Hammett on Emerging Church 1.2

[continued from Hammett : Intro]
If I had a candle for every minister who believes the emerging church is a runaway faction of anti-establishment philosophers, sipping starbucks on leopard-skin couches and projecting the Matrix movie onto labyrinths, then I could probably light up the entire worship space at an Emergent Convention.

But there are 2 questions that bug me:

1. Is the emerging church REALLY a dying quasi-denomination of 200 gotteed, gripey, grungy, groups of protesting, post-everying, peed-off Christians lighting candles to Derrida and trying to convert the mainstream church to the idol of postmodern relevancy?

2. Is there REALLY only 200 of them?

In the article Baptist Scholar Sounds a Warning to Emerging Church”, “Hammett noted that the emerging church movement is still quite small; one study found less than 200 true “emerging” churches nationwide.” Lets leave the candles flickering for a moment and just talk about the number. Is the Emerging Church in USA only 200 groups?

200? Or 2 ,000? Or 20,000?


There are two widely disparate viewpoints on the size and shape of the American emerging church. Both of these viewpoints are from highly respected leaders – Bible scholar Dr. D.A. Carson, author of “Being Conversant with the Emerging Church” and George Barna, research geek and “the most quoted” evangelical in USA, who wrote “Revolution”.

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On one side is the Carsonian Critique . . . that the emerging church is an ten year old American phenomenon, characterized primarily by protest against the traditional church, sloppy handling of truth, and hampered by an inadequate understanding of postmodernism. And Hammett’s estimation of 200, along with Carsonian influence, would place him squarely in this category.

On the other side is the Barnanian Breakdown. . . which sees millions of people experiencing church in alternative forms such as marketplace ministries and cyberchurch. George Barna is excited about what is happening in the emerging Church – not the postmodern, candles/coffee/couches types of anti-modern ministries, but the Revolutionary ministry that is percolating to the surface of American society through new forms of ministry such as the cyberchurch, house churches, marketplace ministries, and tribal faith experiences.” Barna, New Directions.

The emerging church in George Barna’s understanding is made up of alternative faith communities, cyberchurch, family faith journeys, house churches . . . and, not to forget, a group of churches formed as an extension of the traditional model that he calls “emergent-postmodern”.

Listen to the Revolution3 MP3 from Thom Black who works with Barna. (HT: Tim] There may be up to a dozen movements of between one and three million people each that the Barna Group is just beginning to identify. Thats a lot of people. And that what I see when someone uses the word “emerging church”


I suppose I am hopelessly Barnanian. I see the emerging church in USA as a missional, ecclesiological response to the one third of Americans who are impacted by and are impacting the emerging culture.

I would also suggest that the global missiological community, of which I am a part, would line up more with a Barnanian understanding of emerging church. For example, the good folk at the Lausanne Committee For World Evangelization see the emerging church as something far more global and significant than 200 Congregations of the Disgruntled Postmodernists. The recently published Lausanne Occasional Paper No. 43 The Realities of the Changing Expression of Church [pdf] identifies 23 types of such churches including cyberchurch, house church, coffee shop and more. Fuller Seminary’s Dr. Ryan Bolger, who was a part of that particular Lausanne working group, has been interviewing emerging church leaders for the past 5 years for his book “Creating Christian Communities in the Postmodern Cultures”, co-written with Dr. Eddie Gibbs. I would call both Ryan and Eddie ‘Barnarnian’.

And how many are there in USA?

Gosh. Hard to say. The 2001 Epicenter Roundtable we hosted in Texas for emerging church networks was limited to 50 networks and movements. Thats MOVEMENTS, not churches. And yes, EmergentVillage was one of those movements (they prefer the word ‘conversation’) that was present.

A few years back, US Center for World Mission were quoting me as estimating “5000 postmodern churches” – which was something that I never actually said but it seemed to get some press. I didn’t agree with the number back then, and I would certainly not use the “P” word with the current misunerstandings of the term. But, if there are 5000 house churches in USA then there are certainly many more forms of emerging church that would bring the number up way over the original 5000 figure. Add up the additional groups that do not call themselves “church” and you have a number that approaches Barnarian in scope.

