what i would say to the young american emerging churches

what would i probably say to young (north) american emerging churches? in this present climate of constant criticism? maybe i am scribbling this more to get something off my skinny chest before the day begins, but there might be something worthwhile in there.

“I have been listening to the latest wave of criticism against the emerging-missional church in USA and I don’t know if i am more angry with the critics for getting it so wrong, or angry at emerging church practitioners for either not communicating the heart of what we (the global emerging-missional church) are doing . . or not knowing it in the first place.

The emerging church, if i listen to the more extreme critics, is just about changing the style of church to attract people and keeping them happy, of accepting any wind of doctrine without critique, of finding the coolest hippest trends and adopting them in a sunday service. Of being postmodern to attract postmoderns. Of careless adoption of any ancient practice regardless of its origin or affect, of finding identity in protest against the Modern, Enlightenment or Constantinian models of church.

What the heck is that? What does that have to do with the emerging church? If there are one or two new emerging churches who have lost the plot, or never saw it clearly to begin with, and are now giving the other hundreds of emerging churches a bad name, they should be lovingly confronted with the better way of Jesus. Do it yourself before other traditions do it for you. A little yeast impacts the whole lump.

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Dangitt! Some of you are giving us a bad name around the world. Young missionaries in the emerging cultures in countries you may not have even heard about have been criticized because of their use of the word “emerging” and its connection to the “emerging churches” at the end of some eloquent American man’s long-winded criticism. They may not have even heard of you and yet some have lost their funding or, worse, the trust of their elders and mission institutions.

And its not because the emerging church in North America is necessarily guilty of the things ascribed to them by the critics. In many cases the critics are wrongly informed. But sometimes the only window to what God is doing in the emerging church is through these critics. The identity and definition of the American emerging church thus rests, by default, on what the critics say. If you had more of a personal relationship with the mainstream churches and institutions then some of these issues could be ironed out before the misfires hit the press.

Why isn’t the emerging church getting criticized for its trinitarian missiology? Why not? Its at the heart of what we are doing and it flies in the face of an imbalanced attachment to a particular person of the Trinity at the expense of the Godhood and a whole gospel.

What about being too literal in following the incarnational example of Jesus? Of being extreme in going to his level of contextualization and yet maintaining integrity and purity?

What about someone critiquing our commitment to faith, hope and love? Our crucified lifestyles? Our abandonment of worldly attachments? Our distaste at the idolatry of careerism, gluttony in lifestyle, addiction to academic degrees?

THESE THINGS WE ARE BEING CRITICIZED FOR ALREADY BY THE WORLD. AND RIGHTLY SO – ALL WHO DESIRE TO LIVE GODLY IN CHRIST JESUS WILL BE PERSECUTED. DOES THE WORLD THEN SEE US MORE CLEARLY THAN THE CHURCH CRITICS? IF WE ARE MORE VISIBLE TO THE WORLD DUE TO OUR REDEMPTIVE RELATIONSHIPS, THEN I UNDERSTAND THE CONFUSION. PERHAPS WE NEED TO GET OUT MORE INTO MAINSTREAM CHRISTIAN CONFERENCES AND GATHERINGS, THE LAND OF DOCKERS AND WEAK COFFEE, AND START THE PROCESS OF INTRODUCING OURSELVES AND OUR MISSION.

When is someone going to chastise us for basing our philosophy on the attribute of our complex, Truine God as well as His actions? Is this not what the Missio Dei is about? Our missionary God sending us and our participation with Him?

When will the critics flame us for teaching ministry philosophy straight from the Biblical narrative and NOT from the institutions, sermons and writings of men? Our insistence on Christian character to accompany the gospel message? Our annoying habit of including the Old Testament as well as the New Testament in our teaching? And the gospels as well as Paul? The wisdom literature as well as the letters? The narrative AND the propositional? A synoptic take on Scripture rather than camping out in one corner of historical theology?

When will we get slagged for promoting the Kingdom of God and not just the church? Or not just ourselves and our ministries?

When will we get criticized for our high view of Scripture? That we see the Word of God, mysterious and yet approachable through the Spirit, far higher up the scale (above the scale) of certainty and authority than our Sunday sermons and Seminary lectures? Would we, groping preachers who see dimly as if through glass, dare to suggest our puny 3-pointed messages and worldly illustrations are even in the same vicinity as God’s authoritative word? Yes we have the mind of Christ but we think like a bunch of morons and desperately need the Spirit to remind us of everything Christ taught us.

Some of the criticism is good and should be heeded. Iron sharpens iron. Don’t despise the wise advice of those who rebuke you.

And some of it is not true but the question should be asked . .”Why do they think this way and how can we give a gentle and respectful answer to maintain unity and prevent error?” “Is there something we can learn from this criticism even if it is erroneous?

