Thursday, April 28, 2005

worship: reasons for voyaging

I led opening worship at the consultation for forming leaders in emerging churches today.

I introduced and explained an artwork from outside the Christchurch Art Gallery. It is called Reasons for Voyaging and features 7 sculptures, in the shape of canoes, honouring the different ways people have travelled to New Zealand.

I introduced, with space to pray, around 4 topics:
1- our voyages here – thanking God for those who gave us space to come
2 – our spiritual voyages – honouring those who taught us to read, write, think, create, who have mentored and believed in us
3 – bumpy voyages – praying for those in the emerging church going through bumpy voyages at the moment
4 – voyages home – recalling what God is birthed in us that is not yet realised, our dreams, future leaders, future communities.

And we used a verbal refrain:
Wind of God,
breath on us.

to commit in community our private prayers to God.

I then gave everyone a postcard of the artwork and invited them to write a prayer for someone they are “voyaging” with as a spiritual takeaway. I had a Jack Johnson surfing video in the background, specially for the Opawa Jack Johnson fans (Danielle, Shawn, Lynne, Amy, Roanna, Andrew and Mel).

I then introduced the hongi, a Maori ritual of greeting, and invited us to share it with each other, respectful of its origins and as a prayer that the Spirit of God would blow, unpredictable, through us.

It seemed to strike a chord with some.

Update: Rachelle gives a punters perspective here.

Posted by steve at 05:51 PM

centres and edges

I had lunch yesterday with a group of leaders from New Song Church. It was a good time. Over tacos and huevos rancheros and “soda,” we batted around some ideas. One of the things that struck me was the following irony: that so much of the postmodern debate emerges from the edges and welcomes the voices of the Other, the marginalised, the non-Western.

So it is quite ironic to be talking about post-modern mission in a country that is very much a centre, a centre of Christianity, a centre of global control and marketing. Just an interesting twist for me as I digested my Mexican beans.

(Of course, one of the ethical questions is whether this conversation with the edge is in fact yet another colonisation by the centre – and for more on this try Ziauddhin Sardar’s book, Postmodernism and the Other.) sardar.jpg I’m not convinced by Sardar, based on the cultural work of Michel de Certeau, but Sardar’s is a voice that won’t go away.)

And of course, all the more sad that emerging churches are struggling with the role of women in leadership.

Posted by steve at 05:56 AM

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

ground hog day 5 years later

It is wierd being here, at a place I first stayed 5 years ago. It was 1999 and I was wanting to do a PhD. I had wanted to study with John Drane and had written him. Once, but the second time I got no reply. “Busy overseas lecturers” I muttered and went looking elsewhere. No luck. Everywhere I turned I met blockages.

I gave up on doing a PhD. The next day, a letter arrived from the UK. Yep, John Drane. Wondering why I had not replied to his second letter. It turns out that his letter to me got lost in the post. “Useless overseas mail” he was probably muttering.

So it was back on again. I worked to link University of Otago, Mike Riddell, and John Drane.

By another set of (God) coincidences, through Tom Sine, I was invited to be part of a Young Leaders Network (early incarnation of EmergentUS) thing at Seattle, and John and Olive Drane were teaching at Fuller Theological Seminary as John completed McDonaldization of the Church. I could fly through Los Angeles. I could met John and Olive at the Fuller Bookstore and give a lecture at John Drane’s D.Min class.

Afterward, John and Olive and I headed back to the Fuller Guest House and talked. And talked. And talked. Swapping “worship” ideas and stories. John told me that my speaking at the D.Min class was him testing whether it was worth his time to supervise me. I told him I was glad he told me that after, and not before.

5 years later I’m back. So are John and Olive (arriving today) and once again I’m hoping we’ll talk and talk and talk. Ground hog day – 5 years later. Although I now have a PhD.

Posted by steve at 04:42 AM

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

writing for koder: theology and art as looking

I have completed my first writing project for these few days. I have just sent a 2,500 word piece to a German publishing company. Earlier this year, I was really delighted to be asked, in honour of an 80 year old German artists birthday, to write something for a book, on his work. I loved the boundary crossing such a request represented: English to German, young to wise, PhD theology of emerging church research to article on artist.

What did I write? Well I traced some links around an art piece (great view here). I noted the way that discipleship in John 1 is framed around the verb “to look.” And how looking at Jesus unsettles, or displaces, our identity. I then explored American Beauty, and what we “see” as we accept it’s invitation to look closer. I then made some link with art historians and philosophers like Lacan, Barthes and Freedberg, who argue that the gaze is in fact a dialogue, with the potential to encounter us, resurrect (to use the words of Barthes) us.

So I concluded that looking is in fact a life-changing act. So now go back to Koder’s art and look closer, at that face in the cup …. and it looks back at you, asking where you are in relation to the table of Jesus and the bodies of Christ… looking as a life-changing act?

Anyhow, it should all be published (in German and English) in August. I wonder how I will sound in German?

Posted by steve at 07:59 AM

Monday, April 25, 2005

New pope on the emergent radar?

Perhaps the new pope has already bleeped onto the emergent radar? Miroslav Volf wrote a great book on being church, called After our likeness. The book compares Orthodox theologian John Zizoulas, with Catholic theologian, and now new pope, Ratzinger, with a more “free church” ecclesiology.


It was a wonderful book for me as a Baptist to read, and to see one of my church planting forebears, John Smyth, compared theologically with Catholic and Orthodox ways of being church.

And so the links with the emerging church?
1. A free church ecclesiology is (at it’s best) a much more bottom-up, grassroots way of being church, in contrast to hierarchical traditions. That should offer much more room for experimentation and innovation, all held within a Trinitarian ecclesiology.
2. Miroslav Volf is the main speaker at the 2006 US Emergent Theological Conversation.

