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This is so liberating! I'm an australian woman who's always struggled with the picture of church that Hirsch and Frost imagine, for all the reasons you talk of. This is not a church i can belong to, or ever find a place in... and if this is the emerging church, i don't want it. So glad to hear it's not just me...

Please don't simply excuse it as being part of the Australian context. If it is part of the Australian context, the context needs to be challenged. i'm hoping it's not the whole picture, just perhaps the loudest part... but all that speaks loudly isn't always good...

rant over.



I was most interested to read your comments. It seems there's been a lot of `build-up hype' to this event, going on what I read on some other UK blogs.
I'm trying hard not to think `bloody Sydney', as I know it's not all that.

I'm glad you raised the concerns. Are blokey strategies from the boardroom filtering unchecked into emerging church thinking? I remember hearing Michael Frost some years back and he was talking in a most compelling fashion about the idea of the `second conversion' (hardships in young faith leading to a new period of character building, etc.), which perhaps has naturally evolved into the ideas he shared in your meeting.


Isn't the point that the liminal experience is temporary and once the bonding is achieved then a more normalised existence then continues without so much of the 'on the edge' communal experience? IF the point is to keep the liminal going then I think that yoou are right: it's a seriously flawed model. In fact it is destructive of human welfare. As a life coach one of the things I'm looking out for in people's lives is the signs of having the paralimbic system constantly on alert, signalling the need to slow down and get a more balanced life. SRI's will result otherwise.

I can't believe that someone is suggesting that the adrenaline rush should be normal: I hope that this was not really what was being suggested.

I would suggest that if someone is using adrenaline to feel "really alive", then they are risking their long-term health -both mental and physical: the human body is not built to be on constant 'alert'.

It is possible to feel "really alive" after relaxing, even after meditation ...


hooray for you, Steve. Somebody had to say it, and you said it well.

Tom Allen

Thanks for the honest review - you have confirmed the fears of a small group of alt worship leaders in Yorkshire and saved us a journey to Sheffield which I suspect would have ended up in similar feelings of anger. We will simply spend the day instead together reviewing the real world!

I wonder if the emergent movement is begining to sucumb to the kind of guru tendencies which makes me so sceptical of the evangelical end of the Church.

I hope however that the emerging church is sufficently rooted in real experiences of local church (and has sufficient links with the Universal Church) that we will always remain suffiently sceptical of book-writers and theorists to avoid the trap.


For an alternative, I like Ann Morisy's understanding that spiritual growth happens when we are put (or place ourselves) in situations, as communities, where we risk being overwhelmed and experience powerlessness. A much less 'macho' approach to mission (rather than re-imagining carrying the cross as an extreme sport).


Some Stateside opinion, and this coming from someone who liked the book. You make some great observations. I guess part of what I want to say is, "Of course." Maybe we need to start expecting to disagree with or dislike 50% (or more)of what we hear and see. I think we ought to be able to validate those things that we get from others that are valuable in our own context as well as challenge them in their original contexts. This should prove to be quite healthy and helpful in our maturation process. I view alt worship this way as well all things emergent.

Si Johnston

OK...I'm going to cut against the grain here and throw some thoughts your way Steve. Many of these comments aren't resonating with me at all (although they may be fairly levelled). Incidentally, I've put my (rather shabby) notes on my blog from todays blah session.

I'd suggest that Frost and Hirsch are a breath of fresh air to the alt.worship scene. Firstly, alt.worship is, in my rather naive view, quite feminine. So let me take, for example, the over-emphasis on the doctrine of creation over and against the atonement (so we like 'creativity' and images of flowers/pregnant women and babies etc) to the hyper-relationality where talking becomes an end in itself. Virtually all my conversations recently with those long-in-the-tooth re. alt.worship have led me to conclude that it's spent too long navel-gazing and suturing wounds and that it's time it went on the rampage (ie., intentional mission). Could it be time for an evolutionary step in the emergence of the alt.worship movement?

Another reason why it might be good to listen to Frost and Hirsch is that it's fair to say that with current stats, it'd be nice to have some more men in the church. My limited sociology tells me that the whole fuzzy charismatic thing (that passed me by) seemed to connect with females more significantly than with males and so off the back of this, we've a lot less men in the church. Could it be that there's not enough to do with adversity/ordeal/challenge/survival that actually could fire some of us up without us needing to rape/pillage or be rootless?

Many of the girls that I went with last night, including my girlfriend Emily (who is, thankfully, as 'female' as the day is long), loved last night and came away enthused and excited. I'm not sure as to whether this shouldn't be a critique based more on stages of faith journey as opposed to gender as you and others are suggesting.

Finally, you didn't mention Alan's response to your question which I felt was prescient. He suggested that your question needed taken back a step or two to the issue of discipleship. I 'spiritually direct', 'mentor' or simply am friends with many London dwellers and come up against this frequently. Firstly, and you know this, there might need to be a greater degree of synthesis between our 'vocational lives' and 'faith'. Or, failing that, might we need to 'work' less and work out where God might use us in a way that seems more like our understanding of mission and fits our own particular gift base? I'm no glowing example, but I committed vocational suicide to do this and have, even since, cut my now paid job down within the church because its structures were preventing me from 'mission'. Many London Christian need to answer the question that Jesus asked and Al reiterated 'what should it profit a man if he should gain the world...?'

