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The State of the God Blogging Community?

17 October, 2005 2:33 PM

A number of fellow bloggers have emailed me this past couple of weeks to ask if I'm going to the God Blog conference.

To be honest I didn't really consider it for a couple of reasons - Firstly it's been a question of Expense Distance and Time - I'm not critiquing the conference - it has to be held somewhere but wherever it is the distance makes it hard for some bloggers. For me I couldn't justify the expense or time away from other priorities to go.

Secondly I have been pondering the question 'Am I a 'God Blogger?'

This blog (LivingRoom) has become less of a focus for me of late for many reasons including a lack of time, many other competing projects needing time, a maturing of the LivingRoom community (we're probably not in such a phase of learning/development now so there is less to share) and (if I'm honest) a frustration with where I saw the 'God Blog' community as going.

I don't want to write this as an attack upon those who identify themselves as God Bloggers - but after a couple of years of heavy participation in the God Blog scene I began to grow increasingly frustrated with it. I met many wonderful Christian bloggers along the way and learned a lot about blogging, faith and relationships through it - but I also saw a lot that concerned me including:

- attack - I saw some of the most vicious and personal attacks on people that I've ever experienced in online forums. Having spent the last year blogging in the wider blogging community I can honestly say that while there is bickering across the whole blogosphere - that what I saw in the 'Christian blogging community' was often at the more vicious end of the spectrum. At times (and especially in the first year) I found myself being drawn into this negativity at times (something I'm not proud of) and at times found the God Blog community took more life than it gave.

- insular focus - Something that I wrote about many times on this blog was the insular nature of the 'God Blog Community'. I saw some amazing and rich discussion on many occasions (I don't want to paint it as all bad - it wasn't by any means) yet I saw a distinct lack of Christian bloggers engaging with the wider blogging community. I think I used the term 'holy huddle' on many occasions in my critique of the Christian blogging community - on reflection I'm not sure if my critique was completely fair. I do see the need for 'holy huddles' from time to time - I think it's a biblical thing to gather with fellow believers for worship, learning and encouragement - however I also see a call for action/engagement/mission/justice. These were things that I felt a distinct lack of of within the Christian blogging community.

At LivingRoom we have three core values/journeys - inner journey (worship, prayer - spiritual formation), outer journey (mission, justice, service) and together journey (community, fellowship etc). If I was to 'review' the God Blog community as it stood a year ago I would have rated it pretty highly on the 'inner' and 'together' journeys (although as I've written above there was also a lot of disunity) but I would have been forced to rate it pretty low on the 'outer' journey.

It was this area of lacking that was probably largely the reason that I've slowly withdrawn from active participation in the 'God Blog' community and an increased involvement in the wider blogging world.

I have been amazed by what I've found as I've undergone this transition. I don't wish to discuss all of these lessons and experiences here in a public forum (because much of it has to do with individuals who I have had opportunity to build wonderful and personal relationships with) however I will say that in the past 12 months of blogging outside of (or less connected with) 'God Blog' circles I've found and experienced God working in some pretty profound ways. I've also seen God's invitation to join him in his work both in the lives of individuals but also on a larger scale.

I'm also really encouraged to see quite a few Christian bloggers exploring similar things - some of whom have in the past (and even continue) to participate in 'God Blogging' but many of who have widened their focus.

I'm not sure this has been one of my more articulate posts - I've been considering writing it for months but have hesitated for fear of it being seen as a critique - but I guess I'm interested to see if anyone else has been pondering any of these things. Perhaps the God Blogging community has changed in the last 12 months since I've pulled back - I hope it has - but I'd be keen to hear of how others view the health of the God blogging community? Where is it strong, where is it in need of growth and how has it been changing and growing?


29 September, 2005 11:27 PM

Matt Glover has started a series of posts over at his blog on the topic of Manhood. He's working through a book by Steve Biddulph called Manhood.

It starts with a post titled 'The Problem' (I can just imagine what fun some will have with a title like that on the topic of Manhood..... but I digress.

His second post is Seven Steps to Manhood.

Looks like an interesting series to follow.

Meet Steve Addison

31 May, 2005 6:02 PM

As part of my current research position I get to interview all kinds of interesting emerging church, missional church, church planting, denominational type people. Today my colleague and I went and spent some time with Steve Addison.

Steve is an insightful fellow that I've heard speak on a number of occasions on the topics of 'movements' and 'church planting'. I've always found him to be someone with something helpful to say. Today was no different as he brought together in a concise and productive way some of the messages I'd been hearing in my research.

After our interview I found out that Steve recently started a blog. So now you can share in his wisdom also.

Recent posts include:

I know that many of the readers of this blog will find Steve's insights helpful and strongly recommend you stopping by to say hi.

Spam Evangelism

26 April, 2005 2:45 PM

The past few days I've been getting random invitations to group instant messaging conversations on my MSN Messenger. I'll be happily blogging away when suddenly a window opens up with a group conversation going on with 10 or so others. They have been a pretty friendly group who randomly invite people to join their conversations which range from the gross, to the deep to the disturbing. My initial reaction to them was not a positive one but I decided to try and be a little gracious and hang around the other day to see what they were doing.

