Emerging Church: A Ridiculously Subjective Account

Heres the poster for my session at Greenbelt Festival this month. Click to enlarge. Hear me talk at 4:30pm in the CMS Small Tent, Sunday 24th August. For those unfamiliar with Greenbelt Festival and lacking in a sense of humor, let me assure you this is a very tongue-in-cheek account and should not be tried at home.

emerging church like a box of chocolates

ORIGINAL: Greenbelt 2008 Session One: The Emerging Church is Like a Box of Chocolates

“According to this ridiculously subjective narrative, the birth of Andrew Jones launched the global counterculture and his first voluntary visit to a church in 1968 signaled the beginning of the emerging church movement. Like Forrest Gump, Andrew is the accidental witness who tells the story the best he can but remains mostly clueless.”

I submitted the titles of my two sessions at Greenbelt Festival. They will be hosted by Church Mission Society and there is still time to edit them if you can think of something better. Love some feedback. Is it just a stupid idea or is there some value is telling the story from one person’s point of view? What should be included and excluded?

My previous talks at Greenbelt are here, including The Spirituality of Blogging.


Read on for others speaking at this venue.

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Heres a program from Jonny Baker on the emerging church and mission related events at this CMS Small Tent Venue

anyway here’s the cms small tent programme – Sat –

10:30 Serum – space to explore Christian spirituality hosted by Naz

12-1pm mission in spiritual market place with Jonny, Ben and Laura

1-2 Networking and learning opportunities for mission leaders

2-5 Business as unusual 1 Shannon Hopkins

4-5 in CMS main venue – reimagining Christian thinking on other religions – Richard Sudworth

5-6 gender and youth work – Jenny Baker

6-7 mission service opportunities


10-30-12 Serum

12-1 God as Flow – Richard Passmore

1-2 Climate Change – James Pender

4:30 Skinny on the emerging church – Andrew Jones

5:30 Spirited exchanges with jenny macintosh

6:30 new monasticism – Mark Berry

7-8 Asbojesus.com – Jon Birch


10-11 CMS main venue – Yemi and Jonny head to head discussing African certainty vs emerging doubt

11-12 Aradhna

12-1 Bible in 60 minutes – Paul Thaxter

1-2 Cafe church in bangalore – Jacob Isaacs

2-3 mission in 1024 window – Andrew Jones (i.e. your computer screen)

3-4 Spirited exchanges with jenny Macintosh

4-5 discussion around ordinaton and pioneer ministry with Stephen Croft and Paul Thaxter


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.


  • becky says:

    Can I get a copy of this talk? Sounds fascinating and wish I could be there.

  • Andrew, I love this idea… and echo Becky’s sentiment. You’ll have to post notes or a transcript or something. MP3?
    In the movie version I imagine a scene in 1974 when Lesslie Newbigin is returning from India using local buses all the way… he gets lost and is about to return home, but Andrew Gump would be there to point him onto the right bus back to England, saying “Oh, but don’t you want to see how England has changed since you’ve been away?”

  • Mark says:

    Question is… which bit is the Coffee Cream – that one always gets eaten by my wife as I hate Coffee!

  • Joe says:

    “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” – Forest Gump (ficticious Character)
    Followers of Christ always know what they’re getting. How does someone go to a church and not know what they’re getting? What am I missing?

  • “… is there some value in telling the story from one person’s point of view?” Well friend, in my business (barrister), we are dependent upon persons in such a role. We call them witnesses. And if the witness has sufficient qualifications, they may testify as an expert witness – one who may give evidence in the form of an opinion, and not just speak to observations. Opine Andrew – you are qualified. And historians – they too seem to rely on witnesses…and that guy Luke…
    Now this box of chocolates business… whilst at one of the Disneyplaces (Orlando) for the first time in my 51 years, I had a minor epiphany. Playing off of Forrest’s mom saying ‘Life is like a box of chocolates…’ I found myself saying ‘Life in Dysneyplace (land/world/Epcot …) is like process cheese in a squeeze tube – controlled, predictable, not all that nutritious, and if you eat too much yer gonna git a gut ache.’
    So now to the big question – if emerging church is the box of chocolates (and I think it is and needs to be), then what kind of church is the process cheese in a squeeze tube?

  • andrew says:

    processed cheese? – sounds like the sermons I used to preach as a baptist pastor, all processed nicely into a 3 pointed tube with a motivational twist at the end.

  • andrew Kenny says:

    Yes I agree, I only met you once over a year ago when I gave you a million dollars (Way of the Master tract :in case people think you are a secret millionaire!,and think you are definitely the Forrest Gump of the Emerging Church appearing almost in the shadows but always there as the ubiquitous presence in all that is going on.

  • andrew Kenny says:

    P.S.But I would not say clueless.

