Friday, November 30, 2007

new service called soak

starting Sunday evening, happening monthly, lots of space for stillness, including body massage prayer, creative space, communion, Biblical meditation.


Posted by steve at 10:56 AM

Thursday, November 29, 2007

where is God today? reading everyday culture

I have on my desk 3 post-graduate assessments. One is titled “Theology of Desperate Housewives.” Another is exploring the extent of Incarnation and community in Second Life. A third is exploring re-enchantment in contemporary film. All are from Universities and are demanding my marking attention. All are part of a new discipline, that of the relationship between theology and popular culture.

All this is important given the discussion going on in the comments in relation to my post on the theology of U2/Bono, questioning both the validity and how one might go about reading popular culture. I have found three resources useful in my thinking.

Understanding theology and popular culture, by Gordon Lynch, suggests three potential approaches to reading Bono or TV or a film. One is to focus on the author, much as I have done with Bono, using his explanation of the song Waves of Sorrow. Another is text-based and this would involve exploring the lyrics and words. Another is an ethnographic approach, to ask people what they are hearing as they listen and engage.

Everyday theology, by Kevin Vanhoozer, has chapters with titles like The Gospel according to Safeway, A theological account of Eminem, The Business of Busyness, Welcome to the Blogosphere, Weddings for Everyday theologians. It has an excellent introduction and then 10 examples. Quite practical and accessible.

Thirdly, there is an excellent article by Gordon H. Matties titled “On Movies as a Spiritual Discipline,” which offers five sets of questions, which can help structure the way we engage with popular culture. These are:

1) Where are we? What kind of world does the movie depict and do I identify with it?

2) Who are we? What does it mean to be human and in relationship?

3) What is wrong? How does the movie portray the human condition?

4) Is there a remedy? Is there hope, a better future? Can problems be solved? By whom?

5) What time is it? How are we to read the times? Is it like our past, present, future? Are we running out of time, or gaining on it?

I am constantly using these three resources, whether in Gospel and film classes, or when exploring how emerging church is engaging gospel and culture issues, or when helping leaders become listeners (good exegetes of culture). They give me frameworks to think by.

Posted by steve at 10:00 PM

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

advent in 2007: updated

It’s Advent, four weeks when the church starts to prepare for the Christ. It’s probably my favourite season of the church year. This year our preparation as a church will include;

a) giving everyone a wee glass bead, one per week, with the words “hope”, “joy”, “peace”, “love” glued onto their base. Beautiful enough to hold and tend, small enough to carry in one’s pocket.

b) digging out the advent journals again (8 journals, each journal is numbered and different and released into the church community for the first week of Advent. When you get a journal, you have 3 days to write in it what preparing for Christmas means to you, and can then pass it on to anyone you like. If you have them on Sunday, you’re invited to bring them along to be read in community).

c) using these short Advent videos.

d) offering a Blue Christmas worship experience, Wednesday, December 18, 7:30 pm, in the church foyer, for those who need to explore life’s blues in the presence of a babe about to become a refugee.

e) using this on-line Advent calendar at family meal times. (Hat tip to Olive Drane aka Clown Barni.

Posted by steve at 09:22 PM

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Bono theology: Waves of sorrow

I had wondered about preaching this on Sunday, but just could not make it cohere with the life of our faith community, which was celebrating the end of the church year with an Open Home, Open year celebration. So I offer it here!

The latest U2 release, Waves of Sorrow, gives us a fascinating insight into Bono the poet and Bono the theologian.


Posted by steve at 10:21 PM

Saturday, November 24, 2007

living with integrity amid a world of boxes

This post has nothing to do with any recent speaking experiences I’ve been part of, but arose from an email conversation with a friend

box1.jpg box2.jpg

We live in a world of boxes. The boxes are labelled by humans with words like conservative and liberal.

The question is not what others think I am. Nor what boxes they might wish to place me in.

The question is who God thinks I am. And how have I communicated that relationship with authenticity and integrity.

Posted by steve at 09:32 PM

Friday, November 23, 2007

rereading luke 10 in Dunedin

Sorry the blog has been a bit quiet. I’ve been down in Mosgiel, Dunedin, very well hosted by the Anglicans, speaking about mission and church and leadership.

It’s the 4th group of Anglicans I’ve worked with this year and you’d think I’d have it down pat by now. But I can’t help myself and after listening to the hopes and conversations of the group that invited me, I was up until past midnight the night before, re-framing the entire day.

I was using Luke 10:1-12. So I used (four) concepts within that Biblical text, of
– sending,
– going with no agenda,
– listening at the tables of our culture,
– naming the Kingdom

to frame my four sessions. Then within each session I followed a repeated cycle of
– God’s story;
– my story;
– your story
This cycle allowed me to start each session with God’s story and then to explore how this has shaped my ministry as I have provided leadership. And then space for them to consider their story, and what God might be calling them to in their context.

