Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Building Consensus

The following is a slightly adapted version of a piece that appeared in the latest (29.6.09) Rumors ezine.

Our organizations might be better off without either the American text on Parliamentary Procedure (Robert’s Rules of Order) or the Bourinot, the standard used by the House of Commons in Ottawa, although both Bourinot and Roberts agree on some basic principles.
One is that there can be no discussion until a formal motion defines the issue.
Another is that each person may speak only once (except the mover, who may also close the debate).
However, it’s been said about these: “If you’ve only got one chance to speak, you tend to come out with all guns blazing to support your position. You have no idea yet how others will react, so you shoot down any opposition before it can come up.”
It’s hardly a process for building consensus.
I can say this, having had – for one period of my life – a reputation for writing absolutely scathing memos to colleagues in another office, memos that have since appalled me. But I know why I did it. Because I had only one chance to convince them. Their decision would affect my reputation. So it was all or nothing.
I’ve often seen meetings where every speaker argued against an imagined opposition. When the actual vote came, everyone was in favour. The opposition was never there.
In a group of friends, ideas are traded, pros and cons weighed, implications considered… a consensus emerges.
The aboriginal practice of a circle works well, too, if the group is not too large. Everyone gets a chance to speak; everyone listens. No one interrupts; no one dominates. If there’s no consensus, you go around again.
But it can take a long time. So larger bodies tend to fall back on the rules of parliamentary procedure to expedite debate and discussion.
But there are other ways.
One church organization allows a speaker two minutes to present an idea. Any idea. It doesn’t have to be a formal motion – the official decision could get shaped later.
After two minutes, the other delegates indicate shades of support:
1. I love it, and I’ll work for it.
2. I agree.
3. I can accept it.
4. I disagree, but I won’t block it.
5. I disagree strongly, and I’ll block it if I can.
If the mood seems generally favorable, further discussion takes place. But if enough people oppose the proposal strongly enough to resist it with any tactics short of terrorism, the proponents may withdraw their proposal, or take time to make it more acceptable.
It’s a much more practical process.

I thought the above - originally by Jim Taylor - was interesting in terms of the way many church committees/presbyteries/sessions etc function...

To subscribe to Rumors: send an e-mail to: rumors-subscribe@joinhands.com

Dealing with Sin

Things have been a bit quiet on this blog for the past few days due in part to my being out of the office last Friday, and having a full-on day yesterday. Not that I've been ignoring the screed of stuff that passes by me; I just haven't had time to blog anything.

So here's a quick note about an article on Sin from the Leadership Journal. It's written by John Ortberg, and asks whether, as Christians, we care enough about sin in our lives these days, or whether we merely tolerate our 'foibles, ' 'quirks' and other euphemisms that we use in preference for the word, sin.

A brief quote from the article:
The problem with what might be called the "victorious Christian living" mindset is not that it takes sin too seriously. The problem is it inevitably becomes selective about which sins God hates the most, and they always end up being somebody else's sins. It misses the deeper layers of sin: sin not just as concrete acts of lying or cheating, but the sin of narcissism that infects my preaching and image-management that corrupts my conversations; the sin in my motives and emotions that is real but that I cannot simply turn off.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Where does the food come from, Mummy?

As they see it, agriculture is not an industry on the periphery of modern civilization. It is a fundamental act that determines whether we as a society will live or die. What binds these [farmers] is not a particular farming method, but rather the conviction that as humans, the contributions they make are essential.... In quiet ways, in quiet places, they have set about correcting the damage that has come from believing agriculture could actually be reduced to numbers alone. The first step: reclaim their place in the center of the equation.

A quote from Lisa M. Hamilton's book: Deeply Rooted

This quote came to me via the daily ezine, Culture is not optional

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Four posts

I mentioned Westwinds Church a few posts back, and since then have been keeping an eye on their (five) blogs. A couple of these are okay, but more the personal kind of blog than something that I'm looking to for mission inspiration. But one of the blogs, Vertizontal, has some strong writing on it, and is worth reading.

Most recently - over the last few days, by the looks of it - it's been discussing The Target (the Cue Philosophy). Okay, I have no more idea what that means that you do, but the actual posts are well worth reading. They're about how Westwinds does church, who it does church for, and why. The fourth post has concerns about the business model (the 'target audience') that is often used in churches. (Our own church went through this kind of thing a few years back, and it wasn't particularly healthy, long-term. Fortunately, the core congregation stuck through it, and came out the other side.)

The third post talks about the difficulty Westwings has in defining a 'mission statement' - in fact, whether they should define one at all. You'll note from this post that Westwinds is a fairly arty, technology-focused church. The second post concerns itself with seeker-services, and their value - or lack of it, and in this post is the following quote:

Westwinds’ methodology is not an attempt at being “relevant” which is usually ghettoized to mean “look and speak cool.” It’s about incarnation and a particular offense to mediocrity.

