What do you do when a revolution isn’t sexy anymore?

Despite the Christmas vacation away from my computer screen, I’ve followed a bit of the blog banter around Andrew Jones’ (aka Tall Skinny Kiwi) blog post declaring the end-date of the Emerging Church Movement.  What I say below is in no means a way to throw criticism back in Andrew’s face, as he has brought up thoughts and questions I’ve shared in the past year.  Rather it’s a way of processing what this point in our history as a movement means for all of us—those of us who have been around a while, as well as those of us who are just beginning.

I stumbled into this conversation as an eighteen year old college freshman in Waco, Texas.  A few short years later, I felt as if I’d accidentally been placed among a fabulous group of people who happened to be sitting on top of a revolutionary volcano.  It was thrilling, and sexy, and I quite literally believed that we were going to change the world.  I can recall that feeling like it was yesterday.

Since then, I’ve gotten a seminary degree, had two children, and I now pastor a church that just celebrated its tenth year as one of the first independent emerging communities of faith.  This is the part of the love story where you begin to wear your proverbial curlers to bed.

The truth is, everybody loves the beginning of a revolution.  (Well, at least those of us who enjoy playing the part of the revolutionaries!)  You have the distinct honor of experiencing and witnessing a slew of firsts- and sometimes being one, too.   You get the thrill of telling people ideas they haven’t heard before and watching their expressions as little fireworks go off in their heads (for better and for worse).   But no revolution stays in its honeymoon period forever.  At some point, you have to come home and start the hard work of actually making a life together, and you have to do it out of the banality of everyday things like  grocery lists and flu season and tax day.  You have to hold a church gathering when you’re feeling uninspired to create new cutting-edge stations.  You have to figure out a way to make ends meet on a shoestring budget.  You have to find pastoral words of wisdom not for yet another person going through a postmodern faith crisis (“I’ve got plenty of thoughts on that!  I can help!”) but someone who just lost a loved one to cancer.  None of those concessions mean that you are giving up the revolution any more than returning from the honeymoon means you’re giving up the marriage.  It means you believe in this thing deeply enough to stick around, even when the thrill of that first kiss has dissipated.

I’ll freely admit- I went through a time of mourning that the sexiness of the new revolution is likely behind us.  Those were some great moments.  But then one day, something beautiful dawned on me:  the reason why it doesn’t feel as new and cutting edge anymore is because it worked.  These new ideas actually infiltrated such strange and previously unheard-of places as Bible colleges (who would have thought in 1999 that ANY place, much less a Bible college, would offer a degree in emerging church studies???) and denominational headquarters (whoever would have thought we’d gain the appreciative ear of the Archbishop of CANTERBURY?!) and the shelves of Barnes and Noble (who’d have guessed this conversation would produce stacks and stacks of books that publishers wanted to buy and readers wanted to purchase?!).  Who knew that there would be so many communities of faith across the GLOBE putting this theology and ecclesiology into practice for people trying to find a way to follow Jesus?

If Andrew thinks that 2009 is the year the emerging church conversation ceased to be controversial, it’s because we have convinced enough of the status quo that we’re right.

I remember a moment in 2004 at the National Pastors Convention/Emergent Convention in Nashville when Doug Pagitt and I were walking down the hallway.  The evening general sessions were both underway, and as we walked past the door of the NPC session, we noticed there was an artist painting live on stage, and a camera was showing his work and displaying it up on huge video screens overhead for all to see.  We looked at each other, wide-eyed.  Even though we may not have understood how they were using art in their main session, the fact that they were using art was a remarkable sign that they had been listening to us.  We realized that our call for having the arts become a more recognizable part of our worship life together struck a chord with people, and as such, there would be no way to control how/why others would apply this to their own lives and circumstances. There is both awe and frustration in a realization like that.

Once a movement actually gets accepted into the mainstream, new problems arise.  Sometimes the controversial ideas get domesticated into institutional structures.  Sometimes the controversial theology stops short of making enough waves.  Sometimes we get lazy and think we’ve reached the finish line far too early on.  Sometimes the indie group hits it big and its original die-hard fans cry sellout.   We started a revolution, and we cannot control what people do with the ideas.  And sometimes, what people do with our beloved revolutionary ideas will make us want to pull our hair out.   But in that is a sense of accomplishment, too- we said something that has inspired action, even if it wasn’t what we had bargained for.

The revolution we now call the emerging church movement may  not be as sexy as it once was.  It may not be feeding our endless obsession for what’s new and what’s next.  It may not have arrived in current form the way we had wanted or anticipated.  It may not be stroking our egos as much as it used to, now that some random guy on the streets of Dallas can probably define “missional” without our help.  But it is far from over.

As someone who is driven by challenges, I like to look at our current chapter in this global emerging church revolution in a different way.  Now that we’ve gained a following, our challenge to be revolutionary is more important, and more difficult, than ever.   Now we must figure out a way to push the envelope in the middle of something that’s become familiar, to try to redefine church when everyone assumes they know the answer already, to speak poignantly enough so as not to be confused with the pre-fab, boxed kit, marketed products now sitting on the 50% off  table.  We got the audience we wanted, complete with a readily listening ear.  Now what will we tell them?

