Friday, August 31, 2007

worship participation on fathers day

As a way of gaining participation around Fathers Day, we have been inviting people to fill these postcards in – THE BEST SEAT IN THE HOUSE Father’s Day First Class Seating, and send them to us. (Click to enlarge – 80K).

2007 fathers day promo.jpg

It’s a bit of thankful fun, with 2 fathers being given the best seats in the house: lazy boy armchairs, complete with free espresso and glass of bubbly and a Sunday paper. It’s also participation in worship, as we will be weaving the reasons on the response cards into our prayers and communion visuals. For me this is what liturgy as the work of the people is all about: it is not repeating words (whether sung or spoken) dictated from the front, but it is allowing people’s words and phrases to have voice in our worship.

Posted by steve at 01:06 PM

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

turn the page on poverty: book buying for justice

goodbooks logo.jpg

This is a great idea:

Every time you buy a book from Goodbooks – any book – we contribute all profits to Oxfam to help fight its global battle against poverty and social injustice. There is no extra cost to you. We do not mark up our books to cover this contribution; our prices remain among the lowest you will find; delivery worldwide is completely free, and with over two million titles in stock our range is one of the largest you will find. Help us open a new chapter in the fight against inequality.

Check out the great little animation here; with Kiwi and literary icons mixing it among an African village. Hey, you can even buy my book, The Out of Bounds Church? Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change.

Posted by steve at 10:48 PM

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

what is worship when our psalms are living?

This needs some good kicking around. From here

Is our Jesus fully human as well as fully divine? Are we fully human with Jesus? She used an analogy for worship of going to have coffee with Jesus – “If you had coffee with Jesus do you think he would want you to be real with him? Or would he want you to sit across the table saying ‘Jesus you’re high and lifted up. I glorify you. I love you. You are great.'” Would Jesus take delight in having his ego stroked? Or would he prefer that we were real with him, sharing our joy and pain, troubles, fears and victories with him? Donna used the analogy of parents with their children. Taking your child for a fluffy, do you want your kid saying ‘I love you mummy and daddy. You’re so awesome. I love you so much.’ Or do you do you want to see your children loving the fluffly, enjoying life, talking with you about the great things of life, sharing their worries and concerns, even sharing when they’re angry at someone or even you their parent!’ She used the quote from Irenaeus – “The glory of God is humanity fully alive” What does it mean to be fully alive? And what are the implications for worship?

For me, one implication for worship was kicked around and grounded here at Opawa on Sunday evening. We were looking at God’s Big Story (6 part series) and so it was time to explore the Psalms. They can be grouped into 3; as happy, grumpy, surprising.

I had set out 3 stations, with different coloured cloths (yellow, black, unexpectedly patterned purple). Each station had different symbols (globe and Bible, salted water, happy face) and different Psalms as examples (Psalm 8 and 1, Psalm 13 and 137, Psalm 40 and 118).

I talked about how Psalms were living (used the Carpe Diem clip from Dead Poets Society – can we lean forward and hear the whisper of people/psalm writers long dead)?) and so they have shaped worship for over 3,000 years.

So, as part of shaping our living worship, we took some time to name things we were happy and grumpy about. Some people were willing to have them read aloud, so we mixed their experiences with a line take from a Michael W. Smith song. So here was our living Psalm, mixing our worship today with a psalm and with communion.


Posted by steve at 01:31 PM

Friday, August 24, 2007

an economic playing with the Biblical text

This was last Sunday. At the door, everyone got given a card (about 5 cm by 7 cm). There were 7 different cards in total. 4 were Biblical characters – Micah, Joseph of Arimathea, Zaccheus, the sower. 3 were saints – William Wilberforce, Mother Teresa and our church treasurer.

So, here for example is Zacchues (click to enlarge): zacchaeus.jpg

I started the sermon by reading aloud a creative piece I had written, a contemporisation by re-writing the Parable of the talents in Matthew 25.

I then invited people into groups, and one by one, to show their card and to reflect on what that person might say to our contemporary economic issues.

An open mic session allowed group learning to be shared with the whole and their was lots of good feedback, as people moved between Biblical text and contemporary economic context.

Posted by steve at 06:09 PM

made in God’s image? guest post by Mark Stevens

A post of mine, large people and airplane seats, has set off a hailstorm of comments, and left me reflecting on how our Christian faith does, or does not, shape our perceptions of body image. How to talk about body size? Am I (Steve Taylor) personally hateful of fat people, as I have been accused of being? Why are we so sensitive, when our churches blithely proclaim we are “made in God’s image”? What on earth can “made in God’s image” mean in our world today?

