Friday, August 13, 2010

Fresh expressions. Import or Local (South Australian) produced?

I wrote the following for New Times, the monthly denominationl magazine here in South Australia. Others beyond might be interested.

South Australia is famous for our local produce – Kangaroo Island honey, Riverlands dried fruit, McLaren Vale reds. So it is worth reflecting on Dave Male’s recent Synod input in light of what is happening locally in South Australia.

Dave suggested that a fresh expression goes through a number of stages in their formative journey. This starts with “listening to God’s call”, moves to “loving service”, then is followed by “forming community” and “disciple-making”. The result is “church” emerging in a fresh space, opened up in response to the creative work of God’s Spirit.

So in light of Dave Male’s input the Fresh Expressions team cast an eye over what is being locally grown here in South Australia.

Candlelit Reflections at Modbury have sensed God’s call and their “loving service” has involved creating a quiet, meditative space. The next step in their “fresh expression” journey includes how to appropriately gather individual seeking spiritual searchers into community.

Fresh expressions are never only urban. In the Barossa, Greenock Uniting Church have seen people begin to gather around a building used for “loving service” not on a Sunday, but in a mid-week café with local art and craft. The next step in their journey also involves the challenge of “forming community.”

Hungry no more, at Mt Barker, has seen their “loving service” naturally lead into “forming community.” Their challenge now includes “disciple-making,” with the realisation that the people they are ministering with have unique needs. Hence discipleship and church will definitely need to take shape as a “fresh expression.”


A fresh expression journey is never linear, as is evident in the Esther project. An initial dream to form church around theatre production then took shape in 2009 around storytelling. Community began to form, but recent changes are causing a re-think.

City Soul or Eco-church would be an example of Dave Male’s final stage, “church” taking unique shape, whether around student life or environmental concerns. Both are locally grown, and missionally creative, fresh expressions.

The Synod Fresh expressions team are keen to build on these, and to encourage other locally grown products. The Regenerate pub conversation serves as a bi-monthly resource (for information contact Nicola Shaw at Uniting College). Plans are underway to offer a Fresh expressions vision day on Saturday, 27 November, 2010 and Fresh Expressions training through the Mission-shape ministry course in 2011.

Steve Taylor, Director of Missiology, for Fresh Expressions team

Posted by steve at 03:46 PM

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Transformation + worship: conversation with U2′s Willie Williams and Romans 12

Tuesday I had to speak for 5 minutes on the word “transformation” as it applied to worship. It was fun to try and say something in 5 minutes. (And gives a reason for some of the rant I blogged on Monday and some from Opawa might recognise fragments from a sermon series last year!)

I began with a projection of Willie Williams Lumia Domestica, as people walked in, helping to create an environment.

(This is an entire interview, if you’re pushed for time, start at 4:13)

On the screen is an art exhibition by Willie Williams. Called Lumia Domestica it aims to take the ordinary things, the everyday things, the domestic things, and see what happens, how they are transformed, when Light is shone on them.

The word transformation, and our topic – worship – brought to mind Romans 12:1-2.

 1Therefore, I urge you … in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed.

The word transformation, is, in the Greek, the word metamorphousthe, from which we get the word metamorphosis.

Rather than only words, let me offer you a visual reflection on transformation, metamorphousthe, and worship.

I then showed the following Youtube visual, for 55 secs. (Note – sound was OFF!!)

In Romans 12, transformation is about the whole of life. In verse 1-2; present your bodies. This stops us reducing transformation to ideas and the intellect.

Or as we are told in Uniting in Worship 2:1 “People are shaped by story, by narrative … Christian people are shaped by the story of Jesus …. The story is told through proclamation – which may include reading the Scriptures, preaching, reflection on Scripture, drama/movement, symbolic action, art, multimedia resources, and silence … ” So transformation in worship begins with attention to the whole senses of the whole body.

Then in 3-8; we are told of diverse gifts. Or as we are reminded in the Basis of Union: “the one Spirit has endowed the members of Christ’s Church with a diversity of gifts … there is no gift without its corresponding service: all ministries have a part in the ministry of Christ.”

