April 18, 2006
Who are those "Emerging" guys? We might have heard some of the
hype about them... but do we really know what
they believe? In our last interview Josh McDowell
mentioned the "emergent guys" a few times, Dan Kimball by name, sharing some negative and
positive. I thought we had better give Dan a chance to share his "two cents" with us so we
could hear first hand.
Dan is one of the pastors at Vintage
Faith Church, a new church in Santa Cruz, CA designed for the post-Christian culture. Dan
is author of
Worship. Dan also serves on the emergent YS board for
JONATHAN: Dan the biggest question every youth worker has about you
is obvious, how long are you going to sport the "Vanilla Ice" hairdo?
Well, I originally got this haircut from being interested in rockabilly music and I
was into that whole scene. It morphed from there into what it is today. I would say that I've
been locked into this haircut since the mid 80's and I probably will be locked into it maybe
until the day I pass on from this earth. I just hope that if I loose my hair as I get older that
it will recede on in a way that I'll still have a high tuft of it left in the very front.
JONATHAN: That's cool. Well... I guess on the day you die you're
gonna need a coffin with just a little extra headroom.
Yes, I've joked even with the girl that cuts my hair that she'll have to advise the
mortician how to do my hair.
JONATHAN: So what's the recipe for such a fine "do?"
I actually get asked that often. I use a pump spray called Rave Mega-Hold and then a
grease called Fiber-Grease. Those are the two things I put in there.
JONATHAN: Cool... if you don't mind hurrying up with this interview...
I have to rush to the store to get those two items!
I did talk to David Crowder about this once and he spends more time on his hair than
I do. We had a really good hair conversation. It bonded us in deep ways.
JONATHAN: With Crowder I think the question would be about that beard
Yea, he has double the special grooming techniques with his hair and the little beard
JONATHAN: (laughing) Alright, moving on. You're one of the voices of
the Emerging Church. For those of us who don't know, what the heck is the "Emerging Church" and
how did its name ....emerge?
I first heard of the term 'the emerging church' from an organization called
back in the mid 90's.
DAN: Leadership Network
was started by Bob Buford, who was involved in cable T.V.
He basically was linking together churches that are being innovative across America to accelerate
the communication and ideas. They used to use a tag line calling themselves "advance scouts" for
the emerging church' and that was where I first saw the term. They began hosting events for those
that were working with "Gen X", which is a term no one uses anymore since we realize it is more
than just a generational issue and change happening. But through their events, the term 'emerging
church' began getting known. I wrote the book,
, because that term was starting to represent churches that are rethinking what it
means to be the church in our emerging culture. The word emerging basically means 'what is coming
to the surface' so the church is always going to be emerging, it has been emerging since its
birth. I recently found a book called, "Emerging Church" that was actually written in 1970
talking about what was emerging in the church at that time period.
So I think in another thirty years there's somebody who is about nine years old now
that will write another book called "The Emerging Church."
Emerging churches are simply churches that are just trying to rethink what it means to
be the church and contextualize the church with a missional heart for our culture today. So there
are all types of emerging churches out there. It is a heart and values issue, not a style issue or
specific age issue. Although because of cultural change, most emerging types of churches today are
generally younger overall – because they are the ones born and raised almost entirely in the new
emerging culture. But then there is also an organization that is called Emergent
JONATHAN: Are you involved in Emergent?
I am good friends with a lot of the key people in Emergent
an organization, more like a networking of like-minded people who are focused more on the
rethinking of theology in our culture. However it is important to know that Emergent
intentionally does not have a formal doctrinal statement as there is a variety of beliefs from
those within it. In regards to the focus on theology, Emergent
is somewhat different than
"emerging church." The term "emerging church" is broader and focused primarily on methodology you
could say Emergent
is more specific in its focus on theology. However all our methodology
in our churches stems from what we believe theologically. So I hope everyone is always thinking
about theology in the midst of what we do in ministry.
JONATHAN: And did that come about from this whole "emerging church"
concept? Which is the chicken and which is the egg?