I know that a lot of this criticism I hear and read is NOT accurate because I have seen many your churches in USA. Some of your churches I have had a part in starting myself. My observation is that the most effective emerging-missional churches in USA do not look like traditional churches and are therefore under the radar of what goes as “church” or are not considered truly “church” at all. Which is great for your ministry and for you, but I am thinking that NOW is the time to speak out. To spell out what you have learned and what the Spirit is saying to ALL the churches, not just those involved on the front lines of downloading God’s Kingdom to the emerging culture.

Sounds like the SuperApostles have risen up and are demanding that you hand over your young. Those young, pierced people you found, prayed with, helped get off drugs, delivered from dark spirits, reunited with their families, sorted out their finances, baptised in the bathtub, celebrated new life with their friends and workmates, and brought along with you to the yearly Christian festival. Those young people, after years of prayer and patience, are now part of the Body of Christ with you, in your church, in your home, in your life.

The SuperApostles want them because their numbers are down, their future is unsure, and they have forgotten how to relate to ordinary people, to poor people, to people who have not read the same books. Much easier and quicker for them to take your spoil. Especially since you have already discipled them and they are now “clean” enough to appear as one of the SuperApostle’s NUMBERS without risk of potential embarrasment. They did this to the Apostle Paul’s churches in his absence (read the letter to the emerging Galatian church) and they will do it to you by convincing your lambs that you do not have as sophisticated an educational system as they do. It doesn’t matter to them that you are following Jesus example and are teaching them to obey in all things in a holistic way, in the law of the Spirit and not the law of man. Nor does it matter to them than your simple church structures, like those in the early church, have great potential for replicating and impacting the whole country, not despite of their simplicity but BECAUSE of their simplicity.

Beware of those who say “truth” and yet are not honest. The real truth-tellers, who you will know by the fruit of godly lives, will also be committed to telling the whole story, whether it is what their audience wants to hear or not, and they will be quick to repent if they are wrong.

Beware of those who say “truth” but are no longer approachable by people of lower standing or accountable to the wider church.

Beware of those who say “church” but have rejected those parts of the family of God that no longer resemble themselves.

Beware of those who say “God’s Word” and yet preach the thoughts of humans, who very rarely allow the reading of the Bible in a public place for fear of what might happen if ordinary people encountered the Scriptures WITHOUT their particular interpretation.

Beware of those who say “holy” and are still like the world in their ways and deeds. The way of the world in USA is often to seek polarities, to refuse friendship, to embrace hostility, to see the rest of the world as either allies or enemies. Wars are waged on worldly thinking like this. Lets not be the same as the world. The way of Jesus is not always the way of James and John who thought fire-blasting the opponents of their Lord would be a satisfactory alternative. Do not let the world squeeze you into its mold. Imitate Jesus.

My advice is to go back to the Scriptures, again and again, and back to the way of Jesus. It will get you in trouble, as it did Jesus, and you will be called a heretic, as he was. But you will be confident of His approval, if you imitate Him, for as the Father sent the Son, so He sends us. And you will also find the kind of success that the Father desires. ”



and thats what i would probably say to young american emerging churches. but the fact is, in a few days i am jumping on a plane to Johannesburg and one of the questions in my mind is . . what would i say to the young south african emerging churches?

Andrew

Andrew Jones has been blogging since 1997. He is based in San Francisco with his two daughters but also travels the globe to find compelling stories of early stage entrepreneurs changing their world. Sometimes he talks in the third person. Sometimes he even talks to himself and has been heard uttering the name "Precious" :-)

59 Comments

  • Andrew, I’ve read your words lately, at places like emergentno and here at home and felt like writing you an email, out of my growing concern that the criticism was getting to you. Here, you have chosen to let it out, so i will comment publicly.
    We both witnessed the tears of Barbara Leite in Portugal as she spoke of the pain of rejection of her and her amazing mission by the wider body. I know that stuff gets to you too. But I am reminded of an old wise guy I met in India, who told me that a sign of spiritual growth is that we no longer feel the need to defend ourselves against those who would pull us down.
    This is a debate/fight you can’t win. My wish is that you would let it go. Yes, you are a theologian, but that’s not who I describe when I tell people about Andrew Jones. I tell them about a great family man, who loves to cook and have movie nights, who cleans out his home every summer to make room for pilgrims who come to be discipled, of the travelling church planter who is a people’s man, who won’t hesitate to put up a family of eight (mine) in the best room of the house while he sleeps on the loungeroom floor, or who has junkies going cold turkey on the living room rug. That’s the stuff that matters.
    Let Carla and her buddies have their say. If it effects the practise of mission and being Jesus in your life, then stop reading it. Go make some pizzas, fix the van, hug your kids. It’s good to respond to Godly rebuke, but listening to this 24/7 tirade from the theologians of fear doesn’t do anyone any favours, not the least of which, the people behind this rubbish. I propose a boycott of all these blogs like e-no. If no one reads that stuff, they will quickly lose interest and get on with living for Jesus.
    What should you say to the young people in the US and South Africa? Tell them their doing a great job, help them find their axeheads: just like the old prophet you can apply the blood of Jesus and watch it float to the surface and see them get back their cutting edge. That’s your calling. Discouragement will sink you like a stone: it’s time to float some axe-heads.

