“Emergence” by Margaret J. Wheatley

People keep looking for how to define emergent church, emerging communities or emergence.  Only yesterday that one of my twitter contacts tweeted “@whoeveritwas how are you defining emerging church?  Keep it under 140 characters plz”.  I just came across an article that defines current emergent culture and the need to operate within it well.

In spite of current ads and slogans, the world doesn’t change one person at a time.  It changes as networks of relationships form among people who discover they share a common cause and vision of what’s possible.  This is good news for those of us intent on changing the world and creating a positive futureRather than worry about critical mass, our work is to foster critical connections.  We don’t need to convince large numbers of people to change; instead, we need to connect with kindred spirits.  Through these relationships, we will develop the new knowledge, practices, courage, and commitment that lead to broad-based change. 

Read the whole article here.  I can’t recommend it highly enough!


6 Responses

  1. “People keep looking for how to define emergent church”


    Quote sounds good though =]

  2. My guess? So that we know what everyone is talking about.

    Without the language to describe something we can’t…. describe it. Can you imagine trying to explain to someone how to build a skyscraper if they don’t know what reinforced concrete is?

  3. isnt that a feature of post-modernism though? a paradigm that defines itself primarily by what it is not.

    so should the emerging church be defined in the same way?

    Ray Simpson made a start on doing that in his book ‘Church of the isles’. the second chapter is called ‘The dying – what the retreating church needs to discard’

  4. McLaren believes that “postmodern” is a term that wont continue to be used once we have got over the teething issues. Everything tries to define itself by what it is not in the initial phases. Look at the reformation as we moved towards the modern era. The 39 articles are all defining the church in Britain as being “not Roman Catholic”. Now we tend to define by what we are.

    McLaren believes that there will be a term coined that defines what we are in the future era – probably when our kids or grandkids work it out. Something positive!

    It is only when we have worked out what we have needed to discard that we can define ourselves by what is left.

    I will give Ray Simpson a read.

  5. Robb, i’m an Architect (sort of) – I don’t know what reinforced concrete is. That’s what Engineers are for =]

    If i want to see that a building is tall, i can tell by looking at it. I don’t need to spend hours poking around in the thing’s innards. If i need to alter the building, or build a similar one, then a few hours poking around might well be worthwhile, granted.

    But if i’m just trying to define, label and categorize for the sake of it, if i have no practical interest or need to know, then i have no right to go anywhere near the reinforced concrete, much less make pronouncements about it. At work sometimes we actually take information off the drawings if it’s going to be irrelevant or confusing. We wouldn’t mention roof construction to the plasterers, for example – its not their problem. In the same way, i trust the Engineer to know a lot more than i do about what that reinforced concrete is doing.

    Architectural education also does weird things to you – there’s a danger you’ll start appreciating buildings that are totally impractical to use and that most people think are horrible. In all the analysis, there’s a danger you stop seeing this thing the way everyone else does. And that can be dangerous when you’re given responsibility to design the next one.

    As i said above, the quote looks good. But sometimes (only sometimes) definitions and categorization can obscure the issues and just get in the way of actually getting practical things done.

    Interesting thoughts on the reactive nature of philosophical movements. Not convinced that movements of people within the Kingdom of God should necessarily conform to the same pattern, though.

    I think that all church communities should always define themselves predominantly as a group of people trying to help each other follow Jesus. That is a positive description: what we are, as opposed to what we are most certainly not =]. I guess all the above is perhaps a long winded attempt to say i think churches get too hung up on defining themselves in relation to culture, philosophy, other churches, whatever, rather than defining themselves in relation to Jesus.

    Poke around in the foundations of any church, ‘emergent’ or not, and i’d like to think following Jesus would be in there somewhere. If you’ve got that right, i suspect a lot of the rest of what’s going on would become apparent by just looking at it.

  6. Linus – So are you suggesting that architects paint pretty pictures and pray that they will stay up when they build it? 😛

    My mistake, my brother is an architectural engineer and he needs to know what stuff does.

    “definitions and categorization can obscure the issues”

    But often they allow us to build a bigger building…. stop the metaphor I wanna get off!

    “Dwarfs standing on the shoulders of giants” – Bernard of Chartres 12 (not Newton).

    From John of Salisbury’s Metalogicon:

    “Bernard of Chartres used to say that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size.”


    We can see much further because we are dwarves standing on something that an engineer worked out how to make from the architects pretty drawing by using reinforced concrete.


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