When women gained the right to vote, nobody said the suffragette movement was over.  They said the suffragette movement was successfully accomplished.  If 2009 is an end-date, it’s that our hopes of gaining influence among church leaders and Jesus followers has been rousingly, beautifully, Spirit-infusingly, globally accomplished.  All those women who were active suffragettes didn’t go home and put up their sneakers after their big win, either.  They sat down at a table with their friends and said, “Okay, one down.  Now what next?”  That’s where we are right now, and I personally believe we have plenty of work left to be done.  We have institutional structures that still desperately need reform.  (Just because the Archbishop likes us doesn’t mean we couldn’t say a few more words he needs to hear!)  We have theology that is broken and tired and unhelpful that desperately needs to be revisioned, rethought, reinvented.  We have communities of faith (and pastors leading them) who still need examples of how to live sustainably and holistically.  And I’m certain we each know plenty of people who are just trying to find a way forward in faith, still trying to ask the simplest, most important question of all (and I’d suggest it’s the question we all must ask ourselves, over and over again):  How do I follow Jesus faithfully in this world in which I live?

When I think of all the questions facing us as we enter the second decade of the 21st century, I get both giddy and dizzy at all the new ground we’ll get to cover- and that we’ll need to cover.  And I know, as we start to ask those questions and come up with our first round of answers, there will still be people joining this conversation who have yet to hear the word “missional” and others who could really use some help in re-envisioning their church gathering to reflect a change from hierarchy to web.  Somebody’s going to need friends to discuss how great the idea of perichoresis is and how brilliantly Moltmann applies it to our ecclesial shared life (and that person should call me!). Someone is going to read one of these Emergent books for the first time while browsing through Barnes and Noble and need a cohort of people to walk with through each of the questions it raises.   Someone is going to need a friend and fellow companion to walk this road.  And the beautiful, Spirit-drenched truth is that we have friends to recommend, and churches and communities of faith where we can send them, and books we can give them, and a map of cohorts we can offer up.  And as sexy as it was fifteen years ago, we didn’t have any of that on our side.  If our goal in this movement is to help people follow Jesus better in our current world, we’ve created entire networks of friendships and artifacts that can be of great comfort and help.  We’ve become that married couple who has the weight of all those beautiful memories on its side, even if it’s added a few extra pounds.

As I survey my own experience of this movement over the last decade+, there are some things I’d change and some things I hope to change.  But overall, I feel incredibly proud and humbled to have been a tiny, tiny part of what the Spirit is doing in our midst.  Our conversation may have taken flight, but our aerial journey is far from being ready to land.  Call me a revolutionary, but I’ve still got plenty of feathers I plan on ruffling.


  1. Rock on, Danielle. Great post!!

  2. That…was…awesome.

  3. Hello everyone,

    My friend Eliacin Rosario-Cruz turned me onto this blog by way of his Facebook status.

    Not to be a naysayer, but I’m wondering how the emergent church movement was ever a revolution? For whom was it a revolution? Was it for the majority culture of North America, Britain, and Australia? Moreover, how is the emergent church movement revolutionary if it is still built upon the same dualistic, Greek worldview as its envelope pushing predecessors?

    My wife and her family are First Nations Christians in Canada; I’m a white guy from the U.S. From our point of view, emergent made very little, if any, room for the contexualization of culture in the Church. While we appreciate that it may have cracked the door open, we struggle to understand why most of the proponents of the emergent movement are still middle to upper class white folks?

    We are fortunate to be personally acquainted with one of the founders of the emergent church movement who, at a conference in British Columbia in June 2009 echoed the above observations. Hearing from him in June at a conference in British Columbia, our hope is strengthened that those who have been touched, whether briefly or blown over, by the emergent church phenom. would be able to look past this, beyond even the missional “movement,” and beyond anything that promotes strictly a dualistic Western worldview as the only determinant of how to articulate and practice Christian faith.

    If there ever was a revolution in the church in the late 20th century, that included more than the majority population of the above mentioned countries, I struggle to see where, when, and what that was. If there is to be a revolution in the early 21st century, let us hope that the majority culture is willing to set aside space for listening to the voices speaking on the margins, and it is my hope that it is truly listening and not simply tolerating.

    Thank you for your post. Peace to you.
    Daniel Lowe
    Edmonton, Alberta Canada

  4. Damn. That’s good stuff, Danielle. Amen and amen.

  5. Great thoughts, Danielle. I have to ask, though, was the emerging movement ever meant to be “sexy”? Isn’t the whole idea to be authentic and be who we are, warts and all? That’s what attracted me to the conversation, and what gets me in trouble in my mainline church circles. This is probably a nit-picky comment, but I can’t help but wonder if the loss of the sexy sheen isn’t a good thing for the movement because the fair-weather fans will move on to the next “cool” thing and let those who really get it (God, that sounds so elitist!) do the real work.

