Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Trevin Wax interviews N T Wright

Trevin Wax is the Minister of Education and Missions at First Baptist Church in Shelbyville, TN. A contributor to Christianity Today, Trevin is originally from Murfreesboro, TN and is currently finishing his Masters of Divinity at Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY via the extension center in Nashville. He received his bachelor’s degree at Emanuel University of Oradea, Romania, where he was involved in mission work in several village churches in the Oradea area from 2000-2005. Trevin’s wife is Corina and they have a son, Timothy and a daughter on the way.

Two quotes from the interview, which you can read in full here
“…We don’t know how the kingdom works. Take Jesus’ parables about seeds growing secretly and small seeds becoming mustard bushes and so on. The kingdom is always a surprise to us, which keeps us humble. The danger with “building the kingdom” language can make us very proud. “Building for the kingdom” keeps you humble. It says, “These are your tasks; you’ve got to get on with them. How God puts them into the eventual construct is completely his business.”

“…It dawned on me several years ago that when somebody says “no” to God and refuses to worship the God in whose image they are made, saying “I’m not going to worship that God,” then what happens to their humanness is that it progressively ceases to bear the image of God. You become like what you worship. You reflect the one you worship. It’s one of the great truths of spirituality…”

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Love your neighbour

The great thing about the Web is that you're constantly bumping into things you didn't know existed. I was looking for a bit of material for a workshop I took on the weekend, and came across the Love Your Neighbour site. It's hosted in New Zealand, and focuses on NZ stories. They're well written ones, too.

One of the main intentions of the site is to encourage local churches to get involved in their local community, to uncover needs that are peculiar to their local area, and to find ways to help.

Their basic strategy is simple: they're calling churches to
  • to adopt the streets in their community,
  • to prayerwalk those streets,
  • to build community through fun events and acts of kindness,
  • to capitalize on the goodwill that has been created by following up with an invitation to hear the gospel.
Churches invovled with the Love Your Neighbour project begin by choosing to be outward, rather than inward-focused. They ask, as a church, how far do the cords of your tent extend? How big is the ‘parish’ that God has called you to serve?

Their strategy is as simple as ABC: Adopt, Befriend, Co-operate. You can see more detail about the strategy on their site.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Expelled again

Some comments relating to this blog don't actually make it onto the site. Henry Neufield, to whom I referred readers in regard to the film, Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed, wrote to me personally, and we had a bit of email chit-chat back and forth. He told me he "was most impressed since you are the first person in many moons to call me "pretty sane"!"

I take that as a compliment. ! (For those who haven't picked up on this movie yet, the Intelligence bit is a play on words regarding the intelligence of some of those interviewed in the movie, the intelligence of some of the Universities that have denied certain professors the right to speak about Intelligent Design, and of course, Intelligent Design itself. But you'd already figured all that out, hadn't you?)

Anyway, more on the movie itself. CT at the Movies has a fairly lengthy but worth reading review of it here. They're perhaps a little more middle of the road about it than Henry was, which is okay, and have some positive things to say about it. And I'd like to quote a short section of the review, which might give some of you a laugh:

Stein, in his inimitable way, tries to corner [Richard]Dawkins into acknowledging the possible existence of God — or at least some sort of intelligent designer behind it all. At first, Dawkins doesn't budge, and is incredulous at Stein's line of questions. But Stein, deadpan yet persistent, latches on to Dawkins' comment that he's 99 percent certain there's no God — and runs with it. "Why not 97 percent?" Stein asks. "Why not 49 percent?"

Stein continues to press until a clearly irritated Dawkins says something quite astonishing. "Okay," he says in essence (I'm paraphrasing, because I don't have the precise quote), "maybe there is an intelligent designer. But if there is, I can guarantee that that intelligent designer is a life form that evolved elsewhere and came to earth and seeded life here."

Huh? So that's his concession to the ID camp? That if they're at all right, that we were designed by aliens who evolved somewhere else in the universe? Yowza.

Review: Surprised by Hope by Tom Wright

Tom Wright has several things he wants to put across in this book, but there are two particular ones that stand out for me. Firstly he wants to encourage the church to change its view of what happens to us after death, and secondly, and even more important, he wants us to realise the extent to which we're affected, in every aspect of our lives, by Jesus' resurrection from the dead, and our own future resurrection in the new heavens/new earth.

I must confess I'm a person who likes to read books that speculate as far as possible on where (and what) we'll be in the post-death future. I sometimes feel a little alone in this, as, to my surprise, many Christians don't appear to care overly much. For them vague thoughts of 'heaven' are enough. However, Wright isn't prepared to let us away with any kind of vagueness. He spends a good amount of time dealing to the usual idea of 'heaven,' which he says is not only inaccurate, it's not even Scriptural.

