Tuesday, February 28, 2006

half time steve

Thank you for all your prayers and messages of support. I am feeling better. I am planning to work half-days this week, gradually easing back in and seeing how the body responds.

I have found the lectionary readings of great comfort, particularly the phrase in Genesis 31:6 Jacob saying to God; You know that I have worked with all of my strength. God knows my heart, my boundaries, my personal disciplines, even when this involves me walking with a limp (Genesis 32).

Posted by steve at 12:51 PM

Friday, February 24, 2006

I have been suffering from stomach pains, nausea and vomiting since Monday. Blood tests show I have a viral liver infection. The cause is a mystery, as there is no sign of hepatitis, no symptoms of glandular fever, and no track record of drug or alcohol abuse. The doctors advice is to rest and see what happens. So I am will be away from this blog under doctor’s orders!

Posted by steve at 09:59 AM

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

using blogs for on-line seminary learning

leadership-bcnz blog;

I’ve just set up the blog home page for a course I am teaching this semester; Pastoral Leadership and Management. As part of the assessment, every student will be expected to set up a blog in which they record their weekly readings and reflections. Some students assessment will also include offering comments (critical engagement) with their peers. Here’s the methodology blurb:

Using on-line blogs is designed to enhance the student learning experience, by allowing them to interact with each other outside the classroom. It means that critical student reading is no longer a conversation between lecturer and student, but becomes a class conversation. Using blogs has the further benefit of introducing students to new technologies and enhancing their communication options, an essential leadership skill.

It’s new for all of us, so it will be interesting to see how it develops and what students make of it come “Lecturer evaluation” time at the end of June.

For the course outline download here

Posted by steve at 04:09 PM

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

narnia film review

Here’s my latest film review: of Narnia. I am especially proud of this one because it is the first film review I have co-authored with my daughter.

Eight-year old Shannon is a Narnia nut, so I asked if she was willing to co-review the movie with me. She took the job ever so seriously; sitting beside me with pen and paper, contributing sentences, telling me I was too complicated, giggling at good word phrases. In return, I shared the film reviewers fee with her. Her first paid writing gig aged 8!

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe; A film review by S and S Taylor.

Equipped with pencil, pad and probing review questions, eight year old Shannon Taylor took her father, Steve, to The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The following film review is a family affair.” for more

This review is another of the monthly reviews I do for Touchstone magazine and are reprinted here with their permission. Other reviews include;

Serenity here;
The World’s Fastest Indian here;
Sedition, a New Zealand film about the fate of conscientious objectors in World War 2, here;
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, here

I have just completed a film review of Brokebank Mountain; and that will go up in a month (as per my web agreement with my paper-based client).

Further film resources:
Film as a point of gospel engagement (PDF).
Film and spirituality web resources.
Why gospel and film?

Posted by steve at 01:26 PM

Sunday, February 19, 2006

passionate practices

bates.jpg We are passionate; God is passionate; The task of being Christian is to connect our passions with the passions of God – these are the words which are forming and re-forming Digestion, our evening service.


Posted by steve at 08:37 PM

Saturday, February 18, 2006

spirituality resources

Here are some resources that I’m currently using and recommending.

loops2cover.gif Visions in York were a key spark in my creative journey. Back in 1995 I heard about, and then saw, pictures of their worship which featured 16 slide projectors making these most amazing visual wallpapers. And I suddenly realised what it could mean to worship God not only through my voice and my ears, but through my eyes. Here were ways to love God wholistically; body, mind and soul. Loops 2 is a collection of 50 of their digital video loops, supplied on CD-ROM in QuickTime (.mov) format, for Macs and PCs. (Antipodean’s can buy it from the future church nz website, rather than pay for shipping from the UK).

40x196.gif With Lent around the corner, I’m preparing to use Si Smith’s “40“. It’s a CD-Rom with a visual reflection on each of Christ’s 40 days in the wilderness. It can be used for contemplating an image a day for individual preparation; it could be used as one of a number of worship stations; it could be used as a visual meditation in a more established church setting. (There’s an e-interview with the creator here, and again, antipodean’s can buy it from the future church nz website.

And two books that have resourced my recent Lent journey’s;
detox cover.jpg Peter Graystone’s Detox your spiritual life in 40 days is a great travelling companion. Aimed at 20’s-30’s, it’s a helpful mix of readings and action steps for each day of Lent.

lentscifi.jpg Last year I used Richard Burridge’s Faith Odyssey; 40 readings that use science fiction to engage the Lenten themes. I’m not a sci-fi groupie, so I found Faith Odyssey an accessible entry to the world of Trekkies and Wokkies. It helped my preaching, my reflection on pop culture and my Lenten spiritual journey.

