Emerging Church Archives

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Mirror of Erised

17 May, 2003 10:28 PM

The past 24 hours has been a big one for movies. Yesterday I saw Matrix Reloaded with Luke. Today V and I saw Whale Rider and tonight we decided to get out Harry Potter — Philosophers Stone. I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by it all — each movie was rich with symbolism, meaning and rich imagery. A lot can be and has been said about each already. In each the theme of love emerged for me. In each there is a leader depicted who is both very human but also one who is able to rise above their situation to be a part of redeeming their people in some way.

The imagery of the 'Mirror of Erised' in Harry Potter has staying with me tonight. For those who've not seen it there is a mirror that shows the greatest desire of the person who gazes into it. Harry sees himself with his dead parents alive in it. His friend sees himself as head prefect. Harry finds how wonderful it is to gaze into his greatest desires in the mirror but is warned that many have wasted away as they gazed into it and have been unable to pull themselves away from its reflection. People mesmerised by their dreams.

As I watched I found myself wondering what I would see if I stood in front of such a mirror. I was surprised to find myself wondering if perhaps those of us who blog about emerging church could be gazing into a such a mirror. I wonder if in the process of our reading the latest books, going to the latest conferences, blogging our latest theories whether perhaps we actually can become mesmerised by the idea of a reformed church. Is one of the temptations to be too busy talking the talk to walk the walk?

I don't want to presume to accuse anyone — but rather tonight ask the question of myself. I strongly believe there is a time and place to dream, investigate, hypothesise, but I wonder if we can over do it. What do you think?

Size doesn't matter...its what you do with it that counts!

16 May, 2003 9:50 AM

Size doesn't matter...its what you do with it that counts!

Last night I was reading our state denominational magazine/paper and noticed an article and an advertisement for a conference, both focusing upon Large Churches. The article, entitled 'In Celebration of the Large Church: Part 1 (written by our denominations president who is senior minister of one of our largest churches) lists four ways that large churches can help the whole denomination family.

His four points were

1. Large churches can afford to risk and fail. (so they should take more risks and we can all learn from their lessons)
2. Large churches can lift moral. (of other churches around them)
3. Large churches can be 'used'. (under this he talked about how often families utilise such churches youth programs when in times of need)
4. Large churches can put the denomination on the community map.

I found the article interesting and look forward to the second instalment. I appreciate his statement also that he doesn't want to exclude smaller churches....however I wonder if there might be a follow up article on what small churches can offer the denomination? As I've written previously, I think that there is a place for churches of many shapes and sizes in the world we find ourselves in at the moment. There are strengths and weaknesses that are unique to the full spectrum of sizes of congregations.

I explored some of these in a book review I wrote last year which is published here. It was interesting to see the variety of comments that the review generated - the debate is still going months after it was posted.

Anyway, if you were to write a follow up article looking at what small churches have to offer, what would your points be???

Church Building Amnesty

13 May, 2003 2:23 PM

A few years ago our national government held a gun amnesty where people brought their illegal firearms to local police stations to hand in. They could not be charged with possessing illegal weapons as long as they handed them in. In some cases the government even paid for these weapons in a 'buy back' scheme.

In continuing my last posts thread of conversation - I want to suggest that maybe its time for a Church Building Amnesty!!! Maybe I'm getting a little carried away....in fact there is no 'maybe about it'....but perhaps if churches who were not utilising their buildings well would all sell their buildings then we could get on with the Great Commission in earnest!

I know its laughable, I know I'm 'dreamin', I know its stupid, but imagine if it actually did happen. If for some reason the government decreed that churches were not allowed to own buildings any more and that they should all be sold!

How would we operate...what would happen...what would YOU put the money that would come in into?? How would you spend it? Not asking a rhetorical question here....tell me what you'd do!

Church Buildings

13 May, 2003 2:14 PM

This morning three of us spent a couple of hours delivering brochures and posters for the upcoming Postcards from California day we're holding. We got around to about 10 or so eastern suburban churches, a bible college and Christian book store. It was a fun morning with the guys, but also quite interesting to get a snap shot of Church in the East of Melbourne.

One of the main things that struck me was the vast amount of dollars that must be tied up in buildings in our city (and around the world). Five of the churches we dropped by were either undergoing or contemplating multi million dollar building redevelopments and most occupied prime real estate. However in every case except for two we came across virtually empty buildings, occupied only by office staff and ministry team members.