For him the resurrection of Jesus is of utter importance in relation to our future. The resurrection will sweep up everything in this world and recreate it in the new. For Wright, everything that's of value here will have value eternally, and he's not just talking about 'spiritual' things, but about creative things, about work and love and kindness and relationships and all manner of other aspects of our everyday lives. The 'first' resurrection happened here, in this world, and it will ultimately affect everything in this world. The new creation will incorporate the old, making all the old of immense value.

But this is just part of the message in the book. Wright presents a wide-ranging and accessible theology of the resurrection, of Easter itself, of the Christian's hope as it was understood in the early church, of what Jesus' judgment of this world means, of whether Purgatory and Paradise have any relevance to us.

And in his final section, where some of the best material lies (in a book full of good material), he writes of hope in practice: how the resurrection affects the mission of the church.

If you've ever felt that we've lost the point of Easter, that the resurrection was a one-off and rather odd event, and that our deaths are fairly irrelevant in the scheme of things, read this book. Even if you don't agree with all Wright's theology – as some (plainly misguided critics) don't – I'll be surprised if you're not inspired by at least some of what he has to say.

reviewed by Mike Crowl

Tom Wright on the Church

A couple of extracts from Tom Wright's address to the Fulcrum Conference Islington 2008

“… the church, in its very life as well as in what it says to communities and individuals, [is] … indeed the missionary body of Christ, the community at which the principalities and powers look and realise, perhaps with an angry shock, that Jesus is Lord and they are not; the community at which ordinary people look and realise, perhaps with an eager start, that there is after all a different way to be human and that they want to find out what makes it tick.

Let the Bible shape your eschatology; let that biblical eschatology shape your mission; and then let that eschatologically-shaped mission shape your view of the church; and you'll find that, instead of the shrill functional pragmatism of today's muddled left, insisting on breaking old rules because they're outdated, and the equally shrill and functional pragmatism of today's muddled right, insisting on keeping old rules because they're the old rules even at the cost of unity, you will have a robust, biblical, Christ-centred, Spirit-led, costly ecclesiology that will be in good shape to take forward God's mission into the next generation

The late, great Lesslie Newbigin was once asked whether, when he looked at the church, he was an optimist or a pessimist. I make his reply my own. I am neither an optimist, nor a pessimist: Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!”

Keeping Time

John Sweetman, on the Neoleader blog, makes several good points about watching how you handle your time as a minister.
A couple of these are of particular value:

Keep a to-do list. It's better to have a list of jobs to do (it can be updated daily) rather than trying to keep things in your head, and hoping you'll remember what's important. Otherwise it's easy to get sidetracked onto less important tasks. And keep the list handy: if it's hard to access, like being in some program on your computer, you'll be less likely to pay attention to it. (Paper and pen are still valid tools in the postmodern age.)

Let your diary be your protector and pay attention to it. It's perfectly valid to book yourself up on so many days of the year, but not on others. An essential number of days need to be kept free for family, relaxation, retreats, exercise and friends. It's a good idea, John writes, to block out these days at the beginning of the year, and make them non-negotiables. Only true emergencies should take them over.

More from Rick Warren on Leadership

You never lead by yourself. You always do it in context of a team. All great leaders are great team builders. In fact, if you don’t have a team, you’re not a leader. You’re a loner. The test of leadership is whether anyone is following you.

Jesus modeled this kind of ministry. He never did ministry alone. Mark 3:14 says, “He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach.” Jesus enlisted other people to serve the cause with him.

If God gives you a vision for your ministry, he’s going to bring other people with the same idea together with you. If nobody agrees on your idea, guess what? It’s not from God.

A time to be simple

Simple Church: Returning to God's Process for Making Disciples, by Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger.

Based on case studies of four hundred American churches, authors Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger prove that the process for making disciples has quite often become too complex. Simple churches are thriving, and they are doing so by taking these four ideas to heart: Clarity. Movement. Alignment. Focus. Each idea is examined here, simply showing why it is time to simplify.

One Amazon reviewer noted: The only part of this book, or the genre, that ought to give the reader pause is that the authors presume that ministry requires a strategic process through which people are funnelled on the way to spiritual growth. While that is the reality of modern, institutional church management, it seems to overrule the fluid and organic (if not disorganized) ministry of Jesus and the disciples while co-opting their names. This is not a major critique of the book, just the observation that business management principles are governing the church whose founder had very little to say about business management.

Responses to this book vary from considerable enthusiasm to some concern about the way the authors ideas of ‘decluttering’ tend to throw some babies out with the bathwater.


On one of the blogs I read regularly, I came across a 'slideshow' that had been sent on from yet another blogger.

It's a slideshow giving some definitions of the differences between Modern and PostModern. It's not long, but there are several slides that would make good starting points for discussions about the point in history we're now in and what we're leaving behind.

I think slide 18 says it all: We must think like missionaries again! Which of course is what this blog is all about.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Gordon MacDonald writes a semi-fictional account of what it's like to be in a church in the process of change....

