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June 16, 2006



so true. excellent post.

jason Coker

amen. why is that the first thing springing to my mind while i read this is the video venues craze? if multiple venues collectively constitute one church, what's keeping someone from claiming the same thing about their locally or even regionally planted affiliate churches?

it seems to me one of the major challenges of cultivating authentic, organic, "mom and pop" communities of faith is that americans really like strong, clean, consistent, product execution. even organizations who peddle "holistic" products must execute in a predictably trendy way. even local whole foods stores tend to be slick franchises these days...


Ryan, as you have invoked the matephor of cloning churches, accompanied by the visual of Dolly the Sheep, it is worth meditating on Dolly.

Recall that Dolly was not produced by natural fertilisation processes, but by the artifices of technological manipulation of one of God's creatures. The result was indeed a cloned sheep, but one that was then subject to health complications, defects and finally Dolly perished.

Your metaphor could be concretized somewhat in light of Dolly.

The tendency to artificially "fertilise" church gatherings can produce dullness and conformity. A franchised replicated product might also have the superficial appearances of "success" (i.e. "look at how many people attend here"). However the more manipulative the artifical processes are in fiddling with the spiritual DNA-template, the more likely the church community will be an in-grown, stunted, genetic-defect that will be eaten away by the white-blood cells of the body of Christ -- because it mutates into a virus that damages the health of the body in the first place. Quo Vadis Dolly? Quo Vadis cloned churches!


Have you ever done any studies on The Salvation Army as it relates to how they do church?

Great blog!




Unfortunately -- as I've seen here in Boston -- the "format" for church was already decided back in Dallas, or Nashville, or Atlanta. Church planters bring the plant already potted instead of asking God to plant the seed and let it grow indigenously.


Matt Stone

The problem with cloning is that, carried to far, it reduces biodiversity. Monocultures are inherrantly disease prone, how much more monocultures based on cloning? What we need is hybrid vigour.


There seems to be a fear of "passing the torch" in church. In our attempts to place our identity in the hands of God, we can place our identity in being God's hands. We think that what we do is who we are, so if someone else comes along to "do what we do" in the church, they are stripping away our very identity. Perhaps instead of "passing the torch" the founders and leaders of the church could see it has lighting someone else's torch and running with them.

Peter Carino

Ryan, you hit this one on the head. One of the problems with the babyboomers is that they grew up under the shadow of mass production on a scale never seen before. That lead to a view that what is good here is good everywhere. Reproduce what works and you'll have the same results. I think that your metaphor about cloning runs deeper than you described. As we have seen clones tend to come out deformed and/or die sooner than an organically repoduce animal. Even in the NT we see the difference in the churches as each was grown in a different culture with diverse needs and diverse peoples. Each church must reflect those that make it up. Sure, there will be similarities between the new and sending church, but they must be tempered by the context and what God is doing there.

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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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