Sunday, November 10, 2013

mission, identity, relationships and gender: preaching Luke 20:22-38

Here is Sunday’s sermon. To be honest, I approached the Lectionary text – Luke 20:22-38 apprehensive, thinking, this is going to be tough. This is an obscure argument about an obscure part of the Bible. Over the week, I’ve gained fresh insight into the radical nature of God’s Kingdom. Thanks especially to the commentary by Joel Green, The Gospel of Luke (The New International Commentary on the New Testament).

Luke 20:22-38 offers some radical insights on identity, relationships and gender. We’re invited to be children of God. Our relationships with each other, our relationships with God are not defined not by historic cultural patterns. Nor by how sexy we are. Nor by how much bling we have. We’re children of God. Called by a God who listens to the cry of people’s suffering. Invited to live lives of mercy and justice.

Here’s the sermon …. (more…)

Posted by steve at 12:41 PM

Friday, November 08, 2013

Leadership formation days

All around us at Uniting College is change. So much of it that at times I find it hard to keep on track of.

Back in July, we introduced changes to our Leadership Formation Days (announced here). Building on the past, we decided to try in our Leadership Formation Days to focus more specifically on practices and storytelling. Leadership Formation Days (currently) involve Uniting Church candidates for ministry and those in discernment. Prior to 2010, they occurred weekly on a Wednesday afternoon for chapel, community and colloquium input.

With a move to more dispersed training models and Candidates in context and at distance, we needed to find a different rhythm. So we shifted in 2011 to monthly on a Monday, all day. We kept chapel and community and offered a range of topics considered topical.

Another shift began this semester. We’ve moved from topics to practices. We opted to explore the practices (10) essential for mission-shaped spirituality. (Drawing on Susan Hope’s Mission-shaped Spirituality: The Transforming Power of Mission). Each time we gather we take a particular practice and over our day together, explore it in more depth, with a particular focus, on what the practice might mean for us as life-long learners and effective leaders in mission today.

Rather than work through them in the order from Mission-shaped Spirituality: The Transforming Power of Mission, we opted for a most challenging basis. This involved an initial introduction to all 10 practices and as part of that, the question – what practice challenges you the most? The results have shaped how the order.

So the shape of our final leadership formation Day for 2013 – with a focus on being bearers of the message – was as follows.

9:30 am – Missional Practice – Tim Hein – Being message bearers – the habits that shape and sharpen “message bearer” ministry

11 am – Morning tea

11:20 – Communities of trust processes in groups in S1, chapel, common space – Introduction including reflection of practise as a disciplines that read us, read our community actions.

12:20- Chapel with special guest Malcolm Gordon leading

1:10 – Lunch

2:00 pm – Storytelling one – Julie, an ordinary evangelist – a great example of a message bearer – using Skype. After the story, reflect in groups using a regular set of questions to engage and deepen insight.

2:45 pm – Storytelling two – Saint story told by Steve Taylor – Parikaha story as an example of a community as a message bearer.

After some adjustment over the last few months, all that initial trying out of new things – story, group processes – there was on Monday a real sense of depth and engagement. The mixed modes of input – teaching, storytelling, chapel, discussion, food are throwing up some lovely patterns. A highlight for me has been the storytelling – inviting new voices among us. We’ve used a mix of local, national and international guests and heard some great stories of God at work. A change, one of many, that is working it’s way nicely through our life.

Posted by steve at 06:11 PM

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

a tale of two churches

I was teaching on church today in my Introduction to Christian Thought class. I have been thinking a lot recently about the vision of church and the reality of church. So I pulled together a tale of two churches. I took the vision, the ideal, four Biblical images of church as explored in Paul Minear, Images of Church in New Testament. That is one tale of church.

I laid that alongside a second tale of church, the reality, the who is the church, the how did the church act, as explored in Kirsteen Kim’s survey of the church in global history, in Joining in with the Spirit: Connecting World Church and Local Mission

It generated some excellent connections, as we realised how much church changes over time and space, and how that frees us to think about fresh expressions of church today.

Posted by steve at 09:47 PM

Monday, November 04, 2013

21st Century Theological training – vision radio interview

My radio interview on 20twenty – Life, culture & current events from a Biblical perspective is available here.

Adelaide College of Divinity have introduced some innovative 21st century concepts including study tours and Blended Learning.

