Conversation with Tony Jones (Sep-Dec 2007)

By Matt Dabbs

by Fred Peatross
September – December, 2007

Emergent Village began in the late 1990s when a group of friends began gathering under the auspices of the Leadership Network. Disillusioned and disenfranchised by the conventional ecclesial institutions of the late 20th century this small group of men and women soon discovered they held many of the same dreams and understandings of the Kingdom of God.

By 2001, Emergent Village had formed an organization around their friendships with the intention of inviting more people into the conversation. The Emergent Village endeavor to fund the theological imaginations and spiritual lives of all who consider themselves a part of the emerging church.

Today, almost a decade later Emergent Village can be characterized as a growing, generative friendship among missional Christians seeking to love our world in the Spirit of Jesus Christ.

As national coordinator for Emergent Village , Tony Jones is responsible for connecting people within the network, helping organize events and initiatives, as well as maintaining Emergent’s website. Tony is in the process of receiving a Ph.D. in practical theology at Princeton Theological Seminary. Previously, he was the Minister to Youth & Young Adults at the Colonial Church of Edina in Minnesota, the church where he grew up. Educated at Dartmouth College and Fuller Seminary, Tony is the author of Postmodern Youth Ministry (YS/Zondervan, 2001), Soul Shaper (YS/Zondervan, 2003), Read, Think, Pray, Live (NavPress, 2003) Pray (NavPress, 2003), The Sacred Way (Zondervan, 2005), and the editor of several books. Tony serves on several boards, and he is a regular columnist in The Journal of Student Ministries. Tony lives in Minnesota with his wife, Julie, and their three young children.

Tony’s new book, The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier is due to be released in Feburary 2008.
Tony Jones
Tony blog’s here


Fred) Would it be a fair characterization to say Emergent Village is about revisionism, missional Christianity, and social justice? Can you unpack that for us? And as you do could you distinguish, for the readers, the difference between Emergent Village and the emerging church.

Tony Jones ) Well, Fred, “revisionism” is a loaded term. I’d prefer to say that we’re trying to recover the gospel from Constantinian and consumerist tendencies in modern, American Christianity. Emergent Village is little more than an open-source network based on friendship — we call it a “growing, generative friendship” because we expect this friendship to generate many beautiful things for God’s kingdom.

Personally, I’m a little fuzzy on the supposed differences between “emerging” and “emergent.” Some want to make a big deal of the differences, but they’re used interchangeably by all but the most inside insiders.

Fred) How do you envision a missional church? How would it be different from the conventional idea of mission?

Tony Jones ) Quite simply, I think of “missional” as outward-focused. The gospel is mission — it’s on the move, it’s going somewhere. The gospel is a movement, and the church had better be on board. I don’t think it’s optional: the church has to be missional.

Fred) When we talk traditional, conventional church, in your opinion, are we talking lost cause in transitioning the thousands of attractional consumerist church into missional churches? From my experience, it unfortunately seems next to impossible to move leaders who have little understanding of ‘missional,’ not to mention their fears of disrupting the community, to initiate more change. Your thoughts?

Tony Jones ) I agree. Whether it’s the attractional church on the right or the bureaucratic, denominational church on the left, I am usually ambivalent. Some days, I have great hope that we can turn the ship of the American church around. Other days, I think it’s like the Titanic, and it’s already hit the iceberg. For leaders who are deeply embedded in the system already, there’s a lot to lose: property, social standing, pension, tenure. It seems to me that few will take those risks.

Fred) Maybe my perception is wrong, but it just seems those of us engage in the conversation take a bad rap on our understanding of truth. Could you talk a little about that and, if you would, touch on your understanding of local truth and its place in the biblical metanarrative.

Tony Jones ) As you say, the biblical narrative is, in some sense, a metanarrative. At least that’s how people of faith understand it. But it’s also a tapestry of micronarratives. Each story is deeply embedded in culture, and they are woven together over 66 books and thousands of years. Each book is extremely local. And I think that’s the beauty of it — the Bible comes to us from real people (like us) who were embedded in real place (like we are).

We only understand truth as local persons, in local communities. It’s not possible to stand no where — you always stand somewhere. That’s why community is so important, because who you’re standing with will implicate how you live, and how you read the Bible. The better the people you surround yourself with, the better an interpreter and applier of scripture you will be.

Fred) Any thoughts or words on former leaders of traditional churches who remain active in leading and following Christ but no longer attend church? For fun get out your crystal ball and forecast where we might be headed.

Tony Jones ) I’m no good at prophecy, so I’ll pass on that one. But I will say that lots of things are changing, and changing fast. Leaders who have the courage to take steps of faith will be on the cusp of what God is up to in the world. Leaders who hang back will wonder why all of the action has passed them by… New Wineskins

Fred PeatrossFred Peatross lives, works, romances his wife and exudes deep feelings of love, awe, and admiration for his Creator while living in the heart of Appalachia. For over two decades Fred has resided in Huntington, West Virginia where he has been a leader in the traditional church. He has been a deacon, a shepherd, and a pulpit minister. But his greatest love is Missio Dei.

Long before thousands of missionaries poured into the former Soviet Union Fred, in a combined effort with a Christ follower from Alabama planted a church in Dneprodzerhinsk, Ukraine. Today Fred lives as a missionary to America daily praying behind the back of his friends as he journeys and explores life alongside them. [Fred Peatross’ book Missio Dei - In the Crisis of ChristianityMissio Dei: In the Crisis of Christianity, reviewed in New Wineskins]. He blogs at [Abductive Columns].

 

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1583 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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