Sunday, January 27, 2008

coffee is for community

Fascinating article in the Otago Daily Times about Kiwi cafe owners brewing up a storm in London. Features cafes like Flat White and Sacred Cafe. And I think the concluding remarks have something to say to emerging church.

cafe.jpg “It’s also the character and intimacy the typical New Zealand cafe offers its customers … large coffee chains have been kept at bay in New Zealand by the raft of smaller, independent cafes. And this approach to business is also evident in (the Kiwi run cafes in) London: all the cafes are small, charismatic, intimate, slightly quirky, and comfortable …. Independence is compromised by trying to be too big …. One of the key points … is the sense of community. It’s really the heart and the soul.” (Saturday 26 January 2008, page 51)

Community. Community. Community.

Posted by steve at 09:27 PM

Monday, January 21, 2008

an A to Z beginners guide to the missional conversation: part 2

OK, here’s the second installment. If you like to start your alphabet from A, go here.

I is for Incarnation. God is present. In Jesus yes. In the Spirit yes, present in the towns and villages of Luke 10, present in our world today. This is not a looking for God in the past, nor a looking for God in charismatic leaders, but a looking for God in our world today.

I is also for imagination. While the missional church listens to it’s culture, it is not seeking relevance or liberalism. Rather it is seeking the Kingdom. Which is easier to say than to define. Jesus defined it with stories of mustard seeds and coins lost, by pointing to lives changed and tables overturned. Hence I is for imagination, defined by the words, stories and actions of Jesus.

J is for justice. Luke 10 invites the disciples into towns and villages. They are to eat and drink at workers tables in which the labourer is worthy of hire. At these tables, the talk includes the hire of labour. A deep listening to not only the micro-, but the meso-, and macro- will include discernment of the economic structures, the powers and principalities that stand against the imagination of Jesus.

K is for Kingdom. Which we discussed under I is for imagination. So it only remains to simply note that missional conversation is way bigger than church and worship and Sunday.

L is for listen. How else can you hear what God is doing in the world around you? Jesus commands them to take no bag, no purse, no sandals. No sandals has echoes of Exodus 3 and the command to Moses to take of his shoes, for he stands on holy ground. Thank God that Moses put aside his bag and purse and sandals, listened and found God in a desert place.

L is also for leadership. Our world today offers us competing visions of leader. The entrepreneur who can start things and the CEO who can control things. Luke 10 offers us a very different vision of leadership as one who listens, as one who discerns what God is already doing, as one who names a Biblical imagination. The missional conversation gathers this job description with phrases like “cultivating environments” and the belief that leadership is about S is for Spiritual practices that cultivate I for Imagination, as unique I for Incarnation, needed for every T is for Table is unique.

M is for missional. Note the a and the l. Missional is different from mission. Mission has historically been, “I, over there.” In other words, individuals sent to other countries. Missional is about, “we, here.” In other words, the whole church sent to the context in which it is planted. Mission often had the odour our cultural imperialism, the belief in superiority. Missional has a humble questing belief that being sent to the towns and villages relies on our ability to be changed.

N is for Newbigin. A bishop in India for many years, who returning in retirement to his home in Birmingham, was shocked by what he saw. He wrote a chain of books, wrestling with the realisation that he had left a Christian nation but was returning to a non-Christian nation. It was he who first gave voice to the question: “Can the West be won?” The missional conversation continues to wrestle with Newbigin’s question.

N is also for narratives. When you sit at tables, you hear stories. Stories name identity, values and worldviews. They carry culture. In other words, stories are what you hear as you L for listen and D for discern.

More links
For A to H of missional conversation, go here.
For an A to Z of emerging church, go here

Posted by steve at 01:15 PM

Sunday, January 20, 2008

an A to Z beginners guide to the missional conversation: part 1

Faced with requests for clarity around the question of defining missional church, I recently road tested the A to Z beginners guide with 2 groups of church leaders. It seemed to be helpful. Here is the first installment.

A is for adaptive change. A survey of 200 university students noted that “When I graduate I will probably have a job that does not exist today” in a world in which “I did not create the problems but they are my problems.” This is adaptive change, the awareness that the skills and habits and training of today are of little help in the world of tomorrow. Missional conversation wants to wrestle with this context of adaptive change.

