Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Saddam is Dead

I just heard on CNN that Saddam Hussein was executed this morning. I was waiting for this announcement since the fail of his appeal earlier in the week.

It is definitely, as Alyssa said while we watched the report, hard to feel sad. This man was the epitome of evil. He directly and indirectly was involved in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi's and Kurds and Iranians. His regime was drenched in the blood of his own people and he ruled with fear. But even knowing all this, I do feel a twinge of sorrow. Not so much for Saddam himself but for the philosophy (or theology as the case may be) that says capital punishment is the answer to the problem of violence. That restitution can be found in the taking of a life.

I recently came across a phrase that aptly describes this way of thinking. It is the "myth of redemptive violence"; the idea that violence in any form can bring about positive, redemptive change.

As a follower of Jesus, I struggle to come to terms with the nature of justice, particularly true, godly, justice. And, while I plan on doing more research, I do at this point in time accept at least some of the tenets of the "just war theory", in that in some cases for justice to prevail a coercive and sometimes fatal force is required (if a homicidal maniac was threatening my family and likely to kill or do serious harm to any one of them, I would, if I had the opportunity, use whatever force necessary to prevent their coming to harm - I make no apologies for this). Yet, as a Christian, I also believe that Jesus spoke clearly on the issue of capital punishment - the calculated and judicial act of taking a life in payment for a crime committed.

Jesus brought home the fact that, under the Law, we are all guilty and deserving of the death penalty - but he came to provide a different solution -to save not to condemn to death (John 3:16-17). Furthermore, when he was faced with the adulterous woman in John 8 (1-11), a woman who under the Law was clearly deserving of the death penalty, he reminded the accusers of their own guilt and freed the woman, with the command to "go and sin no more".

In this simple act Jesus made clear the two fold significance of sin and its penalty and his own mission of salvation, rather than condemnation. He set the captive free, regardless of her guilt because of the very same guilt (the guilt of sin) resting on the shoulders of those who, rightly, accused her.

I have no doubt that Saddam Hussein deserved life imprisonment. But I cannot accept that a deliberate act of violence, perpetrated against him by the Iraqi judiciary is any less bloodthirsty or any more redemptive than any of the violent acts committed by Hussein while he held control of Iraq.

As a follower of Jesus I must oppose the death penalty, no matter how fitting it may seem, because, with the sole exception of the cross of calvary, this kind of redemptive violence is a myth. We cannot take Jesus' act in John 8 and view it in isolation. Did he only mean his actions to be a reflection of the specific situation he was facing at that time? Or can we look beyond the surface, at his teaching's elsewhere in the gospels and say with conviction, Jesus did away with the death penalty in every circumstance? Just as most of us wouldn't accept any courts imposition of the death penalty for adultery, or for witchcraft or for homosexuality, if we are to be consistent, we also cannot accept the death penalty for murder or any other violent crime. No matter how appropriate it seems at the time.

Yes, Saddam Hussein died this morning for nothing. The memory of the crimes he committed will long outlive any fleeting sense of joy or justice achieved by the act of his execution. I just pray that God will, as he is in the habit of doing, work all these things for the good of those who love him!

For an interesting take (and I don't fully agree with everything Rob Bell is expounding here) have a listen to Rob Bell's series of sermons on the Myth of Redemptive Violence at Mars Hill - Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

I'm It!

Jamie over at More Than Stone has 'tagged' me. I had read about this little game of tag going on over on John Smulo's blog. Not sure where it originated but is a beaut bit of fun!

So here's the deal - you get to know 5 things about me and then I get to tag 5 more people.

1) I was an alcoholic for around 14 years and managed to spend my life doing some pretty stupid things before I was rescued by Jesus Christ!

2) I am married to an amazing lady - Alyssa - who is the most beautiful, intelligent, loving, wonderful soul mate I guy could have. Alyssa is a scientist who has just started working for a mining company as a metallurgical clerk - and has won many academic awards for her studies in chemistry and metallurgy and mathematics.

3) I live about 300m from the Indian Ocean and wonder how I could ever have lived anywhere else - I love the ocean and swimming and surfing and just spending time on the beach in prayer, or watching the sun set or taking time to think and meditate.

4) I used to live in a town called Alice Springs which is just about as far from the coast as anywhere in the world can be. It's smack in the middle of Australia surrounded by thousands of kilometres of desert. I actually loved living there and count the desert as my second favourite place to be after the coast (what a contrast huh!).

5) I am running some astronomy nights in January (every Friday night) here in Binningup for my Fellowship (the Binningup Beach Christian Fellowship). I was heavily involved with the astronomy side of things as a ministry for a number of years and still enjoy spending time under the stars with a telescope, especially if it involves showing others the amazing beauty of the created heavens. The most commonly heard comment from people seeing Saturn and its rings or Jupiter and its moons or even just seeing our own cratered Moon for the first time is, "Oh my God!" Which then gives me an opportunity to say "Funny you should say that..." and to talk to them about Jesus.

So - in order to keep this tradition alive I am now going to tag, Hamo over at Backyard Missionary, my old mate Matt Perry at Matt Perry dot Com, Scott Vawser at No Guarantees, JR Woodward at Dream Awakener and last but not least, Helen Mildenhall at Conversation at the Edge.

Whew! Oh yeah, and - TAG!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Bursting Your Christmas Bubble

It's nearly Christmas and while the western world gets caught up in the consumerist whirl wind and buys up a storm, Christians are focusing their thoughts on the birth of their Saviour, Jesus Christ. But before you get too carried away celebrating the second most holy holiday on the Christian calender, you might want to stop and think about the historical accuracy of the Nativity story.

According to "the world's most respected biblical historian", Geza Vermes from Oxford University in the UK, the nativity is nothing more than a myth created by early Jewish followers of Jesus to legitimise their claims of his divinely appoint right to throne of David and title of Messiah.

You can listen to an interview with Vermes on the ABC's The Ark website, recorded last Sunday (17th December). CLICK HERE to chose your favourite audio option.

And for those who are questioning how someone who can make the completely unscholarly and ludicrous claims this man makes in this interview and still be called the "world's most respected biblical historian" - have a very merry and blessed Christmas and a safe and Christ-centred holiday season! Don't forget to remind as many people as possible that Jesus Christ didn't remain a baby in a manger - but rather grew to be the most influential revolutionary this planet has ever known.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Taking a Break

Well, it's nearly Christmas and I have holidays starting in around 2 weeks time (and I can hardly wait). But in the meantime I've got reports to write, am preparing our training program for endorsement by the Education Department and preparing for the new year with it's cafe afternoons, Friday evening gatherings and overseas travels.

I am also finding it difficult to blog in a meaningful way at the moment - I am struggling a bit with introspection - not sure what to do about it - and don't want these frustrations and feelings to be reflected in what I write here. I know that further on down the track I might live to regret it! :) So I'm taking a bit of a blogging break - while there might be an irregular post or two I'm not going to be bothering with the daily updates for while.

But I am pretty sure I'll be back, maybe once Christmas and the associated madness that seems to follow it has subsided and I've had a chance to think again about where we are heading as a family, where I'm heading in my church and ministry and life, and where this blog sits in all of that.

To those that regularly frequent Moved Mountains - thanks! And to everyone, have a great Christ-centred Christmas and safe and blessed holiday. See you on the other side.

Blog-Geek Help

I'm having some problems with the layout of this blog and I haven't got much of a clue when it comes to CSS.