Who Stole My Church? : What to Do When the Church You Love Tries to Enter the 21st Century, by Gordon MacDonald.

MacDonald (Ordering Your Private World) charts new territory in church growth books by turning what could have been a long list of dos and don'ts into a highly readable, even novelistic, approach to the subject. With himself as narrator, MacDonald creates a cast of church members in their 50s, 60s and 70s who meet each week to discuss where their church has been, is now and should go in the future. All I know is that someone stole my church and I'd like to get it back, says one. MacDonald delves into the feelings of the older generation as they watch new leadership take over, see changes in music and use of technology, and begin to wonder how they will fit in. He challenges their understanding of what the church is, then looks at the early church and the modern church and the many cultural influences that transform Christian spirituality. MacDonald is especially strong when he includes young people's perspectives or brings research to bear on how people view and act on change. This is a challenging, innovative approach to a delicate subject. It's sure to benefit church leaders and members of all ages who dream of a reinvented church.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Tod Bolsinger and the emerging church

Martin Stewart of Christchurch writes: I’ve been looking at Tod Bolsinger’s blog recently – he is one among many thinking about the emerging church – I think he gets the balance between mission and theology right in that the two are not seen as separate entities as we often end up making them to be.

Martin referred to a particular post in which Bolsinger quotes Richard Mouw, who asked: "Should we attempt to be communities of interest or communities of memory?"

Bolsinger comments on this question: That is to say, which is more important: restructuring churches to appeal to the outsider who is searching for God and responding to the missional opportunities and challenges present in the culture or insuring that churches remained focused on the liturgical, doctrinal and sacramental elements that keeps the church anchored in it's core beliefs and practices?

Check out the rest of what Bolsinger has to say by clicking here.

Words of advice - from Picasso

I can't vouch for these being actual quotes from Picasso, but each of them has value without being attributed to him (!)

"He can who thinks he can, and he can't who thinks he can't. This is an inexorable, indisputable law."

"I am always doing that which I cannot do, in order that I may learn how to do it."

"Inspiration exists, but it has to find us working."

"Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone."

"Action is the foundational key to all success."

"Others have seen what is and asked why. I have seen what could be and asked why not."

"Youth has no age."

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Leaving the church, young and old?

In one of those careless moments, I managed to post this onto my own blog, instead of this one. So here it is now, in its rightful place - a few days late.

If there is one thing that everyone in youth ministry seems to talk about it’s how to keep students following Christ after they leave school - especially if they then go onto University or Polytech. Even more so if they leave home
at the same time.

Kara Powell, the executive director of the Center for Youth and Family Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California [man, these Americans have long job titles], says that data shows, 50% of high school students who had been deeply involved in a church’s youth ministry will not be serving God 18 months after graduation. And that’s not counting the many other high school students who are only going to church because their parents are forcing them.

She asks four questions of church and youth leaders:
What gospel are we feeding our kids?
Are students' doubts welcome at our table?
How can kids take their place at God’s diverse kingdom table?
How can we train students to feed themselves after graduation?

Her answers to, and explanations of, these questions can be found in this report from the Shift Conference.

What is interesting, however, is that these questions could just as easily apply to adult Christians. As Skye Jethani says,
48 year olds may not be leaving the church the way 18 year olds are, but are they really growing? Are we feeding them a Red Bull gospel? Are we teaching them to be self-feeders? Are their doubts and struggles welcomed?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008


A friendship, like falling asleep, is something you cannot enter into by sheer willpower. I can open myself up to it. I can pray for it. I can look for people and invite them out for coffee. Then maybe we find common ground. Maybe we make each other laugh, or find the same books interesting. Then we find that we are somehow loyal to each other, want good things for each other, are willing to speak difficult truth to each other.

But I cannot make this occur. Friendship happens, when it happens, as a gift.

From a short article by John Ortberg entitled, Spiritual Friends.

Stolen Goods: Tempted to Plagiarize

Understanding the necessity of citation and the damage of deceit

Ministering in Rural Areas

Muriel Mellow has been running a series of articles on the Canadian Church Rural Network site. The latest (and last) is now available. (Previous ones are in the Archives section.)

The articles have been based on her book, Defining Work: Gender Professional Work and the Case of Rural Clergy. The most recent article in the series is entitled: Professional Demands and Personal Lives, and looks at how rural clergy manage the relationship between professional and private life, and the different challenges for women and men in this regard. What's presented in the article is a much condensed version of what she has to say in the book.

Here's what the publisher's blurb has to say about the book: For rural clergy, the lines between private life and professional life can blur. Their offices are often in their homes, parishioners are also neighbours, and professional duties are intertwined with emotional caregiving and volunteer activity. In a society that defines work as paid, public, and intellectual the ambiguity inherent in the life of the rural clergy poses unique challenges. Muriel Mellow considers how men and women in this occupational group conceptualize "work" in the context of their unique circumstances and shows how their experience raises questions for feminist theories of work. Based on interviews with forty rural Protestant clergy, Mellow argues that male and female clergy challenge gendered definitions of work by focusing on obligation, context, visibility, and time. She also considers how clergys work is shaped by the rural setting, arguing that we must consider how work is "placed" as well as gendered.

