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Disappointed with Emergent?

2009 June 4
by Julie Clawson

So Nick Fiedler’s recent post, The Great Disappointment (A post about Emergent), has been on my mind. In it, he honestly and candidly expresses his disappointment with emergent for having fizzled out. He’s tired of it and disappointed with the reimagining direction it is taking. He writes -

My friends and I believed that there was a massive tide of change coming. We believed that everything was going to change. We found more and more people reading books by McLaren or others and we thought the interactions with these books would change the world. We knew that there would be this new kind of Christian. We believed that Christianity was on the cusp of evolution.

We didn’t want Emergent to become the new club, but we wanted it to organize so that through gatherings, cohorts, and online social networks it could create it’s own grouping and lovingly force some voices out into the open. That happened a little. But it seems that recently we have lost hope in the Emergent movement. It took it’s hits from the conservatives and instead of coming out stronger for it, it sort of fizzled.

There’s a lot I want to say in response to the post, but it’s hard to know what’s best to say. Others have responded in the comments as well as on blogs (Mike, Jonathan, Makeesha 1 and 2, Drew, Carol, Jonny). And some say that as one of the 24 who met to re-envision Emergent, I shouldn’t be allowed a voice in this conversation anyway. Whatever.

Upfront, I have to admit that I agree with Nick. At least in the disappointed with Emergent thing. Emergent seems like this thing that could be so much more – it holds so much potential – but it just has yet to be realized. Sure it’s done great things, and has helped save the faith of numerous people. It’s started conversations and brought a new language to Christianity in America. It has helped a significant portion of American Christians start to wonder if following Jesus just maybe be about more than getting their butts into heaven when they die. That said, it could have been so much more. It could have been the support and the connection that people were desperate for. It could have provided resources (ideas, advice, friendship) for those struggling to piece together a more honest sort of faith. And I hope that it still will someday be that, but it has a ways to go. So yes, I can agree, there is disappointment.

But Nick for all your talk about not wanting to be the new club, that’s just what you seem to be promoting. It is actually a bit offensive to hear the “no newbies wanted” sort of attitude. Since when did Emergent become a members only club? Sure some of us were still piddling around on The Ooze and reading John Eldredge back when the tech geeks were being the “great bloggers.” When they stopped blogging because it became “too cool and trendy” that doesn’t symbolize the end of the movement. There are a lot of great new bloggers out there, who alas may only have been out there for a few years, but are nevertheless sharing some amazing thoughts. Sure, the Emergent that was is no more. The boys club smoking cigars in Glorietta wasn’t sustainable. Publishing deals, structure, and branding didn’t kill that vibe – this conversation becoming the revolution you guys wanted it to be did. Other people had the same awakening experience as you and joined in. It sure didn’t help that at that point the perceived leaders (the early adapters) jumped ship because this thing was now popular/trendy/helpful to others. I’m sorry, but if you guys wanted this to be a members only club then perhaps you shouldn’t have gone public with it to begin with.

So those of us who are part of this thing called emergent – who are passionate about this call to live in the kingdom of God and thrive on this conversation are wondering what do do. We already experienced the droves of deserters who left because emergent doesn’t 1. hate women like they hate women, 2. hate gays like they hate gays, or 3. believe in a certain type of hatred of God towards Jesus on the cross (or all of the above). Then there are all you guys who paved the way for this conversation to even exist saying that you are disappointed that new people joined and spoiled your fun. We are looking for guidance and then read comments like Josh’s on your blog “maybe it’s selfish on my part, but i just don’t feel like helping anybody else along.” It hurts to be rejected like that. To those of us who still appreciate the conversation and who see the good it is still doing to those who are just now joining in, it’s a slap in the face to be told that we are dead or fizzled out. I am the first to admit that emergent needs a lot of help right now, but different isn’t dead, just different.

Sigh. So this post became a bit harsh and defensive. I thought I was going to write on the need for leadership and structure to help transition the revolution from words to action, but then this other stuff emerged. But I guess speaking from actual experience might be more helpful here than giving my two cents on what the future should hold. So I just want to say – Nick, I understand your disappointment, but please understand how it comes across to others.

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46 Responses leave one →
  1. June 4, 2009

    Thanks for putting this out there, Julie.

    I know Nick a bit– we’ve hung out, and I really, really like him. Too, I’ve been a devoted listener to his podcast for many years. I think of him as a friend, and hope he feels the same way about me.

    Having said that, I appreciate you writing this, because it clarifies something that was irritating to me in his initial post. It’s that sense of *unwelcome* that is featured. Which is especially sad to see, since Nick has done so much to welcome people into this conversation, and since Nick has built a staggering following by doing the same.

    What’s harder is to see this inhospitality decried on other blogs, which suggest that this is a major tenet of emergence Christianity. Which, in my experience, is exactly the opposite of the case. I’m involved in EV because others invited me in (at their own expense, and without regard to how I might benefit them), and I want to do the same for others. And I know I’m not alone in this.

