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Emergent People January 25, 2005

Posted by fajita in Uncategorized.

Brian McLaren responds to an article by Christianity Today called, Emergent Mystique. Read his annotation of the article here.

The author of the article questioned whether emergent was a movement or not. “Only a few emergent churches,” despite lots of emergent book sales.

Here is what I think is happening. Emergent is giving people a third alternative. Before emergent, many people felt constricted by either sticking it out in their denomination or leaving it altogether. There was no graceful way to be different. With a strong denominational allegiance, most people just stuck to the partyline or quietly rebelled, living one way and believing another.

Emergent is room. It is space. It is a chance to move without leaving.

I am a child of the American Restoration Movement. With the help of emergent (and some other converging forces), I have been able to start to learn how to be a post-restorationist. I do not have to forsake my history to move into the future. I cannot tell you how liberating that is. It’s like saying I don’t have to get a divorce to have change happen in my marriage. Yes, it’s that big a deal. Who knows, some day I might be in a post-restoration church? Who knows, I might plant one? What I do know is that I am emerging from the Restoration Movement, not detaching from it. This is good news. People are emerging faster than churches are.

Yes, people are emerging much much faster than emergent churches are being created. It is better, far better this way, for now. There is coming a day when church planting will be far more postmodern that it is now, but that day is coming. I applaud the pioneers, the experimenters, and the those on the frontier. Not only will they teach us what’s out there, they will teach us how to pioneer, to create, to survive.

What we need right now is what is happening: Emergent People. Emergent Churches are just the next step in the evolution. When enough people emerge, how could churches not emerge with them? People will not tolerate believing one thing and doing something radically different for very long. The church will respond, and I think the churches who respond with an embrace will survive and the ones who respond with attack will die.

For now I say wait if you can, plant if you have to. Right now we’re just preparing the soil, working it, tilling it, disrupting it, de-weeding it, feeding it. From emergent people will come emergent churches, both planted and transformed.



1. MaryAnn M. - January 26, 2005

i think i have read every blog entry on your site….
thank you.
thank you for putting into words what alot of us here are feeling…

2. don - January 26, 2005

Is there such a thing as an emergent university?

3. Fajita - January 26, 2005

This would need, to quote Neo from the Matrix, “Guns, lots of guns.”

Certainly I am not advocating violence, but change that would meet resistence would be necessary. I’m not sure what that would look like. I mean, there are so many contingencies, constituencies, people to please, histories to fulfill and honor, and yes, the donors.

However, with higher ed being in flux and online communities of education forming and proliferating, there may be something abrew here as well. Certainly the brick and mortar schools will resist, not letting go of the corner on the education market without a fight. But it is going to be an if-you-can’t-beat-them-join-them dilemma, and brick and mortar schools will have to join or die.

Accreditation agencies will also have a strong hand in this as well as they wield power.

EU (Emergent University), interesting.

On the other hand, universities lend themselves to tradition. Tradition is lucrative. Furthermore, how long could an institution remain emergent? Could it keep emerging?

This is crazy. My mind is spinning.

I tend to think that universities would experience the same thing churches are, only slower. Emergent people first, then emergent churches, then emergent universities. Unless new universites are formed, then it can move more quickly in pockets first, the more pervasive.

Here I am predicting the future…like an idiot.

4. john alan turner - January 26, 2005

I was all geeked up to continue the conversation over at Greg Taylor’s blog, but he went and changed the subject on us. Glad to see you’ve picked it up here.

As I mentioned on Greg’s blog…I’m not sure “emergent” is the appropriate word for what is being discussed here. There seems to be too much thought involved for this to be “evolving”. This may be morphing or growing, but with so many people thinking so far outside of everyone else’s box, emerging seems too random for what’s happening.

Seems to me this used to be called postmodern — maybe six or seven years ago — when Len Sweet first dropped SoulTsunami on us. But there are serious problems with embracing postmodernism, so emergent has become the word of choice.

Still doesn’t seem to fit for me.

