Article on Emergent Church in Bend Bulletin

Good stuff here. This came out in yesterday’s paper. For my own statement of why I am willing to call myself emergent, go HERE.

Emergent church tour to roll into Bend

By Alandra Johnson / The Bulletin

Published: June 17. 2008 4:00AM PST

Leaders in the emerging Christianity movement, Tony Jones,  from left, Mark Scandrette and Doug Pagitt, are travelling to Bend for a throwback revival-style event complete with songs and costumes, called the Church Basement Roadshow, on June 24. - Submitted photo

Submitted photo

Leaders in the emerging Christianity movement, Tony Jones, from left, Mark Scandrette and Doug Pagitt, are travelling to Bend for a throwback revival-style event complete with songs and costumes, called the Church Basement Roadshow, on June 24.

If you go

What: Church Basement Roadshow, featuring Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Mark Scandrette
When: 7 to 9 p.m. June 24, doors 6:30 p.m.
Where: First Presbyterian Church, 230 N.E. Ninth St., Bend
Contact: 382-4401

Three of the biggest names in the emergent church movement will be heading to Bend for an inventive show next week. Rather than simply reading from their new books and answering questions, Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt and Mark Scandrette will transport the audience back 100 years. The Church Basement Roadshow, as the trio have dubbed the tour, includes revival-style music, costumes and characters, all based on events that transpired in 1908. The tour rolls into Bend on June 24 at the First Presbyterian Church (see “If you go” Page E6).

Jones said the idea is to bring the feel of tent revivals that took place a century ago, but infuse the event with their own message of hope and rethinking of Christianity.

Emerging Christianity is based on making religion more inclusive, with more input and integration between churchgoers and clergy, and with greater emphasis on Jesus’ life and teachings and less judgement about the way people behave.

Pagitt, Scandrette and Jones wanted to tour together to promote their new books (Jones’ “The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier,” Pagitt’s “A Christianity Worth Believing” and Scandrette’s “Soul Graffiti: Making a Life in the Way of Jesus”).

But they wanted their tour to be something different.

“Who wants to go and listen to three authors read books?” said Jones. A friend offered to lend them a RV that runs on biodiesel and they began to brainstorm.

The trio researched 1908 and discovered that traveling preacher Billy Sunday, with his white seersucker suits and rhetorical schtick, was the most recognized person in the U.S. The more they learned, the more they thought: “Well, this would be fun.” Their tour will include preaching, singing and old-time costumes that recall the passion, cadence and rhythm of the tent revivals. Another inspiration is a quote from Thomas Edison from 1908, in which he said, “Anything, everything is possible.”

Jones thinks people today don’t have that same kind of optimism and hope.

While they will talk about some serious issues, Jones says the tour is supposed to be fun.

“We don’t take ourselves so seriously. We’re kind of goofballs,” said Jones. “We’re earnest, but also pretty ironic.”

This shows, too, in the basement tour idea. While Billy Graham fills stadiums, the three authors think it’s funny they will be filling church basements.

That said, the message is serious. Jones, Pagitt and Scandrette are all pretty tough on traditional clergy and the traditional idea of church. They see themselves as an alternative to the conservative Christian movement.

Jones believes something in Christianity is shifting.

“I think that we’re on the cusp of the next great reformation in the church.”

He sees great energy behind the effort as well as significant opposition to it, from those who support more traditional church models.

The First Presbyterian Church in Bend, which is hosting and sponsoring the event, is working to develop its own emergent church identity.

Bob Pearson, a member of the church, calls it a movement of the spirit that is “calling Christians into a new direction.”

Nate Bettger works for the church on the Connection Communities project. They have started several new events to highlight the emerging Christianity focus, including a monthly meeting at a local brewery. The meeting, dubbed the Shepherd and Knucklehead, includes people listening to music or stories and pondering one question for the evening, maybe “What is hope?” or “What does it mean to belong?” or “Who is in control, God, government, parents? And does it matter?”

Pearson describes it as the kind of experience one might have had as a college student, but that in regular lives people “don’t have the chance to just talk about questions of life.”

“A lot of churches, you can’t ask questions and that’s a big problem for young people,” said the 60-year-old Pearson.

Bettger says sees his mission as simple: “All I’m here to do is show people God loves them.”

They hope this loose structure and open acceptance will attract people who have fallen away from the church.

Critics refer to this kind of Christianity as moral relativism, but Bettger disagrees with this assessment.

“I look at Jesus and I don’t see moral relativism. He’s not judging people, I see him loving them.”

Bettger’s goal is to try to adhere to the teachings of Jesus, which he sees as being a peacemaker.

The Church Basement Roadshow will not be an outreach event for the church, but it will be a time for people to come in and check out some of the ideas behind the emergent church movement.

People can “get a sense of what the dialogue is like,” said Pearson.

Bettger hopes that those attending the roadshow will have a “great opportunity to feel a part of something bigger; an opportunity to feel connected.”

For more information about the Church Basement Roadshow, visit

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2008

12 thoughts on “Article on Emergent Church in Bend Bulletin

  1. Some churches have long left their Biblical core in favor of increasing attendance and thus, their revenue stream.

    Relax the moral teachings of the Bible and take steps so people don’t feel guilty and you increase that attendance.

    $$$ talks, morals walk.


  2. Justadog…
    thanks for your comment. If I may reply with humility. We as a community are strongly dedicated to a “biblical core” (although, I’m not quite sure what you mean by that…) and that has nothing really to do with our attendance. At the present we have between 7 and 15 coming each week (and we’ve been meeting for almost a year!!), and we hope that more will find our expression of following Jesus and telling our story something that they would like to be a part of. We don’t receive any money from any of them to keep this thing going, although we would like to be a self-sustainable community. I, personally, as one who to the best of my ability seeks to guide and resource communities seeking to follow Jesus have virtually no savings account.

    I’m not in this for the money.

    Morality… I’m interested to hear what you mean by that. Jesus has taught to be a reconciler, a lover of my enemies. I see God pursuing that theme of reconciling humanity to himself all through scripture. In this love, I have no fear.

    I checked out your blog. Interesting. It seems to me that you really don’t like Democrats (of which I am not), Muslims (as I have some dear friends who are), homosexuals (again dear friends), immigrants (which I don’t understand). I’m not finding too much that looks like Jesus there. Can you fill me in?


  3. Bonny,
    thanks for stopping by and thanks for linking to the article too! I hope things are well there in MN. I have to say I was saddened, but not too surprised to hear about Kevin’s resignation. It’s a tough ship over there in Roseville.


  4. I will definitely miss Kevin & Julie, but I’m not surprised by the move. Hopefully, moving forward, someone will come in with the desire to move the 2 campuses toward being “1 church.”

    (and friend … your bitterness is showing just a bit …)


  5. I agree… the right person will come along. I was thinking about the bitterness… yah, I suppose it comes out a bit. I had some painful times (also some very wonderful times) at Calvary. I think I found that I didn’t fit there. Alas… different communities for different people.


  6. Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
    I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
    God will appreciate it.


  7. Howdy! This post could not be written much better!
    Looking through this post reminds me of my previous roommate!
    He always kept preaching about this. I most certainly will send this post to him.

    Fairly certain he’ll have a very good read. Thanks for sharing!


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