Thursday, July 31, 2008

One Voice - Malcolm Gordon

When my son was about eleven, he performed in several television skits for a national children's program, Spot On. One of the other young cast members was Malcolm Gordon, who has currently an ordinand at the Knox Centre of Ministry and Leadership.

Malcolm's creative talents are still well to the fore: he's recently brought out an album of songs called:
One Voice
. I've heard this album, and there are some great songs on it.

One Voice
is a lot of things. It’s not only the name of Malcolm Gordon’s new album. It’s the name of an organization set up to help creativity thrive within Christianity. (If you’re wondering about where you can get a copy of the album, head to Manna Christian Stores or email

One Voice is a project exploring contemporary expressions of Christian worship.

I quote from the One Voice website: Christianity has had an interesting journey with ‘the arts’, being on the one hand the single avenue of artistic expression for large chunks of our Western history, and at other times, staunchly opposing what it deemed to be idolatrous.

Our spirituality is not easily definable, but it would be safe to say that it can’t be articulated without artistic creativity. Photography, design, poetry, music and dance all have something unique to offer. However we can’t presume that if we let our creativity loose, without parameters or guiding lights, that we’ll end up with something spiritually authentic.

That’s what One Voice is about; encouraging creative expression that is deeply embedded in the Christian story, and guided by the light of Jesus. Art should never be considered an end in itself, it is a mode of communication. It is, however, a mode of communication capable of an even richer palate of expression than language itself, which is precisely why it must be used in the service of the most wondrous story ever told.

Living Works

Suicide is an ongoing concern in the mental health area, with the NZ Maori population being even more hard hit by it than the European one, particularly amongst younger people.

One group that is focused on ways to prevent suicide is Living Works.
Their website says the following:

[Our] programs were developed in response to a growing concern about suicide. They recognise that many who consider suicide would rather live if they could find support to stay safe and deal with painful problems in living. Their suicides are preventable.

Many things can help prevent suicide. LivingWorks focuses on increasing the awareness, knowledge and skills of caregivers - resourcing them to play a more informed, active suicide prevention role.

Vision: enhancing resources today, saving lives for tomorrow.

Mission: to create learning experiences that help communities prevent suicide.

Aim: to support sustainable, life-assisting resources.

Outcome: for the benefits to live on.


In the most recent Pastors' Weekly Briefing, H B London writes:

I have just completed reading a book by David T. Olson entitled, The American Church in Crisis. In the final portion of his work, he says, "The American church needs to be 'forever building.' Building is the church's response to God's missional promptings. But the greatest need of the church is 'being restored,' which is a spiritual and supernatural act of God." (Zondervan, 2008, p. 221)

The American Church in Crisis is filled with graphs and charts to support his conclusion that the church does need to keep building and find restoration. For instance, Mr. Olson refutes the church attendance research of both Barna and Gallup. He does not believe between 37% and 43% of Americans go to church each week. His research of nearly 300,000 churches gives evidence that the total attending services is closer to 52 million each week (versus over 100 million), and that instead of 40% attending each week, it is more like 19.5%. Just check out your neighborhood some Sunday.

These are the opening two paragraphs of his review of the book. The rest can be read here.

There is relevance for NZ readers in terms of some comments made regarding those who attend church as children, and don't as adults.

The Olympic Creed

Rowland Croucher wrote: A Uniting Church magazine asked me to write something about the Olympic Creed (below). Feel free, my preaching-friends, to steal it if you want!

Who was the American football coach who said: 'Winning or losing is not just a matter of life and death: it's more important than that'? Addiction to winning is not only a capitalist phenomenon, either. Remember past East German and Chinese drug scandals?

The Olympic Creed says: 'The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.' Google tells me Pierre de Coubertin got the idea from a speech given by the Bishop of Pennsylvania, Ethelbert Talbot, at a service for Olympic champions during the 1908 London Games.

You can find the rest of this sermon here. If you have problems accessing this site, drop me an email (address on my profile).

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Muriel Lester

The job of the peacemaker is to stop war, to purify the world, to get it saved from poverty and riches, to heal the sick, to comfort the sad, to wake up those who have not yet found God, to create joy and beauty wherever you go, to find God in everything and in everyone.

