Moved Mountains

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

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Sports Action

My boys, Luke and Samuel, had their first game of soccer (or football if your a purist), for 2007. Unfortunately I missed Luke's games but managed to sit in on Sam's.

I got my new Canon EOS 400D digital SLR a couple of weeks back (after about three years of saving and waiting) and so thought I would test it out on the sports field with some action snaps.

Here are a couple of the better results - my 9 and 3-quarter year old Sam in action in the goals for the Eaton Wanderers.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Blogging Africa - Uganda and Rwanda

In 9 days time I will be on my way to Africa, first for a week in Uganda at the Amahoro Africa (emerging/missional) gathering and then another 2 weeks leading a team from Australia in Rwanda.

While away, and particularly during the week of Amahoro, I will regularly update Moved Mountains. I am also hoping to interview some of the key players at the gathering, inluding Claude Nikhondeha, Brian McLaren and other indigenous (African) leaders.

I think Amahoro is going to be incredibly important in building missional networks in Central Africa and establishing missional (as opposed to colonial) partnerships between western and African followers of Jesus.

I am really excited about being able to go to this conference and to learn more - and better - ways of interacting with our African brothers and sisters - but also, hopefully, about interacting with the church and broader community here at home as well.

I'll leave you with an interesting quote from a paper by South African theologian H.J. Hendriks from Stellenbosch University (the paper is entitled Evangelism in Africa and is Amahoro pre-reading). The paper looks at the way colonialism, mission and evangelism have taken place in Africa over the past several hundred years and makes an astounding conclusion - since the end of colonialism, the downscaling of western (as opposed to local/native) evangelistic efforts, the spread and effect of the Gospel has actually increased well beyond the borders of the colonial period.

Here's the quote - the illustration given may be around 100 years old, but the effect still speaks for itself!

Bediako (1995:91f) compared the work of an Anglican missionary with that of an African, the legendary William Wade Harris (1865-1929) of Liberia. He calls Harris the first independent African Christian prophet. This Anglican missionary worked for nine years and led 12 people to Christ. Harris preached the gospel for two years and 120,000 adult West Africans believed and were baptised into Christianity.
Hopefully we can all begin to think differently about how we approach evangelism - locally and abroad, particularly as it pertains to the role of the "native evangelist" in winning his own culture for Christ.

Africa - Bring it on!

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Church leadership - Pastors II

I posted a similar question to the one I posed in yesterday's post (relating to the role of the pastor in the missional context) on the missional church planting email list. Sonja responded in a way that struck a chord with me:

It's the picture of a shepherd. A shepherd "leads" the flock from behind. S/He has to because they also have to keep their eye on all the sheep. They cannot go out in front and say, "Follow me," because sheep are stupid and they'll wander off in all directions. So the shepherd must stay at the back ensuring that the flock stays together and all heads in the same direction. He encourages, exhorts, and keeps the flock on the path together ... all from behind. It's a very difficult form of leadership and there's definitely **no** glory involved. It's not the way the Army does it, or the corporate world either. But in God's upside-down, bass-ackwards economy, I'm beginning to get glimmers of how He leads and it seems to be from the back and bottom ...
I think I understand how this looks - I have been a part of this kind of thing for a while now myself. But how can one be issued with a mandate to lead or commissioned to lead while taking what is very much a low profile role? Is the commission neccessary (I would say yes and point to 1 Tim. 3 for the answer as to why)? How is such leadership recognised?

Lots of questions. Not so sure there will be many or even any answers, but hell, I gotta ask 'em anyway!

Monday, April 23, 2007

Church leadership - Pastors

This is a subject I have been chewing over for quite a few years now - if you've been a reader of this blog for a bit you probably know what I mean (look here and here and here). Leadership is a big issue (and worth big bucks too) in the church today, and the missional/emerging church isn't excluded from this by any stretch.

Much of what I have read about leadership on the net, seems to head in one of several different directions (these are intended as examples only and yes, they are probably gross generalisations):

1) The "house church" approach - Characterised by the following sentiments "we're all leaders" or "there is no such thing as a leader".

Now to me this is just down right ridiculous, at best naive and at worst dilusional. Egalitarianism (is that a word?) is an ideal that is very, very, very difficult to achieve. There will always be leaders - the question really is, will they be recognised or not, and will they be the right kind of leader or not?. Obviously the danger of having an inapropriate leader is greater in a situation that refuses to recognise any leaders.

2) The "traditional church" approach - While this approach can take on many guises and polemic extremes, it is best summed up as the "CEO" approach to ministry. The church is a corporation and the pastor is responsible for ensuring all KPIs are met, the shareholders are happy, and the programs run smoothly.

This is the way most churches have operated for centuries.

3) The "missional church" approach - I actually don't know what this is. Everything I have read (and that list isn't exhaustive) seems to stop just short of describing the way leadership - especially pastoral leadership - looks in a missional fellowship. Their are flavours of the "house church" approach present in some responses, and flavours of the "traditional church" approach in others (see my comments on the APEPT model, which I think is a good starting point but doesn't take things quite far enough).

