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March 07, 2006


michael lee

yes. thank you for saying it.

It's easy to slip into thinking that we are the first generation of passionate Christ followers, willing to do radical things for the sake of the kingdom. It's easy to forget that those same things marked the people at the forefront of almost every movement in the storied life of the church.


I go to a traditional service, born out of the holiness movement, and though I am far from a holiness person, and the library reeks of pop-Christian self-help books, the Church members encompass many of the same ideals that you discuss in your book. I'm not sure if it is a boomer church or a blue-hair church that just stuck it out. I sympathize and criticize with the Emergent Church as it is very appealing to my post-modern mentality and my age group. And, well my roommate took your class and I am a student at Fuller, so it is easy to see the good coming from it. I think the Emergent church could do well to revisit and include as community, the blue-hair churches. Certainly they are full of modernists and people who dislike the mohawk of Johnny 21 year old or revolt at the fact that people do church over a beer (I am a closet beer drinker at my church), but they do hold onto community. Unlike the hoppers, they have stuck it out over 6-7 pastors, maybe more and the new changes in worship, etc. They took ownership of their community and roll with the evolution.

blind beggar

“They did not communicate in the 'real' world at all, at least not in mine.”

Who is to say that their world is not the ‘real’ world. Those in the EM should not make the mistake of presumption – presuming that their reality is the only one. Boomer’s do communicate to their world, it is just not your world (as you apply noted). What may be lifeless to you doesn’t mean that it is lifeless to others.

“But maybe Emerging Churches were able to do what they did because the Boomers cleared the way. Just maybe...”

The view of most EMers I’ve talked to is very limited when it comes to the church as a whole or EMs historical roots. Many Boomer gatherings are full of life and passionate Christ followers (and many are not). It is the Boomer’s who radically changed the “old line blue-hair” church and are the roots from which EM comes.

Let me just note a few of the ideals we espoused in the late 60s and 70s -- AND STILL DO.

A strong focus on community, an actual yearning for community which gave rise to plenty of “other than Sunday” meetings and groups. Then there were the communal houses.

Focus on new forms of worship and music – think Maranatha, CCM, praise songs, guitars and drums. Art and readings were also a big part of worship. Just as the EM is experiencing with the introduction of new worship forms, many in the “mainline church” lamented that our forms of worship and music were a spiritual compromise.

Missional and a focus on a more holistic view of the Christian life. The issues were the poor, homeless, drug abuse, black civil rights, war, materialism and the environment.

Reached out to a group of people (the hippie counterculture, ethnic groups) that would never enter a mainstream church of their day. They simple could never relate to “church” as it was practiced in America then.

Someday EM must grow up and be for something instead of being a movement that is characterized by its negative rejectionist view of fellow Christ followers – another commonality EM has with my generation. If EM doesn’t, it will disappear even while leaving a lasting impact on the church.


Thank God for Emergent. I'm mean, seriously folks, what would he do without it? Granted there are some leaders willing to live this stuff out (NT Christianity), but for the most part it's just another church fad. Until the syncretism of materialism/retirement/401k's/my life is done away with in this culture there ain't gonna' be no revival, EM or not; all it's gonna' be is a new paint job on an old house.

Dana Ames

Hey Ryan-
as a Boomer with Emergent sensibilities, I am at once feeling caught in the crossfire and feeling at home in both. I just wish people would lay down the brickbats and do some reflecting.

Like: Reflect on the sociolgical/anthropologic connection. The "Lost Generation"- you call them Silent above- (post WWI up to about 1960) knew something was wrong but couldn't pinpoint it. Here are some cultural outworkings of that generalized angst (post Freud): speakeasies; noir films; idealization of Communism; greater popular acceptance of blues & jazz music; I'm sure you can think of more.

The Boomers were the first generation (in the US anyway) to actually vocalize in a broad, overarching way the fact that what was wrong was relational, particularly in families, and most particularly the idea of the father as cold, distant and authoritarian in the individualistic nuclear family idealized in the post-industrial revolution, Victorian setting. The rejection of authority was a real attempt to embody the conviction that "We can't do families the way they have been done before-it's toxic," particularly the relationship between fathers and children. I think many of the examples of cultural outworkings of the '60s and '70s can be connected to that. And here's my prime one for us Vineyard folks: think about how many "praise choruses" are about being accepted by The Father. Along with this came the rejection of ritual empty of meaning as another way of moving away from empty, toxic father/family relationships. This aspect of it is healthy, in my view, and we did try things like Christian communes and a move to seeing scripture as "authority" as ways to try to reconstruct what we knew was missing. This was the impetus for, example, stripping down communion and other rituals to what was "essential". I think in some ways we didn't go far enough, and in other ways we totally lost the trail. We became fatigued and disillusioned, and ended up in some ways being like that which we rejected (particularly re the more conservative views about scripture).

