Best Book on the Emerging Church

08010271521 The book is finally out in USA. Brits need to wait until Feb 06. Its called "Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Communities in Postmodern Cultures" by Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs. I read the manuscript 6 months ago and spent quite a long time on the phone with Ryan. I am really excited about this book and am glad its finally released. The reason this is the best book on the emerging church [so says my endorsment on the back cover] apart from being true [Jonny agrees] is because my own book on the subject – a thrilling, masterful, penetrating analysis and breathtaking sweep of the global emerging church in all its glorious potential for saving the planet, at once sensational and penetrating, glorious and sublime, "a Ken-Follet-meets-Luke historical whirlwind that will convert both WillowBack roadies and the skeptics on Fundy Row" –  . . . has  . . . ahhh . . . not actually seen completion.

So in the meantime, while you wait for my book, Eddie and Ryan’s book will suffice. In fact, it will also open your eyes and introduce you to key people that you have not met. Brits will be happy to read previously unpublished history of NOS [Nine O’Clock Service] from the 80’s and Americans will see that the emerging church is a lot bigger than they had previously thought.


I know most of the contributors, but not all of them. About 50 people were interviewed so many of us do not agree with everything that is being done or said that is currently going under the "emerging church" label. In fact, I think i am the only one in the book who says that the history of EC goes back to the 1960’s countercultural movement. But . .  hey . . always good to have multiple perspectives when tackling a huge subject. And I think my historically dissenting voice makes it into the final edit [dont know because the publishers have not yet sent me a copy, despite late night phone calls with Ryan]

Very cool also to have people like Andy Thornton (Glasgow’s Late Late Service in the 80’s, Greenbelt Festival Rescuer in the 90’s) give their thoughts and memories. 

Kiwis, Aussies, Asians, Continental Europeans, and Latin Americans looking for the story of their country’s emerging church scene to be told with passion, equity and justice will just have to wait a little longer for my book.

Or . . . a quicker solution . . you might find some of your own countries em. church stories on a Lausanne Occasional Paper. Co-author Ryan Bolger took part in the 2004 Forum hosted by Lausanne Committee For World Evangelism. Ryans group, led by Wilbert Shenk (his previous boss at Fuller School of World Mission) came up with an Occasion Paper [No. 42] that you can download and read:  The Reality of the Changing Expressions of Church (PDF). The paper lists 23 different expressions of emerging church on page 50 and gives some good stories from all continents. 

BONUS: Eddie Gibbs made available a paper called The Emerging Church(doc). Eddie also reviewed D. A. Carson’s book "Being Conversant with the Emerging Church" for Christianity Today with an article called "Emergent Solutions – and Problems"


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.


  • brodie says:

    do you know if the UK version will be any different (thus we should wait till Feb) or willit be the same as the States version?

  • andrew says:

    brodie, if you can order it from USA, then get it now, unless postage is too much.

  • I am more than half way finished and agree with you that this is the best book on emerging church. I am giving this book as Christmas presents this year.

  • Andrew Black says: are showing a UK edition published by SPCK at 9.09 pounds available 1 January 2006.

  • Dan Kimball says:

    I agree with you andrew when you state that the emerging church had earlier origins. I think in the book they list the term “emerging church” as being used for the first time with Karen Ward’s web site and it actually (as you know) was used in 1970 in the book “The Emerging Church” by Bruce Larson and Ralph Osborne.
    Then I named the book I wrote “The Emerging Church” after seeing Leadership Network use the term in their tag line “advance scouts for the emerging church”. They were using that term back in the mid-1990’s before any of the Gen X stuff got going. So, I actually think Leadership Network are the ones who really started using that term in regards to what we use it today in. so the roots go before the nine o’clock service in both name and the heart of what most emerging churches are about. I definetly sensed Bruce Larson and Ralph Osborne were on to the same thing as us today in their time period.

  • Best Emerging Church Book Ever?

    Apparently the best book on the emerging church movement isn’t from Emergentit’s actually from Baker Academic, and it’s called Emerging Churches. Plenty of Emergent folks have endorsed the book, but some are now saying it’s the “best” available …

  • Michel Savard says:

    I also very much agree with your comment “the history of EC goes back to the 1960’s countercultural movement”. When I look at Larry Norman (whose prose I have always loved) and others, who were part of the Jesus movement in the US (and elsewhere – I don’t want to sound US-centric here!), I can’t help but think that what was happening back then had (and often still has!) an “emerging” feel to it.

