EmergAnt.:2 Countercultural History


The emerging church has fermented on the fringe of society. Over the past 40 years, and around the world, the alternative counterculture has been the context in which new forms of ministry have been birthed. Today, the movement is less alternative and increasingly mainstream, as a wider strata of young people adopt the new cultures. Although the countercultural values are still present.

Foto 1In Chile, hip hop and hardcore culture have been influential in starting churches in Santiago, and the Christian festival Christock. I was told by a leader in Chile that his country was the first to produce a Christian rock band back in the 1970’s. Many of these networks around Latin America gather yearly in Brazil at the festival called Encontro

From the Tribal Generation Brazil website: “New Generation or Urban Tribes is a global phenomenon where frontiers are not barriers, where the values are still being defined in a world called post modern. . . In EUA and Europe the phenomenon is called Emergent Generation and it is made of people that have their values and aims strongly influenced by a global world, adopting its new paradigms or trying to reject everything that the system means.” [more]

JapancpIn Japan, the “new tribe” of Japanese young people, often characterized by dying their hair a rust color, have been the group that have begun many of the emerging churches in their country among the punk and rave scene. This photo is taken of a young church planter when taught in Tokyo.

Japanandrewteaching“Around the globe, the 18- to 35-year-olds are known as ‘Generation X’; in Japan, they are called ‘the new race’. Japan’s ageing population structure contains over 50 million in this group. For the first time in Japanese history, the young generation no longer represent traditional culture. ”This also means that they are far easier to reach with the gospel than their parents’ generation,“ says Fernandez. Japan’s denominational churches are growing only slowly, or even shrinking, but many so-called ‘third wave’ churches are developing a cell-church strategy. The JCCN consists of around 200 churches, each of which has between 2 and 17 cells; these numbers are not very impressive for many countries, but for Japan, a minor revolution.” Source, Dawn Ministries

Jfi MiniIn Germany, the Jesus Freaks started their first church in 1991 among the punk and metal culture. They now have 80 churches in Germany and their yearly Freakstock Festival numbers 7000. And yet the alternative culture still flavors their ministry.

In Australia, the surfing culture in the late 60’s and early 70’s gave birth to many new forms of ministries. Details are found in John Smith’s doctoral dissertation (“The Origins, Nature, and Significance of the Jesus Movement as a Revitalization Movement”, 2002)

In Indonesia, street kids among the punk culture have been the first of those to receive Christ. In Norway, Subchurch and the “Disciple Punk” Festival was started among the same group.

In UK, the alternative worship scene started among the rave culture (Nine O’Clock Service) and was also influenced by the punk scene. The early connection with the rave culture partially explains why UK had a head start on worship over USA.

Further: See Measuring Emergentness by Smilies

In USA, the hippie culture of the 60’s birthed many new forms of church and ministry, most of which can be found today in the emerging church. The punk scene of the 70’s gave birth to more churches and eventually the Underground Railroad network of churches among punk, goth and metal cultures. In the mid 90’s, many of the emerging ministries, including my own work among the postmodern subcultures in San Francisco, were connected to UR. FoundKids was a mid-nineties movement of rave kids who came to Jesus and ministered around the country. The Prodigal Project formed in the early nineties out of the hippie culture.

Further – Read “Understanding the different Sub-cultures”, and other articles on the Paradox web site

A Global Counterculture.

The emerging culture is more than alternative – it is global.

In Colombia, we brought together emerging church leaders from Japan, USA, Germany and Latin America. We were surprised how connected they all were through their sports and music. The Japanese church had a hip-hop band, and the Californian church used a Karaoke machine for worship. The young black American was a fan of the Colombian soccer team. The Japanese leader was recently at a countercultural youth church in Norway, which is heavily influenced by Japanese Manga comics, and the Norwegian church has sent their hard-core band to Japan where that scene is hugely influential.

These connections are quite normal. Churches around the world may share cultural similarities with each other, and yet differ dramatically from the traditional church on their same street. The connections seem to happen randomly, culturally, or through relationships.

The series: EmergAnt – The Skinny on the Emerging Church:


1. Emergent Vocabulary

2. Countercultural History

3. Postmodern Sensibility


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.


  • Have you heard of the mindblowing stuff that has been going on in Poland with the slot-festival etc.? (http://slot.org.pl/)

  • andrew jones says:

    hi Johannes – yes – SLOT is run by friends of mine and they invite me to come each year – i always try but have not yet succeeded to get there, although i did make it out to Wroclaw to meet them.
    thanks for brining them up – people love SLOT!

  • Mike Morrell says:

    I’m glad you’re bringing this up, Andrew. So often I go to “emerging” events and it seems so “establishment” now. I miss the late nineties and early 2000s when all of this was fresh and new and fringe. Do you remember the late, lamented “Stranger Things Magazine”? Sigh. See the eternal monument to their former glory at http://web.archive.org/web/20030217114951/http://www.strangerthingsmag.com/index.html

  • Mike Morrell says:

    That Stranger Things link didn’t work, did it? Okay, try clicking here

  • Frederic says:

    Mike, i just take a look at you WS. It is the most amazing collections of links, ever. Thanks for putting that up and congrat..

  • Andrew says:

    I sometimes refer to Mike Morrel as “Dr Linkage”. He is a historian of the emerging church.
    mike – would you mind tracking with me this week?

  • Mike Morrell says:

    Um, certainly, Andrew. “Tracking”? I’m afraid that, even though I’m 25 and you’re 41, you’re way hipper with the lingo than I am. Please explain. Or email me and I’ll give you my phone number. Whatever.
    And by the way, you and I are quoted in an Atlanta Journal-Constitution article today about an Australian megachurch imprint opening up in Atlanta. Really. I think you’re misquoted actually. Your portion reads,
    “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.”
    See the full article online, possibly only today, here . It requires a moments registration–the AJC doesn’t spam you though. (And my utter lack of modesty compels me to mention that if anyone does register they should make full use of their passport by also going here .

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    Tall skinny Kiwi on ‘all things emergent’

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