  2. June 4, 2009

    julie . . . just a quick clarification. my “selfishness” has nothing to do with you. or many of my other fine friends across the blog-o-sphere. i still think you are one of the top 5 thoughtful bloggers still out there and one who hasn’t sold out. you along with blake huggins and a few others are still blogging great content and using the medium in a helpful, and formative way. when i scaled back my 200+ feeds in my RSS reader, yours is one of the 10 that i left.

    with that being said . . . my “selfishness” has less to do with wanting to stay connected in conversation with folks like you and has more to do with my recoil towards the bandwagon jumpers that are all about the “conversation” these days. i know it makes me sound like a spoiled brat. but it’s like a bunch of douchers showed up at our party and started calling the shots when we’ve been playing on the playground for years. it’d be one thing if non-douchers joined our little game. they had been doing that for years and we welcomed them with open arms and gladly moved our chairs over at the table to let them join in.

    but sadly “emerging church” became mainstream and when it did part of it died in my opinion. it lost it’s subversive voice. it lost it’s luster. it lost it’s power. what we have now is a not a conversation. but a neutered, regurgitated rehashing of the same old same old. while there is still plenty of fresh thought (i.e. you and blake to name a few), the larger momentum of blogging and podcasting has faded into a moot static.
    our beef is not that other people have decided to join the conversation. our beef is that the protectors of the conversation sold out. and in turn, the conversation was hijacked. sure it still manifests itself in some surprising, subtle, and beautiful ways. but let’s keep it real . . . today folks like beliefnet, catalyst conference, ed stetzer, and all the other mainstream conservative kids have jumped on the bandwagon and spit out the good parts and diluted everything else down to a lowest common denominator let’s talk about how to “rethink church” bull shit.

    you know why you never hear hardly anything about the bronsinks, and the samsons, the sharps, and the tall skinny kiwis . . . because they are living it without having to tell everybody about it on their facebook, twitter, and blogs. at the end of the day, that’s my point about the larger conversation. it’s a bunch of cyclical talk, with very few folks who are knee deep in it.

  3. June 4, 2009

    Hi Julie,
    This is really interesting. As publisher of Next-Wave I have watched the “ebb and flow” of Emergent Village. First let me apologize for a few things, I am a baby boomer, a lawyer, and a former pastor. I am also a white male. Having said all of that I am reminded that I started Next-Wave because I had little hope that any of the denominations or movements I was involved with were doing anything to “reach” the rising generations. In other words, I was bummed they were missing the young people. I hadn’t been at it very long before I realized that a lot was happening all over the world, just not in the usual places.
    Regarding EV, I have never been upset with Emergent or its leadership because they never claimed to be anything more than “a conversation.” It was others that placed the mantle of “movement” on them. Unfortunately history seems to underscore that “movements” need a certain kind of leadership that didn’t seem to be present in the Emergent group.
    I am impressed that an effort is being made at re-imagining Emergent. I would only add that for this to be successful a certain kind of “leadership” will need to emerge…
    Blessings,
    Charlie Wear

  4. June 4, 2009

    It seems to me Josh that you’re more upset with those who have co-opted emergent/emerging for their own purposes but who you feel do not embody the original ethos of the label – I think it’s important to differentiate that from this “Emergent sucks” kind of vibe.

    Please correct me if I’m wrong in my perception

  5. June 4, 2009

    this is true makeesha. like i said in my original comment on nick’s blog, i’ve got nothing against emergent as an entity. nor some of the fine folks who still flesh out the good stuff. my problem is with the ninjas.

  6. June 4, 2009

    What if the conversation has not fizzled? What if it has simply moved? I know that this is a common response to these “disappointed” comments, but it bears repeating. For example, the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago has been working with Emergent leadership and pastors to see what they can learn because many in the diocese believe that the (historical) emergence is real, that things are transitioning and so we (I am an American Baptist) are talking about it in our own circles.

    The conversation has brought about new ministries, new ways of being church, the realization that many things must change, and it has helped those places who choose the older forms to do so with intentionality and grace. What’s disappointing in that?

    The Emergent Conversation, as I understand it, merely articulated the thing that many of us have been thinking for a while. I read Generous Orthodoxy and thought “This is what were were all saying in college!” I graduated college in ’92. We were fighting within the SBC.

    How was the movement supposed to change things? It can’t. It is simply the articulation of the change that is at work. To think that the movement will undo/redo 400 years of American protestantism, the work of people like Moody or Graham, Roman Catholicism, Southern Baptist Fundamentalism etc is foolish. All of these traditions will exist side by side for generations to come.

    But the conversation is real. It is necessary and it is helping. Don’t stop talking. Just know that these things take generations.

    Thus endeth the sermon. Sorry to be a bore.

  7. June 4, 2009

    1) thanks for laying out out straight like that julie. word.

    2) all of this “mainstream”, “bandwagon”, etc. vs. “subversive”, “revolutionary” (or is it “revo.lutionary”?) stuff is not constructive in my judgment and very naive to the circumstances and classes in which revolutions occur. in short, it is a sociologically anemic and ideologically stale view of things.

    3) i am a very latecomer after a while of being the prototypical skeptic. i still am a skeptic, not because i consciously want to be an asshole, but because any good thing needs good critics to sharpen what is good. i don’t give myself that role, but it is what i have done in the past. i do this even as i am trying to imagine an emergent cohort, a new one, here in south central pa with a few folks who are interested.

    4) the term i am using is not a “post” to describe what i am after. i call it meta-denominationalism where we gather voices outside and above current denominational structures who have a view of things that is a bit off the same course as other Christians who may serve in the same denominations. i am not naive to impose the ideology of revolution here. but i do want a functionally illiterate culture when it comes to religion, to deepen their faith, connect with new friends, and do something for the kingdom. i don’t give a damn if this is “emergent” either and that, i think. is the point. i have heard too many people try to promote emergent as a style rather than a movement, not a political movement per se, but a movement of people in a new kind of direction.

