Tuesday, December 29, 2009

To those growing older and soon to part

The Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa NZ publishes a monthly magazine called Candour. While it's available online, it's only accessible by a username and password, and obviously I'm not at liberty to pass those onto people reading this blog.

However, I am at liberty to let you know about a particular piece that appeared in the Sept 09 edition. It was written by Rev Jim Battersby, a retired minister living in Auckland.

The piece takes the form of a letter, and is entitled, To those growing older and soon to part.
The letter addresses the issue of how to come to terms with the fact that eventually any couple will be forced to face the issue that one of them will die before the other. This is especially pertinent for those who have been together for many years, and may be in their seventies or eighties or older.

Jim lost his own wife when he was 72 and has been on his own for 11 years. He knows the pain of separation, and the how it feels to cope after the loved one has gone. Suddenly all sorts of household responsibilities fall entirely on one pair of shoulders. Things that were shared have be done by one person alone. Domestic duties effectively double.

But there are other things that aren't so obvious, things that Jim says should be looked at before one or other partner dies. These include where to find important documents (often one person looks after these); how bills are paid, where family records are kept, the addresses of people on one side of the family who may not be so familiar to the other side.

For the wife there may suddenly be issues of maintenance. (In my house this would be no problem as my wife is the one who does most of the maintenance!) For men who have seldom cooked meals, there is the issue of dealing with daily food requirements. There may be a disability one or other spouse has: how will they deal with that when they're alone?

Some people may find it hard to deal with arrangements for a future funeral, but it certainly eases the burden when the day comes if some things are already in place. And then there are those issues that have never properly been resolved. They may still not get entirely cleared, but talking about them before a person dies is better than having them still hanging over you once they've died.

In the space of a couple of pages, Jim covers all these issues and more. I've been given permission by him to email or post copies of his article to anyone interested. Send me an email if you'd like a copy: email mcrowl@gmail.com. 

PS. Or you can now find it on my other blog.

Simple approaches to wellbeing

In the October edition of In Touch, the newsletter put out by the Mental Health Foundation of NZ, five ways to improve your wellbeing were noted. Wellbeing and wellness are much of our focus here at National Mission, and so I'm passing on these five points (with a few of my own comments in brackets).

They begin by saying that wellbeing is a state of feeling good and functioning well. The five ways to wellbeing - all simple, straightforward approaches - are as follows:

1. Connect: develop your relationships with friends, family, colleagues and neighbours. These connections support you and enrich your life. [Tapu Misa wrote about this aspect of health in one of her recent columns.]

2. Give: do something for a friend or stranger and see yourself and your happiness as linked to the wider community. [Think of the 'Pay it Forward' approach]

3. Take notice: be aware of the world around you and see the beauty in [both] everyday and unusual things - reflecting on them helps you appreciate what matters to you. [Note the word reflecting: taking notice takes time.]

4. Learn: try something new or rediscover an old interest, or take on a new responsibility or challenge. Learning makes you more confident and can be fun.

5. Be active: physical activity helps you to feel good so find something that you enjoy and that suits your personality. [The biggest difficulty with this is that when you feel down, it's hard to get moving in physical activity, even something as simple as going for a walk. Having someone else to do the activity with you makes a huge difference. The same applies to point 4.]

Monday, December 28, 2009

Top Ten NZ Christian blogs (for October 2009)

The stats are a little behind, but for those who are interested in such things, here are the top ten NZ 'Christian' blogs as at October 2009. (The post I found this on was actually published only a couple of days ago.)

I've put 'Christian' in quotes only because some of these sites, while written by Christians, don't necessarily focus primarily on the subject of Christianity - and some of them such as Something should go here - maybe later, a blog I'd never heard of till today, are as in-your-face as they come, while still definably Christian.

The MandM site, which posted this information, comes out on top. The blog is written by a husband and wife team, and tends to focus more on the political than the spiritual. However, their foundation is Christian.

  1. [1.] MandM 14.5 (3 – 26)
  2. [2.] NZ Conservative 17 (5 – 29)
  3. [3.] MacDoctor Moments 17.5 (18 – 17)
  4. [4.] Something Should Go Here, Maybe Later (HalfDone) 19 (10 – 28)
  5. [5.] Say Hello to my Little Friend (Beretta Blog) 21.5 (8 – 35)
  6. [6.] Being Frank 34.5 (36 – 33)
  7. [7.] Liturgy Worship Spirituality* 37 (34 – 40)
  8. [8.] Brad Heap 44.5 (46 – 43)
  9. [N.] Manawatu Christian Apologetics Society 46 (43 – 49)
  10. [N.] The Briefing Room 51 (81 – 21)

While you have a few moments, check these blogs out. I've only ever come across the 1st and the 5th before, myself, so I'll be doing some investigating of the others over the next period.

