Faithorama Archives

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Too Busy for 'Presence'

19 July, 2004 9:06 AM

Thanks for the well wishers and encouragement that people left in the last post. I appreciate your kind words.

Last night I spoke at the church my brother and sister-in-law work at (it does run in the family). It was a good night. I spoke about Mission using the 4 P's of mission material that I have previously posted about here.

Last week I was speaking to someone about this approach to mission and they told me that it was an 'interesting' way to look at it, but that they just didn't have time to develop 'presence' with any new people. They said that they were in so many relationships with people that they couldn't possibly commit to any more. We unpacked the relationships that they were in and soon found that every single one of them was with other believers. The other reason they were so busy was that they were so heavily involved in church activities (2 services a week, one bible study, worship team practice, occasional preaching duties, prayer meetings, deacon's meetings and a men's breakfast once a month).

They simply didn't have time for mission because they were so busy in deep relationships with Christians and doing Church activities.

Something has to give doesn't it? Either we excuse ourselves from the great commission or we perhaps need to make some room in our lives to actually respond to it and develop significant relationships with those who do not belong to our communities.

Alan on Liturgy

11 July, 2004 7:39 PM

Alan Creech has another good post asking the question - Why the Liturgy Helps?

'I see it helping like this: you have a simple, organic, emerging faith community who wonders what to do. You have the church planter/leader/pastor of that community who has likely been trained (read: almost ruined) in a system that makes them the be all and end all of everything that goes on there. They must perform. They must get people to "come" to their thing. Then, they must keep them there by providing a rich worship experience and feeding them until they are fat little Christian piggies who can't move. There's a fair amount of pressure in something like that. "I've got to come up with something to talk about on Tuesday night!" "I've got to feed these people the Word!" "I have to come up with a system for discipleship!" AaaagghhHhhhhh!!! We be trippin'! One really practical way the liturgy can help is that it is a very basic structure that is simply there.'

He goes on.... (but I'll let you read that yourself along with his Part 1

At Livingroom we don't use liturgy on a regular (or even really a semi regular) basis. It isn't because I disagree with it or anything - but really to be honest I've hardly ever seen it used/modeled. Perhaps I need to go hang out with Alan and his crew. Having said that - the few times I've been involved in groups that have used liturgy I've found it to be a really refreshing and meaningful experience. Maybe its something to explore for the months ahead....after all I am trying to come up with something for Tuesday night!

Talking About Money

6 July, 2004 8:58 AM

Michelle over at Serenity Dawn had one of those blogging frenzy days yesterday when she posted five posts in just a few hours.

One that caught my eye was Where's your focus? where she talks about 'money'.

'What would people say if I sold everything, if I gave it all away to the poor? That I was being stupid not to make a plan and a future for my son? That I am naieve, living with my head in the clouds, not making sense?

Do I REALLY, truly trust God to supply my needs if giving it all up is what He'd require of me?

Paying lipservice to Christianity, being good and nice and kind - that's easy. But REALLY living what Jesus taught. That's just plain difficult. It goes against all safe and logical action, it recognizes the temporary status of this planet and another kingdom not of this world, it defies worldly economics.'

I left my long comments there.

Church Online Discussion Forums

17 June, 2004 12:07 PM

Does anyone out there have any experience of using online discussion forums within a church community?

A group I've had a little bit to do with has started one - it has some great discussions going on in it but there is some real tension being expressed between a small group of individuals that is perhaps getting a little destructive. I've been asked for some advice.

If anyone uses discussion forums in their church (ie mainly used by church members) I'd appreciate any thoughts on what guidelines, rules, boundaries you might set. Are there some internal issues that you don't discuss online but would reserve for face to face interaction? How do you deal with conflict? etc

Your thoughts in comments would be appreciated.

Love Thy Neighbor Survey

28 May, 2004 2:04 PM

Bene Diction points to an interesting survey that a social psychology professor named Dr. Mark Vincent is trying to find Christians to fill in. Its on the topic of 'Love Thy Neighbor'. Check out the survey on this interesting topic. Will be interested to view the results.