More than that, it’s a deep rooted belief that God has called us to act upon the stuff in our heads. The thirst for the sacred, the mysteries of God, the magic of the sacraments, the otherworldliness of corporate worship, the tears spent on broken people—they call us to act. We act by creating. By making stuff. We incarnate our thoughts into visual art and music and poetry and film. Projects, proposals and petitions. Moments and movements. The Cue is a main venue for this creativity.

The first post (sorry to be doing this backwards, but I don't think Westwinds would be bothered) is their 'philosophy of ministry,' a phrase that's less Westwinds than something 'imposed' upon them. I've been so impressed with these four posts that I'm going to print them out - so that I don't skim them (which is my habit when reading online), but think about them, and how they relate to my own church setting. You may find it useful to do the same.

Incidentally, on Facebook, Mark Broadbent is advertising a meeting called Jesus for the non-religious. Sounded good to me, but when I click on the information about it, this is what I find:

Do you like Jesus but not the church?
Are you sick and tired of religious hypocrites?
Have you ever wondered why the kinds of people who once ran to Jesus are now running from the church today?

“My goal is to destroy Christianity as a world religion and be a recatalyst for the movement of Jesus Christ…Some people are upset with me because it sounds like I'm anti-Christian. I think they might be right...the greatest enemy to the movement of Jesus Christ is 'Christianity.”'

Well, good on you, Erwin. Just don't throw out the baby with the bathwater, eh?

Face to Face

We spend a lot of time on here talking about new technology and how we can use it as God's people, but it's still good to be reminded of the need for face-to-face communication....

A video chat will never suffice as a substitute for sitting down around a table together. There is something about being in the presence of a human being -- with the potential for physical embrace, the communication of eyes and expressions beyond words -- that serves to help us remember the significance of the incarnation. Thank God Jesus didn't just "phone it in" when it came to the ultimate symbol of self-sacrifice -- that would have been the poorer story, to be sure.

Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma
"Actualizing the virtual"

Monday, June 22, 2009

Getting it wrong - dead wrong

We must reject the idea - well-intentioned, but dead wrong - that the primary path to greatness in the social sectors is to become 'more like a business.' Most businesses - like most of anything else in life - fall somewhere between mediocre and good. Few are great. When you compare great companies with good ones, many widely practiced business norms turn out to correlate with mediocrity, not greatness. So, then, why would we want to import the practices of mediocrity into the social sectors?

So says Jim Collins, in the opening paragraph of his monograph, Good to Great and the Social Sectors. Yet so much of the church continues to think that being 'businesslike' is a good thing.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

My apologies

Every so often you need to do a bit of housekeeping, and this time it's involved the links down the side of the page. I discovered that a couple of Dunedin blogs, both run by the same person, haven't been added to for several months, so they've been deleted from the list.

And Glocal Christianity had changed its URL....I've repaired that on the list.

Sorry if you've been trying to access any blogs and haven't been able to, or have found them out of date.

Migrants to New Zealand

Want to know more about the people migrating to New Zealand? A branch of the Department of Immigration, in conjunction with NZ Statistics, is doing three 'waves' of research to see how new migrants are settling in. The first wave has been completed (at six months), with research covering some 7,000 new migrants. The two follow-up waves will be completed at 18 months and three years respectively.
Some of the highlights from the first report, entitled, New Faces, New Futures: New Zealand,” are as follows:
  • The median age of migrants is 34 years. Most migrants are under 45, with 36 percent aged 25–34. Overall, 52 percent of migrants are female and 48 percent were male.

  • The four main ethnic groups of migrants are European (42 percent), Chinese (15 percent), South African (9 percent), and Indian (8 percent).

  • Over half of all migrants live in the Auckland region, with the Canterbury and Wellington regions the next most popular.

  • Fifty-eight percent of migrants are approved through skilled migration categories.

  • The main region of origin of migrants is the United Kingdom/ Republic of Ireland (32 percent), followed by North Asia (18 percent) and the Pacific (12 percent). Business migrants are predominantly from North Asia (63 percent).

  • A notable proportion of migrants from the UK/ Republic of Ireland (18 percent) and the rest of Europe (18 percent) settled in Canterbury. A high proportion of North American migrants (21 percent) settled in Wellington.

  • Fifty-nine percent of migrants speak English as their main language or as a language they speak best, while a further 27 percent report having good or very good English language skills.

  • After English, the most common languages spoken best by new migrants were Chinese languages followed by Hindi.

  • Migrants who are more proficient in English are more likely to establish relationships with friends outside their own ethnic group than are migrants with poor English language ability.

  • About a quarter of the European migrants (excluding UK/ Republic of Ireland migrants) report English as a language they speak best. Nearly 70 percent of this group report having good or very good English language skills. Fifty-three percent of South Asian migrants report English as a language they speak best.

  • Sixty-five percent of all migrants speak more than one language, with people from South Africa, North Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific reporting fluency in two languages. About half of the migrants from the rest of Europe and South Asia report speaking three or more languages.

  • The most important reasons for migrants to choose New Zealand are the relaxed pace of life or lifestyle (44 percent), the climate or clean green environment (40 percent), and the opportunity to provide a better future for their children (39 percent).