Some thoughts from a possible overly testosterone driven missioner...semicolondashbracket

andy gr

And on 'emergent like slime' a partial thumbs-up for Hirst and Frost from me as well - and I'm explicitly not high-testosterone, believe me!


At the blah event today - the one with hair (sorry awful with names!) expounded the concept of 'communitas' but with no mention of fight club.

His emphasis was I think was to suggest that community can sometimes be an inward parochial pastoral concept but for missional purposes needs to have a more outward emphasis. Communities formed under stress have a focus of communality that is more than fuzzy community.

He did borrow the image of african manhood initiation rituals - which probably was a weak metaphor. He could have equally have used the image of suffragettes.

But maybe I got the wrong end of the stick today!

Steve Collins

to respond to si:

the usual critique i hear of alt worship is that it's too male-dominated - boys with toys! which is something we've struggled over for a long time at Grace. our female members have been trying to sensitise us to what they see as overly male methods of argument and unexpressed power structures which they feel exclude them in subtle ways. so i wonder about arguments based on male bonding!

and how does creativity and nature get defined as feminine? aren't those artificial [fallen?] stereotypes?

and many of us have done 'rampage', and not found it too effective. rampage has been suffering disappointingly low numbers lately. rampage may be part of the problem. maybe we need some time out to figure out what might actually work in the future. and maybe that time is nearly over - but [speaking as a designer] there's a constant temptation in the church to want quick fixes which short-circuits the possibility of better solutions. i'm interested in the long term. say 50 years.

i wholly agree with alan hirsch that there's a challenge to our lifestyles. believe me i've thought a lot about it! the basic facts are these:

i've tried to commit 'vocational suicide' in favour of the church several times;
i don't get sufficient funding or work;
i have to get a 'proper' job again;
my marketable skills happen to be in a sector notorious for long hours and stress;
last time i spent six months applying for anything other than architecture, knowing what would happen;
it was the only job i got when i was down to my last few cents;
i set clear limits with my employers on what i was prepared to do in order to protect my other interests;
all this went by the board under pressure of short staffing, crises, the necessities of professional responsibility etc.
and i want to be with this firm until at least christmas for financial reasons, and my resolve has been severely tested. not to mention my health and sanity.

and you needn't think i don't pray. especially for a nice church organisation to come along and fund me to do this stuff. but i'm not an evangelist, youthworker or pastor, or any of their other existing roles that have funding allocations.

Steve Collins

gordon, i gather from jonny baker that hirsch and frost used a lot less of the communitas today and incorporated it into a broader approach which might have gone down better with me, at any rate!

Andrew Hamilton

Interesting to see the response these guys are generating in England!

Having heard their stuff and being familiar with it I am a little puzzled at the 'anger' reaction.

However, if (as I have heard) the English scene is strongly wed to alt worship then I can imagine how their stuff would be confronting.

Perhaps the question for me is 'where is the anger coming from?'

Alt worship has had very limited missional value here in Oz and has suffered from a woosy feminine flavour.

Interesting that all of the women at our last Forge gig (where Al did his communitas talk) all resonated strongly with his insights.

Different cultures?



I believe that all Frost & Hirsch are suggesting in the idea of 'Communitas' is that we find our true collective idenity when we engage together in our prime calling of mission. Never a truer word has been uttered! It's not particularly Australian or even Sydney for that matter, it's biblical! Take the early church for example.

mark sayers

Whilst totally validating anyones feelings who have posted their frustrations with Al and Mikes talk, i had to have a little giggle at some of the over the top comments posted on this comments page. I have worked with both al and mike for years and i am one of the leaders at the community that Al began. I think what has happened here is that people have taken a few comments made by the guys and glued them to the 'fosters lager/convict' cultural stereotypes of australians that britains of the upper and middle class ilk have held for years. Both Al's and Mike's missional context in Manly and St Kilda is totally inner city bohemian, where a spotting of the 'macho aussie blokes' you refer to, are about as rare as the extinct tasmainian tiger.

To hear Al and Mike described as "macho Aussie Blokes" who have brought a 'boardroom agenda' into the emerging church scene has sent the many of the forge team back here in oz into fits of laughter. What you guys heard was a the result of years of thought and response to what is going on in the aussie contemporary and emerging church and wider culture where men are simply leaving and never coming back, killing themselves in record numbers, and suffering from a pandemic of depression. I find that al and mikes stuff is a good balance to the majority of alt wor/emerging/ and even the contemporary hillsong model of church which is feminine in tone. Sure maybe some 'london women' would be offended, but i am sure that there is many 'london men' out there who are more at home in the pub than salviating over the tate modern, guys who think that Henri Nouwen is the reserve team keeper for Fulham. i thought the emerging church was meant to be about balance and listening to diverse voices.

