Wikipedia on Em. Church (updated)

UPDATE: Others are thinking this also and may change it in a few days. see theVoiz

The definition of “Emerging Church” on Wikipedia used to be quite concise and accurate, back when Dan Thomson was fiddling with it. Now it looks far more American, more protestant, more culturally bound to postmodernism. What’s up with that???

“English speaking” Who said that? How insulting to other countries.

I feel less connected with that definition than ever. Makes me wonder if the Americans are using their loud voices to take over from other countries who should have an equal voice, especially countries that had a head start and are further along. Also makes me wonder if another name change is coming up. I know . . I would miss all the criticism also . .. but if the name really doesn’t fit, then why do we keep wearing it?

What do leaders from other countries think of Wikipedia’s defintion? Where are the Brazilians? Spaniards? Are the Polish comfortable with it? I met the guy in Germany who wrote the definition on emerging church for Wikipedia in German. It seems better than ours, more academically rigorous, and with less drizzle. Hopefully it captures our missional heart, unlike the American English speaking version.

Sometimes i see and read the DUMBEST things.

Or maybe I am just in a bad mood today?

Is this what it feels like to be 41?


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.


  • Rickard says:

    Man…I wish my German wasn’t so rusty. I agree however…good stuff

  • Kapeka says:

    When I saw the updated definition of the english wikipedia Article I was a little bit surprised. I am not very deep involved in the whole EC thing, but I watch some German EC Blogs, and, well, if I understand the whole EC thing correct, than it’s far away from being _just_ an english speaking or american thing.
    But, hey, it’s the Wikipedia. You can click on “edit” and change the text. Maybe this will cause a small editwar, but after some discussion there would be a compromise. Sometimes it’s good to overthink a definition and make yourself clear, what you mean when you use a word.
    You mentioned poland. Do you have an insight about an polish EC movement? I plan to go as a missionary to poland in a few years after my theology studies. And I want to make me a picture about the situation there. Although I myself am born in poland, I was so long away from there, that I have just a very small insight in new movements there.

  • andrew jones says:

    thanks karl
    i know we can all edit it but much better to do it in community and with consensus
    re: poland – check out slot
    the yearly festival in wroclaw that gets 2500 young people
    i was in wroclaw a few years ago – great church, great people.

  • Kapeka says:

    Well, sure, you’re right, saying that a community based developing of the article would be the best solution. And there’s already a discussion going on, concerning the statements made in the article. May be more “non anglosaxan” should jump into the discussion, especially if there are involved in EC outside US,UK,AU. But that’s sure not an easy job, to define, what EC really is. Everyone has his own thoughts about it. It’s nearly as complicated as the definition, what PoMo is. And because of that it is important, that the Wikipedia has a good and well-thought definition, cause the WP get’s more and more important.
    Thanks for the link. I saw it already in one of your emergant posts.

  • philjohnson says:

    This highlights a couple of endemic problems.
    1. Although there is an “open source” ethos associated with sites like Wikipedia, there is the recurrent problem of mediocre or skewed contributions being published in what purports to be a reference work. A reference work is supposed to aspire for transcultural precision in its coverage, and not reflect the eccentricities of one writer or one particular group. (The Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetices is an example of this where the text reflects the eccentricities of its sole author Norman Geisler, and so the work suffers from serious gaps and omissions).
    2. Allied to no. 1 is the general problem of a writer viewing an issue from the narrow constraints of one’s local culture, and then translating that up to a universal status. Or worse, cultural snobbery: the universe revolves around my culture and no one else’s matters.
    3. The ever lurking danger of reification – to reify something one jots down a portrait of an idea, issue, group etc, which is then projected out as if it directly corresponds with reality. Those who sincerely rely on that portrait then concretise it by assuming that reality has been described. Reification is a problem in evangelical literature on other religions, particularly where the writers have not engaged in proper field-research and interviews, and has constructed an arm-chair based interpretation.
    At least in this instance there is some critical reaction noted here on the blog about Wiki’s current EC portrait. Some constructive comments could be directed to the Wiki network suggesting improvements.

  • fernando says:

    whilst the first paragraph is wildly misleading, it is also worth noting that clearly some folks *do* view EC as an american evangelical youthwork phenom. often we have conversations where we don’t have shared agreement on the terms. this wiki instance reminds me that not everyone thinks EC is what I think EC is.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    I agree with you Andrew–let’s rewrite it!
    But at least its not as bad as this
    By the way, I am going to help you out with “the thing” stat! I am finishing up a book I’m ghostwriting…I am a slug…
    And you’re going to have to help _me_ populate with some non USAmerican/non English-speaking sites and blogs some day…

  • Mark Berry says:

    I too fail to recognise the americana in this def. especially the connections made between Willow Creek and the “House Church Movement. I also remember some of the conversations at the conference in Paris a couple of years ago… where it became clear how difficult it was to encapsulate anything re. emerg[ing/ent] church. IMO Kester Brewin has written one of the most reflective pieces on this in “The COmplex Christ”

  • Oli Douglas-Pennant says:

    From my own (biased perspective) I think the definition on Wikipedia sounds about right (but maybe someone has played with it already). Thats from the perspective that the emerging church is still emerging (so isn’t quite perfect yet) and is for many a reaction against more established things.
    Of course the whole thing is an interesting thingy about who has the truth and what it is. Does the emerging church have the best truth (well maybe) and if truth should be more collective who decides which collective? Maybe it shouldn’t be the emerging church after all its hard to be objective looking at yourself.

