Thursday, August 26, 2010

Ten going on sixteen

Ten Going On Sixteen is a profile of young New Zealanders in the transition years put out by the Ministry of Youth Development.   The data was collected by Victoria University’s Youth Connectedness Project from 2006 to 2008.

"The research was designed to test the hypothesis that “connectedness” – to family, peers, school and community – is predictive of subsequent health and wellbeing of young people. The hypothesis was confirmed, with “connectedness to family and school” most strongly predictive of subsequent happiness, self sense of identity. "

While the report online is not particularly detailed (the spirituality section is very skimpy) is does highlight some interesting factors about young people, things that it might be useful for youth group leaders to know about. 

It shows that in general most children are happy with their parents and friends - boys in particular say they get on well with their families.   Girls tend to be happier when they're in the younger age range and grow less happy from the time they're 12.  Boys for the most part stay happy.  

In regard to the girls' decrease in happiness, this is mostly put down to the onset of puberty.  "Given that the average age that girls have their first period is 12-13, the explanation is likely to lie in the interaction between pubertal stage and social and cultural expectations.  The onset of puberty has already been linked to increase in depression and increased rates of self harm among adolescent girls.  In societies where expectations of girls are high, the levels of stress and anxiety among young women seem also to be higher."

There are a small group in both sexes who say they are sad most of the time around the time they're ten years old.   However, the report doesn't show whether these particular children had specific reasons to be sad.   Broken family relationships barely come into the report. 

It was a slight surprise to me to see how early many of the children are starting to drink alcohol. 

  • Drinking becomes a normal behaviour for young people between the ages of 10 and 16.
  • Between the ages of 12 and 14, the percentage of boys who say they drink alcohol on one or two days a month or more doubles - from 16 percent at age 12 to 35 per cent at age 14. 
  • For girls the increase is even higher, from 13 per cent at age 12 to 44 per cent at age 14.
  • At age 14, more girls than boys report drinking, but by age 16, the boys have caught up.
  • At age 15, over half of the young people in the survey say that they drink alcohol on one or two days a month or more.
  • At age 16, 71 per cent of boys and 66 per cent of girls say they drink alcohol one or two days a month or more.
  • Around three per cent of the young people in this survey are ‘serious’drinkers, drinking on ten days a month or more.
The question has to be asked: where do they get the alcohol from?   

The survey was taken from around 50% European children, 30% Maori, and 20% of other ethnicities. 

Koreans in NZ

Stuart Vogel gives us some updated information on Koreans in New Zealand.  
70% of Koreans in New Zealand identify as Christians, while roughly another 20% claim to follow no religion. Buddhists number only about 5%. One Christian newspaper estimates that 35-40% of all Koreans are "active Christians" who regularly attend worship services, mostly at one of New Zealand's 100 Korean churches. Another recent study has shown that around 90 per cent of the study's participants attended Church regularly.

A weekly Christian newspaper published in the Korean language claims to have a circulation of 3,500 and discusses religious issues as well as issues of common interest to immigrants, such as migration law and property ownership. 20 years ago we had no Korean congregations within the Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa-New Zealand.  Now we have 11 such congregations or groups.  We have Korean ministers graduating from our theological training and serving in a wide variety of positions. We have numerous congregations and ministers wanting to join the PCANZ. We welcome the interest without any hesitation.

Research has shown that Korean Christian churches provide much needed opportunities for support, fellowship and business networking as well as information and general assistance. This includes conversational English classes. One participant in the study said: "I had help from the Korean church in New Zealand. They gave me information about the business. It was hard to get the right information except through the local Korean church. As an immigrant with limited English language, I felt isolated and was not able to get proper information to start up the business."

And some other more general information: 

Almost 70% of New Zealand’s Koreans live in the Auckland area (2001 stats).
16% are in Christchurch with the rest scattered throughout the country, mostly in the larger towns and cities.
The majority of Korean immigrants have tertiary qualifications and are in their thirties and forties, meeting the immigration criteria.
Some chain migration has occurred as arrivals send home favourable reports to friends and relations – including elderly parents – who then came to join them.
Upon arrival most Korean families have sufficient funds to buy homes in relatively affluent suburbs like Auckland’s North Shore which.
By 2001, in North Shore City, Korean was the second most common language after English (4.1% in the 2006 Census).

