Sunday, April 29, 2012

Amazing news. Go Justin. Go the Anglicans

Amazing news. Justin Duckworth, dreadlocked, 44 years olds, pioneer urban missionary for last 25 years, in recent years reforming that around new monasticism (story told with his wife, Jenny, in Against the Tide, Towards the Kingdom (New Monastic Library)) – has just been appointed Anglican Bishop of the Diocese of Wellington.

I remember attending an emerging church hui (gathering) in Wellington in 2005. At that time, some were dismissing the mainline church as dead. Others of us weren’t convinced. Theologically, we wanted to retain an openness to the God of surprise. It’s well expressed in the words of one of New Zealand’s best poets, James K. Baxter.

Lord, Holy Spirit, You blow like the wind
In a thousand paddocks, Inside and outside the fences

That sense that God can work inside and outside the church, in forms new and old. Justin was there, deeply involved in mission amongst the underprivileged and justice workshops. Now a Bishop! It’s moments like these that confirm those instincts, the joy of following a God of surprise, the celebration at the courage of the Diocese of Wellington.

I’ve written about Urban Vision as part of a chapter on the emerging church in New Zealand. Its in a book, edited by Ryan Bolger, that showcases a global emerging church, in continental Europe, Asia, and Latin American and in African American hip-hop culture. Titled: Gospel after Christendom, The: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions, it’s due out in October, and I hope that, given this news, they don’t mind if I post some excerpts. Under the heading “Mission.” I begin with another quote from James K Baxter.

Lord Holy Spirit, Heaven is with us when you are with us,
You are singing your songs in the hearts of the poor

Followed by:

Urban Vision began in 1996 as a group of people committed to serve the innercity of Wellington, through acts of Incarnational mission. Its origins were in a shared set of friendship, a suburb (Berhampore) and a commitment to quietly follow Christ among the poor and marginalised.

An important ministry feature was “the Castle”, an intentional community where people from the street could experience belonging and equality. There was also a willingness from individuals to deliberately relocate into public housing areas in order to support refugees and migrants.

Over the years, Urban Vision has morphed and grown in strength and outreach. It has seeded teams into other urban poor and marginalized suburbs around Wellington. Then in 2007, Urban Vision decided to reform itself as a contemporary independent Order, centered around a set of shared values. These include
• a prophetic call to seek justice
• a willingness to be sent as Good News
• an action/reflection spirituality
• a commitment to simple lifestyle and
• discipleship formation.
To quote from their website “we’re not simply copying something from the past … [Rather] … this similarity to the old missionary movements has come about because of the contexts we live, because of the times we live in and the prevailing culture of society and the church at this point of history in Aotearoa/New Zealand.”

This commitment to radical discipleship, along with their durability over a decade, are a fine example of experimental emerging praxis, of giving concrete expression to the Wind of the Spirit who yearns to whisper God’s “songs in the hearts of the poor.”

Here’s an interview with the Bishop-elect!

And here’s a fuller written article on Justin, Urban Vision and new monasticism here.

Posted by steve at 07:07 PM

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Jesus deck lectionary: spirituality of “wise men” as theology of family

I am using the Jesus Deck as my current lectionary. Every day I deal myself a card. Before Easter, it was Mark, as I ran through the drama that is Holy week. After Easter, Christians celebrate resurrection. A season of surprise. So the whole deck gets shuffled and dealt randomly. After Pentecost, I will use colour. I will keep dealing cards until I find some green. Growth. The colour attributed to the Spirit in Rublevs Icon. That will become my lectionary.

Today the Jesus deck dealt me Matthew 2. The text on the top reads “We have seen his star.” The text running along the bottom reads “Astrologers.” It’s a reference to the magi of Matthew 2:1-12.

It is interesting to engage this story outside Christmas. Although of course, given travel time, the story would have started months before.

Perhaps on a day in April.

A day like today.

Looking at this Jesus deck card, I am struck by how God uses hobbies – took the everyday passions of these “magi” and crafted through that a way to seek and search. So often spirituality is removed from the ordinary, and yet here is God inviting our hobbies and vocations, our passions and interests into a pursuit of divine. (Hence my Dictionary of Everyday Spirituality series).

Thinking of ordinary, I began to wonder if these magi had families. If so, what the star would have meant for their spiritual search.

You see, family is the perennial problem faced by all travellers. To take the kids and grandparents. Or to leave them behind.

The horns of a dilemna. To go alone. Or to drag in the innocent with you on an unknown search?

