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

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

Friday, February 28, 2020

Making matters

Making matters: yarn-bombing and craftivism in contemporary Christian mission

Kiwiangels

What is the role of making in contemporary culture? From pink pussy hats to yarnbombing – craftivism combines craft and activism, providing hands-on ways to engage in change. In 2014, Christmas Angels began as a project of Methodist churches in the North of England, yarn-bombing their communities with hand-made angels. By 2018, the number of Christmas Angels knitted in Great Britain were too many to count. Steve Taylor shares his research, focused on those who received these angels. How was good news as craft experienced? How might making provide new insights into Christian faith and mission as hands-on?

St Lukes Remuera, 130 Remuera Road, 7:30-9 pm, Thursday 5th March.

Steve Taylor is Principal of Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership and author of 3 books and over 200 articles and publications. His latest study leave involved learning to knit and using digital ethnographies to study making in mission. Steve Taylor is married to Lynne, and together they enjoy two adult children.

Posted by steve at 08:33 AM

Thursday, February 27, 2020

The burning bush – a visual study of indigenization and faith

Title (working): The burning bush in Aotearoa New Zealand: a visual study of indigenization and faith

Aim: 5-7000 words, including notes; scholarly rigour with clear and lively prose; due to publisher 1 March 2020.

Abstract(working): Presbyterianism is a global faith. Yet a message spoken by a sender is not always what is heard by a receiver. Hence communicating faith across cultures can simultaneously generate both globalization and distinct accounts of indigenization. Messages are communicated not only in words but also in visuals. This paper examines the indigenization of the burning bush in the contexts and cultures of Aotearoa New Zealand. An archival study of crafted adornments to Bibles, stained glass windows and identity symbols suggest that visual communication enhances local agency and empowers indigenization. The bush takes indigenous form, burning because of a Presbyterian theology of immediacy in revelation.

(Trying to turn a cross-cultural experience in 2018, and a keynote talk in 2018
IMG_6472 and another more academic talk in 2019 into a written piece for a special journal issue on the principles of indigenization).

Posted by steve at 01:24 PM

Thursday, December 19, 2019

When Christmas Angels tweet – a research summary as book contribution

One of my 2019 tasks has been a research project investigating the impact of Christmas Angels, a form of Christian witness that began in the north of England in 2014. (A brief summary for my denominational magazine is here). The research project began on the edges of my sabbatical, a creative break in the grind of book completion. It made possible a conference presentation at the Ecclesiology and Ethnography conference (thanks workplace).

Following the conference, I had an email from one of the keynote speakers, Mary Clark Moschella. They had sat in on my conference presentation and the email was one of congratulations, describing my research as highly imaginative.

It was also an email of invitation. Mary was working on revising Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice: An Introduction. She was wanting to include a couple of brief research summaries as examples at the end of the book. Might this include a summary of my research? She noted my research would serve a number of purposes in a revised edition. It would automatically update the work and appeal to students who are considering undertaking online research. It lifts up the feminist implications of craftivism and would exemplify a fresh approach to practical theology based on making. It was a wonderful and encouraging email to receive.

I had already submitted my research to an academic journal so there were copyright implications to consider. But this request was asking something quite different, with a focus on explaining the research to students in a step-by step way, concentrating on the bare bones of the research methodology and process, the ethical considerations, and theological reflections.

Ethnography As A Pastoral Practice: An Introduction is a book I use in my teaching and to be invited to contribute to a revised edition was a real affirmation of the research and the presentation! So in the cracks of time over the last few months, I’ve been working away on a distinctive piece of writing.

Yesterday I was able send off 4,500 words, tenatively titled – When Christmas Angels tweet: making matters and practical theology in researching mission online, seeking feedback from Mary.

IMG_8035 It might well need reworking, or be deemed not suitable. But it has been wonderful to write, sharing the research journey, including my learning to knit and in conversation with Fieldwork in Theology: Exploring the Social Context of God’s Work in the World (The Church and Postmodern Culture). There is also some new theological reflection, developing a theological reading of the knitting (Buxtehude) Madonna.