- Muriel Lester

Muriel Lester's year of birth is giving variously as 1883, 1884 and 1885. She was well-known as a pacifist in the years prior to World War II, and had a long association with Mahatma Gandhi.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Born Again? Not quite

Second Life is—well, for the uninitiated, it is hard to explain. Some call it a game, but in reality it is ultimate virtuality: a virtual, 3D, online world that is continually created and updated by its residents. Originally introduced to the public in 2003 by the company Linden Lab, Second Life now boasts over a million members from around the world, up to 50,000 of whom will be online at any time.
In this virtual world you can take on an entirely different personality, do things you'd never do in your 'First Life', behave badly - or do good. It sounds like a place where Christianity has no place.
In fact, there are some 100 'churches' listed in Second Life. Some, like the Church of Apathy, were obviously created as a joke, but others advertise legitimate doctrine, membership, and church functions. Because Second Life is as real to many people as the life you and I live, some Christians have found it a place of opportunity to talk about the Gospel to those who haven't heard.
One such is Second Life resident “Emmanuel Hallard.” He started the Christian Church of Second Life two and half years ago. “I felt that Jesus’ saying, ‘Go into all the world’ included Second Life,” explained Hallard, who in his “First Life” is Lee Wilson, a minister, author, and actor who works for the Family Dynamics Institute, a nonprofit marriage and family ministry located outside of Nashville.
Wilson spends around 10 hours per week in Second Life, communicating with his church’s 1,000 members, developing the church “property,” leading Bible discussions, talking with church visitors, and exploring new areas of the world.
Other Second Life churches function in a similar manner, offering Bible studies and discussion groups. Some hold special events based on the liturgical calendar, such as Easter gatherings and special prayer services.
What may seem strange to people who don't inhabit this 'other' world plainly works for those who do.
Who would imagine the Gospel reaching into such a place?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

It's never too late

So you thought you were up with the play? Or would you rather stick with tradition?
Olive Riley, an Australian blogger, was reputably the oldest blogger in the world. She was 108 when she died back in mid-July, and she'd embraced the idea of blogging with such enthusiasm that people around the world were leaving comments on her blog.

With all the technology that's around today, it's sometimes hard for non-technologists to know where to start. Tony Steward suggest three simple ways. If you don't know how to deal with these, ask someone in your church - in fact half your church will already know how to use these tools.
1. Facebook
2. A blog
3. A video camera (for videoing ever event that goes on in your church).

Read Tony's comments here.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wasting money on short term missions?

Andrew Jones on Tall Skinny Kiwi tackles the issue: Are Short Term Missions a Waste of Money?

I've been inclined to think they are, but Andrew makes ten points mostly in favour of short term missions, obviously feeling that the gains outweigh the losses. I've just given the beginnings of each point. You'll find the rest on his site.

1. Short term missions might be an expensive past-time but if they are a far better alternative to overseas vacations and holidays.

2. A cross cultural experience, even if only for a week, is good training for a career in overseas social enterprise or preparation for long term missions.

3. The fall in number of long term missionaries worries me but I am encouraged by the number of missionaries being sent out by the global south.

4. We should send out young people for longer periods of time.

5. Short term mission should be more relational.

6. Missions today is multi-directional and it is a mistake to talk about missions only in terms of our country sending missionaries to others.

7. Pilgrimages and self-guided mission experiences sometimes offer a better posture of learning and receiving hospitality than traditional short term missions.

8. Churches must stay involved in both sending overseas missionaries or they will lose their vision within one generation.

9. Partnering with an established mission organization is a good way to get some cross-cultural sensitivity training for the team.

10. And lets not forget the massive resource we have with retired missionaries now living back home.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Blogging Church

I've been reading the book, Naked Conversations: how blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. It's focused at businesses more than mission-minded people, but one church in Dallas gets two pages in the book, because Brian Bailey began a blog there under the church's wing (originally not under its wing, in fact), and is cited for showing how a large organisation like the Dallas Fellowship Church, can improve its communication skills both in-house and amongst its congregation through the use of blogging.