Koreans attend a variety of NZ churches: the Korean Christian Churches in NZ site  lists Full Gospel, Catholic, Baptist, Methodist and various Pentecostal groups. 

Straining out camels, logs in the eyes

Rowland Croucher brings good sense to the issue of Muslims in America - and to Americans who berate them - in a short piece that's appeared on his John Mark Ministries website.

He asks the question; What Would Jesus Do Regarding Muslim Americans? You’d Be Surprised.  In this article no one gets off the hook: the logs in one lot of eyes are a darn sight bigger than the splinters in the others - and vice versa. 

A couple of paragraphs from the piece: 

Just as He took on devout figures in the Jewish tradition, He would ask tough questions about whether many devout Muslims, with their myriad and sometimes cumbersome rules and rituals, are straining out gnats while swallowing camels. He would challenge viewpoints and smash many precious idols and a priori assumptions. He would, in short, tick some people off.

But He would also be frank with those of His followers who ignore His command to love and bless and be patient with outsiders. He would point out that, if someone truly is their enemy, that merely triggers their special duty to bless enemies rather than persecute them. He would remind His believers that it’s only by their doing so that they mark themselves as being a part of His distinctive Kingdom.

Highly recommended...

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Richard Floyd on Burnout, work, and more

In a provocative yet wise blog post, Richard Floyd writes: 

I think the whole category of “burnout,” although quite real, is also a bit of a red herring. All the articles agree that clergy are overworked. And when cast in terms of “work” that is undoubtedly true.

My question is simple: “Should clergy really be working?” Or to put it another way, “When did what clergy do come to be understood as work?” Clergy have always been busy doing what clergy do, visiting the sick, attending to the dying, preaching and administering the sacraments and the scholarly preparation for same. The “work” clergy are now expected to do is a category drawn from the industrial and post industrial West, and seen in terms of their terms of efficiency, productivity, and professionalism.

Further down the page he writes:

Years ago one of my GE manager types got on my oversight board and hounded me into doing detailed hourly logs of what I do as part of a compensation review (I know this sounds like Dante, but it really happened.) I was insecure enough to hold my doubts and my tongue, and dutifully filled them out, but a good deal of the time I found myself in comic reflection. For example, when I was thinking about whether Paul’s radical theology of justification in Romans led to antinomianism while soaping up in the shower, was I “working?” Or am I working right now while I ruminate, for I have no position and am not being compensated for it?


We....have guidelines for how many hours (divided into parts of days called “units”) that pastors should be “working.” Like so many things in our churches these suggestions are right-minded but wrongheaded. Because ministry can’t be cut into tranches like pate.

The category of burnout is a symptom of what happens when you take on these models. If your criteria for “success” is efficiency and productivity you will always fall short, because ministry is neither efficient nor productive in the terms of the world.

Read the whole post.   Whether you agree with his analysis or not, it's worth reflecting on, and may assist in your own avoidance of burnout....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Justice is the focus

In a video on the ABC news site, Dan Harris hosts a ten-minute interview with five young(ish) articulate evangelicals who are showing the 'new face' of Christians in the States (and elsewhere).    Pastor Jon Tyson, of Trinity Grace Church [photo at left], Gabe Lyons, the founder of Q, Shannon Sedgwick Davis of Bridgeway Foundation, Tyler Wigg-Stevenson, the founder of Two Futures Project, and Nicole Baker Fulgham of Teach for America.

These are a high-powered bunch, possibly not entirely typical of your average Evangelical.   Their big focus is on issues, and how Christians see justice and mercy in the world.   Between them this group is working on child trafficking and kidnapping, education, nuclear disarmament, to name just a few.

One of them points out that the world should be a better place for most people because there are Christians working alongside them.

In spite of its ten minutes, this is a very short introduction to several people who are worth following up in terms of what they're achieving.   They may not be household names yet, nevertheless, keep your eyes on them. 

Click on the links above for more information on each of these people and what they and their churches or organisations are doing.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Report on Work

What Next?  National Conversation about Work is a new report discussing two years of investigations into the state of employment in New Zealand, particularly equal employment opportunities.   A quick glance through it makes it seem a fairly positive report; not that it overlooks the problems, but it does tend to soften them somehow.  

Nevertheless this is a well-produced report, as much as for its emphasis on the needs of minority groups as for its insights into the more positive aspects of work in New Zealand.

