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February 16, 2006



"This student said, 'Fifteen years ago, I took a church growth class, and you said...
Now you are saying...(emerging)
...what gives?'"
I can't help but see church "trends" as a double-edged sword. On the one hand they do address current contextual issues; on the other hand, pastors/leaders make the mistake of trading in one passing church model for the next (i.e. seeker to purpose to emergent to…). Sadly, most pastors/leaders spend a deficient amount of time with Jesus (in devotions) to actually hear what he wants them to do in their context, thus they adopt the next "new thing." My friend, Jimmy Siebert, who speaks with many church staffs wanting to adopt his "model" always starts with this question: "How much time do you spend with Jesus each day?" He stated the most time any staff he’s encountered gave to the Lord in unrushed, intentional time in the word, worship, and prayer was 15 min. a day! I believe our failed models of church are more a result of this than anything else. If we can’t teach our leaders to “Love the Lord with all of themselves” hearing his fresh words for “loving their neighbor” (see Mark 1:35-39) than all we are doing is adding new paint to an old house; thus, in fifteen years from now that same student will pose the same question; since his insights come from "us" and not Him.


Although there are cultural contexts we need to be aware of when sharing the gospel, I can't help but think that Jesus himself actually gave us the best "church model" that applies to all cultures and subcultures across time and space: RELATIONSHIP. Jesus is the most relevant thing in the world no matter if you are post modern American or lower class Afghan. Why all the fuss over labeling things and finding the best way? Let's just love people like Jesus did. :)

Sam Andress

Perhaps relationship is the "Gospel culture" we need to recover. I think it was Newbigin, if not him, then Hauerwas that gets at the idea that the church needs to exist as both/and within a culture. In this sense it functions as God's called together/out people and can discern cultural environments which actually subvert the Gospel. Jesus was embrasive of people and did so through relationships. He subverted culture in both the "Temple economy" and "Roman-Ceasar" sense. He did this, because he is Truth incarnate.

All that said, we need to be the church in a conversational and relatoinal ways. We need to stop avoiding the big questions society and the world are asking. We need to stop feeling that we need to have 3 quick and easy answers at the and of an hour "service" and instead confess, repent, pray, and fellowship when we gather.

Bummer I could'nt make that class. Hopefully I can sit in on the one you are teaching with Doug Pagitt this summer.

Tyler Watson

I like your answer to the question, Ryan. Just because we are to create missional communities so that people do not have to change cultures, we are not to do so uncritically of the culture. My danger is that I tend to critique and reject things in the church that are things I hate about the surrounding culture and baptize the things I do like. It's not a matter of preference, however. That's something I need to continue to learn and that's why I believe I need to be in a community to discern these things.

Dr. Paul O. Bischoff

The above statement is indicative of the MacGavern-Wagner backpedaling to save their faces for their "birds of a feather flock together: Missional(?) strategy(?) of the 80's and 90's. If the Gospel has anything to do with how we grow churches, why wouldn't Fuller be exploring how a counter-cultural church exposes the consumerism of US capitalism, rather than accommodating it into their
"missional" language? Note how Rick Warren's "ecclesiology" is devoid of ecclesiology and merely reflects back to itself the consumerism of current US culture to create a subculture bears no resemblance to the historic church of Christianity which suffered under the consumerism of idolatrous cultures and grew as a counter-cultural altnerative. You guys need to get rid of the postmodern language and begin viewing the church as a scandal to the culture you continue to accommodate into the church rendering the church merely a successful organization having more to do with Robert Deming and Peter Drucker than with the Gospel and Jesus.

Dr. Paul O. Bischoff


Dr. Bischoff, I suggest you read Dr. Bolger's and Dr. Gibbs' book.

I dare say there is no movement so passionate about models that follow the Gospel and Jesus as the Emerging Church right now. Bringing up Robert Deming and Peter Drucker in this conversation merely indicates you are not conversant with what you are condemning.


Hi, I'm a college student doing work on a relgious studies project, and I was wondering if you could point me to any academic critiques/insight on the subject. Thanks!


Great thoughts Patrick; I dare say there is no movement so passionate about models that follow the Gospel and Jesus as the radical revivals we are seeing in China, India, and South America. “Emergent” stuff sounds great and I believe the intentions of those who see this as the next best thing to sliced bread mean well. However, time will tell; not book sales or conference attendance. Every “new” church model has led us here and I hope this “new” one helps people fall more in love with Jesus. That said, China, India, and South America are off the charts right now, and I doubt they even know what “Emergent” means, I doubt the care; they’re doing it; we're having "conversations" about it.


Sean, I suggest you read Dr. Bolger's and Dr. Gibbs' book.

It's about people who are doing it first, and only secondarily are they talking about it.

Why all the antipathy? Why all the comparisons? Why is this all so offensive? Can we not say the same Spirit is working throughout the world, differently in different contexts?


Hey Patrick, Checked out your blog. Viva South Korea. No offense here. It's not so much a context issue. It's a people issue.


Ah, but it is a context issue. People are different, histories are different, cultures are different. The work of the Spirit is always unique to the particulars of history and each situation.

Viva South Korea indeed. You might, however, find some of the Korean comments about the Emerging Church interesting over among the class blogs.

Oh, and thanks for visiting!


Thanks Patrick for sharing your insights...

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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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