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The Emerging Church: Religion at the Margins

Josh Packard
The Emerging Church: Religion at the Margins
ISBN: 978-1-935049-50-0
2012/200 pages/LC: 2012018078
Religion in Politics and Society: Dynamics and Developments
A FirstForumPress Book
"[Packard] demonstrates the importance of organisational studies for a fuller understanding of emerging Christianity as a contemporary religious phenomenon.... His work provides fresh and significant insight into the strategies employed by the emerging church in its on-going resistance to institutionalisation."—Katharine Sarah Moody, Journal of Contemporary Religion

"A valuable contribution to the ... literature regarding the Emerging Church."—-Jeffrey A. Tamburello, Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion

"Makes a significant contribution by shedding light on the nuts and bolts of the Emerging Church movement.... Future research should follow Packard’s lead in conducting ethnographic studies of organizations ‘at the margins’ of other institutional fields."—Kristin Geraty, Sociology of Religion

"Present[s] a tight, well-formed argument that the Emerging Church offers a model of successful permanently unsettled organizations.... Packard has provided a powerful lens with which to focus our attention as the movement and its congregations change and grow over the coming years."—Contemporary Sociology

"With one eye on the religious landscape, and one fixed on broader social changes, Josh Packard takes us into the ideological and congregational lives of the Emerging Church movement. He makes a deft sociological contribution to our understanding of an extremely important religious phenomenon."—James S. Bielo, Miami University


If a church resists rules, rituals, and dogma, what holds it together? Josh Packard explores the inner workings of the Emerging Church, revealing how a movement that rejects organizational trappings and embraces a do-it-yourself ethic has managed to create a distinctive place for itself at the margins of mainstream Christianity.
Packard demystifies the beliefs and operations of the loosely connected Emerging Church congregations that developed in direct response to the heavily bureaucratic megachurches. While acknowledging the challenges inherent in sustaining such a movement, he shows that the church succeeds not despite its anti-institutional approach, but because of it. His work offers new insights into the interplay of culture, organizations, and doctrine in today’s religious landscape.


Josh Packard is assistant professor of sociology at the University of Northern Colorado.


  • Resisting Success.
  • Developing Hyperlocal Congregations.
  • Sustaining Permanently Unsettled Lives.
  • Getting Things Done.
  • The Appeal of the Emerging Church.
  • Sustaining Faith, Sustaining Resistance.