Students for mental health

A recent report from the Whangarei Leader begins:
A group of teenage mums is using fashion to reach out to those affected by mental health.
Students from He Mataariki School for Teen Parents have designed t-shirts to raise self-esteem and spread the word about where to get help for mental health.
They are now organising a fun event, Reach Out, Speak Out, to raise awareness in Northland youth.
The group of about seven teen mums started the project as part of a NCEA level two, or year 12, health class.
Teacher Roz O’Shea says in a health promotion exercise the students decided to tell youth how to access mental health support in Northland.
Ms O’Shea says mental health was top of the list for the students because they are conscious of depression and youth suicide rates but were unsure where youth could turn to for help.
You can read more about this by clicking on the link above.

Reach Out, Speak Out, raising mental health awareness for Northland youth, will be held from 12.30pm to 2.30pm on Wednesday, June 24 at The Pulse, Raumanga Valley Rd. For more information or to buy a t-shirt email he.mataarikiroz@xtra.co.nz or phone 09 438-2602.

Cosmopolitan Evangelicals

In an article in the latest Out of Ur newsletter, Skye Jethani mentions, Michael Lindsay, author of Faith in the Halls of Power, who refers to many current Christians as "Cosmopolitan Evangelicals."
  • reject signifiers of "populist" Christianity, such as the Left Behind books and Thomas Kinkade paintings.
  • are less involved in local churches, but highly involved with parachurch organizations.
  • may not theologically agree with same-sex civil unions, but they don't see them as an assault on the culture.
  • remain definitively pro-life.
  • are more engaged with matters of local and global justice. AIDS, poverty, and human rights have been added to "traditional family values" in their set of concerns.
  • recognize the legitimacy of environmental matters and view them through the theological lense of "creation stewardship."
Does this sound like the sort of people you have - or would like to have - in your church? Or are these the sorts of Christians you know don't come to church in your area?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Blogging's Six Pillars

The following is taken from Naked Conversations: how blogs are changing the way businesses talk with customers, by Robert Scoble and Shel Israel. (John Wiley and Sons 2006. page 28), and I include it because of my ongoing posts about the Church and the Internet.

Blogs are:
1. Publishable: Anyone can publish a blog. You can do it cheaply and post often. Each posting is instantly available worldwide.

2. Findable: Through search engines, people will find blogs by subject, by author, or both. The more you post, the more findable you become.

3. Social. The blogosphere is one big conversation. Interesting topical conversations move from site to site, linking to each other. Through blogs, people with shared interests build friendship unrestricted by geographic borders.

4. Viral. Information often spreads faster through blogs than via a news service. No form of viral marketing matches the speed and efficiency of a blog.

5. Syndicatable. By clicking on an icon, you can get free ‘home delivery’ of RSS-enabled blogs. RSS lets you know when a blog you subscribe to is updated, saving you search time. This process is considerably more efficient that the last-generation method of visiting one page of one web site at a time looking for changes.

6. Linkable: because each blog can link to all others, every blogger has access to millions of other bloggers.

This is a topic of continuing interest (to me, at least!) The Naked Conversations blog is now called Global Neighbourhoods. (Not nearly such an eye-catching title!)

And in September, Shel Israel will publish Twitterville: how businesses can thrive in the new global neighbourhood. (Or should we substitute 'churches' for 'businesses?')

Facebook friends

Mark Broadbent notes that there are about 300 young people attending his church.
There are 413 people on the church facebook group.
Mark has -as of this date - 946 facebook friends (and adds: yes - i unashamedly collect friends - feel free to add me!!)
The five people on the pastoral team of this church have 1500 friends between them.

Does it mean anything to have that many Facebook friends? Is the friendship fickle? Yes, and no, to both questions. What's more important is how Facebook gets used in this situation.
Can Facebook be used to expand your influence as a youth or pastoral leader? Can it be used to make disciples? The answer to both these questions is Yes.

The prophetic (young) voice

Tom Brackett has written has interesting post on his blog, Church Planting Central, entitled, What might you have done differently...?
While travelling in the UK for three weeks (Tom's from North Carolina) and talking to people involved with the Fresh Expressions movement, Tom asked the same question over and over:
“If you knew twenty years ago what you know today about the impact of secularization on the relationship of Culture to Church and vice versa, what might you have done differently to prepare the institution for those emerging realities, back then?”

The responses to this question pretty much came down to two:
We were actively pushing our young people out the doors of our churches and Dioceses. We didn’t mean to – it’s just that we wouldn’t make room for them in our activities; we didn’t include their voices in our public conversations; we didn’t ask them for stories of their encounters with the good news of God as known in Jesus Christ. As a result, we lost them.

The second relates to the first:
2. We forgot how to nurture the prophetic voice in our midst. We’ve forgotten how to foster new young leaders in nurturing and mutually-shaping communities. Today, we are working on bringing new young leaders into our churches but that’s not the same as nurturing the prophetic voice in community – training new leaders to cultivate community with a hoe instead of directing with the Verger’s mace. That takes time to develop! It’s an art of “being in community” that very few have ever experienced, nonetheless mastered.