The book was published in 2006.

Willow Creek and the Reveal Survey

I went to check up on a post I'd written on Willow Creek's Reveal survey and discovered it wasn't there. Because I hadn't written it.

I first came across the Reveal survey where it was discussed as part of the Shift Conference, about which I have previously written (!) The writer seemed to indicate that Willow Creek had made major shifts of emphasis as a result of the survey, but it seems as though the responses to the survey (a) may not have been well-interpreted, and (b) have been responses to a survey that had some flaws.

Of course there's always someone on the Net who's prepared to write at length about such issues, and a friend has pointed me to an eleven-part series on the positives and negatives of the survey. It was written late last year, so is still fairly up to date. Furthermore, the writer, Bradley Wright, is a professor at the University of Connecticut, where he studies the sociology of Christianity. You may not want to read all he has to say (some of it's a little technical), so you can skip to the summary
However, those with an interest in seeing how better to view church/Christian behaviour and response, can start at the beginning (the posts are fairly short.)

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Gone for Good?

We wrote about Alan Jamieson's books a few posts ago. Another title that complements his thinking is this one, from the UK.

Gone for Good?: Church Leaving and Returning in the 21st Century,
by Leslie Francis and Philip Richter.

In their thought-provoking analysis, Francis and Richter provide a detailed account of the different reasons behind church leaving. They also identify how some church leavers can be converted more easily than others into becoming church returners. The authors look at why many people are disillusioned with the church, while for others questions are around matters of teaching, style of worship or incompatibility of lifestyle. For others, the costs of being involved in the church are too high, for others there are issues about change or lack of it.

Leslie Francis and Philip Richter have evaluated over 7000 telephone interviews and more than 900 questionnaires completed by people who have left churches of different Christian denominations. They provide powerful and authoritative insights into what church leavers really think about the church and into who is likely to return and who is likely to stay away.
Epworth Press 2007

Thursday, April 10, 2008

What makes a Maori a Maori?

Just catching up on a couple of Grapevine magazines, and found another article of interest. For those who puzzle over what makes a Maori a Maori, and many other issues relating to Maori and Pakeha in New Zealand, this is an accessible and readable interview with Sam Chapman, who, with his wife Thelma, is the founder of Houhanga Rongo and Project Awhi

Sam and Thelma live in Otara, South Auckland, and since 1978 have offered their love and their home to the kind of people no one else wants: people from prisons and gangs, and other people who are socially not in the right status quo.

You can find the article on Grapevine's website (amongst a host of other good material).

Photo courtesy of the NZ Herald

Men and Depression

One of the areas National Mission Office has been concerned with is the health of Presbyterian ministers around the country. Ministers can suffer from burn-out, depression and the symptoms that go with these. And often they feel forced to keep on keeping on because ministers are supposed to be capable people.

Male depression is only just beginning to be regarded as a prime source of suicide amongst men in mid-life - as recent tv ads will have indicated.

Via an article in the magazine, Grapevine, I've just become aware of a site called MenAlive.com. It focuses on depression, mid-life crises, irritable male syndrome (that's right, no typo there), and other related issues.

It's an American site, but it has a links page that is global in its range. And quite apart from that, depression is common to mankind (and womankind, or course!)

Expelled - Ben Stein

There's a new film available in the States called Expelled, which aims to align Darwinism with Naziism, to disprove the theory of evolution and promote Intelligent Design, to claim that scientists and university lecturers who don't agree with evolution are sidelined in their careers.

Of course the film is being heavily promoted amongst Christians, especially on various evangelical sites and blogs. So I did some checking out, since part of the aim of this blog is source good DVD material for use in churches and amongst home groups. I started by watching (or trying to watch) the extended trailer, but for some reason it doesn't want to download properly. However I got enough of an idea of it to want to check out things further.

Ben Stein,
who 'stars' in the movie (it's more a doco than a feature), is anti-Darwinism - not in itself a bad thing - and so are the producers of the movie. Clicking further back and forth across the web I eventually came across a writer who says he's a passionate moderate Christian who is a member of a United Methodist congregation. His name is Henry Neufield. Henry's no slouch, he's no fly-by-night blogger, and he seems pretty sane.

He slams the movie for six reasons:
It misrepresents evolution;
First amendment issues are badly confused;
Academic freedom doesn't guarantee you a job or tenure;
The problem for intelligent design is not that it hasn't been considered;
The connection of Hitler with evolution;
Lastly, the one that annoys me most, is the lie that accepting the theory of evolution is the equivalent of atheism.