  • Mike Morrell says:

    I LOVE this sweetly disarming conceit! Please, please record it and make it available.

  • andrew jones says:

    Greenbelt normally tape and then charge some money for a download. although i had trouble finding my previous talks. i know i put a link to at least one of them a few years ago.
    look for it here in a month’s time.

  • At the risk of giving you a complement and being told to “shut up”- LOL, i don’t know which i like better, your pasty white mug from the other shot, or that profile with the “gump” quote, but it gave me the best laugh i’ve had in a week or two! – and since you ARE such a Mac Geek, i suggest a pod cast link what’s a ma-hoowi so we all can at least Hear the Prophet Gump speak forth wisdom from the 5th heavenly realm of Clueless.
    ps.. wish i were there
    for that matter i wish i could be at John and Caroline’s wedding at Tamsin’s- (john is staying here over these last few weeks and i’m dropping him at the airport next friday- ) yes, though being in Austin for about 3 months, this house already has the Gideon Bible, stationed in the spare bedroom, – since it seems to be the HOTEL! Give my luv to the gang when you see ’em!

  • becky says:

    Andrew – why is there light shining out from your behind? Please don’t tell me this is a reference to Ace Ventura: Pet Detective (I love comedies but this one made me wince).
    I hope when you address the chocolate situation you’ll bring up the fact that the really, really good chocolate comes from the UK, Switzerland, Belgium, etc. Eating Cadburys in the US is NOT the same as what I get in the UK. Now, I’m a chocoholic, so I’ll eat Hersheys, Nestles – we’ll slap on a foreign sounding name like Haagen Das but it’s made in the US. Having said that, I have found some good local chocolatiers who make some amazing sweets but they aren’t commercially available.
    Holler when we can buy your talk and I’ll fork over what little change I have.

  • Wow, andrew, pop over to Mile Morrell’s site- what a list!
    And Becky, agreed on the chocolate- seems that “box of chocolates” is better in the UK- on the church front to…. eesh!

  • andrew jones says:

    UK has good chocolate – Cadbury’s fruit and nut is excellent. and New Zealand Cadburys might be a touch better (hello caramallo)
    but Switzerland has the best chocolate in the world, which may have something to do with the amount of wild herbs the Swiss cows eat on the mountainside.
    And Belgium white chocolate is also very special and i will be sure to have some next week when i am there.
    Hersheys – not even in the same league.
    Cathryn – i have been pointing to mikes list for many many years.
    And Becky, i am glad you noticed the origin of the sun’s shining.

  • Jesse James says:

    Hey Andrew,
    I’d be very interested in hearing your talk. Would it be possible to buy it from somewhere when it’s all done?
    (oh, and you spelled “program” wrong:)

  • andrew jones says:

    jonny spelled it that way but he is English and has therefore has problems with the English language.
    Not sure if Greenbelt will tape it or not. Be a shame if they dont because there is a great lineup of speakers and someone should tape it
    one of my previous greenbelt talks is here and its about new media.
    Forward Slash at Greenbelt

  • D.G. Hollums says:

    F-ing Awesome! love it!

  • Paul says:

    Thanks for making me smile. Great work on the poster. Good sense of fun you have.

  • andrew says:

    thanks. but its not all fun
    you see . . . when it comes to doing missional church planting in the emerging culture in the way of Jesus and his disciples, the church that emerges really is like a box of chocolates . . ..
    you never know what you’re gonna get!!!

  • Ted says:

    Great, Andrew! I love it. By the way – are any of the chocolates in your candy box chocolate covered nuts? You know, we all have some of those and even I myself have had some nutty moments, and some nutty buddy moments! 🙂

  • Just don’t add any chocolate Easter Eggs, or you’ll have a doctrinal debate going!!!

  • becky says:

    Andrew – there’s a Balaam’s ass joke in here somewhere – but gosh durn it, the donkey was right on target.

  • Greetings Andrew
    I recently was send a link of your webblog where I made a comment in 2004 after the Foursquare Swiss conference I don’t know you remember me or not, it doesn’t matter about that one thing that draw my attention is your support for the emerging church, I thought you are free of religion and i liked you but your support of the emergining church fals doctrine I would say unbiblical sick doctrine with no sound at all makes me think and reconsider some things about you. Open the eyes brother yes we are in modern world and the things and nature of man stays same sinners in need for savior and also in need for the fellowship that is Christ Centered who is the absolute truth and is all in all.
    May the Lord open your eyes and see the things that I see about the emerging church.
    Blessing of the Person who is absolute truth
    Jesus Christ

  • andrew says:

    Pastor Skender,
    thank you sir, for being kind enough to comment and good to meet you at that conference.
    I first met some of the Four Square leaders at an event in Frankfurt in 2001 called “Emerge”. The Germans also have been using this word to describe what they are doing. I was glad to see what the Germans were doing in church planting in the emerging culture. Robby and Claudia, for example, who started a Four Square emerging church and had the blessing of their leader.
    I was also encouraged by the Swiss and others at the conference you met me at but I would have to say that the German Four Square leaders are ahead and their examples of emerging church are excellent.
    Yes, Christ is the absolute Truth. I agree. Why do you think I believe he is not the Truth?
    Maybe what you have heard about the emerging church is not accurate?

