Monday, September 28, 2009

Being human...

To be human is to be responsible. That is the inner meaning of the "dominion" of Genesis 1:26, which is a dominion not of domination but of stewardship, taking care of the world's back yard ... God the world-maker is God the care-taker. Humans properly stand over other creatures only as they stand with other creatures, showing them love, giving them space, and granting them "rights."

- Kim Fabricius,
from his book, Propositions on Christian Theology: a Pilgrim Walks the Plank

I thought it was worth adding this from the book's blurb...
In this little book, a kind of contemporary enchiridion [handbook], Kim Fabricius engages some of the main themes of Christian theology in prose, poetry, and song (his own hymns). It does not aim to be systematic or comprehensive; rather it goes straight to the main contested areas in the church today, the red-button issues in doctrine, spirituality, culture, ethics, and politics.
Fabricius's imaginative vision and lively conversational style moving freely between the interrogative and the polemical, the playful and the profound invite us all to the vertiginous experience of faith. The book's concise format and no-nonsense approach make it a perfect guide for inquiring Christians as well as committed disciples and an ideal discussion-starter for both church groups and college classes.
The author's passionate commitment to a self-critical faith is a provocative invitation to religion's cultured despisers to join him if they dare on the plank.

And a little more on Fabricius himself:
After spending most of the 70s wasting his youth (which he reckons is better than having done nothing with it), he was blasted into faith reading Karl Barth’s Commentary on Romans. This led him pretty directly into ministry, which Kim describes as “that wonderful vocation provided by the good Lord for displaced Christian intellectuals who are useless at proper work.”


We need to do away with any literal picture of eternal life as an irrelevant existence in a remote place. The images of harps and wings may symbolically suggest the happiness of heavenly life, but they do not set the actual scene. Although heaven is currently separated from this world, this arrangement is temporary and we must learn to distinguish between heaven now and heaven forever.... On the new earth, heaven and earth will be knit together again, as they were in the beginning.

Nathan L.K. Bierma
Bringing Heaven Down to Earth

And all I can say to this is, Amen! And check out the positive reviews for this book on Amazon. (This isn't an advertisment by the way...LOL)

Thursday, September 24, 2009

laughter is the better medicine

I find that if I hang round with people who love to laugh, I enjoy life so much more than when I hang around people who are angry or bitter. I become like those I hang out with and every so often, I find that I need to censor my friendships - not cut those unhelpful friendships off, but certainly to limit them and to spend more time with those who love to laugh, if only for my own sanity.

Sophie Blanc

"Loving life, loving laughter" from catapult magazine

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


It's the 16-year-old that has relationships with 66 year olds and 6 year olds who is more likely to stay involved in a faith community after [he or] she graduates.

Kara Powell writes on the Out of Ur blog that it's now been statistically shown that children and teenagers who are continually segregated off from 'adult church' during their growing years aren't likely to get attached to the church as they become young adults. They tend to slide away and lose their contact altogether.

Powell writes that: In the 1940s and post World War II, there was a real burst in parachurch organizations focused on ministry to teenagers and young adults, such as Young Life, InterVarsity, and Youth for Christ. In many ways, they led the way for the church in realizing that we need to focus on specialized discipleship and teaching for teenagers.

In spite of great results, the result was age-related segregation. And with many young people only going to youth group and not to church, there's no link to the adult church community.

Powell sees the future as intergenerational youth ministry.

I'm not entirely sure what intergenerational youth ministry actually is; wouldn't the better phrase be intergenerational ministry? Not to forget the youth, but to integrate them.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Invitation to Friendship

Charles Slagle, in his book, An Invitation to Friendship (volume two of From the Father's Heart), pg 12. (Published Destiny Image, 1999)

In both these books, the 'letters' are from God to one of his children.

I know that some people would have you believe that you can count on Me...only if I can count on you. What nonsense! You were counting on yourself more than you trusted in My power before My Spirit awakened your heart to know Me.
Why would I send you a message that would catapult you back ino the despair of that
dark era? Religious minds are always setting deadlines. I Am Limitless Love, and I Am always extending lifelines.

I love the play on words between deadlines and lifelines here. And I enjoy the humour Slagle provides throughout these books - or God does...

