Friday, June 29, 2007

leadership dreams and congregational reality

I was in working late on Thursday night, trying to clear some piles of paper from my desk. As the Irresistible Evangelism course finished I poked my head in, asking them not to set the church alarm since I was still working in my office. It was their last evening and the co-leaders were beaming.

I sat and listened to them tell story after story, of how the Irresistible Evangelism course had given people new insights, of how people had put the teaching in practise and actually been able to talk about Jesus in their social settings.

It was a high point for me as a pastor. At our church members meeting in August last year, we spent time asking “what is one thing Opawa Baptist could do to put Ephesians 4:3-16 into practice in 2007?” 7 ideas were generated and affirmed by those gathered.

At the start of the year we committed ourselves to 3 of these ideas:
– Every person be given the opportunity to mature in one area of discipleship
– Workplace blessings
– Everyone to know (be taught) how to lead someone to become a Christian

The Practicing our Faith preaching series and take home cards were one practical response to the first idea. Their is a group of people discussing how to make the second idea an integrated part of our church life. And now the first Irresistible Evangelism course was complete. And so together we brainstormed next steps: how to report back to the church, how to hold people accountable for their learning, how and when to run the course again, given it’s effectiveness.

I like it when our dreams and plans become reality. I like being part of a church that takes the Bible seriously and let’s it shape our life. I like see different gifts working together as a church body. I like being part of an outward looking church community.

Written for front page of Sunday’s church newsletter

Posted by steve at 01:37 PM

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

iGod in New Zealand

Just had an email from Heidi Campbell, who is a bit of an academic guru on internet and spirituality:

I am working on a project in how individuals involved in the emerging church discourse use and speak about new media in their ministries. I was wondering if you can recommend other people it might be good for me to connect with while I am in NZ. I will be in country for the entire month of July.

She is going to be with us in Christchurch Saturday July 27 for a interactive seminar on religion, internet and new media. If people around New Zealand want to connect with her, drop a comment.

And here is my initial list of links of individuals involved in the emerging church discourse in New Zealand who use new media in their ministries.

Cityside Baptist: check out their Stations of the cross and their Lenten files as a multimedia and internet resourced approach to Lent.

the kitchen: which includes an active blogroll and often posts interactive stuff on their website, like these Kingdom of God cards

In my Out of Bounds Church? book (pages 125-129, I dream about the rise of postmodern monastries and cybermonks and analyse them, and other manifestations of the emerging church, using the work of sociologist Zygmunt Bauman.

Steve Garner is probably NZ’s leading academic in relation to technology and theology, while Tim Bulkeley leads the way on hypertext and the Bible (and built my first website last century).

Use of cellphones: for communion here and for benedictions here.

Blogs: lots of blogs by Christians. Some good blogrolls are maintained here (scroll down the left under Cession) and here and here

Videoblogging: discussion here around whether these videoblogs are becoming 3 minute theology

Blogs to enhance seminary learning: here

Podcasting the Bible: here

Who and what (in New Zealand) have I missed?

Posted by steve at 08:13 PM

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

just a reminder of our justice weekend

Derek Lind and Amy Hay: Café night
Saturday June 30, from 7.30pm, $5, Opawa Baptist Church (café open: cash only please). All proceeds to TEAR Fund. Come, relax and enjoy an entertaining cafe night with Derek Lind, one of New Zealand’s greatest singer/songwriters and winner of NZ’s Tui music award, and our own Amy Hay

Amazing Grace (the movie)
Sunday 1 July, 6.30pm Rialto cinema, $10/adult, $8 school-age (pre-purchase tickets from church) (The movie is rated PG). Amazing Grace is based on the life of antislavery pioneer William Wilberforce. Opawa Baptist has taken a punt and block booked the Rialto for a special advance screening this Sunday night. Following the movie, people can move to local cafes to discuss the movie, using our specially pre-pared discussion guide.

Posted by steve at 04:40 PM

Monday, June 25, 2007

videoblogging and sermons

Last week I noted the blog of Iain McMahon, newcomer, to Canterbury, and to Opawa Baptist. Since then, Iain has unleashed a flurry of video blogs – showcasing his work, his flat, his local video shop, his eating habits, Sunday morning at Opawa, espresso Tuesday evening cafe church at Opawa and Conversational English as a community ministry at Opawa.

I have been fascinated to watch Iain’s collection grow. They are short (2 – 4 mins). They are real to life. Iain comes across well – relaxed, curious, a bit quirky and humous. I like them.

Which got me thinking about the place of video blogging and sermons. You see, Iain has been keen to preach and we’ve talked about this. But preaching is a word that can define a genre: in time, in place, in backdrop.

What would happen if we asked Iain to preach as videoblog? Could we give him a Bible text, and invite him to video blog it – short, woven into his life, with a real to life background? Would this not allow the Biblical text to become alive in Iain and outside the building and in a different time and mode? Would this not offer different ways of communicating, thus freeing different voices to make Biblical contribution?