  • thanks mike
    i am sure you are right – firstly about the cooking – i made a venison sausage with chocolate gravy last week that was quite mystical
    and secondly – i have been discouraged, and certainly was yesterday after pondering these things. Maybe i should just walk away from it all but i have invested the last decade of my life and my family’s life in serving young people who are pioneering in the emerging culture and it has cost me everything. My heart is where my treasure is and that is with these young people. And if i can prevent some of the misfiring canons from hitting them then i will stand in the way.
    But yes – maybe i have been too busy taking the defensive rather than carrying on with our Lord’s commission and seeing things move forward.
    i will think about what you say seriously. thanks.

  • Thanks Andrew… we needed that. I’m doing the 21st century equivilant of reading this to our church… posting it on our forum, my blog and our weekly email. 🙂

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  • Thanks so much for this, Andrew. I too have been greatly discouraged by so much of the criticism and lack of good response that the emergent movement has offered. Thanks for reminding us of our true path and purpose!
    Plus, I love those run-on sentences…

  • Andrew, I really appreciate your thoughts. I like the way you tie even your comments about criticism of the em-church in North America to Paul’s understanding of mission and culture.
    I think both the Corinthian and Galatian letters have something to say to us. Sometimes folks in the em-church act like the Corinthians, using their freedom in ways that scandalize more traditional folks. Yet often (and from my perspective in the southern U.S., WAY more often) the em-church is hounded by the Galatian Christians who are too willing to exclude us from table fellowship because we are too “Gentile” for them. People on both sides will claim that this is not the case, that they are defending against “dangerous” theology. And unfortunately, we don’t have the wisdom of Paul’s teacher to say, “if the Holy Spirit isn’t in it, it won’t last – but if God’s hand is in it, we can’t stop it.”
    Regardless, it’s hard to be missional when you are feeling threatened and/or hurt. And in many ways, I think Paul (and you) are saying “get over yourself and start thinking about your brothers and sisters!”

  • Andrew,
    Thanks for your thoughts. I’m the music director in a large church that would be considered relevant to culture (probably not in a saddleback or willow creek sense, although i’m sure they are relevant to their culture). I love my job, our average age here is 24 and it’s made up mostly of people who have never been a part of church (different kinds of baggage in their lives to be sure, but not the same stuff that I grew up with)>
    I’m 27 and was raised in church communities some parts have been great, some parts have been terrible. Most of my close Christian friends are either not in community with other Christians or are part of an “emerging church” (which I am glad for) becuase they are disilusioned with american Christianity. I understand and agree with much of this.
    For some reason though, I feel caught in between two worlds. One is that of my friends here, and the other of really great, Godly men (mostly older) who don’t understand where these kids are coming from. I’ve tried to make it my mission to create conversation between the two, to varying degress of success. And I have been hurt by both sides for being “too traditional” in my theology or “to emerging” in my worldview/politics etc… In any case, in reading many emerging leaders blogs and many traditional leaders books I have come away somewhat discouraged by so many attitudes and by the miscommunication.
    What I see in your blog is someone who, although I may not agree with all the time, I can really get behind your attitude towards all sides. If more people spoke with your tone and grace and truth, then I don’t think we’d be having these discussions. So I guess I’m saying, please don’t stop.
    Dan

