Thursday, August 31, 2006

txt blessings as passionate Christian practices

We are passionate (about connecting with each other using our cell phones). God is passionate about connecting with us. Passionate practices connect our passions with God’s passions.

cellphone.jpg And so the passionate practice for the month of August at Digestion (Sunday evening church) has been using cell phones to text blessings. We have used Sunday evenings to run text challenges and explore how God blesses us. We have used Wednesday evenings in our youth small groups to experience blessing prayers, translate Bible benedictions into txt language, and come up with their own txt blessings.

Sunday evening was our celebration service that ended the passionate practice for the month. A lot of work went into from Opawa Youth Group.

obysunday.jpg Photos from Jas’s blog.

At the celebration service we plan some way for people to share what they have learnt from using the passionate practice during the month. How has God been at work in us as we have lived Christianity passionately, in our daily practices, (in this case, of texting blessings), during our Monday to Friday lives?

So these were shared, the txt blessings, produced by our young people during the month, and shared with us on Sunday.


Posted by steve at 08:07 PM

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

a year for youth

graph.jpg This is a graph of young people’s church involvement in Nelson, New Zealand, between 1985 and 2006 (from here). Lots of ups and downs, yet an overall downtrend. Note that this is in an Anglican Diocese that has experienced quite considerable church growth. But not among it’s young people.

Now, imagine an denomination that dedicated an entire year to youth ministry; with a dedicated website here.

youthyeah.jpg and with the production of youth worship resources where they get young people to write prayers for the church each Sunday. (So here is the prayer for Sunday September 3, written by St Marys Diocesan School for Girls.
Dear Lord our friend,
Help us to hear and obey your message to us.
Help us to be people with clean hearts,
who have integrity and confidence to always do what is right
whether or not others are watching us.
Through the love of God, Amen.)

Well, the Denomination is the Anglican church in New Zealand in 2006. Well done New Zealand Anglicans.

New Zealand youth Anglican blogs (Let me know if I have missed any … ) include:
Michael; John; (Te Mara) Maori as indigenous people of Aotearoa New Zealand.

Posted by steve at 12:10 PM

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

the disciplines of Biblical texting

Are some Biblical texts more equal than others? I have been preaching through the Sermon on the Mount the last 3 weeks. It’s been hard. To preach the Sermon on the Mount has asked me to think deeply about big issues – both textual (relationship of Law to grace, interpretive approaches) and contemporary (restorative justice, peacemaking, economics, gender relationships). I have been tempted to move onto easier Bible texts. And I am stuffed; mentally and spiritually drained.

It has left me wondering if some Bible texts demand more from the preacher and more from the community. And if so, are we willing to embrace the disciplines of dwelling with the hard texts?

Earlier this year I had a bit of health scare. As a result, I took up jogging, hoping to improve my general fitness.

Jogging has had an unexpected byproduct. Here in New Zealand, we have been moving into spring. Warmer weather means lighter clothing. To my surprise, my last summers’ wardrobe is hanging a bit round my wasteline. I’ve lost weight (not that there is much to lose)! So there has been something about the discipline of running that has produced both a fitter, and leaner Steve!

I was jogging this morning, wondering if there is some link between Biblical texts and discipline. Could the discipline of staying with some harder texts produce a leaner, fitter pastor and a leaner, fitter church? Are we willing to pay that price?

Posted by steve at 04:59 PM

Friday, August 25, 2006

the Bible as living word in community: idea 2

This post is part of a series of posts on how to use the Bible in community. Idea 1 – communal lectio divina is here. Faced with caricatures of “preaching as monologue” OR “discussion as sharing of ignorance”, we need new skills and capacities to preach the Bible as a living word in community.)

Here is idea 2. (It is adapted from a practice used at New Zealand Baptist Assembly, 2005). We did this at our church meeting last night, with 50 people in attendance.

Step 1: I affirmed “for where two or three are gathered” and invited us to let guide God us through the Bible, in community, and led by the Spirit. I explained I was going to read a Bible passage and ask everyone to write down 1 way to apply this at Opawa Baptist in 2007.

Step 2: I introduced a Bible passage. This took about 10 minutes. I referenced the original context. I challenged us to hear it, not with church ears, but with mission ears.

