Friday, March 30, 2007

Jesus the good woman

Luke 15:1-7 presents Jesus as like a good shepherd, searching for a lost sheep. Luke 15:8-10 presents Jesus as like a good woman, searching for a lost coin.

The church has been very happy to tell me about the first, Jesus as good shepherd. But why has the church been strangely silent about the second, Jesus as a good woman?

Strange, because a feature of Jesus is the way he includes both male and female. 27 times the writer of Luke matches a story about a man, with a story about a woman; starting with the angel appearing to Zechariah and Elizabeth in Luke 1; followed by Simeon and Anna blessing the baby Jesus in the temple in Luke 2; through to men and women being present at Jesus death and resurrection. 27 times.

As Kenneth Bailey, Finding the Lost, notes, Jesus is remarkable for the way he affirms both women and men as “full and equal participants in the kingdom of God.” Surely this pairing has something to say about women in ministry.

Posted by steve at 06:54 PM

to do at easter if you are in christchurch

journey publicity280.jpg

Here is a higher resolution version if you would like to put up a poster in your church/workplace.

Posted by steve at 01:18 PM

Thursday, March 29, 2007

what should a preacher preach?

On Sunday I preached a sermon. Nothing unusual about that. What was perhaps unusual was that it engaged with a public issue by asking a question: would Jesus smack children?

The sermon had the following sort of outline:
1. invitation to engage with a Biblical text: Luke 18:15-18.
2. question – would Jesus smack, followed by explanation for the question – that New Zealand is engaged in intense current debate about anti-smacking Bill
3. implication one – should Christians protest against this Bill (I gave 3 reasons why you might).
4. implication two – should Christians smack, and an exploration of some Bible verses often used to support smacking
6. some exploration of the question, would Jesus smack
7. some pastoral comments about the complexity of life and of parenting
8. pastoral prayer for parents (prayed by my partner, Lynne)
9. chance for talkback with me after the service if people wanted (about 10 people did and it was a good, robust discussion).

There is that old saying, religion and politics don’t mix. So why Steve, why on earth did I mix them on Sunday? These were factors I considered.

1. The whole discussion is so much in the New Zealand public mind. Christians are being asked for their opinion. Christians need to have an opinion. To not preach is making a statement – that the Bible has nothing to say about our current society. Equally, preaching on it might provide an example of how to think Christianly, and thus how to respond in conversation.
2. The topic of how to parent did fit in with the Biblical text and a baby dedication.
3. We have a privatised religious culture (a fruit of modernity). The longterm result of Descartes declaring that “I think therefore I am”, is a Christian faith that is offered expressed as individual and internal and intellectual. Yet the Jesus of the Bible seemed to me to make claims that were global and societal and practical. Surely the gospel needs to impact on all of life, including how we parent.

These were the reasons why I might preach. I also considered the reasons why I might not preach.

The dangers as I saw them there were
1. Pulpits can be misused as places to make dogmatic statements. I ran the risk of doing a bad job, of misusing a privileged, public platform and thus marginalising people.
2. Of exposing myself. It is far easier to keep quiet and stay safe.
3. That I would start a process whereby the energy of church might be distracted from our current community mission focus.

Three for, three against.

4 days later, still feeling drained after the stresses of preparation and prayer and anxiety, I am still pondering the wisdom of my decision. Was I plain dumb to mix religion and politics on Sunday?

Posted by steve at 02:35 PM

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

easter scattered


From Opawa church newsletter:
As a pastor, I always struggle with Easter. It is the highpoint of the Christian year and one that I believe that all Christians should engage with. Yet it is the last holiday before winter and for those who work hard, an important time to re-create.

So, this year I am offering an Easter Bach Pack, a short Easter service that can be done by families and groups in a holiday home. It includes things to do and say and hear, and an activity which can be brought back to Opawa in the weeks after Easter. The service will be similar to that offered here at Opawa.

While this demands more from us as a pastoral team, we believe it is a concrete way of living out our vision for the year, from Ephesians 4:1-13, with the church as a resource that sends people into the world, rather than sucks them into a building. It will allow us, whether gathered or scattered, to maintain a sense of a shared Easter. (We are also wondering about offering this on the internet, so that people anywhere in the world could download the resource and use it.)

So, whether away or present, we are asking you to join with us in this high point of the Christian year. If you are going away for Easter, simply order an Easter Bach Pack (Friday or Sunday or both) from the office.