  6. Hi Daniel- thanks for your comment! Whenever you throw out a term like “revolution” it’s going to have different meanings for people, but I’d argue that yes, what has been labeled the emerging church conversation has begun the process of revolutionizing the theology and ecclesiological practices of the Church. We are reforming the traditions and ideas handed down to us by both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism and even Orthodoxy. Further, we are not only rethinking old things and reintroducing forgotten concepts; we are also creating entirely new ones. (Consider the role technology is playing in the realm of spiritual disciplines and community formation, or the theological conversations about issues like terrorism post-911 and human sexuality and global trade. There are no answers or traditions for any of these things yet, so we’re making it up as we go along.)

    I would also argue that from the beginning of my experience in the emerging church movement, there has been a strong and decisive reaction against Greek dualism in all its forms, and an argument for a more holistic way of seeing all of life. In fact, that is one of its readily recognizable hallmarks. If there are pockets of the conversation that haven’t moved past these dualities, I hope they catch up very soon.

    As for the “whiteness” of the conversation, I would reiterate Andrew’s point that the biggest emerging church conversation of 2010 will likely be in Brazil. Though the UK and the US and other places may be moving past conferences at this stage, this conversation is sprouting and flourishing globally, and I’m thrilled and excited to watch and listen and learn as other cultures make sense of these shared questions in their own contexts. I’d venture to guess that though it may have arrived on your radar and mine from a European origin, in ten years that will no longer be true for most people in the conversation. And I think that’s fantastic. (As a side note, I love hearing that these questions are crossing religious lines as well. We’ve had some wonderful conversations with rabbis who consider themselves “emerging” and I hope this cross-pollination continues as well.)

    Matt- I certainly don’t think anyone set out to make the emerging movement “sexy.” Honestly, it started in desperation as a way of saving our faith and, as you hinted, show our cards to one another honestly. That being said, my post was simply a way of acknowledging the thrill of being an “early adopter” as a different place than the one we inhabit now. I’m with you, though- the people who latched onto this conversation only for the cool points will move on, and that will happily leave us to do the hard and satisfying work of pushing this movement forward.

  7. I feel like I don’t care who says what is dead or sexy- I mean, I know what these last 5 years has meant to me and to those around me, how it’s moved us and changed us and opened our eyes to new ways of thinking. 6 or 7 years ago I would have judged people for being “other” and thought I was being protective of the gospel message of Jesus. Now I’ve learned a whole new way of looking at the world, talking about the kingdom of God as coming here and in-breaking now. For someone to come along and say, “well, it’s all dead now,” (and I don’t care who it is or how long he or she has been “a part of the movement” or considered a founder of it or not) feels to me like a sort of “looking down” on those of us who perhaps are younger or just now discovering this kind of stuff (relatively speaking to others who have been here since 89 or whatever- for me I just started hearing about it in ’04 or so). I mean, I was only 9 years old at the time and being brought up way too fundamentally.

    So it can be called dead, I suppose, but I don’t care. It’s a breath of fresh air to me, it makes me feel like I have a place to belong and not be judged, where I can follow Jesus with all of who I am and be open and real and loving and compassionate and accepting of others.

    For me, the revolution isn’t dead- it will keep going on for me and a lot of people I know. And I hope it never dies- I hope I am breaking new ground when I am approaching death’s door and exploring new expressions of the Kingdom of Heaven.

  8. if someone declared it dead, i would feel the same way. well said.

    but could i add that i have not actually said it was dead (i never used the word) but rather that it is entering a new mature level that is beyond controversy. similar to what danielle is saying

    good post. thanks.

    hi daniel! good to hear from you again. sorry you couldnt make our event in poland – we did some native american drum worship and you would have enjoyed it.

  9. Danielle,

    Short reply here. I have to go to work. Can you give specific examples of how emergent has ousted greek dualism? I struggle to see concepts or ideas (granted, I don’t know them all but did do [or was required to do…LOL…] some extensive study on emergent in seminary) that are not rooted in the foundation of greek, Western dualism.

    In regards to emergent and Brazil, I have a few questions. Have the leaders and proponents of emergent set up defense mechanisms against theological neo-colonialism? Moreover, I hope that emergent can become Brazilian, with its own cultural flair, experience, theology, etc. Again, I struggle to see how ideas that have come out of the West and been “placed” into other contexts have actually become flavored by those contexts; instead, it seems as though the West flavors those places (a nice way to say colonialism still happens).

    Andrew, that’s great to hear; who led in the drum ceremony? I would have loved to hear the speakers from Native North America in Poland. I imagine that they would have had some great things to say in response to various European Christian movements in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

    Peace all.

  10. Andrew, just for clarification here…Is emergent’s new level beyond controversy or is it that it is moving to a new level beyond controversy?

    Thanks bro. We should have a beer together some day.