10 priorities they suggest for EEO are:
Disabled people
Youth into work
Migrant workers
Looking after the children of workers
EEO across the sectors (check this out when you read the report)
Pay and employment equity
Older workers [One I'm particularly interested in!]
Support for employers
Improving labour market information and analysis
Adequate standards of living (increasing the minimum wage and benefit levels)

The report ends with twelve examples of equality in the workplace.   'These innovations are are informed by a Kiwi 'can-do' attitude alongside a commitment to fairness and equality.   They are part of the fabric of decent and productive work in New Zealand.'

How does this relate to the work of ministry?  

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Before you quote statistics...

In a short piece on the Associated Baptist Press site, Roger Lovette (he's the chirpy looking chap on the right) talks about a group of 13 pastors of various ages who've all been dismissed from their churches.   In the middle of his article he writes: 

The best statistics tell us that 1,600 ministers are dismissed or forced to resign every month in America. Leadership magazine reported more than a decade ago that nearly 23 percent of all ministers will be forced out before their careers end -- and that 67 percent of those affected will face forced termination more than once. Various indicators suggest these percentages have continued to climb. The Barna Institute says that in the United States a pastor is forced out every six minutes.

I've posted on here before about the 'best statistic' above, except that when I last read it, it was 1,500 pastors burning out every month.  I guess someone has now concluded that since that stat is supposed to be a few years old, another 100 pastors needed to be added into the mix.  

In a month of 30 days there are 43,200 minutes.   Now if a pastor is forced out every six minutes, as Barna's figure is supposed to claim, in a month that's a total of 7,200 ministers leaving their churches.  Does something strike you as a little odd here?   Barna's figures are four and a half times more than the 'best statistics.'    

I keep reading about these 1500 or 1600 pastors doing something every month, and the more I read it the more irritated I get.   Use statistics by all means - I do it in my job all the time - but for goodness sake check your facts.   As Bradley Wright points out in his book, too many statistics are badly read, poorly reported, and go on to perform a statistogynistic (think misogynistic) role in life.  Let's start nipping the worst of them in the bud.  

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Digital transformation of mission

Tony Whittaker, the Coordinator of the online magazine, Internet Evangelism Day has written an Open Letter to Mission Agency Leaders.   He begins in this way:

Digital communication is transforming our world in ways that we are only beginning to discern. There are now over 3 billion mobile phone owners and 2 billion web users, and the majority are outside the West. Facebook has 500 million users in nearly 100 languages, making it (in terms of ‘population’) the third largest ‘country’ in the world.

This new ‘digital communication culture’ is superseding the West’s ‘print communication culture’. And remarkably, it has much more in common with the ‘oral communication cultures’ that many of us are so familiar with. Its strengths include two-way interaction and relationship building, visual storying rather than left-brain abstract analytic thinking, and the ability to offer information and help anonymously. 

Tony goes on to discuss ways in which Mission Organisations are still needing to catch up with the digital revolution.   There's something of a mindset that the digital age is only affecting the West.   This may (in part) be the case with the Internet, but in terms of mobile phones, the revolution is huge, enormous, increasingly global.  

Read the rest of his letter and see just how remarkable the potential is for far-reaching changes in global mission.  

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Not so selfish?

One of the NZ Herald's best columnists is Tapu Misa.   She doesn't seem to write on a regular basis, that is, you won't find one of her columns in the same place each week.   However, when she does write, she always has something worthwhile to say.   (Would that the rest of us could follow suit!)

One of her most recent columns has been entitled Courage, Compassion make nice change, which doesn't sound like Misa.  It has the ring of some subeditor who didn't read the article very carefully and dumped a few quick words on top of it.   (Of course, I could be wrong.)

In this piece, Misa points out that selfishness, in spite of what we've been told, isn't necessarily the norm for human beings.   People do put themselves on the line for others, even give their lives for others.  She cites a few examples in recent NZ news, (and there are a surprising number of heroes in our recent history) and notes that Sue Gerhardt, the author of The Selfish Society, "does much to dispel the myth that we humans are relentlessly self-centred, self-interested beings who do good only when it serves our own ends."

Check the article out.   It's always good to read good news. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Another statistic bites the dust

I'm always interested to see whether stats are as true as they're claimed (see my earlier post on Bradley Wright's book on this topic).   Mike Fleischmann has written an article in the Leadership Journal called How outsiders find faith, which deals to a widely-held statistic, as follows: 

It was something I had heard repeated as long as I had been in ministry: "85 percent of all people who accept Christ do so before the age of 18." I was never exactly clear where that statistic came from, but I had no reason to doubt it either. Everyone I knew considered it an evangelistic axiom.

