Moved Mountains

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

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Africa - Photo of the Week - The Lost Boys

We met these boys on the road between Gisenyi in western Rwanda and Kigali. They are country kids and from the look of their clothing and slight frames come from poor families.

The guy at the back has left a lasting impression on me. He was the worst dressed and least well fed of the group of about 4 that came to see us when we pulled over on the side of the road to take some photos of 4 of the 7 volcanic peaks that make up the Virunga National Park.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Thinking about planting a missional church?

Rick Meigs at the Blind Beggar blog posted this list for would-be missional church planters a couple of days ago. It's good value, as is the on going discussion about the list on Rick's blog:

  • Select carefully those that will form your core group. If they are not committed to engaging the culture in a “go to them” life, then they would not be part of my core group.
  • Don’t make the Sunday gathering your organizational focus. If you spend most of your money, peoples time and emotional resources on the Sunday gathering, you’ll have little to devote to community engagement.
  • Your Sunday gathered should be for the purpose of worship, encouragement, story telling, teaching, training, and to seek God’s presence and to be realigned with God’s missionary purpose. It should not be focused on the needs of the not-yet-Christian.
  • Plant your faith community in the heart of the area you want to minister. (And if it were me, all leadership would be required to live in the immediate area, but I know that would be hard one for most.)
  • You and your core group should spend lots of time exploring the needs of your community and how you can join your community in meeting those needs.
  • When considering community needs, I’d be looking for those that center on the hurting people in your area. The gospel is about walking a new path and those that already know that their current path in life is a dead-end are the richest harvest ground. Get involved with the working poor, AA, NA, prisons, immigrant poor, etc.
  • Be desperately dependent on prayer.
  • Don’t become a CEO. Your faith community is not a business. Leave the American capitalist organizing and marketing principles for the business world. Your faith community should be organic.

Backyard Missionaries Required for Down-South Ministry

Just over a year ago I published an advertisement calling for interested individuals and families to consider moving to our community in order to work with us (the local church) in order to help serve the community and grow the kingdom of God.

My original advertisement was edited by the leadership team and things about our location (on the beach, close to schools, golf course, etc.) were added in what was seen as necessary incentives to lure people to us. Our hopes, I guess, were centred on reinvigorating our flagging Sunday morning service and adding some new goods and services to our menu of programs.

I knew that Sunday morning services were not the key to our success as a church. I had been preaching and talking about this for several years with our members and leaders, but I allowed myself, for a moment, to fall back into the old attractional way of thinking - maybe if we just gave it one more shot, maybe if we just found a few musicians for our one-woman-band, we might at least be able to attract back some of the local Christians who had abandoned us for the mega-church down the road, or the Christian families who move to town and don't even give us a look in?

The end result of our advertising? One reply - an older guy looking to retire somewhere on the coast, who mistakenly thought we were looking for a pastor and was prepared to offer his services to us free of charge. And that was it.

On the upside our ad sparked a debate on a prominent Aussie blog which made me look harder at something called the "emerging church". Little did I know that the road God had me travelling was very close to that of many others who were now associating themselves with the emerging-missional movement.

Today - well, things haven't changed much, except that I have a new vocabulary which I have been able to share with the leadership team, and I am now on a not-so-lonely journey, with our leadership now among the fellow travelers on this missional adventure. But we are still resource strapped.

So, 12 months on we are trying again - but this time with a revamped "want ad". Feel free to distribute it, publicaly argue about, debate it or slam it!

Are you being called to a cross-cultural mission-field in your own backyard?

If you know the words “missional” and “emerging”, see the kingdom of heaven as something more than just a future event, and understand that sharing the gospel involves living it as much as speaking it, then we would like to hear from you.

Our community suffers from disease and poverty, but our diseases are those of affluence and our poverty is spiritual. Overall our biggest problem is apathy – but we aren't sure that anyone cares?

We are a small number of Jesus’ followers with faith in the power of Jesus Christ to transform our town, however, while the harvest is plentiful the workers are few.

If you think this could be the thing for you and would like more information you can Skype our ministry team leader (Andrew) on deepsky1971, email him at, call him during the day on 0413 995 280 or at home on 9720 1215.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Africa - Photo of the Week

This is one of my favourite pictures, taken while in a Sunday afternoon "crusade" on Mt Kigali. The sun was coming through the window behind the kids and the lighting was brilliant. I wanted to capture it on film just as it looked to my eyes. And I think I just about managed to do it.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The Emerging-Missional Church as a Catalyst for Grassroots Community Transformation

Long title - but it says what I'm thinking.

The following is really just a bit of me thinking "out loud" or at least in Verdana 12 point! If it doesn't make a lot of sense to you that's cool - I am still trying to get my head around it all myself. But I really think that somewhere in here in this current train of thought is an important point - how it looks or will come together in practice I'm not sure. But I am sure that there is an important link between community development (really community transformation and that's what I'll call it from now on) and the gospel.

In the time I have spent around the church this isn't something I have heard much about. Don't get me wrong, the "kingdom" is a topic I am very familiar with - but only in the sense in which "kingdom" is something eschatalogical; something still to come and not something that exists in the here-and-now. In the same way I have heard a lot about the way Jesus transforms this world, however beyond changes in individual lives I have not seen much evidence of this beyond the 4 walls of the local church building.

Hear what I'm saying - the fact that people can change is a huge thing. This is powerful evidence of the way in which a relationship with Jesus Christ can change lives. But in my experience it seems to often stop there. Sure, people stop swearing or drinking too much or sleazing around. They might stop speeding or cheating on their tax return too. But as far as these changes flowing out of the church buildings and into the communities in which these people exist, well I just haven't really seen a lot of it happening.

