Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Finding a way home

I've snaffled the following snippet from the Prodigal Kiwi blog - hope they won't mind. (It was written back in August last year.) It comes from a talk (?) by Dave Tomlinson, and may in fact also appear in his recent book, Re-enchanting Christianity, which hadn't been published at the time the PK blog wrote their post (but has been now).

“Every day people are straying away from the church and going back to God.”
Lenny Bruce

“…People are no less spiritual today than they were in the past, but they are a lot less religious. A disconnect has occurred between religion and spirituality: people no longer see religion or church as the natural setting in which to explore or express their spiritual aspirations. So they are drifting away from churches in droves. However they are not doing so because they no longer believe in God, or because they have no spiritual hunger, but because in their experience church is neither offering a faith they can believe in, nor an existential spirituality that can excite or satisfy the deeper yearnings of the soul. Many long to reconnect with the sacred mystery of life, to discover their place in the cosmos, but they don’t see church or religion as a way of achieving this…I see no future in the twenty-first century for expressions of Christianity that are not Spirited. Our world longs for numinosity: for a sense of awe and mystery, for sacredness, spirituality and enchantment, for something ‘more’ than the purely rational and cerebral. If the church fails to engage with, and cater to, this longing, it has no real future…”

Monday, March 30, 2009

Thinking outside the Web

We often think that the Internet is pretty much a Western/Asian system, but in fact there are huge opportunities for digital ministry in the non-western world. 1.5 billion people now use the Web, and 4 billion own a mobile phone, the majority of them outside the West (apparently there are more mobile phone users in Africa than in the US). And with mobile phones becoming increasingly an adjunct of the Net, the potential is enormous.
A relatively new blog called Digital Evangelism Issues (DEI, for short - get it?) has appeared on the scene, with its emphasis being on exactly what the name implies. It's run by a group whose focus is Internet Evangelism Day (IED, for those who missed the mirror image) and their site focuses on encouraging people to use the Internet for evangelism. It helpfully supplies an abundance of material.

I noted on another blog a couple of days ago that there's an increasing assumption that everyone has access to the Net - businesses offer specials online, cheap air fares only appear in many cases online, online banking is being regarded by many banks as the 'norm,' and so on. However, in a Passing Notes opinion piece in the Otago Daily Times last Saturday, it was pointed out that many people in the Saga Generation (those over 55 - my description, not his) don't regularly have access to the Net, and to a degree are becoming cut off from the Internet-based trend. We need to avoid assuming that everyone is Wired.


I haven't been able to confirm the following bit of information - it came to me via a prayer letter - so would be interested to hear from anyone who can tell me more - especially who the 10 Cabinet Ministers are who attend church.

It was tremendously encouraging last Friday, at Prayer @ Parliament, to hear the MP who sponsored the evening (and later confirmed by a former MP) that 10 of our 20 Cabinet Ministers attend church each week if they possibly can. Please pray for all Cabinet Ministers and especially for those who seek to follow after the Lord. Pray that their faith will grow and be shown in their lives and Ministries.

It seems that the meeting may have taken place at
Parliament Grand Hall on the 20th March. Christians from all over Wellington got together to pray for the Government, the city and the nation.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The Saga Generation

In line with some of my recent comments about older people in the church, I thought the following new(ish) booklet from Grove Books was of interest. It came out in August last year.
The title is, Reaching the Saga Generation, and for those who, like me, hadn't caught up with the term, 'saga', it apparently means older people, those from 55 years and upwards.

The blurb is as follows:
With the baby boomer generation of post-war Britain came the first post-modern values and new attitudes. Forty years on, these ‘first teenagers’ are becoming known as the ‘Saga generation.’

Ironically, they are being largely forgotten by many churches in the desire to reach the new younger generations. This study suggests it is time look again at this group and radically proclaim ‘This church needs more older people!’

In an article entitle, What Church for the Saga Generation? - Cultural Shifts in Younger Old, Michael Collyer gives us some more information on defining 'age.'