I don't have space here to give the detail from Henry's post, so I recommend you check it out on his blog.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Alan Jamieson's latest book

Many readers will remember New Zealand pastor Alan Jamieson's two ground-breaking books on people who are Christians but aren't attending church: A Churchless Faith and Church Leavers. (That second title isn't what it was called when it was published in NZ, but is apparently what the English title now is.)

His latest book is Chrysalis, The Hidden Transformations in the Journey of Faith, and it's available either by writing direct to the author, or through the usual Christian bookshop channels.

Drawing on the three principle phases of a butterfly's life and the transformations between these phases, this book suggests subtle similarities with the Christian faith. Increasing numbers of Christian people find their faith metamorphosing beyond the standard images and forms of Christian faith but question about where this may lead remain. Is this the death of personal faith or the emergence of something new? Could it be a journey that is Spirit-led?
'Chrysalis' uses the life-cycle of butterflies as a metaphor for the faith journey that many contemporary people are experiencing. The change for both butterflies and Christians between these 'phases' or 'zones' is substantial, life-changing and irreversible.
This book accompanies ordinary people in the midst of substantive faith change.
'Chrysalis' is primarily pastoral and practical, drawing on the author's experience of accompanying people in the midst of difficult personal faith changes.

Shifting perspective on youth ministry

Mark Yaconelli, when speaking at a Conference with the curious name of Shift , pointed out a major shift he believes must happen. Through a wide-ranging talk Mark kept coming back to his theme of emptiness and brokenness. Given the many resources, curriculum, and programs available at the conference, it was almost ironic to hear Mark tell youth pastors, "You don’t need anything. You need less. You can come to a conference and get so overwhelmed that you forget you already have everything you need. Your love of your kids and your desire to love God is enough."

Bo Boshers, Executive Director of Youth Ministries for Willow Creek, told the audience that a survey of the conference’s attendees showed that 67% of the youth leaders and students are not being mentored. “Folks, we’ve got to get this one right!” he said. It seems that the need for one-on-one relationships in youth ministry is one of the shifts the conference organizers are concerned with.

Brian McLaren told a story at Shift
of his time as a volunteer youth leader in the 1970’s. He asked his youth group to brainstorm a list of things that were major issues in their churches. This list included things like speaking in tongues and contemporary worship music. The group then came up with a list of those things that were important to the group and their friends. This second list reflected the global concerns of the 70’s: nuclear war, communism, famine, and overpopulation. In Brian’s words, “there was nothing in common with those two lists.”

Brian obviously believes that youth leaders have a role in shaping their students to be involved with that second list.

Every kid that I lead to Christ and commitment to the church is going to increase his or her commitment to the first list and will have less time to devote to the second list. Which list is God more interested in?
What do you think?


I'm trying to avoid stepping completely out of the boundaries of this blog, but something in several comments another blog jolted me a little, though it's by no means the first time I'd seen it.
This is the use of 'G-d'. For starters, I've no idea how you'd pronounce this, unless you do something akin to a glottal stop in the middle of the normal word.
Thus we have sentences (from several different commenters) like:
G-d certainly has proven his patience with us...all 2000+ years of it.
The only identifier is a sticker on the inside of my car that states "G-d is not a Republican. Or a Democrat." (Sojourners) The only think I think about on a regular basis is "Am I on G-D'S side?" not "Is G-d on MY side?"
As Phyllis Tickle put it so beautifully, "A nation is in the business of doing Caesar's work, not G-d's...

When I queried this usage, by saying, "Are we suddenly afraid to use the word God, or isn't it allowed in these comments? "I received this response:

I find this interesting...apparently the editors of Ur are curious too if they allowed this question to be posted.
No, I use it because I talked to Jews who found my usage of "G o d" to be...hmm, disrespectful to both the deity and to them. The alternate address is G-d, so I have grown use to using the address of G-d to show both my respect for both parties.

Is it me, or this is some kind of Christian PCism gone mad? I can vaguely understand its usage if its offending Jews, but why use it amongst Christians?

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Selfish Capitalist - Oliver James.

James is the author of Affluenza, which looked at the way in which greed is affecting our psyches, our souls. In his new book, (with its unfortunately uninspiring cover) he looks deeper into the origins of the 'virus' and outlines the political, economic and social climate in which it has grown.

Here's the opening of the book. (The remainder of this chapter can be found here.)

The modern vogue is to seek out evolutionary purposes for emotional distress. Because the theory of natural selection proposes that only those traits that have served an adaptive purpose survive, everything about us must have been adaptive at some point in our evolution (even if it no longer is helpful and, in theory, dying out) to have remained in our gene pool. The corollary is that everything about us must also be ultimately traceable back to our genetic inheritance, even traits which on the face of it are extremely maladaptive. Evolutionists pay virtually no attention to the considerable number of traits which might seem to be solely maladaptive, in terms of helping to reproduce genes. One might ponder why Down’s syndrome endures, why genetic abnormalities which guarantee extremely low intelligence continue, or even why homosexuality (if one assumes, as geneticists must do, that it has a genetic foundation) persists – whatever the other merits of this sexual orientation, reproduction is by definition not one of them. I am looking forward to the first evolutionary theory explaining why nuclear weapons or ecologically unsustainable economics, adaptations which may destroy all life on this planet, will further the reproduction of genes

Tom Sine on planning

Every denomination and religious organization I work with does long range planning. Ironically, they do long range planning as thought the future will simply be an extension of the present. As a result, we are chronically surprised by change. Tom Sine in Wild Hope.

