Family at the Tate modern
we who are poor

Emerging Church Definition 2.0


TALLSKINNYKIWI: - Parties. In Japan, I attended a party that was one of many now being started in that country. The parties happen in a home, with lots of food, a DJ, and discussion on spiritual things. As people decide to follow Jesus, the group gradually becomes a church, but it keeps its party format. This is more than just an example of something different, it is a choice to model church around a party with a purpose, instead of a formal meeting that is interesting or lively. I see this idea of church as a party behind much of emerging church thinking around the world.

- House churches are also becoming increasingly popular,

and in some countries represent the bulk of new churches. These are different than the household churches that UK saw in the 1970s. The houses are not wanna-be sanctuaries but simply the best place to have church, a safe [big deal for dangerous countries] and relational place to share life together. Add the new technologies, soft couches, multiple rooms, some really good food, the ability to start tomorrow, and you can see the appeal.
- Monastic models of church are now a viable option for young people in urban centers who want more than a Sunday service and a higher level of commitment. We are seeing monastic or intentional residential communities emerge inside non-Catholic structures such as Vineyard and Baptist, many of them creating their own communal vows. They are no longer seen as a second-level structure, but rather a viable alternative to the ecclesiastic/gathering form of church that has previously subjugated other models to the level of “parachurch” or treated them as appendages to “real church”.

- The practice of pilgrimage is increasingly popular, as is other forms of navigable worship using motion and movement like labyrinths, prayer walks, or stations of the cross.  Nothing new under the sun, of course. This may be a return to a previous inclusion of movement in worship as experienced at Old Testament Festivals or the Psalms of Ascent.

- Festivals are becoming a significant part of church life and are generally growing around the world. As a yearly gathering, they provide an important element to small organic churches and communities that lack a denomination or larger network.
- The internet is adding a significant slice of church life to the layers. It is not replacing church, just as the phone or TV did not replace church. But it is providing a place for greater visibility, storytelling, self-publishing, accountability, witness, and networking. I believe the Christian bloggers, or Theoblogians, are the people currently closest to the action and in the best position to explore future possibilities. There is a renaissance of writing at the moment, the end of post-literacy, linked closely to the value of co-authorship. And most of the church is missing out.
- Style-culture churches are still popular in some countries, where there exists a well defined underground rave/goth/punk/hippie subculture (Germany and South America come to mind). These churches have their place as lighthouses for those in the transition out of modernity’s excesses. They form part of the emerging church landscape although I would locate them back towards the stage of early post-modernity.
Believers who do not belong to an institutional church are no longer seen as unchurched or backslidden. They are a large part of Christ’s body [a majority, some argue] and they may become of the most important players in developing organic and relational church forms for UK.

- Traditional churches have been informing emerging churches and are not excluded from being influenced themselves. As they open up to more participation, they are seeing emerging elements appear. In the near future, I expect innovation to be just as common in traditional churches than in the organic. For example, I would imagine that the addition of a WiFi internet signal and an adjoining room for interactivity during the service of a traditional church will start a chain of events that will bring the preaching and teaching of the word closer together with the response of the congregation. This will help in closing the gap between traditional church and emerging church.

I could name other examples, (I haven’t mentioned café/club churches) but I feel that the change goes deeper than just new models and certainly deeper than defining church by a building. The real difference lies in a new way of understanding church. When emerging people zoom out to see the whole church, the invisible church, they see church in modular form, as discrete but connected elements working together in a harmonious system. Church life then has more to do with the combination of many activities and projects and events than participation with any single event or commitment that tries to define the church experience.
You could say that the same change has happened to banking. We hardly ever “go to our bank” and no longer have a single banker, but instead utilize a vast range of financial services to manage our assets. As the emerging church becomes more modular, attention moves away from the single event (the worship service in many of our denominations) and relies more on festivals, projects, relational events and spontaneous happenings. The church in its invisible form (source code, to use new media language) is privileged over its visible expression which is seen as temporary and changeable. This may explain why some emerging churches decide not to have a worship service at all but rather a series of interrelated happenings that meet that need. They see church as what they are, rather than what they do.

Tomorrow - 3. Why do you think the idea of an emerging church has gained such popularity over the last few years - why do so many want a part of it?


ADDED: Oct 2006
Here are the links to my answers:

Defining the Emerging Church

Emerging Church Definition 1.0
Emerging church Definition 2.0
Emerging Church Definition 3.0
Emerging church Definition 4.0
Emerging church Defintion Additional
I believe the magazine published this but i dont think i ever got a copy.

I briefed a number of American Foundations on the emerging church scene. You can read what i said at