Friday, February 29, 2008

is is worth it?

every now and again, when I am dog tired in an aeroplane flying home from a speaking gig I wonder if it is worth it. An email today indicated, well ….


The course I did last year with Steve – “Missional Church Leadership,” enabled me to ‘envision’ Nyte lyfe [a new multi-ethnic evening service called Nyte Lyfe where we are aiming to provide a safe place [in the poorest community in our city] for the growing amount of people who are gathering on the borders of the church to engage with God] and so now we are just entering the ‘engaging’ stage – the first service is this Sunday (please feel free to pray for this if so led)

Posted by steve at 04:52 PM

camp bible

So it’s church camp this weekend. I am really looking forward to being able to simply hang with people, to talk and walk and laugh.

As part of camp, we’ve been wrestling with how we engage the Bible. We’ve got ages 0 to 80. We’ve got people from across our congregations.

So we’ve hatched a plan. On the Sunday morning, before morning tea, we will offer 4 different options. People can choose how they engage the Bible; whether by Bible Study, by Dwelling in the Word, by Godly play, or by interactive adventure. Over to them. Different options, but every option will be engaging the same Bible text (Philemon).

Morning tea will gather us and then, around the communion table, we will read the Bible text we have all engaged with, and then invite an open mic time, with people sharing what God might be saying to Opawa.

It will be fascinating to see how it goes and whether the offer of diversity around the Bible enhances unity.

(And, don’t tell anyone, but it is also an experiment for me in whether this could actually be a regular part of our life. I.e. on a Sunday morning could we gather for shared worship – then offer diverse options (say sermon, kids time, discussion, service in our community) – then return for communion together. And whether the offer of diversity might enhance our unity.

Posted by steve at 09:32 AM

Thursday, February 28, 2008

processing grief

(Some details blurred to ensure anonymity) I don’t normally have deep plane conversations. Yesterday was different. As I flew back from Auckland to Christchurch we started talking.

He was returning to New Zealand, to the house where his wife had died 2 decades ago. It was the day of a significant birthday. Party preparation was in full swing until the phone call came. Death by coronary.

And his world fell apart. For years he had travelled the world, stuck in his grief. Today he was returning. It was time to pack up the house and move on. It was time to live again. And so we talked: of grief and pain and death and God, of life and journey and the power of listening.

It was a sacred hour and I longed to mark it in some way. It’s difficult to mark sacramentality in an aeroplane.

So I mark this blog entry in respect for all who grieve: new acquaintances who are rebuilding lives, good friends who are watching a mother being consumed by cancer, my pain over the demise of a project I invested 9 years of my life into, the parishioner who today will lose their arm in surgery, the failing health of loved parents.

What rituals have you found to mark and process your grief?

If you want to share respect or name your processes of grief, feel free to leave your initials, or the initials of those you are grieving with.

Posted by steve at 07:38 AM

Sunday, February 24, 2008

welcome to my spot

It was my 40th birthday on Friday nite. I wanted to cook food for my friends. I wanted it to be at “my spot”, which is the rundown rumpty old holiday house/bach were I go to hibernate. I wanted to invite the people who have invested and given my life meaning. I wanted to have a storytelling, of life lived.

It was a fairly major logistical exercise: our holiday house is not equipped for 2 guests, let alone 40. The kitchen is too small (think no stove and no bench space. The toilet is compostable (think overflow issues). So the logistical exercise included outdoor barbeque, all salads pre-prepared at home and driven out, all guests invited to bring their own outdoor chair, but port-a-loo toilet provided.

And what a night. Flounder grilled on barbeque. Vegetables grilled with rosemary. Marinade meat for the non-vegetarians. 45 adults and 15 kids. Black Seeds great new album in the background. Standing outdoors with the huge horizons of Lake Ellesmere. Kids racing around. Storytelling from birth, through my early work days in Roxburgh, via training to be a pastor, Auckland life and now to Opawa. Laughter. Honesty. Cake. I thank God for the richness of my life and relationships.

