« February 2005 Archives »


Benediction Incarnation (Forge)

26 February, 2005 10:31 PM

Marcus blogs a benediction he wrote for the alt worship night a couple of us put together for Forge last week. The theme was incarnation. His benediction was one of the highlights of the night for many. Here's just a little bit of what he's written:

'May you love your neighbour, not the ones you wish you had but the ones you have; human and creature!
May you be connected to community built on good sex and intimate friendships.
May you know peace and reconciliation in the war zones of relationship, family, household, church and culture...'

He also posts a few pictures.

A short history and explanation of the wider emerging church

22 February, 2005 9:20 AM

Alan Creech did it again - he put into words (in a pretty helpful way) some of the stuff I'd been trying to explain to someone just yesterday. Head over to Next Wave's article - What I am and what I'm not - or a short history and explanation of the wider emerging church - the title says it all....

'you've got to understand that many of us have been doing what we're doing, in some form, for much longer than the term emerging church has even existed. Some of us have even been doing something different (at least different from the common norm) for longer than we have even known what the word postmodern means! Wow. OK, this is why it's all very hard to define and pin down. It's not like we all heard of this cool new thing, left our old stuffy churches and joined a new club. No, we didn't do that. Well, I can't speak for everyone, but I'm telling you, that's not what this phenomenon is all about.'

Forge Intensive - Feb 05

19 February, 2005 4:48 PM

I'm currently at the Forge Intensive and enjoying the interaction with some great people thinking through subjects around Mission, Christology, Culture etc.

I won't blog about it all because Phil has been doing a great job of it over at Signposts in his this category of his blog.

Wish you were here.

Those of you in Melbourne can join us tonight at 8pm to here a session with Mike Frost or tomorrow night (Sunday) at 7pm for an alt worship reflective gathering. Its at 81 High St Preston.

Forge Intensive this weekend!

16 February, 2005 5:51 AM

Just a reminder for those of you in Melbourne/Victoria who might like to come along to Forge this coming weekend. There are still places available and a couple of ways you can be involved either by coming along for the whole weekend (starting Friday night and ending Sunday night) or by just coming along to one of the three open nights.

Those coming for the whole weekend will hear Mike Frost, Alan Hirsch, Mark Sayers, Deb Hirsch and plenty of stories from different practitioners doing missional church. There will also be some practical field trip like options on Sunday afternoon.

Those just coming in the evenings will hear Mike Frost both Friday and Saturday nights and can participate in an Alt Worship reflective service on Sunday night.

Feel free to bring others along.

The weekend will be held at Northern Community Church of Christ in Preston. There is some cost to the weekend but we've tried to keep it low by encouraging participants to BYO meals or buy them at local cafes. Let me know if you want more information.

Update: - Prices are $70 for workers and $50 for students for the whole weekend. Open nights are $15 for students and $25 for workers (not including Sunday which I think is free, we'll be taking an offering for the Tsunami appeal though this night).

My Emerging Church Presentation

13 February, 2005 10:34 PM

Denominations And Emerging -2Last week I mentioned that I was putting together a presentation (job interview) on my 'hopes and dreams for the emerging church' and 'how denominations might resource the emerging church'. A number of people have asked how that went via email. This is actually something I've been wondering about too - until yesterday when I got an email yesterday notifying me that two of us who applied for the positions have been appointed to do the research position. My only sadness is that I won't have a chance to work with the other two presenters as I found all the others ideas really stimulating.

I'm looking forward to the next 6 months of work on this and will no doubt speak more about it on the blog as it all unfolds.

I've put a little movie file of the presentation I did above. It may not make a lot of sense on its own so I'll add some commentary of each slide below. The presentation was only 5 minutes so I felt it was very 'light' and had loads of broad brushstrokes.

The file is 1.8MB - click it to load it up and when its fully loaded you can go through the slides simply by clicking the frame to forward through them or by using your arrow keys to go forwards or backwards through the presentation (this may work differently depending upon your browser). I hope it works for you. Let me know. Anyway - here it is.