I spent last month driving 7000 miles around USA, meeting with church planters and strategists:

– I had lunch with a guy in Houston who has seen 16 Hip Hop churches start up in his city in the past 18 months with the support of the United Baptist Association.

– I had dinner with a lady in San Francisco (also Baptist) who has 30 new churches on the burner right now.

– | had a BBQ with a couple in Austin, Texas who estimate there are 5000 house churches in USA that are visible enough to be counted. Mike Steele from DAWN USA confirmed that figure earlier this year.

Enough for now.

I am preparing for a meeting next week in Zurich where mission strategists will be talking about one million new churches in Europe – and I can tell you now that MOST of these will be emerging churches – organic, simple, probably without their own buildings and probably without Seminary trained senior pastors. Nothing against traditional churches, its just that each one cost about $100,000 each to start, much more if you want to buy a building, and they do not multiply nearly as quickly. That may sound terribly pragmatic but . . . hey . . . we have to get on with the job Jesus gave us and use the resources we are given.


You can read what I told a group of American Foundations earlier in the year in Virginia about the shape of the emerging church. But if you want to research the size of the emerging church, then do some counting yourself – why not start with the 4000 links on Zoecarnate and go from there.

Have fun!

Let me know what you find out.

[update] – Bob Hyatt comes up with 3 categories when he asks “Just Who Is Emergent Anyway?”

[Update: The original title for this series was “Emerging Church Hammering”. Out of respect for John, because it did not fairly reflect his intentions towards the emerging church, I have edited the titles]


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.


  • Jeff says:

    “organic, simple, probably without their own buildings and probably without Seminary trained senior pastors.”
    Ok, can you do better, in your own words, of defining “emergent church”? After all, I go to an un-affiliated, pastor-less, plural-leadered, organic, simple, gathering. We all left the organized church to find a more true organic expression of the Church, together. Yes, in all openness, we have a building, but it was sold to us for $1. Further description: no choir, no bulletin, no offering, but overhead for music, young people, young parents, missionaries sent from among us all over the world, and the Lord’s Table every week.
    We are NOT emerging (since most of us are horrified by some writings from known ecm’ers). We could easily fit Barna’s class of new Christians, but my point is he might be jumping to a conclusion that certain characteristics automatically make a church emerging.
    There must be something else. All emerging churches may be simple and organic, but not all simple, organic churches are emerging.

  • Matt Glock says:

    Thanks for getting that out. I’d have to quibble with this line…
    Nothing against traditional churches, its just that each one cost about $100,000 each to start, much more if you want to buy a building, and they do not multiply nearly as quickly.
    Don’t know if you’re thinking about the US with that $100,000 or more generally. From my very unscientific observations after 15 years in Europe I come up with a figure more on the lines of $250,000 without a building. That figure is the low end. One church I know well here in France had 3 missionary couples and one single missionary working nearly 10 years and the church still can’t support a full-time worker. Play around with the support numbers for those folks and you’re coming close to a cool $1,000,000 !
    There really is something wrong with that system. So here’s to simple organic church.

  • andrew says:

    jess – thanks – dont take that as a definition of emerging church . . . just a guess at what the new church plants will look like based on what we see now
    Matt – no quibble from me. That figure of 100k is what a number of church planters are working with. The Bishop of the Episcopal church of Texas met with me (i with him, actually) and he had a figure much higher.
    so yes – you are right – they cost a whole lot more.

  • Roger says:

    I think it’s important to clarify that “Hammett’s estimation of 200” is actually directly from Aaron Flores, someone who isn’t an emerging church critic.

