Friday, September 29, 2006

wanting to really get your teeth into the emerging and missional church

Looks like I am teaching 2 new papers around the area of emerging and missional church in 2007.

ONE: Critical missional issues: Emerging Church as part of Tyndale Graduate School Master of Theological Studies. Auckland, 11-13 April and 2-5 October. The course description is as follows: This course will explore critical issues in the missional church, with particular attention to the emerging church. Students will consider the emerging church in relation to themes of cultural analysis, practices, ecclesiological innovation and contemporary missiology. They will further consider major criticism of the emerging church in relation to the bible, doctrine and ecclesiology. By taking this case study approach to the emerging church, the paper will teach two theological skills. Firstly, that of reading a living theology; and the skills of being able to situate contemporary church practices within a multiple set of contexts. Secondly, that of faithful discernment; and the skills of being able to discern contemporary church practices in relation to faithfulness to the trajectories of Christianity.

TWO: Leadership in the Missional church. By taking this paper, students will learn to read a context, discern theological themes in lived experience, describe a missional project, appreciate missional literature and integrate it into church life today. The paper will be taught over a year, with a mix of on-line access and monthly coaching and is best suited to those in existing church ministry.

THREE: I am also pencilled in to teach an Introduction to the emerging church in Christchurch, May 4, 5 2007.

Should be a fun year.

Posted by steve at 09:09 PM

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

reading a post-colonial Bible

OR: How to sing “ashamed of my past” as the Lord’s song?


Being on top is only one way to view the world. Post-colonial studies is the attempt to read “from the other side.”

Take Genesis 28. Jacob is promised the land of Israel. So what happens when you read this from the “other side”? What does this text mean for the land itself, which will in time be ploughed and domesticated by the migrant? Where is God for those who lose land when the migrant arrives? In the words of Jomo Kenyatta: When the Missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible. They taught how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the land and we had the Bible.

I have been reading Jacob’s story throught the eyes of the settler: James Cook Voyage of the Endeavour, and second, through the eyes of the dispossessed: Te Horeta Te Taniwha’s Account of Cook’s Visit. Different values. Different ways of viewing the world.

I, as Pakeha, am descended from settler. I often feel guilty over the migration of my ancestors. It becomes more complex when God and God’s word is used on behalf of those on top.

So this work is part of my learning and listening what it means to follow Christ, when the name of Christ has, at times, been shamefully used in our past. It is also part of research in preparation for a paper I am presenting at the Faith in a Hyphen conference, December 4-6, Sydney, Australia.

Further links:
For more of a poetic on this Genesis 28 text go here.
For a multi-sensory and pop cultural preaching engagement with this text here.

Posted by steve at 03:53 PM

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

with a long view

Had a great time at the Cambridge 125th anniversary celebrations. The sermon went well (a listener’s perspective is here). 1 Kings 19 was my grounding Biblical text: Elijah had seen the good old days of God’s power in 1 Kings 18. But in 1 Kings 19 he needed to move on: to learn to listen to God in new ways, to go to a new destination in a foreign country and to find new partners. It is a fascinating text as it places change within a Biblical narrative.


As part of the preparation (and as an example of listening to God in new – creative – ways), I’d asked an artist friend, Pete Majendie, to reflect on the text. He had produced 2 paintings. We caught an interview with him on DVD; themes of
– place (a map of Cambridge is on the background);
– depression and being honest about our human experience (the black paper is handmade and is torn, looking through the hands of red and blue);
– journey (railway tracks made in the shape of a cross);
– God’s presence (gold flecks, including the stars of the Southern Cross on the red handed art piece).
It was great to have his art and his voice as part of the sermon. I finished with “Racing Away” from 1 Giant Leapalbum.

I had pastored at Cambridge for 3 months in 1993/4. As I left on Sunday a woman said how much she’d appreciated my sermons during that period. And then quietly mentioned that she’d written and recorded some songs in response to those sermons. How humbling is that!

It was a reminder for me that ministry needs to come with a long view. We often may never know the impact, or otherwise, of our actions and our words.