Bailey's blog is called LeaveItBehind (not LeftBehind, as I first read it).

Brian Bailey has gone on to write a book with Terry Storch called (not particularly originally!) The Blogging Church. Further, they've also set up a discussion board on Facebook. Now this is an interesting thing. We seem to have gone full circle here, since the Internet used to consist mainly of discussion boards (their proper name escapes me at the moment, but no doubt someone can remind me). Anyway, if you're not already a member of Facebook, you can join in half a moment, and joining the discussion board is even faster.

Wrong-headed about morals

In a recent article in London's The Times, Britain is creating youths who have nothing to lose by crime, Minette Marrin writes:

Morality depends on having something to lose. It isn't just a matter of learning right from wrong, least of all in a post-religious society. Morality is socially constructed. I will respect your property and your person because I want you to respect mine. We both have something to lose. One does not have to be educated in political philosophy to understand that ancient deal. But if I have neither property nor respect from anyone, what's in the deal for me?

Albert Mohler comments on this statement, and Marrin's article, in his latest blog: Modernity, Madness and Morals. Well worth reading for both his and Ms Marrin's insights into what is wrong with our moral judgement these days and what might be done about it. And even though the original article relates to Britain, and the comments to the US, both are pertinent to NZ's social scene.

The best of creation

Here's a quote some might agree with, some might dispute. I don't know that Mr Marshall is saying he's sure of this, or whether it's something he hopes for.

Our works, here and now, are not all transitory. The good that we have done will not simply disappear and be forgotten. This world is not a passing and futile phase; it will be taken up in God's new world. Our good buildings, our great inventions, our acts of healing, our best writings, our creative art, our finest clothes, our greatest treasures will not simply pass away. If they represent the finest works of God's image-bearers, they will adorn the world to come.

Paul Marshall
Heaven is Not My Home

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Compelled by Love

In this book, Ed Stetzer and Philip Nation challenge their readers to look at love within the context of God, the church, and the lives of individual believers. Compelled by Love gives readers a basic theological grounding and a platform for personal application as they understand what missional living is all about—it is simply the calling to love others. Look at the love of God; begin to truly understand what is at the center of the church’s foundation, commission, and direction; but most importantly, understand your role within the mission of God as you integrate love into all aspects of your missional calling.

There is a brief interview with Ed Stetzer on neoleader about the book where he says, amongst other things: Biblical love is willing to die. Culture paints love as the building up of the heart and the completion of life. The Bible shows that the loving Great Shepherd dies for his flock. Biblical love is heroically sacrificial.

Without love, churches will not release people to go to the mission field. You have to love God enough to be obedient to him. You must love the world as Christ does in order to die for sin. You must love your neighbor enough to tell them the truth of their sin, aid in their time of need, and walk them (even ploddingly) toward the cross.
Book published May 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Alan Jamieson's latest book - an interview

Len Hjalmarson is a writer, pastor, student and software developer living in Kelowna, BC, in the heart of the vineyards and orchards of the Okanagan valley. Recently he interviewed Alan Jamieson, the Kiwi author of the book, Chrysalis. This is how the interview began. You can read the rest here.

Alan, it sounds like you wrote this book with a specific audience in mind.. those who have either left the “organized” church or those who for whatever reason feel they can’t pursue their journey within the church. Can you comment?

Alan: In this book I hoped to update and make more readably available the material in ‘Journeying in Faith’ and the 8 years Jenny McIntosh and I worked with people in faith (and church) pain. Chrysalis was written for those who leave organized church but also those who loyally stay when the lights have gone out within (Internal leavers). But there was also one other major reader in mind – the church leaders/pastors. I wanted to include them so they might understand, validate and be able to accompany people in the midst of faith transformations.

Getting the Focus

"Until you get your focus OFF of the people who are disgruntled, unhappy, unsupportive, and resistant to the direction God has called you to go, and ONTO those who are excited, supportive and on board, you will NEVER gain momentum and see a new culture created in your church."