Dreams and Hopes

  • A United Church - my dreams and hopes for the Emerging church are actually my dreams and hopes for the Church in general. Whilst I am fine with using the name 'Emerging Church' I do worry that in doing so and in all the talk about it that we see in books, online, in conferences that it is being presented as THE alternative to church and as THE answer to some of the pressures that the church currently face. I love some of the fresh things that are emerging at the moment in Christian communities around the world but my dream and hope is that they do not set themselves up as separate from the rest of the church but that whilst they are different that the line between Emerging and Established church is somewhat blurry. I dream of a United Church.
  • A Church with Flavours - Sitting in Brunswick St a few weeks ago on a hot day I was enjoying an icecream cone with numerous flavours on it. As I sat and ate it and enjoyed the variety of tastes in one snack I watched the many different flavours of people that wandered past me in 15 minutes. I began to reflect upon the flavoursome city that we live in - Melbourne is both ethnically diverse and sub-culturally diverse - but are these flavours represented in the church going population? I suspect that studies will show that we're a somewhat Vanilla flavoured church - I dream of a Church with Flavours.
  • A Church that Dreams - As I look back over Church history I see that many of the times of richness and change come about when individuals and small groups of people dare to dream of something new and different - when they dare to dream of new ways of connecting with the world around us. I've had dreams of how church can be for many years but its only been in the last few that I've had contact with church leaders who have given me permission to think outside the box and to dream. I suspect that sitting in the pews of many of our churches are some amazing dreams in embryonic form - I dream of a Church that encourages Dreaming.
  • A Church that Experiments - Dreaming is one thing but actually putting flesh upon the ideas is another. You can have all the dreams in the world but unless you follow some of them you'll only ever be a 'dreamer'. The LivingRoom and the other 30 or so Emerging Churches we know of here in Melbourne have only ever come to be a reality because people have decided to take the ideas, theories and dreams and test them. Sometimes experiments fail, sometimes they succeed but no matter what the result something is learnt through the process. I dream of a Church that Experiments.
  • A Spirited Church - Whilst I have not seen any examples of it yet one of the dangers of being involved in dreaming, experimental churches that try to connect with culture is that they could lose some of their focus upon the person of Jesus. I will only speak from my personal experience here - but to be honest I can see how amidst the creativity, ideas and fun (it is often a lot fun) of it all that it would be possible to lose site of the purpose of it all - to let go of some of the core beliefs and practices that have made the Church what it is since its inception. I dream of a Church that continues to worship, pray and connect with Jesus.
  • A Church that Cares - Similarly amidst the newness, experimenting and everything else that seems new and fresh in the Emerging Church I can see that it would be easy to loose site of the call of Jesus to be the light and the salt of the world - to lose site of the outward focus of faith - to lose of the call to serve, the call to care and the call to the margins of our society. Perhaps this is a concern that I have that is broader than the EC but for the whole church. So many of us (and I'm one of us) struggle to get out of our comfort zones and actually learn what it is to Love our Neighbour. I dream of a Church that exists as much for those who are not in it as for those who are.
  • A Church that Creates - I long for the day where creativity around Christian Communities is not just expressed through a weekly 30 minute time of singing. I believe in a God who is a Creator and I suspect that he's calling for us to join him in the Creating process. For too long 'creation' has been limited or kept out of church - I dream of a Church that releases its people to Creativity.
  • A Church that Connects - Lets return to one of my earlier points - I dream of a church with flavours. Nice idea and one that I long for. But the reality of it is that I suspect that if this dream is to come to pass that we are going to have to learn how to connect with people again. I think most people I've been involved with in churches over the years would agree with and know missional theory pretty well. They don't need to be convinced about mission - rather they are either so so immersed in Church culture that they do not know any non church going people or they are petrified of building deep relationships with people around them. I suspect that with the rapid change of culture around us that we've lost the art of connection and of relationships - without this what hope do we have of being a church of Flavours? I dream of a Church that Connects.

