Thursday, October 30, 2008

Everyone is Called to Serve

While the church today (and the world as a whole) seems preoccupied with leadership and the achievements of leaders (with endless books and seminars on how to become a better leader), it leaves me wondering whether anyone might purchase a book or attend a conference on “Becoming a Servant.” Yet, when we consider the work of the early church, leadership and sacrificial service were inseparable.

While our world seems eager to grasp positions of authority and leadership, scripture makes it clear that hard work, sacrifice, and service are integral to one’s calling as a leader, guide, shepherd, overseer, deacon, and elder. Biblically, a case can be made that one’s reach as a leader stretches only as far as one’s willingness to stoop and serve others.

Two paragraphs from a short blog post by Mimi Haddad on Jim Wallis' God's Politics' blog. Do we spend far more time looking at leaders and leadership than at the much larger group of people who quietly get on and do the basic work?

Why wealthy children are giving their inheritance to charity

The so-called Me Generation is proving, in some cases, not to be quite so self-centred as it's painted. In an article in the Times Online, a number of young people are shown as being far more philanthropic than was expected. And these aren't just young people with a bit of spare cash; in several cases they've been young people who've inherited large amounts of money and have decided to put most or all of it into charitable works. Michael Amherst used the proceeds of the sale of a private school his father had set up to begin funding schools in other countries. Karen Pittelman inherited $3.5 million and has given it away to a foundation for poor women in Boston.
Furthermore, rich parents are beginning to instil in their children the wisdom of giving away most of their inheritances rather than spending them in a dissolute lifestyle.
So, just when you think the world might be going completely to the dogs, it challenges our assumptions.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


One last item from the series of 18 obstacles by Mark Driscoll, in his address to Sydney Anglicans. The obstacles are listed here. While I'm not sure that the generalised statement below is entirely true, it has a point. And what is vital for modern ministers/pastors/leaders to grasp is what Driscoll says about the Internet. If ten million people download Driscoll's sermons in a year, how many might be downloading your sermons - do you know? Are they available for download? Do you advertise the fact?

Often new movements come into existence when there's new technology. For example, the Protestant Reformation happened at the time of the printing press, Billy Graham used the advances in amplification and radio at the time he was preaching. Today, we have the internet. Old systems were based on control, but today, there is no control. "You can sit on your Macbook and even if no leader approves of it, you could communicate to the world. That changes everything." People spend more time looking at a screen than a human being. Mark Driscoll's sermons are downloaded more than 10 million times each year. "That's crazy - we could never have a meeting with 10 million people, we'd call it a country."

Preventing Ministry Failure

Preventing Ministry Failure: A Shepherdcare Guide For Pastors, Ministers And Other Caregivers, by Brad Hoffmann and Michael-Todd Wilson

Great ministers don't just happen. Great falls from ministry don't just happen either. A complex mix of factors both internal and external, an unaddressed need for relational intimacy, a misunderstanding of God's call, unrealistic expectations and inadequate resources coming from the people in your care all test the limits of your ability to minister wholeheartedly over the long haul.

Senior pastor Brad Hoffmann and licensed professional counselor Michael-Todd Wilson have studied the struggles that pastors and other shepherds face in their ministries. They began the ministry of ShepherdCare as an extension of their work with pastors who had been removed from their place of service. The common experiences of these pastors revealed patterns that consistently contributed to burnout, ineffectiveness and moral failure. If such patterns can be predicted, they reasoned, can they be prevented?

Preventing Ministry Failure is a personal guidebook for pastors and other caregivers to prepare them to withstand common pressures and to flourish in the ministry God has called them to. Work through the exercises and reflections individually or in conversation with your peers in ministry, and you'll find yourself better equipped for the challenges of vocational ministry, and more conscious of the presence of God leading you on and restoring your soul.

From the ShepherdCare site: ShepherdCare is a nonprofit National Heritage Foundation that assists ministers in acquiring the tools necessary to prevent burnout, avoid moral failure and sustain long-term effectiveness in ministry. ShepherdCare is the result of years of research into the dynamics of forced termination in the ministry. Our focus is the health of the minister’s soul. Healthy ministers result in healthy ministries. Forced termination often results from lack of competency in several key areas of the minister’s life. We desire to teach these insights through a variety of services, including consultation, counseling, coaching, conferences and publications.