I was particularly interested in how others reacted to the invitations to the chat. You see I was not the only person to get an invite - they were constantly inviting people to join in and on the whole the reactions from those dragged into this conversation ranged from the mild displeasure to outright outrage. It seems people don't like like being approached by strangers randomly on the internet - in some ways what these MSN chatters were doing was SPAM.

I watched this cycle of invitation, attempt to engage and rejection over and over again. As I worked I left the window open and I saw the same process repeated many times. Only occasionally would anyone stay for a chat (perhaps 5% or less) - even when they did they didn't usually last long and probably stayed more out of curiosity than anything.

As I watched the cycle repeat itself - seeing angry people leave the conversation every minute or so I found myself remembering a similar cycle in real life. It was a couple of years ago when I was in the CBD of Melbourne waiting for a friend to go see a movie. I was sitting on a bench on a busy city street/outdoor mall. I was early (as usual) and settled in for a 20 minutes of people watching (one of my favorite hobbies).

It was lunch time and a lovely day so the mall was busy and people were milling about. One person caught my attention the most - he was a middle aged guy who had strategically stationed himself on a street corner where he had a prime view of those coming towards him from a number of directions. He systematically scanned the crowd as people walked towards him and after spotting a target would shuffle across to them and put himself directly in their path.

Whilst I couldn't hear the conversations I could tell from the body language that this guy was selling something. He interrupted the person's journey - making it very difficult for them to continue - attempted to engage the with words (and a pamphlet). The person usually looked very defensive and quite annoyed, usually trying to physically edge around the guy - sometimes they simply side stepped him and continued on but often they were forced to stop and listen to his sales pitch.

Very few stayed with him for more than 10 seconds - the majority of them left obviously angry or with more negative body language than when they'd first been approached. The cycle was the same as the MSN conversation I was observing - interruption, invitation, rejection, anger - with only a tiny proportion of those 'interrupted' responding and most leaving angry.

Of course the guy doing the selling was, on closer investigation, a Christian doing evangelism.

In a sense I came away from my observation of his style feeling I'd just watched a Spammer at work.

Whilst I don't doubt the earnestness of the heart of this guy I wondered at the overall impact that his strategy was having - was the Kingdom of God brought about in any fuller way through his efforts? I certainly hope so - however I wonder if the fruits of his labors left more people further from the Gospel than close to it.

It's easy to pick on Spam Evangelists like this guy - but as I pondered his actions I wonder if more of us are guilty of it than we might think - in more subtle ways.

Evangelism training these days talks more about 'relationship or friendship evangelism' but I still wonder as I flick through the books on the topic if there is something a little manipulative about the process. Is befriending someone because we'd like to see them converted just a slightly more subtle way of doing what our Evangelism spammer was doing?

I agree its probably more of an effective way of doing it - but something about the process leaves me feeling like its still manipulation - an interruption - with ulterior motives.

I'll be honest with you - I haven't worked out a nice answer to these feelings and hunches that I get. I take seriously the call to make disciples - but I wonder whether there is another way?

These are half finished thoughts - interested in others experiences and ideas.

Spirited entrepreneurship

25 April, 2005 7:31 PM

I've just had one of my adapted posts here at LivingRoom adapted and published over at Spero News. The article is titled Spirited entrepreneurship.

In it I talk about my recent grappling with a tension between Ministry and Business. Here's a taster:

'If a disciple is someone who loves God, loves the world they live in and loves their fellow believers; then I can't see why someone exclusively focusing upon doing church based ministry is responding in a more dedicated way than anyone else.

I'm starting to realize that especially when it comes to mission (or loving the world), it can be more advantageous to actually be in business than locked away in church ministry.

I'm not wanting to put down the idea that God calls some to full time, church based ministry. No way. I know many people who I genuinely feel that God has gifted for and called to work with Christians in churches. What I'm describing is a rebalancing in my own mind and life.'

Read more at Spero News | Spirited entrepreneurship

Pope Read his Last Rites

1 April, 2005 8:20 AM

The breaking news is that the Pope has just been read his last rites. Looks like a pretty hard week for our Catholic brothers and sisters.

Update -

Of course in the last few hours the Pope has sadly passed away. I'm tracking the news at the Pope Watch Blog if you want to get the latest news or if you'd like to leave a message, memory or prayer in memory of the Pope.

Postcards from the Corporate World

23 March, 2005 1:36 PM

Forge CatalystThose of your in Melbourne might be interested in this event being held on 7 April on Business and Spirituality. Check out the blurb below or click the picture to the left to download a short PDF with details.

Christianitys relationship with the business world seems to be tenuous at best. Christians who are not directly involved in some form of local church leadership often feel alienated and experience a profound sense of invalidation insofar as their church experience is concerned. It seems as though Christians who feel alive in business have no place in the church.

How do we move beyond this awkward relationship to a place where Christians in business are connected to their sense of vocation and calling, a sense that their activities in the business sphere could somehow intersect with Gods Kingdom agenda?

