Sunday, February 27, 2011

Advance notice...

Gaynor McCartney is collating a list of Songs, Prayers, and Readings under the generic title "For Christchurch."

Gaynor says the list will also be suitable to help people through all kinds of trauma. This list is to be published on the NZ Hymnbook Trust Noticeboard.

The list isn't available yet, but will be coming. We'll let you know when it arrives.

Love Wins

This video is likely to cause some's a promo, in a sense, for Rob Bell's latest book, Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived and it's interesting to read some of the comments on You Tube that accompany it. Ructions are already in the making there.

I think one of the most interesting statements he makes in the short 2 and a half minutes is that many Christians believe 'Jesus rescued us from God'....Mr Bell has some issues with this....

PS - just found this wonderful line from Kim Fabricius:

There are Christians who reject universalism not because it is unbiblical but because, were it true, it would disappoint them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I can't get over it

In the light of the disaster and chaos and trauma in Christchurch, I was particularly interested in a book that came to my attention this morning.

It's not new - the second edition was published in 1996 - but it obviously hasn't dated, if the enthusiastic review I received today is anything to go by.

The book is I Can't Get Over It - a handbook for trauma survivors, by Aphrodite Matsakis. Dr Matsakis has worked for many years with victims of all manner of post traumatic stress disorder. Her clients have included Vietnam veterans, rape victims, disaster survivors. Though this book is listed as a 'self-help' book, and could probably be used that way, I suspect it's more valuable used in tandem with a counsellor, therapist, minister, supervisor - anyone who is willing to work through the PTSD a person is suffering.

" of the most informative and sensitive books on surviving violent trauma. [It] covers most useful techniques and self-help suggestions for safe recovery, empowerment adn groth following trauma." Yigal Ben-Haim, trauma specialist.

This may be a useful book to have on your shelf in the days to come, when many hundreds of people around Canterbury in particular will be looking for help to get past the horrors of this week.

Reflecting on disaster

The three most recent posts on Jason Goroncy's blog relate to the devastating second Christchurch earthquake.

One offers two poems/reflections by Walter Brueggemann, the second is called, Christchurch: a pastoral reflection, and the third is reprint of a theological reflection by Frank Rees on his own experience of disaster called God of the Tsunami.

Rees is Principal and Professor of Systematic Theology at Whitley College in Melbourne, and this paper was first presented at a conference in South Korea.

Conversion! - maybe

Late last year I blogged briefly about a book called Launching Missional Communities by Mike Breen and Alex Absalom.

Dave Fitch has just read it and claims 'conversion' to the attractional model of church, after having spent a number of years arguing for the missional approach as the best option.

His lengthy post, however, appears to arguing for something rather different to what most of us would have considered 'attractional' meant. My understanding of 'attractional' is a church where people basically expect non-believers to come to the central place/building - how the church members go about getting them to the church in the first place varies enormously, of course.

Fitch says Breen and Absolom are talking about something different: an occasional (say six weekly or even three-monthly) service for the believers which may or may not 'attract' any outsiders, and which is like a kind of major celebration for all those involved in the church (which in Breen and Absolom's case consists of lots of small sub-groups - missional groups, in other words).

So, as one or more of the commenters on Fitch's post say, he's been 'converted' to something rather different to the normally accepted version of 'attractional'. In fact, it may be that he hasn't been converted at all. LOL

Read the post and see what you think. And what does his post add to the argument about missional vs attractional - what does Breen and Absolom's approach add to it?

Cold Calling

Just for something anecdote as to why cold calling evangelism doesn't always work....

A nun who was living in a convent next to a construction site noticed the coarse language of the workers and decided to spend some time with them to correct their ways.

She decided she would take her lunch, sit with the workers and talk with them. She put her sandwich in a brown bag and walked over to the spot where the men were eating.

She walked up to the group and with a big smile said, "And do you men know Jesus Christ?"

They shook their heads and looked at each other very confused. One of the workers looked up into the steelworks and yelled out, "Anybody up there know Jesus Christ"

One of the steelworkers yelled down: "Why?"

The worker yelled back, "Cos his wife's here with his lunch."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Curated communities

Jonny Baker has written before about curated worship, a concept that is only beginning to filter through in NZ, I think (though there may have been some exponents of it under a different name a decade or so ago: Mike Riddell and Mark Pierson, for example).

However, the idea of curating is a concept that's visible in the world apart from the church - as happens so often, something that the church is picking up in the culture is what the culture is either already doing, or thinking about.