  • TravisM says:

    I think there is a lot of misunderstanding of what the “emergent” church is. In reality I think the 1st century church was emerging, the balance between tradition, history, culture, and “not forsaking the fellowship” is where most (possibly all) of the tension lies.
    I was at that Foursquare conference in Switzerland, in fact it is where the Lord completly turned my heart around for the nation of Poland (I was living there on a shirt term mission for a year, and was hating it).
    Now my wife, family, and I are moving back to Krakow in 2010 to do home/small/group minsitries, purely relational and within the context of the exsisting cultural context (The Catholic church mostly) – will it look Catholic? Probably not, will it look “Western protestant” – probably not. It will be what the Lord wants – something relevant and of the Kingdom.
    Okay enough, I digress, all this to say, it’s amazing how religiousity can so quickly define our terms into a context that is so far from the heart.

  • This declaration and claims makes me very worried
    * The world is radically changing and the church must radically change with it
    Emergents believe postmodernity represents a dramatic break with the past and that only an extreme transformation in the church can keep the church relevant and effective in this environment. What is needed, they say, is not just a change in methodology. We need a new kind of Christian.
    * Since the Church has been culture bound for so long we must reexamine and question every belief and practice in the Church, finding new ways to define and express these
    Visiting emergent blogs, one will find that absolutely any doctrine or moral standard can be questioned. It seems at times that emergents are engaging in a complete reinvention of Christianity accompanied by a radical redefinition of Christian terms.
    * We have no foundation for any beliefs, therefore we cannot know absolute truth
    Critics of the Emerging Church movement insist that emergents misrepresent epistemological foundationalism (the belief that we do possess some knowledge that serves as a basis for further knowledge) as requiring “bombproof certainty,” something contemporary foundationalists insist they do not hold to. What contemporary foundationalists do believe is that we can possess real knowledge that is so certain it requires extraordinary evidence to refute it. [13] D. A. Carson points out that emergent postfoundationalism is based upon yet another of their false antitheses, saying “In effect the antithesis demands that we be God, with all of God’s omniscience, or else forever be condemned to knowing nothing objective for sure.” [14] Additionally, emergents fail to consider the scriptural teaching of faith as something God-given which does possess supernaturally certain knowledge (Mt 21:21, Eph. 2:8, Heb 11:1). Emergents do not seem to realize that critiquing secular foundationalism is not the same as critiquing Evangelical foundationalism. In A New Kind of Christian McLaren’s fictional altar ego, Neo, says even Scripture is neither authoritative (in a “modern” sense) [15] nor a foundation for faith. [16]
    * Since we cannot know absolute truth, we can only experience what is “true” for our communities
    Postmodern philosophers and theologians insist that truth is only known and validated within communities (“There are no Metanarratives only local narratives”). While this implies that truth is culturally relative and that true cross-cultural communication is impossible (those outside a community must first join a community before they can understand the community’s ideas), postmodern authors communicate to people of various communities simultaneously, apparently expecting them to all equally understand their intent.
    * Since we cannot know absolute truth we cannot be dogmatic about doctrine
    Emergents see orthodoxy as “generous,” [17] that is, inclusive of many beliefs Christians have historically thought of as aberrant or heretical. Many leading emergents echo McLaren’s refusal to assert Christianity’s superiority to other world religions.
    * Since we cannot know absolute truth we cannot be dogmatic about moral standards
    Absolute stands on issues such as homosexuality are viewed as obsolete. Activities such as drinking, clubbing, watching sexually explicit movies, and using profanities are seen by some emergents as opportunities to show those who are not part of the Christian community that postmodern Christians do not think they are better than them through any false sense of moral superiority. [18]
    * Since we cannot know absolute truth, dogmatic preaching must give way to a dialogue between people of all beliefs
    Emerging Christians do not posture themselves before the world as though they were the light and the world were in darkness. Instead of “preaching” to the “lost” they join in “conversation,” with people of various beliefs. Conservative Evangelicals seem not to be truly welcome to contribute their distinctive content to this conversation since they represent the old, rotting corpse of “modernism.”
    * Since propositional truth is uncertain, spiritual feeling and social action make up the only reliable substance of Christianity
    Emergents consider propositional truth a “modern” (and thus outmoded) fascination. Postmoderns think and communicate in narratives. [19] Since the pursuit of truth is portrayed as a never ending journey with no solid starting point, they consider the only legitimate measuring rods of Christianity to be experience and good works. Without a solid footing in revealed truth, however, emergents have no firm foundation for knowing which experiences are valid and which works are good (something they do not seem to notice).
    * To capture a sacred feeling we should reconnect with ancient worship forms
    Trappings such as burning candles and events such as silent retreats are popular in the movement. Embracing these premodern forms further breaks their connection with “modern” Christianity.
    * Since sublime feeling is experienced through outward forms, we should utilize art forms in our worship
    Many participants in the movement see appreciating art for art’s sake as a spiritual experience.
    * Through conversation with them, “outsiders” will become part of our community, and then be able to understand and believe what we teach
    The postmodern approach is not to try to persuade people to believe, it is to try to befriend people into joining. This is commonly expressed as Robert Webber does when he says “People in a postmodern world are not persuaded to faith by reason as much as they are moved to faith by participation in God’s earthly community.” [20] There is a false antithesis in such statements, however. We do not have to choose between a purely cerebral attempt to talk others into believing correctly on the one hand and offering an open, unqualified invitation to our group on the other. The Bible teaches us to proclaim the gospel message with reliance upon the Holy Spirit to empower, illuminate, and convict (1 Co 2, 1 Thess 1:9). When such proclamation is absent, as it is in the Emerging Church movement, there is no prophetic voice coming from the church calling sinners to repent and believe the Gospel (Ac 2:38, 16:30-32).
    * All are welcome to join the “conversation” as long as they behave in a kind and open-minded manner.
    Emerging believers reject any posture which hints at exclusivism. Dogmatic Evangelicals, however, are not treated as kindly in the conversation as others are (something many emergents admit).
    * The ultimate goal is to make the world a better place
    The Emerging Church movement envisions a utopia in which the oppressed of the world are free, the poor are no longer impoverished and the environment is clean. This paradise is achieved through social activism. Many emergent leaders think it is selfish folly to live for the return of Christ.
    The accomplishing of all of the above is seen by those in the movement as evidence that the Church is emerging to reach the culture, adapting to it. Critics of the movement see these things as signs that the Church is submerging into the culture, being absorbed by it.