Either way, stay or come, relationships are being torn, domestic life reshaped. It’s a tough gig, seeing a star.

Which took me back to the Biblical text surrounding this particular Jesus deck card. Families in pain surround the magi narrative.

Jesus being wrapt in swaddling cloth and rocked to Egypt. That’s migration – forced to find shelter in a new language; look for work as your potential workmates comment on your accent; missing home; family not seeing the first Jesus smile, the first Jesus step. It’s a tough gig, carrying a star.

And let’s not talk about the screams that rent Israel. The nightmares of mothers screaming for their babies, dead at Herod’s knife. Families in pain surrounds this Jesus.

So what happens when we engage the story of the magi outside Christmas. We are invited to seek a star, to find God amid our ordinary. But as we peer at the spiritual search we ponder. Is it one of glamourous adventure? Or deep pain? Or both?

Time for a hug of those I love.

Posted by steve at 03:16 PM

Friday, April 27, 2012

sacraments, mission and a really open table

When nothing is holy, everything is holy.

This is what struck me reading this wonderful, thoughtful post by Sally Coleman.

I am suggesting that there are occassions [sic] and contexts where we are able to share the story of God in the world, from creation to re-creation, the incarnation, ministry, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, and we need to give people the opportunity to respond…

Imagine setting out to tell the story of God at a town festival, a music festival or something of that kind, tell the story in an imaginative and creative way, and people gather to listen. How then do we invite them to respond? They could come forward and recieve a tract, and prayer, and maybe those things are good, or we could break bread together…

She deploys Scripture

  • the feeding of the 5000 (She’s right – the exact same verbs – took, gave thanks, broke) used by Jesus as at the Last supper.
  • she also reflects on Pentecost (but does overlook the fact that there is no sacraments used at that point. Further than those who heard were devout Jews and thus came from around the Mediterranean with a huge amount of worldview already formed).
  • and on the woman at the Well (although again overlooks the fact that there are no sacraments at that point eitther).

She uses missiology

  • bounded sets and centred sets, the work of Paul Hiebert, to explore what a centred set understanding of sacraments would look like (there’s a few post-graduate theses in that question)

She reflects on tradition

  • the very words and patterns used at communion (She’s right – the words are often so deeply theological that they do require knowledge of the story to unpick the invitation)
  • but she might also want to turn to the pattern of the early church, who delayed communion, placed it on Easter Sunday, after a year long process of formation and understanding.

She uses reason

  • the way that sacraments are “a tangible, physical way for people to meet with and respond to what the Spirit” and extends this forward into initial encounters with the Spirit.

To conclude:

So what am I saying about the sacraments? I believe that they open a door of powerful encounter with God, and that they can be used missionally, indeed that they are in some way;  for if it is the Holy Spirit who brings them to life

It’s a wonderful, thoughtful, probing post. It needs a response, not from the church, but from the culture. Sometimes, might those outside the church want to ponder precious things, to save the moment until their understanding might enable a richer feast. But it’s exactly the type of questions needing asking in our post-Christian context.

Thanks Sally. Just the type of resource to use in my next Church, Ministry, Sacraments class!

Updated: And Sally has blogged a 2nd time, with some more reflection.

Posted by steve at 10:39 AM

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

stations of the rainforest as spirituality for tree huggers

Really interesting video, linking environmental themes with Stations of the Cross. The 14 Stations of the cross are woven around the death of rainforest. Interesting that they have included a 15th Station (yes Clifford and Johnson, indeed the Cross is not enough!) which looks out how we can live sustainably, environmentally, in lifegiving ways.

It comes from the Columban Missionaries of Britian, and has an accompanying written resource. (I’d place this alongside my experience of 7 words, 7 sites: an indigenous Tenebrae Service from earlier this year.)

Of course, it’s a video. Which leaves me pondering what an embodied Stations of the Forest would look like – actual nature based walks around Adelaide.

It also links for me with some of what I was exploring last year – outdoor stations as fresh expressions and how God’s second book, the book of creation, might be a regular part of Christian expression. Especially in climates as conducive to being outdoors as Australian ones. Especially if followed by hospitality and community afterward.

Posted by steve at 08:57 PM

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

“The Cross is not enough” – the Hillsong excursus

As part of my post-resurrection Easter spiritual practice, I’m reading Cross Is Not Enough: Living as Witnesses to the Resurrection by Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson, Australian Baptist thinkers. I thought it would be a good discipline to blog as I read my way through the book. Chapter one is here, Chapter two is here, Chapter three is here, Chapter four is here

There is one comment by Clifford and Johnson from chapter four I’d like to pull out and reflect further on:

Perhaps one reason for Hillsong’s success is that the resurrection is celebrated in uplifting songs.

