Monday, August 31, 2009

The Happiness Tsar

Gill Corkindale writes that 'the British Government has decided that happiness is of great importance to the nation and has appointed economist Richard Layard our first "Happiness Tsar." His mission is to build some positive thinking into the workforce from childhood, so children will develop into more resilient adults. In his book, Happiness: Lessons from a New Science, he writes: "There is a creative spark in each of us, and if it finds no outlet, we feel half dead. This can literally be true: among British civil servants, those who do the most routine work experience the most rapid clogging of arteries."'

Richard Layard always thought that the ultimate aim of public policy is to make people happier. In recent years he has been actively involved in the new science of happiness.

Mental illness is probably the single greatest threat to a happy life, and for this reason Richard Layard is currently leading a campaign to provide within the British National Health Service evidence-based psychological therapy for people with clinical depression and chronic anxiety disorder. The Depression Report, published in July 2006, is the manifesto for this campaign.

Finally, Richard Layard is also active in other happiness promoting policies, such as the emotional aspects of children's education, and initiatives by local authorities to monitor and improve the happiness of the population in their area.

Cracked Pots

While trying to track down a book called The Cracked Pot, the state of today’s Anglican parish clergy, by Yvonne Warren, I came across an article from 2007 on the Church Times archives, called What Price Priesthood? by Rachel Harden.

It discusses clergy burnout, stress, the difficulties of being ill and then having to recover within the parish, long hours with little time off, and other problems of ministry. Yvonne Warren, herself the wife of a clergyman for 40 years, notes that the Church in the 21st century is experiencing a cataclysmic time of change, with huge implications, and says, “This has affected patterns of ministry more than most, and many clergy are feeling the impact of this, not just in terms of workload, but in their sense of frustration and feeling of increasing irrelevance in a largely secularised society.”

Another book is mentioned in the article: Clergy Burnout: Recovering from the 70-hour work week. . . and other self-defeating practices by Fred Lehr. Lehr had a terrible time saying “no”, and loved feeling needed. “In reality it exhausted me, and I hated constantly being caught between my family and my congregation. I found myself helplessly falling in what we call burnout.” He sought help, and used his experience to work on a specialised treatment programme.

The Society of Martha and Mary produced a report in 2002 called, Affirmation and Accountability. In it they called on dioceses and other church structures to provide more constructive solutions for clergy who were on stress-related sick leave.

The article is fairly long, but well worth checking out. There are several personal statements at the end from people who have been through burnout and similar struggles.

Unfortunately, The Cracked Pot is now out of print, and only available through Print on Demand at the publishers, Kevin Mayhew. Affirmation and Accountability is also hard to get hold of in NZ (there is one copy, at the Kinder Library). Clergy Burnout is more readily available.

Singing Together

Robert Bayley, whom I heard preach a couple of times at the Pastors' Conference in East Taieri a few months ago, puts this quote in an article called Made in God's Image that appeared in Reformed Worship:

'Bonhoeffer reflects in Life Together, "It is the voice of the Church that is heard in singing together. It is not you that sings, it is the Church that is singing, and you, as a member of the Church, may share in its song."'

This is an interesting way of thinking about communal worship, which can often be a time of frustration or boredom or difficulty (for those who struggle with singing publicly). Even though we can only sing with our own voice, that voice becomes part of a mighty song to God.

There have been times I've experienced in worship when I've had a real sense of what it will be like when all the God-believing people from all ages are joined together in an unthinkable song before God. Worship, communal worship, can be a foretaste of heaven.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Missional Librarians

Some interesting comments from a newish book called Virtual Worlds, Real Libraries, edited by Lori Bell & Rhonda Trueman. The book's subtitle is: Librarians and educators in Second Life and other multi-user virtual environments. (The latter expression is apparently now shortened to MUVE, something I learned before I'd read more than a few pages.)

What was interesting to me, in light of the many posts on here and discussions I've linked to, is that librarians are thinking missionally. In the Introduction, they ask: Why Should
Librarians Be There? and go on to say:

From April 2006 to February 2008, the number of accounts in the virtual world known as SL [Second Life] increased from 180,000 to more than 12 million. Other virtual worlds - including Active Worlds and World of Warcraft, as well as Webkinz, Penguin Club [actually Club Penguin], and Whyville for children - are experiencing similar strong growth, and new virtual worlds seem to be appearing almost daily.

