Sunday, April 29, 2007

Anzac Day worship

At the door, everyone got given (the free gift) of a red poppy. I talked in the sermon about Anzac Day and how it leads me to Jesus;
from dark to dawn
voluntary sacrifice (John 15:13)
that forms a new community (1 Peter 2:9, 10)
practising forgiveness and grace (Ephesians 2:13-14)
and in our dying, resurrection life is born (Galatians 2:20)

By way of response, people were invited to say thanks by pinning their poppy on a rough wooden cross wrapped by barbed wire. It was quite something watching people crowd forward and seeing the love.


Posted by steve at 10:57 PM

Friday, April 27, 2007

how to look at a painting: book of the month

howtolookatapainting.jpg I am loving this book, How to look at a painting. New Zealand art curator, Justin Paton walks us through art over the ages. Each chapter pauses at an artpiece, inviting you to look at the luscious fruit of Italy’s Caravaggio, the lonely landscapes of New Zealand’s Rita Angus, the dazzling panoramas of America’s Lari Pittman and the mysterious “tombstones” of Japanese artist On Kawara.

It is a gorgeously written book, a real page turner, (truly a rare phrase to use for a book on art), written with wit and style, making it a deserving winner of the 2006 Montana New Zealand Book Award.

Justin makes art approachable, making me want to race into an art gallery. I also read this book as a worship practitioner. There is lots in here that sparks my creativity and makes me think about worship in new and fresh ways. I’m off to ponder worship as texture and worship as colour. But not until after I’ve visited my local art gallery.

Posted by steve at 10:57 PM

Thursday, April 26, 2007

so why can’t those notices be worship huh?

I wrote the following email to some our ministry team on Tuesday. The background is that Sunday morning’s service was needing to include a baby dedication, a report back on a short term mission trip, a (ideally monthly) local mission focus, and a (ideally monthly) prayer for workers in their workplace – alongside the notices and offering. So we were trying to integrate all these together. I went home, thinking about worship, and wrote the following:

hi team,

Still thinking about all the negotiations today about bits in the services. Here are some reflections
1 – It’s a recurring theme over the last month.
2- It’s a sign of health that we have babies to dedicate, mission trips to report, ministries to promote.
3 – A church service should never be one long infomercial, a but “wait, there’s more …..”
4 – At the same time, it should be a time for the community of God to hear the stories and celebrate God among us during the week. This is worship not through song, but through the events of our everyday lives as an affirmation of God in all of our life.

So ….
what about if we worked at making more obvious that all the bits are in fact worship. They are not bits to be fitted in around songs, but are a healthy, vital part of our life that should get us going “praise God” (thanks) and “please God” (intercession).

So ….
what about we coin a regular part of Sunday. we call it say “community life.” we expect it to take say 15 minutes each service. what about we create a clear opening (set prayer?, set visuals) and a clear closing (pastoral prayer? and Lords Prayer) and in between, each week, we put the bits — the notices/offering/storytelling/red seat/etc etc.

what about if had an overall “leader” each week who were responsible to open and close and arrange the bits. they sit on the couch and interview people and pray. they ensure a mix of interview/video/ etc, so that it is not all talking heads. they are not the worship leader, and thus allow more participation and a different gift mix to be at work. the clear opening and closing allow the song worship leader to more smoothly integrate and link.

obviously it won’t happen this sunday, but could this make the “bits” more themed, more creative, more integrated into our worship.

any thoughts?

Posted by steve at 12:06 PM

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

anzac day dawn parade

poppies.jpg Christchurch Square. The place is packed. I have to park 4 blocks away, on the far side of Barbadoes Street. It is standing room only all around the Square, all at 6:30 am on a public holiday.

The PA system is not working and for a 30 minute service, we will basically hear nothing. Still the thousands in the crowd will stand motionless. There is no texting, no talking, no hilarity. Fathers hold babies. Children stand. Teens cuddle.

The service has good ritual moments – the trumpet, the gun volleys, the silence, the band playing, the wide variety of participation by bands and wreath laying groups.

There are 5 songs, with brass band accompaniement. But no one sings. Is this because we have no words? Or know no words? Or need no words?

Once finished, the crowd pour onto the centotaph. Young and old lay poppies, their poppies. I will go for breakfast and return through the square and past the centotaph 2 hours later. Still young and old are gathered, looking at the wreaths.

And they say there’s no such thing as Kiwi spirituality; when thousands of people gather at dawn, when they stand motionless for 30 minutes, when they remain for hours to personally adorn a memorial?

Posted by steve at 12:18 PM

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

so tell me how singing worship works

Dear worshipper, you who stand beside me, arms thrust into the air,

Please help me. I am lost.

You see, I love live music. But I don’t get singing. I listen to lots of music, most of the time I work. But very rarely do I stop my work and do nothing but sing.

I love Salmonella Dab. I love U2. When I go to their concerts, I do sing. But that is a by-product of entering into an experience. And they are good. And no matter how good they are, I could not imagine singing their songs, the same songs, week after week.

So I stand beside you, quite mystified. I feel strange, doing corporate, sung worship in church. Why do church’s sing?

