Emerging Church Archives

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Does the Church Need to Rethink Leadership?

24 September, 2007 5:47 PM

In my last post I spoke about the transition time that we're going through as a community at LivingRoom with V and I moving on from the community at the end of this year (it's looking like we'll finish early in December or late in November).

While the transition has been something that we've been thinking about day in and day out for 8 months now it has been fascinating to see how different people have responded to the news in that last post.

Overwhelmingly people have been very encouraging. A few have emailed to ask questions and ask for clarification of rumors they'd heard (it's amazing (and a little concerning) what goes around - none of which has had any truth to them) but in general there has been some really wonderful feedback.

An Emerging Theme

One thing that I've found particularly interesting is the large number of people who have said that they resonate with the paragraph that I wrote about my 'sense of mission and ministry' in which I pointed back to my previous post on the topic of some of my own personal discovery and evolution in understanding of Ministry as being connected to work.

I've received email after email from people in paid ministry who have been coming to similar realizations and discoveries that perhaps God is 'calling' them to a different kind of 'ministry' outside that of paid ministry.

Some have told stories of how they have already made a similar transition to full time 'secular' (I dislike that word more and more) work, other have talked about moving into a part time paid ministry and part time work situation and others have expressed a desire to make the transition.

What interests me is that those emailing come from both emerging communities and more traditional churches.

My reactions to these emails is twofold:

1. I'm really excited and encouraged by it - It's affirming to know that I'm not alone in feeling the feelings that I've had this last year and to see that God's doing something amazing across the globe in his people who are discovering him and his mission in their work. I've heard some exciting stories of what's been going on for people and am increasingly energized by it.

2. I'm left with many questions - On the flip side of this I'm left wondering about 'church' and 'leadership'. While I'm certain that every pastor and minister around the world is not about to get up and leave their communities to go and get jobs outside the church - I do wonder whether we're seeing something happening here that will lead to us as Church to rethink how our communities are lead. I don't have the 'answers' to this - but it's a question we've certainly been pondering at LivingRoom of late and one that I'm beginning to see numerous other churches (particularly emerging ones) grappling with as their leaders feel the time is right to move on.

Sydney Emerging Church

19 June, 2006 3:53 PM

Small-Boat-Big-SeaI'm regularly asked if I know of Emerging Churches in Sydney Australia and I regularly email people back saying that I don't really have any contact details for people but give a few names to track down.

Thanks to one of the readers of this blog I can now refer people to Small Boat Big Sea's web page. I know a few of the people at this Manly church and have heard great things about it.

Get in touch with them at SBBS.

If you know of other emerging churches in Sydney feel free to leave their details in comments below.

Measuring Emerging Church as a Trend

12 May, 2006 2:27 PM

Yesterday Google announced a new tool - Google Trends which is great for tracking how many people are searching Google for different keywords.

The term 'Emerging Church didn't really appear on Google's tracking until about three quarters through 2005. Following is a graph that shows it.

I'm unsure why there is such a leap at the start - I suspect that they just were not tracking it (other terms were tracked since the start of 2004).

So over the last 6 or so months the graph is pretty steady.

Viz-1

As an update to give some perspective of the numbers of people searching (Google trends just graphs it without measuring) I thought I'd compare 'emerging church' (blue) with 'Hillsong' (a large contemporary worship church here in Australia). The results are... interesting.... to say the least:

Viz-1-1

Also interesting with Google trends is that they plot where in the world people are searching for these terms from.

With Emerging church the biggest regions where people are searching for the term are (in order):

1. United States
2. Australia
3. Canada
4. United Kingdom


(no other countries registered high enough volumes of traffic to register)

With Hillsong the biggest regions of the world where people are searching for the term are:

1. Philippines
2. Australia
3. Singapore
4. South Africa
5. Indonesia
6. Malaysia
7. New Zealand
8. Brazil
9. Chile
10. Colombia

Neil Cole in Melbourne: 5th-7th April - Highly Recommended

29 March, 2006 8:41 PM

One of the best speakers I've ever heard in recent years on mission and church is Neil Cole who came and spoke at a Forge event a couple of years back.

He shared some of his story in one of the most humble and simple way. No big theories, no big words, no blog - just a guy doing what he felt God put before him to do in a way that had an incredible impact on the lives of many. Very inspiring.

Neil is back in Melbourne between 5 - 7 April for three days of teaching on 'How to Shape, Transition and Pioneer new ministries, missions, congregation and churches'.

I'm so so upset that I'm going to miss it (Forge seem to plan their events by when I'm out of town) but would highly recommend it to anyone who can make it.

The details are in the following pdf (click it to enlarge).

Forge Neil Cole
.

Brian McLaren in Melbourne

20 January, 2006 2:47 PM

For those of you in Melbourne who would like to hear Brian McLaren speak you might like to click on the following promotion for details of a night he's doing on 23 February with Forge.

Postcards With …N Mclaren 2

Podcast - Core Values of the Red Network, a Melbourne Emerging Church

15 September, 2005 6:22 PM

Thanks to everyone for the positive feedback after my last post - a podcast/interview of me talking about the process of coming up with Core Values at LivingRoom.

As a follow up interview today I'm posting an interview that I did with Mark Sayers (the guy who interviewed me in the last one).

Mark is a church planter here in Melbourne - he's been a part of numerous emerging missional churches over the past few years but is currently working in a community called the 'Red Network' (formally South Melbourne Restoration Centre). I'll let him explain what it is in the interview that follows.

Mark is also one of the guys behind a website that many of you might remember a few years back called Phuture - a site that was one of the first sites going around exploring issues of emerging church, alternative worship, postmodern culture and how the church might interact with that (NB: Phuture is no longer online).

Lastly some of you will know Mark best as the author of the Ignition course which many of you have used in your communities.

Here's my interview with Mark (9MB - 20 minutes long).

Apologies for some of the audio problems but I've had difficulty in editing this interview so its a pretty raw quality.

Podcast - Core Values of LivingRoom

26 August, 2005 4:01 PM

I'd like to introduce my first podcast (or sorts) to LivingRoom. The MP3 file below (just under 4MB and 16 minutes long) is the first in a mini series of recordings that I've done with a good friend of mine - Mark Sayers.

Mark is a local guy that I've come to know and respect in the past few years that is involved in the starting of a new network of churches here in Melbourne called 'Red'. Red emerged out of a church named South Melbourne Restoration Centre (South Melbourne Church of Christ) which has had an amazing influence upon our city over the last decade or two under the leadership of Alan and Debra Hirsch.

Anyway - Mark's a brilliant thinker so when we stumbled upon the idea of recording some interviews with one another talking about our lessons of planting LivingRoom and Red I thought it was too good an opportunity to pass up.

This first recording is Mark interviewing me about how the Core Values of LivingRoom. We explore a little of how we came up with our Values and how we reinforce them etc. In part II of this series I ask Mark some questions about Red's values. I hope you enjoy this - it's pretty basic in terms of quality but we'd like to do more of them if people find them useful. here it is:

Core Values of LivingRoom.mp3

Tension Points in the Emerging Church?

7 July, 2005 12:04 AM

Andrew Jones writes a thoughtful piece on 12 Tension Points in the Emerging Church. He writes:

'I have noticed there is still a lot of tension in the relationship between emerging church and the traditional church. Not as much as you think, but there is certainly a lot of heated discussion, mud-slinging and tabloid criticism. There is even the threat of physical abuse and organizations withdrawing favor, or young people leaving their denominations and starting fresh expressions of church without the blessing of their elders. Not good! The emerging church is called to be a reconciling community and part of that reconciliation must happen in the realm of communication.

Here are 12 tension points. I am sure there are many more, but these came to mind yesterday on a London train....'

Read more at TallSkinnyKiwi

I find Andrew's list quite helpful in describing many of the discussions on EC on blogs around the world. As I read it I found myself resonating - yet at a second and third read I began to ask myself if we at LivingRoom are experiencing any or all of these tensions.

I ended up having to answer the question 'no'.

Whilst at times there has been a little tension - it's actually been rare. Most of the critique that we've had as a group has either come via this blog from overseas (no offense to my OS readers - they've also been among our strongest encouragers) or as third hand criticism via word of mouth from largely nameless faces.

I'm not sure what this says. There could be a number of possibilities:

- Perhaps the Australian context is more accepting of new forms of church and mission?
- It could be that the EC has been pretty under the radar here?
- Maybe LivingRoom isn't an EC?
- Could it be that I'm blind, deaf and/or just plain ignoring the criticism?
- Maybe we're the perfect EC that's found all the answers?
- Perhaps we're so far off base that no one is bothering to critique us?
- Maybe we're reasonably good at explaining what and why we do what we do?
- Or perhaps we're just a wishy washy blend of EC and established church?

I'm not sure what it is (although am leaning towards it being an Aussie thing) - but I'm not too disturbed as I think that Emerging and Established churches have a lot to offer each other and many things to learn together

Questioning Church

25 May, 2005 1:46 PM

Over the past week I've had a number of interactions with Christians that have left me feeling a little downhearted.

In each case I've had people asking questions about LivingRoom and 'churches like it' in a way that was verging on attacking.

Now before I write any more - I will say that I don't mind questions about LivingRoom - in fact I welcome them. I actually believe that questions from outside our group are very helpful in keeping us on track and developing a community that doesn't evolve into something that is unaccountable and disconnected from the mainstream theologically.

However questions can be asked in a variety of ways - one of which is aggressively.

The actual questions asked were the normal ones that I tend to get presented with - things like:

  • Why don't you sing?
  • Why don't you meet on Sunday?
  • Who is your pastor/minister? Why don't you have one?
  • Why don't you have a Sunday School program for kids?
  • Do you have a building? Do you want one? Why not?
  • Why don't you have an evangelism program?
  • How many converts have you had?

Again the questions are not bad ones - but the tone with which they were asked seemed to be getting at whether we were legitimately a 'real church' or not - and in most cases the implied undertone was that the answer to this question was 'no we were not'.

I don't particularly mind if people want to work out if we're really a church or not - its a good question and one we seek to answer at LivingRoom. We believe we are a church - we believe that we're not a perfect one, but we're on the road and seeking to know what God would have us be in our context and hopefully are responding to this.

These conversations have left me wondering what would happen if every church were asked questions like these.

I have to say that when I worked in my last church (300 or so people, meeting in a largely mainstream way) that i never got asked any of these questions - in fact I don't remember ever being challenged on our model of doing church at all.

The reason for this is obviously because the church I was in was largely doing what was generally accepted by most Christians as 'doing church'. They met on Sundays, they had a pastoral team, they met in a building and had offices, they had established programs, they had contemporary worship services etc.

This would be an opportune time for me to weigh into the 'established vs emerging church' debate and to deconstruct and critique the 'established/mainline' church. Perhaps in a previous time I would have done so - but in the past 12 months I'm realizing more and more that such a debate isn't really helpful. My personal opinion is that there is room for a multitude of models and expressions of church. My previous church is a legitimate expression of a Jesus centered faith community for the context that they are in. I doubt any of their members would say they are perfect - but they, like us, are seeking to hear God's voice and respond to it.

I guess what I'm saying here (in a round about - not very well thought out way) is two things:

1. When we ask questions about models/logistics/styles of doing Church - perhaps we should first consider the tone of voice and the agenda that we have in asking the questions. Neil Coles words of 'if you're going to base the bride you better be willing to face the bridegroom' ring in my ears. This is a message that both emerging and establish church people need to hear as they make comment on one another.

2. Perhaps with this attitude in mind the questions should be asked in a dialogical way. You see being asked such questions in a positive tone is helpful for me as someone involved in LivingRoom - it keeps challenging me back to the basics of who we are, what God is saying to us, what our culture is like etc. I think all churches should revisit some of these sorts of questions from time to time.

For example, perhaps it would be helpful for my previous church to be asked questions like I have been this week (not accusingly - but genuinely to assist in their discerning of God's voice:

Why do you sing?
Why do you meet on Sunday and not Tuesday for your main gatherings?
Why do is so much of your giving tied up in pastors wages
Why do you separate kids from parents each Sunday?
Why do you have a building? How is it being used?
Why do you have so many programs?
How many converts have you had?

Please hear me as asking these questions in a loving way - I know that the answers can be legitimately answered - some of the answers will reconfirm the choices that this church has made - but perhaps some of them will challenge paradigms that need a challenge and perhaps would identify a new expression of what God might be wanting to do in that place.

Interested in others thoughts.

Are Emerging Church Blogs Getting Stale?

13 May, 2005 6:02 PM

Someone pointed me to a post written by Mark at the First Epistle of Mark titled Behold, I am making all things stale and boring - a critique/observation of the Emerging Church - or at least its blogs. You can probably tell that Mark is a little disalussioned by the EC blogging scene by his title - his post is worth a read. I both resonated with it and reacted against it a little. Here is the comment I left on his blog which has some of my initial thoughts:

Good post and a topic I've written on from time to time.

I personally read a lot less blogs on the topic of Emerging Church (and have written on the topic myself less) these days for a combination of reasons:

1. I have less time
2. a little frustration (similar to yours) of an insular group talking about the same stuff
3. perhaps less need to keep talking and a desire to start doing more
4. I've felt a nudging from God to get involved in the wider blogging community and be a little more outward focused in my blogging.

Having said this - I still value EC blogs (despite them sometimes going in circles a bit). The reason I value them is on a number of fronts:

1. They are often written by people early on in their EC journey and are a thinking out loud, learning experience - testing ideas, learning from each other, experimenting with theories and even testing them in practice. This is vital for their own personal walk and the communities that they are a part of.

2. They are part of an important dialogue in the wider church. Whilst you and I may have heard all the arguments, been convinced (or not convinced) and perhaps are thirsting for something new - so many others have not. I spent a day today with 100 or so church people, many of whom have not heard of the EC movement (is that what it is) and who were incredibly stimulated and moved by what they heard about some very very basic Emerging Church thought from one of the EC Bloggers that many look to as quite prominent. I didn't hear anything new (although it did remind me of a few things that I'd pushed aside) but the basics were rich for most in the room. I wonder if this is true for the EC blogging community also which I believe plays an important role in awakening a conversation that needs to happen in the wider church today.

I also have been challenged recently by the idea of 'new' and our need for it in society. You write no one writes anything 'new' - I wonder if anyone ever did. Most conversations in all areas of the church today are reshapings of previous conversations.

I can't remember where I heard this - but in a book I've read in the last year or two I was challenged to think about the growing need that western culture has for 'new things' or 'novelty'. In previous generations and centuries the main 'needs' were for food, shelter, relationship etc. Today we live in a world where we 'need' new things. The latest gadget, car, book, idea, theory, paradigm etc. Whilst I don't have anything against new things - I wonder how healthy this obsession is with new/novelty and whether the church buys into it.

I too thirst for a new conversation - but perhaps God's calling us into an ancient discussion. I don't know - maybe I'm wrong - but I'm going to sit with that for a while.