The term "emerging church" was being used as we now are using it, before the term
"Emergent" was used in all of this. Emergent
, the organization, is led by a coordinating
group, but Tony Jones recently became the national coordinator of it. But as Tony jokes, the
headquarters is him and a card table in the basement of his parents' house. So Emergent
began as a discussion and network after the term 'emerging church' was being used. It's funny
because if the words weren't so closely similar, it wouldn't be as big of a problem to understand
it all. But it is confusing, I know. The key leaders of Emergent
, and the core of who
birthed it pretty much were Doug Pagitt, Tony Jones and Brian McLaren. There are also others
involved, but they were the key core ones who formalized it in the beginning.
JONATHAN: So, did Emergent come out after your book ...or the
I was actually with those guys the day after they formally called it Emergent
At that time, my book The
had been written, but not published yet. But the term, "Emerging Church"
was being used prior to the term "Emergent
" being used in all of this.
JONATHAN: So I'm curious what an emerging church looks like. If I
visited your church on a typical Sunday what would I see or experience? I'm assuming your church
is an emergent church?
Well, to start off I would say that we try to really guard and use words like
"church" to mean the people, not just the church meeting. So if you were to visit our "church"
it would be visiting the people wherever they are through the week. I think you are asking, what
our church worship gatherings are like if you were to visit them. Also, we don't use the term
"emerging" or "emergent" describing what we do. If you were to ask most people in our church,
they wouldn't know what those words "emerging" or "emergent" even mean.
JONATHAN: Sure. It's not on the sign out front.
No, it's not. But to answer your question about what our church worship gathering is
like... I was part of a large mega-church for fifteen years working with youth and young adults;
we just planted Vintage Faith Church
two years ago, from that church. In Vintage Faith Church, we try to really think through what
you'd experience and what we communicate in all we do in a worship gathering. So, if you're to
walk in the place we are right now renting, it is a very large contemporary room. We transform it
to try to reflect who we are a little bit more and what we are expressing in our worship. So as
you walk in, we make this big room into kind of a circular feel, with these big black curtains.
We also set up the room half with tables and the other half chairs. So the seating tries to
reflect more of a communal feel than rows all facing the pulpit.
JONATHAN: So people sit around tables?
Not everyone, as some still like seats. We try to be diverse in the set up and about
half the room is tables.
JONATHAN: Oh... okay.
I don't personally sit at a round table. I actually like sitting on the floor. So we
try and create an environment where people have some freedom in that. When we think of the early
church, they met in homes. They sat around; there was teaching from Scripture but there was some
dialogue, they made eye contact with one another, you know it was very different than most of our
churches today. I don't believe we all have to go back to all house churches as we live in a
different culture and time period. But the question is where do the values of the early church
play out in our churches today? In our church we have mid-week home community groups, which are
something like house churches. But we also all meet together on Sundays in a large meeting. But
in the large meeting, if you walk in where the preacher normally is in the church we rent the
space from, where he normally stands, we put up a big cross. It's probably around 6 or 7 foot
high. We want the cross to be the focal point of the room, not the preacher or the band. When I
preach or speak, I preach from a smaller lower stage below the cross. Its high enough so I still
can be seen from all around the room, but the focal point of the room remains the cross not me.
We set up another little stage to be off to the side for the band. We are trying to communicate
that we are all servants of Jesus and He is the reason we are all gathered. By visually being
lower, it does make a statement of being a servant. Now of course, the pastor of the church we
rent from would say the same thing from where he stands, but we are just trying to visually
JONATHAN: That's cool.
This coming Sunday night in our church the band is playing entirely in the back. We
do that on occasion when we have communion nights and there is more reflection time. So if you
were to walk in on a normal night, we do typical, sort of, pop-worship upbeat music to start.
Sometimes Josh Fox, the worship leader, actually asks people to call out songs to play, to try
and communicate that we are more communal than just the people up front doing everything. We
give a sermon like normal, but then after the sermon we give people time to respond in different
ways. Like last week if you were to come after the teaching time, I spoke on the temple veil and
how when Jesus died it was torn in half. I taught from Hebrews and focused about Christ being the
high priest. We then set up a prayer area where people would go take communion. But to get there,
we set up curtains and a veil that people walked through. We instructed them to stop and pray and
think about the joy and wonder that the temple veil was no longer there because of Jesus. And
then after they walked through that veil, we had 9 or 10 kneeling places where you could actually
go down on pillows and take communion. We do all kinds of prayer stations after messages or
interactive prayers where you can use art. But it's important to know, not everyone likes these
things. Some temperaments like just sitting, some like doing some interactive learning and
praying. So we are just trying to have a culture that extends how people like expressing prayer
and worship to God. On communion nights everyone usually goes through whatever the set up is, but
on other nights not everyone does.
