Top Ten Myths about Emerging Church

Short list (for posterity’s sake) of Tony Jones‘ list of Top Ten Myths about the Emerging Church, delivered at Emergence Now at Columbia Theological Seminary January 27, 2010, and reported real time via Bruce Reyes-Chow (who is there as well) through Twitter with @breyeschow.

#1 “Emergence is just about theological debates and publishing contracts.”

#2 “Emergence only appeals to younger people.”

#3 “Emergence is a reformation of evangelicalism.”

#4 “Emergence does not believe in authority.”

#5 “Emergence is confined to the American church and white guys.”

#6 “Emergence doesn’t appreciate church history.”

#7 “Emergence has a spokesperson.”

#8 “Emergence is a new way to ‘do church’.”

#8.5 “Pomomusings is the official blog of the emergent church.”

#9 “Emergence is anti-denominational”

#10 “Emergence is trying to put the conventional church out of business.”

UPDATE 1/27 : Tony posted the slides from yesterday’s talk here.

20 Responses

  1. If there is no…or are no…spokespersons for emergence, why do the same names keep emerging in the conversations or conferences about it?”

  2. I agree with Parker. Sounds a bit like denial. What path of emergence are you referring to btw? What about the myth that emergent means de-Jesusing the message within the church?

  3. @Parker: I tend to agree as well. What’s more, I don’t get why everyone (or some) seems to get so squeamish when it is suggested there are spokespeople. A spokesperson is not the same thing as a leader I don’t think. Why is this such a touchy subject?

    @Rachel: I wasn’t there myself so I don’t know what exactly he said, but I would imagine that he was probably talking about emergent village (and similar) connected “paths,” as that where I associate him, but, I don’t know. Interestingly re: “de-Jesusing,” among my folk, The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers), the Emergent-inspired conversation is about re-Jesusing our tradition. So I for one would agree that that is a myth.

  4. I would have really loved someone to defend the vagueness that seems to typify most emergents. There are hip writers and speakers who don’t have to resort to ambiguousness to get their message across, and yet I find it hard to nail down what emergent writers stand for.

  5. @Andrew: Here’s the crux of it for me, which might be different than your beef: There are ways of being clear without putting forth totalizing doctrinal statements that you insist on being absolutely true for everyone. I feel like some folk believe that if they say what they believe to be true it will be tantamount to launching an attack. It isn’t.

  6. Callid…I agree…I wonder if there is anything intrinsically wrong with a leader as opposed to the ways in which one leads that’s problematic

  7. Callid – thanks for posting this! Pretty cool that tech on the ground can get this up for us so fast.

    “If there is no…or are no…spokespersons for emergence, why do the same names keep emerging in the conversations or conferences about it?”

    Emergence Christianity privileges local knowledge and truth, not the blogging or publishing of strangers. My local congregation is very emergent. But we have no need of a national spokesperson or leader. A popular way of critiquing emerging church is to argue against supposed leaders as if they represent what is going on from congregation to congregation. They don’t. My spokespersons are the people sitting next to me: John Buckwalter, Connie Finney, Ernie Lipscomb, and Beth Stevick. The critique that matters to me is a critique of them.

    I’ve tried to describe my thinking and experience as best as I can here, I hope this can be helpful to someone trying to understand what I’m about.

  8. my response to #8 was not a critique of the entire movement (a movement about which i understand quite a bit), so the question remains: if #8 truly is a myth, then why are John Buckwalter, Connie Finney, Ernie Lipscomb, and Beth Stevick or a collective gathering of other “emergence participants” (for lack of a better phrase) not invited to speak about their views and experiences of (not on behalf of) emergence? it’s difficult to dodge outside critique because you claim to lack structure or by simply asserting that outsiders to that structureless system just don’t “get it.” there is an appearance to the movement that even sympathetic observers might have questions about

  9. Hey Parker,

    I get that you weren’t critiquing an entire movement, I’m sorry that wasn’t clear.

    John Buckwalter, Connie Finney, Ernie Lipscomb, and Beth Stevick are invited to speak about their views and experiences all the time. Every week, even daily, I and my friends are in deep conversation and dialogue with them. This is what I’m saying, the radically local conversation is what matters and where authority, leadership, even representation is found. A stranger with a book deal does not speak for us. He or she is an interesting conversation partner.

  10. As a person who is attempting to do academic research on emergence, I have to identify so-called “spokespersons.” I also have to deal a lot with taxonomies and generalizations. All of these things are somewhat unfaithful to the ideals of emerging thought. For me, the issue at hand is how to understand what the emerging church movement is. Is it actually a movement? From a sociological perspective, it certainly is. It has a specific language, certain uniformity, and even these spokespersons.

    But theologically, emergence is much more like what @Dave H. describes. It exists locally. It affects communities and relationships. Emergence, in this regard, is not a movement, but an ethos. The terms “emerging” and “emergent” only serve to temporarily describe the Church’s need to constantly re-evaluate. And as far as these spokespersons go in this regard, they provide individuals in separate contexts a starting point for conversation.

    I once heard Tony Jones say that writing and promoting his books was the single most profane thing that he does. In other words, it’s just a job. And I think he does it well. But just how much authority we give a person who is just doing his or her job is something that each of us must decide.

  11. Speaking along these lines, Shane Claiborne and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove discussed something very similar on Sojourners recently.

    The way Claiborne talks of intentionally trying to not be someone’s spokesperson makes me wonder. Does one choose to be a spokesperson, or are spokespersons deemed such by those who embrace their words? In other words, can Claiborne actually succeed in his endeavor to not be a spokesperson?

    Also, I totally agree with what he said. I’ll probably start quoting him on it all the time.

  12. Just a different perspective to add to the “spokesperson” conversation. I didn’t know I counted as “emergent” or even what emergent really was until about six months ago when a friend told me that the way I thought of church was “emergent.” I had only read one book by a so-called spokesperson, but I came to think in what I now call “missional” and “emergent” ways because of the influence of studying Methodist history and reading accounts of American Pentecostal revivals. I just thought of it as “the way my generation would want religion.” I think there are lots of folks out there doing things we would call “emergent,” but not calling it that because they came to it through a completely different path. Perhaps we are giving too much credit to the “spokespersons”…

  13. #9 ”Emergence is anti-denominational”. In my humble opinion, I think that is the best Church to go to. If your heart leads you there. God is not Baptist, Methodist or Catholic. He does not care which Church CLUB you belong to.

    These Denominations (Baptist, Catholic, And etc) have their own set of doctrine (rules) for you to be allowed to be part of their club. and most of it is NOT biblical by any means..

    SO if your heart has you in a Non Denominational Church you are in a very good place.. Make sure they teach the bible and nothing but the bible.. It is important that YOU learn what Dad is saying in his letter to YOU (the Bible) and to not rey on any humans interpretation of it.. Jesus tells us that he foretold us all things. Everything you need is IN that Book and if your church is not teaching it, You need to run… With all haste AWAY from that church..

  14. I, like many of you, don't understand the problem of having a leader or a spokesperson.  I think back to THE church of Acts.  What would you consider Paul if not a leader?

Leave a Reply