Thursday, August 28, 2008

Voices of the Virtual World

Voices of the Virtual World: Participative Technology and the Ecclesial Revolution, edited by Len Hjalmarson and John La Grou.

"Uttered like a prayer retrieved from the year 2030, spoken in a new tongue, a new form. Listen!" - Kevin Kelly, Co-Founder / Executive Editor WIRED Magazine.

VOICES explores the growing influence of technology on the global Christian church. We hear from more than forty influential voices, including technologists and theologians, entrepreneurs and pastors... from a progressive Episcopalian techno-monk to a leading Mennonite professor... from a tech-savvy mobile missionary to a corporate anthropologist whom Worth Magazine calls "one of Wall Street's 25 Smartest Players." Voices is a far reaching exploration of spiritual journey within a culture of increasingly immersive technology.

This book was originally released in an e-format, which meant that all the links in the book could be accessed directly. The paperback version has shifted all these links to End Notes. The e-format is still available (click on link above).

You can see the list of contents and authors here (click on the button on the right to see the second page). Not many of these people are known to me, but that may only mean I'm in the wrong circles (!)

I'm a Christian....and I'm a Christ follower

By now this series of videos (six or seven in all, I think) are becoming widely known, but just in case you're one of the people who still hasn't caught up with them, check them out. They parody a series of ads that compared Macs and PCs. (For those who can't get enough of them, you can find more variations on the theme on You Tube.)

The original series shows two guys, one of them a laid-back Christ follower, and the other a rather up-tight Christian with all the latest Christian gear. There's a little animosity between them - more from the Christian - but the playing of the characters is so smooth and gentle that you can only laugh. While many viewers may side with the Christ follower, it's probable that the Christian has plenty of supporters too!

The versions available for viewing on the FaithVisuals site (in the link at the beginning of this post) are a bit small. You Tube's versions are larger, but they're fairly fuzzy when they're enlarged to full screen.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Evangelicals: a dying or changing breed?

An extract from an article by Christine Wicker, formerly a religion writer for The Dallas Morning News , and author of The Fall of the Evangelical Nation: The Surprising Crisis Inside the Church .
The article is entitled:
American evangelicals, once considered monolithic, are fragmenting.

Evangelicals almost never convert a native-born American who wasn’t raised in a church. That most evangelical growth comes from stealing the sheep from other denominations. And that they’ve stolen about all they can.

They’re also admitting that most evangelicals won’t evangelize. And if they did, it wouldn’t get them anywhere because the usual methods don’t work. They don’t work first because they usually rest on the idea that Christians are the only ones saved. In today’s religiously equalitarian culture, that assertion causes evangelicals to seem distastefully holier-than-thou.

Conversion tactics also focus on telling people the Good News as though no one else knows it. But most everyone has heard it. Again and again. The trouble is that they aren’t convinced. They aren’t scared of hell. They aren’t hoping for heaven. And Christians haven’t been good at giving anyone better reasons than that for following Jesus.

Wicker makes a number of other important points; you may agree with them or not. For New Zealanders, the article is of value because it looks at a society that's not too dissimilar to our own.

Robert Jenson on mission

“We … need to face [the] fact often spoken of but rarely acted upon: that the West is now a mission field. We can no longer count on the culture doing half our work for us. On a mission field, the church has to do its own work, and that means first of all that it has to know what is not … in the culture, that it hopes to bring to it. Which is to say: it must know and cultivate its difference from that culture. All that talk a few years ago about the world setting the agenda, about seeing where God was at work in the world and jumping in to help etc, was the last gasp of the church’s establishment in the West, of its erstwhile ability to suppose that what the culture nurtured as good had to be congruent with the good the church had to bring…” (Pp. 29-30).

This quote comes from a chapter, What is a post-Christian?, the book,
Strange New Word of the Gospel: RE-Evangelizing in the Postmodern World, edited by Carl Braaton and Robert Jenson, published Eerdmans, 2002.

Paul Fromont writes:
it seems to me that Jenson is critiquing a church that has nothing distinctive to say (and embody) in relation to its host culture(s); a church that lacks distinctiveness and thus public prophetic voice. A distinctive church is one that embodies and offers an alternative. Is he, to rework a statement by another contributor to the collection of essays, saying that the gospel only emerges in comparison with what is not the gospel?

