Associate Professor of Church in Contemporary Culture
Engaging Contemporary Culture and the Church
For Ryan Bolger, "church" is a word that does not need to evoke images of steeples and stained glass. A specialist in the interplay between church communities and contemporary cultural developments, Dr. Bolger has done extensive field research on what has become known as the emerging church. "It's a movement that’s growing rapidly," he says, "and we're seeing its influence spread across the spectrum."
The emerging church is not something that can be easily defined or put in a box, Bolger notes, but there are common trends. In emerging churches, he explains, the church functions as an extended family gathering. "The focus is on everyone in the extended family getting to share their gifts," he explains, rather than on performance or professionalism. People have the opportunity to express their faith in ways that are meaningful to them and relevant to contemporary culture, without necessarily following all of the outward practices that the church has amassed over the past 2,000 years. As Bolger puts it, "These are communities that are very organic, very simple, looking to follow Jesus' way in this culture, now."
Bolger brings the fruit of his field research and experience into the classroom, where he seeks to impart to his students a passion for engaging with the emerging and missional church movements—and for exploring ways that the church as a whole can more effectively express its message in the contemporary context.