Jonny points towards an explanatory blog post on the subject, written by Nathaniel Whittemore. He's looking at it in regard to the world of TED. Here's a paragraph Jonny quotes from the piece; it's worth reading the whole article for the way in which such thinking could impact communities in the church.

The explosion of curated membership communities is an attempt to create the shared experiences which bring us into contact with those people, giving us access to the amazing world which we can see, if not fully yet grasp.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It may seem obvious, but...

Mission is so easy if only....

Len Hjalmarson has written in his latest post about being neighbours....there's more to the post here.

In January of 2009 a group of pastors gathered to think and dream about what it would look like for the churches in their area to come together to serve the community. They asked the mayor to join them and talk about his dream for the city. They also asked him to talk about hindrances to that dream coming true.
He came with a list of pervasive issues and problems: at-risk kids; elderly shut-ins; decaying housing; hunger and homelessness. Before he started speaking he shared this: “it occurred to me that what our city really needs are good neighbours. The majority of the issues we face would be eliminated or drastically reduced if we could just become a community of people who are great neighbours.”
The pastors left convicted. Here they were asking the major what areas of the city were most in need, and he was telling them that the city could be transformed if Christians would simply live out the second half of the Great Commandment.
The plan they forged is simple — a teaching series on the art of neighbouring. They found that people don’t build relationships with their neighbours because,

1) they don’t see the value in it,
2) lack of time, and
3) lack of trust.

So they came up with this teaching series for this group of churches:
Week 1. taking Jesus seriously – what if Jesus really meant we should love our neighbors?
Week 2. Time: creating space to build relationships with neighbors
Week 3. Trust – embracing the messiness of relationships
They are then equipping their people to actually enter their neighbourhoods and live in them and build relationships.

Len also mentions an essay written by Todd Hiestand, which has apparently been unavailable for a while (it was written in 2007). It's called The Missional Church in Suburbia, and appears on Todd's site. It looks at mission in the urban society, and takes some similar approaches to those of the Australian, Simon Carey Holt.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Andrew, the Tall Skinny Kiwi blogger, who's currently in New Zealand at the moment, (at the Ngatiawa Contemplative Monastery as he calls it, though Ngatiawa Contemporary Monastery seems to be what they call it) wrote in a recent short post:

Praxis focuses on what they call the "emerging postmodern paradigm of mission". Which reminds me of David Bosch who suggested we were in the 'postmodern' paradigm, a term he wanted to replace with the word "ecumenical". As we all know, this never happened, probably due to his untimely death in 1992 and the reluctance of the evangelicals to embrace the "ecumenical" word, despite the fact that it occurs in the New Testament. But "the emerging postmodern paradigm of mission" would probably have his stamp of approval.

I'd hope that some other word or shorter phrase would eventually take off rather than 'emerging postmodern paradigm of mission' which quite honestly apart from being an awful mouthful doesn't tell us anything much. 'Ecumenical' now has a dated sound, and it lacks any sense of mission in it, as far as I can see.

I'm just reading Bosch's magnum opus, Transforming Mission, for the first time, after having sold it to innumerable customers over the years. It's quite some book and is full of good insights, particularly in relation to Matthew and Luke (by which you can guess that I'm probably not a very long way through it). Possibly Bosch would have used 'the emerging postmodern paradigm of mission' but he strikes me as a writer who's clearer than that, and I suspect he might have come up with something more useful. [Though I've just noticed that he uses 'paradigm' in the subtitle...!]

My sniping here isn't helped by the fact that 'postmodern' is a word without meaning, 'emerging' isn't much better, and 'paradigm' has been on my list of don't use words after I kept hearing it being overused in my office here in my first year (2008). Paradigm shift is a scientific term, primarily, which has become popular in other circles.

Note this paragraph from the Wikipedia article:
In the later part of the 1990s, 'paradigm shift' emerged as a buzzword, popularized as marketing speak and appearing more frequently in print and publication. In his book, Mind The Gaffe, author Larry Trask advises readers to refrain from using it, and to use caution when reading anything that contains the phrase. It is referred to in several articles and books as abused and overused to the point of becoming meaningless.

I'll leave Bosch with the last word:
Our mission has not life of its own: only in the hands of the sending God can it truly be called mission. Not least since the missionary initiative comes from God alone.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Life's big questions

In a few days time Scott Stephens will host the first of an exciting new Compass series called Life's Big Questions. Each episode features Scott talking about the meaning of life with high profile Australians including Matt Preston (from Master Chef Australia), Lindy Chamberlain-Creighton, Julian Morrow, Clare Bowditch, Philip Nitschke and Rolf De Heer.