The Bible is Innerant?

23 May, 2004 1:46 PM

Anita is wanting to have some discussion over what we mean by 'the Bible is inerrant'. Head over and have your say.

Work and Faith

18 May, 2004 10:12 AM

Tonight at LivingRoom we're beginning a series on Everyday Spirituality - specifically tonight focusing upon the workplace. In doing some searches on the net for resources on the topic I was surprised to find very little at first. Strangely enough my own site came up a number of times in Google simple because I'd mentioned it in passing a couple of times. Scary how Google makes a person an expert in something simply for using the right words repeatedly in the one paragraph. I had to dig a little deeper to find some quality stuff online and thought I'd share some of what I found (which comes at the topic from different perspectives and locations around the globe) here:

If you have any other suggestions of books, sites or online articles that might add to this conversation please feel free to add them in comments below.

Pain

4 May, 2004 12:06 AM

The Greenman has been writing about pain:

'A scar is a physical record of earlier pain that has made us the complex and, hopefully, balanced individual that we are today. Pain is integral to life and we all experience it. It is an interesting phenonemon that, largely through medical advances, we have come to see pain as completely negative. This was not always the case. Primitive cultures often viewed pain as not only unavoidable but also a path to a more complete person. It was integral to so many initiation ceremonies across the world that it is likely that it vested something in a young man that they would have had difficulting gaining without it, generalised perhaps as "maturity".'

This reminds me of The Gift of Pain by Philip Yancy and Paul Brand. Like their other work together this is an excellent book which examines how Pain is a gift rather than something to be avoided. Pain has a purpose and a life without it is actually actually one of the most terrible afflictions - just ask someone who suffers with Leprosy. Whilst few of us enjoy the sensation of pain, it gets our attention and alerts us to something that is wrong.

I might have to get the book out tomorrow and write a quote or two.

Inner, Outer, Together... Balance?

3 May, 2004 4:59 PM

journeys.jpgAfter I sat down last night after speaking, my mind began to wander a little while the congregation sang their last couple of songs.... I'd drawn on the 3 circles diagram (pictured left) on the whiteboard up the front as a basis for some of what I'd talked about and I began to ask myself how many dollars and resources the average church put into each journey. It'd be an interesting survey to do.

As I reflect upon my experience in two previous churches I suspect that the answer would be that the 'inner journey' attracts most of our resources and the 'together journey' the second highest proportion. As a minister I would have spent at least 50% of my time planning for services, preaching, worship leading, in worship planning teams, pastoral teams reviewing services etc. Of the rest of the time, a fair chunk was also spent doing similar preparation, planning and participation for small groups/bible studies or meeting one on one in pastoral care situations.

As I think about the church budgets in I suspect that the majority again went to 'inner and together journeys'. Most of the money in those budgets would have gone to pastoral wages, a significant amount of the rest was spent on buildings which were used mostly for worship services and pastoral teams, also significant amounts were spent on administration to keep the logistics of a community running and upon resources to build up members.

As I think about the content of services I suspect that again we focused the most upon the 'inner journey'. The biggest push seemed to be in being stronger in one's spiritual journeys of prayer, worship, scripture etc. There was some preaching on relationships (togetherness) and at times some on the outward journeys of mission and occasionally justice, but mostly on a personal individual journey of faith.

It is no wonder that the majority of times that I ask people to identify which journey they resonate with most that they generally select the inner and together journeys and that on almost every occasion I've asked them to choose the one where they are least comfortable or weakest in that they choose the outer journey...

The Call of Jesus

3 May, 2004 1:30 PM

Today I've been thinking about the way Jesus called his first disciples and comparing it to the way we tend to do it today.

Matthew 4:18-20 - One day as Jesus was walking along the shore beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers--Simon, also called Peter, and Andrew--fishing with a net, for they were commercial fishermen. Jesus called out to them, "Come, be my disciples, and I will show you how to fish for people!" And they left their nets at once and went with him. - New Living Translation

Jesus gives one simple reason why they should follow him. 'I will show you how to fish for people'.

