Friday, May 30, 2008

prince caspian

Went to see Prince Caspian, the latest Narnia installment, on Monday. First screening in New Zealand!!

Great movie. Better than Lion, Witch, Wardrobe – more humour, more humanity. Use of lighting was superb. Less overt theology though. Strong female characters, it was more a movie about Susan and Lucy than about Peter and Edmund.

Posted by steve at 04:28 PM

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

community demographics roadshow

The better half of the emergentkiwi partnership kicked off the community demographics roadshow in Christchurch today. A pleasing turnout of church leaders and it was great to see groups of people huddled together engaging around the needs of their neighbourhoods.

“What a gift” commented a church leader afterward.

AngelWings Research (that’s the business that Lynne and I run) and the Baptist National Resource Centre, in association with the Vision Network of NZ, are taking a punt and offering these Community Demographics Seminar. In the space of three hours you get
– a presentation on the composition of your city
– a detailed profile on your local community
– tools to help you get the most out of that profile
– time to work through your community profile, using those tools, with others from your church and with input from the researcher
– good time to network with like minded leaders
– ending with (creative) prayer for your city.

With Christchurch done, next up is ….
AUCKLAND: Thursday 26 June, Carey Baptist College, 473 Great South Road, Penrose, Auckland, 9:30-12:30 pm, and then

WELLINGTON: Wednesday 2 July, Miramar Baptist Church, 33 Park Road, Miramar, Wellington, 1:30-4:30 pm

Who is it for?
– Church leaders keen to better understand their local contexts
– Churches that are wondering what ministries they could effectively and usefully run into their local communities
– Anyone who wants further fuel for prayer for or engagement into their local communities.

Cost: $150 for demography profile (if not already purchased).
$20 for first person from church, $10 subsequent people from church, max $60 per church (up to 10 people). (No charge for Baptist Churches…)

Posted by steve at 06:33 PM

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

sermons, videoblogging and mark 14

Last year at Opawa we experimented with videoblogging sermons. Put simply, the idea was to get someone wrestling with Biblical text in real time, real life situations. So here is Sunday nite’s video sermon, with Paul, one of our pastoral team, wrestling with Mark 14:7; The poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want. But you will not always have me. We had sent this verse out as a text challenge during the week. We invited some people to respond to this verse as a rich person, and others to respond to this verse as a poor person. And then we played the videoblog.

Posted by steve at 05:13 PM

Thursday, May 22, 2008

counting sheep (if you must)

“Is the emerging church a sell-out to contemporary culture?” was the moot for a 60 minute debate I spoke at today. (Using the wonders of technology, I spoke in Christchurch, while my sparring partner was in the city of Auckland). An audience question at the end asked about conversion rates. If I’d had time, I would have named the following:

– If you must count, it is interesting to do the stats on the reported baptisms at Mark Driscoll’s church last year, to divide the number reportedly baptised (200) against their attendance (7000). It was about the same percentage (2.8%) as the average of all the Baptist churches here in New Zealand, and 2007 wasn’t a flash year for NZ baptists (1040 divided by 42,000 attenders = 2.5%).

– In a similar vein from David Fitch: “Missional churches are so much smaller. 6 conversions from a group of 25 over ten years would match (or exceed) the percentage growth of a typical mega church.”

– and some wisdom from a shepherd “I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent. Luke 15:3-7

Posted by steve at 10:03 PM

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

its about power

I flew back with someone from my congregation today. She was on a surprise trip home. As we flew, we talked about her work. It’s a new job, working not within a large hospital, but instead visiting homes in the community.

Her eyes sparkled as she talked about being in the home of another. She’s now a guest, dependant on hospitality of another. She loses power. And she loves it.

I told her about my day with the Salvation Army leadership. How I used Luke 10:-12, to encourage the church out of the institution and into the community. And the text encourages hospitality.

Last week Prodigal and I talked back and forth about the relationship between mission and worship (see the comments especially). And Paul has blogged more here.

The airplane/workplace conversation today helped me clarify things. For centuries the church has been in a place of power. Worship and spiritual formation are so easily placed within that place of power. People come to us, and we remain at the center of the conversations.

When you start with mission, in the homes of another, worship and formation are much more likely to emerge from places of powerlessness. Which to me seems to be what the way of Jesus was about.

I am not suggesting in any what that by going, sitting, dwelling, our gospel is diluted. I am rather drawing attention to the hidden power that so insidiously corrupts our imagination.

Posted by steve at 05:40 PM

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

is singing rational?

“whenever we speak or sing, we switch into the side of our brain that’s largely rational and analytical, so if the worship / sacred space is taking us into a space beyond ourselves, the singing will often bring us back” Fascinating comment by Cheryl, whose blog regularly pushes my creativity.