The comment reminded me of some worship work I did back in 2007. The church I was pastoring was doing an Easter evening church series on the topic of the real Jesus. As part of that, wanting to encourage the primarily youth congregation to think about what they sing, the pastoral team were each allocated a random contemporary song and asked the question – “what are we thinking when we sing this.”

I got given the Hillsong song, titled “For all you’ve done.” Somewhat to my surprise (and in an endorsement of the comment made by Clifford and Johnson) I found quite a well-developed theology of resurrection. Here were some of my comments on “For all you’ve done.”

The song has 3 parts. The opening is fascinating;
My savior
Redeemer
Lifted me from the miry clay

I hear echoes of the Old Testament. For example Psalm 40:1 -3; I patiently waited, LORD, for you to hear my prayer. You listened and pulled me from a lonely pit, full of mud and mire. You let me stand on a rock with my feet firm, and you gave me a new song, a song of praise to you.

Such echoes of Jesus are present in a number of places in the Old Testament. The most well known is Proverbs 8, with what I call a “Cosmic or Wisdom Jesus,” Jesus present at the birth of creation, giving wisdom to life. So “for all you’ve” done starts with a creation Jesus present redemptively within creation.

The middle of the song keeps the Old Testament theme going:
Almighty
Forever, I will never be the same

At this point, I become a bit uneasy, as there is the potential of Jesus being mushed into Almighty God. But then the song gets very specific.
Cos You came here
From the everlasting
To the world we live
The Father’s only Son

This is a good Incarnational theology. This Cosmic Jesus is God before time, that came to live. The life of Christ is essential. “For all you’ve done” includes every day of every one of those 33 years.

The good theology continues as the song moves to end:
And You lived
You died
You rose again on high
You opened the way for the world to live again

I find fascinating the echoes of resurrection and ascension. Jesus fully human and fully divine “opened the way.” The human body of Jesus ascends into God. In the Ascension, the way for humans is opened to God. What is more, God is changed as God embraces humanity.

In summary, “for all you’ve done” is a surprisingly broad song theologically. Christians often limit what Jesus does to the cross. Yet this song names Jesus, for all you’ve done as including creation, incarnation, life, resurrection and ascension.

So salvation in Christ is not limited to the work of the cross. It starts with God making the world, involves the sending of Jesus, God with skin on, moves through thirty three years of healing to the embrace of the cross, the surprise of Easter Sunday and the ascension, as Jesus opens the way. That’s the Jesus being worshipped in “for all you’ve done.”

(The original post is here) and if you check out the comments, quite some heat was generated!)

Posted by steve at 07:16 AM

Monday, April 23, 2012

“The Cross is not enough” book review – Chapter 4

As part of my post-resurrection Easter spiritual practice, I’m reading Cross Is Not Enough: Living as Witnesses to the Resurrection by Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson, Australian Baptist thinkers. I thought it would be a good discipline to blog as I read my way through the book. Chapter one is here, Chapter two is here, Chapter three is here

Chapter four

The idea of the resurrection fills us with profound, deep, and for me at least, non-specific and extremely complicated emotions. Thus I do not want it represented in images that are otherwise. Above all, though, I do want it represented. That is, I want it, to paraphrase Luther, “spoken” but also “sung, painted and played.” I also want it molded, sculpted, danced. Linda Marie Delloff

And so this chapter takes up the challenge by Dellof, and explores resurrection in culture. It begins with the resurrection in art history. It moves to church music. It moves to contemporary music. It moves to pop culture, specifically film, comic books like anime, TV series and fiction novels.

I’m not going to be specific, because you really should get the book. It’s worth the price of this chapter alone, as a reflection, preaching and communication resource.

Clifford and Johnson are practical, with a section on how to respond to these resurrection images. They note the importance of not assuming that because we see an image, all viewers will.

Even some lapsed churchgoers did not recognise that Aslan was a Christ-figure and that his death and resurrection mirrored the Easter Event.

They are cautious.

None of these characters’ resurrections are exact counterparts to Christ’s resurrection, as they remain mortal after they have arisen.

These resurrections are not once-for-all like Christ’s, and the stories have their veiled ambiguities about the source of the resurrection (does the character possess the power to rise again or is there an external source?).