Christian Disciplines

Phyllis Tickle (most recently, author of The Great Emergence) talks briefly about the need for the Christian disciplines in our lives, and the way in which those same disciplines transformed the early church, and also about being convinced that Jesus is God...

Monday, December 21, 2009

5 Barriers to Church Growth

Back in August this year we posted a piece relating to Charles Arn and his five principles of church growth. [Church growth principles remain.]

I've just come across another piece by Arn, which looks at the same issue from the opposite perspective. He calls it 5 Barriers to Church Growth. (Mr Arn actually cheats a little - there are nine points in all in his article, but we won't quibble too much.)

The five barriers are simply stated: the Pastor himself can be the first barrier, the Congregation can be the second, perceived irrelevance (on behalf of the community the church is situated in) the third, using the wrong methods the fourth, and finally having no plan for assimilation.

No new words there, you might say, but these are things that we need to keep reminding ourselves about. That church down the road that is growing: does the pastor have vision and communicate it? Does the congregation have a sense of being ministers to their local community (which will deal to the third issue)? Is that church using methods that we might consider trendy or faddy or out in the left field? Do they have a way of making sure new disciples grow?

If the answer to more than one of these is Yes, then perhaps they're doing something right. Worth checking out!

One Size Fits All?

Movie distribution being what it is, it's unlikely you'll have seen or heard of the Canadian documentary, One Size Fits All? It came out last year, and there's information about it on the Net (although not, as far as I could see, on the movie site, imdb.com, which is usually the oracle of oracles when it comes to movies).

The movie has its own website, which has a number of different segments, including this note on the homepage (they don't do capitals, apparently)

it’s official! we’re sold out of dvds.

after barely a year since its release, our little independent film has done and continues to do the job it was intended to do: inspire, encourage and stimulate conversation. the feedback i’ve received over the last year has been overwhelming and i’m humbled that an idea that hatched on an innocent walk in kingston blossomed into a catalyst for so many. thanks to everyone who’s played a part so far.

The DVDs they're referring to are the second lot, the first having sold out. So it may be difficult even to get a copy of this movie. However, if you can, you'll find that it looks at a wide range of Canadian non-traditional churches (and some trad ones, too, I think), and shows that while the Americans make a lot of noise about doing church differently, the Canadians just get on with it. (Sorry, couldn't resist that!)

The 'web shorts' section of their website has half a dozen videos relating to the movie; the first couple are from a television interview, but I think the others are all clips.

Wrong/Right about buildings

Earlier this month, Dan Kimball (he of the most extraordinary hairstyle) wrote a post on the Out of Ur blog saying that he was wrong about church buildings, that is, wrong to say that people who built them weren't missional and were basically building for their own sakes.

He seemed to make good sense.

However, this week along comes Ken Eastburn with a response - and a fairly impassioned one at that - in which he says Kimball was right before he changed his mind. In Eastburn's view, church buildings are a hindrance to mission, and he knocks down most of Kimball's arguments with equally valid ones. (Eastburn belongs to a community called The Well - their website is called, Leave the Building.)

Certainly church buildings have been synonymous with Church for centuries: they've been refuges, places for opponents to burn down, centres of towns, the sites of local cemetaries, places of worship and far more. And while not having a church building does have its advantages (it's a good deal cheaper to maintain for starters), it also brings its own set of problems. (I belong to a church community that hasn't had its own building for over a decade now, and knows just what a pain it is to have to set up in someone else's hall every Sunday.)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Is the Church acting this way?

From Seth Godin's blog - a post called 'You don't have the power'

A friend is building a skating rink. Unfortunately, he started with uneven ground and the water keeps ending up on one side of the rink. Water's like that, and you need a lot of time and power and money if you want to change it. One person, working as hard as he can, has little chance of persuading water to change.

Consider this quote from a high-ranking book publisher who should know better, "We must do everything in our power to uphold the value of our content against the downward pressures exerted by the marketplace and the perception that 'digital' means 'cheap.' ..."


You don't have the power.