Postcards from the Corporate World
is a window into a chaordic network called Catalyst Innovations, a member network of the Forge Mission Training Network. Founded by Paul Steele, Col Duthie in conversation with Alan Hirsch, Catalyst seeks to create a supportive and creative environment that nurtures entrepreneurial business leadership that will hopefully lead to the redemption of one of the most influential spheres we experience, the business world.

Paul Steele and Stephen Said will facilitate the evening. Stephen will be introducing Catalyst, and describing the innovative relationship between Forge and Catalyst, including the entrepreneurial internship run in partnership with Forge. Paul will be facilitating a conversation around the notion of Transformational Business, one of the key concepts at the heart of the Catalyst Network, and a source of liberation for many Christians in business.

DATE: Thursday April 7 th
WHERE: Retro Cafe 413 Brunswick Street Fitzroy (upstairs)
TIME: 7.30pm - 9pm or come at 6.30pm for dinner (cafe prices) COST: $10 for students and $15 for workers
MORE INFO: Contact me

Who was Jesus?

23 March, 2005 9:34 AM

B Black JesusB CatacombB CheB Cosmas Damian ChristB Jesus Nazareth239444 1657B Window 2Shout

Who was Jesus?

He began His ministry by being hungry, yet He is the Bread of Life.
Jesus ended His earthly ministry by being thirsty, yet He is the Living Water.
Jesus was weary, yet He is our rest.
Jesus paid tribute, yet He is the King.
Jesus was accused of having a demon, yet He cast out demons.
Jesus wept, yet He wipes away our tears.
Jesus was sold for thirty pieces of silver, yet He redeemed the world.
Jesus was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, yet He is the Good Shepherd.
Jesus died, yet by His death He destroyed the power of death.

Gregory of Nazianzus, A.D. 381

B Rasta 2B GuruB Ethiopian Jesus 2058 Christ PantocratorProofBowJc582B

Festival Victoria?

21 March, 2005 12:53 PM

I've held off on posting about this until the event was over - but today I feel its appropriate to say a few words about it. I hope this doesn't come across as a Rant - but I've been pondering it for a while and wonder if perhaps the Church needs to think through its approach to marketing.... let me explain...

This weekend was 'Festival Victoria' (Victoria is the state I live in).

It sounds like a pretty normal event really - like the 'comedy festival', the 'fashion festival', the 'film festival' - Melbourne has a lot of festivals so 'Festival Victoria' fits in doesn't it.

The question is - what is 'Festival Victoria'?

If you're a semi observant Melbournian you'd have noticed posters plastered all over Melbourne about 'Festival Victoria' for the past few months - there have been radio ads also this past week or so on some of the commercial stations and I suspect there were ads in newspapers and perhaps even on TV. They were all advertising 'Festival Victoria'.

But what is 'Festival Victoria'?

The first ad I saw for it was a poster plastered on the brickwork on the outside of a local cafe with all the other posters there advertising upcoming rock concerts. Right in the middle was an ad for Festival Victoria that advertised a 'Hip Hop' concert with a number of bands. The art work was in red, black and white and it stood out from the posters around it. I didn't take much more notice of the poster than that - not being into Hip Hop.

Then I started seeing ads on the sides of bus stops again in Red and White. With big words like 'IS', 'GET' and 'WHAT' with smaller writing around them advertising Festival Victoria. They had messages on them like 'IS there more to life than this...', 'WHAT if there is life after death?' Underneath these ads was a picture of some guy I didn't recognize who had a name that at first didn't mean anything to me - Franklin Graham. They were promoting some event with music, entertainment and 'featuring Franklin Graham'.

The next I heard about it was on the Radio - a commercial station that plays light rock/pop music. The ad was for 'Festival Victoria' which was an event with bands, famous sports stars (with messages on video clips) and musicians and 'featuring Franklin Graham'. Of course by now I knew what Festival Victoria was because a number of my minister friends had asked me if I was going and had explained that Franklin Graham was actually Billy Graham's son and that the event was a big evangelism weekend - it was a modern day 'Crusade' - a... Festival.

They gave me brochures, pointed me to the website and told me there were ads on the Christian Radio Station advertising it too. I tuned into the Christian radio station to see what they were saying there and heard an ad that was quite different from what was on the commercial stations - it was spelt out much more clearly what the event was - it was something to bring unsaved friends to - there would be preaching, prayer, worship.

I checked out the website and saw similar language being used - 'prayer over Melbourne', 'preaching of the word' etc.

Interesting. I began to ponder the different messages I was hearing and as I did became more and more uncomfortable with was I was seeing and hearing.

Whilst I am totally behind the idea of evangelism and mission - I worry that the marketing and promotion that is being done of this event could be seen as somewhat manipulative and getting people to attend under false pretenses.

As far as I could see on the more public advertising on posters, billboards and radio - there was very little indication that this was a Christian event, that there would be preaching, prayer, worship or a call to faith given. There were a few hints that there might be something a little deeper going on - for instance the radio ad said that the sporting stars appearing on video would tell stories about what they'd found to be helpful for their lives (thats a paraphrase) - but really the statement was open to interpretation.

