« the best looking blog... | Main | ealing photo blog »


darren wright

I regularly enter discussion with people who have a problem with the "emerging church" or "emergent" as either seem like a brand to them, people not in our discussions but doing it just the same. I find it helpful to go back to scratch, remove the brand and describe emergent theory and how that is playing out in the church, and then move onto the use of the term emerging church as a name then to try and describe these types of churches, in the same way some might use the word missional or fresh expressions, rather than a brand or specific group of people.

its true that in the us and in the uk, and to some extent the au Emergent with a capital E is a brand, but in the mind of many people I connect with so is missional and emerging or alternative...

and, unfortunately for many in consumer culture brands are good, and for others, many who are out there doing the stuff brand names are big ugly smelly things that church publishers like to use to sell things.

this makes it interesting when someone calls what they are doing emerging :)

i think you're right to say that there is a distinction, Emergent is definately a brand, a group, an organisation, a logo on books and videos, but I'm mindful that the same is being said about missional and emerging, just that Emergent is the only one that's organised as such... (although there could be a decent argument put together to say that missional has also been branded by some, particularly here in Au)

barry taylor

A point well made, and one that continually needs to be addressed. I have had to revise a lot of my teaching at Fuller about emerging church topics simply because the elephant in the room is 'brand Emergent' and it has coloured the conversation in ways that I am sure those on the inside are unaware. It has reached the point, at least in a teaching environment for me, where the invoking any of the various permutations of the word is increasingly unhelpful to use--because you have to spend too much time qualifying what it is you are not talking about, and it forces the conversation into a much narrower territory.
As for Darren's comments about brand appeal, I think there is some truth there, but I also have to say that at the seminary where I teach, which draws a predominant number of young evangelical types, there is a fair amount of resistance and confusion about using the term precisely because there is a view that it has been coopted to some degree and the 'brand' limitations of that particular manifestation are already apparent.


I had a talk with Spencer Burke in which we describe what's happening as a global spirit that's infusing religion, politics and the culture at large - I am focusing not on naming this but following it where it takes us. Yes theological discussions are critical but perhaps sometimes we fall into the trap of talking the talk with the end result being that the spirit moves on by and we're left behind (but not in a Jerry Jenkins/Tim LaHaye kind of way). I love the Simple Way's mission - "To Love God. To Love people. To Follow Jesus." We're giving that our best shot. Shane hates being called emergent but he walks the walk for sure.

D.G. Hollums

True words, and I agree with you. but I also go to conferences and the lines are blurred so much, than the term's distinctions are becoming less about casing fear, and more about causing discussion. no matter how the terms are heard, it is a great way to start discussion, which bring closer relationship, but you do need to make sure that everyone is OK with how everyone is understanding the term to get past the baggage and on to discussion that really brings the Kingdom into being.

Adam Moore

I think terms are really getting in the way and it's only going to get worse. But we are very attached to our terms, aren't we?

Mark Van Steenwyk

Amen. Amen. A thousand times amen. I simply don't understand why so many folks don't get this important distinction.

bob carlton

many thanks for this, jonny. your generosity & honesty is so useful.

brand-building carries with it a whole host of demands - targeting audiences with money, mediums that can trigger transactions, choosing voices that carry with them platforms. even when brands are leveraged or subverted, then they carry the DNA of the brand & the marketing & the transaction with them.

i am struck by the fact that good & faithful people are left to do tough stuff when we have few options to make a iving. so many people in professional ministry confess to be bi-vocational - their day job is in "ministry", but their heart & soul are in their passions, those things emerging.

this is not a popular conversation, not safe, not favored in where it might end up. but it is one that should entered - thanks for walking with it a bit, brave & wise friend


Not to put too fine a point on it, but the first Christians were CALLED Christians. I take it that they didn't CALL THEMSELVES Christians. E(e)mergent, it strikes me, is a very large tent. There are indeed distinctions to be made, as you point out. But I'm inclined just to say what I say, do what I do, participate in the conversations I participate in, and let others engage in slapping a label on me. I'm (becoming) a Christian. That's a label I'll apply to myself (with fear and trembling). So it's not that I'm opposed to labels. But even "Christian" (sadly) has been branded. So, speaking for myself, I don't want to spend too much time carving up the emergent landscape and drawing precise boundaries. I'd rather just get on with the work I'm called to which, as Becky points out (following TSW) is to: Love God. Love People. And Follow Jesus.

[Sorry for the caps there, but it seems the html code for italics I included got nixed.]

John L

(posted over at Steve Taylors blog on same topic..) Just spent three frustrating days at an advertising / branding / marketing conference (http://www.microclesia.com/?p=345) and I'm in no mood to hear about yet another voice claiming to speak for a broader community. I consider myself part of the global emerging conversation. The single-point or "clearinghouse" mentality exemplified by Emergent(tm) feels awkward - a caricature of the broader emerging reality.

That said, I love and respect the individuals behind the Emergent organization (had dinner with a wonderful board member last week), and have spent plenty of time privately explaining to them why (i feel) they're trying to fit the idea of ecclesial emergence into a dying administrative model - an "old wineskin" if you will.

Ecclesial emergence is about servants empowering a participative community via de-centralization and self-organization.


john i love that last sentence - that is totally my sentiment...

and i also totally agree about the guys in emergent - of course they are doing great stuff too...

kevin i like your point too - in fact i said something similar a while back in terms of identity on the blog.

thanks everyone.

Kevin Corcoran


I asked the contributors over at Tony's site if they thought the branding was being carried out primarily by participants/practitioners/interlocutors in emerging or by outsiders. I wanted to know if the merchants of cool and hip, the Christian commodifiers who see a marketing demographic and money to be made from emerging, are on the inside or outside of the larger conversation, so to speak. Bob Carlton offered the following response: "brands are imposed & invited" he said. And then he added this: "cool is dead, isn’t it? it kills effifiecntly, like some neutron bomb." I like that. In any event, it seems to me that the commodifiers are both inside and outside the conversation, but that, clearly, the conversation (or emerging) is much, much larger than Emergent Village and Brian McLaren.

Matt Stone

I am with you Jonny. I think there is a valid distinction between Emergent (Village) and Emerging (Church) and whilst it may suit Tony to blurr the distinctions between the US organization and the global movement (since practically it probably does means nothing for him) I find fuzziness over this DOES create a confusion of tongues elsewhere in the world. And I wonder if I started calling myself an Emergent leader, despite my having no connection to Emergent (Village), how long it would take for some Emergent (Village) leaders to object to me unilaterally appropriating their brand?


that is an excellent question matt !!

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)


  • jonny profile pic

    i have been blogging for twenty years in fairly eclectic fashion. i am an advocate for pioneers, lover of all things creative, an explorer of faith in relation to contemporary culture, a photographer and writer. explore the presences section below to find me in other spaces

    about me | profile


  • instagram facebook twitter flickr vimeo links e-mail me


  • pioneer practice

    the latest book is a full colour coffee table type book which is the first published by new venture GETsidetracked - pioneer practice

    jonny baker book covers

    follow this link to other books, chapters, articles and music i have published.

worship tricks

  • series 1series 2series 3series 4

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner


  • typepad monthly archivesmy first blog