Don't get me wrong - I'm not having a go at you Mark - I resonate with your post - but I guess I'm also seeing the value in the EC blogging scene.

Lastly I'll point you to an interesting post by Anil Dash - one of the people behind the MovableType and Typepad blogging systems who wrote an interesting piece on the blogging cycle and some of the observations that he's made about a variety of blogging communities. Perhaps what you're describing is part of one of the steps that he writes about.

The Out of Bounds Church Review

1 May, 2005 5:24 PM

Darren (the other one) is writing a chapter by chapter review of Steve Taylor's Out of Bounds Church. He's written 5 chapters so far. Looking forward to getting my hands on my own copy next week at the Melbourne book launch.

book launch - out of bounds Church

28 April, 2005 10:59 AM

I'm looking forward to this upcoming event here in Melbourne. It'll be a great night and something worth adding to your diary as Steve's a wise man who I respect greatly even though I've only spent a short hour with over a beer one time.

'On Wednesday 11th May at 7.30pm, Northern Community Church of Christ and Forge are launching Steve Taylors book - Out of Bounds Church. This is an event not to be missed if you are in the vicinity of Melbourne.'

Read more at book launch - out of bounds Church

Emergent - Key Issues

26 April, 2005 12:23 PM

Stephen Said has some good discussion going on at his blog about some of the key issues that are facing the Emerging Church - he'd like your thoughts. His initial post is Emergent - Who's doing what... and the follow up one with a list of issues that have been submitted is Emergent - Issue from the street. This issues list is quite good:

  • Effective Mission/Faithsharing
  • Sustainability (in terms of employment, paying the bills etc)
  • Sustainability in terms of spirituality.
  • Discipleship in a po-mo consumer based context (including a comnsumer based Christian context).
  • Community building and development.
  • Theologising.
  • Thinking/Imagination
  • Relating to the traditional/conventional church

Head over and add to is in Stephen's comments section.

Multi-congregational?

18 March, 2005 4:36 PM

Phil over at Signposts is looking for examples of Multi Congregational Churches and would like your help:

'I am wondering if you are in a Church that you would consider to be multi-congregational? Or maybe you know a Church that is multi-congregational? I want to compile a list of Churches who are attempting to have more than one congregation. In particular, I am keen to find out Churches who are operating emerging church like congregations alongside established congregations.

So, what do I mean by multi-congregational? Well, I dont mean Churches that have multiple worship services but rather Churches who have taken seriously the idea that a Church can have people who are meeting at different times, in different places, in different styles etc. Clear as mud?'

Head over there if you can contribute to his search!

A short history and explanation of the wider emerging church

22 February, 2005 9:20 AM

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

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

Forge Intensive - Feb 05

19 February, 2005 4:48 PM

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

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

Wish you were here.

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

Forge Intensive this weekend!

16 February, 2005 5:51 AM

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

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

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

Feel free to bring others along.

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

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

My Emerging Church Presentation

13 February, 2005 10:34 PM

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

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

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

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

Dreams and Hopes

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

Denominations and the Emerging Church

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

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

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

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

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

A Taste of Liquid

10 February, 2005 12:12 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopes and Dreams for the Emerging Church

4 February, 2005 12:33 AM

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

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

The other Darren answered the question by saying:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Children in Emerging Church

3 February, 2005 3:01 PM

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

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

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

Emerging Church Participants and the Local Church

17 January, 2005 5:18 PM

Garth is wondering 'how many of those who consider themselves part of the EC still worship or are attached to their local church. How many have started something new and no longer attend the 'structured' church? '

Vote here

Melbourne Emerging Churches

17 January, 2005 12:56 PM

Every week I get an email from a reader of my Blog that goes something like this:


'Dear Darren,

My name is (insert name here) and I am very interested in what you are doing with LivingRoom. I have recently been thinking about church and am coming to a place where I feel it is time to find a church like yours to become a part of and explore some of the themes that you explore.

I live in (insert part of Melbourne that is NOT near LivingRoom) and was wondering if you know of other churches that are like yours in terms of style, values, outlook etc. Can you point me in the right direction?

Thanks - (insert name here).'

I love these emails because it confirms the suspicion that so many people are arriving at similar conclusions about church but it also leaves me wondering how to respond. I know of a number of 'emerging, simple, organic, post modern, liquid churches' around Melbourne but I know there are more.

Just yesterday I met a guy at Soul Survivor who is part of a movement of house churches in the West of Melbourne that I'd never heard of before (called 'West Church') - hi Nathan by the way!

So - I thought maybe its time I began a bit of a list of Melbourne Emerging Churches. I'll let you decide what is and isn't an Emerging Church and invite you to submit the details of any that you know or are apart of below in comments. Please include:

- Name of group (if you have one)
- Region of Melbourne that it is from
- A couple of sentences that describe it
- A website link and/or some way of contacting the group (email, address, phone - whatever works for you)

Hopefully this will be a useful resource.

Here are some to start the list off of some of those that I'm familiar with. Please don't be offended if I havn't mentioned yours yet - these were just some I had websites handy for. I didn't want to add one's without websites because I know some are not as public as others and may not want the exposure at the moment. More than happy to add others with or without websites - submit them in comments:

Name: LivingRoom
Region: Inner North - from Fitzroy, to Brunswick, to Northcote and Thornbury.
Description: Meets in the homes of its members on Wednesday nights for a meal, discussion, community building and reflections. Informal, small and friendly.
Contact: Email Darren

Name: Northern Community Church of Christ
Region: North - Preston, Northcote etc
Description: - NCCC is an interesting church with multiple congregations that meet in a number of locations targeting different groups of people in culturally appropriate ways.
Contact: contact details

Name: The Junction
Region: Outer South East including Berwick
Description: A missional community made up of a number of smaller primary communities meeting in homes, hotels and other public spaces.
Contact: Contact Details

Name: Solace
Region: North/East - from Kew to Northcote and many places between!
Description: Solace meet in a number of formats at a number of times during the week. Contemplative and Creative.
Contact: Contact Details

Name: Cafe Church
Region: Meet at Babel Cafe in Brunswick St Fitzroy on Tuesdays.
Description: Cafechurch is about a group of christians who want to enjoy church and each other through the challenge of community. We meet weekly in a cafe where we share our faith in a forum that is informal and interactive.
Contact: Contact People

Name:
Region:
Description:
Contact:

Name:
Region:
Description:
Contact:

Liquid Conference Put on Ice

13 January, 2005 9:25 PM


liquid conference
Unfortunately due to lack of numbers we've put the Liquid Conference on ice until some point in the future.

Instead of the full three day conference that we were planning we will be running a more informal, cheaper afternoon and evening event on 9 Wednesday February. The time will start at 2pm at Northern Community Church of Christ (as previously planned) and will include a few short presentations, some free flowing discussion and lots of interaction around issues of:

- Engaging culture & community
- Spiritual formation & discipleship
- Compassionate living & social justice

In the evening (6pm for dinner til 9pm) we'll be opening things up and inviting some of the emerging churches and communities from around Melbourne to come together for a time of story telling, alternative worship and reflection.

We're suggesting a donation of $20 if you're coming for the whole time or $10 if you come for one or the other session (ie afternoon or evening). If you'd like to have some pizza with us bring an extra $5.

I'm sorry to those who had planned to come to a three day conference - especially those who are coming from overseas - a combination of a hard time of year, other competing conferences and other circumstances have made it difficult - but we hope you can still come and be a part of this day together.

16 Church Planting Lessons

12 January, 2005 12:49 PM

Lucas also asked in his email for my thoughts on planting a house church (or a 'simple church' as they prefer to call it). I too resist the 'house church label' - we don't refer to ourselves in that way (see some of my grappling with what to call ourselves at Sexy House Churches, Emerging, House, Cafe, Organic, Post-Modern? and Boxable Church).

My thoughts or advice or lessons on Church Planting are only given hesitantly as they are OUR lessons. 'Ours' not because we own them or have a patent pending but because they are what we've learnt in our context in the period of time that we've been experimenting. They may or may not be universal lessons applicable to all. I've previously written quite a few of these 'lessons' and rather than rehashing them all here I thought I'd just provide some links and headings:

The first ten lessons were written after one year of being established. They were perhaps a little more 'theoretical' than the last five. We were very much testing and experimenting in the first year.

- Church Planting Lessons - Part A

1. Get your DNA right

- Church Planting Lessons - Part B

2. Make Mission Central
3. Read Shaping of Things to Come


- Church Planting Lessons - Part C

4. Multiplication rather than Addition
5. Make it Simple and Replica-table

- Church Planting Lessons - Part D

6. Incarnation
7. Sending vs Attractional

- Church Planting Lessons - Part E - 8. Participation is Key and 9. Community is Central

8. Participation is Key
9. Community is Central

- Church Planting Lessons - Part F

10. Have Fun

If that wasn't enough I also wrote More Church Planting Lessons from the LivingRoom after another 6 months of meeting. These tips were perhaps a little more out of our experience. They are:

11. Go Slow
12. Make it as connected as possible to people's real lives
13. Don't just meet in Houses
14. Don't let Church Dominate Life
15. Be Shaped by the Outsider

I'm sure there will be 'even more Church Planting lessons' that I'll write at some stage after a little more reflection but this will have to do for the time being. I will however add one more brief one:

16. Be careful what you blog about - whilst blogging is a wonderful tool for communication, learning and networking it can also be used inappropriately. It might be worth having a brief conversation with your group as to what you can and can't blog about.
- I personally have chosen not to identify by names people in our group.
- I have posted a few photos from time to time but limit this. I also choose not to blog about decisions we're making in much detail until they have been made.
- I do not blog about our disagreements or about what individuals said unless I get permission first.

Whilst I want to be transparent with the world through this blog about who LivingRoom is - there is nothing to hide - I also want to keep in mind that our community is made up of real people who are entitled to privacy and a safe space to express themselves and their journeys. They are also entitled to not have our dirty laundry (not that there is much) aired publicly. This is just my position - I know other bloggers have taken different approaches - some it has worked out for, others it has caused some massive problems for. Just be careful.

I'm interested to hear your 'lessons' or advice to a group of people just starting out.

The 'Rules' of Church

27 December, 2004 9:07 AM

Darren (the other one - or one of them) has written a post titled Rules were made to be broken about a workshop he's running. He's asking readers to name some of the 'Rules' of Church:

'This made me wonder, what would those of you in the blogosphere list as Rules of Church? Those in the EC scnene have been redefining the rules for quite some time and I was wondering if there was anyone out there paying attention to my new blog who might be interested in listing some of their rules and some of the old rules of Church.


Some of the rules that I think have been dismantled include:

- A church doesnt not look like a coffee shop
- A dance party is outreach, not Church
- Music in the Church should be played on an organ
- Uncomfortable pews are a necessary part of Church
- There is one definition of Church
- The minister preaches, I listen

Of course, there are hundreds more, but I wonder what your old rules were'

Head over and add your 'rules' to his list.

Emerging Church Question from Maryam

21 December, 2004 3:53 PM

Maryam over at A Dervish's Du`a has posted some excellent questions and reflections on the Emerging Church. The cool thing is that she's not only asking questions from outside the Emerging Church but also outside the Church. As a Muslim woman who we've actually had along to share with us at LivingRoom I'm very interested in her observations and thoughts. She writes:

'However, it struck me that EC would be difficult to 'enter' as a non-church-goer or non-Christian just interested in checking things out. You know... tasting the aperitifs before comitting to the twelve-course meal. Sometimes it takes quite a few aperitifs before you're ready for the roast beef and yorkshire pud, so how do you approach that in your EC congregations?

The weekly gathering I attended had a group of extremely and genuinely warm and welcoming people, but of course with a small group of a dozen or so people in someone's home, a newcomer stands out like the proverbial sore thumb. There is no mouthing along with the hymns up the back at EC!!

Also, how do you deal with the 'member' / 'non-member' / 'official status' / 'you have to join up to be a part of it' / 'you have to believe X theological creed' etc. issue? Read more at A Dervish's Du`a': Emerging Church Question

So where does one start in answering those questions. Here are a few reflections:

1. I've felt similar feelings as I've observed LivingRoom and othe ECs.

2. Whilst I've felt similar things I've reminded myself that LivingRoom has not set up to grow LivingRoom. Our purpose is not to build our community in numbers, or even 'the Church's' numbers - rather we exist to build 'the Kingdom of God'. Whilst this distinction doesn't fully answer Maryam's questions it is an important distinction to make. In previous church circumstances I think the mindset was often to get people along to church, to make it as accessible as possible to people, to break down the barriers for people to come in and belong so that they could become one of us. With LivingRoom we actually have in our DNA that we are not as interested in building our numbers by getting people to come in to us - but we're more interested in us going out and joining God in his work in the world.

3. Having said this there does sometimes come a time when people want to come to LivingRoom - both people who have church experience and people who do not. On most occasions that this has happened so far these people come along on a Wednesday night out of some sort of relationship with a LivingRoom participant. Its not a rule - just the way it happens. Whilst this also doesn't completely answer Maryam's question I find that it does help people make the transition. Very rarely have we had total strangers rock up to LivingRoom - usually there is at least one meeting with people first - if not many months or years of relationship with people. Often they've already met a number of the group before coming.

4. Despite all this wonderful theory I still know that the format of how we choose to meet (and its just one way of many within the Emerging Church) CAN be a little (or a lot) threatening to some people. This is due to our size, our meeting in a private home, the format of our meetings (interactive, sitting in a circle) etc. On the flip side this format and style also makes things more accessible for other types of people. I guess what I'm coming to believing is that Church should take a variety of forms - each with its own strengths and weaknesses in connecting with different types of people.

Anyway - those are some of my reflections - wondering what others think? Leave your comments over at Maryams.

Sexual Misconduct in the Emerging Church

30 November, 2004 12:21 AM

Today was the first day of the last Forge intensive for the year - a week of learning, dreaming, sharing, networking and imagining what the church, mission and Christian spirituality might look like in our different cultural positions. A lot of Melbourne's emerging church scene comes out over the week to catch up and engage with one another. This intensive is on the topic of 'Leadership'.

Today we had a number of good sessions. One in particular remains in my mind tonight as I consider ending my day and heading to bed. I thought I'd mention it here in an attempt to get it out of my head before I attempt sleep....

Anne Wilkinson-Hayes spoke today about Sexual Misconduct/Abuse - particularly of leaders. Here in Australia (and around the world) over the past few years there have been a number of high profile cases where ministers/pastors have been accused of and found guilty of a variety of different sexual misconduct actions. All that I am aware of have arisen in traditional or mainline churches....