Tom doesn't leave things there. Here's what people suggested should be the response now in respect of what was missed:

Invite faith-filled young leaders into your communities. Listen. Try on new ideas. Experiment. Be willing to fail – often and early. “Fail away” until patterns of meaning start to emerge from your communities in discernment. Listen for the Fresh Expressions of the Spirit in their sometimes awkward and clumsy offerings. Especially listen and observe the way they use ritual and music to make sense of the insanity of our lives.

This reminds me of Peter's words in Acts 2:
God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. I checked out this verse online briefly, and came across a sermon by John Piper from 1989. At the beginning of the sermon (called Old and Young Shall Dream Together) he notes: In the last two messages I have spoken to the older saints and to the younger saints. I tried to show from Leviticus 19:32 and Psalm 71:18 that older people are to be prized, mobilized and evangelized. Then from Jeremiah 1 I tried to show that the fears and hesitancies of youth should be overcome by the sovereignty of God (in choosing us and forming us and consecrating us before we were born), the authority of God (in his word and his sending), and the promise of God (to be with us).

I particularly took note, as you might expect, of the bit about 'older saints are to be prized, mobilized and evangelized.'

Gran Torino

I watched 79-year-old Clint Eastwood's latest (and probably last) movie on DVD last night. He plays a stolid, grumpy character with flint in his bones who, at the beginning of the movie, has just lost his beloved wife, and now lives alone with his dog. He's the only white person in a neighbourhood where various other ethnic groups have moved in, and lives right next door to a Hmong family - the teenagers speak English, but the mother and grandmother have no English at all.
The movie takes a while to wind up: the first twenty minutes or so set up Eastwood (who plays Kowalski, so ironically he comes from a family that were immigrants themselves at one point) as the sole survivor of the white people in the neighbourhood, at odds with his neighbours (or at least wanting to avoid them), and at odds with the '27-year-old virgin' Catholic priest who insists on keeping his promise to Eastwood's deceased wife, that he'd get the man to confession.
Then there's a turnaround, and he begins to befriend - or mentor - the young Hmong boy from next door, who's in line to get caught up in a gang that does nothing but cause trouble.
The relationship is a surprise - for both the characters - and for the audience. And the outcome of their relationship is also a surprise, with an intriguingly Christian parallel underpinning it.
I won't spoil the story for you, but it's worth seeing. You'll have to put up with Kowalski's often foul and blasphemous mouth (though some of his use of language is quite funny), but if you can get past that, this is a movie that has considerable integrity at its heart (as Eastwood's late period movies mostly have). And it's an interesting parable in its own way.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Flickering Pixels gets a review

We've written about Shane Hipps more than once on this blog, so I was interested to hear what his new book, Flickering Pixels: how technology shapes your faith, was like. The reviews on Amazon.com seemed pretty positive, and then, in my email box this morning, the latest Next-Wave Ezine arrived - with a review of the book by John La Grou. I hadn't even realised La Grou was a Christian when I wrote about him on one of my other blogs a day or so ago, so it was interesting to see his bio at the bottom of the review:

A husband, father, and lifelong technology enthusiast, John built crystal radios at 7 years old and by the end of high school had created most of the electronics for a professional audio recording studio. In his 20’s he helped start what is today the world’s third largest computer company. His Silicon Valley offices added virtual networking in 1986 and never looked back. John and his bride Cynthia also helped establish the first Silicon Valley Vineyard community and are currently developing Compathos, a non-profit, on-line philanthropic resource. John co-edited volume one the award-winning Wikiklesia Project and gave a 2009 TEDTalk on a new life-saving technology developed by one of the companies he co-founded. John also chairs a software consortium whose licensed algorithms are used on over 100 million audio CDs produced each year, while his audio hardware is found throughout the world in leading recording studios and concert halls. He currently serves on college and university technical advisory boards and is a student of life, energy, and sustainability (JL at JPS dot NET, Twitter @johnlagrou).

After all that, you'd expect him to know something about technology. And of course he does, which makes him an apt person to review Hipps' book. Regrettably, he finds the book wanting in many ways. "As a thoughtful work of practical theology, Flickering Pixels is a treasure and worth the price of admission alone. But where Pixels shines in a generous spirituality, I believe it suffers in objectivity and balance towards technology. ....does the author have sufficient technology experience to make an authoritative analysis? More importantly, does Pixels offer a balanced analysis of the way technology can negatively and positively shape faith and spiritual community? On both counts, I feel that Pixels misses its target. "

He goes on to quote a number of examples of Hipps' 'grand conclusions' on technology, which are offered without qualification: “Our digital diet sedates the left brain, leaving it in a state of hypnotic stupor”or “The technology of writing, regardless of context, weakens and destroys tribal bonds and profoundly amplifies the value of the individual” to mention only two.

After this review, I don't think I'll be putting Flickering Pixels on the top of my reading list. Which is a pity; it could have been great.