And another announcement: Brian McLaren in NZ

World Vision and Laidlaw College Present: Brian McLaren - Where Faith meets the World

Tuesday 13 October, 7.30pm
Laidlaw College, Lincoln Road, Henderson

Brian MclarenIn a time where everyone is talking about global crisis, Brian McLaren is also talking about Jesus and his message for us and our situation. Brian offers a framework where he explores the societal systems we live in: prosperity, equity and security systems.

Instead of functioning in perfect harmony, guided by God, these systems have become misaligned and no longer function as they should. They have become destructive, and this is the problem Jesus came to address. Brian describes these dysfunctions as:

  1. Prosperity Crisis – Our pursuit of prosperity is unsustainable ecologically. We demand more resources and produce more waste than our planet can handle.
  2. Equity Crisis – A minority of the world’s population is experiencing great prosperity, while a majority is not. This growing gap between rich and poor adds to the pain of poverty and acute sense of injustice.
  3. Security Crisis – As the environment experiences greater stress and puts limits on economic growth, the poor suffer disproportionately. Their suffering in turn fuels mass migration, petty and organised crime, war and terrorism. The rich respond by investing more and more of their income in weapons and armies and police, leaving the poor even more isolated and angry.
  4. Spirituality Crisis – Our religious systems fail to provide inspiration and the moral will to address these crises. Too often, they legitimise counterproductive responses, or they distract people from constructive action by preoccupying them with other matters.

Having thought long and hard about the world’s problems, Brian says, “ Our plethora of critical global problems (is real)….(but) the fourth crisis is the lynchpin or leverage point through which we can reverse the first three.”

The message of Jesus offers a revolution of hope for our planet and the poor.

This is where mission meets the reality of the world

"We'd better listen to Brian McLaren if we want to bring the reality of Christ into the world as it is and the church as it now is." Dallas Willard Professor of Philosophy, University of Southern California in Los Angeles

More info on Brian at, or contact

This will be Brian McLaren's only public meeting in New Zealand.

ANZAMS Mini-Symposium


Aotearoa-New Zealand Association for Mission Studies (ANZAMS)

Date & Time:
30–31 October 2009 | 1:30pm (Friday) – 3:30pm (Saturday)

Venue: Laidlaw College, Auckland Campus – 80 Central Park Drive, Henderson, Waitakere 0650

About the mini-symposium


"From Edinburgh 1910 World Mission Conference to Edinburgh 2010 - Witnessing to Christ Today: Perspectives from Aotearoa/New Zealand"

A selection of papers will be presented which will discuss some of the themes of next year's Edinburgh 2010 centenary celebration, including:

  • Metaphors of Mission in the Gospel of Matthew
  • Newbigin's Trinitarian Missiology
  • Missiologists as Key-holders for Theological Education Reform
  • Migrant Theologies
  • Christian Communities in Contemporary Contexts
  • Global Christianities and Mission Studies
  • History as Evangelism
  • Global Christianities and Mission Studies
  • Assessing the Impact of NZ Missionaries on the World Scene
  • And more!!


Among those presenting will be Ross Langmead (AAMS Australia), John Roxborogh, Steve Graham, Rosemary Dewerse, John Hitchen, George Wieland, Hugh Kemp and Peter Lineham.

Cost (including meals)

Prepayment: $50 (cheques payable to SGM Conference Account)

Door: $60

Limited accommodation may be available at Laidlaw College at extra cost.

For further information and registration, email Ian Dally, or phone +64 9 837 9758.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Against Happiness

Once a Protestant church was a place where one would grow to understand his severe optical limitations in comparison with the infinite vision of a ubiquitous deity, a God whose centre is everywhere and circumference nowhere. Now, at least in my eyes, the numerous churches devoted to Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, Lutherans and the like are basically happiness companies, corporations that focus on how one can achieve blessedness while living in this world. In the pews and pulpits, contrition has turned trite, and contentment has become the given. The blessed gaze of those striding from the aisles to the vestibule is inspiring to behold. The firm farewell handshake between the minister and his parishioner is a sacred seal, a bond: stay happy until next week, for God has planned for you to prosper, if only you will pray over your repasts and tithe your earnings.