As someone who has spent the last six years in mission and community with al and mike. I have found far more healing and mending of my wounds than i ever did in the Alt wor stuff i was involved with before. Alan's references to African initiation and soldiers etc come out of his own story as someone raised in Africa and who has served in combat situtions. Should he leave that out because it does not fit with the current UK alt worship orthodoxy? Of course Al and Mike do not have all the answers, but to write their contribution to the discussion with objections that seem more rooted in cultural prejudice and a narrow minded "alt wor scene" insularity is unfortunate. (believe me i am not missing the irony in my last statement).

Now that all said its time to scratch my giant beer gut, scream across my kangaroo infested farm at my sheila to get me a fosters from my esky before i go and play a bloody grouse game of footy.

all in good fun. keep up the great site steve. No offence meant. Peace.


heer, heer Mark Sayers! By the way, can u get your sheila to get me a fosters as well? I have to go and get my blue heeler off the back of my holden one tonner!


Hmmm.... Andrew Hamilton writes that Australian alt worship has "suffered from a woosy feminine" flavour...?

As a person who can't help being feminine (part of my God-given gender), I find that statement of what i might be able bring to the Australian alt-worship context quite... well... problematic.

I know you weren't trying to be offensive to women, I'm very sure the thought that you might be would horrify you... but there seems to be something implicit in these comments that the kind of space and community that women might create - that might be labelled "feminine" - won't be enough to be missional or bring in the kingdom.

The thing that draws me again and again to the story of Jesus is that he took what the prevailing culture defined as "weak", and showed it instead as being strong. He respected the feminine, and found a home in the space created by it... It's not the whole of the story, or course, but it's an essential part of it.

What i really wanted to say, though, is that there's more than one form of alt worship in australia, and more than one culture, theology and ecclesiology shaping alt worship in Australia. There are groups like Forge who are doing stuff... there are also many denominational groups who are exploring alternative worship, as well as other non-denominational groups that don't have the high profile of Forge. Each seem to be very different in shape and form and context. And so they should be.

In spite of that, it seems very hard to find experiences of alt worship that offer the promise of a church that will be very different, not just in its form of worship, or the way it engages in mission... but also in the theology that shapes its life, leadership, commitment to justice, and models a radical, inclusive community, completely redefining power and authority.

That's not too much to ask, is it?!

(Sorry ... I know all that's inarticulate... I'm in another airport lounge, having been flying around the world for 28 hours... )



have posted a few reponses of my own on the mootblog. thanks for your steve they helped me in my thinking :-)

Andrew Hamilton

Apologies Cheryl - I shouldn't have - and didn't actually intend to use 'woosy and feminine' in the same phrase. I appreciate your gracious response there.

steve collins

all of this just illustrates the perils of cultural context!

obviously it's risky for an australian [or south african] man in england to discuss the church in terms of male bonding rituals in the bush, the buzz of team sports, waterskiing, and mateship [all mentioned, some at length]. i wonder what the danger topics for englishmen in australia are? :)

maybe it wasn't the most nuanced talk they could have given. mike's inner evangelist was on show! :) i do see the point of the communitas thing, but i'd have liked to hear about other aspects to round it out. i actually agree with quite a lot of what they've written, but little of it is new to me, and what i wanted to know was, how? how do we do these desirable things, get from A to B?

i'm wondering about the difference between a church that has liminality forced upon it, and one that seeks liminality. i suspect Biblical and healthy liminality is of the first kind. The latter is the stuff of sects. it's difficult to adopt liminality as a *principle*, if it's healthiest as a by-product [of faithful living].

steve collins

oh yes, and capturing and killing a pig! as your inititation ritual! and i was thinking, well, as a vegetarian and a christian i'd refuse to do it. poor pig! :D

Andrew S.

Having read through all the comments preceeding mine, which is forth coming. I find them all quite alarming.

As I have reviewed the book and made notable comments to myself throughout, I have discovered here, as in the book, little biblical support for the imaginative approach to the comments about their lecture or their approach to missions. Whether for or against their stance.

They appear to be standing on shakey ground when trying to support their ideas with quotes from intellectuals and philosophers.

I have the alt church paradigm in my history as do many of you. However, I do want to think out of the box a bit now and then. And even then, I run everything through that wonderful filter called the Bible. I believe all things should be scrutinized through His word and teachings. And that one must overcome their predujices in doing so.

I suppose I have just fed myself to the lions, but don't we all at one time or another?