Posted by steve at 01:37 PM

Friday, September 22, 2006

125 years later

Cambridge Baptist is 125 years old on Sunday. During my 1st year of training to be a pastor, this church were brave enough to let a young novice (me!) be part of their life.

15 years later, they’ve asked me back(!) to preach at their Sunday morning celebration service. I’m DJing together some art by Pete Majendie; 3 stories; Elijah in 1 Kings 19 ; with 4 graphs of NZ religious trends (like this one, download file which shows that Christianity is losing ground in every single age group under the age of 40)

And after the handshakes I get to drink some Belgian beers (that’s a request) with some good friends. Looking forward to it all.

Posted by steve at 04:20 PM

Thursday, September 21, 2006

with permission

I am stoked. And humbled. And blown away.

Just had an email request in relation to my Out of Bounds Church? book. A US seminary, with a track record of innovation and intentionality around missional church, is currently going through a consultancy process. And could they have permission (Zondervan said yes!) to use the first 2 chapters of my book as preparatory reading in the ongoing process of re-imagining.

(In the first chapter I use a “newspaper sociology” (an approach coined by Alvin Gouldner) to explore contemporary culture. In the second chapter (applying the work of Michel de Certeau) I argue that our starting point, both theological and missional, is to read the everyday practices of people and church communities. This reading is an affirmation of the belief in the Spirit of God active in the lives of people and allows us to partner with missio dei, God’s activity in the world God loves.)

I struggle to get my head around the fact that my little book could be part of change processes among seminary leaderships.

(This post is a repeat of a post on my out of bounds church? book blog).

Posted by steve at 03:56 PM

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

where is church in Luke 10?

I have asked classes on Saturday and on Wednesday the following question;
Where is community? Is this church? I have then read them Luke 10:1-12.

1After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. 2He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field. 3Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. 4Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road.

5″When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ 6If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. 7Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

8″When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 9Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God is near you.’ 10But when you enter a town and are not welcomed, go into its streets and say, 11’Even the dust of your town that sticks to our feet we wipe off against you. Yet be sure of this: The kingdom of God is near.’ 12I tell you, it will be more bearable on that day for Sodom than for that town.

Think about the question in relation to the text and then feel free to add your comments and insights to our reflections…


Posted by steve at 05:08 PM

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

a reasonable faith?

I wish my lectures were as interesting as those of the Pope! Deliver a lecture one quiet Tuesday on a University Campus and suddenly the world is talking. A full (Vatican sanctioned) translated transcript is here.

Some thoughts:
– by quoting the work and words of Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, we realise that religious dialogue is not new.
– the Pope seems careful to note the trajectory in the Prophet Mohammed’s thought; from a religion that does not utilise compulsion, to Holy War.
– the Pope seems quite naive in his highlighting of a quote regarding Muslim violence, yet makes no reference to historical Christian violence. Why not make some attempt to disentangle violence from Christian history, especially given it was the Catholic church who spent so much energy in the Middle Ages “compelling” people come in?

However, the focus of the lecture is not the place of violence in Islam. Rather the Pope poses the question: In what ways might the discussion of faith be conducted? The Pope suggests that it be done on the basis of reason, which he defines as logos, as creative and self-communicative thought.

In doing so he not only runs the risk of drawing protest from Muslim quarters. In the lecture he critiques (Do any of these groups feel like a protest?)
– indigenous theology and contextualisation (because it falls outside what the Pope applauds as the historical fusion of Christianity and Hellenisation)
– a Protestant trajectory of sola scriptura (because to read Scripture you need to interpret Scripture) and
– a modernity that relies on a fact/value split (because to reason without considering “values” is a limited form of reason).

The lecture is thus a careful attempt to claim a “reasonable” faith, that if successful, allows faith (not as blind, but as “reasonable”) a place at the table of university dialogue.