I sometimes wonder about the way we as 'the church' spends its money. Jesus told parables about wisely investing the things we've been given. His point seemed to be to invest in things that bring about multiplication of the harvest.

I have no doubt that the church building projects we saw today all would say that 'mission' is part of the reason for their upgrading their facilities - however I wonder if there is another way?

What impact would tens of millions of dollars have upon our nation if it were channelled into other avenues? What if rather than building mega churches we funded community development programs, working with fringe minority groups? Or what if we invested in experimental mission programs by setting up gallery spaces? Or what if we funnelled the money into caring for third world victims of Aids or people in our communities struggling with abuse? What if we were not so obsessed with building bigger and better buildings and were able to free up some cash for connecting with people in the places we live, work and socialise?

What do you think?

Postcards from the Edge

12 May, 2003 1:38 PM


For those of you in Melbourne - an upcoming event from Forge and Phuture.

Spend a day with John Jenson.

John is a veteran emerging churcher (he's been a part of planting 6 so far), who has shared the gospel amongst various fringe cultures artist, punk rock, and no rules fighters. He currently runs a community in pomona california called the breakfast club and is a artist, father and professional no rules fighter as well as being a minster.

The Details:
Where: Balwyn Baptist Church - 517 Whitehorse Rd, Balwyn (Melbourne)
When: Saturday 14 June, 10am to 4pm
Cost: $20 pre register or $25 on the day
Registeration and Enquiries: Email Julie

John is an amazing guy who will leave you thinking....did we mention he's a professional no rules fighter...that he used to be a bull fighter....good preparation for church planting I guess! Come and hear him speak!


8 May, 2003 8:23 AM

Rachel is asking for your questions.... No not questions about her, but questions to ask three people around the topic of 'why they left the church'. Leave your questions in her comments.....there are some good ones there...if I do say so myself!

The Testosteroneless Church II

3 May, 2003 11:10 AM

There have been some really interesting comments posted on my previous post on the disappearing of Males in many churches.

I've been wondering if perhaps part of the problem for the declining number of guys in church might be the types of activities that many churches ask its participants to take part in.

Not many guys that I know feel that comfortable getting together to sing some songs, listen to an expert tell them how to live their life and then to get together with a small group of others where they'll sit in a circle and share their inner most feelings. In fact I can't think of any three activities that would alienate an Aussie guy further than those three!

In my experience guys are willing to talk about faith issues and even share what's happening in their lives, but often this happens best while they are doing some other activity. Some of the best conversations I've had with guys is while playing pool, or at the football while watching the game or in the gym during a workout. Perhaps the passivity of church takes some men into an uncomfortable zone.

I wonder what would happen if churches started to experiment with church around shared active experiences. Golf, wood working, gym, jogging, football, video editing, beer drinking, pool, auto workshop....just to name a few.

I'm not sure about all this, but as I've said before, we've got to grapple with it. Thoughts anyone?

'New' Evangelism

1 May, 2003 5:19 PM

While I was away in Tassie last week I blogged this (although had no way of posting it without online access....so here it tis)

I logged onto the blog from the dodgy internet cafe today and had a very quick look a peek at what a few of my favourite bloggers were doing. I started at the top of my blog roll as I usually do with Rich who was blogging about new forms of evangelism. It's a really interesting topic — one that I've been thinking a lot about this holiday for some reason.

Darren and Corrie from Third Place communities (as blogged about previously here)told us of a missional experiment that they are doing as they do the Ignition course (which is selling well....get your copy here...sorry...shameless plug).

Anyway they have committed with another Christian couple to have a dinner party every Wednesday night for three months. It didn't sound like too lavish a deal (they keep it simple) but every week they invite at least two other people to eat with them. The people they invite are 'non churched types' — but people that they want to build relationships with. They don't invite the same people every week and they invite them over with no manipulative ulterior motives to bash their guests over the head with the gospel. It is a relationship building activity where they share their lives with one another and in the process live out the gospel.

To me this is evangelism — I'm not sure it's a 'new' approach as such — sounds like what my parents have been doing for thirty years actually — but I suspect this is a worthwhile approach to evangelism.