Anne talked today about how this is a topic that the Emerging Church especially needs to ponder and grapple with. Sexual misconduct by leaders is not just an issue for larger mainline churches - in some ways the emerging church might even be more vulnerable due factors including (and I'm generalizing here):

- lack of accountability to outside groups/denominations.
- lack of policy and/or thought through strategies in some of these areas due to the informality or lack of resources of groups
- decentralized leadership that often is a little chaotic
- lack of training in these areas due to a laity leadership model
- smallness of groups which can lead to real relational intimacy
- gender imbalances in groups sometimes make it difficult to follow policies

These were just a few of the reasons why the EC might be more vulnerable in this area. Again they are gross generalizations and not applicable to every EC - however even if none of them apply - I still see this as an important issue to grapple with and one in which I'm yet to see any real work or discussion had in EC circles that I have something to do with. I'm wondering if others have anything to share in terms of resources - ideas - suggestions on how you tackle this area as Emerging Churches. Interested in your thoughts...

Emerging Worship with Mark Pierson

12 November, 2004 12:20 PM

Last night we had the Emerging Worship Night with Mark Pierson at Forge. It was a good night with about 40 in attendance (the rain kept people away at bit).

I really enjoy listening to Mark - as someone who has been involved in innovative church contexts for years longer than myself its very encouraging to hear his stories and experience.

One of the things that sticks in my mind was some of his opening remarks about intuition. He talked about how most of what he did at Cityside was done out of his intuitive nature and not out of books, blogs, theoretical or strategic thinking. This was personally a very encouraging thing for me to hear as I do not see myself as a deep thinker - and work out of that place predominantly also. Phew - I'm not alone.

He also talked a lot about the value of participation that they have at Cityside - something that I noticed about the place on our recent visit. It was great to simply hear the story/ies of Cityside and some of the behind the scenes workings having had so vivid memories of being there.

I love the balance that they have between a structured liturgy and an 'anything goes' approach. Skeletally they are the same each Sunday in terms of liturgy, but because anyone can do anything (within the outlined elements) they can end up with radically different gatherings from week to week.

I also resonated with his talking about how anyone can initiate anything when it comes to mission. Cityside as such doesn't have 'mission projects or programs'. They support mission projects of its members but the primary responsibility and authority lies with the members. This is an approach that sounds rather chaotic and scary - but one which I have seen work very successfully in a number of places over the years.

Mark's concept of a 'Worship Curator' is one I'm familiar with from previous reading and one which has been very formative for me over the years. It was nice to hear him speak about it in person.

I valued the way Mark shares - he is very humble and not pushy. He does not present anything as a model but rather encouraged those there to hear the principles he was speaking about. All in all it was a very encouraging night and one that I'm sure will continue to impact my thinking for many years. Of course the other exciting thing is that Mark now is based in Melbourne and so the possibilities of increased relationship and sharing will no doubt arise over time.

How do you Engage with the Emerging Church?

8 November, 2004 9:14 AM

Life just got busy. Sorry for the lack of action on this blog this week - its one of those weeks where everything is landing on my lap at once. Its all good stuff - there's just a lot of it.

Anyway - question for you emerging church bods out there.

I've been asked to speak tomorrow to an Aussie missions agency about Emerging Church. To give them a bit of a run down on what its all about - but also to share with them as to how they might better connect and partner with it.

The exciting thing for me is that I think a relationship between a mission agency like this one (who is doing some cutting edge stuff in third world contexts) could be a very dynamic and two way one.

I think they could teach us a lot about mission, culture, incarnation etc. After all - most of the principles that many of us use in mission are really taken from the lessons learned in overseas mission. I think that the Emerging Church could also offer back a lot of lessons, creativity, resources and people. Its a worthwhile conversation.

The challenge for groups like them is that many of us Emerging church types are suspicious of institutions, a little skeptical about some of the things that have been done over the years by 'mission organizations' and are often so unstructured and 'liquid' that we are hard to engage if you're a structured and highly organized body.

So - the question I have (and it is a little obscure) - how would you suggest an organization like this fosters relationships with the Emerging Church? What barriers might you see? What ways forward might there be?

Update: unfortunately comments are not working at the moment if you leave a URL. (its my spam protector doing a bit too good a job) Thanks to those that have emailed me responses. Feel free to leave a comment below without anything in the url or 'www' in your comments. Will attempt to fix it soon.

Liquid Conference - Registrations Open

5 November, 2004 3:19 PM

The Liquid Conference is now taking registrations online.

It will be an amazing few days of exploring the themes of:

- Engaging culture & community
- Spiritual formation & discipleship
- Compassionate living & social justice

Its being held here in Melbourne between Wed 9 � Fri 11 February 2005.

Both the organizations that I work for (LivingRoom and Forge) and supporters of this event (as are many other wonderful groups from around our city). Apparently we've already got a few registrations from overseas (including one or two readers of this blog I've heard) as well as a growing number of local registrations. I'm going and will be involved in running a few workshops and am coordinating some evening worship times. Would love to have you come along.

Emerging Worship Workshop - With Mark Pierson

4 November, 2004 5:18 PM

Thursday 11th November will see the next Forge Postcards from the Edge event held in the upper room of the Retro Caf� on Brunswick St.

Presenter Mark Pierson will be presenting on the topic of 'Emerging Worship'.

'How is worship evolving in these increasingly sceptical, and secular times? What is the role of art in our worship? How can we make worship more that just a spectator sport? Is we've always done it this way, really a good reason not to do it differently? Innovation, creativity, and relevance in worship.'

Mark has many years of experience in thinking through issues of church, mission and worship and is a sought after presenter on this topic. He's the co-writer of the book 'Prodigal Project', pastor at Cityside Baptist (Auckland) and has recently taken up a position heading up Urban Seed in Melbourne. We�re looking forward to an enjoyable and stimulating evening of learning and discussion with Mark and hope you�re able to join us.

As always � feel free to bring a friend, partner, small group, worship team � whoever you think will benefit from this time.

Where: Retro Caf� (upstairs) - 413 Brunswick St Fitzroy (Melbourne Australia)
When: 11th November
Time: Either 6pm (ish) for dinner (an informal dinner in the caf� downstairs with some of the Forge network) or come at 7.30pm for the start of the night upstairs. The night will finish before 9.30pm.
Cost: $10 for students/pension and $15 for everyone else. There will also be food and drinks available for purchase during the night at normal caf� prices.

There is no need to RSVP but you may contact me if you would like more information on this evening.

Emerged Church Blogger

11 October, 2004 12:34 PM

Just spotted a new emerging church blogger on my News Aggregator - or should I say he seems to think of himself as an 'Emerged Church Blogger' if his last post is anything to go by. His name is Travelling for Jesus' sake Donovan St Claire and he writes:

'Spent some time today looking through some of the so called emerging church blogs. There are some good people out there but on the whole it was a bit disappointing. Some of them seemed to be caught in a bit of a time warp. I think that from now on I will refer to stuff that we are doing as the emerged church. So how can the emerging church catch up with the emerged church. Here are Donovan the man's rules.'

His 'rules' are interesting to say the least. He talks about:
1) Pop Culture and celebrity culture.
2) Good bye Community
3) Vocation, Vocation, Vocation!
4) Who do you go to?

Reactions to Shapings of Things to Come

5 October, 2004 11:07 AM

Just stumbled upon a review of an event in London where a couple of Aussie colleagues of mine from Forge spoke - and it seems caused something of a stirr. Check out this commentary at small ritual for one opinion of the 'blah' event.

'it made me angry because thrown together/ordeal/deadline/risk/survival is my everyday work experience, and it's no fun when it happens all the time. it burns. and this 'communitas' as described by frost sounds remarkably like the conventions of team-work and team-building within large corporations.'

Emergent Like Slime was impressed with the teaching:

'Actually I found that Frost and Hirst's enthusiasm for innovation and a church in 'proximity' to the community, 'practicing the presence of Christ'won me over; the final appeal to us to stop expectingcongregations to be evangelists and start enabling them to be christlikealmost made me cry as well as laugh, though of course I'm a sucker for rhetoric blended with sincerity.'

Si (no permlink?) took some good notes of the different sessions which look pretty similar to our Forge Intensives.

Maggi was also less than impressed with the sessions writing:

'I'm a lot less than excited about the Hirsch and Frost vision of Church. It's too much hard work for the wrong kind of ends, in my opinion. No time to pray. No space for the kids. No time to visit the hungry, the elderly, the sick. In this vision you'll be too busy giving away the gospel to have time to contemplate what it means. You'll have no energy either if you buy into the macho, gangland-inspired Fight-Club vision of Church.'

update - it seems Maggi was not writing about the talk (she wasn't there) but the book.

Nouslife doesn't seem to have been there either but bounces of Steve's comments and writes:

'I am concerned that liminal and risky are considered normative. I think I know where that stuff is coming from; I've served my apprenticeship in church growth circles and in circles where faith is spelt R-I-S-K. But to seem to encourage continual hyped-up-ness is not going to help burnt-out church leaders [or memebers come to that]. I once took over in leadership at a church where the constant sdginess had been a norm. It's great for a while; really exciting, encouraging, giving a sense of direction, of purpose that we are changing the world. Then we run into the wall: we go emotionally numb, all the old tricks don't work any more at enthusing us, relationships that had been put on hold start falling over though lack of maintainance and everything begins to feel tired. People start leaving; they can't keep up the pace and their lives have been wrecked. Our paralimbic systems are not supposed to be switched on all the time. We need times of normality, of consolidation of -God help us!- Sabbath.'

I've often suspected that what is happening in 'Emerging Church' circles around the world might have different accents - I wonder if some of these reactions reflect that. I'll be interested to continue to follow how the reactions are from other bloggers as they get back to their computers. Andrew Jones was there but is yet to update - and Jonny was too but is probably so busy organizing and trying to keep Alan and Mike out of the pubs that he hasn't yet given much of an opinion.

Great conversation - following it with interest.

emerging church = hillsong?

3 October, 2004 10:16 PM

Steve has an interesting post titled emerging church = hillsong? that reminds me of comments I've heard increasingly at the mention of the term 'emerging church' recently. I'll let you head over there to ponder Steve's question and read my response.

Emerging Church - Theological Position?

1 October, 2004 1:04 PM

I've had a few people email me in the past weeks asking me to describe 'Emerging/Emergent Church' theology - particularly on issues of how open-theistic we are. I've responded with a number of comments that can be summed up in these sorts of points:

- In my experience of EC it is very difficult to make general statements about theology because it tends to vary as much in these circles as it does in the wider church. Some communities could be described as being more open/liberal in their understanding on some issues, but others could be described as a little more fundamentalistic in their approach with of course there being plenty that would fall in between.

- In my experience in Melbourne EC circles most churches/individuals probably fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum - perhaps even erring on the side of conservative in their understanding of Scripture, God etc. Maybe this is just a Melbourne thing? Most in my experience are perhaps a little more radical/open when it comes to mission - but less so on their theological thinking.

- In my limited experience of interacting with people in Overseas contexts I would reflect that there seem to be different strands/accents of the EC in different regions. I suspect EC means something a little different to those in the UK to the US and then again different again in Australia and NZ, Asia etc. I'm not experienced enough to make any real statments on this - its just a suspicion. If anyone wants to buy me a round the world ticket I'd love to do some research into that! :-)

Interested in others thoughts and experiences on the theology of the Emerging Church

What is the Emerging Church II

21 September, 2004 6:44 PM

In response to an older article post that I'd written in January titled What is the Emerging Church? - a reader (Drew) has kindly left his thoughts on the question. He went to a bit of effort to leave his answer so I thought I'd highlight it here in the hope that it might re-stimulate the conversation. Here is what he wrote: (Thanks Drew!)

'Having just debated the whole 'What is the emerging church?' with a work colleague (who then directed me to this site as he felt he couldn't adequately argue the point), I would have to say three things:

1) Don't think this hasn't been done before. Disillusionment with any human attempt to nut out and put into practice what Jesus taught and lived is age old.

Everything is a pendulum swing. The disillusionment with the fundamentalism of my parents generation (I'm 34) brought about the Pentecostal movement. Disillusionment with that is bringing about a group who believe it's time we got back to some solid Bible study and move away from emotional 'lobstering'. Disillusionment towards both perchance forms something of the 'emerging church' movement.

2) Whatever the 'emerging church' movement brings to fruition will become, over time, institutional itself, whether that be cafe churches, home churches, small groups, community based meetings, etc.

Such is the nature of social (even spiritual) communities. Like-minded people band together and settle on structure and format. This is not a bad thing. This is a way of ensuring growth (however empirical you want that to be) and also encouraging maturity and depth. (Jesus didn't pick 12 new apostles every day!)

Of course, there will be some who then become disillusioned with the 'emerging church' movement and what it is attempting to achieve, and they will form the 'post-emerging church' movement.

But... and this leads me to point 3...

3) Be encouraged. Dissatisfaction is what moves along the hyperbole of change. And a constant evaluation of our spirituality and our institutions in light of what we understand Jesus was on about is essential to the continuing life of the Church.

Just as youth, by its very nature, seeks to test the boundaries of the social and parental structure it grows up in, so too should we continually evaluate our spirituality--without, and I stress this, necessarily condemning or feeling the need to tear down what currently stands (a point argued with my work friend).

Seek the new. Chart new territories. Discover who Jesus is to you and the community you live in.

And while some may condemn a belief in spiritual things (as evidenced in this blog), I must confess that I will applaud any person's attempt to find a truth that calls them to a higher understanding of love, mercy, grace, hope, peace and the part they play in the greater community. When the Bible talks about the Fruits of the Spirit (the best attributes we can have as humans) it was said, Against these there is no law.

Once again, be encouraged. Debate. Stretch. Grow. Create. Embody.'

Emerging Church Gatherings

17 September, 2004 6:09 PM

Have been working today on the Liquid conference that a group of us are helping to run between 9-11 February next year.

It will be 3 days focussing upon giving insight and training across the three interconnected streams of Christian mission
- Engaging culture & community
- Spiritual formation & discipleship
- Compassionate living & social justice

'Liquid will help you create a holistic framework of faith that integrates your entire life.� At the one event you�ll be encouraged to go deeper in your personal relationship with Jesus, actively care for the poor, and connect with people from various cultures.� It�s about learning how the spiritual, social and culture streams can work together.'

This will be a great gathering that is being put on by a number of groups here in Melbourne including Forge Missional Training Network, Frontier Servants, Living Room, Northern Community Church of Christ, Scripture Union, Soul Survivor, Tabor College and TEAR.

Also running in February is an intensive week looking at themes of emerging church run by Forge. It would be a good few weeks to be in Melbourne if you're interested in a trip. Maybe some of your northern hemisphere readers could escape your winter for a few weeks of networking, learning and sun! Let me know if you want more information.

xtreme faith

15 September, 2004 12:56 PM

I really like Steve's post on xtreme ways. He talks about having seen xtreme worship, xtreme community but wants to see xtreme discipleship. He writes:

'I want to see xtreme discipleship. In a world where the passion of Islam includes a willingness to take up one's cross to death do us part, it is time for xtreme worship and extreme community to be entwined with xtreme discipleship. It is time for radical peacemaking and keen environmental concern and social justice to enter the regular praxis of the emerging church.'