But I’m not sure I agree. I think it depends on what words we say. And I think it depends on how the human voice is invited to participate. I think of poetry; words but neither rational nor analytical. I think of the naked human voice and the way it calls to something mysterious. I think of the raw beats of dub, and the way they move my guts.

A few years ago I asked a visual artist if I could include some spoken words, to be said over the top of their artwork. In their reply, they commented “Steve, you are using words to open things up, not close them down.” It suggests that words need not be analytical.

One of Sinead O’Connor’s CD’s has a fascinating spoken word rant, extolling the power of the human voice, linking it with God’s creative endeavours. It suggests that words and sung words need not be analytical.

It is an issue that I am really wrestling with. I am concerned about the individualism of much church practice and I suspect that the reason churches create consumers is because they offer consumer practices. I personally struggle with sung worship, but I have rationalised it (irony noted), because I suspect it preforms a non-rational element in worship. Equally, I struggle with the individualism of much station based alternative worship and again, sung worship does invite a corporate way of being. Equally, I object to singing a song which dictates how I should feel and respond to God (in contrast to songs which are about God and who God is).

We are in a major experimentation phase with our morning service. Being Pentecost, the time when the Spirit disturbs the church, we have invited some of our visual artists to disturb the auditorium.

We have curtained off the front with floor to ceiling cloth, which has been backlit (in red, the colour of Pentecost). We have moved the preaching place into the middle of the space and brought in sofas to create a more surround sound experience. We have hung 2 Pentecost art installations. And have worked up 3 video screens, enabling us to run video loops.

And we have argued. And we have taken the criticism. Is this corporate church? Will it distract? Is this a mess? Why are we doing this?

My intuition says we need layers. We need words that are both mysterious and rational, we need music and singing used in ways that are analytical and emotional, we need ways to be alone and together, we need both our head and our hearts to sit with art and colour and symbol.

Thanks Cheryl for keeping me thinking (for your gift of words that help me form words :))

Posted by steve at 09:59 AM

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Is your Bible broadband? updated

Before you answer, think about the most recent church service you went to. Think about what practices affirmed the Bible was for the I, the individual? And think about what practices affirmed the Bible was for the we, the church?

bookkells.jpg So, is the Bible for the I, the individual? Or is the Bible for the we, the church?

Updated: Marty made this great comment, which I add below, plus a bold a contrary, counter practice, that I employed at Opawa on Sunday, as part of our “we engagement”. (This is not to say we’ve got it sussed, simply because I suspect that it is in this detail that the conversation needs to happen).

1. In our church, the preacher reads from the Scripture (most of the time) and then preaches from it (most of the time). Nobody else in the building gets to comment in that forum. No other voice is heard. Is the Bible just for the preacher? The congregations were asked what strategies they employed to discover the meaning of a new word, and the sermon was then shaped by the responses

2. Everyone is passive before the Scripture as the pastor preaches. Very little attempt is made to get people to process ideas for themselves. Must the Scripture be read in silence? respondents included a 8 year old boy and 4 others

3. Very little reference is made to the place of the Bible in the church member’s life outside of Sunday. Is the Bible for Sunday only? the sermon included the challenge for us to walk in the Spirit around our block and offered a range of practical ways to do this via a response form including preparing meals, emergency prayer, going on community prayer walks etc

4. Very few laymen get access to the pulpit. Is the Bible only understood by the ‘experts’? during the offering their was an open mic time, when as part of the offering, anyone was invited to share how the previous Pentecost weekend had helped them learn about the Spirit. In this way, the voice of the community was heard, and what was said was woven into the offering prayer

5. The Bible is usually only opened in the Sunday service after the children have been ‘removed’ to the children’s programme. Is the Bible only for adults? A psalm was used to kick off worship (although it was read by worship leader ie not call and response on any way.

6. Very few people bring their Bibles to church. Is there no link between home and church, as far as the Bible is concerned?

7. 70 minutes of the 75 minute service is filled with the voices of the preacher, worship leader, singers and church business. Does God’s ‘voice’ get drowned out? Why don’t we hear the Bible for half an hour?

Can we keep the comments going …. the particular practices which surround our use of the Bible ….

Posted by steve at 10:56 PM

Friday, May 16, 2008

the place of conferences in contemporary church life

What is it with larger, newer churches and conferences?

In the mail has just appeared my invitation to participate in some new thing that God is doing in New Zealand. And the vessel is some newer, larger church, via their conference, loaded with overseas speakers, who will bless me.

It’s my second this week. Which got me fascinated by the motive and the desired end point.

Is it because other churches have done it, so it’s sort of like a badge of honour, a mark of arrival?
Is it a marketing tool, hoping to raise the profile of their church?
Is it a recruitment device, luring other Christians who might then stay because the music is better?
Is it because God is more present in larger numbers and so in some spiritual way such events are useful?