I was pleased with the pattern. Much of the content remained, but it seemed to provide a frame that was coherent and allowed a fertile mix of Biblical and theological engagement, practical grounding and space to earth and apply.

They worked me hard (speaking for 8 hours). I was stuffed, and arrived at the airport only to find my flight delayed. Sigh. Two hours to rectify an engineering fault meant I missed being able to put my kids to bed. Stink.

PS I’m aware that there’s something funny with my comments. Sorry. They don’t have internet in Mosgiel and then with my flight delayed, I crawled into bed at midnight and …. yeah, yeah …

PSS One of the wierdest things was queueing for the toilet and meeting Aussie visitors who had first heard about me via my time with Craig Mitchell and the Uniting Synod in South Australia. A small world with very few degrees of separation.

PSSS I got asked some of the astutest questions I’ve been asked in a long time yesterday. This is when, for me, speaking becomes gift because it opened new doors and growth for me. Thanks people.

Posted by steve at 09:19 AM

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

where is God in our world today?

email just in about an upcoming Christian event: “and most importantly we are amped about spending extended time in the presence of our amazing God.”

Can I spend extended time in the presence of God without going? What does this say about returning home, that I will be going back to a lesser place with less time to spend with God?

Or am I being grumpy and pedantic? Do words really matter?

Where is God most likely to be in our world today anyhow?

Posted by steve at 10:20 AM

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

avoiding the prophets

stoningtheprophets.jpg Questions asked at stoning the prophets on Sunday

If all Scripture is inspired by God,
then why do Christians so rarely preach the minor prophets?

AND why do Lectionary readings draw mainly on the happy parts of the minor prophets?

Posted by steve at 09:36 AM

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Grow one week old

logo finalforweb.jpg kicked off on Sunday evening. Excellent start, real buzz around the place, new faces, and faces we had not seen for a while.

It’s only week one, so it’s too early to evaluate. What we are trying to do is to offer a whole variety of angles on a topic. So for 3 weeks it is Grow through gardening and on the first week we played a scene from the movie Over the Hedge where the animals meet “the hedge”. We then offered a history of gardens in ancient times. We guessed who owned a number of Opawa gardens. We interviewed a flower grower. We explored why the Bible starts with a garden.

We then invite people to process together. The set up is in table groups. As someone said, you have created collectives, not rows. To get people talking we are trying 3 basic questions – as you listened who is God? who are humans? how then should we live? We hope these will provide an ongoing framework.

We encourage people to write up their exploration and they are then placed on the web. We hope this encourages people that their learning is being taken seriously and they can see what they, and other’s wrote, over the week. The first responses, are, IMHO, quite encouraging.

There are other bits built into Grow (gathering ritual, new approach to offering, response, take home projects), but I’ve explained enough for now. We are simply following our intuition – that people learn in different ways and asking the question – how can church can be a better learning/forming environment.

Posted by steve at 03:41 PM


Question: How do I cultivate [a] conversation of imagination and hope rooted in the biblical narratives, without manipulating people into a pre-arranged plan? How do I invite people in when I have been thinking about this for several years and they may only be at the beginning?

Response: This is a recurring challenge for all leaders (whether missional or emerging). Our models of leadership are often take change, I know best. We’ve seen the way that experts take power away from communities. We don’t want that.

Yet equally, we are gifted. In the words of Nelson Mandela, “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” It is dishonest to us and to a process to deny our gifts and insights.

I wonder if a way forward is then to ask ourself: what were the key stories, insights and questions that shaped my journey? In other words, not what are my answers, but what were my questions.

And then use the questions with others. In other words, think about what shaped you, and then invite others to be shaped by those processes. Out of that shared learning comes leadership-in-community. This is a different type of leadership, that lies in contrast to the “what you need to do is ….” style of leadership.

As part of this type of leadership, it can be also helpful to reflect on how we all learn differently. You might be a book learner, while others might be more hands on. So this type of leadership-in-community involves thinking about the different ways people can gain insights. (For more on this, see my post about building onramps here). So in my missional leadership coaching clusters, I am exploring using doing, hearing, watching, thinking. Offering a whole different range of access points.

Posted by steve at 10:13 AM

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Christmas Journey of Peace

Latimer Square has a reputation as a more seedy part of Christchurch. It is a central city park that needs light and invites prayer that all of humankind will indeed find Christmas peace.

This Christmas, visitors to Latimer Square will encounter a 24 hour night light in the form of an outdoor Peace Labyrinth. The aim is to provide a still point in the midst of the busy Christmas season.

The Peace Labyrinth will consist of 700 straw hay bales, arranged in the pattern of a labyrinth, an ancient practice which invites one to find peace as they walk a guided journey, during which they encounter various stations focused on themes including peace at home, at work, in the environment and with God. A stable at the centre of the Labyrinth will proclaim the centrality that is found in the Light of the world.