Attachment Disorder Churches

Kenneth Quick has written an article that appears in the Leadership Journal in which he talks about Attachment Disorder churches. He relates them to children from countries like Romania and Russia who've been adopted by US parents who get endless love but sometimes still wind up being unable to received the love, because of what's happened to them in the past. I'm not sure that his analogy works all the way, but what he has to say about relationshiops between pastors and their churches is well worth thinking about. The way the people in some churches get hurt and then unintentionally take it out on future pastors is worth noting, and the way in which pastors can unintentionally hurt their congregations through unrealistic expectations is also worth thinking over.

See the whole article here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Recently, Kevin Kelly of Wired magazine discussed the next 1,000 years of Christianity.
There's a summary by Kent Shaffer of what he said on the neoleader blog.
To give you a taste of what he said here's his list of possible future events...some of which might be tongue-in-cheek
  • At the rate that new Christian denominations are growing, there could be 260,000 denominations by 2100.
  • Mormons are growing fast. What if they become the world majority?
  • The Amish are also growing fast. Could the world become Neo-Amish?
  • Around 2050, will be the first time in history where we have doubled the world population but are expectedly to dramatically decrease it.
  • What happens when robots with artificial intelligence say, “I too am a child of God?”
  • Transhumanity
  • With genetic engineering, will we remain one species or many?
  • Wikipedia does not work in theory but in practice. What about Wikichurch?
  • Christianity becomes hip.
  • Purple Christians (a mix of Democrats and Republicans)
  • Islam in Europe
You can check out the original half-hour video here.

More: 18 Obstacles to Evangelism in Australia

Two more of Mark Driscoll's 18 obstacles.

13. There is a lack of missiologists
. A missiologist evaluates the culture and uses discernment to find the idols, "so missionaries can be employed and churches can be missional". "Theologians defend the truth of the gospel and missiologists then take it to the streets." When you stack the team with theologians and not missiologists... lots of people still don't know Jesus.

14. There is a proclivity to try to raise ministers before making them husbands and fathers. Many men delay marriage and children so they can enter college and ministry. They need to learn to be good husbands and fathers and shepherd a little flock. If they are not good husbands and fathers, they are not going to be good ministers. "In fact... being a husband and father trains you more for ministry than any college." You should really press young men to take responsibility early, be good husbands and fathers, and then encourage them into ministry. Otherwise their priorities end up being God, ministry, wife, children, rather than God, wife, children, ministry. If you delay marriage for ministry, you are organising a paradigm that is dangerous.

I love this last one. Being a good husband and father is prime for community, whether the ordinary everyday community, or the church community.

Fighting Shadows

Fighting Shadows: Self-Stigma And Mental Illness: Whawhai Atu te Whakamâ Hihira incorporates the experiences of 76 men and women from around the country; including Pakeha, Maori, Pasifika, Chinese, young people and refugees.
This study, produced by the Mental Health Foundation was launched on 9th July, 2008.
It shows that "negative messages about mental illness in society shape and reinforce attitudes people hold toward themselves,” said Judi Clements, Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. “These attitudes hold people back from full participation in society, and create a cycle of internalised stigma, or ‘self-stigma’"
Participants in the study described experiences of isolation, self-doubt, rejection by family and peers, and pessimism about their prospects of recovery.
However, participants also identified actions or ‘circuit-breakers’ to counter discrimination and negative thought patterns. These included: more visibility of people with mental illness, building peer support networks, affirming human rights, challenging negative attitudes, and encouraging mental health services to focus on recovery.
The full report can be read online. It's also available in book form, from the Mental Health Foundation.

Jacques Ellul

Interesting quote today from Ellul; not sure, however, that I agree entirely that old age is a time when you're unable to serve the Lord.

Remember your Creator during your youth: when all possibilities lie open before you and you can offer all your strength intact for his service. The time to remember is not after you become senile and paralyzed! Then it is not too late for your salvation, but too late for you to serve as the presence of God in the midst of the world and the creation. You must take sides earlier--when you can actually make choices, when you have many paths opening at your feet, before the weight of necessity overwhelms you.

