Moved Mountains

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

Sunday, December 28, 2008

The future of the "established" church

I haven't posted directly on this topic for quite a while. There have been a number of reasons for this. In one sense it has all been a little too close to home. I am employed by a local church with a traditional, denominational history, and I began to see that many of my posts on this subject where just a little too close to home. I also have been trying to sort through my own convictions and the motivation behind them.

But I was asked the question again today, "what do I see as the future of the church?" And so I thought I would think "out loud" and post some of my thoughts here.

In a nutshell, I think the established church is dying. Not dead yet, but well on its way.

The main indicators of church's demise, as I see them, come from the church's role in contemporary culture - Christianity is increasingly becoming marginalised and established, traditional-denominational expressions of church now exist on the fringe of the local (and increasingly secular) community.

Community action for most churches involves marketing of religious goods and services (handing out balloons with the church's website address on it in the local shopping centre for instance) to a shrinking sympathetic demographic, in forms borrowed from and perfected by MacDonald's and Coke et al. Social action comes with press releases and self aggrandisement.

Even though all these things point towards the death of the established church in its current incarnation, I don't necessarily think the local church has to die. I think there is a hope of rebirth. But it means change. It means converting from business-inspired marketing, to Jesus inspired living. It means reconsidering leadership models and practice, it means reconsidering the role of the church and what it means to be the church in and for our world. It means understanding that being missional has very little to do with going on an overseas mission trip, planning an "outreach" event in your suburb, or participating in the next you-beaut mass media evangelistic project.

Despite the whining of some local church pastors that EMC practitioners or commentators don't have a right to comment on the local church, I think it is important to point out that most of the criticisms being leveled at the established church are coming from people with extensive experience within established, traditional-denominational, settings. They aren't people standing on the outside, looking in and pointing fingers.

But change isn't easy, and in most places is almost impossible. If the leadership isn't in the picture it's unlikely the church will adapt - those members who want to see things change will eventually leave when it simply becomes to hard to keep working within a structure in which they don't fit. If the members don't see the need to do things differently, then leadership will find it very hard to make things move. So, I think we are probably about a generation away from the large-scale demise of the local church in its current form. Those that come to grips with the changing environment and adapt accordingly will make it (it's going to be tough!), those that just keep on doing what they've always done (or at least what Hillsong or Saddleback or whatever whoever is the flavour of the month this month did!) will go the way of the dinosaur.

This isn't a simple subject (you've seen the number of books on the topic!), but it's a subject worth getting real about. This involves established churches taking a serious look at themselves and being willing to take the pruners to the dead wood while putting "history and tradition" to one side for the sake of the future. It also involves proponents of the EMC being willing to build bridges into established churches wanting to make changes, recognising the role that does exist in the neighbourhood of the future for long-established (yet significantly modified) expressions of church.

If you're wondering if you're church is really missional - check out this post from Brackish Faith and this post from newly commissioned "Senior Pastor", Hamo, at Backyard Missionary.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Spider

I found this little beauty with a brood of youngsters (several hundred) in the shed this morning. The off-white bits of fluff around it are it's egg sacks. I should have photographed it with a coin to show the size, it was about the size of an Australian 5 cent bit.

For the uniformed (or the un-Australian) it is a redback spider, probably the most venomous spider we have in WA and one of the most venomous in the world.

In its nest I also found the mummified remains of a 7 or 8 cm long 4 toed skink - left overs of a rather hearty spider meal!

We seem to have a lot of spiders around here - wolf spiders and daddy long legs are the most common. After nearly 16 years together Alyssa is finally giving up on getting me to kill or remove these little lovelies. They are great natural insecticides and help keep the mossies under control in summer.

My general rule with the redback is, if they are not around where the kids play then they get to live. Otherwise they are just too dangerous - a small one can easily kill a child of Ashleigh's age with one bite. One this size could probably even make an adult critically ill. Unfortunately I had to dispatch this one and it's babies to spiders heaven. Not worth the risk to the kids or the dog.

Anyway, from the Rigg family (and their spiders), Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Christmas Benediction

A Franciscan Benediction:

May God bless you with discomfort,
at easy answers, half-truths, and superficial relationships,
so that you may live deep within your heart.

May God bless you with anger,
at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people,
so that you may work for justice, freedom, and peace.

My God bless you with tears,
to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, and war,
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and turn their
pain to joy.

And may God bless you with enough foolishness,
to believe that you can make a difference in this world,
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done.


From -

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

A Christmas Thought

A few years ago, as I planned a Christmas Eve message, it struck me how we tend to want to leave Jesus, as a baby, in the manger at Christmas, and then jump forward to Easter and fix him as a thirty-something man to the cross, while forgetting about the life he lived in between these two, important, events.

Even when we describe the gospel we tend to still focus on the nativity and the crucifixion. So often I hear the gospel described in too-simple terms as the Father sending the Son to die for us. Of course, this is true, but it is not the whole truth.

