Moved Mountains

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

Monday, March 24, 2008

Support a Rwandan Family - Buy a Goat

Kigali Self-Help group members with their bank-books in May 2007

The most successful humanitarian programs I have come across in my travels in Africa are centred around small, self-help groups. These groups are mini-communities of people motivated to help one another make difference in their own situations. They are examples of indigenous responsibility taking.

Each group is based around a micro-finance framework and each group is replicable. What makes these groups so successful is their ability to change their individual members living conditions in a very short time and the way they so rapidly replicate. They are an amazing example of networking and viral marketing.

What makes them (IMO) really cool is that they are also an example of the "hand-up" mentality at work. They teach people to take responsibility for their own situation without relying on endless handouts. Instead of dependancy, these groups create interdependancy.

I should point out that the majority of members of these groups are women, there are groups consisting of HIV/AIDS sufferers and all members come from marginalised, poverty stricken communities.

With all that in mind, Day 4 have jumped at the opportunity to add more value, where we can, to these self help groups by offering seed (or capital) funding for sustainable projects operated by the groups. These projects require one-off funding and then will operate over the long term in a sustainable way - generating their own income which covers all operating costs and provides a profit for the self-help group members (an important requirement for the majority of the projects we fund).

Today's project is a goat farming initiative developed by the Muganza self-help group. When complete this project will supply 20 goats to the cooperative, provide a plot of land for grazing and pay the wages of a shepherd.

For AU$185.00 (US$170.00) you can fund the purchase of a 1/20th share of the project (or one goat!). In return you will receive a personal photograph of "your" goat and updates on the state of the project.

If you would like to donate, please visit Day 4's website where you can donate online or via a variety of other ways.

The self-help groups (more than 60 groups exist throughout the Kigali region) are an initiative of the Christian Unity Fellowship, Day 4's Rwandan partners and are an indigenous example of faith in Christ, in action in a transformative way in the Rwandan community.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What do I have to do ...?

Promotion! It's something I find really difficult. Even though I am so sure, and so confident that what I am promoting is good and valuable and worthwhile it is really difficult to get people to listen and get on board. Maybe I'm just not good at "selling the vision"? Maybe I'm not presenting the right information in the right way - so as to build confidence? Maybe I just don't come across as someone who is trustworthy and so my "cause" is overlooked?

I'm thinking of the work I am involved with through Day 4 - a community aid and development organisation I founded around 5 years ago which has a good track record of working accountably and successfully with communities in Central and East Africa to develop sustainable, locally driven projects which really do have a positive effect on the standard of living.

It's small scale stuff, but still valuable.

Yet I have found it really difficult to get Christian's, particularly emerging-missional types, involved and supporting this work - financially and also through word of mouth and online promotion and support.

I worked in commercial media for a number of years before getting into more people focussed ministry so I understand the pull of gloss and professionalism - and, especially when it comes to professionalism, I support every effort made to promote a professional image. But I think when we are faced (and I'm speaking for myself here as much as anyone else) with a choice between a glossy, professionally marketed cause and a much less glossy not so professionally marketed one we will tend towards the gloss.

So, I want to ask the question - its actually a question I'm going to be asking a few by email as well;

What is it that we at Day 4 need to do to get your support? How do we need to change in order to start to:

a) receive broad support and promotion from organisations (a number of organisations that I am involved with in one way or another will regularly promote "aid" type organisations or initiatives of "friends" but never seem to even look at Day 4) and;

b) receive wider support and promotion from individuals, online and in the real world?

It is really difficult to get your slice of the aid and development "pie" when you aren't able to grow your supporter base.

At the end of the day I have to say though, we don't have access to professional marketers, web and graphic designers or the print media. We don't have any celebrity poster-people or any big CHristian names endorsing us. So improving the way we present online and through our various promotional resources is going to be difficult for us.

At this point in time our supporter base and income isn't big enough to warrant spending hard earned funds on a marketing campain, especially when those same funds can be used to develop a sustainable project on the ground in Africa. So in this sense we are faced with a "catch 22" situation. And I know some of you will say "you have to spend money to make money".

