I recently read Tony Jones’ newest book, The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier. I have long enjoyed Jones’ work and this book is another great look inside what the emergent church is doing and how it ended up where it is. I may not always agree with Tony, but I’m sure he doesn’t always agree with me either. The reason that I enjoy Jones’ work is exactly that – I don’t feel like I’m being persuaded as much as I feel like I am having a conversation. The same cannot be said for most books I read – emergent or not! The book also contains 18 small sentences that give some form and definition to the emergent movement I’ll post reflections on each chapter with some quotes, interactions and maybe even some questions!
The first chapter is titled “Leaving the Old Country” and is about how the world is inevitable changing. The bell curve of growth, plateau and decline is virtually inescapable. To give example to his point, Jones references a great FCC report from February 2007 which observed, “There are under a million pay phones in the United States today. In 1997, there were over two million” (4). Jones posits that in America, God is alive and well, but the church is dead. The bell curve is on a swift decline. Hence the need to start new curves, like Emergent and it’s many ecclesial cousins.
In the past, the right and left wings have tried to begin new curves with their own agendas, but have failed because half of their agenda was the disestablishment of the other wing. Unfortunately, most every American institution, from media to education to churches, have become caught in this crossfire and most cultural institutions have deviated from their original purposes as they have been co-opted by the right or the left. Emergent, according to Jones, is trying to become a third way, a way of hope that is not defined by what it is against nearly as much as it is defined by hope.