Thursday, August 12, 2004

the future of the emerging church

The emerging church scene began in New Zealand in about 1994. This was the making waves period. Mike Riddell and Mark Pierson ran Parallel Universe – worship that was on and off the wall. Chardonnay descending from the ceiling, large gas flames at Pentecost. You get the idea; intense creativity and high multi-media. Mark and Mike ran seminars and conferences up and down New Zealand. Lots of agro. Lots of angst.

This was followed by a period of birthing innovation communities. Various worship expressions and communities took shape around participation and cultural engagement and creativity. These included Cityside and Graceway in Auckland, Ilam and Side Door in Christchurch, various communities in Wellington, Soul Outpost in Greymouth, Soul Reason in Dunedin. Not all survived. Birth was painful and babies struggle without good parents. The movement matured.

The period of missional conversation. With a new decade, their was a first, practioners from about 10 emerging churches gathered in Auckland. This was not a conference or a seminar. The emerging church movement was now a conversation, a group of practioners learning, growing, wrestling. The original superstars were now fellow journeyers. Mission was increasingly important; and so the conversation turned from multi-media, to funding spirituality, to visitor experience, to life ritual.

This week we had our third such Converse. We farewelled Mark Pierson to Australia. Perhaps it represents the end of a third phrase. We have moved from making waves, to innovative communities, to a missional conversation.

What might the future hold? Let me suggest three issues.


Posted by steve at 10:37 PM

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

what lurks deep

Storytelling. It’s the mantra of postmodern communication. All roads lead to a story. Stories, stories everywhere.

We explored the place of story and storytelling in contemporary communication in class today.

I get so sick of being told the theory of storytelling ie we need it. Much more practical, much more useful, to run a storytelling workshop. So I did. Lets actually do the storytelling.

I was a bit mean. I threw them a gospel story, gave them 5 minutes to compose a first, last and climatic sentence. Times up, so in 2′s tell your story.

The time pressures bring a number of issues to the surface.

Firstly, to tell a story requires detail … and so the reminder that good storytelling requires good background knowledge, good exegesis. It requires you to read and research, to be in the commentaries and guides to early Biblical times.

Secondly, that the Bible is story. And so I provocatively pushed the class. Go on, be Biblical. Stop preaching and be Biblical. Let the story be a story.

Posted by steve at 11:46 AM

Monday, August 09, 2004

probing my gift mix

The last week has been busy. It has had a mix of joy and ho humm. Since I am made in the image of God, uniquely configured, it is interesting to step back and see what has energised me, and what does not energise me.

I have been organising a gathering for emerging practioners called converse - 3 days to step aside and reflect together on mission and ministry. Energising? NIL.

I have been in conversation with Andrew. He found my paper on postmodern monasteries. He’s been dreaming for a while about turning an abandoned vicarage into a monastery. He lives about 80 kilometres away and is just about to put the proposal to his vestry. Using the internet, he’s found a fellow dreamer and we meet for coffee this week. Energising? TOTALLY.

I am doing a first run on a new course onpreaching and teaching in postmodernity. Alongside students, I have about 15 outsiders, local pastors, joining us for “in-service” training. A chance to talk about imagination and culture and community in the context of Christian communication. Energising? TOTALLY.

Not sure what to make of this in terms of where I put my future energy, but some insights to ponder further.

Posted by steve at 08:11 AM

Sunday, August 08, 2004

blogging and theology again or here we go round the blogberry bush

Just when a conversation seems to have exceeded the blog span of attention (2 weeks) Stephen has another go at the relationship between blogs and theology.

At the risk of repeating myself:
the blogging medium allow a conversation,
which is potentially more egalitarian (although don’t most blog conversations essentially occur under a US domain name?)
but provides no guarantee of a conversation either meaningful or worth listening to
and would suggest that the human propensity to insularity might well haunt future conversations as much as it has past conversations.

the blogging medium allows a community approach to theology,
which returns theology to its roots – the essence of the practise of a community of faith
yet I often see little middle ground between flaming and the fawning “best post ever”
and would suggest that future communities will need better manners and better technologies.

the blogging medium is best done in short bursts,
which limits the pursuit of complicated and nuanced arguments, developed over time

the blogging medium allows instant responses to contemporary theological issues
but in so doing, could well become a conversation that ignores those who had the historically misfortune to write in a pre-blog era/error.

the blogging medium allows a “cross-disciplinary/ethnic/cultural synergy
but having just returned from one such conference, such revolutionary polemic seems oddly ho-humm

Posted by steve at 03:43 PM

Friday, August 06, 2004

when a missionary DJ reads a DJ

wee beautiful pict might read my book. He writes: Steve’s stuff is always accessable – well thought through, incarnation-friendly and dead readable, and then decides he might read the book!