Answers to these questions will really help me to understand what it is we need to do to be more appealing to the public and also perhaps to answer questions people maybe have going around their mind when they are confronted with our appeals or our organisation as a whole.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Cross - The Centre Point of Easter

12 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.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Action Part 2

Yesterday's attempt at "Action" in Bunbury was a resounding success on a couple of fronts. Although, because of work committments and life, the turnout of Alternate[Or] crew wasn't great. For most of the time it was just Alyssa and I.

One of the Alternate[Or] guys did get a long for a bit though, which was really great, particualarly as she had admitted to feeling really uncomfortable about the whole process when we had spoken about it on Monday afternoon.

After a few minutes of watching us canvass she was into it and going great guns! The fact that people were very responsive to our efforts helped heaps. Most people were really keen to add their name to support the cause of the child cocoa slaves in West Africa. In just over an hour we got around 60 letters signed.

I think we'll try it again in a couple of weeks time, hopefully with a few more crew in attendance.

The best thing about this kind of action (probably any kind of positive action really) is that it is a great learning experience and also helps build bonds within the group - as well as helping raise awareness and gaining support against child slavery in West Africa. This is why I really want to ensure maximum involvement in this aspect of Alternate[Or].

Hopefully this is one tradition that will become a distinctive of our group/church - faith in action!

N.T. Wright on the Bible

"The Bible is there to enable God's people to be equipped to do God's work in God's world, not to give them an excuse to sit back smugly, knowing they possess all God's truth."

Bishop N.T. Wright

First posted by Dream Awakener.

Thursday, March 13, 2008


We're not just learning the rules, we're palying the game too!

I've been thinking a bit about tradition lately. One of the things that marks contemporary church (as in the Sunday service) is the traditions that are adheared to by the different faith communities.

Some of these are going to be fine, some are going to be completely irrelevant and others are going to be neither.

While I've been accused of being "anti-tradition", I am actually anything of the sort. What I do like to question is the place and purpose of the traditions we hold to, ensuring they are

1) understood by those practicing them,

2) meaningful and,

3) practical (in a sense that their meaningfulness is applicable in the daily spiritual and practical lives of those practicing the tradition).

One of the new traditions we have instigated in Alternate[Or] is a tradition of action. What this means to us is that we won't just be a faith community who meets together on a certain day of the week, we will also be a faith community which is active in real and practical ways in the broader community.

For the first time this weekend we are going to be putting our new tradition to the test. We're heading out as a group, hopefully with a few others as well, to help raise awareness of the plight of the West African child cocoa slaves.

With only a week until Easter we thought it would be good to hit the local supermarkets and use the World Vision, Don't Trade Lives campaign against chocolate slavery as a way of informing local chocolate consumers of what is really going on.

Hopefully this "tradition" will also become a part of our overall committment to discipleship. I see it as a great way to bond with new members and seekers (we have a few of those who will hopefully be joining us on Saturday) and of actively modelling our committment to Jesus through changing the face of the community, and planet - even if only in small ways.

If you are in the Bunbury area and would like to join us, we are meeting at 9am outside Coles in the Centrepoint Shopping Centre, Bunbury. Bring a clipboard and a pen, and lookout for a bunch (it could be a small bunch) of other people with similar!

I'll post a report on Saturday afternoon and let you know how it went.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Shooting Dogs

I watched the BBC Films production, Shooting Dogs a couple of nights ago with Alyssa. This was an incredibly powerful retelling of the events of the Rwandan genocide, as viewed through the eyes of an aging Catholic Priest (John Hurt) and a young, idealistic British school teacher (Hugh Dancy).

The film was shot entirely on location on the site of one of the 1994 genocide's horrific massacres - the Catholic Church run Don Bosco School on the outskirts of Kigali.

Where Hotel Rwanda was a fairly slick Hollywood production, shot on location in South Africa, Shooting Dogs is a simpler, yet far more moving and impacting look at the early days of the genocide. In fact, it leaves Hotel Rwanda in the dust as it takes a very personal look at the way the genocide unfolds before the eyes of two, Western observers.

Hurt's character, Father Christopher, has spent 30 years on the African continent yet nothing has prepared him for what he would experience as more than 2000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu men, women and children arrive at the gates of his school within hours of the start of the wholesale slaughter. The school is seen as a safe haven of sorts because it also happens to be the base for a platoon of Belgian UN Peacekeepers.