In an ealier post, Fromont also quotes David Bosch on a similar topic:
“…Evangelism means enlisting people for the reign of God, liberating them from themselves, their sins, and their entanglements, so that they will be free for God and neighbour…. To win people to Jesus is to win their allegiance to God's priorities. God wills …that within us, and through our ministry also in society around us, the "fullness of Christ" be re-created, the image of God be restored in our lives and relationships…”

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Walker Percy

For those who sense that we've moved from modernism to postmodernism - or to something else altogether..!

What does a man do when he finds himself living after an age has ended and he can no longer understand himself because the theories of man of the former age no longer work and the theories of the new age are not yet known, for not even the name of the new age is known, and so everything is upside down, people feeling bad when they should feel good, good when they should feel bad?
What a man does is start afresh as if he were newly come into a new world, which in fact it is; start with what he knows for sure, look at the birds and beasts, and like a visitor from Mars newly landed on earth notice what is different about man.

From page 7 of The Message in the Bottle by Walker Percy

Monday, August 25, 2008

China and the Olympics

Dave Gibbons asks:
Did you see the group of children representing the 51 different cultures of China? China, like so many other places today, is multi-cultural. A group of young people is emerging that some call Third Culture—a wave of people who will lead the missiological movement because of their ability to adapt to different cultures. Being comfortable moving between cultures all of their lives, these people will be more equipped to become all things to all men.

This quote is from a short post talking about the way in which China is changing.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

A Multicultural Witness Against the 'homogenous unit principle'

Two quotes from an article by Jin S Kim, on the church, racism and multiculturalism.

The church moves toward reconciliation not because it will lead to numerical success but because the church has been called to faithfulness. As part of this faithfulness, the legitimacy of the "homogenous unit principle" needs to be questioned. I believe this "principle" has given theological justification to ancient tribalism and the idolatry of division. It does not call us to be a new creation but entrenches the old.
Two thousand years ago the church was small, renegade, and countercultural. Local congregations were radical communities of love and compassion. Their very existence as a community defied the claim of imperial sovereignty. These congregations overcame the prevailing social barriers of race, class, and gender and showed compassion to the rejects of society. The early church posed a serious threat to Roman hegemony and social order. It was its witness as a kingdom-oriented community that had a powerful effect on the empire, not the size or political connections of the church. The early church was not so much about church growth as about parabolic witness. How does a band of 10, 20, 50 people demonstrate the power of God's redemptive love by example? How do these individuals live the Christian life together as a living parable? How do they serve as a parabolic witness to the world? That was the fundamental evangelical question.

This is only the first part of Kim's article. But the points he makes about multiculturalism apply just as well to New Zealand as to the United States.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Looking at vision

John Sweetman makes a useful distinction between vision and core values, and the way in which leaders can often mix the two. If the vision becomes a core value, as it often does once it's achieved, then the church may stagnate through having achieved its vision.
John goes on in a later post to discuss the way leaders get vision. He suggests four ways that are just the beginning to finding/creating a vision: prayer (a kind of an of course suggestion); being brutally honest about the strengths and weaknesses of your team; talking to other people; and dreaming. Too many leaders get bogged down in doing, and forget the dreaming. It's an essential part of 'acquiring' vision.

John has a number of other posts on the subject of leadership, under various headings such as character, relationships, teamwork, and equipping. Check them out here.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

William Lane Craig on Postmodernism

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.

from an article entitled God is Not Dead Yet: how current philosophers argue for his existence, which appeared in the magazine, Christianity Today, July 2008.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Do they understand the Gospel?

Mark Broadbent makes a positive case for checking that young people understand the Gospel, in a recent post on neoleader.
Using eight points, he discusses what he and his church have learned about reaching young people.
1. Make sure you and your leaders understand the Gospel.
2. Emphasize key doctrines
3. Take every opportunity to bring out the Gospel
4. Do 6-8 messages a year specifically on the Gospel
5. Do at least two series in depth on the Gospel each year
6. Stop asking people to make a commitment
7. Don't ask them to become Christians - many think they already are
8. Run a basic Christianity course.

These are just the headings. Check out what he has to say in detail on the post itself.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

1500 a month?