5. David U - January 26, 2005

Chris, great thoughts again today, especially after Greg had wet our taste-buds yesterday. I am less concerned about the naming aspect….I could care less what it is called or named, although I agree with John Allen that there would be negative reaction with a label or name like “Postmodern church”. I am more focused on where it is headed and the good in HIS name that can come from it! I plan on blogging about it today or tomorrow, so let me know if you think I am on track or not. Did Mark Moore get ahold of you? I told him about your blog. I hope you hear from him, and he was excited to hear what you are doing with yourself! 🙂 Everybody needs a Mark Moore in their life, huh?

God bless you brother…….keep writing, because you motivate us to seek and search. Seek and search HIM!


6. Fajita - January 26, 2005

Yeah, I mean, we are dealing with words here, which is limiting. It’s a paradox, really, to give something a name that can at any minute become something different. The very fact of naming something kind of sets a limit to it.

Emergent might not be the perfect word, but it might be the closest approximation of the meaning of what is happening. What is problematic about the word “postmodern” is that it is dependent upon modern as part of its definition, which itself is limiting. “Emergent” provides one more step of freedom. Emergent will have to be ditched as the descriptor word eventually when it is too branded (some say it is already too branded). Andrew Jones seems to think we’re stuck with “emergent” for at least another five years precisely because it is in the title of every next book Zondervan publishes.

Furthermore, emergent is more an observation of what has already been happening than it is prescription of what is to happen. That will change. People hearing and reading Emergent stuff are saying, “yeah, I’ve been feeling the same way,” and “how did that author know what I was experiencing?”

Now this phenomena is getting a language. There are pros and cons to that.

Pro: It is accessible to more people.

Con: Language limits.

Pro: Mutual understanding occurs (or is perceived to occur).

Con: I’m not sure how you can avoid organization once the observation of emergence is widely recognized.

Pro: It is really exciting.

Con: In 200 hundred years will there be First McLarenian Church of Washington that is dying in its rigid emergent tradition?

What I like about the word emergent is that it has all kinds of room for experiment without (much) penalty – as opposed to “postmodern,” which has built in penalty. Postmodern is contaminated while emergent is not yet contaminated. Experimental is good. For example, Solomon’s Porch is a church trying some new stuff and it is making some headway. On the other hand, Spirit Garage: The Church of the Really Big Door, might not be be as theologically profound or making as much headway. Thirdly, First Baptist Church of Jonesboro is listed on ginkworld’s website list of churches, but as a resident of Jonesboro, I assure you they are not on the cutting edge of emergent. However, they are wanting something beyond themselves right now.

Continuing this line of thinking, I think emergent is postmodern, post-liberal, post-evangelical, post-restoration, post-Lutheran, post-_____________. It gathers it all together, which is really the makings of chaos, kind of like the subtitle to Brian McLaren’s “A Generous Orthodoxy.”

Anyway, the headings listed on Greg Taylor’s post are a sampling of the categories which are being explanded under “emergent.”

Yes, there is a leadership. Yes, there is thought and intentionality behind it. Yes, it is not exaclty like a colony of ants – productive and without leadership. However, the leadership and organization is, I think, making observations as much or more than they are making prescriptions. That’s what, in my opinion, makes “emergent” a pretty decent word.

But, whatever you call it, it’s pretty stinking cool.

7. Fajita - January 26, 2005

David, MM got hold of me via e-mail. He’s getting a graduate degree in BLOG, although he’s not a blogger. Thanks for pointing him this way. He and I did some crazy chapel annoucenements at Harding back once upon a time.

We were Hanz and Franz, “here to pump (clap) you up.” Pretty crazy.

8. Keith Brenton - January 26, 2005

Bet those Harding chapel announcements were right up there with Mickey Pounders as Billy Graham and Craig Jones as his “hispanic” translator.

I couldn’t make myself put all of the comments I wanted to here (lest you be deemed guilty by association!), so I just posted it on my own blog.

Thanks for taking up the thread, Fajita!

9. DJG - January 27, 2005

It is a comfort to think of emerging myself without having to leave my church. I think this is the reason I read so many of you guys blogs. It comforts me to know that I am not crazy and just ultra-liberal. I had so many of these thoughts and ideals before I even heard of “emergent”.

Thanks for the challenging posts.

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