The sending brought to 9* my academic research outputs for the 2019 year. It’s been a highly productive year:

  • 1 book – First Expressions
  • 5 academic journal articles (3 accepted following revise/resubmit; 2 revise/resubmit work in process)
  • 2 book chapters (writing up of conference presentations)
  • 1 (successful) $130,000 research grant (further announcements pending)

Obviously the 15 weeks of sabbatical has helped my productivity, giving sustained space to complete a range of products. So also has been writing in partnerships. 4 of the 9 outputs have been co-authored with 3 people in different types of writing partnerships. So has a work situation, which in complexity has required me to re-order where my creativity can be offered. With less creativity required in some areas, an unintended benefit has been increased productivity in the cracks of time. I’m not spending any more time writing, just finding in retrospect, that the time I spend writing is proving to be highly generative.

* My rule of thumb is 1 “industry” ie church-facing output for every 1 “academic” output, in which I seek to express theological thinking in accessible and church-facing places. In 2019, there has also been 19 industry/”church-facing outputs including 11 film reviews in Touchstone, 2 SPANZ columns, 1 Zadok column, 2 Weekly Worship lectionary guides, 1 devozine youth resource, 1 Candour blog, 1 SCM blog.

Posted by steve at 11:23 AM

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Innovation ecclesiologies and the expanding of World Christianity

280719_irst Expressions FINAL CORRECT copy Paper proposal – taking my new book into an academic context – ANZATS 2020 – World Christianity and Diaspora Theology stream.

Title: Innovation ecclesiologies and the expanding of World Christianity

Global Christianity assumes a gospel that expands throughout the world, from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Yet notions of expansion have trajectories, ethics and hoped for eschatologies that require missiological examination.

Ecclesiological expansion is probed through dialogue with research into fresh expressions in the UK (Taylor, First Expressions: Innovation and the Mission of God 2019), which found that half of fresh expressions had died within ten years of birth. Longitudinal analysis of other new forms of church literature – by Riddell (Threshold of the Future: Reforming the Church in the Post-Christian West, 1998), Frost and Hirsch (The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church, 2003) – reveal similar percentages. Yet Together Towards Life (2012) affirmed the value of fresh expressions as new forms of contextual mission in the global North.

A pragmatic ecclesiology values numbers. If fresh expressions die, are they of value in theorising the expanding of world Christianity? A pastoral ecclesiology values people. What are the pastoral implications if half of newly planted diaspora churches die in new cultural contexts?

This paper responds to these challenges by developing an innovation ecclesiology. An initial globalizing trajectory is followed as Christianity first expands into Europe. The innovative role of Lydia as a church planter in Philippi is read in relation to Mary as a first apostle, commissioned amid the eschatology of death and the trajectory of resurrection. This resonates with Epaphroditus, who despite nearly dying for the gospel, is regarded as valuable (Philippians 2:29). Such an innovation ecclesiology, in which dying is woven into rising, values expansion while providing ethical resources for the pastoral care of those who innovate in world Christianity.

Posted by steve at 06:27 PM

Monday, October 07, 2019

Listening in Mission key missiology assumptions

listeninginmission2019 I began Listening in Mission 2019 as online continuing education cohort experience a few weeks ago. It’s the 3rd year in a row we as KCML have offered this online educative local mission in neighbourhood experience. In preparing for the opening session (of five), I wanted to articulate some of the missiology that shaped the design of the course. Since we were working with John 21:1-14 in the lectio divina, I turned to that Biblical text as I sketched the key missiological assumptions.

The first assumption is that God is active in the world. This is central to John 21; first in the centrality of the Resurrected Jesus and second in the affirmation that this Jesus “showed himself in this way” (verse 1) by the Sea of Tiberias. Jesus “showed himself” as present and active neither in a building nor in a clearly religious activity, but beside a Lake and in the everyday, working day actions of fishing. Listening in mission assumes that God is active in the everyday working world. This assumption invites us to pay attention to our local communities, to look for Jesus in the ordinary and everyday.