The latest post on the Leadership Journal site, Out of Ur, makes for good reading, as do the many comments following, both for and against by Skye Jethani says.

The particular post is called, Great is Thy Effectiveness?, and starts in the following way:
Something’s wrong. We pastors are the stewards, the spokespeople, the advocates of a message of hope, life, and peace. And yet so few of us seem to be experiencing these qualities in our own lives. Something’s wrong. In a world saturated with fear, insecurity, and stress, we are to show a different way. And yet those at the centre of the church are burning out and leaving ministry at a rate of 1,500 per month. If that’s what’s occurring at the heart of the church, why would anyone on the fringe want to move in closer?
I’ve just read an article by two Christian counsellors about the soul-killing impact of church ministry on leaders. (The statistic above comes from them.) They note that the pressure to grow the church is a significant factor leading to pastoral burn out. And some pastors “admitted they promoted growth models that were incongruent with their values because of a desperate need to validate their pastoral leadership.” It seems too many of us have our identities wrapped up in the measurable outcomes of our work rather than in the life-giving love of the Christ we proclaim. Something’s wrong.
The rest of the article makes interesting reading especially for anyone concerned about burnout, whether amongst pastors or in other professions, as do the many comments.

Two books on pastors’ burning out are mentioned in the comments:

Grace Walk, by Steve McVey, and The Bonsai Conspiracy, written by Paul Anderson Walsh, are books by pastors who 'burned out'. What God revealed to them should be part of the foundation of our faith, rather than the truth that we eventually come to. And not just for pastors.

Walsh's book is not generally available in normal outlets such as Amazon. Check the link on the book title for more information.

Monday, August 11, 2008


GloboChrist: The Great Commission Takes a Postmodern Turn (The Church and Postmodern Culture) by Carl Rashke.
Here's what the blurb on the book says:

The rise of the Internet and the proliferation of digital technologies have profoundly affected the world; it is not only smaller but also more interconnected. What role does the church play in this multimedia-dominated globe?

In GloboChrist, Carl Raschke tackles the subjects of globalization, postmodernism, and information technology and their impact on missions and evangelism. In addition, he addresses the role that Christianity plays in an increasingly pluralistic world, providing concrete strategies for confronting the challenges. In short, GloboChrist helps Christians respond to the tectonic shifts of the twenty-first century.

"GloboChrist is the unconventional title of an intriguing inquiry into postmodern patterns and ideas and the challenge to mission. The book is a confident statement for these uncertain times, a troubling of the waters that will stir complacent Christians in their assumption."--Lamin Sanneh, Yale University

"For those who have tried to follow the intricacies (and vagaries) of postmodern thought to find out what it can tell us of the night, this vigorously discerning volume offers a glimpse of the global dawn. Drawing on many resources and a focused evangelical faith, Raschke lays out a case for a Christian perspective on globalization as a dynamic development that opens reconstructive (post-deconstructive) possibilities for pursuing the Great Commission. Globalization is not essentially an economic issue. The 'GloboChrist' is sweeping the world in a post-postmodern way in spite of militant Islamism, Christian fundamentalism, modernist liberalism, and secular economism. This is the best book on globalization I have read by an overtly Christian thinker. It complements and challenges my own efforts to discern theologically what is at stake in globalization."--Max L. Stackhouse, Princeton Theological Seminary; author, Globalization and Grace

"I'd hoped to give GloboChrist a quick read, but after picking it up I simply couldn't put it down; it is elegant, clear, and provocative. Raschke not only helps us see Christ and mission afresh in our hi-tech, pluralistic, postmodern, and global context but also equips us with engagement strategies."--Dwight J. Friesen, Mars Hill Graduate School, Seattle

Andrew Jones writes very positively about it on his blog - he's planning on using it at a missional entrepreneurs meeting he's holding in Europe next week.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Still emerging?

The latest Next-Wave Church and Culture has the following article in it. I've included the first paragraph. (It gets clearer!). Anyone who wants a bit more insight into the Emerging/Emergent Church will find it here - Creech is one of the early starters in the movement.