Host: Neil Johnson
Guest: Steve Taylor – Principal Uniting College (part of ACD)

I talk about the value of ecumenism in education in a pluralist world and about 3 waves of distance as it impacts upon theological education

  • distance as written
  • distance by broadcast
  • distance by blended learning

I also talk about flipped learning and the rationale for beyond the classroom study tour experiences – those who learn by watching. I finish by reflecting on the imperative of mission in theological education, including the places we go and the books we read if our God is a global God.

“Steve Taylor, you are an inspiration” concludes the radio announcer, Neil Johnson.

Posted by steve at 06:02 PM

Sunday, November 03, 2013

the changing landscape of agencies and mission

David Bosch is one of the worlds finest thinkers on mission. His Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission is a remarkable book, surveying 2000 years of mission. The book is divided into five paradigms. Bosch borrows here from Thomas Kuhn’s paradigm theory

  • Primitive Christianity
  • Patristic Period;
  • Reformation;
  • Enlightenment;
  • and Ecumenical (or postmodern)

Bosch argues that as a paradigm changed, mission changed. In changing times, the mission of the church took different shape. His argument is strengthened by the research he does, asking what Scriptures were being quoted in these paradigms to motivate mission. He argues that each paradigm was shaped by a different dominant Biblical text.

  • Primitive Christianity – the letters of the New Testament
  • Patristic Period – John 3:16 in the patristic Period; the love of God, seen in the sending of Jesus, is extended by God’s messengers
  • Reformation – a shift from Luke 14:23 in the Middle Ages; compel them to come in! to Romans 1:16; God’s rightliving means grace and mercy, not punishment
  • Enlightenment -the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20)

With regard to the ecumenical/postmodern, Bosch suggests the immense challenges of our contemporary world are signs of a transition into a new period. This has huge implications for churches thinking about mission today. There is widespread agreement that culturally we are going through another paradigm shift. The world of today is vastly different from the world of 40 years ago. So any discussion of church and mission today needs to keep stepping back, keep watching the paradigms.

Stanley Skreslet (Comprehending Mission: The Questions, Methods, Themes, Problems, and prospects of Missiology and Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission). He notes how not only the motivations (the Scriptures used), have changed, but so also have the forms of mission. So, pushing Skreslet into the paradigms of Bosch, we get something like this

  • Primitive Christianity – the radical communal compassionate care for the sick
  • Patristic Period – the monastery
  • Reformation – religious orders
  • Enlightenment – the voluntary society, based on the shareholder model, by which lay people became voluntary participants. And the institution, the large scale constructing of schools and hospitals, which offered care and cure.

Which of course, raises the question, what might be the modes for the ecumenical/postmodern period. Skreslet argues for the NGO – the Non-government organisation. He cites examples like Greenpeace and Amnesty International. These offer a physical presence, based on a extensive networks and clear, instant lines of communication. These NGO’s harness public opinion, building pressure to bring about change. They thus offer a very different model for mission.

Over the last few days, I’ve been part of debates about the changing landscape of agencies and mission. All the time, I kept wondering if these debates are part of the same worldwide questions about the forms of mission into a new ecumenical/postmodern paradigm. Bosch writes:

“The transition from one paradigm to another is not abrupt … This produces a kind of theological schizophrenia, which we just have to put up with while at the same time groping our way toward greater clarity … The point is simply that  the Christian church in general and the Christian mission in particular are today confronted with issues they have never even dreamt of and which are crying out for responses that are both relevant to the times and in harmony with the essence of the Christian faith …. The point I am making is simply that, quite literally, we live in a world fundamentally different … The contemporary world challenges us to practice a “transformational hermeneutics”, a theological response which transforms us first before we involve ourselves in mission to the world.”  (Bosch, Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission, 188, 189.)

What will it look like to see the shape of the church and mission formed by NGO models? To prioritise smaller bodies, with a premium put on their ability to be nimble, to cultivate networks and communication? Skreslet notes a number of advantages of the NGO paradigm: “a new model of mission would also have its own distinctive organizational structure” (“Networking, Civil Society and the NGO: A New Model for Ecumenical Mission,” Missiology 25 (1997): 307-319, p. 310). These can apply globally, to international mission. They can also apply locally, to how a local church might operate in their community. Networking as a mode of action contrasts with the worst parts of colonial mission. It encourages behaviours that are flexible, egalitarian and wholistic in orientation. They allow multiple partnerships, at local, regional, national, global levels.

Posted by steve at 04:43 PM