A second assumption is that existing approaches yield little fruit. The disciples have fished all night, but “have no fish.” (21:5). This is the experience of many of our churches. What used to work, the ways we used to gather fish, are not yielding the same results. Our communities are changing. There is nothing wrong with the activity, skill or dedication of the disciples. It is simply that they have no fish.

This results in a third assumption, to be open to surprises from outside ourselves. The invitation from Jesus in verse 6 is to try the other side of the boat. This required the disciples to stop and listen, to attend to a voice from outside their hard-working circle, from a person they did not yet recognise. In Christ, there are new possibilities. These emerge as we pay attention to voices from outside ourselves.

A fourth assumption is that we need the body of Christ. In verse 4 – ‘disciples did not know” and in verse 7, Peter needed John as part of the process of discernment. While we can wonder at why this lack of recognition might be, the text makes clear that the discerning of Jesus was a shared task. This notion of shared discernment is central to being Presbyterian. Aware of our human sinfulness, we enact shared governance. Hence any listening in mission must be communal. We need others to help us looking for Jesus in community.

These 4 assumption
• God is active in the world, so pay attention to local
• Old ways are not working
• Jesus invites to pay attention in new ways
• We need each other
shape the design of Listening in Mission.

Participants are invited to
• gather local because our everyday communities are where God is present
• engage in disciplines of listening, a double listening for God in Scripture and in community
• take time, because new possibilties and new habits are not always immediately obvious
• keep gathering support – both local and in engaging with KCML

____________
For a 90 second video introduction, shot in my friendly local cafe, click here …

listening in mission from steve taylor on Vimeo.

__________

For a musical – pop culture, Kiwi contextual – framing go here

Posted by steve at 08:43 PM

Monday, August 12, 2019

Listening in Mission 2019

Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership introduces Listening in Mission 2019, cohosted by Steve Taylor and Jill McDonald. Listening is an active process, a “double listening” to God and people. Online technologies will support leaders in undertaking a practical project in their community. As a result, a spirituality of presence, community building, attentiveness, discernment, experimentation is encouraged.

Online taster August 29, 4:30-5:30 pm, followed by five Thursdays, 4:30-6 pm – September 26; October 10; October 31; November 14; November 21. Bookings and queries to principal at knoxcentre dot ac dot nz.

For a jpg, download this.

listeninginmission2019

For a flier, go here – PDF.

For a video introduction, shot in my friendly local cafe, click here …

listening in mission from steve taylor on Vimeo.

Posted by steve at 02:18 PM

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Faith of girls and the mission of men

I write a column for Zadok, an Australian print publication, every quarter. It is a print based publication which they let me share on my blog, to resource more widely and generally. Here is my column for Autumn 2019, on gender and mission.

IMG_7525

Faith of girls and the mission of men

When I hear talk of gender and faith, I think of Tarore, an indigenous Maori girl, born around 1826 in Aotearoa New Zealand.

Her father Ngakuku, came into contact with pioneer missionary couple, Rev Alfred and Charlotte Brown. Ngakuku’s daughter, Tarore, aged ten, showed an interest in learning to read and write, using a Maori language translation of Luke’s Gospel. She was a gifted student and quickly became an oral storyteller. Crowds, sometimes 200-300 people, would gather to hear Tarore share in Maori the Good Samaritan and Prodigal Son. Ten years old and a woman, she became known recognised in her Maori community as an evangelist.

This moment in the life of Tarore reminds me of Lo-ruhamah in Hosea 1 and Namaan’s wife’s slave girl in 2 Kings 5. All three are pre-pubescent girls and all three are agents of a new theology. God is made more real, more understandable, more present, through the faith of girls (For more, see The Faith of Girls, Routledge, 2017).