He goes on to show that there's an element of truth in it: around 85% of those brought up in a Christian home with two Christian parents who are actively involved in their church will become Christians before the age of 18. That doesn't leave just 15% of people who become Christians after this age, even though at first sight it looks as though it should. Fleishmann writes:

Interestingly, what I was seeing in my own ministry didn't match up with that. I was watching unchurched people at every stage of life respond to the gospel. Were these just anomalies to the pattern, or was there something more?

He determined to check the statistic out, and not surprisingly proved it was only partially right. 

What quickly became apparent in the data was that the large percentage of believers from Christian homes skews not only our evangelism statistics but also our understanding of the situation. While many of us say we are determined to reach "the unchurched," many of our assumptions are based on the experiences of those who were raised as Christians—for instance, the assumption of when people come to faith.

I discovered that when someone from an unchurched background makes a lasting decision for Christ, it happens much later than we have often assumed and is spread out across every stage of life. Of those, a majority (57 percent) accept Christ between the ages of 21 and 50.

Another point he makes is that while those brought up in Christian homes tend to become Christians as a result of an 'event' - often the rather inappropriately-named 'outreach'  - those who come to faith later in life (and this can even be well into the sixties or seventies) usually come to faith through a friend - not necessarily a close friend, but someone who cares about them in some way.  

When you ask someone raised Christian, "How did you come to Christ?" they typically answer by telling about an event. They'll describe a time and a place where they made their decision, often mentioning who they were with.

People from unchurched backgrounds, however, answer the same question differently. They typically tell about an extended process, life circumstances, key relationships, and significant issues they were working through.

Often their actual point of decision is less defined. For instance, 11.4 percent of committed Christians from unchurched backgrounds cannot identify a specific time or place where they accepted Christ. For those of us raised as Christians, this can make us a little uncomfortable. Their less defined and sometimes unconventional turning points are not what we're used to.

If you want to read about someone who became a Christian in a stationery cupboard, check out John Shore's (somewhat hilarious) blog post: I, a rabid anti-Christian, suddenly convert.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Two views, one subject

As so often happens two different blogs I read came at the same issue from different perspectives: on Prodigal Kiwi(s), Paul Fromont quotes a writer called Amy Hollywood, who begins an essay called Spiritual but Not Religious: The vital interplay between submission and freedom in this way:

“Most of us who write, think, and talk about religion are by now used to hearing people say that they are spiritual, but not religious. With the phrase generally comes the presumption that religion has to do with doctrines, dogmas, and ritual practices, whereas spirituality has to do with the heart, feeling, and experience. The spiritual person has an immediate and spontaneous experience of the divine or of some higher power. She does not subscribe to beliefs handed to her by existing religious traditions, nor does she engage in the ritual life of any particular institution. At the heart of the distinction between religion and spirituality, then, lies the presumption that to think and act within an existing tradition—to practice religion—risks making one less spiritual. To be religious is to bow to the authority of another, to believe in doctrines determined for one in advance, to read ancient texts only as they are handed down through existing interpretative traditions, and blindly to perform formalized rituals. For the spiritual, religion is inert, arid, and dead; the practitioner of religion, whether consciously or not, is at best without feeling, at worst insincere…

On the Out of Ur blog, Gordon MacDonald writes a gentle post about Anne Rice, her denunciation of 'Christianity', and about other people who have left the faith for various reason.   He begins in this way: 

Best selling author Anne Rice has quit Christianity. She is not quitting on Jesus Christ or the Bible, she says, but she is quitting organized Christianity.  Ms. Rice announced her quit-decision not through a resignation letter (where would one send it?) but through her website and TV interviews.

Anne Rice’s decision to go public with her decision is not the only way people quit Christianity. Some do it quietly, gradually dropping out of the programmatic activities of religious institutions and out of personal contact with people whose devotion to the faith seems solid. One day someone notices an empty seat in the sanctuary and says, “I haven’t seen Bob (or Jennifer) around for a while. Wonder what’s happened to him (or her)?”

He goes on to discuss what's behind people leaving the church, the faith, (and sometimes everything else in their lives too).   He seems to be looking at the same question as Amy Hollywood: can you have faith in Christ apart from His Church?  

