John’s Story

9 04 2008

This post is part of a series called “Stories of Emergence.” Tell your story here at Emerging Pentecostal by e-mailing John at jfohara(at)

This may very well be an overstatement, but I think I was emerging when I was lifted out of my mother’s womb. Before I knew the models and forms, before I could differentiate a sense of Self, before I knew the prejudice of preferences I was ever emerging. It was my natural state of being.

I didn’t realize this. It became obscured by the framing introductions of my world view and the limiting characterizations therein. I traded my emergence for identities like Read the rest of this entry »


Jonathan’s Story

5 04 2008

This post is part of a series called “Stories of Emergence.” Tell your story here at Emerging Pentecostal by e-mailing John at jfohara(at)

I passionately want to be involved in the current mission of God in the world. I don’t want to be where God was five years ago. I want to know where his heart is today.

This is a wonderful idea, and I want to be a part of it. Thus, consider this my story of emergence, or of how I came to be involved with both the pentecostal church and what is commonly called the emerging church.

I met Jesus when I was just shy of fifteen years old, and met him through what you could call a dramatic encounter that took place in an Assembly of God church in Salisbury, North Carolina. From that moment on, I knew I wanted to be a part of the supernatural actions of God in the world. I wanted to be close to him in tangible ways, and I wanted to bring others to be close to him as well.

As my faith developed, I began to do grow in some very specific ways that together have shaped the person I am now, almost ten years later. First, I began to seek out how I, specifically, should serve Jesus with my life. I looked into being a pastor, a missionary to an obscure country, and a number of other things, because I felt strongly that I was called to reach out to people that were far from God. Read the rest of this entry »

Pentecost: Peace Carried on a Violent Wind

3 04 2008

It was a feast to mark the end of the harvest season. Hebrew people, having been scattered throughout the world like so much seed by the whims of political fate and fortune, had gathered in the holy city on pilgrimage to observe Pentecost, the fiftieth day of what was once newfound freedom from harsh Egyptian rule. History had filled the gaps in-between, obscuring at least in part the significance of that miraculous day from the collective memory of those chosen people. With time came the rise and fall of a Jewish dynasty, followed by one oppressive regime after another, leading ultimately to this pilgrimage, standing at the end of a long procession of feasts observed and traditions handed down, today in the shadow of the mighty Roman empire.

One favorite story passed down in the Jewish tradition was of humanity’s first hand at empire-building: the Tower of Babel. The story was told of all humanity sharing a single language and a single dream – to build a monument to itself that would scrape the foundations of heaven. Of course, everybody knows what happens next: Yahweh, in his omniscience, brings confusion and disorder to a race of humans whose highest goal was to honor itself. Who knows what terrible consequences awaited a world in which a megalomaniacal humanity held endless possibilities? And so it was a world splintered, divided, and confused that the Hebrew people walked. Along dirt roads they walked the obligatory mile, with bloodied crosses on a distant hillside casting shadows over their liberty, the chosen walked to Jerusalem, likely wondering what ever happened to the dreams of their fathers. Is this Pax Romana the only way to live?
Read the rest of this entry »

Renovatio: Even More Emerging Pentecostals

31 03 2008

Emergent Village announced once again the development of a pentecostal stream in the ongoing conversation, this time from Brazil. People familiar with the AG are acutely aware that the pentecostal movement is growing almost exclusively outside our borders, most notably in South America. This is either great news or the canary in the coal mine, depending on one’s perception of the emerging conversation.

A Match Made in Heaven

While the sheer number of pentecostal believers in South America should cause those of us in the emerging church movement to take notice, what’s most interesting is the marriage between emergent philosophy and the pentecostal experience. I have sensed since first wading into these postmodern waters Read the rest of this entry »

For Every Answer, A Good Question

22 03 2008

These are thoughts in their infancy, but I thought I would throw them into this forum, to see if anybody wants to knead the proverbial dough further.  I’ll present them in the form of questions:

– How do bullet-point doctrines and position papers reflect American culture in the 20th century?  Has the rise of postmodernism and the information age created enough of a cultural shift that such doctrinal emanations, while central to the ecclesiastical identity of the Assemblies of God, may actually do more harm than good in the way we communicate with the catholic (universal) church and people outside the Christian faith?

– Are we saved by grace, or by our understanding of how grace works?

– What are the blind spots of this generation of Christians, in other words, what will be our unresolved social problem (i.e., what anti-semitism, slavery of Africans, Civil Rights for past generations) and what is the theological underpinning of that blindness?

– Is postmodernism merely ultramodernism, creating niche markets in a thinly-veiled push for better-satisfied consumers?