  • Quote of the Day

    //MOOD: Getting There //ITUNES: End is Forever by Ataris From TallSkinnyKiwi: If I had a candle for every minister who believes the emerging church is a runaway faction of anti-establishment philosophers, sipping starbucks on leopard-skin couches and …

  • Quote of the Day

    //MOOD: Getting There //ITUNES: End is Forever by Ataris From TallSkinnyKiwi: If I had a candle for every minister who believes the emerging church is a runaway faction of anti-establishment philosophers, sipping starbucks on leopard-skin couches and …

  • Adam says:

    What if the answer is both/and rather than either/or? It seems possible that there may be only 200 chuches truly characterized as “emergent.” However, there are also countless others who may be considered “revolutionaries” (as Barna calls them) throughout the Global Church Community. These “revlolutionaries” or emergents (call them what you want) are the real trend to watch – not the individual emerging churches (in my opinion).
    Is the point of the emerging church to have specific emergent churches throughout the world? Or is the point to transform the global church as a whole (from the inside out)? Watching the trend of “revolutionaries” seems more significant if the later is the greater purpose.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    Hi Jeff,
    What’s horrifying? I’m curious.
    I think that Andrew’s (and my) open-ended depiction of “emerging” is maps pretty well with what’s actually occuring around the world.
    Now sure, some might be more on a “McLaren pole” and others on a “Jim Rutz pole (referring to Megashift, which I like better than Barna’s book in a way, up there on the left on this blog),” and our real differences shouldn’t be glossed over. BUT, we can meet this differences with candor and respect, something that emerging folks do pretty well, unless (sadly) we feel like we’re attacked.
    But its interesting that this is coming up, because its a conversation we’ve been having in my house church community in Atlanta. “Are we emerging?” some are now asking, which is hilarious to me because even a year or so ago 98% of my church–which is mixed age, from 20s to 70s–wouldn’t have ever even heard terms like “emerging,” “postmodern,” or “epistemology.”
    But that’s not the point.
    The point is that my “family” house church communities has been–for the last 30 years–a critique against individualistic faith, clericalism, and an approach to God centered primarily in either the mind or the emotions. We’ve been “ancient-future” for awhile now, drawing our influences from the churches depicted in the first century in the New Testament, as well as Roman Catholic mystics, and post-Brethren such as Watchman Nee and T. Austin-Sparks.
    This isn’t to say that we’ve “arrived” any more than anyone else has; I hope my church participates more consciously in the emerging church conversation in the future; I think we have a lot to learn about appropriating the life and subversive teaching of Jesus, about embodying justice, and rejecting false dichotomies (inherited from our beloved post-Brethren) between physical and spiritual dimensions.
    But nonetheless, a church is emerging because she is, not because of what she’s read.

  • Andrew,
    I really appreciate this post — meaty, evidential, but passionate. And I think you are right to point to Barna: those numbers are not fictions, and even I don’t think he’s analyzed his group with care (too conservative probably), he’s onto the key issue: there is an ecclesiological revolution going on and it far far far bigger than what we can document. It is a movement, and movements don’t check in weekly with church attendance stats.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    200? Surely you jest, sir!
    I count at least 600.
    And those are just ones that are web-enabled. And I’m sure Andrew would place that figure even higher.

  • Defining and Defending the Emerging Church

    It seems like defining and defending the emerging church are the topics of the moment. Neither are easy to do.
    Andrew Jones has some well-written thoughts on the types of criticism being laid out right now.
    One of the main problems with the criti…

  • Adam says:

    Again, I think counting churches misses the point.
    Scot is right on – this is an “ecclesiological revolution” that transcends what we can clearly document (ex: numbers of churches).
    If the movement is all about “numbers of churches,” then we are talking about a new denomination (with these specific churches being the ones who fit in). I don’t think many who are a part of this (including those in this discussion) are at all interested in a new denomination. A revolution in our understanding of the gospel and the church is a better hope – one that goes beyond any specific churches that may fit a particular mold.

  • We just began an emerging community in downtown Richmond, VA called A Different Richmond. http://www.adifferentrichmond.net/
    Please keep us in prayer. We constituted Sunday evenin g, which is required by the Commonwealth of Virginia. We had 12 people join and we are really excited about what God wants to do in transforming our city!