    Finally, i don’t want people to follow me anywhere. i want them to follow the gospel. if they are following me anywhere consider me a booster rocket to be discarded at some point or else i am an ideological fraud. i think there are enough folks who think the same way. i am convinced of it. hence i read the clawson’s blogs, and many others because i think we are all on the same page.

  8. June 4, 2009

    @josh

    “you know why you never hear hardly anything about the bronsinks, and the samsons, the sharps, and the tall skinny kiwis . . . because they are living it without having to tell everybody about it on their facebook, twitter, and blogs. at the end of the day, that’s my point about the larger conversation. it’s a bunch of cyclical talk, with very few folks who are knee deep in it.”

    Says a guy, very cynically, on a blog, where we can hear him.

    Apparently you aren’t out there, living it.

    I have a great idea. Find all the “douchers” (whatever those are), and share the sentiments you shared here with them (us?) directly. In no time at all, you’ll have your playground all to yourself, again.

    The problem is, emergent will end up just as dead.

  9. June 4, 2009

    Julie, this emergent thing has been really interesting to watch.

    I was at Tony Jones book release for “Postmodern Youth Ministry.”

    I attended several of the YS national conferences, when Emergent was just one of seminars.

    I remember when the camp in New Mexico became the place to be.

    I read Blue like Jazz and A New Kind of Christian and even some of Driscoll’s early stuff.

    I heard Brian McLaren speak at Pathways, Downtown Denver.

    I attended a conference here in Denver, put on by Becky Pierson, cohosted by Denver Seminary and Iliff Seminary.

    And most recently I have started a church. People asked if we were Emergent. Usually when they asked it was Christians, who really wanted to know if we believed in Absolute Truth.

    I guess I missed the point when the discussion became about women, and gays, and substitutionary atonement.

    I have also been out of the loop as to why Tony “stepped down” and what is coming next.

    I know their was a meeting in Wash DC. I saw the twitpics of whiteboards, and people sitting in a circle in a church fellowship hall.

    I guess I find myself asking, what changed? Why are people disappointed and downcast. The questions that Emergent asked are still out there floating, and I have yet to hear any real good answers, so its still a conversation, right?

    Maybe there is more going on behind the scenes that I don’t know about. If God is in it, it won’t be stoppable, and if God is not in it, it needs to die anyway.

    Maybe I am just rambling.

    mark

  10. steve murray permalink
    June 4, 2009

    Interesting. Three years ago I discovered the works of McLaren, Bell, NT Wright and the like through “Off the Map” a ministry designed to help people rethink church, God and the message of Jesus.
    I’m a pastor of a 10 year old church plant coming out of a charismatic, evangelical mega church. So needless to say this type of teaching or way of thinking not only is revolutionary and a paradigm shift, its a dangerously difficult message to introduce to a baby boomer congregation without being burned at the stake.
    So I started trying to connect with people well versed in emergent thought but found very little support, interest, conversation or mentoring from them. I went to the Great Emergence in Memphis and I felt like I had entered a member’s only group.
    Here are a couple reasons I think it has temporarily died out.

    1. It appears that It started by ex youth ministry leaders who were frustrated with the leadership of their churches and denominations. Youth groups are just that, they are groups. Youth groups have spurts of growth and seasonal declines. They are led by leaders who move on to other ministries. This emergent thing is like a big youth group in ways.

    2. Movements need leaders. No one seems to want to be the leader of the emergent and few seem to want to follow a leader. As a newbie it was frustrating trying to navigate emergent without a leader.

    3. So many emergent’s I have met were critical of the local organized church. It’s the “church” that needs to learn and understand the emergent message. You can’t change the church by not liking it. You have to truly love and care for it. Emergent teaching will never take root without engaging the organized church. The church is the mechanism that will embrace and sustain the true emergent message if approached correctly. Social networks can’t facilitate it because they get dropped during times of tragedy, neglected during times of stress, ignored during career transitions and relationship difficulties interfere with regular use.
    Plus new gadgets, blogs, blurbs and personalities come along weekly creating unfaithful members of the social networks and emergent community.

    The message that the conversation has brought to the surface regarding emergent thinking needs a leader that wants to lead and followers that want to mentor others that are just getting started.

    Eventialy a leader will rise and the Emergent will resurge but not till then

    Just some thoughts .

    Steve M

  11. barry brake permalink
    June 5, 2009

    The interesting thing to me is how much the emergent movement *hasn’t* changed. I’ve viewed it from various distances for quite a long time now, and one of my big dissatisfactions has always been how much of the conversation is about the emergent church. This is especially ironic given the lips-that-would-kiss-form-prayers-to-broken-stone criticisms that emergent has about the traditional church.

    Through all this, my wife’s church, the Fellowship of the Way of Christ, a small and extremely odd church founded in the 60s, that exhibits virtually every strength of the emergent movement except coffee: no buildings or building committees or building committee meetings, just people who are genuinely woven into each other’s lives, buttressed by authentic and promiscuous worship experiences and deep listening to the Spirit. And they manage to have avoided most of emergent’s weaknesses: the navel-gazing, the guitars-’n’-goatees cultural rut, the monogenerationalism, the theological buzzwords. They’re actually a great big happy family.

    I tend to think that churches flourish when they are free of self-regard, and when they simply speak as Christ spoke and do as he did.