Note to blog readers: I had hoped to offer this as a resource over the internet, but Easter is simply coming too fast. Never mind. There’s always next year.

Posted by steve at 02:57 PM

Sunday, March 25, 2007

what is Kingdom leadership in the midst of change?

Note: this post has been churning in my head for 18 months and has nothing to do with any current circumstances. It was helped by this comment on the Allelon site.

People respond to change in different ways. Most change theory draws a bell curve and notes that if you suggest a new idea, some love it, others hate it, while the majority adapt, but at varying rates.

Leadership tensions emerge when those who hate change start to dig in, actively resisting change. A common leadership response is to leave them behind. This can be done in a variety of ways: stop listening, manipulate, change leaders, change constitutions, play power games, etc.

Another common response is to simply give in to those who dig in. This means that a minority are dictating the future of the majority.

At our most recent AGM I told the story of taking my 2 children for a holiday walk to a nearby river. One child (no prizes for guessing which one) decided she was “the leader” and strode off ahead. The other dawdled behind, then hurt her knee trying to cross a fence. She decided she could no longer walk. Effectively, she was simply going to dig in.

This is exactly the situation many change processes find themselves in at some point or another. Should “the leaders” stride off, leaving some behind? Or should we let those who are “dug in” dictate the pace, meaning we are never likely to get back to camp?

The task of leadership demands getting both the strider and the dug in back to camp, because that is where healing is.

To achieve that required helping both sides to sit in each other’s shoes for a moment. The “strider” needed to listen to another’s pain, while the one in pain needed to see the big picture.

I am struck by how often simply the act of listening to people is followed by a shift in attitudes and understanding. Perhaps this is the real task of leadership in transitional churches, to remain aware that God can speak through any and all, to help people keep listening to each other, to keep articulating a shared reminder of the big picture.

Posted by steve at 10:06 PM

Saturday, March 24, 2007

updated: would Jesus smack children?

Update: I have added in the sermon “would Jesus smack?” to this post.

Further to my post regarding the anti-smacking legislation, I am preaching on the topic this Sunday: Raising children in an anti-smacking society.

I am aware of the dangers of mixing the pulpit with politics. But it is a hot topic in our New Zealand culture. The Biblical text is Luke 18:15-17; where Jesus welcomes the little children. What would he do if one of those children mis-behaved? We are dedicating Samuel Taylor, one of 10 children born in recent months. So our families are facing the issue of raising children.

So would he? Would Jesus smack children?

Update: OK, here is my sermon. It is for the sake of discussion, and I hope people read it as a discussion document.


Posted by steve at 04:06 PM

Friday, March 23, 2007

australia details

A fair bit of time in the last few months has gone into planning for a 7 day stint in Australia. Here are the current details.


Saturday 5 May
Morning “Take no sandals (a missional leader); Unfreezing imagination (a missional church); Practices for the table (a missional spirituality); When the Kingdom of God is near, is that far? (a missional intentionality).” A conversation between life, mission and Scripture, all in grounded life among a 96-year old church.

Afternoon (provisional) “Spirituality2go. A workshop on resourcing Christ followers outside gathered church”

Sunday 6 May
Preaching twice at Doncaster Church of Christ

Tuesday 8 May
10.00 am – 3.00 pm “Leadership in The Emerging Church” – seminar for ministers and lay leaders at Adelaide West UC
7.00 – 9.30 pm “Alternative Worship” session at Parkin-Wesley

Wednesday 9 May
12.15 – 1.00 pm Chapel Service at Parkin-Wesley
2.15 – 3.30 pm Colloquium on “The Emerging Church” at Parkin-Wesley
7.30 – 9.30 pm “Alternative Worship” session at Parkin-Wesley (repeat of Tues. evening)

Thursday 10 May
6.30 – 9.00 pm [re]generate pub conversation about fostering new and fringe faith communities.

Saturday 12 May
9.00 am -12.45 pm Keynote Speaker at Presbytery meeting.

More details on Adelaide here

Posted by steve at 08:25 PM

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

speaking and writing: a theological murmer about the Bible

Yesterday I did a post pondering the differences between speaking and writing. I wrote:

Something deep within me says that oral communication is different from written communication. I know that what I write to speak is different from what I write to be read; different pace, different rhythm, different style. And when I quote someone in a verbal presentation, I won’t cite publisher, but I will in a written document. What is more, I wonder if people read differently than they hear.

The opinion, from my wise and learned commenters, is an overwhelming yes, that speaking is different from writing.