...we are beginning to see that this American quest for happiness at any cost is not merely a pastime, an occasional undertaking. We are starting to realize that this push for earthly bliss is at the core of the American soul.

from Against Happiness, by Eric G Wilson, pp 19-21, Sarah Crichton Books, 2008

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Free Webinar

We've talked about webinars on here before (most recently, Lynne Baab's one that's coming up soon), and we've just been made aware of one that's happening on Wednesday, Sept 23, from 2 pm - 3 pm. (That's Eastern Standard Time, in the US, and according to a handy little link on the registration page, it'll be 6 am - 7 am in the morning here in New Zealand, on Thursday the 24th.)

This webinar
is being run by US author, Mary Ellen Copeland, who's written extensively in the mental health area. She's the author of WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). This is a simple approach to self-help for those struggling with wellness; it identifies personal resources that you can use to improve recovery.

In this webinar she'll describe concrete techniques for identifying wellness tools and helpful ideas that can be used when working with others who are in need of wellness.

The webinar will also include a preview of Mary Ellen's online course, 'Wellness Tools' (I think that's called: never let a moment pass when you might be marketing!)

Registration page is here.
In case you didn't notice the heading - this is a FREE webinar.

The God Gene

John Cleese, looking considerably older than he does in the endless re-runs of Fawlty Towers, explains some new findings in the gene programme, including the one the makes us believe in God.

Keep your ears open; this is smarter than it seems...!

Thanks to Bosco Peters, who brought this video to my attention...

Madeleine DelbrĂȘl

Lord, let the thick skin that covers me not be a hindrance to you. Pass through it. My eyes, my hands, my mouth are yours. This sad lady in front of me: here is my mouth for you to smile at her ... This smug young man, so dull, so hard: here is my heart, that you may love him, more strongly than he has ever been loved before.

- Madeleine DelbrĂȘl,
Missionary and activist (1904-1964)

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Getting back on the feet

You've probably heard these snippets of biography before in other places, but they're worth repeating. This is a brief video on failure, and getting back on your feet again.

Worth showing to your youth group, or your Saga Generation group (the oldies, in other words) or the kids...maybe everyone.

Future Church

In the latest edition of the online magazine, Next-Wave Ezine, there's an article by Eutychus Bailey. Slightly tongue-in-cheek, it's called: Third Millenium Church Movements

The note from the editor states:

The following article was written on 3 February 2046 by Eutychus Bailey, author and former North American pastor. Because of amazingly quick Internet access and the exponential growth of micro-processing speeds, we are now able to publish this column forty years before it was actually written. This gives us the chance to get an unknowingly futurist perspective on where things are heading from this pragmatist writer observing his own times.

Note the date....

Bailey looks at four movements in the church, and gives his view on how they've have fared over the 'last' thirty or so years.

2000-2008: The Super-Church Satellite Movement

2008-2019:The Post-Evangelical Movement

2020-2031:The Melting Pot Movement

2032-2045 The House Church Movement

(An interesting take of where the church is currently at....)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

iGens and self-esteem

"Emerging adults (those between 18 and 30) form a generation that is largely insensitive to the potency of God's holiness, and are therefore insensitive to the magnificence of his grace, the shocking nature of his love, and that gratitude forms the core of the Christian life. Some today complain about these matters. But I doubt very much that ramping up moral exhortations and warning about an endless hell are the proper places to begin with emerging adults.

"The typical emerging adult, if I can capture the trend in one expression, is a "self in a castle." That is to say, the "self" is protected from the onslaughts of those who will attack it. I suspect that this is something unique in history. Never has a generation been more in tune with the self and more protective of the self. How did we get here? What led to the self-in-a-castle condition among this generation, whom I call the iGens?"

So writes Scot McKnight in an article entitled The Gospel for iGens in the Leadership Journal online. Scot cites two particular instances of influences which while aiming to be good, actually appeared to have done damage: Mr Rogers, the popular children's storyteller, and Sesame Street.

Mr Rogers...
gave to the current generation a free-standing consciousness that daily says, "I am okay."
Sesame Street...focused on "We are all okay." "...even if current iGens did not directly watch Sesame Street, the themes of the show express a movement that gets at the central attribute of iGens....self-esteem."