    Listen to the language of some of the above comments and articles: where are we? what metaphor shall we use? A playground? A party? Seriously? Those are powerful metaphors, of places where people go, destinations, where people gather, and where inclusion and exclusion are part of the very structure.

    How about this: the upper room, a place that is by definition a starting-place, and whose ending-place must be the town square, the temple courtyard, the areopagus. My conclusion in all this is that there comes a time when every group of apostles must decide to leave the upper room, and plunge outward, speaking the languages of all they encounter. Preferably before the wind blows somewhere else.

  12. June 5, 2009

    Julie,

    Nothing constructive to add… just that you’re fabulous. Thanks.

  13. June 5, 2009

    Josh~

    Thanks for clarifying that you think “bandwagon Jumpers” are “douchers” I think that goes a long way in clarifying some early member’s (or maybe just your) views on hospitality, acceptance and loss of control. I can see that this is very painful for you, that is too bad.

  14. June 5, 2009

    Wow, a lot of insightful comments here. I want to respond to them, and I’ll do my best…

    Mike – I know nick is a great guy, and this was in no way a attack on him. It’s just weird that there’s this attitude of regret that the attempt to spread the message and welcome others actually worked. i understand that it is sad when things change – there is a necessary mourning that has to happen for the way things were, but that could far too easily be construed as contempt for the newbies who thought they were welcome.

    josh – I get where you’re coming from. and for what it’s worth, I really do miss your voice as a major part of this conversation. And, yes, I agree that the adopting the emerging veneer in order to attact people by appearing cool is annoying. But on the other hand, I can be insanely pragmatic. I see a lot of that stuff as just part of what it takes to make this “revolution” happen. No one owns emergent – so people are free to take it and use it to their own ends, no matter how gratingly annoying others of us find it. But it is also a tool for getting the message out. Practicle side again – I’m not against books, conferences, good websites, decent networks, and even brands. I don’t even see them as necessary evils. If we actually believe in this thing and truly want to spread the message of kingdom living, those tools are absolutely necessary. I don’t think putting the message in a book, necessarily kills it. It is how people respond that decides that. so seeing those of us living it out help provide examples of that. Which is why I would actually love it if the the bronsinks, and the samsons, the sharps, and the tall skinny kiwis did tell us all about it on blogs or Facebook/twitter. Hearing stories and having heroes who are doing it is what we need to counter the veneer adopters. So I wish those voices wouldn’t withdraw and give up on others. Theirs is exactly the help we need imho.

    Charlie – I completely agree – leadership is needed. We need leaders if only to be the ones encouraging others to step up or to be the ones inviting others in. I don’t think a lot of people in emergent agree with that. But I honestly don’t see us getting very far without leaders. I think so many people are too fearful of leaders – thinking power of any kind is always bad. But sometimes it’s what’s needed for anything to happen.

    Tripp – while I agree that emergent is an articulation of change that is already at work, I do think it also can change things. It changes us. It changes how we view our faith. We read scripture differently, we live differently. The values it encourages teach us to care more for others, to think about the other far more that most of us ever had before. And that imho does lead to revolution. Creating a church where these values reign will change our world, if we let it. Underestimating the message and saying it is just about individual internal transformation sells the message short. I for one do expect change – change on a massive scale if we all actually let this stuff flourish.

    Drew – good distinction between the style versus movement. I truly am most disappointed in those that think this is all about style. sure they have the right to play the church fashion trend game, but without the theology its just hollow and impotent. I know the point isn’t about being emergent or not. But to me it is a good tool and it is a good community to be a part of. It creates bonds of friendship and resources we can use. Once again, I like that practicality.

    okay, that’s all I have time for now. I’ll respond more later. Thanks for the great conversation all!

  15. June 5, 2009

    @brian.

    perhaps let me give you a hypothetical example of a doucher. the 28 year old son of a huge megachurch pastor who was the former head of the Southern Baptist Convention. the 28 year old son has all of a sudden found the “emerging church” conversation despite his pretty typical evangelical views on homosexuality, women as pastors, and the “innerancy” of the b-i-b-l-e. the kid throws up a blog. scores a gig writing for relevant magazine. and has big ideas that get him a job on the catalyst/mega-church speaking scene. somehow he discovers “green thinking” despite the fact that their home church is over a hundred thousand square feet and takes up 3 huge ass buildings. and the fact that they live in a $600,000 home. but somehow sustainable living now becomes his passion so they throw a big conference at the megachurch talking about how sustainable faith intersects with all of these momentum in the “emerging church” world.

    this is a doucher. this is someone who has co-opted the conversation. folks like this are the ones who have become the majority. and therein lies my problem. there are still many fine people out there connected to the emerging church conversation who couldn’t be more of a polar extreme to my example. the clawsons, blake huggins, matt scott, makeesha. but i’m afraid they are now the exception rather than the norm.

  16. June 5, 2009

    Josh~

    I understand the frustration of that type of cynical misuse of the church for power and financial reward. That sort of pragmatic capitalism was what I saw constantly in the Evangelical church when I was a part of it (which I believe is the original trajectory from where many of the original EV movement stemmed). I find your example to be disquieting and disturbing.

    Yet, some of us have felt same type of “bandwagon” response because we left the Evangelical church, but not the church as a whole. We found ourselves inside institutional churches that validated our callings i.e. liberal, women, ethnic minorities, people who question “orthodox” theology. I respect your willingness to leave the church in supporting groups and wait for it to change for your return, but many of us have not.