The name of the film, released in the US under the title Beyond the Gates, is a reference to a scene in the film in which the commander of the Belgian forces tells Father Christopher that his men are going to shoot the dogs which are now steadily consuming the bodies of murder victims outside the gates of the school. A few minutes earlier he had explained to the priest that his own soldiers could not fire upon the militia as they murdered the same people the dogs were now devouring. The UN soldiers "mandate" did not allow them to discharge their firearms except if they were first fired upon.

Highlighting the irony of the situation, Christopher, the priest, asks the question of the commander, "Are they shooting at you?" To which the commander replies, "What are you talking about?". Christopher spits back, "It's just, according to your mandate, if you're going to shoot the dogs, then the dogs must have been shooting at you first!".

The story explores a number of different issues directly - conflict theology, the involvement of the colonials in Africa and the lack of outside international interest in the deteriorating situation. The naivety of Dancy's character is reflected in his response to the unfolding events. The teacher launches an expedition to bring an international media presence (a BBC reporter and cameraman) to the school in the misguided belief this would be enough to avert the slaughter of the people sheltering there.

For me two things stood out the most in the movie. The first was the familiar (to me) streets and landscapes of Kigali city . To see the scenes of the genocide played out before the backdrop of a city I know well was quite an emotional experience. It brought home the reality of the Rwandan experience in a very different way to Hotel Rwanda.

The second was the deeply theological question asked of the old priest by Joe Connor, the idealistic young school teacher. It follows from a particularly harrowing scene in which a young mother and her newly born baby boy are hacked to death by machette wielding Inter'a hamwe militia.

After wittnessing the killing, Conner questions the priest about the human body's response to pain, wondering if there is a threshold beyond which pain is not felt.

Connor says, "You'de think there'd be some ahh, something in the design, you know? Some shutoff valve, if you feel enough pain." The priest answers, "I hope so." Connor replies, "yeah, God knows. Maybe we should ask him, if he's still around?".

The priests answer comes later in the movie in what is probably the most poingniant moment in the whole film.

The UN receive an order to evacuate, leaving the 2500 people they have been protecting to fend for themselves. Connor and the priest are to be among the evacuees, the last of the non-military, white personell in the school.

After boarding a truck with his belongings. Connor looks for the priest and sees him standing, smiling peacefully, in the midst of the people. bbviously not prepared to leave. Connor leaves the truck and runs to the priest, asking him what he is doing. The priest tells him that he is staying. The young teacher stumbles, trying to find the right way to tell the priest that he is unable to stay behind with him and begs him to come.

Connor asks him, "Why are you doing this?". Christopher answers softly, "You asked me Joe, 'where is God in everything that's happening here? In all this suffering?' I know exactly where he is ... he's right here, with these people, suffering. His love is here. More intense and profound than I've ever felt. And my heart is here Joe, my soul. If I leave, I think I may not find it again.".

If I were a reviewer and had given Hotel Rwanda 5 "stars", after seeing Shooting Dogs I would have to drop 2 stars from Hotel Rwanda and give this film 5.

I have only found this DVD in one video store and then only one copy. It might be something you have to ask to be ordered in for you, but the extra effort will be worth it.

The film's website (under the American title) can be viewed HERE.

Easter Chocolate Challenge

According to World Vision around 70% of the cocoa beans used to make our favourite chocolates come from West Africa where farmers are paid a pittance by the big western chocolate manufacturers. Apparently the returns paid to African farmers have steadily reduced over the past few years while chocolate manufacturers continue to increase the cost to the end users of their products, and, of course, their profit margins.

As a result of the incredibly low returns farmers in West Africa are being forced to use their own children as labour and are also purchasing other children, trafficked as slaves by criminal networks, to work as forced labour.

To date hundreds of thousands of West African children have been stolen and on sold to cocoa farmers where they are forced to work up to 100 hours per week and are also victims of abuse and neglect.