Rethinking the Translation

A translation like the New American Standard has served me well for many a year, but after repeated readings there's a tendency to begin to slide over what the text is saying, and it no longer hits the mark. I've been reading The Message version (Eugene Peterson) this time round, and Peterson has a real knack of hitting between the eyes, and waking you up to what's in the text.

Here's Galatians 5: 19-23 in the NASB, for example.

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

All good stuff, but a number of the words in the first list particularly aren't common to everyday speech.

Here's Peterson (I've broken up the list):

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time:
repetitive, loveless, cheap sex;
a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage;
frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness;
trinket gods;
magic-show religion;
paranoid loneliness;
cutthroat competition;
a brutal temper;
an impotence to love or be loved;
divided homes and divided lives;
small-minded and lopsided pursuits;
the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival;
uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions;
ugly parodies of community.
This isn't the first time I've warned you, you know. If you use your freedom this way, you will not inherit God's kingdom.
But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard - things like
affection for others,
exuberance about life,
We develop a willingness to stick with things;
a sense of compassion in the heart;
and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people.
We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments,
not needing to force our way in life,
able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Yes, there are a lot more words, but the first list particularly strikes home in a much more hard-hitting way. And he doesn't reduce the language to pap: few words in his list would be unfamiliar to the average person.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A Practical Reference to Religious Diversity in NZ

This overview of religious practices in New Zealand is published by the Mäori Pacific Ethnic Services Police National Headquarters.

It looks at the major religious groups in the country in turn, beginning with Maori, moving to Buddhist, then to Christian, Hindu, Islamic, Jewish and Sikh (those after Maori are in alphabetical order, in case it isn't obvious). In each case there is an overview, a discussion of death and related issues, information about gender roles and family, physical contact and other sensitivities, and finally a section on the various religious practices - and policing.

Since the booklet is laid out for police workers primarily, things are focused from their viewpoint (hence the last section in each case). This in no way makes it un-useful for people outside the force; in fact, because it is laid out in a clear and succinct way, it is definitely of value for anyone wanting to have some basic information at hand about religions other than their own.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Arguments against planting a church

David Fitch says you don't go out these days to plant a church by providing a host of 'goods and services' in the way in which a church in the 'modern' era did. (I'm not sure that he's entirely right here: I suspect church plantings have always had to start small and grow the 'goods and services' in due course.)

He lists three things that people tend to say when they're arguing against being involved in a church plant.

1. My life (and my family's life) would be consumed if I went and planted a church with some other people. Notice the assumption that building a church is a 24/7 job: no rest, little sleep, no time for the family, no reading (for fun), no recreation and so on.

2. I will be leaving behind relationships and starting all over again.

3. There will be a leadership rift - people will get mad, break up things, leave us hanging out to dry.

Fitch has sensible and realistic arguments for each of these. Planting a church is a slow growth process, one where you live - along with other people you already know - in a community. It takes time to grow a church, just as it takes time to grow roses. No church starts up ready-made in a new community; or if it tries to, it's likely to fail quickly.

The relationships won't be left behind because you will be taking people with you who are already your friends, and the leadership (he recommends a leadership of three) will be mutually accountable to each other.

But read it in detail here (and read the comments and his responses too)...he puts it much better than my summary does.

Mike Frost on mission

A quote from Michael Frost:
It is not any longer possible…that we sit in some command center telling other people how to go forth. I’m speaking in particular to those of you who are clergy. You cannot preach about, encourage or motivate or mobilize people into mission unless you model what missional proximity looks like. You cannot sit in some ivory tower spending days and days preparing sermons which are seeking to motivate people into mission unless you yourself are prepared to embrace that similar commitment to proximity. Do you follow what I’m saying? I’m not just talking about proximity like “our building is on the street corner on the main street with a gigantic sign and everyone knows that we are there.” I’m talking about personal, relational, and geographic proximity to people.

Unfortunately Rick Meigs, the write of the Blind Beggar blog from which this quote comes, doesn't give us a source. (You might like to pray for Rick: he was travelling on his motorcycle on June 13th, and was hit by a truck crossing the line, and is in critical condition.)

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Paul Windsor on Mission

There's a substantial post on Paul Windsor's blog (the art of unpacking), called: mission: inspiration, concern, hope.

Paul takes up Harold Turner's three levels of mission and looks at them in turn, then follows these up with comments about the words in the heading. Here's a long quote from the first part of the post.

Level One focuses on the individual-personal, incorporating spoken evangelism with acts of compassionate service. Words and deeds by individuals.

Level Two focuses on the public-social world with communities as the centerpiece. The community we know as the church - the distinctive, alternative, and attractive people of God - building bridges and walking across them into the wider community. This is where home and workplace are honoured. This is where social and economic systems are challenged. This is where the Kingdom of God becomes visible.