Step 3: I prayed; Spirit of God, give us mission ears, honour your Word, speak to us, 2 or 3 gathered, about your future for Opawa.

Step 4: I read the passage – Ephesians 4:2-13 – aloud.

Step 5: I invited everyone to write down (on a piece of paper handed out at the door) 1 way for the church to apply this in 2007.

Step 6: On the back of the piece of paper handed out was a letter (a or b or c or d or e or f). I invited people to move into a group (8 people in total) with those of the same letter.

Step 7: People broke into pairs. Each person shared their idea. Each pair was asked to choose one idea to take forward.

Step 8: Each pair joined another pair. Each pair shared their one idea with the other pair. The four were asked to choose one idea to take forward.

Step 9: Each four joined another four. Each four shared their one idea with the other four. The eight were asked to choose one idea to take forward.

Step 10: These ideas (6 in total from the 6 groups) were read aloud to the meeting and given to the church leadership.

Step 11: The book of Ephesians and the specific text (Ephesians 4:2-13) will be our “dwelling text” for much of our preaching in 2007. The church leadership will consider and action, with the congregation, these ideas.

Why do this?
– I love leading a church in applying the Bible, as 2 and 3’s, to communal church life.
– I have engaged our church community in a bottom up vision.
– steps 7-9 weed out “crazy ideas” and also increase the likelihood of ownership.
– I have some excellent concrete ideas to work with into 2007.
– I have learnt some more about the skills and capacities of my church community in applying Scripture and listening to each other. I know more clearly some strengths and weaknesses and anxieties.

It was a first time trial. I learnt for next time;
– not everyone can apply a Bible text to church life. I could have said that verbally at the start and it would have decreased anxiety for some.
– I should have provided a copy of the Bible text, because not everyone brings a Bible to church meetings.
– doing this cuts across established understandings of “church business meetings” and that produces a new set of tensions (particularly in me, the one leading this change, and having to trust that if the Bible and the community don’t “work” then I have egg on my face.)
– the process is hard, and tiring, work for all concerned.
– I need to emphasis more strongly that the more concrete the idea, the better. General ideas become harder to implement.

Oh, and what where the 2007 Opawa ideas emerging from Ephesians 4:2-13?;


Posted by steve at 12:53 PM

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

looking in an emerging mirror

Anthony Stiffs has produced an incredibly helpful reflection on the emerging church.

Part 1 – What is the emerging church?; Part 2 – Missiological contours of the emerging church; Part 3 – Missiological praxis of the emerging church; Part 4 – Missiological trajectories of the emerging church.

I have some minor quibbles.
1. He claims D. A Carson is one who has studied the emerging church movement by participating in it. I certainly don’t see that in Carson’s writing and I would love to see Anthony’s evidence for this claim.
2. He asserts the following quote to Andrew Jones; A postmodern monastery – Combining authentic, low-budget group creativity with the task of preserving technical knowledge within the rhythms of prayer in order to cross the digital divide and catalyse open source spirituality; when in fact Andrew is quoting me!
3. I don’t think he fully appreciates what I am saying when he quotes my A-Z of the Emerging Church. When I say “W = white and western. Sorry but we are. It’s a sociological reality. But let’s not stay here. It is a journey. It’s time for genuine partnership” I am expressing the same concern he is; that the emerging church needs to be more ethnically diverse.

Anthony has still to post Part 5 – his critique of the emerging church. I am looking forward to that.

Why? Why do I find myself listening to Anthony and not others?

I appreciate the fact he seems to start with an open hand and not preconceived prejudice. I love that he proceeds from a missiological perspective. I appreciate that he uses a wide range of sources – blogs, books and actual communities – and that adds depth to his analysis. I sense a good amount of people caring, wise listening and discernment. And perhaps most important, I sense that he is not pushing idealisms. I might be wrong, but I sense that he too “still has not found what he is looking for.” He comes as a fellow pilgrim, not a finger pointing expert.

Posted by steve at 03:43 PM

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

thanks for caring

It takes a fair bit of time and emotional energy to raise concern and voice dissent. I mean, most people don’t like conflict and don’t like to rock the boat.

