Friday, July 31, 2020

playing with faith formation with Port Phillip East Presbytery

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I was hosted “online” by the Port Phillip East Presbytery today, talking about
…. connection, interaction, contemplation, and engaging spiritual practices beyond Sunday worship.
… what leaders are trying and discovering about ways to form disciples in a dispersed community
… ministry as play, about creativity and risk and about how the Spirit takes us in new directions.

It is one of the extraordinary gifts of this time of “distancing”, that while it locks us down, it also opens us up. And so I get to “speak” in Melbourne without leaving my home, and to engage with some wonderful colleagues I used to minister with in Australia. The video is on the Port Phillip Presbytery East facebook site.

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It was interesting using two online platforms, Zoom to host a conversation and show the visuals and Facebook live to stream the conversation and enable access and comments. There was a bit of “breathe” holding and risk-taking as we experimented with an online lectio – reading, silence, participation through chat – but it seemed to engage participants. Certainly with 165 comments on the Facebook live feed during the 90 minutes, their was plenty of good interaction with the content.

The time broke into 5 sections

  1. what faith formation and faith practices (or spiritual or discipleship practices) mean
  2. what theological resources shape faith formation and faith practices
  3. how people have been experimenting with online faith formation in recent weeks
  4. the underlying pedagogies that shape my online teaching and learning and recent experimenting
  5. my use of improvisation, play and experimentation in relation to mission and leadership. Why is important to play during a pandemic? Is this normal or abnormal for the church?

I sought to offer theology, reflection and practical examples. Much of my thinking is in a chapter I have submitted for an edited book with Heidi Campbell, which is currently sitting with a publisher. My chapter is titled Lockdown ecclesiologies: the limits and possibilities of enforced online first expressions. I argue that enforced online first expressions are an invitation to appreciate ourselves as child-like, making visible the kingdom as we learn a new (internet) language.

The books I mentioned in order of appearance:

Avis, Paul. (2005). A Ministry Shaped by Mission. T & T Clark, 2005,
Rogers, E. (2009). The Holy Spirit: Classic and Contemporary Readings, Wiley-Blackwell
McCulloch, G. (2019). Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language, Vintage
Taylor, S. (2005). The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change, Zondervan.
Taylor, S. (2016). Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration, Mediacom.
Taylor, S. (2019). First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God, SCM
Taylor, S. (2020). communities of practice as action-reflection tools.
Smart, J. (2020, April 28). Survey report: online facilitation and virtual meetings.

Books unmentioned but important for my thinking:
Gauntlett, D. (2018). Making is Connecting: The social power of creativity, from craft and knitting to digital everything (2nd edn.), Polity
Matapo, J. (2020). The vā that binds: a Pasifika education story during Covid-19
McNeil, J. (2020). Lurking: How a Person Became a User, MCD, Farrar, Straus, and Giroux

My thanks to Craig Mitchell for the invite, Port Phillip East Presbytery for the hosting and Duncan Macleod for the technology and conversation on the day.

Posted by steve at 07:10 PM

Friday, July 17, 2020

of glasshouses and sandpits: mission and innovation

I spoke on mission and innovation at Central Presbytery earlier this week. By the wonders of technology, the minimum 90 minute flight took 9 seconds as I walked downstairs and turned on zoom. I offered 10 minutes on mission. What does good mission leadership look like, using art and Biblical reflection and the excellent Stanley Skreslet, Picturing Christian Witness: New Testament Images of Disciples in Mission

  • leaving the pen, leaving the existing 99 (John 10: 14-17; Luke 15:3-7)
  • the simplicity of sharing your Jesus encounter (John 4:27-30; 39-42)
  • listening, of finding out where Spirit is already at work in the lives of strangers (Acts 8: 26-31, 34, 36-38)
  • afresh in every different cultural encounter (Acts 14: 14-17)

I then offered 10 minutes on innovation, first pointing out the way that the Presbyterian Book of Order encourages innovation (8.4.1p; 9.45-48; Appendix D-4-E-vii ), then using 3 metaphors

  • enforced
  • glasshouse
  • sandpits

innovationcentral

My argument is that COVID has “enforced” innovation and opened up the church to more change than it ever imagined. However, organisations don’t need to wait for enforced, external change. They can erect glasshouses, to protect and nurture innovation. They can create sandpits, to encourage random play. These are deliberate ways to allocate resource and focus. Mission gives these innovation activities a distinct focus. They are not about novelty, but intentional participation in God’s making of all things new.