B is for Biblical. Missional church is resourced by close attention to Scripture. A recurring Scripture is Luke 10:1-12. Jesus sends out unnamed disciples. Their task is to accept the hospitality of their culture, by eating and drinking at the tables of local towns and villages. As they dwell deeply, the expectation is that they will catch sight of the unique fingerprints of God. These signs of the Kingdom are named as an invitation to the local community to participate in the ongoing work of the Kingdom.

This Biblical story of ordinary discipleship nourishes so much of the missional conversation: going not attracting, ordinary not guru, accepting the gifts of the culture not marketing seeker services, relationships not programmes, wholism of the Kingdom not narrowly focused agendas.

C is for context. It could also be culture. Or contextualization. All three “C” words remind us that Christian faith has always existed in a particular time and place. Hebrew is different from Greek, which was different from Latin, which was different from English. Which sounds different in the mouth of a New Zealander than in the mouth of a Canadian. And behind language lies values and behind values lie worldviews. The missional conversation pays attention to this reality. It asks what the speaking of Christian faith will look like in our particular time and place.

When I think of C, I think of my backyard. It is surrounded by fences, which provide shelter. It looks out to the Port Hills, which often catch cloud. My backyard is shaped by being part of the Canterbury plains, a stretch of land known for hot dry summers exacerbated by the influences of global warming. In other words, where I stand has multiple influences. The technical words are micro- (backyard), meso- (Port Hills) and macro (Canterbury Plains and global warming). Missional church pays attention to these multiple influences on context.

C is also for cultivate. But we will get to that under L is for leadership.

C is not for church. But we will get to that under K is for kingdom.

D is for discern. What is God up to? It is a question asked by those ordinary disciples in Luke 10, as they looked for signs of the Kingdom already present in the towns and villages. Missional conversation asks this question of our world today. It relies on some simple theological beliefs: that the Spirit of God is active in our world and that this Spirit of God points to Jesus. Discerning this Spirit is a gift and a practise, an art and a skill. Jesus trusted the disciples as the disciples learnt by watching Jesus.

D is also for dwell. And deeply. Dwell deeply. The missional conversation invites us to this deep dwelling in a Biblical imagination and in the lives of ordinary people. The missional conversation is aware that modernity has made us magpies. Magpies are a type of bird that likes to collect bright and shiny things, which it places in its nest, only to go looking for yet more bright and shiny things. Dwelling deeply is an awareness of our instinctive search for bright and shiny things; new program, new leader, new technologies.

E is for emerging. Missional and emerging should overlap. They overlap as they share a passion for mission in Western cultures, the belief that God is at work in our world and the commitment to discovering God’s future. Missional and emerging can also clash, especially when emerging church declares that everything old is bad because only the new is good.

F is for future. Missional conversation looks forward, believing that this is not as good as it gets. They draw on the Lords prayer; Your kingdom come, your will be done. As this prayer is prayed, so hope is affirmed, for we are called to participate in God’s ongoing work in the world.

H is for hospitality. Aware of Luke 10, missional inverts our notions of hospitality. It asks us not to invite, but to go. It suggests a need to receive hospitality in our culture. It does this because of I, for Incarnation.

More links
For I to N of missional conversation, go here.
For an A to Z of emerging church, go here

Posted by steve at 10:50 PM

Thursday, January 17, 2008

my dad the mystic

I’m really proud of my Dad. I asked you to pray a few weeks ago because my dad, who has multiple sclerosis, fell on New years eve and broken his hip. He was operated on for a hip replacement and is making a good recovery. People at Opawa have just been tremendous, so many in the church have visited the hospital.

Dad has made a good progress, aided by the fact that, in consultation with the occupational therapy staff, they made the decision that they would not try to get him walking again. Over the last year he has been increasingly unstable on his legs and the decision was greeted with relief. So Dad came home yesterday and I took lunch around for him and mum.

As I left Dad told me that he prayed for me every day. “I can’t walk, but at least I can still pray” he said.

I hope I age as spiritually and as generously as my dad.

Posted by steve at 09:00 PM

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

the offering

I was on holiday on Sunday and decided to pop along to Opawa. It was a wierd thing, turning up 1 minute early to the church you pastor, sneaking into the back row, simply to worship.

A neat thing happened during the offering. The money was collected, and then it was stated that one of our families was leaving to go and be a youth pastor at another church in another city. So the family were invited to come to the front because they were our offering.