Assume good intentions

Many people develop bad attitudes by assuming bad intentions on the part of others. Nine times out of ten when a member of your team is bleating on about the way a co-worker has angered or upset them, the co-worker has no idea it is happening. So rationally ask whether that co-worker intended to upset anyone. When your team member applies some adult thinking, they’ll probably realise there was no intention to upset. Jamie Ford, Foresight Institute.

From Building a More Resilient Workplace, NZ Management magazine, April 2008

The Truth Project

Focus on the Family's The Truth Project is a direct attempt to reverse the troubling statistic that only 9 percent of professing Christians have a biblical worldview. It's a stunning fact that backs what many believers have already seen and felt-that worldly values are increasingly taking hold and causing havoc among believers.

To help counter this slide of beliefs, Focus on the Family is launching their The Truth Project--a DVD-based small group study that clearly and concretely re-introduces believers to the truth claims of God. Supported by Dr. James Dobson and Christian worldview authorities Ravi Zacharias and Oz Guinness, FOTF believes it holds the potential for exponential change within the body of Christ.

The series is led by an energetic Dr Del Tackett. Tackett is president of the Focus on the Family Institute and Senior Vice President of Focus on the Family. An adjunct professor at New Geneva Theological Seminary and Summit Ministries, he served more than 20 years in the United States Air Force. As a professor, he's taught more than 30 undergraduate and graduate courses at three different institutions, over a 12 year period. He's also an ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church in America.

You can see a trailer of the series here; I recommend the four-minute version rather than the 30 second one, which is cut into such short shots that it's only just comprehensible.

The debate continues - thank goodness!

A few posts ago I wrote about an editorial that appeared in the NZ Herald which berated the Christian churches for not speaking out about poverty in NZ. It seems more and more likely that whoever wrote the editorial was struggling for something that might be a little controversial. Suffice to say, an opinion piece by Tapu Misa showed up some of the fallacies in the editorial, and on Friday, David Moxon and Brown Turei also added the voices to the debate.

At least the Herald was gracious enough to allow some differing opinions on the matter. Moxon and Turei's piece finishes with these sentences:
Outside the state, the churches are the biggest providers of social services in this country. This field is our daily reality. Challenging political policy and wanting to influence the shaping of policy with Christian values in these areas is crucial. It always has been and always will be.
You can read the rest of the piece by clicking here.

Archbishop David Moxon and Archbishop Brown Turei are Co-Presiding Bishops of the Anglican Church in Aotearoa New Zealand and Polynesia.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Number One Christian Porn Site

Got your attention?

Yes, there really is a number one Christian Porn site, and the link is to a post about Craig Gross' trip to Australia and New Zealand in March this year. Unfortunately most of the post is about the Australian leg of the trip (sounds like the writer was too tired to write any more once he got to his NZ bit). However, Gross did come to NZ, to Northpoint Baptist Church, where they had a weekend discussing the plague of porn that's affecting men around the country and around the world. The senior pastor of Northpoint says, "Porn is a plague in our society, and the church must respond lovingly and proactively."

The church invited fathers to bring their sons to the Porn and Pancakes evening, and then next day they held a Porn and Parents night. On the Sunday, two services addressed the issues of porn in NZ society. Unfortunately further news about the weekend is no longer available on the Net (as far as I can tell) and the church's own website doesn't mention it.

Tapu Misa on what the church has to say

For those who don't read the NZ Herald, it sometimes takes a while to catch up with opinion pieces and reports that come from that paper.

I've just found a 'perspective' by Tapu Misa, an Auckland journalist with an extensive career across a variety of media. She's been a feature writer for the NZ Herald in the past, and a staff writer for MORE and North & South magazines. She wrote this piece last Wednesday, and it makes a good comparison to the NZ Herald editorial I wrote a post about last week.

In it she looks at whether the church both has the right to pronounce on the nation, and whether it still has the moral integrity to do so. Well worth a read!

Incidentally, Misa's relatively recent conversion experience (2007) is the subject of another one of her columns.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Is there an increase or isn't there?

New Zealand's latest crime statistics were released this week, showing an improvement in Police resolution of crime, but an increase in the amount of reported family violence.
The news release from the Police highlights that "New Zealand has had the lowest murder rate for a decade" and that they also "resolved 9,539 more offences in 2007 than the previous year." Although there were "fewer offences of homicide (7 percent fewer) and kidnapping (2 percent fewer)," the violence category overall rose by 12.3 percent. This "increase in the violence category was driven almost entirely by recorded family violence," which increased by 35 percent.
This, according to the release, "is not surprising" given the "huge focus on family violence" in the media, potentially distorting the statistics by increasing the amount of family violence reported and not necessarily the amount committed.