  • I became a Christ-follower during the Jesus Revolution (the revival in the USA among the “hippie” culture of the early ’70’s). I was not “one of them”; I was a police officer just old enough to legally carry a service revolver (scary thought). I remember our traditional church people criticizing them. Today we see the result of that movement in Calvary Chapels, Vineyard, Maranatha Music, some in the political arena, and many others like myself. It communicated the gospel in our heart language.
    There were huge excesses and the errors were so glaring as to give an almost endless source of sermon to many who thought God was like themselves.
    My trek has allowed me to serve as a pastor, an itinerant, a denominational leader and now it is beginning to take shape as a church planter (another scary thought). I will also continue a commitment made several years ago. That commitment is to encourage and when possible empower those generations younger than myself.
    I fully understand Andrew’s frustration and think it healthy to vent it. I would just encourage -“don’t allow yourself to live there”.
    The purpose of my post is neither to instruct nor reminisce, but to compare two “out of the box” movements from a personal perpective. I believe Emerging Church to be similar in many ways to the old Jesus movment. Of course there is error and excess in many areas. One sometimes wonders if the issues are less theological error, but really theological truth that casts light on beloved and sanctimonious traditionalism. Prophets are never popular with the establishment.
    I am drawn to the emerging church. It is not because of music style, dress, candles, less legalism (at least I can take my wife dancing) or any other such things. I am drawn to the emerging church because I see biblical evidence of the the Holy Spirit upon so much of the dialogue and movement. It was also true of the Jesus movement. Both Joel 2 and Acts 2 speak of what happens when the spirit comes upon a people: “I will pour out my Spirit on all people, your sons and your daughters will prophesy, you old men will dream dreams, your young men will see vision. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days…and everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved…” (Joel 2:28-32.
    Is this not happening? It appears so to me. And, if so, then from Jonathan Edwards to Henry Blackaby to one of Bono’s mentors, we have been encouraged to discover what God is doing, and join Him in His work.
    These are thoughts from a Boomer. Now you guys can read them and just laugh your a** off if you want. But I appreciate the opportunity to express my thoughts and to hopefully encourage.

  • TSK-
    I’d love to write something eloquent, quoting some of the text I read, mentioning a verse that corresponds perfectly …
    But, really I’d rather just say – Thanks. Thanks for speaking a word to the young (north) american emerging churches.
    -s.o

  • Bandwagon Bit&^ing is all that most of it is when the “emerging churches” catch heat from the media, or worse – other Christians.
    I attend Seacoast church here in Charleston, SC and have found most of the rabble-rousing around town where they call it anything from a cult (for those who don’t know the Lord) to a good “starter church” (by those who know more about the Lord than anyone else).
    The church I attend uses the Bible more than any other church I have ever attended. Of course I was raised Catholic, so that wasn’t too hard ; ) Truth be known, everyone is just so darn nice and on fire for God there that I wondered whether I would get brainwashed by some raygun. Worked out a bit different – came via the Holy Spirit.
    Egad! Modern music – what were we thinking? Whoever said that all good Christian music was written over 40 years ago, anyway? What did Jesus wear to temple? No doubt he bathed, but I’m not so sure he had “fine attire” to wear.
    Ignorance runs in packs and has a loud mouth. Unfortunately many of these packs are running around with an “I love Jesus” bumper sticker and a King James Bible (not that there’s anything wrong w/ that) in their hand, lecturing their waiter for why they are working on the Sabbath.
    I know it hurts to be criticized for doing the right thing, but we have many cases where people came to know the Lord at our church. What induced them to visit? They figured if all the self-righteous jerks in town talked so badly about the church, then they probably weren’t half bad!
    Great blog – God bless!

  • TSK: Well put and it needed to be said. It also needs to be understood that, at least here in the Northwest part of North America, critical voices of emerging-missional are in the minority. All to often we read sites like SoL and think they are the voice of the mainline American church. They are not and should be ignored.
    If Jesus is our model, we should expect criticism from “religious” leaders.
    Ted: Great comment and observation. I came out of the same era/movement and think it provides a good parallel that EC can learn from.

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  • thanks blind begger: i know what you are talking about. i spent 5 years of my life in the pacific NW. My first emerging church model, pathetic perhaps, was a coffee shop based service in 1989 at an Ev Free Church in Portland. The elders pulled the plug when it started getting popular.
    Ted: you are the second witness that i should not hang out in that grey world. I will consider it even more. esp. if someone else yells at me. [do i have another witness??]
    as for the 60’s jesus movement, lots of parallels but the biggest difference i see is that they were starting parachurch based ministries (clubs, coffee shops, etc) to supplement their sunday services and emerging church over the last 20 years has been calling them full-on models of church rather than add-ons. This is a bigger threat to the mainstream church than a hippie coffee shop down the road.

  • Thanks Andrew!

    The identity and definition of the American emerging church thus rests, by default, on what the critics say. If you had more of a personal relationship with the mainstream churches and institutions then some of these issues could be ironed out before the misfires hit the press.

    This is really helpful. The caustic stone throwing rhetoric is really getting old all the way around.

  • Andrew. ’60’s – you are right. My intro was ’70’s.
    Para-churches seemed to fill program voids. But I think the heart yearns for community, thus the need to actually do a different kind of church.