Read the rest of the post (at the link above) - maybe this is something worth considering in relation to the church. Does it have the 'power' to keep on doing the same things it always did, or to stop people from moving forward in a different way? The uneven skating rink is a great picture - like an updated version of rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Keeping it Simple

Here are some significant marks of a faith-based, holistic program of communication and caring organisation, as expressed in Mark 6:7-13 (in The Message translation.)

He sent them off with these instructions:

‘Don’t think you need a lot of extra equipment for this.
You are the equipment.
No special appeals for funds.
Keep it simple.’
And no luxury inns (6:7-10).

This is a brief extract from John Smith's Who Needs an Agenda from the Faith Page?

John Smith describes himself as a Keynote Speaker, Biker, Business Anthropologist, Author, Advocate. I'm not entirely sure what a business anthropologist is....

See also the quote from Barbara Brown Taylor on The Daily Writer.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Mission in Walthamstow

Jonny Baker writes about an Australian Anglican priest, Tony Cant, who's working in the town of Walthamstow in England.

Jonny tells how Tony and his small church community have taken church out of the building and into a farmers' market, which Tony manages. This happens on a Sunday morning.
Not only that but the church community joins in and makes free cups of tea and coffee for those attending the market, spends time talking to the people around them, and passing out one of three postcards:

churched - welcome to st lukes on the high street your local anglican church

dechurched - disillusioned with church? you're not alone

unchurched - not interested in church? neither are we in the ways you are probably thinking about church

The congregation get together on a Wednesday night for worship and fellowship. Does the thought of shifting away from-always-in-church-on-a-Sunday-morning scare you?

Missions e-books

An increasing number of books are available as e-books, in various formats (to read online, to download as pdfs, as Kindles and so on). One of the Christian publishing houses - Authentic Books is now offering e-books on their site.

They write that their "passion is to equip the missional community with great content. With our ebooks, people anywhere in the world have the ability to select a book and be reading in seconds."

Digital formats are proving to be particularly useful in areas of the world where print titles are unwieldy or too expensive to order and ship. And in countries that restrict access to Christian materials, digital downloads can provide isolated believers with essential resources.

To celebrate the launch into e-publishing, Authentic is offering visitors to its website a free ebook and a monthly e-newsletter. Books come with a satisfaction guarantee and will be replaced free if customers are not happy with them.

The books on the site are a bit of a mixed bag: some mission biographies, several titles relating to new ways of doing mission overseas, some leadership books and a few others, like Cat and Dog Theology, or, If Nobody Loves You, Create the Demand, or Adrian Plass's Bacon Sandwiches and Salvation that seem to have strayed in from another publisher...

However, there are some very good titles amongst them, and since the list isn't that long at this point, it's worth checking them out. Prices are pretty reasonable, as you'd expect.

Making Old Age Worthwhile

The following piece, credited to an anonymous 83-year-old woman, is found in a number of places on the Net - but I thought I might as well make that number of places plus one. (I was alerted to it by the Rumors ezine - see below.)

I’m reading more and dusting less. I’m sitting in the yard and admiring the view without fussing about the weeds in the garden. I’m spending more time with my family and friends and less time working. Whenever possible, life should be a pattern of experiences to savour, not to endure. I’m trying to recognize these moments now and cherish them.

I’m not “saving” anything. We use our good china and crystal for every special event such as losing a pound, getting the sink unstopped, or the first Amaryllis blossom.

I wear my good blazer to the market. My theory is if I look prosperous, I can shell out $49.49 for one tiny bag of groceries.

I’m not saving my good perfume for special parties, but wearing it for clerks in the hardware store and tellers at the bank.

“Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now.

I’m not sure what others would’ve done had they known they wouldn’t be here for the tomorrow that we all take for granted. I think they would have called family members and a few close friends. They might have called a few former friends to apologize and mend fences for past squabbles.

I like to think they would have gone out for a Chinese dinner or for whatever their favorite food is. It’s those little things left undone that would make me angry if I knew my hours were limited. Angry because I hadn’t written certain letters that I intended to write “one of these days.” Angry and sorry that I didn’t tell my husband and parents often enough how much I truly love them. I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to our lives.

And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special. Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift from God.

I don’t believe in miracles. I rely on them. Life may not be the party we hoped for, but while we are here we might as well dance.

Ralph Milton's RUMORS is a free Internet ‘e-zine’ for Christians with a sense of humor. To Subscribe: send an e-mail to: rumors-subscribe@joinhands.com

Monday, December 07, 2009

Does being a Sinner still 'work'?