Denominations and the Emerging Church

I was asked to present on how the denominations could help resource, sustain and support the Emerging Church. I started by saying that everything I had to say was a suspicion and that I didn't believe in a one size fits all approach.

  • Emerging Church Toolbox - One of the wonderful things about the emerging church scene here in Melbourne is that every community that I've happened upon brings a unique and different approach to doing church - I guess this goes to the very heart of what the EC is and is something we often celebrate. As a result of this any interaction between the EC and denominations needs to be a tailored approach. I suggested instead of building a one size fits all strategy for planting and supporting ECs perhaps an EC toolbox approach could be developed where different 'tools' could be more appropriate to different communities at different times. I gave some examples of such 'tools' as being:

    - training and coaching - this could range from the informal to the formal on a whole variety of topics and areas
    - support and accountability - again this could take on a variety of levels and forms
    - networking - connecting leaders and groups with others that they could be supported and encouraged by
    - logistical support - how to open a bank account, insurance etc
    - money and resources - some might need wages, buildings, people etc
    - introductions and protection - with other local groups and networks

  • The Gardener - I used a metaphor of a gardener creating an environment for growth rather than making trees, plants etc. From what I've observed of the Emerging Church they don't tend to respond well to being built - rather they evolve, grow.....hmmm....emerge.
  • Permission and Space Creation - In some ways this is similar to the last point - I reflected upon some of the experience that I've had with our denomination in planting LivingRoom - really they heard my dream and created a space for us to give it a go by giving us a grant to get things going and affirming what we are doing. For other groups this 'space creation' may be more of a physical space than others.
  • Cheer - Again with LivingRoom our denomination has cheered us along again and again. Many many times I've heard our denominational leaders 'talking up' the different emerging missional communities that they see springing up in our denominations. This both inspires and affirms those of us involved but also makes it easier for us to explain and legitimate what we do.
  • Normalise - Cheering is great but there is also a need to normalise the EC. One of the critiques of EC that I'm seeing more and more is that its just the latest, trendy, cool thing for cool people living in hip parts of the city. I wonder if this comes from some of the 'spin' and hype that has at times been ascribed to some of the communities talking this language. I can only talk for my community and myself but from my perspective we're just a normal group of people living in a pretty middle class suburb in Melbourne trying to make sense of life, faith and what it is to be followers of Jesus. We believe pretty much the same things as most other churches I've been a part of and are just trying to do it in a relevant way for the culture we're in. I think denominations can be involved in both cheering and normalising - but it can be a fine line to walk.
  • Lessons from bike Riding - I finished with another metaphor - this time that of a parent helping a child learn to ride a bike. Its not a perfect analogy (I'm not big on the paternal approach to starting EC's) but talked about how teaching bike riding has different stages where different things are needed. At times you need to be pretty hands on (do the balancing, steering and momentum making), other times its more about running beside with an encouraging hand on the shoulder, other times its about hands on for a few seconds and then hands off before a few more seconds of hands on, other times you let go completely and help pick up the child after a crash before encouraging them to ride again - other times its about letting go and watching them ride off with mixed feelings of elation at a new freedom but also worried about the risk involved. Depending upon the community a different approach will be needed at different times for new churches - sometimes its a fine line but I do believe that the denominations can both offer a lot to the EC but also receive a lot.

By no means am I presenting the above as the a definitive strategy - I only had 5 minutes to talk - but it is a response that is largely out of my own experience. I'm looking forward to being a part of the research ahead which will hopefully flesh out the topic some more.

Awards Getting Close

13 February, 2005 9:23 AM

Thanks to those who have placed a vote for my ProBlogger blog on the Business Blogging awards. Voting is getting close so if you havn't cast your vote yet head over to the Best Overall Blog category - check out ProBlogger and if you like what you see - add your support. Thanks again.

