Pentecostals and the Emerging Church

Why were Pentecostals were ignored in the early emerging church movement? My Assembly of God friend Earl has some answers in his article Can We Be Pentecostal and Emergent?

Reason Number One: “Origins: Early and influential EmChurch authors, webbers, and speakers were almost all from outside the P/C [Pentecostal] movement. Many were Reformed. Lots of the EmChurch plants were actually SBC [Southern Baptist Church] under the hood, including significant amounts of low profile capital investment.”

Reason Number Six: 6. “No show: Pentecostals tend to be doers, while a lot of EmChurch influencers tend to be thinkers (this is my patronizing reductionism—sorry). Result: we simply didn’t show up for work when the EmChurch was gaining momentum, largely loosing our opportunity to have a voice in the dialogue.” Link

I met Earl about 6 years ago in Seattle (I think) and he interviewed me for something he was working on. I try to keep up with his writings and journey as a leader in the Assembly of God. His article is good but comments elsewhere show that there is a lot of confusion still out there and there is still much work to do. I am also thankful to Phyllis Tickle for including the Vineyard and others in her synthesis of the key streams and influences in The Great Emergence.

Why am I mentioning this? Because I heard there is a group of Assembly of God leaders coming to my meetings today so I am reading up on what they might want to ask me.

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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.


  • lilly lewin says:

    hey andrew! so jealous of your gathering in ireland! wish i could be there to hear you and enjoy all that western ireland has to offer.
    as an emerging church person, and one who has been a part of many church expressions, both pentecostal and liturgical (and many in-between) i’ve felt that our emerging church world has needed more charismatic/pentecostal voices.
    i’ve always been about praxis …being practical in how i live out my faith and in the context of the emerging church. too often we’ve lacked the action piece and been prone to dialogue and discussion (esp. of theology)
    rather than “how are we going to live all of this out?”
    we need the wind of the spirit and the miracles to remind us of all God is doing in the world and the surprise of the spirit to show others that God is continuing this work and wants them to join in!
    i look forward to hearing how your time goes in ireland and the questions the pentecostal friends bring to the emerging discussion!

  • Carlo says:

    there’s likely a whole host of reasons (as earl no doubt points out).
    i am actively involved in a uk pentecostal denomination and one of the barriers i would say is that dualism often prevails in our churches, coupled with a ‘we know how to do things best around here’ approach ie. God is in the singing in our meetings, the noisy prayers and the weekly crisis moment at the altar but he could not possibly be out there on the street in our neighbourhood or in a more quiet and subtle church expression or in something more structured and organised like liturgy.
    the contrary notion, the way the hebrews thought that ‘everything is spiritual’ and that the church is broader than you think, seems to be very much a part of the emerging church movement.
    look forward to your feedback.

  • I am so glad the conversation is taking this turn. I do not consider myself to be Pentecostal, but definately have Pentecostal influences in my heritage. We hail from the Vineyard in Lancaster, CA when it was under the leadership of Brent Rue ( ). My husband, David, and I have been discussing ways of bringing some focus on the Spirit indwelling into the EC, with some of our emergent friends and authors. I am eager to see where this will go. I didn’t know Phyllis wrote about the Vineyard – I still need to get a copy of her book. There is so much to read, and so little time! LOL Anyway, I have found a small book by Matt Hyam to be extremely beneficial in this regard, and would encourage you all to read it if you can. It is an easy and short read, which is handy. It’s called “I Still Have More Questions Than Answers.” For me, it ties the Pentecostal into Emergent cleanly and beautifully, while, in McLaren style, not claiming to have it all figured out. (Hence the title.)

  • brad says:

    Though it may be true that the emerging movement did not/does not have much overlap with the Charismatic/Pentecostal movement, the missional movement seems to me to have a very large percentage of POST-Charismatic/Pentecostal brothers and sisters as thought leaders for us all. Most of these are “post-” because of surviving the toxic excesses of their home-base theology. In my opinion, those who are post-Charismatic/Pentecostal offer an important counterbalance to those who are post-evangelical, as well as post-liberal and/or post-conservative. They bring the redemptive gift of being far more clued in than most branches of Christianity to the working of the Holy Spirit. Also, their thinking through the inherent weakspots in Charismatic/Pentecostal theology, authority systems, and platform personalities seems to provide an openness to receive from the “post-” others who have their own redemptive gifts to share. It’s like “the gathering of tribes” for subcultures that we talked about in the mid- to late-1990s–creating a collaboration that is far more than just surface style. Exciting times! Hi to Earl when you see him …

  • Mike says:

    Very interesting. I have never asked this question before. I need to be more of a thinker 😉

  • Andrew, as a formal charismatic, semi-penetcostal, who has left that tribe way behind, thanks for posting this. i think Earl has a Christ-like and loving approach to this conversation. If only others on both sides, myself included, could do the same.

  • matybigfro says:

    What about 24-7 prayer and Revelation in chichester. Not what you could strictly define as Pentecostal or Emerging maybe but deffinatly linked sharing aspects with both.
    I guess for me it’s whether your looking for connections between emergent branding and pentecostals cos I guess i would deffinatly say these folks have their place in the emerging church but not exactly significant voices in the “Emergent” scene
    I think maybe there is a lack of pentecostals and charistmatics amoung emergent because there is a certain tone to the way these movements are refered too around in that conversation

  • Pentecostalism has been thrown out by emerging thinkers in general, with the bath water of “contemporary” models. Earl’s perception about intellectualism vs. Pentecostalism is key. Unfortunately it is not an unfair stereotype (broadly true assertion). It’s not just that intellectuals are wary of emotionalism (and thus Pentecostalism, since it appears to be merely emotionalistic from the outside looking in), but Pentecostals are pretty suspicious (as well as cynical) of intellectuals as stodgy Spirit-quenchers.

