Allelon: Video Interview with Ryan Bolger on Emerging and Missional Churches

There is great half-hour video of my PhD advisor, Ryan Bolger, where he discusses what emerging churches and missional churches are. During the interview he discusses with Alan Roxburgh of Allelon, and author of the Sky is Falling, some of the major points of similarities, differences, and some possible connecting points of these two movements.

Here are some of the highlights and notes from the interview:

What is the missional church?

Most people think their church is missional, but in fact they’re not.

1. A spectrum of Missional churches (a focus on going) < --------> and Attractional Church (a focus on getting people to come), can be helpful.
2. Missional churches look to do ministry in a Post-Christian culture
3. And as “What does Jesus have to say about the church?”

Bolger talks about how these conversations have been focused on what Jesus has to say about the Church.

It’s often hard to realize how influenced by culture we really are:
1. How do you move beyond personal preference of reading the text?
2. Every missionary needs a training in culture and modernity.
3. NT Wright says that Jesus called the Jewish people to change their understanding of the people of God. This call was not an individualistic calling but a corporate call of a given people. This has dramatic effects on how we view the church’s mission today.

Missional church invites people from one world into the reality of the Kingdom of God.

“The church discovers its true identity when it’s working within the Kingdom of God.”

Bolger discusses his background with the Vineyard and how he learned about Jesus from John Wimber, an ex-quaker and leader of the vineyard movement. Bolger explains that he has a “second conversion” after reading the works of John Howard Yoder.

What is the emerging church and how is it connected to the missional church?

1. The Emerging church, in his book, is a group of churches that are grow organically in postmodern culture and have flat leadership. They are indigenous communities of faith that pop up in the culture.
2. These communities tend to be more monastic in nature.
3. There is an identification with the word “Emerging,” a word that Karen Ward used in 2000. And are influenced by emergence theory.
4. Bolger isn’t using “emerging church” prophetically (as to say this is the church as it is meant to be) but sociologically (it’s the name they use for themselves).

The ‘Emergent’ Village is the most well known group of these churches, but there are a number of churches in the US that are not connected with this network but who have their own networks and are similar in nature to these “emerging churches.”

What are the connections between Missional Church and Emerging Church?

1. A number of emerging churches have read missiology and that’s given this it’s spin, and thus the reading they do is often similar to those in the missional church.
2. Missional church is often more institutional and local church oriented
3. Emerging church is more focused on exegeting the culture and understand how to be “a Jesus community in that community.”
4. They have different Starting points. Theologically the emerging Church leaders think like missionaries, while missional church leaders think more ecclesiologically.

Missional church looks at the church within a culture, and is often abstract in thinking. The focus is on getting institutional church to be more outward focused and helping these congregations communicate in a new culture. The emerging churches and their leaders are asking missionary questions while they are in the midst of their ministries. It tends to be more practical and done from the ground up. Both Bolger and Roxburgh remind the listeners that these categories are just generalizations and are not true across the board.

These emerging leaders are trying to be cross-cultrual missionaries in the West. And that’s why what they do often looks very different from institutional church. It’s heavily influenced by the missionary thought of Newbigin, Bosch, Shenk and others. This perspective asks “how we make worship consistent with both our faith and our culture?”

Bolger points out that these divisions don’t need to be there. And Roxburgh’s book is one work trying to bring these two conversations into closer proximity to one another.

Overall, if you’re new to what the emerging church and missional church’s are doing and saying, this is a great intro into some of that conversation. It’s not overly technical and can be just the primer you’re looking for.

Some questions for the readers:
1. What did you find most helpful in the presentation?
2. What are some of the questions you wish were answered?
3. Have you seen more contact with emerging and missional churches than was offered in the presentation? Do you think these two can in fact work together and should they?

Published by

Wess

...is the William R. Roger Director of Friends Center and Quaker Studies at Guilford College in Greensboro, NC., PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary, served as a "released minister" at Camas Friends Church, and father of three. He enjoys sketchnoting, sharing conversation over coffee with a friend, listening to vinyl and writing creative nonfiction.

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