5 Models of Emerging Church from 1999

DJ Chuang is collecting various models of emerging churches that are often quoted and referred to. That includes models given by Ed Stetzer, Scot McKnight, Justin Taylor, Mark Driscoll, and more recently from C. Wess Daniels and Darren Patrick and others.

No one has ever quoted mine because no one has ever read it, at least not in the last 8 years. It was never published online, only in a Leadership Network magazine called Next Generation. I post it here, introducing it to the internet audience as a blast from the past and also as way for Creatives to understand the various models of emerging church without resorting to reductionist labels or alliterated cheese. I have added some images but left the text intact, despite the choppy writing and embarrassingly sarcastic flavor.

Disclaimer: Back in 1999 when this was written, I had just traveled for two years in a Winnebago with my family around the USA. We had left our home in San Francisco in 1998 to hit the road and I shifted my employment from the California Baptist Association to becoming a Consultant for the Baptist General Convention of Texas. They let us travel as missionaries to the emerging culture and some of that time was hosting conferences with a group called Young Leaders (which later became Emergent, after we had left for Europe). But in the two years of travel around USA, we went to every state (except North and South Dakota) to identify and support new church movements among the emerging postmodern subculture. Not just Baptist churches, but all stripes and colors. In 2000 we shifted our base of operation to Europe. So these models are from our American experience. I would NOT use them to describe the European emerging church scene.

“Postmodern” was the word we were using back then and obviously, I would not choose this word in 2008. Nor would I be so annoyingly ironic. I think over the past 8 years, and through many toils and snares, I have matured from a sarcastic smart-alec punk to a much more refined smart-alec punk. So please give me a break when you read this. Also, Jason from Young Leaders asked me to write a particularly provocative article for the magazine Next Generation. Thus, my overview of the American scene with some very sharp rib-pokes towards “posers” and a deconstruction of the deconstruction we were suggesting.

Anyway, its tongue in cheek and not to be taken too seriously. What I find interesting, however, is how similar other models from today’s emerging church measure up to these five categories. And without further ado, dear bloggers and emerging church critics, I give you a blast from the past.


Postmodern Church Time Capsule,

by Andrew Jones. Dec 31, 1999. San Francisco


Is your church postmodern? This was The Question evangelical churches were asking themselves as the 1990s came to a close. Included in this time capsule is my brief snapshot of 5 models of churches going under the postmodern label at the turn of the new Century. I have likened them to gardens because . . . well, it’s fun.

1. Big like a Miracle-Gro Garden


Letteri-3ntimidation through size is a great deterrent to criticism. Yet there are some steroid-ridden youth churches whose mandate is “Xtreme growth” and a head count that matches the Midian army, even at the expense of other churches.

Emergingmodelsstarts-5a highly-strung, well-financed youth group becomes a stage production that becomes their fathers’ church.

Are they Emergingchurchmodelspostmod-4

Not really. More like hypermodern with candles. They are unwilling to topple the pillars of modernity lest the whole building collapse on their head, as it did with Samson.

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2. Healthy like a Greenhouse Garden


Letteri-2nsulation against pests and negative elements creates a perfect environment for growing young, pre-conditioned seedlings into mature specimens. But the atmosphere is threatened by “others” like old people, single moms and nerds.

Emergingchurchmodelsgone-3 is the consumerism and ecclesiocentrism of their predecessors, replaced by a healthy missional stance to culture.

Emergingmodelsstarts-1a disgruntled college group becomes their own damn church that becomes a commodity that becomes a theme park that becomes a charity case.

Good-bye, Grunge Kids with Ideals.

Hello, Cha-Ching Church of Eternal Financial Need.

Emergingchurchmodelspostmod-2Yes, but mainly in the mind. They have read Johnny B., Mickey F., Jackie D. and other godfathers of the French pomo family (Baudrillard, Focault, Derrida, for those of you too busy getting a life to join the conversation), all of whom can be summed up by the greatest of Paris’s deconstructionists who, to the lion at the zoo, Madeline just said, “Pooh, Pooh!”

