Tuesday, March 13, 2007

anti-smacking legislation

I sent the following email to my local MP, to Sue Bradford and to the political parties I am most likely to vote for in the next election. (For my many readers from outside New Zealand, our Parliament is voting this week on a piece of legislation that would make the act of parent smacking a child a criminal offence.)

In no way do I condone the unacceptably high levels of violence shown to children in New Zealand society. However the legislation as it stands seems to me to be a blunt instrument and a poor response.

The Bill is said to protect children against violence. However I very much doubt that those who have murdered children in New Zealand recently, and thus face a life of imprisonment, would be deterred by the introduction of this bill. Surely we should be focusing our attention on the underlying issues of parenting help, financial stress and anger management, rather than on legislation, which is only helpful after the event, and I doubt would have done anything to deter the recent deaths of children.

Further, the Act places the Police as those who action the Bill. It raises the possibility of Police wasting time exploring vindicative claims made when relationships break up. Such would be a waste of Police resources, and would, I believe, be an inevitable outcome of this Bill.

Thirdly, I understand that Helen Clark, Clayton Cosgrove and Ruth Dyson have said that putting a child into time-out (for corrective purposes) would be in breach of the Anti-Smacking Law. Time out is a surely a parenting option that should be encouraged, not legislated against. I would urge that this matter be considered and that timeout be allowed as a parenting option.

Fourthly, I am concerned about the impact of the Bill on the current lowering of behaviour standards in our society. We live in an time when children are increasingly disrespectful of authority and I worry that in an effort to stop a small number of high-profile murders, the Bill might in fact make the task of teaching and parenting even more difficult.

I in no way condone murder of children and I remain uneasy about smacking as a parenting option. However I am unconvinced that the Anti-Smacking Bill will be a helpful piece of legislation as we serve to make New Zealand a better place for our children,

I would ask you to consider these issues as the Law goes before Parliament,

Posted by steve at 05:25 PM

updated: why lent?

Why Lent? “And so you can see why a lot of Reformers are not happy with the Emerging Church. After effectively getting rid of quite a number of meaningless rituals like Lent … the emerging church seem to be undoing some of these gains. Don Carson describes the emerging church as a protest movement. Is it true? Are we protesting the protest? Are we rebelling against the Reformation or are we helping the church to reform again to regain its status as the one holy catholic church?” Tallskinnykiwi wrote

Both at my previous church, Graceway, and now at Opawa, I have introduced a focus on Lent. This year this has included the Lenten 7-pack Practising our faith - a takehome resource with art and text, studies for our small groups and introducing mid-week Lenten study group/s. So why does this shortstubbykiwi support lent?

1. Easter is too important: For Christians, Easter is the highpoint of the church year. An event anticipated is much more likely to be an event celebrated. I liken it to a birthday party – the use of an invitation is crucial for building anticipation. Practising Lent allows us to send invitations to, and among, our church community. It allows the community of God to build toward Easter.

2. Lent is a great time to focus on discipleship: In Lent, Jesus is walking toward Jerusalem. The use of Lent, (and Advent) allows us to focus on the following of Jesus in discipleship. Every year Lent allows us to pause and remind ourselves of Jesus taking up the cross. Lent is thus like grit in our shoe. It works against “cheap grace.”

3. Lent allows us to accentuate the postive by building practises: I do not see Lent as time of denial, but as a time of building Christian practices. Here at Opawa we explore how Jesus lived (for example this year as part of the 7-pack Practising our faith we are focusing on his mission, his use of Scripture, who he ate with, who he included in his community, what his wallet said about his priorities). This has nothing to do with Don Carson’s “protest” but about our passion to live as Jesus lived.

Update: 4 – A comment by John Hebenton: Steve talked about some Lenten material he has put together around good practices. I really liked this. It reminded of the Irish Penitentials, which were about developing the virtues rather than penance for the sin. I have tried to approach Lent in that spirit this year Instead of just giving up computer games, I have thought about what virtue I wanted to build by doing that – spending time with my children. Instead of just giving up swearing at bad drivers, I decided to build the virtue of praying for peace for those who annoy me (bad drivers) – I keep forgetting this one. It has made all those silly giving things up for Lent so much more meaningful.”

Sorry tallskinny, I remain totally baffled about why a bunch of “Reformers” would be unhappy with my working with Lent as part of forming a community in the way of Jesus as revealed in the Biblical narrative of his walk toward the cross.

Posted by steve at 12:47 PM

Sunday, March 11, 2007

leadership resourcing

I met monthly with a group of leaders at Opawa, each tasked with providing leadership of an area of the church: from community ministry to facilities, from spiritual growth to children.

We gather for an hour to catchup, pray, evaluate and support each other. This year I wanted to further ground us in Scripture with a particular focus on wanting to let Scripture resource what are very unique and different roles. 1 Corinthians 3 and 4, are for me, wonderful leadership texts, offering 6 images of leader – as servant, gardener, builder, resource manager, cross carrier and parent.