Posted by steve at 12:17 PM

Monday, September 18, 2006

thread of grace: book of the month

threadofgrace.jpg Thread of grace is a superb novel. Set in Italy in WW2, and based on reality, it explores the hospitality extended by Italians to Jews fleeing the Nazi Holocaust. Russell moves effortlessly between Italian Catholics, Italian Jews and occupying Germans, to offer an absorbing and emotionally draining work of art.

Thread of Grace is the 3rd art of fiction from the imaginative pen of Mary Doria Russell. I first discovered The sparrow and then the sequel, Children of God. Both are works of sci-fi, that also explore themes of grace and redemption with the same absorbing emotional intensity.

Thread of Grace made me glad to be human. Russell is never a rose-tinted writer. She confronts the worst of humanity. Yet through characterisation, plot and tender attention to detail, she manages to weave a redemptive tapestry. For the spiritually alert, themes of hospitality toward the stranger, the extent of grace and the potential for human redemption, are worth discussing with friends long into the night.

For more of Steve’s book of the month recommendations, go here.

Posted by steve at 09:26 AM

Friday, September 15, 2006

the diversity of Sydney Anglicans

Recently I expressed my sadness over an article flaming the emerging church, written in a Sydney Anglican newspaper. I wrote to the reporter and was granted a cordial and thoughtful reply. Hat tip to the reporter, Madeleine Collins.

The article took another turn when it became apparent that the reporting had included the taking of a web-based April fools joke as fact. The rather earnest Anglican error was duly lampooned on Australian TV. Which seemed to illicit a certain schadenfreude (enjoyment obtained from the troubles of others) in a number of blog circles. (Always wanted to use that word schadenfreude in a blog post:))

Anyhow, I am fascinated to find yet a further step in the saga. Here are excerpts of a letter in reponse to the article (June 2006);

I’m writing in response to your recent article “True Confession of the Emerging Church” (SC May’06) to ask the question why is Southern Cross so negative and quick to criticise fellow (evangelical) Christians? …

To equate emerging church expressions with the Da Vinci Code is unworthy. To see the emerging church as a danger akin to the charismatic movement fails to recognise that we have all benefited from this movement … If your concerns about some hanging loose to theology are true a combative attitude can only ensure that those whose zeal for outreach causes them to neglect core theology will not learn from us. And just as sad that we will not learn from their zeal.

A grave danger for those of us who cherish reformed theology has always been that we “know better what we don¬ít believe than what we do believe.” The best antidote to this awful tendency is surely a generous attitude toward our fellows, who in the main, are seeking fresh ways of touching the hearts and minds of those we have not touched.

Peter Brain, Bishop of Armidale


So there you are. A bishop of Brain no less. My impression of Sydney Anglicans has just been deepened.

Posted by steve at 12:38 PM

Thursday, September 14, 2006

emerging church course ver 2.0

I am currently reworking my two-day Introduction to the Emerging Church course. I taught it for the first time last year. A second draft (2.0) will be unveiled at BCNZ Christchurch over the next two Saturday’s (16th and 23rd). The feedback on the course last year was very positive. Nevertheless, I have still made significant changes.

Introduction to the emerging church (ver 2.0) includes
– a tighter missional theology, drawing specifically on Luke 10:1-12, which offers a fascinating twist on themes of Trinity and Incarnation.
– using 5 minute video interviews (some still in the process of being shot, so HOT off the press!) from Al Roxburgh; espresso; Sanctus1; Safe Space and Freeway;
– tying these lived community narratives into Gibbs and Bolgers typology of emerging churches as identifying with the life of Jesus, transforming secular space, living as a community
– a greater focus on offering a wide range of concrete practices of spiritual formation, Biblical engagement, worship and community
– more of a deliberate encouragement of emerging churches as a mixed economy, with wide variety and in a range of relationship with established churches.

With the revamp done, bring on Saturday.