Tarore’s story is consistent with the history of mission. Time and again, the Gospel has spread not through missionary preaching but through indigenous proclamation. It begins with the Spirit at Pentecost as those from diverse cultures hear “in our own tongues” (Acts 2:11). The missionary is essential, Peter will preach but the Gospel spreads as people giving voice in their own language.

As 1836 ended, Tarore’s world grew increasingly tense, with increased conflict between local Maori tribes. On 18 October, Tarore was killed by a raiding party. At her funeral, her father, Ngakuku, proclaimed the need for forgiveness: “Do not you rise to seek a payment for her, God will do that. Let this be the finishing of the war. Now let peace be made.”

Meanwhile, Paora Te Uita, the man who killed Tarore, took her belongings, which included her beloved Gospel of Luke in Maori. Paora Te Uita couldn’t read. But he had a slave, Ripahau. Like Tarore, Ripahau had learnt to read through contact with missionaries. Ripahau read Luke (in Maori) to Paora Te Uita, who was deeply moved. He sought out Tarore’s family to seek forgiveness. Once again, we have a hearing in their own language and once again, we have an indigenous person, radically embodying the radical Gospel.

Meanwhile, Ripahau, upon release, returned to his home with Tarore’s copy of Luke. Those who listened included Katu Te Raauparaha, a local chief, who set out to make peace and halt a spiralling cycle of violence. Again, in the lives of Ripahua and Katu, we glimpse how faith is transmitted, carried by indigenous people who hear in their own language. (For more, see For more, see Nga Kai-Rui i Te Rongopai: Seven Early Maori Christians, Te Hui Amorangi ki te Manawa o Te Wheke, 2013).

I thought of Tarore when the news of the death of John Chau broke. John Chau was a twenty-six year old American, who made an illegal—and tragically fatal—voyage to visit a remote tribe in the Indian Ocean. The media sifted through John’s social media profile and suggested a range of motives: an adventuring spirit, Western optimism and a passion to reach the unreached.

Clearly there are differences between Tarore and John. One was indigenous and female, the other Western and male. One was a reciever of initial mission, the other wanted to be an initator of initial mission.

Yet there were also similarities. Both died early, with many years of life ahead. Both died at the hands of another. Both died in the context of missionary zeal and cross-cultural tension.

In the history of Christian mission, those who initiate mission have rarely been effective as proclaimers. Missiologist Lamin Sanneh examined the contradiction: Christianity has spread, yet rarely by missionary preaching. Sanneh, an adult convert from Gambia, became a Professor of Mission at Yale Divinity School. Sanneh argues that mission spreads as missionaries focus on translation. In Jesus, the Word becomes flesh and through the Spirit, the Word is heard in their own language. Sanneh calls this the “translatability” of the gospel (Translating the Message: The Missionary Impact on Culture, Orbis, 2009).

This has four benefits. First, it turns the missionary from initiator into a receiver of indigenous knowledge. Second, it makes local culture a carrier of grace, as God moves into the neighbourhood ( John 1:14), accessible through local language. Third, Bible translations tend to use popular language, a liberating move in hierarchical cultures. It results in a pre-teenage girl like Tarore being recognised as an evangelist. Fourth, no one culture is ever above critique. In Africa, among the Zulu people, translation resulted in the missionaries being told to read the Bible. Surely Genesis 27:16 affirm not the colonial safari suit, but indigenous practices of dressing in skins. Fifth, as people hear in their own language, they become agents of change. The cyles of violence in New Zealand cease as indigenous people embody the Good Samaritan and Luke’s radical call to forgiveness.

Tarore and Chau are very different, yet side by side, they teach us much about faith. There is great potential when missionaries are not initiators but learners and indigenous people are the primary Gospel heralds. That even in the unbearable pain of losing a child, peace can be made.

