Emerging Church Definition 4.0

STEVE: 4. How far do you think the church has to go before it will really start to reach the emerging generation in large numbers?

TALLSKINNYKIWI: As far as Jesus went, which is all the way, incarnating, fleshing out Kingdom realities in the culture God has planted us. It will take courage, risk and sacrifice. There will be a change of vocabulary to reflect a new mindset. Military language will receive a discharge. There will be mess. There will be more unbelievers joining our communities earlier in their journey than they did previously and with more honestly. They will request more honesty from us. More vulnerability. There will be casualties.

There will be misunderstandings. And the greatest persecution may come from the existing church. I sure hope not. It has already been a difficult journey in helping the church understand. I have heard many Christian writers and teachers, even here in England, speak absolute nonsense about “postmodernism”. They have unfairly criticized the emerging “postmodern” generation for being slackers, lazy, consumerist, materialistic, lacking an ethical code and not believing in truth. I believe that not only are they wrong, but that the opposite is true. There is a new asceticism in regard to material things that is a healthy and godly response to our new wealth and overflow of resources. The filter is better than the funnel. There is an approach to truth that is more relational, narrative, participatory and experiential. The ethical code is not only strong but brings both a swift and strict judgment to those who violate it.
Yes, it is a culture in need of redemption, as all cultures are, but much of what has been expressed by Christian leaders is uninformed and a hindrance in preparing people to enter the emerging culture with the good news of a risen Christ.
The encouraging thing is that the church has brought good news for modern man, and now we are bringing good news to postmodern people and the emerging culture. There are already many believers deeply embedded in the emerging culture who are thinking through what it means to be church. One of the challenges for the existing church is to recognize and support them in their journey. We may not be the ones who ignite the church planting movements needed for the emerging culture. Maybe our children will be. But we must allow them the same freedom that we were given by those who went before us. Lets be diligent to seek out what God is doing and to water what God is bringing to life.

Tomorrow: final thoughts.
Wanna read a good book?  The Emerging Church by Dan Kimball – I was surprised to see how close his thoughts are to mine – check it out on the left column.

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.


  • I have to admit that I was depressed when I read some of this, not because I thought you were wrong but I keep seeing the same thing you have seen where postmodernity is dismissed, mocked and derided by the modern church.
    It is hard to move when so much is at stake. I think it is Pete Ward when talks of the modern church being heavy. It has a lot too lose and sometimes has a hard time seeing that as a good thing.
    Good thoughts. I have appreciated them.

  • maggi says:

    These four posts seem to me to read as if you envisage ‘Emerging’ church as a separate entity from the traditional church. Is that what you mean, or have I not understood? What do you make of the fact that a large number of ’emerging’ Christians deliberately remain within the structures of the traditional church? Are they not ’emerging’ by your definition? Does emerging mean leaving?
    thanks for the tip on Kimball – it’s on my must-read list.
    Maggi. you are such a regular now that i might have to give you your own column.
    It is sometimes helpful to speak of emerging people, emerging culture,and emerging church (structure). I was focusing on the latter, since the magazine had chosen this as their subject.
    It is hard to speak for others, and i have tried to bring forward what i have been listening to. Personally, I dont feel disconnected. Having just moved to London, I consider myself a member of the church in London, just as much as anyone else here, although i lack history and have yet to make a lot of relationships. And my contribution has been less.
    I am also a member of my home church – Austin First Baptist, in Texas, which is a 150 year old church. It does not define itself as “Emerging” and yet it has hosted some of the most incredible, creative, innovative events we have done yet.
    I do not have the luxury of seperating from other parts of the Body. I am a consultant to churches and denominations and i find myself working alongside all kinds of churches.
    But as a strategist who sees the need for millions of churches in the very near future that are started quickly and cheaply, I give favor and preference to new churches that cost nothing, can start tomorrow, using ordinary people, and can reproduce organically. This is something that is being done in cooperation with traditional churches, that have wisdom and resources.
    There is only one church – the true Body of Christ. I believe that, and a
    i am also glad that the church has a variety of expressions. The emerging churches see themselves as part of that church. But here is the problem i have come across: Many in the traditional churches do not recognize them. They say that house churches are not real churches, for example, or they would question the authority of an ordination from one of these less established groups.
    Thanks for your interest.

  • George says:

    Andrew, I am thankful for you and people like you who can put into words the things that I know and feel but am unable to gracefully state them as you do. Thank you for sharing your gift of putting thoughts into words.

  • Improved Definition

    I have finally got round to fleshing out the definition of Emerging Church on Wikipedia. If anyone disagrees with it, feel free to go and edit to your heart’s content! 🙂

  • Nate says:

    To Jordan’s point, it seems to me that we need some “emerging” believers to stay in what we would call modern or traditional local church bodies to give those churches a chance at a future. I wonder if God is calling many of us to stay in these churches with their 3 point sermons and fakeness and hypocrisy and allow God to use us as He sees fit, perhaps as agents of change.
    On the other hand, some days I get so fed up with being a pastor at a very unemerging church that I feel like I must leave, or I will go completely insane. As a generalization, “modern” church leaders, as they were trained, struggle with accepting change and new ideas. Does anyone else struggle with this decision? Should we leave or should we go now?

  • brad says:

    in response to nate’s final question, it’s always a struggle to know when to stay or leave a toxic situation. i wanted to leave a toxic church plant that was supposedly “postmodern-friendly” but wasn’t, and prayed like crazy about going, but sensed i was to stay. and i learned some absolutely key things in the few months that followed before feeling ‘released’ to leave.
    also, at this point, i generally stay out of situations where i have to explain ‘postmodernism 101’ to church leaders who are asking sincerely but are completely ignorant. i’ve learned that God has assigned others to serve gently in this role of basic educator; i’m not one of them, for whatever reasons, and to do so is completely exhausting. still, i sometimes do, and experience consequences.
    but since when have ‘wisdom decisions’ (non-black-or-white/not moral-or-immoral) been easy? they often draw upon everything we’ve got, or think we’ve got, in terms of theology, experience, etc., and they’re still hard. but we need to hang in there until enough clarity comes, or until we are ready to live with whatever results occur …

  • zack says:

    I am a youth pastor in Connecticut, and i consider myself to be a “postmodern” christian. At times i have considered leaving my church in search of something more comfortable, something more emerging, but at this time i believe that God has aked me to stay. My church has a lot to learn and a looonngg way to go, but for now i am the only emerging voice they hear, because i have taken the time to earn the right to be heard. It would be tragic for there to be one more break in the Church. denominationalism and elitism are certainly enough to break God’s heart. While it is a tough decision and one that you must wait on God’s leading for, during this time of transition in the church there is great need for emergent thinkers to bring the willing from the “modern” church along.

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