Author Jean Twenge concurs: the American educational system and other cultural forces have so focused on self-esteem that they are producing a generation of potential narcissists. This sentence summarizes her assessment of iGens: "The individual has always come first, and feeling good about yourself has always been a primary virtue."

Twenge wrote a book: Generation Me - Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled—and More Miserable than Ever Before.

McKnight points out: Note what [Twenge]'s not saying: iGens are not selfish or spoiled. Instead, they are intoxicated with the impact of 40 years of education that has focused singularly on self-esteem as the entitlement of each and every person for nothing more than being alive. As Twenge puts it, "GenMe is not self-absorbed; we're self-important."

This is an excellent article which aims to show how to reach these young people "who have the healthiest, most robust egos in the history of the West." Read the rest here, since this applies not just to American children, but all those influenced by the American culture.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Supporting teens in difficult times

Skylight, a not-for-profit organisation focused on helping kids and teens, has launched an innovative new single edition youth support magazine, ‘The Journey Through’, which honestly and frankly tackles the very difficult issues teens and young people face. It’s been written specifically for young people in New Zealand, and features many stories, words and photos, kiwi teens have contributed.

The media release says: Life can be really tough. The issues teenagers face are diverse and include changing schools, moving to a new city or country, losing your friends, bullying, parents breaking up, living in a blended family or absent parents, peer pressure, terminal illness or death of someone close to them, mental health issue, disability and too often trauma, abuse or violence.

Pat Snedden on Leadership

Two comments from Pat Snedden on Leadership:

What I’ve been attracted to all along- maybe it’s the Catholic influence – is what I call servant leadership. It’s the capacity to be confident enough to put your skills and resources in the service of the various agenda you have running but not to run it with tickets on yourself. In other words, it’s not about you – it’s about the thing you are trying to be part of.
What about seeing New Zealand as a place where there are a lot of people who spend a lot of time resolving difficult social issues and selling that IP across the world. How might the Treaty process work in Palestine?

Quoted in the Sept 09 NZ Management magazine, pg 40. The full article is called Pat Snedden: on transformation and servant leadership.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

No unhappy staff

"There’s an equation in business that many organisations and managers use involving profits, goods and services, and people. It appears to me that most businesses get this equation wrong because they put profits first, then goods and services, then the people who work for them. But the most successful organisations, the best places to work, the world’s greatest leaders will all tell you the same thing – put people first."

"It’s one thing to say you do it, but do you behave like you do, and do your people believe it."

After a survey in which 68% of the staff said they were happy, Kendall’s firm decided to find out where they were going wrong with the other 34% - and then put them in charge of getting it right. The latest survey shows that their new approach works: no unhappy staff.

Kendall says "staff are asked to categorise their issues, and the decisions they want made, into one of four areas:
  • Management makes the decision. No questions asked.
  • Everyone has input; management has final say.
  • Everyone has input and we all agree on the outcome.
  • Everyone has input and staff decide the outcome. Management butts out."

Extracts from a piece in NZ Management (Sept 09): On People Ahead of Profit, by Annette Kendall.

On Emergence (not emergent - or emergency)

A couple of extracts from an article by Margaret J Wheatley, called Using Emergence to take Social Innovations to Scale.

Wheatley explains 'emergence' this way:

Emergence violates so many of our Western assumptions of how change happens that it often takes quite a while to understand it. In nature, change never happens as a result of top-down, pre-conceived strategic plans, or from the mandate of any single individual or boss. Change begins as local actions spring up simultaneously in many different areas. If these changes remain disconnected, nothing happens beyond each locale. However, when they become connected, local actions can emerge as a powerful system with influence at a more global or comprehensive level. (Global here means a larger scale, not necessarily the entire planet.)

Emergence comes about through Networks:

Networks are the only form of organization used by living systems on this planet. These networks result from self-organization, where individuals or species recognize their interdependence and organize in ways that support the diversity and viability of all. Networks create the conditions for emergence, which is how Life changes. Because networks are the first stage in emergence, it is essential that we understand their dynamics and how they develop into communities and then systems.