So I have invited a number of people to guest blog around the theme of “made in God’s image.” Here is the first guest blog, by Mark Stevens. I welcome any other guest contributions, as we keep trying to talk (in contrast to shout) with each other about an issue that is deeply personal.

“Why, if Christians are made in the image of God, is it so hard to look at ourselves n*ked in the mirror?”

My first response to the question was a cheeky “speak for yourself”, however, the truth is, like most people, I find it hard to accept who I am in the flesh. I wonder why this is the case? It’s like the dream where we are n*ked and walk into a room, so we go out of the room and put clothes on and then re-enter the room only to find that we are n*ked again. Why don’t we just say “stuff it I’ll just hang around here in my birthday suit”?

I was recently reading an article about Angelina Jolie in which the journalist remarked, that in person her “features are disproportionate, almost cartoonish. What looks beautiful on film is actually outsized in person”. The same brave journo further remarked, “she is just a freakishly fortunate fraction of a millimeter off not being beautiful at all”[1]. Who decides the parameters of beauty in our culture? Obviously someone has set a benchmark against which this journalist can judge Angelina and by which we often judge ourselves. When it comes to body image it’s as if society is trying to build its own Babel of beauty; trying to create humanity in their image. When we look at ourselves naked in the mirror I don’t think we see ourselves, so we want to leave the room and get dressed and then re-enter. Often, unless we are very disciplined mentally, we see what society tells us we are not! The benchmark has been set, not by imago Dei but rather by imago humanas!

We are surrounded by images and messages telling us what our bodies are not. Unlike the journalist’s judgment that Angelina is a millimeter away from not being beautiful, we are told that our bodies are a mile away from being acceptable! The challenge is for us is to live in hope of God’s image for us. The gospel affirms who we are holistically, not just spiritually. When we look in the mirror we are often looking at the effects of sin slowly creeping across our ageing flesh, and, we are unhappy with this reality. In the immediate, there is nothing many of us can do (excluding exercise and healthy living, which I believe all of us can & should do) to stop this process. Nevertheless, God is redeeming us slowly. Like the Israelites longed for a land, we long for our new creation body so that one day we can hang around in our birthday suit without having to leave the room!

[1] The Australian Magazine, Being Angelina, p18, August 18-19 2007

Posted by steve at 12:39 PM

Thursday, August 23, 2007

why missional is as easy as changing two letters

I suddenly realised how easy it was to become missional. The publicity brochure arrived from the historical denominational seminary. They used to train missionaries and pastors. Now they were missional and pastoral. So easy. Simply add “a” and “l” and you’ve got missional.

Contrast this with some reading today; “Integral Leadership can be taught“:
“Heifetz’s methodology implies that leadership can be taught, but it is not an easy task. It requires two major changes: methodological change and change of attitude toward learning. Given the second requirement the new methodology places the participants in the midst of what’s happening. Involvement is the key.”

In other words missional leadership is not a theory, nor a set of readings, nor a program. It’s a whole lot more than adding an “a” and an “l”.

Practically, today, as I prepared for my next Missional Leadership class, I am emailing asking one student to lead Dwelling the Word. I am emailing another student asking if we can use their assignment (a reflection on their real church community) for a case study that I will have to interact and engage with on the day.

Let’s not add two letters onto our slogans until we’ve done the hard working of placing participants – real church communities and real church leaders – in the middle.

Posted by steve at 02:38 PM

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

a lemon a day keeps the teacher at bay

lemons.jpg I walked out of class today to find a bag of lemons in my pigeon hole, a gift from a caring student, who had noted a lecturer with a head cold (and sore ears). A student who could have gained top marks if only it was a pastoral care class!

Posted by steve at 09:58 PM

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

mission and leadership in Dunedin

I will be in Dunedin Thursday, November 22, doing a day long seminar on themes of mission and leadership. Topics will include

Learning from an Ancient Text

Mission with a Kiwi Accent

Creating Community with a Missional Imagination

Creating a Community of Faith around Spiritual Practices

Leader as Change Agent (hoping to provide this as a takehome DVD option)

and ending with dinner, a social evening, for those interested in eating and drinking with me!

Posted by steve at 10:20 PM

Saturday, August 18, 2007

counting worship attendance

Tomorrow as part of our morning congregation, we dedicate Grace Ngaire Russell. Her immediate family moved from the UK to NZ two years ago and as we were planning the dedication a few weeks ago, they were telling me about their use of the webcam to keep in touch.

