Emerging Churches

Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures

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"A picture of the emerging church that is without peer for completeness and texture. . . . The result is a discussion that is thorough enough for a scholar but readable enough for any interested person."--Kevin T. Bauder, Religious Studies Review

Across the religious landscape, profound changes are creating new spiritual maps and reconfiguring churchgoing constituencies. These changes are taking place in the United Kingdom and the United States as a growing number of frontier churches successfully take root. Whereas many traditional denominations are losing young people, these emerging churches are successfully recapturing nonpracticing Christians and the never-churched.


Emerging Churches provides the first comprehensive examination of the emerging church phenomenon in the West. It considers emerging patterns in leadership, worship, mission, spiritual practices, and cultural engagement.

This book was born out of extensive observation and field research in the United States and the United Kingdom. It includes interview testimonies from forty-nine emerging church leaders on the cutting edge of ministry, including Brian McLaren, Doug Pagitt, Dave Tomlinson, Karen Ward, Dieter Zander, and Spencer Burke. Because of its research-oriented approach and important subject matter, this book will appeal to both professional and academic audiences with an interest in understanding changing church paradigms in the West.


"If you still question the emergence of a new non-megachurch tradition among the evangelical younger sorts, you need to read Emerging Churches. Not only do Gibbs and Bolger write careful firsthand accounts of new ministries, but they also clearly delineate nine missiological convictions and set forth a vision for the application of the gospel to a postmodern culture."--Robert Webber, Myers Professor of Ministry, Northern Seminary

"Quite simply the best book yet on the emerging church."--Andrew Jones, tallskinnykiwi.com

"Gibbs and Bolger have produced a very welcome and comprehensive piece of research into U.K. and U.S. emerging churches. The book captures the spirit of the emerging church movement wonderfully well from the underside. I love the way it gives voice to leaders from within the movement and helpfully draws out and gives shape to the practices of emerging churches. It is a refreshingly sympathetic and positive critique from two researchers who have clearly been inspired and filled with hope as they have sensed the Spirit at work, beckoning the church into the future."--Jonny Baker, national advisor on youth and emerging church, Church Mission Society (U.K.)

"If you want to be truly conversant with emerging churches, this is the book to read. It's locally specific and globally aware--as are emerging churches themselves. It respectfully presents the voices of a wide variety of reflective practitioners--not just one person or a few authors, not just Americans, and not just males. It doesn't reduce the ethos of emerging churches to one concept but insightfully identifies nine practices they share. It recognizes the essential theological emphases of emerging churches, and it is based on actual conversations with over fifty people. It encourages readers from more traditional churches to listen and to seek to understand before passing judgment. It provides not only the best available overview of the emerging church phenomenon but also an example of charitable and reflective--rather than suspicious and reactive--scholarly analysis."--Brian McLaren, author, speaker, activist, and public theologian

"'Emerging' is just about wrought-iron candlesticks and prayer stations, right? Think again. Gibbs and Bolger have given us invaluable insight into the deeper values shaping ministries for postmoderns. If you're serious about mission in today's much-altered Western world, you can't miss this book."--Sally Morgenthaler, founder, sacramentis.com; director, Digital Glass Productions

"Based on extensive research and study, Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger have helpfully identified common patterns of belief and practice in churches that are seriously engaged with postmodern culture. The result is the best book available on the emerging church. It is important reading for all those who are concerned with the future of the church in our culture and the viability of Christian faith for the next generation and the generations to follow." --John R. Franke, professor of theology, Biblical Seminary

"There are many books about and from the emerging church, but no one has done, as of yet, what Gibbs and Bolger have done--to take an honest, missiological, and thoughtful look at the movement as a whole. Gibbs and Bolger don't do this as disengaged theorists, but they put themselves inside the churches and the minds of the pastors and leaders of the movement. They tell the story of its development and offer helpful reflection on its implications. All who are interested in the conversation of the emerging church will find this book a must-have and anchor to their library. We should all be thankful for this unique and well-informed look at the emerging church."--Doug Pagitt, pastor, Solomon's Porch, Minneapolis; Emergent Organizing Group