A Taste of Liquid

10 February, 2005 12:12 AM

Today was 'A Taste of Liquid', a mini conference here in Melbourne exploring 'Culture, Spirituality and Justice'. As someone on the organising group it was a pretty long and tiring day but also one that I find myself looking back on now with some real satisfaction.

This afternoon we had around 70 people show up for a time of a panel discussion (on the three topics above), an interactive time of unpacking some of the ideas raised in the panel and quite a bit of time of networking and meeting others in the extended network of communities exploring emerging missional church around Melbourne.

Tonight was a larger group who experienced a session of short stories from 12 or so people from different emerging/missional communities around Melbourne. This time was filled with the stories of some pretty diverse and creative examples of communities from around the city - some of which I'd not heard of before.

After this time we rotated through three different worship/reflective experiences that focused upon Justice (it was a multimedia presentation using music and imagery), Culture (an interactive bible exploration using fuzzy logic) and Spirituality (a meditative reflection on a bible passage, poem and silence).

I really enjoyed the day. There were things we will no doubt do a little differently next time, but overall it was a positive experience for most who attended judging by the reactions afterwards.

I especially enjoyed meeting a number of this blog's readers and some fellow bloggers that I've never met before. I was actually surprised that when we put up a list for bloggers to put their URLS on that around 15 or so links appeared almost mysteriously during the afternoon and evening (Christop has a full list of bloggers who were in attendance here).

So a good day - but one that left me rather weary so its time to find my way to bed.

Meet the Rev - Fighter, Pastor, Artist, Husband and Father....

9 February, 2005 9:34 AM

Rev3Stand Small

I'd like to introduce you to a good friend who has just started a blog, John Jensen - otherwise known as the rev.

John describes his blog as 'the ramblings of a fighter, pastor, artist, husband, and father' which are some good words to describe who he is. In short I'd describe John as one of the more interesting people I've met in the emerging church scene - many layers yet underneath a genuine and incredibly giving heart. He's living in Melbourne but is originally from elsewhere (but we love him anyway). Here is his profile from his blog - if it doesn't get you over there nothing will:

'Rasberry is my favorite Jello flavor. My wife is a blue belt. Sometimes I eat too much cheese. My daughters make me feel old. I have had seventeen kidney stones, but still drink too much coffee. I like art museums, red wine, dancing and quiche. I use product in my hair, like shopping for shoes, and cry at movies. I like women. I can bench press 275 lbs, except when I am on the OG then I bench press twice as much. CROWNTOWNPUNKS I like Thai food better than Thai boxing. I think bullfighting is a beautiful art form. I don't love the smell of Napalm in the morning. I think Chuck Palahniuk is a poor mans David Foster Wallace. Bukowski makes me want to be a writer. Rothko makes me want to be a painter. Jesus makes me want to be a better man. Ringo was my favorite Beatle. I really like peanut butter on a hot English Muffin. Soccer is stupid. Cricket is better than baseball. Wrestling is the toughest olympic sport, but sometimes it looks pretty gay, not that there is anything wrong with that. Beating up pacifists is like shooting fish in a barrel. The Tick was a great cartoon. my brother Keith is funny. I am scared of horses.'

So please go over and meet John - say g'day - you won't be disappointed I'm sure.

LivingRoom Gatherings for 2005

6 February, 2005 3:53 PM

One Wednesday night at LivingRoom we met to discuss the way we want our weekly gatherings to look this year. There have been a number of changes that have impacted the way we meet. For starters we are now regularly over 20 in number - if everyone were to show up at once it would be over 25. Secondly, some weeks we now have up to 5 children with us. Thirdly we're still toying with the idea of starting a new group and want to minimise the the amount of time and energy that goes into preparing for the time together (in my experience of church too much energy is often put into weekly gatherings that could be put into other areas). Lastly I've gone back to a voluntary leadership role and have scaled back how much time I have to offer the community and we've moved to a more group led approach.

