Emerging Irrelevancy

As predicted by Josh and I in the past, the Emergent Church has now, most certainly, lost all relevancy in my opinion.

Although I haven’t been there in a while, I recently stopped by to check out the national website for the Emergent Church. I was preparing for another post I am writing in which I look at the current “heroes” of the Emerging Church-Types such as Brian McLaren, Rob Bell and our friend, Tony Jones. So I stopped in to see what was happening and if Tony had written anything of interest lately.

To my surprise I saw a post from Brian McLaren called “Supporting Emergent”. In this post, McLaren states that while Emergent is making great strides and growing in momentum, it needs financial support to continue its efforts. The goal this year was to fund the position of National Coordinator which Tony Jones now occupies. Here is what Brian wants all of the “friends of the Emergent” to consider:

I’m writing to ask you to make a generous financial contribution to Emergent so that we can free up Tony to serve full-time in this capacity as soon as possible. In our “Emergent rule,” part of our fourth commitment is to “bring whatever resources we can to enrich this shared faith and resolve.” Unless you are experiencing financial hardship, I hope you will give to Emergent in any or all of these three ways:

1) A large annual gift: It would be of great help to us to receive several large gifts – $5,000, $10,000, $20,000 or more. If you are capable of giving at these levels, please be assured that your gift now will add to our momentum in significant ways.

2) A regular monthly commitment: If you could consider giving monthly at $50, $100, $200, or $500 per month, you would be building needed strength and stability in our community.

3) Adding us to your church budget: If Emergent contributes significantly to the health and direction of your church, we hope that your church can reinvest in Emergent.

All contributions are tax-deductible, and you will receive a tax letter for any gifts given to Emergent. You can give online by clicking here. The online donation site will also allow you to choose to contribute to Emergent in regular intervals.

So what’s the point of your gifts beyond financing the position of the National Coordinator? Here’s what Brian says:

Please join me in making a generous contribution to Emergent. As we invest in supporting a National Coordinator, we’ll be able to help more and more people get involved in the Emergent conversation – which will bring benefit to the participants, their churches, and we trust, to the church at large. With God’s empowerment and our commitment, we just might have a movement on our hands.

So let me get this straight. I am supposed to send my money to Emergent to “help more and more people get involved in the Emergent conversation.” Can’t we do that for free already? Isn’t that what’s happening for those that already want to be a part of the Emergent conversation? I also find it interesting that they want people to “get involved in the Emergent conversation” yet don’t allow comments on their own site. Kind of stifles the dialogue ‘eh when you can’t provide feedback on anything they are saying on the national site.

And what is the point of the position of National Coordinator? What’s the guy coordinating? What will he do? I have nothing against Tony personally, but why the hell do we need financial support for an organization that neither organizes nor directs anything on a regular ongoing basis?

Now I have said it before and I will say it again… Josh and I (along with the Stupid Church People website) do not consider ourselves Emergent. Never have… never will. People have tried to peg us as such but we have fought that label. We have always seen them as progressively irrelevant to what is genuinely happening in our midst.

The Emergent has consistently and with increasing speed become more focused on “organizing” (i.e. 501c3 status, boards, etc) and “getting paid” (i.e. books, conventions, raising support, etc.) than they have in stimulating authentic change. They may have once had a voice and been a fresh part of the “conversation”, but in my opinion, with this latest shameless solicitation, they have become insignificant. We had hoped against hope that this wouldn’t come to pass, but even as we hoped we knew with certainty that this was the future of the Emergent Church.

In recognition of these recent revelations, it is with great excitement that we name Brian McLaren and Tony Jones our “Stupid Church People of the Year” for 2005.

Brian, your body of work is impressive and to be applauded, but to be involved in this manner by pleading for funds is disappointing. Tony, you took something with great promise and have proceeded to create the very thing you resisted with your initial passion and vision. You both epitomize the title and spirit of our site with your recent actions on behalf of the Emergent Church. We are honored to have you represent us.

32 thoughts on “Emerging Irrelevancy”

  1. I want to chime in and say I have no problem with 501c3 corporations. I understand those that are concerned with tax-exempt status and how that either helps or hurts the economy…. but that’s the current system we have. Irregardless of this, churches are vital to the distribution of assistance to those in need. The flow of wealth in our lives should be distributed through worthy organizations and I think churches can (and should) still be a part of that… although not the only part of a person’s giving.I do disagree somewhat Ryan, that the Americhurches I have been a part of were less interested in the “assistance to the poor, hungry, imprisoned, and suffering all around the world.” Many churches I was a part of were more interested in “self-preservation” first. I personally know your heart Ryan towards missions, and exposing kids to mission efforts to give them a global world-view. I applaud those efforts and they way you utilize your church position to promote that world-view. I don’t see you as anywhere close to SCP status although for most of us, that can occur at any time.My last church (CHC) did have a very “giving” nature about it and was one of the reasons I went there because they had a plan in place to give away a a minimum of a “tithe” part of their budget dollars to help those in need outside of the church and around the world. Of all the churches I have been involved with I liked their balance in that area and learned some of what a “giving” church should look like.