What I am and what I'm not - or a short history and explanation of the wider "emerging church" by Alan Creech.
one - the winds of culture
Interesting times we live in. Christian people are all over the lot. You can't really pin it down can you. Even those within certain sectors are hard to connect. I've seen a couple of things lately about the "emergent church" or "the emerging church" and what it is and isn't, etc., blah blah. It's all a very confusing sort of mess at this point. It wasn't always. When all this business first started "happening," however it was happening, wherever it was happening, it was much simpler. At least it seemed like it was. Perhaps it was just as complex but nobody was paying attention to it and analyzing the hell out of it like they are now. It's actually getting press at this point, weird.

Meanwhile, over on Tall Skinny Kiwi, Alan Jones is asking: Emergent Church; use the word or dump it? He then goes on to say:
I have been asked to help set up an "Emerging Church Fund" that supports the global emerging church movement which is something I and the people asking me to organize it see as a structure that partners with the World Evangelical Alliance and Church Mission Society and helps financially resource new works in the emerging culture that are simple cell based structures. They are a worthy investment, I believe and have been proclaiming for many years, because the money does not go to buildings or to salaries. Because the emerging churches we support do not have paid pastors but function more like the early church, they are a fruitful way to invest money in mission projects because they accomplish a lot with a little. And despite being worthy from a financial perspective, they are also strategic because the emerging culture, although smaller, is often where the culture leaders hang out. Money invested in emerging church movements goes a really long way which is why I have been pointing to so many of these movements around the world for so long.

See the rest of the post here.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Kevin Rudd and Religion in Australia

In a blog post on the 7th August, Jim Wallis (of Sojourners) writes:

One of the stories I first heard on my recent visit to Australia was about what helped swing the vote last November to Kevin Rudd, the new Labor prime minister. I read some new political data by veteran pollster and researcher John Black, who is respected across Australia's political spectrum. Black reported that the pivotal swing vote to Labor this time was among evangelicals and Pentecostals, especially in some key seats in the states of Queensland and South Australia.

Kevin Rudd [is] a new kind of Labor candidate who speaks openly and comfortably about his faith. Rudd is a Catholic, is theologically articulate, and even likes to write articles about German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

Though Jim has apparently got it wrong about Rudd being a Catholic - he was brought up as one, but is now a practising Anglican, that doesn't change the point. Here's a practising Christian in Australia's top job, and social justice issues are one of his major concerns.

Read the rest of the article here
- it has some other good things to say about Australia (!)

And one other word about social justice:
Social sin is the crystallization ... of individuals’ sins into permanent structures that keeps sin in being and makes its force to be felt by the majority of people.
- Oscar Romero
Salvadoran archbishop, assassinated in 1980

Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Want a way to keep up with various blogs and other sites that relate to (Modern) Church? Find it hard to pick and choose from all the results you get on Google? (Though let's not knock Google!)

Try This site claims to take the 'nuggets' out of search results (presumably leaving the dross behind), and then it banks them up in a wide variety of categories. The one that might interest most readers of this blog would be Modern Church (Church doesn't exist on its own, interestingly enough, which might say something about the readership of sites on modern church, and the readership on sites related to church and church alone?)

But there are dozens of other categories, and more are being added all the time. The site is updated every ten minutes or so, and they have some complex approach to deciding what should go on there. It might be 'a patent-pending, semantic computational algorithm derived from the post-doctoral work of Guy at Stanford' but it's more likely to be the 'results of Google searches, review of the sites’ and blogs’ content, researchers, and our “gut” plus the recommendations of the Twitter community, owners of the sites and blogs, and people who care enough to write to us. Let us declare something: The Twitter community has been the single biggest factor in the quality of Alltop.'

Since Alltop is supposedly run by two guys and a gal in three separate places, their co-ordinating skills are fairly remarkable. The photo is of one of them: Guy Kawasaki.

New take on the Prodigal Son?