It seemed so appropriate. This family have been one of our plus 5 interns. As an intern, we have supported them financially through there training, in there case probably some where near 14,000 dollars. We have also provided supervision by our staff for them, and offered yearly reviews of their ministry and progress, as a way of trying to partner in their growth and development. We have invested in them, and now they are leaving. We are the poorer and the church has just “made a loss.”

But the Kingdom will be blessed and so they are just as much an offering as every coin and automatic payment was that morning. Go well Warwick and Rebecca and Alyssa and Georgia Rose.

Posted by steve at 08:02 PM

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Edmund Hillary and a theology of atonement

Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mt Everest, died over the weekend. He was a man that perhaps best embodied “the spirit and essence” of New Zealand and will be honoured with a State funeral.

I used Edmund Hillary as an example in a sermon a few years ago. I was wrestling with the gap between the worldview of Jesus day and the worldview of our day, specifically how the world of Jesus believed that one person could represent all of humanity and thus first Adam, and second Jesus might be representative of sin and redemption. (My Bibical text was 2 Corinthians 5:14-15).

Yet when we approach the Bible, we do so from an individualized, Western worldview. In our world, one person does not speak or act for everyone. Which raises a crucial question for a theology of the atonement: How can Adam’s actions and Jesus as representative include independent, free-acting Western individuals?

And here is part of my sermon: Yet think with me a moment. Perhaps we do have our representatives? First, we do have representative New Zealanders. Look at our bank notes. On our $5 note is a portrait of Sir Edmund Hillary. When we think of Hillary, we think of toughness, focus, humility and giving, values that we believe might represent the best of New Zealanders. Hillary sums up many qualities that are representative of being a New Zealander. His values represent values we aspire to. There are times in New Zealand today, when one person does represent all of the people.

So might it be logical for us to see Jesus as on the banknote of Christianity, summing up all that is representative of being human. Jesus: loyal, healing, caring, deeply connected to God and people. Jesus is representative of human values.

So that’s my eulogy for Edmund Hillary, a man who in life offered a partial glimpse into what it means to be in Christ, to live life and live it to the full. (The sermon ended up in the a book, Proclaiming the Scandal of the Cross.


For more on my chapter, go here
For more on atonement, go here.

Posted by steve at 05:39 PM

Saturday, January 12, 2008

wedding dresses

Over this weekend we are celebrating the 50th wedding anniversary of my parents-in-law. Today I am leading them in a renewal of vows ceremony, followed by old time dancing, speeches and a barbeque at our place. (For me, it is a fascinating blurring of my life – I do renewal of vows services as a pastor but here I am on holiday and it is with my family.) Anyhow, last night the immediate family gathered. And the young cousins, 5 of whom are female, admired the wedding dress worn 50 years ago,

“Would they like to try it on?”

“Oh yes,” the heads nodded as the young eyes sparkled.

And one by one they paraded out, female cousins fussing over trains and sleeves. One by one they absorbed the admiring cheers of proud parents, were photographed by the family photo snapper and played the digital pictures back on the lounge room TV.

And I wondered – how important might this be for their formation into adults? Are they not becoming aware – by participation, by exploration – of the importance of being married, the specialness of this day?

Now the church talks a lot about the importance of marriage. But educationalists tell us we remember much more by what we do than by what we say. So how important was this last night – actually feeling a fabric of value, actually sensing the importance of a bride on a wedding day – in communicating values?

And if it is important for their formation, should the church be involved in some way alongside a family? Should this be a youth group activity of some sort or shape?

What would happen if every five years the women in a church gathered around the younger women and together they laughed and dreamed and talked? And the men gathered with the younger men and they talked about how hard it is to be a husband, the rough edges that get smoothed, the life habits that get honed by years of commitment and loyalty?

What could be the impact of such events on the fabric (pun intended) of our society?

Posted by steve at 09:15 AM

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Lenten 7-pack a spiritual resource for your Lent

Lent starts early this year (Ash Wednesday is February 6). For those looking for a Lenten resource; you might like to try the Lenten 7-pack. Developed by us at Opawa last year, and used by individuals, schools and other church communities around Christchurch, plus in Australia and UK, they are designed to encourage a spirituality2go, learn by doing approach.