  • Just to say that I agree with Mike. I’m just a little guy and know next to nothing, struggling to fulfil a dream as best I can. I can’t tell you how many people have criticised, complained, told me I’m doing things the wrong way, moaned and so on. Unfortunately I’ve had more abuse and scorn from people you’d think would be supportive than from people who are obviously against the idea.
    You step on a few toes and they start complaining.
    You can only do what you can do before God, TSK. You don’t need to justify yourself to anyone else. If they don’t like it, there is a massive amount of christendom they can focus on – if they chose to focus on your little bit then they are incredibly petty and sad.
    I agree with the boycott. Put me down.
    J

  • Those words mean so much to me. I know I am a stranger in these parts, mainly because I don’t have a blog, but I share many of the same sentiments with you. I read “The Radical Reformission” by Driscoll a year and a half ago and that introduced me to the terminology of living “missionaly” and “incarnationaly,” but it clearly resonated with what I believed the Scriptures to teach.
    It frustrates me to no end, Andrew, to be put into this big pot of words and have people misinterepret who I am and what I believe BEFORE THEY EVEN TALK TO ME. I had a brief conversation a few months ago with the pastor of the church I am attending in California before I go up to Portland for seminary. I told him about my desire to be involved with Acts 29 and Western. He asked me straight up, “Are you emergent?” How the heck are you supposed to answer that in small talk?! I told him no, because I knew what he wanted to know. I saw him last Sunday night at our gathering, we were going to hear a missionary from Ethiopia share about his church planting ministry that has planted 6,000 churches in his country, many of which were planted under a communist government. ANYWAY, the pastor walks by my wife and I and says, “Hey, it’s my emergent friends!” I gave a laugh and shook his hand. He turned around, started to walk away and then looked at us again and said, “Truth is not relative, you know!” He laughed as if he was just busting my balls because we had a difference in theology. I KNOW TRUTH IS NOT RELATIVE, PASTOR! JESUS IS TRUTH, HE IS THE LOGOS. GOD HAS SPOKEN THE TRUTH. WITHOUT HIM THERE IS NO TRUTH. But of course, he walked away before I could say anything.
    Thanks you, Andrew, for those words. I don’t know how influencial you are (again, I don’t blog), but please spread those words around so that people who love Jesus, love his doctrine and will not back down for the sake of some kind of crappy and fake eccumenicism are not given a bad rep when we are heard and seen living incarnationally and and living in a way that does not make our worship reside at an address on Sunday mornings!
    Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done.

  • I really believe God is at work within the emergent conversation. One of the major reasons for my belief is the amazing humility that i sense when i eavesdrop on the emergent conversation, whether through books or online. Please don’t lose that edge.
    sincerely — deb

  • There are plenty of parallels with the Jesus Movement, as well as differences. I’m not suggesting otherwise, but it did get me to thinking. Look at these characteristics of the JM and note the similarities with EC.
    Focus on community, an actual yearning for community which gave rise to plenty of “other than Sunday” meetings and groups. We loved being together. Then there were the communal houses.
    Focus on new forms of worship and music – think Maranatha, CCM, praise songs, guitars and drums. Art and readings were also a big part of worship. Many in the mainline church lamented that our forms of worship and music were a “spiritual compromise” and not of God.
    Missional and a focus on a more holistic view of the Christian life. The issues were the poor, homeless, drug abuse, black civil rights, war, materialism and the environment.
    Use innovative communications methods. No Internet or blogs, but there was the Jesus papers with names like Hollywood Free Paper, Right On!, The Fish, Street Level, and Cornerstone.
    Reached out to a group of people (the hippie counterculture) that would never enter a mainstream church. They simple could never relate to “church” as it was practiced in America.
    Rejected and criticized by most mainline churches, unless you conformed. You know, “cut your hair, take a bath, and put on a suit, then we might allow you into our church.” There were exceptions – thank you Billy Graham and Chuck Smith.
    It wasn’t all Parachurch, both Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard churches directly trace their growth to the Jesus Movement. Yet I do agree, there was a lot of focus on Parachurch ministry which was an outgrowth of the missional focus.
    There were tragedies also. Because so many were coming out of the hippie culture, excess happened (drugs and sex were hard habits to overcome), there were some aberrant groups like the Children of God, and there were not enough mature “apostle like” leaders to take charge and disciple all the new believers. Guess what the critics always focused on?
    Um, maybe I have a post taking shape here.

  • Quote: Ignorance runs in packs and has a loud mouth. Unfortunately many of these packs are running around with an “I love Jesus” bumper sticker and a King James Bible (not that there’s anything wrong w/ that) in their hand, lecturing their waiter for why they are working on the Sabbath.
    Once again, the criticism of the critics is over the top. People in the critics camp care about the church, too. Simplistic assessments of them such as this add nothing to the conversation.

  • Wow. Just have to say that your words have moved me. And, no, it’s not a tear, OK, maybe. Thanks for sharing your heart, it is exactly what I needed to hear.
    Peace.

  • John H.
    you are quoting something from Matt in the comments section who has been accused of being a cult. Are you saying that Matt is overreacting?