  • andrew jones says:

    thanks oli
    i am quite happy for non-emerging church people to write into our definition – and maybe we do need that.
    the problem has been too many people trying to describe emerging church without having a clue what we are about.
    for example
    – that side of emerging church that has been working hard at it for 20 years
    – are NOT reacting
    – believe in truth
    – love the traditional church
    – are speaking prophetically into the postmodern world to transform it
    – those who think being missional is far more important that being relevant
    and if people read the current description WITHOUT CRINGING then i suspect they have not been involved in a real emerging church but have simply read some harsh books or articles.
    But the idea of self-correction within Wikipedia (an emergent principle) should work. Maybe i bring this up to speak into the process of correcting that definition, without just jumping in and changing it myself.

  • joe says:

    LAST SPRING the Nashville Convention Center played host to both the National Pastors Convention and the Emergent Convention. While the former was largely geared toward evangelical baby boomers, the latter catered to Gen X and Millennial evangelicals (and “postevangelicals”) who are trying to come to grips with postmodernity. Though the two conventions intentionally overlapped, that proximity suggests a closer kinship than may actually exist. Indeed, the professed goal of many in the “Emerging Church” is to embody an alternative to the model of the Willow Creek, seeker-driven church that blankets the contemporary evangelical landscape like kudzu on a southern hillside.
    At first glance the differences between the two conventions seemed to be primarily stylistic: the Emergent music was hipper, the videos faster, the clothes trendier, the technology more sophisticated. But for many of the Emergent leaders, the convention’s flashiness did more to confuse than to clarify the nature of the emerging church.
    “For the most part, the general sessions just look like an extension of the mega-church movement and the ‘rah-rah’ youth movement–feelings and loudness,” complained Robert Webber, one of the main speakers–as if “the louder you can be, the more direct relationship you have with God.” Adds Webber, professor of ministry at Northern Baptist Seminary: “There’s nothing here in file public face that lifts you theologically or lifts you into liturgy or anything that has historic connection or depth or substance.”
    Webber’s critique gets to the heart of a major question for the “emerging church”: as younger generations of evangelicals find themselves dissatisfied with the dominant expressions of “contemporary” church, will they simply engage in a change of style, seeking relevance for a new generation, or will they engage in a change of substance, including a more radical rethinking of the evangelical project?
    From: The Christian Century (November 30, 2004)
    Thus far, I’ve only seen a triumph of style over substance. No change in theology/soteriology, just the same old, same old evangelical Protestantism REPACKAGED though in a Tragically Hip, PoMo, “Ancient-Future”, Happy-Clappy way that appeals to the disaffected children of Willow Creek.

  • andrew jones says:

    Joe – i dont believe you . . . I dont think you really have seen . . . anything at all
    my guess is that you have never participated in a weekend long prayer experience or a mission trip or urban ministry experience in the emerging culture – i am guessing that you have just read some articles and books and they have made you angry.
    The Emergent Convention (I never went to it or the other ones) probably had a whole lot of silly things going on, as well as some good things
    I would probably agree with WEbber – sounds silly and immature to me also
    But Joe – to judge us on that is unfair
    its like judging all Protestants based on anti-Catholic Protestants in Ireland – same word, different meaning.
    dont mean to be rude – but before you lay another mans criticism on the vast and complex worldwide movement, please click on some links and check out what is going on (preferably OUTSIDE America) and, even better, find out what God is doing in your own city among the emerging culture and meet the young people He is raising up to meet that challenge, and GO there in person – those people might or might not use the “emerging” name (many do not because of the rash criticism) but see them, bless them, join them, pray for them, and be a part of the solution.

  • Timbo says:

    Andrew, I know that this is your blog, but with all due respect, your response is very dismissive of what Joe has said. In your previous comment, you state that the emerging church is not reactive, but when you dismiss your critics as not having a clue as to what they are talking about, it comes across as just that. Now, it could be that he does, or it could be that he doesn’t, but for a movement that has resisted being defined to then complain about being misdefined is an unfair expectation. You say that you believe in truth and want to speak truth into the postmodern world. I think this is awesome, and I don’t believe that Carson, Mohler, et. al., would have a problem with this if this was all that was being done in the name of the emerging church. We all want to be missional. But there are many practices/doctrines that are emerging from the emergent tent that are questionable at best or downright heretical at worst, and until these practices/doctrines are identified and condemned by the so-called leaders of the emerging church, the emerging chuch will continue to be seen as reactive, truth-denying, etc. This is how many of us on the outside of the emerging church see things.