What is happening is that the web, which has evolved over the past 15 years from displaying just static text to graphical, dynamic web content and mashups [a Web application that combines data or functionality from two or more sources into a single integrated application], is becoming more and more interactive. Increasingly, sites seek to engage users and involve them in the processes of using and creating information. Static web pages, no matter how attractive, are no longer enough to impress users of the next generation - or perhaps any generation now using the Internet...

Libraries need to look at places on the web, including virtual worlds, where potential library users are active and assess how library services might be integrated into these environments. Many individuals now involved in virtual worlds may not be traditional library users. By putting ourselves where these users are, librarians have a remarkable opportunity to increase use of the brick-and-mortar library, promote library services and materials, and support education initiatives in SL and other virtual worlds.

It's this last paragraph that most intrigues me. If we were to change just a few words, we'd get:

Christians need to look at places on the web, including virtual worlds, where seekers are active and assess how church services might be integrated into these environments. Many individuals now involved in virtual worlds may not be traditional church attenders. By putting ourselves where these people are, Christians have a remarkable opportunity to increase use of the brick-and-mortar church, promote church services and materials, and support Christian initiatives in SL and other virtual worlds.

If librarians can get missional, why can't we?

Photo of a not-so typical library by Kate Andrews

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Leaving the Four Spiritual Laws behind...

David Fitch is writing a series of posts entitled 'When They Will Not Come' and in the latest he notes two vital points. The first is this:

In our evangelism-thinking, let’s move from “bridge” to “onramp.” If there is one overriding conclusion for me in all this, it is that missional church leaders must move from
a.) Training people to offer non-Christians a “bridge” to salvation, that is susceptible to making salvation into a transaction, to
b.) Training people to become themselves “onramps” who through their lives offer nonChristian an avenue (themselves) through which people can enter the work God is doing in Christ reconciling the world to Himself (2 Cor 5:19). This concept of moving from a “bridge” to an “onramp” is key for me.

His second point is let’s move from justification before God “by Christ” to living life “in Christ,”
and requires rather more room for him to explain than I have here. Well worth reading.

Coming apart at the seams...

More than once, Dunedin City Baptist (the church I attend) has provided separate services for young adults (including students through to thirty-year-olds and older). Almost invariably, they've come apart at the seams. The latest edition is just about to come to an end, due to dwindling numbers.

Interestingly enough, Collin Hansen is writing about the same topic on the Out of Ur blog this week, and noting that churches that have set up separate Gen X services have generally come a cropper at some point. Part of the problem, of course, is that Gen X people eventually grow up.

But the bigger issue is that building a service around a separate 'culture' just makes it plain difficult to encourage these people into the main 'culture' whenever that time arrives. DCBC has been fortunate that many of the young people go to the main service in the morning anyway, so they're reasonably well engrafted into the church as a whole. But many other churches have never managed to integrate these younger people into their (whole) church, and at the end of the day, these people drift off, who knows where.

Here's one of the best quotes from the article, from Dan Kimball: "I feel that if we can see church as the people, and not just define church by the worship gathering, a lot would be solved in bridging generations," Kimball said. "We could focus more on the older mentoring the younger, the older opening their homes and being sages and guides to the younger. Instead we focus so much on getting the twenty-somethings into the main worship gathering. But just sitting in a room for an hour and half looking at the backs of everyone's heads does not make something intergenerational."

It takes no effort to agree with this. My boss has a saying: the whole church resourcing the whole church. This applies here, too: the whole church, young and old, serving/resourcing the whole church, young and old. The young have gifts, the old have gifts. Let's share them around, rather than separate them off.

After McDonaldization

After McDonaldization: Mission, Ministry, and Christian Discipleship in an Age of Uncertainty, by John Drane.

John Drane's acclaimed "The McDonaldization of the Church" identified the catastrophic trend of Western churches offering uninventive, pre-packaged worship to dwindling congregations. Since its publication, church attendance has continued to decline even though increasing numbers of people are searching for spiritual integrity and turning to "spirituality."