Scott is the Religion and Ethics editor for ABC Online. Before joining the ABC he taught theology for many years, and even did a stint as a parish minister with the Uniting Church in Australia. He has written extensively on the intersections among philosophy, theology, ethics and politics, as well as on modern atheism's dependence on the Christian legacy. Scott is also a regular contributor to The Drum, Eureka Street and the Times Literary Supplement. He has edited and translated (with Rex Butler) two volumes of the Selected Works of the highly influential philosopher and cultural critic, Slavoj Zizek - including The Universal Exception, which was named by The Guardian newspaper one of its "Books of the Year" in 2007.

Sadly the repeat videos of these programmes won't be available to New Zealand viewers, though there may be transcripts of them at a later point.

Going Missional

As a leader in the Gospel and our Culture Network, George Hunsberger set forth four trajectories of self-awareness for the missional church:

1. “We own our cultural-ness, our own culture.” We join with our secular neighbors in living
within the particularities of the American culture.
2. “We have the habit of continuous conversion.”
3. “We are a living demonstration of the gospel.” More than rational proof, secularized
people want to see whether it is possible to live by the mandates of Christian discipleship.
4. “We structure our lives around being a sent community instead of a vendor of services.”
For many churches, this involves a fundamental shift in identity, pastoral leadership habits,
community formation, and orientation to the church’s mission.

This comes from an essay entitled Preaching in the Missional Church by Ervin R. Stutzman of the Eastern Mennonite Seminary. The essay is around 17 pages of pdf file, and full of interesting insights into the concept of 'going missional'.

art, theology, marxism, atheism, the mix!

One of the blogs I read regularly is entitled 'Never mind the bricolage' and is written by someone who calls himself 'Superflat'. There was a point when I had an actual name, but I can't just track it down on the blog at present. He works with students doing courses in which he discusses art and theology, (at least these topics come up regularly in his blog), and in his latest post, Criticism of Heaven he begins by writing the following...

In the Art, Cinema and Theology class we have been exploring the role of women in the arts and particularly women painters and their general absence from Western Art History. We found our way to a discussion about Frida Kahlo, inspired by the movie about her starring Selma Hayek and directed by Julie Taymor.

I think that there are rich conversations to be had around her life and work, but a question came up during class about how to 'do theology with someone who is a communist and an atheist'--points that I actually think are favourable for a conversation, but somehow seemed to be a stumbling block to at least one person. I guess it all depends on how one understands what theological discourse might be--for me it encompasses at least some aspect of bringing things (anything) into dialogue and conversation. While I part company with the conclusions of the Radical Orthodoxy mob, I do like Graham Ward's idea that doing theology somehow means 'reclaiming the world'--bringing all the things once ceded to the wider culture back into contact and conversation with sacred communities and with theology. So for me Frida Kahlo offers up some major theological potentials: sexuality and gender; socialism/Marxism, theism/a-theism, pain and brokenness just to name a few.

I like that idea of 'reclaiming the world' in relation to art/theology -it resonates with a number of different writers on art and theology I've read.

Superflat has a little more to

[Bricolage is a term used in several disciplines, among them the visual arts, to refer to the construction or creation of a work from a diverse range of things that happen to be available, or a work created by such a process. The term is borrowed from the French word bricolage, from the verb bricoler, the core meaning in French being, "fiddle, tinker" and, by extension, "to make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)". In contemporary French the word is the equivalent of the English do it yourself, and is seen on large shed retail outlets throughout France. A person who engages in bricolage is a bricoleur. Thanks, Wikipedia!]

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Sorry, who killed the church?

In the middle of last year Richard Beck wrote a post called How Facebook Killed the Church, which has just taken off on the blogosphere again. It's a provocative title, and it's true in relation to what he actually says in the article, where he talks why people who went to church primarily for the social element find it's no longer necessary when there are umpteen technological ways to make contact. I quote:

No doubt, the vast majority of the people in a friend list on Facebook are strangers, acquaintances, or old school friends you haven't seen in years. But no user of Facebook is confused enough to think that she is "in relationship" with any of these people. These are just the penumbra around the core of our Facebook interactions, connecting with people we actually know and are friends with.

In short, Facebook isn't replacing real world relationality. Rather, Facebook tends to reflect our social world.

