Atlanta’s 11 Least Influential People: No. 6

Creative Loafing’s countdown of Atlanta’s 11 Least Influential People is a tribute to women and men everywhere struggling to meet the challenges of life in a modern American city.

The top five will be revealed online at midnight. It will also appear in the Nov. 8 print edition of Creative Loafing, which hits newsstands tomorrow.

No. 6 — Troy Bronsink

Pastor without a congregation

(photo by Joeff Davis)

Troy Bronsink is a graduate of Columbia Theological Seminary and, in 2006, was ordained in the Presbyterian Church.

He’s an intellectual who loves to think out loud and is an attentive listener.

He’s culture-savvy – not in the Perez Hilton sense, but in the art, music and politics sense. He’s as comfortable discussing Thom Yorke of Radiohead as he is Thomas the Apostle.

On top of that, he’s tall, handsome, with a pleasing, bright speaking voice.

You might think Atlanta area churches would be tripping over themselves to hire a pastor so evidently equipped to relate spiritually and culturally to young Christians.

But they’re not.

Bronsink is a pastor without a congregation.

He is part of what’s known as the emerging church, a Protestant movement reimagining church in a post-modern context with an emphasis on community-minded living. Despite his traditional seminary education, his collaborative, cooperative style doesn’t easily mesh with the Protestant church as it’s typically practiced in the South.

He’s not what he describes as a traditional, CEO pastor — “the person who can summarize it all, be the representative, the design guru, and the implementer.”

Bronsink envisions church as a “community meeting at the Lord’s table,” he says. “Jesus is the center, not just one person speaking on his behalf.”

He’s a roundtable man in a podium world and he’s having trouble finding a job.

He recently served as pastor of a Presbyterian congregation in an affluent northern suburb. They knew what they were getting in theory, Bronsink believes, but after several months it became clear to him many in the congregation simply weren’t comfortable with his approach.

“The notion of church being an open, collaborative and creative system, that is different to how religion has operated in the South,” he says.

It’s not that he’s too cutting-edge or ahead of the church, he ‘s quick to emphasize. They just didn’t fit together.

Bronsink is confident that, over time, the number of Christians in Atlanta in sync with his religious approach will grow. The popularity of the emerging church in the North and West is bound to trickle South.

Until that time arrives, he’ll pastor in less formal settings and try to support his family with writing and church consulting jobs.

“I love encouraging people to have hope,” he says. “To live together in harmony and forgive each other.”

Visit Creative Loafing online at midnight for the top five on our countdown of Atlanta’s 11 Least Influential People. It will also appear in the Nov. 8 print edition of Creative Loafing, which hits newsstands tomorrow.