Posted by steve at 05:06 PM

Thursday, September 13, 2018

wrestling with strange worlds

Today, I facilitated a group wrestling with Luke 10:1-12. A text that initially felt hard, from an alien world, one that had no immediate relevance for New Zealand today. Out of discussion and honest questions, some shared themes began to emerge. After an hour, we paused and each person was invited to capture in words the insights: what does Luke Luke 10:1-12 mean for mission today?

Here are my words:

The mission of God begins with being sent. Those sent begin to participate by looking for spaces and places in our society where relationships are nurtured. We speak peace to these spaces and places.

If we are not welcomed, we don’t hang around and be whiny and annoying. Instead we respect people and step back.

If we are welcomed, we stay. We listen. We are human. We laugh and enjoy life. We anticipate that in these relationships of being human and present, God will work and there will be healing/change/transformation. We hope/expect/long to find the words to will connect good news with the healing/change/transformation we see. Hence mission today is about being totally reliant on God to be ahead of us.

Posted by steve at 05:06 PM

Thursday, September 06, 2018

The burning bush and mission revealed

The revelation of God begins with the orthodoxy of “I am”. This God of the ancestors is then revealed in three verbs. The One who has observed the misery of the oppressed (3:7a); heard their cry (3:7b) and knows their sufferings (3:7c). The listening (orthopraxy) ends with knowing suffering (orthopathy). If this empathy is an expression of orthopathy, then Moses is being called to follow the trio God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, God of orthodoxy, orthopraxis and orthopathy.

The burning bush of Exodus 3 has 5 branches. They are the 5 faces of mission. Each branch looks different – as it produces fruit, giving witness to proclamation; nurture; responding to human; seeking transformation; creation care. Each branch draws from the one source of life; from I am who listens to those who suffer. Our response is to feel the earth of our local context, for the ground, our turangawaewae, is now holy.

The God of the burning bush listened – deeply – to the suffering of those in bondage in Exodus 3. That God continues to be revealed as the deep listening God. That God invites those who want to reveal God to in turn be deep listeners, as a first step in mission.

KCML offers online Listening in mission courses annually, to ensure that those who commit to deep listening are supported, sustained, resourced, so that deep listening never stops.

Posted by steve at 11:10 PM

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

innovation in central cities

Definition – Fresh expression is a form of church for our changing culture, established primarily for the benefit of people who are not yet members of any church

Definition – Inherited or traditional form of church

In the Bible, in 1 Corinthians 3 and 4, Paul describes his mission and ministry using 6 metaphors. I’ve written about them in my book, Built for change: A practical theology of innovation and collaboration. So one way to think about the future of Central City churches is by using these six images.

The first image that Paul uses is in 1 Corinthians 3:5 and again in 1 Corinthians 4:1 is that of servant. Ministry is serving the Corinthian church. This is the beginning of ministry and mission: serving God, serving each other, serving our communities. So whatever decisions are made about the future of church, they begin with a focus not on ourselves but on who and how we can serve.

The last image that Paul uses is that of parent. Healthy systems in mission have parents. Different denominations have different systems: some a Pope or bishop, others elders. These are people who parent, gathering groups together as a family, providing guidance. Parents connect us in mission. They ensure that we are not alone, but together, sharing the future of ministry in Central City.

In the Central City conversations about the future of mission usually involve buildings. The conversation usually goes something like “Someone in the past has been a builder. This means we have somewhere to meet. We need people to fill the space.” As a result talk of mission quickly becomes about the people joining the existing inherited form of church in a certain type of mission. Either that, or a different conversation begins, about the one-off opportunity to sell our buildings. Central City churches are thus, by way of inheriting a building, asset rich, which means they have one chance to lever that for mission. So buildings invariably occupy a lot of space in a mission conversation. When Paul says he is a builder (1 Cor 3:10), it is giving dignity to Central City conversations about how buildings shape our mission.

Having buildings also means that central City churches are resource managers. They have inherited a building, this gift from the past. It is thus something to maintain, something that people drive by, something that might, or might not serve our mission. Again when Paul says he is a resource manager (1 Cor 4:1), he is giving dignity to our conversations about how we resource manage our buildings as we think about our mission futures.