  2. So in essence isn’t this just buying your salvation in a sense. The whole “give us money, in turn we will grow, our message (the one true message)will be spread around the globe and we will all be saved.”I mean if you put aside the fact that they’re pimping out the church, the amounts that they’re asking for are just not possible for most people. I can’t give them $5000 annually, can you? Not to mention it’s all tax free. Wouldn’t surprise me one bit if by this time next year, the whole emergent movement was done and these guys were on their own private little island sipping drinks with umbrellas and laughing at all the suckers who gave them money in the first place.I haven’t seen highway robbery on this level ever, and that’s saying something! They’ve even outdone the Scientolgy crowd! And they do make you pay for your “salvation”. Each course of that faith charges you more and more money as you go. So what’s the difference?It’s just another big church with big church rules. Anyone who sets out to start a new church will inevitably just be starting the same old church with the same old problems, it just has a new catchy title. I think they just don’t know any better, they only have the one model to work with. They can’t think outside the box, let alone think of getting rid of the box altogether.

  3. <>I think I finally figured out the “emergent church”. They are just a group of people trying to do things and figure out things they way they want to. That is SO awesome.<>Actually Josh, I believe this is the emerging church movement. The ’emergent’ church seems to be the organization that is ruining the ‘conversation’.Personally, I believe Tony, Brian and the rest of the ’emergent’ heirarchy should change their name to something that isn’t so close to ’emerging’… They’re pimping a pretty cool movement for the advancement of their organization. That’s not right.

  4. I am depressed about it even more… cuz i was starting a church plant in nyc with this guy…and all he does is talk about money… and he is supposedly emergent and he wants to sell emergent to people but that’s not what emergent was all about…. gosh it just sucks. but art is repressed but it will be free… ARTISTS!!! WHERE ARE YOU!!!!!???? WE NEED YOU!

  5. Thank you for you last comments Dorsey. This is why I still believe in the church. It is messed up and often struggles with right motives, true Christ-like living, and a whole list of issues. But, local churches do provide the majority of assistance to the poor, hungry, imprisoned, and suffering all around the world. It sucks that money has to be a part of it, but without tax-deductible support, people will find other places to get tax deductions. By the way, congratulations Tony and Brian. I’m sure I will be on the list of winners for this award someday.

  6. <>I have no reason to doubt that both these men have good intentions. <>Agreed, but the same can be said about myriads of other leaders throughout the Church’s history. That said, good intentions have definitely paved a road for hell, even for the Church.This is nothing new, either. Going back to the “Church Fathers” we can see where pious brothers, such as Augustine, brought in disastrous policies (note I didn’t say scripture) that were well-intentioned but steered the Church onto the rocks. So-called “leaders” since have done nothing but punch more holes in the hull.So what is the answer? I don’t know. I’m still trying to figure out why we seem to have this innate need to organize something that <>cannot<> be organized, something that is uniquely not ours, something other worldly.One thing is for sure, our fingerprints are all over it, which makes me wonder if we’re more interested in trying to push it in a direction it will not go or are we just trying to cop a feel?

  7. In regards to the no comments on the emergent-us site, please do your research before you make claims. See here:http://emergent-us.typepad.com/emergentus/2005/08/new_boards_for_.htmlAnd in Tony’s defense (whom I’ve had the fortune of being able to share a meal with), he’s trying to love Jesus, and he’s trying to help others do that as well. Find those who continually perpetuate injustice in the world and yell at them. Use your words to educate people about AIDS or homelessness or any other injustice in the world that makes Christ cry. Instead of yelling at a guy who needs money to eat and take care of his family, just like you and me. God is the great provider, but we live in a world that demands money to get food and shelter.

  8. My problem with the emergent church is that I have heard all of this before. If it weren’t the pentacostals, it was the seeker movement, and the mega-church movement. What’s going to be next? I think that there is a lot of rightful criticism of the modern church, but Emergent is not helping the situation any, if anything they are making it worse by creating another divide. Secondly, I have read Generous Orthodoxy, and I frequently check out the Emergent web sight. One thing I found interesting is they back up their points by primarily focussing on other writers and very little if at all on scripture. His beliefs are extremely suspect and at the very least wishy washy. And maybe it’s just me, but they are bit by bit becoming their own denomination. There are already emergent churches forming as we speak.

