Whatever Happened to the Church of Tomorrow? (Emerged)

Nearly 20 years ago, award-winning journalist Gary Dorsey wrote in the pages of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“Described in a front page article in The New York Times this year under the headline Hip New Churches Sway to a Different Drummer, emergent churches have become a phenomenon that carefully resists becoming a movement. Congregations blend ancient worship practices, using meditation, candles and incense, with rock music. They exhibit evangelical ardor and yet cautiously resist fundamentalist dogma. Their pastors insist they are less interested in conversions than in ongoing conversations. Some describe themselves simply as part of an organic, experimental process with postmodernist roots. But whatever it turns out to be, the emergent church is rapidly gaining the attention of Christian book publishers, seminaries, even theologians — and Morrell is excitedly tapping in…he has become something like the movement’s unofficial archivist..”

Wait, what?

Yeah, that was my life a couple decades ago, creating Sites Unseen: The Best Jesus-Infused Sites You Never Knew About with my college roommate Philip, growing a global directory that eventually spanned 10,000 hand-edited entries linking web ‘zines, congregations, communities and gatherings of a movement that resisted most forms of categorization. We gained substantial traffic from seekers around the world, and I traveled the U.S. and the globe with both my house church network and the postmodernity-and-Christianity clearinghouse website, TheOoze.com.

But whatever happened to the ‘emerging church conversation,’ and those of us who so passionately participated in her questing, questioning ways?

Did we fail to have the impact we’d hoped in re-imagining the vision, beliefs, practices, and community forms that formed us — and in many instances, harmed us?

Or did the very ubiquity of our ideas in cohorts, books, gatherings, blogs and podcasts leave our indelible mark on belief, belief-rejection, and the ambiguity-between throughout the western world to such a degree that the particular vehicle named ‘emergence’ was no longer necessary?

I’ve never spoken about my role and observation in this full story arc…until now.

Emerged: An Oral History of the Emerging Church Movement tells the history of the emerging church conversation/movement, weaving major interviews with key figures and featured short stories from different voices with the historical narrative.

Over the course of 8+ episodes, you’ll hear episodes on…

  • The pre-emergent years of outreach to GenXers.
  • Young Leaders Network becoming Emergent Village.
  • The movement shifting to church planting, networking, and more.
  • The heady days of conferences, book contracts, and magazine covers.
  • The alt.worship, Fresh Expressions, and Greenbelt explosion in Europe!
  • Emergent Village’s evangelical roots and partnerships.
  • Emergent So White.
  • Emergent goes Mainline.
  • The legacy of Emergent.

Two Ways to Listen:

From your favorite podcast platform, via this link. (Two episodes in and it’s already become a top-rated podcast.)

Become an Emerged Podcast Member! Not only will you get access to a members-only feed with full-length interviews and more content, but you’ll also have the opportunity to support the podcast and receive some fancy rewards.After each episode is released, supporters will be invited to attend a weekly livestream with Tripp Fuller, Tony Jones, and featured guests. We will reflect on what happened, the questions the emergent movement raised to the church, and what it means today. If you miss the livestream, we’ll send a link to the archived video to watch at your convenience.

A Private Online Community

Sign up to get instant access, and you’ll be invited to a private Facebook group to interact with each other and all the content we are recording for the produced podcast series.

Emerging Church Movement Library

We’re also developing a digital library of audio, articles, and artifacts from the ECM. This will include audio recordings from major events and speakers, liturgies/resources generated in the movement, and artifacts such as behind-the-scenes photos. Participants are encouraged to contribute to this library. (Access to the digital library is limited to those who contribute $25 or more.)

You can watch the trailer here:

Tripp and I recently sat down in his backyard for something like three hours and covered the people, ideas, moments, and technologies that made our (elder Millennial and Young Gen-Xer, respectively) emergent experiences possible. It was an at-times hilarious and poignant chat about who we were and who we’ve become, as individuals and a culture. Excerpts from it will make it into this Rise and Fall of Mars Hill – meets – Radiolab-style podcast, but if enough of us members ask for it, the full conversation should be released. : )

Whether you were an eager (or contentious!) participant in ‘the conversation’ in one of its many iterations years ago or are newer to the world of ‘deconstructing’ and revisioning your faith and spirituality and wonder where some of this came from, I think you’ll really get something about of Emerged. If you feel so inspired, please tune in or become a supporter of this oral history project today.

2 Responses to Whatever Happened to the Church of Tomorrow? (Emerged)

  1. Linden January 17, 2024 at 7:42 pm #

    That’s easy: the movement has utterly failed. It was devoid of substance and sound biblical hermeneutics (or, more tragically, a complete rejection of historic Christianity’s fundamental teachings). It was merely new age spirituality, leftist politics, and infantile emotional narcissism repackaged and regifted with a “Christian” bow awkwardly pasted on top with temporary tape. It was a retelling of what people preferred to believe, of truth made malleable, instead of any semblance of objectivity and submission. It was nothing more than an ethnocentric coup to dethrone God and replace Him with incompetent human intellect and the desire not to be ruled by anything other than personal desires, preferences, and whims. And these were the movement’s stong suits. No wonder it disappeared. Good riddance.


  1. The Beginning of the World as We Know It: Civilization, Empire, & the Counter-Cult of Jesus with John Dominic Crossan | Mike Morrell - February 9, 2024

    […] participatory house church on campus while tracking the early flickers of what became known as the emerging church conversation, I began intentionally exposing myself to the variety of Christianities that existed in grassroots […]

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