3. Pure like an organic garden


Letteri-4nnoculation against the poison of institutionalism keeps their Christianity in the house, which many feel is the best place to hang with your homies anyway. They argue away impurity like Peter on Cornelius’s roof and are proudly “relation-based” rather than chronically purpose-driven.

Emergingchurchmodelsgone-1is the stage and with it the compulsion to perform the Gospel. The super-endowed leader is now the super-empowered team. Worship can be a simple meal and children are included, not secluded.

Emergingmodelsstarts-2a crisis becomes a breakthrough that becomes a party that becomes a community that becomes a cluster of communities that becomes a denomination or apostolic network (which sounds better).


Yes. And pre-modern.

4. Free like a wildflower garden


Letteri-6solation from right-angled fundamentalism is temptation to disconnect from the Christian Ghetto and, like the prodigal son leaving his anal-retentive brother, some of our most creative people journey together way beyond the ecclesiastic radar.

Emergingchurchmodelsgone-2is genre, generation, gender and geography (Tom Hohstadt’s 4 G’s). The story of God is told effectively through prophetic stunts and art installations that speak through metaphor, just like Ezekiel’s clay city tablet captured the imagination of his people. And who can forget Ezekiel’s classic Poop Stunt?

Emergingmodelsstarts-3an act of oppression becomes a story that becomes a project that becomes a community that either self-destructs or is mainstreamed into Cheese Factory Community Church and is doomed to produce precious moments at the hand of Pastor Ned Flanders. But not before the artists abandon ship to pop up again like wildflowers at the next project.

Emergingchurchmodelspostmod-1To the bone. Their surreal art cries “Dada” to French parentage and a postmodern ambience is more intuitive than acquired. But anarchy and nihilism don’t build strong communities and art must flow from a healed space to be life-giving.

5. Whole like an English country garden


Letteri-5ntegration within a context of diversity adds definition to beauty. And our new world of multiple choice is as far removed from our previous position of privilege as Esther in the harem was from Queen Vashti on the throne. We are now waking up to smell the incense of the harem and a strategy of contagious beauty has replaced obnoxious evangelistic confrontations.

Emergingchurchmodelsgoneis a posture of domination. Gone is the wall that once separated religion from politics, clergy from laity, business from fellowship, ministry from living and Christianity from embracing the full human experience. Believers cling to their ancient heritage like Ruth clung to her ancient mother-in-law. They have done Celtic and gone Native and got wired to a global scene that is teaching them new ways to understand God. And they are about to turn old church buildings into art lounges.

Emergingmodelsstarts-4a conversation becomes a scene that becomes a community that becomes a movement that becomes a way of living. Living together forever. And the Kingdom of God gets downloaded with justice for the poor to the THX sound of angels singing the Big HAL chorus.

Emergingchurchmodelspostmod You mean that 20th Century thang that dumbfounded the seminaries? Glad it’s over, because these believers now define themselves by the new world they are moving into. And they are busting through like David the Madman entered the Philistine camp.

But with less drool.

Time to send you off. Farewell. May those who read you years from now find it all as silly as we did.


Andrew Jones, with his family, is Road Warrior/Poet for The Boaz Project, which is so top secret that if you know what it is before March 2000, I will have to either torch your eyeballs with a soldering iron or make you read another lame book on postmodern ministry – whichever is more painful.

This article was published in Young Leader’s Next Magazine


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.


  • Kester says:

    Hey Andrew, HNW etc. Just been noticing your feedburner feed is taking AGES to load… Safari tells me it’s trying to download 2000+ items, which seems a little stodgy. Wondered if others were having the same issue, or if I just need a new Mac. And ISP. And router.

  • Kester says:

    Actually, I think the usual year-turn acronym is HNY /-)

  • Peggy says:

    Had me humming “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” ;^)
    Love all the pictures of gardens and the descriptors. Thanks for digging up your time capsule for us.