  9. Hey Tony. I can’t speak for anyone else. But, what concerns me is that the no matter how effective the emerging/emergent/postmodern or whatever you want to call it movement is (and I think it is effective), don’t you feel that the attempts to organize nationally will eventually lead to the whole non-denominational denomination? With that would come standards/practices as well as guidance regarding ‘the conversation’…I don’t know. Maybe that’s not even a bad thing. But it sure seems like you guys are headed the same direction as every other movement.Do you see that potential?

  10. Steve, I didn’t say they were deceiving people and taking their money for their own personal gain or use, I said it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened. That’s all. You know these guys better than I do, if you say they’re on the level, I believe you.I’m not upset that they’re asking for money either, what gets me is the amounts they’re asking for, and the frequency in which they want those amounts donated. I attened a mini-mega church in Scottsdale, AZ, and I’ve never received an e-mail or letter asking for an annual donation plus a monthly donation. They simply encourage the 10% tithe and leave it at that. If you feel moved to give to their enrichment program, it’s certainly appreciated but not mandatory as it seems to be with Emergent. Now the ACLJ on the other hand, they’re always sending me letters and e-mails begging for cash, but they’re lawyers, I expect that from them LOL

  11. Personally, I was drawn to the synchronicity of the whole conversation, when it was at the grassroots level.Where they went wrong was saying, “Hey! This is cool! We should make a church out of this…” (…and the downward spiral begins)What we’re seeing now is the inevitable result of people’s need to add credibility to their ‘movement’ by doing it in a church building, instead of denying the need of corporate acceptance, and allowing the conversation to flow freely in the marketplace (where it should have stayed, to begin with).More and more, I’m coming to realize that even the most on-the-edge, progressive, neo-post-modern, stupid church person is not happy, until they’re in a stupid church (instead of being content to BE the Church).

  12. I wish I could say this suprises me, but it really doesn’t. They aren’t interested in having a conversation, they never were. They are just wishy washy in what they believe, but they are solidly so. Quite frankly, after reading Generous Orthodoxy I considered his quest to be relevant made him extremely irrelevant.

  13. McLaren:<>With God’s empowerment and our commitment, we just might have a movement on our hands.<>“Pimping out the church?”No, it appears that Emergent is pimping out God as if He is some sort of prostitute that can’t get “busy” until we ante up the cost of the trick.This shameless appeal for money tells me two things about Emergent: 1) They are on their way to becoming just another denomination; and 2) They should be classified as “IC-lite.”Except for the candles and cool clothes, there’s scant difference between them and any other denomination.

  14. Listen, you all have the right to not like Emergent, not like what we’re about, not like what we’re trying to do. That’s fine.You can even fill these pages with misinformation. But here are the facts: We’re not a denomination and never will be. We have no staff and no budget. We’re trying to put a minimal budget and one part-time position together so that we can get a few more things done, help a few more church planters, etc.With one exception, no one is making any money on any books — none of us but Brian has sold enough to make anything.If you think it’s noble to take your family into significant financial debt in order to help people who are trying to start and reinvigorate churches, then count me a frickin’ king. If you think it’s stupid, then count me a frickin’ moron.But telling me that I don’t “love people” enough is really ludicrous and stupid, especially from someone who has never met me.I’ll tell you one thing that you’ll never find on my blog, the Emergent blog, or most any blog associated with Emergent: personal attacks on other human beings.Tony Jones

  15. I’m truly surprised. And yet…not. No wonder we can’t find a church where we belong. In order to belong, you must give. In order to give, you must believe God said “Put MY money at XYZ church” (or organization, whatever – same difference these days). I have yet to sense God wants us to do anything different with our meager 10% but give it away to those in need. Somehow, I don’t sense the Emergent Conversation is hungry, thirsty or naked.

  16. Zec… no worries. I believed you weren’t intentionally saying anything of that sort. I just didn’t want anyone to start jumping on that bandwagon and things going in that direction. But I differ from you… I am a little upset that they are asking for the money. I think it is silly and unnecessary.

  17. Daniel… you are right. Every non-profit raises money…it is how they work. But Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross use the money they raise to assist people in need and employ the people that creates a structure to accomplish their goals. I am questioning the reason to have another non-profit that basically solicits funds to self-perpetuate. I have no problem with the Emergent creating conferences, offering seminars and think-tanks, dissiminating information for the purpose of personal or organizational development… all those things are fine and well. You also might need a National Coordinator to create a maintain such an organization. You might even need an entire staff. These people would no doubt work hard and deserve to be paid for their efforts. But this is called a business and such a business could offer their resources and seminars to others for a price. They could solicit for corporate or private sponsors to gather together capital to grow and expand their market and influence. They have every right to compete to make money in this free market society.Forming a 501c3 and asking for support from the very instiutions and individuals that are already spread thin in this area seems a bit distasteful to me. Again, no one is questioning their right to do so… but just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