Jacques Ellul

Reason for Being: A Meditation on Ecclesiastes

Monday, October 27, 2008

In Defense of Raising Money: a Manifesto for NonProfit CEOs

Sasha Dichter isn't a blogger I'd ever come across until today. Among other things, he's the Director of Business Development at Acumen Fund, a global non-profit venture capital fund that invests in enterprises that fight poverty in the developing world. He's written a four-page piece on the value of being a fundraising person. For the many ministers around the country who feel as though they spend a good deal of their time raising money for one purpose or another, be encouraged: Sasha says you're doing a good work.

The piece starts off like this...

I work at a great nonprofit organization1 that is doing great things in the world, one
that’s attacking daunting problems in a powerful new way. I believe in what we do, and
think that we may be catalyzing a shift in how the world fights poverty.
So why did one of my mentors – someone with a lot of experience in the non‐profit and
public sector – tell me not to take this job? “Be careful,” he said, “You’ll get pigeonholed.
Once a fundraiser, always a fundraiser.”
He misunderstood what job I was taking.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Blog Action Poverty Day 2008

By the time you read this, Blog Action Poverty Day will be well over. This is just a bit of feedback on some of the stats related to this rather amazing day in which thousands of bloggers around the world raised some consciousness regarding world poverty, by all writing about it on the same day (Oct 15th). I missed doing so on this blog, but did write about it on one of my others, a couple of times.

The day brought 12,800 Bloggers together on the same topic.
They wrote 14,053 Blog Posts, big and small, important and not so important.
There were some 13,498,280 Readers - don't ask me how that was figured out, but it's pretty impressive.
17 Top 100 Blogs were involved, along with lots of non Top 100 Blogs, like my own.

If you go to the Blog Action Day site, you'll find a bunch of the posts, and how they focused on ways the world has been helped, who helped, and how it was done.

Through this Action Day, Kiva was brought to my attention. It's the online equivalent of World Vision or CCF, except that through it people can lend money to individuals or groups around the world who need some additional funding to improve their lifestyle. It's a superb approach, and easy as pie to join. Recommend it highly.

Couple of Quotes

O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the needs of others; open my ears that I may hear their cries; open my heart so that they need not be without succor; let me not be afraid to defend the weak because of the anger of the strong, nor afraid to defend the poor because of the anger of the rich ... And so open my eyes and my ears that I may this coming day be able to do some work of peace for thee.

- Alan Paton

And this is the difference between myself at age 17 and myself at age 27. It's not that the world has changed so much--it hasn't. It's not that I have changed so much--I haven't. It's not even that my faith or my concept of God has changed so much, although it has, in every way but the most essential. What is different is that while I may yet feel the need to qualify my faith, I no longer feel the need to justify it to my non-Christian friends. In the same way, while I may feel the need to explain my perspective on issues of politics and culture, I no longer feel the need to justify it to my Christian friends. This may not seem like a big leap to you readers out there, but believe-you-me, amigos, it is--it's the difference between the shopping mall and the sewing room, the produce aisle and the garden. My master's program friends might call it agency, my Christian friends might call it grace and if I had to call it anything at all, I'd call it a relief.

Meredith Kathryn-Case Gipson Hoogendam

"Out of the closet, into the forest" in catapult magazine

I'm not sure why this lady has quite so many'd think there'd be few Meredith Hoogendams around...!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Multi-ethnic Church

The following enthusiastic review of Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church: Mandate, Commitments and Practices of a Diverse Congregation by Mark DeYmaz comes from the site. It's written by Andrew Wilson, who appears to be one of the leaders of the Mosaic Christian Community in Christchurch, a three-church multi-ethnic community. (I haven't been able to find Andrew on the Net to ask his permission to use the review, so I hope he won't object!) The review was written back in February this year.

A Must Read for Every Church Leader! Being in leadership at a multi-ethnic church I have read most of the books that are considered landmarks in terms of coming to grips with the `race' issue in the local church. Mark DeYmaz's book is unique in terms of what it offers.
It is unique because it does not focus on issues of racial reconciliation. It does not focus on issues of cultural anthropology and sociology. This book starts with theology and finishes with practice. Mark does not ignore issues of power or the very real stench of systemic racism within the church. He challenges these issues head on. It is neither the untested musings of a seminary theologian nor the pragmatic response of a frustrated practitioner. This is a book written from the perspective of deep theological insights and strong exegesis backed by years of practical involvement in multi-ethnic ministry.
This book is theology in practice. As such there are stories and examples that inspire any in multi-ethnic ministry and resonate for others involved in similar ministries. This book is not a how-to book although there are basic principles and guidelines in the second section of the book. These simply reflect the difficult path that you walk down when you are involved in multi-ethnic church.
Building a Healthy Multi-Ethnic Church is compulsory reading for our leadership team. Every church leader should read this book regardless of the diversity or homogeneity of their church. Then after reading this book they should answer this question from the book, If the kingdom of heaven is not segregated, then why on earth is MY church?:

The book is published by Jossey-Bass, 2007.