    I know that this is not you, but many of us get tired of being castigated by the non-leaders of this movement for being sale outs for pensions, healthcare and a paycheck. I have only one of the three anyway. This sort of discussion buttresses our suspicion of the movement’s openness and inclusion of many diverse voices from around the ecclesia.

    I understand that this may not be the point of your original post, but there are some big voices saying things that many in the remnant of the church have said all along. Emergent must get over its “cool” factor and the idea of terminal uniqueness. It must seek humility. These are not new ideas of conversation long before EV there were “base communities”, “hospitality houses” (both of which came from within the Roman Catholic institutions)? There is nothing new under the sun. Intergenerational, ever inclusive, socio-economically diverse, non-educationally elitist, ethnically growing are the ways that I hope this movement goes, but in the end I know that it is merely a movement.

  17. June 5, 2009

    Josh …

    As a woman, could you please find another scatalogical word to call people for whom you have so much disdain besides, “doucher” … that’s really quite misogynist when you get down to it.

    There is a need sometimes for us to cleanse our womanly parts and that is what those things are called. To have you using the term in such a pejorative manner is really most unsettling.

    Of course, most pejorative terms end up upsetting someone here or there. Perhaps they are better left unsaid amongst those who follow Jesus, no?

    I haven’t yet had a chance to read Nick’s original post and probably should before I comment here. But I’m going to anyway. In the words of the great Monty Python, it’s not dead yet. Or to quote Mark Twain, “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”

    Things grow in cycles, even revolutions. There has to be rest for growth to happen. Those of you with children, will notice that your children do a lot of sleeping just before they grow. Plants require a winter in order to come back to life in the spring. Whatever is happening now, people just need to have patience for. Or if you’re not interested in things emergent, just go on about your business and leave your scorn at the door. If you don’t care, you don’t care. Let it go. If you do care, take a breath and have a beer. Or two. Chill out. Take a walk. Smile at your neighbor. And your kids. Have fun. Fly a kite. Relax and enjoy the ride.

  18. June 5, 2009

    New guy here. I’ve been reading emerging blogs and books and listening to podcasts for a at least year now, and it was shocking to me this morning when I read that the whole thing was “over” already. Really? So soon?

    The main problem behind this idea that the conversation has been done already is that one might think they have nothing else to learn. Perhaps the long-timers could learn something from people who are just finding this thing. Of course, new people want to learn too (that’s one reason they’d join the conversation). But conversation, as I understand it, risks something, puts something up to consideration, modification, possibly loss. If both parties aren’t open, then that’s not conversation, it’s indoctrination (Paolo Freire, anyone?). And frankly it assumes that “new” people are idiots, when they simply may have been at another party.

    Maybe I’m missing the point, and that there are ogres and poseurs taking over the means of production in Emergent, and that’s the impetus for this flurry. But if it’s really about being open to conversations or not — even conversations that put the whole idea of “emerging” at stake — then I would plead for the side of conversation.

  19. June 5, 2009

    This is an awesome conversation, and a necessary one. Thanks Nick and Julie. I’ve read all posts and thought I’d finally chime in just to give my perspective, even if it’s only for myself. Forgive me, as I’m long-winded and hate leaving anything out.

    Years before I was brought on as director of Faithvine.com, I was devoted to, invested in, and excited about this other/new way of thinking about the church, spirituality, whatever. So when I was provided freedom to oversee the creation of this site which could have become helpful for spreading this perspective, I was completely honored. I got the opportunity to talk with people like Doug P., Brian M. and Spencer and the awesome Ooze “staff” and many others…I was especially excited when I got paid to go to Soularize and meet some other amazing people, like Nick.

    (By the way, I’m no longer at Faithvine, haven’t been for some time, and it never became what I had hoped for it…not even close.) Anyway, it was a real trip for me to be in the presence of so many others who I felt shared so much of my perspective. But it also felt a bit like the cool-people’s table at high school. Of course, since I originally came from the megachurch background, this was nothing new to me, so I easily recognized it. So that was a bit disappointing, but I knew that even the most rootsy movements have that. Now, while I can’t directly equate Soularize to EV, they both share almost the same perspective. And here’s where my points come in:

    1. “Emergent” is just a mirror. It reflects the people in it. And within it, just like any church or social structure—even the most rootsy ones—there will be purists, egomaniacs, hermits, assholes, non-conformists, conformists, douchers, etc.

    2. And Josh, I totally feel you on your doucher example. Capitalizing on and commercializing a movement pisses me off, and I hate the feeling of the cool rich kid coming into my playground and getting all the attention because of the idea I told him. However, I also encourage you to think about that 28-year-old’s own perspective. Step into his shoes. I have multiple friends who stayed back in my old megachurch world who could fit your doucher description if you look just on the surface. And yet…they are people. They are hungering for something more. They want to change the system with which they are most familiar. (And believe me…the $600K house type of thing bothers me too.) But just because they happen to have been born into a privileged life and have contacts in the industry and make use of those contacts and get on stage and try to act like they know what they’re talking about, does not necessarily mean they have purely selfish intentions. They see something good in this new movement and they want to be a part of it and help it spread. They just have their own language. And yes, sadly, when a message gets spread, it often gets diluted. But still, that doesn’t make the person any less sincere. It would be best to have a close personal conversation with those types instead of having conversations about them. After all, using that reasoning, I could have even included myself in the doucher lot because I was intending to use my platform as an opportunity to spread the news of the new way. Nothing ever came of it (although the site is still live and has members), but if it would have, I probably would have been, and even labeled myself, a sell-out just because I had big financial backing, etc. So let’s remember to step into our “enemy’s” shoes. We might find that they reflect us more than we think.