This stops us reducing worship to the gifts of a few.

To quote Jonny Baker, new book Curating worship (for a review of the book, see here): “In many church circles the only gifts that are valued for worship are musical ones or the ability to speak well. This attitude needs shattering, and opening up so that poets, photographers, ideas people, geeks, theologians, liturgists, designers, writers, cooks, politicians, architects, movie-makers, storytellers, parents, campaigners, children, bloggers, DJs, VJs, craft-makers … can get involved.” (12)

Jonny argues for an approach to worship that is neither liturgical presiding. Nor is it choosing some songs and fronting a band. Rather it is what he calls “curating worship” an approach that like a art curator, seeks the best environment by which to showcase the whole bodies gifts and graces.

Then in Romans 12:9-21 the focus is how the whole world. As a result of whole bodies, the whole body is to “bless those who persecute you. If the enemy is hungry, feed them.”

This stops worship being for “I” and “we”, and instead offers us worship for “them”; for the transformation of the whole world.

To quote Paul Walton, introducing Uniting in worship 2 on ABC radio: “I think good liturgy is liturgy that’s not only understandable but connects with life as a whole.”2

Inviting whole bodies, honouring the whole body, for transformation, metamorphousthe of the whole world.

Posted by steve at 06:41 PM

What is worship? the theology of Francis Webb

And for me always the grave great peace is stronger
In flaring colours, and a laugh, and a careless singer

Two lines from “Cap and Bells” by Australian poet, Francis Webb.

I have been amid much talk of worship and church in the last two days. Talk of liturgy and order, of emotion and diverse giftedness. Sitting in the bath this morning, reading a new found friend, Francis Webb, those two lines quoted above stood out – the gift of colour, the sharing of humanity and celebration of risk.

For me that’s what worship is, a space to encourage humanity. In so doing, it makes Incarnational, possible, what 2nd century theologian Irenaues wrote:

The glory of God is man fully alive

That’s what Webb is articulating, the peace that comes amid colour, laughter, creativity. I want to find those people, those spaces, be part of forming those sorts of Christian communities here in Adelaide

Posted by steve at 08:33 AM

Monday, August 09, 2010

Creationary: the saints in Hebrews 11

A creationary: a space to be creative with the lectionary. (For more on what is a creationary go here; for other Creationary resources, go here).

I am struck by Hebrews 11:29-12:2. It’s all about the saints.

So I’d be wanting to plaster the walls of the church with saints. I’d be googling for images and I’d be choosing carefully and I’d be out and about with my digital camera. I’d be after pictures of the folk now in old peoples homes who used to come to church. And the kids. And I’d be going back through mission history, using say a book like Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today and putting up pictures of Brendan the Navigator and Alexandre de Rhodes.

And I’d get people wandering around during worship and looking at these saints and wondering why these folk are saints. Then the sermon could be a bit of a storytelling.

Or I’d make them up like playing cards (here is an example of some “economic” saints I used for one sermon). And I’d lead a meditation, inviting people to consider their biggest faith struggle, the question/doubt that most bugs them. And then I’d invite them to look at their saint card and wonder what, if anything, that saint might want to remind them of.

And for the benediction, I’d invite people to be taking a “saint home” – pull a picture off the wall, or take the card home.

And I might even, next week, ask if there were any stories, any moments when the persons saint came back to mind. (If my community were technology literate – cell phone and email – I might even think about sending them a random picture during the week and then use that as basis for a storytelling in the week following.)

Posted by steve at 12:43 PM

rant on creativity, or lack, in preaching and proclamation

This post has been bubbling for a while and should not be read as a reflection on recent sermons I’ve heard and worship I’ve been part of.

Back in May, someone pointed me to a few lines from Uniting in Worship 2. (See a fascinating ABC introduction here). This book is like the official worship book of the Uniting Church in Australia. It’s meant to be important in shaping Uniting worship.