Church: R & D funding needed

30 April, 2003 1:18 PM

Karen's Post really moved me today as she reflected on the current state of the Church and the lack of committment of many mainline denominations to R & D. In part she writes:

we have basically lost any significant influence over my generation (x) and are well on our way to losing any significant influence over the younger generation (y), but nobody seems concerned enough to allocate a workable amount of 'r and d' (research and development) funds toward 'missional lab' churches that are at least attempting to bridge this huge gap. and so, the gap just widens and widens ... and after the boomers are gone, the gap will become a full fledged 'temporal rift'.if the church were a business, we would have gone under years ago, as corporations have significant budgets for 'r and d' to stay on game and incubate new ideas (as innovation and movement come from the edges and move slowly into the center (and not the other way round)).

Maybe there is someone out there who wants to invest in some R & D - I'm sure Karen would love to chat to you!

The Testosteroneless Church

30 April, 2003 12:11 PM

Last night at Living Room our normal wonderful crew were all in attendance. I'm really enjoying getting to know each other more. I revealed an embarrassing secret or two, we tackled the topic of 'community' (more on that later) and we prayed for Rob who is embarking on a 4 week trip for his work.

Rob's departure leaves me as the sole male in our little church!

Whilst many 'one liners' come to mind... and it will be a fun month... its a strangely familiar feeling.

For the past three years I've become more and more aware that the male representation in churches in Australia seems to be on the decline. The stats seem to back it up with only 39% of church attendees being male in 2001. Is this just an Aussie thing???

This can partly be explained by women living longer than men, but the stats show that there are more females than males in every age group. I don't have the statistics at hand, but I've heard that the gap between male and female church attendees is growing and that within the next couple of decades some experts are predicting women will outnumber men 90% to 10%!

This article suggests some theories on why there is such a difference. They suggest:

- Differences in the ways boys and girls are socialised affect their church involvement.

- Australian men are more likely to reject authority structures such as the church.

- Men are more emotionally inhibited than women. Consequently, this theory would suggest that men are daunted by structures in church life which promote intimacy (eg small groups).

- Women are more likely to seek to instil moral values in their children as part of their role as child-rearers. Women not only look to the church to provide religious education for their children but also attend church in order to be good role models.

- Women get social status in church that is denied elsewhere.

- Men are more likely to be in full-time work and to get their self-esteem from work. Work provides an alternative sense of purpose, community, identity and interests. It has been shown that in Australia women engaged in full-time work have the same low church attendance levels as men in full-time work.

Personally I think its a pretty important question to be getting to the bottom of as it has some substantial consequences for both Christian men and women in the future. It will impact church leadership, mission, worship, sexuality and marriage choices just to name a few things.

I've got my own theories....but before sharing them am wondering what others think???

Experiential Worship

30 April, 2003 10:24 AM

New Article at Phuture by Bill Carroll entitled What Experiential Worship Looks Like (Part 2)

Diddle Question

29 April, 2003 3:30 PM

My friend 'Diddle' left this question in the last posts comments - thought I'd post it for all to see (with his permission) as I think its a good one. Lets have a discussion!!!

"The church I go to is reasonably modern and fits the traditional model of church - we have 3 services on Sundays, sing predominately choruses, have a sermon each week, the occasional drama, have a mid-week bible study, and lots of young people, etc.

We hear a lot about emerging, experimental churches - held in cafe's, some in pubs, some don't have any singing, some are small groups based, some don't call themselves 'church', etc etc.

The new style of emerging church is one to which I'd feel a lot more comfortable inviting a friend.

What I'm interested in, is whether there's a 'gap' which exists between the traditional model of church, and what these emerging churches provide.

Are some people attending 'emerging' churches missing out on solid bible teaching in order to provide a non-threatening environment for non-Christians?

Has anyone attended one of these churches noticed a difference in their relationship with God over time? Positive or negative?

Please look over any generalisations here - I realise there are probably models out there which are very close to how Jesus intended church to be run.

Hobart Emerging Church

28 April, 2003 8:35 PM

While we were in Hobart (Tasmania) we caught up with a couple of local church planters — Darryn and Corrie who are part of the team at 'Third Place Communities' . They are thinking along really similar lines to what we're doing with Living Room — except that they are about 2 years down the track from where we're at and have established a sizable core of people.

They showed us through the premises that they rent in Hobart's CBD which they use for their gatherings and as a base to connect with their community. Its an old restaurant that they've painted up and furnished with an assortment of funky 70's couches, stools and cushions. Its got a bit of a nightclub feel — but its not quite as dark and dingy as that. They are in the process of getting a liquor licence and hope to be able to use the venue for an array of purposes ranging from Art Exhibitions, to Jazz nights, to kids programs, to lectures of philosophy etc.