    3. I think it’s important to remember that emergent is not just EV. Moreover, emergent is not just “emergent.” Remember that “emergent” is just a label, a word. It does not define anything…just helps describe it. The movement will continue, even if the influencers and early adopters all die off, and even if it ceases to be called emergent.

    4. I probably overuse this analogy, but emergent is not unlike Dada. It is in some way an insurrectionist movement…at least that could be listed as one of the formative characteristics, even though I think many would love to move beyond that. However, Dada basically destroyed itself intentionally. Emergent seems to be unconsciously doing the same, because most adherents, sponsors and “leaders” have inherently been non-conformists and free spirits. That’s just the way it is.

    5. With that in mind, I do agree with Julie and others that some sort of solidified leadership will need to emerge if it is to become a staying force, but I also grieve this fact. Because the whole idea is that a movement like this does not need or want a central figure. Consequently, our traditional definitions of what a leader is and does and looks like must be flexible. Will the movement really fail if we don’t have a Brian or Doug or Tony? If so, it’s not really a movement—it’s a fad. And I think Phyllis Tickle’s The Great Emergence helps clarify that it is not just a fad. But that doesn’t mean that it did not start out as one. And that’s not a bad thing. It’s just a fact. And that’s why we are having this discussion…because people are lamenting the loss of a trend which of which they (we) held ownership. But a fad can be part of a movement…just the leading edge of it.

    I’m confident that this all will mature. But we all will have to be flexible in that it may not meet our individual, subversive criteria for success…because even anti-capitalist have criteria for “success.” And in being flexible, that might mean we’ll have to collaborate with those on the other side. And even though we often claim that emergent is ultra-inclusive, we can be just as hypocritical in that as we accuse the traditional of. Like that bumper sticker “Intolerance will not be tolerated.” In order to spread tolerance, one must embrace the intolerant and converse with them. Because those people and places and groups we left also have their experiences from which we can learn. As much as I hate to admit it, I might be able to learn something from a Jerry Falwell or Oral Roberts. But learning requires listening, not attacking.

    So, am I disappointed? Sure. I’m jaded about everything, including any “new” ways of spirituality. I’ve been that way for some time. But I’m still hopeful. In the meantime, I just try to be nice. I’m part of a wonderful faith community (with the lovely Clawsons). I don’t update my blog much; it’s just not my favorite medium. I no longer involve myself actively in many emergent efforts, and that’s why I’m unknown to most of you. But I’m still with you. We’re all on the same team, we just don’t know it yet.

  20. June 5, 2009

    Mark – you make a good point. I think this whole conversation is taking place only in a certain corner of the room so to speak. That’s okay. But I think we might not want to take ourselves too seriously and assume that the emergent that we want is what matters. This is a lot bigger than our little disappointments. There are people out there joining in daily and seeking to connect. some of us need to be there for them and spark their passion – not discredit their journey.

    Brian – Great quote – “Emergent must get over its “cool” factor and the idea of terminal uniqueness. It must seek humility. ”
    If the point is to be cool or unique, why bother? Really living out this life takes work – tedious, hard, and unglamorous work. Sure we might blog or write about it, but at least for me that mostly serves to keep me sane by creating the sort of community I need. But the everyday reality is that serving the kingdom with a whole heart is hard.

    sonja – that you for pointing out how offensive that term is. It’s so trendy that people don’t get that it’s just another way to ridicule women.

    Dave – thanks for sharing so much. you write – “Will the movement really fail if we don’t have a Brian or Doug or Tony? If so, it’s not really a movement—it’s a fad.” I understand where you are coming from, but let me clarify and define what I mean by leader. I’m not thinking so much of a personality as leader, but a servant leader who help facilitate. There has to be a person, or better yet people who take care of the details that need taking care of. who answer the emails, who manage the website, who invite others in, who encourage participants to use their voice (in a sense giving them permission to have a voice), who serves as a spokesperson when necessary. It’s pragmatic, but it also serves to inspire. It’s not about them (although some will always assume it is), its about serving the cause.

  21. June 5, 2009

    this is a doucher. this is someone who has co-opted the conversation. folks like this are the ones who have become the majority.

    You say so Josh, but at the same time, despite your lengthy and detailed description, I still have no clue who you are talking about. Have these “douchers” really become the majority of the emerging conversation if a lot of us have never even heard of them? I’m sorry that Catalyst (another thing that I’m only marginally familiar with) and Ed Stetzer and whoever this “hypothetical” person is are casting such a shadow over your view of the emerging church, but may I gently suggest that perhaps your vision is a little too narrow if you think these represent the mainstream of the conversation these days? Maybe you just need to pick up your lawn chair and move out of their shade? I don’t think the situation is as dire as you’re making it out to be. In fact, I’m pretty sure that if you ask anyone, critics or friends alike, where the locus of the emerging church conversation is, no one is going to put Stetzer, or Catalyst, or your mystery man at the top of the list.

