Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fuller, july 07, living the text in a contemporary context

Just a heads up for those interested, that I’m down to teach a week long intensive at Fuller Theological Seminary July 9-13. The course, titled Living the Text in a Postmodern context, emerges out of my personal wrestling with how to use the Bible, week by week, with real groups of people, given that people are made with 5 senses, and that our world has gone much more visual and interactive.

In more formal words: This course will explore the communication of the Biblical text in a contemporary world, with particular missiological reference to the use of the Bible in the postmodern, emerging church. It will apply theological insights around text, community and culture, to the task of maintaining and communicating the integrity of the Biblical text with reference to postmodernity. As a result of the course, students will be better equipped to read and communicate the Biblical text in a postmodern context.

I taught the course at Fuller a year ago and had a great time with a great class. So my expectations are high and I am looking forward to being back at Fuller. The course is being code-shared between the School of Intercultural Studies and the D.Min program, so it can be done either as part of the Masters, or for the D.Min. (I have also been asked me to develop it for their Masters in Global leadership, which goes on-line to 50 countries, but that discussion is still on-going).

Anyhow, more details of the course outline are here. And last year Ryan Bolger was asking me about the course and what I’ll cover, so I did a 90 second podcast, if you want to listen here (450K). Or check out here for some of their learning from their class blogs if you want.

Posted by steve at 05:49 PM

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

kiwi Christians watching Kiwi film

I teach a course called Gospel and Film. One of the learning outcomes is for students to identify ways in which film may be utilized as a point of engagement for the gospel within contemporary society.

I have suggested to the class that we build a class wiki together. In other words, let’s look at a New Zealand film from a theological perspective and place our work on-line. This will occur over the weekend of August 3, and in preparation I’ve just built the wiki here. It took about 10 minutes using a site called

There are 8 members in the class and I will pair them, with each pair doing 2 New Zealand films each. Now we as a class are are open to suggestions. So, what are your top 3 New Zealand films that you would want considered from a theological perspective (asking questions like: In this film where are we? Who are we? What is wrong? Is there a remedy? What time is it?).

Leave your suggestions in the comments …

Posted by steve at 03:23 PM

is there a mission agency for the missional church?

Every 3 years in New Zealand, all the mission agencies get together. They call it Missions Interlink and it is happening June 5-8. The theme is “Remodelling Mission” and I’ve been asked to speak for 2 hours on the topic: “A Missional Church.” “Specifically we need to see the biblical basis of the local church being the main instrument in mission and where appropriate delegating responsibility to agencies to work with their people in fulfilling the churches vision.”

I said thanks but that the dates clashed with some existing teaching commitments. They moved the timetable to accommodate me.

I said thanks but I was in a really busy patch and would be unable to do any fresh work on the topic. They said come anyway.

I said thanks but told them that missional church actually offers a profound realignment for mission agencies. Missional church says that mission is not an extra, for over there; but that mission is the whole church. And that will set up an entirely different (and potentially quite uncomfortable) conversation for mission agencies. They said yes, that’s why they want me to come.


My worst case scenario is that I am going to be fed to some lions. My best case is that I could actually say something prophetically helpful. Anyhow, as I’m short of time, are any of my readers interested in doing some research and thinking for and with me? Here are some of my questions:
– what does the reality of a rock star like Bono advocating for justice and commercial movements like Red mean for mission agencies in our world today?
– what does missional church mean for traditional notions of parachurch mission agencies?
– does Luke 10:1-12 speak to the cross-cultural challenges of our globalised world today?
– can a locally missional church function into a cross-cultural context, or does the mission agency have some role (whether old or new) in that?

Posted by steve at 12:07 PM

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Prayer for creative workers

As a church, we try to pray monthly for some dimension of people’s work lives. This week we decided to pray for creative workers. We rang and interviewed about 10 people around Opawa, asking them questions like: how do you find satisfaction in your creative work; do you see this as being a dimension of your Christian life. If yes, how?; what could we pray for people who have a creative outlet like yourself. We then asked them to bring something of their “creative work” to display as part of the service.

For Sunday, I then wrote the following prayer:


Posted by steve at 03:47 PM

Sunday, May 27, 2007

come holy spirit


renew your church, for the sake of the world.