I don’t want this post to become a bagging of larger churches. Instead, I am genuinely curious as to why a church would put advertising money and energy into this type of thing. Any ideas?

Posted by steve at 04:11 PM

Thursday, May 15, 2008

emerging church as countercultural

Is the emerging church a sellout to current culture? I am addressing this question at a BCNZ forum next Thursday.

Today, as part of my research, I am surfing the web and scouring the literature, looking for examples of emerging church as countercultural, as swimming against postmodern tides, as offering prophetic critique to the whims and whimsy of our world.

If you know of any examples, I’d love to hear them.

Update: In response to helpful comments, here is my basic framework.
1 – some stories of cross-cultural sell-out
2 – what is emerging church
3 – the missiology of Luke 10:1-12
4 – encouragements to the emerging church from Luke 10:1-12
5 – challenges to the emerging church from Luke 10:1-12
6 – so, is the emerging church a sell-out ….?
(If you want the paper, let me know and I will see what happens to it post-delivery).

Posted by steve at 01:25 PM

Sunday, May 11, 2008

broken glass Pentecost prayer

Pentecost invites us outside the walls of the church. So as one small part of this year’s Pentecost celebrations at Opawa, we offered an afternoon walk around our community, to visit sites of significance and hear their stories. We visited where the new motorway had cut a swathe in the 1970’s, the first bridge in the 1880’s, the historic local homestead, our school and a local community centre.

At the school, we heard the census data, that makes our community one of the poorest in the city. We were then asked to walk on, praying in silence.

We walked across the play ground. A broken bottle had been smashed and one by one, the group bent down to pick up the pieces.

Silently. And then carry the pieces in our hands back to rubbish bins at the church. Silently.

I think I saw the Kingdom. The people of God praying by picking up the broken glass in our community. In anger at such stupidity. In practical expression of God’s Kingdom come in our school playground as it is in heaven.

It’s a Pentecost moment I will never forget and there is no other place and no other community and alongside no other people I would have rather been than today at 5:15 pm on a bitter, rainswept Christchurch afternoon.

Posted by steve at 11:45 PM

Friday, May 09, 2008

disturb us O Pentecost Spirit

This week is Pentecost Sunday. In Acts 2 we find the story of the first Pentecost. It is the story of a group of dispirited and scared Jesus followers. Touched by the Spirit they find themselves disturbed. Such a disturbance becomes a profound reorientation, as they find themselves outdoors, in God’s mission outside the church walls.

As a church, we celebrate both these dimensions over the next weeks. Our worship space has been disturbed – both in the Pentecost art installation and in the new screens making a new front. It is part of a month long experiment. In the disturbance of these physical changes, we are invited, like the first followers of Jesus, to let God to profoundly reorientate us.

pentecost08a.jpg Spirit as fire, as gaunt, twisted willow; touching coloured houses; connecting with God’s world, and

pentecost08.jpg Spirit as fire, as gaunt, twisted willow; touching coloured houses; inviting your move; a jump toward black, or toward white?

In addition, we are providing 3 ways to make this reorientation practical:

1 – Join us at 4 pm this Sunday either for a seminar on Mission trends in the 21st century OR to Prayerfully walk and listen among our community.

2 – Join us at 7 pm this Sunday for a prayer concert, an evening of song and prayer for God’s mission, led by Jamie Wood, from Pioneers Mission agency.

3 – Takehome a self-denial globe as a practical way of considering your place in God’s mission outside the church walls. This will then become the focus of our 7pm evening services, Grow through Colliding Worlds, on May 18 and 25.

Posted by steve at 01:12 PM

Thursday, May 08, 2008

discipling today

Email from a pastor: I have been thinking quite a bit about discipleship in the church. The question that is in my mind is this. How do we do discipleship in the 21st century and in a missional context. I grew up as a Christian where discipleship was done in a formal group setring and it is all about how I should live a life that is opposite to the world. But I realise that if we are to resource people to be salt and light in the community, I would need to rethink discipleship and to look at how we can disciple people in the context of missions. I was interested in hearing about the preaching series you did at Opawa where you focused on behaviour and you gave out little information cards for people to reflect on and apply.

Can you help me in the following areas:

1. How should I do discipleship in the 21st century? (Do you know where I can get my hands on resources that helps me understand missional discipleship)

2. Could you tell me more about the preaching series you did? What were the
topics and could you send me the outlines of what you did and a set of those
information cards you gave out?

I thought there might be other’s interested, so have decided to post my email response, as follows …….

Excellent question. It’s a process/environment issue not a program issue, but that is not always helpful, so here are some concrete ways that we express our discipling:

1 – individuate with growth coaching – we have developed 1-1 whole of life coaching that allows us to start where people are at and walk alongside them relationally. It was joy to sit with our Growth coaches last nite and hear stories of lives changed. Lots of work has gone into this and a good place to start is here and follow the links.