I mentioned my concerns to one of my minister friends and his defense of the Festival was that it was clear that Franklin Graham was going to be speaking and 'eveyone knows who Franklin Graham is'. The implication was that his name would be enough indication for people to know what the event was about. Of course until someone told me I didn't even know who he was - and I've been hanging out in church for 32 years - I'm not sure any of my non churchy type friends would have any idea.

I questioned the use of the word 'Festival' and was told it was a more relevant word these days than 'Crusade'. I agree - its a more relevant word - but wonder if perhaps its been used to mask what the event really is.

The word Festival does get used a lot in Melbourne - but it usually gets used in conjunction with a word that describes what the event is - 'Film Festival', 'Comedy Festival' to name just two examples. 'Festival Victoria' - what's that say about the event?

Ok - I'm probably sounding like I hate the idea of 'Festival Victoria' by now. I don't - I just have some concerns about the way it was marketed. I know of people who went along and enjoyed it, that took friends who had conversion experiences - I think thats great.

We could probably have a good discussion about the place of event evangelism vs relationship evangelism at this point. I personally don't find the big 'event' style fits with my own experience of evangelism - but do acknowledge that it has its place and has obviously had an impact upon many people over the centuries - however I do have a problem with people showing up to an event thinking that its going to be one thing and finding out when they get there that its another.

How many people showed up to the 'Hip Hop event' expecting a night of 'Hip Hop' only to find that as a special extra they actually get a message from a middle aged (and probably very nice) man from another country telling them about Jesus?

Now I'm not wanting to doubt that God can't move through a middle aged man from another country sharing the gospel to a bunch of hip hoppers (is that what you call hip hop fans?) - but I wonder how transparent and genuine it is. I wonder what the cost of such an approach is on the Hip Hoppers who don't respond to the gospel positively - the one's who go home furious about being sucked in possibly a step further away from Christ when they went to the event?

Again - I'm speaking as someone who is passionate about mission and as someone who didn't attend - but as someone who works among people who are skeptical enough about the Church without having to be exposed to this kind of marketing campaign.

Ok - I'm happy to be put back into line here and have others share opinions and experiences of Festival Victoria - am I a looney for thinking this way?

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.

Lentblog 05

29 January, 2005 12:03 AM

Darren from planet telex has decided this year to run a lent blog to help him reflect upon this special time in the Christian calendar. It looks like a great project that would be worth getting involved with - unless of course you're giving up blogging for lent.....then it might be worth avoiding.

'So, I've decided to spend some time during lent reflecting on a blog and I've invited a number of people to participate in the experience. Many of those I've invited don't already have a blog up and running (yet) but are people who's reflections I'd like to hear during this lenten period. If anyone out there in the blogoverse would like to participate in the Lentblog please let me know by commenting here or emailing me. The Lentblog's theme in work is 'relationships' but can spread further than that if participants would like, I'll provide some bible readings and reflections if people wish during the period to help with kickstarting their reflections.'

Read more at planet telex - Lentblog 05

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

24 January, 2005 8:30 PM

Just spotted this article in Christianity Today, The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience - which examines the difference between what Evangelical Christians believe and how they live their lives:

'Then the pollsters started conducting scientific polls of the general population. In spite of the renewal movement's proud claims to miraculous transformation, the polls showed that members of the movement divorced their spouses just as often as their secular neighbors. They beat their wives as often as their neighbors. They were almost as materialistic and even more racist than their pagan friends. The hard-core skeptics smiled in cynical amusement at this blatant hypocrisy. The general population was puzzled and disgusted. Many of the renewal movement's leaders simply stepped up the tempo of their now enormously successful, highly sophisticated promotional programs. Others wept.

This, alas, is roughly the situation of Western or at least American evangelicalism today.

Scandalous behavior is rapidly destroying American Christianity. By their daily activity, most Christians regularly commit treason. With their mouths they claim that Jesus is Lord, but with their actions they demonstrate allegiance to money, sex, and self-fulfillment.'

Read more at The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

Soul Survivor 05

16 January, 2005 10:34 AM

Have been doing some teaching down at Soul Survivor this weekend and having a good time meeting some pretty passionate young people.

Yesterday we did a session called 'Spiritual Fitness Test 1' today I'm heading back down for part 2.

If you've surfed in from Soul Survivor welcome to my little blog. Some of the pages that you might like to check out that related to my sessions on 'Spiritual Fitness' include:

- Journey Resources
- Living Room Core Journeys

You might also like to check out a series of posts that I did on developing a 'holistic spirituality'. That series gives a bit of a different framework for thinking about your spirituality than what I gave you at Soul Survivor this weekend - but its got a similar vibe to it.

Feel free to say hi below in the comments section - happy for your feedback and comments on the sessions as I'm always looking to improve them. Thanks for stopping by.

