Thursday, June 26, 2008

Helen Clark writes to Mr Mugabe

Care to take a dictation, Mr Mugabe?

Under the guise of Helen Clark, NZ Herald's Jim Hopkins writes a letter to Mr Mugabe, telling him how to handle the situation as she would.

As 'she' writes, there's "no need to be a bully when you can be a sneak. See, Blob, we've got this issue here in Outer Roa. Smacking. And its dodgy, Bob. Dodgy.

Well, dodgy for the gummint, anyway. Something you'd understand all too well, I imagine."

Read the rest on the NZ Herald site.

Jones' Top Five

Back at the beginning of June, ex-pat Kiwi, Andrew Jones, who hosts the Tall Skinny Kiwi blog, wrote a list of five books that he regards as the top five for reporters, writers and researchers investigating ,or interested in, the Emerging Church movement. For his comments on these, check out the relevant post.

1. Emerging Churches: Creating Christian Community in Postmodern Cultures, by Ryan Bolger and Eddie Gibbs.
2. The New Conspirators, Creating the Future One Mustard Seed at a Time, by Tom Sine.
3. The Emerging Church, by Dan Kimball.
4. The Church on the Other Side, by Brian McLaren,
and several contenders for 5th place:
The New Christians: Dispatches from the Emergent Frontier, by Tony Jones
Revolution, by George Barna
The Irresistible Revolution, by Shane Claibourne
The Great Emergence, by Phyllis Tickle
The Tangible Kingdom: Creating Incarnational Community: by Hugh Halter and Matt Smay.

An interesting bunch. They won't all appeal, and you'll have varying views on some of the approaches, but at least one or two of the top four are worth a look if you haven't already come across them.

The Forgotten Ways

Alan Hirsch wrote in his book, The Forgotten Ways: Reactivating the Missional Church -

Missional church is a community of God’s people that defines itself, and organizes its life around, its real purpose of being an agent of God’s mission to the world. In other words, the church’s true and authentic organizing principle is mission. When the church is in mission, it is the true church. The church itself is not only a product of that mission but is obligated and destined to extend it by whatever means possible. The mission of God flows directly through every believer and every community of faith that adheres to Jesus. To obstruct this is to block God’s purposes in and through his people.

On his blog site, also called The Forgotten Ways, he takes issue with the word 'missional' being made to be the new emergent. In other words, if I'm reading him rightly, he doesn't believe that the emergent church is a new way of being missional. For him 'it was not so much that the church has a mission but that the mission has a church' - that is, mission is what the church does, and the reason many churches fail is that they forget to keep on in mission.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

A quote from the book, Church Planting: Laying Foundations, by Stuart Murray. (At least that's where we think it's from!)

'Concern about the internal structure and shape of the church may not only distract the church from mission. It may also hinder the church from addressing the important issues of its role in society. The New Testament seems quite relaxed about whether churches are run by elders and deacons (1 Timothy and Titus, prophets and teachers (Acts 13, 1 Corinthians) or nondescript leaders (Hebrews). But there is considerable interest in the relationship between the church and the state (Luke-Acts, Romans, 1 Peter, Revelation); in how the churches deal with family and work relationships, with issues of race and class, with poverty and slavery (1 & 2 Corinthians). The ethos of the church, its attitudes towards non-members and its social involvement are at least as important as its shape and structure. Those concerned to plant “New Testament churches” might do well to give greater attention to these issues. It is not that the shape of the church is unimportant, but that there are more fundamental matters which, if ignored, will consign any reshaping of the church to strategic insignificance.'

This paragraph is quoted by Matt Stone, on his site, Glocal Christianity (yes! you read that right.)
Matt is writing about: 'the tendency of many emerging conversations about missional ecclesiology to get bogged down in talking about structural reform, methodological reform and other internal issues.'

