Tuesday, September 29, 2009

getting excited

Today I will walk past this letterbox.

Tucked in behind Tabor College, where I will speak on Discerning the emerging church in the afternoon. Then in the evening I will speak on Picturing Christian Witness at Coromandel Uniting.

But first I will walk past this letterbox. It was shown to me last year by Mark Stevens and lies on the way to the funky Brown Dog cafe.

At this letter box, I will pause. And give thanks for creativity and spirituality and culture. And count down the hours until.

Posted by steve at 12:47 PM

Monday, September 28, 2009

Discerning the emerging church

I have just playing around with what I might say on Tuesday at Tabor College. I am due to give a 2 hour seminar, titled Discerning the emerging. The audience is meant to be a mix of under-grad and post-grad. So it needs to be simple, yet have some intellectual depth. A free night after a relaxed weekend has allowed me to pull together quite a few threads on my hard drive, which will ensure an all new, “fresh bread” presentation.

Here is my current working outline

1. Defining the emerging: some humour, some definitions.
2. Discerning the emerging in history: Acts 5, Acts 15 and an overview of the insights from The Holy Spirit in the World: A Global Conversation
3. Carson’s duality of truth from experience in Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church: Understanding a Movement and Its Implications
4. John Drane’s marks of maturity: old and new.
5. LeRon Schults reforming ecclesiology: the emerging as one, holy, catholic and apostolic church
6. Post-colonial mission: Luke 10:1-12 and an overview of An Introduction to the Study of Luke-Acts
7. Conclusion: Discerning is a gift, which we can nourish by working on our skills. Part of this working at our discerning skills is becoming aware of the methods of others – their strengths, their weaknesses. It is fascinating to see the development in the last few years of a range of approaches to discerning the emerging church. We need these resources, for discerning is an essential Christian discipline.

Posted by steve at 01:26 AM

Saturday, September 26, 2009

we go to a new land downunder

“change or newness is most likely to come from having people work at both the centre and the edge” Jonny Baker.

Which serves to introduce a pretty big move for the Taylor family. Over the last days we have been announcing to church, jobs and school that we are moving to Adelaide, Australia at the start of 2010 to take up a role as Director of Missiology at Uniting College.

Organisationally, I am intrigued by their desire to make a clear focus on developing leaders for a missional church, and feel that my experiences and training might add strength to that. I like their suite of teaching: under-grad and post-grad; lay and ecclesial; distance and on-site. I am fascinated by the way they are seeking to make context their primary forming place (cf the classroom). I’d like to explore the possibilities of what could happen when the seminary of a mainline church places mission not as an extra or an addon, but at the centre of it’s intention.

At a personal level, the job offers me more time to write. It continues my lecturing focus and my leading focus, building a team of lecturers. It offers some new leadership stretch, including working on a personal dream, of gathering critical reflection around missional experiments (hopefully through post-grad offerings). There is encouragement to continue in congregational ministry, but that would need to be as part of a team, not as the primary can-carrier.

At an emotional level, it’s a big change and we’re all pretty nervous. But it’s very much been a family decision. We were very comfortable, very settled, loving our current life. But at Pentecost I preached on God as a God of surprise and that week took a call, asking me to consider the role. As we’ve prayed together as a family, there was an overwhelming sense that we need to trust (again) the God who has given us such good friends and church here in New Zealand.

Our “Opawa” announcement letter is here and includes more of our discernment process, including our kids participation. Everyone at Opawa has been so gracious and caring. However it is fair to say we are all pretty disappointed, because we as a church are in the midst of such a good season. So we are all pushed back to trust God.

So if you’re the praying kind – Taylor’s need to find a house, 2 new schools and move our lives across the Tasman sea. We also need to find a church community, ideally something nourishing for our kids, yet also something that lets Lynne and I play, cos we’re both keen to be part of (not carry the can for) a team in a missional context. Lynne will need to find a job once the children are settled. And Uniting
College/denomination need to get used to a Kiwi baptist. Our extended families need God’s love and assurance. That’s lots to pray.