Defining old age is no longer an easy task, as the age range can span half a century, from 50 to 105.
....it is helpful to consider three distinctive cohort groups which I set out below.
•Pre-Seniors – 55-65 age group working, active and independent
•Seniors – 65-80 age group retired, active, mostly independent
•Elderly frail – 80 years and over mostly dependent and living alone

The SAGA generation includes both pre-seniors and seniors. The divide between this group and the now elderly frail before them is not merely a generational one; there are significant cultural differences...The causes of these differences are many and varied.

Collyer also notes:
The number of people aged 65 and over has increased by 50 per cent since 1960, from 6 million then to 9 million now and is set to grow rapidly to reach 12.5 million by 2020 as the baby boomers reach retirement.

So there you have it. Watch out for those seniors. They're taking over the world.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Less is more

Aim lower
Think smaller
Give up
Go have a cup of coffee.

Do these statements strike you as the best approaches to evanglising those who haven't heard of Christ? In the smart little video below, you'll find that each of these statements makes sense...in context.

I can't tell you who made the video, or where it comes from, but it's certainly an effective piece of work. It's also found under a different title: The World Congress on how not to mess up the Great Commission too much.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

David Fitch

I've recently begun to pick up on David Fitch's Reclaiming the Mission site. David doesn't write every day, by any means, but when he does write, it's worth reading.
He makes an interesting statement in his latest post that Chicago, in spite of having some of the biggest mega-churches in the States, is actually the least churched city in the States, something even Dave finds hard to believe. Believe it.
At the end of this particular post he tells us he'll be running a Fuller DMin program soon. He says: We are going to first dissect Christendom/post Christendom assumptions, modern-postmodern assumptions, and what constitutes the practices of being His Body in the world. Then we are going to dissect and analyze some church planting manuals.
These include one from Tim Keller's church in Manhatten and Mark Driscoll's Acts 29 materials. David has some other manuals on this list (see the course details) and the course reading alone comprises some 3,000 pages. Even without going to the course, you'd learn a huge amount from the reading alone...

We can't resist these Top Ten lists!

One of the intriguing things we (the congregation of Dunedin City Baptist) learned in our last Sunday at the Teachers' College auditorium was that sermons on the church's website are downloaded in all sorts of places around the world. Some of those downloading will be ex-DCBC people, but by no means all.
So it was interesting to find on Cynthia Ware's Digital Sanctuary blog (a blog that focuses on innovative use of technology in the church scene), that downloading sermons came second on the list of top ten things people look for on a church website - and also appears in another form as the fourth item. Here's the whole list.

1. Find service information (times, directions, etc).
2. Listen to/download Sermons (audio recordings).
3. Learn about the church’s Beliefs/Mission/Values
4. Connect with other members.
5. Read/download Sermons (text transcripts).
6. Join and/or interact with a home/bible study group.
7. View weekly information/calendar/news/events.
8. Find serving opportunities at the church.
9. Post prayer requests or needs.
10. Read articles or other content.

Church of the Saviour

The Church of the Saviour in Washington has always been unconventional (or maybe that should read: real). Now with the retirement of its long-time leader, (he's only 91), the church is facing another change in its journey.
It's never been into 'big' church, and has split into smaller groups before. Even at the last sermon, there were only 70 people attending. The rest of the 'church' are elsewhere, doing church, or being active in the community in health, AIDs, housing, ministry to athletes, homelessness.
The Church has been well-known for its activist Christianity for decades, and continues in this vein. With a major transition in the retirement of Gordon Cosby, there is some concern that things will go in a different direction.

Michelle Boorstein, in The Washington Post, has written a longish and entirely sympathetic article on the Church and its current transition.

The photo shows the church building, as unconventional as everything else about the place.

The Unlikely Disciple

Karen Swallow Prior writes in a recent Books and Culture article about a book that's a kind of follow-up to A. J. Jacobs' The Year of Living Biblically, in which the author tried to follow the Old Testament laws to the letter.