Posted by steve at 10:01 PM

Friday, February 22, 2008

team changes

Our (paid) team at Opawa is changing. Amy Hay, who was employed 2 days a week in areas of youth and worship is stepping down in order to concentrate on her studies. And Craig Fairhall and Paul McMahon are joining us 2 days a week each in areas of mission and discipling (a search that began in October last year). So change and uncertainty. Excitement and sadness. All mixed together for us at Opawa.

It continues our commitment to team ministry by part-timers rather than sole charge leaders-do-it-all. It continues our missional journey, focusing us on mission and discipleship. At some point I might blog about the selection process, which was the most rigorous and innovative selection process I have been through. We worked with a Human Resource consultant, who gave a lot of sharpness and skill. It was a new experience for me and for those in the process, but was well worth it.

It was also a deeply God process. At one point we as a Calling group were a bit stuck. A radical suggestion was made and the selection panel went away to pray about it. The Scripture the next day, from the church Lectionary Reading, was 1 Kings 19. Elijah is called, unexpectedly, to anoint new leaders. It was the Scripture that I had used to shape the first year of my ministry at Opawa. I read it, amazed at how the Lectionary reading could so clearly read our life.

We will welcome Craig and Paul as a church family on Wednesday, March 12 and farewell Amy on April 5. For more on Craig and Paul,


Posted by steve at 07:38 AM

Thursday, February 21, 2008

lent cross [digital] 2008

People’s “digital” responses (in contrast to physical responses), in relation to the Lenten 2008 journey, are starting to roll in. In time I will get them up as rolling slideshow on flickr, but for now…. (and scroll down) enjoy the diversity ….

Posted by steve at 04:28 PM

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

lent cross 2008

lentcross2cropped250.jpg One of our artists, Pete Majendie, has made this cross for our 2008 Lenten Journey. It is in the shape of a door, which fits with our theme for the year; Building the Kingdom, not with a church building focus, but into our homes and workplaces. (So the cross is part of an ordinary domestic door, which will be opened for Easter Sunday).

The cross is designed to be a physical collecting point as part of our Lenten Journey. The actual journey through Lent consists of Si Smith’s 40 images and they are sent out among our community either physically (post) or digitally (email or cellphone). Then there are 6 set projects, (for more info on these go here), which allow people different ways to process the 40 days of Lent, at any level of creativity. Each project is designed to be displayed, again either physically (placed or pinned on the Lent cross) or digitally (through a website). More projects will be added each week, creating a growing momentum, and offering future participation for people next year (about 25 of our Opawa folk have asked for the resources).

The underlying idea was a desire to create a journey that could be done individually yet in community. So much of church stuff is based on come to us. What about go? So it was a great thrill on Sunday to place, on the Lent cross, photos sent to us from UK, Germany and another town in New Zealand and to have a sense that there is a global community walking Lent with us.

Posted by steve at 11:06 AM

you rang?

The phone went at 1 am this morning. When you’re a minister and the phone goes in the middle of the night, the heart tends to race. Car accident? Death bed emergency?

In a deep sleep, I jumped out of bed. Confused, I opened the door. Unfortunately it was the wardrobe. Difficult to get into and certainly no phone in there.

I found the proper door and just as I got to the phone, it stopped.

Perhaps they would try my cell phone. A frantic search found it, but no call.

By now my wife was by my side. “Our phone can track missed calls,” she said. So I rang the missed call.

“Hi, your phone has just rung this phone and I’m returning the missed call,” I said sleepily.

“Are you Kentucky Fried Chicken,” a voice that I did not recognise said.

“No,” I replied, “I’m not Kentucky Fried Chicken”

“Oh, sorry, I must have phoned the wrong number.”

Slowly I trudged back to bed. No parishioner injured in a car accident after all. No death side pastoral visit needed. Simply a midnight soul searching for a greasy takeway.

Posted by steve at 10:54 AM

Monday, February 18, 2008

sensational book

Lovely comment from Bob Carlton about my Out of Bounds Church? book here

“In his sensational book Out of Bounds Church, Steve Taylor writes: “How is the emerging church DJ-ing gospel and culture, mixing image and sound, ancient and future, to create a remix for a new world?”