In "After McDonaldization," Drane argues that the continuing impact of globalization and consumerism has been joined by a post-9/11 culture of fear and a search for truth. He asks what it means to be Christian in a post-Christendom context. Where are today's mission opportunities, the places where God is at work? In our fragmented society, how should Christian community be shaped? And what values might inspire the leaders of the twenty-first century?

As he addresses key questions for Western Christianity in a global context, Drane presents a case for a more practical theology, a reinvigorated style of ministry, and a restatement of classic Christian beliefs for the twenty-first century. "To continue as we are may be comfortable, but could also be institutionally suicidal," writes Drane. "Our options are simple. We either do nothing, and the decline continues, or we ask fundamental questions and take whatever steps may be necessary to re-imagine church life."

Introducing the Missional Church

Introducing the Missional Church: What It Is, Why It Matters, How to Become One (Allelon Missional Series), by Alan Roxburgh and Scott Boren.

This book won’t be out till November 2009. In the meantime, here’s some information about it:

Many pastors and church leaders have heard the term "missional" but have only a vague idea of what it means, let alone why it might be important to them. But what does it actually mean? What does a missional church look like and how does it function? Two leading voices in the missional movement here provide an accessible introduction, showing readers how the movement developed, why it's important, and how churches can become more missional.

Introducing the Missional Church demonstrates that ours is a post-Christian culture, making it necessary for church leaders to think like missionaries right here at home. Focusing on a process that allows a church to discern its unique way of being missional, it guides readers on a journey that will lead them to implement a new set of missional practices in their churches. The authors demonstrate that living missionally is about discerning and joining God's work in the world in order to be a witness to God's kingdom on earth.

To be published by Baker Books.

Incidentally, we're on the lookout for a word to replace: Post-Christian, or even Post-Modern. What do you think the word for the coming period could be?

SPINZ Symposium

At the SPINZ National Symposium 2009, the following paper will be presented: Emergency department re-presentations following intentional self-harm by Silke Kuehl and Dr Kathy Nelson.

The abstract is as follows:

A retrospective observational design was selected for a period of one year and data was collected from electronic clinical case notes. The sample consisted of 48 people with 73 presentations and re-presentations.

This study made several discoveries:
many re-presentations (55%) occurred within one day;
the exact number of people who re-presented many times to ED is unknown, but is far higher than reported in other studies;
fewer support people were present for the second presentation;
the documentation of triage and assessments by ED staff was often minimal, though frequently portrayed immense distress of this population;
cultural input for Maori was missing;
physical health complaints and psychosis were found with some intentional self-harm presentations; challenging behaviours occurred in at least a quarter of presentations;
the medical and mental health inpatient admission rates were approximately 40% higher for second presentations.

Recommendations in regard to the use of a triage assessment tool, cultural input for Maori and the need for a mental health consultation liaison nurse in ED will be made. Staff education, collaboration between services with consumer involvement and further research of this group are required.

Further to this, the link above goes to the list of talks to be given at this Symposium. There are a number of culturally-concerned topics, both Maori and Pasifika, as well as some basics regarding suicide prevention. Anyone with a concern for people tending towards suicide should try and make time to attend.

The NZ Tui (in the photo) is used as a kind of logo on the SPINZ site - photo by 'North of Auckland'

Virtuality again

The discussion continues....

Is virtual (on the Internet) church really church? The issue is troubling a number of people, including Bob Hyatt, who's written in the first blog post of two or more that: The problem, in my mind, with virtual community and internet campuses isn’t that it’s not church... it’s that it is just church enough to be dangerous. Because it has all the easiest and most instantly gratifying parts of community without the harder parts, it ends up misshaping us.

On one hand, there's certainly truth in the fact that face to face stuff with other Christians is an essential part of being in the Body of Christ, but on the other, the fact that people are tuning into some form of church when they might not otherwise attend seems to me a plus rather than a minus.

It all depends on what we think church is. The gathering together of a group of Christians on a Sunday is only part of what Church is, and for many, while it gives them a chance to worship corporately, to hear preaching, to pass the time of day with a few fellow Christians, and maybe get to know a stranger or two, it's a fairly small window in the week. It's what's done outside of that Sunday morning experience that constitutes the rest of church - often the non-Sunday part is the bulk of church for some Christians.