Prior begins her article:

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University isn't the book its author, Kevin Roose, thought it would be. It's certainly not the book he pitched to his publisher as a left hook in the ongoing fisticuffs between secularists and believers. And it's not the book I anticipated when I first heard rumors among students at Liberty University, where I teach, that a young man from Brown University had come here and spent a semester undercover in order to write an exposé on command central for one side in America's culture wars.

It's not the book it was supposed to be because, as it turns out, Liberty University wasn't what it was supposed to be.

You can read the rest of the article here.


When God acts in culture, he uses both the powerful and the powerless alongside one another rather than using one against the other. To mobilize the powerless against the powerful would be revolution; to mobilize the powerful against the powerless would simply confirm "the way of the world." But to bring them into partnership is the true sign of God's paradoxical and graceful intervention into the human story.

Andy Crouch
Culture Making

Check out a shortish review of this book in an earlier post.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Reading the Numbers Rightly

On the Albran Rountable blog, Wayne Floyd writes: Americans are notorious for trying to quantify everything; we take our numbers very religiously. [I think, New Zealanders are not much different]

Clergy Voices: Findings from the 2008 Mainline Protestant Clergy Voices Survey” is one recent and provocative encyclopedia of statistics profiling the ordained leadership of current Mainline Protestants. A colleague just plopped the hefty 45 page report on my desk, and I’ll resist commenting on it until I’ve actually read it!

Even then, it’s not easy to decide the significance of the quantitative ‘facts’ we’ve read.

Floyd then goes on to look at the problems with numbers - and how we read them. For example, did the United Church of Christ really triple in size between 1990 and 2001, and then halve again before 2008 - or were the questions asked to learn these figures completely different?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

The "anti-smacking" law

Family First reports: Almost two years after the passing of the controversial anti-smacking law, more than 80% of NZ’ers still want the law changed and 77% say that the law won’t have any effect on our unacceptable child abuse rate.

These are the key finding of research commissioned by Family First NZ, following on from similar research in 2007 and 2008. The Curia Market Research poll surveyed 1,000 people, and also found huge confusion over the legal effect of the law.

The key findings are:

83% say the law should be changed – only 13% say to keep it as is
77% says the law won’t help reduce the rate of child abuse in NZ
Less than one third of respondents actually understand the law

Here are some graphs provided by Family First to show these results:

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bowling Alone, Tribes and Facebook

Robert Putnam, in his book, Bowling Alone, claimed that Generation X people were disinclined to join community organisations. He said, ‘social capital has eroded steadily and sometimes dramatically over the past two generations.’

In an article entitled, Social Tribes: from Bowling Alone to Facebook, Tamara J. Erickson disagrees - at least in part. She says this generation is very closely tied to long-standing friendships, rather than becoming involved in social groups where friends have to be made. These are sometimes called ‘urban tribes. In fact, ‘tribes’ is the in-word (Seth Godin has written a book based on it).
So what about Facebook, Erickson asks? She has some interesting stats. You may not be asked to join as a ‘friend’ of one of your children, but the fastest growing demographic on Facebook is the 35-54 year olds, with a 276.4% growth rate. Not far behind is the 55 and over demographic with a 194.3% growth rate.

From my small experience of Facebook in NZ, I would say this is happening here too.

Yet again there's an opportunity for the church to be innovative.

A Dark Knight of the Soul?

Christian Post reports that a group of youth pastors are emulating fight scenes in The Dark Knight and Quantum of Solace (the latest James Bond blockbuster) to draw in students. Batman and Bond employ the Keysi fighting method based on quick, instinctive movements to neutralize opponents. Keysi, which is technically not a martial art, has grown in popularity since the films.

Jeff McKissack, a Keysi instructor, is targeting churches and youth group leaders by offering to teach self-defense from a faith based perspective. The youth pastors are excited. They've been searching for an alternative since the karate outreaches featuring Ralph Macchio fell out of favor.