Safer Children in a Digital World

The report of the Byron review on Children and the Internet came out just last month. This is a UK report initiated by the British government, and is extensive in its findings (it runs to 226 pages in the FTP version) on the risks to children of potentially harmful or inappropriate material on the internet and in video games. You can download it off the Net (along with several related documents) at the Department for Children, Schools and Families. (Is it just me, or does that department's title seem to have the names out of order of importance - I'd be putting Families second or even first!)

Dr Byron' press release includes a summary of the groundbreaking recommendations in her report.
She concludes that while new technologies bring incredible opportunities to children and young people, parents' general lack of confidence and awareness is leaving children vulnerable to risks within their digital worlds. Many parents seem to believe that when their child is online it is similar to watching television. Dr Byron is keen to emphasise that in fact it is more like opening the front door and letting a child go outside to play, unsupervised. Digital world risks are similar to real world risks but can be enhanced by the anonymity and ubiquity that the online space brings.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Artful Leadership

Artful Leadership: Awakening the Commons of the Imagination by Michael Jones.

No, not the notable NZ All Black, but a man who deals with notes of a different kind. Jones' earlier working career was as a leadership consultant, but in his spare time he played piano and composed music. One day he realised the music was too integral a part of him to neglect, and over the next decade or more, he's produced some fifteen albums of solo piano music. He's now done some further integrating, and uses his piano music and performance in his speaking career.

This is his second book,(his first is Creating an Imaginative Life) and you can read the first chapter, A Walk in the Park: the personal and social artistry of leadership, online.

The NZ Herald pronounces

Church leaders invariably lead with their chins in political debate. We have not heard from them for some time on poverty, in fact not since the last National Government was in office. They implicitly conceded this on Friday when they declared: "Our primary concern since the 'Hikoi of Hope' held 10 years ago has remained constant."
They could have fooled us. Their hope may have been constant but not their action.

This is the opening of an editorial from the NZ Herald, which appeared at the end of March. It's interesting in view of the connections of Church and State that we wrote about in a previous post. It's also interesting that it's critical of the Church's views; some of what it says may be true, some may just be the leader writer ranting.

What do you think?

The Divinity Code

On the Christian News New Zealand site, there's a review of Ian Wishart's newest book, The Divinity Code. The review begins like this:

"Oh no not another Da Vinci Code fad book" was my initial reaction to reading the title on Ian Wishart’s recent book "The Divinity Code". However despite the unfortunate title, a brief perusal and the authors reputation provided sufficient grounds to part with some cash to obtain a copy to read over the summer.

Ian Wishart is one of the more significant (and in some circles notorious) figures in New Zealand Journalism. As editor and publisher of Investigate magazine he has for a number of years been the bane of politicians and the liberal elite in New Zealand, being responsible for bringing to public notice a number of political scandals in the last few years. In Wishart’s previous book "Eve’s Bite" he addressed a number of liberal and secular influences that are negatively affecting society. In The Divinity Code Wishart picks up on a few aspects of his earlier book and addresses the issue of what is the evidence for the existence of God and the truthfulness of Christianity?"

I'm alerting you to this review, because (a) it gives a good overall picture of the book, both positively and negatively, and (b) because, controversial as Wishart can be, he puts his money where his mouth is as a Christian journalist, and continues to write out of his Christian beliefs, and (c) even though he may not be the best writer in the world, he doesn't let that stop him speaking out.

Jesus for President

On the Out of Ur site, there's a review of the latest book by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw. (Clairborne's first book, The Irresistible Revolution - living as an ordinary radical, has been amongst the top twenty 'Christian living' titles on Amazon for a couple of years).

The new book is called Jesus for President, an intentionally ironical title, since the authors' stance is basically a criticism of the way Christians have 'got into bed' with the State, in the USA.

David Swanson has written two of an intended three-part review on the book, and the comments that follow the first part provide an interesting insight into the way thinking on this very topic is very mixed in the US.

Claiborne and Haw are amongst the founding members of The Simple Way, a New Monasticism community in the US.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Being there for the teens in trouble

An article by Simon Collins, from the NZ Herald on Feb 9th, 2008, writes about mentoring programmes that are up and runing in New Zealand, including Brothers in Arms, a Christian group, which was formed in 2006. 'It's one of a growing number of grassroots initiatives showing voluntary goodwill can sometimes turn around young lives.'

The article details several case histories of mentors and youngsters who've built a relationship which has helped the younger person to make progress in their life. Mentors vary in age from twenty-somethings to sixty-somethings, and for the most part they just involve the kids in their lives, giving them a view of the world that's different from the often-limited view they have.