According to one reviewer, Stuart Murray's book is 'a primer on issues of ecclesiology (the way in which theological assumptions and messages are found in how we structure the church and our efforts at building it up). Stuart notes that far too little attention has been paid by most church planters and people seeking to renew the church. He calls upon the church to take seriously how the shape of the church determines the message it will proclaim.'

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Lost to UnLost

In Don Everts and Doug Schaupp's, I Once Was Lost, the authors identify "five thresholds" by which most young converts come to Christ. Using the parable of the growing seed in Mark 4:28–29 to frame the process, Everts and Schaupp outline five distinct "seasons":
  • from distrust of Christians to trust;
  • from spiritual complacency to curiosity;
  • from being closed to Christianity to being open;
  • from meandering to seeking;
  • entrance over the "threshold of the kingdom.
Evert and Schaupp's book departs from a modern, rationalistic model for doing evangelism. It doesn't offer a manual. It is fresh, real, and based on the authors' direct experience. The label postmodern is held loosely, meant simply to describe "how things are right now," rather than to conform to a technical definition.

From a review entitled, The Five Steps of Getting Un-Lost, by Chap Clark.

The role of the artist

James Joyce viewed the role of the artist as that of a kind of priest who can convert the seemingly mundane daily bread of common experience into the radiant body of everlasting, neverending life…. Such transformations are perpetually in progress whether we go to the trouble of paying attention or not. The feverish activity of accumulation and mismeasurement by which we order our existence, and which we foolishly call self-interest, is exposed as silly and short-sighted in the light of apocalyptic art that unveils the fact of the matter: The kingdom of the world is becoming the kingdom of God, and it doesn’t depend upon our acknowledgment or faithfulness to it within our highly-charged present. It’s coming anyway. It was and is to come. We have the privilege of watching and praying and noticing in the glorious meantime, especially in what appear to be the unlikeliest of corners. To reimagine now is our work and our pleasure. Look harder. It is at hand.

David Dark
Everyday Apocalypse

Memorizing Scripture

Years ago I became convinced that learning portions of the Bible was a good thing to do. I can't even remember how this came about now. However, it's stood me in good stead over the years, particularly in those dark times in the night that most of us experience at some point, when it's too cold to get out of bed, but your brain is fizzing...!

Keith Mannes writes on this topic in the Leadership Journal, and confirms my feelings about the value of memorizing scripture. And for him as a pastor, it has the additional value of giving him confidence with his parishioners in being able to quote Scripture without having to look it up.

Click here to read the article, My 3.5 Salvation.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

To confront or not to confront?

Apologist/evangelist Jay Smith confronts Muslims with the same kind of fanatical fervour they use in getting their own message across.
In public, that is, at Hyde Park's famous Speaker's Corner. And sometimes he's been beaten for it.
Some critics of his approach feel he deserves what he gets, because he's so confrontational with Muslim speakers. However, Smith believes that a strong apologetic is required to break through to Muslim speakers, and even more so, to their listeners. Passionate presentation is one key to reaching Muslims, he says. Many will not be convinced, he believes, "unless we look like we believe what we're saying."

Western seminaries teach "friendship evangelism" as the primary way to share Christ with Muslims. Nothing should offend, they say. Never point out contradictions, inconsistencies, or historical inaccuracies in another person's religious beliefs. Everything aims to convert. Judge results by the number of conversions.

Smith, however, has decided to take an alternate approach:

  • To defend historic, orthodox Christianity.
  • To answer untruths that Islam proclaims about the Bible, Jesus, and Christians.
  • To hold Islam itself accountable for the actions of its followers.
The full article, Unapologetic Apologist, can be found on the Christianity Today site. It makes for fascinating reading in terms of deciding which approach works best with Muslim people. Note that Smith also meets Muslims face to face over coffee, for long and deep discussions about faith.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


"The abortion law certainly asserts a state interest in protecting the unborn child, and not merely an interest in ensuring that women may have safe and legal abortions."