Posted by steve at 05:07 PM

a dream flight to heavenly sunshine

I had a dream flight to heavenly sunshine. Let me explain.

First, it was a full flight. I got a middle seat and my heart sank. My heart sank further at the sight of one of my travelling companions, who looked like they would need quite a bit of my seat in order to be comfortable. The companion toddled off to the toilet to get changed in their pyjamas (!), and never returned. So I got a window seat and a spare seat to sleep in!. That was heavenly.

The sunshine is the weather in LA, a stark contrast from Christchurch, where our conservatory roof was holed by hailstones on Saturday evening.

But the real heavenly sunshine – is that my accomodation has wifi – and the connection is named “heavenly sunshine.” So I can surf and receive email (but not send). Such are the selfishness’s of international travel – seat room and internet access.

Posted by steve at 04:20 PM

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Los Angeles bound

I will be here quite a bit this week;

Allelon and Fuller Seminary are organising a consultation of leadership in the emerging church April 27-29, with people from UK, USA, Australia and NZ. There are lots of blog names I’m quite excited to meet in person.

My church community also allow me a week a year to write, in recognition of that area of my gifting. So I am going to be here quite a bit this week.

Posted by steve at 05:20 PM

Saturday, April 23, 2005

two contrasting missional opinions

It appears that Al Hirsh and Frost are busy shaping things yet to come, down on the emerging church in Pittsburgh. Holly reflects herewhat threw me for a loop was how so many folks did not equate the emerging church or emergent with being missional.

Contrast the angst in Pittsburgh with Scott McKnight, commenting here:

Fundamentally, the Emergent movement is a “missional” movement and it is holistic in its mission, and until it is addressed from that point, it won’t be addressed centrally … Not long ago I spoke with a Christian leader who speaks quite often to Emergent churches and this person told me that the Emergent movement does not have that many conversions. Now I don’t know if this person was accurate, and it does not matter, but I still think the issue is missional in the sense that the Emergent is trying to work out the gospel in a postmodern context – and that context exists and it is worth letting the gospel have its way in that context.

Personally, I warm to Scott’s breadth of missionality, with the focus on culture rather than church growth statistics in China. I wonder if the emerging church is now such a large elephant that people grasp an ear or a tail and pronounce themselves “emergent experienced.” I also wonder if the postmodern shift is so deep, so profoundly disorientating, that the need for deep mission demands a focus on context, that might yield very little fruit for many years. After all, it took Isreal over 70 years to emerge from exile, let alone rack up the “conversions.”

Posted by steve at 01:21 AM

Friday, April 22, 2005

its my book launch

Today, Friday 22nd, 7:30 pm,
Manna Christian Stores, 103 Manchester St.


I’d love to knock off work at 12:30, and spend the afternoon in the sun, relaxing, preparing …
but it’s been a hell week and the weekend is packed.

Update: The launch was neat. Nice mix of people from many of my walks of life. Amy and Kaleb played some live music, including some Jack Johnson requests. Oh yes, the juice ran dry and the books sold out. Now I’m trying to get Manna Christchurch to tell Manna Auckland and ….

View image: trying to spell my name: 74K

View image: live local talent: 70K

View image: the duel of the cameras

(thanx Jas for the pics)

Posted by steve at 10:19 AM

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

“I highly recommend The Out of Bounds Church. It is creative, fun, different, challenging, and disruptive! What more do you want? It would be so sweet if Youth Specialties could put a copy in the hands of every senior pastor in America and the world”.

For more highlights go here or the full review here.

Posted by steve at 01:32 PM

Monday, April 18, 2005

national calling

I’m away until Tuesday at Bible College of New Zealand (Auckland) at an Academic Staff Retreat. I doubt I will be in a wi-fi zone!

Sunday was a beautiful autumn day. I pray the warmth, peace and grace upon each of you who read this post.

Posted by steve at 01:14 PM

Sunday, April 17, 2005

the blog about the out of bounds church book

When you release a book, people start to review it and interact with it. Which has left me with the dilemna – What to do with such stuff? It sort of seemed a slight sideline to the point of this blog (which doesn’t really have a point, but nevertheless still felt off the point) and I don’t want this blog filled up with various book bites.

So I’ve built a new website/blog: the blog about the out of bounds book.

It includes
: reviews and web interactions
: the Original postcards
: some humour
: directors cut – various bits that hit the editing floor
: mistakes
: my responses to “author emails.”

Head on over. Check it out. Give me your feedback (here please). Link to it, so that it steadily moves up the old google rankings.

(PS I’d love to include some sort of discussion forum for each chapter. But I lack the technical expertise. So if any kind reader could help me set up some sort of forum, I’d be stoked.)

Posted by steve at 08:02 AM

Saturday, April 16, 2005

emerging church teens

In response to the skinny kiwi’s open letter to don carson:

some of us are babies, needing nuture, care and gentleness. to be abandoned by parents is devasting.

some of us are teenagers, still wanting the approval of our fathers and mothers. to be talked over, talked down to, unrecognised in conversation is painful.

different emerging church people, different emerging churches are at different places in this journey. this makes the current conversation difficult.

i’m praying for the day when we are all adults, the froth from my beer sitting beside the froth from Don Carson’s (or Brian’s ) latte, enjoying our differences in friendship and mutuality.

Posted by steve at 01:00 PM

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I had a young guy poke his head in the door yesterday and tell me that he and his brother want to plant a church among the poor in the city and how helpful my out of bounds? book was. Such practical missionary exploration sort of makes the angst of writing all worthwhile really.


All of this to say, that I took the plunge today and submitted a 2nd book proposal to my wonderful (grease, grease:)) publishing company.

Posted by steve at 04:14 PM