It would be interesting to know what youth pastors in New Zealand think of this. The comments that follow this report on Christian Post are surprisingly supportive, and, of course, use all sorts of Scripture verses to back them up.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Play and Theology

I was alerted to this quote by Robert Jenson on the Inhabitatio Dei blog, which is run by Halden Doerge. Jenson is coming to Dunedin as the University of Otago’s Burns Lecturer, and will lead a half-day seminar at the Knox Centre on the subject of the Eucharistic Church being a Missional Church on the 13th March, 2009.

Play is meaningful action that does not need to seek its meaning in some achievement exterior to itself. It is what we do because we do not have to. It is action to which the future opens as gift rather than as burden. The life of the Trinity is sheer play. As play with the Trinity, liturgy is anticipation of life in the Fulfillment–the closest we get to freedom. It must be admitted that liturgy-as-play is a rather rare occurrence in America’s recognized churches.

Robert W. Jenson, Story and Promise: A Brief Theology of the Gospel about Jesus (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1973) pg 184.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Reason for God

I've recently finished reading Timothy Keller's book, The Reason for God: belief in an age of scepticism, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It's an original approach to apologetics, and as soon as I can find a copy I can afford, I'll buy it. (It's only available in hardcover at present.)
Surprisingly, my local library had a copy of it, for which I was very grateful. In fact, over the last number of years they've accumulated quite a store of good books in the Christian area. Obviously someone on their staff has realised that they have a lot of Christian readers amongst their 'customers.'
If you want a bit of an introduction to Keller's book (apart from the link already given) you can check out the site dedicated to the book. It has a video of Keller talking about his book on it as well.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Wendell Berry

In an essay from 1993 entitled, Christianity and the Survival of Creation, author Wendell Berry writes

I have been talking, of course, about a dualism that manifests itself in several ways; it is a cleavage, a radical discontinuity, between Creator and creature, spirit and matter, religion and nature, religion and economy, worship and work, etc. This dualism, I think is the most destructive disease that afflicts us. In its best known, its most dangerous, and perhaps its fundamental version, it is the dualism of body and soul. This is an issue as difficult as it is important, and so to deal with it we should start at the beginning.

The crucial test is probably Genesis 2:7, which gives the process by which Adam was created: "the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life: and man became a living soul." My mind, like most people's, has been deeply influenced by dualism, and I can see how dualistic minds deal with this verse. They conclude that the formula for man-making is: man = body + soul. But that conclusion cannot be derived, except by violence, from Genesis 2:7, which is not dualistic. The formula given in Genesis is not man = body + soul; the formula there is soul = dust + breath. According to this verse, God did not make a body and put a soul into it, like a letter into an envelope. He formed man of dust; by breathing his breath into it, he made the dust live. Insofar as it lived, it was a soul. The dust, formed as man and made to live, did not embody a soul; it became a soul. "Soul" here refers to the whole creature. Humanity is thus presented to us, in Adam, not as a creature of two discrete parts temporarily glued together, but as a single mystery.

Berry has more to say about God's economy as opposed to economics, about Christianity's willingness to be part of the destructive forces of the world, about its culpability in not seeing this world as Holy, and about a number of other related issues. It isn't an essay that will encourage most of us in the way we presently conduct our lives; that's not Berry's intention. His aim is to give such breadth to our view of Creation and our part in it that we'll deeply reconsider how we behave within this world.

And just to give you a little more taste of Berry's writing, here's a quote from the title essay of his book, Sex, Economy, Freedom & Community: Eight Essays. It was published in 1998.

"If you destroy the ideal of the "gentle man" and remove from men all expectations of courtesy and consideration toward women and children, you have prepared the way for an epidemic of rape and abuse. If you depreciate the sanctity and solemnity of marriage, not just as a bond between two people, but as a bond between those two people and their forebears, their children, and their neighbors, then you have prepared the way for an epidemic of divorce, child neglect, community ruin, and loneliness. If you destroy the economies of household and community, then you destroy the bonds of mutual usefulness and practical dependence without which the other bonds will not hold."