Level Three focuses on the deeper-cultural world. If society is a tree, the concern here is for the roots. If society is a boat, the concern here is for the tide. Level Three recognises that it is the invisible which tends to be influential. It agrees with CS Lewis in asserting that "the critical ideas in society are not the ones being argued, but the ones being assumed." This is mission to worldview or, as Turner expressed it, this is "deep mission".

The whole post is worth a read...in fact, I've made a hardcopy for our office to chew over.

Twittering during the sermon

Some churches in the States have decided to allow people to Twitter during the service. Westwinds Community Church in Jackson, Michigan, for example, flashes worshipper's Tweets on large video screens.

Distracting? You bet!

However, this is a church that already twitters people with information about service times, sermon titles (The Top 5 Things We’ve Done That Made People Mad but Were Worth It, for instance), church notices and congratulations on people's baptisms. So twittering is part of their modus operandi.

But then there a church that's well and truly into the techno age: a look at their homepage shows podcasts listed, video streaming, blogs (there are at least five, and here's a post on the twittering 'issue'), and various other Internet-based areas on prayer, discipleship and so on (which I spent far too much time playing around with).

Here's a comment from the blog I linked to above: For Westwinds, the use of Twitter, among many other things, are [sic] appropriate for us but may not be for everyone. It is our culture. It is expected we will try different things. Some will fail. Some become part of us.

I'm happy I found out about Westwinds....they look as though they're trying out all sorts of possibilities in the technological area, and doing well with most of them. And here's another blog post from another one of their staff with no less than 25 points on the Twittering issue.

The Risk for Children

In the latest Maxim Institute newsletter, the following comments are made in regard to the Death and serious injury from assault of children aged under 5 years in Aotearoa New Zealand report...

According to the review, risk factors which increase the likelihood of a child suffering "fatal assault or serious injury" before their fifth birthday, include children living with "non-biological" fathers, a background of domestic violence, "mental illness," "alcohol and drug abuse," poverty and the ethnicity of the child. It confronts us with an uncomfortable statistic: "In New Zealand, Maori ethnicity is a static risk factor" associated with a six-fold greater risk for male children and a three-fold greater risk for female children. Higher risks are also associated with mothers who are young and have a low level of education. The review notes that "identified risk factors seldom occur in isolation," with the families at greatest risk ticking more than one of these boxes.

Let's be honest, none of this is news. And it has little to do with the anti-smacking 'law' that came into force last year.

Being honest about the risk factors will only go so far if we are not also willing to examine, evaluate and critique the efficacy of interventions, as the second half of the review begins to do. It identifies home visitation and parent training programmes as helpful responses to the issue of abuse. These programmes involve professionals working with families to connect them with vital services and improve their parenting. The report notes that these programmes are effective for some families, particularly when relationships with workers are strong and persistent, and when a "broad range of needs" is addressed. "Case co-ordination" between agencies is also vital—the same families continually pop up in a variety of contexts, but the co-ordination and communication between agencies is often lacking. While the Commissioner's chief response to the report was to call for funding for a "shaken baby prevention programme," our response needs to be broader than that. It needs to address all the causes of death and the range of effective interventions that the report outlines.

All this is good stuff....and knowing about this, how can the Church be involved and help? No doubt, parts of the church are already working in these areas, but if it's something that we can help further with, let's do it.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When the trees bend in the forest, there is always a reason

Two reports are now available online regarding the mental health of Pasifika people living in New Zealand. The first reports on a mental health study over the period 2003/4, so no doubt there have been some changes since the study was done.

The second has a particular focus on the first dedicated Pacific child, adolescent and family mental health service in Porirua, which was established in 2005

Exploration of Pacific perspectives of Pacific models of mental health service delivery in New Zealand, by T. Suaalli-Sauni and others.
This report was first published this year in the Pacific Health Dialog, volume 15, number 1, and summarizes the 2004 study, 'Pacific Models of Mental Health Service Delivery in New Zealand' which looked at concerns about the mental health of Pacific Islanders in New Zealand, and the way in which the various Pacific Island groups are not being well catered for in the general health system. There is discussion of the ways in which mental health has been dealt with traditionally, and how to a degree this still suits the older generation. However, it is not longer ‘a neat fit’ for the younger people.
Another issue is the fact of very different cultural viewpoints amongst the range of Pacific Islanders living in the country. One model will not suit all. There has already been a good deal of work done to bring traditional models together with contemporary viewpoints, and the study acknowledges the part Christianity plays in the lives of Pacific Island people.

Development of a child, adolescent and family mental health service for Pacific young people in Aotearoa/New Zealand, by Allister Bush and others.
While there is a mixed PI population in the Porirua area, the report tends to focus on the Samoan people and their approaches to children and family in the mental health context. This perhaps gives it a more specialised focus than it might otherwise have, but it also helps to show that each Island group needs to be addressed in a different way. This report has a number of 'stories' of different children and families that have been helped by the service.

Neither of these reports is long, but each of them gives considerable insight into the cultural needs of people groups that are now an established part of New Zealand's multicultural makeup. And there are many insights into the way in which we 'palangi' need to be aware of Pasifika traditions, spirituality and behaviours.