Not only do they acknowledge the hopeful, the resurrection analogies. They also acknowledge the anti-Christ resurrections in pop culture, those moments when “dead, malovelent” characters return from the dead.

A weakness is that the world of pop culture is too narrow. Pop culture is so much more than film. What about resurrection in advertising, in fashion, in video gaming, in photography? I have not got it with me, but I’d want to place this chapter alongside Detweiler and Taylor’s, A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture), to leaf through their chapter headings, and then with a group of young adult theology students do a brainstorm around popular culture. Why?

Because, to quote Clifford and Johnson

Conversations with non-Christians can provide opportunities to draw these connections and help those who are seeking to begin to understand the power of Jesus’s resurrection.

Posted by steve at 09:53 AM

Sunday, April 22, 2012

three month “project” anniversary

It seems a most appropriate marker

of three months of hard labour on our “project” ready for pick up by the Council tomorrow morning. It includes urine stained carpet from two rooms, a gutted entrance way, gib and ceilings into family room, back entrance way and a bedroom.

It’s had moments of unexpected spirituality – a perfumed blessing and renovation spirituality.

Tomorrow the electricians return and if things go well, we might have lights that switch on and off in the family room, back entrance way and one of the bedrooms.

On Friday the electricians found yet another surprise. The service fuse (from the road to the house before it gets to the metre board) kept tripping. ETSA was called, lots of head scratching and the fault was eventually traced to the presence of wires attached to the power line incoming from the road, with the potential to draw (sans) power into the roof cavity.

Not sure if that’s an entry for my Dictionary of Everyday Spirituality in that – other than the risks some people are willing to take (attaching wires to live 240 volts), in order to pursue their indoor gardening hobby.

Posted by steve at 07:42 PM

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Review of 9/11 film Extremely Loud and Up Close

Each month I publish a film review, for Touchstone (the New Zealand Methodist magazine). Here is the review for the movie “Extremely Loud and Up Close.”

Extremely Loud and Up Close
Last year was the 10th anniversary and they had to come, the Hollywood gaze settling on the shock of 9/11 and the horror of the aftermath.

In “Extremely Loud and Up Close,” the tragedy that is the twin towers is viewed through the eyes of 9 year old, Oskar Schnell as he struggles to make sense of the death of his father. Threads of further mystery are woven into the plot line, driven by the key Oskar finds in his fathers’ jacket and the unexplained appearance of The Renter, suddenly living with Oskar’s grandmother in a nearby apartment.

The movie, adapted for the screen by Eric Roth (“Forrest Gump,” “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”), is based on a novel of the same name by Jonathan Safran Foer. It is directed by Stephen Daldry. Each of his previous movies (“Billy Elliot,” “The Hours,” “The Reader”) gained nomination for the Academy Awards. “Extremely Loud and Up Close” was no exception.

Despite the accolades, the movie struggles. Perhaps it is simply because we know the ending. A similarity would be the Jesus movie genre. How to generate tension when we all know what happens, whether death and resurrection in a Jesus movie, or shock and grief in the aftermath of the Twin Towers?

Perhaps it is because the metaphors are so cliche – the vase shattering on the first anniversary, the key triggering a search both physical and psychological, the answerphone unblinking in its silent reproach.

Perhaps it is because at times, the plot seems less than believable. How can a child so young wander so easily all over New York? How can his mother find the time to work, to mother and to tread ahead of him? Why, really, can The Renter not speak?

A saving grace is the cast. Thomas Horn is sensational as Oskar Schell, mildly autistic, highly imaginative, caught in a trauma not his making. So also is Max Von Sydow as The Renter, so remotely human and Tom Hanks as the creatively engaging father.

The movie employs the zoom lens, wanting us to be up close, to focus on one child and one family. It means that every emotion is played extremely loud, evoked in the montages of bodies falling and sidewalk shrines awash with people grieving. It makes the film feel like pure opportunism, a commercial piggybacking on human tragedy.

In being extremely close, what inevitably gets lost is perspective. The focus on one story obscure the unique grief that surrounds the other 2,594 who died at the World Trade Centre. The focus on New York overlooks the many Iraqi children who now wander their bombed out streets looking for their dead parents. Oskar’s mental health, his struggles with autism, are turned into comedy simply to keep the tragedy light.

In the midst of these failings, a credible theology of grief is presented. Oskar’s self-harm is believably palpable, as is Linda Schell’s patient acceptance of Oskar’s unthinking, tearful anger. Time can heal, but only when the cycles of guilt, shame, anger are engaged, up close and extremely loud.