After 32 years of growing up in church, I cannot ever remember anyone giving an altar call like that. I've heard a number of altar calls in the last year that have taken different approaches...

  • Fire and Brimstone - You could get hit by a bus on the way home tonight, where would you go? Hell is a reality, if you don't make a decision tonight you could end up there....
  • Life, Purpose, Meaning - Are you feeling lost? Are you in a dark place? Jesus offers purpose, meaning and life. Come to him and you'll find these things....
  • Prosper - Do you want the best life that you can have? Do you want to live to your potential, achieve everything that you can achieve, see your dreams become reality? Ask and you'll receive, seek and you'll find, knock and the door will be opened to you - name it, claim it...
  • Sinner - There is a cliff, God is on one side, you are on the other side. There is a chasm between you which is your sin. Jesus is the bridge...pray this prayer and believe tonight and....

Of course I'm paraphrasing and generalizing but I wonder how our approach of today compares to the call of Jesus. It strikes me that a lot of the above approaches are very much about the state of the individual being called. Follow Jesus and YOU will find purpose, prosper, not go to hell, be united with God etc...

Jesus seems to take a different approach in this particular calling... 'follow me and I'll teach you how to have an impact on others - I'll teach you how to do what I do.'

I know I'm looking at three verses in isolation here, that I'm ignoring other examples of people being called to follow Jesus - but sometimes I wonder if set new Christians up for a rather selfish, passive and consumeristic Christianity right from the very beginning.

Thinking out loud here - interested in your thoughts...

My Virtual Faith Project

27 April, 2004 2:46 PM

I'd like to introduce you to an online buddy of mine who comes from the same city as me (Melbourne) but whom I'm yet to meet in person.

His name is Nathan and he runs an excellent blog called My Virtutal Faith. Actually if you head over to his blog today you'll find that he's closing it down....

So why am I introducing you to him? Well he's about to start a new project that I'd like to encourage you to give your feedback on.

Some of his thinking on it came out of a little post/rant I wrote a few weeks back called Holy Huddle Blogging II.

So he's decided to start a new project that aims to engage with not just Christians but also those who are not coming at faith from that perspective. Nathan explains it a whole lot better at his My Virtual Faith Project Page where he asks you for your feedback that will help him develop this brand new site.

I'd love to encourage you to head over and lend your support and wisdom to Nathan - reading his stuff I'm touched by his genuine desire to do something outwardly focused through his online presence and think that together we can be a part of the discerning process he's going through.

Tragedy of Saul

22 April, 2004 5:47 PM

Posting is light at the moment because I'm in the books researching an Old Testament essay. The topic is 'In what sense is the story of Saul a tragedy?'

It is calling for an literary critical examination of the genre of Tragedy.

I've always felt uncomfortable with the story of Saul in 1 Samuel. The story of a guy who doesn't want to be king, yet he's thrust into the lime light, chosen and anointed by God to do the job. Then he makes a blunder or two (that almost seems where he's caught out on technicalities). As a result he's told that he's going to lose his position as King to someone who is better than him. He seeks to repent, approaches God on numerous times, but God is silent except for the evil spirit he sends to afflict Saul with....

He spends the rest of his time seemingly struggling with himself - its a bit of a no win situation really - chasing the guy who is supposed to replace him, even though you get the feeling he knows he's doomed to fail and is doing the wrong thing.

He ends up alone, afraid and isolated on a battlefield where even his servant isn't even willing to help him out of his misery and he has to take his own life. His body is captured and mutilated and carted around by his enemies....

In contrast we have his successor (the 'better' one) who ends up a murderer and adulterer (to name a few of his sins) being glorified as one of the great kings!

I've never really quite known what to make of a story like that. In fact I'm beginning to wonder if I'm actually supposed to do anything with it! Previously I've always wanted to find the 'point' of biblical narratives. What does it mean? How can I explain it?

Stories like these are more complex than that - I wonder if in our attempt to 'explain' them whether we somehow gloss over something deeper and more profound in the story itself.