    I’m just sayin’…

  22. Marti permalink
    June 5, 2009

    This thread is so annoying to me that I almost can’t believe I’m dignifying it with a response. My annoyance stems from this: everyone that says thugs like “I was at x conference 10 years ago or I was reading Mr McL 8 years ago, seems to imply (yes imply) that their comments are somehow more valid than someone like me who is newer to the movement. Reminds me of the old stodgy folks at my church who preface every comment with “well I’ve been on the finance committee for 25 years.”. Those are the ways of thinking I thought we were trying to move away from.

  23. Marti permalink
    June 5, 2009

    Sorry, “things” not “thugs.”. Apparently I’m too frustrated to proof. : )

  24. June 5, 2009

    Great point Marti. I feel the same way. Personally, I’ve been a part of this for a long time now, but I don’t think that makes my contributions any more valid than someone’s like yourself. I just read another blog response in support of Nick’s that was like “I was a part of this conversation before Emergent Village even existed”, and my response is “So effing what? Does that you mean you own the conversation or get to dictate to the rest of us what it ought to be or become?” As someone who has a real heart for newbies, and has helped more than a few of y’all along on the journey, these “old timers” vs. “newcomers” distinction are pretty offensive to me too.

  25. June 6, 2009

    Hi Julie. I found his post through Matt Stone. I found it quite interested and well written. I also wanted to add my own comments on the whole issue of people jumping on the bandwagon.

    A universal fact of life is that whenever a good idea comes up and gains any momentum, there will always be those people who will jump on the bandwagon. What’s worse, there will always be the snake-oil merchants who will look for a way to exploit that bandwagon to promote their own agendas or make a profit. It’s the nature of humanity. It seems to me that some of the early voices in the emergent conversation/movement thought that their own idea would somehow find a sort of mystic immunity to this and are disappointed and maybe even upset to discover how naive such a belief really was. I can’t say as I blame them to be upset, so I hope they’ll understand when I say as sympathetically as possible, “Welcome to reality.”

    But the real question now — and my challenge to those who are disappointed — is what are people going to do now? Are they just going to abandon their cherished conversation/movement because of this fact? To my mind, that’s just surrendering to the bandwagon-jumpers and snake-oil merchants. And to be frank, it leaves me wondering how much they believed in the emergent conversation/movement to begin with. After all, my mother used to always tell me that leaving a something I love because of someone else is allowing that someone else to dictate my life and my passions.

    My personal advice to those who are struggling with the band-wagon jumpers and snake-oil merchants would be to find some traditional, lineaged witches (such as Gardnerians or Alexandrians) and talk the matter over with them. They’ve been dealing with the bandwagon-jumpers and snake-oil merchants exploiting their practices for almost half a decade now. And yet, they’ve learned to take it all in stride and even co-exist with the insanity that often comes up in the Pagan world. And they’ve found useful ways to be there to find and talk to those not-quite-newbies who quickly become disillusioned with the substance-less fluff that’s everywhere. I suspect they could offer plenty of insights on how you can not only survive what’s happening to the emergent movement, but even continue to thrive through it all.

  26. June 7, 2009

    I’m going to blog about this conversation later in the week. But I do have one question first…What’s wrong with jumping on the bandwagon? I always thought that was a good thing. Those who jump on the bandwagon are called “followers.” Maybe I’m missing something crucial.

  27. June 7, 2009

    Personally I’m with you Tripp. If the movement is going to succeed like Nick wants it to, we’re going to need as many “bandwagon jumpers” as we can get. However, it seems to me that Josh and others are complaining more specifically about particular folks who have jumped on who they don’t think should be there. Since I’m not personally all that familiar with who they are talking about, I can’t say one way or the other.

  28. Marti permalink
    June 7, 2009

    Were the disciples bandwagon jumpers? Were the people of the early church? After all, someone had an idea and they went along with it. I can almost ASSURE you that there were newcomers, people who hadn’t KNOWN Jesus but that wanted to follow his teaching after his death who had new ideas, new thoughts, new conversations than the disciples. What if the disciples had been disappointed in the conversation and turned their backs? We’re trying to grow the church here–in the best way possible, not stifle it.

  29. June 8, 2009

    Tripp and Mike: Based on his comments, I’d say Josh’s probelm isn’t so much with the bandwagon-jumpers (i.e. those who decide to follow something just because it’s the latest trend rather) so much as the people I referred to as snake oil merchants. The latter can tend to cause serious problems, because their interests lie not with the good of the movement, but with how they can use the movement and it’s “catchphrases” for personal gain. They often end up hurting the people they lure into their own version of what started out as a good idea. Worse, those people who are hurt often confuse what they experienced with the movement as a whole.

    The biggest problem with the bandwagon-jumpers is that they’re usually the number one targets of the snake-oil salesmen. Which is a tragic stateof affairs for the bandwagon-jumpers.

    But both kinds of people have been around since before recorded history, and I suspect they’ll be with us till the end of humanity.

  30. Todd Erickson permalink
    June 8, 2009

    1. Do you think that the original New Testament Church didn’t go through this sort of thing in periods? Influxes of recent pagans who, though saved, brought their weird culture with them and had everybody questioning what they were still part of?

    2. I think that it’s curious that the conversation somehow only includes one line of books. I read Willard’s “The Divine Conspiracy” before I read most of the other actual Emerging books, and I work them into the DC context… so so many of the books I read feel really empty to me, because they don’t deal at all with discipleship. They struggle with authenticity, but all seem to be waiting for somebody else to come along and make the perfect church for them to attend.

    3. Church is people. It isn’t a building, or a day of the week. It’s what you do, every day, in interaction with and response to the world and your saviour. Any other lifestyle is simply corrupt.