World Vision (and Moved Mountains) is challenging all chocolate eaters to take a stand against the child slave trade encouraged by the western chocolate companies by letting retailers and manufacturers know that we - the consumers of their end product - are not satisfied with the way their industry takes advantage of low cocoa prices and therefore encourages the horrific child slave trade in West Africa.

World Vision have produced a letter which they are encouraging people to send to their favourite chocolate manufacturer and a coupon which can be printed out and handed out to your local chocolate retailers (the links here link to pdf files, I suggest you right click and then "save as" rather than trying to open directly from here).

This is something we can all take action against - its easy, and help to make a very real difference in the lives of the poor cocoa farmers and the children that are currently being forced into the slave trade.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Everything Must Change

A new initiative of Brian McLaren, this website is a social networking site with a specific purpose - promoting initiatives and events that are aimed at transforming or changing the world in which we live. It allows users to post promote and network ideas, events, campaigns etc, and sign up to support the initiatives of other users.

Here's what Brian has to say about it:

When I began researching global crises, I was interested in understanding them - but even more, I was interested in discovering what I could become and do in order to make a difference. My research led to a book, and then some friends, and then some friends and I began organizing a speaking tour. Before the tour even began, I began meeting people who said, "I feel the same responsibility and desire and hope. How can I help?" Soon, the idea for this site had emerged - a place where more and more people can become part of this process of understanding, becoming, acting, and joining together
Check it out and sign up to be a part of it HERE!

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Landlords who care

Homelessness is an issue I face on an almost weekly (sometimes daily) basis. Around 10% of my young charges are homeless at some point during their time with me in Kick Start. I also meet a large number of people of all ages who face the struggles of homelessness on a regular basis.

One of the big issues in my region is a chronic shortage of housing - market rent is at a phenomenal high with the promise of another 5% increase in the next month making it even harder for many first time renters to get into the rental market. Minimum rent is now around the $220/week mark with youth benefits sitting at around $300/fortnight.

Most strugglers, particularly those under 25, don't often even get as far as the application. I visited real estate agents with an 18 year old client late last year and witnessed him being laughed at by property managers who were happy to take his application fee while telling him it was unlikely he would be successful in any application because of his age and lack of "rental history".

As a result quite a significant number of young people are couch surfing - putting a strain on friendships. Others, including whole families, are living in cars, sheds, or just sleeping rough. Emergency accommodation is at breaking point. Services which offer clients accommodation for a strict time period of 3 months are finding they are seeing clients remain in their accommodation for more than 6 months because there is simply nowhere for them to go. Real estate agents have pages of names of waitinglists, making it easy for landlords to simply pick the most desirable tentants every time.

Hostels and back-packers are refusing to take clients from local community service providers because of the large numbers needing a room and the "undesirability" of the clientele. A problem which can be gotten round by lying (something I have done several times now when booking short term accommodation for clients) - simply answering "no, the booking is for me" when asked if it is an agency booking (begs the question "when is it ok to lie?").

Around 6 months ago I was approached by a couple who own an investment property and had heard me talk about the housing shortage. They have a duplex they would like to see used as affordable housing - helping at least a few people to get a roof over their heads. Last week a second couple with an investment property approached me with the same offer.

Over the weekend I was thinking about this. The first couple asked me if I would manage the property for them. I really didn't think this was something I wanted to take on, but it got me thinking about a way of making this work.

I decided to go see a good friend of mine who also happens to be a real estate agent and property manager. He is sympathetic to the cause and has helped me to find accommodation in the past for what would otherwise have been some pretty hopeless cases - sticking his neck on the line in the process.

He was really receptive to the idea of managing properties for landlords who are prepared to be flexible in their lease agreements and are willing to take a less-than-market rent in order to put a roof over someones head. He is also prepared to take on these kind of properties at cost price. While we still have to work out the finer details, I think that we might actually be on to something here.

I am looking at running this through our missional community plant - we have a range of community service workers who are a part of what we are doing - including a guy who works with State Housing tenants who are falling behind in their rent or upkeep of homes (I was going to get around to talking to you about it Shane!!!).

While we might not be able to help everyone, it at least it looks like we might be able to relieve the pressure for some. If you are reading this and have an investment property in the Bunbury area and would like to join in, please let me know. Let your investor friends know also.

