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August 29, 2005


tom cottar

Right on. Funny, I spent 6 hours in a vision meeting today about how to help transition our ministry from a 'think and decide' to a 'taste and see'. I think part of the resistance is in the waiting...it DOES take longer to taste and see. Although I'm seeing a definite shift in our ministry from 'soldier' to 'gardner', it is slow.

nice blog, bro. Hope to see you around!


Our church seems to be in the beginning stages of this kind of transition (amen to tom's "it is slow" comment!).

The main resistance I've seen is that many in the "old guard" worry that this kind of spirituality will never get around to saying the words of the gospel message. There is also some discomfort with having people around who may or may not be "Christians."

It definitely takes a lot more trust in the Holy Spirit to go the hospitality route. Instead of controlling the situation by presenting the "gospel message" at the first opportunity, we end up in the riskier position of listening (to others, to the Holy Spirit), and responding. Instead of assuming we know what God wants to say (four spiritual laws), we need to really listen to the other, really listen to the Holy Spirit... it's a much more dependent and "weak" place to be.


There is also the insistence from the older generations--and from the more analytical younger generations--for having those "measurable outcomes". Perhaps we can persuade these fellow members of the body to take a new direction...but they want to know WHEN will it bear fruit? WHERE are the new people? WHEN are they going to commit? HOW long do they get to stay on the outskirts? HOW are we going to evaluate its' success? So their is still a tension in the persistent standard to have measurable outcomes, with revision if the benchmarks are not met in the given timeframe. People may be willing to give new ideas a try...but not without a time-limit or an objective standard. Or so it is with us in our struggle.

+ Alan

Hey Ryan. Just for the record, it wasn't me who asked. It was another Alan somewhere. He's probably cool, though, because he spells his name right. :)

I am absolutely hip to this hospitality apologetic though. I've been in the whole 4-laws thing, etc. I'm trying to presently live a life of Christian hospitality, in general, and lead our community in such a life. I suppose it comes off to the old guilty evangelicals like doing nothing. I would present, we need to not worry about that - not try to overeact and go back to the old way, and keep moving where we seem to have seen some light.

We do this too much - with leadership too. We talked about this before. We see a "new way" of being a "pastor" and it seems too unfamiliar and therefore, uncomfortable, and our minds label it "nothing" or "not enough" and we then stop our forward movement and slip back to something closer to what we're familiar with. Unfortunate. Same with "reaching people" I think - absolutely. Peace to you.

steve lewis


Good words, and good comments from the rest of you, too. As a newbie in a college campus ministry gig, this definitely represents a way forward that I want to present. The issue is how to "break stuff" without freaking people out as we get on track.


what a timely post for me too ryan! i've been thinking about this idea of hospitality as the heart of God for evangelism for a while now, and even recently preached a sermon on exactly this topic. in my mind the elusive key is to be hospitable for hosptalities sake, not for the purpose of "winning the lost." the moment we love people in order to change them we've ceased to truly love them...we're just manipulating them. love is its own reward, its own end. i can tell you from experience that churches who practice this really do create a community where many "belong before they believe" and its a wonderful thing to be part of. now, i'm too much of a ladd devotee to toss out proclamation in favor of mere demonstration, but the form, pace, and timing of proclamation should be diverse, considerate, and appropriate.

on a side note, i personally don't think this eliminates the use of measurable outcomes, it simply redefines them and puts them in their proper place.

Ryan Bolger

Great set of comments -- and thanks for keeping the conversation alive at your blogs as well.

Sorry Alan (Creech) -- you have been the only Alan that has posted here, so I just assumed...(and sorry to the other Alan who I didn't give credit too!).

Jason, I agree, once we get the kingdom stuff right, where it deconstructs all of our practices, we can then include insights from leadership, strategy, planning, etc. The problem is, many churches skip the kingdom part and get right down to integrating the business books...


Hey Ryan -

I love this discussion as it is a very important one and not too often talked about topic. I think you are 100% correct in this, as I am consumed with meeting and hanging out with non-christians outside of the church. So I believe hospitality is incredibly important and our primary form of apologetic - of us being the church.

At the same time, in my personal experience of every single case of befriending and hanging out with someone outside of the church, there does come a time for classical apologetics. In the past week, with two non-believers that I am friends with asked the the "How do you know the Bible is true?" question. They were trusting enough in me, to begin asking about the origins of the Bible, and the reasons I believe it is inspired. One said that they need some "evidence" (the word they even used)to know why I believe what I do. These are what I would consider classical post-Christian twenty-somethings asking this. In one conversation with a young guy I recently met with, who is totally pluralistic in his faith, the resurrection of Jesus came up. To my surprize, I pulled out the old Josh McDowell tricks of explaining the resurrection and why we can have faith it was more than a wishful fable. The next week, he comes back and tells me he never considered that the resurrection was more than a fable, and to hear some convincing "proofs", he ended up thinking that maybe it could be true.

So, I think that possibly the problem with modern apologetics has been how arrogant, and harsh we have been with them, shooting out our apologetical proofs at people like bullets to shoot them down and prove others wrong. I think most of us have learned that not fruitful today, as reson is not the primary entry into the heart in today's culture.

Maybe we have learned that using The Four SPirtual Laws as a starting point is not very fruitful anymore (I never used that anyway, as it always felt odd and unnatural, although I know millions in years past have put faith in Jesus as a result).

At least in my real life expereince day to day with non-believers primarily in their twenties, i think that eventually apologetics is still needed, but with a different heart in how we use them. Dan

some thoughts....

Ryan Bolger

Dan, thanks for your helpful contribution. I applaud your approach of hanging with those outside the faith and answering questions as they come up. I do think that is the most fruitful (ad-hoc) approach.

I agree with you that perhaps the most toxic approach of apologetics was when it came with a superior attitude (we're right, you're wrong, let's talk).

In talking with others, I try to point out the reasonable-ness of the faith, but I do not try to prove the faith -- the proof is in the pudding, the experience of the recipient of our community. So I try to clarify misconceptions, but I do not expect verbal apologetics to do much more work than that.

I expect most of the verbal apologetic to be talking about Jesus -- the why we do what we do sort of response.

Great discussion. Thanks for dropping by, Dan.

Tony Myles

I wholeheartedly AGREE!

I wrote a piece on this: http://www.youthspecialties.com/articles/topics/theology/emergent_apologetics.php

It seems like there are more ways to utilize a new way of apologetics in our preaching and one-on-one sharing than a traditional socratic argument.

hospitality college

Hey Ryan. Just for the record, it wasn't me who asked. It was another Alan somewhere. He's probably cool, though, because he spells his name right. :)

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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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