I especially like his statement:

'xtreme worship + xtreme community + xtreme discipleship = xtreme ways of the Kingdom of God'

I've been thinking the same sorts of things lately. In my travels through the wider Christian community over the years I've seen individuals/groups/me concentrate our efforts upon one or two aspects of the life and teachings of Jesus. To some degree I think that that is natural - sometimes God chooses to work on us one step at a time - but I worry at times when I see lopsided looking churches that have a long history of only exploring one thing.

To use our DNA/Core Values to put language to this - I've been involved in groups that have almost solely focused upon the Inner Journey, others who have almost exclusively worked at the Outer Journey - and others who focus on the Together journey almost to the exclusion of the others. In my experience it is when we allow the journeys to collide that we actually find that the sparks fly - one journey impacts and enlivens the other - to remove one is to limit the potential we have to know, experience and respond to God.

What I'm feeling a renewed call to at the moment is a place of balance between all three. I'm talking on a personal level here - its easy to be side-tracked.

However I've also noticed something else - sometimes (and I stress sometimes) in aiming for 'balance' or a holistic approach it is tempting to lose the edge, to become complacent and to be a little 'wishy washy'.

I wonder if perhaps its easier to be 'xtreme' in one area than it is to be in two - and even harder to be 'xtreme' in three?

I wonder if it is easier to keep one's 'edginess' if there is only one cutting edge rather than three? (hmmm..... that makes me think of a knife - can a knife stay sharp with more than two cutting edges?... I'm getting side tracked now).

Now I'm not wanting to make excuses here to just focus upon mission, or worship, or community or whatever aspect of the call of Jesus we feel predisposed to respond to. I'm convinced that the commands of Jesus to love 'God', 'Neighbor' (and self), 'One Another' were not three options but rather something of an intertwined package. And the example that he gave us to do so was 'xtreme' to say the least.

However I think we have to acknowledge that its a complex thing we're striving for (although at times - in moments of clarity - its remarkably simple) in the midst of a chaotic world of change. How it manifests itself in each of our lives and communities will also be remarkably different from one another due to our contexts.

I'm thinking out loud here again - writing on the fly again so please forgive me while I attempt something resembling a point.

I'm wondering if we need to learn to see the call of Jesus as a more integrated, single focused call again? Whilst using language like, 'Inner, Outer and Together' journeys can be helpful to unpack his message and help us respond - perhaps they also limit us in someway. Maybe our knife does have three edges, perhaps even more? Maybe its time to try to get our head around a more integrated life of faith again.

Interested in your thoughts - feelings - reactions - experiences to some of this.

Emerging Church Resonance

14 September, 2004 6:44 PM

The last few months I've seen an increased interest from a number of groups that are searching for information on and learning about Emerging Church. Today Kim and I from Forge had the privilege of sharing a session about our respective churches at a bible college that has a whole subject dedicated to 'Emerging Missional Church' this year. Last week I did a phone conference call with a class of pastors from another bible college. Its so fantastic to see people genuinely interested in what we're doing.

When we first started I'd had a few weird reactions to what we're trying with LivingRoom from other churchy types - I'm not sure if we were perceived at heretics, threats or just plain crazy - but as time is going on I'm finding more and more people resonating and comfortable with what we're doing. Of course there are still some who give a bit of a quizzical look or who ask questions that seem to be attached to iceberg like agendas (not much showing but loads under the surface) - but in general people are incredibly supportive and encouraging.

Interesting times.

Discipleship Workshop - Melbourne

13 September, 2004 10:09 PM

FOR005 Postcard 0904-2.pdf

Here are the details of an upcoming event that Melbournian readers might be interested in that Forge (who I work for part time) is running in October.

John Jensen (formerly from California - now part of the Forge team in Victoria) will be sharing on the theme of Discipleship in a New World. We've chosen this theme as a result of having a number of requests for a more practical night of sharing some tips and strategies for helping people to grow in their faith in the chaotic world we live in.

John is a gifted communicator and will share some material that he's actually used and seen implemented very successfully in a number of contexts. This would be a great night to bring a small group or community to so feel free to invite anyone who might be interested.

You'll see the details below in the brochure above (click to download pdf - feel free to print it and use it in inviting others). The basics are:

Where: Retro Cafe (upstairs) - 413 Brunswick St Fitzroy.
When: 7th October
Time: Either 6pm (ish) for dinner (an informal dinner in the cafe downstairs with some of the Forge people) or come at 7.30pm for the start of the night upstairs.
Cost: $10 for students/pension and $15 for everyone else. There will also be food and drinks available for purchase during the night at normal cafe prices.

"They are not a church!"

9 September, 2004 5:46 PM

Phil over at signposts has an interesting post that sounds vaguely familiar. Its a comment that someone made about his church....

""They are not a Church. They do things in a cafe and in homes. They do it during the week too and not just on Sunday. At some of these things that they call 'worship' they have a meal together and they call that communion! Jesus told us to meet on Sunday and to go to Church. They are not a Church!""

Read more at signposts: what they think:

Discipleship in a New World

3 September, 2004 11:53 AM

As part of the Forge network I'm helping to put on an event exploring the theme of 'Discipleship in a New World'. Many of us have experimented with emerging forms of worship, mission, communication, community etc - but one of the questions I'm hearing more and more being asked is 'how do you disciple people in this postmodern context?'

The world is in a rapid state of change - at times it feels pretty chaotic - people can be so transient, dysfunctional, busy - how do we actually take seriously the command of Jesus to 'make disciples' in this context?

Well we don't have all the answers, but it is a theme that we'll be exploring in an evening in October here in Melbourne. If it is a theme you'd be interested in exploring check out the details below. One of our team, John Jensen, will facilitate the night and present a way forward that I've found to be quite simple yet profound.

So come along to:

Retro Cafe (upper room) - 413 Brunswick St Fitzroy (Melbourne Australia - sorry you overseas bods!)
Thursday 7th October 7.30-9.30pm
Bring $15 or $10 if you are a student/unemployed
Food and drink will be available for purchase during the evening at the bar.

Come early (6pm) to grab a bite to eat with us in the cafe downstairs. Dinner will be a pretty informal time but you're more than welcome to drop by and have a bowl of risotto or pasta with us.

Contact me if you want any more information.

This would be an ideal night to bring a group to - We'll be bringing LivingRoom instead of having our regular Wednesday night meeting that week - so cancel your small group/church meeting and come along for what should be a great night of learning and networking.

Lovemarks and the Church - Intimacy

31 August, 2004 12:18 PM

It has been a while since I started the Lovemarks series - sorry for the delay - I got a little distracted.

This is the forth post in a four part series examining the book, Lovemarks, in relation to Spirituality and Church. Read my introduction to the series first and follow the links from there to read what proceeds this entry.

The last element focused upon in 'Lovemarks'. is Intimacy. Their theory is that products that exude intimacy are far more likely to capture the minds, and more importantly the hearts, of potential customers. I think we would all agree that as human beings we all have a desire - no a need - for intimacy - it is the way we've been created. To connect with another human being is a powerful thing. Marketers have latched onto this human trait and are now focussing their energies into presenting their products as intimate.

Consider how this can be seen in advertising. I was walking past a 'Sports Girl' store recently (an Aussie retail outlet selling clothes to young women) and noticed the advertising out the front of their shop. In the window hung a huge poster featuring 6 women - probably in their late teens. The thing that grabbed my attention about the ad was not the clothes the models were wearing but the fact that they were obviously having such a good time with one another. The image had little do do with clothes, in fact the clothes were out of focus and hardly noticeable, this image was selling companionship, fun, relationship and sisterhood. This is a common story in advertising these days - most car advertisements here in Australia these days are more about family and relationships than they are about engine size or specifications. Banking ads focus upon the security their products will bring to families than they do upon interest rates and account facilities. Intimacy sells.

Jesus was someone who obviously was big on Intimacy in his three years of ministry. The whole basis of his discipleship focus happened around relationships. When he called that group of fishermen to follow him that day he was not calling them to a program of speakers, a couple of intense camping experiences and a pastoral visit once or twice a year - he was calling them to live with him. They spent three years living in each other's pockets - hiking around the countryside together, sharing meals with one another, laying down at night beside each other and knowing each other intimately.

One of the things that got Jesus crucified was that he was just way to intimate with people. He ate with the wrong people, he touched the wrong people and he talked to the wrong people. I think we lose most of the significance of the social barriers he crossed. To eat with a sinner, to touch a leper, to be touched by a prostitute, to speak with a Samaritan woman were not just events to be frowned upon - they totally went against something the society was built around. People were never intimate in these ways with anyone outside their own level of purity - it just did not happen. Jesus sought intimacy with people from all walks of life - and people responded to him in powerful ways.

The early church continued to walk in this path of a life of intimacy - it only takes a quick look at the first few chapters of Acts to spot it. This was a group of people who didn't just see each other once or twice a week - they were in each other's homes, visiting the temple together, sharing meals with one another, sharing their possessions, reaching out to those in need etc. Faith was not something a group of individuals did - occasionally connecting - it was something a community did together.

So how does the church go with Intimacy?
As we've done previously with Mystery and Sensuality we could look through church history and find times and places where the church did intimacy both well and poorly. Likewise we can all probably think of churches of today that have both good and bad examples of people connecting intimately with one another. I know in the churches I've belonged to over the years I've both felt the warm embrace and the cold shoulder of fellow below believers.

Overall though I think there is a lot more 'the Church' can do to build intimacy into both our life of worship and mission. Of course I'm grossly generalizing here but most worship services I've been to over the years have done little to build a sense of togetherness with others within the congregation or, dare I say it, God. Sitting on an uncomfortable seat staring at the back of the head of my brothers or sisters in Christ while a small group of others do most of the activity to me is hardly an intimate moment - I can only speak for me but often I find this approach rather isolating and disconnecting. Of course we do have an opportunity to connect with one another after worship over a cup of coffee (usually the cheapest brand available) and a stale biscuit which is a step in the right direction - but I wonder sometimes if we're just making excuses and kidding ourselves about the community we have.

Probably the best times of community I've had within churches have happened in small groups/bible study groups/accountability groups. Obviously a small group breeds a different sort of environment which can open up deeper levels of relationship - but even then I wonder how much we've discovered of the way of discipleship of Jesus. I've written before about the traditional 'sharing time' of a small group where people go around the circle and share how their week has been so others can pray for them. Nice idea - but if we had true community wouldn't we already know a lot of what is shared in these times because we'd been connecting with each other, living with each other between meetings?

The other area I'd like to see intimacy explored more in is in 'mission'. The way Jesus drew people to God was usually incredibly personal. He spoke one on one with many, touched people, ate in small groups with them - developed relationship. I won't go on about it here today (this is getting too long as it is), but I wonder if in many of our approaches to mission we have sucked the intimacy out of what we do by programming missional encounters (this is a topic for another day - if I go down this track today we'll enter into 'rant land'.

I'm trying desperately here to remain positive about the state of play in the church today - please believe me when I say my experiences of intimacy in church are not all bad - I just strongly believe we could do so much better. I love the church friends - I want to see it reach its fullest potential - as a result when I see that marketing experts seem to be doing a better job of our core business than we are I get a little fired up.

'Lovemarks'. gives some pointers on building intimacy - here is a quick summary of some of their main points:
- Intimacy is a two way street - it isn't something we do to another person but something we have. Therefore it is something we have to allow ourselves to experience and enter into and not just expect others to do.
- Intimacy requires feelings.
- Intimacy is about empathy - 'empathy is created out of the tension between the sound of the voice and an intended silence' (ie it is about listening).
- Intimacy is about commitment - if you want it you have to be in for the long haul. People will not respond if they think you're about to take off halfway through a relationship.
- Intimacy is about passion - without passion even the best laid plans will whither and die.

By no means is this an exhaustive list of things we could say about intimacy - but it is a good starting point for a discussion on the topic.

Questions to explore Intimacy with your Community
We spent a bit of time talking through this issue a few weeks ago at LivingRoom - we're only just scratching the surface with intimacy in my opinion - we have a lot to learn but here are some of the questions we tossed around. Feel free to take and use them if you'd like - add your own below in comments.

How was Jesus intimate in his Ministry? What other times in Scripture do we see themes of intimacy, community, relationship? Describe times in your own journey when you've experienced deep intimacy? Describe how it arose - what were the circumstances/elements? How has the church used Intimacy over the centuries from the Early Church in Acts to now? (focus on the good and the bad). What dangers would there be in focussing too much upon 'intimacy' in a church context? What would the benefits of an increased focus upon it be? How are we as a community going in this area - where/how does intimacy exist - how could we build more? Is the way we worship an approach that buids intimacy with one another - with Gold? What about mission - are we approaching it in a relational way or do we program relationships out of the equation?

Lovemarks and the Church Sensuality

10 August, 2004 12:25 PM

This is the third in a four part series examining the book, Lovemarks, in relation to Spirituality and Church. Read my introduction to the series first. Sensuality As we've already touched on, the traditional approach focuses more upon convincing the mind through logic, information and claims. Lovemark Marketing is more interested in emotions. Stimulating the Senses is one of the best ways in which to do this.

"Our senses work together, and when they are stimulated at the same time the results are unforgettable.... They alert us, enflame us, warn us as well as fill our hearts with joy." Its amazing how a simple smell can transport us back in time to a specific moment (good or bad) - how the touch of another person can warm our soul or how putting on a CD can change the whole mood and atmosphere of a party.

Sight, Touch, Hearing, Taste and Smell are powerful forces - they are the way in which we take in information, learn and grow. Advertisers are discovering this and are finding new ways to engage our senses with what they do. I think of my local supermarket and the coffee company that regularly sets up a booth of free brewed coffee. I know that they are there even before I enter the isle in which they are set up because of the smell which wafts through the shop. By the time I get to them I'm ready to buy their product purely on its smell.

"All of our knowledge comes to us through the senses, but they are far more than sophisticated gatherers of information. They senses interpret and prioritize. When we feel emotionally connected, we say "That makes sense". Jesus used sensuality in his ministry. How many times do we see him at the meal table (to the point of being accused of being a glutton and drunk), he provides food for 5000 people (imagine how good that bread and fish must have tasted and what that did for that crowd!), he touched the untouchable....etc. Even his story telling is very sensory - he speaks in a very visual ways of things that would have engaged the imaginations and memories of his listeners. He uses a daily activity like eating bread and drinking wine to remind his followers of him. The list could go on and we could do the same for the early church and Old Testament. The bible is a collection of very Sensory writings - and I haven't even mentioned Song of Songs yet! So what about the Church and Sensuality? Once again we can look back over history and see both ways the Church has engaged the senses and ways in which it has shied away from them. Again I think of some of the Cathedrals I visited last year in Europe. Stain glass windows that told the stories of the gospels to the illiterate, incense, icons, chanting.... For some reason we've moved away from a lot of these things. I can understand on one hand why there was a shift away from icons, smells and bells etc - but on the other hand perhaps we threw out the baby with the bath water. You see my experience of church growing up was one in which only two or three of the senses were stimulated in the same unimaginative ways each week. These days in church we continue to use music, most of us still celebrate the Lords Supper (although we've reduced it to a sip of juice and a bit of a cracker), some churches attempt visual stimulation with flowers, powerpoints and video clips etc - but I wonder if we're short changing our sense when it comes to spirituality. One of the things I love about the Alt Worship movement is that it takes seriously sensuality. Some of the most profound experiences of God I've had in a group context have taken place with either my senses being overloaded or deprived (fasting, silence etc use the senses by starving a person of their stimulation). In my last church we used to have a rule that in each service we wanted to intentionally stimulate at least 3, if not all 5 of the senses in new and creative ways - I think its a great rule.