The images of glasshouses and sandpits are a development of material in my First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God and a development of Stefan Paas, Church Planting in the Secular West: Learning from the European Experience.

After the benediction, about half the folk stayed online with ongoing conversation for another 30 minutes. That was excellent for teasing out the discussion and engaging more deeply. Since then, there has been ongoing requests for more resources in relation to innovation, including resources I’ve been testing the last few years

  • systems innovation evaluation framework
  • innovation evaluation process

All in all, a graced event. All due to “enforced” innovation. As I said in my talk, 5 months ago if Central Presbytery has asked me to speak and I’d said yes, but can I do it online please, it would have been seen as out of the question. But “enforced” is bringing change.

Full notes are here.

Posted by steve at 03:13 PM

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

twenty-first-century ministry formation

One of my tasks over the last months has been to lead Faculty and interns in shifting a 9-day face to face intensive into a 10 -day online intensive. This has involved upskilling Faculty who have never before taught online and experimenting with ministry interns in new practices around online spiritual formation.

Today I worked through the intern evaluations, summarising the (de-identified) feedback on 13 areas of specific change made for this online intensive. This was the first step in order to be able to offer a report to the various governance and management bodies. As I finished the feedback, I found myself drafting some thoughts. They are very much draft, shaped as much by my ongoing reflection on the impact of COVID on the church in general (plus my recent work developing Bubble courses and Communities of Practice). As such, the words don’t belong so much in a block course governance report, but rather stand as a more general pondering about the future of ministry formation. Hence I note them here:

All new technology, whether a pen, the index of a book, a library catalogue or a learning management system, requires time to learn how best to utilise. How many of the skills that interns noted they were learning will, in fact, become essential ministry skills in the years ahead? Could it be that online learning needs to become an integral component of ministry formation? If so, then it will be essential that time is set aside for skill development. For example, sharing honestly and connecting socially in digital platforms, accessing online content and engaging in online spiritual disciplines. An education that integrates these dimensions will not only enhance the learning experience for all. It will also ensure a twenty-first-century citizen, in this case, an appropriately formed minister of the Word, able to participate in what God is up to, whether on or offline.

Posted by steve at 06:51 PM

Thursday, May 07, 2020

Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator research seminar

I’m committed to interdisciplinary research. As Paul Fiddes writes, Christian theology needs “to keep a conversation going with others outside the church, and to occupy a public space alongside late-modern thinkers” (Seeing the World and Knowing God: Hebrew Wisdom and Christian Doctrine in a Late-Modern Context, 2013, 13).  As a result, I find myself co-presenting – via Zoom – at a research seminar on Thursday 14 May, with Dr Christine Woods, at the Faculty of Business & Economics at the University of Auckland.

Christine is Associate Professor in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. We began working together three years ago, with the Lighthouse weekend, which sought to encourage mission and innovation, primarily among lay leaders nationally across the Presbyterian Church. 

Unknown-8 We’ve both found the interdisciplinary relationship quite engaging and co-presented (OK, Christine presented, together we wrote) at the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship 2020 conference in New Orleans in January.

Now, with the wonders of technology, I will find myself talking Hebrew Wisdom literature, Jesus and Paul at the Faculty of Business & Economics at the University of Auckland on Thursday. Here’s our abstract.

Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator: seeking the common good in a dialogue between wisdom Christologies and social entrepreneurship

Abstract:

Within Christian academic circles discussion on entrepreneurship has included the notion of missional entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship. This produces a challenging set of discussions around the relationship between market capitalism and Christian belief. In this paper we specifically extend the discussion on social entrepreneurship and suggest that Jesus can be read as a socially (ir)responsible innovator.

A connectional theology is used to develop an interdisciplinary contribution between theology and social entrepreneurship. The work of Schumpeter, who argues for innovation as social change through a mechanism of creative recombination is brought into creative dialogue with Wisdom literature of the Hebrew Bible and Christian Scriptures.

The potential of recombination is developed first in Pauline literature, particularly in 1 Corinthians as ministry is understood as serving, gardening, building, resource managing, risking and parenting. Each of these six dimensions can be theorised as recombinations in which Paul seeks social change, including in family life, in ways that in fact are socially irresponsible, challenging existing hierarchical patterns. The potential of recombination is further tested in analysing Jesus as a socially (ir)responsible innovator. This begins with examination of wisdom Christologies and Jesus as the fulfilment of God (Matthew 5:17). What emerges is recombinations that again seek social change, including in gender patterns, and hence are socially irresponsible as they challenge existing hierarchical patterns.

Theoretically, we argue that Jesus the socially irresponsible innovator is an act of public theology. A dialogue between academic disciplines of theology and social entrepreneurship is possible bringing together the three domains of church, academy and world. Practically, this is grounded in educational contexts, in which we have engaged in interdisciplinary praxis. This includes developing Innovation Canvas and Next Step resources to encourage social entrepreneurship among grassroots religious communities. The result is an envisioning of the church as a player in innovation, the world as locus of activity for agency of God and a wisdom innovation that inhabits an ethically coherent narrative.

Posted by steve at 11:17 PM

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Annunciation in a time of Isolation

I write from home on lockdown eve. A national state of emergency has been enacted, and at midnight on the 25 March 2020, all of Aotearoa New Zealand has been ordered to isolate for the next four weeks. All over my nation, people are returning home. Parents are becoming teachers. Kitchen tables are now work desks, while fridge doors have new daily routines and economic fear gnaws.

Aotearoa New Zealand is not alone. As I write, more than 1.7 billion people worldwide, over a fifth of the world’s population, are secluding themselves at home.

In the calendar of the church, the 25 March is a Principal Feast. Hence on this 2020 lockdown eve, the lectionary texts revolve around the annunciation of Our Lord to the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In Luke 1:26–38, the angel appears to Mary, announcing good news. God is conceiving life, in the form of Jesus of Nazareth. In the tradition of the church, this announcement of God’s activity is in the context of seclusion.

This is beautifully portrayed in The Annunciation, an artwork by Filippo Lippi (1450s), that hangs in Room 58 of the National Gallery in London. Mary is (humanly) alone. She is seated inside a house, isolated from the outdoors by a stone wall. Behind her is stone stairs, suggesting further layers of enclosure. In front of her is the garden, although even that is enclosed. This is a woman alone and physically separated. Whether this was reality, we do not know. How much of this is patriarchy, with Mary entombed by external prejudices and cultural bias, whether from century villagers or fourteenth century is also unclear.

What is clear is that in this isolation, Mary is surrounded by Divine activity. She stares at an angel, who has slipped over the enclosed garden wall to kneel in respect. Above Mary is the hand of God, a motif present in so much baptismal art. Filippo Lippi presents the hand as breaking through the roof, a foreshadowing of the paralytic who will descend through the roof to be forgiven and healed by Jesus in Mark 2:1–12.

A bird hovers in front of Mary’s womb. The detail is extraordinary. A spray of golden particles issues from the beak of the dove. It is common in Annunciation art for the dove to be located above Mary’s head. Filippo Lippi provides a new intimacy, as the Spirit draws near to the womb the angel is blessing. Annunciation thus offers a theology of isolation.