David Fitch discusses the issue of whether telling people they are sinners still 'works' in a postChristendom age...

Traditionally, the first move in evangelism is to convince the non-Christian that he or she is a sinner in need of God (or that he or she is deserving of God’s judgment and going to hell without Christ). “You must admit you are a sinner in need of God!” We evangelicals inherit this ‘starting point’ from our Reformed theology (which for many reasons starts with the depravity of humanity). This starting point was effective in Christendom where so many were determined by the ever-present Western guilt derived from the Roman Catholic ethos of the European medieval time period. This guilt however is waning in the new cultures of post Christendom. As a result, some of our evangelistic techniques must go to greater and greater lengths to prove to the non Christian that they are indeed sinner.

Time Management

How does [Jim Collins] manage his time? "I use a stopwatch," he says.

Does that mean that like any excessively busy, highly successful business researcher, author and consultant, he runs from meeting to meeting, tethered to his Blackberry calendar, measuring out his worklife in minutes and seconds? When I sat down with Jim at the annual CIPD conference and asked him, among other things, about his working style, I was surprised to find that rather than filling up his time, he intentionally empties it.

When he says he uses a stopwatch, he means that he tracks his time to make sure he gets the most from his waking hours. He divides his life into blocks — 50% creative time, 30% teaching time, and 20% other stuff ("random things that just need to get done").

Read the whole article here: Manage Your Time Like Jim Collins - Harvard Business Editors’ blog

A brief comment: we're afraid of 'creative time.' We're afraid that we're not doing enough 'for the Lord' and that He'll berate us for wasting time. I remember when I was (temporarily) in full-time care of a church that my biggest concern was that I was afraid to relax, in case someone caught me not 'working.' It's a dangerous approach to pastoring as well as business.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Changing face of Priesthood

On the Prodigal Kiwi site a few days ago there was a post in which Jemma Allen reflects on her first ten years as a priest, and looks at what's changed. The post starts with a list of points:

1. The changing face of priesthood (while she reflects on her journey, and it’s changes; the bigger picture is that the role of the priest has changed).
2. What distinguishes a priest when you take away the clerical clothing?
3. The importance of “time for you”; of time for the other.
4. The priority of listening, and of being with others (especially outside of a congregational contexts – Jemma is a University Chaplain).
5. What happens to priesthood when you take away what is regarded as a central function of priesthood – officiating at the Eucharistic table…? The role of priest as “gatherer” is often used to describe this function – they gather a congregation around the central act of worship. What happens to ones identity as "priest" when your context and activity is beyond the edges of a more traditional parish context? What function and role does priestly identity and gifting serve outside of the congregational context?
6. The importance of subverting cultural measures of effectiveness: “busyness” and “productivity”. The importance of offering an alternative way of being in the world.
7. The recognition (albeit, implicitly) that the cultural landscape has changed markedly. As Alan Roxburgh is fond of saying, we live in an “unthinkable world” and there is a need to see “with different eyes”. For me, this includes how we see the contemporary role of the priest, a role that is at once ancient and future, although in contemporary contexts too often the emphasis is on the “ancient” rather than on the “future” and the missional formation of priests.

The post continues with some further reflections on the priesthood - and the way in which, being a University Chaplain, her views of the priesthood have had to change. (Since these words were taken directly from Anna's own blog, I've given the link for that. You might just like to explore it a little fur)

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Leadership is Leadership, in whatever sphere

In the latest NZ Institute of Management newsletter there's a short piece on some master classes held by visiting speaker, Paul Aitken (the author of Developing Change Leaders). Aitken calls the following ten points the 'dynamic capabilities' needed by change leaders.

1. Dealing with ambivalence – having the capacities to “wait and see”, keep an open mind and be comfortable with contradiction;
2. Accessing the diverse range of capabilities across the leadership team;
3. Creating a learning environment;
4. Future sense-making combined with strategic thinking which requires a strong external focus;
5. “Total” or authentic leadership – ie, an ability to continually walk the talk;
6. Trans-cultural competence – an awareness that one size doesn’t fit all;
7. Relational skills – the ability to coach;
8. Dialogue skills – or process consulting;
9. Emotional intelligence;
10. The ability to manage the high quality performance challenge, culture and dialogue.

Aitken says, If people can’t relate well or have quality conversations
with people, then they’re not going to be leading anyone. Church leaders, take note!