Emerging Church Movement: Since 2000?

Bolger“In the 1990s, there were very few examples of churches that were communicating within the perspectives and practices of new urban cultures. More typically at that time, the strategy consisted of making the church service relevant to outsiders . . . . In the year 2000, the emerging movement got its start”

Ryan Bolger has a great post on the emerging church movement. I have a lot of respect for Ryan because he co-edited one of the very best books written on the emerging church after extensive interviews, and because his insights are valuable.

2000 as a start date? I don’t have a problem with this. While there was a lot going on in the late nineties, it didn’t yet have the momentum to be called a movement. By 2000, I had left USA and was discovering like minded groups in UK, NZ, Japan, Brazil, Germany, Norway and it was obvious that something much larger than ourselves was going on. When I was helping to write the early definition of emerging church on Wikipedia, before it all got vandalised (an enemy has done this), I used Paul Pierson’s ten characteristics of a movement to show how the EC was in fact a movement like many others. Paul Pierson was one of my teachers at Fuller School of World Mission.

Fuller Seminary? Yeah. Fuller had an impact on me when i studied missions there for 2 terms (93-94) and also on the church growth movement before. Glad to see Alan Tippet get a mention. I referred to him a lot in my talks in Australia in April. And that meeting Ryan talked about was influential. I was one of the 40 who was there and I also acted as a Reflector for the group.

“Relevant to outsiders”– Many of us were experimenting in the late 80’s and early 90’s with emerging church structures but there were generally, as Ryan says, still pimping up the church service to make it relevant to outsiders. It wasnt until 1995 that we started My Phathers House under the Southern Baptist banner in San Francisco that took seriously the transition from “attractional” to “missional” and committed ourselves to allowing the new church structures to rise up (emerge) organically inside the emerging culture.


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.


  • andrew – I didn’t see the link to ryan’s post?

  • andrew says:

    thanks stephen. it worked this time.

  • While i think 2000 is about right for a ~ start date… and voted that way- but it was 98-99 time period that i felt that nudge to open the doors to my home for whatever ragamuffins wanted to stay and create a community of sorts…. The joke was we called it “God’s Boot Camp” and had a person drop off some books (randomly) and there was this little one … 30pages or so.. called “God’s Boot Camp”
    so we stuck it on the fireplace mantel – in retrospect… i think that just sent out a flare in the heavelies that perhaps wasn’t the smartest move. To this day we have a gideon bible in the spare room- cuz it seems to be the hotel! Phil still thinks there was a sign somewhere in the Spirit with a statue of Liberty.. or something like that…. with the banner…. “give me your tired, poor, spiritually frustrated, emotionally challenged and sexually broken”…. and i think that neon sign is still up… just wish i had a dimmer switch on days. Yes, i’m rambling….
    But….. over the last 8 years the yearning for “safe houses” and loving spaces is growing- my spirit/gut on that is the call for intimacy in relationships – not just the next theology rant to discuss. Social justice issues are good… but i still feel (self included) that our ability to love each other as members of this Body called Christ’s to deeper levels will be the shofar call to authenticity that will bring the Harvest home.
    love ya

  • bob c says:

    when i compare to recent movements like the feminist movement, civil rights movement, environmental movement, free software movement, gay rights movement, peace movement, anti-nuclear movement,
    emerging/emergent/alt/oozing – what ev we label it – seems to be very small & nascent in contrast.
    For me, there are 2 aspects of emerging/emergent/alt/oozing that do not fit the movement paradigm:
    * Movements have norms for members on how to think & act, with forms of discipline for violating those norms.
    * Social movements are said to have “entropy”; that is, they will disintegrate over time if energy is not expended to keep them together and active.
    Dorothy Day – a leader in the Catholic Worker efforts – once said:
    The quixotic efforts of bold, imaginative individuals do not constitute social movements.
    That word quixotic resonates for me – not sensible about practical matters; idealistic and unrealistic – fanciful, fantastic, imaginary.
    While there are some significant exceptions, I tend to think of emerging/emergent/alt/oozing as a diaspora, a dispersion – a group living as a minority among people of the prevailing religion.

  • David says:

    Many in this stream of thought would hold the postmodernists of the 60s up as an inspiration. so did it really begin then? or even in the works of kierkegaard and nietsche (however you spell that infernal name). For me it started in around 2004, 2005.
    But ya, I vote for 2000. from the work that has been done by others in decades past to the movements and countermovements found across continents, themes seem to have begun to seriously intermingle and hear from each other around the turn of the millenia. It still seems to me that we are barely on the doorstep here in 2008.

  • bob c says:

    this piece really triggered a bunch of thots for me (http://www.thestar.com/News/Ideas/article/434824):
    For participants in the mass underground, the possibility of becoming a sensation can eventually be hardwired into the act of creation itself. That is, the cultural output of the mass underground internalizes the logic of Amazon.com sales rankings, or the most-emailed articles list from newspaper websites. In the mass underground, evading surveillance is neither possible nor desirable. Once subcultural expression is converted into binary format, the thinking goes, not only can everyone have access to it, but everyone should.

  • Gerard Kelly says:

    Surely you jest, Andrew? Ryan’s post is not about the Emerging Church movement at all, it’s about Fuller being a wonderful place to work… and apparently the global epicentre of the emerging church movement(though somehow those of us who don’t live in California missed this vital fact). So it all started at Fuller in 2000… if only we’d all known this when we were speaking, writing dreaming and creating in the 1990’s. We wouldn’t have wasted so much time trying to think for ourselves, but could have sensibly waited for Fuller to get the moveemnt going. What tosh.
    If there is ANY hope for the emerging church movement to mean something in the real world, it will be precisely because it is NOT centred on institutions like Fuller, or even necessarily in California at all… we need a new engagement with the Spirit of God in the world, not Church Growth Part II…
    Are we allowed to have ANY kind of movement that doesn’t become a Californian Franchise?

  • andrew says:

    Sorry Gerard . . . I didnt hear you . . I can only hear Californians in that ear . . .
    ahhh . . there you are. Yes, good point. Luckily, there are plenty of seminaries and countries and denominations attempting to write themselves into history with the emerging church and if they all shout at the same time, we might get a chorus of voices that give a bigger picture.
    thanks for speaking out on behalf of those not in the chorus.

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