According to Statistics New Zealand nearly a million people volunteer for a charity or worthy cause every year. Volunteering is worth $3.31 billion to New Zealand, and the combined efforts of charities and volunteers contribute 4.9% to the country’s gross domestic product. This collaboration helps New Zealand to be a healthier, safer and more successful country. Volunteers donate 270 million unpaid hours each year, and this makes it possible for over 97,000 Kiwi charities and not-for-profit projects to survive.

The recently founded 'Good' magazine has got together with Intrepid Travel to encourage volunteers within the country. There'll be awards once a year (and a prize). Their aim is to make NZ the country with the most volunteers per head of population in the world.

You might be a pastor if...

I am sure you have heard the "you might be a pastor if ..." comments many times. Things like you might be a pastor if ...
... you find yourself counting heads at a sporting event.
... you would rather talk to people with every eye closed and every head bowed.
... you had a dream that while you were speaking no one was listening, and then you realized it wasn’t a dream.
... you have a difficult time explaining to your kids just exactly what a pastor does.
... you're leading the church into the 21st century, but you don't know what you're preaching on Sunday.
... you've ever wanted to "lay hands" around a deacon's neck.

from The Pastor's Weekly Briefing, 17.10.08, mostly written by H B London (photo)

More on

The New Zealand Ministry of Health won a gold EFFIE in the SOCIAL MARKETING / PUBLIC SERVICE category for website, which is part of its National Depression Initiative created to help young New Zealanders understand and recover from depression.

The aim of the website is to reduce the impact of depression on youth by encouraging them to seek help. Young people are notorious for not going to GPs or using other support services. They are difficult to engage, even with issues that interest them, let alone with an issue that they don’t understand and that still carries a social stigma.

One in seven young Kiwis will experience serious depression over the next 12 months, a condition closely linked to suicidal behaviour. is a leading edge multimedia website where musicians and celebrities shared their experiences of depression. A place where youth can learn about depression, take a self-test, listen to NZ music, talk to their peers via a message board and receive professional support via free text messaging and email support services.

Brian van den Hurk, DraftFCB General Manager, says, “With the sobering statistics for youth depression and suicide it is crucial that we help young people to deal with and recover from depression. has been created for them to get help as quickly as possible. If they can develop their skills in coping with what life throws at them, they can have more control over their future."

Details from a Scoop report

The idea that we have an obligation to society beyond the demands we ourselves wish to make of it is
becoming unfashionable. Utilitarianism – the greatest happiness (or welfare or benefit) for the greatest
number – is a philosophy now held in severe disrepute.
Individual endeavour is adulated, as is personal autonomy. Utilitarianism might deter the huge efforts, for
huge gains, of the talented entrepreneur. Thus society looks less at the welfare of the whole, and more at the welfare of the individual. And the intervention of the state is seen as less than desirable, and often less than benevolent to boot.
Meanwhile, the old sense of mutual obligation, somewhat fostered by war-time, has taken a battering. We are into understanding ourselves, into selfimprovement: improving our homes, our looks and our minds. And our view of faith is also increasingly individualistic. We choose the elements of faith that suit us – we may go to church, synagogue or mosque. Individual salvation is part of the appeal of the evangelicals. Personal salvation is the carrot held out. But the requirements our faiths put on us to consider and care for others may get less than their fair attention.
We look at ourselves, not beyond. And despite all the surveys demonstrating widespread belief in God,
despite the huge readership of religious books and the increasing attendance at evangelical churches, our
views about social solidarity, evening up the inequalities and making a difference to groups or individuals who suffer, have taken a battering.

From Unkind, risk averse and untrusting – if this is today’s society,can we change it? - the latest (Sept 2008) report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation's series on social evils.

Jim Wallis

As I speak and listen to large and diverse audiences in every part of the nation, I find a deep hunger, especially among members of the younger generation, for something worth committing one's life to.... The two great hungers of our time are the hunger for spirituality and the hunger for social justice--and the connection between the two has great power to motivate people to action. The world is especially waiting for a new social and political agenda drawn not from bickering partisan loyalties, blatant ideological bias, or corrupting special interests, but rather from our deepest moral values.