Posted by steve at 12:05 PM

Friday, September 25, 2009

mission as climate change

My half day with the South Australian Baptists went well. Good questions, engaged group, good energy. I essentially talked about the Opawa story and the changes the church has been through, framed with a context of mission and change. I felt like it was my best attempt yet at telling the Opawa story in terms of frameworks of mission and change and this was most probably because I test drove two new frameworks.

Firstly, the concept of micro-meso-macro climates. It is a term I learned in my initial horticulture degree, which I have since taken and applied to mission and change. The idea in horticulture is that a fence, or some shade cloth can change the micro-climate of an environment. So can a set of hills or a river (meso-climate). So can a mountain range (macro-climate). In sum, the environment of a place is affected by all three aspects – micro-meso-macro.

So, in terms of church, I asked each person to think about their “micro” climate ie the 5 blocks around their church. We then listed those on the white board and instantly, visually, we could see very different and diverse climates are at work. They then told me, as the outsider, about the “meso” climate of Adelaide city, before I told them about the macro-climate that is the post-… West. In sum, the task of being leaders today is affected by all three aspects – micro-meso-macro. And so the wise leader sets about understanding all three climates as they embark on the change and mission journey.

I suspect that setting out this framework thus meant that as I told the Opawa story, they were hearing the story sensitized not just to the challenge of post-… mission, but also able to do the translation work because Opawa has a unique 5 block “micro” climate, in terms of the history of the church in the area, and the demographic of our community.

Second, I used a change diagram from Leading Congregational Change : A Practical Guide for the Transformational Journey. The diagram depicts change as 2 interlocking circles, with a central heart. One circle is change management, the other circle is spiritual practices, and the central heart is a theology of change.

What I find helpful is this: that it says – yes, we have to understand the sociological dynamics of change. Equally, such processes must be accompanied by a set of spiritual practices through which our Christlike character is shone, and based on a clear theology of change. It is an integration of best practice, Christ-like spirituality and Christian understandings of who is God and who are humans? All of which then provided a helpful framework by which to unpack the Opawa story.

All in all, an enjoyable half day, followed by a most stimulating lunch with the state-wide leadership team. How do we develop new leaders? What is the place of creativity in leadership? Can it be taught, or is it a gift? How on earth does a missional theology of missio Dei shift from head to hand, from theory to practice? A most stimulating day.

Posted by steve at 10:57 PM

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

travelling plans

I’m airborne again, on a 2 week plane-trip across 2 continents. A mix of research, writing and speaking.

Thursday – flying to Adelaide (4 am start).
Friday – Leadership in change with South Australian Baptists
Monday – I was meant to be teaching a 4 day intensive at Tabor, but they cancelled. Thankfully the Uniting College picked up the tab tickets and I will be hanging with them.
Tuesday – Discerning the emerging church seminar at Tabor College; then Picturing our Christian gospel evening at Coro Uniting
Thursday/Friday – flying via Sydney to Los Angeles to Durham, North Carolina for the Hype and feedback U2 conference
Saturday – U2 concert (Yep, it’s tough being a lecturer!)
Sunday – delivering my paper Sampling and reframing: the evolving live performance of U2’s Bullet the Blue Sky
Monday/Wednesday – returning via Los Angeles, Sydney, Auckland, Christchurch. Last big one for the year. Yeah!

Looking forward to it, but not looking forward to being away from family. Not looking forward to flying (I have a very tight connection that I’m already nervous about), but looking forward very much to the U2 weekend.

Posted by steve at 11:43 PM

pioneers and pastors – part 3 – an alternative lens

This is part 3 of a series of posts about how the relationship between pioneer and pastor might actually be held in creative tension rather than poles part. In an initial post, I focused on individual leadership practices, in a second post I expressed concern about the use of pioneer and pastor on our understanding of congregation. In this post I offer a lens which I have found useful.