So when they do, it will generally cost them something. And they wouldn’t pay that price unless they cared. Next time someone voices dissent, I wonder if we should be saying “thanks for caring” before we get all huffy and uptight.

Note: I think that this rule applies differently depending on the media. I suspect it is a lot easier to launch a drive by shooting on blog and forum, than on paper and in article. So I think the type of media used can say something about the level of caring.

Posted by steve at 12:02 PM

Monday, August 21, 2006

workplace spirituality site

Nigel has been with us as an overseas intern for the last 3 weeks, working with us in the area of workplace spirituality. This includes running a 3 week course on “Where is God on Monday?


As one (of his many) gifts to us at Opawa, he has developed a website to nourish workplace spirituality; part of resourcing our mission. Enjoy!

Posted by steve at 07:42 PM

Friday, August 18, 2006

admin stuff

1. This is a blog held together by a version of MT that no longer receives customer support. It is groaning under it’s own weight. Be assured that despite error messages your comments DO post. So please don’t try lots of times!

2. Gospel and post-Christian students, the tutorial reading for next Wednesday 23rd August is chapter 6 and 7 of A New Kind of Christian.

Posted by steve at 09:47 AM

Thursday, August 17, 2006

writing for mission

I have been posting less frequently in the last 10 days because I have been doing some other writing for print media, who have different deadlines and different rules on copyright.

1. A 3,000 word piece of Ministry Today, a UK journal. I have been asked to reflect on emerging church within traditional church, so I have been playing with my recent ministry journey, God as Trinity and a multi-congregational model. In many ways it is a Postcard 10, another chapter, for my Out of Bounds Church? book.

2. A 1,000 word piece for the New Zealand Baptist magazine. I contrast the mission of the Great Commission with the mission of Luke 10:1-12. 3 themes; mission as God’s idea (not our idea), central (not an extra for the mature), changing us (before we think about changing them). I am wondering if our changing world means we find Biblical resources in fresh places.

This is another step in the Mission Reader and emerging AD:missions projects (see here and here). I am also bouncing off David Bosch’s Transforming Mission. (IMHO no-one should be allowed to talk about emerging church until they have read this book. It is such an essential missionary text). Bosch suggests six periods in mission history; Jesus and early church [added in thanks to vigilant comment of Dave]; primitive; patristic; reformation; enlightenment; ecumenical (or postmodern).

He argues that each mission period is shaped by a different Biblical text which indicates a different overall frame of reference and way of understanding God, humans and the world.

John 3:16 in the patristic Period (the love of God, seen in the sending of Jesus, is extended by God’s messengers);

Luke 14:23 in the Middle Ages (compel them to come in!);

Romans 1:16 in the Reformation (God’s rightliving means grace and mercy, not punishment);

The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) in the Enlightenment period.

“The transition from one paradigm to another is not abrupt … This produces a kind of theological schizophrenia, which we just have to put up with while at the same time groping our way toward greater clarity … The point is simply that the Christian church in general and the Christian mission in particular are today confronted with issues they have never even dreamt of and which are crying out for responses that are both relevant to the times and in harmony with the essence of the Christian faith …. The point I am making is simply that, quite literally, we live in a world fundamentally different … The contemporary world challenges us to practice a “transformational hermeneutics”, a theological response which transforms us first before we involve ourselves in mission to the world.” (Bosch, pages 188, 189).

Bosch suggests the immense challenges of our contemporary world are signs of a transition into a new period. He notes 13 trajectories. I am wondering aloud in this Baptist article if Luke 10:1-12 might need to be our new dominant mission text.

Posted by steve at 08:38 PM

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

a compelling read through a missiological lens

I keep a separate blog for my Out of Bounds Church? book, but at a personal level the emergentkiwi is celebrating the book review’s (by Mark Hopkins, School of Intercultural Studies, Fuller Theological Seminary) in the Evangelical Missions Quarterly July 2006.

“I was encouraged to find Taylor’s work deeply anchored in biblical/theological thinking. He has done a fine job of exegeting global popular culture … Another strength is Taylor’s “insistence on ‘extreme discipleship’ rather than ‘Christianity lite'” … This book is a compelling read that I recommend for anyone wanting a good introduction to both the emerging church and practical missiological issues related to faithfully engaging global popular culture.”

