Emerging Church Definition 2.0


TALLSKINNYKIWI: – Parties. In Japan, I attended a party that was one of many now being started in that country. The parties happen in a home, with lots of food, a DJ, and discussion on spiritual things. As people decide to follow Jesus, the group gradually becomes a church, but it keeps its party format. This is more than just an example of something different, it is a choice to model church around a party with a purpose, instead of a formal meeting that is interesting or lively. I see this idea of church as a party behind much of emerging church thinking around the world.

– House churches are also becoming increasingly popular,

and in some countries represent the bulk of new churches. These are different than the household churches that UK saw in the 1970s. The houses are not wanna-be sanctuaries but simply the best place to have church, a safe [big deal for dangerous countries] and relational place to share life together. Add the new technologies, soft couches, multiple rooms, some really good food, the ability to start tomorrow, and you can see the appeal.
– Monastic models of church are now a viable option for young people in urban centers who want more than a Sunday service and a higher level of commitment. We are seeing monastic or intentional residential communities emerge inside non-Catholic structures such as Vineyard and Baptist, many of them creating their own communal vows. They are no longer seen as a second-level structure, but rather a viable alternative to the ecclesiastic/gathering form of church that has previously subjugated other models to the level of “parachurch” or treated them as appendages to “real church”.

– The practice of pilgrimage is increasingly popular, as is other forms of navigable worship using motion and movement like labyrinths, prayer walks, or stations of the cross.  Nothing new under the sun, of course. This may be a return to a previous inclusion of movement in worship as experienced at Old Testament Festivals or the Psalms of Ascent.

– Festivals are becoming a significant part of church life and are generally growing around the world. As a yearly gathering, they provide an important element to small organic churches and communities that lack a denomination or larger network.
– The internet is adding a significant slice of church life to the layers. It is not replacing church, just as the phone or TV did not replace church. But it is providing a place for greater visibility, storytelling, self-publishing, accountability, witness, and networking. I believe the Christian bloggers, or Theoblogians, are the people currently closest to the action and in the best position to explore future possibilities. There is a renaissance of writing at the moment, the end of post-literacy, linked closely to the value of co-authorship. And most of the church is missing out.
– Style-culture churches are still popular in some countries, where there exists a well defined underground rave/goth/punk/hippie subculture (Germany and South America come to mind). These churches have their place as lighthouses for those in the transition out of modernity’s excesses. They form part of the emerging church landscape although I would locate them back towards the stage of early post-modernity.
Believers who do not belong to an institutional church are no longer seen as unchurched or backslidden. They are a large part of Christ’s body [a majority, some argue] and they may become of the most important players in developing organic and relational church forms for UK.

– Traditional churches have been informing emerging churches and are not excluded from being influenced themselves. As they open up to more participation, they are seeing emerging elements appear. In the near future, I expect innovation to be just as common in traditional churches than in the organic. For example, I would imagine that the addition of a WiFi internet signal and an adjoining room for interactivity during the service of a traditional church will start a chain of events that will bring the preaching and teaching of the word closer together with the response of the congregation. This will help in closing the gap between traditional church and emerging church.

I could name other examples, (I haven’t mentioned café/club churches) but I feel that the change goes deeper than just new models and certainly deeper than defining church by a building. The real difference lies in a new way of understanding church. When emerging people zoom out to see the whole church, the invisible church, they see church in modular form, as discrete but connected elements working together in a harmonious system. Church life then has more to do with the combination of many activities and projects and events than participation with any single event or commitment that tries to define the church experience.
You could say that the same change has happened to banking. We hardly ever “go to our bank” and no longer have a single banker, but instead utilize a vast range of financial services to manage our assets. As the emerging church becomes more modular, attention moves away from the single event (the worship service in many of our denominations) and relies more on festivals, projects, relational events and spontaneous happenings. The church in its invisible form (source code, to use new media language) is privileged over its visible expression which is seen as temporary and changeable. This may explain why some emerging churches decide not to have a worship service at all but rather a series of interrelated happenings that meet that need. They see church as what they are, rather than what they do.

Tomorrow – 3. Why do you think the idea of an emerging church has gained such popularity over the last few years – why do so many want a part of it?


ADDED: Oct 2006
Here are the links to my answers:

Defining the Emerging Church

Emerging Church Definition 1.0
Emerging church Definition 2.0
Emerging Church Definition 3.0
Emerging church Definition 4.0
Emerging church Defintion Additional
I believe the magazine published this but i dont think i ever got a copy.

I briefed a number of American Foundations on the emerging church scene. You can read what i said at Emergant.org


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.


  • Jason Clark says:

    Hi Andrew, what out the component and ingredient of mission, of transforming local community, minsitry to poor, social action, social justice etc?