First, what is clear is that a home is a place of encounter. Much of religious activity is centred on the church. We expect the Spirit to be present Sunday by Sunday as the faithful gather around the body of Christ. In the annunciation, God is present in the home. This is good news for the millions of humans currently in lockdown. As we gaze longingly at our gardens, God’s hand can enter our rooms. As an external virus entombs us, God’s Spirit draws near.

Blessed are the secluded
For they will experience God

Second, the house protects. The womb of Mary will house the son of God. God’s Spirit’s draws near, proclaiming favour on the womb of Mary. This womb will house the son of God. In the flow of blood and the bodily tasks of eating and drinking, Divine life is safeguarded. This is what makes Christianity radical, for in God, bodies matter. This is the genius of Filippo Lippi. Mary’s womb, that human body that will house the divine body, is inside a house. Do the stone walls enclose? Or do they protect?

Blessed is the home
For protecting of divine encounter

Third, in seclusion is new life. The word “conceive” is used twice (verses 31 and 36), as is the word “birth” (verses 31 and 35). So much of Christianity seems focused on death, yet the story of Jesus brims with new life. The Spirit that hovers over Mary is the Spirit that hovers over the waters in Genesis 1:2. It is the Spirit that makes birth again possible for Nicodemus in John 3:4–6. It is the Spirit that groans with creation in the pains of childbirth in Romans 8:22–23. In 2020, this same conceiving Spirit continues to hover over our locked-down bodies. Bonhoeffer wrote that in birth, God in Jesus Christ claims space in the world as a “narrow space” in which the whole reality of the world is revealed (Ethics (Dietrich Bonhoeffer-Reader’s Edition)).

This narrow space that is the hope of a new creation is conceived in the four walls that enclose Mary. In 2020, the narrow spaces that are the four walls of our home might yet be the womb of God’s new creation. Might we emerge into a new world in which a universal basic income protects the vulnerable? Might we cultivate different habits, like sabbath and localism, which change the nature of global pollution?

Blessed is time
For in the moment is grace

Fourth, an agency is established. In Luke 1:26-38, despite being secluded, Mary is no passive passenger. She is an agent, choosing to open herself to God’s mission of favour. As she utters the words “Here I am” (verse 38), she is locating herself in the genealogy of God’s servants. She is taking her place alongside Moses in Exodus 3:4 and the prophet in Isaiah 6:8.

How might Mary’s agency be portrayed in art? What Filippo Lippi does is extraordinary. A close examination of The Annunciation shows a spray of golden particles pours from the beak of the hovering dove. An answering spray of gold golden particles issues from a tiny parting in the tunic of Mary. This is Mary “active and outgoing” according to John Drury, former Dean of Christ Church, Oxford (Painting the Word: Christian Pictures and Their Meanings, Yale University Press, 1999, 53). In enclosure, Mary is open. Secluded, she is receptive. This is the art of imagination, not the precision of science. Yet in the poetry is a theology of isolation.

Blessed are the isolated
For they participate in God’s conceiving

In time, Mary will be no stranger to sorrow. The years that lie ahead of her will be stained by tears and pain. God’s favour is no offer of a rosy garden. Yet on the Feast of Annunciation, we in 2020 find a theology of isolation. Enclosed in our homes, God’s Spirit is active. Entombed by the invisible, we have agency. In the narrow space in which we, as a global society, find ourselves, a new world might yet be conceived.

Rev Dr Steve Taylor is Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and explores ecclesiologies of birth and conception in First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God. This post also appears on the SCM blog as part of their #TheologyinIsolation series.

Posted by steve at 09:15 PM

Monday, August 26, 2019

Welcoming Dave Dobbyn to Listening in Mission

Dave Dobbyn, Waiting for a voice, from his 2016 Harmony House album, made it into my Listening in Mission class.

Dave Dobbyn – Waiting for a voice from Sebastian Beyrer on Vimeo.

