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Bishop Alan Wilson

Read Seth's book before Christmas, and ws struck at many of the same points as you. God is changing the ways we relate to each other in interesting ways. All I'd add to the read list (I talked about Spider/ Starfish and Clay Sharkey at a Deaneries Conference in the autumn) is Dave Logan, John King, Halee Fischer-Wright’s Tribal Leadership. I also have Matthew Fraser and Soumitra Dutta's Throwing Sheep in the Boardroom in may bag for next week's review/retreat at Alton Abbey. This explores the ay spcial media are changing our interreactions and extpectations about each other. I personally believe open systems / shaking foundations favour Christian disciples, by creating space in which they can get on with what really matters to them. Hierarchical, Catholic order can then assume its due (infrastructural) role as accountability holding mechanism rather than lead suit. The trouble is, if the wrong things really matter to disciples, the wrong things are what the religion will amplify...


Alan thanks - I'll check those out! It's encouraging to think at least one bishop is seeing this kind of thinking as important...



I will copy this and think on this. Thank you- it is an inspiration and it is good to know that someone is thinking and living these thoughts.

Thanks- your blog is great and on dark days keeps me going....


Jonny, good subject matter, really worth talking about. There is a huge question about whether ‘change’ or ‘transformation’ is even possible anymore, particularly under capitalism. Its something I’ve been trying to get my head round (in respect to design and activism) and it’s a minefield. Recent events excluded, most contemporary theorists seem to have written off the possibility of change. Our ‘inert’ culture is a symptom of this, it has become a ‘Groundhog Day’ of endless recycling; postmodernism is the hand-maiden of capitalism, and ‘change’ has been cloned and rendered in-effectual.

This is why I question your statement: ‘it's not about money’. Tragically I think it is. The logic of capital has extended everywhere, right down to our relationships, our cells, beliefs and our thoughts. We are unable to conceptualise ‘other’-wise, I think this is why some thinkers have begun to posit capital as the only notable form of agency around, a contemporary form of vitalism— it animates all of life.

Having said all this, there must be some hope somewhere, and the current crisis does provide a window of opportunity.

In Hard and Negri’s Empire there is this fantastic quote:

‘And no such effective blueprint will ever arise from a theoretical articulation such as ours. It will arise only in practice. At a certain point in his thinking Marx needed the Paris Commune in order to make the leap and conceive communism in concrete terms as an effective alternative to capitalist society. Some such experiment or series of experiments advanced through the genius of collective practice will certainly be necessary today to take that next concrete step and create a new social body beyond empire.’

I’m trying to read this as a tactical method that incorporates multiple experiments in collective theorising and practice. A form of group ‘critical’ being that attempts to engage with the current malaise, something that doesn’t just apply a sticking plaster or replicate the same old relationships or same old model. It’s incredibly difficult.

Thanks for teeing up the question, its so important…


the book doesn't even make any attempt to locate outside of capitalism. that's not really the question godin is asking. when he says it's not about money i think he means that if you want to offer an idea or a vision if it ends up being about a hard sell or getting money people will leave...

i like the quote... the thing it makes me think that i like about the book is that in the current environment it is possible to do stuff and gather people to do stuff around an idea very easily. the implication being that there's not a lot of excuse for just sitting around waiting for something to happen. i was actually inspired by the notion of doing something remarkable. hope is a needed fuel...

it reminds me a little bit of how undone i felt by the book nation of rebels: why counter culture became consumer culture which ofeers a very heavy critique of guardian reading alternative types who have great critique but don't do a lot. the big changes have come by those prepared to engage in practice!

so as you say in your quote it's up to us to help it arise in practice, (albeit that theory is part of practice). glad to stay connected nic via the occasional comment etc. hope life is working out well after your move - love to all...


I think you're right, a bias one side or the other is problematic— either too much theory with not enough action (arm-chair radicalism); or all out un-reflexive practice (most cultural production). Praxis is probably the wrong term, critical practice might be a better term.

Not sure about the small oversight of not engaging with capitalism however !-)


not surprised.

he 'writes the most popular marketing blog in the world'…

marketing is the natural predator of design, its the natural predator of everything!

Paul Johnston

First time I've read your blog, but I'm intrigued. I'm coming at this from a very different point of view, in that I am a Christian, Head of Digital at a communications agency, and a very big social network advocate to both large corporates, churches and my friends!