Sex Talk available for Download

25 November, 2004 3:02 PM

Regarding Sex
A few of you have emailed to ask for my notes from the Sex talk I did on Sunday. I actually don't use notes - I spoke off a powerpoint (actually it was a 'KeyNote' (mac program) presentation which is a very big file. However if you're interested you can actually download an mp3 version or hear a streamed version of it. Yep - you can actually hear my voice!

I'm a bit hesitant to to put this up as its a touchy topic.

In listening to it - keep in mind:
- that this is a talk mainly for young people
- that there is a powerpoint that fleshes some of it out more with visuals (including some book covers from Amazon, my main points, pictures etc)
- that there was another sermon two weeks before this that I'm building on - it talked a lot more about God, bible etc.
- it contains a few explicit words - I'd recommend this for over 16 year olds. (it is about Sex afterall! Have I now guaranteed you'll download it?)
- it goes for 40 or so minutes and contains periods of discussion that are not picked up by the microphone - you might want to fast forward through parts.

Lets Talk about Sex - Again

17 November, 2004 12:31 PM

I'm still preparing for an upcoming talk about Sex (it is this Sunday).

Thanks to those who have left their tips and encouragement in the previous post - its not too late to have your say.

One of the themes I'm going to be exploring is 'the messages we hear about Sex' in today's culture and in the church. I'm going to break people into age and gender groups to answer some questions including:

- 'Where and from whom did you first hear about sex?'
- 'What are the messages (both positive and negative) that you hear about Sex from Media and your peer group?
- 'What are the messages you hear about Sex from Church?'

I've done the exercise previously in another setting and the feedback time at the end where groups shared their findings were fascinating. Especially of interest was the difference in answers between generational groups.

The other thing that I found interesting from the exercise last time was that the 'messages' about sex from 'culture' were not all negative. In fact when compared to the list of 'messages' that people from Church there was almost an equal proportion of 'positive' and 'negative' messages from each.

So I thought I'd do the exercise here and open this up for discussion in comments. How do you answer the three questions above? If you feel comfortable to let us know your gender, age (approx is fine) and location then that would be helpful too.

Lets Talk about Sex

5 November, 2004 9:25 PM

I'm a little worried - it seems that for some reason the word has gotten out that I'm good at talking about Sex.

Let me qualify that - the word seems to have gotten out that if you want someone to speak to your youth group or young adults - that I'm good at talking about Sex.

In my last church we had a four week series on the topic - we called it 'Sex Fest' (the service was called 'Festival' - hence the 'Fest' part). The service was aimed primarily at 14 to 30 year olds and we had a lot of fun with it. In fact some of what we did bordered on irreverent (it got pretty wacky) but the aim of it was to get people talking about a topic that Church often largely ignores - except when its says 'don't do it'.

'Let's talk about sex, baby
Let's talk about you and me
Let's talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be'

I think churches should take Salt-N-Pepper's advice.

We had a lot of fun, but in the process took a good long look at what our culture says about sex (the truths and lies), what the bible says about it, the realities and pressures that we face with it, some of the health issues etc etc etc

Anyway - since that time I've had calls from a number of people who've heard about it and wanting me to do something similar in their churches/camps/youth groups.

I've got another one in the next week or so and I thought I'd open up the topic for discussion here and ask you if you've seen any creative ways of teaching young people about Sex? Have you seen any good resources? Any ideas or thoughts? Anything goes (well almost). Looking forward to your thoughts and experiences in comments.

Update - here is a starting point that I've already found. It is four MP3s of a record (remember them?) from the 1970's of a Christian educator. They are quite hilarious. Here are the links - its worth the download.

- How Babies are Born
- Girls and Menstruation
- The Problem with Growing Boys
- The Marriage Union

Sonrie: finding Jesus in a pixelized reality -- internet evangelism

25 September, 2004 12:26 PM

Josu from Sonrie emailed me today about a piece he'd written about the internet and evangelism which I've taken a look at and would recommend as a good read. Head over and add your thoughts.

'Should we say that internet is evil? Far from it. Should we burn our computers and go to the mountains? Not yet! We just need to look at the reality (pixelized or not) and face it. We cannot go around the bushes. There is too much at stake.

Not everything new is badit is just different and new. The best-seller printed book is the Bible. Millions of people have turned their lives to God by reading the pages of the Holy Book. However, there are so many evil books on circulation! We dont ban publishing houses, thoughwe choose what we read.

If God had to start the Bible all over again, chances are that He would inspire a group of committed webmasters. The internet is the medium of today as the publishing material was the one of yesterday.'

Read more at Sonrie: finding Jesus in a pixelized reality -- internet evangelism


24 September, 2004 7:34 PM


On Sunday I'm speaking at a church and I've been drawn to the idea of 'Compassion' as a topic. I'm not really sure why - I just can't get it out of my head. I'm particularly drawn to the story in Mark 6:30-44 - the Feeding of the 5000. Taking into consideration the context of this story I'm quite challenged by the response of Jesus to the hoards of people around him that day.

Jesus and his disciples have had a real roller coaster of a ride the previous few chapters - the highs of his calming the storm, healing the paralytic, bleeding woman, the raising of a young girl from the dead but also the lows of his time in Nazareth and the news of the death of John the Baptist.