So at the end of each meeting I have given our leaders a “takeaway” – a concrete symbol, with the Bible text attached and the questions – what challenges you, what encourages you. They are invited to sit with that symbol over the month, and return to share what it means for their leadership. (The attached photo is of a towel, representing leader as servanthood, and seeds, representing leader as gardener.)

ministryleaders500.jpg

The first round worked brilliantly, with great discussion and really honest sharing. It takes very little of our meeting time, and yet sits with people over the month, inviting them to apply the Scripture to their leadership living.

I blog this, wondering if the use of symbols as takeaways for ongoing group work, might be of some help to readers.

Posted by steve at 08:16 PM

Saturday, March 10, 2007

God at work group at Opawa

Today marked the beginning of the end of 13 months of planning. A year ago I wanted to orientate Opawa much more intentionally around workplace mission. I initiated the following:
: 3 sermons on work place spirituality, in order to promote
: a 3 week God at work midweek discussion group (which 20 people attended)
: in order to invite those interested to form a regular and ongoing God at work group.

Today this regular God at work group started, with 7 people gathering. The group will be based not on content and information, but on a process of reflecting on actual workplace experiences, and how we might live as salt and light in our workplaces. The following processes will be employed:

a) Dwelling in the … work – a person will bring a workplace experience. It could be a practical work problem or an ethical work problem or a theological wrestling. The group will listen to an experience, will explore by asking what strikes us? or what questions do we have? and then reflect together and back to the person who shared what they are hearing.

b) Dwelling in the … Word the group will engage with a Bible passage relevant to the work area, by listening, exploring by asking what strikes us? or what questions do we have? and then reflect together on how work and Scripture link.

c) Dwelling in the …. practise a person will bring a particular work practise: it could be individual (a prayer, a practise), it could be church-based (work prayer for Sundays, shaping a work-place pastor), it could be community-focused. And these will become a concrete way to respond as God@work followers.

To run the group will require a scribe to document what is happening, a keeper of the conversation as safe and focused and an organiser of times, dates, reminders, drinks.

The group started today. The processes worked well and all the responsibilities were picked up. The processes will ensure that the group does the work and generates life within itself.

Each year we will re-run the 3 week God at work discussion group, thus allowing those new to Opawa to engage, to keep this mission before the church and to ensure new life drips down into the regular God at work group.

It is a dream come true, due in no small part to Nigel, from the UK, who served with us setting up part of this project last year. Thanks Nigel. Thanks Opawa for letting me dream and plan. Thanks God who loves this world and it’s workplaces.

Posted by steve at 09:57 PM

Friday, March 09, 2007

more lenten resources

A few weeks ago I highlighted some Lent and Holy Week resources. Here are two more:

Tears of lament: “The triumph of life takes place at the edge of death” Jacques Derrida
Running in Highgate, Dunedin, this church are using Lamentations as the basis for creating a “House of Sorrows.” They are wanting people to post prayers and stories of the ‘lament’ in our present world. You are also welcome to send to them a small piece of cloth/rag, which will be placed in their church as part of the House of Sorrows; thus creating an installation that can give voice to lament and be a place for offering prayers of Hope. Sounds a fascinating mix of global prayer and installation and community.

liturgylogo1.jpg And there is some good thoughts on worship at this New Zealand liturgy site, along with suggested resources through the Church Year, especially useful for those who appreciate words well-used.

Posted by steve at 05:26 PM

Thursday, March 08, 2007

missional church and New Zealand

Update: I am exhausted but excited. Excellent day with the Anglicans and serious interest in 3 Dioceses in possibilities around the missional church leadership coaching course being offered in their patch.

The upshot of the Baptist group is a definite commitment to hold a gathering,(Tentative date is July 29-31, 2007), called something like sharpening the edge as an attempt to say “what is God’s mission in New Zealand today” and “what are the lessons we can learn from grassroots missional experiments?” We hope that asking these questions might make us all learners and sharpen both the edges and the existing church in it’s change processes.

The gathering will be Baptist in energy but open to all. It is going to deliberately include non-baptist mission stories.

The hope is an event that become an ongoing conversation. So the event will be based around practioners telling stories and a listening panel of wise heads reflecting feedback on the practioner stories. This listening panel will then stay on for some hours after the event, and further to reflect together on what they heard and the sharp questions raised. All will (dreaming big here) be recorded and podcasted. Thus we will end up with grounded community mission narratives and good missiological reflection. This will generate mission questions, from the lived experience of NZ, which should generate further and ongoing intentional conversations.

More details to follow but if you are interested in a genuine learning conversation about mission in New Zealand today, then pencil in 29-31 July. More details will follow on the blog, or flip me your contact details.

Original blog entry:
I have a most interesting 2 days ahead. Firstly a day in Wellington leading a retreat with the Anglican Ministry Educators Network, who want to know more about emerging church/fresh expressions. Then onto Auckland for half a Thursday to gather with a Baptist group who are wondering about some sort of national New Zealand Baptist missional church gathering. I will be fascinated to work, and walk, between two denominational systems and compare interest, skills and capacities.