That leaves gardener and fool. In 1 Corinthians 3:6, Paul is a gardener, working with other gardeners in God’s garden. It is for this reason that KCML has begun to talk about New Mission Seedlings as our way of seeking to explore fresh expressions within a New Zealand context.

New – something not done before. Not constrained by the inherited forms of church

Mission – focused on people who currently don’t come to church; on what God is already doing.

Seedlings – starting small, needing to be tended, shaped by their environments.

nms-graphicver2

KCML has partnered with a range of funding group and Presbyteries and begun to garden, by planting new forms of church. We began a New Mission Seedling in Christchurch in 2017 and in Dunedin in 2018. Both are taking quite different shape, as they respond to local contexts. New Mission Seedlings make lots of sense as an approach to Central City conversations, given the diversity of city communities and networks, which provide such rich possibilities for mission.

KCML New Mission Seedlings are about being a gardener. They are also about being a fool. In 1 Cor 4:10, Paul describes himself as being a fool. It is an unlikely metaphor for ministry. But it is important for Paul, and makes sense of his ministry, because of who Jesus is: riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, taking a risk of being misunderstood, doing something unexpected. So a fool asks “What is the unexpected, surprising thing that God might be doing, that we can pay attention to?” It might fail. It might not work. But like Jesus, the risks are taken.

So applying Paul in innovation and Central City churches:

We are all servants and we need parents in mission to gather us together. Inherited churches focus on mission as builders and resource managers. Fresh expressions becomes partners in this shared mission, by working alongside as gardener and fool.

This invites some immediate next steps.
1. Inherited and fresh expressions agree we are better together
2. A parent gathers inherited and fresh expressions together in shared learning.
2. Fresh expressions conduct a listening exercise in the community.
3. Insights are shared back through the regular gatherings.
4. Some risks are taken, guerilla planting New Mission Seedlings, outside the existing buildings, but in partnership, because we are sharing the six metaphors of innovation together amongst us.

Posted by steve at 05:05 PM

Friday, August 03, 2018

Listening in mission 2018

Listening in mission 2018 taster August 23, 4:45-6:15 pm

- “really helpful”; “practical”; “encouraging”; “inclusive”; “another follow-on please” –

Following feedback from 2017 participants, KCML invites ministry practitioners in the PCNZ into a listening in mission practical learning course. 6 online sessions (Thursdays 4:45-6:15 pm)

  • Aug 23 (info only)
  • Sept 6 (Mission as gift)
  • Sept 27 (Presence)
  • Oct 11 (Cultivate)
  • Nov 1 (Discern)
  • Nov 22 (Celebrate)

hosted by KCML mission Faculty who weave Scripture, community, mission alongside a practical, local task in which each participant gathers a group to listen local in the community as a first step in mission.

For online entry to the taster contact principal@knoxcentre.ac.nz.

For more into see listeningmission18final.

  • LIMimage
Posted by steve at 02:27 PM

Sunday, July 22, 2018

connect keynote: a Presbyterian missiology

flyer-connect I was asked to provide a keynote at Connect this weekend, speaking to 175 Presbyterian youth leaders, gathered nationally near Wellington. I used it as an opportunity to pull together some of my thinking over the last year (here and here) and articulate a Presbyterian missiology, one that made sense of the diverse cultural landscape of Aotearoa New Zealand.

So I began with the burning bush and worked with Maori, Samoan and Fhilipino conversation partners, weaving in stories of migration and diaspora. The result is, I think, a global reformed theology of mission, shaped by indigenous insights, which invites people into an even more global, yet profoundly local missiology.

People of the burning bush,
Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere
Exodus 3:1-7

Mihi: with specific greeting – to everyone one of you, as people of the burning bush, Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere (Burning Bush), tena koutou

We are people of the burning bush. Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere. We come from a long line of ancestors who have found in the burning bush a call to mission. Not mission as imperialism. Not mission as colonisation.