If you have a careful look at the 'MM' title image at the top of this page you'll see a series of fullstops (.......................). In what was a mammoth task, I swapped the standard Blogger title for the image you can see, but couldn't find a way to get around the display of the Blogger title. So instead of the Moved Mountains, which would have appeared over the title image, I inserted the fullstops, which are not so obvious.

The problem is though, they now appear as the title of the blog on the RSS feeds (etc) and one the comments page. I am hoping someone can help me get rid of the fullstops and replace them with an invisible Moved Mountains!

Dependant on Sundays

  • How have you dealt with the over dependance on the Sunday morning service in your context?
  • What alternatives have you used with success (and how)?
  • How do you move people away from Sunday morning attendance as the guage of "true" committment?

  • When did the day of rest become the day of toil?
As I head off to the weekly Sunday morning meeting, I'm confronted again with the overdependance or overimportance put on the Sunday morning "church" service by some people. Don't get me wrong, I think a weekly meeting and time of corporate prayer and worship is important, but why is the Sunday morning service seen as the compulsory, be-all and end-all in Christian gatherings?

I attend at least 3 meetings a week where the major components of the Sunday service are included (with perhaps the exception of communion), yet whenever I, deliberately, throw out the possibility of not attending on an odd Sunday morning, I receive phone calls, comments and the occaisional "remember, we're told not to forsake the fellowship of the saints" comment thrown in for good measure. Come on! I meet and fellowship with Christians all week. I often am working 7 days a week and find that a Sunday spent at home, with a sleepin Sunday morning and a day spent with my family is incredibly beneficial.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

They Stole It. I'm Stealing it Back!

You've all heard of the TV series Charmed right? Well, you may have noticed a symbol similar to this popping up on the cover of the witches mystical spell book - the book of shadows (oooooooohhhhh).

Its proper name is the triquetra (or trinity knot). In it's simplist form (without the outer circle) it is an ancient celtic symbol of unknown origin or purpose, appropriated by celtic Christians to represent the triune God - three distinct parts in one complete figure. In more recent times the interwoven outer circle was added, representing eternity.

The thing is, I've taken it upon myself to re-claim the triquetra as a Christian symbol. Particularly because I think it looks really cool and rather profoundly symbolises the God I serve. So Charmed, your on notice!

Feel free to join in the "reclaim the triquetra" protest and copy the image to your blog or website as a sign of Christian solidarity! (If you do post it, let me know and if possible link back to this page).

We've also decided to use the trinity knot as the logo for our new Friday evening gathering, which now has a name - Alternate[Or].

Friday, December 08, 2006

Danger! Jesus Ahead

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.

And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
  • “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  • “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
  • “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
  • “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
  • “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
  • “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
  • “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.
Matthew 5:1-16
The image, above, is the cover of my upcoming book - I'll let you know once I start writing it! ;)

Thursday, December 07, 2006

DA Carson and Emerging Missiology

  • If you are "emergent/emerging" and have read this book, what were your first thoughts?

  • What has Carson missed in his treatment of this subject?
I am just about half way through D.A. Carson's book BCWTEC. This is the second book I have tackled recently directly dealing with the EC as a movement, while very different to the first book (the Shaping of Things to Come by Frost and Hirsch) I have found it balanced and informative so far.

I know many within the EC have been highly critical of Carson's views. Yet, for the most part, and taking into account I have only read about half the book, I have found his work to be fairly balanced. He has highlighted the strengths of the movement as well as the weaknesses.

Over the next couple of days I want to briefly talk about a few of the things Carson deals with that struck a chord with me and raised questions in my mind as I have been exploring the EC.

The first of these is:
  • the post modern ideal of tolerance and a tolerant society

  • secondly absolutism

  • thirdly, something Carson also mentioned in his talk while in Australia a few months back, the decline of post modernism is other parts of the world,

  • and finally - as a bit of a side track - the notion of the Just War that Carson briefly touches on (am particularly interested in this because there seem to be some very strong links between the EC and passivism).
So, tomorrow I'll get started on the first of these and I look forward to your views and reponses.

If you haven't read BCWTEC and would like to get a bit more of an idea where Carson is coming from, you can read a paper by him HERE dealing which deals with the same topic

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

It's not the Word but the Meaning that Matters?

Following on from yesterday's post on words and the way they are understood (or misunderstood) in different contexts, Shannon posted this comment:

While I think that many "Christian" terms can alienate people, I also believe that traditional Christian language must be, to some capacity, preserved. I think in any discussion with a non-believer when we use words like, saved, born-again and such it becomes our responsibility to teach them what these terms mean and represent.
I agree with Shannon - and obviously it is important, if we are to understand each other and are able to communicate with others in a meaningful way, we have to have our own vocabulary. Spiritual/theological words are important. But I think there is something even more important - and that is the meaning behind these words. And in many instances this is something on which even many Christians can't agree.

What is "salvation"? Is it something Jesus does for us on His own or is it something we have a hand in? Does "Spirit Filled" mean a life controlled and governed by the Holy Spirit or does it mean the ability to speak in tongues and exercise other charismatic gifts? And I could go on.

So is it really the words or phrases alone that hold all the importance, or is meaning (and taking it one step further) context also an important part of the deal? How do we get around the clear differences of opinion that exist within the church over the meaning of theological words? How can we communicate meaning to non-believers when we can't even agree on meaning ourselves?

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I Know What I Mean, Why Don't You Know What I Mean?

Being able to communicate clearly is incredibly important, particularly in this day and age. I doubt there has ever been a time when the meanings of words have been as fluid and open to "interpretation" as they are now.

This is something we have to be incredibly aware of when trying to communicate the gospel. Not everyone understands the terms or phrases we use in the same way we do. Not everyone will even understand them at all.

Terms like, "born again", "salvation", or even "saved" have definite theological and biblical meanings but they are also jargon terms that people who have not been a part of Christian circles (and in particular evangelical Christianity) will understand very differently to those who have. Here in Australia that means a large slice of the community are not going to understand what we have to say in the way we want them to if we continue to use these terms when interacting with them.

Here's a little clip I found a while ago that highlights the issue well!

I also received the following in an email today - which is actually what got me thinking about this topic again. Great examples of simple messages being misunderstood because one person wasn't in on the jargon being used by the other.

  • Tech support: What's on your monitor now, ma'am?

    Customer: A teddy bear my boyfriend bought for me at K-Mart.
  • A woman customer called the Canon help desk with a problem with her printer.

    Tech support: Are you running it under windows?

    Customer: "No, my desk is next to the door, but that is a good point. The man sitting in the cubicle next to me is under a window, and his printer is working fine."

  • Tech support: "Okay Colin, let's press the control and escape keys at the same time. That brings up a task list in the middle of the screen. Now type the letter "P" to bring up the Program Manager."

    Customer: I don't have a "P".

    Tech support: On your keyboard, Colin.

    Customer: What do you mean?

    Tech support: "P".....on your keyboard, Colin.

    Customer: I'M NOT GOING TO DO THAT!!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Evangelism: Shifting Focus

The practice of evangelism is something I have been reconsidering lately and I found a couple of great posts on this topic on the Backyard Missionary and Smulo Space blogs.

In Some Points on Missionary Work in Suburbia Part II Hamo makes the point, as well as "living" Christ we also need to be intentional about "speaking" Christ with those we are seeking to lead toward the kingdom.

...some people will not like our choice to follow Jesus and to speak of him in conversation. Some people will simply avoid us. They won’t invite us to parties. They will classify us as ‘religious folks’. And at times that will hurt. We have had that experience up here already and I’m sure we will again.