Posted by steve at 07:30 PM

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

missional church resources

Allelon has a revamped website. It includes the new Roxburgh journal; which starts with the question; What is missional Church? which is a podcast interview with me, in relation to Opawa and missional church and change, recorded when Al Roxburgh was here in December.

So, when I asked Steve the question “What do you mean by this term missional church?” he started with a kind of definition then went into stories about the people at Opawa and the ways God was shaping a new imagination for the church out of the narratives of these diverse people. You’ll here the whole story in the Podcast and find some images on this page to help you get a picture of what Steve is up to.

It’s sort of wierd and sort of nice, that of all the places in the world to focus on terms of missional church, Al Roxburgh starts with Opawa. I do need to say however, that Al Roxburgh’s statement about “what Steve is up to” is way over-rated. I was sitting in the shower last week thinking the opposite; that I have no idea what I am up to. And being encouraged that God has a history of being in the chaos and so I am content to therefore be in the midst of that chaos.

Anyhow, check out the revamped site, which also includes Alan Roxburgh interviews with Craig Van Gelder and Pat Keifert.

Posted by steve at 11:04 AM

Sunday, March 04, 2007

How did Jesus use the Bible?

We limit not the truth of God, to our poor reach of mind,
by notions of our day and sect, crude, partial, and confined.
The Lord hath yet more light and truth; to break forth from his word.

(Hymn from the 1850′s by George Rawson.)

The Bible is important to Christians, who claim that Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim 3:16). And I think of Genesis 2:7 Lord God breathed into adam the breath of life. And of John 20:22, where Jesus breathed on the disciples, the new adams, and they received the Holy Spirit. The Bible as God’s life-giving Words.

The claim that Scripture is God-breathed in 2 Timothy 3:16 is then followed by a statement of what Scripture is useful for “teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”

Which got me thinking about how Jesus used the Bible. Luke 10:25-37 (the Parable of the Good Samaritan) is one of the most well-known Bible passages of all time. So how does Jesus uses the Bible in this passage?

(more…)

Posted by steve at 10:52 AM

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Lobotomised Christians and the Colonial Cringe of New Zealand: Interview with Steve Taylor

The latest CS Arts magazine is out (March 2007). The magazine is Christchurch produced and aims to resource the arts community from a Christian perspective. The design and layout is always top notch. This edition is called “The Big Picture” and the focus is film. It includes an interview with me; titled “Lobotomised Christians and the Colonial Cringe of New Zealand.” Here is my 2 favourite parts:

“I often think Christians are lobotomised, walking around with heads that have no appreciation of beauty, creativity or image. Art, or engaging with film, reminds us that we are made whole in ‘the image of God. To be authentic disciples, to be a true church, a whole church, we have to have these kinds of discussions.”

and

“The danger for the church is that it thinks it always owns the conversation. Film is a chance for us to listen to someone else’s voice. We need to listen in a way that respects that voice and doesn’t colonise it. That’s the danger of using film. The other danger is it just becomes an illustration of your point. So the use of movie clips in sermons etc. It’s like going to kindergarten, it’s a good start.”

For the entire edition, go here. I am on pages 6 and 7.

Posted by steve at 04:42 PM

Thursday, March 01, 2007

UK applause

I wrote an article (3,000 words) last year, titled “Emerging, established or re-emerging?; which explored some theological and ecclesiological themes around the story of our move to Opawa Baptist, and the change processes around the planting of emerging church congregations, using a multi-congregation model, in an established church. It is a mix of storytelling and reflection on the Trinity. It has now published in the UK journal Ministry Today (Edition 38, [Northern Hemisphere] Winter 2006). (You can subscribe on-line to the journal).

They also carried the following review of my Out of Bounds Church? book

outofboundschurch.jpg

The Out of Bounds Church? Learning to Create a community of faith in a culture of change by New Zealand Baptist minister, Steve Taylor, should be essential reading for any one wanting to understand ‘emerging church’ for four reasons: first, this is a book by a practioner, who currently runs three forms of ‘emerging church’ while pastoring a traditional church in Christchurch. Second, it is a book by a theologian, who has applied academic rigour to doing mission. Third, it is a book by a person very much in touch with the cutting edge of today’s youth culture(s). Fourth, it is by a New Zealander, and, in this reviewer’s opinion, the New Zealand churches are very often ahead of their Western counterparts. Steve Taylor is an extra-ordinarily creative individual, and this is reflected in this book. I found this an unsettling book, for it makes me realise how much my church, along with most churches, is out of touch with contemporary culture … One question which this book leaves me with is this: is ‘emerging church’ dependent upon creative individuals such as Steve Taylor?”

What do you think? Is the New Zealand church often ahead of the game? How important are creative individuals for emerging churches? Would this be a good thing, or a bad thing?

Posted by steve at 09:05 AM