Faithorama Archives

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Cut and Paste Central

13 August, 2003 5:44 PM

Sac Mission stole this great quote off Jim and now I'm stealing it off both of them.

Many people steeped in religion would rather be "right" than in relationship with anyone they think is in the wrong.
-Stephen Artburn (who I guess we all 'stole' it off)

Prayer of the Vine.

3 August, 2003 4:53 PM

This afternoon I went to a 120th anniversary service of one of our local 'mother churches'. One of the prayers caught my attention - here is an excerpt:

'Like the vine dresser, your knowledge of us is deep and profound.
Our deep roots from which we gain nourishment,
Our history and culture that has been weathered and etched with this church's faith story,
Our new life and growth that is tender and fragile and yet full of promise.

Help us to remember that new fruit depends on old roots.
Help us to honour the fruit of the vintage tthat we once knew and teh fruit of the new vintage yet to be harvested.
'

Nudie Bar Mission

20 July, 2003 9:09 AM

Hamo asks if its ok for a pastor to be doing mission in a nudie bar? Its not a hypothetical question - what did Hamo do?

Create a God

16 July, 2003 10:00 AM

'I know this is ridiculous.� There is no such thing as a Make-a-God kit.� But what if there were?� Religious skeptics claim that we make God in our own image.� Suppose it were possible to create a god to match our desires.� What kind of God would you make?' Let's add something here.� Is there anything you would change about God?

What an interesting question - found at King of the Leper Colony.

Chaplaincy Essay Done - Again - I need a Data Recovery Expert

15 July, 2003 12:39 PM

Due to some computer difficulties with my desktop (PC) today (does anyone know anything about Data Recovery?) and yesterday I have had to rewrite an essay that got lost at college last month. Of course my old PC crashed at the worst of times and I lost the complete essay. Anyway its rewritten. I think I managed to get most of the original content down again.

The topic was 'My Theology of Chaplaincy'. I found it very challenging - I based it on the hypothetical situation that I was appointed as Chaplain to the high school next door (we literally live next door to a school that is about to reopen in 2004).

What did I write about? Well I won't put you to sleep with the full essay, but below are some main points (and excerpts/paraphrases).

* Chaplain as Priest
* Chaplain as Prophet
* Chaplain as Counsellor
* Chaplain as Teacher

The above four roles have been presented to us this year in lectures as different approaches. I agreed that all can be seen in the life of Jesus and all have a place in Chaplaincy.

I added the following to the models outlined above:

* Chaplain as Life Giver - Jesus came that we may have life (John 10:10). He helped those around him to find it in a holistic way. As the Body of Christ I believe we should also be in the 'life giving' business. Of course it is God himself who gives life, but we are called to play a part in the process.

* Incarnational - In order to bring life to humanity, Jesus lived among us. The incarnation is a profound gospel theme and an example for the way we should think about our interactions within our own contexts.

Many of Jesus' interactions with people happened in the day-to-day, ordinary rhythms of life. The gospels place him at the meal table, festivals, funerals, weddings and in the homes of others. People did not have to come to him, rather he was accessible to them because he lived alongside the ordinary person in his culture.

Chaplaincy should also be Incarnational. This would mean that the Chaplain would not lock themself away in an office, only to be seen by appointment. Rather it would mean they engaged in the natural rhythms of the life of the school.

* Prevenient Grace - It is tempting when going into a setting like a school to see oneself as the sole representative of God there. Often we label such environments as 'secular' and can see our role as to take God into the place. In my view this is not biblical.

I have recently been reading through Acts and have been impressed by the way that in most occasions when a Christian shares the gospel with another person (or group) that God has already been working in that person's life. For example in Philip's interaction with the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40) God was already at work well before Philip came into the picture.

God is already at work in other people's lives. God is at work in the school setting before the Chaplain arrives. It is arrogant to think that we are the one taking God to such a school. In many regards it is wrong to even think of the school as a 'secular' place. Rather, if God is already at work there, it is a sacred space.

Taking this into account the role of a Chaplain is to be attentive to what God is already doing in the school and to discern what part they might play in joining God in that work.

I also added a few other brief comments about

* Relational approach
* Servanthood
* Storytelling
* Community building
* Creativity
* Chaplain's own faith being needed to sustain them on the journey.

If you want the full thing just let me know. It was rewritten in a bit of a rush - but the basics are there.