Getting some people to tune into the radio, or TV, or the Internet are all ways of making sure people hear the Word preached. They may also sing along (as the Praise Be series obviously expected people to do) if there's the opportunity. For some people this may be all the church they'll know, and while it may seem fairly low-key to outside viewers, it's vastly superior to no experience of church at all.

If we are to participate in church in the whole sense then obviously we have to do more than attend Sunday services. But I'm not sure that those who just attend Sunday services are really any different to those who attend via the Internet or some older form of media.

Apropos of this, I just came across a blog post by Mark Pierson (who, along with Mike Riddell, is/was one of the pioneers in alternative worship in NZ):

What is there for someone in my situation when I go to church? 30 minutes of sung worship that will pop me out of how I feel and into something “better”? A sermon giving me another 3 things to add to the hundreds I have collected over the last few years in order to better be a follower of Jesus? A stream of people asking me how I am but not waiting long enough for me to tell them? Why do “worship leaders” nearly always expect that a good outcome in worship is to have everyone happy, “up” and talking to those around them? Eric Wilson in his wonderful book, “Against Happiness” suggests that “the predominant form of American happiness breeds blandness.” That may explain why so much worship is so bland.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Way Forward

Aaron Thompson, who works with Student Life at Otago University, has just published an eight-page essay on alcohol and the Gen Y students who are now attending the University. The essay, called The Way Forward, is full of commonsense (something Aaron says most students lack, and which is part of the problem) and offers some well-thought out solutions. Here's a sample from early in the essay.

The day and age has come where old‐fashioned common sense just does not exist en masse, in a self‐evident fashion. Whilst our little country has been buying and trading, sunbathing and fishing, boy racing or tending roses... a gradual but certain paradigm shift has occurred in our youth. The excess of a decade of wealth production combined with the political correctness of our time have resulted in a crop of spoilt brats, who are entitled to what was promised them: whatever they want!

And now who are we to deny them such rights: to dance in the streets, to drink irresponsibly, to throw bottles, to destroy property? After all, it’s everyone’s right‐ the greatest value of Generation Y‐ to have fun. It is hardly surprising that a university that has promoted itself as the place to “get over it” should now find itself in such a predicament.

“Get over it” is the perfect slogan for today’s youth. It meets them where they’re at. Whatever marketing company harnessed the phrase is nothing short of brilliant, because this slogan met a generational desire with 100% accuracy. But there are always two edges to every sword, and in earlier years the slogan earned us student numbers. The now emerging downside is that for such students and such a culture, the same phrase is has conveniently become the stock excuse of a culture out of control. “You don’t like my behaviour – get over it!”

Read the complete essay here. By the way, this essay doesn't just apply to youth drinking in Dunedin; it's relevant way beyond our borders.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Listening to the 'right' preacher

One of the interesting points made on more than one occasion at the Calvin Conference held over the last couple of days was that Calvin was reluctant to have his sermons published because he preached them to a specific congregation at a specific time. He felt they were a very focused Word of the Lord.

Elsie McKee
spent a good deal of time in one of her talks discussing the way in which Calvin, in 1541, had translated his Latin version of the Institutes from 1539 not just into the French equivalent, but into a French that was explanatory of points that would have been obvious to the Latin academic reader, that changed examples and proverbs to ones more familiar to the unacademic audience, and that removed classical references where there might be difficulties in leaving them in.

There has been some comment made recently on other sites about the way in which people can now listen to the 'best' preachers on their Ipods, perhaps to the detriment of the local minister who preaches in their own church. But what came out of the Calvin lectures was that this is not necessarily the most healthy way to hear preaching. Your own minister should be - will be? - speaking to the needs of his particular congregation, and with the help of the Holy Spirit, will be encouraging his church to grow. The preacher on the MP3 will have been talking to a totally different congregation in totally different circumstances. This isn't to say that his preaching won't be used by the Holy Spirit to speak to you, but there is the possibility that it will speaking along lines that suit you, and not along lines that you need.

