Sunday, January 31, 2010


I don't think I've mentioned Seth Godin's ebook, What Matters Now, on this blog (although I have on another I write). The book is laid out in single page 'essays', some detailed and some succinct, and they come from a wide variety of authors. I was taken with this one, which is entitled 'Evangelism' because it almost entirely shows how evangelism should be done.

It comes from Guy Kawasaki and since the book is free, I'm sure they won't mind a bit more promotion by my quoting this section in full. (I haven't yet quite thought how 'downloading' the product applies to Christianity, but I bet there's an application somewhere.)

The future belongs to people who can spread ideas.
Here are ten things to remember:

1. Create a cause. A cause seizes the moral high ground and makes people’s lives better.
2. Love the cause. “Evangelist” isn’t a job title. It’s a way of life. If you don’t love a cause, you can’t evangelize it.
3. Look for agnostics, ignore atheists. It’s too hard to convert people who deny your cause. Look for people who are supportive or neutral instead.
4. Localize the pain. Never describe your cause by using bull shiitake terms like “revolutionary” and “paradigm shifting.” Instead, explain how it helps a person.
5. Let people test drive the cause. Let people try your cause, take it home, download it, and then decide if it’s right for them.
6. Learn to give a demo. A person simply cannot evangelize a product if she cannot demo it.
7. Provide a safe first step. Don’t put up any big hurdles in the beginning of the process. The path to adopting a cause needs a slippery slope.
8. Ignore pedigrees. Don’t focus on the people with big titles and big reputations. Help anyone who can help you.
9. Never tell a lie. Credibility is everything for an evangelist. Tell the truth—even if it hurts. Actually, especially if it hurts.
10. Remember your friends. Be nice to the people on the way up because you might see them again on the way down.

Guy Kawasaki


“We must learn the language of our audience,” [C S] Lewis wrote. “You must translate every bit of your theology into the vernacular. I have come to the conclusion that if you cannot translate your thoughts into uneducated language, then your thoughts are confused.”

On his blog, Mike Wendland quotes Lewis in a post called 'Let's watch our Christianese.' (Blogger's spellchecker doesn't think that's a word - or didn't until I informed it that it was.)

Mike talks about how our Christian jargon/language is often misinterpreted by those outside the church. We may be saying something with good sense - to us - they hear 'born again' as 'fundamentalist/cultist/religious extremist' or 'love offering' as possibly involving an orgy.

Personally I hate being asked to 'please be seated.' Who talks like that in real life? And there are heaps of other jargon phrases that many churches use, perhaps with the intention of sounding more liturgical. Let's move these archaic expressions on - or at the very least
explain them to those who might be visiting.

We had one of our leaders 'explain' Communion the weekend before last - I suspect that more than 50% of our congregation had their eyes and ears opened as a result. Regular explanations like that are worth doing, and perhaps more useful than telling the people who've been attending for 20 or 30 years that they need to remember that Christ died for our sins, the sort of thing we actually know - because we've heard it several thousand times....

Paying it Forward in a Different Way

I'm not sure how the following fits into mission, but I have a suspicion that there's a seed of an idea here:

Located inside the Urban Design Center Kashiwa-no-ha (in Kashiwa, Japan), the Ogori cafe looks innocuous enough, but holds a surprise in store for its patrons. In a nutshell, you get what the person before you ordered, and the next person gets what you ordered. Thus, if you’re in on the game, you can choose to be either a generous benefactor, and treat those that come after you – or try your luck at being cheap. Either way, it’s an interesting experiment that explores surprise, kindness and encourages interactions.

You can read the rest of the story here.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

So, what is missional again?

It's a bit of a day for catching up, having been on holiday and rarely posting over January. Here's a section of a post from the Reclaiming the Mission site
in which our old friend David Fitch talks about the way we worry too much about whether a thing is a fad or a movement, whether something will last or fall away and much more. Here's part of what he has to say on:

The Missional Church: Much has been written about the problem with the word “missional” (see here for instance) It’s meaning has become diluted. It is being misused as a new market niche in church. A whole synchroblog was created to answer the question “What is Missional? Some fret about the word losing its meaning. Oh Ok – probably right. Nonetheless, I personally gravitate towards the Missional movement. I find it rich in theology and history. The word means a lot to me. I admit I get agitated when I have to explain myself a lot more when I use the word, nonetheless I still find it all compelling. I think the best tack is to take what I’ve learned among Bosch, Newbigen, Guder, Hirsch, Frost, Roxburgh and many others: work within the church that God has placed me, be as discerning and thoughtful as I can with the resources God has given, and let the fruit speak for itself. For me, there is already much much fruit...

A synchroblog, by the way, is a number of bloggers all writing about the same topic within a short space of time - I think!