JONATHAN: So logistically... wow! It sounds like you might need a
creative team, a set-up team... and you're probably making props each week... this is
Basically, there's a team of volunteers called "the Palette team." And we use the
metaphor of the palette because like with a painter's palette, there are all types of colors to
express with when painting. So we use that metaphor of how we express worship in different ways.
It's a volunteer who leads it and we meet once a month to then plan out what the next month will
be. There are team representatives from photography, music, spoken word, fine arts, and sacred
space. Sacred space is what we call the environment set up and the team that puts together the
prayer stations. It is extra time to set up, but because we believe people learn differently and
that people express worship differently, we want to see more engaged with Scripture and truly
learning. Not everyone learns from just sitting and listening to someone talk. There are other
ways to learn. So the motive and why we spend extra time is for this reason. However, the set up
stays the same quite often. We use the same stuff over and over again like the candles, crosses,
art items, drapery and fabrics. The team went to flea markets and garage sales and bought all
this stuff and then they just re-use it in different ways. Depending on the teaching there may be
different special elements on the tables.
There is a set up team that comes about two hours early and they set it up. So it is
two hours extra set up per week for that team.
JONATHAN: Now, how many people go to this church? I ask because when
I hear about people getting up, going through stations, kneeling... I'm thinking, "Wow, this must
take a long time?"
About 350 attend on Sunday nights after two years since the launch. We try not to
count attendance at the worship gathering; I only know that number from knowing how many chairs
are set up. We count leaders, people serving and those in the mid-week community groups though
JONATHAN: Now, what if your church got to be 1,000 or 2,000 weekly.
Would you just have to create more stations?
Yes. When I was leading the young adult ministry at my former church, we were doing
these things with 600-800 people. It definitely changes and you need to think through how it will
work, but it can be done. In terms of growing to 1,000 or 2,000 people, we have decided to
intentionally keep our church gatherings to around 350 each one. Then multiply those like
starting new congregations instead of trying to grow bigger and bigger ones.
JONATHAN: Now does that mean launch completely separate churches or
just new services?
For us, it will be starting new worship gatherings and even eventually developing
different teams for them. At Easter this year, we are launching our second one. We are actually
even switching locations too. The new location we are moving to will be a challenge as it is all
pews right now. We will be doing some major renovation and redecorating in the place we are
moving to. But as for launching new congregations, I see that as the way we will grow. We will
launch congregations in the way churches launch new church plants.
JONATHAN: So, it would be the same location, but just different
Some might be at the same site. Some might be at other sites. It will eventually
look like the plan that Bayside Church
in Sacramento has... where you attend... where they are launching new churches but they are
still remaining one church. I love what they are doing there in that regard.
JONATHAN: Okay... so we're talking about different locations? Because
Bayside has several different locations around the city, each with their own pastors, their own
congregation... and they get together at ARCO Arena once a year for a big rally.
Yeah. I forget what Bayside's
tagline was, but it was like "one church, many
communities" or something like that. I love that thinking and how it empowers leaders and trains
new leaders. Yet still has the advantage of momentum of being all together in a way too.
JONATHAN: Sure. So you're actually thinking of each of these being
autonomous churches, so to speak, under the umbrella of one church?
Yes. But this is all theory and future thinking right now. We are only two years old,
but that is the direction we see ourselves going in. Ask me in two to three years from now how it
is going and I will tell you how it actually develops. My main thing as leading this church is
that we will grow and be built of course by the Holy Spirit. But from a human standpoint, we want
to see the church not based around one person's giftedness or personality. We want to build the
church by building leaders. I am more of the architect you could say. I only preach now half the
time. So from the beginning we want to establish the church this way. But by multiplying like
this, and still remaining one church instead of totally separate churches as we grow, we can
harness more energy and impact for the kingdom, I think. Think of video venues without the video.
Instead we build and train leaders. It's sort of trying to have the advantages of a mega-church,
but mixing that with being smaller congregations and the beauty that smaller churches
JONATHAN: As you describe the unique characteristics of this church...
I can't help but to wonder: what would my grandma think if she walked into your church?