Jim Wallis

The Great Awakening

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Value of Family

Family First in NZ (which is not a political party, but an organisation focused on strengthening the state of families in NZ) has just brought out a report: The Value of Family - Fiscal Benefits of Marriage and Reducing Family Breakdown in New Zealand.

The following is quoted from the Executive Summary:

Measuring the costs of family breakdown and decreasing marriage rates raises many challenges (partly due to the paucity of empirical research on influences on family form in New Zealand). Failing to consider and debate these costs would, however, mean that we would have little chance of understanding some of the most important issues facing New Zealand’s most vulnerable families.

While divorce may on occasion help avoid negative family outcomes (such as in high confl ict situations), international research suggests that the private costs of divorce and unmarried childbearing include increased risks of poverty, mental illness, infant mortality, physical illness, juvenile delinquency and adult criminality, sexual abuse and other forms of family violence, economic hardship, substance abuse, and educational failure.

In this report emphasis is given to the effect of family breakdown and decreasing marriage rates on poverty among families with children. Family breakdown and decreasing marriage rates also lead to social costs by increasing the fiscal costs to taxpayers through increasing take-up of government programmes (e.g., the number of children and adults in need of income assistance) and through infl uencing the social problems facing communities – such as crime and poor health outcomes. Both of these
categories of taxpayer cost are considered in this report.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My God

Apparently there's been a series on NZ television called My God now for three seasons. I haven't manged to see any of them. Series one and two are now available on DVD and the third – having just finished on TVNZ - will be available from the end of October. The cost is $30 per series, with 10 programmes of 29 minutes in each DVD. Copyright has cleared so they can be used in group viewing situations if you choose.

The series covers a mix of New Zealanders and a mix of faiths. Christians get a fair look in, with Eteuati Ete and Tofiga Fepulea'l (comedians), Joy Cowley and Inky Tulloch in the first series, Bull Allen, Jo Randerson and Andrew Becroft in the second series, Llew Summers, Manuka Henare, Joanne Harvey, Bronwyn McFarlane and Andrew Johnston in the third. Tulloch and Johnston are both listed as Presbyterians. (I don't think I've missed out any other Christians participants.)

To get a copy of any of the three DVDs, you can post a $30 (NZ) cheque to
Pacific Crews Limited,
143 Dixon Street
or contact Amanda Evans for bank account details to pay direct.

Seth Godin on Power Points

As someone who's recently had to come to terms with how to put together power points, I was interested to see what Seth Godin, that guru of business and marketing and pretty much everything else, had to say on the subject. Probably as you'd expect, he isn't happy with most power point presentations, and obviously feels they've replaced ordinary everyday contact with the audience. His first 'step' is:

Don't use Powerpoint at all. Most of the time, it's not necessary. It's underkill. Powerpoint distracts you from what you really need to do... look people in the eye, tell a story, tell the truth. Do it in your own words, without artifice and with clarity. There are times Powerpoint is helpful, but choose them carefully.

He presents nine steps (I'd say bullet points, except that for him bullet points are very short) and throws out a lot of our current ideas about power pointing. Check him out.

God escapes....again!

A judge has thrown out a Nebraska politician's lawsuit against God, saying the Almighty could not be served because his home address was unlisted.
State senator, Ernie Chambers, filed the lawsuit, stating God had caused “widespread death, destruction and terrorisation of millions up millions of the Earth’s inhabitants.”

However, Judge Marion Polk said “given that…there can never be service effectuated on the name defendant, this action will be dismissed.”

Clearly some people/politicians don't have much to do. For a fictional comedy on similar lines, check out Billy Connelly in The Man Who Sued God.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Church in Decline? Think again!