Mission as love. Mission as listening. Mission as vulnerable standing on holy ground.

There is a Maori word – mata ora. One way, a literal translation, according to one of my teo reo advisers, is to understand mata ora as a change maker, a person who brings change.

Another way, according to another of my teo reo advisers, is to understand mata ora as a healthy face. We bring a healthy face to our communities.

I’m told that mata ora in Maori sounds like a Samoan word, mata ola. In Samoa, mata ola also means a person who brings change. Brings change by entering the village from outside and by listening.

When I hear the Exodus 3 Bible passage, which we’ve heard read in 10 languages and seen projected in English, I wonder if Moses is being asked to be a mata ora and a mata ola.

And so we understand what it means to be Presbyterian: we understand mission – as being a change maker; as being the people who bring a healthy face to our community; as people who enter our communities and are known for our listening.

Let me look at the Exodus Bible passage. Then let me tell you what the burning bush looks like in different cultures.

Emerges from love- On a working day beside a mountain called Horeb, a shepherd walked the desert. There is nothing out of the ordinary about his role, he is tending sheep from the family farm. In the midst of the ordinary, Moses hears the extraordinary – the “never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity.” (Nouwen, The Wounded Healer: Ministry in Contemporary Society)

In 3:7; “I have indeed seen the misery of my people .. I have heard them crying .. I am concerned about their suffering.” It is a wonderful image of God. It is the source of mission. It is the “never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity.” Repeated in 3:9 I have indeed – underlined, highlighted, bolded – heard the cry of my people.

This is God. The “never-interrupted voice of love speaking from eternity.” Who sees misery. Who sees suffering. Who is concerned about our communities. This is the God of the people of the burning bush; that God that makes us changemakers – mata ora – mata ola.

Mission as openness – On a working day, besides a mountain, a shepherd named Moses responded to the the voice of uninterrupted love. In 3:4 “Here I am.”

They are the same words as are said by Abraham,by Jacob, by Samuel, by Isaiah and by Mary: “Here I am, send me” for Isaiah. “Here I am, let it be with me according to your word,” for Mary.

Each a listener, responding to the voice of love. This is what it means to be Presbyterian. Scottish theologian, Alan Lewis describes the Reformed church, the people of the burning bush as ecclesia ex Auditu, formed by hearing (Ecclesia ex Auditu A Reformed View of the Church as the Community of the Word of God, Ex Auditu 35, 1 – Alan E. Lewis). People with ears. Who begin by listening. Hearing love. From God. And in each other. Like, Moses, listening for the voice of love, to which we will say “Here I am.”

Holy ground – On a working day, the ground becomes holy. In 3:5 “Do not not come any closer . Take off your shoes for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”

I grew up, thinking the holy place was the church. That the closer to the front, the more holy it was. I also grew up thinking the way my church did worship was holy, the best way, the only way. Yet for Moses, the holy place is the working place, the place where he listens.

This changes how I see holiness. Every working place, every social encounter, every community, every young person, every rangitahi, is potentially a place that becomes holy as I hear the voice of uninterrupted love.

What does it mean for us and for our young people and for the way we design our programmes and understand our mission, if the voice of uninterrupted love is already present in every working place, every community?

Mission as love. Mission as here I am listening. Mission as vulnerable standing on holy ground – for Moses.

But we’re not Moses. Are we? Ask the person beside you – are you Moses?

Any Moses?

We’re not Moses.

But we are Presbyterians. We are people of the burning bush. Ko koutou nga uri o Te Tahu Ngahere

We come from a long line of ancestors who’ve found in the burning bush and story of life and vitality.

This burning bush has renewed us.
This burning bush has given us identity.
This burning bush has given us a mission.

It’s like the bush itself has become a changemaker – a mata ora – a mata ola – in different communities and different cultures.