Because she's used to: sit in the pew, stand up, sing three hymns, etc. Even these contemporary
services have been quite a change for her. She's from the old school that has barely come to
terms with an electric guitar and drums. But now if she walked into your building and saw people
sitting on the floor and around tables... she might have a coronary!
I'd say every church has a specific culture that some people fit in and some don't.
Actually, I don't want to say the word fit—bad word. I more mean that certain churches and the
values they have resonate with different hearts and temperaments. You know, our church is
primarily people in their twenties. There are also people in their thirties, forties and fifties,
but overall it is a younger church. So, many of our values and culture reflects that it is a
younger church. But in answer to your question about your grandmother, I know grandmothers who
love what we are doing. I have heard older people say what we are doing is why they are part of
it. But then I imagine that some other grandmothers would walk in and see it rather dark, and the
art around the room, and people at prayer stations and think "what the heck is going on here." You
know, "This is not right; this feels too weird."
JONATHAN: Well, it sounds like you guys are really thinking outside
of the box... but not just to be outside the box.
We try to always be teaching, even in our bulletin, why we do the things we do. It is
not just a trend or a gimmick. There are thought through reasons for it all. But I think it is
important, as what you do when you come together for worship and what the room is like does
reflect things about you. If I was to walk into your house, your house would have a certain
environment; you might have certain patterns that you do as a family when you eat dinner, where
you sit for dinner.
And church is family, so each family may have patterns in their life that they do
uniquely as a family. There is not a right or wrong for things like this, you just develop family
preferences and patterns. If I was to walk in your house, you have put pictures up on the walls
that represent certain things about your family. You chose them for a reason to reflect things
about your values, what you are like. You have the furniture arranged a certain way. You pick
out a certain motif of furniture that reflects who you are as a family. Yet, at the same time
there are differences, you're a Christian and I'm a Christian. But we still might have different
taste in things. We might have different types of art on the walls of our house. So, it's like
that to me with church. When a church meets together on a weekly basis, they are a family. They
have certain tastes and things they do as a family that is different than others. It just
reflects who they uniquely are, like what we do in our homes as a family. Each church is unique.
Not that one is better than the other, just different reflections of a specific family.
JONATHAN: I like that. That's a good way to look at it. But I don't
think everyone has a clear glimpse of your theology and methodology... some people have been
critical. You might have seen my interview with Josh
McDowell in our last Ezine. Let's keep it real. Josh seemed a little miffed at "these emergent
guys." He even named you. Do you know why?
No. I don't know why. I did write about apologetics and about him on my
a couple of months ago. So, it must be from reading that I suppose. That is the only thing I can
think of why he would name me and be miffed, as you say it. But the overall blog entry was not all
about him, but about the misuse of apologetics in general. It was my thoughts on how using
apologetics has changed in our emerging culture. I was talking about how many Christians whom I
know who are into apologetics actually don't have non-Christian friends to use their apologetics
with. I don't want to over generalize, so put this to the test and see if you find the same
thing. But interestingly, when you specifically ask those who are into apologetics to name people
that are not Christians that they are in actual relationships with, so many go blank and don't
have names of anyone. I think that many apologists get so focused on having "answers," but they
mainly talk about these answers to other Christians.
JONATHAN: You're being bold to say this... but you're speaking the
truth. You're not alone in observing this.
Or they take the apologetics to strangers on college campuses or strangers on the
streets, rather than building relationships with them first. I think going to a campus and
standing up and making presentations was very effective in the 1970's and 80's because the
culture was comprised of Christians who left the church because of being boring and not having
answers. So having answers, was a wonderful thing. The difference today is that people are
growing up outside the church, and aren't looking for some of the answers we are using as
starting points. Our starting point needs to be building trust and respect from non-Christians
first. We need to be the apologetic with our lives as followers of Jesus. Then they will listen
to our apologetics and answers. The Spirit of God does the convincing and convicting, so I
understand it is not just having answers. But I am amazed when I ask people who are into
apologetics, when is the last time they went to a movie with a non-Christian, or when is the
last non-Christian you had over for dinner or whatever.
JONATHAN: Well, I think that that's the thing that Josh was irked
about. I don't think he wants to be lumped in that crowd that "doesn't care about relationships."