Street Preacher

Everyone who's been a Christian for a while will know of 'street preachers' in their town, some good, some noisy, some downright embarrassing. There's a feeling amongst a number of Christians that this isn't the way to preach the Gospel.

Of course there's always another side to the story, and street preaching is missionary work in the same way as any other kind of missionary work.

Earlier in the month, on the Out of Ur site, they featured a brief interview with an Irish street preacher named Anthony Brabazon. Brabazon is an architect by trade (by which I presume it's meant that he works at that during the day and street preaches in his spare time). "...he considers the Dublin streets his church and the passing pedestrians his congregation."

Note that word, 'passing' - many Christians would think it was a waste of time to preach to people whom you might never see again. And when you look at the video, you might keep on thinking that. However, check out the interview which is wonderfully positive.

Street evangelists put their lives on the line, though most don't get beaten up or murdered - at least not in Western cities. On the other hand, Christians in other countries are still being martyred for their faith - in Nigeria and Malaysia most recently. We need to remember to pray for people in these countries, for the safety of our Christian brothers and sisters, and also for the Muslim people who are attacking them.

And just by way of a footnote, here's a comment made about a photo of a street preacher that appears on There's a dude in Swansea who does preaching. it's the best preaching i've ever seen. It's done in the style of a Swansea 'barrow boy'. Lots of " there you go darlin"s and "go on my son"s thrown in for good measure.

I guess he was a hooligan or some shit who's been 'saved' and hence has taken to the streets without anyone quite teaching him a new etiquette to approach his work. You're not sure if he's shouting at people in an attempt to provoke violence at first and it's only after a while that you realise he's is preaching the word of the big man upstairs.

Dealing with the Silence

Peter Bregman, who's one of my favourite writers on the Harvard Business Review site has written a piece called How to Handle Silence, the Worst Kind of Feedback.

It’s a follow-up to an article he published the week before called, When Your Voicemails and Emails Go Unanswered, What Should You Do? In both pieces he discusses the problems – and insecurities - that arise when you’re trying to get a response from someone who doesn’t regard responding as essential to a business relationship.

While one person feels that it’s merely good manners to respond, the other thinks ‘just’ responding for the sake of letting someone know you’re still out there and working on the issue is a waste of time.

Both these pieces make good reading, in terms of relationships in general.

Management by Imagination

The perennial argument between those who need to control stuff and those who are okay with not controlling turns up in this article:

The perception that good management is closely linked to good measurement runs deep. How often do you hear these old saws repeated: "If you can't measure it, it doesn't count"; "If you can't measure it, you can't manage it"; "If you can't measure it, it won't happen"? We like these sayings because they're comforting. The act of measurement provides security; if we know enough about something to measure it we almost certainly have some control over it.

But however comforting it can be to stick with what we can measure, we run the risk of expunging something really important. What's more, we won't see what we're missing because we don't know what it is that we don't know. By sticking simply to what we can measure, we come to imagine a small and constrained world in which we are prisoners of a "reality" that is in fact an edifice we've unknowingly constructed around ourselves.

Written, as you might have guessed, for a business audience. It could easily have been written for a church one. Photo from, taken by a photographer who goes by the name of 'The Truth About..' Which might be ironic...!

Tom Wright on Hell

Tom Wright may not be everyone's cup of tea/flavour of the month but for me he often speaks clearly and succinctly on a subject. This three minute video below is one example.

Not everyone will agree with what he has to say (which is something along the lines of the way C S Lewis writes about Hell in the opening chapter of The Great Divorce) and I'm slightly dubious about his view that Jesus didn't say anything much on Hell. I think he's trying to find a way of fitting Hell 'in' to his views on heaven and earth coming together at the end of all things; do people who totally reject God get somehow squeezed out of the Universe (both spiritual and physical?). That's not what he says, by the way!

Whatever Hell literally is, if one can speak about such a thing as being literal, it certainly isn't a place I'd prefer to go...whether it's a case of losing the Presence of God or (merely) having to live with an eternally tedious and irritating self.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What happens when new forms of communication arise?

Whenever there's a change in communication, whether it be as far back as the British postal system or the telephone, or as recent as Web 2.0 and social media, there's a resistance, not just on the part of businesses, which this article refers to primarily, but on the part of those involved in any sort of organization or institution.

In the article referred to, Tammy Erickson notes several predictable results that occur whenever there is a reduction in the cost of communications, as there have been in each instance of improvement. These were proposed by Harold Adams Innis, as far back as 1951.
  • Redistributing knowledge and, in doing so, shifting power
  • Making it easier for "amateurs" to compete with "professionals," because access to knowledge substitutes for mastery of complexity
  • Allowing individuals and minorities to voice ideas
  • Reducing the advantages of speed that formerly accrued because some had knowledge before others
  • Reducing the advantages of size that are based on the ability to afford high costs.
How do these 'predictions' line up with the way the institutional church works?