    4. There is no magic solution, there is only the Kingdom. If you are not willing to die for the Kingdom, to give up your safety and security for the kingdom, to lose it all for the Kingdom, then what world do you really live in, and who do you serve?

    5. Perceptions are, but truth is. Choose which one you will follow and base your life around.

  31. June 8, 2009

    The apostle Paul was the ultimate bandwagon jumper. And he brought the world with him. And, yes, it caused great consternation among the first followers of Christ.

  32. June 8, 2009

    No Tripp, Paul was not the ultimate bandwagon jumper. In fact, Paul wasn’t a bandwagon jumper at all. He was a sincere latecomer who came along because he had a transforming conversion experience.

    For Biblical examples of bandwagon jumpers, look at the people who quit following Jesus after some of his sermons. They were the people that thought they had found the latest magic pill, but lost interest when they realized that they might actually have to change the way they lived or the way they looked at the world.

    I personally wouldn’t lose much sleep over such people and I”m inclined to let them be. But to compare them to Paul isn’t realistic either.

  33. June 8, 2009

    I agree Jarred, Josh seemed particularly upset with a few “snake-oil salesmen”. I’d say these are most closely analogous to Simon Magus perhaps. Anyway, where he and I differ is whether these “snake oil salesmen” have actually taken over and become the mainstream of the conversation or not. I’m just not seeing that to be the case at all (like I said, I’m barely even aware of these folks he’s so upset about), but in his context there in the heart of the Deep South, perhaps their influence looms larger.

  34. June 8, 2009

    Julie – Thanks for the post – I was disappointed in myself for not commenting about Josh’s comment. His attitude about not wanting to help anyone else along was so offensive. It sounded self-centered, exclusionary and prideful – all the stuff we (emergent people) are wanting to (supposedly) abandon. I often struggle with feelings of inferiority when it comes to participating in the conversation because I am new to the conversation, I don’t have a M.Div and I am not in full time ministry. Half the time it is probably just my own junk that causes me to feel that way but the other half of the time it is because of things like Josh’s comment/ attitude (he’s not the only one who I’ve heard say something like that, but if you asked me to name names I couldn’t).

    And in response to all the “bandwagon” talk – one idea is that maybe it isn’t “our” responsibility to try and figure out who is and who isn’t bandwagon people – maybe our responsibility is to treat all people the same. Jarred’s comment that “I wouldn’t lose too much sleep over them” sounds very condescending – again, something that I thought emergent people didn’t like about the churches they came from.

    I mean here I am actually trying to have a chastened epistemology and a generous orthodoxy – I took all those emergent books blogs and podcasts seriously.

  35. June 8, 2009

    Liz: If my comment came across as condescending, I apologize. Condescension was not my intent.

    Then again, I don’t consider myself Christian, let alone emergent, so you might not want to put too much consideration into my tone and how it may or may not reflect the overall mindset of a group I don’t belong to. ;)

  36. June 8, 2009

    Mike: Not being terribly well versed emergent conversation myself, I can’t say whether the snake-oil salesmen have taken over the conversation ro not.

    However, I’d go the next step and argue that whether they have is actually irrelevant anyway. If people truly believe in the emergent conversation, they should stick to it and do their best to keep it going regardless of the snake-oil salesmen, whether they’re a tiny fringe group or the dominant force. After all, if they are the dominant force (may heaven forbid), there’s only one way to change that.

    In the end, one’s participation in the emergent conversation should only be governed by one thing: one’s belief in its importance.

  37. June 8, 2009

    Jarred – thanks for the apology and for clarifying. It’s so easy to misunderstand the written word.

  38. June 14, 2009

    How about finding a scriptural reason for Emergence fizzling out?

    From the lips of Gamaliel -

    Acts 5:38-39
    Therefore, in the present case I advise you: Leave these men alone! Let them go! For if their purpose or activity is of human origin, it will fail. But if it is from God, you will not be able to stop these men; you will only find yourselves fighting against God.”

    Maybe the whole movement wasn’t a God thing after all….

  39. June 15, 2009

    possible stushie, though if you take that criterion too literally then you’d have to pretty much conclude that the Roman Catholic Church really is the One True Church after all – since they’ve got us all beat in terms of both numbers and longevity. While I know some here might be down with that (I’m looking at you Jim ;), I’m thinking a lot of Protestants here… maybe not so much.

  40. Joe permalink
    September 5, 2009

    I’m not quite sure what the controversy about the future or demise of Emergent is supposed to accomplish and how relevant it is in the first place. It seems to be more an emotional outlet mirroring the hopes (and subsequent disappointments!) we have put in certain individuals and identifiable groups and gatherings rather than a more constructive attempt to learn from what is taking place.

    If we truly believe that the Spirit of God is at the heart of the changes we’re longing to see and at the heart of a monumental tidal wave and movement bringing about that change, then it is happening and will continue to happen, no matter what, and it will happen in whatever way and through whatever means God sees fit. Our faith is in Him, not in a label, certain leader figures, or in a timetable that we personally feel comfortable with.

    Maybe the actual lesson here is to be less introspective when it comes to the evaluation of a particular religious and sociological phenomenon called “the emergent movement” and instead ask ourselves where we are placing our focus and our hopes. Everything else looks to me like an attempt to somehow control and move along something that in our opinion may have stalled but actually refuses to be controlled in this way.

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