That Mosaic Generation

The Barna Group has recently published the results of their ongoing research into the biblical worldviews of young American adults - the Mosaics, as the Barna Group calls them.
Though the results have not changed substantially for better or worse since the last poll four years ago, they are not particularly encouraging amongst the 'born-again' component of the survey, who appear to be almost as prone to believing what they prefer to believe as the non-born-again component.

The Barna Group notes:

Varying numbers of Americans embrace the different aspects of biblical worldview thinking. The survey found that:

  • One-third of all adults (34%) believe that moral truth is absolute and unaffected by the circumstances. Slightly less than half of the born again adults (46%) believe in absolute moral truth.
  • Half of all adults firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches. That proportion includes the four-fifths of born again adults (79%) who concur.
  • Just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force. Even a minority of born again adults (40%) adopt that perspective.
  • Similarly, only one-quarter of adults (28%) believe that it is impossible for someone to earn their way into Heaven through good behavior. Not quite half of all born again Christians (47%) strongly reject the notion of earning salvation through their deeds.
  • A minority of American adults (40%) are persuaded that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life while He was on earth. Slightly less than two-thirds of the born again segment (62%) strongly believes that He was sinless.
  • Seven out of ten adults (70%) say that God is the all-powerful, all-knowing creator of the universe who still rules it today. That includes the 93% of born again adults who hold that conviction.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Megachurch and Monastery

The Church of the Open Door is a megachurch in Minnesota with some 3,000 people attending weekly. In recent years they've discovered that facets of monasticism are making a great difference to the way the church functions, and the way in which members of the congregation view their lives as Christians.

At the end of his article, Keith Meyer details a number of ways in which the core members of the church function together. The first of these is:

Living in Jesus.
We will have regular habits of "being with Jesus" for transformation into Trinitarian life.
-Slowing our lives down together to eliminate hurry.
-Paying attention to God together, all of the time.
-Confessing our sins to one another in safe groups.
-Memorizing and meditating together on longer, transformative passages of scripture.
-Interceding for each other, our community, and our world in prayer together.
-Mentoring and being mentored across generational, ethnic, class, and gender lines.

What is also interesting in the article is that the way in which members have acted out some of these spiritual disciplines has caused other members to react against them.

So your church is dying?

Here's part of what Steve Taylor suggests on his sustain-if-able kiwi blog if it seems as if your church is dying:

Keep meeting at 10:30 am Sunday. Keep the doors open. Keep the coffee fresh. Keep the muffins warm. But stop the sermons and stop the singing. Take all that energy and reclaim the time for mission. Read a creed. Dwell in Luke 10:1-12. Initiate some listening experiments. Share stories. Foray into the community for simple acts of service. Return to share stories. Re-read a creed. Re-dwell in Luke 10:1-12. Initiate some more listening experiments. Share stories. Foray into the community for further acts of service.

You can read the rest of the post here.

Skye Jethani's new book, The Divine Commodity, is now out and about (in the States, at least). There's a not-very-long review in a post on the signs of life blog, written by the blog owner, David Swanson.

He makes the following comment at one point, and quotes from the book:

It is the description of an alternative to consumer Christianity that is most commendable. In a chapter about the tendency to place institutions before relationships Skye writes,

What may be needed is a fundamental rethinking of the church within the minds of the members, cultivating the imagination to conceive of the church as a relational community rather than an institutional organization. Beginning on the smallest end of the scale, this means relearning the lost art of friendship.

Swanson notes elsewhere:

The Divine Commodity
is organized into nine chapters, each which observe an aspect of consumerism that has infiltrated the church. Filled with stories, cultural artifacts, and Biblical reflection these observations are easily connected to the reader’s own context.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Transmitting faith

The early church had to reject culturally irrelevant traditions in order to transmit the faith across cultures.