Monday, January 25, 2010

One Generation from Extinction

Mark Griffiths and Simon Parry are conducting a series of workshops/conferences in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland in early February, on churches reaching out to kids, telling them about Jesus, so that the next generation doesn't grow up without Christ.

You can find out full details here, with venues, information about the two speakers and much more.

I have to quibble about the title of this conference, (which, in spite of my quibbles I would still recommend) and about the title of Mark Griffith's book. Apart from the ambiguity - is he talking about children becoming extinct (unlikely) or children growing up without Christ (possible but also unlikely) - it seems to denote some lack of trust in God's ability to keep on keeping on with his church. If the church survived persecutions, plagues, indifference, the Dark Ages, and much more over the last 2000 years, then it seems likely it will survive the 21st century. Catchy title, certainly, but does it convey what they want it to convey?

The decline of the emerging church?

In the online magazine, Next-Wave, Bill Dahl writes a challenging piece about the emerging church, its critics and whether it is or isn't 'declining'. (In fact, whether the church - without the emerging adjective - is or isn't declining. 'Decline' is a word I hate to hear, by the way, in relation to church - any church.)

Bill Dahl is a freelance writer from Redmond, in Oregon. Though I must say that his name isn't particularly familiar to me, his work has been published in dozens of national and international publications, websites, ezines, journals and newspapers. One of his websites is entitled, The Porpoise Diving Life, and if that has some sort of ring about it, the subtitle might explain: 'reality for the rest of us, or picking up where purpose-driven peters out.'

Dahl tends to avoid the 'black and white' approach to Christianity, the one bound by lots of rules and regulations, so he may not be everyone's cup of tea. However, I think he's worth checking out, either in what he says in the article on the emerging church, or in the book reviews and writings on his website.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Christianity Rediscovered

When I worked as manager of OC Books in Dunedin, I frequently sold copies of Christianity Rediscovered, by Vincent Donovan. However, it's only in these holidays that I've finally got round to reading it (!)

In my opinion, it's a book every minister should read (as well as every Christian who isn't an ordained minister!). It's written from a Catholic viewpoint - Donovan was a Spiritan priest (that is, a member of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, or the Holy Ghost Fathers) - so it needs to be read with this in mind. Nevertheless, his views on the Church establishment are applicable to most denominations.

Donovan was a missionary to the Masai people in Africa from 1955 to 1973. As a result of his work amongst them he changed his views on what being a missionary meant, on what the priesthood is or should be, and on the way in which culture affects mission work- and whether Christianity is 'different' within each individual culture.

He was successful in his work, but his work wasn't always appreciated by those in authority, and not everything he established has been maintained over the years since his departure from Africa. Nevertheless the book that he wrote as a result of his work has had a huge impact on missionary thinking ever since - though hasn't as often been followed through in practice.

This, along with the even earlier book by Roland Allen: Missionary Methods - St Paul's or Ours? (which influenced Donovan) should be on every Christian's shelves, especially on the shelves of those in 'official' ministry.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Vincent Donovan on idols

A missionary facing an alien pagan culture, to be an efficient instrument of the gospel, has to have the courage to cast off the idols of the tribe, of the tribe he came from. There are many idols, but two which, I believe, particularly mesmerize the Western church, are individualism on the one hand, and love of organization on the other.

We consistently tend to interpret Christianity either from the individual or organisational viewpoint. The love of organization and power structures have led to our ideas of lord bishops and pontiff popes and national associations of the right and of the left and (especially since Vatican II) a plethora of meetings and chapters and synods and councils and committees. Individualism has its obsessions also: individual responsibility, individual morality, individual vocation to the priesthood, self-fulfilment, individual holiness and salvation. Individualism on one side, and organization on the other, with little room for community in between.

Without paying lip service to the idea, how seriously do we consider the possibility that Christianity is essentially directed neither to the individual nor to the organization but to the community?

Vincent Donovan in Christianity Rediscovered, page 73 (SCM Press 2001)

Thursday, January 07, 2010


Happy New Year!

The staff from our office are on holiday at present, but I received an email this morning relating to a blog post that talks about myths relating to schizophrenia, and I thought it was worth a mention for those who might find it useful.

The article looks at 10 myths relating to this particular form of mental illness, and lays out the facts in an orderly, easy-to-read fashion. It points out that schizophrenics are more dangerous to themselves than to others, statistically; that some improve considerably with the right medication; that schizophrenics do not exhibit multiple personalities, in spite of the word's etymology meaning 'I split'.

There are sub-types of schizophrenia, which means, for instance, that not all schizophrenics hear voices. The media (particularly movies and television) are responsible for many of such misconceptions about the disorder.

Check out the blog post - and enjoy the holidays (if you're still having them!)