Ian Mobsby

Wow - you can't say it didn't create a response. I can't help feeling a little sorry for Frost & Hirsch. Your criticisms regarding male dominant models and language, pic-n-mix argument drawing on bits of information to formulate an under-justified or proven argument, slighlty white middle classed and western, the metaphor of communitas - what ever you want to call it, does have some corrective qualifies that challenge what seems to have become in alt worship circles - as church as pseudo-therapy group. I like the reconnection with emerging church as church as mission rather than church in isolation from contemporary culture. As an ardent alt worshipper, I would be the first to say that we have neglected mission as written up in the CofE Mission-Shaped Church report. Steve - in response to your hard words at the beginning - is that I would say I am fed up with church as hospital - too many people licking their wounds and not wanting to take responsbility for spiritual questing. Church as therapy group - which many alt worship communities assimulate is in danger sometimes of becoming a bit nanny church as in nanny state. There is a need to re-engage with our consumer society and not be of consumerism - a radical return to a distinctive community with values.

It made lots of connections with the good of liberation theology - a return to right action (orthopraxis) instead of constant inaction due to focus on right thinking (orthodoxy).

Mission is a dirty word - bu there is a place for us to unpack a radical interpreation of church from an emerging church perspective - a churcn that engages with culture. I have blogged further on this on mootblog.net


It all seems to suggest that communication is a dicey practice!

What's said (or written) and what is subequently heard can obviously vary significantly.

Like Mark I was having a chuckle with some of our Forge interns yesterday afternoon at the hornets nest that has emerged from Al & Mike's stuff.

The beauty of it all is that a 'hornets nest' gets people talking - nice pleasant words about loving Jesus, reading your Bible and praying would leave everyone yawning.

While the UK is a different scene to Oz I really hope the spirit stirs stuff up and
that it is a profitable time for everyone - Al and Mike included!


In response to Andrew S comments on the biblical nature of Frost & Hirsch's book. I quote Andrew, "As I have reviewed the book and made notable comments to myself throughout, I have discovered here, as in the book, little biblical support for the imaginative approach." A point of clarification, "are u suggesting that there is no biblical basis for what Frost & Hirsch have to say?" If so, I think u should read the book again. If u r not suggesting that, apologies mate!

Steve Collins

i feel a bit sorry for hirsch and frost too - i didn't intend to subject them to a complete duffing up when we've been thinking so much alike [take the set theory stuff, down to the diagrams!].

i should say that i'm passionate about mission. for me the whole point of alt worship is mission, which includes therapy for those bruised by the church and the world, but also is about making christianity accessible and meaningful again.

but i think we operate in a context soured by failed mission, where the church is seen as essentially coercive, always shopping for converts. so i'm passionate about mission being rethought very thoroughly to stop any more harm.

the coercion thing is important. the beauty of the parachute club, to take an example from h&f's book, is that you can leave after one jump without being pursued or told you'll go to hell. it offers pleasure without comeback. it's always been a principle of alt worship, as i see it, that visitors don't get jumped or subtly pressured [except that we'd like them back to push up the numbers!]. a lot of my stuff on church environments on smallritual.org is about reinventing church buildings with that ethos. and i guess the labyrinth tried something similar too.

but it almost doesn't look like mission. anti-mission - like vaux talk about anti-evangelism. mission with the 'mission' taken out. availability without pressure. the church shop.


what i find fascinating about all of this is that i think alt worship and emerging church are actually two different animals and we are witnessing what happens when the two come across each other. My take is that Hirsch and Frost are more emerging church than alt worship and yet this week they have had the opportunity to dialogue with a lot of the alt worship crew and it's created some sparks.

steve collins

sniffing each other's arses and barking. but will they shag? and who will buy the puppies? :)

Ian Mobsby

Re: Emerging church and alt worship. Not sure they are completely different animals - the core of moot are from alt worship background - they started doing worship which after a time ends up being community and mission as well - which is emerging church - or they die. So I would suggest that they are both genetically related so suggest, using Steve's analysis that shagging would not be appropriate....

Andrew Hamilton

Here's my take on the relationship http://www.emergingchurch.info/reflection/andrewhamilton/arewethereyet.htm
Does it ring any bells? (Prob ok to shag in my opinion!)

As a community we practice alt worship, but it is not the defining aspect of who we are


Gday Steve n co (and hey Cheryl, when/if you're heading through the ACT give me a hoi)

I admit to smiling when I read that Al and Mike were heading to the UK for the Blah gig. I thought to myself that it might be nice for Mike to have a new audience to tell his stories to. As someone who's heard him a few occasions and heard the same stories that he likes to tell I was actually impressed that a new audience would get to hear them...

I think the Aussie way of these types of gigs is like picking apples from a tree, take some, drop some, eat some, leave one still on the tree and stew some for later use. I admit that Mike and Al's stuff does come across as a fairly male-way of doing church and that the urgency of it is sometimes a tad too much.

For those of you who want to pick on the Feminine/Masculine discussion please take note that it was the females who said that the process was masculine and the males that were saying it was feminine and not masculine.

Sometimes us males just don't pay attention, for a while there TOLLS in Adelaide was primarily a Male group, boys and their toys, some males would have called it Feminine, but the reality is that we were mostly men for quite some time there...

And when I look at my Bloglist and my group of friends who are doing "alt" things there seems to be a lot of males which is really a major concern for me. So I'm asking myself not "How do I get females involved?" rather I'm asking "what are they interested in, where are they called, what is wrong with my structures and process?"