It is no wonder in Mark 6:30 that Jesus suggests that they get away to a solitary place for a bit to get some rest. I'd be positively exhausted by that point - the introvert that I am - and to be confronted by a crowd of over 5000 at that solitary place would have probably tipped me right over the edge. I'd probably have either curled up in the fetal position and done some rocking back and forwards or just gotten straight back into the boat and kept sailing on. At the very most I would have grudgingly gotten out of the boat to do a few token healings and maybe tell a rote learned sermon - only to disappear immediately after.

I can't imagine 5000 people all showing up to see me - and not just to see me but wanting something from me - its pretty likely that these would have been needy and demanding people - you see thats who seemed to be attracted to Jesus. Some would have been asking for teaching, others healing, others blessings, other a touch, others trying to trick him. Quite honestly (and I'm a bit ashamed to say it) - its my worst nightmare.

But despite his own exhaustion and grief - Jesus reacts a little differently to my imagined reactions - and its his response to the needy hoards that surrounded him that sunny day (ok - I'm taking some poetic license - sunny days are always nicer for picnics).

'When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.' v34.

Compassion - sounds nice doesn't it. Makes one feel all warm and fuzzy. Memories flood my mind of laying sick in bed as a child and mum laying her cool hand on my head to comfort me in my distress. Compassion - nice.

The problem is that the word for compassion in Greek isn't really a nice warm and fuzzy feeling kind of word. 'Splanchna' is the little beast I'm referring to and (there is really no nice way to put this) it seems that the word probably had more to do with bowel movements than anything else. The verse in question could almost be translated:

bowels.jpg''When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, his stomach turned..... his bowels moved..... it was gut wrenching..... he was sick to his stomach....'

The reaction to the lost, bewildered, needy crowd before him that day was gut wrenching for Jesus. He was moved in a very deep - almost physical kind of way. Perhaps today we might say 'his heart ached'. Pretty intense stuff.

And its not just a one off experience for Jesus - it seems that he often has this tummy trouble - he has it when meeting two blind men, a leper, a mother grieving her child, a demon possessed man - to name just a few instances.

Interesting in Colossians 3:12 we see Paul endorses this kind of reaction to those in need around us but saying 'clothe yourself with Compassion'.

Doh! I was hoping this was just the kind of stuff Jesus did and that we could leave it at that. Alas poor Reader we cannot. Clothe yourself with compassion has something of intentionality about it.

I watched my wife prepare for work this morning as I lazed in bed attempting to wake up (I'm a bit slower off the mark than her) and I realized how much effort some people put into clothing themselves. Whilst I tend to just clothe myself with whatever is clean, close to hand and temperature appropriate 'V' has a wonderful way of carefully considering what she puts on.

Sometimes V's 'clothing' process can take 20 minutes (or more) as she lays out an outfit (often more than one) after considering not only the day's weather, but also her days schedule, what she's previously worn to work, the season's colors, matching shoes and accessories, what colleagues are likely to wear etc etc etc (ok, I might be exaggerating slightly - but you get my point - V is quite intentional about the clothing process).

This is the kind of image I have when I hear Paul's call to clothe ourselves in Compassion. Clothes don't just leap on our bodies - we consider what we wear - we have to put them on - its an intentional process. In the same way, something like compassion doesn't just accidently jump into our lives. It takes consideration, effort and intentionality to live in a way that causes your stomach to turn.

So how do we 'put on compassion' anyway? This is the question I've been pondering today. You see I think I'm a compassionate kind of guy most of the time. I feel a bit of a stomach flip when I watch the world news. I've written my fair share of cheques to a wide range of charities - I've even got a sponsor child! Hmmm....

Let me share four aspects of the way I see Jesus interacting with people that make me wonder if I really have any idea at all what compassion is.

1. Jesus went to places where he would encounter people with real needs. Strange how he kept bumping into the blind, paralyzed, leprer and dead. It hit me today that whilst perhaps there was a higher incidence of people with these types of afflictions in Jesus day that these were not the kind of people who are that mobile. Without wanting to make light of their predicament - it isn't that hard to avoid a blind, paralyzed or dead person. Lepers might have been a little harder to avoid - but they were generally kept away from the rest of the population. I suspect that Jesus didn't cross to the other side of the road when he saw needy people - in fact I suspect he may have made a beeline directly for them.

The day at the pool of bethesda comes to mind (John 5). This was a place where the sick went. It was an ancient hospital of sorts. What was Jesus doing in a place like that - did he just stumble upon it one day? I doubt it - Jesus hung out in places where compassion was actually needed.

So do we allow ourselves to go to such places? I know in my life it is pretty easy to avoid needy people. The choices we make each day can either put us in their path or not. Choices about who we will be friends with - where we will live - where we will socialize - what parts of the newspaper we'll read. Unless we're willing to go to these places we drastically decrease the ability we have to put on compassion.