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  • Andrew, I remain in awe of you my friend. And if anyone has a right to dish out a rebuke, it is you. Well done…and thanks. I too am getting really concerned how the kingdom (so to speak) is dividing against itself. We need to be gentler and a whole lot more loving with each other–our witness as followers of Jesus is at stake. Its not about ideology, its about discipleship at this point….simple Christlikeness.
    More power to you TSK!

  • thanks alan
    i am packing up for my trip to Joburg and i am probably bringing your book with me [shaping of things to come], not just because you and David Bosch represent some of the best missiological thinking from South Africa
    but also because its the strongest book on an emerging-missional strategy.
    see you in April.

  • Andrew,
    I’m afraid that the problem you’ve run into begins with a false premise in your opening line: “If what I read from the critics is right…”
    What you’re reading from them, from my vantage point, is dead wrong.
    I’ve spent the last three months traveling to U.S. emerging churches — I’m in a different one almost every weekend. I’ve also shared a pint with almost a dozen cohorts of emerging leaders who gather regularly in cities around the U.S.
    These people are speaking out (in their own ways), and they are deeply in the Scriptures (no one’s preaching sermons about Derrida!). They are not swearing during worship (what a ludicrous assertion!), nor are they adopting postmodernism as a fad.
    As you are more aware than most, the blogosphere allows for unsubstantiated criticism. So, please take what people say about us over here with a grain of salt — nay, a whole salt shaker — before taking us to task for things that are not true.
    In Emergent, we’ve decided that while 2005 was a year of apologetics — defending ourselves in the face of criticism — 2006 will be a year of forward movement. We’re doing our best to not allow our critics to define our agenda — the Kingdom of God is our agenda. That seems to me to be in the spirit of Jesus.
    Your Minnesotan Brother,
    Tony Jones

  • tony – thanks. i have seen exactly what you have seen and share the same conclusions [although i have come across one or two churches that gave me great discomfort]
    i also agree that we should move forward. lets do that!!!!!
    there are times when i spring forward and leave the defending to others and other times when i fall back to a defensive position. I do think now is the time to advance God’s agenda.
    Time to be cats rather than dogs. Dogs guard space but cats take space. Both are needed. Space guarders (teachers, pastors) need to hold the fort but space takers (apostles, prophets, evangelists) should focus on allowing the Kingdom to cross borders and flow where it is needed most.

  • tony
    i should mention . . . the worst and most embarrassing cases of emerging church i have come across are not actually associated with Emergent Village.
    i should say this so people will not misundertand our conversation.
    some groups are made up of brand new Christians with no church background and no connections to other churches. and the leaders, with no theological background, have little understanding of systematic theological concepts. i am relieved that seminary grads like yourself and others are around to give a defense.
    Hats off to Emergent Village for giving time to answer the critics in 2005, and in their own language.

  • I know that you do, actually, often wear a hat, so I appreciate you taking yours off to us!
    It’s a tricky thing, knowing when to respond to criticism (because it’s valid) and when to ignore it (because it’s unworthy of a thoughtful response and/or the critic is absolutely not going to reconsider her/his position). We need all the help we can get discerning between the two. I think that you’re one of the persons who can help us with that.

  • TSK
    I appreciate your questions…but from my Canadian perspective…why fight the critics? I am tired of having to defend what I do! I have just given up fighting because I have nothing to defend. I am determined to let our fruit speak the loudest. As long as we stay true to the principles of scripture, we can disagree on methods.
    I personally agree that the ‘church that is emerging’ must be able to work together with the established church. I find myself within a ‘denomination,’ but I do not fly the flag, and they are good with that. I appreciate that fact that I can hold credentials and be accountable. My theology is in agreement (but not without questions) with the fellowship, although our methods may cause the leadership to scratch their heads. When it comes down to it, it is all about being missional and reaching those who would never walk alive into an established church. I am tired of defending myself with believers, there are people out there who need to experience the love of Christ and they will get my time, effort and energy.
    My ramblings to your thoughts this morning….keep the questions coming.

  • Andrew –
    Good stuff. This last Sunday I realized (while preaching to our traditional congregation) that, by and large, the people OUTSIDE the church “get” the emerging-missional perspective on Jesus a lot faster and go deeper with it than the majority of those in my church building’s pews.
    For one, they think trying to “be, look and act like Jesus” to be presumptuous. Beyond that, they see it as preposterous to try.
    Nevertheless, “go back and report” to the critics that “the blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and GOOD NEWS is proclaimed to the poor,” at least around here.
    “Blessed are those who don’t fall away on account of this.”

  • A Letter to Emerging Churches

    Tony Jones, one of the most articulate spokespeople for what is happening throughout the world in terms of the emerging church movement, offers us this “epistle”: TallSkinnyKiwi: what i would say to the young american emerging churches…

  • Well done, andrew. I know what I like and I like this.Are there some critics of the emerging church that you think are doing a good job? Just curious.

