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March 21, 2006



I like your description here. I really like your optimism. But when I don't see such optimism from those we're speaking about and read and hear what they say about their respective works, I just don't see a big difference.

I think the better conversation is how we help folks get to the point that they are agents of and for the kingdom. Thankfully, I think that is going on. You are a great voice in this and I appreciate it so much.



This is very, very inspiring. Thank you.


you've hit the motherload of what doesn't work in the programmatic/lifeboat/attractional approach to church. the big issue is not just "fixing" worship/church, but inspiring a life of witness in the day-to-day. thanks for putting it so clearly.


Ryan, I find myself liking what your saying, and not liking it at the same time. I know you're not meaning to, but it seems like you're moving to an "us/them" mentality within the church. "We" do it right, and "they're" just stuck. I know you don't mean this. But in what ways can we recognize the movements of God and His kingdom as intergeneration, interdemonitational, interphenomenological? God is not moving just in "us", even if our ways of "evangelism" are more biblical (that's sarcasm there at the end...)


I have a question and I am wondering here... How do we live like Jesus? Help me understand what this means to live like Jesus.



I have to say that I felt much more comfortable after I read the comments and I tend to agree with all of them. The article doesn't make the intangible tangible. Becky's comments demonstrate the frustration that occurs when trying to to take the transforming process to it's most tangible form: the deeds that occur because of who we are.

Joshua Case

I live in europe. I work among expatriots who have been through the ringer when it comes to the elimination of the sacred/secular. They get it. The age of holism has left many of them feeling like every conversation is a prayer, every space is a sanctuary, and every person is a saint. What seems to be the key issue now for me/us, is not how do we get people who see the kingdom around them everywhere, but how do we recapture the sacredness of those things which are truly sacred. I am not sure if this is even remotely the same conversation; however, there comes a point in the "age of holism" where people long for the sacred. Where they need spiritual guides to help them along the way. Where they need quiet places to pray and sanctuaries to worship in. Again, maybe this isn't the same conversation, but at least for me its part of it!


Thanks for the comments -- I in no way intended for this to be an us vs. them post. I could have just written, "what does it look like to follow Jesus at work, if the reign of God is at the forefront of our thinking?" I was simply answering a question posed to me recently. Emerging Churches give explicit attention to the sermon on the mount and the life of Jesus as a model, but certainly they are not the only ones...


"share the gospel and when necessary use words" is a phrase I have heard more than once from a fundamentalist. A phrase remarkably similar to how many emergent's are trying to live.

You mentioned "on there best day", and I guess I have trouble seeing the lived diference between some emergents and some fundamentalist and some evangelicals on "their best days", I am saying this in the positive, some of all are doing a good job.

what I think some (not you ryan) emergents fail to realise is that they are not the only group being missional. being missional in not synanomous with being emergent. Some people not even aware of this entire converstatin are none-the-less being quite missional, and some emergent types think if its not postmodern its not missional.

that said, emergents do a better job than many, at putting these things on the front burner.

keep up the good work ryan



Your question is my question! Do I need to completely give up the entire middle class lifestyle?

But how does one live without a car in the burbs? And what's missional if your living in an entirely different stratosphere.

Maybee I need to move to the inner city, but I don't want to, no way.

I know the kingdom of god is central, but what does that mean if I'm an assistant manager at Walmart with no real power? I know some wouldn't even work for walmat, but it's not like Target pays living wages either.

I want it spelled out, give me a law, boundaries, a rule book. But of course we know that dosen't work either. (OT Law)

I don't think anyone really has the answer to your question. That can be frustrating, it often is for me, but it can be exciting too. With no definative answer, there are alot of possibilities for the Spirit to guide us into.

"Lord have mercy and give us guidance."



I am in the process of learning this question I've asked, and I don't know if people will like where these questions have taken me. Before I begin, I want to phrase this answer that I am giving right now--I don't have this all figured out, but I believe something is amiss.
We always talk about servitude, love, the sermon on the mount, hospitality, etc., as being like Christ. What we never talk about is the other side--the dark side. What I mean is we don't talk about Christ's flogging, betrayal, suffering, cruxcification, and forsakeness
I believe only Christ makes us like Christ and it is in a process that goes against our very being. Abandonement, rejection, poverty, betrayal, abuse, loss, depression, anxiety, etc. the list can go on. I have served and been "good" practically all of my life. However, it wasn't in my service that rocked my world or others. It was God. It was truth. Now, my service is an expression of His identity.
There are numerous references to this beside this verse I am citing, however, in the 23rd psalm, David wrote in verse 3 "he restores my soul. He guides me on the paths of righteousness." It is by restoring our souls. This is what changes people.Then the counselor comes and we go out where God has placed, molded, and shaped us whether it be in the city, suburbs, the prisons, schools, universities, churches or countries and rock the world.


