Deep Ecclesiology 2.0 Usage

Since 2002, the phrase “deep ecclesiology” has gained greater meaning and it is still emerging. I have listed below some usages over the past 3 years. Thanks to those who kept a record and helped this process.

I will NOT be updating the evolution from this point, but include these quotes as a historical record and as a guide to helping us come to something that resembles a definition. In fact, I am hoping that by the end of the series, some of you might come up with some kind of brief definition or at least some key points that would help us land on what we really mean when we use the word.

I start with Brian McLaren’s usage, since he has done more than anyone to promote the term and flesh it out in his books and talks. In fact, once I was asked the meaning of “deep ecclesiology” and i replied . . “whatever Brian is saying it is.” More people have heard the term from Brian than from me, and Brian’s explanation of what I meant when I first said it is probably more influential to its definition than any of my original thoughts. I am not quoting from Brian’s books here, [i am still waiting for the publisher to send me one – it must have got lost in the mail] but from an excellent piece that links the phrase into its missional heart:

“5. Start new “hives” of Christianity, without blowing up or stirring up the existing hives. (Or: Create catholic missional monastic faith communities, within the context of a “deep ecclesiology.”)

Relatively few churches will probably be able to change from a fortress to something else. The system which sustains “church as fortress” is very strong, and well funded. As many churches as can do so should be encouraged and helped to be reborn along the lines of this strategy, but expectations should probably be modest in this regard.

Meanwhile, new “hives” of this kind of Christianity must be born and nurtured. If even twenty percent of all our seminarians were trained in this direction as church planters, for example, a revolution would begin within a few decades, if not years. For this revolution to be successful, it would need to take place in the context of what my friend Andrew Jones ( calls a deep ecclesiology.”

A deep ecclesiology seeks to honor the church in all its forms, from highest (most sizable, historic, hierarchical, institutional, liturgical, traditional) to lowest (most ephemeral, relational, small, innovative, grass-roots, organic, disorganized).

. . . These new hives of Christian vitality could be abuzz in all sectors, forms, styles, or “models” of the church. They would in this sense be catholic – honoring and receiving rather than protesting and rejecting one another, with no sense at all that there’s one “model” or one “right way” of living as the church. They would be focused on the belief that God loves the world and sent his Son not to condemn it but to save it, seeing the church as God’s agent or collaborator in that saving work. They would in this sense be missional. They would know that in order to be a transforming community, they must promote individual transformation through practices such as prayer, worship, service, forgiveness, solitude, fellowship, and the like. They would in this sense be monastic. (Monastic is a fascinating and paradoxical word, at root meaning “one” [mono], yet by definition meaning “community.” It suggests persons who one by one share a practice or way of life together, making them a community.)

These communities may have names (like St. Peter’s Roman Catholic, or Immanuel Bible, or The Open Door); they may be too ephemeral and illusive to have names (like the four people who meet in Jack’s living room, or the circle of friends Mary meets with at a pub in Glasgow every Tuesday night). Together, they become the buzzing hives of the gospel.”

Brian McLaren, “The Strategy We Pursue” for the Billy Graham Center Evangelism Roundtable “Issues of Truth and Power: The Gospel in a Post-Christian Culture” April 22-24, 2004 (PDF, or posted at Allelon)

The second value of the Emergent Order “Commitment to the Church in all its Forms”, contain these words:

“We practice “deep ecclesiology” – rather than favoring some forms of the church and critiquing or rejecting others, we see that every form of the church has both weaknesses and strengths, both liabilities and potential. We believe the rampant injustice and sin in our world requires the sincere, collaborative, and whole-hearted response of all Christians in all denominations, from the most historic and hierarchical, through the mid-range of local and congregational churches, to the most spontaneous and informal expressions. We affirm both the value of strengthening, renewing, and transitioning existing churches and organizations, and the need for planting, resourcing, and coaching new ones of many kinds.”