If a woman says that it's not feminine, please take note and trust them...

Si, I was a bit concerned abotu the "Rampage," once again thats a scary/frightening image. My image of the EC is groups of people creating spaces for people to meet and converse and to meet with god, not necessarily a group of people on a rampage.

We create a cafe because we see the need, a spirituality group because there is a need, a student group because there is a need, we worship because there is a need. Isn't it about asking how are our spaces missional rather than how do we go and be missional? I'm not sure.

Steve... you asked how we get from point A to B. I thought the Postmodern culture basically ruined all that A to B stuff, I'm wandering from somewhere that might at one point of time been A, but I may never get to B and that's ok...

Isn't it?

And if it is, what does that mean for the Church? Is it ok if the Church never get's to B or if they stumble over G first?

When I look at Forge, I see a number of people struggling and moving towards something that is greater than who they are. There is certainly a movement towards mission and the discussion is healthy, very healthy but I'm also very aware that many of the voices coming from it are male.

To suggest that this is not necessarily a masculine process is probably quite ignorant, because inherintly it's a Baptist based, male dominated organisation. I do know a few women who have participated in their gatherings and courses, so it's not entirely Male-Based but still it is particularly male oriented.

I do like Forge for their standing up and asking the church about "What IS church?" and "What does a church look like?" and "what is mission?" etc, because I think the questions are very important, I'm just not always sure that their answers always fit... but that's the postmodern me, more comfortable with the questions than the answers.

I'm just happy that they're around to help us in the discussions and questions and in a number of cases their work and training and ideas are working, they just won't work everywhere...

That's life.

And just to throw in a rebuttal, real Aussies don't drink Fosters :)


By the way... I'd buy a puppie, somewhere deep inside I think we're all aware that the EC will be a Mutt...

Possibly ugly, possibly a mixture of all things, possibly with a hairy head and bare bottom, possibly way too keen to sniff other dog's bottoms and possibly disowned by it's parents.

It won't win any prizes in any dog show, but it won't matter, because It'll be my dog and I'll love it just the same.

Darryn Altclass

Darren...just a few comments to clear up your facts about FORGE. 1. FORGE is not Baptist. They are one of our partners, and we are very thankful for their support, but we have over 30 different denominations, colleges & organisations involved in the network. 2. The processes of FORGE are largely not male oriented. We have adopted a "mid-wife" role rather than a paternalistic one. In fact our mission statement is "to help birth & nurture the missional church." Again a mid-wife role. 3. FORGE is NOT Mike Frost & Alan Hirsch. They are a valuable part of the network, we love them dearly & value their giftings, but there are numerous other people involved. If you want to chat more about this, give me your email address and I will contact you. regards
Darryn Altclass FORGE National Co-Director



Apologies as to my inferences there, I would have written more in depth but time wasnt there for me to do so.

I'd like to find some more time to have a look at the "mid wife" model that you speak of because from my limited experience it is still very male oriented and supported and I wonder how males see/perform a midwife role.

I acknowledge that Forge is not Baptist, but in my experience once again much of it's work springs from the Baptist community, through people skills, funding and training this is not a bad thing, just an observation. Heck, sometimes I wish that my denomination had as much energy put into this type of stuff and dialogue.

I realise, as I assume do most of the readers here that Forge is much bigger than Mike and Al, perhaps I should have just spoke about my experiences of Al and Mike and their written work, however Cheryl, Mark and Hamo had each mentioned Forge in their comments. I don't mean my words to attack but as an observation.

I still wonder how much this EC is still a male thing and continue to wonder if it is (just) a cultural difference that Steve was experiencing or if some of what he and others had shared is universal.

Darryn Altclass

Thanks for your quick response Darren. I understand you were not attacking FORGE, didn't feel that at all. The majority of the FORGE experience/training offer happens underneath the radar through the internships. This is really the heart of FORGE - training missionaries in the context of mission (not in a classroom)through an action reflection approach. The seminars/conferences/intensives that the public attend is merely the tip of the iceberg. Unfortunately people attend these and assume that this is the FORGE experience. In regards to the "mid-wife" metaphor...we constantly remind all FORGE personnel that our role is to probe, awaken, stimulate and evoke the missional imagination of God's people - a mid-wife type of role. also a large number of our intern coaches are female. However, I must say that at FORGE we are constantly praying and seeking more females to become part of the network. Furthermore, your comments have not fallen on deaf ears as we do understand the danger of a dominant male activist mode.

Richard Lyall

Am going to Frost & Hirsch tomorrow - am looking forward to it more because of the controversy!

Seriously, there is a dire need to recover a rich masculine spirituality within the Christian community. I know from experience that there are many men who hate "touchy feely" alternative worship and I wonder if there is a need for more "robust" forms of worship in the mix somewhere.


I'm still amazed by the comments like "there are many men who hate "touchy feely" alternative worship" when lots of the participants seem to be male...

