Four Models of Emerging Churches

Been reading up on yet another scheme for classifying emerging churches thanks to Shawn of Lofi Tribe, this time the Four Models of Emerging Churches according to Wess Daniel. He explains it like this:

Deconstructionist Model: Probably the most well known group of emerging churches these churches are truly postmodern in just about every sense of the word. These are Christians influenced mainly by deconstruction, a philosophical approach invented on the continent. In their holy readings of philosophical discourse Derrida, Lyotard, Foucault and Caputo would be there. Much of the focus is on adopting postmodernity, and contextualizing the Gospel accordingly. Peter Rollins’ Ikon in Ireland would be a good example of one such group. I think Tony Jones and Brian McLaren would also fall under this category. I would say they are accommodating to postmodern culture, against modernism, and often against the institutional church making them lean towards a sort of non-denominationalism.

Pre-modern/Augustinian Model: This model would be the second most influential within the EC, and can be in (friendly) opposition to the first group. Instead of understanding postmodernism in terms of Nietzschean philosophy as group one would do, this model leans more towards a Renaissance styled post-modernism (similar to what is represented in Toulmin’s Cosmopolis). Whether this group is truly early modern or whether it reaches back further to the pre-modern era I am not quite clear on, but St. Augustine and St. Thomas are key figures for this group. This is the where the Radical Orthodoxy of John Milbank, James K. Smith and others would fall. We see some catholics here, as well as other theologians that tend towards placing a higher emphasis on tradition within the overall framework of the Christian faith, rather than simply contextualization. This group would be see history as having shown us a better way, and if we reach back far enough we may be able to find wisdom that will help us in our quest of faith today. They would be more favorable towards institutional church, and have a pretty clear understanding of what kind of church we ought to become, but would also be seen as nostalgic and trying to uphold an institution that has often oppressed and violated those we are called to help.

Emerging Peace Church Model (Or Open Anabaptism): This model of the emerging church stresses the non-conformist tendencies of Jesus, and thus the church should follow in his footsteps through non-violence, love of enemy and caring for the poor. This one may be closest to a kind of new monasticism that has so often been written about in recent times. While there are people from the various peace churches involved in this type of church, there are also people from a variety of traditions who are seeking to contextualize the Gospel within our culture. This group does not accept any one style of culture as being good, thus their non-conformist attitude is directed at modernity and postmodernity alike. They see Jesus (and his incarnation) as their primary model for engaging culture. They are influenced by Wittgenstein, Barth, Bonhoeffer, John H. Yoder, McClendon and Nancey Murphy to name a few. In this group you will find people like Jarrod McKenna and the Peace Tree, Shane Claiborne, some Mennonites, Rob Bell’s Mars Hill, Submergent, Jesus Radical and convergent Friends, to name a few. This group is counter any kind of Christendom styled church and thus would be sometimes for and sometimes against institutionalization, and would see contextualization as important only up to the point that it remains ultimately an extension of Jesus’ ministry and message.

Foundationalist Model: This model of the emerging church is more conservative in their reading of Scripture and modern approaches to ecclesiology (standard preacher-centered teaching, music for worship, etc) while seeking to be innovative in their approaches to evangelism. This may come in the form of people meeting in pubs, having tatoos, cussing from the pulpit, playing loud rock music for worship and adding a layer of “alternative-ness” to their overall church service. These churches can be found within larger church communities, or can be on their own, sometimes as a large (possibly mega) church. They follow standard Evangelicalism in that they aren’t attach to traditions, and come out politically and theologically conservative, while maintaining a more accomodational stance toward culture in the name of evangelism, they will ultimately look similar to older church communities theologically. This is where I think theologians like Millard J. Erickson or D.A. Carson have a lot of influence. And where practitioners such as Mark Driscoll, Dan Kimball, Erwin McManus and many “emerging services” within mega-church congregations like Willow Creek might be found.

Now, where oh where do you think Glocal Christianity would sit according to Wess Daniel? And what do you think are the strengths and weaknesses of this explaination of his?