Sunday Stroll

13 July, 2003 1:50 PM

Its a beautiful Sunny Sunday today in Melbourne. V went out to have breakfast with a friend so I decided to take my new digital camera for a stroll through the suburb I live in (North Fitzroy) to see what 'normal people' do on a Sunday morning in this part of the world. Church attendance in this part of our city is very low per capita so something else must be occupying people. Where did I find people?
park.jpg - At the park - at the end of our street is a beautiful park called Edinbrough gardens. It is quite large and incorporates numerous playing fields (ovals), a bowls club, tennis courts and a football oval. People were out in force walking their dogs, laying in the sun, doing Tia Chi, having juggling workshops, watching their kids play sport, practicing dancing (not exactly sure what this group was doing, but it could have been Russian Cossack dancing), watching their kids play on the playground and throwing Frisbees.

- Gardening - a lot of people were in their front gardens. I've noticed lately more and more people planting vegetable gardens not only in their back yards but also out front. A number of families were working together on their vege patches.latte2.jpg

- Cafes - by far the biggest concentration of people were in the local strip of cafes. I couldn't resist the urge myself for a latte and was lucky to be able to even find a seat in my favourite cafe (Tin Pot Cafe). There were alot of families, large groups of young adults and individuals out for brunch. The vibe was fun, relational, celebratory and rich.

church.jpg - Church - on my travels I passed three churches of different denominations. I popped my head into two services and passed the other just as people were leaving. It was interesting to see who was in attendance. In general, each of the congregations was made up a small group of elderly people. I saw very few families or young adults in any service.

In a previous post, The Rhythm Method of Mission I talked about how I've been watching the natural rhythms of our neighbourhood as I think about what natural and relevant mission might look like. I think Sunday mornings might be a good starting point - but perhaps not based in a traditional church building.

The Rhythm Method of Mission

8 July, 2003 3:50 PM

I'm still reading through Acts - I am constantly amazed at the little things I observe there - especially with respect to how the earch church interacts with their wider community in mission seemingly so naturally.

I love how Paul always goes to the synagogues when he enters a town....or to the lecture halls....the places where people already gather for community, learning, worship etc. Once there he interacts with them in a way that is culturally relevant. He naturally becomes a part of their natural rhythm of life and is able to introduce the gospel into the context.

I've been thinking about this alot lately and taking some time out each week to observe the rhythms of our local setting. The synagogues and lecture halls of the inner north of Melbourne are not quite the same as they were in Paul's day - but such places do exist....maybe they are just called different things now....

Book clubs, new age festivals, poetry readings, street festivals, cafes and pubs.... maybe these are some of the natural gathering points that we need to be building genuine relationships in?

Examen

7 July, 2003 9:53 PM

I've had an increasing amount of interest in a post I wrote back in May on Examen which is an ancient form of prayer and meditation that I use regularly. It's also something that we've used at Living Room as a group. Have you used it? If so, how have you found it?

BBC tells Christians to Get with the Program!

6 July, 2003 10:55 PM

Excerpts from an article titled BBC tells churches to liven up broadcasts

Alan Bookbinder, the head of the BBC's religion and ethics department, called on church leaders last night to become more courageous and passionate in using the media or risk losing their broadcasting slots....

"Think of David Attenborough, Melvyn Bragg, Jamie Oliver, all on fire with enthusiasm," he said. "That's what brings broadcasts alive: infectious, irrepressible zest. By comparison, voices from the mainstream churches can often seem muted and defensive."...

The BBC devotes 112 hours a year to televised religious broadcasting and 400 hours on network radio - much more than most interest groups, with the possible exception of politicians, cooks and gardeners, can command....

Of the Church of England's current internal convulsion, he added: "What good does it do a homeless teenager to hear Christian leaders squabble about the appointment of a gay bishop?"...

A huge thanks again to Presurfer for the personal heads up on this one. You're my hero mate!!!

Paganism in Australia

4 July, 2003 11:31 AM

This is an interesting article on how Paganism and Wicca are two of the fastest growing groups here in Australia (especially in Melbourne). Interesting stuff.

Is working in a church a hindrance to spiritual development?

3 July, 2003 11:37 PM

John Campea asks the above question.

Its a very good one and something that I've been wondering over the past few years. I remember coming to a realisation last year that some of the reasons I entered the path of ministry that I'm currently on have actually not come to be.

Perhaps I was a little niave - but one reason I first decided to go to bible college 10 years ago was because I hoped that it would deepen my own faith journey. I also had similar aspirations when I accepted a position as youth pastor at my home church as a 22 year old.

Whilst I feel my faith is now deeper than it was 10 years ago - I really wonder how that came to be!?! I'm not convinced it was the 'ministry' itself. As John says in his post the pressures of such work can sometimes work against a deepening faith.