Justice Miller, June 2008

Justice Miller, the Judge who heard the case in which Right to Life, a pro-life charity, had taken the ASC to Court alleging they have been failing to fulfil their duties and to ensure the law is being interpreted as intended. Justice Miller agreed that at the moment in New Zealand we seem to effectively have abortion on demand, with figures showing that some certifying consultants decline very few or no abortions whatsoever. Justice Miller found that the ASC were wrong in their interpretation of the law that they had no power to "review or scrutinise" decisions made by consultants, and that this is in fact one of their functions. While Right to Life's argument that an unborn child should have a legal right to life was not upheld, Justice Miller held that our abortion laws show that "the unborn child has a claim on the conscience of the community."

Justice Miller's judgement is here.


Even as we gobble up the latest gossip, those of us living in the televised culture of the 21st century intuitively understand fame's corrosive effects--after all, they're spilled all over screens and magazines almost everywhere we look. I can't help but wonder, however, whether there's anything normative about fame.... I mean really good, not just in a what-not-to-do kind of way. Like money and power, I think fame is a gift that comes with great responsibility and an obligation to stewardship. And it emerges out of our God-given tendency to commune with one another--to tell stories, to know and be known, to connect.

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma
From "Fame on film"
an article in the May edition of catapult magazine.

Ministry's Sweet Spot

In an article in Leadership, Gordon MacDonald explains how each year, he and his wife have handpicked a group of potential leaders and trained them every Wednesday over a nine-month period. Their basic approach is summed up in four statements:

  • To identify people with potential to influence others if they were appropriately coached.

  • To accelerate their spiritual growth so that they would become strong, self-nourishing followers of Jesus who would seek to grow in godliness for the rest of their lives.

  • To give them an experience of all that Christian community is capable of becoming when people truly love one another (as Jesus loves us).

  • To demonstrate what it means to feel called and gifted and to discover that there is no greater joy than to be caught up in God's purposes for a particular generation.
The kind of people they look for and choose have the following qualities:

  1. People who were teachable. Who asked good questions, who took seriously the Christ-following life, who went a bit out of their way to grow spiritually.

  2. Essential social skills. People who showed respect and regard for others, not so argumentative or abrasive or touchy that they didn't fit well with others.

  3. People who would not simply sit for an entire evening saying nothing. We wanted "players" unafraid to mix it up, experiment with ideas, move the conversation along, venture opinions.
Read the whole article, and see also how MacDonald's self-building activities gave way to building an organization, a church-organization.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

More on rural churches

From Geoff Baggett's blog, there's a report of a rural church that's completely turned around:

He writes:
Baptist Press reporter Kay Adkins published an interesting report today that focused upon utilizing methods normally thought of as “for the city” to plant and reinvigorate churches in rural areas. The story highlights the growth of the Brand New Church in rural Bergman, Arkansas. The church is a “re-start” of the former Southside Baptist Church in Lead Hill. The former 31-member congregation now averages over 1,000 in attendance each week … in a town with a population of 407. The incredible turnaround has occurred in less than four years.
"The Brand New Church utilizes many of the methods we associate with urban church plants - praise music, high-tech video, and casual dress. But, in reading the story, I thought the most interesting aspect of the church was its approach to Baptist polity. Indeed, when pastor Shannon O’Dell came to Southside (prior to re-starting as Brand New Church), one of his requirements was that the church needed to understand and be willing to be “pastor-led. He believes that God has structured the church: ‘… to be led by an under-shepherd or pastor” for the sake of Kingdom growth. “Most churches are structured for it to be congregationally led or democratic.’”

Click on any of the links to get more of the story.

To Those Who Lead the Rural Church

I know where you live: in a nation ruled by the god of Business, where those who do not have the power to buy are shunted aside. The old and the very young are ignored. The few (who do not make up a critical mass, a niche market, a group worthy of attention) are dismissed.