  11. Hi Andrew, thanks for dropping by. I do think we are in some ways saying the same thing here; however, when you use an end-date in the same way one does in an obituary, it does send a specific tone and message. I agree the chapter is different, but I think we’re still in the same book and have yet to reach the conclusion. And I do hope we can find ways to continue to be rightly controversial. We don’t need to convince some people that pub churches are legit anymore, but they could use some shaking up in the theological department on a great many things, I’m sure!

    Dan- Philosophically speaking, Emergent (and here I’m talking about Emergent Village, which is the group I’ve walked with the most) has always been post-foundationalist. We do not adhere either to the foundation of the modern fundamentalist understanding of inerrant Scripture nor do we adhere to the experiential foundation heralded by modern liberalism. Though each of these camps would (and continue to) argue that they are different from one another, in fact they are philosophically two sides of the same coin. They are based on a foundationalist philosophy that remains at its core dualistic. One must either choose the outside source of Scripture or the inner source of personal experience and emotion. We reject this entire structure as unhelpful, and have moved instead to what WVO Quine has called holism. This posture of refusing to choose between binary opposites on any subject has landed us in the middle of a hefty load of controversy over the years, but our emphasis on synthesis over thesis and antithesis remains central to whatever this emerging theology is becoming.

    On a more specific level, most of us resolutely reject categories like the “omnis” of God’s character (derived not from Scripture but from Platonic ideals), much if not all of Augustinian thought, and ecclesial structures in the Reformation that exalt and engage the head while rejecting or ignoring the rest of the body. Further, our eschatology is not remotely dualistic or escapist, because the emphasis is not on some sort of split between soul and body but rather on a life lived as whole people of God.

    As for your comments on the event in Brazil, it is my understanding that the event is not put on by Westerners trying to outsource “our” movement to Brazil but rather by a group of Brazilians who decided to have a conference discussing these issues that are gaining steam among them. In fact, this is how it’s happened worldwide, which is a sign to me that the Spirit has been moving all of us and is now connecting us so we can talk about it and share our stories. (Amahoro Africa is a great example of this.) The last thing I’d hope for is “that emergent can become Brazilian.” Would that not be colonialism, too? I much prefer the way it’s happened, with each of us discovering these issues and questions in our own contexts and then sharing notes.

  12. Thank you Danielle,

    Without emerging church community, I would not survive my encounter with Christianity after my wide-eyed baptism and subsequent immigrant experience in USA. The amount of love, challenge, and wisdom I have received from this “missional network of friends” is sort of a thing I imagine one would walk away with after receiving personal help form Jesus.

    I have a testimony, gratitude, and resolve that will last me for life.

    As for leaving the sexiness of our beginnings behind, I am all for it. I think we have so many new positions and ideas to explore that require experienced lovers.


  13. Jenn LeBlanc and Jeanine Lowe-LeBlancDecember 31, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Hey all,

    We’ve been following this very interesting blog post for a bit now, and decided that we would like the opportunity to respond as well. I, Jeanine Lowe-LeBlanc am married to Dan Lowe and Jenn is my twin sister.

    We are First Nations women (Mi’kmaq from the Gaspe peninsula in Eastern Canada) and have been members of a global indigenous Christian movement since we were kids. Because of the worldview in which we have been immersed, we have found that the church has been unwilling to change the structures in which they operate and through which they express Christian faith. We have often found it very frustrating as those who are not from the dominant culture (i.e. dominant culture = Western culture) to attend church but not feel as though we can contribute who we are or feel a part of it. I.e. basic service structure set up to reinforce Western values/traditions/spirituality/expressions of Christian faith etc.

    Danielle, you mentioned that you “We are reforming the traditions and ideas handed down to us by both Protestantism and Roman Catholicism and even Orthodoxy.” While reading this, we realized again that these are systems of expressing Christian faith that have often excluded indigenous voices and have often

    We are interested to hear how in your own emergent context you are reinforcing values/traditions/cultures/expressions of Christian faith (and not simply in a manner which conveys “tokenism”, “romanticism”, or “entertainment”) that are not typically Western in nature? We have always felt marginal in the expression of Christian faith in the church and would like to know how an emergent context might be attempting to bring justice to this area.

    Out of necessity, to be authentically who we are as First Nations Christians, we have had to step outside the narrow constructs that the church of the dominant culture has prescribed. Therefore, we have created contexts in which we can do so, and not feel as though we were being marginalized, yet again. For instance, the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous People which is held every two years in a different global location has provided a context in which indigenous people the world around can come together and express their faith in Christ with their own traditions/customs/music/traditional knowledge, etc. It would be our hope that this would permeate the larger global church, so that it would not be something that would happen every 2 years, but that it would be an admitted part of the church.

    We also believe that indigenous people provide a much needed critique of the Western church today and this includes the emergent church. Changing worldview and incorporating the worldview of others is essential to changing the structure of the Church. It is time to seriously look at this and not just change the practices that we do in Church, but change the worldview.

    Some links for your reference:




    Thanks so much for the forum in which to discuss these issues.

    Winta ‘ako te (Peace.)