  • rudy says:

    oh oh – guess i better pour the starbucks down the drain, cover the couch with a sheet, take Matrix 1 out of the dvd player, and close the door to the labyrinth room…

  • Gregory Pittman says:

    I read Hammet’s paper today and a number of things jumped out at me. But, before I get there, we’re hanging out looking at numbers. The Flores number of “~200 churches” were churches Flores sampled, meaning statistical sample, meaning he in no way indicates that there are only 200 emerging churches in the US–just that he only sought information from 200 churches.
    Here’s the one big thing I’ve been wondering. Maybe others have as well. Is the emerging church (and therefore its critics) getting hung up on postmodernity? I mean, postmodernity isn’t the point of the emerging church; it’s the context. An incarnational gospel is the point, is it not? Emerging churches that I know of do incarnational ministry very well; it’s the strong suit of the emerging movement. Which means that even if postmodernity is dead (as Hammett suggests), the emerging church can (and should) keep on doing what it’s doing. Hammett unknowingly put his finger on the pulse of the emerging church. The traditional churches he uses as examples that churches don’t have to give in to postmodernity in order to be effective all had one thing in common: the members lived out their faith. They didn’t leave it inside the four walls of their buildings. Isn’t that the point of the emerging church?!
    Which actually means that the emerging church is not really introducing anything new. It is simply calling us back to biblical Christianity. Go figure!

  • Chris says:

    Isn’t every church that meets today post-modern in some sense of the word. Perhaps emerging is trying to define itself too tightly. Why worry about the numbers isnt that the job of the modernists and seeker services?
    From what I have seen of the list from (Flores)? site of emerging websites there doesn’t seem to be that much that is done differently. The real change is in the hearts of those who belong.

  • ryan Bolger says:

    Andrew, great conversation. I like to refer to these new happenings in terms of practices, as opposed to in and out. Many of these communities are on a spectrum. I identified 9 such practices for Emerging Churches — those that have all nine might be smaller in number approaching Carson’s number, but those who have three, four, five, might be getting closer to Barna…
    I think the ‘in’ or ‘out’ dichotomy is problematic…

  • Herobill says:

    Hi, Andrew. My old (dear) friend and brother Mike Morrell invited me to come read this, and I just got around to it. So here I am.
    I don’t know what “emergent” means and (if I’ve been paying attention at all) I don’t think you’ll mind if I say that most of me doesn’t care. Christians coming together to try and re-envision what “church” can be in their lives isn’t a new thing, and will never be a uniform or classify-able thing. There is and will continue to be infinite variety. But about the label: I think I get lost; I thought you meant the word to refer to a small circle or movement? Then you seem to switch and use it as a general adjective, such as applying it to everyone Barna’s talking about. But that’s just a little feedback for communication’s sake.
    Here’s what I think: Barna’s book simply says that tons of christians who’ve been finding more life & fellowship through their interdenominational affilliations for years ANYWAY… that these people who’ve wanted to quit going to sunday services for years ANYWAY… that these people are finally finding the freedom to quit the sunday service AND to be open about it.
    Barna’s justification for this is the Universal Church (“big-C”). That any christians in your life ARE your “Church”… but this Big-C idea bothers me to no end because it seems so far away from the New Testament churches’ experience.
    Barna argues well – I didn’t buy it all – but he crystallized for me what is really going on. Gene Edwards once said that the Para-church organizations founded in America over the past hundred years were started by people who were done with church, they just needed it for fundraising! Well, apparently their mailing lists are getting long enough to just be done with it, period. (I know that’s a gross generality, but wasn’t it fun!?)
    To you, Andrew – I’ve spotted your site before but don’t recall anything I may have read here until today – I have only these comments. Anything that people try may be an opportunity for us all to learn… but how will we learn if they dissappear? Where are all the “open churches” James Rutz talked about 12 years ago?
    (And Mike Morrell, dear Michael, your 4,000 links are impressive in a certain way… but sometimes, man, YOU are what’s ‘horrifying’! 🙂 I hope you take a sabbattical, kid! Enjoy being married! But seriously, when your sabbattical is done, why don’t you devote yourself to compiling some real histories of these little groups. You know that I for one would sincerely LOVE to know the nuts and bolts of their stories. Btw, does Rutz mention his old “open” contacts in his new book?)
    Anyway, Andrew… I really just meant to point out that Barna was talking about individuals finding their own Big-C. He really had very few paragraphs that even mentioned the “little-c” in any positive way.
    But you, Andrew, seem to be talking about “churches”.
    So my point is: Barna’s numbers come from a whole different basis of accounting. Would you now agree?