As a result we decided on Wednesday night to trial a cyclic approach to our gatherings where each week will have a different focus and be lead by different people. Our cycle will be of 7 weeks which takes us through a variety of different nights. Of course there will be overlap between the different styles (for example we'll pray and read the bible most weeks but in different ways depending upon who is leading and what the focus is. The 7 weeks are as follows:

Week 1 - Spirituality Tour of the life of one of the members of the group. In these weeks we meet for a meal at the person's house and then get into cars and they take us to places that are part of their everyday existance which might include, work, uni, school, caf´┐Ż, gym, the park, place where they volunteer, friends houses etc etc etc. They tell us about those places and what they do there - who they meet etc. They share the rhythm of their life and we pray for them along the way or at the end. I've written about these here, here and here.

Week 2 - Reflective Night - These nights will be more reflective in nature and led by a different person each time - or perhaps a few people together. They could range from simple nights reflecting upon an image, verse, quote to using reflections/meditations that we've done before like Examen, Lectio divina etc. They might be individualistic or corporate. Really depends on who is leading and what they feel they'd like to lead us in.

Week 3 - Bible Focus - again this could cover a range of things from a bible study, to a 'Godly Play' exercise to some teaching etc. It might focus on a passage or be more of a topical survey of different passages.

Week 4 - Vision/Logistics/Review/Planning nights - From time to time I've been aware that we probably are not putting enough time into thinking through our direction and being intentional about what we do. I don't want to become overly rigid but perhaps from time to time it might not hurt to be a little strategic and to think through direction. These nights might be anything from thinking through an issue of 'giving' or 'how do we multiply/grow' through to planning topics/themes for the next term through to talking about the nitty gritty of our food roster, micro groups etc. These nights could also include having some guests from other communities come and share how they do things.

Week 5 - Real Life Spirituality - from time to time we have done nights that simply give each other opportunity to talk about what has been going on for them in terms of their 3 journeys. Particularly we've focused upon our 'outer' journey in these times and shared about the opportunities we've had to join with God in what he's doing in the world around us. Maybe we could also make these nights a 'BYO worship' night where everyone is invited to bring something for the group - whether it be a story of their week, a short reflection, a short reading/bible focus, etc. Its an opportunity for us to each listen to what God might want us to bring to the group in a very informal way.

Week 6 - Topical Night - We've done a few of these over the two years and they have ranged from hypothetical topics through to topics like Food and spirituality, to Refugee issues, to sexuality etc. They could be a range of formats from visiting a debate/event on an issue to someone doing some teaching/bible study through to a guest speaker. Again the topics would depend upon the person putting up their hand to run them and the desires of the group.

Week 7 - Mission and the Outer Journey - These nights are more focused upon the Outer Journey of mission, justice and the world we live in. They might range from actually going out and engaging in some activity in the community around us, to a guest from another faith journey, to a sharing night on what God's doing around us in this area, to some learning/study/teaching on the area.

The 7 weeks might seem a little rigid but they are not intended to box us but rather to stimulate our thinking and help us to be intentional in cycling through the values that we've identified as a group.

We've done some planning on the first 7 weeks and each of them have been allocated to a different person to lead. I'm really looking forward to seeing how they unfold and go.

Hopes and Dreams for the Emerging Church

4 February, 2005 12:33 AM

The other Darren just posted a private conversation that I had with him on MSN....umarrrrr!!!! (will have to watch what I say in future)... But its ok because I was about to post it myself...

I said a couple of days ago that I was preparing a presentation (its sort of a job interview) on Emerging Church and Denominations. I'm still working on that (and would value any insights that you might have) - but the other part of the presentation is on 'What is your Dream for the Emerging church?'