23 thoughts on “Four Models of Emerging Churches

  1. hmmm, very interesting and very accademic, I am not so sure that folk within the emerging, or indeed the traditional church cultures are so philosophically minded, there is a lot of pragmatism in Emerging Church, and I suspect it has as much to do with the personality type of the leader/s than it does with philosophical affiliation. I can see how this model has been drawn up but wonder whether what is being practiced has been so well thought through. For example, Brian McLaren describes a journey in his writing, and indeed in his speaking, he is of course not unaware of philosophy or cultural expression, but would probably place seeking God through prayer and even experimentation above philosophical dialogue.
    As for Glocal Christianity, well I would guess you fall between the Deconstructionist Model and the Emerging Peace Church Model, with touches of the Pre-modern/Augustinian Model. As for the Foundationalist Model; not so much. How’s that for a cop out?

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  2. Sally, as I was reading this I was thinking, hmmm, very modernist. How many of the so-called Deconstructionists dismiss its very premise.
    I was also thinking, where do the viral Missional leaders like Al Hirsch and Frank Viola fit in? I am not sure I would call them Foundationalist (Al is DEFINATELY NOT a Calvinist) or Augustinian (again, Al and Frank are way more restorationist than that). In fact, I was left sratching my head as to who these Augustianians actually are, particularly as he lists them as the second largest group. Any ideas? And what about yourself?
    As for myself I would say, open Anabaptist most definately. Only a smattering of any of the others. Where I may confuse people is that Wess links open Anabaptism with new Monasticism whereas, as you know, I distance myself from new Monasticism. I would critique Wess by suggesting that new Monasticism is only one of many possible expressions of open Anabaptistism. My focus is on the alienated more than the poor, on peacemaking between religions more than the challenging of Empire. That leads to differences between me and guys like Jarod McKenna and Shane Claiborne. I place a lot more emphasis on multicultural church and world Christian art as a consequence. Yet, when I do get around to speaking about Empire, as I have of late, that’s where the common anabaptist influences should become more evident. The trick to understanding me is to understand that my approach to apologetics and interfaith dialogue is equally anabaptist influenced. One of the books you’ll find me referencing from time to time, Evangelism beyond Christendom, is as heavily influenced by John Howard Yoder as anything you’ll see coming out of the new Monastics, explicitly so. There you will see a heavy emphasis on noncoercion and the freedom of the state to be religiously pluralistic. And this is also where I part company with the viral Missional types somewhat. I am not so sure our viral / church growth aspirations are not a vestige of Christendom expectations that everyone be Christian. And I expect that a recommitment to the nonviolent and noncoercive ways of Jesus and the early church will meet considerable popular resistance, which could itself go viral.

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  3. Not wishing to over-simplify him or anything, but I would have described Al Hirsch (and certainly Wolfgang Simpson) as more influenced by “restorationist” thinking than anything else… that we need to understand the dynamics of the primitive Jesus movement, and adapt the principles of incarnating the gospel into diverse cultures (as Paul championed in the very early church).
    Anabaptists were one group influenced by restorationist thinking, but there were plenty of others… particularly in the late 18th and early 19th centuries.
    Al was influenced by restorationist thinking in long years of hanging out with Churches of Christ, although he was of the view they’re not “restorationist” enough!

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  4. Interesting Matt, the Anabaptist leanings in your thinking are pretty clear, would I be right in thinking you have a fair ammount of sympathy with the deconstructionists?
    You are right about the modernistic presentation, but then most attepmts to present models are. I actually find them difficult to work with!

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  5. Janet
    Typo, I meant to say Al and Frank are “restorationist” (not “reconstructionist”). Comment now ammended. Though I acknowledge Anabaptists were influenced by restorationist thinking I wouldn’t call Al or Frank open Anabaptists. If his comments are anything to go by he’s open towards it but his centre of gravity is different.