Bob is picking up on my way of framing gospel and culture, in which I use the image of a DJ to analyse how the relationship between gospel and culture could be; that rather than see them as monolithic wholes that we either embrace in total, or reject in total, that instead we see our lives as samples, or bit-sized pieces and that we are sometimes juxtaposing gospel and culture, other times subverting gospel and culture, other times, amplifying gospel and culture.

I have continued to develop the DJ image since my book came out. Another example I find really helpful in terms of explaining the concept is the way that U2 use the song Bullet the Blue Sky in their Vertigo tour (DVD here).

The song was written in response to the US intrusion into Central American politics. 20 years later, they take that protest song and re-frame it in relation to US intrusion into Middle Eastern politics. Now, note the samples that are used in the song;
– US fighter plane visuals
– lyrics from ‘Jonny comes marching home again”
– Bono blindfolding himself with Co-exist label
– Bono placing himself in torture position
– lyrics from ‘Gangs of New York’
and the list goes on. Each sample adds layers of meaning, subverting, amplifying, juxtaposing meanings to produce a very potent piece of communication.

(I use this in my classes; Living the text – which I have taught at Fuller Seminary the last two years, and am due to teach in Adelaide this year, and Contemporary preaching, which I am teaching this Semester, starting Wednesday, at BCNZ here in Christchurch)

Last year I got to talk with Bruce Ramos, U2 lighting engineer. I explained my ideas and he nodded. “Yep” that’s what’s going on. “Intuitively.” (One of my goals for my study leave later this year is to write this up as a journal article.)

Posted by steve at 03:38 PM

Saturday, February 16, 2008

enjoying today


the album by Matt Shepherd. Matt is a Kiwi, and the album includes the lovely vocals of other friends I’ve met along my life journey, including Mark Barnard and Raylene Bradfield and it’s nice to have them in my room today. Titled Still small voice, it is a fusion of electronica and ambient, that works well as a soundscape, both for corporate worship and for individual pleasure.

Posted by steve at 09:26 AM

Thursday, February 14, 2008

emerging, Kiwi and anglican

Today was a day in preparation for my time with the Anglican priests-to-be at St Johns Theological College, Auckland on February 26 and 27. As part of their Anglican Studies Programme they are looking at Anglican Ministry: Contemporary Models and Challenges. They have chosen to focus on the emerging church and to invite a Baptist to help them. Very gracious.

The learning outcomes include:
• Describe the mission context of Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, and some of the challenges this raises for the Anglican Church.
• Describe and evaluate the emerging church as one model of ministry developed to respond.

I thought these 2 videos will be particularly appropriate: Rowan Williams on what Anglicans think of emerging church and how he would evaluate the emerging church.

Over the two days I will be addressing the following:
Tuesday 9.30 – 12.30
Lecture 1 – New soil = new plants = new church shapes
Lecture 2 – What is the new “soil” that is “postmodern cultures”?
Lecture 3 – A missiology for a postmodern soil

Tuesday 1.30 – 4.00
Lecture 4 – Identifying with the life of Jesus
Lecture 5 – Transforming secular space
Lecture 6 – Living as a community

Wednesday 9.30-11.00
Lecture 7 – The mixed economy that is emerging churches
Lecture 8 – Discussion and evaluation of the emerging church

And for those interested, here is my list of key Kiwi emerging church writings.


Posted by steve at 09:06 PM

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

an A to Z beginners guide to the missional conversation: 3rd and final part

OK, here’s the 3rd, and final installment in the A to Z beginners guide to the missional conversation. Thanks for all the positive feedback. If you like to start your alphabet from A, go here.

O is for ordinary. In Luke 10, the disciples are not named. The task of mission to given not to the high profile disciples, but to everyday folk. Missional church seeks a similar attention to the ordinary and the everyday. It believes that in the suburbs and at the urban street corners, among the lay and the old, the young and the inexperienced, God can be at work. Which is why it seeks to cultivate an open and participatory conversation at the tables of everyday life.