  • As someone that holds to “God can show up anywhere” mindset- it’s often been really frustrating for me on both ends of this discussion. (mostly giving me a headache)- which is what it did when i read some of the “other comments” in the link……
    I’ve been labeled as the “token charismatic” in cohort mtg’s and that “pomo” (as if it were a new kind of 4 letter word that should be repented for) in charismatic spaces. It is kinda funny, that to the EC folks i’m tagged as one thing and vise versa……. and in both aspects, someone’s ALWAYS quoting someone else!
    Perhaps this will lead to a blog post title… “can you be Charismatic and still have a Brain”- i’m sure that would go over like a fart in church during silent prayer.- But for me that is how it feels… if i challenge a stream of “thought” or “Heebee Geeebeeeees” in the Spirit.
    I’ve been a bit vocal on my frustration with Emergent Circles (some more than others)- where there appears or seems to have a prerequisite of 146 I.Q. or above, pending permission to show up to the table. Where by the same token – the elitist aspects of the Charismatic discussion, tend to circle around what you “felt” Holy Spirit was doing.- Heaven forbid you don’t know the “buzz” words in either arena. HOWEVER………. You can still get an accurate pulse either on the wrist or on the foot (writer- thinkers vs doer- feelers) unless the blood ain’t flowing at all and then we have a bigger problem.
    I knew i heard prophetically to open the doors to my home in 97-98 (at the same time a notorious CLOWN came to town… 😉 and what i knew in my spirit was God wanted a little more elbow room than the local Vineyard. With that came late night/early morning discussion of theology, doctrine, and all the like… with the big inclusion of “how do we limit God by our thoughts on “how to do things”…. EC terms orthopraxis vs orthodoxy —– (which COULD include a ORTHOTICS for your shoes to walk a little more balanced and a Chiro- PRACTIC adjustment to get your head on straight- or out of a few dark holes)
    So to question why Charismatic’s or the like weren’t in the convo- i guess that would largely depend on to whom you were speaking. Perhaps … we could jump in the rabbit hole and see what things both groups have in common- cheat sheet/ cliff note version to jump start a convo, complete with a lexicon of denominational colloquialisms.
    Since both sides of the camp weren’t exactly speaking each other language i find it a bit difficult exclude the Pentecostal and or charismatic side of the tracts as completely opting OUT of the Convo.
    The “Thinkers” seemed to be deconstructing … while the “Feelers” were doing a bit of reprograming … i hate to sound so Meyer’s Brigg’s on the matter, but personality type does play into this – as well as Right Brain vs. Left Brain in dominance. Mystical Progressives (if i could tack a’nuther lens on the scope) have been around a long time, nudging and praying…… hoping for the Relational Emmaus Road, that we might just recognize Him in each other.
    Love and stuff…………..
    xo Cathryn

  • i love the emerging church and believe we are in a postmodern era. As stated above, i am a formal charismatic, semi-penetcostal, who has left that tribe way behind because of all the weirdness and fundamentalism i experienced. Not that all charismatic and pentecostals are that way, for the record.
    Yet, sometimes within emerging church circles, there comes a cross an intellectual elitism at times. i like to call it INTELLECTUAL MASTURBATION! It bugs me sometimes. i am not stupid, and i enjoy deep conversations, but not everyone knows, understands, or is familiar with big theological and philosophical terms. Thus, those in the emerging church segment of the population can risk being exclusive instead of inclusive, which is one of their tenets.
    Thus, where i think charismatics/pentecostals can find trouble fitting in with emerging church folks. At least from my OWN PERSONAL EXPERIENCE, we basically were expected to leave our thinking and inquisitive minds at the church door, listen to the teachings of the pastor as gospel, cuz he can hear rightly from GOD, and only read Christian books affirming his teachings. Rigorous outside research and scholarship was to be thrown out, including reading anything secular like philosophers who might be atheists. They had no place. i could not take this and i left. So, i was drawn to emerging church folks but at times feel ostracized as well. But, i feel more at home here in this tribe than anywhere else for now. No entity or person(s) is/are perfect. Continuing dialogue is good and NEEDED.
    Ok, i’ve rambled on long enough!

  • mark says:

    Hello Andrew and everyone else. I am Pentecostal (although I hate the label) and got on board with emergent relatively early (1998 at Glorieta, NM gathering- when it was still called “youngleaders”). I also published a book with Emergent/YS/Zondervan.
    I haven’t read his full article yet, but there are many other factors that contributed to a lack of PentEmergacostals.
    One of these is that Pentecostals tend to stay within their own circles. If there is a Christian subculture, then there is also a Pentecostal subculture. There are many reasons for this, but the fact is that it has hurt the movement. While Pentecostals are into missions around the globe, they tend to be less missional at home (revival [event] evangelism vs. cultural relevance).
    There are signs that this is changing, but it takes a lot of time to change a culture.
    And yes, there are Pentecostal/charismatic movements that have every sign of being an “emerging” movement but are under the radar of the emergent (or whatever we are now calling it) movement. The International House of Prayer is one of them as there are dozens of others.
    But the reality is, with or without a tie to the emergent community, if recent stats hold true, the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement will be a major influence around the world (1 billion by the middle of the century). If that is not an “emerging” movement, I’m not sure what is.
    Thanks for the post.

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