'In the sensual world, faster, brighter, louder hit the wall real quick. People turn off and you lose them. Lovemarks need Sensuality, bu they need it with a human touch.' Is there a danger in taking Sensuality too far? Probably - I think we can all think of instances where perhaps church got a little too sensual in Church history (and even in today's context). However I don't think most churches are in any danger of taking it too far at present. Questions to explore Sensuality with your Community - these are some of the things we asked ourselves at LivingRoom last week on the topic. Feel free to take and use them if you'd like - add your own below in comments. How did Jesus engage the Senses in his Ministry? What other times in Scripture do we see it used? Describe times in your own journey when you've been drawn closer to God through your senses How has the church used Sensuality over the centuries from the Early Church in Acts to now? (focus on the good and the bad). What dangers would there be in taking 'Sensuality' too far in a church context? What would the benefits of it be? Which of the Senses do we engage most in our church? Which do we ignore? How do we/can we creatively use the Senses to help us in our own journey of faith and mission in our community? All quotes used in this post come from 'Lovemarks'.

Lovemarks and the Church - Mystery

9 August, 2004 11:19 AM

This is the second in a four part series examining the book, Lovemarks, in relation to Spirituality and Church. Read my introduction to the series first.

Mystery - Marketing used to be about creating a great product with the best specifications and communicating to a customers mind logically why they should buy it by making claims and outlining benefits.

'Our washing powder makes things white. This computer has a 30gig hard drive. This car is 5% cheaper.'

This approach has something of a 'build it and they will come' mentality. If we make our product good enough and tell people about it they will buy in.

'Lovemark' Marketing doesn't aim so much at the head but engages the heart by using Mystery. Think about some of the ads we see these days on TV - a lot of them don't even mention the product they are advertising. Car ads seem to be more about escaping reality or building family than engine capacity. Clothing ads seem to be more about friendship than price...

'Mystery opens up emotions. Mystery adds to the complexity of relationships and experiences. It lies in the stories, metaphors and iconic characters that give a relationship texture.'

For an example of mystery used well take a look at the Join Me phenomenon that I blogged about earlier in the week. This guy unintentionally started a cult (of sorts) by placing a mysterious ad in a newspaper simply asking for people to 'join him' by sending a passport photo to him. Thousands joined without really knowing what they were joining. It intrigued people and they were drawn to it.

Ok - so what has this got to do with Spirituality or Church? I'd say heaps!

Lets take a look at Jesus and his use of Mystery. He told stories that often didn't make much sense but engaged the imagination. He did miracles that must have inspired a lot of awe and wonder. Often he eluded questions by asking more of them. Even when it came to talking about his own identity he didn't spell things out but used catch cries like 'I am the Vine and you are the branches' or 'I am the light of the world'. Jesus utilizes Mystery constantly - he was intriguing - it's no wonder that people were drawn to him. The Mystery continued with the Early Church - people joined them every day and its no wonder if you take a look at some of the mysterious stuff that was going on!

We could take a similar look at the Old Testament and other New Testament writings and see how Mystery permeates all of Scripture - think about the Trinity, some of the Psalms and Proverbs - some of the paradoxes that we see in Scripture - I mean who can comprehend God?

So what about the Church and Mystery? Over the centuries we've attempted to use it in different ways at different times to different levels of success. One of the things I love about old cathedrals is the sense of mystery they exude. Whilst they can be cold, echoey and uncomfortable they call also speak deeply to one's soul about the bigness of God.

Mystery is something I've not seen too many churches today do very well. We meet in low ceilinged, pastel walled, fluorescent lit buildings with few images, little art and no icons. Our preaching more often than not presents a lot of nicely packaged, easy to swallow answers that more are aimed at the head than the heart. Many church websites and promotions are more concerned with explaining times, places, structures and benefits than intriguing those that read them. I could go on - sometimes we do it well but more often than not I think we fall short in terms of Mystery.

Lovemarks suggests 5 things that one can work on in the area of Mystery:
1. Tell Stories - there is nothing like a story to engage the heart. Obviously there are stories of Scripture, but also our own stories of life, the stories of our communities themselves and the stories of our culture. We decided we're going to start telling the story of LivingRoom more in our gatherings - every time someone new comes to our community a different person will share the story of LivingRoom from their own perspective (to me its like when you tell the story of when you first met your partner over and over again - the retelling of the story engages the heart).

2. Use Past, Present and Future - I think there is some real wisdom in this one. We have such a rich heritage. I find that the times we use ancient forms of prayer at LivingRoom there is a sense of tapping into something much bigger than ourselves.

3. Tap into Dreams - I'm a big believer that when we create environments where people can dream and are allowed to chase their dreams that you create an environment with real energy and momentum. Who wouldn't want to be a part of a community where their dreams could come true.

4. Nurture Myths and Icons - I wonder if we've become a bit paranoid as protestants in terms of Icons over the centuries. Of course there is a danger in going to the extreme of this (as there is with virtually everything) but I think there is something very powerful in an icon. We've talked the other night about the symbols and rituals of LivingRoom and realized that we actually have a few that we haven't yet named. One of them I think is the Peppermint tea that we seem to always end up having at the end of our evenings together. I think its becoming a rich symbol of community, sealing our time together and celebration.

5. Build on Inspiration - Often we get inspired together in church but then go home and let go of it. The challenge is to take the inspiration - celebrate it - foster it - take it to the next level.

Now I'm not arguing that if we just start being all Mysterious that we'll see people come flocking to the church - but I do wonder what would happen if we began to explore it a little more.

Questions to explore Mystery with your Community - these are the ones we used. Feel free to take and use them if you'd like

  • How did Jesus use Mystery in his Ministry?

  • What other times in Scripture do we see it used?

  • How has the church used Mystery over the centuries from the Early Church in Acts to now? (focus on the good and the bad).

  • What dangers would there be in taking 'Mystery' too far in a church context?

  • How do we/can we use Mystery to help us in our own journey of faith and mission in our community?

Lovemarks and the Church - Introduction

9 August, 2004 11:08 AM

Last week at LivingRoom we took a look at the book - Lovemarks.

I've blogged about the book before but this week at LivingRoom we took three of the main themes of the book and looked at them through the eyes of Scripture and our experience of Church and LivingRoom. Before I say any more let me state that I'm not suggesting that we go on a marketing campaign to 'market' the church - rather I'm suggesting that SOME of what is in this book gives us a useful framework for thinking about the way we approach what we do - the principles in this book are written for people to make money - but I think they might actually help some of us think through how we might approach church.

Lovemarks is a book written by Kevin Roberts about Branding/Marketing but parts of it resonate deeply with me in terms of Spirituality. The basic premise is that the way marketing has been approached previously is just not working any more. Instead they argue that companies need to develop what they call 'Lovemarks'.

'Lovemarks' are products/services that engage consumers on a deeper level and stimulate brand loyalty beyond reason. They hit the emotions of people and not just the minds. The object is to make your potential customer fall in Love with your product.

For example - think about the way Apple Mac users often think about their computers (or iPod users their MP3 player) - think about the feelings you have to your favourite restaurant or cafe (I'm sitting in right now writing this - I LOVE it!) - consider the effect that Harley Davidson motorbikes have on some people. Some products can deeply impact people on a level that makes them customers for life - not only that it makes them evangelists for the product in question.

The book argues that there are three elements that help make a product a 'Lovemark' - they are Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy. I will blog about each one in turn over the next few days - starting today with Mystery (see next post).

Corporate Evangelism - EC.info

5 August, 2004 5:58 PM

emergingchurch.info kindly posted one of my older reflections on corporate evangelism. Its something I still keep coming back to. I'm not sure how well we do it at LivingRoom but its something that seems to make sense in my twisted little mind.

Liquid Conference - Melbourne

5 August, 2004 5:50 PM

Signposts has just posted about a seminar/conference/gathering to resource people who want to get creative about the cause of the kingdom to be held here in Melbourne next February called:

Liquid - The Integral Mission Conference

They write:

Why Liquid? Three major areas are integral to the practice of Christian mission: * Engaging culture community * Spiritual formation discipleship * Compassionate living social justice

Many missional events focus on just one of these areas without showing how all three are integral. Other events may dip into a couple without addressing the relationships between them. Yet, one or two of these areas alone does not create a faith framework capable of sustaining people into Christian maturity.

Liquid is a missional training event presented by several agencies, churches and organisations who want to encourage a more holistic approach to mission and discipleship in Australia. By uniting these diverse groups with their unique gifts and experience, we can emphasis all three areas and increase our capacity to significantly shape the practice of Christianity in Australia....

It looks really great and will feature the following each day:
- Diverse Workshops
- Real Experiences
- Relational Group Interactions
- Worship

Its going to be held in Melbourne from 9-11 February which is a great time for you emerging/missional church types over seas to come spend a week or so in Melbourne. Also at that time of year is the Forge's First Intensive for the year on 'Paradigms of the Missional Revolution' (not sure of exact date) which would be great to come along to as well.

Head over to Signposts for more info on the 'Liquid' get together.

Emerging Church @ Whitley College

3 August, 2004 1:11 PM

I'm currently sitting in a class at Whitley College. Anne Wilkinson-Hayes is giving the first couple of sessions talking at the moment about the Pre-Chistendom Church.

This is the first time Whitley have run a whole semester's subject of 'Emerging Church' which is really exciting.

Emerging Church Online Resources

3 August, 2004 11:34 AM

Update - I've moved this post back to the top of the page for those at the lecture today - I hope you find the resource helpful. Feel free to keep suggesting resources as this is by no ways a complete list... If your site is in the list you may just have a class of 20-30 drop by for a visit this afternoon. Put the kettle on please...

This week I'm doing a short lecture at a bible college here in Melbourne on:

'The Emerging Church on the Internet'.

I've got a fair few resources in my bookmark lists but am interested in what others 'must read' emerging church blogs, websites and online resources are.

Please leave your suggestions in comments (with a reason why you like it and/or a description of the site) and I'll collate them all and post it after my lecture for all to use.

Update - I thought I'd start the ball rolling and post a few of my own links - but then I got carried away and came up with more than a few - I'll post them below. I hope I don't offend anyone by leaving them out - it is a VERY incomplete list. It is also biased towards my home city of Melbourne because that is where those I'll be sharing with are from). I also hope I don't offend anyone by the categories of descriptions I've used - its just a starting point and a draft and I'd really appreciate you input and ideas.

Practitioners

  • Backyard Missionary - Andrew is good value. I like that he is actually doing mission in a very earthy way with ordinary people. It isn't a yuppie, alternative ministry like many emerging churches but real.

  • Emergent Kiwi - (belongs in the thinker section as well). Steve has been around the Emerging church scene for a while (one of its elder statesmen) and has a wealth of experience and wisdom. He has also seen a lot of what is happening around the world and has great perspectives.

  • Alan Creech - takes a liturgical spin. I don't know much about Alan but he says good stuff and is pretty wise.

  • Moot - edgey UK emerging church group blog. These people are doing it and pushing some boundaries.

  • Si Johnston - UK blogger, Baptist minister, good thinker, missional community practitioner.

  • Signposts - These people belong in the 'thinkers' section also. They are doing innovative church in Melbourne Australia. I like them because they are helping established church Christians to do something different.

  • House Church Blog

  • Organic Church - a group blog of church planters and leaders grappling with post modernism

  • Neurotribe - Steve is another Melbourne guy exploring emerging church and involved in the Forge Network.

  • Submergence - Karen has been exploring Emerging Church for a while and is doing some innovative stuff in the US including running a cafe called Living Room.

  • Flying in Blue Sky - Barb is another Melbournian exploring faith, church and mission from a practioners perspective on her blog.
  • Breathing Space - Eddie is another Melbourne Blogger who is experimenting with Alt. worship - particularly the Labyrinth. He's also been part of a small group of people who gather to do church called Breathing Sapce.

Thinkers

  • Prodigal Kiwi - Paul reads too much - but I'm glad he does. If you need to find out what a book is about or whether its worth the read go ask Paul first. He's a great thinker and always has something interesting to say.

  • Tall Skinny Kiwi - another elder of the emerging church movement. Andrew always has something of interest to say. He also knows so many in the movement and has seen a lot of what is going on around the globe. He blogs about anything and everything and is a great cultural obsever/participator.

  • Jason Clark - Emergent UK - currently oing doctoral research in Leadership in the Emerging Culture.

  • Open Source Theology - a space for interactive theologizing for the emerging church.

Alt. Worship Sorts

  • Jonny Baker - If you want to know about Alt Worship go to the man that wrote the book. Jonny has heaps of great alt worship tips and tricks and brings a great perspective from the UK.

  • Small Ritual - Not just alt worshippy but this section needs more entries and its why I go there!

  • Holy Space - online interactive reflection/prayer resource

  • Grace - an Alt Worship community in London who have been exploring alt worship since 1993.

  • Alternative Worship - Has heaps of alt worship resources, links and articles.

  • Labyrinth Online - Discover the labyrinth with this hands on experiential website.

  • Labyrinth Australia

  • Small Fire

  • Vaux_Greyspace - A great collection of resources and articles on Alt Worship

  • The Cube - Online Worship/Prayer Experience

  • Embody - Online Interactive Prayer Experiences

Emerging Churches

E-Magazines and other Resources

  • Gink World - heaps of good quality thinking and practical stuff.

  • The Ooze - this site has become one of the 'go-to' places online for all things Emerging Church. Its a bit of a one stop shop with good articles on 'community, culture, faith and ministry'.

  • emergingchurch.info - another useful site with heaps of articles, suggested reading and resources for emerging church practitioners.

  • DTour - an Aussie 'The Oooze'.

  • Next Wave - Looking at Church and Culture.

  • Emergent Village - a place for spiritual leaders to grapple with postmodernism.

  • Seven Magazine - seeks to engage emerging culture and its interface with faith and life.

  • Faith Maps - tools for navigating theology, praxis, and leadership in the emerging church

  • church.co.uk - 'making the life-changing message of Jesus accessible to everyone both by stimulating debate and by demonstrating the reality and relevance of Christian faith for the 21st century.'