Do you agree? The issue is discussed on the neoleader blog. Scott Hodge says this approach freed them to minister to the people who really wanted to move forward. John Sweetman, on the other hand, says he's glad not everyone takes this approach.

Is there a place for continuing to care for the disgruntled, unsupportive and resistant?

Check out what was said on both sides here.

Interestingly enough, Scott doesn't necessarily seem to be saying only this when you read his blog, where one of the current posts is entitled: Avoiding extreme categorizations.

BIG CHURCH, little church

Dave Gibbons, pastor of NewSong Church in Irvine, California, writes in an article in the print version of Leadership Journal:

"I love the church. It's God's vehicle for transformation. But I don't want the church to become so centralized that it can't reproduce, can't adopt multiple forms. And that works better when you're small, when you're on the verge, on the edge. Small is the new big. Big isn't bad, but it's overrated."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

N T Wright

This is the point where a genuine biblical theology can come out of the forest and startle both those who thought that the Bible was irrelevant or dangerous for political ethics and those who thought taking the Bible seriously meant being conservative politically as well as theologically. The truth is very different--as we should have guessed from Jesus' own preaching of the kingdom, not to mention his death as a would-be rebel king. His resurrection, and the promise of God's new world that comes with it, creates a program for change and offers to empower it. Those who believe in the gospel have no choice but to follow.

N.T. Wright
Surprised by Hope

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


In a recent post on the blog, Tall Skinny Kiwi, Andrew Jones writes about the changes that are taking place in Mission.
...In my travels over the past 2 weeks I have talked to mission leaders in Norway, Netherlands, England and Scotland about the relentless change going on in their worlds. I have been in missions and social enterprise for more than two decades and I really can't remember a time when things were changing so quickly and so radically. There is a dramatic reshuffling of priorities, a flattening of hierarchies, a giving away of the farm, and a greater openness to collaboration with each other. A lot of this change in priorities and thinking is reflected in and/or stimulated by the change of media from print-based to web-based aggregation, retrieval and distribution of new media .

That last sentence is the essential point he's making, and he goes on to recommend some books related to the topic, plus the way in which the giving away of information, or of "losing your life in order to gain it, and I was reminded of other passages in the Scriptures that call for transparency, generosity and trust rather than secrecy, hoarding and self-interest."

One book he recommends is Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony Williams. It's not particularly focused on mission in the Church sense, but does talk about the way the worldview is changing in the light of the Web and all the implications that go with that.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Mking a point

These two quotes arrived in different emails this morning. Seems to be a bit of a point being made here!

Our Lord asks but two things of us; Love for [God] and for our neighbor. We cannot know whether we love God…but there can be no doubt about whether we love our neighbour or not.
- Teresa of Avila
Interior Castle

More than a few Christians might be surprised to learn that the call to be involved in creating justice for the poor is just as essential and nonnegotiable within the spiritual life as is Jesus' commandment to pray and keep our private lives in order.

Ronald Rolheiser
The Holy Longing

Thursday, July 03, 2008

So are we postmodern or not?

It isn't always worth quoting things out of context, but hopefully the following few paragraphs will give you enough of William Lane Craig's argument to get the point. (You can read the whole article: God is Not Dead Yet here.)

...Don't we live in a postmodern culture in which appeals to such apologetic arguments are no longer effective? Rational arguments for the truth of theism are no longer supposed to work. Some Christians therefore advise that we should simply share our narrative and invite people to participate in it.

This sort of thinking is guilty of a disastrous misdiagnosis of contemporary culture. The idea that we live in a postmodern culture is a myth. In fact, a postmodern culture is an impossibility; it would be utterly unlivable. People are not relativistic when it comes to matters of science, engineering, and technology; rather, they are relativistic and pluralistic in matters of religion and ethics. But, of course, that's not postmodernism; that's modernism! That's just old-line verificationism, which held that anything you can't prove with your five senses is a matter of personal taste. We live in a culture that remains deeply modernist.

Otherwise, how do we make sense of the popularity of the New Atheism? Dawkins and his ilk are indelibly modernist and even scientistic in their approach. On the postmodernist reading of contemporary culture, their books should have fallen like water on a stone. Instead, people lap them up eagerly, convinced that religious belief is folly.