At heart I have always seen the emerging church as a missionary movement. So it is very pleasing to have such a positive review from a global missions journal.

Buy Out of Bounds Church? here

Posted by steve at 11:13 PM

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

the Bible as living word in community

Last week I blogged about the Bible, in particular how we use the Bible in community (post is here). I suggested we needed a new skills and capacities to move us beyond the caricatures of “preaching as monologue” OR “discussion as sharing of ignorance.”

On Sunday I had another go at communal lectio divino. I note it here for those interested in ways to use the Bible in community. There are many. Here is but one.

1. I invited people to imagine themselves inside a Bible text.
2. I asked the men present to be the disciples in the story. I asked the women present to be the woman in the story.
3. I read the Bible text through twice. (In this case it was John 4).
4. As I went, I made brief comments on exegetical features of this text. (In this case, Samaria, Samaritans, being at a well at noon).
5. The first time I read the text, I invited the men-as-disciples to express how they were thinking and feeling. I paused 4 times; at the end of verse 12, 17, 19, 26, for them to vocalise.
6. The second time I read the text, I invited the women to express how they were thinking and feeling. I paused 5 times; at the end of verse 10, 14, 18, 23, 26, for them to vocalise.
7. We shared in two’s how this text challenged us.

For over 40 minutes, we engaged the text. There was real emotion. There was intellectual stimulation. There was insights I had never realised.

God was present. So present that we finished by doing something we’ve never done at Digestion in my time. We stood and I invited people to talk to God about this Bible passage. Lots of people prayed, passionately, sincerely.

God had spoken. The Bible was living word in community. I note this as one way (and there are many, many more) that we can experience the Bible as living in community.

One more thing. This approach still requires a good deal of preparation. There is the exegetical work, the reading and re-reading of the text in order to discern what voices can be heard and at what points the Biblical narrative allows movement. There are new skills in terms of offering a corporate safe space and choosing how to respond to people’s comments. There is anxiety in not knowing what the ending will be and so needing to trust the Spirit.

Posted by steve at 01:48 PM

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

txt blessings


We are passionate about communicating via our cell phones; God is passionate about communicating with us. Can we use our cell phones to communicate God’s blessing? The passionate practice for August is texting a blessing.

This blessing was one example suggested:
U r nt a accident
U r unique
U were creatd 4 a purpose
God loves u

For an introduction:
to passionate practices go here; for a passionate practice of discernment go here; for a passionate practices of pilgrimage go here.

For book resources:
Practicing Passion: Youth and the Quest for a Passionate Church gave an initial theological framework and opened my eyes to passion as a way to affirm youth spirituality; God bearing life:The Art of Soul Tending for Youth Ministry, which has excellent reflection on passion and passion in youth ministry; and Soul Tending which is stacked with actual practices.

Posted by steve at 04:40 PM

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

emerging and anglo-catholics

Some fascinating discussion going on in the post “How exclusive is the emerging church?” I pulled out this comment from big bulky anglican because I think it’s worthy of further discussion: I think that emerging churches tended to be populated by evangelicals discovering what anglo-catholics have known for decades – symbolism, faith in daily life, ritual and variety, daily offices.

1. Does the comment resonnate with you ie are you an “emerging church evangelical who is discovering symbolism, faith in daily life, ritual, daily offices”?

2. If you answered yes to (1), why are you finding them (symbolism, faith in daily life, ritual, daily offices) helpful?

3. What (if any) changes or appropriations have you made to how symbolism, faith in daily life, ritual, daily offices have been traditionally practiced?

4. Why might some sections of the church have lost/ignored these practices? What might we learn from this about the use and re-use of symbolism, faith in daily life, ritual, daily offices?

Posted by steve at 05:00 PM

Monday, August 07, 2006

worth watching


Think Christianity looks a webite worth watching: “A conversation and general thoughts on the Christian faith from people of all walks of life. The good, the bad and the ugly.” To join the conversation, you simply send an email saying why you do or don’t go to church. It becomes a blog post and the dialogue commences.

Posted by steve at 07:48 PM