I don't necessarily think this is an "us versus them" mentality, or at least not the kind I think is being argued against here.

In my estimation, from what I've picked up from Ryan and Eddie and all the others is that it is an "us versus them", but "us" includes anyone throughout history who has been about doing these things. The Emerging Church, for the most part, isn't doing anything new. Those who are leaders are attempting to distill in their communities a focus on what the Faith has always been about, and what faithful men and women have been doing for a couple thousand years.

The conversation, then, isn't about "us being better", it's about focusing, really focusing on what counts, and when we focus on those things, those nine things in the Emerging Church book, we see what the Church should have always been about, but hasn't been because of all manner of diversions.

"Them" are the people now and throughout history who emphasize the diversions. "Us" includes those who want to move past the diversions and get back to the core of who we really are.

That we can even do this in our era, that we can even talk about an "us" assumes there have been many representations of "us" in all eras to pass on the story so that we can listen and tell it to the next generations.


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Pastor Troy


It was three years ago when the Lord Jesus spoke to Melanie and I and said, “Go to New Orleans.” We had labored there in Amarillo, Texas for thirteen years; pastoring the church that we had planted, reaching the lost, feeding the hungry and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.

Our families were there. Our closest friends were there. Our fondest memories were there. The only thing that was not there was God’s will for what He desired us to do next. In just three months time from announcing to the church that we were leaving, we had loaded all of our earthly possessions in a school bus and began ministering full time in the streets of New Orleans.

I have discovered that each step and each place that God takes us is typically a wonderful learning experience and time of preparation for the next step in which He will have us take.

Many in the Body of Christ though grow too comfortable “camped out” in the experience and never truly get to experience the true realization of God’s destiny for their lives. We experience a tremendous move of God in our midst and instead of taking what He has taught us through that experience and using it to reach a lost and dying world, we instead “build a memorial” to the experience and spend the next 25 years trying to remind ourselves of what once was.

Across this nation there is a trend towards the Mega-Church (churches with membership over 1,000). There are even churches in the US that boast membership at 30,000 or more! With that many Mega-Churches being pastored by Mega-Ministers one would think that the Mega-Problems in our cities would be quickly solved by a mobilized army of high-powered, Holy Ghost filled disciples being churned out in these faith factories!

But therein lies the problem: Churches, or more accurately “leaders of churches” are no longer “equipping the saints for the work of the ministry”, but have instead adopted a “come and watch me minister” mentality.

On the basketball court it is referred to as being a “ball hog.” There is one person taking (or calling) all the shots and getting all the points on his personal stat sheet, but the team is suffering through yet another losing season. Friends, the time is too short for the Body of Christ to suffer through another losing season! We have got to start functioning like the CHURCH was meant to function.


Pastors, ministers, elders, leaders (or whatever is in vogue this week in regards to titles) have got to get back to the true work of the ministry!

Ephesians 4:11-12 “It was He (Jesus) who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.”

Instead of spending multi-millions on state of the art, multi-media comfort centers for the spiritually impotent—why not use the resources to reach the lost, equip them (discipleship) for the ministry, and then send them out to win more people to Jesus before they get too comfortable and too convinced that the GOSPEL message is somebody else’s responsibility to share with the world!

Last year in the NBA (National Basketball Association) a young player for the Phoenix Suns won the award as the leagues Most Valuable Player.

The player, Steve Nash, was the teams point guard. He was the one who called the plays on the court, he was the one who the ball came to first, and he was the leader of the team. Yet, if you looked at Nash’s statistics you would see that there were other players in the league who had better numbers in one area or another.
Nash did not lead the league in scoring or in rebounding—but he did what an MVP should do, he made everyone around him better! The one area that Nash was the very best in the league was that of assists. For those unfamiliar with that term, it means the number of times he passed to others so that they could score instead of him taking the shot!

For the season Nash had 861 total assists. The second best in the league had 668. That is 193 more than his closest competitor! The true MVP’s (most valuable preachers) in the Church today are those who make others better. Nash did such a great job that there were other members of his team that some thought might eventually be league MVPs themselves. He ELEVATED the play of his team mates.

Philippians 2:3-5 says “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”

Rarely, if ever, in professional basketball has the team with the leagues highest scorer ever won the championship. While the individual may boast great accomplishments on his own—he is not able to win the whole thing by himself.

This is the picture of the church of today. There is very little if any genuine equipping the saints for the Gospel Ministry. I qualify that by inserting the word Gospel, because there is much going on in the Church-but very little of it results in people taking the Gospel to a lost and dying world.

While there are many activities filling the schedules of a great many in the Christian Church of today; meetings, conferences, retreats, and even a great many Bible studies and prayer gatherings—how is it that with all of these activities being done in the Name of Jesus that so few people are out doing the actual work of Jesus?