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is Director of Missiology, Uniting College, Adelaide. He writes widely in areas of theology and popular culture, including regularly at www.emergentkiwi.org.nz.

Posted by steve at 09:56 AM

Friday, April 20, 2012

Jesus the great contextualiser

““let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak” (James 1:19). How wise! In inculturation the most important quality of the evangelizer is the gift of listening.” (Arbuckle, 164)

More from the wonderfully accessible, deeply insightful Gerald Arbuckle’s, Culture, Inculturation, and Theologians: A Postmodern Critique. As I posted earlier in the week, Arbuckle is concerned that the failure of the church to understand culture is making us naive at best, dangerous and destructive at worst.

In Chapter 10, he explores what we can learn from Jesus the Inculturator. First a definition

“Inculturation is a dialectical interaction between Christian faith and cultures in which these cultures are challenged, affirmed, and transformed toward the reign of God, and in which Christian faith is likewise challenged, affirmed, and enhanced by this experience.” (152)

Then a note on how similar is Jesus culture to today’s postmodern notions of culture:

“There was nothing discrete, homogenous, and integrating about [Jesus's] cultural world because it was filled with all kinds of tensions, fragmentation, and subcultural differences.” (153)

Then analysis of how Jesus used social drama, how he used moments when relationships between groups break; to encourage liminality; and open the possibility of growth.

Example – Mark 10:46-52 Bartimaeus. Arbuckle notes how

  • inculturation is person-centred – Jesus speaks directly to Bartimaeus, socially a non-person
  • inculturation is collaborative – “by his [Bartimaeus] actions is himself an agent of inculturation, challenging in collaboration with Jesus the crowd’s culture that rejects people who are poor.” (155)
  • inculturation requires spiritual and human gifts – “The gift most needed in evangelizers is the ability to listen and converse with people in a way that respects their human dignity.” (155) This is based on Mark 10: 51, the cry of Bartimaeus, “What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus does not assume what type of help is needed, but instead listens.
  • liberation is an integral part of Inculturation – healing is social, cultural, economic, spiritual. Bartimaeus is not only healed of blindness, but finds he is given voice in the community of God, is respected as a collaborator in healing.

The chapter continues with analysis of the SyroPhonecian woman in Mark 7:24-30 and the Samaritan woman in John 4:1-42.

Finally he concludes with Jesus use of parables “Probably this is his [Jesus] most important method of inculturation.” (162) He notes how these emerge from an attentiveness to the everyday world of those he serves.

“Simple and ordinary circumstances of daily life such as eating, walking, and even a request for a drink of water often become social dramas of special importance for Jesus in his ministry of inculturation.” (159)

Posted by steve at 04:46 PM

Thursday, April 19, 2012

my study leave world

This is what my world has been reduced to … the lived experience of everyday people (Cityside survey data) being placed alongside mission, methodologies of how to read living experience, theories of curation. Locked in a concrete box called an office, removed from distractions, my world is now smaller, yet, strangely, larger.

Posted by steve at 12:21 PM

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

icons as spiritual practise

Last year, as a thank you gift for their ministry here in Adelaide, I gave John and Olive Drane an icon I had “written.” They now want to use it as a resource, both in worship and in a class they are running on worship later this year. So they asked if I might shoot a “homemade” video, reflecting on the spirituality of icons.

I thought I’d also place it on the blog, in case any of my readers are interested – why do I “write” icons? what is a “pioneer” icon? how do icon’s work as theology and for spirituality? how to craft an icon?

A short personal reflection on the icon as spiritual practise.

Two most helpful books in getting me started as an icon “writer”:

And for those who can’t access the video, here are my notes in preparation to speak (more…)

Posted by steve at 09:44 PM

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

the stories we tell, the implications for change

I’m currently reading Gerald Arbuckle’s, Culture, Inculturation, and Theologians: A Postmodern Critique, 2010. It is an accessible overview of culture and the implications for mission. His argument is that issues around gospel and culture is the drama of our day. And being an anthropologist by training (as well as a Catholic priest), he is concerned about how poorly the church understands culture and is aware of the massive shift in contemporary analysis of culture.

Which makes us naive at best, dangerous and destructive at worst.

Anyhow, Chapter 5 Culture as Narratives Negotiating Identities (63-80) is really insightful. Arbuckle begins by arguing that while myths help a culture clarify a past, stories clarify the present. He then suggests seven types of narratives often present in cultures.