“Oh,” I said, “The church is on broadband. Why can’t your family in UK watch the dedication live through the internet?”

A few tech experts, and a few technical trials over the last 2 Sundays, means that in a few hours, DV and TV (God and technology willing), UK-based Russell family members will be clustered around their computers watching worship at Opawa Baptist Church.

Which only leaves the question: How do we count church attendance as we move into a cyber future?

Posted by steve at 06:32 PM

Friday, August 17, 2007

The parable of the missing talents

I have been preaching on the topic of Jesus and money. One of the business people in the church asked me what I thought was an excellent question: what would Jesus have said if one of the people in the parable of the talents (Matthew 25:14-28) had lost money. It got me thinking about how domesticated the Parable has become, and prompted me to have a go at contemporarising the parable in light of contemporary ethical issues.

Any suggestions to the “What would Jesus say? gratefully accepted, as Sunday’s coming!


“Again, it will be like a businesswoman going on a journey, who called her servants and entrusted her property to them. To one she gave 3.5 million dollars, to another 1.5 million, and to another 700,000, each according to their ability. Then she went on her journey. The one who had received the 3.5 million went at once and put his money to work and gained 3.5 million more. So also, the one with the 1.5 million gained 1.5 million more. But the man who had received the one talent went off, and placed it in Kiwisaver.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them. The man who had received the 3.5 million brought the other 3.5 million. ‘Master,’ she said, ‘you entrusted me with 3.5 million. See, I have gained 3.5 million more. I set up a sweat shop in Thailand and used bonded labour to supply cheap chairs for growing churches.

What would Jesus say to that?

“The one with the 1.5 million also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with 1.5 million. I invested them in the share markets and foreign exchange currency. But I lost my money when the Kiwi dollar crashed.’

What would Jesus say to that?

“Then the man who had received the 700,000 came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard woman, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was careful and cautious and planned for my retirement and I invested in Kiwisaver. When I retire, I am sure that you will get what belongs to you.’

What would Jesus say to that?

Posted by steve at 05:22 PM

Thursday, August 16, 2007

key missional phrases emerging from waikato diocese

I’m back from Waikato Diocese. (This is my 3rd Anglican clergy conference I’ve spoken at in the last few months (leaving Dunedin in November and Wellington in April next year)). There were about 130 leaders, apparently their best attendance for a long time. I’m very tired: two 90 minute sessions on the Tuesday, followed by four 90 minute sessions on the Wednesday …. slot in the after speaking people interaction, along with getting the powerpoints and video files ready for the next session … has left me quite fried.

There were a number of really nicely phrased understandings of mission, that emerged from the first session’s interaction with Luke 10:1-12: Firstly, get into their culture and secondly, centred on everyday.

Thirdly, in response to my asking where church was in Luke 10, came the phrase meeting where people are at. I turned this into a question back: Where do people meet in your diocese? and very quickly, from around the room came the answers: malls, cafes, schools, workplaces, RSA, bus stops, internet, stock sales, hospitals. A very grounded understanding of the missional movement of going, rather than expecting a coming to a building.

On the Wednesday two potential research projects began to bounce around the room. Firstly, the need for a gathering for storytelling and brainstorming around emerging and rural ministry, which I think needs to include developing a website of ideas and resources.

Secondly, a “green zone” gathering, a NZ wide Anglican gathering of pioneering leaders, to tell their stories, listened to by a few Bishops and key leaders, around two questions – how to sustain existing pioneering leaders and how to train pioneering leaders.

I am not sure what my place in these projects needs to be, but I wonder if they are some next steps in the mission journey.

In the meantime, both Auckland and Waikato Dioceses have expressed interest in my Missional Church Leadership year long coaching program. This will involve me flying to Auckland and Waikato monthly (starting late September 07 and ending August 08) to work with a group of people who want to take missional leadership learning further, integrated with on-line learning and coaching around developing mission projects in one’s local context. There are some spaces available, and I’d quite like some non-Anglicans in the mix, so let me know if you’d like to join. Here are some more details: Download file.

Posted by steve at 09:37 PM

large people and airplane seats

Update: While debate continues in the comments, I have invited a number of guest blogs around the theme of Faith in body image. Here is the first one: Why, if Christians are made in the image of God, is it so hard to look at ourselves n*ked in the mirror?

This might not be a very PC post, but I think airlines need to have a policy about large people and airplane seats. I pay good money for my seat. I expect to be able to use the whole seat that I pay for. Why should half of it be taken by another person? Why should I have to sit huddled into the window, unable to move?