Beck isn't saying that these people who no longer go to church were thoroughly involved in being disciples - at least I don't think that's what he's saying. There are a great number of very comments to this post, and these clarify and deepen the discussion in a variety of ways. These are as much worth reading as the original post.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Len Hjalmarson's latest post summarizes an article written by Dallas Willard in which he puts forward an approach to spiritual growth that's worth thinking about. It's not a 'method'; however the three stages are all necessary for any kind of change or learning, as Hjalmarson shows.

Vision – Intention – Means – this is the pattern that Dallas Willard uses to talk about a framework for spiritual growth. He defends this frame very well and it's a convincing bit of work. I discovered on the weekend that he has a lengthy article online that pulls much of the core material from his book “Renovation of the Heart.

Perhaps these things don’t interest you greatly – one more system to try to work through. But consider for a moment that this same framework can be applied to the formational agenda of a faith community. Do you know where you are going? Do you understand the working of the system you are attempting to change? Are you ready to commit to going there? Will all your key leaders commit? Do you have a means worked out, step by step, to practically move forward?

Hjalmarson goes on to give some good examples of how Willard's framework works out in ordinary matters, like learning a language, or overcoming addiction.

Missionary work

Mission work has never been easy, but for many years one of the ways in which it's been conducted is by arranging to work in a country - legally - and then doing the missionary work on top of that. However, the following bit of news in relation to South Korean missionaries shows that this approach may not work for much longer...

South Korea is to enact laws to discourage its people from engaging in illegal activities overseas, a move seen by Christian groups here as an attempt to curb missionary work.

The South Korean government has been trying to deal with the growing dangers of Christians working as missionaries in Islamic nations, especially after a young missionary was kidnapped and killed by insurgents in Iraq in 2004.

See the remainder of the article here. Note that a number of Koreans were kidnapped in Afghanistan in 2007 (two of them later executed) and two Korean men were imprisoned in Libya last year.

Monday, February 14, 2011

This might be news to you

In a recent post, Andrew aka Tall Skinny Kiwi, who has been back in NZ for a spell, writes:

We are staying for a few days at Ngatiawa which is a monastery in the new-emerging fashion. This used to be a Presbyterian camp in a previous life but has been bought out and changed over and broadened in its use to become a monastic center for protestant youth, with a connection to the Anglicans. Good people here. There are actually 6 urban monasteries in this area under the Urban Vision banner and one rural monastery which adds some balance to the ministry. Ngatiawa is that rural piece of the puzzle - land, cows, gardens, daily prayer in a nice chapel, dung between your toes, etc.

In case it's news to you (as it was to me) that there was a 'new-emerging' monastery called Ngatiawa (which appears to be the joining together of the Maori tribal name Nga Tiawa but may not have particular connections) the following paragraphs from the NZ Urban Vision people may help:

We are a contemporary monastery set in the beautiful Reikorangi valley – inland from Waikanae, on the Kapiti Coast, north of Wellington. Ngatiawa seeks to give priority to nurturing a contemplative life within UV Vision and be an open community for others to experience. We offer prayerful rhythms, retreat and solitude. We enjoy and care for our land, seeking to live more sustainably. We also offer training and team building, as well as plenty of hospitality and recreation in a new way.

Our guest house hosts groups each week from Urban Vision, as well as other friends and neighbours, and church and community groups. Individuals also come to join us for retreat, support, recreation or to explore issues of faith, justice and community and personal wholeness. At least annually we host larger gatherings and festivals, and hope to be a place of connection for others committed to God's love and justice.

All this is great, although the more I read on the site the more it all sounds like what monasteries have been doing pretty much since they began. Certainly they were often more contemplative than active, but reaching out to the marginalised and working justly isn't exactly 'emerging' in regard to the history of monasteries. Just quibbling...!

Just in case you thought you were alone....

There's an endless amount of handwringing going on in the mainline denominations (not just the Presbyterians) about decreasing this and declining that and vanishing those and where the heck are the people who used to be here...

You're not alone. Terry Mattingly has just written about the way in which denominations in the States are facing these issues, but adds an interesting slant to the problem: liberal and conservative Jews are facing exactly the same issues. As he notes:

Conservative Judaism’s membership rolls are in free fall.

According to a strategic plan for renewal issued in February by the denomination’s congregational arm, the number of families served by synagogues belonging to what was once American Judaism’s leading stream has shrunk by 14% since 2001. In the denomination’s Northeast region, the number of families has dropped by 30%.