I'm still not sure 'what to do with it' (maybe the next book or article I read will tell me!) but I'm beginning to see that Saul's story is actually a story of life that many of us see aspects of our own stories in. For me it touches on some of those deeper, nagging, incomprehensible and usually unspoken questions that float around in many of our minds like - Why is their 'evil' in the world? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why is God sometimes (often?) silent?

I've got more reading to do...

More Thomas Kelly

20 April, 2004 3:26 PM

�The experience of Divine Presence wholly satisfies, and there are a few who, like those on the Mount of Transfiguration, want to linger there forever and never return to the valleys where people live, where there are demons to be cast out. But there is more to the experience of God than that of being plucked out of the world. The fuller experience, I am sure, is of a Love that sends us out into the world�. A Testament of Devotion p63.

A Testament of Devotion

16 April, 2004 10:49 AM

This morning I read A Testament of Devotion by Thomas Kelly. It's only a short book - a collection of his writings from the 1930's - 1940's but I found it to be extremely powerful and rather beautifully written.

The overall thrust of his writing is about entering into a deeper inner experience of the Divine rather than just having a surface level experience. He argues that it is out of this deep experience of God that true community with other believers and a powerful social concern emerges.

A few quotes captured my attention which I'll allow to stand alone below.

Whilst there are one or two things in this collection of writings that I would love to see expanded upon and one or two things that I'm not sure I completely agree with - I have to say that this little book is one of the best and most refreshing reads I've had in years. Despite it's brevity there is loads to chew on in it and it has left me thirsting for two things - firstly some more writings of Thomas Kelly and secondly (and more importantly) a deeper understanding and experience of my Creator.

Here's a couple of taster quotes:

'If you don't realize the revolutionary explosiveness of this proposal you don't understand what I mean. This is something wholly different from mild, conventional religion that, with respectable skirts held back by dainty fingers, anxiously tries to fish the world out of the mud hole of its own selfishness. Our churches, our meeting houses are full of such respectable and amiable people.... Religion as a dull habit is not that for which Christ lived and died.' p25

'Instead of being the active, hurrying church worker and the anxious, careful planner of shrewd moves towards the good life, we become pliant creatures, less brittle, less obstinately rational. The energizing, dynamic center if not in us but in the Divine Presence in which we share.

Religion is not our concern; it is God's concern. The sooner we stop thinking we are the energetic operators of religion and discover that God is at work, as the Aggressor, the Invader, the Initiator, so much the sooner do we discover that our task is to call people to be still and know, listen, hearken in the quiet invitation to the subtle promptings of the Divine....

"Behold I stand at the door and knock," but too many well-intentioned people are so preoccupied with the clatter of effort to do something for God that they don't hear Him asking that He might do something through them. p58-59

Stations of the Cross

7 April, 2004 10:15 PM

With Easter fast approaching I thought I'd post a link to a great collection of images by Australian Artist Geoff Todd. They are an interesting collection that go through the 14 Stations of the Cross. They make a great reflection time in preparation for the weekend.

Also on the same theme is:
- The Cross and Stations of the Cross - an online exhibition of 5 artists.
- Everyone's Way to the Cross - Online Stations of the Cross.
- Stations of the Cross - pictures drawn by school children.
- 14 STATIONS - A collection of 14 photographs made in collaboration with men and women transitioning out of homelessness.
- Ecce Homo - an excellent collection of art which is provided in a number of formats including flash.

Also worth checking out is The Seven Sayings of Jesus from the Cross which last year.

Feel free to suggest Stations of the Cross resources below in comments.

Examining Samuel

19 March, 2004 5:30 PM

One of my classes this year is looking at the books of I and II Samuel. I'm really enjoying getting back into some books that I always enjoyed reading as a boy. I wasn't really allowed to read too many war books like my friends (although Biggles Books were an exception for some reason) but I was allowed to read the bible - and so I remember reading through Samuel, Kings, Chronicles many times. I remember being in wonder of the battles that unfolded there, the ideas of Kings, Giants and Prophets. I remember getting a real sense of something of the power and mystery of God as I read. I guess it was something like The Lord of the Rings is for many young (and older) people today.