Being Local

There's a move afoot, plainly, regarding church being localised in the neighbourhood. The idea that people could form communities by travelling across town to some mega-church (or even a reasonably sized smaller church) is beginning to be seen as counterproductive to the idea of community within the Gospel. See our last post for more on what's happening.

Here in the National Mission Office, one of our jobs is to help people begin the journey of looking at their own community: what's already there, what's needed, who lives there, who doesn't, what's available for local people and much more. Though we might start the process, much of this work can only be done by those who actually live in the community, and an excellent piece of such work was done in this way by the Flagstaff Parish (in Dunedin) a couple of years ago. We use their template for helping other parishes to think about their community.

In North America there's a kind of movement beginning called Moving Back into the Neighbourhood, and Alan Roxburgh's site not only talks about this but offers a one-day workshop for people getting to grips with their community and what it contains.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Intentional missional clusters

Len Hjalmarson on the NextReformation blog writes:

Friends in Edmonton are pioneering a new model for planting missional communities. They realized that in most communities in western Canada about one-third have some Christian experience, and between 5 and 10% are believers who are travelling some miles to participate in a church. Their idea: bring the church into the neighbourhood and leverage the existing relational networks. Invite the small number who are already in place to actually become the church in their neighbourhood, and invite those who have some history of neglected commitment to go on a journey in discipleship. They don’t ask those who are driving to “church” to stop driving away on Sunday, but rather to start living on mission where they are.

What is growing up are IMCs.. intentional missional clusters … and out of this are growing
neighbourhood churches: not the building and programs, but people loving God, loving their neighbours and transforming their world (Mark 12).The most surprising part.. the established churches that may lose members over this are not upset but energized, and some are asking for training to reconnect with their own neighbourhoods.

The post continues with some paragraphs from Australian Simon Carey Holt, who notes:
“the Incarnation is about much more than God revealed in human experience, but God revealed and encountered in place—and in the most domestic of places one can imagine.” He goes on to list three points about place and theology. [The three points appear to come out of Holt's book, God Next Door: Spirituality and mission in the neighbourhood]

Suicide and Recession

In an article in the latest SPINZ (Suicide Prevention Information NZ) newsletter, Dr Sunny Collings writes:

Recent articles in the media have suggested that the recession is having an impact on suicide rates. For example, in the UK a death by suicide was reported as being the ‘first suicide due to the economic downturn’. Irrespective of the details of the individual case, this claim is an oversimplification. The causes of suicide are complex and both individual level factors and societal/cultural factors are important.

Suicide rates rose in New Zealand during the Great Depression with a peak in 1930. The international rise in suicide rates during the Depression was probably due to the rise in unemployment. Evidence of a link between unemployment and suicide has been shown in New Zealand, with an odds ratio of about 2.5, meaning that people who are unemployed are more likely to complete suicide.

However, mental disorder was estimated as accounting for about half of the increased risk.

Dr Collings discusses the connections - or lack of them - further in the article, which is available online. Basically, unemployment - particularly for men - can add hugely to stress in a person's life, but it's usually only when it's added to an existing state of unwellness that the risk of suicide increases.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Ignatius the Ultimate Youth Pastor

The video below turned up on the Vertizontal blog. It's well put together, and the cast have a easy approach to their roles. Vertizontal thinks it explains things a little too much, but compared to some Christian videos I think it does pretty well.

It was shot by Taylor Robinson and George Wiley, with video post by Jason Poole and audio by Eric Chapman and Nate Dregger. The role of Ignatius is played by Josh Keefer. Written and directed by Travis Hawkins. Student Life produced the video for a free youth minister event called Refuge. It was conceived as a satire for what they consider to be an unhealthy "rock star" culture that has been growing inside Christendom, as well as an encouragement for the unheralded heroes on the front lines of ministry.

I think most youth groups would get a good laugh out of it - and perhaps even find the idea behind it thought-provoking.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The need for evaluation

In an article on the Roxburgh Missional Network this week, entitled New Directions for a Leadership Style, John McLaverty writes about the need for ongoing evaluation of our lives and ministry. After he quit his job as a full-time pastor nine years ago, McLaverty was encouraged to take a 360 evaluation.