2 – offer frameworks in regular weekly, evening block courses during term time eg Work/life balance, How to read Bible. These allow us to add concrete input into our seekers. So at the moment, we have quite a number of people new to the church, seeking God and bringing very little Bible knowledge. So short term courses allow foundations to be laid.

3 – shift from talk to walk, in our 7 practices of faith For more on this go here, for what is a mix of input, takeaway practices and return storytelling. It started life as a Lent series and we are now seeking to use them as a sort of introduction to discipling and membership, to give us a common vocab around a life lived Christianly.

4 – create accountable community in our God at work group – this might be a bit out there, but it is a process designed to focus people as salt and light in workplaces. It took a lot of foundation laying but the result is here . The group has been meeting now for over 18 months, quietly running themselves. They took our service on Sunday and it was magic to here them talk about God in their workplaces and the salt/light benefits gained by them meeting monthly around simple practices.

All this is the results of lots of trial and error. No formulaes or programmes, simply having a go.

Posted by steve at 03:17 PM

Monday, May 05, 2008

worship and new zealand music month

To celebrate New Zealand music month, I posted a short review of 5 Kiwi albums released in the last year. It has occurred to me since that each of the 5 albums have been incorporated in various shapes and forms into worship here at Opawa Baptist. For those what are interested in worship as “all that we are responding to all that God is” (superb definition from John Drane), here is how:

Salmonella Dub’s Heal Me has a track titled “Seeds” We used it to as part of Grow through gardening, over 3 weeks. We had a hanging basket. Everyone got given a “flower” laminated, on which they wrote their name and planted themselves in the hanging basket. It served as a call to worship. It became for me a very spiritual moment to hold that basket and then pray for those gathered to worship that evening, that they would grow.

Two albums; Tiki Tane, and Little Bushmen start with a track using traditional Maori instruments. We have used these tracks in recent weeks in our morning service as a call to worship, followed by this prayer:
We gather at a place on which many have gone before. Thanks for land on which we gather. Thanks generations worshipped in this church. Thanks for those who have shaped our faith, mentored and encouraged us. May our acts of worship continue your work of shaping generations for ministry in our world today. Amen

SJD’s album has a funky track titled Jesus, full of questions about the place of Jesus in our world today. We used it in our Grow through searching for the real Jesus. The service includes a time in table groups, in which people discuss together – as we listened tonite, what did questions would we like to ask Jesus if he was sitting beside us; and as we listened tonite, what words would we use to describe Jesus. The song “Jesus” made for a helpful soundscape as people talked in groups. What people discussed is then collected up, and placed on the Grow service website.

And, as for my top album, Into the Dojo, by the Blackseeds. Well they have a track titled “One by One.” With lyrics like “Come on and take me up, one by one” and being a song filled with up-beats, well, it’s a great song for during the offering! With a smile of course.

So there you are. Five examples of using songs in worship, honouring that pathway, as a layer allowing, “all that we are – even our contemporary musical life – responding to all that God is – alive in Aotearoa New Zealand today.”

Posted by steve at 06:15 PM

Thursday, May 01, 2008

new zealand music month 2008

It’s May, which means New Zealand music month again. The month dawned golden, with news that Flight of the Concords debuted at No. 3 in US charts. It’s been an excellent year for Kiwi music.

Salmonella Dub were back with Heal Me. While they missed Tiki Taane, their partnership with the NZSO was a wonderful blend of indigenous beats and luscious harmonies.

Speaking of Tiki Tane, he went solo. Past, present, future is not a great album, but it holds promise of musical creativity worth nourishing.

Another album from Little Bushmen is well worth a listen. Pendulum feels like a lot more of unified narrative that the Onus of Sand. Experimental and thoughtful.

SJD was back and I’m glad. Songs for a dictaphone is much more mainstream in sound than his earlier work. But it works, presenting a much more cohesive and accessible sound.

But my top album award goes to Into the Dojo, by the Blackseeds. Great beats. Laidback. Superb.

In the year ahead, I’m hanging out for the partnership between Richard Nunns and Paddy Free, and that mix of beats and indigenous Maori instruments. This is a definite creative stream in New Zealand at the moment. It has led to me trialing an innovation in our Sunday morning service, whereby we start with a brief recorded karanga, or musical call, using snippets of indigenous Maori instruments, followed by a prayer, acknowledging our sense of place and those who have gone before. Still waiting for feedback, but for me, it deeply connects me with God here and new in Aotearoa New Zealand.

What about you? What has been your musical highlights of the last year, and how has that enriched your connection with God?

Posted by steve at 10:19 PM