And liberal Jews are in the same boat...

Mattingly nicely sums up the issues amongst both Christians and Jews as: the post-denominational mess.

More on giving

Back on the 7th of this month I mentioned some blog posts Richard Beck was writing relating to a different view of giving in our churches. He thinks giving in a way that connects with what we're actually giving to might be more helpful than just tossing something in a plate or offering bag.

He's now onto his third post on the subject. Here's an extract:

The most spiritually formative giving that my church does occurs around Thanksgiving when, on Sack Sunday, the church members take up to the front sacks of food for our food pantry. By the ending of the service the stage is packed with food. Then, after the service, we all grab the sacks and take them to a waiting truck. I expect lots of churches have giving times just like this.

The most spiritually formative aspect of this is the shopping during the week in preparation for the service. It's particularly meaningful for my boys who love to go up and down the aisles of the grocery store picking out food items. As we do so we get to talk about giving, poverty, gratitude, and what all this means for someone who follows Jesus of Nazareth.

It's well worth reading the rest because of the way he develops this argument....

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why bother with church?

Next time one of your congregation says they're thinking that it's hardly worth bothering to go to church, point in the direction of Lisa Colón DeLay, who calls herself a writer, artist, impromptu humorist, and spiritual formation provocateur (certainly sounds more trendy than a Spiritual Director).

She's recently written a post entitled, So, You wanna ditch your church? Top 5 Mistakes. It's not heavily theological, so it won't cause anyone to say 'that's too hard for me to understand.' It begins:

Sometimes going to church doesn’t seem worth it. For heaven’s sake, wouldn’t it be better to just have breakfast with some family or friends, and forgo irritating people, scheduling problems, overblown or petty dramas de jour, personality conflicts, politics, dodgy doctrinal positioning, and the rest of machine the local church can be? Is the Cracker Barrel growing a bit more more alluring each Sunday morning?

Seems like a no-brainer, right?
If this is kind of thing is happening for you, in your local church, maybe church shopping is around the bend? Well, wait just a minute. Here are 5 Mistakes you can make (or have made) regarding your local church.

1. Making theological judgments for what are personal preferences.
2. Mistaking the “local church” for The Bride of Christ.
3. Misunderstanding the idea of “community.”
4. Implementing a consumer approach with the spiritual and transcendent.
5. Overlooking what is happening in the sacraments.

Collins St, Melbourne

In a post written back on the 6th of February (2011), Simon Carey Holt writes:

“…I came to Collins Street Baptist Church one year ago this month. In a community of such history, I am still new. I came from seventeen years of teaching practical theology in seminaries and universities. When I accepted the call to Collins Street, eyebrows were raised, my own included. Why would I leave the security and stimulation, not to mention the opportunity to influence, that teaching provides? And why, in the breathless age of ‘new missional communities’ and ‘emergent churches’, would one join an ecclesial relic in apparent decline?...

I have read the statistics, the predictions of demise for churches like this one: stories of sinking ships and chronic relevance deficit. I’ve listened to whispered warnings of a conservative community, liberal in theology, jealous of its history, hording its resources and resistant to change. Despite all of this, I packed my bags and moved in.

…What I have found could not be further from its reputation. Collins Street is anything but an ecclesial relic! Indeed, it’s a relatively small congregation—I often say it’s a small church with a big building, a big history, a big budget and a big impact—but far from being on its deathbed, this church is very much alive. What I have found is an extraordinary community of people, diverse in every possible way, alive to the Spirit and deeply committed to the future. A year in and I am very glad to be here…”

I was interested to read this, because I visited Collins St when I was in Melbourne about seven years ago, and was distinctly unimpressed: people sat separately, the sermon was thin, the decor was of that ilk that says 'church is a serious place' (Wellington Central Baptist struck us in the same way when we visited in January this year) and all in all we came away not having been overwhelmed by our visit. Holt's post needs to be read in full (it's not much longer than what I've quoted) and it's worth reading the follow-up post in which he talks further about his reading of Diana Butler Bass' book, Christianity for the Rest of Us, where he notes:

Bass’s vision of a church ‘with its eyes wide to the world’ is one I have long shared: a church deeply committed to this earth, its wellbeing and renewal; a church with a finely tuned radar for the sacred in the world around it; a church open and responsive to the needs for grace and redemption in its own neighbourhood. Reading Bass’s words made me wonder again what such a church really looks like. How does an ‘eyes-wide-open’ church differ from one with its eyes tightly shut? What characterises its life together? What shape does its mission take?