Link to the photo's original site

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Wellness....or not

These figures were quoted in a review on Amazon.com for the book, Mad Church Disease
Some recent statistics from The Fuller Institute, George Barna, and Pastoral Care Inc.

90% of the pastors report working between 55 to 75 hours per week.

80% believe pastoral ministry has negatively affected their families. Many pastor's children do not attend church now because of what the church has done to their parents.

33% state that being in the ministry is an outright hazard to their family.

90% feel they are inadequately trained to cope with the ministry demands and 50% feel unable to meet the demands of the job.

70% say they have a lower self-image now than when they first started.

70% do not have someone they consider a close friend.

40% report serious conflict with a parishioner at least once a month.

33% confess having involved in inappropriate sexual behavior with someone in the church .

50% have considered leaving the ministry in the last months.

50% of the ministers starting out will not last 5 years.

94% of clergy families feel the pressures of the pastor's ministry.

The profession of "Pastor" is near the bottom of a survey of the most-respected professions, just above "car salesman".

Over 4,000 churches closed in America last year.

Over 1,700 pastors left the ministry every month last year.

Over 1,300 pastors were terminated by the local church each month, many without cause.

Over 3,500 people a day left the church last year, over 1.25 million people.

This shows that there's all the more need for an emphasis on Wellness amongst ministers and their families. If it's happening there, it's happening here (in fact we know it's happening here).

Youth group challenge:Olivet pong shots

Try this out on your youth group. If this doesn't challenge them nothing will!

And then ask them: do they believe what they're seeing? Some people think the video has been photoshopped...
The statement that goes with the YouTube version is:
Four of us guys at Olivet [University] horsin around. Shooters: Matt Compton, Steve Olson, David Anderson, Michael Schimp.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Getting it off your chest

While the information in the report discusssed below pertains to Great Britain, most of it is very relevant to the New Zealand scene.
The report is called: Men and Mental Health – get it off your chest. It has some interesting and occasionally surprising things to say about men’s mental health.
One of its recommendations, for instance, is that health professionals should take gender into account when discussing treatment options with men. In other words, men have tended to be treated as less important in the mental health scene for a number of reasons which are discussed during the report.
Amongst these are a tendency for services are often ‘feminised.’
Many men ‘act out’ when having mental health issues, which often leads them to be criminalised because of their anti-social behaviour. The report reminds us that professionals need to recognise that ‘aggressive and violent behaviour is a potential indicator of mental distress.’
Men feel more comfortable discussing their issues in men-only groups, and if men are unemployed for too long they are likely candidates for depression. While partners or spouses may understand the man’s mental health, other family members often deride it.
There is also some discussion of mental health and gays, blacks and other minorities, and the elderly. Altogether this report makes essential reading.

For more information about men's groups, check out this article from the Sunday Star-Times, April 2009

Friday, June 05, 2009

Barbara Brown Taylor

An interesting quote from Barbara Brown Taylor, in her book, Leaving Church, after she finds that life in a rural parish is just as 'busy' as life in the inner city - interesting, as this same 'busyness' is a prime factor in ministers burning out. (page 75, HarperSanFrancisco paperback edition, 2007)

I had moved to the country in order to lie down in more blessed fields, to live closer to the Divine Presence that had held me all my life, but I had once again become so busy caring for the household of God that I neglected the One who had called me there. If I still had plenty of energy for the work, that was because feeding others was still my food. As long as I fed them, I did not feel my hunger pain.

And one other quote, about her visit to Ireland:
Later I would find the Celtic theology...in which God's 'big book' of creation is revered alongside God's 'little book' of sacred scripture. I would also find Christian mystics such as Bernard of Clairvaux and Julian of Norwich, who found heaven on earth in union with the Divine. 'I have had no other masters than the beeches and the oaks,' Bernard wrote in the twelfth century, while Julian recognised the love of God in a hazel nut in her hand. Hildegard of Bingen coined the word viriditas ('green power') to describe the divine power of creation, while Francis of Assisi composed love songs to Brother Sun and Sister Moon.
'You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in your veins,' wrote the seventeenth-century Anglican priest, Thomas Traherne, 'till you are clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars; and perceive yourself to be the sole heir of the whole world, and more than so, because men are in it who are every one sole heirs as well as you.' Since I had received Christian education that taught me to view creation as both fallen and inert, I was happy to discover these dissenting opinions, but they only confirmed what I already knew to be true. I did not live on the earth but in it, in communion with all that gave me life.

(Page 81-82)

More on leaving Church here.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Maybe it IS true...

Peter Scheele presents an idea of the possibility of God in this rather quirky video about the round/square/triangle. The sound quality is a bit weak at the beginning, but once he stands up and starts talking (almost literally) in your face, things improve. Worth watching for the way in which a simple idea can open up the imagination to something much bigger than we can grasp.

And here's a comment from Ron Hutchcraft in relation to the idea that the "Millennial Generation" has fallen through the cracks. "They're an unreached generation; they might be the most-unreached generation in history, but because of the internet, they're the most reachable generation in history."

