Sunday, July 13, 2014
Shed Church as fresh expressions of church
Phil Smith is planting a new form of community in Caloundra, Queensland. He’s also a journalist and learning with us at Uniting College through the possibilities around blended learning. For a unit this year on “Evangelism, Conversion and the Mission of God,” he created this excellent video about how Christians have engaged in the Men’s Shed movement across Australia.
I played this on Friday as I concluded my Mission intensive at United Theological College, Sydney. It was hot of the press, it was an Australian story, it brought together many of the themes of the course, it did great work linking Biblical narrative, in this case Luke 1:1-12.
What I found particularly intriguing was the work Phil did around what is church, at the very end.
Is shed Church? Or could it be church? Luke’s benchmark for church is followers gathered around Jesus and sent by him to express the Kingdom of God. If a shed is only men gathered around a bbq or a work bench, it doesnb’t measure up, as a fresh, stale or any other expression of church; if however some of these blokes are parts of Christ’s body, connecting with others, investing time and others to grow alongside them, if this is more about Incarnation than recreation … then we’ll see the transforming work of God. And that does look a lot like church.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Now here is my summary of the movie:
One of my biggest fears at school was the annual speech competition. I found multiple ways – pretending to be sick, skipping class – in order to avoid that moment of terror, the act of public speaking.
Nor am I alone. Studies have shown that fear of public speaking ranks with fear of dying. “The King’s Speech” speaks to these shared levels of primal human phobia.
The movie begins with a man, “Bertie” (Colin Firth). He is alone. He stands in front of a microphone. Slowly the camera pans to a waiting crowd and then zeroes in on the radio dials that signal a worldwide radio audience.
The tension of this primal moment is exacerbated with the realisation that this Bertie is no mere mortal. Instead he is born royal, inheriting the expectation of public performance and proficient patterns of speech. The movie commences to trace “Bertie’s” partnership with unorthodox Australian speech therapist, Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush).
This personal drama is set against the backdrop of other battles concerning public speech. Will “Bertie’s” brother (Edward VIII, played by Guy Pearce), the current King of England, proclaim publicly his love for American divorcee Mrs. Simpson (played by Eve Best)? Will England speak out against Hitler’s expansionist aggression?
Loss of voice can result from physical damage. It can also result from interior pain. Viewed at this level, “The King’s Speech” becomes a metaphor that enables corporate reflection. Can a nation lose voice? Can a church?
Sometimes it feels like the church finds voice. But it still lacks appeal. We speak in ways that sound loud, brash and ugly. What we say might be true, but the way we say it simply alienates people.
Other times it feels like the church is stammering. We appear uncertain about what we really want to stay.
At other times it feels like our voice is no different from any other voice of any other group. So sure, we have voice. But it is background noise and we have nothing distinctive to say.
So King’s speech invites us to think about finding voice. What does it mean for us to speak? What does it mean for us not only to speak, but to speak in ways that are warm, wise and winsome?
Monday, May 26, 2014
Jesus and the religions
I’m teaching Theology of Jesus in Semester 2, both weekly in Adelaide and by intensive at New Life Uniting Church, on the Gold Coast, in November. Plus I am teaching on Mission as an intensive in Sydney in July.
So today I was doing some preparation, which included reading Bob Robinson, Jesus and the Religions: Retrieving a Neglected Example for a Multi-cultural World. It is a brilliant conceived book. It asks how Christians should approach other faiths by exploring how Jesus engaged other faiths.
It begins with three Gospel stories – Jesus and the Roman Centurion, Jesus and the Syrophonecian woman, Jesus and the Samaritan Woman. Doing theology, bringing together themes from the three encounters it argues that their are implications for how contemporary people engage plurality.
- Be open to surprise, in the same way Jesus was surprised by the faith of the Roman Centurion, the Syrophonecian and the Samaritan woman.
- Affirm what surprises you, again in the same way Jesus affirmed the faith of the Roman Centurion, the Syrophonecian and the Samaritan woman.
- In particular, look for faith and humility. This includes the role not only of faith, but of the content of that faith. In all three examples, their “faith appears to include more than heart-felt hope or desperate concern.” (Jesus and the Religions: Retrieving a Neglected Example for a Multi-cultural World, 116). And so by implication, “Might examples of faith, humility, and insight, wherever they are found in the contemporary world, be affirmed by disciples today – even when they contrast less than favorable with their own.” (Jesus and the Religions: Retrieving a Neglected Example for a Multi-cultural World, 117-8).
- The exclusion of vengeance. For example, Jesus response to the Roman Centurion is a moment of love of enemy. Moving to other Gospel stories, one might note the rain falls on the just and the unjust, or the banquet parables which include, rather than exclude.
What is even more intriguing is an initial chapter in which Christ becomes an exegete. The focus is Luke 4:16-30, and how Jesus engages Scripture. Robinson concludes that there are fresh readings, new performances of Scripture as Biblical texts are encountered in the power of the Spirit. This opens up an exemplary Christology, in which the church reads for direction in how to live its life of witness in the world.
All of which makes for a rich teaching resource.
Thursday, November 28, 2013
when listening expects speaking: a proposal for a theology of evangelism
I sat in a conversation yesterday. The person shared, deeply, openly, vulnerably. I asked if they felt they had been heard and they said yes.
But it wasn’t enough. My listening seemed to have created space. A space that demanded more than my ongoing silence.
A space in which I needed to speak. For me not to speak would have left the person who initiated the sharing feeling vulnerable – that they had shared, that they had opened up, but that they not been given a gift of my vulnerability in return.
There is a power in withholding. My perceptions remain untested, my prejudices unexplained. These needed to be exposed, tested, tried. I needed to be vulnerable, not by listening, but by speaking.
The co-creation of meaning was not possible unless my listening was followed by my speaking.
At times the church has not spent enough time listening. Equally at times the church has spent too much listening at others.
The church needs to listen. It also needs to learn to speak, vulnerably, haltingly, of what little we do know and have experienced, to test our perceptions and let our prejudices be named, heard, examined.
In other words, the church has a faith to share, in order to remain respectful of the vulnerable space created by listening.