Posted by steve at 04:49 PM

Sunday, June 24, 2007

the words of ministry

that slither under fences
tiptoe down side alleys

causing faces to flower
angling, unexpected into new insight
faith and

written, font 12 point Helvetica

spotted, picked up
caressed in joyful surprise

to draw words,
of hopeful connection

written, font 12 point Helvetica
to draw words
of anger, derision, accusation: liberal, gospel betrayer

words, words, words,
white deafens for marginal spaces

words, words, words
black defines for fear of freedom
type cast
in typewritten type

lock them up
pin them down
defend them in diatribe
dance around a pinhole


scatter as stars
cross blog
up paper
down radio wave

for white, never black

Posted by steve at 10:03 PM

Friday, June 22, 2007

why on earth would you preach a sermon on shrek?

As part of last Sunday’s “gospel according to Shrek” service, a creative and talented church member added another verse to that well-known children’s song, If I were a butterfly. Here is the Shrek verse.

If I were an ogre called Shrek, I’d sit enjoy God’s creation for a while
If I were a lovely princess, I’d thank you God with my beautiful smile
If I were a puss n boots cat, I’d thankyou God by tipping my hat
But I just thankyou father for making me me,

Anyhow, over the week, there has been some fairly hostile comments in response to my posting of my gospel according to Shrek sermon. One commenter asked: “Where do you guys come up with such ideas?”

A fair enough question that I’ve spent the week pondering. It’s easy to see a finished product, and to forget that a fair amount of internal reflection goes on prior.

I was recorded today for my regular Viewpoint slot on local Christian radio and I considered the “why preach a sermon on Shrek question?” in the process. Here is my (verbal) introduction:


Posted by steve at 08:58 PM

Thursday, June 21, 2007

july comings and goings

Here are my travel plans for July.

MONDAY July 2 Taylor family fly to Auckland.

TUESDAY – THURSDAY July 3-5 Speaker at Auckland Anglican Clergy Conference. Theme – Learning to create a community of faith in a culture of change

Session 1, Tuesday 9:45-11am Mission with a Kiwi accent: introducing a range of metaphors and visual images by which to interpret cultural change and new forms of church.

Session 2, Tuesday 11:30-12:30 pm Learning from an ancient text: engaging with Luke 10:1-12 and exploring its challenges for mission today.

TUESDAY evening Anyone welcome to join the Taylor family at Cock and Bull, Ellerslie

Session 3, Wednesday 9:45-11 am Creating a community with a missional imagination: telling some stories of Kiwi mission today, grounding the work of Tuesday and serving as a learning exercise, inviting reflection on skills and capacities required of missional leaders today.

Session 4, 11:30-12:30 pm Creating a community of faith around spiritual practices: an exploration of what it might mean to create communities of spiritual formation, using images of apprentice, origami maker and tourist. It will offer 19 practical examples of contemporary practices of community formation.

Session 5, Thursday 9:45-11 am Leader as change agent: exploring a range of skills and capacities required in the processes of change, drawing on Steve’s experiences as a change agent pastor in a 96 year old Baptist Church.

FRIDAY JULY 6 Taylor girls fly to Sydney for fun weekend, Taylor guy (me) fly to Los Angeles.

An LA WEEKEND to recover from jetlag, so I’m open to any offers of human conversation.

MONDAY July 9- FRIDAY July 13 Living the text in a postmodern context block course at Fuller. Recent email from Fuller: Steve, I just looked up your enrollment. We have 21 MA students to date. That’s an amazing enrollment these days! So that’s sweet. I really enjoyed teaching this block course last year and with one year’s experience of navigating the Fuller-burbs under my belt, I’m really looking forward to it.

SATURDAY July 14- WEDNESDAY July 19. Allelon Mission to Western Culture Project. I have to provide a brief paper. I’m also looking forward to hearing a fellow Kiwi accent.

Posted by steve at 05:41 PM

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

got any room for an animal in your faith?

What part do animals play in your faith?

Following a communion moment last November at Opawa, when a dog was fed some of the host/bread, I have been pondering the place of animals and communion. This week I hope to finish, and submit, a 4,000 word article: “Even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their master’s table”: a contemporary reflection on the sacramentality of communion.

Today, I came across these quotes from Isaac of Nineveh, 7th century bishop:

“What is a merciful heart? It is a heart of fire for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons and for all that exists.”

“If a person of humility comes near dangerous wild animals, then the moment these catch sight of him, their ferocity is calmed; they come up to him and attach themselves to him as though he were their master, wagging their tails and licking his hands and feet. This is because they smell that fragrance that emanated from Adam when he named the animals in Paradise before the Fall: this fragrance was taken away from us at the Fall, but Christ gave it back to us at his coming.”

How many Christians today share the same understanding of Christianity as Bishop Isaac? What is the place of animals in your faith and practices?

Posted by steve at 12:33 PM

Sunday, June 17, 2007

the gospel according to shrek

I don’t often blog my sermons, because they are verbal pieces of work and contextual to a specific life situation. But the following groups of readers might be interested in today’s sermon.