Jesus did enter time and space as a baby. But he didn't stay that way. He grew into an adult and he lived a life that serves as an example to those who claim to follow him, today.

In this light then, Christmas is not so much about the "Christchild" as it is about the incarnation. About a life that was lived among humans as an example for humans of the way God intends us to live.

Instead of thinking and talking about a baby in a manger this Christmas, I am going to be concentrating on celebrating the life that was lived (the gospel in its fullness) between the manger and the cross.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Saving Christians

I finished reading Rob Bell and Don Golden's book "Jesus wants to save Christians" about a week ago. It takes, what the authors call, a new exodus perspective on the biblical story. In a nutshell this means the first exodus forms a basis for understanding the mission and ministry of Jesus - a mission that had firmly in its sights the alleviation of the suffering and the hardship of the least. Of those enslaved.

The New Exodus is one perspective, taken from the side of the weak and marginal and the God who cares about them. We're interested in the big story because that's what the Bible is—a story that unfolds across history. Who are the major characters, what's the plot, how do we take part in it? Perhaps this is why Jesus can be hard to understand. It’s hard to understand the later parts if you haven't been brought up to speed on where the story has been so far*.
I'm a fan of Rob's and read this book hot on the heels of his other new book, "Sex God", and found it drew together many of the themes concerning kingdom and gospel and the link between being the body of Christ and caring for the least in our world - in other words, social justice.

I recommend it as an easy, introductory read on what is really quite a deep subject.

Here's an interview with Rob from Relevent Magazine, in which he discusses the book. Out of Ur also posted a 2 part review of the book which you can read HERE (Pt 1.) and HERE (Pt 2).

*Bell - Online:

Understanding love

Surely, exiles need to recover a more biblical understanding of the nature of Christian love for God. If loving God is not just about singing love songs, what more is involved ... Love, then, in the Christian framework, is an action. It is a verb, not a noun. To love is to do something for others, not neccessarily to feel something for them. It is to desire their spiritual growth, so that they might blossom and grow and become everything that God intended them to be in the first place. And, interestingly, this is also how we love God, by serving God's creation.
This is not to suggest that there won't be feelings attached to our love of God and others. (Exiles, Frost, M. pp. 308, 310)

Rwandan child choir to perform at UN

The message of Forgiveness coming from the mouth of babes! These young orphans and vulnerable children from the beautiful country of Rwanda in Africa between the ages of 11 to 18 years of age will delight and inspire their audiences in song, drumming and dancing! December 2008, USA – In December, a group of Rwandan children will arrive in the U.S. as young cultural and peace ambassadors to take audiences on a journey into the lives of the Rwandan people through music, dance, costumes and drumming. They are known as the MIZERO Children of Rwanda which in Kinyarwanda, the language of their home land, means "HOPE." MIZERO EPK video

While many organizations are helping Rwanda recover from the 1994 genocide, few have addressed the issue of cultural brokenness. "My vision for MIZERO is to build, bring and to spread hope to Rwandan children through our vibrant music and dance traditions. It is my goal to mentor them to help them discover the power of forgiveness as I have, to help these young ones grow up free from hatred, bitterness and the spirit of revenge. This use of the arts combined with the message of forgiveness can help these children heal their wounds from the past and put a stop to violence and any future genocide through this next generation of young leaders" says MIZERO founder and CEO, Jean Paul Samputu

The UN has declared the year 2009 as the Year of Reconciliation. Samputu and MIZERO have embarked on an impassioned 2009 schedule filled with activities that focus on 'Forgiveness as a Step to Reconciliation'. This includes the 'Forgiveness Tour', various conferences and concerts, and global conferences called 'Gathering of Forgiveness: A Step to Reconciliation'to be held in
Rwanda in February and July which will also commemorate the 15th year of the Rwandan genocide.

This inspirational tour's highlight will be the children's performance at the UN at theGlobal South-South Development Expo, in conjunction with the Fifth United Nations Day for South-South Cooperation on Dec. 19th They have been invited to perform at the conference: Advancing Cooperation between the United Nations and World's Religion. which will take place in New York on December 16th 2008 at UNICEF Labouisse Hall. In addition, the MIZERO children are looking forward to exchanging with children from various schools in the Greenwich, Connecticut area. They will be 'jamming' with the Djole Drum and Dance Company from South Carolina who will be making a special trip to New York City to meet with the MIZERO children. The MIZERO children will experience Christmas with the gracious hosts from Foxhill Bruderhof Community in Walden, NY.

The MIZERO foundation welcomes financial donations, donation of Christmas gifts for the children, or if you can make available a van or bus for transportation needs while in NY and the tri-state area. If your group, organization or church would like information about having the children perform at your event, anytime from December 27th through to January 23rd, please contact us at (438) 275-5147 or (828) 507-1848 or email us at
MIZERO Children of Rwanda believes that through music and arts, youth receive self-confidence, life skills and creative expression to help them heal and go forward. These children are sharing their gift of music and performance while raising awareness about the 1 million other orphans of Rwanda.