Wednesday, August 08, 2007

sharpening the edge

Last week I was part of Sharpening the edge conference, wondering what God is up to in New Zealand by gathering around 8 mission stories. There are now some video highlights up on youtube, including part of my presentation, storytelling some mission stories about our multi-congregational approach. (Wow, do I ever wave my arms when I speak. Is that distracting?)

There were 7 other stories. You can catch Rich Johnson talking about St Pauls here, and Duane Major talking about 24/7 here.

So what might God be up to in New Zealand today? Here is an excellent written summary, by the prodigal Kiwis.

: Changing primary biblical mandates. A few years ago I suspect a similar gathering would have emphasized the great commission passages (e.g. Matthew 28) or the mercy/ compassion passages (e.g. Luke 4 v16) that under girded the move into community ministries but none of these mandates seemed to be primarily informing the new initiatives described as this gathering. More in vogue were Acts 2, Luke 10:1-12, and the parable of the prodigal father coupled with biblical images of friendship.

: Changing sense of others. A few years ago I suspect a similar gathering would have described people as ‘the lost’, ‘pagans’ ‘non-Christians’ and the ‘un-churched’. Yet these labels were remarkably absent in this gathering. Replacing them was a desire to find ‘common ground’ with others, create ‘third places’ and affirm long term friendships that are friendships first and possible sites of sharing faith second or third.

: There was more talk of transformation through coming to know Christ (the road to Emmaus) than conversion (the road to Damascus). Such transformation seemed more of a process than an event and encompassed longer time frames.

: There was less emphasis on preaching but an awareness that people, young people in particular, generally lacked a biblical background and a theological grid from which to shape their lives.

: There was an emphasis on ‘doing life together’, ‘being friends’, building long term genuine relationships. This was highlighted by the talk of café’s, coffee machine meetings, meals, food together, parties etc.

: There was a high expectation that many things tried will fail. That ventures have use by dates and that what they are doing now may well change soon. This brought humility to their successes.

: There was a strong push for leaders to listen and look for what the Spirit is doing in the local setting and then support and build on this. Coupled with this was a dislike of trying to ‘franchise’ ministries, ‘copy and paste or use programmes from elsewhere.

: There was a clear commitment to work with and acknowledge the need for older leaders, established churches and long-term structures. While the stories were of new ventures they were all committed to walking hand-in-hand with others.

: The conference as whole offered avenues of hope for older established churches and new fresh plants. There were expressions of re-awakening and re-emerging Missional life and new mission endeavors. Both were encouraged and examples of both were shared by way of stories – memorable for many was youthful Anglican Priest, Rich Johnson’s telling to the St. Paul’s Symond Street story over recent years. Another example was the Opawa story, narrated in part by Steve Taylor. As we’ve noted above, both offered (in different ways) hope for long established mainstream congregations.

Posted by steve at 12:53 PM


  1. Please don’t stop waving your arms, cos it would make it way harder to portray you without using words. That would be a terrible loss 😉

    Seriously, I think gesticulation is a lost art in the TV world and that it draws people in and keeps people attentive.

    Comment by Paul M — August 8, 2007 @ 2:11 pm

  2. i just posted a blog on biblical mandates before reading this. it just confirms how old fashioned i am…

    though to describe luke 4:16ff as being about mercy and charity seems a little odd.

    Comment by cheryl — August 10, 2007 @ 1:54 pm

  3. oops, sorry, should probably have posted that comment on the original blog post at prodigal kiwi… sorry…

    Comment by cheryl — August 10, 2007 @ 1:55 pm

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