Our Pentecost 07 festival, the third Festival we’ve done at Opawa, is over (info on our Norwest festival 05 is here, and Spirit of Life festival 06 is here). In 2007 our focusing text was Ephesians 4:23-4: Let the Spirit change your way of thinking and make you into a new person. You were created to be like God, and so you must please him and be truly holy.

and over the Festival weekend,
we laughed: at Mr Bean and with a Trivia night

we thought: hard, as I did some teaching around “Who God is at Pentecost?” and “Who humans are at Pentecost?” Teaching notes are here (120K) and here (120K) if you want.

we integrated: applying teaching through videomaking, creating doves, making and painting model airplanes the colours of the Spirit, crafting music to reflect Jesus ascending and the Spirit descending.


painting planes.jpg

we appreciated God’s good gifts: in musical performance with Shooting Stars, Sunburn, Amy Hay.

So why would a local church throw a Pentecost festival?


Posted by steve at 09:58 PM

Friday, May 25, 2007

coffee and a community grounded around Scripture

When I arrived at Opawa, morning tea during the week was 3 staff gathered inside an inner office. It felt huddled and insular.

– 24 months ago we painted the foyer in warm colours and brought 7 sofas.
– 20 months ago we brought a coffee machine.
– 15 months ago I invited the staff to gather, using lectio divino, around the lectionary readings. No need for preparation. Instead we simply read the Scriptures and listen to it and each other.

Today 11 people sat in the foyer drinking coffee at morning tea. P + B were dropping by to test the coffee machine. R + J were being thanked for their voluntary IT role with us. J works for a local community trust and drops in for morning tea. L staggered in, having walked a long way to bring his money for our annual Pentecost festival. 5 paid staff are regular. The sun streamed in. The coffee was good, the conversation was warm. The lectionary reading (Ezekiel 37) prompted good discussion and excellent insights about life, hope, church, Christian living.

It felt open, real and Scripture focused. I like what Opawa is becoming. I like the sense of hospitality. I like the way that coffee and couches draw us together as a community. I like the way that Scripture is a seamless part of our life.

Posted by steve at 03:43 PM

Thursday, May 24, 2007

stories of failure

She pulled me aside in Adelaide and thanked me for my input. Then she looked me in the eye and said “You should tell a story of when you failed.” When people like that open their mouths – older, female, straight to the point – I listen. I listen very, very carefully, for this is real feedback. When people get that honest, I feel like time has stopped and I am standing on holy ground.

So I did. The next time I spoke I told a story of failure. It was to a crowd of 300 and it was impossible in a group that size to tell if the story was helpful.

Then this, from Cheryl’s blog:
stu from solace and i keep talking about setting up a website that tells the story of the things we do that don’t work… of the hiccups along the way, the failures, mysterious stuff ups. they far outnumber the things that go smoothly.

So tell me, oh beloved listeners. Do publicly told stories of failure help? How and why and in what circumstances?

Posted by steve at 10:56 AM

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

so how do lectionary readings work?

Today Opawa church is meeting. Part of the agenda includes some long term building plans. Another part includes voting on 2 new Board members. Both will make excellent leaders. Both are new to the church and under the age of 30.

It can be a risk, in a long established church, going through change, to bring the names of new and young leaders, and the Board have agonised over this.

So this morning, I open my Bible to the Lectionary reading for today. The readings are placed in our church newsletter and we invite all the church to read with us. The reading is 1 Samuel 16, the annointing of David. Look at verse 11: “There is still the youngest.”

Which made me laugh. Here we are considering new, and young, leaders. We have chosen a date some months ago, quite arbitarily. And now we have a Bible text that instructs the annointing of new, and young leadership. It is almost manipulative to read this Bible text, yet it is the Lectionary reading for the day.

How on earth does that work? How on earth can the Scriptures speak so clearly to our life as a church?

Update: Congratulations to Lucy Taylor and Lawrence Wood, who were voted on as new Board members last nite. I honour them and their families for being willing to take a risk and place their leadership development in the hands of Opawa church members.

Posted by steve at 06:24 PM

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

guiding boy racers or How Would Jesus Drive

Following yet another high profile road death over the weekend here in New Zealand, and yet another “boy racer” headline, I got to wondering: If you were doing a Bible study for boy racers, what Bible stories might be a helpful guide?

And HWJD? Not What Would Jesus Do, but How Would Jesus Drive? What would your print on the HWJD bracelet that you could give to a young male when they got their license? Here’s my first draft:
1. drive as if your father in heaven owned the car
2. drive as if your mother Mary was sitting beside you
3. drive as if your kid brother James was in the car seat
4. drive as if the Spirit was always clocking your km’s.

What about you? Does the Bible have any resources that might shape the way young people drive?