Back in February, considered how different expressions of Christianity could more faithfully embody the calling God has placed on them. They produced a series of letters patterned after the words of Jesus in Revelation 2–3. While they lack the authority of Scripture, they contain many convicting insights brought in the spirit of humility and love for the church. One letter, the introduction of which is printed above, was written by Susan Wise Bauer, who addressed to the churches she knows best: those in rural America.

For more resources about the small church, check out the new Training Theme download on Strengthening Small Churches.”

Friday, June 06, 2008

Entering into the mind of others

I'm grateful for Christianity at the Movies' e-letter for alerting me to the following quote, in which C S Lewis basically follows through on Paul's comments about being a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks (my rough paraphrase), and shows that the arts can help us understand (but not necessarily agree with) the mind that doesn't have a Christian worldview.
In his book, An Experiment in Criticism, Lewis writes, "We therefore delight to enter into other men's beliefs ... even though we think them untrue. And into their passions, though we think them depraved ... And also into their imaginations, though they lack all realism of content."

[Lewis is writing mostly in the context of reading books and poetry, but his thoughts on criticism apply just as well to film—or any art form, for that matter. He continues:] "This must not be understood as if I were making the literature of power once more into a department which existed to gratify our rational curiosity about other people's psychology. It is not a question of knowing (in that sense) at all. It is connaĆ®tre not savoir; it is erleben; we become these other selves. Not only nor chiefly in order to see what they are like but in order to see what they see, to occupy, for a while, their seat in the great theatre, to use their spectacles and be made free of whatever insights, joys, terrors, wonders, or merriment those spectacles reveal ...

"This, so far as I can see, is the specific value or good of literature considered as Logos; it admits us to experiences other than our own. ... Those of us who have been true readers all our life seldom fully realise the enormous extension of our being which we owe to authors." [Or, I might add, movie directors.] "We realise it best when we talk with an unliterary friend. He may be full of goodness and good sense but he inhabits a tiny world. In it, we should be suffocated. The man who is contented to be only himself, and therefore less of a self, is in prison. My own eyes are not enough for me, I will see through the eyes of others. Reality, even seen through the eyes of many, is not enough. I will see what others have invented. ... In reading great literature I become a thousand men and yet remain myself. Like the night sky in the Greek poem, I see with a myriad eyes, but it is still I who see. Here, as in worship, in love, in moral action, and in knowing, I transcend myself; and am never more myself than when I do."

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tim Keller

I'm in the middle of a blog discussion with a couple of people who steadfastly see Christianity (and any other religions) as based on myths, and refuse the consider any other worldview. So it was interesting to come across the video of Tim Keller speaking on the conflict that such a entrenched veiwpoint causes. The video was shot when he visited Google's Mountain View, CA, headquarters to discuss his book, "The Reason for God." This event took place on March 5, 2008, as part of the Authors@Google series. It's about an hour long, so grab a cup of coffee and sit back.

One Person, One Vote

A couple of extracts from Maxim Institute's latest newsletter, which discusses Philip Joseph's call for Maori seats to be abolished:

A new paper has stirred up controversy by calling for the seven Maori seats in Parliament to be abolished. The paper, written by Professor of Law and constitutional expert Professor Philip Joseph, makes the case that the Maori seats have created an "insidious" form of discriminatory privilege. He claims that while they were once necessary for ensuring adequate Maori representation in Parliament the seats now work against fair representation for Maori and other ethnicities. Professor Joseph's concerns about the Maori seats are warranted, as they divide society by ethnicity and make it difficult to foster the common good.

Some argue that the purpose of the seats is now redundant as under MMP Maori members "have a 5 percent higher representation than the relative national population of Maori," however, it is not a question of how many of which ethnicity or sex or age sit in Parliament relative to the proportion in the population. The bigger question is why do we assume that someone must share our ethnicity or sex to be able to represent us well?


We've been sent a notice about this course in the hope that anyone who doesn't get to hear about it, and should, will!