I was really impressed with their set up and vision. Rather than growing one really large community they are hoping to start numerous smaller ones that connect with different subcultures throughout Hobart.

Easter Thursday night they had a 'midnight mass' which they had a good turnout to — the next day they had a 'Good Friday' party which over 70 attended (quite a few from the local community) and Sunday they go to their local pub (as they do every Sunday) to connect with the locals. I'm struck not only by their creativity but also by their strong outward focus and commitment to mission.

Will blog more on these guys soon.

Boxable Church

27 April, 2003 10:54 PM

Over at Stinky Convoluted Past Steve posts this

" i love the scientific mind. "is it a house church?" ask those who are aware that i am experimenting again. "well, i guess so, we meet in our homes occassionally and have dinner, conversations and pray together, but we also meet in the local pub too". "oh, so you're a pub church then?" again, curiosity. "well, as you have already pointed out we meet in our homes as well, but in addition to our houses and some local pubs, a few of us meet in a couple of cafe's around the area too.' "so you're a cafe church then?" "well, like i already said, you could say that but we meet in a variety of places".

here's my confusion, why when a church meets in a purpose built building it is simply referred to as a church, yet when we meet anywhere else, it is referred to as a "place of meeting" church? i might start asking traditional church goers, "so are you guys a church building church?"

I think I've had virtually the same conversation as Steve at least 30-40 times in the past couple of months....glad I'm not alone.


27 April, 2003 10:31 PM

We didn't end up going to the movies - instead we got a Amelie out on DVD. What an amazing movie - I remember watching it the first time and realising that I was not only seeing a fun tale depicted with incredibly rich visuals and innovative use of technology - but also I was seeing something 'new'. I still can't put my finger on it completely but it struck me as being a new form of communication. Whilst I've never fully grasped the idea of post modernity.... has anyone?? can anyone...or would that be 'Unpost modern in and of itself... (I've had similar thoughts to Rachel here) I did come out of the cinema feeling as though I'd seen something 'pomo'.

Anyway - I really enjoyed te movie again - a great birthday flick.

Youth Ministry

27 April, 2003 11:52 AM

Jordon posted on the 'failure of youth ministry'...It got me thinking, I left this comment.

I've been thinking about this for a while now. As an ex youth pastor I actually found it pretty easy to have a vibrant youth ministry. The hard bit was keeping them involved in the church when they turned 18.

I think the church does reasonably well at engaging relevantly with young people, well here in Australia they do. We research culture, we understand their generation, we are creative and innovative, we are missional, we meet them where they are at, we tackle relevant issues that they are facing....but then when they become 'adults' we tell them its time to go to 'big people's church' which more often than not is boring, culturally irrelevant in its 'method', very uncreative and not understanding of their culture. Its no wonder than 18-30 year olds are haemorrhaging from the church in unparalleled numbers!

My Easter - Part Two

22 April, 2003 2:49 PM

On Saturday morning Nomes and Chrissy went off to do the Melbourne shopping thing. The usual spots including Bridge Rd, Smith St and Brunswick St. The shopping culture is never one I could get into. It has a place in life I know and picking up some bargain clothes is no sin as such. But I must confess to becoming more sceptical about retailing. In its modern expression I just wonder where God is in it. Which for me is a big statement as I am passionate about discovering God in the everyday.

Like many others I have been reading 'No Logo' by Naomi Klein. It is part of my desire to unpack the social activist dimension of my faith that for too long has been restricted or minimised by my own background and conservative evangelicalism or at least my version of it. This is also the other side of the incarnation pendulum. While we identify with the cultural context, there are values that we hold dear and which mark us out within that context. For example, we do not define ourselves by the material. We are willing to take a stand against global brands that utilise sweatshops through Asia to minimise wages and operating costs and yet pour enormous resources into branding and marketing strategies and so on.

On Saturday night we took Nomes to a football game. In Melbourne we call this Aussie Rules or AFL. I had picked the game intentionally out of the weekend options. It was the ultimate battler team - the Western Bulldogs against the well-resourced, marketed and and successful Essendon. Our general admission seats were upgraded for some reason to reserved seats some 4 rows back behind the goals, right amongst the Bulldog diehards. Now this was a mission awareness exercise in the making. There was a guy behind us who made Chopper Reed look angelic. He had a huge tattoo highlighting his team. Now the other supporters were as earthy as you can get and the tirade of abuse directed against the opposition players was certainly nothing for the faint-hearted. Yet there was a real sense of togetherness and tribalism among them. They had a language, dress-code and cultural mores of their own.

