The emerging church and their stupid, silly names!

Some classic quotes on the emerging church from Stephen Holland of Westhoughton Evangelical Church from the sermon "The Emerging Church – The Latest Heresy"

"They all have strange names! They don't have, you know, Emergent
Evangelical Church or Emergent Church. They have stupid, silly names!"

This is true. You wouldn't believe the names I have come across. And a pastor in Germany last week told me that their new church plant doesn't have a name and doesn't want one. What would the Apostle Paul think of that?

"In the United States there was a group of people gathering together that met. None of them seemed to have much theological understanding at all but they seemed to get together and hold conferences. And out of this grew the emerging church."

Thats FUNNY!! Well, I was one of those people and yep . . . no argument there, except that the emerging church was already raging around the world and this group (Young Leaders sponsored by Leadership Network) was just one of the many.

Also in the sermon is a great moment, somewhere during a critique of "Emergent leader Michael Moynagh's" book EmergingChurch.intro, when "Emergent leader George Lings" gets a good THRASHING for suggesting that
the Bible testifies to the creative power of God. My gosh!

After slamming the missional church and emerging church for "experimentation", Stephen Holland points to William Carey as an example. Now here I have to jump in and politely disagree with the preacher, or at least ask a question:

To what extent was William Carey "experimental" when he arrived on the shores of India. Did he know instinctively what to do after spending his life in England or did he have some trial and error as he set up his printing business and translation work? Thoughts?

Related: George Lings on emerging church. Read more about George, his commitment to re-imagine church and his rampant experimentation here. You have probably already read his contributions to Mission Shaped Church. A wonderful fellow, is George and as you can tell, I am standing with him on this one.


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.


  • Fred says:

    So, William Carey was emergent. Who knew?

  • Andrew says:

    Good point. How would you describe William Carey’s first efforts in India in today’s language?
    Social enterprise? Monastic order? missional?

  • Andrew,
    I think we have had this conversation before. It is helpful to engage each other and ask why have some used new ways of identifying their communities/Churches (usually to reach out in the way of Jesus).
    The last “normal” transition the church identified herself with, was “categorization” (that fit well in the context of the modern mechanized world).
    Example: “1st Baptist Church of Houston”.
    1st = The establishment of the church.
    Baptist = The theology of the church.
    Houston = The location of the church.
    Now the identifier has shifted to the “Story” or “Mission” of the Church (that fits well in the context of the postmodern world).
    Example: “rockHARBOR”
    rock = Contrasting building on rock or sand.
    HARBOR = A safe place for all to follow Jesus.
    In the future our children will have their own way of identifying their Church and I/WE will need to let go of what is familiar/comfortable to us – for the cause of Christ…

  • Revsimmy says:

    Well, one good reason for having a “stupid, silly name” might be to make it harder for people like Stephen Holland to know exactly which “heresy box” to put the church into. A name like “Fakeville Emergent Church” makes life so much easier for them, because then they think they know what they are dealing with.
    It doesn’t stop them, though.

  • Andrew says:

    Revsimmy – agreed. thanks
    Spencer – i was just thinking this morning on the “First Baptist Church” name and perhaps the Baptists are also quite competitive with each other so the church that gets there FIRST gets some kind of status, at least more than SECOND Baptist Church which will always be the runner-up in this race.

  • Joe says:

    I was in Kolkata and West Bengal in September working with some churches there. Everywhere we went we saw the effects of Carey’s life and work. ‘Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.’ This quote was in every church!
    I never realised the extent of what he achieved with orphans, widows, lepers etc etc. He was the father of experimentation, emerging, social action, missional etc etc. There is no way this cobbler from England knew exactly what to do when he arrived. There were mistakes and trials.
    The Indian church leaders still deeply admire and respect him.
    I agree with you about George Lings, great guy. Stuary Murray is also a great voice. Have you read his book ‘Planting Churches’?
    Came across your blog and really like it.

  • Andrew,
    God point on the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd… Sad to say but some times the 1st was the “White” church and the 2nd was the “Others”… It could be the racial or social designation as much as other ways of defining the church in a systematic way. But normally it severed the function of establishment (where the church was planted would have all of these distinctions – “other side of the tracks”…)

  • Andrew says:

    2nd Other Church? he he

  • Aww, i was hoping to read more silly church names 🙂
    I have a friend who attends “Imperfect Faith… something church”
    At least they’re honest.

  • Andy Dodwell says:

    we’re not very good with silly names… we have a community called ‘Church Outside’…anybody want to guess where they worship?
    names are one of those things though- you need some form of identifier, but what do you choose? anything you use, whether it be story based, category based, whatever, then has to be understood by the hearer, and they’ll only go and interpret it the way they want to:
    ‘Church Outside’, can’t they afford a building? What do they do when it rains? etc

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