OK, here’s the theological murmer that has been running through my head over the last few days as I have been thinking this aloud;

If speaking is different from writing, what does this mean for the Bible? How can we navigate “Jesus speaking”; to “Luke or John writing”; to the preacher “preaching” today? What is being lost and gained in this transmission folks?

Posted by steve at 02:59 PM

easter resources

I am working on Easter stuff at the moment. (Working on something that I think is my most innovative in a long time. Hoping to be able to blog it in a week. That’s not meant to be a tease, just an excited Steve Taylor-Tigger-like-bounce.) Anyhow, I am finding Passion in Art by Richard Harries incredibly helpful. 32 Easter related art images, from ancient to contemporary, each with 2 or 3 pages of written reflection. It offers me both visual and theological gifts. Very helpful for my creative juices.

Posted by steve at 02:39 PM

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

speaking and writing

I need some help in processing an issue.

I do a regular [fortnightly] slot on a [Christian] radio station. Titled “Viewpoint” the brief is as follows:
Viewpoint is a 2 minute monologue designed to equip the Christian audience to better understand current news and social issues from a Christian perspective. Each item needs to highlight an issue that affects the average Kiwi, and provide them with an understanding of how the Christian Worldview provides a Biblical perspective. Whilst the Bible does not need to be quoted, it is important that the Scriptures themes be clearly communicated. Viewpoint is not designed to promote the contributors viewpoint, but the Bibles. It should be challenging, informing and insightful.

To date I have done a reflection on the movie Babel and the Treaty of Waitangi; on the movie Blood Diamond and where is God in Africa; on how a rich country like New Zealand can respond to the Parable of the Great Banquet in Luke 14. It has been fun, but it has also been an added stress. And I work on making them “edgy,” so I feel quite vulnerable when I do them.

The radio station have now asked if I would be willing to have the MP3 placed on their website. No worries.

They have also asked if I have a written transcipt and if so, would I be willing to provide that for the site. I do. But here’s the rub.

Something deep within me says that oral communication is different from written communication. I know that what I write to speak is different from what I write to be read; different pace, different rhythm, different style. And when I quote someone in a verbal presentation, I won’t cite publisher, but I will in a written document.

What is more, I wonder if people read differently than they hear. I face this with my sermons. They are spoken (obviously), but I use a full script. When I arrived at Opawa, some in the congregation were older, and more hard of hearing, than at Graceway. So I offered them my full script. We also offer it to speakers of English as a second language. Now you can hear the pages turn at Opawa on a Sunday morning.

Yet when I speak the script, I make on the spot adjustments and it comes in the context of a 75 minute service. Sometimes people have not been present, but they have gotten the script and they have concerns about my theology. (Other people are simply there and still have concerns about my theology :)). And often the concerns boil down to the simple fact that the written word is different from the spoken word and when I explain the whole service, there concerns seem lessened. (For example, I did a sermon last year really pushing the Incarnation hard. We then opened it up for talkback and in that interaction, the community brought a nice pastoral balance). So the whole was different from one part.

And I don’t have a script writer who carefully inserts footnotes to validate my points. And I am not sure that I want to spend the time to turn my spoken words into written words. And my first book editor told me (in love) that I needed to learn not to write like I speak.

Am I barking mad? Am I being lazy? Is speaking different from writing? Should I seek to preserve the difference? Would a internet surfer who stumbles across the written transcipt of my radio Viewpoint be able to appreciate the difference? Does it matter? Won’t people in fact be more likely to read my words than to download the MP3 and thus in terms of reaching a wider audience, I should encourage verbal transcript? If I provide a written script, will I have had to spend more time dealing with brickbats and bouquets? Yet shouldn’t I be honoured that people would care enough to send me the brickbats and bouquets?

Ahhhhh. So many questions. Any wisdom out there?

Further link:
Speaking and writing: a theological murmer about the implications of this post for Bible

Posted by steve at 05:50 PM

Sunday, March 18, 2007

there’s a sheep in our church

Michael won the Opawa Baptist Leadership award today, for an act of outstanding leadership in our community.

It started with a sheep. The Biblical text was Luke 15:1-10, and involved 3 stations themed around lost and found. On Friday I joked to one of the worship leaders that we needed a sheep. “Oh,” he said, “my father is a farmer. Let me check.” Later he left a message. “Sheep will be at church at 9 am on Sunday.”