So my question is - how do/should we sustain our personal spirituality on such a journey?

Is working in a church a hindrance to spiritual development?

3 July, 2003 11:37 PM

John Campea asks the above question.

Its a very good one and something that I've been wondering over the past few years. I remember coming to a realisation last year that some of the reasons I entered the path of ministry that I'm currently on have actually not come to be.

Perhaps I was a little niave - but one reason I first decided to go to bible college 10 years ago was because I hoped that it would deepen my own faith journey. I also had similar aspirations when I accepted a position as youth pastor at my home church as a 22 year old.

Whilst I feel my faith is now deeper than it was 10 years ago - I really wonder how that came to be!?! I'm not convinced it was the 'ministry' itself. As John says in his post the pressures of such work can sometimes work against a deepening faith.

So my question is - how do/should we sustain our personal spirituality on such a journey?

Kingdom Talk

3 July, 2003 3:18 PM

On Tuesday I read the four gospels.

I did so asking the question — 'What is the Kingdom of God?'

Jesus spent a lot of time preaching about it, telling stories that described it and encouraging his followers to do likewise. It is central in his language and focus (especially in Matthew) — so what is it and how should it be informing the way we live both as individuals and church?

A lot has been written on the topic, but I'm yet to find a description of it that really satisfies me. Having said this I do like how Pete Ward talks about how 'the kingdom offers an ideal of the reign of God in the world...The kingdom is the dynamic, kingly rule of God. It is also the arena which this reign is experienced.'

Tuesday at Living Room I described it as being 'life according to God'. By that I mean it's living at its ultimate — as God designs and desires it to be — in its fullest sense.

It's a dynamic and moving thing. It's about change and growth. It's where God values are lived out. It's a surprising place — upside down when compared to religious and world standards. It is invisible yet a powerful reality. It is rich and life giving. It is higly valuable yet the poor have prominance in it. It is among us yet not fully yet. Its organic, its lavish and it permeates everything. Its worth giving up every thing for.

Who's the Missionary?

1 July, 2003 10:17 PM

Tonight is Living Room again — we're up to week 4 of Ignition. I've really loved reading through Acts as a group. The past few weeks have been very challenging to me on a personal level as I think about my own call to Mission. Three stories have hit home to me in chapters 8-10.

- Philip and the Ethiopian (Acts 8:26-40)
- Saul and Ananias (Acts 9:1-43)
- Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10:1-48)

In each case I've found myself asking the question, Who's the missionary? Each time I've answered 'God'.

Previously I've always read these passages with Philip, Ananias and Peter 'doing mission'. I suppose there is an element of truth to this in that their actions and words play a part in the process of others coming to know Jesus, however the part they play is relatively small when you consider the part that God plays in each case.

In each instance God's Spirit has been at work in the lives of the Ethiopian, Saul and Cornelius. Each have already encountered God in different ways. The Ethiopian has been delving into Scripture and is grappling with a passage that describes Jesus, Saul has a dramatic confrontation with Jesus on the road to Damascus and Cornelius sees an angel and receives instructions from God.

God is at work with each individual, he's already drawing them to himself before any of the 'missionaries' even enter the scene. The 'missionary' is not called to 'save' the other, but rather to join God in what he's already doing — to play a part in a much bigger picture.

Mission is often presented to us as being a huge responsibility that we must pursue at all costs. I remember as a young person being taught how to do it in a very formulaic manner. It went something like this:

- Select a Target.
- Create an opportunity to share with them.
- Tell them your story of how you became a Christian.
- Run through some bible verses (you might also use a diagram or formulae to illustrate the separation of humankind and God....two cliffs with Jesus as the bridge seemed to be a popular way to do it)
- Close the sale by putting the hard word on the other person and asking them to pray a prayer of repentance.

There was some flexibility to this at times — but the pressure was on to create opportunities to make disciples — we had to report back on how we did at small group. The responsibility was ours to make it happen. I remember many times lying awake in bed at night scared petrified that it 'wouldn't work' for me and feeling terribly guilty that I'd not been able to get past the first couple of stages.

I love that in the stories above the responsibility rests upon God's shoulders. I love that we are not alone in mission but that God actually engages with us in it. I also love that in the midst of each story God not only draws the 'pagan' to himself, but also manages to draw the 'missionary' to him also. It's a beautiful picture of how it can (should?) be.