When you board the airplane, the airline checks your carry on luggage is not to large. They provide a metal frame, and if your bag can’t fit, you can’t carry it on. It’s time airlines provided a similar, metal seat at check in. If you hang over the edge, then you need to pay for two seats. Pure and simple.

Come on large people. Stick up for yourself. Stand on your own feet. Stop expecting skinny people to subsidise your travel.

Posted by steve at 06:08 PM

Monday, August 13, 2007

waikato anglicans

I am back on the airplane again, flying up to be with the Anglicans in Waikato. I have been asked to speak around themes of leadership and mission, titled Learning to create a community of faith in a culture of change. Here is my schedule;

Tuesday 14th

3:30 to 5:00pm: Learning from an Ancient Text

7:30 to 9:00pm: Mission with a Kiwi Accent

Wednesday 15th

9:00am to 10:30 am: Creating Community with a Missional Imagination

11:00 – 12:30 pm: Creating a Community of Faith around Spiritual Practices

1:30pm: Workshop, Leader as Change Agent

It is very ecumenical and hospitable of the Anglicans to invite a Baptist. I had a great time with the Anglicans in Auckland in July, and May in Christchurch. I always gain a lot from these types of encounters, so am looking forward to it. Plus I get to re-connect with the most historic of the Prodigal Kiwi’s.

However, amid all this excitement is the realisation that this will be my 5th major speaking engagement in the last 6 weeks. That’s a fairly heavy schedule when I also have two day jobs as pastor and as lecturer, along with a family life to nurture.

Posted by steve at 11:28 PM

Sunday, August 12, 2007

videoblogging and sermons 2

“Tonight made me want to read the Bible more.” That was a comment made to me after church on Sunday. What do all those who claim that emerging church is soft on the Bible do with that type of feedback, I wonder?

Some months ago I blogged about the possibility of using videoblogging in relation to sermons. Well here’s the first go, by the brave and innovative Iain McMahon, which went live at Digestion church service yesterday.

The theme for the service was “journey and promise.” It was part of 7 week series titled God’s big story. We have broken the Bible up around themes of


JOURNEY, PROMISE: Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth

POWER + JUSTICE: 1+2 Samuel, 1+2 Kings, 1+2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, 12 micro:prophets (including Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi).

SONGS + SAYINGS: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiasties, Song of Songs, Lamentations

INTERTESTAMENTAL TIMES: what did happen in those centuries between the Old and New Testament

GOOD NEWS OF JESUS: Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Acts

LETTERS OF LOVE: Romans, 1+2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1+2 Thessalonians, 1+2 Timothy, Titus, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1+2 Peter, 1+2+3 John, Jude, Revelation

I was down to do Journey and promise, and had wondered aloud to Iain if he wanted to have a go at “videologging” around that theme. So the sermon/content bit started with me spilling wine on a white tablecloth. It’s what the Jews do at Passover, to remind themselves that they were once enslaved. So that’s where the Biblical theme of journey starts. I then gave a brief thumbnail sketch of Israel’s journey from Egypt to nationhood, from Exodus to Ruth.

Iain then showed his “videolog”, which turned out to be a contemporary probing of the theme of journey and promise. As the music played on at the end of the “videolog” I laid bread, broken, on the winesoaked tablecloth and inviting those who needed bread for their journey today to eat.

Initial thoughts on videoblogging and sermons:
1. It went surprisingly well.
2. It allows a multi-sensory experience of music and image.
3. It allows a world outside church – in this case the environment of Christchurch and the stories of people – to become part of church.
4. It increases participation – both in the skills of videoblogging and in the voices of those who speak.
5. The use of editing allows spoken participation to be sharpened up.
6. It takes time, and demands a new set of skills – for example in this case lighting and sound quality. This will lead to an ever-increasing tension around time and professionalism.
7. In this case the videolog flowed really well. But it might not always and what then?
8. Iain did it for blog. That is vital. It suggests and accessiblity and suggests that our congregation includes the web. This suggests a whole lot of interactivity: a webspace where others can post their journeys, a space to share what spiritual practises sustain journey, a place to log complaints about communities who don’t welcome the stranger and practise hospitality …

Iain will have another go with Songs and sayings on August 26. It will be interesting to see if this is just an experiment, or if it actually allows some very different ways of engaging with Biblical text to emerge for us at Opawa. In the meantime, we have individuals off to read the Bible more, which is good and healthy fruit to see developing among young adults today.

Posted by steve at 10:57 PM