I'm not sure, perhaps we might need to do some gender studies on gener n the EC...


wow. so many thoughts to take in.

fosters: crap beer that we export to the rest of the world so that we can enjoy the good stuff at home.

is it possible that some of the anti hirsch frost talk here is triggered by fear of change? i think there is a bit of hearing without listening going on. to pick up on the fight club thing - the story here, while on the screen is about fighting etc, has a much deeper narrative. powerfull sense of belonging, focus, passion and total commitment to the cause, lack of fear, strong community, etc etc etc.....i could go on. sounds like a kick ass church, community of faith whatever you want to call it ( i prefer to call in bevan) to me. doesnt it?

i think sometimes our own situation/bias clouds our abilitly to 'hear' things that we perhaps dont want to hear. difficult to see outside the box when the doors are firmly locked shut, windows nailed down.

we all do it from time to time. we may be christians but we are still humans.

andrew jones

fosters - taste?

conversation in england - did we get naked in the bush and beat our chests?
didnt get that far.

forge - blokey strategy?
maybe, but the english admitted that they were further on in their netwoking than they were

alan and mike - womanisers?
absolutely not. having been with them for 2 days at the conversation, i was impressed with how sensitive they were to gender issues.

andrew hamilton - australia's lamest surfer?
probably, and i think he owes me $10

steve collins - england's alt. worship web guru?
as they say in australia . . . ABSOBLOODYLUTELY!!!

Nathan Vandersee

Tom Allen: please, please, please don't think a trip to sheffield to hear Mike and Allan would be a waste. I have known Mike for nearly 5 years now...these guys have got heaps of good stuff to say on mission and church. At least they are having a go...an opportunity to hear them would be well worth it...they have both considered an opportunity to go and speak to you guys worth it...why don't you at least return the favour??...despite some individuals possible (mis)interpretations of them.

Steve Collins

thanks andrew

what is this foster's stuff? i've never had any...

i think there may be something in the idea of 'bloke church' - providing we are explicit about it and also support and encourage 'girly church' ;)

Stephen Said

Hey guys,

I need to admit my hand here. I am part of the Forge team in Australia. So you can get the pigeon holing over and done with sooner. ;) This conversation got me reflecting on two things.

Firstly the gender debate. I became a Christian in my early 20’s having had nothing to do with the Protestant church up until that time. (I am in my early 30’s now). I have been (and still am) trained to think missiologically. One of the issues we look at is syncretism. I often muse upon the degree to which not just the masculine/feminine debate, but the larger Political Correctness movement has impacted upon the Western Church? The great paradox? 75% of the Western Church is female, yet and overwhelming percentage (don’t know, help me out here) of leadership roles filled by men. Go figure. In my context, we have blokey women and effeminate men (as well as blokey blokes and feminine women).

Is it my flawed perspective, or does the alt.worship movement spend a significant time engaged in this kind of debate? Often I find people who are turned off by contemporary praise and worship complaining of the effeminate nature of it, in spite of the fact that many people who travel in alt.worship circles complaining of the masculine nature of it. Does this debate eclipse some other just as important issues?

Some examples for me are issues like being a first generation Australian, things like the predominance of White Anglo Saxon leadership for instance? The idea that what church looks like being dictated by those who are already part of the Church rather than those who are not? The place of Church leaders in Africa, Asia and South America being largely excluded form these debates? Just some of the issues. Like I said, I still muse.

The real guts of what I wanted to note tho, was alt.worship and emerging church. Many of the missionary types (read: those involved in cross/intercultural engagement in nations other than Western ones) observe the development of God’s church in the following way.

Alt.worship opened the door to the real questions of the missionary nature (or the lack thereof) in the Western church. Alt.worship is seen as a step in the progression. Missiologists have pretty much concluded that alt.worship was a step in the right direction, but not the place where the development should conclude. It was essentially a contextualisation of an inherited notion of worship developed in a Western European paradigm. The primary impulse of alt.worship was NOT missional, RATHER, a need for those who felt far more connected to pop culture to rearticulate Christian worship and integrate it with their experience of pop culture.

A step, but a much needed step to take us into the real scary place of trying to reimagine not just what worship would look like, but what would the missionary people of God look like in this time and in various contexts.

When I reflect on alt.worship, for me, I am grateful that it happened, grateful that I participated (and still do) in it, but I think that we cannot stay here on this mountain top and build some tabernacles. It opened the doors to questions that had remained unarticulated until now. But there are many other questions that we could not have asked, until the first ones were.

Is it possible Steve that part of your frustration is one often felt by preceding generations when the succeeding generations begin to appear and challenge the things that the former fought so hard for?

PS - I laughed heartily when you consider Al and Mike to be "blokey". You should meet John Jensen!

Thanks for letting me rant…

Andrew Hamilton

You're prob right about me being the lamest aussie surfer these days TSK, but I reckon you owe me the $10 for a comment like that!...

dave swain

Batten down the hatches men we are being invaded by beer swigging sexist cork swinging aussies!! Lock up ur women and children and kill the fatted calf before they do.