Posted by steve at 01:56 PM

Friday, February 17, 2006

spiritual formation in contempory contexts

Last night we held a Life Party in the foyer at Opawa Baptist. 25 people gathering to sip on lattes and sparkling grapejuice, to hear stories around Growth Coaching, and to leave cheese and biscuit crumbs on the carpet.

koru2.jpg For the last 18 months I have been part of developing Growth Coaching. Most spiritual formation is book and programmed based; you take a course that is full of words. The content tends to expose a narrow understanding of spirituality. Turn up 2 weeks late and you have to wait for next time.

Growth coaching is one-on-one spiritual partnership. I wanted something that breathed of life to the full. It had to be relational. It had to encourage whole of life development. It had to be creatively adaptive, suitable for all types of learners, not just book-focused people. It had to be accessible, easy to enter, no matter where you where or when you turned up.

The first meeting involves a self-audit; 99 questions which are designed to enable a person to reflect on the whole of their life.

In a second meeting, a Growth Coach, having listened and prayed, tentatively offers a vision of a new future. If this vision resonates, then together a path forward is planned. Accountability steps and a timeline are inserted. This could include naming an “encourager”, a cheer leader type, who is invited to text, email or phone support. Each programme is tailored and unique.

Theologically this approach believes in the imago dei, that the image of God is inside humans. It believes in the Spirit to cause growth. It values the relational community, God at work through human partnerships.

At the Life Party last night we heard stories of how Growth coaching has grown people. Stories were shared; of love poems written to spouses and new ways of being spiritual and peacefully centred at work, of the courage to grow and the unpredictable Spirit at work. In a world of cynicism, last night was a rare privilege.

The Life Party will hopefully become an annual event at Opawa, a chance to celebrate growth. Growth Coaching is now one year old. We have trained 8 Coaches over a 8 week period and seen 8 people Growth coached. Last night 4 more people enquired about being trained as a Growth Coach and 5-8 others enquired about being Growth coached.

For a sermon on a biblical narrative of growth coaching (Luke 1:39-45) go here:

For an newspaper article on Growth Coaching, go here.

Posted by steve at 08:03 PM

Thursday, February 16, 2006

my dad can walk again

My dad came home from hospital on Wednesday. His legs started moving again. No one is quite sure why. The most likely scenario is that this was a multiple sclerosis “flare up.” At other times he’s developed double vision or been unable to pick things up, and then within a few days the problem has cleared.

Thanks to all who prayed and sent messages of support. It’s nice to be a kid with a dad who can walk, even if the gait is wobbly.

Posted by steve at 10:36 PM

going to bible college will destroy your faith


I lead a devotion at Bible College today. The slogan; “Going to bible college will destroy your faith” was written on the whiteboard as students came in. It’s been said to me many times and I reflected on how funny the statement is when you think about it; is faith that brittle; which lecturer will do it; do they organise it, take turns, play tag?

Asking the question; “Does bible college destroy your faith,” I turned to Paul’s autobiography in Galatians 1:13-18.


Posted by steve at 11:11 AM

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

DJing gospel and culture video interview

In postcard 8 of my out of bounds church? book I explore the relationship between gospel and culture. Rather than present either/or opposites of wholesale withdrawal or wholesale assimilation, I use the image of DJ to explore how, in a fragmented and postmodern world, we engage in multiple responses to culture; of protest and subversion and affirmation. I think it’s some of the most creative thinking in the book.

Anyhow, late in 2004 (when the book manuscript was with the printer) I spoke at a ecumenical conference (national youth ministries of the Anglican, Catholic, Methodist and Presbyterian Churches in Aotearoa New Zealand); the big E. The theme was gospel and culture and they asked me to exploration the interaction between global and local. It was a chance to earth the DJ image in terms of ministry and young people and globalisation. It is a more “well-cooked” version of Postcard 8, including a social justice reflection. It’s now a chapter in a book; titled “Culture – Yeah Right.”

(Buy the book, by contacting Jacky Sewell, 3/89 Michael’s Ave, Ellerslie, Auckland. Cost – Book $20, DVD $45 or both for $60. P&P $5 in NZ, $10 Aust and Sth Pacific, $20 rest of the world.)

They also interviewed me, and this is now an online QT video (11 MB). So if you want to see my “summary” or get the 10 minute summary, download here.


This post is repeated in my out of bounds church? book blog.

Posted by steve at 01:30 PM

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

smells like the kingdom

Jim’s story: Jim (name changed) knocked on the church door at 1 pm, asking to use the phone. New flat, phone not working, big bond, paid by cheque and it’s waiting for the bank to clear. Jim works the phone, rearranging appointments because cash is tight and the gas tank is in the red.

Then he’s asking if social service agencies in general do petrol? Not as a policy, I say. It’s too easy to swap petrol vouchers to feed addictions.

As Jim makes to leave, he says he’s free in the afternoons and if we want any volunteer help, to let him know. My gut says he’s genuine.