One key exception, is Samuel P Huntington's book, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, one of the most widely read analyses of current global trends, which does pay serious attention to changing religious patterns. Even Huntington, though, understates the rising force of Christianity. He believes that the relative Christian share of global population will fall steeply in the new century, and that this religion will be supplanted by Islam: "In the long run...Muhammad wins out."
But far from Islam being the world's largest religion by 2020 or so, as Huntington suggests, Christianity will still have a massive lead, and will maintain its position into the foreseeable future. By 2050, there should still be about three Christians for every two Muslims worldwide. Some 34% of the world's people will then be Christian, roughly what the figure was at the height of European world hegemony in 1900.
Huntington's analysis of the evidnece is misguided in one crucial respect. While he rightly notes the phenomenal rates of population growth in Muslim countries, he ignores the fact that similar or even higher rates are also found in already populous Christian countries, above all in Africa. Alongside the Muslim efflorescence he rightly foresees, there will also be a Christian population explosion, often in the same or adjacent countries. If we look at the nations with the fastest popoulation growth and the youngest populations, they are evenly distributed between Christian and Muslim dominated societies.

From The Next Christendom; the coming of Global Christianity, by Philip Jenkins. age 5. Jenkins has written several books along similar lines, showing that Christianity is in anything but decline, even in Europe, where supposedly it's at death's door.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Making the heart sing

Every so often a concert or musical performance seems to lift off the earth and touch heaven. That's what happened on Sept 19th, 2008 at a concert. Mark Gavreau Judge was there; the following paragraphs are extracts from his longer article.

On Friday, September 19, I witnessed one of the most miraculous things I've ever seen on a stage. I use that adjective with purpose; the only way to describe what happened is with the language of religion.

After almost three hours, it was time for a curtain call—one last bow to end the evening. As Spitzer reintroduced everyone, White's jazz band played "When the Saints Go Marching In." That's when something happened.

The audience at the Strathmore rose to its feet to acknowledge the fellowship winners—it seemed at the time like one last blast of applause before the exit. But as they—we—clapped in time to "When the Saints Go Marching In," the performers onstage began to dance. Together. It started when Jelon Vieira's dancers did cartwheels in front of the jazz band. Suddenly the Oneida Hymn Singers, a group of mostly elderly men and women, were dancing with the capoeiras. Then Sue Parks' backing drummers appeared, dancing with anyone they saw. Mac Wiseman's band played along, as did the Ethiopian choir. The jazz band, sensing something in the air, got louder, and kept playing. And playing. And playing. Onstage, the performers formed a conga line, led by one of the jazz musicians, then a circle, each person taking his or her turn in the center. The invisible line between performers and audience evaporated. It had turned into one big party—or revival meeting.

Read the rest here.

Monday, October 13, 2008


Presbyopia is a noun, and means the inability of the eye to focus sharply on nearby objects, resulting from loss of elasticity of the crystalline lens with advancing age.
[New Latin : Greek presbus, old man; + -opia.]

What has this got to do with the Presbyterian Mission Resource site? It just struck us as amusing that the word relates to a lessening of our eyesight (insight?) as we get older. It's common to all people, not just those who have trouble with their eyes.

However, Presbyterian as a word doesn't have the same roots. The 'Presby' bit of it isn't derived from 'old man' (as is Presbyopia) but from a Greek word, presbyterion, which was used by the church to mean elders long before the Presbyterians themselves took it up.

In a pamphlet on the subject of Presbyopia put out by the NZ Association of Optometrists, we're told that normal healthy young eyes have a wide range of focus, and the lens are very flexible. As we get older, the lens of the eye thickens and slowly loses its flexibility.

Does this have any connection with Christians (not just Presbyterians) as they get older? Do they lose their focus and their flexibility? It's a question we older Christians need to keep asking: have I lost my focus on Jesus and his mission to the world? Am I no longer as flexible as I was when it comes to doing what He asks?

Photo courtesy of Bex Shaw from her Eyesight series.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

The State of the Art

Technorati was one of the early birds in the blogging scene, and they've managed to outstay many other competitors. Their status is such, now, that they were able to produce a major report on blogging globally, based on a substantial survey amongst bloggers in the US, Europe and Asia. If you have time to read the stats, there are some interesting points. Here's the introduction.

Welcome to Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere 2008 report, which will be released in five consecutive daily segments. Since 2004, our annual study has unearthed and analyzed the trends and themes of blogging, but for the 2008 study, we resolved to go beyond the numbers of the Technorati Index to deliver even deeper insights into the blogging mind. For the first time, we surveyed bloggers directly about the role of blogging in their lives, the tools, time, and resources used to produce their blogs, and how blogging has impacted them personally, professionally, and financially. Our bloggers were generous with their thoughts and insights. Thanks to all of the bloggers who took the time to respond to our survey.