Its been an interesting experience coming back to these books now as a 31 year old. I realized today that I don't approach Scripture with as much wonderment as I did as a boy. Instead we're taught to come at it with a bag full of literary, historical and anthropological tools to analyze and critique. Of course as I do bring these tools to the text I am learning and growing in my understanding of faith, theology and God - but I wonder if we miss something of the wonder of it all. I don't imagine the original hearers of the text would have done much textual or historical analysis - perhaps we need to relearn the art of hearing stories and wondering again.

Online Spirituality

17 March, 2004 5:19 PM

This Saturday I'm doing the opening session at a small conference on the Internet and Ministry which should be interesting. I've been surfing around the last few days trying to find information for it and have been pretty staggered by the reach and impact that the Net is having on our little planet, more specifically our nation here in Australia.

Despite Australia only having around 20 million people total population we have over 13 million net users (around 66%). There are only 10 or so countries ahead of us when it comes to total numbers of users and only two countries (Sweden and the US) who are ahead of us in terms of net usage per capita.

The world is changing and the Net is behind many of these changes just like the printing press brought about massive shifts in thinking and behavior centuries ago.

I'll be talking about how as Churches and as Christians we need to learn the languages and become part of the rhythms of the world we live in if we want to engage it. The web is an obvious 'language and/or rhythm' that we need to consider how we might connect.

Although I think there are pockets of the net where this stuff is happening (blogging is probably one) I wonder if the Church has seriously considered how it might engage with the surfer in fresh, new and creative ways.

I'm interested in others thoughts, examples where good stuff is happening, ideas and experiences of the web as a place that helps people in their spirituality.

Fasting

15 March, 2004 2:28 PM

I'm doing some reading on fasting at the moment for a paper I'm writing for college. I'm interested to know how many people reading this blog fast. If so why? What is your experience of it? How do you go about it? What practical tips would you suggest? What benefits come out of it? Do you see it as a command or an optional thing?

If you don't - why? Do you think its not for today? Is it a personal preference things? Have you ever had teaching on it? Have you ever tried?

Any thoughts you'd like to leave in comments below would be great background for me as I consider the topic, I may even quote you in my paper if it triggers something (write anonymously or say if you don't want to be quoted). Happy to send out the paper when its finished if people are interested.

Recounting the Journey

11 March, 2004 8:56 AM

One of the subjects that I'm studying this semester is a Spirituality subject called 'Experiencing God'. In it we have to keep a journal of our reflections upon our own experiences of God under particular headings. I will post some of them here.

The first theme was to think about our journey of faith - the beginnings, the changes, the lessons. Following is what I wrote yesterday as I considered such themes - it might be of interest to those who have asked me over the years how I came to faith. Keep in mind its only a very quick snap shot, written with a deadline. Enjoy.

The beginnings of my �journey� can probably be traced back many generations before my birth in that I was born into a family in which the ideas of faith, mission and ministry run deeply. Whilst I sometimes wonder what it would be like to be born into a �normal� family I�ve always been grateful for the experiences of God I grew up with. From my earliest memories I�ve always had a sense of God being present in my life in some shape or form. Early on it was largely through the telling of stories, singing songs and praying of simple prayers both with family and at church in Sunday School that I came to understand that I could be in relationship with God. God as a �friend� was an important concept for me as a child.

Being the Preachers kid meant being immersed in the life of our community of faith. This was an experience that shaped me in many ways, both positively and negatively. The idea of spirituality as a shared, corporate experience was something that I inherited from this context. I�m also grateful for exposure to the ideas of prayer, Scripture and mission from this time.

On the flip side I now recognise that I grew up in something like a �Christian Ghetto� � or �Holy Huddle�. Whilst the safety and comfort of my community was a great place to explore the idea of who God was it perhaps ignored questions of our place in the world (except for the idea of us being missionaries with the role of �saving� others).