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  6. G’day Matt,
    not sure if you are aware but I think you might be interesed in my involvement with multi-faith work for climate justice and youth empowerment.
    Here’s a link from the West about my work:
    http://paceebene.org/blog/jarrod-mckenna/multi-faith-youth-service-challenging-racism
    And here’s a radio interview from ABC’s Radio National:
    http://paceebene.org/blog/jarrod-mckenna/interfaith-conversations-climate-change
    Thanks for your witness bro and all the things you be for justice, peace and joy in the Spirit.
    grace and peace,
    Jarrod

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  7. Sally, I have as much sympathy for the “deconstructionists” as I have for the “foundationalists”, which is to say “some” but I vary from both considerably. I recall that when Mark Driscoll and Tony Jones were out last year I wrote I got more out of Driscoll’s talk but that was not to place myself in either camp. I am warmer to Brian McLaren on the deconstructionist side and Erwin McManus on the foundationalist side (with them both being a bit more moderate than the other two) but again I have my differences. As Wess suggests is typical of anabaptists, my “non-conformist attitude is directed at modernity and postmodernity alike”. I think the deconstructionist take on post-modern culture (their metanarrative you might say) is too reified. I think the foundationalists take on contextualisation is too dualistic (they seem overconfident in separating medium from message). But I learn from both even so. I wouldn’t want to over-emphasize the differences. We’re all interested in contextualization when it’s all said and done.
    It may help to share more of my story. When I embraced Jesus fifteen or so years ago, coming out of the New Age Movement as I did, I had many issues with coercive American evangelicalism and the wars of the Old Testament. The book that helped me work through this was “The Politics of Jesus” by John Howard Yoder. Ever since Anabaptism has been a significant influence. It’s part of the reason why I gravitated from the Sydney Anglicans to the Sydney Baptists, that and the influence of people like Phil Johnson, Ross Clifford and Mike Frost. So it has shaped my thinking before I got involved in Mind Body Spirit mission, before I began blogging, before I had even heard of the emerging church. I have not always been explicit about this, but look close enough and you’ll find it. Since reading Evangelism beyond Christendom last year I have been more conscious of the need to be more self consistant in this and more explicit about this, but this is more of a honing process than a directional change.
    My second most important influence is what I have called here the viral Missionals, but again I would distinguish them from both the foundationalists and deconstructionists. After that I would cite Eastern Orthodox Christianity as an influence, particularly on my theology of art, beauty, incarnation and aesthetics. After that, my more “exotic” esoteric influences. Still not sure what is meant here by Augustinians, other than possibly pseudo-Catholic. Make sense?

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  8. Jarod
    I heard of your multi-faith work there the other week but have been too busy to check it out more thoroughly. It is of interest so thanks for the links. I think its pretty natural for anabaptists to emphasize freedom from religious persecution and interfaith reconciliation so it doesn’t surprise me. If I place more weight on it, it probably has more to do with my personal biography than my root theology I suspect. Would enjoy hearing more.

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  9. Now I’m lost!
    There were too many things to look up, and when I came to look them up I’d forgotten what they were, so I had to read your post again. Toulmin’s whatsit, for example.

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  10. Yeah Matt, restorationism is a much bigger historical theme than Anabaptism… obscure groups like the Glasites and Haldenes, and less obscure ones like Churches of Christ, modern Baptists, Bretheren, Pentecostals (and who knows how many more… post reformation history starts to get WAY too complex for me!) are in some ways influenced by restorationist ideas… though they are diverse groups in other ways.
    I think it is one of the strong themes in some of the emerging church discussion… although calling it a “model” is probably exaggerating. I’d call restorationism an influence.

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  11. My understanding is that the Restoration movement began in the nineteenth century in America during the Second Great Awakening. So while Restorationism may have influenced the Baptists of that period, the Anabaptists and Baptists pre-dated Restorationism and emerged independantly of it. I am therefore reluctant to link them so directly even if I acknowledge some commonalities in approach.
    As you say, I think its important to distinguish between influences and models. While I can cite esoteric and Orthodox Christian influences my Christology and ecclesiology is very much Anabaptist (as I am sure my esoteric and Orthodox Christian readers would be quick to point out if I suggested otherwise). My influences give colour and flavour to the model.
    For example, I love Christian art (Orthodox Christian influence) but I prefer art that has an iconoclastic, Christendom challenging edge to it (guiding Anabaptist model). I love meditation (esoertic influence) but prefer styles that emphasize listening, surrender and enemy love ~ God love (guiding Anabaptist model). There is a method to my mad eclecticism.

