Friday, June 30, 2006

homeward bound

The long trek home is about to start; 3 hour drive to airport; 2 hour flight to San Francisco; 13 hour flight to Auckland; 2 hour flight to Christchurch. (And no, I am not expecting to do any take-offs!) The flight is usually followed by 2 or 3 days of disconnection and struggle to adjust to new time zones.

Who knows when blogging – serious or otherwise – will resume.

Posted by steve at 05:12 AM

Thursday, June 29, 2006

i know this is work but …

I got to fly a plane today. “Oh you can take off,” I was told as I belted myself in for what I thought was an early morning joyride around the lake.

That sense of power, so finely and gently balanced in the controls in my hands, as the plane, a little 4 seater, roared down the runway.

Unforgettable. I think more experiences like this would definitely energise and balance my life. I can’t wait to discuss this new hobby with my wife and family.

Posted by steve at 06:55 AM

Monday, June 26, 2006

local and global

I am a long way from home. I have flown many miles to sit among many accents, spending the next 4 days in a roundtable conversation with 20 others around the topic of mission to Western Culture.

Our starting point is the suggestion that mission does not start with the theory and the general, but in the local church, in the everyday lives of the peoples of God. I smile at the irony in this: I am a global traveller to a many-accented conversation about the local.

So with my heading spinning between local and global it was good to receive news of this:

Culture Yeah Right is a collection of essays (3 by me), plus an accompanying DVD, that explore the nature of culture, and the implications for ministry among the real lives of our young people. Culture Yeah Right is based on the conviction that ministry practitioners in this country have a lot of experience and wisdom to offer both here in Aotearoa-New Zealand and the international youth ministry scene. It’s aim is to provide local-grown resources and stem the tide of always gazing seaward for overseas youth ministry resources.


Posted by steve at 08:20 AM

Saturday, June 24, 2006

jesus creed review

outofboundschurch.jpg My out of bounds church? book has just been reviewed by Scot McKnight. It is always a privilege to hear somewhere else describe your words and I was intrigued by Scot’s comment: “I’ll tell you why I think this is a good book: it is theology emerging from praxis and praxis emerging from theological reflection, and both emerging in and out of local contexts, and each of these three items emerging out of serious engagement with culture and philosophy.” I appreciate Scot’s recognition of the variety of narratives that I tried to weave together in the book; stories of churches on the ground; theology; postmodern culture both popular and academic.

Scott titled the blog review Least Known, Best Emerging Book and commented “I’ve found a book that no one seems to talk much about but which is a very fine book.” Which left me pondering what makes a book “least known”: is this simply a reflection of marketing, of Scot’s world, of the US emergent conversation, of the sheer volume of books around, of ….?

Posted by steve at 10:50 AM

the context of storytelling

Stories are the stuff of human experience. Yet all stories have a context.

Tell us a story. Tell us about your church. Blog reading. Book reading.

All these questions and activities require some sort of ability to understand both story and the context in which it emerges. When you hear my story (read this blog, ask me a question) to truly understand, you need to be able to place story within context. You also need to be aware that in reading and asking, you are bringing your assumptions about life and church and emerging church and life to the table.

The emerging church suffers from this. People make photocopies rather than re-contextualise the contextualisation. The emerging church seems (IMHO) to be a shared conversation among people, groups and churches, about life and faith in a changing contemporary context. But it is so easy to objectify the stories and to read the conversation as monolithic, as “this is the emerging church.” In doing so, the stories have been stripped of context. They are then in danger of commodification, as books, websites, podcasts etc.

This week I have been a a storyteller in a new context. This has focused for me what has been a recurring question; Does this task of contextualisation belong to the reader/listener or to the communicator? Are there ways to tell stories, or frame stories, that allow context to be laid alongside story?

Posted by steve at 06:57 AM

the context of my story today


Today I blog from this porch. (Photo shamelessly stolen from this blog). The weather is warm. The company is rich. The accents are foreign. It is hard enough understanding people in my own culture, yet alone understanding and seeking to be understood in another’s culture.

I’ve sat in 4 days of Ministry to a Postmodern Context. My official role was to provide some visual content to initiate interaction around experiences of postmodernity; to listen and reflect; and to share some of my faith communities story.

On Sunday I drive up to McCall, Idaho, for a Thinktank on Mission to Western Culture. There are about 25 participants; from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Canada, UK, USA. It is a fascinating mix of missiologists and grounded practioners in church congregations. I am looking forward to listening and talking. But first I will enjoy the warmth of this front porch.

Posted by steve at 06:10 AM

Thursday, June 22, 2006

flightless kiwi

I am travelling; Idaho for a week as part of a Ministry to the Postmodern Context with Allelon, then to a week of Thinktank on Missional Church. So I could be offline, jetlagged and struggling with cross-cultural communication.

Posted by steve at 07:54 AM

Saturday, June 17, 2006

emerging AD:missions 6

emergingadmission1.jpg a series of posts called emerging AD:missions; reflecting on the emerging church in light of mission thinking.

MISSION TO SLAVS: Readings in World Mission, page 11-12.