  • becky says:

    Kester – I’m on a PC with an AOL browser and Vista even and Andrews stuff loads brilliantly. That’s one of the many reasons why I’m not “emergent” – the others being I lack a PhD, I am not a pastor/church planter, can’t grow a goatee without growth hormones … and I beter stop there.

  • andrew jones says:

    Kester – funny you should turn up first, being the GARDENER that you are.
    not sure whats up with your feed burner.
    HNW to you . . . I mean HNY?

  • Kester says:

    Hmmm… wierd. Obviously some compost in my drive. Using Safari with Leopard, on iBook G4 with plenty of RAM, and pretty good broadband… But the RSS just gets stuck. I’ve tried re-loading the feed, but just the same. Anyway, emailed you a screenshot of the browser bar. 2000+ items just seems mad for a feed. No probs with other blog feeds. I’ll get back to me spuds 😉

  • That was a lot of fun to read Andrew and really witty! Yes I see the overlap (with my groupings anyways), which is of course very interesting!

  • Alright – 97-98 was when Derek came over to the “ragamuffin house” in NC- where to me it was more of leading a boot camp for those who got off the lil yellow Jesus “special” bus! Rather funny because that was when i got to hear all the Andrew “stories”- and was told that my house was considered “emerging”- which i had NO idea about till then… it was more just what God was doing- with a different paintbrush. You can only imagine the shit i got from the traditional churches ’round here. eeeeesh it’s been some journey.. and more to come.
    love ya dude…. so glad your still doin yer thang! It’s Good! (ain’t that what God said when He looked at what He made!)

  • Well the article may be old but I think it has stood the test of time real good. I have printed it off and wasted a lot of ink on the lovely gardening pix.

  • Hey Andrew…I totally resonate with the first paragraph…I was a part of a mega-church trying to do a young adult ministry that was post-modern, but I always felt that we were just trying to be a ‘hip’ and sexier, more candles, less light,you get the idea…The fact that this was a ways off of what I felt deep down was proven when I went to work with Christian Associates in Europe. I discovered that I had spent little time developing my soul and truly valuing relationships and community. I mostly valued my plans and strategy…ouch. but thanks for the view back into your past! and I would love to spend a year in motor home!

  • linda says:

    why have you and so many others abandoned the word “postmodern”? please clue me in, especially since i just posted a bunch of links on my blog to your skinny series on postmodernism. 😛

  • andrew jones says:

    hi linda.
    that postmodern series is 5 years old. i would not use that word in Christian circles if i was to write it again.
    we abandoned it because church leaders misunderstood what we were trying to say. long story.
    but i have blogged about it, like here in an emerging church definition:
    It is this commitment to continuity and lack of reactionary motive that distinguishes the emerging church from both modern and post-modern biases.
    This is why I prefer the word “emerging” over “postmodern”. The word post-modern usually refers to the time of deconstruction and refocusing our attention to the Other. Postmodernism did not create fragmentation, any more than Bono created the AIDS crises by bringing attention to it. But postmodernism is now often defined by exaggeration, irony, suspicion, and discontinuity. And since some of the emerging culture has moved on to embrace continuity over discontinuity, rebuilding over deconstruction, a search for grids over dismissal of grids, then I am forced to choose a word that is further down the road than “post-modern”. And the word “post-post modern” is still too reactive and backwards facing.

  • linda says:

    interesting. thanks for explaining andrew. 🙂

  • matybigfro says:

    absolutly fab
    wander what my mates little brothers lot will be called

  • Robb says:

    There is something I recognise in all of these metaphors. I see people and groups I have met within each of them. I love the satirical element – but I am prepared to laugh at myself when I see it.
    I guess the problem with language is that it is used to categorise. No one is really happy with any category anymore whether it is evangelical/liberal or emergent/alternative/postmodern/GenZers.
    I guess we will never be happy with the wording. Is it postmodern? Probably 😉

  • Cosmo says:

    Can you give some direction of emerging church models that ARE found within Europe?

  • andrew jones says:

    hi cosmo – i have done this before but cant find it. i will post it if i do
    but i will say that much of the emerging church is not model-driven but values-driven and so models is not always the best framework for understanding it.

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