For a long time I have stood beside you. For a long time now I have been feeling less than Christian. For a long time now I have looked around large groups of people singing and thinking “If I love Jesus, and they love Jesus, why am I bored. Why do I feel manipulated when lots of people sing the same thing?”

So dear “into-singing-worshipper”, I need some help. Can you explain to me: Why does sung worship work for you? How does it connect you with God? What do you do when the lyrics don’t match your experience? Why the pressure for the songs to be always new and up-date? How does excellence and musical quality work for you?

When people make put down comments about Baptist churches “your worship songs are old-fashioned”; “your music is not as good as it could be”; “you don’t know many new songs”, “you lack the freedom of the Spirit (to all sing the same hip, new song?) — what are people really saying?

I’m not complaining. I simply want to understand. Help me please,

Posted by steve at 06:41 PM

prayer for change agent pastors

Lord, we pray for Steve,
He has a large and difficult task,
we called him to make change in this church.
Yet when he opens the windows,
it is easy to complain about the draft/draught (word choice is yours),
We pray for him today,

This was a prayer prayed at our staff gathering today. If you would like to pray, for either Steve, or for a change agent pastor you know, add your initials in the comments.

Update: a sharp-eyed blog reader has pointed out the play of word around “draft” and “draught”. Since this was a prayer prayed verbally, I am not sure whether the person praying was meaning “draft” or “draught.” Isn’t the English language fascinating? Isn’t communication fascinating? Isn’t the way we got our Bible (oral words becoming written words which were for so many centuries read as oral words in church) fascinating?

Posted by steve at 12:14 PM

Saturday, April 21, 2007

earth day: where are the christians?

A reporter from Challenge Weekly rang yesterday. He wanted to do a story on us at Opawa Baptist, because he had noted that Opawa Baptist was the only church in New Zealand he had come across doing anything for Earth Day.

Since Earth Day, April 22, falls on a Sunday this year, all of our church newsletter’s will include a Sustainability insert. I am preaching on “what does the resurrection of Jesus have to do with the environment” at the 10:30 am service, part 3 of a 4 part series on “Yeah? Jesus alive. Right!” that explores what the resurrection means for our everyday lives. From 3 pm we are showing the Inconvenient Truth, and a scientist and Christian film reviewer will respond. I am then preaching on “On earth as in heaven: is the Kingdom of God good news for our environment?” on Sunday at 7pm, starting with this great video clip from the Simpson.

After the phone call, I was not sure whether to feel a lone leader, or a lone fruit loop. I had thought that people who worship God the Creator, and who meet on Sunday when it is Earth Day, would have quite a bit to say about the environment, particularly given all the current societal concern around global warming. Yet it seems that I think alone. Am I missing something?

Posted by steve at 01:01 PM

Thursday, April 19, 2007

emerging church CD-Rom teaching resource

Recently, I have been working on this …

cdcovercropped400.jpg .. an emerging church teaching resource.

It’s a CD ROM that includes 5 video clips, each about 5 minutes long, plus my emerging church research database. I use each of the video clips (stories of various emerging church leaders talking about their communities) for my 2 day intensive course on the emerging church. The emerging church research database is a list of about 80 web articles and blog posts that I have found helpful in describing the emerging church.

So, the plan is that each participant will get the CD ROM about 10 days before a course. The CD cover includes various emerging church pics, plus a list of questions. This will help the participant interact with the video material pre-class. It means that when we come to class, students will already have done some processing and be better able to engage the material.

If they want to do further research, they just use the database, which is hyperlinked, to take them to various articles. A lot of the best emerging church stuff is on-line, so this sort of guide should be really helpful for students.

There is also something in this about the medium being the message. To teach the emerging church by doing a monologue from the front so goes against the ethos of participation and cultural connectivity. Wheras I hope that to have a CD which invites you to participate more meaningfully in community, and which also acts as a jumping off point for further research, sends another message all together.

I am teaching the emerging church course in early May in Christchurch, then mid-May in Adelaide, then again in early July in Auckland, so am looking forward to beta-testing it with participants.

Posted by steve at 10:31 PM

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

the spirituality of preaching

On writing:
“I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all that it is cracked up to be. But writing is. Writing has so much to give, so much to teach, so many surprises. The thing you had to force yourself to do–the actual act of writing–turns out to be the best part. It’s like discovering that while you thought you needed to tea ceremony for the caffeine, what you really needed was the tea ceremony. The act of writing turns out to be its own reward.”

” … I try to help them understand that writing, and even getting good at it, and having books and stories and articles published, will not open the doors that most of them hope for. It will not make them well. It will not give them the feeling that the world has finally validated their parking tickets, that they have in fact finally arrived. My writer friends, and they are legion, do not go around beaming with quiet feelings of contentment. Most of them go around with haunted, abused, surprised looks on their faces, like lab dogs on whom very personal deodorant sprays have been tested.”

“But I also tell them that sometimes when my writer friends are working, they feel better and more alive than they do at any other time. And sometimes when they are writing well, they feel that they are living up to something. It is as if the right words, the true words, are already inside them, and they just want to help them get out.” From Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (New York: Anchor Books, 1994). (Hat tip Simon Holt).