On page 134, in a section titled “The Service of the Word/Receiving God’s Word”

“People are shaped by story, by narrative … When we hear stories again and again, we are shaped and re-shaped as the stories are told and re-told. Christian people are shaped by the story of Jesus …. The story is told through proclamation – which may include reading the Scriptures, preaching, reflection on Scripture, drama/movement, symbolic action, art, multimedia resources, and silence … ”

When I read that, I began to scratch my head. Which may include … stories and art and multi-media and movement.

Here is clear and written encouragement to be creative. Yet my experience is that in 99% of churches (all churches, not just Baptist and not just Uniting), proclamation is only every the first two, “reading the Scriptures, preaching”? Words, words, words. And rarely, if ever … stories or art, multi-media or movement.

Or to quote from Jonny Baker’s new book, Curating Worship, which I reviewed over the weekend …

“In many church circles the only gifts that are valued for worship are musical ones or the ability to speak well. This attitude needs shattering, and opening up so that poets, photographers, ideas people, geeks, theologians, liturgists, designers, writers, cooks, politicians, architects, movie-makers, storytellers, parents, campaigners, children, bloggers, DJs, VJs, craft-makers, or just about anybody who comes and is willing to bounce ideas around, can get involved.” (Baker, Curating Worship, 12)

What a gorgeous list. So with such encouragement and such potentially creative people sitting in our churches, what is it that so limits the church’s proclamation to spoken words?

Posted by steve at 10:42 AM

Saturday, August 07, 2010

review of jonny baker’s book curating worship

Curating Worship by Jonny Baker (although it should really be Jonny and co. and Disclaimer:  I am one of the co.!) is an excellent addition to the emerging church/missional church discussion. 

Curating worship is a term used to frame an approach to worship that is neither liturgical presiding nor fronting a band. Rather it is the skills of framing other people’s elements. It’s a ethos of participation:

“In many church circles the only gifts that are valued for worship are musical ones or the ability to speak well. This attitude needs shattering, and opening up so that poets, photographers, ideas people, geeks, theologians, liturgists, designers, writers, cooks, politicians, architects, movie-makers, storytellers, parents, campaigners, children, bloggers, DJs, VJs, craft-makers, or just about anybody who comes and is willing to bounce ideas around, can get involved.” (12)

Or in the words of the Uniting Church, Basis of Union, “the one Spirit has endowed the members of Christ’s Church with a diversity of gifts, and that there is no gift without its corresponding service.” Or in a Baptistic understanding, the priesthood of all believers. So curating worship is an approach by which the priesthood of all believers, with their diverse gifts, can find corresponding service in public worship.

What Jonny wants to do is write a book because “creative processes can seem mysterious and unattainable, even intimidating. The hope is that lifting the lid off the process and thinking might help demystify curating worship, and encourage people: ‘You can do it!’ (7)

He does this through what he calls 12 interviews with people involved in curating worship experiences around the world. While Jonny calls them interviews, I actually think they are conversations in which Jonny engages in lengthy to and fro. Because they are companions and friends, because relationships are established, Jonny can push and probe, asking some tough questions:

  • Does it matter if emerging churches remain small?
  • Arn’t some communities actually leading as artists and not curators?
  • What are the theological implications when alt.worship communities close?
  • What is the place of intellectualism?

Which makes this one of the most honest books I’ve seen from inside the emerging/alt.worship conversation. It also means a book in which the medium is the message – a book on curating in which the main author actually curates, shining the light on others. The range is rich – from public exhibition artists to pastors, from New Zealand through Australia to USA and UK, from those at the centre of churches to those off the edges, from lay to ordained.

The book has another heartwarming upside and that is the way it locates itself in a dialogue not with the church, but with the creative world, particularly the notion of curating as it has been researched in art and museum studies. What this means is a book that does not have to gain momentum by scoring points against other practices and practitioners in worship, which makes for a generous and creative read.

Curating Worship is an excellent read that marks a moment of maturity in the emerging/alt worship movement. First in articulating a clear and unique theology of worship. Second in conducting a critical conversation. Third in genuinely modelling a collective approach to authoring.