This will be an interesting journey, and one that's worth following up on regularly.

Art and Faith Conference

Murray Rae has just announced that the organisation, STAANZ will hold a conference and associated exhibition on Art and Faith in Dunedin from July 29-30 this year. The theme of the conference is 'Tikkun Olam: To Mend the World' and the keynote speaker will be Professor Bill Dyrness from Fuller Theological Seminary.

The aim of the conference is to encourage conversation between artists and theologians around the theme of art and faith.

More details on the conference website.

Pass this on to anyone who may be interested, especially artists.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Discipleship + Salvation

The sad reality of discipleship in our time is that it is divorced from mission. Discipleship is often divorced from mission because it is divorced from the awareness of who God is and what it means to claim that Jesus is the Christ — the living Messiah of God. Discipleship grows out of the awareness that salvation begins a process of submitting our lives to the Lordship of Christ. When this process does not follow the event of salvation, then we fail to follow Jesus in life.

This comes from a blog post written by the prolific Len Hjalmarson, in which he says that the Gospel isn't just 'Jesus saves' but also 'Jesus is Lord.'

He also notes:
Our practice of discipleship is often lacking because we have separated a personal event from a public process. But discipleship is never a private process; if it was a private process the early Christians would not have been martyrs.

Giving - because it's good

Remember the verse about 'giving a cup of water in My Name'? What about those who give cups of water, or time, or do an act of kindness not in Jesus' Name? Does he strike those events out of the Book of Life?

I think not.

Giving to others, being kind to others, doing something heroic for another is built into our DNA, I suspect, which rather undercuts Richard Dawkins' idea of the 'selfish gene.' Giving, being kind, being heroic may not be what we focus on, or do very well (either as Christians or not) but it is still there in our system, and comes out frequently. For instance, the anonymous truck driver who rescued a little girl from a blazing car near Milton in the last day or so probably just got on and did what he thought he should. I doubt that there was any particular 'spiritual' motive behind it.

What prompts this meandering is news that a website has been set up in New Zealand called 'Giving for Good: the generosity hub.' You can read stories about giving and helping, and volunteering, and recent news reports of generosity, and you can contribute your own.

You're also nudged to think about giving money to good causes, and shown some examples of how this might be achieved. There's nothing churchy or spiritual about any of it - not that I've noticed so far - but it's great that the groups putting it together think it's worth emphasising generosity within our society.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Family and household projections to 2031

From Statistics NZ

The latest subnational family and household projections provide an indication of possible future changes in the number and composition of families and households.

Highlights of the latest release project that:

• All 16 of New Zealand's regions will have more couple-without-children families and one-person households in 2031 than in 2006.*

• There will be a continued decline in average household size for all regions and territorial authorities, between 2006 and 2031.

• The Auckland region will account for almost half (48 percent) of the national growth in the number of households by 2031.

*‘Couple-without-children’ include:
(a) couples who will never have children,
(b) couples who will have children in the future,
(c) couples whose children have left the parental home.
Note that first projection, that all 16 regions will have more one-person households.....but we keep focusing our ministry on families, married couples, youth, children.

Photo, David Salafia

PS: This year is Census Year - in just a month's time. It's a date I was looking forward to, in many ways, when all the 2006 Census figures that were becoming increasingly unuseful would be replaced. And now my role here as Research and Resource Assistant is coming to an end....pooh! :)

Another announcement

A Rocha (Portuguese for the rock) is an international Christian conservation organisation which has been established in Aotearoa New Zealand since 2007. A group of people have been working towards setting up a Dunedin branch, and believe this will help them give substance and continuity to their gospel witness through Creation care.

Their first public event will be a visit to the Craigieburn Reserve, one of the earliest conservation reserves in Dunedin, and indeed in New Zealand. Other planned events include visits to wetlands, coastal restoration projects, and Orokonui Eco-sanctuary, all concluding with a shared meal and some kind of creation focused/contemplative worship at a nearby church. In July the group plan a camp at St Martin's Island.

"Do you want to do something for the care of Creation? Do you want to discover others with similar concerns? Do you want to be part of a movement of hope?

Join us for the first Dunedin event of A Rocha at Leith Valley Church, Malvern St, going on to Craigieburn Conservation Reserve, Sunday February 20th, beginning at 12.30pm.

For more information contact Selwyn Yeoman - (03) 4877 167 or mobile 027 357 8459.