So I asked Jim if he wanted to work for his petrol. Work for 2 hours and we’d give him petrol vouchers for half a tank of gas. There’s dignity for him and benefit for us. I pair him up with our caretaker and so there’s relational mission. It sort of smells like the Kingdom.

Rob’s story: 9 hours later, Rob (name unknown), knocks on the church door. It’s 10 pm. Espresso church is just winding up in the foyer and the Sunday music group are practising in the auditorium.

Rob announces he loves Baptists and loves the faces of happy people. He asks what is happening. Rob’s breath indicates high levels of alcohol consumption. My gut says Rob wants an audience and I’m not sure we are in the entertainment business. I’m about to leave to relieve the babysitter and I don’t want Rob walking into the church, drunk, potentially pretending I let him in. In my friendlist voice I tell Rob we are finishing. Rob heads into the night.

One stranger gets work. Another stranger gets the friendlist farewell I can manage. What does the hospitality of Jesus mean? I’m not sure which, or both, smell more like the Kingdom.

Posted by steve at 10:43 PM

Saturday, February 11, 2006

emerging church in australia

There is a superb exploration of emerging church in Australia in the latest (Summer 2006) Zadok magazine.

Zadok89.jpg Highlights for me where;

Stephen Said’s historical narrative around the emerging church in Australia;

Barb Daws, who discerns the links between emerging church values and new ways of education and learning;

Matthew Stone’s plea for a missiological understanding of New Age spiritual search to be entwined with expressions of emerging church;

Dan McCredden’s answering the question; “Can an existing denominational church be emerging?”

Anne Wilkinson-Hayes plea that ‘new missional churches’ seek a more authentic, gospel-centred approach to living our the faith in our society today. (For those interested, there’s an interview with Ann here (scroll down to bottom of page 2) as part of research for my out of bounds church? book) which also interleaves with the question of denominations and emerging church.)

Plus there’s a nice review of my book, both by Dan McCreeden and Darren Cronshaw, who has written an introductory reading guide to the emerging church phenomenon, covering 50 books, a number of internet links and blogs.

If Zadok is any guide, there is a rich breadth in the emerging church conversation in Australia. The edition would sit as a more popular companion to the International Journal For the Study of the Christian Church;


Posted by steve at 04:47 PM

my dad

My dad had a fall in the bathroom last night. His legs just stopped working and he collapsed. He’s in hospital while they do tests. He was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (degeneration of nerves) about 8 years ago. This might be a flareup and he might regain movement. Or not. Or it might be something else. We don’t know. He’s 66.

All kids just expect their Dad’s legs to move. I’m just a kid and this is just my dad.

Posted by steve at 10:06 AM

Friday, February 10, 2006

formed by scripture

Excerpt from a letter I sent to our church staff as we started a new year together.

I would like to see us deepen our sense of shared spirituality. I would like to make two suggestions in this regard.

1 – We make a commitment to read the same Scriptures together in our individual devotional practice. This is of course optional, but it would be quite nice to know that we are all (literally!) on the same page as it were in terms of our individual formation through the Scriptures. I am not sure what you currently use and I am loath to dictate something to you that is perhaps alien.

However to do this we would need a common starting point. I personally like to engage the Bible rather than someone’s thoughts about the Bible. So rather than use a devotional guide I use the Church Lectionary reading, which offers the option of 4 readings for each day – Psalm, Gospel, Epistle and Old Testament. I always use a Psalm; and usually the Gospel (every now and again, if I need a break or feel challenged by a difficult bit of Scripture, I also read the Epistle or Old Testament.) So I am being bold enough to include a Lectionary Reading guide that could form the basis of an individual yet collective reading.

(If we settle into a shared pattern like this, we could also
a) inform the church what we were doing this and invite them to join us if they want.
b) begin to use the Psalm of the Sunday regularly in our church services,

2 – I would also like to suggest a fortnightly Friday gathering over morning tea for 30 minutes (10:30-11:00) to share Scripture corporately. I would suggest the following regular pattern.
a) Reading aloud the Scripture (we could use the lectionary reading for that day):
b) Individually reflect on the following: Key word or phrase; What is it saying in context?; What is God saying to us?; What am I saying to God?
c) Share our reflections together:

This would not require anyone to prepare a devotional, yet would allow us together to be formed by the Scriptures. I really want this sense that together we are standing accountable, not to a person’s devotion, but to the Scriptures.

Update: Excellent further discussion by Nigel Wright here, where he offers the possibility of gathering around not only text, but music or image. Which is probably what we were doing with our Advent Art postcards in December; everyone in the church was given a postcard with an art image, ritual and Scripture. So this offered individual nourishment, and then in the services we invited artisticly inclined people to speak to the art, and a musician to play a piece of music.

Posted by steve at 02:44 PM