    Jeanine Lowe-LeBlanc and Jenn LeBlanc

  14. Hi Jeanine and Jenn. I appreciate your thoughts and am interested to hear more about what you’re doing. As it seems rather far from the original topic of this blog post, and it does not seem conducive to discussion in the comments section, is there a way to take this offline via email to afford more direct communication with one another?

  15. Andrew jonesJanuary 2, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    Wow lots of comments

    Daniel – Trevor macpherson from firefall, Vancouver Canada and his mate Todd led the drum worship
    Trevor started the underground railroad network in the early nineties

    and as for the post about emergent, I actually was talking about the emerging church movement globally rather than any specific group so u might want ask people closer to that group

    Danielle – sorry the 2009 sounded like an end date to those who only got the message on Twitter – it is more of a graduation date because, as u said in your post, it is working. Check out my post the following day on ten types of emerging churches that will no longer upset your grandfather to see what iwas thinking

  16. Andrew,

    Out of curiosity, is Trevor First Nations himself?


  17. Great post, Danielle. Thanks for sharing your thoughts with such clarity. I am so grateful for you and all the others who are on this journey with me. Still much work to do, life to live, questions to ask, love to give. and miles to to before we sleep…

  18. Penny ElsleyJanuary 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm

    Thanks Danielle and everyone…I’m so glad I came across this blog! Only just yesterday I was trying to explain the in’s and out’s of the Emerging Church ‘conversation’ to a friend…and found myself wondering what exactly is unfolding right at this moment. Like Samir, I am one of those who is extremely grateful for this “network of friends” and the challenges and insights and “permissions” it has provided my ongoing faith journey.

    My growing understanding is that what Jeanine, Jenn and Dan are saying actually has A LOT to do with the original post and topic of conversation. Recently while traveling in Canada I had the privilege of hearing a First Nations woman, Diane Longboat, share some of her immense wisdom (see: soulofthemother.org) and so much of what she said resonated with my growing convictions that what is currently ’emerging’ is our need to listen ever more intensely to our indigenous (First Nations) people… in every continent. It is clear to me that their spirituality and values offer us the ‘key’ to so many of our searches and attempts to be churches and communities that live the Gospel in ever more real and connected ways. This is not just a issue of inclusion and inculturation. It is about the need for our emerging principles to reflect and be influenced by ancient spirituality, by those who have always known how to care for the Earth and who possess rich and diverse rituals and processes that enable us humans to “re-connect” with the Great Spirit that dwells in all of creation. Diane spoke of the prophecy of the Rainbow Warriors…that this New Generation of young people are going to be the ones to show us how to re-connect, that they possess all the gifts of the ancestors, but that what we must do is provide this generation with parameters to grow and work within so that they can be young people of honor and leadership and deep spirituality. She suggested that rituals and processes such as Rites of Passage is what is needed for this generation. I can’t help imagining how much our Churches would benefit from this wisdom and these processes. As someone who has left everything behind (my home, Australia) in a search for the way forward for this generation of young people, I can honestly say that no matter how many different faith communities, churches and ‘missions’ I visit in every corner of the Earth, what keeps impacting and influencing me more than anything else is this realisation that the emerging church conversation must shift to focus on a renewed listening to our indigenous peoples. Diane says that “what is before us lies behind us…” Hearing this made me realise that the path on which we walk is not new, it has been laid by our ancestors and so to walk it we must take a seat at that ancient campfire…and ‘listen’

  19. Thanks, all, for the comments.

    Penny- I certainly think your comments are related to the stream known as the emerging church movement. However, my post was responding to the particular question of whether the movement had ended or not (although Andrew insists he didn’t mean it quite that severely). If anything, your comments, as well as those by others, show that there are plenty of topics and ideas people continue to want to discuss, including yours on First Nation spirituality. You might be interested to know of Richard Twiss, if you don’t already, who is arguably the most vocal on these issues in the emerging church. I had the pleasure of speaking on a panel with him a couple of years ago. Sounds like you all would be kindred spirits!

  20. I want to add my voice of thanks and appreciation to all the others posted here, Danielle. What you have written is a poignant, powerful, and substantial essay. Andrew is right in saying that he did not say “dead” as such, but that seems to me almost immaterial here. That is, whatever triggered or tripped this lovely piece from you matters very little by comparison with what it has evoked. We are all the better for this exchange and, therefore, I think, are indebted to both of you.

    Moreover, there is two other things that it seems to me have got a bit lost and that want mentioning here. Emergent Christianity is one-but only one- portion or presentation of Emergence Christianity. Emerging is another, so is Missional Church, so is new-monasticism, so is Fresh Expressions etc., etc. Protestantism was never limited to a Baptist pov or a Lutheran one or a Presbyterian one etc., etc. Nor did all those component parts within Protestantism follow the same precise maturation patterns. Neither will the components of Emergence Christianity. One does not the whole make, in other words

    My other comment here would be that a very sound argument can be made that things like Taize in Europe in the mid-forties or, in this country, the Church of the Saviour in DC, for example, are early and clear presentation of Emergence Christianity. We are not dealing with a decade and a half so much as with a little over half a century of presence here.

