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The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher

The Almost True Story of Ryan Fisher: A Novel, by Rob Stennett

what? another cool christian fiction book? after reading my name is russell fink, i thought that might be it. but the zondervan acquisitions editor that worked on fink sent me ryan fisher, and told me i’d like it if i liked fink. he was right.

ryan fisher is a realtor in denver, struggling to make it work. channel surfing one night, he stumbles across some happy christians on late night tv, and thinks that they look like the kind of people who would like to buy and sell nice suburban starter homes. so he lists himself in the christian yellow pages with a christian fish in his ad, and his business explodes. only problem is, he’s not a christian. he’s a semi-athiest. not a hard core athiest; just a guy who doesn’t believe in god.

eventually, ryan and his wife have to start attending church in order to keep up the facade, and do a bit of covert research. in the context of attending a pop-megachurch, ryan has a vision for wealth as power (and, maybe, helping people as a side dish), if he becomes the pastor of a megachurch. so he and his wife move to a small town in oklahoma, and plant a church.

ryan is clueless about the bible, clueless about theology, clueless about worship music and preaching and all other aspects of churchianity. but, somehow, in the midst of his blundering, and in spite of his lie, he pulls it off. and the church explodes.

it’s painful to read at times, since the book is full of the kind of insider stuff that should make us wince. it’s also loaded with implications about church, power, worship styles, and what people are really looking for in a church. all of this has a bit of extra punch as you read with the knowledge that the author is the creative director at a large megachurch in colorado springs.

fun, and occasionally scary, read. and i loved that it didn’t end with a bow on it or ryan and his wife experiencing a last-chapter conversion (though he seems to be on the road, in an honest way).

a snapshot of modern worship

in rob stennett’s fictional “the almost true story of ryan fisher“, he has a hilarious and uncomfortably accurate portrayal of modern worship. katherine, the wife of a semi-athiest (ryan fisher) who has started an extremely successful church plant to make him rich and important, is coaching the worship band (lead by a karaoke singing cowboy who is also not a christian, and, until this point, has been leading pop-culture songs with a few words changed). none of them are aware that there’s a large collection of modern worship songs, until the church starts to grow, and transfer growth brings people who point this out. fantastic paragraph:

and katherine was making the band better. after talking with a couple of members from the church she learned there were worship leaders that wrote songs specifically for god and church. a lot of the music had a british pop feel as if they were watered down, simple versions of u2 or coldplay. and almost all of the songs were essentially about three things. the first: how great-awesome-incredible-powerful-majestic jesus/god is/was/and forever will be. the second: how much we love-thank-adore-worship-bow down to jesus/god. the third: how happy-touched-amazed and pumped up we were that jesus/god saved us. that was pretty much it. there were thousands of these types of songs, yet so many of the lyrics were nearly identical. it was almost as if a songwriter could take one song, change five or six words, and then have an all-new song.