I was teaching a Listening in Mission (intern) cohort. There are 4 sessions over 2 months:

  • Mission as gift, calling and promise
  • Being present and listening in neighbourhood/context
  • Cultivating congregational spaces for conversation and shared practices of missional attentiveness
  • Discerning and understanding local narratives

The four online Listening in Mission sessions support an action-learning project in which folk gather a group and work with them in listening in their local communities. So the online experience provides support, encouragement and resources. We offer this online support in mission to ordinands training for ministry. We also offer it separately as life-learning for the wider church.

The sessions is online, because we want to work with participants in their context, not in the artificiality of a lecture space. The online sessions go for about 90 minutes. So it needs some sort of break, to briefly stretch legs. So at the 45 minute mark, I announced I was going to play “Waiting for a voice” by Dave Dobbyn twice. Folk were invited to listen once, and take a short stretch the second time. It was a nice way to break up a class. It engaged senses other than talking. The cycle of a song makes it easy for participants to know when to return.

And of course, the lyrics are fascinating. The theme of the class was Mission as gift, call and promise. Prior to class, folk had been invited to visit a local body of water and read John 21:1-19. This is consistent with the ethos of the learning, wanting to work with participants in their context, to read Scripture in their communities. In John 21:1-19, when Jesus appears by the Lake of Galilee. Jesus is Gift and offers gifts in breakfast cooked. Jesus is Call and calls Peter at the same lake where Peter was first called to follow. Jesus is Promise and promises a feed of fish if they will just put their nets on the other side.

Returning as class, with “Waiting for a voice” ringing in our ears, links were made from the song to the theme of the class.

  • Mission is Gift – “I saw a stranger on the opposite shore; cooking up a meal for me”
  • Mission is Call – ‘waiting for a still clear voice’
  • Mission is Promise – ‘and sure as I’m living, i dined with the one; his words were brighter than a billion suns; he sent me running i never get tired, back into the valley where the world had died’

I have no idea whether Dobbyn would make these connections. But the lyrics make so much sense of John 21. It was an excellent way to pause a class and a great seque back into class. Thanks Dave, for your input.

Posted by steve at 12:23 PM

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Lighthouse2018

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Go to the edge
Gain perspective
See more clearly
Seek light for a next direction
 
For Presbyterians embedded in a local context 
with a heart for their community
Who need a next step in mission clarified
 
The Lighthouse
Is a 48 hour set of steps
That yields 2 pathways and 1 next step
Unlike talkfests
We offer a working process that takes your opportunity to a next outcome

I’m stepping into an innovation space tomorrow, curating a weekend with two colleagues. We have 18 people joining us, as part of intentional processes in innovation incubation within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand. Over the weekend, we will weave 6 innovation images from Scripture (for more see Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration) with insights from Maori innovation (Artefact) and social innovation incubator processes.

It is the second weekend we’ve done and 2 weeks ago a participant from Lighthouse 2017 sought me out to say that the youth mentoring programme they had workshopped at Lighthouse 2017 was now running “And wouldn’t have happened without Lighthouse. So thanks.” It is that type of grassroots action we hope to innovate, as well as helping people find new travelling companions in the task of mission and nurturing the reforming DNA of being Presbyterian. It runs as a gift from Presbyterian Development Society and their passionate commitment to the communities of Aotearoa.

Posted by steve at 05:30 PM

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Innovation and congregations: Built for change (for Thursday, Monday)

My first teaching session in Scotland, for the Church of Scotland – is titled Innovation and Congregations. I’ve been asked to offer Biblical, theological and spiritual resources, drawing from my Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration book.

For those attending the workshop and for the sake of the environment (or technology preferences), want an electronic copy, here is a copy of my note – Innovation and congregations: Built for change Thursday workshop.

