Hammett on Emerging Church 4.1

Intro, 1,2, 3 and now . . .

I feel with many critics, the talking and arguing goes on and we keep missing each other because of the words we use and the different meanings behind them. Conversations can sound a lot like this . . .


emerging church!

ahhh . . . no absolute truth?

no . . . church formation!

ahhh . . . building?

no . . . pub-house-coffeeshop!

ahhh . . . small group?

no . . . church!

ahh . . . youth?

no . . . wider!

ahhh . . . GenX?

no . . . worldview!

ahhh . . . contemporary, CCM?

no . . . yuk . . . hell no . . postmodern!

ahhh . . . hate modern?

no . . . after modern!

ahhh . . . critical theory?

no . . . emergent theory!

ahhh . . . no absolute truth?

no . . . truth!

ahhh . . . philosophy?

no . . . culture!

ahhh . . . culture over Scripture?

no . . . Scripture before culture!

ahhh . . . hate church culture?

no . . . love church!

ahhh . . reforming church?

no . . . fresh expressions!

ahhh . . . traditional church is stale?

no . . . need contextual!

ahhh . . . compromise?

no . . . prophetic!

ahhh . . . charasmatic?

no . . . more holistic!

ahhh . . . new age?

no . . . one true church!

ahhh . . . ecumencial?

no . . . missional!

ahhh . . . overseas?

no . . . cross-cultural right here!

ahhh . . . mission project?

no . . . missional movement!

ahh . . . exploiting?

no . . . redeeming!

ahhh . . . dominating?

no . . . emerging!

ahhh . . . no absolute truth?

no . . . what? . . . shut up!

Sometimes its just easier to put the dictionary away and see each others hearts. I have to do that with my wife or I drive her crazy. Sometimes our conversations get heated because I see the words in front of me and they trigger off automatic defence fire. At times like that, she just wants me to my go beyond her words and see what she is thinking behind it. Thats the challenge. I think we in the emerging church need to do that also.

The last post in this series dealt with the A-Team’s first question from John Hammett’s paper: Must they (churches) respond to postmodernism? The second question is ‘SHOULD they?” They give some good advice:

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“The second question is whether churches should adapt their methods and message in light of postmodernism. They should, in some sense, but two guidelines should be kept:

1) Response should be Scripture driven instead of culture driven. Despite the claims of many within Emergent, the movement generally appears to be more concerned with where the culture’s at than what Scripture says.

2) Any response should make in light of a biblical analysis of the culture. However, critique of postmodernism from emerging churches is difficult to find. They’re too busy critiquing modernism.

The challenge for us, whether we consider ourselves part of the emerging church or not, is to engage the culture we find ourselves with Christ and the Bible as our guide; not giving into culture where it is against Christ. Link

I still don’t see it as an either/or issue, unless one’s perspective sees culture as intrinsically evil. The example of the Christ incarnation as a model for ministry is Scriptural and also cultural.

Mark Thames’s comment was also helpful

“On the one hand John sort of wants me to say what’s bad about postmodernism–so that it’s clear that we’re not just trading captivity to postmodern culture for the captivity to modern culture that we’ve escaped–and on the other to make it clear that what I’m doing is a niche ministry, which he supports.”

My take on it is this. The Emerging church that John has read about and possibly encountered has not made clear:

– that it sees the dangers of postmodernity

– that it has abandoned the idols of postmodernity as a practical outworking of their obedience to Christ

– that it respects the older, residual church forms

– that it is linked intrinsically with the historical church

– that Scripture takes the drivers seat over the demands of culture

Perhaps we need to do that before we can see the emerging and the residual walk hand in hand?

John’s heart is to see the church become what she needs to be.

My heart is to raise up leaders for the emerging church,

discover them

encourage them,

send them,

guide them

interpret them backwards

cover their backs

When i hear critics slam the emerging church, my first response is to think of all the young apostles and church planters around the world, on the streets of Lisbon, St Petersburg, Singapore, wherever in the global emerging culture God has sent them, and I have a fear that funding will be pulled from their latest project or, worse, that their reputation will be tarnished and their ministry hindered, and the only light-stands in those dark corners of the world be removed. That is my fear and that is why i often get defensive. I take it personally. I love those church planters. I love those emerging church apostles and I don’t want their ministry to be cut off early because of misunderstanding. NOT ON MY WATCH!

That doesn’t mean that I am not open to criticism of myself or those I am supporting. In fact 5.0 will be the last in the series and will take up the criticism and see what we can learn from it. In the meantime, read another Kiwi’s thoughts – Emergent Kiwi’s Southern Response to Hammett.

[Update: The original title for this post was “Emerging Church Hammering (of love) 4.0”. Out of respect for John, because it did not fairly reflect his intentions towards the emerging church, I have edited the title]


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.


  • joe kennedy says:

    wonderfully put. i first heard of the emerging church thing last january and since then i’ve had a lot of people ask me all sorts of questions about it. most of the conversations go like the one you did earlier. it always goes back to “no absolute truth.” man that drives me nuts. YES ABSOLUTE TRUTH. “so there’s no absolute truth, then.” YES THERE IS. “oh. but i thought the emerging church was postmodern and didn’t believe in absolute truth.” and so on.
    i agree. these are people my age. it’s very disappointing that 24-26 year old believers over here seem to be so stuck on that. so much so that they refuse to hear anything else about the EC than “no absolute truth.” ugh.
    well done.

  • Michael Giobbe says:

    There is a reason that these conversations proceed as they do. Underlying the two sides of the conversation are not simply two different worldviews, but two different communications “operating systems.” The issues we face in such a conversation are not “postmodern”, but post-print. Ours is a departure from the O.S. of Gutenberg. Therefore we make different associations than a print-oriented person would.
    It is critical that we understand this (the difference in O.S., or “paradigm” in its original sense), because IT IS NOT GOING AWAY. It is the worldview of Gutenberg that is going away. Wave goodbye: It ain’t coming back. The reign of Gutenberg–of typography as epistemology and the ordering of thought through print–lasted 500 years. How long will the age of digital communication last? Hard to say, but I would not call it a mere fashion. No one alive today will live long enough to just wait for it to go away. Therefore even if the church at large chooses not to deal with postmodernity, it/they/we have no other choice than to deal with the post-print world. It is the one we live in.
    At the risk of committing a blogging faux pas, I have written about this in just a little more detail at http://www.the-next-wave-ezine.info/issue83/index.cfm?id=6&ref=ARTICLES%5FCULTURE%5F100
    “Post-What, Exactly?”

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