2. Jesus really saw people - deeply. He didn't see people's problems but their potential. He had this way of looking at people and seeing deep into them. He saw them as people, not objects. He saw them as made in God's image not as failures. He didn't label people but saw into them in a deep way. He saw their true issues and needs - not just the ones on the surface that we often look at when we interact with others. He really saw people.

Again I think we often fail in this area too. You see one of the ways I (we?) cope with the needs of those around us is to see them as objects. Often we do this by labeling people - grouping them together and making gross generalizations about them. We think we know them because we've read about that type of person - we think we know their issues because we see the symptoms or some of their behavior - but do we really see them? Do we see their potential? Do we really see them as humans or do we cope with their neediness with a quick glance rather than a deep soul searching look.

3. Jesus allowed what he saw to impact how he felt. This is where the 'stomach turning' comes into it. We see Jesus react to situations and people with emotion. We see him weep, we see him angry, we see him fired up, we see him respond with pity. There was no keeping people at an arms length with Jesus - his response to people was heart felt.

Again I am confronted by this. Too often I think we keep people at an arms length. We disengage our emotions from the hurt and brokenness we see in the lives of other because we don't want to feel the pain that might result in being impacted by others. Perhaps its fear, perhaps its our own insecurities or disfunction - but often its just easier to be clinical and removed from people than to actually let our guard down a little.

4. Jesus allowed what he saw and felt to move him into action. In the situation in Mark 6 he responds first with words and teaching and then with food. At other times where we see the 'compassion' word feature to describe his response to people he's moved to heal, cast out demons, comfort, raise from the dead, touch and defend.

True compassion cannot remain an internalized feeling - it must work itself out and respond in some tangible way. Someone once said to me - 'compassion is a feeling of pity that causes one to want to help or show mercy.' I'd probably want to put it a little stronger than that - but its heading in the right direction.

If we actually get to the stage of responding to the needs of others (and more often than not I suspect I've already bought out of compassion in one of the earlier stages) this can be the place where it all just gets too hard. Sometimes there is a hopelessness that can paralyze us from responding, other times its fear, other times plain laziness. We also live in a world where its becoming more and more normal to pay someone else to respond to the needs of the world - whatever the case the temptation is often to leave the feelings we have as just feelings and not to respond.

So - this has turned into quite a rave - unexpected really - I got a little carried away. The question remains though - are we compassionate people? Do we allow ourselves to go to places where there are needy people - do we really see them - do we allow ourselves to be impacted by what we see - are we willing to be moved to action?

Pope Sets up a Vatican Sports Department

4 August, 2004 3:11 PM

The Pope is experimenting with an interesting approach to Mission....

"The Vatican now has a sports department.

Pope John Paul, who was athletic in his younger days, has established a sports bureau in the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Lay People.

The Vatican announced the initiative, pointing to the (m) millions of people who will follow the Olympics in Athens this month as proof of the important role sports plays in today's world.

The Reverend Kevin Lixey, an American priest who's setting up the department, says the pope has always been interested in sports "as a means of evangelization and a great way to form youth."

Lixey adds that the initiative also is aimed at countering negative examples in sports -- to "let people know that there are sportsmen who are also virtuous.""

Continue reading Pope sets up Vatican sports department.

Also read about it at Once athletic pope sets up sports department as church seeks new ways to reach young people

Missional Entrepreneurship

26 July, 2004 11:50 AM

One of the things that I've started in the last month is an internship in 'Missional Entrepreneurship'.

'Huh?!?' you say....that's what I said too when I first heard the term.

Let me explain a little with a story.

When I was 9 or 10 I started my first business. I noticed back then that the boys in my class started doing some 'weird' stuff. They started talking about girls. Actually at first it wasn't really 'girls' - they started with women, women they'd never met. To be more specific the woman they all seemed to be interested in was Brooke Shields. They talked about her incessantly. Not only did she invade our conversation but she also started to invade their school books. They would stick her picture all over their books, on their pencil cases - anywhere they found space.

I was at home one day and I noticed one of my mum's magazines lying on a the table. I'd seen them around the house before, but had never taken any notice until now - Brooke Shields was on the cover. Not only that there was around 10 pictures of her inside. A light went on in my mind. The boys at school wanted pictures of Brooke Shields - I had 10 of them.

I hadn't heard of 'Supply and Demand' or any other economic terms, but I knew an opportunity when I saw one and the next day at school I set up my 'Brooke Shields Shop. I 'mentioned' my stash of pictures to the biggest loud mouth in the class and soon I had more customers that I could supply - I also had $4!

Mum's old magazine collection kept me going for a while - plenty of Brooke in them. Once I ran out of Brooke pictures I started talking up other models, pop singers and movie stars. I even sold a few pictures of male movie stars to the girls in my class.

Once mum's old magazine ran out I started buying women's magazines myself (I got a few weird looks from the newsagent). I could make $4-$5 per magazine profit. I was rolling in money (or so I thought) but my windfall was short lived as my teacher soon caught wind of my venture and told me it wasn't appropriate for me to fund my candy habit by taking advantage of the hormones beginning to appear in my class mates. My first business promptly died.

