The Great Emergence: How Christianity Is Changing And Why, by Phyllis Tickle

“While no observer is willing to say emphatically just how many North American Christians are definitely emergent at the moment, it is not unreasonable to assume that by the time the Great Emergence has reached maturity, about 60 percent of practising American Christians will be emergent or some clear variant thereof.”

Phyllis Tickle, manuscript for The Great Emergence, How Christianity is Changing and Why, by Phyllis Tickle. Comes out October 2008 so don’t take that quote as gospel . . just yet.

This blurb of mine is a little premature . . . but i cant wait.The manuscript arrived last week and I dropped everything to read it. It didnt take long to read – its not a long book – but its a GREAT book and perhaps book of the year, If N.T Wright’s Surprised by Hope doesnt beat it. I was asked for a quote for the book (I’m not worthy!) and so . . .

phyllis tickle the great emergenceI cannot speak highly enough of this new book by Phyllis Tickle. Astonishing, in its panoramic scope, cultural insight and lucid brevity, ‘The Great Emergence’ pinpoints the global emerging church movement within the greater drama of Christianity in a new world. Finding her bearings from previous revolutions and locating our present upheaval within the rhythms of human history, Tickle shows us why The Great Emergence will not die away but will instead inaugurate and define the next epoch of Christianity. This book will raise eyebrows and expectations.

Right. Enough with the official blurb. Its a damn good book. Buy it! It will be on my Top 10 Emerging Church book list.

I should also say that Phyllis’s book made me uncomfortable in a few sections with some of her future scenarios but I took these as predictive rather than prescriptive. And her link between the charismatic movement and the emerging church movement made me squirm a little but its a fair observation and one that history will no doubt shed more light.

The book is an amazing work of both artful prose and scholarly accomplishment and I would recommend, as I do with all of Phyllis’s books, to buy the hard cover version and show it some respect.

Read on for two more juicy quotes. (Hope the publishers wont mind -Hi Chad! Just these two and I promise i wont spill any more beans . . .)

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“In the hands of emergents, Christianity has grown exponentially, not only in geographic base and numbers, but also in passion and in an effecting belief in the Christian call to the brotherhood of all peoples.”

“More to the point, emergence in the UK was clearly active, discernible and describable at least twenty years before it was nearly so visible and coherent in this country, making observation of what is happening in Britain, Ireland and Wales a very useful and sometimes predictive exercise for North American observers.”

Others: Emergent Village, ScrippsNews, Vialogue, Out of Ur (interview),


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.


  • Glenn says:

    Andrew! It ain’t fair! I keep wanting to read this book! But since nobody asked me for a burb, I can’t get a copy! So, here I am ready to fly and having nothings so controversial (apparently) or stimulating (apparently) as Ms Tickle’s book to read in my long trans-Atlantic flight! So, you got any good books in PDF I can get before Monday?

  • Thanks Andrew. It sounds amazing… and now I have to wait months to read it?!? You’re a lucky fella!

  • andrew says:

    i will sell you the manuscript for a fiver.

  • andrew says:

    actually, glenn, unlike the pile of books i have awaiting review, i actually asked Phyllis if i could read this one before it came out.

  • Johnny Laird says:

    Sounds like it’s going to be worth the wait.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    Wow, sounds astounding. Reminds me of the work of Karen Armstrong.

  • andrew says:

    Phyllis is briefer than Karen Armstrong and doesnt get into the details as much but that means its a shorter book that looks at patterns from a global and historical perspective more than threading three related streams together in a tight knot, like Karen does with her books (The Great Transformation, The Battle for God, etc)

  • “In the hands of emergents, Christianity has grown exponentially, not only in geographic base and numbers, but also in passion and in an effecting belief in the Christian call to the brotherhood of all peoples.”
    Can you provide a bit more context for this? Is it based on some sort of statistical data or a ‘gut feel’?
    Also, “emergence in the UK was clearly active, discernible and describable”… does she go on to describe this?
    Isn’t one of the underlying strengths of the movement that it can’t be precisely described?

  • Andrew, I’m curious if you wonder Tickle’s authority and insights are based on her age and/or her publishing background, meaning she’s had a look-see into a lot of stuff. Or another way of saying this is, if the book were written by Tony Jones, or even a twenty-five year old, would it still hold the same impact.
    Reggie McNeal seems to be asking similar questions without the “Emerging” tag and people accept his scathing criticisms because he’s someone who has been there. He’s from their generation. And yet he’s saying what those in the emerging church are saying.