1. Shrek fans, who might appreciate some Christian reflection on the movie.
2. Readers interested in the relationship between gospel and culture, specifically how a Christian might engage with film.
3. The sermon was preached to 50 kids and 130 adults at our bi-monthly intergenerational (Take a Kid to faith) services, so those interested in all-age communication might be interested in the use of 2 video clips, the group activity and the response.
3. Those with an interest in theology, particularly how the gospel of Jesus can be named without drawing on substitutionary atonement metaphors. Thus the sermon outlines Irenaus theology of recapitulation and Julian of Norwich’s use of Christ as an objective love. (Bearing in mind that I am trying to explain Jesus with a kid’s eye view – which is, I think, the ultimate test of a theological idea anyhow.)

Update: if you want some visuals, just found a 3 min vblog by Iain McMahon, which includes some vid of me wearing a Princess Fiona wig! (Isn’t there a verse in 1 Corinthians about becoming all things to all people!)


Posted by steve at 10:08 PM

Saturday, June 16, 2007

words of prophecy

I very rarely tell someone “God says.” Too much abuse has followed those two simple words. But a misused history should not mean we throw out the baby with the bathwater.

To work against abuse, I always remind people that what I am about to say is what I am hearing, but I have been known to hear wrong. Anyhow, twice in the last month I have suggested “God says..” What I have found humourous is that both have been in relation to motor cars.

God says “You are a V8. You have a lot of get up and go. When a V8 runs rough, you don’t park it up in the garage. You might be running rough, but it’s not the time to park up.”

God says “In the past, you have lived your Christian faith in 3rd and 4th gear. In the last few years you have put your foot on the clutch. Be encouraged, that means you’re still moving. But it’s now time to find the right gear for the slope ahead and to take your feet off the clutch.”

Posted by steve at 06:24 PM

Thursday, June 14, 2007

a spirituality of time wasting

time slides
through the fingers
of my morning

grains of minutes
poured into my latte bowl

an hour of time
thanks be to God

Posted by steve at 11:59 AM

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

a moment to savour

redwine.jpg This has been a really intense semester for me; kicking off 2 new courses, a trip to Australia in the middle, working with 2 denominations in New Zealand around missional church issues.

I always knew it was going to be busy. My last class has just finished and I’ve survived and I face a much easier second semester, which I hope will include some time to write including:
– a paper on missional church-missional agencies
– a co-authored paper on female Christ figures in contemporary film
– a paper using mission history to evaluate the emerging church movement
– a paper on reading local narratives.

But for today, it’s a moment to savour …

Posted by steve at 05:58 PM

missional church learning is on the road

One of my key tasks this year is teaching a new course, Missional Church Leadership.

Define missional church Steve? Missional church is about the future of God among the people of God.

So what Steve? Well, since course design should follow course theology, that means you can never teach missional church as a theory or set of ideas. Rather, you must allow learners to pay attention to the work of God among the people of God.

Practically this has included quite a number of innovations. One of my hopes was that we would be able to push the learning envelope by moving out of the classroom and going to a students’ context, to hear them, in context, talk about their context. Well, today is the first attempt.

I have just written the following for the lecture notes:
Welcome to Phil’s space. Being here reminds us that
1. Missional church is about real, living communities, and being present in their narratives NOT classroom learning of intellectual ideas.

2. Spaces shape learning. Be alert to how our interaction and your learning changes in new places. In Luke 10, Jesus sends us to other people’s spaces. A key skill of missional leaders will be the ability to create learning communities in other people’s spaces.

As part of the class Phil will talk about his local context. The class will be asked to reflect back to him the narratives they are hearing. We will then dwell in Scripture together. And so together I hope we will be increasing our skills around the cultivation of a missional imagination among real, living contexts.

Posted by steve at 11:09 AM

Monday, June 11, 2007

so how did it go in Australia?

I always struggle to answer such a question, when asked how a speaking assignment goes. I’d much rather have a listeners perspective than a speakers perspective. So it was nice to stumble across this writeup of my May trip to Adelaide.


“Steve invited us to consider the leadership practices displayed in the sending out of the seventy-two in Luke 10. He told stories of fostering new faith communities on the fringe of his older, conservative congregation. We heard about leaders who listen to their people and build on their hopes and dreams – a bottom up, not top down approach, involving active listening [and] communal discernment. We were invited to question whether our models of leadership are formed by culture or the gospel. And we saw and heard the images and sounds of multi-sensory, participatory, creative worship.

We appreciated hearing from someone with a ‘southern hemisphere accent’ and someone who could ‘practice what they teach’. Steve managed to open up people’s preconceptions of mission and church by not fitting many of our categories for such things. His Opawa journey connected very well with what many folk here are facing. Through his stories, metaphors, insights and analysis he communicated with us at a range of levels. Leaders from across the synod have commented on how they have been encourage and challenged. We acknowledge Steve’s generosity of spirit and great leadership over the week.”

In, other words, from a listeners perspective, it went well. I do enjoy jumping out of people’s mission boxes. I do enjoy using a range of media and mediums to communicate. I do think it’s way past time we in Australasia told our own mission stories rather than looking northward. I continue to be grateful for the way the story of what God is doing at Opawa encourages and challenges.

Posted by steve at 04:22 PM