Posted by steve at 09:49 AM

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Built for change UK trip June 2018

Assembly hall nwb photo credit Bob White I’m in the United Kingdom for 2 weeks early June, working with the Church of Scotland and presenting a paper at the 3rd U2 conference in Belfast. The Presbyterian Church of New Zealand has a partner relationship with the Church of Scotland and it will be good to embody that relationship, reflecting with them on innovation, mission and change.

My itinerary is as follows:

I fly into London on Monday, 4 June and train to Glasgow on Tuesday the 5th.

Thurs 7th June, Glasgow – Built For Change: Biblical, Theological and Spiritual Resources for enabling change within congregations (open to all)

Fri 8th June, Glasgow – Listening In Mission/Mission Seedlings (open to all)

Mon 11th June, Edinburgh – Built for Change: Enabling Change At Regional and National Levels (nomination and invite only)

Tues 12th June, Edinburgh – Initial Ministerial Training – critical reflections on downunder models (invite only)

Tues 12th June, Edinburgh – Listening In Mission/Mission Seedlings (open to all)

Wed 13th June, I fly to Belfast and am there until Friday 15th June, at the U2 conference reflecting on the role of popular music in shaping culture. My paper is Friday morning, 8:45 am – The endings of Pop).

I fly out of London back to New Zealand on Saturday, 16 June.

I’m grateful to Doug Gay, Principal of Trinity College, Glasgow University, for making the trip possible. At a personal level, I’m looking forward to escaping a Dunedin winter. I’m also really interested in seeing how my book, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration will resonate in the Northern Hemisphere context. I deliberately wrote with a down-under publisher, in order to reflect from my context. So taking the ideas half-way around the world to see how they play will be really interesting.

Posted by steve at 03:26 PM

Friday, February 23, 2018

research play in the inbetween spaces

Unknown I’ve had a rich, demanding, draining and playful 24 hours. It has involved 24 hours gazing out the window of the Business School at Auckland University, finding generative space in a conversation between social entrepreneurship and theology.

It began last year, when we at KCML piloted the Lighthouse, an educative weekend encouraging local churches in innovation. Funded by an external funder, the funders challenged us to draw on resources from outside the Presbyterian theological world. A number of conversations and networks over the next few months resulted in working with a lecturer from the Business School at Auckland University. As we began she challenged us: what does Christ-based innovation look like? What in Christian resources might encourage the making of all things new?

The result was a rich weekend, in which I worked through the 6 images of innovation in my Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration, while the lecturer introduced contemporary innovation practices liked the Innovation Canvas and Rituals of dissent. Participants loved it.

As the weekend concluded, we wondered aloud about doing some writing together. Hence the last 24 hours. Having listened to each other teach over a weekend last year, we met yesterday and began to toss around possibilities for publications. We searched the web for journals. We shared the things we had learnt:

  • could the social entrepreneurship of Joseph Schumpeter provide a way to understand the church as apostolic?
  • could Jesus as fool in 1 Corinthians 4 be read in light of the Biblical Wisdom literature as a way of encouraging resilience and risk-taking in social entrepreneurship?

We used the 40 paragraph technique, chose two different journals, one business, the other theological and began to map out what we might say. We had coffee and mindmapped. We challenged each other and made new connections. We shared journal articles and insights from previous writing.

We now both step away, to meet other commitments. Yet we have a clear map and enough structure to keep on writing. We are both working on our strengths and will need each other to ensure the interdisciplinary conversation continues.

It was rich, demanding, draining and playful. It is interdisciplinary, seeing what emerges in the inbetween spaces. It is a form of benchmarking – taking my speaking and exposing it to another academic, seeing what is making sense and what needs clarifying.

Posted by steve at 04:08 PM

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

translation and cultural change: the impact of Scripture for a church in mission

jerome Jerome (347 – 420) was a priest, theologian and Bible translator. A Doctor of the Church, he is best known for his translation of the Bible into Latin. But not without conflict.