  • steven says:

    Timbo, I don’t know you, but it’s curious that an ec outsider complains here about dismission. Our critics have no problem dismissing us when they think we are wrong. And Andrew – and I – think Joe is wrong.
    Joe is addressing the very real problem that is growing in the Americana emerging world – disaffected evangelicals addressing style only and without redeveloping substance. I think that as the emerging label has grown in popularity and exposure, many have jumped on without doing the work of rethinking that others have. So that’s a real issue. But Joe went so far as to dismiss ALL of us who labor under the emerging banner or even ignore the label altogether while rethinking and reworking the Kingdom and missional living. That’s Andrew’s point. Just because some unhappy Willow Creekers (to use the term started before me) are repackaging evangelicalism in a hipper package doesn’t mean that beneath the surface and under the radar there are real changes taking place and real work being done.
    It isn’t being reactive to say that a critic doesn’t have a clue. Sometimes it is honesty and the harsh reality that doesn’t need to be sugarcoated. Do some real investigation before tossing around the “h” word and tossing the whole emerging world onto the trash heap. Get to know real people instead of reading a few blogs or books. Spend time in the community you’re currently trashing. And if the only people you can find that are using the “emerging” label are just repackaged evangelicals from America, keep looking.

  • Timbo says:

    “Do some real investigation before tossing around the “h” word and tossing the whole emerging world onto the trash heap. Get to know real people instead of reading a few blogs or books. Spend time in the community you’re currently trashing.”
    Perhaps I have. . . .
    And if the only people you can find that are using the “emerging” label are just repackaged evangelicals from America, keep looking.”
    I know that “repackaged evangelicals from America” are not the only people using the “emerging” label, Steven. There are many using the “emerging” label. Some of these people are advocating heretical-type stuff using the “emerging” label. But nobody seems to acknowledge that. Like I said, to resist definition and then complain about being misdefined is quite the unfair expectation.

  • andrew jones says:

    children . . children . . paahlease!!
    thanks Steven for defending me against saying those words, but i dont think i actually said what Timbo said that i said . .
    1. “Joe doesn’t have a clue” were not my words. That would be a rude way to treat my guests. Joe is a smart guy and knows what he is talking about BUT i suggested he had not seen (witnessed first hand) the emerging church and the 16 comments he has posted here in the past 3 days as based on the secondary sources he is reading – and that is not what this blog is all about.
    Please dont misread my judgment without reading Joe’s 16 comments.
    2. Em Church is not reactive?” Well, some of it isnt but some of it is. I agree with Don Carson on this one, as i have said already.
    Sometimes we need to react at things that are wrong, or unScriptural or ungodly. But we should react in a Christlike manner- like exercising discipline in a biblical way. even on a blog.
    Seems kinda harsh – and it would be after only one or two divisive comments, but joe is dismissing a lot more than emerging church and has been posting lengthy comments over the past 3 days and I will not let my readers be abused by someone like that.
    You can read all of Joe’s 16 comments starting on the Horton post.
    Thanks also, Steven, for being a witness. Perhaps one other person out there would act as the third witness and then we would have a Biblical precedent for exercising some judgement.

  • steven says:

    Oooo… judgement! Sounds like some old school Baptist fun that I’d forgotten about in my emerging ways! 😉
    Andrew’s right, in all seriousness. Let’s not fall into painting with such broad strokes based only on what we’ve read or heard secondhand (and that goes for me too!). I feel Andrew’s frustration because he KNOWS what amazing things are going on around the world for God that are flying under the radar. He’s been there. He’s seen it. He’s experienced it. He’s started it, nurtured it, stumbled across it… so to say that a few books by American authors represents everything “emerging” has got to drive him nuts. I know it drives me nuts.

  • john o'keefe says:

    andrew –
    i’m not sure i like the german, at least in the english we are both mentioned as links 🙂
    well, ok – i like the german (given that my german is limited) – but the english is cool too 🙂
    pax bro 🙂

  • Oli Douglas-Pennant says:

    I just wish people would get on with being Christians, the idea of the emerging church annoys me, there are good things happening but why categorize it? My fear is people inside and outside such a category are just making another denomination/cult/movement/group that will divide and limit God’s mission.

  • andrew jones says:

    good call
    not categorizing it is a good move. The label usually comes from outside . . like “Christians” did many years ago in Antioch
    a lot of us would like to ditch the label, and many do not use it at all, but if the emerging churches under scrutiny slip out of the name, it looks like they are shunning the criticism and not taking it to heart
    maybe when the storm is over, (which is very much an american storm)
    in the meantime, lets just be the body of Christ – we are all interconnected anyway.

  • fowowe olurotimi says:

    willing to send some delegates for a conventions in poland september/october 2005 .so get me an event and be prepare to register my delegates thanks.

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