Emerge, Diverge, Converge

images-1Sounds like a bumper sticker and i pray we never see it in a Christian Bookstore. I am just repeating something i said a few minutes ago. Here is the thought, and i offer it for your perusal, beta-testing and fodder for derision, should i prove to be out of the ballpark.
If there were stages in the evolutionary process for new churches, then i propose these three words, all of which were used in the comments section of a previous blog posting this week (When We Stop Emerging), and all summed up in my final comment..
It might look like this:
1. Emergence – as the new [church] is birthed, takes shape and defines itself against the old, dead or dying.
2. Divergence – as the new [church] defines itself in relation to the One/Established/Dominant, caresses the edges of culture to find justice and to realign previous imbalances.
3. Convergence – as the new [church] finds its place alongside the residual, finds definition by comparison rather than contrast, seeks to aggregate rather than agitate, harmonize rather than homogenise, and to create vocabulary not for itself but rather for the newly-created, holistic, complex system of church-life that has developed around and including what was previously called emerging.

That sounds really geeky and processed, and the order might look different once we think more about it . . .
[divergence, then emergence, then convergence]
hey – this sounds better. You see! I have changed my mind already. Maybe some of you concept geeks out there could prevent an old man embarrassing himself further by playing out these three concepts and and sending them back to me with less bugs.
Image lifted with thanks.


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:

    PRO. you give a great summary of emergence-divergence-convergence, andrew. order could be interesting and potentially workable, either direction – either your original E-C-D, OR D-E-C.
    CON. don’t mean to be a stick-in-the-mud, however, this sounds very much like an organically veiled restatement of Hegelian dialectic of thesis-antithesis-synthesis. which happens to be a backbone of modernist analysis, isn’t it? so, doesn’t this set of words actually keep us in the same old residual linear framework? are we sure we can’t we find anything else … perhaps look at “macrohistory” for other possible patterns of time-space-change frameworks?
    OTHER “-ENCES.” a few years ago, i originated a cultural analysis system based on four types of thinking processes. i think it fits for four macro-types of churches as well – all four of which co-exist in the contemporary cultural realms.
    * Convergent. primarily analytical, linear, sequential, boiling down ideas to the essential universal.
    * Divergent. primarily synthethis, non-linear, expanding out ideas to multiple possibilities.
    * Mergent. primarily “fusion,” cyclical, and bringing people and items together to co-exist in the same space as interconnected.
    * Submergent. primarily paradoxical, looking under the surface for meaning to the mystery, and holding the seen and unseen worlds together as distinct but not separate.
    in my system, all four exist, all four are incomplete, all four need the processing styles the others exhibit. all four need to move toward a comprehensive Kingdom Culture that integrates the biblical truths found within each of the four cultures/churches, without sucking in all the cultural syncretisms and toxicities of each. in this approach, “Kingdom Culture” is the transformative goal all churches/cultures should move toward, just as “Christlikeness” is the transformative goal all individuals should move toward. to remain convergent, divergent, mergent, or submergent is to orbit around ourselves, and negates a constructive trajectory toward the goal.
    so there you have it, from my point of view. i’ve been beta-testing this system for four years, and now can use it pretty fluently to analyze cultures, churches, specific structures in ministry and how they tend toward specific toxicities, etc. etc. if anyone wonders where i’ve gotten the critiques of this or that which i occasionally post, this is it.

  • Sivin Kit says:

    This is a good post and great summary. since you post on “When we stop emerging”. The word “Converge” was dancing in my mind but never managed to settle down and think it through more. Brad’s response expanded this even further …

  • Brad, i like your summary. It recognizes that the Gospel and the church are not bound by any culture, subculture or particular modes of thought. Therefore, “Kingdom culture” involves the continual recognition of the legitimate values and symbolic modes of expression inherent in a particular culture, subculture or thought processes. Good stuff.
    With our increased exposure to non-western modes of thought, i wonder if there may be a fifth “-ENCE.” developing our western mindset?

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