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October 12, 2005


Chad Johnson

Hi Ryan,
I'm sitting in my office, not feeling like "working", thought I'd swim through some swirling emergent waters to spark my brain. I just came across your blog, this post on alternative worship service is pretty solid. I'm gonna print it off and go through it with some of my friends tonight.


you've put this very well and with great concision. thank you.

Santosh Ninan

ryan - i am the lead pastor of a church that is in its infancy trying to reached the unchurched pagan living in downtown vancouver.

i totally resonate with what you are saying - i am printing this up to give to our core leadership team - reminds me a lot of worship evangelism by morgenthaler.


santosh ninan


Great post. Couldn't agree more. The assumptions from where they are starting are the problem. There is an understanding of church that is based around numbers and an overstatement of the role of the gathered communty that is unhelpful for an understanding of mission.


Tremendous Ryan. Best post I've read in days. Write the book.


Great post. I will definitely be passing this along.


Thank you .... hugely helpful stuff


Thank you for offering a sharp knife to cut the fat on vs the typical butter knife insight that floats around these conversations. This little arrow will sink to the bone, great job.


this is a great "pallette cleanser" for me ryan. thanks. i especially like how you point out that people gathering to worship should be automatically relevant since they cannot help but bring their own enculturation to the act. the consumerist issue is especially cutting though. its often struck me that with rapidly growing relevant or "innovative" churches, transfer growth is always the elephant in the room.

still, it occurs to me that there are many, many communities of faith who believe that in order to worship acceptably in God's eyes they must duplicate other, often archaic cultural features that are seen somehow as more holy; i.e. 18th century american protestantism or even ancient jewish festivals and liturgies. i certainly don't begrudge them the right to do so, however the reality is that these churches tend to short circuit their own effectiveness in evangelism (even if it occurs out in the streets) because of their glaring irrelevance. where i live these types of churches still far outnumber those churches that seem to just make cultural sense in 21'st century america, therefore i think the lesson of relevance is still pertinant if kept in its proper place.


Great post. You've got me thinking about the enduring problem the church has of being overly focused on Sunday morning.

John Morehead

And all God's missional children said, "Amen!"

Thanks for posting this, Ryan. I especially appreciate the need for many churches to become aware of the worship serivce as both the alleged point of connection with culture, and the defining element of Christian spirituality. This seems culturally inappropriate, and theologically truncated.

Bob Hudson

Ryan, I totally resonate with your thinking in this. I hope you don't mind but I posted it to my blog as well.

Bob Hudson

Ryan, I totally resonate with your thinking in this. I hope you don't mind but I posted it to my blog as well.

Bob Hudson

Ryan, I totally resonate with your thinking in this. I hope you don't mind but I posted it to my blog as well.

Bob Hudson

Ryan, I totally resonate with your thinking in this. I hope you don't mind but I posted it to my blog as well.

John Morehead

I shared the link to this post with some of my open and missionally minded friends, as well as some contemporary church folks that I am trying to stimulate thinking with. One reaction I received, that I get a lot when presenting missional alternatives to attractional church, is, "Why the either/or thinking? This writer has a right to his opinions, but why does he have to say our methods are wrong and his are the only right ones?"

I think this response does not take the postmodern Western context of your Blog and the post into account. In addition, it may highlight the threat that the modernist contemporary church "hears" when they are presented with the missional alternative. Their might also be an indication of a blind spot in regards to the cultural and social shifts going on.

Any thoughts on this? How might you and others respond to this concern?

Marc D.

Great comments, but this will really take a huge paradigm shift for most of us to really live this out. Also, it raises all kinds of questions such as the ones that were posed to John above.

Having said all that, I want to sign up, this is water for my soul.



On this: "Worship must reflect the culture of the community that is currently part of the church, not replicate current worship CDs, nor 1980s soft rock, nor 18th century hymns."

What if the culture of the church is one of those things listed?

I echo John Morehead's friends in asking, why the either or?

I love what the emerging church conversation is being, but I'm just as proud of what others are doing.(yes I know the being/doing thing is the problem)

What would it look like to be missional, that is, to apply your principles, in rural Wisconsin, (where I’m from) or the average suburb? It might look more like what too many on the emerging church scene deride than they would like to imagine.


Having said that, this is a great summery of what it is to be missional, and I will definately be using it to help those of us in non-urban environments become more missional.

+ Alan

Good stuff Ryan. I'll add by saying what I've said before - the gathering of the Church was never meant to be relevant to those who are not a part of the Church. How can it be? It means nothing to them as they are.

Our meetings are just that, "our" meetings - when the members of the Body of Christ gather together as that Body in order to be built further into that Body in fullness.

The meetings aren't meant to be relevant, WE are. As you mentioned, in the world - in our daily lives in the world, as we work and play and live, we are suppposed to be naturally relevant to those around us. Those relationships will then perhaps produce a drawing into the Life of God for others. Then maybe they will come see us in our cultural element, the culture of the Body.

And no, they won't be able to fully participate. If they could, why would they want to draw further in? They'd be fine just where they are. Yes, I think we've gone far to the corner, in some arenas, on this "being relevant" thing. It has caused us to lose our identity. Anyway, good thoughts. I'll hush now. Peace to you.

Ryan Bolger

Thanks for the affirming words and insightful questions (I've never had so many responses to a single post -- very unexpected and very fun).
I will offer a response to these questions in another post...


Ryan, good connecting with you the other day.

I resonate with this thought deeply. In my own experiences I have found focusing on one communal gathering, is or can be, detrimental to the Kingdom life. Especially if that gathering is to attract others into the community. The missional life can not be compartmentalized to one day. It is a communal life that participates in God's mission at all times, places, and people.

Alan, I like what you are saying as well. I don't assume that an observer of a community would know the implications of the community's ecclesial practices. They would be foreign to them. But I think they would be fascinated by them. The alternative lifestyle of the community would be attractive in of itself, so the community wouldn't have to be "relevant" to attract them. I guess you could say that they offer something not found somewhere else. They could encapsulate the reign of God in their community, and I think that would be attractive and inviting to others to join in that way of life, even if they don't understand how it works.

Just some thoughts.


Ryan -

Good stuff... I've been in a traditional church pastor position for all of about 6 months now and this post expresses what I've been trying to tell my new congregation that entire time. Thanks!


Ryan et al,

I tried to do this via trackback but unfortunately typepad thinks haloscan trackbacks are a spam threat.
Thanks for this discussion and the ensuing mental gymnastics it inspired.


It is true that transforming an entire congregation may be next to impossible. But what if we intentionally transform a small group, Sunday school class, family, or band? That, I think, is doable. In fact, a small transformation just may turn viral.


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  • Hi, welcome to my former blog! My name is Ryan Bolger, and this is where I posted my thoughts on Jesus, culture, new forms of community, among other things. Come visit me at my new blog: http://www.ryanbolger.com. I still teach at Fuller Seminary in Southern California where I'm doing some writing as well. Feel free to bounce around the new or old website -- I hope it might stir your imagination -- feel free to stir mine as well by leaving some comments, preferably at the new site... Peace...


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