Translation threatens existing patterns. It causes conflict. When the new translation is read: “A great uproar ensued in the congregation.” (White (ed), The correspondence (394-419) between Jerome and Augustine of Hippo, 92-3). That which was familiar was now different. The church leaders are asked to intervene. Scripture is causing conflict.

Lawrence Venuti, a professional translator, uses this as an example in arguing that “a translation practice cannot fail to produce a text that is a potential source of cultural change.” (The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 87).

Translation of Scripture was challenging the church. It was disrupted what was familiar. It was raising questions about the location of authority. Is it in the familiarity of tradition or the pages of Scripture? Should the scholar or the bishop be making these decisions? In a church with different cultural identities, some Greek, some Latin, any use of languages from another culture challenged power. So how did Jerome bring about change? In the midst of conflict, what strategies did he use to change what was familiar and precious?

Venuti describes four change strategies (The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 80-1). First, Jerome took time to explain. His translations include a preface, in which he outlined what he was doing. Second, he listened to the objections. He noted the fears, including the impact on stability, uniformity and cultural identity. Third, Jerome offered a new way of looking. He framed his translation not as a replacement but as a supplement. It would aid in the tasks of understanding Scripture. It would protect the church from accusations of ignorance. “Jerome’s version was thus presented as an institutional support, assisting in … debates with the members of a rival religious institution … who cast doubt on the cultural authority of Christianity.” (The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, 80). Fourth, he found resilience in his heart for mission. Jerome began to translate because he was part of “a culture in which sensitivity to a foreign language was an integral element.” (Kamesar, Jerome, Greek Scholarship, and the Hebrew Bible: A Study of the Quaestiones Hebraicae in Genesim (Oxford Classical Monographs), 43). Jerome’s awareness of his cultural context, when combined with his desire to offer credible Christian witness, motivated his work.

Translation of Scripture brings cultural change. It can disrupt existing hierarchies and challenge established authorities. This is evident in the translation of the Scripture into Latin. This change happens because Jerome is skilled not only technically, in translation. He also shows skill in innovation. He brings about cultural change as he listens, explains, frames and nurtures his resilience.

Christian art represents the Spirit, whispering to Jerome as he works. It suggests the inspiration of God. This inspiration originates in mission, the gospel’s inherent translatability across cultures. Inspiration occurs for Jerome not only in the hard graft and technical skill of translation. It also occurs in the skills of bringing cultural change, of listening, framing and being resilient in and through conflict.

Posted by steve at 10:28 AM

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Christ-based innovation: eschatology and entrepreneurship

Screen Shot 2017-12-06 at 8.58.08 AM

Christ-based innovation, a short piece, written with a KCML colleague, Mark Johnston, for SPANZ Summer 2017. It uses eschatology to consider innovation, building on my chapter on Jesus the innovator in Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration

The Bible ends with a vision of creation restored and reconciled. At the heart is Jesus Christ – crucified, risen – announcing the making of all things new (Rev 21:5). This provides a way to understand Christ-based innovation.  

Presbyterian theologian Michael Jinkins calls Christ-based innovation one of the most remarkable and vital hallmarks of our Reformed legacy. It is a way to make sense of the call of the Reformers to ecclesia reformata, semper reformanda, the Church always in need of being reformed. Presbyterians were innovators with the capacity to draw from the experience of ancient Christian communities in adapting to new situations, says Jinkins in The Church Transforming: What’s Next for the Reformed Project? We are defined by our history as innovative as we participate in God’s making of all things new.

Christ-based innovation is also a way of making sense of the mission of the Apostle Paul. Hallmarks of his ministry were the forming of multiple, diverse Christian communities. For Paul, this was innovation and was always coupled with risk. Paul wrote of how his Christ-based innovation risked the appearance of foolishness with the potential to upend religious, political and economic conventions of wisdom (1 Corinthians 1:20-25; 3:18-23). To proclaim Jesus is Lord, meant Caesar was not. To proclaim a crucified saviour was to upend power and religious control and break retributive cycles of violence. To proclaim a Risen Lord with a life now poured out for all who would receive him was to re-order social relations, Jew and Gentile, women and men, slave and free. Innovation was a risky venture as it challenged established cultural patterns.