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In your dreams...!

It's not often that the comments to a blog post are as interesting as the post, or, as in this case, even more interesting.   This comment sparked several other similar ones.  The post appeared on    Mike basically told the story of an airline attendant who lost his cool at a difficult passenger and went the whole hog: told everyone about it over the intercom, opened the escape chute (they were on the tarmac) and grabbed a beer as he ran for his car.   This story, the sort of fantasy everyone would like to do once in a while, elicited this response, amongst others. 

I stand up on Sunday morning and say this:

“I know the leaders have been agonizing on the failure of this church to grow for the last few years. You’re wondering what model we need: WillowCreek, Saddleback, Gateway, etc. I have bad news. There is no new model. Changing youth ministers won’t help. Sending everyone on staff to a big event won’t do it. The truth is that we’re unwilling to change while our community has changed dramatically. We’re acting like it’s 1960, except that after our obsessing on worship, that tiny aspect of our lives now looks different. But we’re sitting on our butts wanting to be served, rather than joining God in his mission in our community. It’s not the community we had, and the old community isn’t coming back. We’ve drawn in the bridge and complained about those around us. Meanwhile, Jesus waits for us on the other side of the moat. But, hey, I’ve suggested this before and no one seems interested. It’s much easier to think a new minister, a new worship style will “fix” everything– with the same old worldview, same old threadbare theology, and same old isolation. So, right now I’m saying I love you, God loves you, and good luck.”

Then I walk down the center aisle, set my brand-new-cool wireless mic on the back pew, and head out to the local bar to have a cold one with Jesus.

Not that I’ve thought about it.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Small CAN be beautiful

Brandon O'Brien, associate editor for Leadership Journal, has written a new book, The Strategically Small Church. In this work, he seeks to demonstrate how small churches are uniquely equipped for success in today's culture. 

In an interview with Ed Setzer, he says:

A "strategically small" church is one that has learned to recognize and leverage the inherent strengths of being small. Being strategically small means that instead of trying to overcome your congregation's size, you have learned to use it to strategic ministry advantage.

In other words, I'm not advocating a new model of doing church. Instead I'm hoping that by telling the stories of some truly innovative and effective small churches, other small congregations will stop viewing their size and limited resources as liabilities and begin thinking about them as advantages.

....your church--whatever size--has everything it needs to be used in extraordinary ways for the Kingdom of God. You don't need more resources or more volunteers; you just need the imagination to see how God has equipped you uniquely to carry the gospel to your neighbours.

Published by Bethany House 2010

This is an exciting interview, and if the book is anything like what O'Brien says in it, it will be well worth reading.   Not only will it encourage those who are in small rural or suburban churches, ones that those with 'big [church] vision' regard as too small to be of any use, but it will show that small isn't necessarily nonviable. 

Monday, August 09, 2010

Hero to Host

Two quotes from Len Hjarmalson’s article on leadership - Post Modern Leadership: From Hero to  Host - in a recent edition of Next-Wave

Margaret Wheatley said “We need to move from the leader as hero, to the leader as host. Can we be as welcoming, congenial, and invitational to the people who work with us as we would be if they were our guests at a party? Can we think of the leader as a convener of people? [We need] a fundamental and unshakeable faith in people. You can’t turn over power to people you don’t trust. It just doesn’t happen.”

Martin Luther King Jr. put it, “power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic.” And Henri Nouwen reminds us, The temptation of power is greatest when intimacy is a threat. Much Christian leadership is exercised by people who do not know how to develop healthy, intimate relationships and have opted for power and control instead. Many Christian empire-builders have been people unable to give and receive love.

The rest of the article has some very good things to say about individuals and community, gentle and vulnerable leadership.

Martyrs by default?

Karen Woo, 36, a surgeon from London, was with a group of eight foreign nationals working with the Christian charity International Assistance Mission (IAM) when they were ambushed by men carrying assault rifles in a forested area of Badakhshan province. Friends had expressed concern about the dangers Woo faced in Afghanistan, but she had assured them that she would take care of herself as "the world could not afford to lose any more heroes".  

In all ten people were executed.  The Taliban claimed responsibility for the murders, saying the group had been trying to convert Afghans to Christianity, but local police said they believed thieves were to blame.

Woo was due to get married to a soldier she had met in Kabul.  

