In an attempt to scratch the surface of the question “What is emerging?” I’d like to unabashedly tweak a few words from a recent blog post by Clay Shirky, author of Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing Without Organizations.

In his post, Shirky summarizes his consultation to TV executives about the future of their industry in the internet age. Below, I’ve taken the last several paragraphs of his post and altered some phrasing here and there to make it read like he’s answering church leaders about the future of the Church in an internet/postmodern/late-modern world. Any changed I’ve made are italicized (I mostly changed “video” to “church”).


In the future, at least some methods of being the church will become as complex [think denominational organization], with as many details to attend to, as church has today, and people will doubtless make pots of money on those forms of church. It’s tempting, at least for the people benefitting from the old complexity, to imagine that if things used to be complex, and they’re going to be complex, then everything can just stay complex in the meantime. That’s not how it works, however.

Some church organizations still have to be complex to be valuable, but the logic of the old church ecoystem, where the church had to be complex simply to be the church, is broken. Expensive and expansive things made in complex ways now compete with cheap things made in simple ways. For example, the YouTube video Charlie Bit My Finger was made by amateurs, in one take, with a lousy camera. No professionals were involved in selecting or editing or distributing it. Not one dime changed hands anywhere between creator, host, and viewers. A world where that is the kind of thing that just happens from time to time is a world where complexity is neither an absolute requirement nor an automatic advantage.

When ecosystems change and inflexible institutions collapse, their members disperse, abandoning old beliefs, trying new things, making their living in different ways than they used to. It’s easy to see the ways in which collapse to simplicity wrecks the glories of old. But there is one compensating advantage for the people who escape the old system: when the ecosystem stops rewarding complexity, it is the people who figure out how to work simply in the present, rather than the people who mastered the complexities of the past, who get to say what happens in the future.


Troy Bronsink on Advent

December 21, 2009 · 0 comments

The Advent Community and the Emergence of God’s Dream for Creation by Troy Bronsink. “I have observed four theologies that are undergoing reimagination by emergent congregations: ecclesiology, eschatology, missiology, and incarnation. From the vantage point of these emergent theologies, I want to illuminate four metaphors from these texts that reimage preaching in Advent: an ecclesiology of the unfinished way, an eschatology of trade in seeds that will find future purchase in God’s coming dreams, a missiology in which language and symbols are reconceived by the Holy Spirit, and an incarnational theology of ordinary watching and witnessing.” (HT: Soupiset)


Albert Einstein

Kester Brewin (@kesterbrewin), provocative thinker and author of Signs of Emergence: A Vision for Church That Is Always Organic/Networked/Decentralized/Bottom-Up/Communal/Flexible/Always Evolving, is currently writing a series of blog posts that falls flawlessly in line with much of my recent thinking and research. The series, called Theology and the New Physics has two posts thus far: Uncertainty and Dimensions, with more forthcoming. UPDATE: The third post, Engaging The Maze, is now available.

If theology is even a casual pursuit for you, this is a series you must read. Here’s a snippet of what Brewin says in the first post:

What are the implications [of the new physics] for theology? Primarily, I think the argument between classical and quantum physics parallels quite nicely with the interaction between ‘classic’ and ‘emerging’ church. My experience in the 90’s, with Toronto etc. was that people in the charismatic, evangelical wing of the church really believed that they would soon achieve total immanence with God. God was almost touchable. If only we could sing that bit harder and be zapped that tiny bit more we would actually achieve full communion. When this didn’t happen, it precipitated a crisis among many of those of my generation. We felt cheated, and retreated into ‘alt.worship’ where we explored a ‘quantum theology’ where God was pure equations, transcendent and immensurable.

It seems now that both positions are wrong. While Einstein is yet to be vindicated, most physicists are skeptical about the ‘hard’ quantum model, and feel that some new theory will supersede it, even though Heisenberg’s principle is unbreachable. God, I think we are learning again, is both immanent and transcendent, but never entirely one or the other. Uncertainty remains.

In the second post, he talks about Flatland, which Rob Bell discusses in his Everything Is Spiritual lecture; but think of this blog series as Everything Is Spiritual with balls (to borrow from Stephen Colbert).

Anyway, if you’re eccentric like me and you think this stuff is really kinky (to borrow from a beloved college professor), I also recommend John Polkinghorne’s brief and relatively easy-to-read Quantum Physics and Theology: An Unexpected Kinship. Happy reading!


The Myth of the Institution-less Church. “Often, in reaction, we think that, in having no programmes, no hierarchy, the removal of the institution will solve the problem. After all, if the institution is getting in the way of the purpose, get rid of the institution. This response is increasingly ingrained in us, such that even using the word ‘institution’ is anathema to those seeking new ways of doing and being church. But I think how ever well intentioned, this approach is naive and inadequate to the task of being Church.”


Stephen Shields wrote a great piece called Ten Years Out: A Retrospective on the Emerging Church in North America. “My biggest concern is that too many don’t care enough about theology and the history of Christian thinking to give both the respect they deserve. We may need to rethink many items, but we can only do so responsibly if we listen attentively to those who have gone ahead of us.”


The Columbus Huddle

January 12, 2009 · 0 comments


Those who are committed to the ELCA and are interested in the emerging church conversation may want to make some room in your summer schedules for the Columbus Emerging Huddle:

We invite all friends and neighbors of the Lutheran emerging church conversation to come together for worship, prayer, listening, wondering, comfort, support and consolation to Columbus, OH at Jacob’s Porch from August 11-14, 2009.

The days will begin and end with worship led by many different attendees. In between we gather with a loose agenda for discussion. We leave the time open for the Spirit and conversation to blow where it will.

The cost of the event is free, however you will need to arrange for your own transportation, food, and housing. Jacob’s Porch has a full kitchen and we are seeking local host homes to help assuage the costs incurred.

This is a grassroots gathering so we are depending on those attending to invite their friends interested in such a collective to spread the word to those who would benefit from such a conversation.

I plan on attending the event, as do several other people I know. If you’d like more information, check the event page or ColumbusHuddle.com, which promises to have more information in the near future.