Fr. Charles Curran was a moral theologian fired from his position at the Catholic University of America in 1986 for asserting a right of dissent from official church teaching on matters such as birth control.
Summoned to appear in Rome for questioning by Cardinal Ratzinger, he came out of the meeting knowing that he had failed to convince. He would be condemned as a Catholic theologian and fired from his faculty position: a public humiliation, a personal disaster, and also a rejection of theologians as a whole, who by and large agreed with Curran’s position.
The next day was Sunday. Bernard Häring, the influential moral theologian who taught in Rome and was Curran’s old professor and mentor, celebrated Mass in a chapel for Curran and his six university advisers. The Gospel happened to be the Prodigal Son. Häring’s homily went something like this: at this time, the church is the prodigal son. It is taking your treasure — your training, talent, reputation, contribution — and wasting it, feeding it to the pigs. The Spirit of Jesus calls you to be the father in this parable, not rejecting but welcoming back the prodigal. Do you forgive the church?
Häring went from person to person, grabbing them by the necktie or the sweater, and looked them in the eye with this question. The Mass could not continue until they wrestled with their anger and allowed the Spirit to move them to a different place.

From an article in the National Catholic Reporter online: Theologian Elizabeth Johnson: 'Drench anger with forgiveness'

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


The celebrity church must die. And doing anything—like video venues—that prolongs its life, even in the name of the lost, runs counter to the best interests of the Church in all its expressions, big and small, and its mandate to see more people not only reached, but gifted, trained, and sent.

So says Bob Hyatt, whose church has moved from pub to pub in Southwest Portland as its outgrown each venue. As he writes, We are the church on a pub crawl.

In his article on 'Out of Ur' he speaks against churches that are going multi-site in the sense of having one preacher in one location being videoed to several other locations. Closeness of congregation, and interactivity, are for him the keynotes. Check out the rest of the article here.

Bob Hyatt is a father of three, leading pastor of the Evergreen Community (Portland, Oregon) and a church planter with a passion for helping other planters. He blogs at and runs He also edits the online e-zine,

Monday, August 04, 2008


"We have to condemn publicly the very idea that some people have the right to repress others. In keeping silent about evil, in burying it so deep within us that no sign of it appears on the surface, we are implanting it, and it will rise up a thousandfold in the future. When we neither punish nor reproach evildoers, we are not simply protecting their trivial old age, we are thereby ripping the foundations of justice from beneath new generations."
Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Albert Mohler writes: He was a man of contradictions or, as Joseph Pearce argues, a man of paradox. In any event, he was a man of great moral vision who revealed the brutality of the Soviet regime and contributed greatly to its collapse. Edward E. Erickson, who wrote two major works on Solzhenitsyn, argues that the key to understanding Solzhenitsyn is Christianity -- the Russian Orthodox faith that framed Solzhenitsyn's worldview. Erickson argued that "in a day when secular humanism flourishes among the cultural and intellectual elite, he holds fast to traditional Christian beliefs."

Being rich

I know how very hard it is to be rich and still keep the mild of human kindness. Money has a dangerous way of putting scales on one’s eyes, a dangerous way of freezing people’s hands, eyes, lips and heart.

- Dom Hélder Câmara
Brazilian archbishop

NZ Diversity Forum 2008 Programme

This year's New Zealand Diversity Forum is on 25-26 August in Auckland. Check out the varied programmes offered by community and professional groups and government agencies here and register here for any of the separate events or the diversity awards and plenary programme. This is New Zealand's premier race relations forum.

For those aiming to reach out to the different ethnic groups in our country, this is a great opportunity to gain insights into the ways different ethnic people live and think, and what their expectations are.

Some of the useful workshops might be:
The Benefits of Diversity
Finding Common Ground: are we more similar than different?
The Religious Diversity Forum
Building Bridges: working with the Muslim community

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The problem with institutions

Alan Hirsch has recently written two posts on the subject of the church as an insitution, and how that affects its ability to do mission.
This is a quote from the second post.
Perhaps a further exploration of what is meant by institutionalism is needed here: Institutions are organizations initially set up in order to fill a necessary religious and social function and to provide some sort of structural support for whatever that function requires. In many ways they fulfill the very purpose of structure; organization is needed if we seek to act collectively for common cause. And all movements start this way, but in the initial stages structure exists solely to support the grassroots. The problem happens when the newly instituted structures move beyond being simply structural support and become a governing body of sorts-structure becomes centralized governance. So religious institutionalism happens when in the name of some convenience we set up a system to do what we must do ourselves so that over time the structures we create to do this take on a life of their own...

To read the first post, click here.

Both these posts appear on Alan's blog, The Forgotten Ways: the missional musings of Alan Hirsch (developing apostolic imagination and practice in Western contexts)