“ A 360 what?”, I believe was my quick and rather anxious response. Patiently and wisely [the Vocational Psychologist] responded, “A 360 is an effective instrument through which you can filter and evaluate changes you may want to make in your style of leadership. It is a multi-rater, full circle (hence the 360) feedback survey. We are going to ask 20-25 of your friends, colleagues, peers and work associates to fill-in a confidential survey on how they perceive you both in strengths and challenges. In the end we will provide you with a confidential report and recommendations for your professional development. We will also suggest you form a support group that will help guide you through the recommendations.”

McLaverty recently asked in a different post, Why are you in ministry? It's a question he believes ministers should be asking themselves on a regular basis. (Us lay-people, of course, never have to ask such questions....!) The Pastor/Leader 360 is available via the Roxburgh site - it costs something, but you can download a sample report to get some idea of what it's about.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Immigration Paper

VisionNetwork publishes short papers on a regular basis, and has just produced by written by Dr Andrew Butcher & Dr George Wieland. Butcher is the Director of Policy and Research at the Asia New Zealand Foundation, and Wieland is a lecturer in New Testament at Carey College, NZ.

The Introduction states:
Immigration has played a significant role in the making of New Zealand. However, the growth in immigration from Asia since the mid-1980s onwards has significantly altered the ethnic composition of New Zealand society. This has, in turn, presented significant challenges for how New Zealanders respond to these changes, for how socially cohesive New Zealand is and could become, and for how churches in New Zealand respond to these changes as reflected in their congregations and parishes.
This paper seeks to identify and address some of these challenges as well as present implications and actions for the way forward. To begin, this paper provides a brief overview of immigrants and immigration policy in New Zealand. This is followed by a discussion of immigration and immigrants in the Bible. To conclude, we discuss the implications for Christian attitudes towards immigrants and immigration today.

The paper is available online here.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Unthinkable Life

Life, Inc. How the World Became a Corporation and How to Take it Back, by Douglas Rushkoff.
Missional guru, Alan Roxburgh, has written a good review of this book on his blog. Here are a couple of paragraphs from it:

“I read it in one sitting. A lot of the material is familiar and, yes, he overstates and exaggerates in places where it isn’t needed. Frankly, it's pretty easy to critique this book at many levels, in part because it tries to tackle a tough piece of social history in a book wanting to communicate with people who don’t have the inside ‘expertise’ of social historians, economists or urban studies. It's a book that over-stretches by oversimplifying economic developments that are more complex than he wishes to own. All of this being the case, Rushkoff has still written a book that deserves our attention. It would seem to be the vocation of church leadership to read with a critical eye and not simply take everything at face value. There is much in this book that will assist us in framing why it is so hard right now to shape local churches and denominational systems in anything that goes much beyond the latest ‘seeker’ techniques or church growth gift-wrapped in glossy missional paper.

“Part of living in an unthinkable world is discovering how to see the ways certain parts of life we simply ‘take for granted’ come out of very specific social histories, now forgotten, that are blinding us not just to the ways we are being shaped but from imagining a different world. In reading Rushkoff we are getting very close to the lived anxieties of the people who come, hungering and thirsting to our churches whom we too often send away empty because we are focused on meeting needs and being seeker friendly. We see how corporatism has framed a way of living in suburban life shaped by the automobile that isolated people from neighbours and makes us frightened of the very strangers the Gospel calls us to embrace.”

The book was published by Random House, June 2, 2009

PS, by 'an unthinkable world' I understand Roxburgh to mean a world we haven't yet envisaged, rather than one that can't be envisaged.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Church Growth Principles Remain

In an article entitled The Top Five Church Growth Principles, by Charles Arn (the son of Win Arn), briefly discusses the five main reasons why churches grow. It isn't programmes (we knew that, didn't we?); it isn't sound and light and huge displays of talent (of course!); it isn't a host of other things we've come up with over the years.

The five things are simple, and have been with us for a long time:

1. Disciple-making is the priority. Yup, that's what churches are there for.
2. Social networks are the vehicle - and while Mr Arn probably doesn't mean virtual social networks, it's that old connection of people to people that counts.
3. Felt needs are the connecting point. Starting where people are at...
4. Relationships are the glue. Being connected to people in the church is what stops people sliding out the back door.
5. Transitions provide the window of opportunity. When someone's going through a crisis, then they need Christ.