PS If you live in Adelaide and want to purchase a copy, I have a boxful of 20 books.

Posted by steve at 03:10 PM

Friday, August 06, 2010

your place or mine? hospitality as mission

I’ve been asked to offer some input to a gathering of church leaders in Tasmania in a few weeks (August 20-22). The title they’ve given me is this: Your place or mine: hospitality as mission. I said yes because I think it names a fascinating tension and one that has been nagging at me in recent days.

Back in April I was pondering mission in relation to the Zaccheus story in Luke 19. I was struck by how Jesus does mission at Zaccheus place, at his table, inside his home. Which, when I thought about it, was the dominant way the Gospel stories portray Jesus. He doesn’t give hospitality. He receives hospitality.

The exception is the Waiting Father/Prodigal Son in Luke 15, which has often used to frame mission and encourage the church to open it’s arms in embrace. Yet note the context in which the story is told – Jesus accepting hospitality, not giving it. Fascinating stuff.

I took this insight to my bookshelf and went through all my books on hospitality. Wonderful books on the banquet of God and the embrace of God at the Eucharist. But sure enough, almost all are about hospitality at our place. We are the host and they focus on how we give hospitality.

Which can so easily become occupied with mission as people coming to us, our turf, our churches, our terms, our worship, our welcome, our websites.

Which leaves a wonderful tension: How to integrate hospitality with the pattern of Jesus? What does hospitality in Western culture mean at their place, not mine! Any insights welcome as I begin my preparation.

Posted by steve at 09:31 AM

Thursday, August 05, 2010

one night while surfing: missio Dei on wikipedia

“Missio Dei as a term and concept became increasingly popular in the church from the second half of the 20th century and is a key concept in missiology being used by theologians such as David Bosch, Lesslie Newbigin, Alan Roxburgh, David Dunbar, Steve Taylor ….

From the wikipedia entry: (Missio Dei).

That’s some pretty humbling company to be among …. (but they are all male …)

Posted by steve at 08:03 PM

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

global missiology and church change: updated with visuals

Updated: For those interested, here is my powerpoint (mission and innovation for web) and (here) are my notes. There was a LOT of energy around especially the mission stories in history.  It is so easy for Westerners to slip into mission as definitions and yet the use of stories in history brought a lot of energy and challenge into the room and ensured that discussion of innovation and leadership had a global God of mission framework.

Question: Where was the best place to train as a missionary in the 5th century?

I’ve had a wonderful few days, weaving up some new material for a pastors training day tomorrow. The theme is mission and innovation and I’ve had some time to do two things.

First, to integrate some current reading around innovation, change and leadership (see here for more).

Second, to add a global mission framework. It is so easy for church ministers to focus on church and so I’ve enjoyed exploring some global mission. Specifically to add a quiz, using the first thousand years of church history, which is an Asian, African and Middle Eastern history. And to add some stories, of wandering Celts and the first missionary to Vietnam in the 16th century. It is important to see fresh expressions and church change as powered by missio Dei and I’m hoping that this global mission horizon does that. This is in 4 pieces, so for those interested (more…)

Posted by steve at 04:47 PM

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

developing change leaders book review – Ch 7 Developmental approaches

I’m speaking to a group of church leaders on Thursday on the topic of mission as innovation, and again in a few weeks to another group on change, so it’s back to a book review of Paul Aitken and Malcolm Higgs Developing Change Leaders: The principles and practices of change leadership development. (For the review to date: Chapter one here. Chapter two is here. Chapter three is here. Chapter four is here. Chapter five is here. Chapter six is here)

First, great (amazing really) to see an opening quote (from Dance of Leadership, The: The Call for Soul in 21st Century Leadership, by Kiwi author, Peter Cammock.

Leadership is a dance, in which leaders and followers jointly respond to the rhythm and call of a particular social context, within which leaders draw from deep wells of collective experience and energy, to engage followers around transforming visions of change and lead them in the collective creation of compelling futures.