  21. danielle – i wish i had started off with a post as clear and generous as yours. phyllis is correct in that your post stands by itself as a great conversation.

    First Nations stuff – yes, I met Richard Twiss in the 80’s and we keep in touch. I received his newsletter and mention him occasionally. GREAT STUFFF!!!!
    Not sure (Daniel) if Trevor is first nations or not – i cant remember – but my wife is part Cherokee (Oklahoma) so its an issue close to home

    and dont worry about the Brazilians getting colonized by American emergentism because Tribal Generation started a decade ago, or longer, and not only precedes EV but is actually quite a large movement all over South and Central America. Actually, sometimes I worry more about a Brazilian colonization of Portugal . . . but thats another story

  22. Phyllis- thanks so much for offering up your wise insights here. I think you’re right on the money that it’s important for all of us to realize we have experienced part of something much, much bigger than our little slice of emergence pie. That should provide us with a sense of humility, as well- we didn’t start this and we won’t be the ones to finish it, either.

    Andrew- Thanks for the kind words. Although, I don’t think I would have taken the time to put these thoughts down if you hadn’t prompted me. I think you have a unique and important perspective in this conversation and I value your point of view.

  23. It never ceases to amaze me how my poorly worded miscommunications can produce such clarity and depth of thought. Whoduthunk?

  24. Danielle, Andrew, et. al.,

    Thanks for the conversation here. A few questions here:

    1) I wonder, has anyone in the emergent/emergence stream written/blogged recently on the impact of indigenous Christianity and its impact, challenge, and call for renewal in regard to emergent/emergence/missional/new monasticism etc?

    2) Has anyone considered doing so?

    3) In conversations between emergent, missional, and other primarily Western based expressions of the faith do indigenous (non-western) expressions fall on the radar for these pieces of the church?

  25. Jeanine Lowe-LeBlancJanuary 7, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Kwe (Hello in Mi’kmaq):

    Thanks again for the opportunity to contribute to this conversation, although I continue to believe that the very issue that began this discussion (the idea that a “revolution” may be dying) is interconnected with what my sister Jenn and I previously posted. I have a few questions and would love some clarification as a result of reading the rest of these great posts since that time:

    1) What is being termed a “revolution” here?

    2) What are the indicators that it is a revolution?

    3) Who decides/has decided that this is a revolution?

    Andrew, since meeting RIchard Twiss in the 80’s, and in your ongoing conversations with him, how has this interaction and his words in regard to correctives for emergence/emergent Christianity effected your viewpoint in regard to this revolution?

    Thanks again Penny for sharing the wise words of Diane Longboat. And I would agree with her, it is indeed not about inclusion but has always been about contributing what we’ve been given by Creator to the global church body and not simply as an afterthought. It is extremely exciting to be a part of what is going on with global indigenous expressions of Christianity!

    Winta ‘ako te (Peace.)


  26. Rick DiamondJanuary 8, 2010 at 11:23 am

    absolute beauty.
    for me, the beginnings were sexy – exciting – heady – and then has come the work of actually following jesus together on a daily basis with each other in these ways. it’s not nearly as fun. but for me, it’s much more rewarding in a deep sense because it isn’t theoretical for me in the last few years; instead, it’s become real, daily life, being with people, doing this all the time. just real life. but not anything like the real life i had before.
    it takes work and discipline and sacrifice. it’s slow. it’s not all that exciting. but it’s very very good.
    and … i am so proud to be part of a movement / revolution / awakening / cultural moment which has gathered people like danielle who wrote the piece and all the folks who wrote the comments and everyone else who’s part of what this movement / revolution / awakening / cultural moment is about. danielle, this is a piece i will give to the seminary students in a class i’m teaching on emerging church. thank you for saying it, and inspiring the dialogue.

  27. Thanks Rick! I think you put it well- the daily life of living this out is not always exciting but quite rewarding. I think we are trying to live beautiful lives, like Jesus’ life was beautiful. That’s always rewarding, but not as consistently flashy.

    Dan- If someone has blogged about this recently, I am unaware…but then again, I do not spend that much time surfing the blogosphere so that may not mean anything! It seems to me that you have a passion for this topic. Perhaps you should consider answering your own call? ;)

    Jeanine- I can only answer your questions from my very limited viewpoint. I used the term revolution in my blog title because I wanted to refer to an overarching pattern- that people love revolutions, but don’t always love living them out once the crowds have dissipated or the camera crews have gone home. If there is any indication that Emergent Village (the group I am most familiar with) has been part of this wider movement of the Spirit, I can say that we have certainly attempted to reform and change and rethink much of theology and ecclesiology as it has been known in the American West. And it has been wonderful to find that other people, unbeknownst to us, across the globe have been questioning these same things, and also showing a desire to change both thoughts and practices as they relate to faith. Time, I suppose, will tell if it’s really revolutionary or not. But I certainly think it’s something significant. As for who decides, well, I think it’s a testimony that enough people have felt swept up in this movement to label it “revolutionary” or “life-changing” or “a deep shift” or “a new paradigm” etc. for colleges and seminaries and publishers and Christian leaders across the globe to sit up and pay it attention.