Roxburgh and Romanuk (Christendom thinking to missional imagination, unpublished work, p26) use a three zone model to model life-cycle of a local church:

The Three Zone Model … visualizes the organizational cultures congregations and denominations form at various periods in their lives. It represents a dynamic of continuous change in organizational culture relative to the external environment. Church systems living in the discontinuous change now characterize Western societies will be continually shifting through these zones

This can be applied to a human life: babies and teenagers grow like crazy; but tend to get a haircut and real job and settle into more settled life patterns; which is followed by retirement. This can be applied to organisations – they grow in an adhoc, experimental, tentative way; they need to settle into more structured patterns; and will eventually face their need to die well. At each stage an organisation can resist the lifecyle, and choose to enter into destructive patterns.

Note that:
• life cycle process are normal. We should expect cycles of life, death and resurrection.
• change in any particular movement needs to be understood as part of a series of phases and not simply looked at in isolation
• all zones are valid and essential. For example, red zone leadership is a needed, required, natural part of the rhythm of organisational life.
• the diagram can help to identify what type of leadership is required in an organisation and to move to the next stage of the life cycle
• classical “seminary” training is often shaped by the blue zone or the red zone. Most church systems breed managers and encourage chaplains.
• different congregations and groupings in a organisation can be at different stages. At one time you can have parts that are being planted, flourishing or dying.

So this provides another way of thinking about pioneers. They thrive in the green zone. Leave them too long and they keep creating chaos. Partner them with “blue zone” people, and more settled and sustainable, managed patterns are likely to emerge. I suspect that this tension is what underlay Mark’s original post.

What then to do with pioneers as the organisation goes more blue zone? Send them off? That is one way, although it is hard on the pioneer and the organisation. Another way is to encourage the pioneer to develop another green zone within the organisation. However this might have practical issues, in regard to resources. It also requires re-definition, both by the leader and their community. Managing expectations is such a key part of leadership and these type of shifts are complex.

But it does NOT (IMHO) provide a way of thinking about pastors. We need to be pastoral in green and blue and red zones. In saying this, I am defining pastoral not as a title, but as a way of being – of walking alongside.

Part 1 leadership practices here;
Part 2 community here.

Posted by steve at 03:28 PM

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

worship in the down: in the premature death of child

A few days ago I described an “Up” act of worship I curated. Since then I have noted a post on Jason’s blog, lamenting the lack of online resources when gathering for the ‘down’ that is the death of a child. Which brought to mind two services I have curated in the last while: One was worship in the “down” of a miscarriage, another in the “down” of a 21st memorial service for a cot death baby. Both have a similar structure, so here they are, followed by some explanation of what I was hoping … (more…)

Posted by steve at 02:57 PM

Sunday, September 20, 2009

up as worship

Worship: all that you are responding to all that God is. So I prepared to lead worship today, aware of the impact that the Pixar movie Up had on me this week. To be true to that, and to what God had been saying to me through the movie, it needed to be woven into the worship. So here is what I curated.

The reading of a Bible verse that had been sitting with me all week: Romans 8:15 in The Message: This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It’s adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike “What’s next, Papa?”

An explanation of the movie: A fantastic family movie. The Taylor’s laughed and cried. It is the story of an old man who has a childhood dream. Grows up and never quite gets there. At the age of 78 decides it’s time to chase his dream. So he ties balloons to his house and goes adventuring. With the help of an unexpected stowaway, 8 year ld called Russell. Got me thinking all week – about Christian life as letting go, as trust, as adventure.

Visual: The Up teaser trailer.

Individual reflection: On your seats as you came in, you would have found a card. Three colours. If you got yellow – I invite you to think about a Bible story of generations coming together; green – people you know who are learning to trust; pink – a Bible character who went on an adventure.

Communal response: Now I invite us together to make an Opawa psalm
This morning we thank God for resurrection life
adventurously expectant, greeting God with a child-like “What’s next?”
This morning we particularly thankyou for generations who come together

… those with the yellow card, call out …. and a kid cut a helium balloon, which gently floated to the roof … as together we thankyou for generations who come together.