Might! There’s a story in their about him … about a latte on an Edinburgh corner … each chapter of the book starts with a postcard, of me meeting with an emerging church/alt.worship group somewhere in the world … and as I do a global tour, I then reflect on the implications for God, church, life …

Posted by steve at 09:15 AM

Thursday, August 05, 2004

internet joy#2

I’ve received over 300 spam through my blog comments in the last 24 hours. No sooner do I clean it up and block the url, than some more appears. So I’ve finally closed comments on all but recent posts.

Posted by steve at 11:20 AM

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

DJing with spiritual others

In response to this:

It was Maori language week in New Zealand last week. It was a language under extinction a few decades ago. During these painful decades, there was one school of thought that only those who could speak properly and had the right accent could speak. If you tried to use a few words, you were verbally assaulted. A recent article in the local newspaper celebrated the fact that such an elitist, Byzantine attitude had passed. Any use of language by anyone should be celebrated. In other words, if people are using your cultural artifacts, get over it. You can no more stop them than hold back the tide.

Having said that (and to pick up on an earlier post of mine on gospel and culture and the DJ), a kingdom DJ needs a kingdom ethic. There is a community who affirms a DJ mix. When I mix gospel and culture, my community give me feedback on my mix.

A DJ respects their community, the “2 or 3 gathered” because Christ is in their midst. A kingdom DJ will also respect the community of others they sample from. A kingdom DJ will take time to respect the story around the sample (the orthodox prayers, the eucharist etc). In doing so, they will DJ with more sensitivity and nuance.

Posted by steve at 05:09 PM

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

culture and the emerging church

G wrote: I would love to hear your thoughts about the emerging church and hauerwas, and also the “counter-culture” or “culmination-culture” motif, or whatever alternative you are working with.

Hauerwas offers a strongly counter-cultural approach, using the community as an alternative place from which to challenge culture.

I find it idealistic and unrealistic. It seems to me that people live in multiple communities; not only church communities but work, interest groups. Thus to offer the church as an alternative community seems too pure, to unconnected, to the multiple layering of most people lives. It also tends toward isolation and withdrawal from culture, an approach which tends to minimize Incarnation. The emerging church values creation and Incarnation and thus is seeking to work with a more culturally engaged approach.

For me, I have found the model of DJ-ing culture helpful and I use this in my (forthcoming) book. The DJ samples from multiple places, and lives in a symbiotic relationship with a community, who give authenticity to the DJ mix.

This approach recognises the multiple worlds we live in, and allows us to take different approaches to different dimensions of our culture. For example, we might buy a car, but use it less and to transport a disadvantaged person. Thus we are using the culture, but mixing in an “environmental” and “social justice” ethic.

So I think we need a DJ approach to culture; sampling, always in relationship to a community, because where 2 or 3 are gathered, Christ is among us. Our use of culture is “processed” in the Spirit-discerning community.

I guess there are some parallels to Hauerwas in the importance of community, but in a multiple (DJ) way that respects the complexity and fluidity of our lives and our cultures.

G, I hope that offers some answer to your questions. Too much more and my book publishers might come calling.

Posted by steve at 07:58 AM

Monday, August 02, 2004

stripping worship

“It’s like you’ve got this room, the same room at the end of the day, but you’ve cleared it out and lined it with red velvet and beautiful standing lamps and nice chairs with ivory castors.” – quote from pop band Goldenhorse, about playing their songs with an orchestra.

I read this yesterday and it resonated with what we are trying to do at Opawa service wise. Worship tends to be quite plain; songs, talk, home. So why not strip it out and line it with image and imagination and participation and Scripture and prayer and space to think and contemporary music, alongside the song and the talk.

It will be the same room at the end of the day – worship – but a lot richer. And in doing so you appeal to the whole person, and allow multiple entry points for people on their God journey.

Posted by steve at 07:53 AM

Sunday, August 01, 2004

re:reading the prodigal

I don’t often put my sermons up on the site, as they are very place (ie Opawa) specific. But I found preaching the prodigal son today very moving.

We are the elder son. Our Western culture is the young son who has runaway from home. The biggest challenge in the parable is not to the young son, but to the elder son, to accept the outrageous grace of God. The shock is that the parable has no ending, the guests wait, the musicians pause and God asks each of us what we will do in response to grace.

My bibliography included Kenneth Bailey’s Finding the Lost. I invited people into a journey of imagination. I ended with power point images of reconciliation and a song by Lucid 3 (thanx Jan and Tony); which way is west … runaway … help me, I do not know which way to go …


Posted by steve at 02:02 PM