The links throughout are people, community, friendships, caring for others, love. Pretty simple, really. Now, go forth and multiply!


In the August edition of NZ Management, there’s a one page article called, Why Health = Wealth. It's written by Peter Tynan.
We’re all familiar with the word, absenteeism, but in this article a similar word, presenteeism, is introduced. It relates to people who come to work sick, and the impact on productivity associated with having them there in that state. The biggest cost to businesses in relation to their staffs’ poor health is presenteeism.
It’s not a matter of making sure people stay away when they’re unwell, but ensuring that people are more healthy in general. According to some stats, 70% of workers have a “state of health equivalent to an older person, with 20% rated as having the health of someone a decade older. Nearly a third were rated as obese while stress levels were poor to bad for 43%.” As recession stress only adds to ill-health.
At present it’s estimated that “two thirds of New Zealand companies offer employees health and wellness interventions. “ But further investment in this area is needed, particularly as the workforce ages.

Sunday, August 09, 2009


The Out of Ur blog has posted two pieces by Frank Viola on the 'postchurch.'

In the first, Viola takes issues with the idea that any gathering of two or three constitutes 'church,' as many claim it does. I've probably done it myself, although I think I've kept the sense of a larger church body in mind at the time. Perhaps two or three gathered together is a temporary, fluid bit of the Body. Viola brings more clarity to the issue by pointing out the context in which the verse about two or three gathered together occurs, and shows that it has little to do with random groups of people proclaiming themselves as a 'church,' and a great deal to do with the Body as we know it working to get things right within itself by the Holy Spirit.

In his second post, he offers six 'tests' which he says the idea of the 'postchurch'-2-or-3-gathered fail. Whether you agree with these or not, he's making a valid point that people gathering together on an ad hoc basis without reference to the wider church tend to be avoiding the very things the Body as a whole can deal with (when it's functioning properly, of course!)

As always, the comments following the posts are (almost always) as illuminating as the posts themselves.

Viola, by the way, isn't an advocate for the 'institutional' church in the way we commonly know it these days. He doesn't see value in the hierarchical church, or the business model church, or any other church that's based on something the world has cooked up.

[And apropos of the business model, I watched the movie, Network, the other night. Thirty years on, its satire is as devastating as ever. Here's one of the characters on the value of business to the world: We no longer live in a world of nations and ideologies, Mr. Beale. The world is a college of corporations, inexorably determined by the immutable bylaws of business. The world is a business, Mr. Beale. It has been since man crawled out of the slime. And our children will live, Mr. Beale, to see that . . . perfect world . . . in which there's no war or famine, oppression or brutality. One vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work to serve a common profit, in which all men will hold a share of stock. All necessities provided, all anxieties tranquilized, all boredom amused.]

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Have IPhone, can Worship

Going to the movies, or a concert - or to church? Turn off your cellphone.

However, a growing number of iPhone owners are now using the device to "go" to church. Several churches have begun streaming services over the iPhone, and one of the first to do so is Northland, A Church Distributed, (yup, that's what they're called), which launched an iPhone Web app early in July this year. They offer not only videos of past church services, but also live streaming: the means to be "at" the service even though you're not physically there.

Northland has been innovative in this regard since 2001; hence the “distributed sites.” After opening four separate sites in Orlando, it began webcasting its services in 2006 , and in 2008 began an inteactive version of its webstream with access to an online pastor and the ability to chat with other worshipers.

I had a look at their website: at first it looks a bit underdone, but in fact, as you check it out, it proves to be more than adequate for the task.

While we hum and hah about whether virtual church is real church, there are people out there getting on and doing it. You can find out how they go about doing things technological on one of their blogs.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Dave Tomlinson in New Zealand

Dave Tomlinson comes to Wellington
(these details come from a joint newsletter put out by Presbyterian Youth Ministry and World Vision).

World Vision have brought Dave Tomlinson, an Anglican priest in London, over to New Zealand for a fleeting visit. Dave will give two keynote talks on "re-emerging church" on Thursday 10 September, 9 - 12:30 pm @ St John's in the City, Wellington. Door charge $10.