  • gareth says:

    thanks andrew. its good to see the emerging church through your eyes.
    It seems that when you sit back and ‘zoom out’ the church appears as a glorious, multicoloured tapestry, woven together by a common source code, but ‘packaged’ in many different ways (to carry on the linux type analogy).

  • jen lemen says:

    i second jason’s question and eagerly await your answer! how do our theologies (god’s kingdom come, for example) inform our expression of being the church?

  • tkay3 says:

    hey andrew, a quick tactical question for you as time permits…You have recently mentioned the use of WiFi in various church settings, what’s being done with the technology? Is it guided use or a free-for-all? I can see it being both a great tool and potentially a huge distraction. Thanks.

  • New ways of understanding and doing Churches..

    Andrew Jones did a great post, exploring different models of Churches. I think what is really really important are the values taught and practised by Jesus. The new testament never emphase one particular way of doing Church but prayer, discipleship,

  • Tim Bednar says:

    I think this quote from Douglas Ruskoff from his class on Theoretical Perspectives may be helpful in forming any definition of the EC movement:
    Ted Nelson’s entire reasoning behind Xanadu appears to be predicated on the underlying assumption (notice I’ll be using this phrase “underlying assumption” a lot this semester – it’s at the heart of my perspective on perspectives) that no single perspective or understanding of anything – scientific or otherwise – will ever be as resolved as the combination of a multiplicity of perspectives of others. He calls it the Rasho-Mon Principles (for the film with three partially true perspectives on the same murder) but it may as well be called the holographic principle, for the way that each piece of holographic plate contains a blurry image of one perspective of the subject of the picture. Putting them all together yields a more resolved perspective of the whole.
    But while we have great metaphors for this phenomenon, and even scientific models that support it, we also have to accept that the four-blind-men-feeling-the-elephant understanding of the limits of an individual’s perception is, itself, a perspective.

    I think the metaphor of Rashomon and holographs are a great way to approach any definition of the EC movement. I think the EC movement is best explained using hypertext–it seems to fizzle as soon as you use linear prose. I think we may be the first church movement best described/analyzed in cyberspace and experienced in meatspace.

  • alan cross says:

    I am also interested in an answer to Jason and Jen’s question concerning ministry to the poor, social justice, the coming of the Kingdom, etc. That issue is probably most closely what I am dealing with. How do we engage the church in all forms with the hurting world? That would truly be an emerging church – emerging from the shadows of Christendom into the glory of God’s plan. Thanks for your thoughts – they are extraordinary.

  • andrew on justice says:

    thanks guys – Jason’s question on emerging church and justice/compassion/social action is a good one, and since 3 of you are asking it, Jesus might be in the midst of the question.
    I was thinking about it yesterday after reading jason’s question, and i cant see a whole lot of difference between compassion ministry to the poor coming from emerging, traditional or modern ministries. When i have served in soup kitchens, assisted with street ministry, etc, i found myself on teams comprising of people from all kinds of churches. Perhaps this element of mission and compassion provides a place for us all to meet on equal footing.
    perhaps one difference. emerging churches may end up adding a more relational touch to urban ministry to the poor. I say this because we were more relational and empowering in our ministries – We turned a feeding program into a free supermarket in san francisco, giving dignity and empowerment back to the people.
    Also our work with drug addicts, and the homes we sent the hard cases to were set up on a more relational, home based setting, and we hardly ever used the clinical institutional centers.
    But apart from that, i dont think emerging church is dramatically changing the landscape of how God’s people have loved and served the poor for hundreds of years, and therefore i did not choose to add it to the distinctives of emerging church.
    Can you guys see any radical differences?????

  • gwill says:

    I hope the difference is in emphasis. Most modern expressions of church (in my experience) try to add mission and ministry on as the final piece in the process of maturing. I see emerging expressions inverting this process – beginning with missional practices as a nonnegotional core of self-identity and actually, in turn, allowing mission to be a form of evangelism (“entry into church”) for others. Mission Evangelism in addition or instead of Worship Evangelism. Maybe this isn’t a radical difference, but it seems to take the Kingdom rhetoric more seriously.

  • Len Hjalmarson says:

    And what about the necessity of blank spaces?
    When we fill a space too full.. with words, in a gathering.. with definition in a discussion.. or with activity as an expression of mission… we lose something essential.. mystery, spontaneity, expectancy… This is why TS Eliots couplet is so stunning..
    Where shall the word
    be found, where shall the word
    resound? Not here..
    there is not enough silence.
    But as an analogy, scientists looking at the smallest particles have pondered where the power comes from.. and some speculate that the power is in the blank spaces… As the emerging church, we need to honor emptiness.

  • Les nouvelles manières de faire l’église qui existe dans le monde.

    Dans le monde entier, une nouvelle génération de leaders se lève pour faire l’église autrement, plus adaptée a leur environement imédiat. Andrew Jones décrit quelques unes de ces nouvelles pratiques..Je traduis ce qu’il a écrit brièvement..

Leave a Reply