He said, "Some of these emergent guys have claimed that my Evidence Demands a Verdict doesn't
care about relationships." Did you say that?
No, I didn't say that at all in what I wrote about him specifically. I haven't heard
any of the emerging church folks I know say anything like that either. The
entry actually told the story of how after I was in a friendship with a non-Christian and after
several discussions, the topic of the resurrection came up. I shared how I actually used a
classical Josh McDowell apologetic for how I answered and this guy ended up believing in the
resurrection as a result. I fully believe in our postmodern, post-Christian culture that there
is a hunger and need for having answers and apologetics. But, my point was stressing how critical
it is in our emerging culture to be building trust and relationships so they will listen to our
apologetics. I know you also stress this very thing in your book
"Do They Run We They See You Coming?
" That's a great book
to help actually apply exactly what I am talking about in a youth ministry setting.
JONATHAN: Well... in this emerging culture, we need to build trust
and relationships or we might end up looking like that girl on the cover of my
Yeah. And I really believe in using apologetics, but my problem with many apologists
today, is that many still use the approach of walking up to strangers on campus and ask leading
questions such as "Do you believe in absolute truth?" or "Do you feel there is only one way to
God?" And that's their lead question. I just recently saw the materials for a national campus
ministry and these were the very questions they were teaching students to ask when walking up to
other students and doing a survey sort of a thing. But all that does is set up a defensive
response immediately. It can become instantly trying to prove the other wrong, rather than
showing you really care about the person, as an individual created in God's image, that has a
soul, that has a family and friends and interests and dreams in life you want to get to know.
Not just what they believe in order to start the relationship by trying to prove they are wrong
and you are right.
JONATHAN: It's like provoking a fight on your first date. "Um... are
you drinking skim milk because you think you're fat!"
Yes, exactly. Because that's what it will do. And when I was writing that
it was about like actually other people that I was thinking of at the time, not Josh in that
JONATHAN: Well, at the end of your
you say that you're glad that Josh provides these resources because they provide answers to
questions that people have about our faith. You've obviously read his stuff. Thanks to answers
from Josh, we can know more about the truth backing up our faith.
But I have a question about something else you said in that
You said that you wished Josh wouldn't get so wrapped up in the "absolute truth sensationalism
that is out there which causes a fear-frenzy among some Christians." Can you expand on that?
Because when I first read that I thought, Absolute truth sensationalism???
Yes, let me explain what I meant by that. Blogs are weird things, as you don't spend a
ton of time thinking about it since it's more of an expression of thoughts than something you
formally write as a book or article.
JONATHAN: Sure... it's an online diary... but your little brother
doesn't have to sneak to read it.
Yeah. Looking back on that now, I wish I would have explained it more when I wrote
that or not wrote it at all.
JONATHAN: Story of my life.
Anyway, something to know is that I have bought and still buy Josh McDowell books. I
just got his latest releases. I have almost every Josh McDowell apologetics book out there. I love
his books. They have helped me tremendously in my life and as a pastor. With that being said, what
I meant by the comment regarding a frenzy of fear being caused about absolute truth sensationalism
– is about the term "absolute truth" itself and how we use it. I fully believe we need to be
training teenagers how to think: about worldviews, about how we look at truth. Adults also need
training in this. In our church, we have started a "School of Theology" because we want to set a
culture for people to be thinking Christians. The term "absolute truth" has become this huge thing
that is thrown out and causes such fear and division.
But using the word "absolute truth" is something I don't understand why we need to say "absolute"
and make "absolute" the defining mark. Do we make a big deal of saying we need to believe in the
"absolute Jesus?"... or the "Absolute God?" It's not in the Bible where God says "you must
believe in absolute truth." Jesus said "Believe in Me." He said, "I am the way and the truth."
There is truth. Absolutely – so to speak. My
comments were more about how the phrase "absolute truth" has been commercialized in the Christian
sub-culture and using the words discussed as a boundary marker for good Christians and bad
Christians. Then a fear is put in parents about all this. I have seen parents then pull kids from
their schools, put them in private schools or home schools out of fear. I think the issue we
should be focusing on and the one I am more concerned about is how a Christian parent loves their
child and how they set an example for praying with their child and teenager. Or how a parent's
personal spiritual life reflects being a disciple of Jesus so their kids see that lived out. Or
how a parent can be the example of asking questions about movies, music and television shows so
that a teenager and child develops critical thinking skills. How a parent has discussion with
their kids about global religions and how to look at those, in love, yet in light of Jesus saying
He is the only way. I fully, fully believe that we need to be teaching these things. In fact, in
the fall at all four Youth
I am teaching a seminar about how to teach teenagers about world
religions and why we believe Jesus is the only way in the midst of a pluralistic culture. I just
don't want to see the commercialization of the term 'absolute truth' used in a way which creates
a fear-frenzy, and quite honestly, I have personally seen it happen.