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  12. It seems Nathan Hobby, at An Anabaptist in Perth, shares some of my leaning towards multi(sub)cultural church. In critiquing the emerging missional movement he writes:
    “The diversity of the church is part of the good news! It announces to the world that the old barriers have been broken down, the emnity between peoples has been overcome. Baptising subcultures as ‘churches’ misses this good news. It may even risk retaining an individualistic evangelical idea of what the good news is: ‘personal salvation’.”
    I have written numerous times that I question the Homogenous Unit Principle (HUP) of cross cultural mission, particularly as commonly applied in pluralistic Western contexts. I believe cultural sensitivity is important, but I baulk at encouraging or accomodating social baulkanization in the name of Jesus. Even as we engage people contextually we need to challenge them to look beyond their immediate context.
    Reference:
    http://perthanabaptists.wordpress.com/2008/05/06/why-the-church-must-be-attractional-an-anabaptist-critique-of-the-emerging-missional-church-via-milbank/

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  13. Well, a lot depends on how things are defined and who is defining them… I once had to write an obscure essay on “Precursor influences to the Restoration Movement”… and in fact, some restorationist ideas were in earlier groups than the 19th century groups we’d describe as restorationist. (such as the Anabaptists, Glassites, Haldenes).
    I think being a bit of a “Christian mongerel” is a healthy thing! Alan H was converted in Pentecostalism, theologically trained in a reformed college, and worked for a long time in a (theoretically at least!) restorationist group (C of C’s). I’ve just always seem to have been involved in interdenominational groups or projects.
    I think being a “mongerel” opens up more possibilities for reflection on what one believes than only staying in one church setting… depending on how one is “wired” of course.

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  14. Janet, I have noticied in counselling that some practitioners differentiate between “integrative” approaches and “eclectic” approaches. Both approaches draw from multiple paradigms but former is more coherance seeking. I approach the theological task in a similar manner. I draw inspiration from Pentecostals, Catholics, whatever … but not equally, not in a purely eclectic sense. I think the weakness of pure eclecticism is its staying power, or lack thereof. It rarely outlives the interests of individual practitioners. I experienced that lack personally in the New Age movement, and I have seen the same thing come up again and again in Pagan discussions on the virtues of Reconstructionist Paganism vs Gadnerian Wicca vs eclectic Paganism. Experience has forced me to accept that “tradition” is important for long term endurance, provided the tradition is open and adaptive. I think what we are talking about in the above article, what are starting to see emerge, is the ancient-futurizing of the Reformation traditions. Having seen this process at work in many new religious movements I am not at all surprised to see it emerging in the emerging church movement. Within a sea of bubbling eclecticism they’ll be emerging islands of ancient-future traditions that have a higher degree of stability to them. They’ll still be volatile in comparison to modernist traditions, but not nearly so much as the eclectic mixmasters. And as I say that, I think they’ll also have more resistance to consumer religiousity than pure eclecticism. Note I am speaking in generalities here and not about any specific individuals; I know there will be exceptions, I am just talking overall expectations. Thinking about what you’ve said here, i am wondering if “Missional restorationists” fits Hirsch and Viola better.

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  15. That’s a good clarification Matt… I wasn’t intending to advocate “religious consumerism” that never gets grounded anywhere… that can just be a collection of personal religious prejudices (we all have our biases of course).
    Tragic ignorance, but I haven’t read Viola. I would say though that “Missional restorationist” sounds a much better fit for Hirschy than anything else described here… thinking TFW and ReJesus in particular. He’s no fan of Augustine to put it mildly, and for the other categories… there’s alignment in some respects and not others.
    (I might see if he’d like to comment here rather than my doing this on his behalf!)

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  16. To clarify further… I think engagement with other traditions expands one’s boundaries a little. When engaging with people outside the church on faith issues, I’m quite comfortable discussing that “Christians have a range of different responses to that issue”… whereas I’m aware of others who are really quite rigid on telling others what the right view is for Christians… it’s “my way or the highway.”
    This “jars” I think in the predominant pluralitic, tolerant kind of ethos in the middle-class West at present.
    (Perhaps those further “right” than I would think I’m a spineless heretic for this. Oh well… I think they have no historical perspective on the Christian faith and the diversity of views on “non-essentials”… all very civilly of course!)

