The emerging church has fermented on the fringe of society. Over the past 40 years, and around the world, the alternative counterculture has been the context in which new forms of ministry have been birthed. Today, the movement is less alternative and increasingly mainstream, as a wider strata of young people adopt the new cultures. Although the countercultural values are still present.
In Chile, hip hop and hardcore culture have been influential in starting churches in Santiago, and the Christian festival Christock. I was told by a leader in Chile that his country was the first to produce a Christian rock band back in the 1970's. Many of these networks around Latin America gather yearly in Brazil at the festival called Encontro
From the Tribal Generation Brazil website: “New Generation or Urban Tribes is a global phenomenon where frontiers are not barriers, where the values are still being defined in a world called post modern. . . In EUA and Europe the phenomenon is called Emergent Generation and it is made of people that have their values and aims strongly influenced by a global world, adopting its new paradigms or trying to reject everything that the system means.” [more]
In Japan, the “new tribe” of Japanese young people, often characterized by dying their hair a rust color, have been the group that have begun many of the emerging churches in their country among the punk and rave scene. This photo is taken of a young church planter when taught in Tokyo.
“Around the globe, the 18- to 35-year-olds are known as 'Generation X'; in Japan, they are called 'the new race'. Japan's ageing population structure contains over 50 million in this group. For the first time in Japanese history, the young generation no longer represent traditional culture. ”This also means that they are far easier to reach with the gospel than their parents' generation,“ says Fernandez. Japan's denominational churches are growing only slowly, or even shrinking, but many so-called 'third wave' churches are developing a cell-church strategy. The JCCN consists of around 200 churches, each of which has between 2 and 17 cells; these numbers are not very impressive for many countries, but for Japan, a minor revolution.” Source, Dawn Ministries
In Germany, the Jesus Freaks started their first church in 1991 among the punk and metal culture. They now have 80 churches in Germany and their yearly Freakstock Festival numbers 7000. And yet the alternative culture still flavors their ministry.
In Australia, the surfing culture in the late 60’s and early 70's gave birth to many new forms of ministries. Details are found in John Smith's doctoral dissertation (“The Origins, Nature, and Significance of the Jesus Movement as a Revitalization Movement”, 2002)
In Indonesia, street kids among the punk culture have been the first of those to receive Christ. In Norway, Subchurch and the “Disciple Punk” Festival was started among the same group.
In UK, the alternative worship scene started among the rave culture (Nine O’Clock Service) and was also influenced by the punk scene. The early connection with the rave culture partially explains why UK had a head start on worship over USA.
Further: See Measuring Emergentness by Smilies
In USA, the hippie culture of the 60’s birthed many new forms of church and ministry, most of which can be found today in the emerging church. The punk scene of the 70’s gave birth to more churches and eventually the Underground Railroad network of churches among punk, goth and metal cultures. In the mid 90's, many of the emerging ministries, including my own work among the postmodern subcultures in San Francisco, were connected to UR. FoundKids was a mid-nineties movement of rave kids who came to Jesus and ministered around the country. The Prodigal Project formed in the early nineties out of the hippie culture.
Further - Read “Understanding the different Sub-cultures”, and other articles on the Paradox web site
A Global Counterculture.
The emerging culture is more than alternative - it is global.
In Colombia, we brought together emerging church leaders from Japan, USA, Germany and Latin America. We were surprised how connected they all were through their sports and music. The Japanese church had a hip-hop band, and the Californian church used a Karaoke machine for worship. The young black American was a fan of the Colombian soccer team. The Japanese leader was recently at a countercultural youth church in Norway, which is heavily influenced by Japanese Manga comics, and the Norwegian church has sent their hard-core band to Japan where that scene is hugely influential.
These connections are quite normal. Churches around the world may share cultural similarities with each other, and yet differ dramatically from the traditional church on their same street. The connections seem to happen randomly, culturally, or through relationships.