Posted by steve at 05:51 PM

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

four new film reviews

Here are 4 of my recent film reviews. I write these for a monthly Denominational magazine, who kindly allow me to place them on the web once they have gone to print. I’ve been a bit slack on the blog. My apologies. Feel free to review:

my May review, in which I ponder make believe, of The Da Vinci Code is here. (I also have written on the Da Vinci Code here; here and here;

my June review, in which I am disturbed by the place of domestic violence in comedy, in Siones Wedding is here;

my July review, in which I recommend avoiding Praire Home Companion, unless you are bored in Idaho or want to help a dying church reflect on their future in a changing world, is here;

my August review of Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Mans Chest is here. I conclude: Considering the trajectory of character and narrative in Dead Mans Chest offers an “All aboard” to Christian film reviewers wanting to probe beyond a puritanical fascination with the presence, or absence, of bad language and female breasts.

My other film reviews include; River Queen here; Brokeback Mountain here; Narnia here; Serenity here; The World’s Fastest Indian here; Sedition, a New Zealand film about the fate of conscientious objectors in World War 2, here; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, here

Currently I am reviewing The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.

Further film resources:
Film as a point of gospel engagement (PDF).
Film and spirituality web resources.
Why gospel and film?

Posted by steve at 05:16 PM

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

bible families

I am in the process of a 5 week series on Bible families. I started on Fathers Day with the theme of “good to be a guy.” We invited all the males in the church to bring something from their shed and looked at David and Jonathon in terms of male friendship.

We are now looking at the constellation of family relationships around Abraham; from the perspective of Abraham as father, Isaac and Ishmael as sons, Sarah as a wife. It seems to me that Bible families are not perfect families. Yet in these hard places, God is active.

This week it is Ishmael; looking at the pain and consequences of broken families. Heightened of course with the 5th anniversary of 9/11. I love how Sarai and Abram try to sort out God’s plan. They chatter.

Yet God is silent as these earnest people try to work out God’s perfect plan. So much Christian energy is wrapped up in finding God’s perfect plan.

The only time God speaks is to bless Ishmael and Hagar, expelled and left for dead: God blessing plan B, God blessing the victims of family breakdown, God blessing the birth of the Arabic nations.

The two most helpful resources have been Phil Culbertson’s The New Adam, The Future of Male Spirituality and John Drane and Olive Fleming Drane, Family Fortunes.

Posted by steve at 11:33 AM

Monday, September 11, 2006


remixes.jpg Remixes and Radio Cuts by Salmonella Dub. A great range of tracks (I used 2 in church on Sunday evening) that generates a more diverse sound than their earlier albums. A great example of DJing as many of their earlier songs are re-mixed. Stand out tracks include Conspiracy Dub, Mercy and Orbital.

Posted by steve at 12:06 PM

Sunday, September 10, 2006

scripture and rhythm

I have a problem with my Scriptural rhythm and I’m looking for a new method. For a number of years I have used a regular Scriptural rhythm based on the Revised Common Lectionary. It offers 4 readings – Psalm, Old Testament, Gospel, Epistle.

At the start of the year I suggested a pattern of shared Scripture readings to our church leadership team. I invited us to all read the same Scriptures, as this would give us a shared Biblical language. I also invited us to meet regularly for lectio divina around these texts we were dwelling in together. Different staff would led us. Nine months on, a real sense of communal collegiality has developed in which the Scriptures are literally forming our conversations and dreams.

In introducing this pattern, I was concerned that the Revised Common Lectionary might be too complex for a group of Baptists. Instead, I found a set of readings in Daily Prayer. This offered a Psalm and one other reading, swapping between Old Testament and New Testament. It could be photocopied as a simple booklet. It has caught on and quite a number of our church community at Opawa are now reading with us. I doubt they would have connected with the RCL.

But. A big but. The strength of Daily Prayer is it’s weakness. The daily progression does not integrate into a weekly rhythm. Thus we can’t integrate our daily readings into our weekly gatherings. I need something simple, that can also give us a progression weekly (and we gather as different congregations on Sundays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays. So we need like 3 different weekly rhythms!).

So the RCL is too complex. And Daily Prayer can’t be integrated into weekly patterns. Does anyone have any suggestions that might help – something simpler than RCL that can work both daily and weekly?

Posted by steve at 04:58 PM