Who is he?
Dave wrote The Post-evangelical, founded "Holy Joes" church in a pub, and has recently published the excellent book, Re-enchanting Christianity, which follows on from The Post-evangelical in that it explores ways of being faithful to the Gospel/Bible for those who may be post-church or wondering about their faith. Bible, prayer, mission, theology, church, community, are some of the areas explored. Now he is the vicar of St Luke's in North London, an Anglican parish church that seeks to combine tradition with contemporary culture. He is married to Pat, and has three children and three grandchildren. Dave's website has more information about his work and ministry.

Re-emerging Church?

Mark Pierson, from World Vision, uses the term "re-emerging church", which he prefers to "emerging church" because it better reflects a desire to see existing churches resourced to re-discover their place in the culture, rather than feel that something new is going to come along and take them over. Dave has done this at St Luke's Anglican in London and his new book reflects this practice.

Dave's two keynote talks:

Church without borders
In a fractured and fragmented world where many starve for relationships and belonging, how can we build more open and inclusive communities? How can we create churches that people want to come to? How can we connect effectively with churchless spirituality?

Identity and change in an age of uncertainty
How do we listen and respond to what is happening in the world, whilst continuing to listen, and remain faithful, to our tradition? What do we let go of, and what do we hold on to? And how can our traditions and rituals be reconfigured and re-spirited to meet new needs?

What does it all mean?

If you think we post too much about the Internet, Facebook, Twittering and the like on here, then check out this video. It asks at the end, What Does it All Mean?, but unhelpfully doesn't give an answer - of any sort.

It's primarily a batch of stats about the pace of life, the advancement of technology, the way in which the world has changed. The information is varied, and covers things like how many babies were born while the nearly five minutes of video plays through; about the fact that people growing up now are being prepared for jobs that don't even exist yet; that so much technological change happens every year that technology students can never keep up; that the amount of information engendered every day is more than happened over the last 5,000 years...and so on. You get the drift.

Not knowing what it means, or even knowing, it's still an interesting video (!)

Spiritual Practice name it!

Want some interesting topics for sermon ideas? Check out the growing list of Spiritual Practices at Godspace.

Spiritual Practices? Nah, been there, done that. Don't want to go down that old road of contemplation and monasticism again. That's so 90s (or maybe it was 80s?) and so Richard Foster.

But you might be a little surprised by this list: it includes the spiritual practice of love-making (I'll never forget hearing a guy at a Full Gospel Businessman's meeting telling us he and his wife used to kneel down and pray before making love), the spiritual practice of composting by New Zealander, Steve Taylor (I can fully understand composting as a spiritual practice); the spiritual practices of driving and smoking - these are two separate practices, I hasten to add. And don't forget twittering, blogging, and taking a shower.

Men's Sheds

I came across an Australian book yesterday called The Real Men's Toolbox: a DIY health manual for men, by Tammy Farrell. I haven't had a change to have a good look at it yet, (I saw it in passing at a local bookshop), but it has some good things to say about men's mental health, and what's more, it introduces the concept of Men's Sheds, a significant movement in Australia.

On the Men's Sheds site they state: Problems with men's health, isolation, loneliness and depression are looming as major health issues for men. Men's sheds can play a significant and practical role in addressing these and other men's issues. Men’s sheds can help connect men with their communities and mainstream society and at the same time act as a catalyst in stimulating their community's economic activities.

The sheds appear to be focused more at older men, if the pictures are anything to go by, but by no
means exclusively. They talk about mentoring younger guys; not only youths, but blokes in their 30s and 40s. What they're doing, in effect, is rebuilding what was normal in the old days, when men would get together as a matter of course and work on rebuilding, renovating, helping each other put stuff together, chewing the fat and drinking no doubt. With society having focused to such a degree on every man for himself and every family separate from other families, this natural approach to life has withered away. And brought with it issues such as those mentioned in the earlier paragraph.

The Men's Sheds site has a good deal of info on it, and several slide shows (rather than videos). Spirituality is part of the approach, though this isn't discussed from any particular religious point of view. However I get the impression Men's Sheds are varied in their style, and no doubt there's plenty of room for discussing life and death and all the issues in between.

Photo by Jim Vance