group of people under some trees with their backs turned towards the ravine. They were making daisy chains. Sometimes when a piercing shriek cut the quiet air and reached them, it disturbed them and they thought it was a rather crude noise. And if one of their group started up and wanted to go and do something to help, then all the others would pull that one down. “Why should you get so excited about it? You must wait for a definite call to go! You haven’t finished your daisy chain yet. It would be really selfish,” they said, “to leave us to finish the work alone.”
    There was another group. It was made up of people whose great desire was to get more sentries out; but they found that very few wanted to go, and sometimes there were no sentries for miles and miles along the edge.
    Once a girl stood alone in her place, waving the people back; but her mother and other relations called, and reminded her that her furlough was due; she must not break the rules. And being tired and needing a change, she had to go and rest for awhile; but no one was sent to guard her gap, and over and over the people fell, like a waterfall of souls. Once a child grabbed at a tuft of grass that grew at the very edge of the ravine; it clung convulsively, and it called – but nobody seemed to hear. Then the roots of the grass gave way, and with a cry the child went over, its two little hands still holding tight to the torn-off bunch of grass. And the girl who longed to be back in her gap thought she heard the little one cry, and she sprang up and wanted to go; at which her friends reproved her, reminding her that no one is necessary anywhere; “The gap would be well taken care of!”, they said. And then they sang a hymn.
    Then through the hymn came another sound like the pain of a million broken hearts wrung out in one full drop, one sob. And a horror of great darkness was upon me, for I knew that it was “The Cry of the Blood”.
    Then a voice thundered. It was the voice of the Lord, and He said, “What hast thou done? The voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto me from the ground.”
    The tom-toms still beat heavily, the darkness still shuddered and shivered about me; I heard the yells of the devil-dancers and weird, wild shrieks of the devil-possessed just outside the gate.
    What does it matter, after all? It has gone on for years; it will go on for years. Why make such a fuss about it? God forgive us!
    God arouse us! Shame us out of our callousness! Shame us out of our sin!
    1 john 3:17

  • john says:

    Daniel… one thing. The previous post is done in love. Not attacking you. Just hoping folks will read this.
    I enjoy discussing this maybe I can learn from you something. I think maybe I get too passionate about reaching the lost… but maybe one cannot be too passionate about that. I don’t know.

  • Daniel says:

    Regarding your second post, I can only say this: I know that I am not yet passionate enough about reaching the lost. I pray daily for God’s perspective on those all around me.
    Thanks for the dialogue, John.

  • Andrew says:

    Hi John and Daniel. Having fun??
    I was just thinking about your first comments and I want to respond.
    1. About terms. Adam’s first job was to name things. It is part of our co-creation with God.
    2. Beaten wives. In the last week, my wife and I have given up our bedroom twice so a beaten and locked out wife could have shelter for the night. You guys probably do the same. I dont blog that sutff much – people come here for emerging church stuff, not to see the deeds of a missionary – there are better missionary stories out there than mine.
    3. Obedience. Yeah. Lets just be faithful to fulfil our callings, walk out the path marked out for us.
    Thanks for your comments and time.
    Andrew Jones

  • john says:

    Fun, yes. Praise God for freedom to freely discuss.
    Andrew-I’m definitely not tooting my own horn. I was referring to believers and national missionaries on the field (Indian sub-continent) who actually do get beaten, stoned, interrogated and worse. We (GFA: lose several missionaries every year who lay down their lives… one murdered just this past month.

  • Daniel says:

    Having fun, being blessed…thanks for giving us the space, Andrew.

  • John-
    I think that, when a large number of people start to discover a new way of following Christ, the results are what you see – lots of books, blogs, discussion, workshops, etc.
    One person at a time, yes, but when you add those people up, you get something that is more than a bunch of individuals, and that’s what we’re doing here.

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