IAM has worked in Afghanistan since 1966. They have about 500 Afghan colleagues and 50 international colleagues. Until last Thursday, none of their Afghan colleagues had ever been killed while on duty with IAM.  However, in those 44 years, they have lost four international staff members. One woman was shot and killed in 1971 while she and her colleagues were having a picnic at Qarghah Lake.  In the mid 70s, an engineer was killed in a strange car accident.  In 1980, a Finnish couple were brutally murdered during a robbery at their home.

IAM is a Christian organization – they have never hidden this, and are registered as such with the Afghan government.  The  faith of those involved motivates and inspires them, but because they wish to abide by the laws of Afghanistan, they don't proselytize.

An update on this story has been reported by the Guardian. 

The Internet generation isn't what you thought

Spiegel Online International has an interesting three page article by Manfred Dworschak about young people online which I'd suggest all those who are interested in how young people use the Net should read.  

It seems that while the current generation uses social media a good deal it doesn't regard being online as a top priority.   Meeting friends face-to-face is at least as important, if not more so - and much of what they do online is the same as they do off.   The Internet is no big deal to them: it's always been there, so they don't have any sense of excitement about it.

This is a bit of a surprise to many educators - and media pundits - who'd claimed that this generation would be the ones most savvy about the Net.   As it turns out, they're not particularly savvy at all (though of course there are exceptions).   Given a task to do on Google, many secondary students don't actually know how to use it well to find information.   They go for a scattershot approach and often miss the very things they're looking for.

A very small percentage will blog (the Internet is awash with abandoned blogs, many of which barely survive the first post), but it's not regarded as something they do.

They appear to be online a good deal, but in fact when they are online, they're often doing other things as well - like texting. 

Dworschak's article covers a lot of other ground, considers a number of studies that have been done on the subject, and questions the way we've thought about the Net and young people.    We may have to rethink the strategies!

Sunday, August 08, 2010

What my identity is

Richard Floyd writes in his latest post: I have always had an allergy to identity politics, and question whether it is helpful for one to think of oneself as primarily identified by race, gender, sexual orientation, or for that matter, disability. If pressed for an identity I would pick a really big one, such as “created in the image of God,” and its new creation correlate, baptism. I say this because I believe that any identity that ignores our relationship with God is bound to be too narrow, and lead to some form of self-deception.

His post is mostly about an accident he had a number of years ago which caused brain injury, being regarded as 'disabled', and the way in which we live in hope of a resurrection where all tears and pain will be wiped away.   Oh, and did I mention it's about grace? 

Reggie McNeal interview.

Reggie McNeal's book, Missional Renaissance, has been out for some time, but it's still gaining attention in various quarters.   Harold Fickett notes at the beginning of an interview with McNeal that he calls for a "new alignment of evangelical Protestantism with Christ's mission to restore creation. McNeal writes about how local churches should reorient toward having an impact on society. He praises the recent phenomenon of "missional communities"—small groups with a dedicated purpose—springing up to address particular social ills. He claims that what's happening today in the church may change the institution as much as the Reformation."

You can read the whole of the interview here; it appeared online in 'High Calling.'   The interview is valuable in giving an overview of McNeal's thinking about mission, and also an overview of the book.

[Harold Fickett writes full-time. He is the author of The Living Christ, Dancing With the Divine, and a forthcoming biography of Albert Schweitzer. He is also a contributing editor of, where he contributes columns on world Christianity and spirituality. Harold lives in Nacogdoches where, as a latter-day facsimile of a Southern gentleman, he takes care of his mother, his children, and a dog named Roxie and a cat name Gracie. (His wife, Karen, actually takes care of everybody but allows her husband his illusions.) Harold is a member of the Chrysostom Society.]

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

If you don't listen, you can't hear and if you can't hear, you cannot know.

In a kind of serendipitous morning, three posts arrived from various blogs I keep in touch with that all seemed to link together.   Maybe it's not so serendipitous given that all the writers are mission-minded in one way or another....

David Fitch wrote 
Neo-Reformed Theology is built on the same logic as evangelical theology. In fact this is also the same logic as the protestant mainline theology and for that matter the Emergent theologies. They all rely on the cultural foundations of the West and in particular the Enlightenment. And, for me, this means all of these movements will eventually fail to engage the new and changing cultures of Post-Christendom in the West for the gospel, they will fail at resisting the consumerist forces of modern American society, they will fail at transformational engagement (eventually). They will all end up repeating the fate of evangelicalism – i.e. being successful at harvesting those who are already in some way culturally inclined towards Christianity but not capable of inhabiting the new post Christendom cultures of the West for the gospel. This is why we need a third way!!