This morning we thank God for resurrection life
adventurously expectant, greeting God with a child-like “What’s next?”
This morning we particularly thankyou for people who know who are learning to trust
… those with the green card, call out …. and a kid cut a helium balloon … as together we thankyou for people who are learning to trust.

This morning we thank God for resurrection life
adventurously expectant, greeting God with a child-like “What’s next?”
This morning we particularly thankyou for characters who go on adventures
… those with the pink card, call out …. and a kid cut a helium balloon … as together we thankyou for Bible characters who went on adventures. Amen

and we transitioned into the Chris Tomlin song, Forever. It was a nice mix of individual and communal, visual and kinesethetic, culturally connective and Biblical.

Posted by steve at 11:18 PM

Saturday, September 19, 2009

my 9 year old a film reviewing silver medalist

I’m a pretty proud father of a nine year old who this week won the silver medal at the Australasian Religious Press Association annual awards, for a review of another medium.

Since 2005 I have written a monthly film review for Methodist Touchstone magazine. A number of times I have invited my children to write film reviews with me, believing that this both makes for a much more interesting review and helps them in their development both in faith and critical thinking. Joint father/daughter reviews have included Lion, Witch and Wardrobe, Hannah Montana movie, Golden Compass. And Prince Caspian, which has gained the plaudits of an organisation stretching across Australian and New Zealand. Very cool.

For those interested, here is the Prince Caspian film review. (And yes, I really must get around some time to putting all the other reviews up on my blog.)

Posted by steve at 11:29 PM

Friday, September 18, 2009

pay it around as part of community development

As a church we offer programmes for youth and children five nights in seven, attracting various age groups. While we used to provide these for free, we find that participants ended up quite disrespectful and demanding. So we have to tried to move toward a gold coin donation, as a way communicating value. However, because we live in a lower socio-economic community, this is a struggle.

As a result, we are going to trial the following in the next few weeks:

Aim: children who attend our local community ministries, and who are struggling to pay the “gold coin” donation, will be offered a chance to work with us, blessing community (in our annual Spring Clean, it will be our 6th this year) in contrast to working for us. In return the church will pay the costs of children participating in a set number of sessions.

Ethos: this will encourage a pay it forward in generosity and participation. Church blesses community, so that community can bless community.

Process: The week before, the children at the programmes will be offered a “voucher”, which explains the process and which kids take home to parents (this is so that parents know clearly what is going on). It invites those who might want financial assistance to join us on our annual community Spring Clean day.

On the actual day, kids and/or parents report to someone at church. After their task/time is completed, the children and/or parents have the “voucher” signed, allowing them “free” nights at the programme.

When the kids then turn up at the programme in the coming weeks, with their voucher (which children’s leader has copy of, in case kids forget), the voucher is “stamped.” The ministry leaders give the stamped and signed voucher to the Church Treasurer, who repays the childrens ministry out of Community Ministry Budget.


Posted by steve at 09:40 PM

Thursday, September 17, 2009

pioneers and pastors part 2 – the community

In an earlier post, I focused on the individual and how the relationship between pioneer and pastor might actually be held in creative tension rather than poles part. In this post I plan to focus on the congregation. As with the first post, this is birthed out of 15 years of experience both pioneering from nothing and pioneering within an existing set up.

I actually have enormous reservations about the titles pioneer and pastor when they get applied at a group level.

If one is a pioneer, then it is easy for the community to get lazy, because the missional energy has been embodied in one person. “Oh, we have a pioneer, and we’re doing mission (because we pay them to do mission for us).” If one is a pastor, as defined in modernity, then it is easy for the community to get lazy, delegating being pastoral into one person. “Oh, we a have a pastor who does that stuff.”

This is even more so when applied in parish based systems. As I understand it, in parish based system the church is responsible for the whole village. Turn around and call for pioneers, and what on earth have our “pastors” been doing? And who are they caring for now?

So we need some way to apply pioneer to the community and pastor to the community, to be a pioneer/astoring body.