  • Emergent Village - 'Emergent exists to help you help others love God and neighbors in the context of the emerging postmodern culture.'

  • Church Multiplication Associates - Neil Cole is one of the best communicators I've heard on the topic of Missional Church - he's a part of this organization and I'd highly recommend reading some of his work.

Sharing with the Junction

2 August, 2004 8:12 AM

I had a great time yesterday speaking out at the Junction which is an emerging missional church out in the south eastern suburbs.

It was cool to see what they do a little more and meet some of the people out there who I found out have been reading this blog for a few months now without me knowing! Hi especially to Michael who is a daily reader - hope you enjoyed last night mate.

Emerging Church Critiqued

29 July, 2004 12:03 PM

In the past 7 days I've heard a number of criticisms of 'Emerging Churches' and more specifically of LivingRoom from other Christians. Whilst I'm not adverse to being critiqued (I think its a healthy to be asked probing questions) I'm left a little perplexed by two of the main themes that I'm hearing repeated in these criticisms (usually received third hand).

On one hand we've been accused of liberalism. 'Where are the converts?' is a question that is often asked. 'How many have you seen come to Christ? seems to be the ultimate measure of our 'success'.

On the other end of the spectrum we've been accused of being too evangelical and not interested in social justice. 'How are you involved in your community?' is a question that I get a bit. 'What holistic projects are you running to help the disadvantaged and poor in your neighborhood?' was one question fired at me recently to analyze if what we was doing is significant.

I actually think both sets of questions are valid and worth considering. We've identified as a community that we want to respond to the call of Jesus in having an impact upon our world - we call it our 'Outer Journey' and it incorporates both the call to impact the world we live in in word and deed, in evangelism and in social justice. This is the theory at least - but what about practice? I think most churches would align themselves with this kind of thinking, but do we actually do it? Does LivingRoom?

One of the reasons I suspect people look at LivingRoom and critique us the way they do is that we have taken a very non programmatic approach to our 'Outward Journey'. We don't have a high school program, we don't run a soup kitchen, we don't do door knocking or run youth rallies. We don't have a formalized corporate approach to evangelism or social justice - rather we see that each of us as individuals has ample opportunity to be involved in these missional activities in our natural daily rhythms and routines.

In fact as I think about our core group members (not a formal membership but those who regularly attend and participate) I see a group of people who are each involved in a variety of forms of mission. Some give time each week to community or social justice groups/projects, for others (over half of us) our work takes us into the coal face in terms of working with the disadvantaged, unwell and poor. Each one of us has plenty of contact with unchurched people in our universities, work places, homes, sporting clubs etc - and we regularly share stories with one another of the encounters God opens up for us to join him in his life giving processes.

So does 'LivingRoom' do evangelism, mission, social justice (however you may define these terms)? I would answer the question in the affirmative. Church to me is much more than what we do when we gather together, but is as much (if not more) about what we do when we scatter.

Having written all this I find myself asking - am I copping out? Are we making excuses? Are we really moving forward in our Outer journey? These are questions I constantly ask myself and I don't want to paint a picture here on this blog that we're the ultimate 'missional machine' - by no means have we 'made it' in finding the way to respond to the call of Jesus to be the 'light of the world' or to 'go make disciples'. We've got a LONG way to go - we're a young community still finding our feet and identity and part of this is challenging ourselves in this area. We struggle with this as much as any other church and have all the same barriers to mission that any other group of Western Christians might have - we get lazy, comfortable, consumeristic, scared and distracted. We do need to be shaken up, to get serious and to step out of our comfort zones. I'm not satisfied in our approach to the Outer Journey but I am confident that we're heading in a Godly and Biblical direction that fits well with our culture.

There may come a day when we feel God calling us to up our corporate/together efforts in our 'Outer Journey'. We have experimented with a few things already and will continue to do so.

The question I'm left with is what to do with the critiques? You see on some levels they are valid questions that I want to be impacted and challenged by - they can be and are life giving questions that spur me on. On another level they have the power to stop us (and our movement) in our tracks with frustration and disillusionment. They also have the potential to divide and destroy the Body of Christ.

I do not desire to see the Emerging Church splinter from the rest of the Body of Christ - its not about 'us and them'. I didn't start LivingRoom because I don't like other forms of church - I love the Church and want to do anything and everything in my power to build it up - whatever shape or form it might take.

What concerns me is that most of the critiques I hear of us come to me third hand from discussions that I hear other groups having about us. This is frustrating on many levels.

1. I'm getting second hand information that is probably not accurate.
2. I would love to be a part of these conversations to be challenged by them.
3. I'd love a chance to speak to the critiques - not to defend or debate but rather so that others can understand what they are seeing from a distance.
4. I want to build unity. We need to be accountable to, supporting and praying for each other.

Ok - this has turned into something of a rant - I'm sorry for that. I'm actually processing a lot of this through writing it (which may not be a particularly helpful thing to do in a public forum) - but I'm really interested in others thoughts and input. What would you do? Is this a place others are finding themselves in? I would love to hear your experiences and advice if you have time.

E-vangelism.com Relaunched

27 July, 2004 12:09 PM

Andrew Careaga has blogified his old e-vangelism.com website. Looking good - will be one to keep an eye on.

Sustaining Emerging Church

27 July, 2004 1:19 AM

There is an interesting discussion going on over at Jonny Bakers on the issue of funding for Emerging Churches. It comes out of a community in London not receiving funding from the Church of England through a grant they've applied for.

I've posted my comments over there but thought I'd also do so here as its taken me a good hour to put them together. You might need to read the other comments on Jonny's to understand some of what I've written below.

It is an issue that I've thought about a lot lately and found myself going backwards and forwards a little on it.

On one hand I'm incredibly grateful for the support my own denomination has given me in giving us a seeding grant to help get us going for two years. I'm realizing how unique a position they are taking in wanting to not only give permission but wanting to put their money where their mouth is. I hope that this becomes more and more common for denominations. If we want to see the Church survive into the decades and years ahead then we need to see a significant investment from the established church into those exploring new directions.

On the other hand I do wonder if we need to explore some new ways of thinking about clergy and new ways about sustaining ourselves financially.


I can only talk about my own community and my own context, but I've been challenged recently to readjust what I've been thinking about 'full time ministry'.

For me it was always a goal for a similar list of reasons to what Gareth outlined (in comments at Jonny's) - but recently I've been wondering why we seem to want a paid minister to do a lot of those sorts of roles. I guess I've personally been feeling God leading me in a direction that Lucy is alluding to and am attempting to create a community where it is not just the 'minister/clergy' that does the pastoral care, community development, running of gatherings, linking with other churches but where there is a community of disciples who are all responding to the call of Jesus by fulfilling these things.

Now because i do have some giftings, training and experience in some of this stuff I might take some of it on - but I'm hoping to move to a position where we have an environment where participation means I'm just one of many doing this stuff.

Having said this (I said I go backwards and forwards on this stuff didn't I?) I still think there is a role for paid ministry/clergy. Leadership is important and each community will identify different things they will want/need these leaders to do. The question then comes to how to fund it?

I think its time we did some serious talking about this question and explore some options that might include a combination of:

- Denominational (and interdenominational) grants/support. We need to keep communicating to the powers that be the need for experimentation, new forms of church etc. I think its very important for denominations and established churches to support what we do.

- Bi-vocational Ministry - Its a bit of a hobby horse at the moment for me but I'm feeling more and more drawn to the 'secular' workforce and have been blogging about it a bit lately. I think its something more and more of us 'clergy' types should explore for a multitude of reasons including sustainability - but also for reasons of mission, reality check etc. I've made a conscious decision this year to start my own business and am finding it an incredibly liberating experience that is invigorating my ministry and giving me so many opportunities for missional encounters.

- Self Funding - I've been challenging my community lately to step up to the mark in their giving. Why should we expect our denomination to pay me to care for them? If we decide that one of the roles of a leader in our community is pastoral care....or worship leading...or preaching...(things that largely focus upon the group itself) shouldn't they contribute to the financing of such a role? I thin we have to bite the bullet as communities at some point and stop putting our hand out to our denominations to fund us and work on ways of sustaining ourselves.

- Churches running Missional Enterprises - I'm seeing more and more churches that are running businesses or that are developing income streams. Often these income streams are missional in their focus. Some I've seen include opening cafes, pizza shops, galleries, gift shops, starting guitar schools, hiring our their buildings to community groups, starting book stores, running skills based courses in the community, running welfare programs and getting grants from governments, running multi media courses etc. In this way many of them are not only creating an income stream but are developing proximity in their communities.

Ok - its now 1.20am here in Melbourne and I've been thinking about this way too long. Hope its been a worthwhile contribution to this good discussion. Will probably post this over at my own blog too.

How Open?

20 July, 2004 4:24 PM

One of the things I've been wondering about the past month or so is how open to make Living Room gatherings to people outside our community who want to come for 'a look'.

It is becoming more and more common for us to have visitors to our Tuesday night gatherings - in fact every week for the past month I've had people ask if they can come and visit our group (I'm aware some of these people read this blog so please forgive me if you are one of them and don't take offense at anything I'm about to write - I'm not talking about any individual here, but in general terms about a broader issue than any person or group of people).

I always have a bit of a torn feeling inside of me when someone asks if they can come along to check us out.


On one hand I'm really excited for two reasons.

  • I want to share what we're doing with as many people as possible. There is a real interest here in Melbourne of people wanting to see new and different forms of church. Many are in the process of wanting to start their own and to taste and see who we are can be helpful in that process.
  • I also think LivingRoom benefits from new people and I like to have outside stimulation for our community. It's great to have interaction with new people - even on a one off basis. Some of our best nights have been with visitors stimulating our discussion.

However on the other hand I wonder what impact it is having on the group also on a number of fronts.

  • Constantly having new faces can impact the amount that some of our regulars will share of themselves. We are trying to create a safe place for deep sharing and growth. Whilst some of our group are fine with sharing deeply with visitors others (myself included) may not be as comfortable with this.
  • Because we are so small, one or two visitors can really change the dynamics of a night. Of course this can be positive, but it is difficult to get momentum going and establish patterns in a gathering over time with such coming and going. Also I find that in preparation for our nights I take into account who will and won't be there in terms of what we do. There are some things its not appropriate to talk about with visitors around (ie issues we're working through as a group in terms of our community/relationships etc). If we have a run of 4 weeks with visitors it has an impact.
  • It seems that around half of those who say they are coming - don't show up or ring in at the last minute that they won't be there. I suppose in a larger church context it doesn't matter quite so much if people don't show up, but in a small setting it is very noticeable. I guess people assume we operate on a 'come if you like' mentality. In actual fact we don't. Of course we have people away each week, but generally we know of people's movements in advance and can plan accordingly. By plan I mean plan for our meal (quantities of food etc) but also the content of what we do on the night. People not showing up can really throw a night off.
  • So why am I writing this? I'm hesitant to post it at all for fear that people will think I'm ranting, please believe that I'm not. I'm just trying to work out where the balance is. It's something I want to talk to the group about tonight actually - but I'm interested in my wise readers thoughts also. Has anyone thought this one through? How 'open' is your community to new one off visitors? Do you have some boundaries to keep the balance? Interested in your thoughts.

    DNA of Emerging Church

    12 July, 2004 8:38 AM

    There is a great interview of one of my mates, Mark Sayers, but another of my mates, Stephen Said, over at emergingchurch.info. Here is a snippet:

    'One of the questions often asked with risky endeavor's such as the one you have described, is one pertaining to control. How do people learn and grow? How do people worship? how do you keep people doctrinally in the ballpark?

    We centre everything we do around our DNA.

    DNA?

    TEMPT. TEMPT is an acronym. T is for "Together we follow", E is for "Engagement with Scripture", M is for "Mission", P is for "Passion for Jesus", and the T is for "Transformation". TEMPT is our control. We find that it plays the same role as DNA does in the human body, it shapes our identity.

    In practical terms?

    For us it is the old wells and fences. Instead of building fences keeping people in, we try and build wells in which people will be drawn to gather around. Young adults are leaving the church in droves in Australia, so we find that people who come are drawn to our DNA. We don't really have to try and control them. The great things is, because we focus on DNA rather than creating programs, is that the congregation will often shock you and start missional and discipleship ventures off their own bat, that we would never have had the imagination to develop ourselves. For example, I discovered that during Australian Idol, one of the groups were inviting their non Christian friends to mingle and chat over a BBQ whilst they watched Australian Idol together. This led to a whole host of evangelical opportunities. They knew the M is for missional. The funny thing is, we as leaders were the last to hear about it.'

    Creative Worship - Mapping Influence

    12 July, 2004 8:31 AM

    I love Steve Taylor's entry on blessed to be a faithful witness. What a creative way to help people get a grasp of an important message.

    'The theme of Sunday was blessed to be a faithful witness. The challenge is to move that head/heart knowledge to hands/feet/body action.

    As part of the response, I "drew" a street map on the floor, using white tape to mark the main streets of the east side of our city.

    People were given stars, and invited to place a star on the place in the city where they are blessed to be a witness. (This was mixed with communion and a song by Ben Harper, Blessed to be a witness, from his Diamonds in the Inside album.) It was an hands/feet/body way of praying.'

    The idea is great - the pictures of the results very cool - and the description of how much people got into it are even better.

    Melbourne Emerging Church Gathering

    8 July, 2004 10:48 AM

    Had a good time last night gathering with a small group of Melbourne Emerging Church/Alt Worship guys. Many of you will know of Mark Pierson (pastor of Cityside in NZ, co-author of the Prodigal Project) and that he has taken on a role here in Melbourne working with Urban Seed. He's still in transition between NZ and here but it was great to meet him and have conversation with the group that assembled which included fellow bloggers Eddie and Luke.

    There are some exciting things happening in Melbourne at the moment, I get the feeling that there is some real momentum building and that God is doing something quite interesting among many around our city in terms of mission, worship and forms of church.

    Rhythmic Mission

    5 July, 2004 1:45 PM

    Random Daily Coincidences or Divine Opportunities? Can the mundane daily rhythm of life actually be the key to effective mission?

    It has been two days since V left on her overseas trip and already my daily routine has changed! Normally my day starts at around 7.30am with V getting up for work - a process that usually involves a hair dryer in our bedroom. The last two mornings have seen me awake at 9.30am. I think I might have to start using my alarm clock or I could get quite slothful.

    It is interesting how our daily rhythms align with those around us. When I was a single guy my day generally started at 8.30am - 9.30am and would end at around 1.00am - 2.00am. Obviously that had to change a little.

    I've always been fascinated with daily rhythms - especially lately when thinking about mission. I have a growing theory that one of the most helpful ways of being effective in mission is to become a part of the rhythms of our culture and the individuals around us. Even just to be aware of our own daily routine and where it intersects with others is a powerful thing.