What are you thoughts on this? How does Pastoral leadership work in a missional setting?

While your thinking about that one, have a read of John Smulo's recent post, The Charmed Life of Pastors. He's right - however you look at it, on the whole, these guys do the thing they do out of a love for Christ, and it isn't an easy job.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

About Thinking ...

I got a bit of a nice surprise this week - Rodney Olsen (the instigator of the Porn Post below) included Moved Mountains in his selection of "5 blogs that make him think" award.

The award is a meme generatorated by Ilker Yoldas at the Thinking Blog. The best thing about this meme is it doesn't require me to add to a (arguably self indulgent) list of any kind (I grew tired of the lists a while ago - apologies to all those people who "tagged" me without a reply!).

Anway - Thanks Rod for the award!

And here's my list, in no particular order (I'm sure most of, if not all, these guys have already received the award from someone else!) -

1) The Blind Beggar - Rick Meigs
2) John Smulo
3) Backyard Missionary - Andrew Hamilton (no longer updated)
4) No Guarantees - Scott Vawser
5) Conversations at the Edge - Helen Mildenhall

Thanks to all of you for making me think - especially relating to some of those things on which we have disagreed - nothing like a good barny to really get you thinking!

Of course there are in reality, about a gadzillion other blogs that I could list here that also make me think, but these are the ones that I regularly frequent.

Bless ya!

A :)

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Porn - Getting Your Fill?

"I spent part of my morning looking at pornography with the President of the Baptist Union of Australia."

So says fellow blogger and West Aussie radio announcer Rodney Olsen on his blog, The Journey.

It's a perennial topic, specially considering the impact the Internet has had on the porn industry. To say the least, people who would never have walked into a newsagent and picked up Hustler or Play Boy can download the latest hardcore videos and images from their own homes while remaining completely anonymous. What has always been a dirty little habit isn't getting any cleaner, even though society is definitely more accepting of it.

I won't run over all the stats again about how many pastors viewed porn in the last week - I'm a guy and I know the temptation when it comes to the naked female form, and if you're a guy I'm sure you will know exactly what I mean. So rather than wallowing in the figures let's take a proactive approach and check out some websites which might be worth looking at.

The first is XXXChurch. These guys have some FREE (yes that's right - I have seen plenty of "Christian" filtering services out there that will happily take their cut of the porn millions, but this is the first free one I have come across) software that I think is great. Check it out, and while you're there check out their home page - interesting in a weird kinda way.

Here, the guys from Youth Specialities talk about new (and old) approaches to accountability - while not directly porn related accountability is (IMO) central to the whole "church & porn" issue. The church in the recent past hasn't handled accountability well at all. The "stop it or you will go blind" ("...or be ostracised", "...or we won't talk to you", "...or you can't take communion") model is still alive and well (and really makes me want to talk to "you" about my struggles!).

If you know of any other helpful sites stick them in the comments section.

See you later :)

Friday, April 06, 2007

The Cross - Transcending Time, Culture and Religion

11 years ago Alyssa and I spent an amazing Easter in the Tanami Desert in North Western, Central Australia.

We were invited to an Aboriginal community called Willowra, to celebrate Easter with the locals, the Walpiri tribe.

Willowra station is the centre of the Walpiri homeland and is a couple of hundred kilometers from Alice Springs, the nearest major settlement in Central Australia and home to Alyssa and I at the time.

While we were at Willowra we had the privilege of meeting Eddie, one of the Willowra elders. I still remember him clearly, a weathered old man in red stained, well worn jeans and a faded Elvis tee shirt. Eddie's english was broken and difficult to understand, and our host, a local Baptist pastor familiar with the local language, was able to translate some of his story for us.

Apparently Eddie was the first among his tribe, as a 12 year old boy, to see white people. He remembers hiding as a horse drawn drey pulled into the good grazing lands surrounding Willowra and he and his young friends warily made first contact with these strange, white people.

Eddie and his family and tribe went on to become Christians. So Easter at Willowra was a special affair, celebrated in traditional Aboriginal fashion.

Eddie said he was thankful to missionaries who came and brought them the gospel. He said it was really just a reintroduction to the Creator God. His people, he said, had once known God well, but somewhere along the way the knowledge was lost - they forgot his name, and who he really was, even though they still acknowledged him at certain times of the year and in certain ceremonies. Yet the white missionaries restored the lost knowledge and through them they also came to know Jesus Christ as their Saviour.

At about 5 o'clock on Good Friday afternoon the men and the women split into two separate groups and began to apply their corroboree dress. They smeared their bodies in red ochre, the women applying white crosses to their arms and breasts and the men, gird only in red loin clothes, applied a fluffy substance, white and brown, to their bodies. And as the sun set they began to dance and sing.

To an outsider like me their language and dance was mesmerising. Even though I couldn't understand the words they were singing it was easy to get the meaning of their performance. It was a deeply moving retelling of the 2000 year old story of the betrayal and crucifixion of Christ in traditional Aboriginal form - a purlapa or corroboree.