It’s the Saturday between the death and resurrection of Jesus, and I think it might prove to be a worthwhile practice to fill that void with humble questions instead of puffed-up certitude (of course, this post bears all the marks of the latter).

Brick by Brick: Deconstruction and Reformation

12 03 2008

There’s this story about St. Francis of Assisi, in which he hears Jesus speak to him from the crucifix. Jesus tells him to rebuild the church.  So he starts to do just that – brick by brick, he set out to re-assemble the same dilapidated church building in San Damiano where he heard Jesus speak to him.  Eventually, in the midst of rebuilding churches, he realized that it wasn’t the physical structure he was commissioned by Jesus to rebuild, but he was being called to rebuild the actual church, the body of Christ.  He did so by choosing to follow Jesus in a radical departure from societal norms.Many of the expressions of the emerging church bear the marks of a Franciscan reformation.  There’s a monastic flavor, an opposition to the prevailing culture through ancient spiritual practices.  There’s a prophetic, deconstructionist flavor that challenges an often entrenched ideological approach to spirituality that divorces itself from the responsibility of taking Jesus seriously, by doing just that – simply taking Jesus at his word and doing what he asks us to do: clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned, feed the hungry, heal the sick, etc.).  There’s an organic flavor, in the sense that we do life with Jesus at the center and experience a gradual transformation that is grounded in reality (as opposed to a cheaper name-it and claim-it instantaneous transformation that is, implicitly or otherwise, often promised to pre-christians at altar calls). The reason I bring this up here is because the Assemblies of God is still a relatively new kid on the block (we were formed out of the holiness movement at the turn of the 20th century, so we’re just shy of 100).  There are probably people still alive who were kids when this movement coalesced into its’ current expression, and I can imagine they felt at the time a sense of history knocking at the door to let them know that they were called by God to push against the inertia of the established church.Perhaps by wrestling with the implications of the emergent church, we of Pentecostal heritage can get in touch with our own roots, all the way back to Francis of Assisi, who may very well be regarded as the first modern pentecostal.

Starting Points: What Are You Reading?

10 03 2008

George Wood, through a related thread over at AG Think Tank, has helped me nail down some good opening questions for our conversation.  Let’s start with this one:

“What book(s) would you recommend as a starting point for discussion [about Emergent Pentecostalism]?”

This might be a good place for me to confess that, in the presence of guys like George P. Wood and Tony Jones, I am an intellectual pauper; a gnat.  The only post- high school certification I can lay claim to  is  a ministry diploma following two years  in a non-accredited  AG Bible College (and in my experience was a first-rate education where theopraxis is concerned) and a smattering of junior college classes.  If I can hold my own in a conversation with these or others of like stature, it’s less due to any formal education than to a voracious appetite for reading – and listening.

When I graduated from Bible College, my chief concern was professional success, measured in terms of attendance, tithe dollars, and programming edginess.  Here are a few of the books I’ve read since that time, which the Spirit of God has used in tandem with life experience to re-center my world view, or framing story, to be what I would consider more holistic and Jesus-centered:

Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places by Eugene Peterson – Challenged my perception of God in history

The Jesus Way by Eugene Peterson –  Challenged me to follow Jesus as devoutly as I believe in him

[The Cost of] Discipleship by Deitrich Bonhoeffer – challenged me to view the church as a sacrament to the world

The Gospel of Matthew – Challenged my perception of the nature of Jesus’ kingdom

The Gospel of John – Challenged my perception of the incarnation

Off-Road Disciplines by Earl Creps – Challenged my perception of ministry in the Assemblies of God

In the Name of Jesus by Henri Nouwen – Challenged my perception of Christian leadership

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning – Challenged my perception of God’s love and grace

Everything Must Change by Brian D. McLaren – Challenged my complicity in the “suicide machine” and my perception of redemption

There are more books, but these are some of the more influential ones.  I realize as I look over the compiled list that I probably did very little to answer the question, it’s such a broad swath of reading.  The scary thing is, there are also plenty of texts I still feel I must read in order to start to get a grasp, not only of Emergent but that holistic, Jesus-centered world view I was talking about earlier.

One book in particular, which might help center this group’s conversation, is Tony Jones’ newest release, The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier.  I hope to pick it up in the next several days, and if there are others who would like to read it together through a pentecostal lens it might prove a good first exercise for this budding conversation.  Of course, that’s only my opinion.  I want to hear yours.

So what have you read that has instigated a deep shift in your thinking?  And what book(s) would you recommend as a starting point for this discussion?