Some of us are keenly aware of the tensions that arise while transmitting the faith. A Korean congregation must decide how to reach the second and third generation who mostly speak English. A denomination that baptizes infants is faced with Hispanic congregations who embrace believer’s baptism. A mostly White suburban church wonders how to respond to new minority residents who’ve been displaced from the city by gentrification. Paul’s rejection of cultural monopoly seems downright impractical in these situations. Wouldn’t it be simpler for new converts, new immigrants, and new generations to adapt to our established traditions?

So asks David Swanson in a post entitled Urban Exile: Whose History?

Shane Hipps responds

Just to keep you up to date with an ongoing conversation on virtual community that we began several posts ago, in which Shane Hipps said in a videoed interview (shown on the Out of Ur blog) that he didn't think virtual communities were real communities. This was responded to by Scot McKnight a few days later, and since then Hipps has replied, trying to expand on his video interview, in which, rightly, he said he was struggling to get across something for which he only had a few minutes and little preparation.
As he says in the most recent post: First, my language in the video was less nuanced than it might have been in written form. That is my tendency in a spontaneous oral interview. I will try to be more precise here.
As always the comments are full of insights, such as the following from Phil someone:
We are getting so far from the truth that I am finding it hard to believe what I am reading. The Father did not send a book, or a CD, or an article, or a music album, or a recorded sermon: He sent a Person, His Son, and said, "As the Father sent Me, into the world as a person, even so in the same way I am sending you." Paul echoes this: "You know what kind of MEN we proved to be among you." God COMMANDS us to not forsake the assembling of ourselves--not our blog posts or websites or Facebook locations--but ourselves TOGETHER. Church happens with people, together, in His name, where He agrees to come too! When will we get it???

Technology and the Generation Gap

"Technology is fast becoming the latest driving force behind what is often called the 'generation gap,'" reports The Barna Group in its latest update. "Technology is shaping different experiences and expectations among generations."

My comment: I think when Barna talks about generations here, he isn't meaning parents and children, but successive groups of young people who may not be far apart in age. (My comments continue in italics below.)

While all generations benefit from the advances in technology, Barna found that "each successive generation is adopting and using technology at a significantly greater pace than their predecessors." The reliance on digital tools is exponentially greater among those under age 25. Another characteristic of the younger generations is what Barna calls "gadget lust" — 22 percent say they consider owning the latest technology to be a very high priority in life, compared to 9 percent of those over the age of 25.

Amongst the conclusions the researchers made are:

  • Every age segment is becoming dependent on the Internet. (And that presumably includes seniors - over 60s)
  • The nation's youngest adults (called Mosaics) are light-years ahead in their personal integration of these technologies. Supposedly the Barna group coined the term Mosaics; I'm not sure that it's used widely outside their perspective.
  • All Americans (we could replace 'Americans' with 'New Zealanders') are increasingly dependent on new digital technologies to acquire entertainment, products, content, information and stimulation. All might be rather overstating the case; there are presumably a lot of people who don't have access to all technology.
  • Churches have to work hard to keep pace with the way people access and use content, while also instructing churchgoers on the potency of electronic tools and techniques. Only a minority of churchgoing Mosaics and Busters are accessing their congregation's podcasts and Web sites. The reasons for this will be many and various: check out Lynne Baab's book, Reaching Out in a Networked World for more on this subject.
  • Many of the same age-old questions about human development and human flourishing are taking on a new dimension. How does technology help or hinder communication and relationships between generations? How does it impact social skills, reading skills, writing skills, etc.? How will it affect tomorrow's workforce? [Barna] - And we might ask, how will affect the way people preach, or don't preach, in the future?
Thanks to the Pastors' Weekly Briefing for the original material.

God's view of religion

From Charles Slagle's book, From the Father's Heart, page 76. God writing, with a degree of tongue-in-cheek, to his son, Charles.

Believe it or not, I too find religion boring - extremely boring. In fact, I often find it annoying. Has it occurred to you that I might be interested in many other subjects? I AM. My range of interest just might be even wider than yours!