This is so true. It’s the same with preaching. I type most of the stuff I say aloud word for word. It’s a discipline that has enabled the preparation to become a craft, an act of spiritual practice. I read and ponder. I drink coffee with people and listen. I come to Friday and I stare at a blank screen and I have no idea what I will say. I start writing. I am often amazed at what I articulate. At times I hate being a pastor and Christian leader, hate the pressures and the expectations, hate the exposure that comes from being articulate. Yet I would be a lesser person if I did not speak and write, because my inner world would be less clear, my spirituality more muddied. So do I pastor because I am selfish? Or do I pastor because the church really is gift and in my task of becoming more fully human I need it’s redemption?

Posted by steve at 01:08 PM

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Opawa Baptist Youth Group 2007 easter camp banner

all about me500.jpg

Posted by steve at 06:17 PM

Sunday, April 15, 2007

An inconvenient truth?

EARTH DAY: 22 April, 3pm-5.30pm
Opawa Baptist Church

Reflections on the science, theology and personal responsibility of climate change
* For anyone who saw Al Gore’s movie and was challenged or has questions
* For anyone who hasn’t yet seen the movie
* For those who want to know how they can better care for our earth
* For people who don’t think we need to care for the earth, but are willing to have their view challenged

With special guests:
Prof Geoffrey Savage (Lincoln University), Rev Dr Steve Taylor (BCNZ)

3-4.40pm Movie showing of “An inconvenient truth”

4.45-5.15pm Questions including:
How credible are Al Gore’s claims? Is global warming a given? How about the hole in the ozone? How do the CO2 calculations work (2.5 kg of CO2 seems a lot from 1 litre of petrol)? How concerned should I be to reduce my carbon footprint? As Christians should we care? Are we going to inherit a new heaven and a new earth? Therefore shouldn’t we feel free to trash the old one? Does God love the physical world, or only the “souls” that inhabit it? What does Colossians 1:15-17 mean for us as Christians as we consider climate change?

5.15-5.30 Questions from the floor (if time)

Concluding with Sustainable Living information packs.

Posted by steve at 10:24 PM

Thursday, April 12, 2007

creative play

Just working on a lecture exploring the place of imagination in the emerging church. For me, a critical missional issue is whether our emerging imaginations are formed by our negative experiences of church past. Or whether they are grounded in the creative and Kingdom story of Jesus. (The lecture includes drawing on a email conversation between Al Roxburgh and myself here).

So it was nice to get this blog comment:Hey Steve, on a separate topic, just wanted to mention that I used your tile painting along with moby idea, and it was a fantastic experience for everyone. And then click this link to find this:


So I found some old unwanted tiles underneath the deck of my friends’ home, left discarded by the previous owner.

I brought them to our creativity and spirituality class and had each student choose a tile. They were extremely grimy so they were each asked to go wash them off. As they cleaned the dirt off of the tiles they were instructed to imagine themselves as the tile being cleansed by the hands of God.

Some tables were put together with a large blue camping tarp laid over it. This again was to stimulate a fresh environment that was also conducive to creative messiness. Dollar store paint and brushes were laid out.

Somewhat inspired by Steve Taylor’s “The out of bounds church”, everyone was asked to silently reflect, imagine, and paint as I read from Genesis 1, while Moby’s track “God moving over the face of the waters” was playing.”

It is so encouraging as an author to get feedback like this, so thanks so much Lon. And what a great metaphor for imagining God’s redemptive work, taking old, discarded tiles and creatively redeeming them, bringing colour and vibrancy into the world God loves.

Posted by steve at 11:29 PM

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

critical missional issues in the emerging church

I am flying up to Auckland tomorrow to lecture a Masters intensive course titled Critical Missional issues: Emerging church. I am doing 3 days this week, and 4 days in October. (More info about the course is here.)

In the course I will be asking students to read the emerging church by analysing the everyday practices of local emerging church communities, rather than relying on the books and the blogs. I am then flagging what I think are some critical missional issues facing the emerging church.

Now, if you were teaching this course, what issues would you raise? What do you think are the critical missional issues facing the emerging church? (So as not to spoil your fun, I’ll wait until later in the week before telling you what I raised.)

Posted by steve at 06:54 PM

Monday, April 09, 2007

an American manifesto

Just browsing my way through my nice, new, shiny, hardbacked copy of An Emergent Manifesto of Hope.

It includes the following quote from Brian McLaren: “So I am hereby giving notice that I’m not interested in arguing with anyone about modernity and postmodernity, but I would very much like to engage in honest conversation about colonialism and postcolonialism.” (143).

Well said Brian. One of 25 chapters, written by 25 different authors. Oh. All American. Yahoo. 25 American voices starting an “honest conversation about colonialism and postcolonialism.”

Update: I have just realised the Easter irony. I write this on Easter Monday, the day after the Easter story was first encountered, and first told, by a Middle Eastern peasant woman. How truly post-colonial.

Posted by steve at 04:27 PM