“The Son of Man (Jesus) came for only one reason, and that was to seek out and to save lost people.” Matthew 19:10

That sounds pretty clear to me!

Some of the greatest coaches in any sport will often say, “We have got to work on the fundamentals. The game is won or lost based upon the fundamentals.” This is the same with the Gospel. It all will really come down to whether or not we are raising up people (a team) that is solid in the fundamentals. The fundamentals are pretty simple:

Love God with all your heart and life.
Then tell as many people about Him as you possibly can.

If I, as a minister, do not lead the league in assists, then I am really not my teams MVP. The church, and especially those in leadership have got to get back to the basics (fundamentals) of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry of reaching people for HIS KINGDOM and not just establishing another flesh-based, low-impact, man-centered program that might make the “spiritual highlight reel,” but will never make the type of eternal impact that HEAVEN DEMANDS.

“Ball-Hog” Christianity may fill up stadiums (or sanctuaries) but it will NEVER win the ultimate prize: “Well done My good and faithful servant.”

Jesus raised up (12) and then told them, “You will do even greater things than I have done.” That was His goal– to teach them how to take it to the next level. Yet, a “have your best life now” mentality has slipped into the church under the guise of positive Christianity that has been the death knell to global evangelization. Instead of raising up a generation of blood bought, word taught, Holy Spirit filled warriors of the Cross– the church at large has cloned a brood of spineless, powerless pew-sitters with no urgency for those outside of the walls who have not had the opportunity to hear the Gospel themselves!

2 Cor 4:3-5 “But if our Gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord;

Bigger buildings, more luxurious surroundings, a more relevant approach and a more welcome atmosphere seem to be the mantras being chimed by today’s diminished standards.

Jesus said the “fields are white and ready to be harvested”, yet the “fields” that He spoke of where the harvest fields of souls filling street corners and the market places of this world-that demand that we GO and take His message to the masses.

Today the “harvest field” has instead become the proverbial “field of dreams” and the empty promise is “if you build it...they will come.” Buildings, programs, pizza parties, lattes, and grinning greeters will never draw a person into His presence. These things are things that man has power over! These things are man-made and man-centered.

Romans 1:21-23 “For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man…”.

The GOSPEL demands GOING. The GOSPEL demands DYING to SELF and LIVING for JESUS. This is rarely a comfortable situation! Can you imagine these book titles in your local Christian Bookstore:

“Go through hell NOW so that you can experience heaven LATER.”
(Rom 5:3, Rom 8:18, Phil 1:21, Phil 3:10-11)
Or perhaps this one
“How To Be Hated”
(Matt 10:22, James 4:4, John 17:14)

These titles would obviously have a more scriptural foundation! Now am I saying that living the Christian life is just some hard, negative, drudgery? Not in the slightest way! It is the GREATEST LIFE that one could ever know and experience-but with it there are GREAT DEMANDS and great CONSEQUENCES involved.

To see someone’s heart miraculously changed and transformed by the Holy Spirit upon hearing and receiving the Word of God is indescribable!

Watching an alcoholic pour out the drink he just paid for in the street and then kneel down in front of thousands weeping before Jesus defies description.

Suddenly seeing a light come on in the darkened soul of a young man set free from years of homosexuality is the most amazing thing!

All THESE things require GOING out where the broken and bruised are. If your Gospel doesn’t REQUIRE you to GO, then it is not GO-SPEL, but just a SPELL!

Galatians 3:1 “Oh, foolish Galatians! What magician has cast an evil spell on you? For you used to see the meaning of Jesus Christ's death as clearly as though I had shown you a signboard with a picture of Christ dying on the cross.” NLT

It is time to break free from the spell and then GO do that which God has repeatedly commanded in His Word.

Most Christians would readily agree that “this world is not our home” and that we are all just “strangers and pilgrims” in this place—–yet why is it that the core of our time and investments are made in those things that are so temporary and this-worldly? I lay it squarely upon the shoulders of pastors and teachers who have failed to equip, empower and release His people into their God-given and God-required mandates to reach people for HIS KINGDOM.

As long as winning the lost (with the Gospel—not a bounce house, hot dog or cappuccino machine) remains on the backburner of Christendom and not our primary purpose in this life, then the church will remain a place of “ball hogs” and “bloated statistics” with no true victories.
If we genuinely believe that our stay is temporary, then why not “pass the ball” and get other people involved in the game rather than building more coliseums to showcase our religious superstars.

Church buildings, gymnasiums, air conditioning—there is nothing inherently wrong with those things—but once THEY become the focus, THEY become the idols that testify against us and set us in difference toward the TRUE Gospel of GO.

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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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