This is where it all starts to come together though - where the Kingdom and the transforming power of Jesus Christ actually meet. After all, what is a kingdom without a king, or for that matter a king without a kingdom?

The New Testament (and in many places, particularly the Psalms, the Old as well) paints a vivid picture of what this kingdom looks like and who is in charge. It paints a picture that leads me to no other conclusion than Jesus intended us, His body, His church, His bride, to be the means through which His kingdom exists in this world, and that this kingdom is to be a place of safety, refuge, peace and ultimately salvation, for all who find it and exist within it.

A place where those who don't "go to church" on a Sunday morning can still experience the transforming power of Christ for themselves because His kingdom, the place where his power is at work, is all around them. In their world, but not of their world.

If this is the case, then it means the kingdom has to spread beyond the confines of the local church meeting hall. The transforming power of Jesus Christ cannot be limited to those 4 walls and the people who dwell within them. Rather it must be allowed to flow into the world around it - to give it flavour and light, to influence, to love, to serve, to transform!

In Church Re-imagined Doug Pagitt describes this as the act of bringing heaven to earth:

It's tempting to see service as a way for the well-resourced to reach out to others. But that perspective makes service a kind of condescension - drops of mercy bestowed upon the "needy" by those who are "blessed" - rather than an outgrowth of our desire to work toward making things on earth as they are in heaven.
Can you imagine a church that is involved in this kind of kingdom work? I can - and I want to be a part of it!

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Communities in Control - Post Conference Thoughts

Yep - still on this topic!

I got back yesterday from the Communities in Control conference in Melbourne. Unfortunately there weren't too many thrills.

There were a couple of interesting speakers and one that I would say was inspirational but overall the conference was very political with the bill dominated by trade unionists, including current ACTU (Australian Council of Trade Unions) president Sharron Burrows and Victorian Labor Party politicians.

Burrows' attempted to convince us that Australia's trade unions are the backbone of our communities and society. She also acknowledged a significant drop in union membership over the past few years, but dismissed it as a direct result of the current high standard of living we are experiencing in Australia. Nothing at all to do with the overall lack of relevance most Australians see trade unions as having then?

One of only a couple of exceptions at the conference was Afro-American activist Angela Glover-Blackwell. Glover-Blackwell is the Chief Executive Officer and founder of PolicyLink, a US based "research and action institute that works collaboratively to develop and implement local, state, and federal policies to achieve economic and social equity".

Her talk focused (apolitically) directly on community development initiatives that she has been involved in and the role of grass roots level advocacy for the marginalised and disadvantaged. While I have no idea of her religious persuasion she did refer to Jim Wallace in a couple of her answers to questions from the delegates that were pointedly anti-Christian and obviously influenced by the media's portrayal of the United States "religious right". She effectively shut the questioners down by affirming the role Christians of many and varied political persuasions play in the community service sector in the US.

The conference finished up with a special concert (actually just two songs) by one of my favourite Australian musicians, Paul Kelly. Paul and Aboriginal activist and musician Kev Carmody performed From little things big things grow, a tune that has become a bit of a social activism anthem in this country, along with a couple of other popular numbers.

Probably the best thing to come from the conference though was the opportunity it gave me to think more about the relationship, as it currently exists, between church and community. The more I think about it the more I think I see the intrinsic significance of the church's involvement in community development as part of its fulfillment of Christ's commission. In fact I think it is essential that any missional approach to church also be an approach that involves community development on a broader scale.

I'll post a bit more on this tomorrow.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Creating Community

Seems I can't get "community" outta my mind at the moment. Maybe because of Doug Pagitt's book on the Solomon's Porch community which I'm reading at the moment (see my last post, below), maybe because of Africa, maybe because community is something I have been attempting (really, struggling) to create here in my neighbourhood for the best part of the last 3 years without much success.

One of the keys to community, as I see it, is appealing to peoples inbuilt sense of wanting or needing to belong. Of creating a place where people can feel secure and safe and can feel free to, generally, be themselves. This I think is where I'm failing. You see, everything we are doing seems to be reliant upon invitations and reminders. Lyss and I are always inviting people to share a meal with us, or to go to the pub with us. Or we are always inviting and reminding people about our Alternate[Or] gathering. If we don't remind or invite, nothing happens. People are not actively pursuing involvement with us or the things we are about.

This morning, chewing over all of this, I am struck by the thought that what we have, while it is community in a sense, may not really be that thing called "genuine" community. If people have to be constantly reminded and invited in order to participate then something must be missing. Real community (whatever that is) should be something that people want to participate in, look forward to and eagerly involve themselves in.

I feel that if Lyss and I stopped today, nothing more would happen. We would go back to spending Friday and Saturday nights on our own.

I recently read Velvet Elvis by Rob Bell. He talks about the way in which, on the very first day his new Mars Hill Bible Church met and without any promotion, they had more than 3000 people turn up! And to read about the way in which the Solomon's Porch guys are doing what they are doing and seeing things change and develop and grow, while inspiring me in many ways, at least today, is also depressing me.

If I can be so bold as to ask - if anyone is even reading this - please pray for us. Pray that we (Lyss and I) can be a part of a community where we can feel like we belong, created by our Creator and not by us and where others can come and feel the same. Please pray that we can find others who feel and think the way we think and want to play a role in building God's kingdom in this neighbourhood.