  • andrew says:

    Pastor Skender, thank you for that long passage that you have graciously copied and pasted onto the comments. It represents the kind of miscommunication that has encouraged us to search for better words to describe what we [and you in the Foursquare movement] are doing to start churches in the emerging culture.
    Don Carson’s book, many of us feel, was poorly researched, not accurate in all its details, and dealt only with a few Americans, and none of them from a Foursquare background.
    I am surprised you are quoting Carson because the accusations he points at what he calls “emerging churches” are very similar to his accusations towards “charismatics” a few years earlier, which makes the Pentecostal based Foursquare denomination also suspect in his eyes.
    Actually, Don Carson preached in my church last year – at North Beach Baptist Church in Perth, Western Australia. I was a pastor there in the 90’s and wrote the statement of faith that still exists – and you can read it online. Apparently, Dr Carson had no problem with that church and had no problem with two emerging church practitioners during his talk at the Baptist Theological College.
    Is is possible there has been a miscommunication? What do you think?

  • andrew says:

    also, since you are part of the Foursquare movement, I urge you to go to their website and look at why they are “in missional conversation with the emerging church” and what they mean by ’emerging’ and ‘missional’.
    link to foursquare

  • I am sorry Andrew but I am seeing you are doing exactly that Dr Carson has explained and you are attacking his personality you are not explaning where He is wrong. In oposite He is in this article explaning all the issues that are not Biblical in Emerging Church. I do believe that, we need to go in and study Early Church from Bible and also learn from the past revivalists that God used them and then depend on Spirit of God to build New Testament Church Model and I don’t see that in Emerging Church.Do you know why church all over the world has crisis. Becuase of the ideas or explanation of the Bible in revelation without reasoning. We need revelation but we need also fact’s. I am really sorry to see great leaders and pastor’s of USA and other countries fall in the traps of the Satan and get decieved in their minds and also see church lead by the World instead of the Church to lead and transform the world.

  • Phil Wood says:

    Your box of chocolates gives me an entire new emerging terminology. I’ve been blogging on the relationship between Anabaptism and the Emerging Church today (you get a mention): http://radref.blogspot.co.uk/2012/05/mennomergent.html Perhaps this Emerging/Anabaptist thing is a fruit and nut case? Too crunchy to be a coffee cream! I’m busy with ‘Walking Church’, so I’m likely lost as well as clueless.
    We’re bringing a group from Wood Green Mennonite Church to Greebelt this year and doing a few things around ‘Walking Church’ (http://www.freshexpressions.org.uk/stories/walkingchurch). Hope to say hello. Shalom, Phil

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