"Too many books on the emerging church I've come across have been a mile wide and an inch deep (focusing on the 'coffee, candles and cool videos' veneer of emerging church), but not this book. Emerging Churches is a thoroughly researched snapshot of the worldwide emerging church movement and includes extensive interviews with the practitioners who are truly engaged in the emergence of the twenty-first century church."--Karen Ward, Church of the Apostles, Seattle

"No one can question that the churches in the West are in the midst of massive transitions. Wherever one turns there are critiques, experiments, research projects, and conversations of all kinds about the church and its emerging shapes. Clearly, there are many kinds of emergence going on right now, and we aren't going to know for some time what might take form out of these experiments. In this book Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger provide an important reading of some of the creative edges and directions of various groups that are struggling to discern the forms that the Spirit is calling forth. This readable and helpful guide shows us the emergence of churches seeking to engage the changing cultures in which we find ourselves."--Alan Roxburgh, president, Missional Leadership Institute

The Authors

  1. Eddie Gibbs

    Eddie Gibbs

    Eddie Gibbs (DMin, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor emeritus of church growth in the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, and contributes to the Study of Emerging Churches at the Brehm Center for...

    Continue reading about Eddie Gibbs

  2. Ryan K. Bolger

    Ryan K. Bolger

    Ryan K. Bolger (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is associate professor of church in contemporary culture at the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. His research focuses on the emerging and missional church...

    Continue reading about Ryan K. Bolger


"This book informs the uninitiated while also helping overeager church planters understand that these unique communities, as their name implies, emerge gradually, many times without the help of the institutional church. . . . Gibbs and Bolger spent five years collecting data in both the U.S. and U.K. and interviewing 50 leaders--most under the age of 40--to uncover important patterns among emerging churches. . . . The authors paint emerging churches as attractive, hopeful and ever-evolving, populated by some of the most vibrant, open-minded and service-oriented young Christians. Readers who are attached to 'church business as usual' will be shaken up by this book, while those ready for a change will find it energizing."--Publishers Weekly

"[The authors] illustrate the intersection between religion and contemporary society and the ways people relate to this religious community in the United Kingdom and the United States. . . . Best for libraries where there is interest and an existing collection supporting contemporary religious life."--Naomi Hafter, Library Journal

"In a virtual history book of the postmodern church, Bolger and Gibbs . . . uncover three core practices of emerging churches: identification with Jesus, transformation of secular space and living in community. Quotes flow throughout from emerging church leaders Karen Ward, Doug Pagitt, Barry Taylor and others, but the appendix contains the zenith: first-person testimonies from 50 of the movement's leaders."--Outreach

"A picture of the emerging church that is without peer for completeness and texture. . . . The result is a discussion that is thorough enough for a scholar but readable enough for any interested person."--Kevin T. Bauder, Religious Studies Review

"Offers a great summary and description of the movement by one of the leading church observers today."--Mark Brouwer, Banner

"In Appendix A, there are stories from 50 leaders, in their own words, of how they came to be where they are today. I found these very interesting reading and [they] gave me [a] better understanding of what the emerging church believes and is trying to accomplish. . . . I recommend this book for pastors and church leaders. It is a good book for research."--Emi Koe, Lamplighter

"The most helpful book on the changing nature of ecclesiology in this country and Great Britain that I have read. It is the best summation, articulation, nuanced and suggestive critique that I have found. If ecclesiology and the changing nature of the church is a concern of yours in youth ministry this is a must read! . . . The book concludes with a wonderful and most interesting appendix on each of the leaders and their faith journeys (which itself is worth the price of the book). . . . The authors are able to create an interpretive framework and piece together the diverse styles and thoughts of these emerging church leaders in a way that is both fascinating and illuminating of the movement. . . . I think this book and research will become, if it has not already, the standard for the next decade on the 'emerging church.'. . . Having a better understanding of this movement and its underlying impetus [is] important in youth ministry today, especially as we undertake to help youth and those working with youth to truly have a Christian transformative life style change. . . . Highly recommended if you have any interest at all in the Emerging Church."--Ed Trimmer, Journal of Youth Ministry

"A richly documented survey of what emergent churches believe and practice, this book sketches emerging congregations around the globe."--Scot McKnight, Christianity Today