A Rocha Aotearoa New Zealand currently has active local initiative groups in:

Photo of St Martin's Island (Quarantine Island) from

Chuck Olsen visit

“Transforming Sessions and Parish Councils Into Communities of Spiritual Leaders” a seminar led by Dr. Charles (Chuck) Olsen

Thursday 24 March 2011, from 3:30 to 5 p.m at Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership

All welcome. No charge.

A native Nebraskan, Dr. Olsen is a retired minister in the Presbyterian Church (USA). He has twenty-two years of pastoral and teaching experience. His special interests are church renewal and revitalization – both on a national and local church level. He was director of Project Base Church, a Lilly Endowment funded effort with the Institute of Church Renewal. Two books, The Base Church, and Cultivating Religious Growth Groups, were products of this venture into new and small group forms of Christian community.

As program director with the Heartland Presbyterian Center in Kansas City, Dr. Olsen directed the Lilly Endowment funded “Set Apart Lay Leader Project,” a four-year effort focusing on the integration of spirituality and administration in church boards and councils. His book, Transforming Church Boards Into Communities of Spiritual Leaders (Alban), tells that story. It was selected as one of the top ten religious books in 1997 by the Academy of Parish Clergy and is one of Alban’s all time best sellers.

Dr. Olsen founded Worshipful-Work: Center for Transforming Religious Leadership, an inclusive ecumenical ministry focusing on the integration of spirituality and administration. He teaches, writes, and facilitates the practice of spiritual discernment in religious bodies. And he is co-author, with Danny E. Morris, of Discerning God’s Will Together and, with Sister Ellen Morseth, of Selecting Church Leaders: A Practice in Spiritual Discernment, both from Alban and Upper Room. His latest book, The Wisdom of the Seasons: How The Church Year Helps Us Understand Our Congregational Stories, was released by Alban in October of 2009.

This will be Dr. Olsen’s second visit to Dunedin. He was last here in 2001.


The Biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor's responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. it is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.
Eugene Peterson, from Working the Angles.

I found this quote on a site called Epic Fail Pastors Conference. It's one of several quotes sliding past on the front page of the site. This Conference is aimed at those ministers who are sick of the kind of conferences that feature air-brushed guys who've been to the gym a lot and who run mega-churches that don't know the meaning of the word 'failure.' I suspect it could be very 'successful.'

The Out of Ur blog offers some of the thinking behind the Conference:

-What if we offered a space that is gutsy, hopeful, courageously vulnerable for pastors to let go of the burden to be a Super Pastor?

-What if we could hold an event that was free from the thrills and frills of other pastors conferences?

-What if we came together as epic failures and sought not successful models or how-do’s but instead celebrated faithfulness in ministry because of the reality of Jesus?

-What if we were reminded that we’re not responsible for being ‘successful’ in ministry, but we are responsible for being faithful to the calling that God has laid out for us – regardless of the outcome?

-What if we had a conference that was not led not by famous pastors who are household names, but by scandalously ordinary ministers and leaders who are faithfully attempting to join with God – even in the midst of glaring obscurity and anonymity?

Sounds like the type of conference that many Kiwi pastors could do with attending. Note the key word in the 'thinking': faithfulness.


I have to include one of the comments from the Out of Ur site in relation to this post:

Hi, I'm Jarrod and I'm a failed pastor.

(Everyone: "Hi, Jarrod.")

I'm a recovering megachurch staffer. But it's been 67 days since I attended my last "How you can do what I did" conference, and I've been reading Jean Vanier every day since.


I can't wait to see what I will learn at the Epic Failure gathering. Maybe I'll find a sponsor.

There are several other equally good comments...check them out!

Poster by Sean MacEntee

Monday, February 07, 2011

Closing and listening

Things are a little up and down at the office here at present...hence not quite so many posts as usual, but hopefully over the next couple of weeks we'll settle into the rather odd routine of being here but not officially existing any longer.

John Daniel and I both finish at the end of March, for the record, but the National Mission Team/Office was officially closed a week ago last Friday. So it's a bit like a couple of phantoms wandering around an old house, haunting anyone who comes by, but not being particularly scary.

Jason Goroncy (pictured at right in a contemplative mood) presented the annual Inaugural Lecture at Knox College for Ministry and Leadership yesterday. It was centred around the Eucharist, had a rather odd title which currently escapes me, and hopefully will turn up as text on his blog in the next few days. At which point I'll pick up on all the things I missed either through finding neither of my pens worked, or through trying to think about something he'd just said and then missing the next bit, or through the couple of moments when I nodded off - having slept very badly the previous night. No fault of the lecture, Jason!