There are at least a half-dozen mentoring groups in New Zealand at present, and the article lists information about them, as well as their website addresses.

The Shaping of Things to Come

I know that the book, The Shaping of Things to Come, by Mike Frost and Alan Hirsch, has been around for about four years, and most of you will have read it, or come across it.

However, for those who haven't, there's an excellent review and detailed summary of the book and its contents on the John Mark Ministries site, in Australia. It has enough detail in it for you to be able to assess the whole book without having to read it from cover to cover - something the busier ones amongst you might appreciate.

Drought and Faith – a perspective from Bill Bennett

I am currently spending a day a week visiting farmers in Central Hawke’s Bay (Waipawa Parish). Clearly the almost nation-wide drought is hitting many in the rural sector. This includes parts of Taupo-Bay of Plenty, as well as Tararua, Hawke’s Bay and pockets in Eastland. Following last year’s difficult times many have already reduced stock numbers, and the process continues. Unfortunately some farmers are having to get rid of breeding stock. The cost of stock feed is high and often difficult to obtain. Hay and silage stockpiles have been reduced. Over the past few years a number of farmers have decided to lease their farms and allow others to absorb the risks. Some lessees are large companies able to farm on a larger scale. Those who have sold stock to export meat companies are finding the returns are not great due to the high value of the dollar. The dollar value remains a source of concern.

Others have the advantage of transporting stock to areas of the country for a period where feed is more plentiful. Not all have that option.

Those in dairying are feeling the pressure. Water irrigation restrictions are a real issue, as the dairy farmer depends on good quantities of green feed. Where irrigation occurs the contrast between green pasture and dry land is stark.

Listening to many farmers I am aware that some feel imprisoned by the lack of rain, sometimes with a sense of oppression or failure. Many quip – “You’ll have to really talk hard to the bloke above!” In other words, there are many who are really hurting. And they are reaching toward a sort of faith that yearns for meaning, despite their stoicism. Many have partners working off-farm to bring in more income. And others ask is this a sure sign that climate change is now really upon us? (The jury is still out on that issue. It is interesting to read the diaries of our missionary forebears recording times of severe drought in the 19th century).

Farmers are aware that they have no power to govern the rain. When it comes it comes! But as autumn and winter come upon us any rain that produces growth will be curtailed by colder weather that drops soil temperatures. Our ministry is one that means listening, listening, listening. The Easter message acknowledges pain, failure, crisis as well as hope and joy. In other words our ministry is a ministry of compassion, the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the ‘paracletos’, of one who stands alongside. Enabling farmers to talk about their feelings is a positive.

The media generally haven’t taken on board how severe this drought is except by noting that more and more regions are being declared drought-crisis areas. The government is recommending farmers take advantage of tax and benefit opportunities. But the recovery will take many years.

Bill Bennett has written at least two books with liturgies for rural communities.

This perspective first came to my attention on the IRCA Network newsletter; it is reprinted with their permission.

Let Your Life Speak

In the article quoted above, Caliguire mentions Parker Palmer’s book: Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation.

Parker is a gifted academic who formerly combined a college teaching career with community organizing. He took a year's sabbatical to live at the "intentional" Quaker community of Pendle Hill in Pennsylvania. Instead of leaving at year's end, he became the community's dean of studies and remained there for 10 years. In this book he shares the lessons of his vocational and spiritual journey, discussing his own burnout and intense depression with exceptional candor and clarity. In essays that previously appeared in spiritual or educational journals and have been reworked to fit this volume, he suggests that individuals are most authentic when they follow their natural talents and limitations, as his own story demonstrates. Since hearing one's "calling" requires introspection and self-knowledge, Palmer encourages inner work such as journal-writing, meditation and prayer. Recognizing that his philosophy is at odds with popular, essentially American attitudes about self-actualization and following one's dreams, Palmer calls vocation "a gift, not a goal." He illustrates his point with examples from the lives of people he admires, such as Rosa Parks, Annie Dillard and Vaclav Havel.

You can read a sample chapter of this book by clicking here.

Two of Me

For God's people, the opposite of simplicity is not complexity. It's duplicity, says Mindy Caliguire.

At 33, Ethan is already on the edge of burnout. Although he is popular, strong, and gifted, the warning signs are evident. He's serving a rapidly growing church, teaching every week, leading worship, and trying to balance ministry and his family of four young children. The demands of life and ministry have Ethan scrambling. While attending a leadership retreat, Ethan explained his inability to fall asleep at night without watching recorded programs on his iPod. He's addicted to noise and cannot quiet his soul.

To his credit, Ethan has started a journey toward simplicity. It's going to be a long road and his addiction to noise and chaos will not be overcome easily. But like many other church leaders, he recognizes the health of his ministry and his soul are at stake.

From an online article in Leadership Journal, by Mindy Caliguire. Looks at burnout, and not being able to say No, and trying to be who you aren’t called to be.