Is Tony Too Close To His Data Set?

Chad Lakies’s review of my book, The Church Is Flat, is up at The Other Journal. He’s generally positive, though gently critical of my research. Here’s the critical part:

I appreciate Jones’ offering in The Church is Flat. To my knowledge it is the first serious academic treatment of the ECM to come from within the movement. More are surely needed. As I mentioned above, Jones employs a phenomenological methodology in an attempt to mitigate his close proximity to his subject. I’m not convinced that he was altogether successful in “bracketing off” his biases in his assessment of the data he collected. I wonder how successful Jones feels he was in his attempt, as he reflects back on the experience?

Regarding his explication of the data he collected in his interviews, surveys, and focus groups, one can’t help but notice the high number of anecdotes Jones uses from Solomon’s Porch and Journey. These two churches, more than any of the others, seem to provide most of the illustrative fodder for the practices outlined in the book. Yet proportionally, these churches account for only 7% of his data set. If the other six churches also engage in the distilled practices mentioned above, why the heavy reliance upon examples from just these two?

There is little mention of ecclesial practices outside of a church’s regular weekend gathering. Almost all of Jones’ attention is paid to what happens within the confines of the church’s gathered corporate life. I’d be interested to know more about what life for an ECM community member is like between Sundays. While Jones makes mention of some higher level conversations that occur between churches and with other religious groups, one does not get a clear picture of how the regular, daily life of an ECM participant is changed by their involvement in their church. Perhaps the brevity of his visits to the eight churches didn’t allow for observation of activities outside the weekly corporate gathering?

Finally, it is interesting to note that if Jones were to undertake a similar survey today using the same four criteria outlined above, only one church would likely appear again: Jones’ own Solomon’s Porch. Both Vintage Faith and Pathways Church would not qualify, each having dissociated itself with the ECM, and the other five (Cedar Ridge, Jacob’s Well, House of Mercy, Journey, and Church of the Apostles) have all undergone significant leadership changes. In the end, I was left feeling that the book has more to teach the reader about Solomon’s Porch’s ecclesiology than about a broader ECM ecclesiology.

Read the positive part: Forest, Grove, or Tree? Predilection and Proximity in Jones’ The Church is Flat : the church and postmodern culture.

My response to Chad will go live tomorrow.

Day After Leap Day Sale

My latest book, The Church Is Flat: The Relational Ecclesiology of the Emerging Church Movement, is now $.99 in the Kindle store.  This is a limited time offer, so click it today!

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Get The Church Is Flat for $2.99!

For a limited time, I’ve lowered the price of my latest book,

The Church Is Flat: The Relational Ecclesiology of the Emerging Church Movement

to $2.99 (Kindle edition only).

To learn more about this book, check out these posts on the book.

If you’re unfamiliar with ebooks, they’re quite easy to read — for instance, you can download a FREE Kindle reading app to your PC, Mac, tablet, or smartphone.  (Or, you could buy a Kindle — I was given one as a gift, and I love it!)  Then, with a couple clicks, you’ll be reading the book!

What Makes a Vibrant Congregation [VIDEO]

Steve Knight, who consults with the Disciples of Christ denomination, interviewed me about my book, church planting, and what makes a vibrant congregation.  He writes:

I think what Tony talks about in the book, in terms of church practices that are supported by the theological ideas of Jurgen Moltmann, are really worth reading and considering for anyone doing church planting or new church development work in the U.S. today. Also, for anyone interested in the history of the emerging church movement and an insider perspective on where it’s heading now, The Church Is Flat is a must-read.

Toward the end of the interview, Tony and I discuss one of the more startling admonitions he makes in the book, which is this: “The emerging church movement … will have a hard time standing on its own without ultimately coming under the patronage of mainline denominations.” Tony sees this as a tragedy. I see here, instead, an opportunity. It’s not either/or, it’s both/and, of course. But only time will tell whether emerging churches can forge new ways and models that are sustainable or whether they’ll be reliant on old money to do new ministry. [READ THE REST: Interview with Dr. Tony Jones – The Intersection]

Video after the jump:

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