  • composure – stories that, for the sake of peace, overlook painful parts of a past
  • romanticism – stories that not only overlook a painful past, but do so in ways that re in fact inventions
  • nationalism – stories that manipulate history in order to impose a current purpose
  • minorities – stories in which identity is founded by placing oneself as on the edge, as marginal
  • refounding – stories in which the past is told in a way that brings founding energy into one’s future
  • marketplace – stories in which new insights are added to a past, often for the commercial advantage of a certain group
  • grieving – stories in which loss in acknowledged

While Arbuckle is not explicit, my sense is that in terms of the church and change, he would encourage stories of refounding and stories of grieving, but is uneasy about the others.

As I read, I began to think of what stories the church is currently telling about itself.

  • an email overnight from a colleague, expressing concern that his church was overlooking a painful present, in a sort of “it will be all right” type of process
  • books that argue if we just return to the New Testament church, we will be alright, a romanticism that ignores the conflict in Corinth, the ethnic tensions in Acts 6 or the lack of response in Athens
  • the placing of American flags in a church as a sign of nationalism
  • a realisation within myself that I have placed myself (downunder Kiwi), and the emerging church, as a minority, in order to gain traction
  • the commercialism of Christian music as a story of marketplace

And I think of the work of Andrew Dutney, who in the Uniting Church has offered a story of refounding, explored the Basis of Union as a mission document, around which much energy and potential for renewal has occurred.

Posted by steve at 01:35 PM

urban theologies with visual power

Two wonderful contemporary urban theologies emerging from UK cities at the moment. I love the way in both these projects urban space is being mapped, the way the visual sparks possibilities, the fusion of prayer with concrete realities.

Lou Davis
pioneering in Edinburgh
mission crafter
lino cuts, sound track: City of Stone
for prayer

Ric Stott
minister to Sheffield
mission as artist
curating Soul of Sheffield

Posted by steve at 07:15 AM

Monday, April 16, 2012

“The Cross is not enough” book review – Chapter 3

As part of my post-resurrection Easter spiritual practice, I’m reading Cross Is Not Enough: Living as Witnesses to the Resurrection by Ross Clifford and Philip Johnson, Australian Baptist thinkers. I thought it would be a good discipline to blog as I read my way through the book. Chapter one is here, Chapter two is here

Chapter three

Most Baptists, after clearing their throat as to the purpose of their book and stating their main point, reach for the Bible, then consider the mission implications. Not Clifford and Johnson. In Chapter three, they turn to mission. Specifically, apologetics. More specifically, their experience of apologetics, especially among spiritual seekers.

When most Christians think about sharing about the resurrection they are immediately drawn to the truth question. A better entry point, however, is exploring what difference the resurrection makes in people’s lives and showing that it really does work.

The chapter argues for mission, and especially apologetics, that balances both the experiential and the intellectual. This is based on their experiences with spiritual seekers, whom they have found want both. It is also based on personality types. People are diverse, so we need a diverse church, offering both experience and intellectual.

In making this argument, they take aim at sections of the emerging church that have argued that in the wider cultural shift to postmodernity, we need a more experiential, communal apologetic. A particular target for Clifford and Johnson is Pete Rollins. They point out places in which he has derided intellectual apologetics. To be honest, it felt a strange critique, given that Rollins also writes intellectual books, enjoys name dropping European intellectuals like Zizek and seems to me to be seeking to articulate a robustly intellectual faith for a contemporary world. Have I misheard Rollins? Or have Clifford and Johnson?

The chapter is highly practical. It offers stories of how they use experiential tools like the Wheel of the Year (for an example, tied to Christ’s mission see here), a neo-pagan ritual calendar, in which they seek to highlight the dying-and-rising myth within the Wheel. They also describe their use of aromatherapy, massage and the Jesus Deck. This practical “experiential” missiology is then followed by a practical “intellectual” missiology in which they summarise the ‘logic’ of the resurrection: how they respond to questions like

  • Can we trust the NT Gospels?
  • Did Jesus really die?
  • What circumstantial evidence exists for the resurrection?
  • What evidence for resurrection lies outside the Bible and Church teachings?

It’s clear. It’s accessible. It’s based on lived experiences of mission among real people.  To sum chapter 3:

Do our personalities truly embody and express all the life-changing and empowering realities implied in Jesus’s resurrection?

Posted by steve at 10:19 AM