On the other hand after being at the b'ham gig as a"postmodern christian missionary community youth worker" (looking for more suggestions for the title if u've got any) I think sometimes i go to things like this with a subconcious thougt of "finding the answer" but like with all things i come away with a mixture of thoughts. It always distills down to the old PM thing of nobody having a full grasp on the truth but we are all finding our own way in our own context and culture and we can all learn from eachother. What amused me was the very modernist approach which was taken in the whole day, maybe agood thing considering the majority seened to be church leaders. overall a great day which has provided more questions than answers for me but has sharpened my focus on what lies ahead for me.


Just back from Frost and Hirsch, wondering what all the furore was about. It all seemed very mild compared to some of the stronger reactions already posted.

I'm not sure that the liminal experience is ever going to be temporary - in a chaotic world, aren't Christians supposed to be in chaotic places as a stabilising influence? Exactly where are these "safe places" to which previous comments imagine we can return?

Not sure if the "macho" accusation has any ground - they didn't come across that way at all, neither did their message. Instead it seemed a masculine view, but the church needs something in this area urgently.

But then I heard them today, you heard them another day, so who knows how it might have been different?

Steve Collins

i have met john jensen!

i wasn't calling alan and mike blokey - it was the way in which they presented communitas to us at london zoo in very male-experience terms. they also stressed that one thing too much, leaving me thinking "is that it?" - it's obvious they presented a much more rounded version when they had a day to do it in [i'm told there are about four other aspects]. i wasn't the first [male] person at zoo to say "this model as you've presented it has dangers".

as for political correctness:
leaving aside all the silliness that goes on, this is an issue of power and who has the right to define who. i take it that the church should always be on the side of the powerless when they struggle for definition and respect. i'm ashamed that the church of jesus, who showed transgressive respect for women and samaritans, should have been a place of sexism instead of leading the way - maybe there would have been less secular-humanist daftness had we done our job. it's only fair if the women have their revenge now!


I saw Alan and Mike at Sheffield today.
I don't know if they changed their talk after reading the comments on here (and I think from what they said they have been checking the feedback), but there was no mention of Fight Club. Today it was Watership Down and Messianic bunnies. And it was inspiring and challenging and thought provoking. Good on ya, boys.

And too much of the alt worship stuff IS inward looking and up our own backsides and not mission shaped.

If you think these Ozzies are radical, then read James Thwaites...

Grace and peace;

Donovan St Claire

Thanks for the interesting comments people's. It's been insightful watching this dialogue take place. If you have the time swing by and visit me at my blog - www.donovanstclaire.blogspot.com
Stay true


I have found it fasinating reading all the comments, I went to hear them in London and was inspired. I feel we all come to the discussion with our own blinkers on and perhaps need to take them of and look at it all in a new way (I include myself in this).
What I loved was from the onset they said this is what is working for us we understand the culture here is different but offer it anyway.
I loved the stuff about telling people not to do evengelism ever again (unless you are an evangelist) but intead model holiness, pray for evangelists, socialize, resource and answer. Meaning our lives should create questions of why do we live like that and then be prepared to answer. They also said as you socialize invite a friend who is a gifted evangelist into that friendship group, not as a hit and run but as part of the group. This was not radical but simple.
Just a small offering to the debate from someone about to commit "vocational suicide"

Alan Hirsch

Hi al

I must admit to being quite bemused about all the fuss that the talk created. I suspect that at the root of it are different imaginations of the church. One as 'safe space' (a religion of quiet moments in quiet places) and that of church as transforming movement. If we are being taken to task on the former...so be it.

Whatever, it was fun to share with the Zoo anyhow. I'd do it again, no apologies.


Steve Collins

hi alan

thanks for showing up. i really didn't intend things to develop in the way they have done - i naively expected maybe five comments while i went away and thought about things. i apologise unreservedly for any bruised feelings you and mike might have suffered as a consequence.

i don't think 'safe space' and 'transforming movement' are opposed. it has to be both, surely. and what i'm trying to say [squaring the circle as always] is that, in my own context, it's 'safe space' that is the transforming movement, when the general social ethos is competitive and achievement-driven.

Mike Frost

Hi Steve,
Mike Frost here. I took no offense to the comments you made about the London Zoo event. We probably didn't deal with the issue with the level of sophistication required, but I didn't think our ideas about communitas were all that objectionable. But hey, that was your opinion. I was disappointed that you never once introduced yourself to us nor spoke to us before or after the event. I'm sure if we went and had a drink together we would have had many many more points of agreement than the piddly differences about liminality and communitas. I don't know where all this crap about gender sensitivity and Australianness has come from. It seems to have grown out of a discussion from people who weren't at the event. I was also very disappointed that you chose to post a private email conversation between us without first asking my permission, mate. Private correspondence is just that and it'll make me think twice before entering into any future private correspondence with you in the future. Of course there was nothing in that discussion that I wouldn't have wanted posted, but I think I deserve the courtesy of being asked first.

carol hands

Wow, I've just come from the Livingroom to this site to see if anyone was saying anything about Alan and Michael's book/thoughts. Are we getting this much response in Oz? Now I know why God has had me reading books on EC and on Chaos Theory - is this what happens when safe space and transforming movement collides?! Thanks Sally, and Stephen Said, for some gentle, thoughtful and constructive comments. - Carol Hands, Melbourne.

