Emerging, Emergent and Missional

Interesting conversation going on about terms, in particular the words “emergent” and “emerging”. I know some people use the words interchangeably and others draw clear lines in the sand. I have never liked the lines very much. I see churches inside the Emergent Village world that do not show any characteristics of emergent behavior and are therefore “emergent” in affiliation but not in structure. Thats confusing. Time to go back to the ant (Prov. 6:6) and observe.

The terms “emergent” and “emerging” have both been applied to church and missions for many decades. I find it hard to dismiss all that i have read and know and start over again as if the conversation is only a decade old and these terms are brand new. Is our reading of missions really that shallow?

Scot McKnight is leading a discussion on these terms. But before you go, read Dave Dunbar’s article which has stirred up the chat. Emerging, Emergent and Missional: A Travelers Guide, Part B [PDF]. Btw, Part A is here and you can comment on Dave’s blog as well.

I have a lot of respect for David. We chatted last year over coffee in a fantastic little breakfast restaurant in Washington State about terms and names and he gave me some excellent advise. I like what David has presented here and look forward to the rest. He mentions me in a kind way at the end and although he has been contrasting the various groupings, he says “there are key people—most already mentioned– who by virtue of their high visibility and influence can not be limited to any one category. These would include Alan Roxburgh, Scot McKnight, John Franke, Tim Keel, Brian McLaren, and the affable Andrew Jones.”

Thanks David!

Related: What I mean when I say “emerging-missional” church

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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.


  • Mark says:

    “I see churches inside the Emergent Village world that do not show any characteristics of emergent behavior and are therefore “emergent” in affiliation but not in structure.”
    I guess that’s the problem when a verb becomes a noun?

  • Michel Savard says:

    “the affable Andrew Jones”…indeed! spot on. And well flagged by David…

  • Matybigfro says:

    Line drawers or stake plungers
    Maybe folks aren’t drawing lines in the sand to tie us up with but hammering some words into the sand around which more folks can rally round, Yes some folks maybe working from a bounded set/modernist mind set to rule some out and rule others in#
    But it’s also the same modernist mind set that call’s a bounder/line drawer those who may simply be trying to put some pegs into the ground.
    Often the same things understood differently can bring enormous freedom, maybe none of us are simply modern or post modern or post-post whatever we’re all a mix of motives, context’s and diversity and while the same act that maybe once was used to separate denominations and the ins and outs once, can be redeemed as a way of mapping out and celebrating our wonderful diversity and better understanding and including others into the work that God is doing in our time. I feel that deeper and richer understandings of what words like emerging, emergent, emergence and missional mean and do is only going to be beneficial rather than treating them as the same thing.

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