  28. Just want to jump in with agreement on what was so well said in this post. Emergent was a revolution of sorts because it provided conversation and context for those who were feeling stretched to move outside the bounds of a constrained ecclesiology. This isn’t a new feeling at all, but for so many generations the choice was either church as it was or to reject Christianity. The two went together far too closely. Now, there is opportunity for people to really participate with God, with others, with this world in the ways the Spirit is leading. This exploration now offers companionship, guidance, and encouragement. The state of the church in our era is radically different than what was ‘allowed’ only a few decades ago. In terms of the broader church history, this is indeed revolutionary.

    But, those of us who have been involved in it for a while don’t necessarily feel the initial blast of everything new or exciting. The movement is maturing and approaching questions with new insight and depth, offering not just liturgical change but the more profound theological considerations. That’s not as exciting in a yearly gathering, but it’s still quite thriving and important. Plus, I know from working with younger seminary students that there are still many and many being revolutionized in their own spirituality and ministry by being newly introduced to emerging church ideas. There’s a spectrum of experience, and for those who are new to it, and there are still many discovering it, it’s quite exciting.

    As far as the Brazil question, I don’t know the details about the convention being mentioned, but the idea of emergent being some kind of neo-colonialism seems offtrack to me. Those of us studying the emerging church history, in fact, often go to Brazilian scholars and leaders, as well as others in South America. Liberation Theology and the Base Communities which came out of it have significant similarities. Indeed, I might even suggest that there’s a common trend in global Christianity that takes on different names in different contexts. Emerging churches arose in the context of Western Industrialized nations, and so in pursuing this work of the Spirit tend to emphasize certain aspects and fight against certain trends. The same Spirit, doing a similar work, raises up other contextual movements with the same broad emphases, but distinctive priorities. A Spirit led church in the jungles of South America, for instance, shouldn’t be the same as an urban church in Portland or a suburban church in Texas. Yet, those who follow the Spirit in these contexts can share, and learn from each other, not in mimicry but in a shared bond of Christ whatever the context.

  29. Since this is Danielle’s blog, I’ll add a bit of Moltmann flavoring to my above comment.

    Moltmann talks about liberation in Christ applying to both the oppressed and the oppressors. Both are victims of sin, and both are in need of being liberated and freed from their particular maladies. For those in South America or other places, the indigenous people have suffered historical oppression, oftentimes with the enabling or consent of the Church. For such as these, the message of liberation is one of freedom from their poverty, oppression, giving them hope in the Christ who is not just offering some pie in the sky. Rather, the Spirit brings good news to the poor now. Real good news. They join in the divine perichoresis as fully participating, fully contributing members of God’s church.

    This same work, however, must look different in industrialized, wealthy nations. The name it/claim it theology offering more wealth to the rich, and more power to the powerful is a terrible heresy. Instead, we in these contexts are already significantly more educated, and even the poor among us is often relatively wealthy with significant more opportunities. The revolution of the emerging churches comes in the letting go of power, of resources, of not claiming what we are somehow “owed” but instead letting to and living with, and for, others. It is a kenotic expression of church, liberating us from what seem to be the consistent sins of the Western church’s grasp of more power and more wealth.

    It’s a liberation for freedom, walking in the fullness of Christ in the power of the Spirit, but it takes on different characteristics given the particular needs and problems of the community, and even the individual. The Spirit is not about doing the same thing in everyone, everywhere, but works in each place and each person in the specific way that leads them closer to the image of Christ. In sharing the same themes–community emphasis, shared leadership, open participation, etc.–different contexts open themselves more to this work of the Spirit in their midst. And wherever the Spirit is giving full reign to work, there’s going to be a revolution, which may lose its initial excitement, but like water and fire will make big changes over time.

  30. Enjoying the comments/discussion I am reading here. I describe myself as a mere observer in this conversation, and thus not quite as engaged as some perhaps reading this. I’m currently reading through my C.S. Lewis books again, as I rarely find him irrelevant in any conversation of the Christian life. I stumbled across Letter 25 of The Screwtape Letters where the demon Screwtape, in a concluding discourse, states:

    “The Enemy [God] loves platitudes. Of a proposed course of action He wants men, so far as I can see, to ask very simple questions; is it righteous? Is it prudent? Is it possible? Now if can keep men asking ‘Is it in accordance with the general movement of our time? Is it progressive or reactionary? Is this the way History is going?’ they will neglect the relevant questions.”

    Screwtape goes on to talk about man’s worry and plans for the future. He then says:

    “Once they knew that some changes were for the better, and others for the worse, and others again indifferent. We have largely removed this knowledge. For the descriptive adjective ‘unchanged’ we have substituted the emotional adjective ‘stagnant.’ We have trained them to think of the Future as a promised land which favoured heroes attain- not as something which everyone reaches at the rate of sixty minutes an hour, whatever he does, whoever he is, -Your Affectionate Uncle Screwtape.”