Stevie Vee

Am a bit shocked by some of the nonsense on this site. Saw Mike and Alan in Brum and was impressed by their forthright approach and outright love for Jesus. Seems that even if theirs isn't a viewpoint you subscribe to entirely, they presented a vision of church that is engaging and has a freedom that would bring more people into the kingdom of God.

Seems that some in their defensive intellectualisation of the ideas have missed the point entirely. The idea of liminal space, although rooted in 'coming of age' ritual, is, in a Christian community context, about developing dynamic Christian environments with a shared purpose and a mutual committment and accountability to each other.

With respect, it seems to me that the Christian church in the United Kingdom - and probably the Western world - has been in a state of safe space for too long - maybe about 200 years too long. So safe that our churches are empty and closing. Maybe time to step outside our comfort zones into some unsafe space. Hey, it's a message for me too.

And macho???


carol hands

yay, Stevie Vee. For those of you who have either safe spaces, or emerging movements happening (or both), spare a thought for those of us still stuck in Christendom churches. The most radical 'outreach' decisions my church has taken recently has been to reintroduce name badges, and have signs out the front that say really culturally sensitive stuff like, 'Don't be a loser - get in God's game plan'. God help us!

'The Shaping of Things to Come' was the most exhilarating read, and personally affirming (being one of those annoying 'prophetic' types). Thanks Mike and Alan for a gutsy expose and a challenge to the core.

Alan Hirsch

Hi Steve

Thanks for the apology although I don't believe it was needed really. If one is willing to go public with a whole lot of ideas, then one has got to take a few punches along the way. I do still find it strange that the talk created such a fuss. We must have misread the Pommie mood entirely. I really don't think we were being all that blokey, and have ttried to reflect on female images of communitas so as not to appear too exclusive. I do think it is worth reflecting on the experience of the Biblical church to try and discern what form of community is operating there. I still maintain it is more communitas than it is community (using our somehwat forced defintions).

Anyhow, no offence taken. I do wish you all the best


Alan Hirsch

Hi Steve

Thanks for the apology although I don't believe it was needed really. If one is willing to go public with a whole lot of ideas, then one has got to take a few punches along the way. I do still find it strange that the talk created such a fuss. We must have misread the Pommie mood entirely. I really don't think we were being all that blokey, and have ttried to reflect on female images of communitas so as not to appear too exclusive. I do think it is worth reflecting on the experience of the Biblical church to try and discern what form of community is operating there. I still maintain it is more communitas than it is community (using our somewht forced defintions).

Anyhow, no offence taken. I do wish you all the best


Alan Hirsch

Hi Steve

Thanks for the apology although I don't believe it was needed really. If one is willing to go public with a whole lot of ideas, then one has got to take a few punches along the way. I do still find it strange that the talk created such a fuss. We must have misread the Pommie mood entirely. I really don't think we were being all that blokey, and have ttried to reflect on female images of communitas so as not to appear too exclusive. I do think it is worth reflecting on the experience of the Biblical church to try and discern what form of community is operating there. I still maintain it is more communitas than it is community (using our somehwat forced defintions).

Anyhow, no offence taken. I do wish you all the best


andrew jones

glad everyone is feeling so touchy/feeling, and embracing the warmth of an ecumenical moment of unity. . . mmmmmm ...

now that alan and mike have been cleared of all charges and are allowed to romp once more on the green fields of emerging church meadows, i do think there is something to the argument of a blokes church emphasis in australia. Having pastored a Baptist church in Australia (in a previous incarnation) i noticed that the Aussie churches succeeded in ministry to women and children . . . . but failed to minister to men.
some churches slowed down the singing of "sissy songs" and found some success. And some Aussie churches have rebounded by gearing up for the Ocker Aussie male. And perhaps they should.
But it is because of that reaction, that anything coming out of Australia may have an inherent tendency to beat its chest and exhibit some alpha male characteristics. Something to watch out for . . .
But, i repeat, i did not sense that negative reaction at all with Alan and Mike - I really was impressed with them. And i am not just saying that because Alan gave me his book.

Great conversation you have here, Steve. i love how you can start the conversation with a blog post and then see truth emerge and find legs down the road as people speak into it. Well done.

sorry . . . am i taking up space???????


whilst a lot of women are memmbers of churches back here in oz, it is completely male dominated. in terms of leadership, it seems the lord olny speaks to the blokes..........


Andrew, thanks for the comments over "sissy songs". I wonder if the emmergence of "Jesus is my boyfiend" type songs and theology, may have something to do with blokey men finding mainstream church (and God??) less attractive?

I'm inclined to agree with something Alan mentioned at a Forge intensive in Perth - men want a faith to die for. "Jesus is my boyfriend" - what the?!?

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