I like various sports, arts, writing, music - and jokes. And although some would be shocked to hear it, I enjoy theatre and dancing immensely. And why not? I AM the Inventor, if you recall. I also happen to be very fond of animals. Or haven't you noticed? Oh, yes, I AM an incurable bird watcher and sparrows are some of My favourites. Geography and astronomy never cease to interest Me, and I also delight in chemistry and micro-biology. No doubt you have observed this.

Yet, like yourself, I AM repelled by meaningless rituals and routines. The realm of organised religion is very dull and drab, I think. Its goals and interests are mostly unrelated to Mine. If I attend a religious event, I do so strictly from a sense of duty - you can be sure of that. I make it a policy to attend only if I AM invited, so, as you surmise, I rarely go at all. By that I mean My heart is not in it. In one sense it would be impossible for Me not to be there. Perhaps that is what might be called one of the less fortunate aspects of being omnipresent?

We have more in common than you think! I find flowery speeches a bore, tradition tedious and I hate religiosity. But I do love people. That is why I can't just simply give up on the Church. But isn't that the way love is? Love doesn't have an 'off and on' switch. At least, My kind never does.

Besides, when I think of the Church I think of My family. In My view, the religious rat race is a universe removed from what the Church is really about.

Drinking in NZ

The Maxim Institute notes:
The Law Commission has released further detail of its review of alcohol laws and the associated controls. Looking at issues like "the minimum drinking and purchase ages," "drinking hours," "advertising" and "the number and/or type of liquor outlets," the review plans to report by 2010. "The central issue for the ... project is whether the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of liberality and the availability of alcoholic drinks, and if so, what measures can be adopted to ... limit the harm that it causes." A process of public consultation is also planned, aimed at involving the public and community groups in a sensible and prudent approach to the alcohol law.

See more on this from the NZ Herald.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

And another area for innovation in the church

An increasing number of older New Zealanders past retiring age are continuing to work, many of them in part-time roles.

A recent report from Statistics NZ shows that the number of people aged 65 years and over in the workforce rose 278% between 1986 and 2006 – from 22,000 to 82,000 driven by such factors as skills shortages, increased life expectancy, more part-time opportunities, the growth of the service industry and ... a buoyant economy.

Although this trend may not survive the current downturn it put us second only to Japan for “elder” labour participation in OECD countries – in 2006, one in six older New Zealanders remained in the workforce with 66% of the women and 43% of the men holding part-time jobs.

slightly amended from the NZIM Managers’ Update, March 2009

Again, where what implications does this have for churches and their attitudes to older people?

How will churches react?

How will your church react?

Nearly one fifth of New Zealanders in employment fear they may lose their jobs this year and half of those worry they may not quickly find another. That was the outcome of a survey commissioned by the NZ Business Council for Sustainable Development that polled 2852 respondents online and found the worry about job loss was greatest amongst those in low-paid jobs and in hard-hit areas like construction,
transport and storage, and forestry/agriculture. Those feeling most secure are farm owners and managers, followed by police, nurses, teachers, service workers and
public servants.
By age, those most worried about their future work prospects are in the 25-34 and 55-64 age groups.

from the NZIM Managers’ Update, March 2009

Christians under persecution

The following comes from an article in which the top ten countries persecuting Christians are listed:

For the seventh year in a row, North Korea ranked number one on Open Doors annual World Watch List for 2009. Following North Korea in the top ten spots are Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Maldives, Yemen, Laos, Eritrea and Uzbekistan, respectively.

The border between China and North Korea is almost closed; everything and everyone going in and out of North Korea are monitored closely. Executions are held in secret. The number of people sentenced to a labor camp or in prison has increased compared to last year. North Korea is closing its doors and Christians are persecuted constantly. Genuine religious freedom doesn’t exist at all; and no one is allowed to be a Christian in North Korea. The constitution is firmly based on Juche ideology.