The other Darren answered the question by saying:

'that it stops hiding behind the emerging label and takes on the reality that it is The Church'

That is an answer that resonates with me. Its actually something I've been pondering all day as I've done a bit of preparation for my presentation. I agree with Darren. Whilst I don't mind the term EC (and think its useful to have a term to describe what is happening) I have worried about its continued and constant use (I'm as guilty as the next person) in the past few months/years.

My worry with the term is that in continuing to distinguish what we do as 'Emerging/Emergent/Organic/Simple/Liquid/New/Post Modern...(insert favorite term here)' that we might actually be setting ourselves up for a fall.

Don't get me wrong - I think there definitely is something going on in the lives of individuals, communities and even denominations around the world, something is 'emerging' - but in defining ourselves constantly in this way I wonder if we alienate ourselves from the rest of the Body of Christ that we are called to be. I've heard an increased amount of rumblings about the EC in the local scene here in Melbourne recently and wonder if some of it comes as a result of us setting ourselves up as somewhat different or separate from the Church.

I'm not suggesting that we don't use the word any more - but rather I'm feeling a growing urge to build relationships with the wider Church community and to be more aware of the consequences of our choice of language and labels.

My dream or hope is not for the Emerging Church - rather it is for the Church. I'll leave it at that for the moment (stay tuned for the rest of my presentation next week) but that is where I'm going to start. I can't wait for the day (and I hope that it will come) where the line between 'Emerging' and 'Mainline' or 'Traditional' church is blurry and where such blurriness doesn't matter.

So what do you think? What do you think about the term Emerging Church? What are your Hopes and Dreams for the EC?

Children in Emerging Church

3 February, 2005 3:01 PM

Barb points to this helpful article on Children and the Emerging Church which I'm going to keep on hand to point people to when I get asked about the topic (every few weeks it seems). It is written by one of my heroes - Neil Cole. He writes:

'In order to have a spontaneous church multiplication movement, we must not confine expansion with controls. For this reason, I dont recommend that there is only one way to take care of kids in a simple church. In fact, we usually give two or three options and let churches decide for themselves. My experience shows, however, that there are better ways than others. Integration in church life has proven more powerful than segregation based on age....'

I think Neil is onto something here - we have 5 kids that come to LivingRoom from time to time and its something that has been on my mind for a while now. We talked again last night in our planning time about the idea of integration with kids and came to a decision that to do a specific kids ministry/Sunday School type thing was not where we were at. Instead for us we want to be very very intentional about our relationships with our kids - love them and make a real effort to engage them over our meal and community time. We make a conscious effort to do all age friendly activities from time to time but at other times are fine with the idea of the kids going off by themselves to have a play and be themselves with one another while we do what we do. One of the insightful comments a parent made last night was that if we work on the relationship that the kids will want to stay with us, even when we 'talk adult' together and that this is probably the best integration we can do.

February Fills Up

1 February, 2005 10:44 PM

The past few days have been pretty busy - February is looking full. I'm currently thinking along a few trains of thought and getting ready for a couple of fun events including:

- LivingRoom gatherings for 2005. Tomorrow night we're meeting to talk about how we're going to operate and what sorts of topics we might want to cover in the year ahead. I'm suggesting to the group that we move to a bit of cycle of different types of nights - perhaps a 6 week cycle that I've been putting together. I'll post more about this if and when we make that kind of decision.

- Emerging Church and Denominations - I'm working on a presentation on the Emerging Church and Denominations and how they might work together. Again - I'd be happy to share what I come up with but would also be interested in your opinions on whether you see a see a future of mainline denominations and the EC in relationship together and if so what it might look like.

- Liquid Conference - I'm involved in the Taste of Liquid conference that is happening here in Melbourne on Wednesday 9th February. Any of you Melbourne people would be more than welcome to come along.

- Forge - At Forge we're gearing up for the first intensive of the year. We still have some places for the public part of the intensive between Friday 18 (PM) to Sunday 20 February. If you come you'll hear Mike Frost, Alan and Deb Hirsch, Mark Sayers and more. Let me know if you want more information on this.