Just a few of the many intriguing stats:

Who are the global bloggers?

  • Two-thirds are male
  • 50% are 18-34 (so 50% are over 34 - in fact, age isn't necessarily a restriction in the blogging world)
  • More affluent and educated than the general population
    • 70% have college degrees
    • Four in ten have an annual household income of $75K+
    • One in four have an annual household income of $100K+
  • 44% are parents
  • The survey was only administered in English, but Technorati heard from bloggers on six continents (although they're sure someone is blogging from Antarctica). They had respondents from 66 countries, who publish blogs in 20 different languages.
  • 43% of blogger respondents live in the U.S.
  • 72% publish their blog in English (the survey was only provided in English, so it may have excluded a large number of Asian bloggers)

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

How do YOU read the Bible?

In a talk at this year's 'Catalyst' Scot McKnight outlined five flawed ways many people read the Bible. I'll only include the headings and a brief note; the fuller version can be read here.

The Morsels of Law Approach: searching the Bible for all the commandments, and then only obeying those that suit.
The Morsels of Blessings Approach: doing the same thing with the blessings - although probably tending to believe more of the blessings than the commandments.
The Rorschach Approach: reading the book from your own political/psychological/whatever perspective.
The Systematic Theology Approach: pulling all the relevant bits together into an organised whole, but leaving out all the 'other' bits.
The Maestro Approach: in which one 'master' book of the Bible is taken as the focus for all other books.

McKnight's says:
These five approaches are all very common, and all very flawed. We must read the Bible as a story. But it’s not just a story that we read, it is a story that we live. “We must let the Bible’s story become our story,” he said, “so that it becomes us, and we become it.”

Couple of quotes

Show me a dreamer and I’ll show you one of God’s heartbeats for the human race.

- Joan Chittister

Teaching a child to care for a goldfish — learning about its needs, respecting its otherness, delighting in its shimmering colors and swimming skills — is a better education in caring than is a lecture on global warming.

Sallie McFague

Super, Natural Christians

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Randall Prior

The keynote speaker at this year's Presbyterian General Assembly (in Wellington, New Zealand) was Randall Prior. Randall focuses a good deal on Gospel and Culture, on Church and the Future. In his addresses to the PCANZ, he spoke specifically about the Future of the Church. Although his talk had some Australian focuses, it was very applicable to the New Zealand scene (and in fact, to a much wider scene). You can download the talks here, or obtain them as audio files.

In one of the footnotes to his second talk, he notes: In my view there is still some considerable ‘dying’ of the present form of the church yet to take place. It is not a simple matter to anticipate a future shape of the church but the indications are that the church’s place in Australian [for Australian read, New Zealand, USA, UK - anywhere else where institutional churches are struggling] society will be:
as one faith group in a society of several faiths and religions;
the church will be marginal to the main
interests and activities of our society;
there will be a diversity of forms and styles of church life;
congregations may be
increasingly dependent on lay leadership;
there may be little interest among church people in denominational loyalty;
there will be fewer resources to maintain the structures and activities and buildings which we have known in the past; for some church communities, there may be only a loose connection with buildings.

It would probably be unwise to takes these notes alone, without reading the rest of the talk, particularly because Prior is talking of the Future of the Church, not its death.

Monday, October 06, 2008

More Commandments for Bloggers

Everyone's getting in on the act, it seems. Tall Skinny Kiwi points to an older set of Ten Commandments for Bloggers - they were posted in 2005 - that were written by Phil on A Thinkhammer Blog. These have a less 'religious' approach, though they're still based on blogging with integrity.

Ben at Faith and Theology offers his own set of Commandments. These ones tend to focus on not seeing yourself as more important than you are (you're only a blogger, you know, not God, the Pope, a church service or a variety of authoritative other voices).

The Commandments have made some news: The Times (of London)' religious editor wrote a piece on them, as did The Telegraph.

All these posts seem to be saying: if you're a blogger, be humble!

Afraid of the Holy Spirit?