My point in telling you this story of our Easter at Willowra is this: as foreign as the Aboriginal Easter celebrations were to Alyssa and I (even though we have lived in this country all our lives), the original, Jerusalem crucifixion is just as foreign. Yet for us as Western followers of Jesus or for our brothers and sisters at Willowra, the message, the power of the event is not lost. The crucifixion transcends culture and time and has power and meaning and a message, no matter who we are or where we are in this amazing world.

Whether we are Australian aboriginals in the Tanami desert, or Indians in Mumbai, or Africans in Rwanda the cross reminds us off the greatest gift humanity has ever received.

Even though there have been many crosses throughout history - thousands have died nailed to Roman crucifixes, soldiers have fought and killed behind crosses emblazoned on shields and under banners baring the symbol - the real significance of the cross of Calvary isn't the cross itself, rather it relates directly, solely to the one who was nailed upon it.

If Jesus was just another criminal, crucified like thousands of others before and after him, then the cross would have no significance at all. It would only be remembered as a symbol of Roman brutality, a historical showpiece or curiosity, much like the hangman’s gallows in an old prison. Enough to send a shiver down your spine but nothing more.

Yet the cross of Christ is not just an ordinary symbol of death – simply because Christ was no ordinary person, no ordinary Jew, no ordinary prisoner.

His death was significant – not just in a Jewish world, or a Greco-Roman world, not just 2000 years ago. But significant in such a way that the echoes of the crucifixion continue to reverberate through all history and into every culture, race, tribe and nation. Christ’s death speaks to us all, no matter what our background or ethnicity. In this way it is unique among all the world religions.

And, while it is and always will be a symbol of death (just look at the numerous crosses marking the places of fatal car accidents), it is also a symbol of love and life.

Philip Yancey writes of this love and the decision faced by the world in accepting, or rejecting it;

Thieves crucified on either side of Jesus showed two possible responses. One mocked Jesus' powerlessness: A Messiah who can't even save himself? The other recognised a different kind of power. Taking the risk of faith, he asked Jesus to "remember me when you come into your kingdom." No one else, except in mockery, had addressed Jesus as a king. The dying thief saw more clearly than anyone else the nature of Jesus' kingdom.

In a sense, the paired thieves present the choice that all history has had to decide about the cross. Do we look at Jesus' powerlessness as an example of God's impotence or as proof of God's love? The Romans, bred on power deities like Jupiter, could recognise little godlikeness in a crumpled corpse hanging on a tree. Devout Jews, bred on stories of a power Jehovah, saw little to be admired in this god who died in weakness and in shame.

... Even so, over time it was the cross on the hill that changed the moral landscape of the world ...

The balance of power shifted more than slightly that day on Calvary because of who it was that absorbed the evil. If Jesus of Nazareth had been one more innocent victim, like King, Mandela, Havel, and Solzhenitsyn, he would have made his mark in history and faded from the scene. No religion would have sprung up around him. What changed history was the disciples' dawning awareness (it took the Resurrection to convince them) that God himself had chosen the way of weakness. The cross redefines God as One who is willing to relinquish power for the sake of love. Jesus became, in Dorothy Solle's phrase, "God's unilateral disarmament".

Power, no matter how well-intentioned, tends to cause suffering. Love, being venerable, absorbs it. In a point of convergence on a hill called Calvary, God renounced the one for the sake of the other.
The Jesus I never knew, 1995, pp.203-205.
Yancey presents us with the challenge, the love, the true power of the crucifixion.

How will we view the cross of Calvary - or more importantly, how will we view the One who was executed upon it?

The Calvary crucifixion is a transcendent event – it truly does transcend time, and culture and religion. The fact that this weekend, all over this planet, people will be gathering to remember and celebrate this single event is proof of its transcendence.

So let us, this Good Friday, this Easter and every day of every week of every year, also remember the significance of the cross of Calvary and the death of the One who was nailed upon it, in freeing us from death and judgment and providing for us the opportunity to accept the love of the living God, in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ.
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.

For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been carried out in God.
This is the Word of the Lord.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Prince Charles IS the Antichrist ... No, Seriously!

Maybe I'm a bit behind the 8 ball and this isn't going to be for anyone else the BIG news it was for me. But apparently, Prince Charles, heir to the throne of England, is the antichrist.

You can read all about it here.

I was talking about this with my mate Pino this afternoon and his reply ... "thank goodness for that, I thought I was the antichrist!".

I think he was joking.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Can I Pray for You?

I found this post on prayer evangelism while browsing the Off-The-Map stable of blogs this arvo. (Update - This topic was originally posted here.)

This kind of thing actually scares me silly. But ... there are always opportunities for me to do this, particularly as I work directly with people and their problems.

I have been digging deeper into prayer this last month or so - it is an area I struggle with, more so at some times than others. How to have consistency in my prayer life, how to pray, how to pray when I don't want to pray, how to pray publicly, how to pray spontaneously?

I am reading a great little book on prayer at the moment - I think it is the kind of book you could give to a seeker or spiritually inclined person, as well as read and find value in it yourself. It's called Prayer-Centred Life by Dudley Delffs.

Grab it if you get the chance.