  • andrew – sometimes the truth stings, ouch.
    your words are very true, and very needed – now, i hope we can simply speak about what we are for and not what we are against 🙂

  • Grey Owl: critics who don’t like us who are doing a good job?
    now thats a great question and one worth answering. Even if i said i was not responding to comments right now.
    1. Dennis McCallum of Xenos, He used to come to our Young Leaders conferences and sit in the back. He is now a VINTAGE critic. He has also criticized our reference to Bishop
    Lesslie Newbigin in this essay which is a good shot, whether we agree with him or not.
    Hey, if your going to criticize the emerging-missional church, then go back to the source of Missio Dei at the IMC conference in Willingen and the promoters of missional thinking and trinitarian missiology. That will get our attention.
    2. Kevin Miller of Christianity Today is a great critic but i think, after talking more with us, that he actually has a soft spot for us [dont tell him i said that]. I wrote about him in a 2004 post called The Skinny on Emergent Criticism which you may want to read
    3. Recently, I have had some excellent exchanges with John Hammett who was very sharp when he wrote his first critique against the emerging church. His updated version, appearing in a few months in a Criswell publication (he let me see it and comment on it), is a lot nicer.
    Most of these critics, if they hang out with us, and interact, seem to come around to see that we really are’nt very different after all.
    Well, Dennis hasn’t yet. But we like him anyway.
    And of all the anti-emergent sites, EmergentNo.blogspot.com is my favourite, although i have been advised strongly to give up my addiction to that site and keep away. I will say, that Carla is honest and real and does her best to be truthful and integral to what she believes. And she has not banned me from commenting like some of the others.
    (I think my rational, Biblical, sound doctrine is a bad example of what emergent heresy is supposed to look like and some sites will not put up with that – bad for their argument)
    For more? Go to The Skinny on Emergent Criticism

  • letter to emerging-missional churches

    When you have 10 minutes
    CLICK HERE READ THIS.
    Its an open letter from Andrew Jones (probably the face of emergent in the UK) to emerging types in the US. Although its critical in nature, reading this made me want to be …

  • Andrew,
    I’ve always dreamt of traveling to Johannesberg.
    My greatest concern as I observe your community as a Catholic is eluded to in your title, “young”. I am saddened in seeing what I preceive as the isolation and exclusion of the elderly. I don’t believe it is intentional yet exists because of its stylisation.
    Within my parish’s liturgy, there’s dorky songs from the 60’s, older protestant hymns and we now sing the psalm in what could be at times described as chant (my preference). My point, for us as Catholics the Eucharist is center, the music is not. It is this reality that seems to benefit a multi-generational congregation which I count as VERY blessed in being a part of as a 35 year-old woman.
    I love hanging with the devout elderly seating in the first number of rows and peppered throughout the sanctuary, prior to confession, with those that pray their rosaries before the liturgy, receving the smiles and encouragment of those that attend daily masses. They have so much love to give. They are SO faithful in their prayers; they are the unseen backbone of our parish. They built our basement taking turns as families wheeling out dirt with barrows during the mid 1900’s and they can tell you about it.
    I have no ideas how these communities can possibly resolve what I see and I’m open to admit I could be incorrect in my observations; but with my background in Evangelicalism and what I have read and witnessed in my husband’s congregation (which seems to be above the norm as middle agers bring their parents to the services), I sadly see it as true.
    I am glad to see some desiring to bridge the generational gap but I don’t have a clue how you can. I pray many here will examine in their hearts how this lack of relationships within the “hip” Evangelical community with widows and widowers and the young may be filled; for the benefit of ALL believers in your communities.
    Peace,
    Jenny

  • Epistle to the emerging church…

    So, TallSkinnyKiwi has written an epistle to the emerging church in North America. I wish I had time to write a response, but not today. Still, at least you can read it here!…

  • I read your blog having heard of you @ Soliton. Some of the things I heard tell of left me shaken over the progressive church. But drew me in to reading more and trying to figure out the definitions. I am newer to the verbiage, being told that “ministry” is out and “friendship” is in.
    I think so much of the skirmish (a nice word) is over semantics. And I really want to understand. And it takes extraordinary patience to stay with the conversation. And I am still drawn in. I read an “emergent” blog and talk to some friends in my “mainline” church, trying to understand where the Spirit is taking us, with some not at all interested in the subject. But I love you guys-all you emergent types. And me, being a 43 year-old mom, asks myself the question, “why do I care?”. I don’t really know, but I keep coming back to it. I love you guys (plural gender!) and I even though I don’t have a church I’m in charge of, and even though I don’t have the freedom to run to the inner-city, I love the place you’re taking us- living as we have been created to live.
    I know you see your mission as encouraging the generation after you, but like Jenny says above, the honesty applies to all.