Mark Driscoll (looking slightly worn out in the photo) spoke to a bunch of Anglicans in Australia recently. He listed 18 obstacles to evangelism in Australia - as he saw it. One of them stood out to me:

8. Many of you are afraid of the Holy Spirit.
You don't know what to do with Him, so the trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible. You are so reactionary to pentecostalism that you do not have a robust theology of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit calls people into ministry. He also empowers people for ministry. You don't have to be charismatic but you should be a little charismatic, enough at least to worship God with more than just all of your mind. The word charismatic here means prosperity, excessive, bizarre. In London, it means you're not a liberal. Don't get hung up on all the terminology. Do you love the Holy Spirit? Jesus says the Holy Spirit is a ‘He' and not an ‘it'." Ministry cannot be done apart from the Holy Spirit - I think that is in part leading to the lack of entrepreneurialism and innovation, because if it's not already done and written down, you're suspicious of it.

I don't think the Aussie Anglicans are alone in being afraid of the Spirit. Even Pentecostal churches in NZ don't seem to have quite the life they had back in the 70s and 80s, when there seemed to be a real Holy Spirit move.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Give up those extra tax dollars

New Zealand's Government tax cuts came into effect October 1st. Most people will see it as a few more dollars in their pocket. Some will be a bit wiser and bank the extra. Even though for many it's not a lot of money per week, the $12 to $28 a week individuals save on their tax bill can make a real difference - especially for those who can get along without it.

A simple suggestion has come from the Anglican Social Justice Committee: - give those extra dollars up!

By giving them up to those who do need it, and to those working to make a real difference, you can take an active part in changing our nation and our world into more of the kind of place we, and our children, might like.

The Give It Up! site has the look of a newspaper about, but there are plenty of links to check out, and plenty of ideas of ways to put that extra cash to good use. (Furthermore, the more you give away the more the Inland Revenue will give you back next year - it's one big merry-go-round!)

Bloggers' Ten Commandments

Godblogs, a gathering held by the Evangelical Alliance on 23 September, was designed to give Christian bloggers an opportunity to network face-to-face and think through a Christian approach to blogging. The group, aged from 18 to 87, reflected on how to honour God with their blogs and in their relationships online.
One thing some of the group produced was an updated (and not particularly tongue-in-cheek) version of the Ten Commandments for bloggers. You can see the full list here.

More about the meeting, and the making of the Commandments, here.

Programs don't work?

Steve Sjogren writes about his view that outreach programs don't work:
Take, for example, the experiment that has been going on across the American Church landscape for the past 20 years or so—the Seeker Sensitive approach. It basically boils down to being a program approach to doing church. No one who has seriously attempted to be a “Seeker Church” hasn’t taken a trek to one or more of the Seeker Meccas in the U.S. to see how they do what they do. When going to those places, there is no shortage of very well-executed, well-marketed, snappy videos, DVDs and a whole array of books that spell out precisely how to “do” the Seeker Sensitive thing.
The only problem is that after 20 years of doing this program—and it’s fair that we start looking at the fruit of this thing now—it hasn’t produced much fruit.

The rest of this article is on the Outreach site. But is what he's proposing just another program?

Wellness and overwork

I was alerted to the following quote by . It comes from an article on the site called It was written by Neil Richardson.

"Finally, a more personal comment is about re-connecting with our deepest selves. In the first year of my first circuit appointment I had to take some time off through overwork, and I guess most of us battle with diaries which are too crowded for our own good. The New Testament encourages us to distinguish those pressures we are under which come either from inside ourselves or from other people, and those pressures which simply go with the territory of being a disciple and a presbyter or deacon in the Church of God. About those pressures the New Testament is extraordinarily positive; ‘in all these things, we are more than conquerors’ (Romans 8.37). But we need to distinguish the pressures which are inseparable from our vocation from those which are not. So I end with part of a letter written by Bernard of Clairvaux:

‘How long can you be like a spirit that goes out and never comes home again? How long can you give everyone else your attention – but not give yourself any? Yes, if people treat themselves badly, how can they be good for anyone else? So think on this: give yourself some space. I’m not saying, Do that all the time. I’m not saying, Do it often. But I am saying Keep on doing it, again and again. Be there for yourself, in the same way that you are available to everyone else – or at least be there for yourself when everyone else has gone’. (Quoted in Seeing Christ in Others, ed. Geoffrey Duncan, Canterbury Press 2002, p.184).

Incidentally, this blog has suffered a little from lack of posts over the last couple of weeks due to preparations for the Presbyterian General Assembly, which took place from the 2nd Oct till today (the 6th). For those interested in catching up with what's been happening there, you can read the daily reports on the PCANZ Presbyterian website.