How would you do mission? Extractionist mission paradigms might distribute "Jesus the Battler" tracks and invite the tribe to a Sunday night seeker service featuring former footballers who had converted to Christianity. They would be invited to receive Christ and become part of the Church. Would it work? Would a Jesus movement that both reflects and transforms this subculture take hold? Would they stay?

Incarnational mission would take the risk of becoming. Form a team. Join the tribe. Learn the culture. Adopt all that one can within the ethical restraints of the gospel. Love the focus group unconditionally. Find a person of peace. Share contextually. Mentor that new believer in remaining within the cultural group and explore shapes for 'communion, community and commission' that are from within the culture and yet consistent with the biblical witness. In other words, start the process of movement-making! Would it work? Would a Jesus movement that both reflects and transforms this subculture take hold? Would they stay?

Beyond Extraction

17 April, 2003 3:28 PM

Did you know that in Kazakstan be known as a �Muslim� identifies one with the Kazak community but to be �Christian� identifies one with the Russian community. The questions, �Who are you?� or �What is your religion?� relate to the issue of which community do you belong.

Many of us have a familiarity and a comfort with the concept of Jews who follow Jesus. The early believers retained their identity as Jews and continued to worship in the temple courts (Acts 2:46). They were part and parcel of the Jewish community but had encountered Jesus. There was never any issue of them retaining their Jewishness from Paul or others. If asked �what was their religion?� they would have in all probability have answered �We are Jews!�

Yet there remains a complete misunderstanding of this position by so many modern-day believers. To cease to call oneself Muslim in many contexts would be to say to others I have abandoned this community. This is not our desired outcome. Our desire is that people from within the community of Muslims are ardent followers of Jesus and relate effectively to their community. Well that is mine anyway.

One issue that emerges here is how broadly can this principle apply?
Living Room is focused on the inner north of Melbourne. The area abounds with people who would identify themselves with a community of social and environment action, a community of alternative spirituality or a community of diversity in culture and music. To identify themselves with a Christian community that has a global reputation, rightly or wrongly, as often belittling these things is a major social barrier.

Is our mandate to have these people switch their community of identification? Did Jesus want Jews to cease being Jews? Did Paul want Gentiles to change their community identification to Jewish? No way! Paul in fact was very clear in his instruction to new believers to remain part of the community of which they were part of. (1 Corinthians 7:17-24)

In mission contexts I have a belief that the term �Christian� is often unhelpful to the cause of mission and even unbiblical. I cannot see any compulsion upon us biblically to label ourselves as Christians nor to compel new believers to do the same. Why would we allow them to loose connection with their natural communities and so minimise the potential for transforming Christ movements within them? That is not my calling.

Brand New Mission/Emerging Church Resource!

4 April, 2003 5:19 PM

I have great pleasure to announce that a great new resource from the people behind Phuture (who I do some work for) is now available for online shop you can purchase a variety of different types of licences — the smallest is for one copy for personal use (US$15)— then there are different ones enabling you to copy more depending on how many people want to use it which are even more economical. We rely your honesty in picking the right licence - profits from sales go straight back into mission so your money goes to a worthwhile cause. Even at $15 its good value at only $1.25 over the 12 weeks!

If you're interested there is a FREE TRY option on the site which gives you a look at the first three weeks and the topics that the course covers.

Anyway — I won't be nagging you about it too much — but rather I hope that its of some use to you. Feel free to pass the info along to anyone that you think might find it of use. If you need more info shoot me an email! If you're in Australia and want a hard copy sent to you let me know too!

Todd Rants

29 March, 2003 8:30 AM

Todd Hunter has 'ranted' for the first time ever in response to a pastor expressing concerns about him 'reimagining God'. Here is a snippet of what he 'rants':

"First, I've never talked or written about re-imaging God. I've talked AND WILL CONINUE to talk about re-imaging the church and what it actually means to be a Christian. I am not ashamed about trying to align my life with the aims of God with regard to his desire for an obedient people who would live in his Story as the ambassadors of his Kingdom. If this makes me dangerous, "unbiblical and questionable", then bring it on! "

I think Todd should rant more often.

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