But let’s not let the occasional rejection stop us speaking of Jesus!

And I use the words ’speaking of Jesus’ intentionally because while actions do speak louder than words, there is still a place for the verbal communication of the gospel, for speaking of how Jesus has revolutionised our life. We don’t need to be evangelistic nutbags to speak of Jesus, but if he is in our lives then inevitably (if we are being true to who we are) he will ‘leak out’.

Truthfully I believe some of us have become so soft that the slightest ‘knock’ for being Christians causes us to withdraw and never venture down that road again.

Time to toughen up folks!!

And in Reimagining Evangelism, John Smulo gives us another list based on Rick Richardson's book, Reimagining Evangelism

* Collaboration versus Activism
Here we look to clues where God is already at work.

*Community versus Individual
Rather than a salesperson approach to evangelism, we build witnessing communities.

*Friendship versus Agenda
The old model of evangelism has an agenda, which is about downloading content and closing the deal. The reimagined model has a friendship.

*Story versus Dogma
Not merely dogmas and beliefs, but storytelling about God's reality in our life.

*Outside the Box Jesus versus Cliche Jesus
Rather than sharing with people a Jesus they think they have figured out, we share a Jesus people have yet to discover.

*Good News About God's Kingdom versus Good News About the Afterlife
This involves not merely talking about being forgiven and a one-way ticket to heaven, but God's rule and reality in this life.

*Journey versus Event
It's not so much about who made a one-time decision; not so much about who's in and who's out. Instead it's about who is journeying toward being a wholehearted follower of Jesus (other's might say "Jesus-follower", but we don't want to be anal about that--smile).

What are your experiences with "relationship building evangelism"? I know this stuff is covered elsewhere on the web but I am interested in hearing your practical examples of this kind of thing at work. I think the more sharing of the practice, rather than just the theory, of this kind of thing the better. Our communities and the kingdom can only benefit from it.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Captivated by Christ

This morning I spoke at our Sunday meeting for what is going to be the last time for a while. I have requested I be taken off the preaching roster so that I can have the time to prepare for an increase in workload associated, primarily, with the new Friday evening meetings we are starting in February.

The message I gave today is one directly related to my own personal experience over the past few months. And I want to share a little bit of it here. I wasn't sure how it would go down but, as is usually the case, God was able to work through my words (and His Word) to touch the hearts of those who heard it. To say I am moved by the response would be an understatement.

A few weeks back, in a quiet moment at Kick Start, I picked up a Bible and began to read Phillipians (you can read my response at the time here). When I got to the middle of chapter 3 I read something that hit me like a brick. It solidified, qualified, made real so much of what had been spinning around my head for the last couple of months.

The crux of it is this: I think we (and I include myself in this), the church, have made many things more valuable than Christ. The way baptism should take place, the things we "have to know" before we can become good Christians, the way we dress, look, speak, behave. We have made all these things and more, benchmarks against which to measure our godliness. Inevitably Jesus comes in a little further down the list.

As I was preparing for today I found myself thinking back to the 14 years I spent as a drug addict. They were terrible years. I wasted so much of my life and did so much damage - to myself and to others. But somewhere in the middle of all of this I managed to remain captivated by Jesus. The Jesus I had been introduced to as a young boy, sitting in a little dusty room of an ancient house attached to a little Methodist church in a country town.

It wasn't doctrine, it certainly wasn't church, and it wasn't even Christians. At least not the vast majority of Christian's I had had dealings with. No it was the person and work of Jesus Christ.

I was captivated by Him. By who He is and what He represented and by the way He lived His life. And this is what kept me going, kept me struggling on in the hope that one day I would know freedom.

In Matthew 11 Jesus says something striking - it's something that I have found myself time and again engrossed by, but something that, until very recently, I haven't really understood, at least not in the context of what I equated with the "Christian" way of doing things.

Jesus said:

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

This is the Jesus I want to know. I don't what to know the Jesus of the spiritual "Pharisees" - the Jesus of rules and regulations and conformity. That Jesus doesn't captivate me. No, the Jesus I want to know is the Jesus of the Gospels. The Jesus that transformed the life of a religous man called Saul, when he met Him on a dusty desert road.

When I read Philipians 3 7-12 I fully understand what Paul was talking about. Last week I was a Pharisee too. Last week I gave religious importance to stuff that was, in reality, garbage! This week though - and hopefully into the future (I am sure I will need reminding) - I am a new creation! I am putting off the binds of the Law and living in the knowledge that I, as Paul says it, belong to Christ!


Saturday, December 02, 2006

What the "Capote"!

Alyssa and I watched (well sort of) Capote last night. Actually Lyss fell asleep before the halfway mark and I found it really hard to keep my eyes open and so called it quits about an hour in.

I hadn't really heard much about the film but I knew it was based on reality, and had Harper Lee of To Kill a Mockingbird fame (everyone's read this book haven't they?) as a central character. I knew nothing about Truman Capote but read on the back cover of the DVD that he was the author of, among other things, Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Also on the back cover were the words "best picture of the year".

Basically the plot surrounds a murder in rural Kansas. A family of 4 are slaughtered in their beds by two itinerants - one a part-Cherokee Indian.

Enter Capote and Lee. Capote heads on over to the scene of the murders as a correspondent for the New Yorker magazine with Lee as his research assistant. He befriends the local Chief of Police, a good "Christian" man and church-friend of the murdered farmer (this point is stressed- they were friends from church).

Somewhere along the way Capote decides he is going to write a book rather than a magazine articles and constantly refers to the proposed book as "his greatest work" and the "book I was always meant to write". Although up to the point at which I turned off last night, he hadn't written a word and they seemed to be making a thing of this. I am guessing the book won't end up getting written.

When the killers are caught, Capote befriends them as well but takes a particular (sexual??) interest in the young half-Cherokee.

I found Philip Seymour Hoffman's (Capote) affected, effeminate, drawl particularly distracting, as was the subtle (yet not, given Capote's mincing manner) homosexual subplot. Something that, at least up until the halfway mark, was only glimpsed in the periphery. While this was quite cleverly done, with Capote throwing in subtle, anti-homosexual comments from time to time to keep you guessing, it did kind of hang around like a bad smell.

While I know nothing about Truman Capote, I am guessing, from the era in which the film is set (1959), the film makers are trying to capture the essence of the culture of the day, when being homosexual was less than acceptable - highlighted by Capote's condescendingly negative critique of another authors overtly homosexual book, early on in the movie.

There was nothing that really grabbed me about this movie at all but I hate to waste 7 bucks so am going to persevere to the end once I have finished preparing my message for tomorrow. At the very least I might get a good afternoon nap out it!

Friday, December 01, 2006


I promised myself if I posted anything even remotely relating to the church the rest of this week, I would do it in a positive light.

I love the church! It is the body of Jesus Christ, the universal, united, worldwide congregation of believers. But man does that other definition of the church, the denominational, institutional, religious, bureaucratic definition drive me up the wall at times.

I am sorry and I do promise not to do any more church-beating for at least a week ... after I get this out of my system.

Anyway - here's a video that sort of describes how I feel at times when dealing with my denominational HQ. No offense intended.


Fundraising for African Projects - Rwanda

Yep there's that horrible "F" word - fundraising!

This is an ongoing and difficult part of the mission partnership I helped set up a few years ago. With a trip coming up (fast) in May next year I thought I would throw the line out into the bloggosphere and hopefully attract a few bites.

Some of the projects we have undertaken in the last 12 months:

  • Purchase of several acres of land in Umutara district for church plant.