For this reason when I got to the age of 18 and began attending university I did not really have the skills needed to make sense of my faith in the �real world�. My experience of God and faith was largely tied up in knowledge (knowing the �theories� of God, knowing about Scripture, knowing how to pray, saying the right things) and piety (living within an inherited set of moral guidelines).

Such knowledge, piety and separateness from �the world� did not stand up to the reality of what I found myself living in � I did not have the skills or framework to make sense of it all (I remember thinking that faith �didn�t work�) and so began a process of rejecting God, the Church and many of the aspects of faith that I was brought up with � in these things place I began to explore and experiment with �the world� � in my framework there was not room enough for both experiencing God and experiencing what I saw as the secular.

The next few years of my life were difficult in many ways yet as I look back on the pain I experienced in forming identity I am also appreciative of the lessons learnt and experiences gained that have shaped me into the person that I am today.

The short version of the story is that in all my exploring and experimenting I could not make sense of the world without God as I had previously understood him either. Things still didn�t �work�. In fact I found myself in a very dark place where meaning, purpose and a sense of life seemed very distant from me. It was at this point that I had something of a �conversion� experience over a period of a number of months and years. There was not a Damascus Road experience or particular moment which I can identify � rather a collection of relationships and experiences that helped me to come to a new understanding and experience of God.

I find it difficult to articulate much of this �conversion� experience but in reflecting upon it a number of themes come to mind.

Relationship � Whilst I had always understood that God desired to have a relationship with me (and I had described my spirituality in these terms since being a child) I had never really experienced it. In this period of my life I was challenged by a number of people to grow in my understanding of this relationship with God. I began to explore who the Holy Spirit is, had fresh revelations of prayer as a �two way� street etc. For the first time in my life faith began to extend beyond what I knew and how I behaved into who I was, what I felt and how I related.

Healing � In conjunction with this I began to come to experience God as a healer on personal level. This healing was not anything physical (although I did find freedom from addiction which was somewhat physical) but more importantly in an emotional and relational sense.

God in the Everyday � The lines between the Sacred and Secular slowly began to blur and I discovered God in some unexpected places. It was incredibly exciting to see God at work in the world around me and not to limit his work to Church related activities. God related to, expressed himself and was relevant in culture.

Mission � This discovery of God in the everyday was something that began a new understanding of Mission for me. In recent years this has been perhaps the biggest paradigm shift for me and too big to explain here except to say that I felt a growing call to take seriously the call of Jesus to mission and an understanding of God as a missionary. It was an incredible release of guilt to realise that it was not my responsibility to take God into the world and save it � but that God is already involved in this life giving experience � my role is to discern what he�s doing and to find a way in joining him.

In the midst of these ongoing discoveries and experiences of God I�ve felt �calls� to a variety of ways of joining him in what he�s doing around me. These have included both formal �pastoral positions� in churches and missions organizations but also taking up a variety of �normal� everyday opportunities.

The journey has by no means reached an end destination. The discoveries continue on a daily basis.

Compartmental Spirituality?

2 March, 2004 8:18 AM

'We have fallen into the temptation of separating ministry from spirituality, service from prayer.' Henri J. M. Nouwen - The Living Reminder

We can be so good at compartmentalizing our spirituality's. I find myself doing it on an individual level - I have days which I decide will be more 'spiritual' than others - when I'll go on retreat or set aside times for reflection and prayer and then other days when I decide to be more 'ministerial'. Of course there is nothing wrong with being intentional about these things, but I wonder as I read the gospels if it all should be more integrated?

We can fall into the same traps in Churches also. People specialize and can so easy be typecast in one aspect of the life of Church. They are on the prayer team, or the worship team, or the welcoming team, or the preaching roster - and there they will remain exclusively for life. Once again, there is nothing wrong with rosters or teams (they are a fact of life that any group over 10 -20 people need to survive), but I wonder if we limit people's potential to experience, know and serve God in a variety of ways if we stream them like this.

Just wondering, no answers here - just many questions this week. What do you think?

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