    What people do you see at the same time every day? The lady at the bus stop each morning, the work college who always just happens to be at the coffee machine when you are, the family who is at the park each Saturday when you are their with yours or the neighbor who takes his dog for a walk each night as you're coming home from work.

    Perhaps it is time that we saw these encounters as something more than a quirky random coincidence but rather as a divine opportunity to journey beside another.

    A few weeks ago I wrote about the 4 P's of Mission. The first of these was Proximity - or putting ourselves in places where we will 'bump into' and interact with our world and those around us - the second was 'Presence - or the allowing of a relationship to come out of the proximity we have with others.

    It strikes me that as followers of Jesus we all have proximity with others in very natural and even unintentional ways. My daily rhythm puts me into proximity with an incredible amount of people. From the man who sells me milk at the corner store, to my landlady who I bump into at the front door through to the waitress that serves me a coffee each morning.

    Where I think things tend to break down for many of us is that we do not allow our Proximity with those around us naturally develop into Presence. For whatever reason we're content to allow people to remain 'those people we see' and don't find ways to initiate something a deeper.

    Maybe its fear that stops us in our tracks, perhaps its laziness or business or that we are so numbed by our mundane daily existence that we don't have eyes to see what is staring us in the face. Someone last week told me that they were too busy doing ministry to have time for any more relationships.

    Often I think we build mission up to be a bigger deal than it is. By that I don't mean we make it more important than it is, but rather that we make it seem harder than it actually is. We develop strategies and training seminars on how to do evangelism - and we often feel so much guilt if we 'fail' to see the results we expect.

    Perhaps we need to chill out a little and take a fresh look at mission. Maybe it is time to stop segmenting it from the rest of our lives and become aware of the natural opportunities that we have right in front of us every day to connect with those around us. Could it be time to let go of the strategies and techniques and actually build relationships with people. In doing so we may just spot that God is already at work in the life of those we bump into and find ways to join him in the work that he's already doing there.

    Sexy House Churches

    3 July, 2004 3:57 PM

    Tall Skinny Kiwi has a great post - House Churches have no Sex Appeal.

    I particularly like some of his 'gripes' with house churches and thought I'd add a few of my own comments under each of his headings. (The headings and quotes are his, the rest are my ramblings).

    1. Name is Misleading - Andrew writes - 'The label needs to change from house church to something that better describes it.' I agree completely for many reasons but will outline two here.

    Firstly many of the emerging missional churches and communities I know of do not meet in homes. They have very similar ethos, DNA and practices to each other (including many that meet in homes) but meet in cafes, galleries, parks, work places and pubs. They are not 'house churches' but they are 'the same' as many house churches in virtually every other respect.

    Secondly even for churches that do meet in homes I wonder if such a label or name can actually limit the scope of the group. At Livingroom we meet for our main gathering in a different home each week, but we're also meeting weekly in local cafes in 'micro groups'. That is not to mention the other 97% of our weekly time - the time when, as individuals, we are involved in schools, universities, hospitals, sporting clubs, neighborhoods. My idea of church is that it doesn't cease to be church when we are not gathering together - but in fact is a 24/7 thing. Maybe I'm being pedantic, but I worry that we're setting the tone for a segmented understanding of faith and church if we label our churches by the places we meet in when we gather. That is why I more frequently call us a 'missional community' than a house church - it sets the tone in a completely different direction

    2. Authentication is Delayed - Andrew writes that 'House churches are not yet recognised by the mainstream.' In some respects I see this as changing here in Australia. Whilst they are still no where near as prominent I'm hearing them talked about a lot more. This is partly because of the types of people I hang around with - but its also happening more and more in established churches and denominations. In my state, Victoria, I know of at least three denominations that are seriously talking about establishing new types of churches (many of which are meeting in homes - but other types also). They are not only talking about it but putting resources into training, planting and are resourcing such groups. By no means are we there yet - but I sense that many of our denominations leaders are recognizing the gloomy reality that unless we take some new directions that the future of the church is not bright.

    3. Orientation is Backwards - Andrews makes the brilliant observation that 'The focus needs to change from "our house" to "their house" '. I couldn't agree more. The reputation of house churches in Australia is that they tend to be rather insular in the way they operate. One of the critiques that I constantly hear of them is their lack of missional focus. Of course there will be exceptions to this generalization - but the critiques come from both within and outside the movement. Of course it should also be said that this same critique can be equally be given to all forms of church including traditional and contemporary models.

    I could (and do) write about this for hours. Jesus commanded his disciples to 'Go' into all the world - not to congregate in their holy huddles and expect the world to come to them. All churches, including some of the emerging forms need to consider how they might work on this.

    4. Support is Minimal - Andrew writes - 'We might be 5 years away from seeing a complete ecosystem of organic ministries that work together to enable a healthy, reproducing, movement of house churches.'

    Once again Andrew is spot on although I'm happy to report that what I'm seeing going on in this part of the world shows some positive movement towards an integrated networked group of emerging churches. I'm very intentional about bumping into other emerging church leaders and communities on a regular basis. I'm not sure how formal the structures and networks between us will ever be - however they are growing. I'm especially excited to see local gatherings of similarly minded communities who are exploring ways to work together and build relationships. This is an important task that needs to be high on our list of priorities.

    Having said this one of the things I am enjoying most about this new way of doing church (new for me) is the lack of structure and freedom to form new support networks. I love that I am free to form tight relationships with people from numerous denominations, other community groups and even (dare I say it) groups from other faiths. One of the temptations that will no doubt emerge along with these new communities is become institutions - hopefully this day will be in the far distant future - if at all.

    5. Integration is Absent - Andrew writes - 'House Church Utopia is still painted as being pure and contaminant-free. As if you leave one model of church and adopt another with no reference to what you came out of. '

    I haven't yet given a lot of thought to this last 'gripe' of Andrew's. I might need to do so in order to really hear what he's saying. If it is that we need to allow individuals who join house churches freedom to interact with and bring along some of their baggage from established churches then I'm cool with that. It is impossible to start a church in a vacuum without considering where we have been. We spent quite a bit of time when we first started telling our stories and sharing our past experience of life, faith and church - on reflection I think this was a very useful exercise and something we've continued to do as new people join us. Whilst some of what we do is possibly a reaction against some of our negative experiences of church I would also say that most of what we do is a reflection of the positive experiences. Also I encourage everyone in the group to retain their past relationships with established churches and individuals in them - many of us do 'go back' from time to time - I feel this has been a positive thing not only for us but the churches where we have been previously involved.

    So there we have it - a few scattered thoughts from me in response to some much better ones from Andrew. What do you think? Leave yours in comments below if you feel moved to do so...

    Living Room Seattle

    29 June, 2004 8:31 AM

    Wow cool - Living Room has gone international! Ok, its not really connected to us, but I just read on Karen's Blog that their group has started a great cafe called Living Room Seattle. This is the kind of thing I'd love to do someday in our area if we can ever pull in some investors.

    Karen describes the ethos of Living Room Seattle writing:

    'that is why living:room is not a christian cafe, but a real, regular, cafe. we don't play christian music or serve 'christian' tea. as apostles, we see our mission as, well, apostolic...the word apostolein mean to be >sent out.< because of this, our primary orientation is not inward (towards church) but outward (towards kingdom). so we feel called by god, not to 'live' in the church (run a christian cafe...) but to live in the world (and run a regular cafe) and to >be< church (carry within us christ and the kingdom) and express this in how we live. as gerard kelly writes in his rad book 'retro-future' "the postmodern generations are looking for authenticity, reality, transparency and openness. to that extent, postmodern ity is saying, "don't talk to me about what you believe - show me how you live.' it is entirely biblical- more so at times than the church it savagely critiques.

    as we serve tea, we don't preach at people about what we 'believe,' but we do show them how we live. 'preaching' gospel in our deeply post-christian context is less about words spoken, and more about life lived >in the way of jesus< which speaks louder than any words or tract... so our ethos is more st. francis than billy graham, more corner pub than christian cafe, more burning man than cornerstone festival, more monastery guesthouse than sawdust trail... and very sacramental/incarnational, reflecting our anglican/lutheran heritage/tribal d.n.a.'

    It really reminds me of Mars Hill Cafe in Sydney who are doing something very similar - creating a proximity space (not a 'Christian Cafe). The approach is going well in Sydney and I'll be interested to see how it goes in Seattle. Now I just have to save some money to go see our Seattle cousins for a coffee.

    Emerging Theology

    18 June, 2004 9:37 AM

    This week has bee a busy time of networking and meeting others who are planting similar types of communities to Living Room. This morning I'll be catching up with a few others from emerging missional communities for coffee. Its our second get together and I'm really looking forward to it.

    Yesterday morning a group from our denomination from four emerging missional communities got together to 'talk theology'. I guess we've been realizing that there is a lot of talk going around about new styles of doing church, mission etc - there is a lot of dreaming, experimenting and tweaking going on around the world in terms of church structure etc but we haven't seen too many 'emerging' forums to discuss theological issues. So we had a breakfast over which we had some rich discussion around issues of 'conversion', 'salvation', 'creation theology' to mention just a few topics. It was very refreshing not only to be hanging with fellow planting travelers but to get into some meaty discussion.

    Bash the Bride - face the Bridegroom

    10 June, 2004 2:59 PM

    Have been having a number of email and real conversations today about Emerging Church with friends. One recurring theme is that many 'Emerging Churches' and 'Emerging Christians' are very negative towards 'the Church'. The idea of 'Church Bashing' is something that we observe happening more and more. Here is something I wrote in an email this afternoon...

    'One piece of advice I give is that the 'discontent' that many of us feels needs to be watched carefully. I think its good to have some discontent about church, but there comes a point where we can get very bogged down in it.

    The key is to continually challenge ourselves and those around us to do something with the discontent. Its very easy to pull things down - anyone can do that - but the challenge is to force oneself to thinking about what we'll build in its place.

    Someone (I think it was Neil Cole) once said to me, 'if you bash the bride (the church) you've got to be willing to face up to the bride's groom' (Christ).

    One of the big problems I see with many 'emerging churches' is that they form out of an atmosphere of discontent. If this is the foundation of building something new then it will infect what is built.

    I've seen a couple of groups start like this - they did not last long and they ended up leaving some of their members feeling even more disillusioned with Church than when they started. They came to a point when they realised the main thing they had in common was their critique of the Church.

    We're working hard to create a space with Living Room where we can critique the church, but don't allow that to become our major focus. Our focus is Jesus and his call to love God, our neighbors and each other.

    Some days 'the Church' does frustrate me and I do feel discontent and angst towards it, but deep down I love the Church and want to see it reach its potential.

    What do you think? Is it healthy to have some discontent? How much is too much?

    Massachusetts Emerging Church

    10 June, 2004 10:10 AM

    I've just had an email from a reader asking if I know of any Living Room like groups in Massachusetts. I don't but I thought I'd ask if anyone else does. So do you?

    Experimenting with Rhythm

    3 June, 2004 2:53 PM

    And The Rhythm Of Life is a powerful beat, Puts a tingle in your fingers and a tingle in your feet...

    I've been conducting a little experiment at 9am every morning for the past 4 months. It involves a short walk, an investment of $2.50 per day and a great coffee.

    The experiment - to see what would happen if I intentionally placed myself in the same place (a local cafe) at the same time (9am) every day (I have to miss one or two occasionally, but its rare).

    Its been an interesting experiment so far. I guess I'm doing it to help me reflect upon 'mission' and 'engagement with culture', but its also teaching me a lot about human nature (and myself).

    The cool thing about being at the same place at the same time for 120 days in a row is that you find that you're not as unique as you might think. You see there are a number of other people whose daily rhythms intersect with mine at that time most days of the week. Some of them are paid to be there (staff) but quite a few are not.

    The interesting thing for me is to watch the way in which we 'regulars', who share 30 or so minutes in this common space each day, interact with one another. There is something of an unspoken camaraderie emerging between us.

    Cafes in Australia are not very interactive spaces (we go to the pub to interact with strangers - cafes are for quite chats with friends or silent times alone with a book or paper). However I'm finding that in the past few weeks the interactions I'm having are becoming more regular, longer and on a deeper level.

    They have progressed from sideways glances, nods and smiles to knowing names, asking about weekends and chats about life and even faith one one occasion. This last weekend V and I even went to see one of the waiter's band play in a local club.

    This may not seem (and probably isn't) that remarkable - but for me it is a new experience.

    I'm not sure it comes across here in my writing, but I'm an introvert. In fact when I do personality tests they often come back indicating that I'm an off the chart introvert. As a result I find meeting complete strangers something that is a little out of my comfort zone (I'd rather extract my own teeth with a hammer and chisel). It isn't that I don't like people - I'm quite fine at having a conversation with someone that I know - its just the meeting of new people that is a little freaky.

    Nothing amazing has happened yet with any of the people I see each day - maybe nothing will - but I'm amazed at the opportunities that have opened up to meet some great new people as a result of disciplining myself to establishing a new rhythm and by being open to meeting others whose lives will intersect with mine as a result.

    This has been my Blogger Idol Entry for the week. blogger_idol-1.gif

    Culture and Church - Open Mike

    1 June, 2004 12:09 PM

    I've been asked by my Dad to consider a question about the Church and Culture. I'd like to open it up for some discussion here and would value anyone and everyone's opinion.

    'I am doing a series of sermons on mission and want this week to put in some material that will help a basically 60's plus congregation to begin to understand the key things happenning in our culture and how we might come to grips with living and speaking the gospel in that context.'

    Another way of asking the question is:

    'Whats' happening out there in our culture that the church needs to see and hear?'

    I've begun to assemble some scattered thoughts (I'll add a few of them below to start the discussion) but would very much value your insights and experience so consider the Mike Open and have your say below. Dad will be reading your thoughts also.

    Suspicion of Institutions � We see it in the way people view banks, the government etc � the same is true for the church. People are suspicious of what they perceive as rigid, old and inflexible structures. I suspect that some of the child abuse scandals in the priesthood and issues of who we will and won�t ordain have perhaps effected this.

    Sexuality � As a young adults this was one of the biggest reasons I would say that many (most even) of my friends left the church. For most they did not find church to be a place for them to comfortably and naturally talk through issues pertaining to Sex and Sexuality. They saw the church and these issues as mutually exclusive - something I find very sad. Here are some suggestions on how we might move forward on it.

    Firstly we need to talk about it more, especially with our young people - most churches barely speak about the topic at all. Secondly perhaps we need to do some good hard theologizing on the topic, not just at a high leadership level but at the grass roots. We may end up with the same positions that we started with but at least we will have a better understanding of the issues that are being faced. Thirdly I think we need to somehow move to a more inclusive position � even if we do not agree with people�s lifestyle choices I suspect that there is room for people in our churches to move towards God as much as their is room for people in our churches who have issues with greed, impatience etc.