  • The construction (being undertaken as you read this!) 0f two more 10,000 litre rainwater tanks on Mt Kigali for the use of the poverty stricken community that resides there. This is in addition to the single 10,000 litre tank installed during our visit in 2004 (pictured below).

  • The continued provision of wages for two school teachers working in the Unity Academy community school on Mt Kigali.

These are just a few of the ongoing projects funded, resourced or supported by the Mission Partnership. Other programs operated by CUF include an AIDS ministry, and a vocational training project for widows and orphan girls.

The website is HERE - we are also looking for some sponsorship towards the cost of attending the Amahoro Africa gathering in Uganda in May. We are hoping to get two delegates along - John, the leader of the CUF in Rwanda and me. In any event, John will definitely be going and has already met with some of Amahoro's people.

Thanks for taking the time to check this out and for considering if this is something you might be able to support.


Thursday, November 30, 2006

Church - The New Exodus II?

Two correspondents to the post Church - The New Exodus? have taken up the topic on their blogs with some interesting insights.

Check out Jamie's post here, and Shannon's here. Shannon has compiled an interesting list in response - I particularly like his last 3 points, which are:

8. Let People work through their problems! There is a great deal of hurt in peoples lives and most of the time it isn't resolved quickly. People need time and room to wrestle with issues and figure out who they are in God. It's our responsibility to just be there when they need us.

9. No Perfect People Allowed! If you think you're perfect, you won't fit in here. If you think you're perfect, you won't like us.

10. Accommodate the imperfect! Go out of your way to welcome and develop relationship with messy people. A messy church is the greatest church!
I think this is an extremely pertinent topic and one that we'll keep coming back to in the future I am sure. While I don't want to seem like I am always bagging the church (something I have been known to do from time to time) I do think that we have to face the facts and ask the questions that need to be asked if we are going to move forward.

About 7 years ago I read a book that really grabbed my attention. It was called Exit Interviews: Revealing stories of why people are leaving the church. I think (even though I read it such a long time ago) that I can recommend it to those interested in this subject.

Growing Christ Centred Youth - The Final List

Back in October I asked a few questions around the topic of growing Christ centred youth. The last few years have been a particularly challenging time for me in this area and the questions I asked reflect my experiences and local context. While I didn't actually get too many responses to the questions (probably a reflection of my complete lack of experience in this area and 'lameness' of my questions) I did find the process of writing them down and thinking about them worthwhile.

With that in mind - here are the questions and their (tentative) answers. Thanks to those who did participate and feel free to come up with suggestions, fixes or complete makeovers!

Question 1:

How do we grow/disciple youth in a way that is biblically grounded and "deep" in a culture that seems to think it needs entertainment?


Keep working with the ones that are making the moves in the right direction and encourage them to become "salt and light". A committed few is better than a non-committed, entertained multitude.

Question 2:

How do we get youth that are churched or do profess a commitment to Christ to look beyond their own (perception of their own) needs?


By loving them, modeling a Christ-centred life of service to others, by teaching them about Jesus Christ and his way of living and by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in them as they mature, as humans, and as followers of Jesus.

Question 3:

How do we effectively reach unchurched kids in a way that is going to lead them into relationship with Jesus Christ? I certainly don't find it hard to get involved in non-Christian kids lives - I do it everyday and have great relationships with many of them - but I have no idea how to get them to think seriously about eternity.


By living missionally and entering into their world and building genuine relationships with them. By loving them, accepting them, modeling a Christ-centred life of service to them, teaching them about Jesus Christ and his way of living and allowing the Holy Spirit to work in them and draw them closer to God's kingdom.

Question 4:

Is it too much to expect a committed relationship with Christ (see question 2) in the teenage years?


No! A committed relationship is not too much to expect, but it is too much to expect them to do it own their own. The road to, and with Christ is not a road travelled in isolation (Romans 15:1). We also need to remember commitment isn't neccessarily going to look the same in a young person as it does in a mature adult - there will be times when the spiritual thermostat will be high and many other times when it'll be low. The main thing is that there are other, mature, committed Christians around to set standards, to carry the load and to care when needed.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Missional Apologetics - Not Just Sprouting Facts About Science and the Bible

I am almost embarrassed to say it. Until not-all-that-long-ago my basis for apologetics was arguments for biblical truth based predominantly around science, and more directly, how the Bible and science were completely compatible.

While my views on creation, the universe etc. may not have changed, my status as a bona fide 'creation scientist' may soon be under review. You see, over the past couple of years I have been starting to feel uncomfortable about my previous, narrow approach, to introducing people to Jesus. While generally, and when compared to some, I think I was a soft-touch in this area, I do know that I have, at least on a couple of occasions, been guilty of arguing my point of view to the detriment of the kingdom - and, unfortunately, without too many opportunities for apologies. Needless to say, I haven't seen my victims since!

So - now confession time is finished - I was interested to read John Smulo's list entitled Apologetic Insights. It seems that much of the same "emerging" themes seem present in this list. In a missional sense, even apologetics is conducted relationally.

So here's his post - I think it is a good, thought provoking starting place for the topic of missional apologetics.

FOOTNOTE: To those who care - I am still a convinced creationist - Don't want anyone to lose any sleep! :)

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Church - the New Exodus?

In response to yesterday's 'tongue in cheek' post, Church - It's Harmful, Shannon posted the following comment:

I'm afraid there is a reason that 28 million people left the church in the last decade. Maybe they found it hazardous to their health. Or worse yet. Maybe church became hazardous to their spiritual welfare!
This got me thinking. If this figure is true (and I haven't any reason to doubt it) why are so many people leaving the church? Is it really because of harm inflicted on them by Christians? If so what sort of harm? Are all these "exiters" bailing out on God? Or is this just the proof in the "emerging" pudding - is it because many Christians are disillusioned with the way Christianity is represented in western culture?

I'll throw my 10 cents worth in once I hear back from some of you!

Monday, November 27, 2006

Church - It's Harmful

This picture was the end result of a group session at work last week. We were brainstorming activities that could cause harm and we then 'unpacked' a few of them.

All of them were the guys suggestions - note number 2! Though we weren't able to assertain what it was they thought was harmful about church - other than maybe choking on a communion wafer or drowning during baptism - my suggestions, not theirs!

Gotta love 'em!

Horribly Wrong and Incredibly Right

I was talking with an acquaintance on the weekend when he popped into the conversation that he had heard I was starting a "new" church. I told him this wasn't exactly what was happening, that the meetings we were starting were still a part of Binningup Beach Christian Fellowship, but provided an alternative for people who found the more traditional way of doing things difficult to understand or participate in.

He isn't a Christian (as far as I know) so I was interested to hear what he had to say and that he was interested in and had been thinking about our plans. I described to him the loose format we were taking and that it would hopefully be a place where people could feel comfortable being themselves.

He didn't respond directly to this, instead he began talking about his time as a hippy in the late 60s. "You know." he said, "we got it horribly wrong when it came to the drug side of things. We have given our children and our grandchildren a heavy burden to carry there, what we started is now out of control. But we did get something right, and that is the sense of belonging and acceptance that existed within the movement - the sense of real community."

He didn't say whether or not he would come along when things kick off in February, but he did reinforce something for me. The importance that exists in finding a place to belong (I posted on this same topic a few days ago - The Lost Art of Relationship).

And he's right. Where the hippy movement went wrong, it went terribly wrong. But the real strength behind, and perhaps even the reason it lasted as long as it did, wasn't the drugs and the "free love", it was the sense of community it generated. It gave people a safe haven, a place of refuge and belonging in a confusing world at a confusing time.