No offence, Jason! It was a great lecture. I just need a bit more time to absorb it...

Thinking about Giving

Richard Beck doesn't call himself a theologian, but he does a lot of theological thinking. He's just started a series called Thoughts on Church Giving and begins his comments in this fashion, going on to say that while he appreciates the value of church buildings insofar as what they allow congregations to do, he also appreciates being able to give directly to people's needs as they arise....

If you are regular church goer I'm wondering if you have been experiencing something similar to what my wife and I are experiencing. Specifically, it seems harder and harder to drop money in the collection plate.

To be clear, we tithe. But we don't drop all 10% in the collection plate on Sunday morning. We devote some portion of our tithe to the weekly offering, but the rest we spread around to charities or needs where we can give more directly and/or interpersonally.

And that got me wondering. My hunch is that a lot of people give the same way. A small portion goes to the church and the rest is given directly to people with no "middle man."

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Teen fathers

Churches in NZ and abroad spend a lot of time ministering to youth via youth groups, but the emphasis in these groups tends to be on single youth who haven't moved up to the marriage or parenthood level yet.

A booklet called Supporting Teen Fathers has just come to my attention, and makes me wonder how many teen fathers most churches have anything to do with. My experience makes me think it's a very small number, but I guess I could be wrong. (And how many teen fathers would be inclined to go to a 'youth' group?)

The booklet has been put out by the Ministry of Social Development, and on their website they outline the way in which the booklet is laid out:

Part 1 of the resource outlines what is known about teen fathers in New Zealand, including their characteristics and needs. It discusses the roles fathers play, and the cultural context of being a father in New Zealand.

Part 2 covers things to consider when developing services for teen fathers:

  • finding out about teen fathers in your community
  • considering effective approaches to supporting teen fathers
  • recognising the importance of identity, mana, whakapapa and whanaungatanga
  • providing parenting support services to teen fathers
  • supporting teen fathers with other areas of their lives
  • deciding how to deliver services
  • selecting people to work with teen fathers
  • getting teen fathers involved and keeping them engaged
  • creating environments that are teen father friendly
  • working with families and whānau
  • working with other services
  • monitoring, evaluating and reflecting on practice.
Part 3 contains profiles of five providers currently delivering services to teen fathers in New Zealand.

One useful starting place in the book, it seems to me, is the first on the list in section two: finding out about teen fathers in your community. This could be a valuable area for your church to check out....

You can download the booklet from the website either as a pdf or Word doc, or can purchase a hard copy.

Check your facts...

You may be one of a number of ministers/pastors who, over the years, have told your congregation/listeners, that the two Chinese characters that make up their word for 'crisis' mean danger and opportunity.

If you want a long and interesting/entertaining explanation of this (and an additional bit of information at the bottom of the post that has absolutely nothing to do with Chinese've been warned) have a look at Cecil Adam's explanation on The Straight Dope.

You can see a more detailed explanation on our old friend, Wikipedia.

Why am I offering you these opportunities to go chasing after the 'real' meanings of a Chinese word? Because in an article written by John Ortberg in the Leadership Online Journal, I came across this rather extraordinary statements, which just goes to prove, I suspect, the reality of the Chinese Whispers game.

'It is a little known fact that in Chinese, the word crisis is made up of two characters: "life" and "stinks."'

I suspect it's a 'little known fact' because it's pretty much incorrect - or, at best, a very loose translation! Which goes to show that if you're going to put information on the Net, or preach it to your congregation, it's best to get it right...

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Therapy as defined by James

In chapter seven of his book, The Great Giveaway, David Fitch writes...

“Evangelicals, like all Christians, need therapy. We need a therapy as defined by the epistle of James: “Confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed…” We need therapy to unwind our pasts, uncover our sins, receive forgiveness, and then forgive.. We need therapy that intervenes by speaking the truth in love into our lives when we are blinded from seeing our own sinful patterns, interventions akin to the old Christian Anabaptist practices of “binding and loosing” where two or three gather to confront on truth (Matt. 18:15-20).

“To do this kind of ‘therapy’ we need safe and confidential places in our churches to confess, discern, receive scriptural admonition and wisdom, and support and edify one another…

You can read more from this chapter here. One of Fitch's concerns is that we've replaced true pastoral counsel (which knows what sin is) with therapeutic models from a variety of sources.