Answers From The Other Side

Next-Wave has just started a series called Answers From The Other Side. Todd Hunter and I are going first and others will follow next month. Before I tell you my 5 answers . . .

. . . i need to tell you about Todd.
huntersmallTodd is an amazing guy. I have been in far off countries (Australia comes to mind) and people tell me that Todd Hunter calls them up on a regular basis for exceeding long phone conversations and encouragements, and, that these calls are keeping them going – Todd must have hundreds of fans around the world – and the English think very highly of him also. I really like this guy. Sometimes we end up teaching at the same conferences – we are both on the same team at Emergent Village – and it is always an honor for me to sit with him. And an honor again for me to share some thoughts on a web page.

Here are my 5 answers, as published today on Next-Wave. I should say in my defense, that

1) we were not told what the “questions” were, and
2) i wrote these out in 45 minutes and sent them off – so if they are not too coherent then you will know why . . .

1. Zoom out to see the whole picture.
This is how to get perspective on the emerging culture and see what we see. In the modern era we ZOOMED IN to see the one thing, the single thing, the dominant thing in the center or on the stage. In the postmodern era, we PANNED ACROSS to see the other thing, the despised and marginal thing on the edge or in the gap. But now, in the era that is emerging, and now is, we ZOOM OUT to see the whole thing, the system with all its parts. From this perspective, you can see the old things, the big things, the other things, all co-existing as layers, being held together in harmony through relationships. Its hard to explain the view from here . . . ‘they should have sent a poet’

2. Check Out New Media.
This is the area where the values of emerging culture are most accurately depicted. It does not do much good to read Christian apologists from the 90’s summarizing French philosophers from the 70’s who were trying to explain the surrealist painters from the 20’s. That is not the most direct route to understand us, and can actually be quite misleading. Check out the new media instead. In the 1990’s, I suggested churches look at the postmodern subcultures and the rave scene to find emerging values and dynamics. But now i say new media. Take a look at the renaissance of writing that is happening in our current world of post-post-literacy. Christian bloggers (theoblogians) are a part of this movement. Charlie Wear’s blog is a good place to start.

3. Its not your Father’s Postmodernism.
Take everything you have read about the emerging culture being materialist, nihilistic, relativistic, consumeristic, individualistic, and of having no ethical code or moral standard. Now, invert it. Because the opposite is much closer to the truth.You are now looking at a culture with a deeper code of ethics, greater capacity for spirituality, a desire for less rather than more, a holistic view of following Jesus and a stronger relational commitment to community. That is a real challenge for the church and requires a whole new level of faith, godliness, prayerful reliance on God and an honesty that has been previously absent.

4. There is no next thing.
So don’t ask. We are living in a post-novelty age where newness is no longer a value. In fact the past seems to yield more treasure than any future possiblities. There is no one big form or big new structure and if there was, it would not replace the residual forms. The new things are already here but they are smaller, more integrated, more sublime than you suspected. They also do not seek to replace the old, but rather exist in nested layers and in harmony with the preceding structures. We have moved from singularity to modularity. The new church experience has more to do with how a person selects from the multiple options and creates a communal spiritual journey. This change has also happened in banking. We hardly ever “go”to our bank anymore, nor do we have a single bank (we have lots of financial services, programs and accounts), but that does not mean that we do not manage our financial resources. It is the way we are “churching” that has radically changed, rather than the forms. And all churches can be a part of this movement if they offer their unique contribution in helping us all move out of ecclesiocentrism and towards a fuller expression of the Kingdom of God in our cities.

5. Water what God is bringing to life, but dont expect everything to stay in your backyard.
You should keep your church intact, but allow new structures to arise. Preserve the old wineskins, since they are keeping the old wine mature and that pleases God. If your people like church the way it is, let them have it. You can never catch up to emerging culture, and trying to transition all the way will spill too much wine. So why bother? Much better to allow the next generation to create new structures that make sense to them. You want life and growth, and they want freedom to spend their energy on the things of God. So send them out with your blessing to chase the Kingdom and support it. They understand the new scene more than you, so bless them and cover their backs. I have a gut feeling that they will do better than their parents, even though there will be less resources and more struggle. You created monuments, but they will ignite movements.


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" :-)


  • Thanks for your thoughts. I actually read your article on NextWave and emailed you about it before I saw it here! “Zooming Out” is especially key. If we can work with instead of against what has come before, we will all benefit and our witness will be so much stronger. The emerging church will be strongest when it quits reacting to the past and really begins to chart a new course for the future. That can happen through working with others who even see things differently, but serve the same Lord.

  • Rather than zooming out I like what Michael Toy wrote several monts ago aout “depth of field” as it relates to photography. Basically if you have a short depth of field one object will be clearly in focus while everything else will be blurred. Such a photo draws your attention to the one object. However, it is possible, with the right equipment, to have a nearly infinite depth of field. Everything is in focus but a photo taken like this has a surreal look to it. It doesn’t look quite right but it gives perspective of how objects relate to each other. It seems we need both views from time to time.

  • Emerging church folk ask too many “questions” Andrew – remember? We need “answers” – soo, I guess we’ll have some in the next few months. You need not defend yourself. If you have it rolling around in you all the time anyway, 45 minutes will do I reckon. Thanks again for contributing to this month’s edition. Sorry I didn’t tell you it was up, by the way – sort of moved quickly and I was in the middle of last days at an old job, moving on to a new one. Peace.

  • Hi Andrew, thanks for the link, what you and Todd write is well articulated and very thoughtful, I appreciated it. I have been trying to find Todd Hunter’s up-to-date blog but to no avail. Is he still writing one that you could point me to? Thanks.

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