I find Philip in Acts a perplexing, teasing sort of character in this regard. He has three faces. A first face is as a deacon, serving to ensure justice in his divided community. Seems to me that is pioneering, setting up justice-enacting ministries. Yet it is also pastoral, a practical caring. A second face is as the evangelist, in Samaria and then most notably, with the Ethiopian Enuch. Definitely a pioneer. Who is taken by the Spirit to another place, and does not gain another mention until Acts 21:7-9, when he has four daughters one of whom prophesies. He has disappeared from a “pioneering” ministry. Lost his mojo? Lost the cutting edge, the excitement of pioneering mission? Yet has given his life to discipling a family, which continues the mission of God.

What “box” would the church of today have ordained Philip for I wonder?

Part 3 – an alternative lens is here

Posted by steve at 11:30 PM

pioneers and pastors? poles apart or creative tensions

Mark Berry has written an honest and thoughtful reflection on leadership, using the lens of pioneer and pastor. He’s used the angle of entreprenuer to ask why we don’t allow some leaders to start and move on. (This of course flies against the big mantra/urban legend in Kiwi Baptist churches at the moment “long term ministry = healthy churches.” However, while there is one anecdote, I am still waiting for some systematic or statistical analysis of this). The comments on Mark’s post, including the facebook discussion, have tended to go in a structural way. Personally, denominational structural discussions drive me crazy. Most of us can’t fix denominational structures. But what we can do is reflect upon how we structure our own lives, where we place our energy, what drains our energy, what replenishes our energy.

So, here, practically are some of my reflections, based on 9 years pioneer/astoring at Graceway, starting from scratch, and now 6 years pioneer/astoring at Opawa, helping a 95 year old church explore a mission future. Both contexts have strengths and weaknesses. Both have required my pioneering and pastoring skills. (more…)

Posted by steve at 10:54 AM

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

pastoral worship curators

Probably the deepest longing in our cultures today is for fulfilling relationships and community. To know and be known. To love and be loved. The Church owns that space. We have neglected it. Let our title lapse. Sold our birthright. I know it’s not easy to build community when most of the congregation don’t want it. In fact it may be impossible. (In which case you should probably leave and start something new). But that’s not an excuse to let your worship curating drop to the lowest common denominator. Curate with heart. With passion. A heart for God, a heart for people, and a heart to see those people encounter God in life transforming ways. Relationships will flow from that. Any other motivation is unworthy of the title “worship curator”.

Mark Pierson holding the mirror to his own gift mix, because he’s one of the best pastors I know.

Posted by steve at 02:52 PM

shaking the dust aussie style

It was an unusual day weather wise on Monday here in Christchurch: hot, nor-west, the sky a hazy, leaden colour. Not at all typical clear spring weather.

And then this in the newspaper on Tuesday:

Weather forecasters were bewildered by the polluted atmosphere when contacted, but by yesterday afternoon, with some help from readers on both sides of the Tasman, The Press had solved the hazy mystery. Gale-force northerly winds blowing across inland parts of Victoria and South Australia on Friday and Saturday appear to have lifted vast amounts of dust from the dried-up Lake Eyre basin. From there, the dust blew across Victoria on Saturday and then over parts of Tasmania, where it mixed with falling rain to turn cars and outdoor furniture red on Sunday morning, before arriving in New Zealand late in the day. more here

So there you are. One of the Bible passages I use a lot in teaching is in Luke 10:1-12, a text about peace speaking, dwelling deeply and seeking the Spirit in the culture. It is also a text about letting go, about how mission includes seasons in which the people and contexts resistant to God’s shalom are placed in God’s hands. Literally “Shake the dust off your feet.”

So is this what shaking the dust Aussie style means? Dumping Lake Eyre on New Zealand? I’m about to head off to Australia next Thursday (to spend a day with South Australian Baptists, do a seminar on discerning the Emerging Church at Tabor and engage around Pictures of Biblical mission with Coromandel Uniting). Should I be taking this personally?

Posted by steve at 10:18 AM