Emerging Church in News x2

1. Mike Morrel gets mentioned today in this article on the Atlantic Journal Constitution, which is only available without registration today. I could tell you that you should read this because its about emerging church, in particular, Australians who are starting their churches in USA (Christian City Church, Atlanta) but the real reason for me posting it here is this: They quote me saying something intelligent and call me a “religious scolar” skolar . . . u know what i mean. (did you hear that Mum?)

2. Alan Creech really likes todays article (he gets quoted) called “Communiality: an emerging church” in The Jassimine Journal. good article! Hat tip to SubmersiveInfluence for the link and commentary.

I am copying and pasting the Atlanta article here without permission, but i feel no guilt because they quoted me without letting me know – which is no problem for me – i only want justification for posting this article in a place where it will be freely available

Link – Atlanta Journal Constitution (may not work after sunday 20th – in which case go here)

and so that my mother can read that i am a “religious scholar”

CHRISTIAN CITY CHURCH: A new way to worship

Bill Osinski – Staff

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Live from Lawrenceville, it’s Wednesday night!

And here at Christian City Church, where God’s a mighty bloke, tradition takes a back pew, and the hallelujahs can be heard all the way to heaven, by way of Australia.

Worship service at C3, as it’s called, has all the fundamentals, from Bible-based sermons to people crumpling to the carpet at the preacher’s gentle laying on of hands. It also has stuff that could put cracks in the pillars of orthodoxy.

This is a church where a young man sporting a doo-rag and a dove tattoo is welcome to jump onto the sanctuary stage, when the gospel rock guitars heat up. A young woman who doesn’t want to leave her new puppy out in the cold can just tuck it into her jacket and come on in. Tales from an Outback sheep ranch are used by the preacher to make a point about the Good Shepherd to a congregation in the heart of the Bible Belt.

The church, with some 1,700 members, is one of 130 offshoots of the original Christian City Church in Sydney, Australia. It’s the first in the Atlanta area, but there are plans to expand locally. And though firmly rooted in traditional Christian beliefs, it’s part of a growing movement of nontraditional worship.

With its brushed stainless steel facade, the church looks a bit more like a recording studio than a conventional house of worship. That theme carries through much of the ministerial programs, like a fashion show where church ladies strut down the strobe-lit runway. Christian City also offers things like art exhibits, a music studio, and a coffee shop, and a college where life skills are as much a part of the curriculum as religious studies.

Spiritually speaking, church leaders categorize themselves as conservative. Their doctrines are compatible with most fundamental Christian churches, they said, but they do not invest much time or energy in doctrinal debates.

“Whenever you start going down the doctrine road, it becomes ‘us vs. them,’ ” said Co-Pastor Dean Sweetman. “The Kingdom of God was never about ‘us vs. them.’ ”

Rather, their church network has been built with personal relationships as the primary connective material, he said.

“We’re not built around preaching,” Sweetman said. “We’re built around hanging out. Our church is less a denomination than a group of pastors and their wives connected by relationship.”

Sweetman is as nontraditional as his church. He grew up an avid surfer, and in his office is a mounted 45 rpm record of Bob Dylan’s counterculture hit “Lay Lady, Lay.”

The C3 formula has been exported all over the world. In 1980, a man named Phil Pringle opened the first Christian City Church in Sydney, Australia.

Sweetman and his wife, Jill, started planning in 1991 to bring the C3 concept to metro Atlanta. They educated themselves on the community by ordering a Sunday Atlanta Journal-Constitution right around the time of the Atlanta Braves’ worst-to-first drive to the pennant. Atlanta seemed to be just the kind of place they were looking for: youthful and energetic in outlook, with a hot economy, Sweetman said.

They came to the area in 1996, starting a seed church in a friend’s home in Loganville. They graduated to larger spaces, and two years ago, the current church was built. Sweetman plans to start work soon on a new sanctuary, connected to the existing building, that will seat an additional 1,500.

Plans have also begun to start five more C3 churches in metro Atlanta locations including Peachtree City, Midtown Atlanta, Roswell, Walton County and Hall County.

Christian City seems to have caught a rising tide of interest in nontraditional churches that have been given the group label “emerging church.” Just what does that label mean?

“Emerging churches today are usually a creative re-mixing of historic and current, of past and present,” writes Andrew Jones, a New Zealand religious scholar who has studied this field. “Emerging church may be a model of a quite modern hierarchical leadership but with contemporary artistic expression. Or the contrary, a dynamic, fluid leadership structure with the reliance on ancient rituals for the service.”