A Four Day Block Course in Christchurch

Dates: July 29 - August 1

Times: 9.30am to 4.00pm

Venue: To be advised

Cost: For tertiary level credit through Carey Baptist College: $538. For audit (no assignments) $250

Presenter: Murray Brown (YouthTRAIN)

Who for: Paid youth workers, interns and key volunteer youth leaders looking to improve their ability to care for teenagers

Content: At the end of these four days you will be able to:
- Describe the physical, emotional, intellectual and moral changes that occur during adolescence.

- Describe various faith development theories

- List the various "needs" of adolesence

- Identify those factors that lead to poor adoscent adjustment

- Describe the effect of various parenting styles on adolescents.

- Develop a Biblical philosophy of pastoral care

- Explain various strategies for pastoral care in youth ministry

- Describe a three step process for helping adolescents work through problems

- Describe approaches for dealing with common adolescent issues.

Presentation will be varied and interactive and will include reference to the two 180 page workbooks that are supplied with enrolment.

Enrolment: For further details and to enrol, email me. Enrolments for credit students closes 25 June for returning students and 9 July for new students and those doing the paper for audit purposes

Contact me if you'd like further details.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

BluefishTV videos is a Christian video company who say: We are a team that is passionate about Christ and that loves to support the local church. We feel that Christian video will continue to play a larger role as volunteer teachers and church leaders look for creative ways to engage their audience. That’s why Bluefish TV will continue to partner with effective Christian communicators such as Erwin McManus, Doug Fields, Louie Giglio, Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, and others in order to create video resources that can be used as sermon illustrations or during small group Bible study.

I had a bit of trouble loading up their site - Google warned me about malware - but the site seems perfectly normal when you get there (!)

Here's an example of one of their straight to the point videos.

NZ Herald apparently can't make up its mind about NZ's 'anti-smacking' law

Bob McCroskie of Family First sent a letter to the NZ Herald after the latter's recent mocking of the poll Family First initiated relating to the anti-smacking law. It wasn't printed, so here's what was said:

Your editorial “Spare us a smacking referendum” is fascinating in the light of previous editorials by the NZ Herald. In 2001 the NZ Herald Editorial said “ Excessive force is already illegal.. Repealing section 59 would, in fact, promote only confusion ...” In 2003 “(section 59) has led to calls for a change that would amount to a smacking ban. Is it necessary to go that far? Probably not .” And in 2005 “ Section 59 is not the reason that children have been mistreated .”
Now you accuse Family First of ‘alarmism’ simply because we are promoting a change to the anti-smacking law consistent with your own argument – a change which according to the latest poll is supported by a whopping 85% of NZ’ers. They understand that a light smack by a loving parent is not violence or child abuse. Good parents should not be criminalised. Persecution can still happen without prosecution.
Perhaps the next time the Herald prints the ‘alarmist’ photo gallery of MP’s who voted for the Electoral Finance Law, it could also include the photos of the MP’s who voted for the anti-smacking law against the will of the overwhelming majority of NZ’ers.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tending or Processing?

Jeff Hawkins wonders if Maybe sustainable agriculture is a better model for church life than a feed lot.

In this article based on his experience as an organic farmer, Jefff asks:

Is it a coincidence that Old McDonald farms are being replaced by large Confined Animal Feeding Operations, while family-sized congregations are being replaced by megachurches? Is the modern church favoring behaviors attributable to a preference for production rather than health, a way of life fundamentally inconsistent with the church's organic nature?

I began to wonder: does our church life reflect a gathering of many faces around the table, working toward holy health, or a disciple-producing machine pursuing greater numbers?

As I moved my own congregation toward this model, it has meant not only that we eat well (having the pastor donate his pasture-raised turkey for the November dinner is a unique benefit, of course), but that we describe our work differently. Instead of using mechanical metaphors for a church that "runs smoothly," "programmed" to produce "quantifiable results," we use organic or ecological metaphors.

We "tend." We understand that in Creation nothing is wasted; rather, the "waste" of one member serves as a valuable resource for another. What the world considers waste, we recognize as blessing, including the cross of Christ.