Thank God for landlords who care!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Discipleship in a post-literate culture? Part 1

In looking at this issue I want to start with a couple of important disclaimers.

Firstly, what follows are observations based on personal experience. With this in mind I am perfectly willing to admit they may be peculiar to my mission context - however, as they say, "if the cap fits ..."- if you find something that resonates or rings bells with your context/experience, then please, jump in with some observations of your own.

Secondly, this whole topic is one that I see as being increasingly relevent for the church as a whole as we move into the 21st century and away from the ideals of modernism that were once entrenched in our ecclesiology and culture but which are now quickly falling into irrelevance (again, my opinion - feel free to disagree). Having said this, I want to make it clear that what I am really interested in is the method or practice of discipleship - it is the appraoch the church takes in making and growing disciples that I am calling into question not neccessarily the message we are seeking to impart through the process of discipleship.

I suggested this topic as it is one that I find both interesting and infuriating. Interesting because it represents a challenge I face almost daily and infuriating because of the apparent lack of clarity or open discussion about post-literate, post-christendom, post-modern discipleship in practice in the real world. And the overall lack of available resources dealing with this topic.

I'll start off with a table reproduced by Michael Frost in his article, "Preaching in a post-literate age" as I think it helps shed light on the contrast between the "old" and the "new" in our present culture.

Things may be provedThings may be probed
Uses science to remove mysteryWelcomes & celebrates mystery
Truth by reasoning (cognitive)Truth by experiencing (emotional)
Go from truth to lifeGo from life to truth
Deals in facts, dogma, conceptsDeals in interpretations, opinions
Uses exact languageUses approximate language
Communicates via technical termsCommunicates via myths, symbols
Sees universe as closed, predictableSees universe open, unpredictable
Values independenceValues Interdependence
Individualised dreamsCorporate dreams
World view determined by what we seeWhat we see is determined by our world view
Objectivity possible: Observer & observed are separatedEveryone is subjective: Observer is part of observation
Beliefs held dogmaticallyBeliefs are open for discussion
Life viewed analyticallyLife viewed holistically
Concerned with what things are (Truth is absolute)Concerned with how things relate (Truth is relative)
There is one way to liveThere are many ways to live

The modern, evangelical church, at least in part because of a shift in culture, has become increasingly irrelevant as a vehicle of the gospel because, while it has been good at the business of theory, it hasn't been great at linking this with practice.

While it may be a generalisation, I think it is an accurate one; the practice of the faith in the majority of modern, evangelical/pentecostal churches can be equated with attending a service on a Sunday, attending an "academic" bible study on a weeknight (or day) and engaging in various church-run social activities at other different times.

You could also throw into this no small amount of pressure put on individuals within churches to "evangelise" their friends by bringing them along to church run or sponsored events where they will have an opportunity to hear a special, evangelistic message.

Now what I have been talking about is the practice of faith within the Christian church. It is the focus or point of the practice of the faith that I believe holds the key in understanding discipleship in the post-literate context and the increasing ineffectualism (did they ever really work?) of the "old" ways of practicising the faith.

I guess none of this is really new. We've debated it for ages, been accused of focussing on negatives, church bashing, or throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

But ...

... I think, if they are completely honest with themselves, most churches know:

1) That their efforts are not as effective in bringing new individuals into the (catholic) church community as they once were and in many cases, actual community engagement beyond the four walls of the church is non-existent.

2) That transferance is the real cause of growth in the churches whose numbers are increasing.

3) That it seems to be increasingly difficult to get any substantial percentage of those attending on a Sunday involved in a more meaningful way, than simply attending the Sunday service or church run social events.

4) That the gulf between the church and community outside its wall's is big - even if this is only acknowledged in the frustration felt from not seeing "new" growth (as opposed to transfered growth).

This is post is starting to get long. I'm going to split it in two (or more bits if I need to). So now I've kinda nutted through the problem (in a very general way), in part 2, I'll try and focus more on my experience with specifics.

This is a synchroblog - If you would like to join in, please let me know and I will link to it and get you to link to other participants.

Synchrobloggers so far -
Glenn Hager - Re-dreaming the Dream
Mmmm, That's Good Coffee