It was also a risky venture because it challenged established church ways. We see this as Peter met Cornelius (Acts 10) and Paul met Peter (Galatians 2:11-14). The risks echo through history, as Luther, Calvin and Knox met the established church. Today, much of our Presbyterian polity is designed to protect the gains made by earlier eras of innovation, particularly the new impetus that resulted from the Reformation innovations. However in consolidating gains of the past, we can become closed to ongoing attempts to respond to the call of Christ making all things new. We show favour to what we already know over the unknown, uncertain and unconventional.

We need to own as Presbyterian churches that innovation and those risking a new thing will be misunderstood. It will feel like they are challenging the status quo. They will not meet people’s current expectations. They will risk being isolated and left to carry things alone. They will risk exposure, unfair criticism and potentially the shame of apparent lack of success.

So if we are to be churches that create conditions for the risk of Christ-based innovations, we will need to lay hold of another of our great Reformed hallmarks, that of grace. Overflowing grace along with risk is at the heart of innovating. We are always in grace, for Christ-based innovation is birthed out of gifts given and received.

Grace for innovation givers involves the freedom to try new things and be generous when there is stumbling. This includes being supportive with compliments and ready to revise metrics about success and progress.

Grace for innovation receivers includes being faithful stewards of the gifts of generosity, freedom and support. It will mean reporting on progress and sharing stories of what God is up to in the midst of innovation.

In the grace of risk and innovation, givers and receivers will find themselves as disciples, learning to draw from the experiences of ancient communities, like Paul and the Reformers, in the making of all things new.

Mark Johnston and Steve Taylor, KCML

Posted by steve at 07:52 PM

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Christ-based innovation

A few weeks ago, I provided spiritual wisdom in an Educating for innovation weekend run by KCML. Seven teams from around New Zealand were brought together. They were offered a fabulous location and invited to work on taking ideas to opportunity for their local community context.

We worked with Dr Christine Woods from University of Auckland Business School, who was invited to walk us through the processes she used with small businesses and in Maori innovation. In planning the weekend, she was careful. “In working with Maori, I quickly realised I can’t just add on a bit of Maori to my existing work. I needed to begin with Maori values. So in this weekend, we can’t just add on a bit of Jesus. We need to begin with Christian values.”

I grinned. I had just written a book on faith-based innovation. In Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration I read Paul in light of Christ, using six images from 1 Corinthians 3 and 4. This includes an entire chapter on Jesus the innovator.

So here is how I introduced the weekend, a beginning located in Christ-based innovation:

We gather as whanua (family) of Ihu Karaiti (Jesus Christ). One of the more interesting innovators in the Christian tradition is Apostle Paul. Most (all) of Paul’s innovation begins when he, like us, goes to the edge.

So in Acts 16, Paul goes to the edge. He hears a man from Macedonia say “come on over.” Paul is a learner. Paul takes a risk. Paul forms a mission team with two others, Timothy and Silas.

And they go to a community in Macedonia called Philipi. In that community, he find some partners. He finds a business woman called Lydia. Together they form prayerful community in the borderlands outside the city

Then he moves to a community called Athens. He takes time in that community to learn the culture, to read their poets and study how cultures gather.

And in each place, in each community, Paul and his mission team, are gaining perspective, seeing more clearly, the Gospel in community.

And in each place, it is only once they get there, only once they begin, only once they listen, that they see light for a next direction.

And for one community, after Paul has left, he sends a letter. And in that letter, we get a glimpse of what it means for Paul to be an innovator.

And so this weekend, as innovators, we will open one of Paul’s letters. It is the letter of 1 Corinthians. It is written to a church that Paul has begun. And in that letter he describes his innovation. The first image is that of servant ….

Posted by steve at 03:00 PM