Seen in this light, tailoring our gospel to a postmodern culture is self-defeating. By laying aside our best apologetic weapons of logic and evidence, we ensure modernism's triumph over us. If the church adopts this course of action, the consequences in the next generation will be catastrophic. Christianity will be reduced to but another voice in a cacophony of competing voices, each sharing its own narrative and none commending itself as the objective truth about reality. Meanwhile, scientific naturalism will continue to shape our culture's view of how the world really is.

The Online Generation

Don't know much about the Online Generation? Take a quarter hour out of your valuable time and check out the blog: Reaching the Online Generation.

If you're not much of a techno, you may find some of the language unfamiliar (even my geek of a son, to my surprise, didn't know what Twitter was), but persevere. In the middle of the Blackberries, Facebooks, MySpaces, online communities, there's a good deal of plain sense and a heart to reach people who won't be reached by the older methods of face-to-face, preaching, tracts and more.

If you or your church doesn't have a web presence of some sort, is it missing out on a way to preach the Gospel?

A note from RTOG: Who is God?' was one of the top three sentences googled in 2007, according to Google Zeitgeist. According to Alexa, the top two religious websites are Muslim, with BibleGateway coming in at a close third. The Online Generation is spiritual. They are seeking. And the church is the last place they would go to find spiritual fulfillment. This site is dedicated to those walking with The Online Generation and living lives of obedience to all the commands of Jesus Christ.

Here's Who Is list as published by Google Zeitgeist 2007:
  1. who is god
  2. who is who
  3. who is lookup
  4. who is jesus
  5. who is it
  6. who is buckethead
  7. who is calling
  8. who is keppler
  9. who is this
  10. who is satan
You have to smile at Satan's ranking....!

Heard of LifeChurch?

Heard of Can't say I have, although the name kind of rings a bell. Anyway, is:

#1 on 2008 America’s 25 Most Innovative Churches

#31 on Outreach magazine’s 2007 101 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches

#5 on Outreach magazine’s 2007 100 Largest U.S. Churches

#5 on The Church Report’s 2007 50 Most Influential Churches

Second Life is an Internet-based 3-D virtual world which enables its users to explore, socialize, participate in individual or group activities, and create and trade items and services from one another. In Second Life, users create avatars (3-D characters) that they use to interact and communicate with each other via a text chat (audio chat is coming soon) or by making gestures.

Second Life was launched in 2003 and has grown significantly in recent months. In October 2006, Second Life reached the 1 million registered accounts mark and quickly grew to over 6 million registered accounts by May 2007.

What is significant about all these items: Internet, Internet, Internet. (While I don't agree entirely with Tony Morgan that print is dead, Internet is certainly alive.)

Nine Do's and Don'ts

Tony Morgan, on the neoleader blog, offers nine do's and don'ts for those in ministry leadership. I've just listed the nine here, but you can see his additional comments by going to the blog itself.
  1. You don’t need a logo.
  2. Your fancy flyers won’t help.
  3. Put people first.
  4. Lead your ministry.
  5. Remember: print is dead.
  6. Don’t wait on the church to establish online community.
  7. You probably need to cut programs and events.
  8. Grow through volunteers.
  9. You are not competing against other ministries.
What he has to say beyond these nine statements is well worth considering.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Not 'either or'

It is not a matter of engaging in both the gospel and social action, as if Christian social action was something separate from the gospel itself. The gospel has to be demonstrated in word and deed. Biblically, the gospel includes the totality of all that is good news from God for all that is bad news in human life—in every sphere. So like Jesus, authentic Christian mission has included good news for the poor, compassion for the sick and suffering justice for the oppressed, liberation for the enslaved. The gospel of the Servant of God in the power of the Spirit of God addresses every area of human need and every area that has been broken and twisted by sin and evil. And the heart of the gospel, in all of these areas, is the cross of Christ.
- Christopher J. H. Wright
International director of John Stott Ministries (from Knowing the Holy Spirit Through the Old Testament)