Quotable

30 June, 2003 10:32 PM

'If Christ is not relevant outside the church, then he is insignificant inside the church. If our faith is bound to the inner chambers of the Christian community, then it is at best a disobedient faith, and at worst, no faith at all.' Susan Hecht

The Game

29 June, 2003 9:39 PM

'I'm 80 years of age - I grew up in this church. I went to Sunday School here, then Youth Group. I was baptised here and became a youth group leader. I've led worship, I've given testimonies, I've led bible studies and I've even preached. I've held virtually every position you can hold in this church except from that of 'pastor' including elder, secretary and treasurer.

I know a lot about God - but tonight I realised that I don't really know God. For all these years I've 'played the game' - I've looked the part. But I'm a fake, I'm a hypocrite and I don't really understand what people talk about when they talk about how they connect with God. I've wasted so much of my life in pretending that I have it all worked out, I've been too proud to tell anyone that I don't really know God.'

Four yeas ago I was speaking at a youth service in a church in Adelaide about Masks. I had challenged the young people to think about the masks that they wear and to be real with one another, themselves and with God. At the end of the service an older gentleman waited for me and shared the above with me. I've never been able to forget his words and the tears in his old shiny eyes as he shared for the first time in his life how he wanted to 'be real' and 'know God'.

i Church 1.0

27 June, 2003 10:58 PM

I am really impressed with Apple's i Life software digital hub made up of i Tunes, i Movie, i Photo and i DVD. Also in Apple's range is i Cal, i Sync, i Chat, i Pod, i Sight, i Disk, i Book and i Mac.

I love how the different elements integrate together, I love that using their gear isn't messy. I love the clean aqua design and I love the easy to use nature of each of the components.

I think its time I jumped on the bandwagon and released my new venture on the world. It's a 'Spiritual Hub' I like to call i Church. Its a simple idea really - its a new Christian resource where everything comes nicely packaged together in a smartly designed and well marketed package. When you buy into the i Church program you get a fully working spirituality which integrates every aspect of faith in an easy to use, no fuss and non messy kind of way.

Included in the basic package is i Pray, i Worship, i Sermon, i Fellowship and i Mission. This basic package is fully integrated - nothing more to do or think about - once loaded you're set for life - i Life that is.

How much would you expect pay for this amazing spiritual package? Don't answer that because as a special offer, for the first 100 buyers only, a copy of the brand new i Bible Study will be included for no extra cost. This resource will not only provide you with thousands of easy to answer questions about Scripture, but also most of the answers to all life's tricky questions about life.

The basic package including the free i Bible Study is available at a special introductory price for the next 48 hours only at $195.95 (US$). Be sure to place your order quickly to avoid disappointment.

Other components will be released gradually after the release date allowing people to upgrade and enhance their spirituality. i Alt Worship is one of the soon to be released components that is sure to enhance the basic i Worship package.

A range of i Theology plug ins to suit all points on the Theological spectrum is also available. Just mention you preference to one of our helpful phone operators when placing your order.

Also if you have teens or children that you're hoping to fit out with the latest in spirituality you'll need to check out our cutting edge i Youth Group and i Sunday School resources. They come packaged in bright, easy to swallow, packaging that will keep your kids occupied for many years.

Our operators are awaiting your call on 0055 0342 0943. (calls charged at $14 per 60 seconds, cell phones charged at higher rates)

Update: Alan has most generously volunteered to design another component - i Liturgy (in both full and lite versions depending on the features you want.) Having read his blog for 6 months now I'm looking forward to it. If anyone else would like to design a component please leave a comment with the suggestion - also I'll need a good design person to come up with an aqua like logo. Free versions will be available to those who contribute.

WWJG II

27 June, 2003 4:07 PM

Fellow Melbournian Martin Roth has posted in response to my Where Would Jesus Go? post. He adds to the list that the young people I asked the question to came up with by including:

- the stock exchange
- the local delicatessen
- the Melbourne Club (this city's poshest, members-only businessmen's club)
- Melbourne Park for the Australian Open tennis tournament
- Flemington Racecourse during the Melbourne Cup horse racing carnival
- the Royal Australian Air Force base at Laverton
- the boardroom of National Australia Bank (Australia's largest bank)

Although its a bit of an 'artificial' question to ask it is an interesting exercise to do. I tend to agree with Martin that Jesus would probably show up in some of these places also - but it would be interesting to see what approach he would take in each of them. What would he say - how would he relate to people - what issues would he confront...and how?

The other question that springs to mind as I continue to ponder the question and the two lists is 'where do Churches spend most of their time, energy and resources?' My experience in the churches that I've been involved in is that we tend to spend a fair bit of energy and money upon putting on programs, building buildings and creating worship services that largely focus upon those who are already Christians.