I agree it's about communication, but it actually starts with having something that brings people together. The majority of people overthink and overwork the communication method and forget that something has to be fun, enjoyable, valuable and remarkable for a tribe to be built around it. In fact, most people in the church don't realise all of the tribes around them that already exist.

It's very true that a heretic leader is the most important and dangerous kind. The thing is that the church as a whole struggles with this concept. There is a balance between being released into ministry and just doing it because you're passionate.

The most important heretic leaders are those which are taken, nurtured and will accept authority, whilst being released into the ministry to which God has called them.

As far as capitalism and all that goes, I don't think it's wrong to focus on creating tribes in a book that is for marketing types. The easiest way to take it into the church environment is to recognise that people put value in money and that is the draw. Too often in christian circles, a tribe is focussed on conversion or God, and whilst God should be at the centre, the tribe should provide some sort of intrinsic value anyway, or there is an undertone of conversion that can often put people off.

Not sure I'm making much sense, but my wife and I are looking to new forms of church where we are, and are church of england! Very interesting post.


So this is an analysis of group organization that remains silent about our economic and political context and places a generic model of 'communication' at the core of its argument.

Sounds like marketing to me, just what the church doesn't need. Sorry, having spent half my life negotiating these bottom-feeders (and never once heard them utter an original word or thought). I find it hard to take what they say seriously. I'm with Bill on this one:



Sorry, got a real bee in my bonnet on this one!
Zizek has a fascinating take, not only on Christianity but also the notion of ‘refusal’. In other words, ‘Don’t do something remarkable’.


Apologies for ranting Jonny, but all this stuff is so fertile. It’s the stuff of a thousand projects— and armchairs !-)


that's fine nic! all good stuff :-) it is the six million dollar question - how to live in a consumer culture and make do...

Kester Brewin

One remarkable thing that someone didn't do was get on a bus, because it carried an advert paid for by the British Humanist Association... I found it remarkable that someone should take a stand on something like this - refuse to drive a bus because it carried an ad that conflicted his beliefs.

He said that he hadn't wanted to take a stand, but just had to over this.

I have no idea if he has before, but I'm guessing that he hasn't taken a stand over other adverts buses carry, or he'd simply never get on a bus. I'm guessing he hasn't taken a stand when skinned models try to get us to buy shower gel, or when ruthless debt-consolidation companies take out adverts.

So why did he take a stand? Because he was uncomfortable that atheism got into marketing? Or because he's been 'sold' a faith in an "organization that remains silent about our economic and political context"?

I'd agree with Zizek's crit.: we have no right to say anything about the downs of a system if we are sold out on the ups. Bill Gates a great philanthropist? Only because he used used unfair business practices to pool so much wealth.

Ian Mobsby

Spot on Jonny. I think your analysis is correct. I too share your concern that Pioneer Ministry is not empowering enough - with the danger of turning out institutionalised beasts. Very few of the new Ordained Pioneer training courses are radical enough for me - it has been watered down... So I have just ordered this book to read.

Cheers Ian


Thanks for the book recommendation. I was blown away by the Starfish and the Spider and requested review copies of this and Here Comes Everybody. This sentiment was why I coined the term Emergent Church (tm) - my intention wasn't to hurt anyone (my apologies to anyone at the end of a satirical rant, my aim is to deconstruct those idols that get in all the way of having us truly seek God). But rather I'm commenting on the morphing of a pioneer form model of starfish ministry that I've seen have transformative effects in the church (both in person and though blogs like yours) into a spider model where self-appointed leaders seek to serve as the spokespersons replete with book sales, conferences, and other commercial endeavors that end up becoming the very same evangelical model of male dominated hierarchical models that these pioneers were rebelling against. Given the lure of power (not to mention the need to make money in a depressed economy where it's mighty tempting to hop on board the missional marketing machine), I definitely get why this transformation happens. The Q is how to identify when this morphing is starting to happen so one can make the necessary corrections before it's too late because once branded with any moniker, you've lost that prophetic voice and once you're brand expires (almost all of the 'hot' speakers pitched to me five years ago have pretty much faded into the woodwork), you become yesterdays news instead of the voice for tomorrow.


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  • jonny profile pic

    i have been blogging for a decade or more 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

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