  • A response to Andrew Jones

    My response to Andrew Jones’ letter to American Emerging Churches. Andrew, The emerging church has a blessing and a problem that are two sides of the same coin; no one is in charge of the emerging church, and thus, no…

  • Yep. I think he is overreacting. If the people who are criticizing him are that bad, then why worry about it?
    What it reflects is the inability of many to take the criticism at the level at which they dish it out.
    I’ve said this before. There’s a lot of good reason to critique a lot of the modern church. Bravo. Welcome to the club because it’s in a pretty sorry state. Fundies have been doing that for years.
    Look, I’ve been in churches that would be variously characterized as modern or fundie. You’re making caricatures in your criticism (just like your critics do at times). So let’s dismiss all of those and deal with the critics on the issues.

  • Must read article on the Church

    Andrew Jones, on the TallSkinnyKiwi blog, has written an open post to the emerging church in the USA. If you are at all interested in the state of the Church in the USA, or are curious about spirituality, please read.
    TallSkinnyKiwi
    /*******…

  • I will admit that I did not get all the way through this post … however … may I humbly suggest that if you are so insistent on Christian character to accompany the Gospel message … why do you and many other “emerging church” advocates make disparaging and arrogant remarks about those of us who have been working hard in the church for the Kingdom and Kingdom principles for many years … phrases like “the land of dockers and weak coffee.”
    I am a 50 year old intellectual AND evangelical Christian who drinks Americanos black and am saddened by the EC condescension. I would not label EC members in similar manner. Maybe some people wear Dockers and like weak coffee but does that make them laughable, mockable, unintelligent or less holy than those who wear and drink something different.
    In fact, the phrases you use to describe yourself (love the Old and New Testaments, the Gospels and Paul, wisdom and letters … talk Kingdom over church) are the same I would use to describe myself … I do not see any reason for an “us vs them” adversarial relationship and yet it is what I run into almost every time I interact with a 28 year old EC member. They seem to define themselves as what they are not and what they are not is what they think we are … but we are not!
    I sincerely hope this changes … why should we not work together for the Kingdom of God … live the life together?

  • I just reread my previous post and have to apologize for the harshness … I do not mean to be harsh. I appreciate your heart and the heart of those who love Jesus and are trying to do it better than we have … we – the previous generation. It would just be nice to work together better with mutual admiration, appreciation and a shared love for one another and Christ. After all … you will be the ones to whome we pass the leadership baton very soon …

  • Good stuff. Journeyguy from typepad pointed me to this post. Very good and super clear. Oh, and for the record, people who wear dockers and drink weak coffee are inferior and pathetic … but I say that lovingly.

  • Andrew,
    Thank you for your words. I’m currently planting an emergin/missional church and I really need the encouragement and the push-back.
    Much of what we’re doing here in Lafayette, Louisiana, USA is being met with opposition. I’ve had friends turn on me and churches turn their nose up at us because we’re likened to the “ermeging church,” something they aren’t familiar with and fear.
    There are also others who are embracing what we’re doing and supporting us, some even financially, so it’s not a complete stonewall effort.
    Your post encouraged me to get out there with the “dockers and weak coffee” and let them know what the real emerging church is and how we can be defined. I hope to bring clarity to what is a hazy representation and maybe even a characature of what we truly are.
    Again, thanks for the words.

  • The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican with his mainstream christianity, dockers and weak coffee, or those who critique my commitment to faith, hope and love, my crucified lifestyle, my abandonment of worldly attachments, my distaste at the idolatry of careerism, gluttony in lifestyle, addiction to academic degrees. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.

  • How can the emergent community klbring the mainstream Christians into their camp? By not using the language used in the above replies. I am a 38 y/o mainstream Bible College student who has much to learn from emerg as well as my more modern brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, from spending a few hours on this and other blogs, there seems to be a widespread (although not systemic and all consuming) attitude that mirrors those who attack emerg without knowledge or love. I am much more interested in getting more information about the theology, epistemology and missional beliefs of Andrew Jones and all you folks here but this seems to adversarial a forum for conversation. Am I wrong?
    In His Name,
    Jim

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  • Andrew,
    Very moving article. Now if you, or someone else Emergent would write an equally scathing review concerning the theology of Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and Steve Chalke, you’d be onto something important.

  • Very long-winded commentary. Jesus Christ and the Apostles would and may be weeping now because of emerging “philosophy”, “fresh doctrines” and most importantly false teaching and UnChrist-like behavior I’ve seen among Warrenians. Get back on God’s track. The emergent churcher’s put worshipers ahead of God. So tall skinny one, study to show thyself approved to God.

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