As a minister I was always frustrated that so much of my time was focused upon planning and preparing for Sunday morning and evening. When you add to this the time and energy of the voluntary team putting on these services you find that a vast amount of energy is often poured into a couple of hours on a Sunday. (just a 2-3% of the average persons waking hours per week)

Whilst I'm convinced that gathering together to learn, build community, pray and worship is central to faith, I wonder if perhaps we have our priorities slightly out of line in the church today?

What if we put half as much energy and time into producing Sunday services and instead redirected the rest of the time into resourcing and supporting our congregations to live out their faith in practical ways in the places that they spend the majority of their weeks (work, neighbourhoods, family, school, sporting clubs etc)? I wonder what the impact would be?

Passion and Brokenness

26 June, 2003 3:38 PM

I'm home from the Year in the Son camp. It was a valuable time for me. I find the 18-20ish age group an amazing group to speak to. This group of 41 students have taken a year out of their lives after high school and before they go to university to spend at bible college. They are being given an excellent introduction to a variety of theology, bible, doctrine and personal development subjects.

This weeks camp was fantastic for me. It was a pity to have to come home Tuesday and miss some of the activities that they did. The studies that I spoke at seemed to go well (its always hard to tell) and I had some amazing conversations over meals and in free time.

Last night after the study on Wonder we had an open sharing time for them to share about what God has been doing with them this year. Without going into details I will say that what was shared was inspiring to me for two reasons.

Firstly they were so passionate about knowing Jesus. To see a group of young people fully going after God is always an incredible experience.

Secondly, amidst the stories of lessons learnt and mountain top like experiences were stories of real pain and struggle. While my heart ached by the end of the night after hearing some of the stories I also went to bed inspired by their brokenness. God uses broken people to do amazing things. Often God has a way of using our biggest struggles, failures and pains to make a difference in the world we live in.

This group of young people inspired me this week - thankyou YITS students!

Go? Attract?

24 June, 2003 5:10 PM

Just back from camp for a few hours to teach RE class in the local primary school (it went well...those kids are full of life) and for Living Room tonight. (we're looking at Acts 6-8)

There is some meaty conversation going on in the past few posts comments - I'm being challenged as I read which is great. I wish I had some more time today to digest it.

One of the central question that is emerging is 'did Jesus go to the sinners - or did they come to him?' (ok no one actually said those words, but I'm sensing this is one of the things we're exploring) Its an important question to grapple with because it will impact our own approach to interacting with non believers.

I would answer the question by saying YES.

I think both are seen in the life of Jesus and the early church. Yes people did approach Jesus - its no wonder that they did - he was healing, doing miracles and seemed to be an amazingly stimulating story teller/teacher. Of course people were attracted to him.

However I think there were times where Jesus also approached others. For example the day he saw Levi sitting at his tax collectors booth and said: 'Come follow me' (Luke 5:27). To me this seems to be initiated by Jesus.

Another example that springs to mind is his interaction with the Samaritan woman who had had numerous husbands - Jesus approached her for a drink of water and a conversation ensued. (John 4:7)

In John 5:1 he approaches a lame man to heal.

At the very least Jesus put himself in positions to meet people living on the fringe of society. He travelled through areas where Gentiles and Samaritans lived, he went to the pool of Bethsiada and he went into the houses of tax collectors where other tax collectors would be gathered. He did not remain locked away in a cave or an upper room where such people would have to go out of their way to find him.

Its also interesting to see how he sent out his disciples on different occasions to preach, heal and cast out demons. Although not implicitly stated it seems that he's saying to go find people that can receive healing etc.

The early church also seemed to both attract people but also go to people. Paul's missionary trips show someone who sought out people to hear the gospel.

Philip (Acts 8) hears the Holy Spirit tell him to Go interact with the Ethiopian.

If we are only supposed to share our faith with those that come onto our turf then centuries of overseas mission work has been based on the wrong principle.

In my own personal experience I've had times of both people coming to me asking questions and also times where I've sensed God has wanted me to seek another person (or group) out in order to develop relationship and share my faith.

I don't see it as one or the other. Both approaches seem biblical.

However over arching both is the command to 'make disciples' and to 'be witnesses'. We are called to be 'light' and 'salt' - to impact the world around us. Whether others come to us or we go to others the command remains.

Paul encourages us to be careful in our approach. He says: 'Live wisely among those who are not Christians, and make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversations be gracious and effective so that you will have the right answer for everyone.' (Col 4:5-6)

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