Unfortunately though for the hippy movement, the freedom that characterised it was its undoing. The ideals of the youthful leaders were unsustainable and it failed to endure.

The church on the other hand has endured. It has been with us for 2000 years. I won't repeat what my friend went on to say - it was personal - but he linked the actions we're taking to the positives of the hippy movement. I got the impression he could see the potential for something he had experienced once, in a place far removed from the modern church, in what we are trying to achieve in our community.

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30 CEV
Here's a link to a film website about a guy who was a kind of "emerging" hippy back in the 60s. It seems his life even sort of mirrors the title of this post.

Lonnie Frisbee -
Imagine if John the Baptist came of age during the 1960s counter culture, the charisma of Jim Morrison flowing from the mantle of an Old Testament prophet. Meet Lonnie Frisbee, a seeker turned Jesus freak evangelist who compelled thousands towards a profession of Christian faith. It was during a trip into a canyon that Frisbee claimed that God gave him a vision of his future as an influential evangelist to the hippie generation.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Are you a "Christian" or "Jesus-Follower"?

Rick Meigs at Blind Beggar picks up the issue of labelling and, in particular, the way we label ourselves.

The argument goes something like this:

"Christian" is a biblical label, therefore we should call ourselves Christians. But, "Christian", at least in some circles - and certainly outside the bastion of the western world, in Asia, Middle East, China etc. - can and does have negative feelings attached to it. So how do we get around this and should we even be trying?
Rick had this to say:
From shortly after the Creation when Adam gave names to all the animals to the present time, humans like to label stuff. It helps us to put things in boxes we can understanding. Non-believers and believers in the years after the resurrection and during the expansion were no different. They needed a label for these disciples of Jesus. We find two that were coined mentioned in Acts: “The Way” and “Christian.” In fact, “The Way” is more common (Acts 9:2, Acts 19:9, Acts 19:23, Acts 24:14, and Acts 24:22). So, is “Christian” a biblical term? It is in the sense that its in the Bible as a man made label, but it is not biblical in the sense that we have been commanded in the scripture to use it as our identifier.

We should be sensitive and careful in the use of any term that create even more barriers to communicating the gospel which is already a stumbling block to many. Next time you are in dialog with a not-yet-Christian, try Jesus Follower instead of Christian and see what the reaction is.
You can read the whole of Rick's post HERE and he also links to another discussion taking place elsewhere.

Which do you prefer and why?

The Lost Art of Relationship

One of the biggest challenges facing Christians today is the prevelance of social isolation. I think one of the reasons blogs and sites such as You Tube and "MY Space" have become so popular is through these virtual reality hubs, people can reach out and find something they are not able to find in the real world. They can find acceptance from likeminds and a sense of belonging.

Below's a link to a video montage from You Tube that I think illustrates this point well. I found it strangely moving when I first watched it. If you want to watch it you'll have to click HERE. It is rather long (about 10 minutes) and contains a few seconds of material that some people may find offensive (a lesbian kiss as well as the "F" word).

I think it is obvious people are screaming out to connect and belong. What are we - as the church - going to do about it?

Mike O also dropped by and left some comments relating to the way evangelicals handle the art of relationship that I thought were very relevant.

Mike O said:

I am a conservative, evangelical Christian. But I have found that I do not have to compromise my views to talk to people who don't share my beliefs. What we have at OTM is common ground. I agree that we do risk "gracing people" away from God, and I've expressed that concern there. But at the same time I think we need to look at it from the non-Christian's perspective. Will they listen if all we do is harp on them about the truth? If we can't just talk without constant "intentionality," how well will those relationships really work?

The way I see it, there is a relational breakdown between the body of Christ and the rest of the world. And until we fix that, nobody will listen anyway.
Here are some links to articles and posts at OTM that detail his own "emerging" journey into a biblical missiology.
It is time the church rediscovered the "art of relationship".

Thursday, November 23, 2006

We've Had a "Visitation" - Jim Henderson Drops by MM

A couple of days ago I posted some ramblings on the recent "Revolutions" conference and a couple of bits and pieces related to posts on the Off the Map (OTM) "Conversations at the Edge" blog.

I guess I am learning something about blogging. That is that while in the confines of my skull my thought threads seem cogent, by the time they make it to the blog-page - without any editorial oversight (something I thought would be a good thing while a journo) - they can come across as much more pointed and deliberate than they ever where while still in my head.

So in that light I want to clear a couple of things up, and then brag a little.

Firstly - most of my struggles with OTM relate to the stuff being "dealt with" at "Conversations". I think I understand what is being attempted there, but I guess some of the postings really do just grate against my good ol' conservative background. It is easy for me to forget that there is a whole lot of life and interaction and talking and thinking going on beyond the posts I read on the blog. But I seem to find myself worrying, at times, that in some places the gospel ends up falling through the cracks in an effort to accomodate "everyone's" views. And this concerns me because I am concerned for those who might get the wrong end of the "relativity" stick and be "graciously" encouraged down a path that leads away from relationship with Jesus rather than toward it.

And that finally brings me to Jim Henderson and his comments about the Mercedes driving pastor and my opportunity to brag a little.

When I read AKA Lost it was like a breath of fresh air. I really hadn't any idea about anything to do with this "emerging church" business but knew that what Jim was writing about was indicative of a path God had been leading me down for years. I knew AKA was something I could give to those people I had been working along side in my church who were still struggling to come to terms with the kind of change of direction in life and ministry I had been advocating. It said a lot in a way that I hadn't been able to and presented concepts that were easy to understand and implement in everyday life. Most importantly it was about building relationships with "those Jesus refered to as Lost". Those who were not-yet Christians.

So, when I read Jim's comments regarding a suggested picket of a hypothetical Mercedes driving pastor, I found them to be out of (what I had assumed) was Jim's character.

But - and this is where I get to brag - Moved Mountains was paid a visit by none other than Jim Henderson himself today. And he has graciously taken the time to set me straight on the whole "Mercedes" issue. It turns out it was a joke intended to provoke thought and conversation and perhaps was posted a little out of its original context where I found it. You can read what Jim had to say about it, and more, down in the comments section of the post in question.

I want to conclude by making an excuse for myself! I am a questioner by nature. It has always got me into trouble and will probably continue to do so. But, it has also served me good stead. I am always (usually? eventually?) ready to be shown where I have been wrong or where I have jumped to the wrong conclusions. And if bagging out the authors of my favourite books gets them to drop by my blog - I think I will probably continue to do it! ;)

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Food for Thought - On Pastors and Pastoring

Dan Kimble wrote the following in an article on The Next Wave entitled,Pews, Pulpits, Pastors, Preaching and other things that can get in the way...:

Pastors - I am a "pastor", so I am not suggesting we don't use that word - but the biblical defintion was a gift of "shepherding" - not a title tagged limited mainly to a paid person who went to seminary. In the early church it was all small house churches and there were the "shepherds" (pastors) who were leading and caring for the people. So there is leadership needed, but not as a formal title given only to paid professionals, which was a spiritual gift. When someone in any church over 75 or so people call the person who gets up front "pastor", it becomes different than the "shepherds" who knew all their "sheep" by name etc., which was possible to do in smaller house church settings. But as we use the now use the title "pastor" for the person who gets up and teaches - it is not the way it was in the New Testament. Again, I am a "pastor", but I am wondering if how we title ourselves like this can be detrimental to people not understanding there are also many of them who are "pastors" , who have that gift. We seem to only use it for the paid professionals (we only do that in our church currently, because of the current cultural defining of the word). But as we look at the separation of "clergy" and the people, we can force more and more barriers between them. Even robes and how pastors may dress differently sets up a culture of having people feel more and more less likely to understand biblically they can be "pastoring" people themselves. Reading the history of why clergy wears robes or suits is fascinating and it all stemmed from cultural issues we aren't facing today. But many never have changed the dress that was once developed for reasons of specific time period and made sense then, but today may even be counter-productive to the reason they were word originally. I am not against robes or suits, depending on the context and tradition. But I wonder when what we wear causes people to think less of themselves and what they could grow into and their roles in a church.
Dan's point on the adornments of the office - the dress of the clergy - reminded me of something Patrick Johnston wrote about in his book The Church is Bigger Than you Think:
I well remember preaching in a parish church in Colombo some years ago. It was a hot and humid tropical climate and the parish priest was putting on all his robes that were designed to keep the clergy warm in unheated, medieval church buildings in north western Europe. He swung round to me and blurted out, "It's all your fault I have to wear this!" Isn't this a parable of what has happened so often through the history of the Church? It has held on to the forms and let go of the principles (p. 156).
I don't want anyone to get me wrong - It's not like I hate pastors or anything. Some of my dearests friends and most influential people in my life are pastors. In fact I am employed in a pastoral role myself and about to embark on a process of denominational "pastoral" endorsement. I just think, generally, we need to look again at the hows and whys of pastoring and get back to the model the Bible gives us for leadership. The church has to benefit from this paradigmatic shift!

If you haven't already, check out the review (Emerging Jargon - APEPT) of Part 4 of The Shaping of Things to Come. I think it presents a more biblical model for local church leadership.

The Life of Brian

Well, in my search for answers about Brian McLaren I haven't actually got very far, so far. But here is a link to an interview with Brian by the fellas at The Next Wave (which is a good, online read for those interested in the Emerging phenomenon).

Now my question about this interview is - when talking about hell etc. was Brian being deliberately cagey?

Now I also heard that Brian is a great guy - Scot McKnight reveals more of Brian's character and ways here (this was a really thought provoking post and I am thankful to Scot for it).

I also want to be clear that I am never, in any questions I ask, calling into account Brian's character.

I am really going to have to hurry up and read The Church on the Other Side [I called it something else yesterday, but that is what I meant:)] - but gotta finish Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church first.

I can see this becoming a bit of a series - which I am finding is a good thing when it comes to blogging - gives you (me) something to think about and write about at those times I otherwise struggle to come up with ideas.

Looking forward to hearing what you have to say. Maybe you've met Brian or heard him speak.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Revolution Conference and Other Ramblings

I have been following some of the lead-up to and after-effects of the recent Off The Map "So you say you want a revolution" conference.

I am really struggling to understand where some of these guys are at. I read Jim Hendersons book "AKA Lost" about 6 months ago and really enjoyed it - I found it refreshing and used parts of it as a basis for some evangelism workshops I was running. I have also been a lurker and sometime-commenter on the "Conversations at the Edge" blog over at Off The Map.

The thing is I don't really understand where these guys are going. I don't understand a lot of the stuff I read there or a lot of the comments made by the Off The Map people and the people that operate their various blogs. Some of it seems really good and they have given me loads of ideas for reaching out and fresh (albeit American) perspectives on modern culture, but other stuff leaves me frowning (here's one example of a wrinkle maker).

Here's a link to a blog post at the Resurgence site by Gary Shavey from (I think) Mars Hill. He makes some comments on the "Revolution" conference and casts a few more shadows over what is actually going on there.

I am interested, in particular, in trying to understand the difference between the Emergent/Emerging church. It seems like the Brian McLaren side of things (the Emergent?) is what I would call quite theologically liberal and in not what I would see as a positive way.

I am quite possibly going to be at a conference with Brian in May next year and would like to know where all of this fits before hand - forewarned is forearmed - not that I am going to make any trouble! I Just want to know what to expect.

I have Brian's book The Church on The Outside waiting in the pile of reading next to my bed. It's the next in line and I am looking forward to seeing what he has to say. Someone told me it's his best (it's also his first book I think).

Anyway - I'm struggling to get my head around where these guys are coming from - here's another example of something from Conversations at the Edge. It seems like they are throwing the baby out with the bath water and making God into a narrow 2D, "god of my own understanding", and this disturbs me. I've managed to restrain myself and haven't commented - yet :) ....

I'll probably end up writing a bit more on this issue and in particular this post (the one linked to above) at "Conversations...".

Monday, November 20, 2006

Once Valuable - Now Worthless

It's a bit quiet at Kick Start today. The really busy stuff will start next week when I am forced to run around like a headless chook (= chicken) trying to finalise exit plans for the last lot of young blokes to go through for the year.

I brought a "Surfers Bible" in today for one of the guys - he didn't show up and so the Bible's sitting on my desk. I picked it up and started reading Philipians. I am often struck by how complex and how simple Paul can be, all at the same time.

In 3:7-11 he wrote:

But Christ has shown me that what I once thought was valuable is worthless. Nothing is as wonderful as knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. I have given up everything else and count it all as rubbish. All I want is Christ and to know that I belong to Him. I could not make myself acceptable to God by obeying the Law of Moses. God accepted me simply because of my faith in Christ. All I want is to know Christ and the power that raised Him to life. I want to suffer and die as he did, so that somehow I also may be raised to life. CEV

Forgive me Lord for the times I have put other things, religion, in front of simply knowing Jesus Christ. For the times I have made worthless things more valuable than your Son. Thank you for loving me and accepting me anyway and allowing me to belong to you!

You can read it in the ESV here.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Emerging, Emergent, Emerging Missional?

What is the difference between the Emergent Church, the Emerging Church and the Emerging Missional Church?

If I had to pick one label out of these that most closely described where my head is at, at the moment I would pick the Emerging Missional Church. Which are you and why?

Symbols Without Words are Meaningless

Why Icons Cannot Preach the Gospel

Suppose that a person wants to become a missionary and bring the gospel to a tribe that had never heard it. But the person finds the process of preparation too long, difficult and expensive: years of language training, preparation to live in a primitive culture, raising financial support, etc. So the would-be missionary comes up with a brilliant idea�travel to a key place where the tribal members meet, sneak in at night, construct a huge cross, and leave the country without saying a word�and carries out the plan. The next day the entire tribe gathers to marvel at the cross and ponder where it came from and what it meant. Perhaps, in time, they would even come to relish the cross and see it as a sign from beyond their world. [...Read More]

Emerging Heresy

Well the title should get a few clicks!

Found THIS post on the EMERGING TULIP. Not sure where the author actually got this from. From the contents of it I think he made it up himself.

I posted a comment and asked where it came from but haven't received a reply as yet - somehow I don't think I will.

As an aside - this is representative of the kind of exposure I had to the emerging church early on in the piece.

Rwanda Mission Partnership

I have just started a new blog site for the Rwanda Mission Partnership - a partnership between the Christian Unity Fellowship (CUF) in Rwanda and Day 4 in Australia.

This partnership has been in operation for nearly 4 years now and has been involved in community aid and development projects, church planting and evangelism and church development.

I led a team to Rwanda in 2004 where we took part in a number of activities and we are going back in 2007.

The CUF is led by an amazing man, John Mihigo. John took his church and family from a regular neighbourhood in Kigali to one of the poorest neighbourhoods in the city where they minister to victims of the AIDS epidemic, orphans, widows, and some of the poorest of Kigali's people. I am privellaged to be able to count John as one of my best friends.