  • andrew says:

    welcome to the blog
    a few quick responses, after just arrving back from a strategic meeting in zurich
    it would appear that Barna is naming 20 million americans who are finding alternative forms of religion, but many of these groups would be nowhere near “evangelical” or post-evan” so i guess i am somewhere in teh middle between carson and barna
    as for jim rutz’s open churches and similar house churches/simple churches, the latest i have heard is that there are about 200 networks of such churches being tracked and supported by DAWN ministries USA. They might be just as invisible, but there time will probably come. The 5000 number for house churches in usa is probably very conservative
    and i think the label will continue to be applied for some time but may not be understandable to people until they read about emergent theory and emergent behaviour – but by then, people will probably be calling it something different again
    thanks for your thoughts and honesty

  • Rt Rev Elias Sardar Raja says:

    Greetings in the precious name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
    Church & Diocese of Azad Kashmir is an Independent Minstry and does not have affiliation with any Pakistani or International Church/Mission but follow the Anglican cum Catholic faith.
    Our Church and Ministry is the fruit of a long struggle and sufferings of the decades because before our Church there was no Christian Project in this whole state, Missionaries or any Foreigner were not allowed to enter this state Azad Kashmir. Azad Kashmir is controlled by the Pakistan. Our state shares same Army Chief (General Musharraf) but our President, Prime Minster, National Flag, National Anthem and Parlimentarian Cabint are different it is of Local Kashmiri Nationals.Therefore we are out of Pakistan.
    About 30 Years back I came to Azad Kashmir(Pakistani Controlled Kashmir) and settled here for spreading the Gospel in this region as here there was no Church or any Christian project in this whole state as it was not allowed here at all. After the Earthquake of Oct 08,05 they got permission to step in.
    Well! after coming here I stayed quitely, found some Christians which were too low profiled and very few in amount. They had a lot of problems e.g. they did not have any worship place, no Christian School for them to educate their children. Moreover they didnot have any grave yard to bury their Christian dead bodies, for this they use to go to Rawalpindi/Islamabad in Pakistan which is more than 200 Km from the adjoining of Muzaffarabad.Transportation is very expensive for them as they are the most low profiled people who are only emplyed as sweepers and drain cleaners here.As they were no Christian schools where they would have sent their kids to study free at scholorships and rest of the schools are difficult to afford for the poors so the generation of Christians of Azad Kashmir remained rustic and illetrate and now also local Christians are only Sweepers or at Low Grade jobs.
    After my arrival here I gathered the Christians, taught them to worship as they were just labled Christians.Their forefathers were converted by the Britishers before independence and now they were forgotton all what Christianity is? I started worship in their houses unannounced as the people of this area are extremly rigid Muslims. When I became the permnent citizen of Azad Kashmir, I applied to the Government of Azad Kashmir for the formal permission of the Christians to Worship. With great difficulty I got the permission and we continued worshipping Lord Jesus in the homes of people and for that we set a routine of Worship turn wise in the homes of Christian families.
    Days converted into months and months into years and about 12 years back I applied to the Government of Azad Kashmir for the land of Church and Graveyard. I knew that it was impossible at that time but I had strong believe in Lord Jesus therefore after having huge sufferings and trials in front of Govt Officials and Courts and after the descions of the courts, five years back the Government of Azad Kashmir sanctioned a beautiful piece of land for the Church and Graveyard which was registered as St. Mary’s Church (Regd) Muzaffarabd of Church & Diocese of Azad Kashmir and I was registered as Chairman/Bishop of it.
    Then with collecting the Worship collection within a year we made a Room to be used as Church till the proper Church constrcts.As our people are too poor and construction too expensive therefore we remained unable to cunstruct Church but we were happy in that small hall and I felt that I am successful in sowing the seed of Christianity in this region but on October 08,2005 the Earth Quake came and collapsed that Church Room and we came down to earth. I was also residing in that but then I came in tent.
    Now the biggest problem is the Rehabilitation of Our Church Building and the Boundry Wall of Grave Yard for which we need funds.As our Church is the only Church in the whole Azad Kashmir state therefore I wish to build it as a Proper Cathedral with Two Towers and a huge hall. We have a very big land of piece.The Estimated Expene of this building is Rs.10,500000/- in Us Dollars it is approxmately $175000/- which is possible through your funds which shall be a great help in keep alive the Witness of Lord Jesus Christ in the Azad Kashmir State. I have not asked and do not even intend to ask any Pakistani Church because one Our State is out of Pakistan, Second in Pakistan there is also a lot of need of Funds for Churchs’ Projects, third my minstry is the fruit of my whole life’s struggle and suffering Definately I donot wish to Merge my Church into any other Pakistani Church. I wish to serve Lord Independently. My Minstry is registered and Recognized with the Government of Azad Kashmir and I am registered as Chairman/Bishop of Azad Kashmir. In my future plans I wish to open Schools for poor Christian Comunity, Community Centres and also wish to build more Churchs in very city of the Azad Kashmir. Right now we only had one Church in Muzzafarabad which is the Capital of azad Kashmir.
    I hop that you will consider my Church’s case and make us your Charity Partner. I must clear here that For you I am Chairman/Bishop of a Church & Diocese but I do not have great protocol, huge Cathedral, Big Car or any bank balance and especially after the EarthQuake I am even unable to Send a letter to you by post as it is very expensive from here to send you.
    I have my relatives in Pakistan and from there I am sending this e mail to you otherwise I donot even afford a typewriter but I am happy upon my acheivement and success. I would like to mention here that I didnot marry because my whole life went in struggling to start a Church here in Azad Kashmir and I dont have any one to feed at home. Now I am about 72 years old man and as EarthQuake destroyed our Church and brought new vision to reconstruct it I must do as many I may able to do for the Improvement and the progress of the Christ’s witness and Christianity in the state of Azad Kashmir.Which is possible by your attention and funds to our Minstry.
    If any delegation or representative of your Church wish to come here and see our land or inquire about our projects. Most Welcome. After getting first support by any of you first of all we shall prepare a website and show all the financial support on it for the transparency and when ever the construction shall take place we shall have snaps and send to you.
    Looking Forward for a considerable and favourable reply from your Minstry.
    Yours in His Service,
    Rt. Rev. Elias Sardar Raja
    Bishop, Church N’ Diocese of Azad Kashmir,
    Chairman, St.Mary’s Church(Regd) Muzaffarabad,Azad Kashmir of Church & Diocese of Azad Kashmir,