JONATHAN: Thanks... that's a needed clarification. I think when some
people first read your comments about "absolute truth sensationalism," their thought might have
been, "Oh, absolute truth. That's what so many unbelievers DON'T believe. They don't even
believe in the Ten Commandments. They believe whatever their gut tells them." So I'm sure
that people are glad to hear that you're actually teaching a seminar on the fact that Jesus
is the only way to God. Whew!!!
Yeah. I just spoke at a conference recently and I just wrote a chapter for another
theology book that is coming out on five perspectives of the emerging church theology. I joked in
the book and in the conference saying that I'm a fundamentalist. But I say I am a fundamentalist,
without being one of those fundamentalists
. My point is that I hold to the basic
fundamentals of the faith. The word fundamentalist was first talking about five core fundamentals
first used at around 1910. The word fundamentals were used for the inspiration of Scripture, the
virgin birth, the second coming of Christ, the atonement, the deity of Jesus. I believe in those
fundamentals. However, through time the term fundamentalist became associated with added-on
cultural norms and legalistic things and now the word is totally negative. I am a vintage
fundamentalist you could say about the core fundamentals of the faith. So people can stop
worrying. Do I believe Jesus is the only way? Of course. Do I believe in the Ten Commandments? Of
course. I believe we need to be teaching why we believe what we do all the more. There are a lot
of misperceptions that people in emerging churches don't believe in truth. That is very inaccurate
and a false stereotype made.
JONATHAN: Well, those stereotypes definitely float around. Most the
stereotypes are saying stuff like, "It's experiential...there's no meat!" But you are saying
emerging churches DO understand the importance of truth, dare I say apologetics, balanced with
this relational and experiential?
I think sometimes the emerging church movement has been labeled as not believing in
any truth. I think a lot of the criticism is made, about the emerging church being so experiential
that they don't teach the Bible. The portrait is painted that emerging churches are all
experiential and experiences can lead to false thinking based on emotion. When I hear that, I
just want to question, have they ever really gone to an emerging church gathering? I don't know
of any that does not take Scripture very, very seriously. Most emerging churches that I've ever
been in, there's preaching for probably 30 minutes, if not longer, 40 minutes. There's Bible
discussion, they take theology very seriously. When I specifically ask someone why they believe
that even though they haven't been to an emerging church gathering, I have been told, 'Well, I've
seen pictures. And the pictures look like you're in some sort of Greek Orthodox Church or
something.' Many emerging types of churches do some sort of prayer stations and interactive art
in worship and as prayer. But these are in addition to the 30 or 40 minutes of preaching and
teaching. It is simply desiring to enable people to learn better who have different learning
styles, as well as those who express worship in different ways. Not everyone likes to sing, sing
and sing. And that is the primary way in churches we express our worship to God. So all we are
doing is intermixing the cognitive teaching with experiential response. It is both. Cognitive and
experiential. But isn't any relationship both cognitive and experiential? So I think most of the
criticism usually is from people who have never actually been to an emerging church worship
Like I said, different people have different learning styles. Different people also express
things different. This includes their love and worship to God. The motive in various experiential
expressions is to balance out the cognitive and propositional with experience guided by Scripture.
We need both. Some people learn best through a cognitive form of teaching but if you look at
studies that say that only 20% of people learn best that way, then why aren't we adding on
different ways to teach better. Jesus used word pictures and he spoke from different places. I
bet Jesus intentionally used the natural props around him like when he used the example of a
millstone in His teaching.
JONATHAN: I can imagine poor Peter, "Oh no, he's doing the
millstone example again." Jesus takes him out in a rowboat and ties it to Peter's neck.
"If any of you causes these little ones to stumble... it's like tying a millstone to your
neck... as you can see me illustrating with my good friend Side-Show-Peter!"