So now along comethe GenXYers, emergents, whatever descriptor one chooses. They've picked up the ball, in a sense, and are forging ahead with reconstructing meaning after all the deconstruction we did. But they are dealing with a world in which there is no guarantee of any kind of relationship with a father, in a family, toxic or otherwise. So they have done what they needed to do to make hopefully healthy relationships: 1) They concentrate on Jesus our brother rather than the Son of the Father; 2) they transform their secular space as opposed to trying to transform the sacred space (church); 3) they focus (!) on the tribe rather than the family. Here are your three characteristic foundations :) of Emerging Churches, contrasted between the GenXYers and the Boomers. Because the stakes truly are higher for the GenXYers because of the lack of social structures, they go farther with the other six than we Boomers did, but bygolly we did those six, and you are recognizing that. Thanks for that, and I hope your heart can be further warmed toward us...

Blessings to you, young brother-


You are so right on this... Boomers were just trying to integrate their faith into their life, and like all missional endeavors, their lives were reflected in their worship - good (worship music their friends wouldn't mind hearing) and bad (spiritual consumerism).
This is a BIG step for the EC to take - to cut the boomers a break...
God's Peace, Rich


just emailed you

Call Me Ishmael

The emerging hagiography is now being written.


It is hard to communicate 'tone' in blogs, but I meant this as more of a confession than as a diatribe against boomers or any other generation...like throwing ideas around at a coffee house rather than creating a position paper at a debate...

Peter Carino

I am a bit new to the Emergent conversation and have noticed a number of things that others of pointed out as weaknesses of the EM movement, i.e. the thought they only they have it right, etc. I liked Ryan's initial post here in that it seems that the EM is ready to start accepting the intention of their spiritual parents (viz the 5th commandment) and to start thinking about how to be true the working of the Spirit in this new movement while not wholesale separating themselves from their spiritual parents. One of the metaphors often used in the EM is that of family. If we truly are part of God's family, then the boomers and silent generations are included in that as well. Just as every young adult has to make a healthy break from their family of origin, they must also do the work of incoroporating that family in the greater view of their lives. Must of the EM conversation that I've been a part of reminds me of higschool/college students talking about how their parents got it all wrong and when they have a chance they will do things right. Only to find out after being in charge for a while that they parents weren't the complete idiots that they thought that they were. Every generation has to do the work of following the leading of the spirit in current moment while not severing all ties with the past.


I'm a baby boomer. I have a 17 and a 24 year old. Last night we celebrated the Lord's Supper at home before dinner. We started with a bible verse, said the Apostle's Creed, took communion, and ended up with the Lord's Prayer. We had two guests at our table, one from our church and one who has never had communion before.

My son takes bible at school and goes to chapel there too. We find church to be alive and something to look forward to. I love the fellowship and the conversations I have, the songs that touch my soul, communion, meeting my brothers and sisters at the grocery store or in a coffee house. Wedbesday night is a community kitchen that feeds all; seniors with limited incomes and love to see people, young adults who could use a free meal, single parents, congregational members and pastors who sit and eat with (gasp) the public. Then off to another church for singing and worship.

I was baptized Lutheran, but I model my theology after Peter and Paul. Peter simply tells us to believe in our Lord, Jesus Christ. Paul tells the mature Christians that through our deeds we will be identified as Christians. They were the true Apostles, walking from town to town with very little baggage and no chip on their shoulders. Even as they were beaten, tortured, and imprisoned, the word they spread was of how the Christians could grow in their faith.
Personally, I think that's pretty radical.

I am a child of the Ancient church. I would love to meet Paul abd invite him into my home. I bake my own unleavened bread and believe the original Apostles passed on to us words to live by, rich from the times tied to Christ.


I am so tired of the radical or different believing that there have never been people who struggled with the same issues. I hate the term emergent church. The church is the church and if an individual/group/community believe in the Bible and Jesus Christ as the only son of God, then they are part of the church universal. I believe the 20, 30 and 40 somethings who want to adapt the label of "emergent" might do well to remember some of the lessons from the past.

I am a Baby Boomer who loved the new music, after growing tired of what I felt were stale hymns. But I never took the time to look up the stories behind the hymns. I never looked up the scriptures on which the hymns were based. Instead I loved the simple songs that we sung over and over and over, that were created in 25 minutes after 10 minutes of inspiration. I never appreciated the real BIRTH of a song after a real encounter and inspiration from GOd. Just because someone is inspired to pick out something in their own PRIVATE time of worship does not mean that it is ready for PRIME time or that a whole congregation should have to endure the 10-15 times a phrase is repeated.

Nor is it relevant to the deeper things of God what someone's own personal walk reveals all the time. EVERYBODY can't contribute equally. Everyone can contribute but there is value in training and study. Yes, we can and should live our lives simply but in many cases the simple things will not disciple us to the degree required to matter to non believers who are going to Hell by the thousands while we sit on a couch, or coffee bar and sing Come by Here Lord. There is a need to go deeper and to be challenged with the truths of the word of God.....ALL of it.

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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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