Emergent and Me, Part 1


emergent_and_me.jpgI thoroughly enjoyed reading Tony Jones‘ new book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. It’s basically the story of Emergent Village, told from Tony’s inimitable perspective, as well as his thoughts/assertions about the broader emerging church movement. (Yes, he calls it a “movement.”)

I must start off by saying that I think of all the leading Emergent voices (e.g., Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, etc.) Tony is the best writer. I just like his style. I appreciate very much what others have written, but I just enjoy reading Tony’s stuff a little more. And that’s purely an aesthetic judgment.

I might be a little biased though. Tony is, after all, my personal entrée to the emerging church conversation. His telling of the Emergent story has given me an opportunity to reflect on my own journey and how it intersects and interweaves with Emergent. In the foreword to The New Christians, Tony says that this Emergent Village thing has been going on now for a decade among a group of people committed to being “a growing, generative friendship of missional Christian leaders.” Tony’s friendship is what brought me “into the fold” originally, back in 1999.

It was through Tony, who was a fan of my underground ‘zine, that I was invited to participate in the Young Leader Network’s “Ministry on the New Edge” Midwest Regional Forum in Minneapolis held May 24-26, 1999, at Colonial Church in Edina.

Here’s an interesting recap
of the West Coast regional forum
from the May 1999 edition
of Next-Wave ezine


It was there, at the YLN midwest gathering, that I first met Doug Pagitt (who was on his way out of YLN to go start Solomon’s Porch), Andrew Jones, Tom and Christine Sine, the folks behind Beyond magazine, and others.

If I recall correctly, I led a discussion (attended by maybe two people) on using the Internet for ministry—because I had created a few websites at that point, that made me an “expert.”

I remember my first meeting with Doug was playing “H-O-R-S-E” against him on the in-door basketball court in the Jonathan Edwards Youth Center at Colonial Church (where Tony Jones was on staff at the time). The lesson I learned: Never go against anyone taller than 6′ in any basketball-related activity, unless you want to be humbled severely.

I remember the Sines were great, and I remember thinking, “Thank God for ‘elders’ like this who ‘get it’ and are willing to listen to younger generations and to grow in their understanding and willing to adapt and change.” The Sines really impressed me—and still do.

I remember thinking (after the fact) that I wished I’d gotten to hang out more with Andrew Jones. Oh well, hopefully that will happen sometime in the future …

The YLN regional forums were “designed for those doing ministry among the post-1960 generations.” The stated goals were:

  • Provide conceptual guidance for understanding and engaging the emerging culture.
  • Model and facilitate discussion of new skills for effective ministry in the emerging culture.
  • Provide exposure to varied new ways of expressing the faith and being the church in the future.
  • Provide access to resources to help young leaders be effective in the emerging culture.
  • Help innovative leaders discover friends for mutual encouragement, ongoing learning and collaboration.
  • Inspire hope and action through holistic experience of worship, conversation, teaching, art and prayer.
  • This may have been where I heard the term “postmodern” for the first time.

    Later, I started getting these weird email updates from something called “The Terra Nova Project”—I later discovered that this is what YLN had sort of morphed into and what later became known as “Emergent Village” …

    I’ll share some more of my journey in a future update. Until then, check out Jason Mitchell’s posts featuring his perspective on “The History of Emergent,” fascinating and hilarious stuff …



    Posted on 03-21-2008


    1. el mol says:

      March 21st, 2008 at 11:50 pm

      this was a nice and haunting walk down memory lane. so funny that we were at all these events together

    2. scott childress says:

      March 24th, 2008 at 7:43 am

      i would have to agree that Tony is the most approachable..i tend to take about a week to read a book – but TNC got devoured in a day…plus, I’m looking forward to going back thorugh it with a highlighter…i think it makes for a great emergent apologetic and perfect intro to the curious.

      thanks for the back-story of your involvment as well. interesting stuff.

    3. History of the Emerging Church and Emergent « faithmaps blog says:

      March 25th, 2008 at 2:31 am

      […] 25 March 2008 by snshields Steve Knight draws our attention to Kevin Mitchell’s multi-part personal history of the ec conversation in the States. […]

    4. Books @ Leadership Network says:

      March 28th, 2008 at 2:02 pm

      boring title. great insider info….

      Tony Jones’ got a new book coming out this month titled The New Christians: Dispatches From the Emergent Frontier. This subtitle is a lot more interesting, but when I had only read the main title, The New Christians, I thought…

    5. Jeff Kursonis says:

      April 1st, 2008 at 2:45 pm

      Wow, Steve, what a great thing to hear this story, I didn’t know you went back so far. It’s so interesting to me how this has all developed.

      I was completely disconnected from any of that living in NYC as an artist but emerging here along with others interested in the juncture of faith and art/culture and trying to understand how to live in a way totally not understood by or supported by the existing church.

      Eventually my art focus began to merge with more theological and ecclesiolgical conversations leading me to discover emergent in 2003 totally online, and then to become an actual friend in 2005 when Tony sat down next to me at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

    6. Steve K. says:

      April 1st, 2008 at 2:51 pm

      Hey Jeff! Yeah, I remember when Tony met you and posted about it on his blog.

      I realized I’ve never really written about my history with Emergent, which explains where/how I fit into this whole relational network of divergent people.

      I need to post some more about my journey. Hopefully I’ll have time to do that soon …

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