Yeah. Jesus was a master teacher. His teachings and what we read He did were very
experiential. Walking on the water. Spitting in mud and healing a blind man. I mean they're these
strong visual pictures that are put into place from His life and teaching. He taught with words
but he also supplemented words with other things. In many emerging churches, there is the
recognition that some people want to sit in the seat and just listen to cognitive teaching. They
are in the 20%. Some people want to physically express their emotion to God and go face down on
the ground and pray. This was biblical and people prayed like that. But we restrict it quite
often in our church meetings. Some people want to pray and even express it through art. Some
people don't like art at all. Everybody's different and I think what emerging churches are doing
is taking the fact that people learn differently, people express worship differently and it's
trying to encompass more people in a holistic form of expressing our worship to God and how we
learn. That's what all this is. People would say it's experiential, if you're sitting with your
wife, and you love her but you have a friendship; there's emotions. It is experiential, it's also
cognitive. But simply making it more holistic not to one extreme or the other. We need both, but
the modern contemporary church overall has focused more on the cognitive than anything
JONATHAN: Sure. The emerging church is taking into account that
people have different learning styles. But it also seems to take into account the changes in the
culture. In your seminars and writings you refer to this culture as a Post-Christian culture.
What does that mean? What brought you to that conclusion?
Well, I lived in England for a year and when I lived over there I was recognizing that
Christians and Christianity was not a dominating influence in that culture. It used to be, but
through time and people leaving the church and being raised-up not knowing the story of God or
the gospel – they moved into a post-Christian culture. Post, means after, so when I say America
is becoming post-Christian, I mean that the dominating influence is not Christian anymore. It may
change, hopefully it will change. But that's what I mean by that. And Josh McDowell I think would
agree with me on this because his latest book is called The Last Christian Generation
he talks all about this.
JONATHAN: Sure. So what methods actually work reaching this post
Well I think, lots of methods, not a single model. I think the key is Christians
living out there faith in relationships with non-believers. Christians really being disciples of
Jesus and loving God and loving others. But loving others means knowing them and being friends
with them and breaking out of the Christian bubble we have created. It also means that church
leaders need to create cultures in their churches and in youth ministries of equipping and
training people for the mission of God we are all on. I do believe it's very messy out there
but I'm so optimistic because most of them have not yet heard about the real Jesus. Most of them
have not yet heard and experienced Christians being Jesus to them. They have not yet heard the
message of hope and the message of life. There are actually some great things beginning to happen
out there with church leaders who understand this and create this type of culture in their church.
Of course we need to pray – as all conversions are the work of the Spirit. But I have lots of hope
and optimism right now. I am baptizing two new believers this Sunday night. Wonderful stories they
have. Jesus is alive and working in people's lives – in a Judeo-Christian culture or in
JONATHAN: Good. I'm going to wrap up our time here by asking you a
few personal questions... but before I leave this whole discussion on the emergent church... any
Two things: one, when you're talking about the emerging church we need to recognize
that there is a great diversity within it. So we should not be saying "this is what they all
believe". The emerging church is not one person or one set of beliefs or practices. Please look
at individuals and individual churches and determine specifics about them, not a
Secondly, the word emerging is not just what is trendy and cool today. It is not about adding
candles or doing prayer stations. Churches are emerging and have emerged since the birth of the
church. The church will continue to emerge until the return of Jesus. So, it is not about a style
or age group – it is about being missional in our culture. It is about taking theology seriously
and asking why we do what we do? It is about taking the Bible seriously. It is about taking the
Kingdom of God seriously and really studying what did Jesus mean by that? It is about taking truth
seriously, and also taking living out the truth seriously.
JONATHAN: Good word. Thanks.
Let me ask you a couple of personal questions. If you are going to take your wife on a date
tonight, where would you go?
We are going out on a date tonight. We are going out San Francisco and seeing the
band The Pretenders
JONATHAN: You mean the old school band The Pretenders?
The band from the early 1980's, The Pretenders
JONATHAN: Wow! I wouldn't have coined you as a Pretenders fan. That's
a very cool date.
Yes. The Pretenders were actually part of the original punk movement to some degree –
at least influenced and birthed from there. So I have always liked them. As for a typical date for
my wife and I, we generally go out to dinner and then hang out in a book store.