Mike Morrell of Douglasville has built a Web site that includes links to hundreds of topics associated with emerging churches. He described Christian City Church as a type of “hybrid” in that it combines some of the aspects of a traditional “megachurch” with some of the culture of the “emerging” church.

It wasn’t that long ago that the megachurches were “the young bucks, the rebels, the revolutionaries” he said. “Now they’re kind of the establishment, and we’re [people in the emerging church movement] radical,” he said.

However Christian City Church is categorized, the people who go there obviously have a good time.

“Every time I walk in the door, I know I’m changed,” said Loganville’s Patti Lorentz. “There’s a tremendous excitement and enthusiasm here.”

Pam Penick of Lawrenceville said she was raised in a traditional church, but she especially enjoys the laid-back atmosphere nurtured by the Australians who comprise the majority of the church leadership.

“It’s not just their culture, it’s their sense of freedom in the church,” she said.

Shannon Prator of Lawrenceville was the young woman who brought her puppy to Wednesday night church. She said she was drawn to this church by its lack of emphasis on hellfire and damnation.

“When we [young people] come here, we don’t feel any condemnation,” she said. “The preaching is about what you can do in God, not what you can’t do.”

Colleen Crumbley, a singer with the church’s gospel music band, said she has responded deeply to the church’s encouraging its young members to embrace the arts in a Christian environment.

“The church is meant to be the head of the arts,” she said. “We should be the ones out there on the cutting edge.”

Shirin Sarabi, a 19-year-old Dacula woman, said her recent organizing of a fashion show at the church was an example of how C3 embraces self-expression.

“Here, you can be who you are. I probably would not be going to a traditional church 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.


  • Mike Morrell says:

    So you got that; nice.
    I’m up late and maybe you’re up early–what were you wanting to “track” with me on?

  • andrew jones says:

    – my one week series on emerging church.
    thanks for that link

  • andrew jones says:

    confession: i had to look “doo-rag” up on google to see what it was. i found it here
    i used to wear a blue celtic doo-rag in San Francisco, but didnt know what they are calling it now.
    u learn something new everyday . . .

  • Glenn says:

    Wow man! First you’re called a “religious scholar” and now you’re there with all that Mission Possible info! Greet my pal Orvil Boyd Jenkins (OBJ) there in Richmond. He won’t have on a do-rag, but will have cowboy boots and a huge belt buckle! And maybe a saxaphone in the closet! His own mark of ID, rebellion and emergAnt-ce!

  • Congrats on the quote, big guy. Interesting read. A tat, a doo-rag and a hot economy…hmmm. A match made in heaven?…

  • Lance says:

    Wow…can I ….as a gay Christian be a ‘real man’ in the Real Man Department of Christian City Church in Atlanta?
    Anyway..what’s the point of Australia exporting an American-style church back to America?

  • Lance says:

    Actually…it looks like these ‘real men’ have all had a makeover from the queer eye fab 5…in their auditorium…which has been tastefully painted in…well…I think you would call the colour… ‘peach’.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    I’m glad that some people are pushing agains this “CCC” a little. I don’t know if I would agree with Andrew so easily and quickly that its an “emerging church.” Here is what I told the reporter, in its full context:
    Christian City Church is an intriguing example of a hybrid I see happening today. It’s clearly a “mega” church in terms of its structure, layout, and–probably–budget, but you can see some clear “emerging” church culture and ethos rubbing off on them. Typically these two kinds of churches–“mega” and “emerging”–might seem to be identical on the surface, but in fact they are quite opposed to each other in many ways. Both want to reveal Jesus and be relevant to the culture around them, but each does this in a distinctive manner. For instance mega churches (which are about 30 years old I suppose at this point, going back to Willow Creek in Chicago, or maybe David Yongi Cho’s church in Seoul, Korea) are HUGE, or want to be. They aren’t afraid to keep growing, growing, growing numerically as a single church. In fact that’s their goal, even if they plant “satellite” churches. Increasingly they aren’t abashed about using satellites literally, to pipe in their most gifted pastor-speaker-founder’s messages in to multiple locations simultaneously. Andy Stanley’s Northpoint in Atlanta does this. Also, mega churches like to be “seeker sensitive” and strive to make everything they do easily understood. In fact, they don’t want the first-time visitor to think of them as “church” at all.
    By contrast emerging forms of church (and I’ll admit they’re diverse, so anything I say here could be contradicted by a local example) are coming from a philosophy that looks at contemporary American consumerism with more scorn than they do the traditions, rites and rituals of the Christian church through the centuries. They in fact find much to conserve from various liturgies, written prayers, and practices. However they are also keenly attuned to “postmodern” counterculture, and aren’t afraid to have one foot rooted in the past and one foot placed in the future that they imagine could be. They tend to be keenly concerned with matters of social justice, as well as a kind of organic, non-hierarchical “body life” where no one person is an absolute leader, but people participate in the life of the church and relate in a more egalitarian manner. Emerging churches see themselves as prophetic voices calling people out of comfortable ways of living, and mainly see “mega” churches as accommodating contemporary lifestyles…the “Wal-Mart” of church options if you will.
    So to be blunt, CCC isn’t an “emerging” church. I don’t know if they’re billing themselves that way, or even want to be. But here’s a final example of why this is so: They have specially-tailored programs for every possible age group, niche and need. Specialization. Some of my postmodern friends would say “com modification.” While a buzzword in emerging churches is “intergenerational.” They would rather keep the 20-somethings and the elderly together, the singles and the marrieds, because there is much we can learn from each other.
    But, as I said, CCC shows signs of being influenced by the “emerging” phenomenon, whether they realize it or not. For instance, in the “about us” section they show some vulnerability. “We don’t get it right all the time,” it frequently said. Also, they don’t like the “Christian right.” That is a shocking statement since most mega churches (with the possible exception of Bill Hybels and Willow Creek, who took a lot of heat when giving President Clinton a platform to apologize several years back) are part and parcel with W’s administration.
    Finally, just to reiterate, I don’t know that any of this really matters. I certainly don’t want to give you the impression, by my definitional differentiation, that I’m saying that “emerging” is inherently superior to “mega.” We certainly have our own real problems, and we’re still very, very tiny and young. Back in the day, mega churches were the young bucks, the rebels, the revolutionaries. Now they’re kind of the establishment, and we’re radical. Or are we? The very fact that mainstream newspapers are covering things now (no offense, I’m glad you are in a way) shows that this new way of approaching God and church might be getting standardized and formalized…the last thing we really want to happen yet. Actual emerging churches (and oh, how we’re tired of the phrase) are very few in number, maybe 400 worldwide. The best place to check for this (plug, plug…but no, really) is the Church Directory of my own site. See this section in particular:
    For more fluid definitions of “emerging church” I’d see Andrew Jones, a globe-trotting New Zealander who is kind of a populist voice for many of us. His ‘blog is one of the most popular in our little world and once, England’s equivalent to “Christianity Today” asked him to define “emerging church.” Here’s what he came up with:
    If you need a more systematic look, Stephen Shields is our man for that. See this here:
    Finally, to become completely overwhelmed, see my own site, http://zoecarnate.com
    I hope this helps. Use anything above that might be helpful for your article. We can also set something up by phone or in person if you need further fodder.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    Wow, I totally said “keenly” twice in what I wrote to the reporter. And you see, Andrew–I sicced him on you!

  • andrew jones says:

    thanks for the compliments and links. (and for the help on the website that will open up at the end of this week,
    but as for my description of this church
    you said: ” I don’t know if I would agree with Andrew so easily and quickly that its an “emerging church.”
    lets remember that i heard about this church for the first time on sunday and my quotes were taken from another context.
    and if there is only 400 emerging churches in the world, then i must have met with all of them (and hundreds of others who must not be “emerging”) and my job must be done.
    Can i come home now?

  • Bwa-ha-ha-ha!
    It is I, ever the narrow exclusivist gatekeeper, pitted against you, the warmhearted, arms wide open, good will ambassador. We are like the immortals on that show Highlander, scouring the world, century after century (for a day on the internet is like…at least a month anywhere else)…AND IN THE END, THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE!

  • Greetings, Dean Sweetman here. For the record we did not promote ourselves to the reporter as “emerging”. He gave us the label after visiting. The comment that we are a blend between mega and emerging would be correct. We have larger charasmatic meetings and also other gatherings where different forms of worship are used. Our focus is always people whether they be non churched, churched and only in America, the over churched. Keep charging forward, DS

  • Contemporary Church says:

    Despite the claim Christian City Church is neither post-modern or emergent. It is philosophy of ministry is based on an Attractional, Propositional, and Colonial model. They believe that out of ecclesiology comes missionology and results in Christology. The best description of this movement is that it is a boutique movement of Churches attempting to export Australian culture as if it were the good news.

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