  • Don says:

    Great thoughts. I commend Wes Anderson’s new book “The Long Tail, how the future of business is selling more of less.” In it he talks about the fragmenting of the marketplace into smaller and smaller slices. It oozes theology.

  • you mean Chris Anderson? Yes – i bought that book and then gave it away. its a good read but his original post on wired says it all.

  • Its a great blessing of Lord God that he chose me to be the pioneer of Christianity in the state of Azad Jammu Kashmir(Pakistan).For details please visit our webs: http://muzaffarabadchurch.50megs.com or http://muzaffarabadchurch.1colony.com

  • yes – its truly amazing to us also. . .

  • khurram nazir says:

    dear sir,
    i m khurram nazir . i m christian pakistani and minorite. sir my family and i spending life in much troubles.
    dear sir i m only source of income for my family . my family completly depend up me.but sir i and my family suffering in much cretical situation. now a days i m job less and have no sourse of income for my family and for my children.
    .but being a monorite i have no refererence of any popular or high politiacal leader or any offical officer.
    sir i request you being a human or being a christian you can help me to use your high reference because you have athourity.sir i request you once again please being a christian and being a humanbeing please help me in this critical situation.
    i can do any kind of technical or non technical work i also knowhow about computer.
    sir my biodata is also attached .
    please sir don’t ignore my request . sir i will wait your positive answer.
    sir my biodata is also attached thanks.
    GOD bless you.

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