The Nestorians worked as missionaries in China in the 6th century, talking, contextualising Jesus. Yet they were dismissed as heretics in the 2nd century. So this is mission for the edge to the edge. If you were forced from the church, would you put your energy into angry defense or pioneering mission?

The emerging church is an edge movement. It seems we are increasingly dismissed as heretics. In response, where will we put our energy? Into protest and defense and anger?

The Nestorians offer a fascinating approach. In the face of accusations of heresy, why not go wandering the edges of our world, offering God’s grace and love. No one, no matter how judgemental, can stop us doing that.

For an introduction to emerging AD:missions, go here.
For all the posts in this series go here.

Posted by steve at 04:52 AM

Friday, June 16, 2006

newbigin and the future of mission in the west

allelon.jpg From June 25-29 I am participating in a International Think Tank on Mission to Western Culture. This involves a multi-year think tank re-applying the work of Lesslie Newbigin to denominational, seminary and other church systems regarding missional engagement with western culture(s). In preparation I was asked to answer 2 questions.

Question 2: What would you identify as the primary themes/questions that need to be addressed regarding mission to western culture at this point in time?


Posted by steve at 05:47 PM

Thursday, June 15, 2006

newbigin and western missiology

allelon.jpg From June 25-29 I am participating in a International Think Tank on Mission to Western Culture. This involves a multi-year think tank re-applying the work of Lesslie Newbigin to denominational, seminary and other church systems regarding missional engagement with western culture(s). In preparation I was asked to answer 2 questions.

Question 1: What are the primary contributions of Lesslie Newbigin to this conversation?

For me, the primary contribution is summed in the sentence; “[T]he only hermeneutic of the gospel, is a congregation of men and women who believe it and live by it.” Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society, 1989, 227.

newbigin.jpg This suggests the following:


Posted by steve at 11:11 PM

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

a tall skinny book shelf



This is the 50 books on Andrew Jones emerging church bookshelf. He rates the Out of Bounds Church no 3 in his “Top Ten Books considered essential reading on the emerging church.”

Andrew then wonders aloud about whether books are the best place to capture the emerging church story. “Very few of these books are from the “other” half – the emerging church of the margins, the poor, and the churches that no longer look like church. Emerging church leaders in the latter are less likely to publish a book as a means of communication.”

Random thoughts
-I both blog and write books. They are both different media that serve different purposes. Blogging is fast and instant. Books are thoughtful. You have more rope to hang yourself. The more words, the easier it is to fall into potholes and inconsistencies. They have had the tires kicked by editors. Both are valid medium. Both have different purposes.
– We need mechanisms to “capture” all types of stories. We need podcasters and researchers who can audio capture existing stories and form internet repositories of “storied” wisdom.
– Books give no more “validation” to a movement than “non-books.” 1 Corinthians reminds us of diverse gifts and one Spirit. Can the variety of current publishing forms be an opportunity for celebration of diversity?

Post repeated from my book blog.

Posted by steve at 09:25 AM

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Trinity Sunday and Rublevs Icon as childrens talk

trinityiconstylised200.jpg This is Rublevs Icon (Click here for a higher res (156K) copy). I had a go at using it for a children’s talk on Sunday. Would this piece of artistic theology hold 35 kids attention? It did, for about 10 minutes.


Posted by steve at 09:43 AM

Sunday, June 11, 2006

prayer for possessions

I quite like writing prayers for our Sunday morning worship. The writer in me enjoys the crafting, the theologian in me enjoys the thinking. So I’m going to add a new category to the blog; called Praying the church year. The prayers are uniquely contextual to what is happening at Opawa, but if you are interested here is a prayer for a church, with some theological reflection on money and possessions, the week after Pentecost …


Posted by steve at 01:28 PM

Thursday, June 08, 2006

community and interaction

community.jpg A year ago 4 of us started espresso. It was a risk, but we wanted a conversation space, a place where people connected with God through each other. As part of the birthing of espresso, we developed a set of guidelines. We read this pretty much weekly, hoping to create a climate of interaction that is safe and allows people to participate as much or as little as they want.

Anyhow, Espresso had 17 punters on Tuesday nite. (We were kicking off a number of weeks of discussion around the spirituality and themes in relation to the Da Vinci Code.) Now, when you get to about 17 people, group dynamics can start to change. It is easier for people to fall silent or slip to the edges of a group. It can be harder to have your say. I’m not saying this happened on Tuesday, nor is it necessarily a bad thing. I’m just making the observation.

So what do we do?
1 – Just keep going. But will we start losing one of our driving values of conversation and participation?

2 – Start another one. It would be great to have espresso’s all over Christchurch. But it seems to take a lot more energy to get from 4 to 10 than from 10 to 17. So if you are always planting another group when you got to about 15-20, then aren’t you always dealing with fragility? Is that a bad thing?

3 – Do some things together; like an ending or opening ritual and then separate into smaller conversation groups. (The space we meet could easily handle this). But what work needs to happen to ensure that the espresso DNA is expressed in each and every smaller conversation? How would it feel as these groups change change every night? Would you feel like you were in a better/worse conversation than across the way? How do you create safe entry spaces of first timers?

I’m thinking aloud; so any thoughts and observations are welcome.

Posted by steve at 12:06 PM