Rwanda is my second home, I just wish I could get back there more often.

The website/blog can be found at Hopefully John will be a regular contributor to the blog. He should be on the air with his wireless broadband in a couple of days which will make things easier for him.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Mountain Moved

My earlier melancholic mood is passing, thanks in a big way to Mike's simple post, Things I am Thankful for.

I also found a new blog from a link on Mike's blog - Dying Man's Daily Journal - this is a brave project. Mike's blog also pointed me towards a 30 minute documentary called The Dancing Outlaw which also touched me. Most of us know or know of someone like this but never take the time to get to know them in the way the filmaker has.

Yes - I'm still blogging - at least for now! :)

Friday, November 17, 2006

Emerging Jargon - APEPT

APEPT Leadership

I haven't been much of a fan of the currently popular Pastor-at-the-top model of church leadership for a long time. In my experience it creates a self fulfilling cycle of sorts, where church members expect pastors to be spiritual Jack-of-all-trades, responsible for the "ministry" of the church while the "laity" (a word I loath) do their bit by rocking up to church on a Sunday. This can create situations where gifted members of the church are unable to be involved in the ministry of the local church, particularly if their gifting is in areas that clash with those traditionally belonging to the pastor. It also creates, either intentionally or otherwise, a perception of two classes of Christians - those who are "called" to ministry and those who are not.

Frost and Hirsch deal with this in part 4 of The Shaping of Things to Come and present what they have called the APEPT model of leadership. APEPT is an acronym based on the 5 leadership giftings of Ephesians 4:1-16; the Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher.

Basically the APEPT model or mode of leadership recognises the 5 APEPT leadership giftings as crucial to growing and sustaining healthy missional ministries. The authors also see a broader application of these gifts across the general population of the church. While in a specific sense these gifts exist individually for leadership they are also broadly represented across the body.

" comes the revolutionary paradigm. What we have called the ministry matrix [the broad application of the APEPT gifts] suggests that the fivefold ministry belongs to, and describes in some way, the whole church".

Frost and Hirsch describe the APEPT gifts in the following way (they make the point that these 5 gifts should not be seen as offices - they are functions based on obvious gifting and not roles or career positions):

  • Apostolic function: usually conducted translocally, pioneers new missional works and oversees their development.
  • Prophetic function: discerns the spiritual realities in a given situation and communicates them in a timely and appropriate way to further the mission of God's people.
  • Evangelistic function: communicates the gospel in such a way that people respond in faith and discipleship.
  • Pastoral function: shepherds the people of God by leading, nurturing, protecting and caring for them.
  • Teaching function: communicates the revealed wisdom of God so that the people of God learn how to obey all that Christ has commanded them.
While I did not see it explicitly spelled out in the book, I get the impression that Frost and Hirsch are recommending the APEPT leadership ministry belong to the Elders in the local church context and that Elders be recognised based on their APEPT gifting rather than elected in a democratic sense. This would signify a return to what I have always seen as the more biblical way of leading the local church - where the pastor is one of the Elders, not over and above the Elders. It would also signify a sharing of ministry responsibilities rather than simply expecting the Pastor to take on every role, from counsellor to accountant, regardless of gifting or personal strengths and abilities.

Frost and Hirsch promote the APEPT model as the only way for the local church to achieve spiritual maturity and effective mission. I see this as being an important point as Paul does seem to be linking the exercising of APEPT leadership and broader church giftings to Christian maturity in the Ephesians 4 passage.

Hirsch and Frost conclude,
if this is true, it is impossible to estimate what terrible damage the church has done through the loss, even active suppression, of this crucial dimension of New Testament ministry and leadership ... Perhaps the fact that APEPT has not been intentionally nurtured and practiced might have something to do with the immaturity we find in the Western church ... Verse 14 [of Ephesians 4] could well be a description of church history in the West - we have been tossed about, immature, infantile.
To me this chapter really just stated what should be the bleedingly obvious, that leadership should be shared and based on obvious spiritual gifting. Yet because of traditions and in-built mechanisms within the human psyche that seek to abrogate our individual spiritual responsibilities, this ideal has been overlooked for centuries.

In the end I really appreciate what Frost and Hirsch have achieved in this book and particularly in this chapter. If the established church is to change in order to become more effective in its mission the first area that is going to have to experience this change is leadership. A move into the missional will not be possible while church ministry is driven from the top and while class distinctions exist within the body.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Accountability vs Control

It seems that in church leadership, somewhere along the way we've mixed control up with accountability.

I was talking about this with someone the other day. I mentioned how, in my work I had a high level of accountability but that I also had the freedom to work out of my strengths to achieve better results and implement new ways of doing things. I was asked how this worked, and I replied that basically, it meant that I had to keep those above me in the chain informed of what I was doing and I had to be prepared to take full responsibility for my actions - in other words, I would be held accountable for my actions.

In my church work things tend to work differently - accountability means something else.

Generally, I come up with ideas, I take them to the church leadership. The leadership thinks about these ideas for several weeks or several months and then, with prompting from me, tells me what they think of them and whether or not I can implement them - in other words, the accountability relates to my possible future actions or my thoughts.

When I pointed out the obvious contrast in these two different situations the person I was speaking with said, "Yes, but things need to be done differently in the church - that is the difference between spiritual accountability and worldly accountability".

This didn't sit right with me at all. As I understand it, accountability has always related to actions, not possible future actions or even consideration of possible future actions. Our entire legal system is based on this, as was the Mosaic Law as will God's future and final judgement. Sin is not something we might do (with perhaps the exception of "murder and lust" which Jesus talks about in Matthew chapter 5) it relates to something we have done.

What I have described in the second example is actually the antithesis of accountability - it's control and it hamstrings progress. It also appears to be an entrenched practice in many church leaderships, ironically, while people outside the leadership are often allowed to run around and do whatever damage they please with absolutely no accountability at all.

Spiritual accountability, when built on a foundation of trust and acceptance of giftings and abilities frees people up to do the work of God while ensuring action can be taken swiftly, if and when it's necessary.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Shoot-First Apologetics

I just came across this one on the Christianity Today site. As someone whose been known to "shoot first" I thought it was quite poigniant.

I was chided recently by someone who was upset with me because of my extensive dialogues with Mormon scholars. "How can you engage in friendly conversations with people who believe such terrible things?" he asked me. I tried to explain that if we are going to criticize Mormonism, it should be on matters that they actually believe, not on what we think they believe. I said the best way to know Mormon beliefs is to actually engage in dialogue with Mormons.
The rest is HERE.

In case, like me you're wondering - this is a grackle.

It's Happening ...

As of January I'm coming off the preaching roster for Sunday's and Alyssa and I are starting our alternative gathering! I presented the idea to the leadership at a meeting on Monday night. and while I am not sure everyone exactly gets where we are coming from, we were given in-principle support.

At this stage it looks like we'll be starting in February. So now it's off into the unknown again - and, I can hardly wait!

Coffee in the Arvo will be kicking off again in January as well. I have had a bit of feedback from last weeks cafe afternoon and it seems that a few of our church goers just couldn't help themselves. A couple of "invitations" to Bible studies went out to some of the guests from the community. Hopefully it was all appropriate and we will get to see them again, but I couldn't help cringing when I found out.

House Church or Neighbourhood Church?

JR Woodward (don't know his first name - only his initials) of Dream Awakener points out that the house-church only model of church may be limited in its true scope when trying to cultivate a truly missional church. He advocates the "neighbourhood church" where house churches are a part of the bigger picture.