The Peace Labyrinth is a continuation of the ministry of conceptual artists Pete and Joyce Majendie, in partnership with Opawa Baptist, Christchurch City Council and other local churches.

Their outdoor Christmas art installations have been the Majendie’s Christmas gift to the city of Christchurch for the last ten years. In the last three years they have moved location from Opawa Baptist into the central city, enabling them to reach far more people. Over 8,000 people visited their Christmas Journey, located in Christchurch Square, in 2005.


The Majendie’s ministry is based on using interactive art stations. Such forms of mission are essential in a culture in which so much contemporary communication is visual and participatory. A refugee station invites people to sit in a boat and consider what one thing they would take with them if they had to flee as a refugee to Egypt. A census station invites people to place a pin on a world map, indicating how far they had travelled to get to the Christmas journey. Rob Kilpatrick, then Director of tranzsend, upon seeing the world map in 2005, commented that the Christmas Journey was reaching more countries than the entire ministry of the tranzsend missionary society.

Thousands of “driftwood people” will be scattered around Christchurch shops and given to Christchurch schools. Made from driftwood, and fixed with two eyes, to look like people, they will come with a tag attached. “If you find me, please take me to the Peace Labyrinth.”


A website is being developed that will offer practical peace resources, including ways to bring peace into our relationships with family, work, creation and God. A promotional video, of the “driftwood people” moving from work and play toward Latimer Square, has been shot and finance is being sought to show this in local movie theatres.

In 2007, the Peace Labyrinth will be operating in Latimer Square from 7pm Friday 21st December continuously through to 9am Monday 24th December. All are welcome.

Posted by steve at 09:54 PM

Sunday, November 11, 2007

back into stoning the prophets


We are back into Stoning the prophets again. We took a week’s break last week, to give us all a breather, and today we’re at it again, hearing the prophet Nahum read aloud from start to end. (Ever heard the prophet Nahum read aloud in church? The Bible declares that all Scripture is inspired, but based on our usage, some Scripture is obviously more inspired than others!)

As part of each Stoning the prophets we invite everyone to pick up a stone from a pile in the centre and to reflect on what struck them. Participants are invited to name this and then throw their stone back on the pile. It is a very powerful moment as one by one rocks thud onto the pile.

Here are the verbal reflections on the prophet Micah:
– such a gloomy book
– such a poetic book
– the stone chosen was significant (white bit on top). Links with Lord of the Rings as a battle, like Micah battling wickedness, yet prophetic promise that God’s mountain will rise, like a white bit on top of a rock!
– Micah is seeing a whole picture – past, present and future of earth
– Doom and gloom, yet glimmers of light bursting forth.
– How can we today live Micah 6:8?
– stone is smoothed, shaped by life forces
– redemption in Micah occurs in dark places. What does it mean for us to seek redemption in dark places?
– redemption and grace casts sins into depths of sea

Posted by steve at 07:48 AM

Saturday, November 10, 2007

the work of God in place and space

in preparing to pray tomorrow, I started to reflect on how our church buildings have been used in the past week:


We take up our offering glad of good gifts,
glad of the actions of God through our work this week

And glad of the actions of God through the work of this church this week.
We remember that during the week past,
this church has been,
a place of worship and preaching,
a place of learning about How to read the Old Testament and spoken English for new migrants,
a haven for victims of domestic violence,
a prayer and meeting place for ministry leaders and Board,
a prayer and coffee place for our staff team,
a planning place for worship and services and the future,
a discipling place in areas of Quiet times and marriage preparation,
a fun place for our Brigades and crafts,
a preparing place as a team works on starting mainly music next year,
a painting place, as work has started on refreshing and repainting across the road,
a video shooting place in preparation for advertising the 2007 Christmas Journey on the internet

And so O God of place and space,
in our giving, we are joining with your work in and about this church. Amen

If you found this prayer helpful, other prayers I have written for public worship are here

Posted by steve at 03:33 PM

hello strange house

I sent Lynne out to a party last night and got to put the kids to bed. I realised this morning that it was the first time I had enjoyed an evening at home alone in 13 days straight. That was made up of Sunday evening services, 6 nights at wider Baptist family events, Parihaka evening, 2 church meetings, some one-on-one growth coaching and pre-marriage preparation. (And to claim this evening alone I still had to say no to 2 commitments.)

My current lifestyle makes me less than fully human. The introvert in me needs space alone. The rooted garden lover needs a home. The father of children needs the routine of bedtime baths.

Lynne and I were wondering yesterday about creating travel free months – blocking out months in the year when I simply refuse speaking invites as a way of preserving my humanity.

Posted by steve at 02:46 PM