    There are time when I wonder, from my mere observational standpoint, if the conversation does not sometimes veer into the emotional reaction against the “stagnant.” Is this the case when it comes to the strong reaction to TallSkinny’s post?

    Any thoughts?

  31. I enjoyed reading your post. I do not consider myself a Christian, but feel I live my life fully in the spirit of the teachings of Christ, the teachings of Buddha, the teachings of Muhammad. These teachings represent some of the many dialects of the common loving language of God. I am inspired by the Emerging Church movement’s message of personal reflection and spiritual exploration. What intrigues me is that the movement remains focused on the Christian dogma of scripture, a factor which may account for its inability to sidestep its perpetual roadblock to attracting people other than a middle-class male Caucasian majority. The rhetoric, albeit attractive and refreshingly open minded, seems limited to semantics rather than actions. This may be a second point of stagnation. Perhaps the conversation should turn to reviewing the historical and oppressive actions of the Christian faith (along with many other world faiths). Religion, dogma, and dusty instruction books are perhaps the loudest distraction from the inner voice of God. I hear the voice of God in the cough of an uninsured Native American man on my street corner. I see the face of God in African American children playing joyfully on playgrounds covered in broken glass. I feel the presence of God any time I break away from myself to see the world around me. But to do this, I must spend time with my fellow man face-to-face, and help him rise above the broken world derision among us has created. Move this blog to the streets, and much will change. I very much appreciate the work you have accomplished, and the hearts you have open because of it.
    Much Peace to You.

  32. Greg: I think it may be true that for some people, direction is not as important as movement. That is to say, as long as one is moving and feeling like one is doing the newest thing, the particular direction does not necessarily matter. In those cases, you may be right that stagnation is used simply as distraction from what really matters. However, I don’t believe this to be true of EV in general. (And again, I speak of EV since it is where I have lived, though I hardly feel I speak for EV as a whole.) In my estimation, the reaction to TSK’s post was more about declaring something “dead” that others see is still deeply full of life- and also still very important to them. Perhaps, too, it was a refusal to leave this work unfinished. Most of us feel that there is much left to be done, many conversations that still need to be had. We want to keep walking in the right direction.

    All1: Thanks for your comment! If I may, I would disagree that the emerging church movement is dominated by white Western males. I do hear that critique a lot, and certainly there are reasons that concern continually pops up. However, I do not think it categorizes the whole of the movement, where people across the globe are experiencing this deep shift. Many of us in the US who are women and minorities have been around just as long; though people might have to search a little more to find us (and make a choice not simply to stop at the white males “in the front.”) Especially at this point in the conversation, I’d argue it’s just as easy to find a non-male (if not non-white) voice.

    Secondly, there is a great amount of action going on, but again, you do have to search to find it. Most of these communities are living quietly and going about the un-flashy work of justice and peace. (I’m posting today about a conference coming up in Arkansas, which is a great example of how many people “off the radar” are doing honorable things.) I absolutely agree that this is where the future of our movement lies- in the daily practice, in looking squarely at our religious institutions and critiquing them prophetically, in becoming the kind of people who recognize God in the coughs and giggles and tears and joys of those around us (as you so beautifully put it). I’m thankful for all the work that you are doing to live that kind of life! Peace to you!

  33. thanks for these thoughts Danielle! Know you are appreciated from afar today!!!!!

  34. “We have institutional structures that still desperately need reform. (Just because the Archbishop likes us doesn’t mean we couldn’t say a few more words he needs to hear!) We have theology that is broken and tired and unhelpful that desperately needs to be revisioned, rethought, reinvented.”

    The kind of institutional structures that you criticize, Danielle, are the ones that got you guys started. It seems more that the rebellious teenager analogy shoe fits. Your theology seems to allow you to knock hard the ones that ministered you your cohort the most. Do you minister back to the church that ministered you into existence?

  35. There’s more to point out that your attitude is not correct.

  36. something’s wrong.

  37. Hi Bob,

    Thanks for your comments. When one attempts to reform an institution there is always going to be the critique of biting the hand that fed you. However, I do not find this to be a substantial enough reason to cease needed reforms; if so, humanity would never make any progress whatsoever toward justice. (Imagine American slaves not wanting to bite the hands of the masters that fed them, for one.) I am not trying to equate slavery with our far more benevolent attempts at reform, but I do want to point out the problem with such a critique. If applied universally, it would silence us all into an Orwellian world.

    I also would say that your comments assume a strong delineation between an “us” and “them” that I don’t believe exists. Just because one may not attend the same denominational church of one’s childhood does not mean one is now outside the Christian story. We all share the same body, and the same proverbial hands. We all are seeking to make the church more faithful. If there is any call for reform, it is for edification and not teenage rebellious destruction. As such, certainly we are ministering back to the Church that ministered us; this Church is one and the same.

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