Here’s the burning bush of our ancestors in Scotland. A few weeks ago I was upside down and on the other side of the world because I was doing some work with the Church of Scotland, a partner church of the Presbyterian Church of Aoteroa New Zealand.

This is me – outside the national offices of the Church of Scotland.

The month was June. Last month. So on the other side of the world, the days were warm. The evenings were light, daylight at 10 pm at night.

I’ve got a coffee in my hand and I’m just about to talk to the Church of Scotland about what God is doing at Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership. Above me, you can see a logo – the symbol – the main visual sign of the Church of Scotland.

That’s the burning bush. Based on the story in Exodus 3

As part of introducing myself to the Church of Scotland, I took some photos with me of the burning bush in Aotearoa New Zealand.

I thought it would be a good way of making connections. And in so doing, to introduce the different cultures of the PCANZ to our mother church.

So I began with the covenant partnership the PCANZ has with Te Aka Puaho, the Maori Synod. So I showed them this symbol from Te Aka Puaho.

In English, Te Aka Puaho means the burning vine. So the Maori church has interpreted the burning bush as a burning vine. Drawn not only from Exodus 3 but also from John 15 – “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener.

So this burning bush is understood in fresh ways by tangata whenua.

Second, I showed them the symbol from St Johns Presbyterian, Papatoetoe. This symbol honours another culture group. It honours Pacific migration to New Zealand from the 1970’s onward. In response to Pacific peoples on the move, St Johns Presbyterian change the church by building a new stained glass window.

In the words of Margaret Anne Lowe, the minister of St Johns Presbyterian: “ The new [burning] bush in our window … has flowers of the frangipani blossoming from it, representing later settlers from the Pacific Islands. It is in the blues and whites of the ocean waters which surround New Zealand … The flames are the white caps on the waves, blown by the wind and doves are the seabirds flying overhead. God’s spirit in the Pacific” (Margaret Anne, Adapted from St Johns Newsletter Jan 2011)

Third, I showed them this person. She is Mary Annie Geconcillo, She’s from the Philippines and she’s part of a 3rd migration of Asian peoples to New Zealand. This week she gave me this– for Connect – specially commissioned craft.

IMG_6472 And the entire thing is made from soft plastics.
Red colours comes from kitkat wrapper.
Brown colours comes from bread wrapper.
Yellow colour comes from 2 minute noodles
Black colour comes from rubbish bags.

Mary Anne trained for ministry in the Philippines. At a Presbyterian University. She was sent to a slum on the outskirts of her city. The slum dwellers said we want to get rid of this rubbish. So she worked with them. Found ways to run rubbish into bags. To sell.

So I reckon she’s a mata ora; and a mata ola – who begins to understand, like Moses
Mission as love – for the slum dwellers of Manila
Mission as listening – finding out what they want
Mission as vulnerable, standing on holy ground – working in community development.

This is fourth thing I showed them. From a recent youth event.

It involves taking pumice. Pumice is a volcanic rock. It occurs mainly in the central North Island. Soaking pumice overnight in methylated spirits. Building a burning bush out of metal. All welded together. Placing the pumice, soaked in meths on it.

Turn out the lights. Form a circle. Sit in the dark. The light the pumice. Glows a beautiful deep blue flame. And with pumice glowing to read the story of Exodus – of a God of love; of Moses response –Here I am; taking off your shoes – for vulnerable mission.

So in 10 years time and in 20 years time and in 30 years time, I wonder what the photos of the burning bush will look like; 2nd generation migrants to New Zealand; in light of how we respond to climate change; as we become mata oras and mata olas, change makers in our communities – I wonder what the burning bush will look like?

IMG_6480 I want you to take a rock which is under your seat. Think about your community. What it means for the God of love to burn with love? What it would mean for your youth ministry, to be a changemaker, a mata ora, a mata ola?

Pause 2 minute quiet reflection.

No reira, Tena koutou, tena koutou, tena tatou katoa

Posted by steve at 11:32 PM