P is for participation. The future of God is among the ordinary people of God. Thus the missional church seeks to cultivate an environment in which these people are able to name the Kingdom. By nature, people are polite. They go quiet in the presence of experts. Hence the missional conversation is aware that entrepreneurs and CEO’s can silence people, the very people who might have the story that allows the Kingdom to be named. So the missional conversation seeks practises that get the table talking.

Q is for questions. The chain of questions set of by that one question: “Can the West be won?”

R is for Roxburgh, Alan. Author. Pastor. Consultant. And director of Allelon, who are involved in two significant missional projects – the Mission and Western Culture project and the Schools project. Both worth keeping an eye on.

S is for spiritual practices. Descartes gave us the dictum: “I think, therefore I am.” And so theology was offered to the head. Yet Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life. So Christianity is a relational way of living. In other words, spiritual practices. Practices overcome the separation of head from heart; of theology from practioners; of seminaries from churches, for what we do and how we act are expressions of theological belief. Missional conversation cultivates spiritual practices; like dwelling, like listening, like receiving hospitality.

T is for tables. That’s where you sit when you follow Luke 10. Tables takes the missional conversation from buildings and Sunday and places it in homes, amid relationships, with everyday conversations. Tables celebrates diversity, for the 70 disciples of Luke 10 went to different table in diverse villages. Thus the missional conversation asks you to consider the unique tables at which you sit.

W is for Western. Cultures of European origin, marked by a set of literary, scientific and philosophical ideas. It is in this context that modernity began to flourish and which exerts such enormous influence on our world today and in which the missional conversation seeks the Incarnational Christ.

W is also for women. At the risk of stereotypes, women tend to be naturally better at creating relational conversations and, thus are more likely to intuitively be missional leaders.

U is for …..; V is for ….; X is for ……..; Y is for ……….; Z is for ………. I am stuck on these, (along with G). Suggestions appreciated.

More links
For A to H of missional conversation, go here.

For I to N of missional conversation, go here.

For an A to Z of emerging church, go here

Posted by steve at 08:28 PM

Monday, February 11, 2008

offering practices

One of the good gifts that Jason King, one of our pastoral team, gave to us last year was a re-shaping of our offering practices.

As we designed Grow, our new evening congregation, Jason suggested that when it comes to the offering, we give everyone a piece of paper and ask them to write down what they are offering God in the week ahead. (This works really well at Grow, because the service meets around tables. So it’s easy to have pieces of paper and pens on each table, along with muffins and a range of other ways to participate.) Practically, this helps everyone to contribute, and avoid the embarrassment of only a few giving in a smaller congregation. Theologically, it reminds us that the offering is indeed about all of our lives, and not just our finances.

Personally, this simple change has radically transformed my sense of worship. As a person, I use automatic payments, so the offering bag has less connection. As a pastor, I attend three (of our five) congregations and even if I put cash in, it raises questions about which service I would do that at.

So the simple invitation to write down what I am offering, has allowed me to re-engage with the offering and to consider a meaningful contribution. I’ve written things like helping a community family move, work a long week for the church, enjoy a great day off. A very simple thing that has helped me connect my faith with my faith.

(Jason was with us as a Community Development Pastor for a three year period. This ended this month, and, in God’s goodness to Jason, he was called to North Avon Baptist. Thanks Jason for the gift of the offering idea and God bless you as you start your ministry this week).

Posted by steve at 05:06 PM

Saturday, February 09, 2008

dub and Christian worship (again)

one of my christmas presents was tickets to Salmonella Dub and New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and we went on friday night. a very rich night.

i was struck by the mix of crowd. definitely not a normal dub crowd i thought, as i noted the grey hair and more conservative dress style. but it worked. as i sat and listened to violins mixed with bass beats, traditional Maori instruments mixed with electonica, i thought of Opawa on Sunday morning. why can’t we mix classical music with dub?

back in 2006 I wrote a post, bemoaning the lack of dub music in Christian worship. that heart ache remains. dub is my natural voice. i long to love God “in my own language” (to use the words from Acts 2, the crowds experience of Pentecost).

Posted by steve at 11:17 PM