Posted by steve at 07:03 PM

are house churches biblical? part 1

I have always understood the following mantra: that the early church met in houses. So should we? But I was reading through Acts recently and I am beginning to question the mantra. I am wondering whether the choice to meet in houses might actually not be quite so simple. Hence my blog title. It’s slightly tongue in cheek, but I do want to work my way through the book of Acts, looking at where the early church did meet.

Acts 1:9 – outdoors-church, meeting outdoors in a public space. This included teaching and discussion. (Same again in Acts 2:14ff).

Acts 1:13 – Hired space. The disciples meet in an Upper Room. Probably the room used for the Last Supper. Perhaps part of a house. Perhaps a room to rent, like we have today in our local hotels.

Acts 2:46 – Religious buildings. They meet daily in the temple. We often think of early church as separate from Judaism, but that was certainly not the case in early Acts. They were still using a religious building, paid for already. They were still part of priestly (paid) leadership. So any move toward a house church was on the back of existing church buildings and existing paid leadership.

Next post in this series will be about Acts 3-5.

Posted by steve at 09:35 AM

Monday, May 21, 2007

film reviews: blood diamond and miss potter

Here are two recent film reviews I have written. The first is reviewing Blood Diamond, in which I conclude by pondering Danny (Leonardo Di Caprio) as a type of Christ figure.

The second is reviewing Miss Potter, in which I attempt a creative re-writing of The Tale of Miss Potter: “Once upon a time there was an author, and her name was Miss Potter. She lived with her mother in a home in London, underneath the shadow of overly protective parents. As a young woman, she was told one morning, “You may go into tea parties and (be chaperoned) down the lane with eligible young bachelors, but don’t go into the garden that is commercial book publishing.”

My other film reviews over the years have included;


Posted by steve at 09:20 PM

Sunday, May 20, 2007

pentecost festival

spiritresize.jpg Next weekend (May 25, 26) is Pentecost, which, along with Easter and Christmas, are The Big 3 in the life of the church. So here at Opawa we’ve got a Festival happening.

Friday we kick off with a family film and quiz show; then on Saturday evening we’ve got a NZ musical concert, with Shooting Stars, Sunburn and Amy Hay. Doors open at 7 pm and there’s a $10 cover charge. Just a chance to enjoy the gifts of God and the community of God.

During the Saturday, it’s Pentecost teaching; mixing head and hand.

9:30 am Bible + art + interaction:
Topic: Who is God as the Son ascends,
catching the human body into God

followed by hands on workshops including Kiz musical or art or videomaking. Considering for example: What visual images would you use to portray humans at Pentecost?

1:30 pm Bible + art + interaction:
Topic: Who are humans, as the Spirit drops down, like fire,
to enliven the body of God; by action, in communion, through community

followed by hands on workshops including adult musical or model airplane making or videomaking. Considering for example: How would you make and paint a model airplane to reflect what God is doing in the world at Pentecost?

This is the 3rd year we’ve done it. Every year registrations are slow and people at Opawa seem disinterested in the Pentecost teaching and the mixing of head and hand. I struggle to understand why people don’t get into it more. I just love the idea of doing something hands on, with others, playing, creating, coffeeing together.

Do we not advertise properly? Is the Sunday teaching considered enough? Are people too busy? Is the head to hand challenge too out there? Is the topic of the Spirit a bit too scarey?

Posted by steve at 09:53 PM

Friday, May 18, 2007

what it does it mean to be a Pentecostal?

Admit failure: that’s according to Acts 1:16ff, where Peter starts his sermon by naming Judas as one of the apostles and a sharer in ministry. No triumphalism. No ignoring leadership failure. The church of Pentecost publicly admits failure.

Inclusive, including women, in ministry: that’s according to Acts 1:14, where women and Mary the mother of Jesus are named. Their inclusion would have stood out to a 2nd century reader, as an indication that the church at Pentecost was a breaker of boundaries and a welcomer of all. According to Harvey Cox, Fire from heaven, the mark of the Spirit at Anzusa Street was not tongues, but the fact that many nations worshipped together. Again, an inclusive Spirit at work.

Bottom up leadership: that’s according to Acts 1:21ff, where new leaders are chosen from the ranks of those persons whom the prayerful community chooses to lead.

Know many Pentecostal churches around today that sound like the early church of Acts?

Posted by steve at 02:05 PM

Thursday, May 17, 2007

emerging church course in a local church

cdcovercropped400.jpg A friend rang, wondering how he, a rural worker, could engage with my emerging church course that I teach here at BCNZ. I put some information about the course and how it might work in a local church, together for him. Then I thought it might interest some other blog readers, so here it is.


Posted by steve at 05:30 PM