Interview with Tony Jones, author of “The New Christians” (Part 2)

January 12, 2008 · 4 comments

The New Christians
The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier

The following is Part 2 (Part 1) of an interview with Tony Jones about his forthcoming book The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier (to be released March 3, 2008). Tony is the national coordinator of Emergent Village, and a doctoral fellow in practical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Find out more at Tony’s website.

JAKE BOUMA: Going off of your last answer, what role has electronic media – especially the internet and blogging – played in both the shaping of the emergent phenomenon and the process of your writing this book?

TONY JONES: This cannot be overstated. Emerging technology (cell phones, the Internet, email, etc) have made the kind of connection that we’re after possible. It goes without saying that face-to-face connection is still essential, but church leaders of previous generations could not have imagined the kind of connections that we have today. I communicate with thousands of leaders every week by various means, and these communications have absolutely nothing to do with traditional denominational or confessional demarcation. This is a new era.

JAKE BOUMA: What role did your stint in youth ministry play in getting you to think about or become involved in emergent?

TONY JONES: It’s no mistake that many of the emergent leaders were formerly youth workers. Church-based youth ministry is a fertile training ground for so much that is emergent: risk-taking, entrepreneurialism, pushing boundaries, getting in trouble :-), staying up-to-date on culture, etc. All of this has influenced the genesis of emergent.

JAKE BOUMA: As you mentioned earlier, your book draws upon insights from what’s happening “on the ground” in actual emergent churches in what you call “dispatches”. Do you have a favorite or particularly memorable “dispatch”?

TONY JONES: Well, I loved writing about Solomon’s Porch — the church I attend — and that comes right at the end of the book; it’s kind of a coda to the whole book. And each of the “dispatches” that come between chapters is significant to me. Honestly, it’d be hard for me to pick a favorite…

JAKE BOUMA: A recent post on presbymergent titled A Challenge to Emergent Authors raised the following question, among others: “In the emergent conversation, are we writing the things we’re writing because we want to sell books, or are we writing the things we’re writing because we want to change the world?” How would you respond?

TONY JONES: I’ve read that post, and there are some really good points therein. There are also some naive misconceptions about the publishing industry. I see it like this: print publishing is an important way to vet one’s ideas in the broader culture. Of course, Joel Osteen sells a lot of books, so sales does not necessarily equal quality. But the ideas of emergent have been out there in the public square through books and blogs an conferences, and, as a result of the feedback (good and bad), we’ve all become better thinkers and practitioners. In the early days, many of us were committed to publishing everything for free on the Internet. But, at this point, that is just not feasible. For instance, many colleges, universities, and graduate schools do not allow students to footnote websites. You see, having a book printed lends the ideas therein credibility…at least for now.

JAKE BOUMA: Finally, what’s next on the plate for both yourself and Emergent Village? Do you have another book on the horizon? Any emergent events or a book tour (or anything) you want to plug for 2008? Thanks for participating in this interview!

TONY JONES: We’re doing some imagining around EV about the future. It might become more public, or it might go underground. We don’t really know. We’ve got a couple of great theological events coming next fall, and you can read about them at www.emergentvillage.com. Doug Pagitt, Mark Scandrette, and I will be on tour for our books all summer, so watch for that. And I’m currently writing a little book on the Didache, a very early Christian document that didn’t quite make the Bible. Thanks for having me!

Return to Part 1 of the interview »

  • http://www.jemilakwon.com Jemila

    I appreciate your sharing this interview, Jake. Looking forward to hearing more about what Tony Jones considers “going way back” and what he considers “uniquely postmodern.”

  • http://www.mrlocke.net Neal Locke

    Ok, so I’m the author of the presbymergent post referred to here.

    I don’t know Tony Jones, but I wish he would have engaged with the discussion on the post, instead of just reading it. That’s why we started presbymergent, and I thought that “conversation” was the driving force behind Emergent, too.

    In the early days, many of us were committed to publishing everything for free on the Internet. But, at this point, that is just not feasible. For instance, many colleges, universities, and graduate schools do not allow students to footnote websites. You see, having a book printed lends the ideas therein credibility…at least for now.

    I think that’s a little bit of a naive misconception about the nature of my original post, *and* the nature of the publishing industry. It’s not a matter of “books vs. free-on-the-internet.”

    I’m going to borrow something from the postmodern, emerging phrasebook here: It doesn’t have to be either/or when it could be both/and. I point to examples in my post of successful and well-known writers who have simultaneously published print books for sale in bookstores with free, downloadable ebook copies available under a Creative Commons license.

    What bothers me is the reluctance among Emergent authors (whom I love, read, and support) to even explore creative new ways of publishing things, both in print and otherwise.

    Everything Must Change…just not the way we distribute our ideas.

  • Pingback: JakeBouma.com hits the bigtime! (thanks, Ken Silva) » JakeBouma.com

  • Pingback: luthermergent » Blog Archive » Interview with Tony Jones, author of “The New Christians” (Part 1)