  18. <>“My big thing is with the 501c3’s. It’s time to remove the tax-exempt status of churches. Make ’em pay their taxes like everyone else. Perhaps then you’ll see some real reform.”<>On the surface, I see the logic of that, but it would be a huge mistake. The result would not be reform, but a massive religious power shift in favor of the organizations that have the serious assets required to survive such an event. This shift would also result in the utter destruction of thousands of smaller ground-level groups who invest their resources in meeting needs instead of building wealth. While neither well-organized nor well-funded, it’s organizations such as these (many of which are churches or at least church-affiliated) that often meet the kinds of needs that fall through the cracks of the larger groups.(sorry to get off-topic)

  19. Tony – I must apologize for what I said. I don’t think I said it right. I do not know you and can’t begin to understand what you are going through. I DO believe you love people. I didn’t mean to attack you. Sorry. That was wrong.

  20. I think I finally figured out the “emergent church”. They are just a group of people trying to do things and figure out things they way they want to. That is SO awesome. I can totally get behind that idea. But to make your group an organization (or THE organization) and then ask people to pay a salary to fund your little group is ridiculous. It would be like me not getting a real job. I recently left “church work” for a real job. Thus, giving me a stronger voice on SCP.com. I love it.Now what would you think if I said I wanted to just do SCP.com and I needed every single one of YOU to help make that happen? Support me. Well, that is so dumb and you wouldn’t.The conversation is free. And it has been around for awhile because we want it. We don’t need to pay someone to create, facilitate or structure our discussion. I guess everyone just wants a paycheck. Tony Jones – I do think you care about people. But I think you care more about figuring thinks out (theology) that you miss the part about loving people. Life on life loving relationships. Stop over-thinking things and just love people. And no, we won’t pay you for that either. OK… Seriously…I am ready for the boxing match, pretty boy.

  21. Zecryphon….Let’s be clear and fair. No one is saying these guys are asking for this money in order to use it for their own personal frivilous uses. I have every reason to trust Brian McLaren and Tony Jones to be men of integrity. While I may believe this request to be somewhat misguided in my opiniondoes not equate with me believing that they are intentionally deceiving anyone for their own gain.I have great respect for McLaren and his body of work. He has been influential in shaping many thoughts and ideas over the past decade that has brought about the discussion we are having today. Tony Jones has been a stand-up guy with SCP. He has taken our ribbing well. I commend him for that. Also, Tony has contributed greatly to helping churches and individuals in forming and shaping their ideas in regards to reforming their churches and lives. While I may not like the direction the Emergent has taken and agree they are trying to become nothing more than another denomination, they are well within their rights to do so. I have no reason to doubt that both these men have good intentions.

  22. My big thing is with the 501c3’s. It’s time to remove the tax-exempt status of churches. Make ’em pay their taxes like everyone else. Perhaps then you’ll see some real reform.

  23. Natural procession of all movements. Don’t fight it. Embrace it. Soon enough there will be some more snooty pseudo-intellectuals deconstructing everything you are doing in their own “conversation.”

  24. Awwwww c’mon Steve.I thought this was just the beginning. I was about to post a message requesting that the bloggers unite and send in $5, $10 or $20 to help support the Stupid Church People Director go full-time (I hope your beemer’s paid for…)Actually, this is quite interesting news, as you guys called this back on one of the early shows.Congratulations. You’re still the prophet (If we get some cash, could it be ‘profit’? who knows…)

  25. Zecryphon and others: Every non-profit organization does this exact kind of fundraising. It’s normal. It’s expected. It’s just how they work. Are you guys upset because it was done on a blog instead of in a mailer?

  26. I don’t have a problem with them organizing, nor do I have a problem with them asking people to join them with financial support. They can do whatever they want. They’re not forcing anyone to do anything.But it’s not what I’m after.

  27. <>I guess everyone just wants a paycheck.<> That’s because in the world of “church,” whether “emerging” or IC, a paycheck brings with it a perverted sense of “validation.”

  28. Yup Yup Yup…. Steve is rather right in his decision to criticize the current tone of Emergent voices. I get all of their e-mail bulletins and I cringe with each heart-felt, from-the-PULPIT guilt trip about needing money to fund the efforts of the conversation. I don’t agree with it. It’s not grassroots whatsoever. It goes against the spirit of conversing, connecting, sharing. I might tithe & give at my local church, not to any kind of parent organization. What if I don’t want that organization to represent me? Emergent has independent roots, but is creating the non-denomination denomination. It sucks…. I liked what Steve said — conversations are free, aren’t they??

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