See the full article on Leadership Journal's site

Emergent, Missional, Effective?

David Fitch responds to the statement below from Mark Driscoll by addressing the nature of mission in a post Christian context.

Driscoll said:

And all the nonsense of emerging, and Emergent, and new monastic communities, and, you know, all of these various kinds of ridiculous conversations--I'll tell you as one on the inside, they don't have converts. The silly little myth, the naked emperor is this: they will tell you it's all about being in culture to reach lost people, and they're not.

I often hear this in places where I speak. It usually goes something like this: "We love missional theology, but does it work? How many converts have you had in your missional church?” Once again, the modernist drive to measure success raises its ugly head. Yet it does not offend me because these are important questions. I believe if we are not seeing people transformed by the gospel then "missional" in the end means very little.

Fitch responds to this on the Out of Ur blog, shows that mission is essential for churches, but is also very difficult both to sustain and to see 'results' from.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Jean Vanier

I sense that a new spirituality is being born in the church today, flowing from the wounded hearts of the weak and broken who are crying out for friendship. This friendship is also a source of healing for those who answer their cry.- Jean Vanier
from Spiritual Journeys: An Anthology of Writings by People Living and Working With Those on the Margins

The book's blurb says:
Today's world is characterised by the ever-widening gap between the rich and the poor, between the so-called able and those with disabilities. The streets of our big cities are populated by growing numbers of homeless, broken people. Spiritual Journeys is about bridging the ever-widening gap between the 'capable' and 'admirable' person and the broken, weak person in each one of us. It is about being healed by the poor and lonely. Edited by Sister Stanislaus Kennedy, founder of Focus Point Ireland, Spiritual Journeys includes essays from Jean Vanier, founder of the L'Arche Faith and Light communities for people with mental handicaps; Dr Sheila Cassidy who works with the dying as a palliative care physician; Fr Peter McVerry SJ, well-known in Dublin for his work with homeless young people; Edwina Gately, a Catholic lay woman who works with prostitutes.

The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts

About a decade ago one of my former customers encouraged me to read the first of Dale Ralph DavisOld Testament commentaries. It was on the Book of Judges, and subsequently, Davis produced commentaries on Joshua, 1 & 2 Samuel and 1 & 2 Kings, all of which I acquired and read – usually more than once.

If six commentaries strike you as too much to get going on, then the solution is to check out the book Davis produced in 2006 called The Word Became Fresh: How to Preach from Old Testament Narrative Texts. While this book does focus on preaching the OT, it also gives a clear outline of Davis’ approach to studying the OT, and I believe you’d be hard pressed to find a better overview of OT Bible study anywhere.

This book, like Davis’ commentaries, is very readable and not at all heavy-going. Nor, on the other hand, is it lightweight; while Davis doesn’t have the room here to work in detail, as he does in the commentaries, he still discusses background and structure.

Davis is no slouch: he not only preaches what he writes, but he’s also a full-blown Bible scholar. His footnotes often contain the views of other commentators he disagrees with. While he’s never unpleasant towards these other writers, it’s plain he’s done his homework, and his reasons for saying what he does are valid.

He’s also a great storyteller. Both in this book and in his commentaries he backs up his arguments with stories from the American Civil War, or the Second World War (remember there are a lot of battles in the narratives!), or from his own experience. His own stories, like the rest of his writing, are full of wit and good humour.

He treats the text with great respect. If something is there, he sees it as being there for a good reason. If it’s obscure he’ll do his best to elucidate it, but he won’t speculate just so he can give an answer. Sometimes he admits that the answers aren’t easy for modern readers.

Perhaps his greatest gift is to remember that the Bible is literature. Time and again he clarifies the layout of a section or chapter by looking to see how the writer has planned the story. This is one of Davis’ great skills: to be able to see the structure in the midst of what might appear to be randomness.

A book for preachers, teachers and lay people.

Published by Mentor, a subsidiary of Christian Focus Publishing, UK. £7.99