Read the rest of the article here - and pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ.

Western Values

Lecture by Baroness Caroline Cox - hosted by Maxim Institute

What is at stake?: Why we need to value the foundations of Western civilisation

Around the world, countries fall apart from division, civil war and corruption. We are fortunate. Our heritage is a great one, and we owe much to the foundations of Western civilisation upon which our country is built. But these foundations, which include freedom, duty, responsibility, affection, belonging, goodness, civic service, are things we often take for granted.

In this lecture Baroness Cox will draw from her experiences in various countries to explain the value of the underpinnings of Western civilisation, discussing why concepts like the rule of law, human dignity, civic and mutual responsibility, and equality are so vital to a strong and prosperous global society.


Wednesday, 25 March, from 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
at Christchurch Club, 154 Worcester Street, Christchurch

Drinks and canapés will be served

Thursday, 26 March, from 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
at Maxim Institute, 49 Cape Horn Road, Hillsborough, Auckland

Drinks and canapés will be served

For both events places are limited, RSVP is therefore essential. If you wish to attend, please email rsvp@maxim.org.nz or phone Summer Haycock on (09) 627 3261 by Friday 20 March.

Baroness Caroline Cox is a crossbencher peer from the British House of Lords. She is known for her active involvement in humanitarian aid and human rights, as well as for her interest and work in slavery and education. Baroness Cox was Founding Chancellor of Bournemouth University and is currently Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University, and Chief Executive of Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust.
Baroness Cox's work has taken her on many assignments to conflict zones, including Sudan, Burma, Nigeria and North Korea. Her vast experience makes her a compelling and insightful speaker.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Chasing the rabbit down the hole

I've just added Jason Goroncy's blog, Per-Crucem-ad-Lucem to the list of links at the right hand side of this blog. Things being what they are in the world of blog, I only discovered Jason's blog via the UK Tall Skinny Kiwi blog where a brief mention was made of Kevin Ward's Inaugural Lecture in February, which was given at the Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership.

The link on the UK site led me back to Jason's blog, where he's very helpfully provided the full text of Kevin's lecture, plus the response from Bruce Hamill. It's like travelling halfway around the world to find you're already home.

I'd attended Kevin Ward's lecture (It may be emerging, but is it church?), but my notes were a bit hazy in some areas as to what he'd said, so it's good to be able to pick up the details again. And I hadn't taken any notes of what Bruce said at all, for some reason, so finding his response there as well is a bonus.

God's guest list

God's guest list includes a disconcerting number of poor and broken people, those who appear to bring little to any gathering except their need. The distinctive quality of Christian hospitality is that it offers a generous welcome to the "least," without concern for advantage or benefit to the host. Such hospitality reflects God's greater hospitality that welcomes the undeserving, provides the lonely with a home, and sets a banquet table for the hungry.

Christine Pohl
Making Room

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Stopping Violence

In an article entitled, Rethinking Stopping Violence Programmes, Stuart Birks, the director for Public Policy Evaluation at Massey University, says this:

One of the most puzzling aspects to me is that we allow interference in our lives to an extreme degree, up to and including the routine destruction of relationships between parents and their children. This is permitted despite the open admission that the theories are questionable, the data are problematic, and the effectiveness of the interventions is unknown. The people proposing and implementing these policies are subject to limited accountability and may not have the training, skills, experience, awareness and impartiality to justify our confidence in them.

Most of Stuart's article is about male/female violence and the ways our society is dealing with it, such as recent ideas that different races should be treated differently. He expresses a number of concerns, looks at readings of data that may be false, and wonders whether we're really making any inroads into treating violence - and whether there are other agendas at work complicating Government policy on the matter.

Not abandoned!

I've been off work for a week, recovering from a prostate operation last Monday, which explains in part why this site has been somewhat neglected recently. I'm still not fully back at work, so posts may come fairly spasmodically over the next week or two.
Be reassured: we have not abandoned the Mission Resource site!