...I am more of a fan of the neighborhood church of 100 to 500 that seeks to embody the good news to the neighborhood, than I am of the house church "only" model. In my context, I sense that providing public weekly gatherings of worship alongside of home groups or house churches enables greater transformation as well as builds richer community. This combination creates opportunity for God to work in each of these various spaces. It is probably one reason that the early church gathered at the temple grounds and from house to house. I often wonder if the house church "only" movement is primarily a reaction to the mega-church and those who have become disillusioned. While I am a fan of the house church, I am a greater fan of the neighborhood church.
You can read the whole post HERE.

I'm a Stoner and they Know it.

How do we get youth ministry to get real? In my neck of the woods, particularly in the town where I work, youth ministry seems mostly to be about conformity.

In this light, I think the church has been working on cloning for a lot longer than the scientists who last week received government permission to create human embryo's for experimentation.

In my lunch room at work I have a copy of a contemporary version of the NT which stays on the table. It's aimed at young blokes and the cover looks like a magazine. A couple of weeks ago one of them made the comment - "It looks really cool on the outside but when you read the inside it's really weird."

I thought he was talking about the Bible itself - but it turns out he was talking about all the "helpful" advice scattered around every page for the Chrisitian kids who are reading it. Stuff like "10 ways to impress your parents", and "how to let a girl know you like her". The later included the advice: "read your favourite Bible passage to her" - which even I think is lame!

Now the last thing most of these young rebels want to do is impress their parents or gushingly quote scripture at their love interest. But it's these bits of the "Bible" the guys are fixated with - not the actual Scriptures themselves. They are great for a laugh, to take the piss out of Christians, and reinforce what they are already thinking about following Jesus Christ, i.e. to follow Jesus means to become a lamo wimp who gets off on the kind of stuff they are reading in this version of the Bible. In otherwords, conformity to a foreign culture that has no baring or relevence to their daily lives.

"I'm a stoner, I look like a stoner and they know it. I don't fit in and they don't know what to do with me", this is how one of the guys I was working with last year described his past attendence at a church youth group. He went a couple of times but ended up giving up on it. He was definitely interested in Jesus Christ (and thankfully still is) but couldn't find acceptance among His followers.

I am going to keep the "cool on the outside - wierd on the inside" Bible on the lunch room table. Even though the "helpful" bits make me want to cringe, it at least provides an opening to talking about the real stuff - the important stuff, including the fact these guys really do matter to God and that they don't need to be come mamby, pamby wimps in order to follow Jesus. I only wish I had more time with them or at least had somewhere to send them where they would feel accepted and not feel the pressure to conform.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The Lost Evangelist

Last year I befriended a 17 year old who was heading off the rails. We'll call him JT (not his real name or initials). On the outside JT was a tough guy who liked the fact that people were scared of him. He was the kid that the other kid's mums said they couldn't hang around.

He was getting into drugs and booze and crime. But underneath the tough image was a guy with a heart of gold.

One day I asked JT if he wanted to find out more about Jesus, he said he did and so we arranged to meet over pizza on a Friday evening. At 7.30 on the dot JT arrived and brought two mates with him. We talked about Jesus and watched a video. JT said he would be back again the next week. And he was, this time with 4 others.

This was the start of our youth ministry. 5 unchurched kids meeting in a community hall over a slap-up dinner and juice to learn about Jesus.

That was nearly 2 years ago. 4 of those kids have since decided they want to follow Jesus. 3 new kids have since joined in and 2 of them have made the same decision. It's up and down and plain hard going at times. They don't have the support of Christian families and, to the chargrin of some, don't come to church on Sundays, but we meet and do our own "church" on a Wednesday night and they keep coming back.

JT moved away but we stay in touch. He hasn't admitted to following Jesus yet but he still rings me to ask me to pray for stuff that's going on in his life. He no longer does drugs or crime, but he's still a tough guy and he will always be the guy who started our youth meetings and our "lost" evangelist.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Book Review - Why Men Hate Going to Church

This one's for my mate Shane F.

Why Men Hate Going to Church by David Murrow.

It was the title of this book that first grabbed me. Here was something, I thought, I will definitely be able to relate to. Unfortunately, the title was almost as good as it got!

Perhaps I'm being a little hard. David Murrow has tackled a controversial and timely topic in this book. While overall the book reminded me of a late night infomercial, it did manage to get me thinking a little harder about the problems we have in our own church community in engaging men.

There's no doubt Murrow has a point. He has recognised the lack of male presence in many traditional congregations and asked "why?". But his view of church and ministry is, unfortunately, quite narrow, and so too are his solutions. He holds up the American mega-congregation as the prime example of successful church, he encourages the traditional top-down approach to ministry where the pastor is "the man" and he paints a picture of true masculinity that includes pick-up trucks, the outdoors, and killing things.

Now, the first two things in the above list - the mega-church and the CEO pastor - are pet hates of mine, but the third I can relate to. I am an outdoorsy kind of bloke, I owned a 4 wheel drive pick-up (or ute as they are known in Oz) for many years and still own and use a 4 wheel drive wagon. I have spent my fair share of time hunting poor defenseless animals (and enjoyed it!). But I also know that there are vast numbers of blokes out there who don't fit this picture of masculinity, especially in urban centres populated with New-Age Sensitive types and young professionals. We need to be ready to be "all things, to all men", as Paul says it in 1 Corinthians 9:9-22, by knowing our community and its culture, and knowing that masculine culture in general is nowhere near as easily defined as Murrow makes it out to be.

On the other hand, I think most men would agree, there is a part of the masculine spirit that seeks adventure and danger and Murrow does try to capture this. He also aptly addresses the descent into femininity of the modern church - a place of flowers, feminine motifs and romantic love songs to Jesus. Murrow says men need to be able to; "Imagine Christ as [their] Commander, Coach or Scout, not [their] Boyfriend". He recounts the experiences of "Tony", attending his first men's ministry event:

Tony was asked to introduce himself and share about his life. Next, he was paired with a stranger and asked to share one of his deepest fears. Then everyone was asked to share a prayer need or a praise report. The men read from the Bible, taking turns around the circle. Finally, the men stood in a circle and held hands for what seemed like hours, while one by one they bared their souls to God. One man was quietly weeping. The guy next to Tony prayed for ten minutes straight, and his palms were sweaty. Once the meeting was over, Tony didn't stay for cookies. He hasn't been back.
Murrow rightly points out the need for change in these areas of ministry, if we are to be real when it comes to getting men involved with Jesus Christ. Where he goes wrong is in seeing the masculinising of traditional ways of doing church as the answer.

We can change the way things look on a Sunday, we can get all bloke-friendly, but at the end of the day the problem lies in the image the church has in general and the methods it uses to try and draw people to it - the "build it and they will come" mentality. It's going to take more than just ditching the doilies or holding special events for men that focus on masculine pursuits to solve the real problems.

Murrow's continual use of generalisations about what "men like" and "dislike" are also annoying and a little condescending and his regular deference to consumer-driven models of church, frustrating.

If you are really interested in captivating men and leading them into the adventure of following Jesus Christ, John Eldridge's Wild at Heart is a better starting point. It doesn't offer all the quick fix solutions of Why Men Hate Going to Church but it paints a far broader picture of the masculine spirit. Even so, Murrow has touched a nerve in contemporary church culture and, if nothing else, has opened the door to deeper discussion on the way men's ministry is approached by the local church.

I give it 2 out of 5 pick-up trucks!

Murrow has a website called Church for Men.