This article was written back in 2006, but even at that stage, emergence (especially on the Net) was a considerable force: Linux, Wikipedia, Tribes to name a very few. The current strength of social media on the Net is another example; it may not entirely be what Wheatley had in mind, but is has the same sort of elements.

And Here's the 500th Post as Promised

500 posts on this blog....we began on March 12th, 2008. Not too bad an effort...

This 500th post presents a press release from the South Canterbury Presbytery. It's of particular interest to National Mission Office, as we've been involved in this process for a few years....

The four Presbyterian congregations in Timaru voted on Sunday to dissolve their current congregations and form one new congregation. Trinity, St Paul’s and St Stephen’s voted to proceed, with 85%, 97% and 94% of those present in favor. Chalmers voted 61% in favor. The Chalmers figure is less than the 66% majority required by the PCANZ (Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa New Zealand) for significant decisions.

The Presbytery of South Canterbury will be asked by the leaders of Trinity, St Paul’s and St Stephen’s to proceed with the dissolution of their congregations and the establishment of one new congregation.

A task group has been set up by the Presbytery to investigate the proposal. They will hear why the churches have taken this decision, and listen to objections and endorsements from church members. Presbytery will also have to consider whether the amalgamation can proceed with only three churches, as discussions and planning over several years have been made on the basis of combining all four congregations.

Religious Diversity in New Zealand

The first edition of the Statement on Religious Diversity in New Zealand in 2007 was the result of an extensive consultation and the contribution of people of diverse religious backgrounds. It sparked debate, and sometimes controversy, in the respective religious traditions.

Two years later, in the light of the value of the work done since then, the Roman Catholic Church has endorsed the revised edition.

In the new Statement, the eight key principles of 2007 are retained; the commentary on each of these reflects the changes and experience of the past two years. The revised text reflects submissions from the public and from organizations, especially faith groups and churches.

Principle 8 on Cooperation and Understanding reads: Government and faith communities have a responsibility to build and maintain positive relationships with each other, and to promote mutual respect and understanding. The Statement recognizes the right for Christian schools to provide “a programme of religious instruction as part of an individuals’ formation within a particular faith,” but also affirms that “education in schools about religious diversity is essential if we are to understand New Zealanders, our Asia-Pacific region and the wider world in which we live.”

This latest version of the Statement is unlikely to be the last; as John A Dew, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Wellington notes: We have heard today of the need for dialogue / debate / discussion on religion in the work place - this will be ongoing and this statement should be a framework for national debate.

More information about the Statement, its revisions and other related matters are on the related Human Rights Commission website.

3 Subjects: Posts, updates and a Webinar

1. I'm very surprised to find we're just about up to 500 posts on this blog. If I get some time today, we might make it.

2. I've been out of the office for a couple of days...hence the lack of updates on here. This week will see that made up for!

3. Most important of the three subjects here:

On Tuesday, September 22, 2009 4:00 pm Eastern Daylight Time - that's four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time, or 16 hours behind NZ time, if my calculations are correct - Lynne Baab will be holding a webinar called Facebook and Twitter 101 for Congregations, in other words a webinar for Facebook and Twitter Beginners.

Lynne Baab is a well-known author and experienced webinar leader. She'll be connecting with Alban Institute from New Zealand and will provide an overview of the following:
how Facebook and Twitter both work;
how groups, such as congregations, can use them;
a brief discussion of whether we need to be concerned about online relationships replacing face to face relationships.
If you've been wanting someone to help you evaluate whether or not your congregation should be considering these social networking options, this webinar has been designed just for you. (And if you're in New Zealand, you can get involved in this Webinar....just make sure you've worked out the time difference!)

Lynne M. Baab is a Presbyterian minister and author of the Alban book Reaching Out in A Networked World: Expressing Your Congregation's Heart and Soul, as well as six other books and a Bible study guide. She recently completed a Ph.D. in communication at the University of Washington. She lives with her husband in Dunedin, New Zealand, where she is a lecturer in pastoral theology at the University of Otago. She is the author of two other Alban Institute books: Personality Type in Congregations, and Embracing Midlife.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Next Evangelicalism

The Next Evangelicalism: Freeing the Church from Western Cultural Captivity, by Soong-Chan Rah.