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The world goes back to being the world

Postmodernism helps us to understand that, as ethicist Stanley Hauerwas of Duke Divinity School puts it, after a few centuries in which the culture at large snuggled up to the church and was its ally in forming a least-common-denominator sort of civic faith in its citizens, the world has gone back to being the world. While we may intially hear this word as bad news, Hauerwas insists it is good news in that it gives us permission (not that we ever really needed it) to go back to being the church, to being a human community shaped by the particular worldview of scripture.

from The Postmodern Parish: new ministry for a new era, by Jim Kitchens. Published Alban Institute, 2003, page 14

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

The death of an old person...

"The death of an old person is like the burning of a library." So wrote Alex Haley, the author of Roots, and other stories of African origins. ( Or, if he didn't write it, he 'borrowed' it from his African past, as the words are often thought to be an African proverb. )

It's quoted in an article on caring for old people - I make no apology for this being nine years old (nothing on the Net ever grows old!) - called Aging and Ageism: Can You Have One Without the Other? by Karen Henderson.

The author looks at our attitudes to old people: Everyone gets old. None of us should be surprised or angry; it's a fact of life. But what's also a fact of life is this: we don't treat older people as people. We treat them as a commodity to be used, abused and disposed of as we see fit. We somehow learn to raise our children; we try to give our pets a good life. Why can't we extend the same efforts to our older people?

The article isn't long, but it has plenty of good things to say about older/elderly people (they're always people who are older than me, by the way!) and the way we think about them, and act towards them. It's probably addressed to the inbetween generation - those who have elderly parents and growing children - but it's applicable to anyone, anywhere.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com

N T Wright on the Resurrection

Here's a brief two minutes from Tom Wright on the Resurrection - he manages to convey a great deal in the short time.

And there are some intriguing visuals in the background...

Monday, June 01, 2009

Suiting the new generation

The Otago Daily Times published a report last Saturday entitled: Churches work to suit new generation. The interesting thing about it is that it is objective in its approach: apart from the youth factor, there is nothing strongly 'newsworthy' in it.

It looks at three different groups: C3, Catholic youth, and studentsoul. C3 is the new name for Christian City Church, a Pentecostal congregation which has been around for some time. The Catholics have gone onto Facebook (check out Vaughan Hook in the search box), and have started a blog (which at this point has only one entry on it, dated May 13th - need a bit more action there, I think, Vaughan!).

Studentsoul comes third on the list and there are some brief comments from Rev Helen Harray.

The main story is linked to a shorter one that focuses specifically on the C3 youth, briefly profiling some of those attending. One of these, Tami Beckingsale, is paraphrased: She believed more young adults were returning to church once they realised there was value in what it had to offer.

All three groups mention 'relevance' as being key to their ministries.

The other 3 billion

I've only just caught up on this story, so excuse it being a little 'old.'

The 'other 3 billion' is a phrase used to describe the 3 billion people on the planet who don't have ready access to the Internet. O3b Networks is based in the Channel Islands and has a project well under way to provide 16 satellites that will drop the cost for ISPs and operators to provide Internet access over 3G (third-generation) and WiMax networks to people in countries like Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia.

Partnered with HSBC (a worldwide banking corporation), Google, and Liberty Global, a private equity provider that provides phone and Internet access in 15 countries, this project will use medium range satellites, which can recieve and send signals at around 120 milliseconds, which is close to that of a fibre network. While fibre networks were already available in developed countries, the laying of them is not economically feasible elsewhere.

Why is this of interest to the Church? Because the Internet is one of the most extraordinary gifts humankind have received in the last century. It enables evangelism, outreach and ministry on a scale undreamt of, and achieves these in a myriad of ways. Certainly, like any other system, it has a dark side, but this isn't a reason to ignore it.

One liners

If you have a need for short, pithy sayings that are clever enough not to make non-Christians (and Christians, if it comes to that) go Duh!, then check out Australian writer Grantley Morris’ collection of one-liners. The Digital Evangelism Issues site says ‘They avoid the pitfalls of being trite, slushy or religious.’ I wouldn’t agree with that entirely, but there’s a big enough range of them for anyone to find the right statement for their church or website. You can find them here.

Incidentally, Tony O'Hagan says: putting up an easy-to-remember website URL on the church sign board is an under-utilised evangelistic strategy. You are very limited in what you can communicate via the church sign - but as an introduction to the website it can become a key that unlocks a universe! Better still … there’s an very obvious local place to get spiritual follow-up if the website should bear fruit.

Social Networking 101

Do you still think that there's no great value in being involved in sites like Facebook, My Space and the like? That they're just places where people waste time, and don't have anything real to do with each other? That they're not really the sort of thing churches should be getting involved in?

Well, check out this speedy little piece of teaching on Social Networks.

It's done simply, cleverly and with humour, and gives you an easy way to understand the value of Social Networking (which, it points out, isn't anything new - it just happens to take on a slightly different flavour on the Net).