I arrived, planning for the sheep to be outside. You know, one lost sheep outside the church. Would have worked well. But the sheep was already inside, on stage, installed in a wooden pen, tarpaulin on floor, hay scattered around, sitting quietly. So much work had already been done. Such a quiet sheep. I didn’t have the heart to suggest a move.

All went well until the second song. I think it was the violin, but suddenly the sheep is on his feet on the edge of the pen, staring wildly around the church. The eyes of the gathered children are on stalks. One brave boy inches forward. I shake my head, but the boy doesn’t get my body language. He grabs some hay and tries to feed the sheep. The sheep goes nuts, and jumps clean out of the cage.

Boy jumps backwards and I jump forwards. Afterward someone says they have never seen a pastor move so fast. I grab the sheep and press it against the wooden pen.

I am wearing my Sunday clothes and I have to preach in about 10 minutes. I am wearing a cordless microphone. If I try and get the sheep back into pen, I risk losing the microphone in a flurry of hooves. If I try and take the microphone off, I risk losing the sheep. I am stuck.

I am holding a sheep, in my Sunday clothes, in front of a watching congregation. I am about to go down in history as the pastor responsible for a sheep lose in Opawa church. I am starting to refresh my CV.

Suddenly Michael is beside me. Local teenager from the community. Middle finger bandaged after a rugby game that week. Calmly Michael picks up the sheep. Together Michael and I place the sheep back into the pen. No-one else in the congregation has moved. But young Michael has stepped forward, taken initiative and saved my day.

One of my beliefs is that we are all leaders. This is based on my understanding of leadership as influence. We all influence people, so by definition we are thus all leaders. You don’t need to have a position or a title, to exercise influence. You might exercise influence for good, or for bad. But we all influence others and we are all leaders. Michael earned the Opawa Baptist Leadership award today, for an act of outstanding leadership in our community.

Posted by steve at 10:17 PM

Saturday, March 17, 2007


An email overnight: “I deeply appreciate your work and agree with Scott McKnight that Out of Bounds Church is one of the most helpful and stimulating books out on the emerging church.”

From Mark Shivers, graduate student at Vanderbilt University. I am using a honey of a paper he wrote on worship in postmodernity for my upcoming Masters paper: Critical Missional Issues for the Emerging Church.

Posted by steve at 03:30 PM

Friday, March 16, 2007

lost and found worship

Sunday the text is Luke 15:1-9. A worship response is shaping up around 3 stations.

ONE: Community station – with pictures and explanation of the church’s various community ministries and the invitation to

Look: at the pictures and explanation of the church’s various community ministries

Reflect: by praying

Act: by saying yes to participating (including needing more Boys Brigade leaders, and involvement with our annual Easter Journey art installation).

TWO: Sheep station – with a metal fencing and gate, and the invitation to

Look: at the fence and the gates.

Act: by sitting inside the sheep pen.

Reflect: How would you feel if you were ninety-nine? Pray for us at Opawa, and for what your feelings mean for the future of the church.

THREE: Coin station – with a whole lot of coins scattered around and the invitation to

Look: at the art image, Woman Sweeping, by Jean Vuillard; which portrays God as an ordinary house-keeper in everyday life.

Reflect: on the following poem
I was passionate,
filled with longing,
I searced
far and wide
But the day
fhat the Truthful One
found me,
I was at home.
by Lal Ded

Act: by holding a coin. On one side of the coin is a name of a child in our community (either from Boys Brigade or Koru). Pray that they will be found.

The other side of the coin is blank. It might be your name. What does it mean for you to know that God, like the woman, searching is for you? It might be someone you know. You might want to pray for them by writing their name (permanent marker supplied).

Whatever you do, take the coin with you into your week.

Posted by steve at 03:00 PM

Thursday, March 15, 2007

emerging, missiology and the mainline


Can emerging be anglican|lutheran|mainline? Yes, according to Ian Mobsby, who is self-publishing his Masters research under the title: Emerging & Fresh Expressions of Church. This does not wave around abstract theories on the emerging church. Instead it draws on narrative data, the real live stories of Sanctus 1, Moot, B1 and the Church of the Apostles. Not content with sociology, it then trawls the deep waters of theology and ecclesiology. It uses a reframed understanding of Trinitarian theology and arguing that the emerging church is using a synthetic model of contextual theology, seeking to reframe what it means to be Christian in post-modern post-secular contexts. The book concludes that the Emerging Church is reframing a new approach to ecclesiology and missiology.

Buy it here. All sales are ploughed back into the Moot community.

Posted by steve at 04:49 PM