This book, critical as it is of American white evangelicalism (and therefore also of NZ white evangelicals) sparks a strong critical review from one Amazon writer, an Assemblies of God pastor. His biggest concern is that Korean-born Rah sees the white culture as one big negative. For him, Rah forgets the very many strong and positive traits of Western civilisation, and lumps all white Christians together as one homogenous group.

That aside, however, he has some good things to say about the book, and admits that in spite of its ‘flaws’ it points out something that is needing to be said in regard to the group that is 60% of the world’s Christian community: the Africans, the Asians and the Latin Americans.

“No matter how hard I tried, I couldn't escape the conclusion that Rah - to a significant degree - is right. The American evangelical church is declining, or at least its Anglo component is. But as Rah points out, the non-Anglo component of the American evangelical church is thriving. This is true in my own denomination, the Assemblies of God.

“…the Anglo evangelical church in America declining, it is guilty - in various parts and to varying degrees - of practicing an individualistic, consumerist, materialistic, and racist form of Christianity. Why do we focus on personal evangelism rather than also on social transformation? Why do we think the three B's - buildings, bucks, and butts in the pew - are indicators of a church's success, if that's even an appropriate word for a church to use? And why do we presume that non-white culture is a mission field that needs our contributions and competence, rather than the other way around?”

To sum up, “correction does not mean the total negation of the one culture nor the total affirmation of the others. It requires a balancing off of weaknesses and strengths.”

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Sheds, Streets and Charity

I wrote about the Men's Sheds movement in Australia a few posts back. I didn't know that the movement had reached New Zealand as well, so was pleasantly surprised to read in the paper this week that a second Shed was just up and running. They're actually calling them "Blokes' Sheds" here, so it may be an uptake of the idea rather than an offshoot of it.

The first Dunedin shed was established at Taieri Airport about a year ago (Taieri Airport now being a place where only little planes take off from), and the second shed is in the grounds of the Kings High School. It goes by the name of the South Dunedin Blokes' Shed, and officially opens on Saturday the 5th Sept, 2009. (Apparently Alexandra is also in the process of setting up a Blokes' Shed and Wellington is in on the act too.) You can see a video from Channel 9 about the Taieri Blokes' Shed here.

On another front, a group called Living Streets Dunedin is initiating the concept of making Dunedin streets more pleasant for pedestrians through "highlighting the good, the bad and the ugly in their walking environment." This sounds a little like the idea of getting to know your community, which Flagstaff Parish began a year or so ago.

And who says charity is dead? A young girl, Grace Hughes, was featured on television in July and in the Otago Daily Times in August. She has an inability to eat, and could be helped by treatment at a hospital in Austria. As the Star newspaper reports: Since then the family has been inundated with offers of help.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

STAANZ Conference

After much debate about dates and venues, Nicola Hoggard Creegan from Auckland, and Hugh Bowron from Christchurch, have decided to organise a STAANZ (Systematic Theology Association in Aotearoa New Zealand) conference in Auckland on November 19/20. Venue is to be the heart of Ponsonby, at Ponsonby Baptist Church Hall - so they can enjoy the cafes for lunch and dinner.
The theme for the conference will be eschatology and pneumatology. Nicola and Hugh would be happy for you to circulate this information to other theologians, and also to graduate students who might be interested.

So far, the following people have already promised papers:
Hugh Bowron "Holy Spirit in the Work of Walter Kasper"
Martin Sutherland "Completing Barth? Helmut Thielicke the Spirit"
Myk Habets "Infant Salvation?"
Linda Paterson, Antony Glading, and Judith Brown have also promised papers.
Please send paper proposals to:
Nicola Hoggard Creegan at or
Hugh Bowron

Proposals should be sent if possible before the end of September. A programme will be circulated by early November at the latest.

Forget Economics, Think Socialnomics

I found the following video on Bosco Peters' Liturgy site. The stats are most interesting, and have probably all been surpassed since the video was made, such is the speed with which internet social media is moving.

As Bosco comments on his site: If social media is here to stay - how is the church responding? How is your parish or Christian community participating? The seven last words of a Christian community are, “we never did it like that before.”

Is social media here to stay? Certainly for the next reasonable period of time.