The Lenten 7 pack includes
: 7 wallet sized cards. Each card has a hand-drawn image (by cartoonist Si Smith) + a Biblical text + a Lenten spiritual practice + a question to contemplate. The 7 cards follow the journey of Jesus toward Jerusalem. The cards are small enough to fit in wallets and on fridges. They allow individual practise and reflection over a week. (Here is the image for week 7, Jesus preparing to enter Jerusalem).

Copy of practice7forblog.jpg

: 7 accompanying study guides, allowing sharing and group learning around the practices. The guides include guidelines for forming a group, plus questions to facilitate interaction. Thus individual reflection is supported by community interaction. (So at Opawa we offered coffee in our church foyer on the Wednesdays of the Lenten period and people formed into groups to share and talk. An unexpected byproduct was that some of the people wanted to continue, so two new small groups formed as a result!)

: 7 sermons, used to introduce the cards each week of Lent (resource only, as your sermons will of course, be much better than mine).

The 7 cards follow the journey toward Jerusalem in Luke, as follows:
Partners with God; Luke 10:1-12
Love God, Love people; Luke 10:25-29
Search the Scriptures; Luke 10:25-37
Hope in Christ-centred change; Luke 14:15-24
Act with mission hearts; Luke 15:1-10
Seek a community of warmth and honesty; Luke 18:15-17
Apply a Kingdom vision to our resources; Luke 19:28-20

The study guide and sermons are free for orders of 3 or more. The cards costs $2.50 a set (7 cards in a set) plus postage. Costs allow us to offset printing costs and thank the creatives who gifted themselves to make this project possible. Orders to steve at emergentkiwi dot org dot nz

Posted by steve at 11:20 AM

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

life’s a beach?

With summer, comes the beach. Which got me thinking about Jesus and beaches. What did Jesus do at the beach? What would Jesus say if he met you at a beach this summer? Which lead to a summer Sunday church series.

With a postcard (each an image from Jewish beach)

postcards from the beach500.jpg

and a poem:
Waves slap
Sparkle on shore as disciples work, Called
to follow (Luke 5:1-11, January 6)

Water rages
As pigs plunge, Powers
to tame. (Luke 8:26-39, January 13)

Waves surrender
Sigh, as disciples rework their shore, Recalled
to love. (John 21:1-24, January 20)

Rocks tattoo
Surge, dropping debris to shore, Admission
to peace and prayer. (Acts 27:33-28:10, January 27)

Posted by steve at 11:19 AM

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

updated: prayers for my dad please

Updated: Dad had surgery and is making good progress. It remains to be seen how the multiple sclerosis will be at work. Thanks for all the emails of support and prayer. Much appreciated.

My Dad had a fall yesterday and is now in hospital needing surgery for a hip replacement. He’s got multiple sclerosis and I’m really scared about the impact of surgery will have on his overall wellbeing. What with this and losing our family rabbit last week, it’s not so far been our best summer holiday.

Posted by steve at 10:29 AM

sifting the spin and reviewing golden compass

I have a bit of fun being paid to write monthly film reviews for a church magazine. Which is great, except when I’m on January holiday. So with so much talk about Golden Compass, I decided to offer the job of reviewer to my 10 year old daughter. I’ve done this before with Lion, Witch, Wardrobe and she loved it. It gives the two of us time together, it gets her thinking about the movie and it is a serious buzz for her as she gets paid to be a writer. So we went on Sunday night and worked on the review together Monday morning.

My daughter walked out of the movie and announced somewhat crossly that she could not understand why the movie was rumoured to be anti-God. We had a good talk about that and she decided that the movie was not some much anti-God, but anti-groups that seek to control people’s search for truth.

So I asked her what groups (including churches) could do to avoid controlling people and she decided that they should encourage free talk and allow people to think for themselves. (Which, I noted to her, was exactly why I had wanted to see the movie with her. So a good lesson learnt about needing to judge something for ourselves.)

So did she like the movie? Not at all. Too dark – the setting of dusty academia or chilly North. No characters to admire. Lyra is brave, but also too headstrong for my 10 year old.

I will put the full film review up once it’s appeared in print. Until then, here’s a side thought I was left pondering. Lyra grows up in an adult world and meets adults who harm children. What does a movie like Golden Compass mirror in terms of the formation of children? Isn’t the most disturbing part of Golden Compass the fact that children can live in worlds made profoundly unsafe by adults who are meant to protect them and create a childhood to be a childhood?

Posted by steve at 10:22 AM