  • andrew says:

    hi michael. not a lot of data and numbers in the book but it all seems to stand up to scrutiny to me. you will have to read the book to make your own decision.
    for a fuller description of how uk has been ahead for 20 years, you might try becky garrison’s writings as an American looking at the scene.
    i think one of the strengths of the movement is that it cannot be owned by any organization or group or country. but within those little worlds, its not too hard to describe it in a way that makes sense, at least to some people. i know i have been doing that for a decade or more.

  • andrew says:

    Johnathon, I think her strength is that she has a great handle on the larger Christian picture and can see clearly how the newer emerging movements fit into the scheme of things.
    but she is a publisher and she sees the emerging church through publishing eyes. The positive side of that is that what she writes is stunningly fluid and will find a wide readership. The downside is that she tends to see the emerging church world through the lens of authors and books and published writings and since MOST leaders of the emerging church have not published books and a small minority of Seminary-trained, white, middle class AMERICAN males on staff at churches have published books, the author-is-leader equation is not always the most accurate lens to use.
    But this book is Phyllis and you get Phyllis and she is Phyllis and she is SUPERB and her perspective is superb. She finds things that others dont.
    we all have an angle . . .

  • andrew says:

    And very true about Reggie McNeal and others who are saying what some emerging church people have been saying for a while but they will listen to Reggie.
    which is cool. as long as God gets his message across and we get on with the job.

  • Becky says:

    Jonathan – I have interviewed Phyllis Tickle twice (The Wittenburg Door – posted on the website and Sojourners (forthcoming). Phyllis is one of the smartest people I have ever met bar none. She is in a class all by herself. i can’t compare her to anyone else for she is the gold standard for US religion writers.
    If you want a few tidbits of Tickle talk to tide you over, here’s a very small taste –
    My interview for the Wittenburg Door expands on this short interview – and that interview was expanded in “Rising from the Ashes: Rethinking Church.” (Seabury Books, 2007). I’m giving my first talk summarizing the high points of Tickle’s book to the Diocese of New Hampshire in June.
    Andrew – thanks for the plug. You’ve been an invaluable source as have Jonny Baker, Steve Collins and Karen Ward. I view myself as simply a fly on the wall who happened to be born during a way cool time in history.

  • andrew says:

    Hey Becky,
    nice compliments are still no excuse for shamelessly PIMPING YOUR BOOK on my blog .. . he he he.

  • Becky says:

    Just for that you can’t be in the second edition … he, he, he. Seriously I am going to capture some insights from you re: the Sorting Room to help those that want to do likewise.
    Just trying to give those who want a Tickle taste a few suggestions where they can go and get a bite until October 1st.

  • len says:

    Andrew, I bid five and a half 😉

  • I wonder how much the great emergence is affecting faith in the global south, where the primary growth in christendom is taking place thanks to penecostalism. i’ve yet to really see the ec move out of the west. i find it ironic (and rather modern) to think that the greatest change in christianity will be coming from the West. A lot of other writers are saying it’s quite the opposite. For the next incarnation of Christianity look to the South.
    The call to the brotherhood of all peoples, too, isn’t an ec phenomenon. I’m puzzled by some of the broad based claims. It sounds rather self-congratulatory. But I suppose that’s the problem with blurbs. I guess I’ll have to read it. 🙂

  • andrew says:

    its multi-directional, isnt it? we are all influencing each other. when we meet together for global emerging church leaders events (we had 24 countries at the last one which took place in Germany) then we realize its a global thing and not one country is dominating.
    phyllis is observing the trend from an american standpoint and as it affects americans but she is not saying what you think she is saying – read the book when it comes.

  • Certainly there is cross-pollenating going on. And yes, it’s multi-directional, but to say that “In the hands of emergents, Christianity has grown exponentially, not only in geographic base and numbers, but also in passion and in an effecting belief in the Christian call to the brotherhood of all peoples” sounds rather uni-directional to me. Maybe the blurb is out-of-context. It helps to know that she’s referring to the American context, but it would have been better for her to clarify this (perhaps she does in the book), but as is, the quote seems to imply that Christianity is growing from the ec center outward. Isn’t that the point of her book that this is the next great revolution?
    I’m trained as a journalist and we’re taught to be inherently suspicious of such broad claims. But I’m also a seeker who is open to such broad claims. So it will be interesting to see both sides of me warring as I read her book.
    I don’t want to downplay what the ec is doing or be rigid. I think it’s excellent what the EC is doing. I’m just not sure it’s the “next big” thing or as groundbreaking as everyone wants to make it out to be. It is important. But the development of Pentecostalism worldwide, I would argue, has little to do with the EC.
    Maybe I’m missing the point, though.

  • brambonius says:

    I read it, finally… and I have to read it again I think. And think about it…

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