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  17. Janet, I am no fan of Augustine either. I am totally with Hirschy on that. Possibly its why I am so ignorant of #2 in the above list.
    Understand that I see significant overlap in our understanding. I agree that the lordship of Jesus is core, I agree with five-fold ministry, I agree that God is a missional God and that has missional implications, I agree with all of that. Where I beg to differ with Hirschy is with the subcultural mission focus (because I think it unintentionally perpetuates the divisions in society, which conflicts with my peacemaking impulses), and the focus on internal ecclesiology (how the church organises itself internally) with comparitively little attention to external ecclesiology (how the church relates to the world, and of course the state). I think much more apostolic focus is required on external ecclesiology in a missional environment.
    Our reading of culture is also somewhat different, I give more attention to secular spiritualities (and hense pneumatology) but again, I agree totally with Hirsch that consumerism is the primary challenge. If I put more weight on marketplace spirituality and sanctified consumerism, its not because I see the consumerism challenge as any less important.
    Now, as part of my ecclesiological focus is a respect for diversity I am quite happy for there to be variances in our thinking, particularly when we both see the lordship of Jesus as the core issue. I like that its phrased as “open” Anabaptism in the above article. I think the historic Anabaptists got the transcendant-immanent balance wrong. I think its better to talk of “being in the state but not of the state” than talk of “absolute church-state separation”. I do adopt a more open and incarnational stance than the historic guys. That’s the Missional influence.

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  18. I find your perspectives so interesting! I find it interesting too to reflect on how our theological leanings intersect with our personalities… I’m a natural peacemaker, so I really resonate with the catch-cry of my mob:
    “In essentials, unity
    In non-essentials, diversity,
    In all things, charity”
    To me, Christ is the one “essential” for Christian cooperation. So anything God is up to, I’m happy to support if I can, regardless of where a person or a group draws their theological lines.
    Well… I guess there are some groups I’m less fond of than others… but those ones would probably regard me as a heretic so don’t want my help anyway! God bless ’em, moving right along…

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  19. I’ve found the conversation stimulating, you’re forcing me to articulate myself better. On reflection I might modify what I have said somewhat. Two of the core values I try to express in my life and ministry are empathy and integrity. Empathy for other paths, integrity with my own. In the latter the Anabaptist influence comes through in what you see I draw the line on. In the former through, the Missional influence is probably more evident. So while the Anabaptist influence is probably deeper, the Missional influence is still deep.
    I stand by what I said on the other strands though, the neoCalvinist “foundationalists” and Emergent “deconstructionists” are only a bit influence in comparison. They inform my path but they don’t hugely influence it. Any postmodern influence you see in me is preChristian anyway.
    As for Christian cooperation, the group I have the hardest time working with is fundamentalists. I have to remind myself of the ‘love your enemies’ saying of Jesus sometimes! Christ is the essential for Christian cooperation but at times I doubt we worship the same Christ and therein lies the problem. Some fundamentalists I can stretch myself to cooperate with, but extremists … it fries my brain. Have to confess weakness there.

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  20. The thing about Christian extremists… the feeling is mutual! This is where I’ve noted they would “regard me as a heretic”…. and you also of course: you’d be regarded as in league with the devil for engaging in inter-faith and alternative spirituality dialogue.
    In one sense I wish the extremists no ill… in another sense I think they can give Christianity a bad name, so I sort of hope they stay in their bizarre little religious enclaves and keep to themselves!(and as you say, some groups seem to have so little of the spirit of Jesus about them you have to wonder whether they’re actually “Christian” in anything but name. But that might be a bit harsh!)
    Yes, I think the conversation is helping me define some things too… and raising my consciousness that perhaps sometimes I define too little because of my heart for cooperation. Mmm…

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  21. Yes, there is a risk in over-definition, in that it can lead to division through magnification of minute differences, but there is also a risk in under-definition, in that can leave us unable to articulate the very things which separate us from extemists! And leave us ill equipped to pass it onto others!
    For instance, it have come to my awareness that one of the things that separates me from extremists is my emphasis of the New Testament over the Old Testament, my Christo-centricity you might say. Its something Anabaptists have been criticized for – which probably goes a long way to explaining the identification – I embrace the accusation! Realizing this as a distinctive empowers me to pass it on more consciously.
    With extremists, it is ‘enemy love’ I have to practice. They’re not people I am naturally drawn towards. But its about, in confronting them, trying to be constructive.

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