My second business was similar - it took place in my second year of high school - my mum had a big stash of rulers, pens, pads and pencils left over from a school fete. Once again I saw an opportunity and opened up a mini stationary shop selling them out of the empty locker next to mine to my classmates who had lost their pen or forgotten to bring their pencil case to school. Once again the business didn't last long because I soon sold out of my supply of pens and rulers.

Growing up through high school I was always drawn to 'business' type subjects. I did Economics, Accounting, Legal Studies, Politics and English in my final year of high school and studied Marketing at University. I always wanted to expand on these skills and saw myself as a business man.

As I've shared before on this blog - this all came to an end when I had a 're-conversion' experience as a 21 year old. I decided that I wanted to give my life over to God in the best way that I knew how - 'Ministry'. The advice I received from some influential people was to quit my Marketing degree and go to bible college. Seemed like good advice at the time - I mean how could someone truly be a Christian in Marketing right - isn't that just about greed, manipulating people and accumulating money?

Surely truly dedicated Christians showed their commitment to God by giving up such things and going into mission or ministry?

So for the last decade I've suppressed any inkling of business or enterprise that may have existed within me. I saw such a focus as not being compatible with what God would want for my life. In fact at times I secretly I quite arrogantly looked at some of those around me who had chosen to work in the 'secular' workplace as being second rate Christians.

The past few years have seen a turn around in my thinking on this topic (one of the many changes in my life lately). I'm still thinking and praying it through, but I alongside my changed thinking on 'what a church is' I'm feeling challenged to rethink what it means to be a 'disciple' also.

If a disciple is someone who loves God, loves the world they live in and loves their fellow believers (inner, outer, together journeys/calls of Jesus) then I can't see why someone exclusively focusing upon doing church based 'ministry' is responding in a more dedicated way than anyone else.

In fact I'm starting to realize that especially when it comes to 'mission' (or loving the world) - it can be more advantageous to actually be in business than locked away in 'church ministry'.

Before I go on I'm not wanting to put down the idea that God calls some to full time, Church based ministry. No way - I know many people who I genuinely feel that God has gifted for and called to work with Christians in Churches. What I'm wanting to describe is a rebalancing in my own mind and life. I guess I'm discovering a place of balance in my own life after the pendulum has swung to an extreme over the last decade.

Basic mission principle 1 - if you want to be effective as a missionary you have to have proximity to them. Where do most adults spend most of their waking hours each week? The Work Place. So on a very micro level I think we need to start seeing the work place, business, enterprises etc as a place where we need to encourage Christians to be in, not just to put food on the table and to help fund 'real ministry' but as a primary place of ministry/mission/faith itself.

I'm also thinking on a macro level also. Business/Commerce/Enterprise is perhaps the most powerful influence on our society in the West today. The Church used to play a pretty influential role in society but has been pushed aside (some would say its forfeited the right to such influence by its own behavior). More and more I'm noticing that businesses are taking on the role of providing avenues for social concern/welfare that previously would have fallen back upon the Church and Government. I suspect this will happen increasingly in future.

The power that Business wields on our society is often labeled an 'Evil' - often rightly so. But rather than protesting from the fringes could another way forward be for Christians to influence from within? Maybe a twin approach is a way forward for us.

Perhaps I'm being naive, but most business people that I've met don't want to be manipulative, they actually do care for the society they live in, they do want to make a difference - they often just need to be encouraged to do so and see ways of ethical, life giving business to be modeled for them.

My realization of late - Mission and Enterprise are not necessarily mutually exclusive - ok its not profound - but I'm a little slow off the mark.

So recently I've decided to stop just thinking about these things and actually explore ways to test and actually implement some of them.

A few months back I looked around at the skills and experiences that I've had in life and decided that one of my passions is 'communication'. I love to communicate with people, especially on a mass communication level via speaking and writing. Communication energizes and inspires me and I take virtually every opportunity to speak or write that I can

Up until the last year or so I've exercised this passion almost exclusively through preaching and writing a few 'Christian' articles.

My experience in blogging over the past 18 months has also given me a few skills in developing websites, (not designing them but rather in search engine optimization, content generation etc). For me there is a natural meeting between this passion and the skills I've developed and so a small (micro) business has emerged.

Those who read this blog regularly will have sensed this as my blogging on this site has changed, been a little lighter and I keep mentioning other blogs that I've started. Some of you have expressed some concern to me over this change in my approach - I hope this post sheds some light on some of my thinking.

I'm not moving away from 'church ministry' - working intentionally for LivingRoom is still important to me and I foresee that I'll continue to do so in the years ahead in some paid part time capacity. However at this time I'm also wanting to explore re-igniting the entrepreneur within me and will explore how the skills and experiences that I've accumulated in my 32 years of life can be transferred into other arenas.

I'm not sure if I've expressed myself very well here - I'm sure there will be more posting on this topic over the next weeks as I continue to mull it over. If anyone is still reading this (sorry its been rather long and muddled) I'm interested in your thoughts as I always learn so much from what you all have to say.

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