Len Hjalmarson began his post in this way:
In The Secret Message of Jesus (2006), McLaren devotes an entire chapter to contextualizing the concepts of the kingdom of God for the current generation.
Len's shorter post mostly offers a variety of ways of rethinking the way we view the kingdom, and by connection, God's mission. 

Paul Fromont, on Prodigal Kiwi(s) quotes another writer - Barry Taylor - who doesn't at first seem to be writing about mission...but is - note what he says about listening....

“…On the final day [of a two-week intensive class on Theology and Popular Music] I attempted to sketch out something of a beginning posture for the initiation of a conversation between these two elements. Posture, being the operative word, because for me, any act of theology requires a posture, an attitude, from which it springs, and for me, this is first and foremost, listening - to the other - if you don't listen, you can't hear and if you can't hear, you cannot know. All too often, in my experience, people begin with a pre-formed schema, which is then imposed over whatever it might be, and then, what fits is accepted and the bits around the edges are cut-off--negated etc. A bit of a broad dismissal of the theological enterprise I know, but I use that analogy simply to say that my approach is a bit different--I am interested in the surprising intersections that arise because of the rupture and disconnect as well as the congruity and synchronicity between various elements…”

 ...if you don't listen, you can't hear and if you can't hear, you cannot know. 

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Thou shalt not play on the Lord's Day

I'm currently doing a paper on Christianity in NZ - from its earliest days to the end of the 20th century (and maybe beyond).    It's been interesting to see something of the battles that have gone on in the past between denominations, and also over social issues such as prohibition, conscientious objection, sweat shops and more.

In one place there's a comment about how quiet Sunday was in New Zealand in the early days of the 20th century.   (I remember an overseas visitor back in the 1960s saying quiet Saturday was - he wonder why no shops were open.)   The Sabbath was well and truly observed, whether non-believers liked it or not.

In the light of that it's interesting to read the fuss that's going on in the Western Isles of Scotland, where the Sabbath is still maintained.   Some golfers in Stornaway have decided to oppose the ban on opening the golf course on Sundays, by playing.   And they're playing unhindered, because the course can't be manned because of the Sunday ban.....

Playing on the golf course isn't the only thing affected by the local Sunday rules.   Recently, Councillors upheld allegations by church groups that granting the licence would "damage morality", "weaken the integrity of the community" and lead to increases in domestic violence, alcoholism and disorder. 

All familiar stuff if you read the annals of the early 20th century.   It's an age-old problem (wasn't it Ezra or Nehemiah who had just such difficulties with local tradesmen?)  How much should the Sabbath affect those who don't believe in God, or are agnostics, or who just don't have anything to do with Christianity?   And would it be healthier if they were affected by it?   Does a game of golf come under Jesus' approach to the matter: the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath? 

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Business of Making Saints

Eugene Peterson says, in a 2009 interview in Christianity Today called The Business of Making Saints

The problem was, I hadn't learned a way to live organically out of Sunday. I had two models, and neither could help me.

Where did you go for help?

I started discovering people who did it—Gregory of Nyssa, Augustine, Bernard, Newman, Alexander Whyte, Samuel Rutherford, a lot of the Puritans, and in particular, Dante. These became my mentors, my teachers, my professors. I lived with them.
We've got this wonderful history of Christian spirituality. We've got two thousand years of people who have been listening, writing, doing this. You're in a company of saints who have done this, and they've done it with great freedom and goodness.
These people weren't gullible. They developed a scent for sanctity; they were alert to the way holiness works, which hardly ever fits the stereotypes.
Some of it's an art, but if you live with these people through their writings, you develop the sense of proportion, a scent for truth.

How long did it take to learn pastoral care from these mentors?

After five or seven years, I realized, I can do this. There is a way to live as a pastor during the week that is congruent with the gospel I proclaim on Sunday. This is a pastor. This is what I want to be. I love this life.
I don't want to paint a picture that I got it all straight. It's not something you "get"; it's not like a diploma you can hang. This is a way of life in which you keep re-immersing yourself.

This interview was originally published