“Commitment to the Church in all its Forms” 2nd Value of The Emergent Order

Here are some more quotes from myself and others:

“The emerging church around the world shares a number of common characteristics, including in most cases, an emergent vocabulary, synoptic outlook, creative expression, organic resourcing, fluid strategy, decentralized leadership, holistic expression, fluency in new media, postmodern sensibility, structural simplicity, countercultural origins, an upfront missional focus, modular church expression rather than singular, a deep ecclesiology, attendance at particular yearly festivals, a greater ecumenical commitment and social concern and so on

Andrew Jones, The Emerging Conversation: Unabridged.

“A deep ecclesiology values the invisible nature of the church and not only its visible expression.

It includes the “other” models (adapted from Patrick Johnstone’s “The Church is Bigger Than you Think”) of church such as monastic (residential/training focused), and apostolic (mobile, missionary) as well as the traditionally dominant ecclesiastic (gathering, building based).

It allows room in the Body of Christ for the other half who do not attend our institutions. The number of believers who do not belong” is thought to be higher than the number of those who do belong to an institutional church in the UK (according to UK researcher Dr Peter Brierley).

It rejects the disconnect between church and politics, between church and business, between church and secular.

It is actively involved, just as its people are actively involved, in blessing and developing the cities and societies.

It acknowledges that the church’s real elders and leaders may not always have that title or position bestowed on them by the institution. Judgement Day will reveal all.

It allows churches without addresses or programs to be included in the Body of Christ.

Andrew Jones, “Church Planting Among Emerging Culture in Europe” 2004 (Download DOC)

“There is a deep ecclesiology: It goes beyond how can we build the church to how can we support the kingdom. Embraces the other half of the universal church, those who don’t attend a “normal” church service.

Charlie Wear, The Ooze Blog, taking notes on my speech at Harambee, Pasadena.

“Andrew Jones deep ecclesiology urges us in the direction of pulling on some of the strands from the past to form the foundation upon which to hope and to act for the future.”

Simon Johnstone, “Metro-spirituality and the Emergent Church”

” he’s really into this thing called deep ecclesiology . . . and i just loved it because it describes my current experience of church.” Jen Lemen

“tallskinnykiwi says if we were to make a spectrum from highest high church to lowest low church we need a deep ecclesiology that honours church in all of these forms

[the] emerging church movement has a danger of just setting another strata out of protest rather than getting beyond our exclusiveness and embracing a deep ecclesiology.”

Jonny Baker

Christians are united in a deep ecclesiology and don’t even know it. ”

Chris Gonzalez (Therapist)

“A deep ecclesiology, from what I have seen, is still around the corner.” Andrew Jones

Postmodern Church: Are We There Yet? May 14, 2002, The Ooze.


Deep Ecclesiology : Intro

Deep Ecclesiology 1 History

Deep Ecclesiology 2 : Usage


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:

    Some old methoists that I won’t mention by name used to use the phrase “as I understand Him”. I think a deep ecclesiology might be helped by saying “as you understand it” and then goes into the missional and monastic work of walking into the kingdom together. John Wimber used to say “God loves the whole church, smells and bells and everything”. Being very low church quaker, he was making a nod to high church. His goal was to keep us all generous and humble as to how we do church and make sure issues of how we do and don’t do church doesn;t get in the way of the kingdom and the new family of monastic communities that were at the time raising up.
    I think what we need to add to this small monastic and mission is a better path into the kingdom and into discipleship which I think the church at this time still lacks.

  • Matt says:

    Andrew –
    Just a note on the “monastic” thing (and I’m not sure if your discussion of “monastic” above is yours or Brian’s given the context): The term “monastic” comes from the Greek “mone”, meaning “to stay or remain”. It’s the word used in John 14 (in my father’s house there are many “staying-places”), and in John 15, “remain in me and I will remain in you.”
    Monasticism does, of course, have individualistic elements (as does any Christian movement that involves personal commitment), but I perceive it to be primarily community-oriented.
    I live in a town where most have the attitude of “get the heck out of Dodge” because of the collapse of the local economy. Monasticism says that we will remain in the community even while others are leaving to support those who are on the short end of America’s economic boom.
    I hope this is a useful contribution to “deep ecclesiology”: I really like the concept and have been trying to practice it long before I knew it had a name!

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