The Emergent Church in Full View: Thoughts from the Church Basement Roadshow

The Church Basement Roadshow blew through Indianapolis last night like a good ole’ prairie storm. Presented by emergent theologians Tony Jones, Doug Pagitt, and Mark Scandrette and their 1908 high plains preacherman alter-ego, this “rolling gospel revival” showed the postmodern church at its finest.  And most fun.


130 people showed up on this steamy August Monday night.  Using a time machine and/or rip in the time/space continuum, the trio effortlessly and expertly moved between the year 1908 and the year 2008.

The ninety minute revival was full of zaniness. The guys were dressed up in dapper 1908 garb but they brought some costumes for the volunteers. I ended up, no joke, in a pair of long johns and others in overalls and prairie dresses. We were urged to respond raucously with “AMENS” and “Glories.” Jumpin’ and hollerin’ was encouraged.

Damn it, this was a revival!

1908 and 2008

The indirect conversation between the 1908ers and 2008ers was believable. And effective. Tony Jones blogged about 1908 last month on the God’s politics blog.

One of the most interesting points of this comparison was the emerging Christian theologies of 1908. The fundamentalist Christian movement and the Azusa Street Revival was about to take off while the publication and popularity of Albert Scweitzer’s The Quest for the Historical Jesus offered a new way of studying and thinking about Jesus. This scholary approach to examining the life of  Jesus would eventually bring us the Jesus seminar

Outside of these new ways of doing church, 1908 was a time of great technological advance and social struggle. The airplane and automobile was about to go big time, the great manufacturing cities were being built, and the distribution of wealth and the use of child labor was as bad as ever. Throw in the entrenchment of Jim Crow (Plessy vs. Ferguson was less than 10 years old) and the lessons of 1908 should not be forgotten.

Trucker Frank

Trucker Frank is prominently featured in Tony Jones’ The New Christians. He pretty much embodies the possibilities, past and future, of the emergent church. I’ll let the video tell the story but trucker Frank is part of a house church, once got excommunicated from a Christian bookstore, and got fired as a pastor after he compared church members to the church’s potted. fake plastic flowers.

There was a bunch of youth group kids from Carmel up front who were having a great time during the entire show. Afterwards these kids were bragging later that they were all going to wear their TRUCKER FRANK FOR PRESIDENT t-shirts to the first day of school.

There were also about 10 homeless men who attended who were just as proud of their Trucker Frank t-shirts.

I, too, will be proudly wearing my Trucker Frank for President t-shirt.

2 thoughts on “The Emergent Church in Full View: Thoughts from the Church Basement Roadshow

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