This suggests a focus away from leader-centric models of leadership, to the relational aspects of collective change leadership. Collins is cited, that great leaders have two essential dimensions – humilty and persistence.

Then comes a fascinating section (165-173) naming ways leaders can develop. Things like move to a foreign culture, shadow an arbitrator, become a volunteer.

This is followed by a number of case studies of leadership development within organisations. Let me take one, that of developing emerging leaders in the New Zealand public sector. This involved a development centre and a leadership program. The focus was based around a set of leadership competencies. The focus was an experiential learning through peer challenge, self-revelation and team learning in a safe environment.

Each person developed a portfolio, to document their learning over 9 months through the following stages.

  • Stage 1 involved identifying prior leadership experience
  • Stage 2 involved some input (a 1 week course) combined with personal goal setting around “lever” activity (self-awareness, learning as a leader, values and beliefs, interpersonal intelligence, communication skills, behaviour modeling)
  • Stage 3 involved leading a strategic change project

I can’t help putting all this alongside the leadership training I experienced, which was mainly lectures on the importance of vision and how it worked in a large church.

I begin to reflect that some of the “lever” activities are to some extent embedded in some dimensions of ministerial training, but need to be made more explicit and clear. I see the challenge of the modernist mindset that equates teaching with content rather than learning.  I see echoes between what we hope to do with our new Innovation stream in the new Bachelor of Ministry, especially Stage 1, the Introduction to Formation topic and Stage 3, the invitation into a practical project over the course of the training. I wonder what it would look like for a denomination to do this with their existing ministers and to think about the Missional Church Leadership course I offer, and did offer to ministers in New Zealand. What was the fruit and what changes could be made?

Posted by steve at 02:46 PM

Monday, August 02, 2010

Joining in with God’s Spirit: a great missional resource

God’s mission is greater than any church, and it is in this wider movement of the Spirit that all the churches in the world participate. It is within the greater purposes of God that we find our unity. The missio Dei is not confined to any locality; it spills over, crosses boundaries and is carried across the world by the wind of the Spirit. It does not have a single origin or one direction but comes and goes as the Spirit wills. However, it is one movement because the Spirit witnesses to a unique person, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, crucified and raised, who reveals the Father in heaven, source of all things. We have yet to realize that the cosmic Christ is manifested in the unity of local churches in the mission of the Spirit. When we do, we will connect world church with local mission. We will be able to join with the Spirit who moves over the earth sustaining our world and our life – the Spirit of Jesus Christ, who is given to bring about good news in the whole creation.

Conclusion from Kirsteen Kim’s Joining in with the Spirit. It’s a great book. While I don’t agree with her analysis of Fresh Expressions, this is still a book rich in contemporary missiological insights.

Books like these are essential to the missional church conversation. They offer the Western missional church the gift of dislocation. When you read chapters that start with the insights from contemporary mission in Africa and Korea and India, you are offered a missiology that is so much richer than your own. You are reminded that the missional God is up to so much more than patching up a declining Western church. That mission is so much deeper, richer and wider than bringing back the young people!

So I used Kirsteen Kim’s quote as a devotional beginning at our Masters of Ministry class last Monday. Each of us were invited to sit with the quote and as we did, to identify the phrase that most spoke to us. After sharing, we then prayed for the person on our right. Then together we said the Lord’s Prayer. Just a few minutes, but a great way to place ourselves, each other and our ministries in the caring context of God’s globally local mission.

Posted by steve at 08:55 AM

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Made to play: Toy Story 3 film review

A (monthly) film review by Steve Taylor (for Touchstone magazine)

In 1995, a bunch of toys started a cinematic innovation. The toys (Toy Story) were to be followed by fish (Finding Nemo), rats (Ratatouille) and robots (WALL-E), all creations of Pixar Animation Studios. The credits began to roll, with eleven films in the next fifteen years garnering twenty four Academy awards and contributing to the sale of Pixar to Disney in 2006 for $7.4 billion. Such creative innovation was based neither on Hollywood star power nor on clever computer technologies. (more…)

Posted by steve at 03:28 PM