  • Randy Haney says:

    I have to get my hands on a copy. Thanks for the information. I have been truly blessed to have met such wonderful people. Thanks, Andrew, for being the Godly man that you are.

  • nate says:

    do you expand on your comments about how whats going on now traces it roots to the counter cultural movements of the 60s in the book at length? If not, can you expand on them soon?
    One other historical question, do you delinate the Jesus people movement from the charismatic renewal movement, if so how and where?

  • andrew says:

    dan – thanks for the history. i also bought that 1970 book after reading about it on your blog. I ended up with a hard back copy for less than $4.
    I was reading it again this week – and yes – they are talking about the same thing.
    I have talked about 1968 being the year when at least 10 parallel expressions of emerging church forms had taken shape – including coffee shop, intentional community, house church, christian club, underground/self publishing [street sheets]. I will look it up when i get the chance and blog it again soon.
    i feel that the em. church is not only related to the jesus people movement of the 60’s but also to the charasmatic movement of the 70’s, [i see the 2 as different] which is why the Vineyard does so well in relating to and sponsoring emerging church initiatives.
    best person to ask about that is probably John Smith in australia or David Di Sabatino in USA.

  • Ryan Bolger says:

    Weird to have one’s work be the topic of a post — first time for me…
    Anyway, to clarify, the practices of the emerging church are not unique to that movement — they have been practiced within movements throughout history – and as you say Andrew, there is a strong resemblance to the Jesus people movements. What we say is that these nine are a unique expression. What you do not have with the Jesus people is a truly postmodern theology — they often embraced a very fundamentalist theology, very modern, although their lived theology, 24-7, communal was quite integrated.
    Regarding the name, emerging church, I was not giving the first use of the term, but how the movement adopted the term. I saw no references to Larson in their discussions…’Emerging Church’ became the name of the movement because the insiders to the movement accepted the term. That is what I was seeking to identify.
    Anyway, great discussion. Sorry I missed you when you came to LA Andrew…

  • rawbbie says:

    andrew I had a conversation with grace mclaren at the emergent gathering about what you said about the history of the emerging church going back to the counterculture. i am doing a short research paper about this subject and it would be cool to hear you expound on this. you could do it on your blog a little so we wouldn’t even have to talk for real.
    If I could tell you a little of what she said when we talked it might spur you on. (don’t quote her, because this isn’t a direct quote either) To her, the “Jesus Movement” didn’t ever start and it wasn’t ever called that. starting bible studies, talking about God, and reading scripture was second nature. it wasn’t a phenomenon to her or her friends. when brian and her started a church with their friends, it was still a part of what they did before. church planting flowed out of what they expierienced in the 60’s and 70’s. i am sure that everything else that the mclaren couple has done isn’t somehow disconnected from that time and place in their life. someone mentioned postmodern theology seperating the two and tony jones (also at the gathering) mentioned that the JM was theologically hijacked by the dispensationalism of calvary chapel and hal lindsey. while this maybe true, it should also be said that most of the people IN the movement (the hippies and other youth) didn’t participate in the theology (except maybe ronald sider but he didn’t start until 1978, a good half decade late). maybe a better way to look at the Jesus Movement and the emerging church is to look at them as the same organism. the emerging church (in the US at least) should be seen as a reaction to the theology that was given to them and the discovery of their own voice in the theological realm.
    man I hope you respond. i am getting excited about this paper and i still have more than half a semester still to write it.

  • andrew jones says:

    Rawbbie, i look forward to reading what you come up with. helpful resource people are David Di Sabbatino and John Smith (Australia) who did his doctoral work on the subject at Asbury and i bought his dissertion. hopefully the research will not cost you as much as it cost me.
    Ryan Bolger believes the distinction between the two groups lies in teh fact that the early JM were parachurch and the new movement have a strong ecclesiology, strong enough to start their own autonomous churches and ministries. but there ar e a lot of links back to 1968.
    have fun!

  • rawbbie says:

    thanks Andrew, I’ll post a link to my paper from my blog.

  • Andrew,
    It seems the PDF link is dead perhaps . Anyway to retrieve it on the wayback machine or some other manner??

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