JONATHAN: Which section do you go to immediately when you enter
Barnes & Noble or Borders?
We split up. I always run to the religious section generally and my wife generally
goes to House Décor and History section.
JONATHAN: Perfect. So what's the best movie you have seen in the last
Not to be cliché, but the first one to pop into my mind is probably
"Walk the Line
." It seems
everyone is into Johnny Cash lately.
JONATHAN: Good. And why did you like it?
I've been into rockabilly music and Johnny Cash was a big part of its formation--
recorded at Sun Studio in Memphis, toured with Elvis and all that. So having a movie about
someone in that genre of music was great. That's why I liked it.
JONATHAN: That's cool. Alright, tell us what is the last CD you
The last CD I bought was
Morrissey's new album
And I just got... I honestly don't know how to pronounce his name...
. I bought the CD "Youth." He is a guy
who is a Hassidic Jew who is putting out sort of hip-hop, Reggae, rhythm music, and most of the
lyrics are about God from a Jewish perspective. It was in the top 10 and it's still way up in the
JONATHAN: Interesting. You've truly peaked my interest. I usually
follow the people in Billboard top 50... I wonder if this guy... (looking him up) ... okay...
his "King without a Crown" was #49... but now his single is out of the top 50 and into the top
100. That's still no small feat. Wow. Yeah... and his album is still in the top 20 today. That's
I got it because I've been hearing about his name and the lyrics of his songs. I'm
not into Reggae and hip hop music personally but then seeing his video on MTV, seeing the lyrics
that are about having God in your life. It got me interested in listening knowing that many
thousands of people are buying this. So I wanted to hear what he is saying out there.
JONATHAN: Okay. Now, is this guy like others on MTV that are talking
about God? Like Kanye West with his Jesus Walks, but then he is also dropping the F-bomb
left and right?
What is intriguing about this guy, is that when I looked at photos of him, he's
sitting there with the prayer shawl on and he's got a prayer phylactery on his forehead, and he's
reading the scriptures. So he's someone that seems to be very serious about his religious beliefs
in that way. But who knows, as I really have no idea about his beliefs at this point and if it is
really serious or not.
JONATHAN: Okay. Sounds like he's worth checking out.
So, if you could have a 1 hour conversation over lunch with anyone in the world alive today, who
would you want to sit down and talk with and why?
That's a very difficult question. There are so many interesting people I would want
to talk to. Probably someone I would like to talk with is Bob Dylan. He went through a major
Christian conversion experience back in the late 1970's. He put out three albums focused entirely
on Jesus. But then it totally stopped. I would love to ask him, if he was open to being asked,
what happened to him during his conversion experience. What does he believe now? You never hear
him talking about it in interviews or anything. It was really good music he was writing back
then, and it is fascinating to me that he did that. What was going through his mind? Was he
saved? Where is he at now?
JONATHAN: That would be fascinating. It's always intriguing when
someone seems to be spiritually seeking for something.... I always want to talk with the person.
I think of Madonna.
She came to my mind too. She would be another very interesting person to ask about
JONATHAN: I'd love to get a chance to just shoot the breeze with her.
Not in a formal interview... just talk. And I wouldn't break out a sketch pad and draw two
cliffs... I'd just want to chat. I'd just want to listen. Her "quest" intrigues the snot out of
me... even though I disagree with almost everything she's done. I see that woman
I totally see that.
JONATHAN: Last and most important question: dogs or cats? Which do
We own a cat, so we love cats. But as our two daughters get a little older, we're
probably going to buy a poodle.
JONATHAN: (laughing hysterically) Oh man! I said "dogs"...
not a cat in a costume!
Actually... I always like searching out origins... the word poodle actually comes
from the word puddle in German because poodles used to be water hunting dogs. We grew up with a
poodle in my house in New Jersey. When you really study and look at poodles, you discover that
they're more intelligent than most dogs. They also have more skills of being hunting dogs than
other dogs. They got a bad rap when the French starting manicuring them and they morphed through
the years, with the little French poodle cuts. But their origin is hunting dogs actually.
JONATHAN: Well, I know if I was bear hunting, there is no animal I'd
rather have by my side than a tea cup poodle!
JONATHAN: This has been great....except for that part about the
poodle... I totally thank you for taking the time to talk with me.
JONATHAN: Good times.
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