    The way we learn and communicate is changing � people do not learn by being presented with monologues or rote learning anymore (did they ever?). They are much more interactive, creative and hands on in the way in which they learn and understand issues of life and faith. This has implications for the way in which we teach/preach and do worship.

    Consumerism � I am coming to see that consumerism is perhaps the biggest threat/challenge that the church has perhaps ever faced in the West. It is something that has crept into life in more ways than I think we are aware. I�ve seen a number of friends recently do almost complete about faces in terms of their views on their faith and calling and I wonder if it is something to do with the pressures that they feel to conform to the pattern that is laid out for us as how we are �supposed� to live our lives. I know V and I struggle with this one also - the pressure to 'have' is great.

    So many people seem to get their idea of self worth from what they own, where they live, what they have achieved and what experiences they have or have not had. Unfortunately the church (or some segments of it) has bought into a lot of this. Sometimes its pretty obvious (prosperity doctrine) but more often than not its very subtle � its in the messages spoken from the pulpit, its in the buildings that we meet in and the wizbang programs that we run. I�m not sure how to tackle this. I�ve even heard one or two people lately suggest that the church SHOULD buy into it on purpose because its such an important part of our culture � I worry when I hear these sorts of statements.

    Rise of the �Cultural Creatives� � A number of studies lately have been undertaken that look at a new and very large emerging class of people that are emerging across the West.

    They are creative people, very interested in Justice, the Environment but also the Arts, good food and wine etc. They have a conscience but can also be very consumeristic in their own way. They are into experiencing life (which I think is something we need to grapple with more in church) as much (if not more than) gaining knowledge. They like to engage the senses. Most churches do not operate on a level that these people can engage with � many �cultural creatives� would find most of our gatherings very dry as it is non participatory and non sensual.

    Churchless Christians � Studies are finding that there are a lot (someone recently estimated 112 million - see last post) of people in the West who profess to be born again Christians with a living expression of their faith in Jesus but who have given up on, not found a home in or have stepped out of church. This is both exciting (reminds me a little of Acts when the church was scattered) but also a little scarey for many Christians who like order, structure and to be able categorize people.

    By no means is this an exhaustive list - I've only just started. Please add your thoughts, ideas and experiences below, whether they be big and thought through or short and off the top of your head. Thanks.

    Christians without Churches

    1 June, 2004 12:03 AM

    Andrew Jones picks up an interesting post over at Reinhold's Journey on 'Christians without Churches'.

    'John Barrett estimates that there are 112 Millions of churchless Christians - men, women and children who confess Christ as their Lord but do not belong to any of the traditional churches. This number is growing fast. I know at least 50 of them. Either this is the Great Apostasy or it is a Great Apostolic movement....'

    This is a trend that some of us here in Australia have been noticing also - I'm loosing track of how many people I'm meeting every week that would classify themselves in this way.

    When I share these things with many Christians (of the Church going variety) the concern expressed is often around issues of accountability, pastoral care and lack of teaching - many seem to worry that this growing group of people will go 'off track' unless connected in formal ways with other Christians through 'Church'.

    Whilst I understand these concerns I'm also very comforted to note that most of my non church going Christian friends have seemed to have generated informal networks of others around them who in a very unorganized way fulfill many of the aspects of church that the rest of us get in the more formal communities that we're a part of.

    Like Reinhold I believe that meeting together is important, but that for too long we've allowed our gatherings to become too central in our thinking. I guess this is what I was reflecting on a week or so ago when I was talking about what we place in the centre of of our churches. Often at the centre is 'the gathering' itself which is something I suspect we need to consider moving away from (and perhaps already are if the figures above are anything to go by).

    'Purple Cow' Church

    20 May, 2004 3:20 PM

    purplcow.jpgHas the church lost its remark-ability? Are we just another run of the mill black and white, boring, cow?

    This morning I finished reading Purple Cow by author (and blogger) Seth Godin. Its a great little marketing book about being 'remarkable'. The basics of the book are that the way marketing has been done for decades (that if you throw enough money at a advertising a product you can guarantee its success) just doesn't work any more. His argument is that in order to be successful today you need a 'purple cow' type idea, product or service. He illustrates the idea of a 'purple cow' by describing a trip in the countryside where initially the cows by the side of the road grabbed his attention but soon became 'boring' or 'normal'. After an hour or so of driving he didn't even see the cows any more. It would have taken a purple one to get him to notice and be intrigued by a cow by that time.

    This is true in many sphere's of life. Seth goes on to talk about how we are bombarded with so many message that it takes a pretty remarkable new product to break through our defense systems. He then goes on to talk about ways of being a 'purple cow'.

    I wonder how it might apply to Church? After centuries of the church operating in pretty much the same paradigms, speaking pretty much the same message in pretty much the same way I wonder if perhaps we've lost some (if not all) of our remark-ability? It is a pity, because the message of Jesus is pretty remarkable - Take 'love your enemies' for example. Those are pretty shocking, confronting kind of words to say, let alone live out.

    Jesus actually has a similar message to Seth. We're called to be the salt of the earth, the light of the world. Those are pretty remarkable things to be. You certainly know about it when you experience one or the other.

    I wonder if we've lost some of our saltiness, if perhaps our light is a little dim. I wonder if perhaps if the church has become a little comfortable. We were the centre of western culture for so long that we've stopping pushing the boundaries and taking initiative. In doing so perhaps we've become a tad boring.

    I look at the church as it is presented in Acts 2 and I see a dynamic and remarkable group of people. They are a 'purple cow' in the truest sense of the concept. They live what they believe, they stand out from their surrounding culture - risking everything, giving up all for the cause.

    Maybe its time we woke up from our zombie like, comfortable existence and rediscovered some of the remarkable call that we've actually been left with. Maybe its time we became the church of the 'purple cow'.

    Lovemarks and the Church

    15 May, 2004 5:34 PM

    Today I came across a book called Lovemarks. It�s a book that is hard to miss really � bright red, hard back cover, simple yet elegant design.

    Its title intrigued me a little �Lovemarks � the future beyond brands�.

    As someone who has been interested in marketing for many years I picked up the book, found a comfortable corner of the bookshop and began to read.

    The book is a pleasure to read � fresh and visually stimulating with some quality content. The main point of the book is that Brands are dead (or are dying) and that there is a need for a fresh approach in promoting one�s products.

    The author (Kevin Roberts) decided to do some research on the question � �what makes some brands inspirational, while others struggle?�

    The answer is �Lovemarks�. Let me explain using words from the book...

    Lovemarks transcend brands. They deliver beyond your expectations of great performance. Like great brands, they sit on top of high levels of respect - but there the similarities end. Lovemarks reach your heart as well as your mind, creating an intimate, emotional connection that you just can�t live without. Ever.

    Take a brand away and people will find a replacement. Take a Lovemark away and people will protest its absence. Lovemarks are a relationship, not a mere transaction. You don�t just buy Lovemarks, you embrace them passionately. That�s why you never want to let go.�

    So what is a Lovemark and how does one attain that status?

    Respect - Respect is the starting point � without it you�ve got little chance of getting anyone to coming back to your product beyond a first try.

    Mixed with Respect the book talks about three ingredients that these inspiring Lovemark brands have:

    1. Mystery � when you know everything there is nothing left to discover. �No more surprises, no more wonder, no more opportunities. In a world suffering from information overload, the most powerful attention-grabbers are the things you don�t know.... A Lovemark has great stories and draws together past, present and future. It taps into dreams. Brings back deep meaning in myths and icons.' Create some mystery and you give people a reason to come back for more.

    2. Sensuality � The senses evoke strong emotions in us. Its amazing how just a simple smell can transport us to another place or the look that someone gives us can impact our mood so dramatically.

    �Emotional connections are at the very heart of a Lovemark. So it makes sense that the crucial elements of design, scent, texture and flavour � things that appeal directly to the senses � will influence your response over and above the more �rational� product arguments.�

    3. Intimacy � without this you are not able to truly touch and inspire on a deep and lasting level. Lovemarks show commitment, empathy and passion.

    The book makes a lot of sense and evokes a number of thoughts in me. One is that these Lovemark elements remind me a lot of the person of Jesus - Respect, Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy all feature heavily in his approach.

    Another train of thought I've been having is the parallels between Lovemarks and some of the lessons many of us have been learning through our exploration of the Emerging Church and Alternative Worship movement.

    The themes of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy are ingredients that many of us have been experimenting with over the years in our desire to make church a more relevant and embracing place for those living around us. They are elements that I suspect the church on a whole will need to grapple more with in the years ahead also.

    The element of the �Lovemark� approach that I suspect that we struggle with the most (and therefore need to work on the most) as �The Church� here in Australia is that of �Respect�. In my daily interactions with fellow Aussies I�m constantly reminded of the suspicion and mistrust that so many feel towards the Church. The reasons for this disrespect are many and complex � much damage has been done over the decades and centuries that proceed our time.

    If the �Lovemarks� approach is a way forward for us then alarm bells should be ringing in our ears by now. We can work on creating Intimate, Sensory, Mystical spaces and worship experiences for as long as we like, but without Respect we�re wasting our time and energy.

    Our discussion as Emerging Church practitioners needs to not only focus upon the themes of Mystery, Sensuality and Intimacy but also that of Respect. How do we rebuild respect? How is respect built in a time when institutions are so often seen with suspicion and mistrust? Is respect earned on a personal one on one basis or are there ways it can be earned on a larger scale?

    Much of the information above on Lovemarks was gleaned from the Lovemark Website. For more detailed information get your hands on the book itself. You might also like to read an address author Kevin Roberts gave on the topic.

    East meets West

    7 May, 2004 6:22 PM

    In the last 24 hours I've had opportunity to speak to two very different groups about what we're doing with LivingRoom.

    Last night I went travelled due West to a sister missional community that is working with young people in those suburbs. They are doing some amazing work in schools and in other relationships with young people from a variety of ethnic backgrounds. They're working in a culture where drug culture is pretty powerful. We had a night of story telling and I was totally blown away by the commitment and faith of this small group - not to mention their warm welcome and interest in what we're doing. Whilst our suburbs are vastly different from one another there are some real common threads that run through the values of both groups. For example we both have a real heart for our wider communities and we both see food as central in what we do.

    Today I travelled due East - to the bible belt of Melbourne - to share with a group of mainly older Christians from churches around Melbourne who were gathering to hear about some of the issues that are facing our denomination at the moment. I again shared about what we're doing and the need for more communities to experiment with new models of church and mission.

    This group of people could not have been much more different than last night's group. Today the vast majority of people would have been in their 60s and 70s, virtually all were from anglo backgrounds and from those I talked to I gather that most came from fairly conservative mainline type churches. Yet the common thing with last night was the incredible acceptance and even excitement that there were people trying new things. I saw in the eyes of the people that gathered today a real resonance with the things I was talking about - the need for new models, new ways and creativity as we approach the future of church in our city.

    Whilst today I sensed a number of people struggled with some of what we do (we don't meet on a Sunday, we don't sing songs, we don't have the word 'Baptist' in our name), there was also a real acceptance that the times we live mean that we need to be open to change, to new ways. I was really encouraged by the warm response and find myself tonight celebrating the diversity yet unity of these two amazing groups of people.

    Melbourne Emerging Church Types Get Together

    28 April, 2004 10:26 AM

    Today I'm off to spend an afternoon and evening with Jim Thwaites which should be interesting.

    The afternoon session is for others in our denomination who are doing (or wanting to do) similar missional community plants to us at LivingRoom. There are currently a number of groups around Melbourne doing a variety of projects.

    Tonight is an open night to the larger network which should be fun. We're holding it in a great cafe in Brunswick St so there will be loads of good coffee and food too. If you wanted to come tonight you still can - details are here.

    An Evening with Jim Thwaites

    24 April, 2004 8:07 AM

    This Wednesday evening Forge and the Baptist Union of Victoria are hosting an evening with Jim Thwaites - author of �The Church Beyond the Congregation
    �, and �Renegotiating the Church Contract�.

    He will be reflecting on the Hebrew vision of world, work and self into heart, mind and discourse - then staying there for a while before suddenly moving to possible and risky present/future strategies.

    Where? - Retro Caf� (upstairs) 413 Brunswick St Fitzroy (Melbourne Australia)
    When? - Wednesday 28 April 7pm till 9pm
    How Much? - $10 Waged - $5 Unwaged

    It'll be a great night of learning which would be ideal to bring a small group to. We are having our whole group from LivingRoom come along as our main gathering for the week. Contact me for more details.

    Blog Strolling

    21 April, 2004 10:49 PM

    Tonight I just took a little virtual stroll around some of my favorite emerging church blogs to see what was being discussed and here is some of the more stimulating stuff I found...


    Alan Creech is blogging about liturgy as '"second-hand" prayers'
    in life of liturgy 2.0 .

    'While I certainly understand the philosophy behind only wanting to pray prayers that are considered "from my own heart", I would challenge the idea that any prayer written and prayed by one of my siblings in Christ, or taken from Scripture, cannot be adopted by "my heart" and then lifted up to God very sincerely and effectively and genuinely, out of love for Him, and in the context of real relationship.'

    Justin is blogging on a similar theme in Rhythms of Contemplative Prayer.

    'As a good conservative kid, I grew up knowing that the best prayers are original, spontaneous, lofty, and long. Using prayers someone else wrote a long time ago - even good ones - was not acceptable; prayers needed to be generated on-the-fly, or God wouldn't listen.'

    Hamo is blogging about Sabbath Spaces

    'how do you distinguish between work and play when in this environment? If I go fishing or surfing with someone from the community is that work or recreation?.. Or both?... If we have people round to dinner is that work or friendship?... Or both?... If I try to take Saturday as a day off does that mean I shouldn't hang around people who might be 'work'?

    Steve is talking about the textures of worship.

    'How much of our worship is flat walled and mono-coloured? What would it mean to create textured worship, multiple layers, unexpected swirls, differently weaved and woven patterns.'

    Emerging Networks

    19 April, 2004 11:24 AM

    Caught up with Barb for a coffee this morning to talk about what our communities are doing. It is great to know that there are a variety of new models of emerging missional church operating within just a few kilometers of each other.

    We worked out that there are at least five such communities doing stuff in our immediate region (the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne)- some of them have multiple expressions/groups operating. We all take slightly different approaches and have different levels of organization, styles of leadership etc - but there are a number of common elements in that we want to find new and culturally relevant ways of expressing faith, connecting with our wider community and understanding what it is to be a corporate body of followers of Jesus.

    We decided to have a gathering for key leaders of each group mid May which will be a good time of sharing stories, building relationships and sharing dreams. Should be fun.

    'Off the beaten Track' - Emerging Church

    13 April, 2004 4:19 PM

    'Should I or shouldn't I?'

    It is a question I've found myself asking on many occasions over the past yeah and a half as I've sat down to blog on particular matters. One of the first rules of blogging for most bloggers is to work out where your boundaries are of what you will and won't blog about.

    It is a question I ask a lot - particularly when I blog about the Livingroom community that I belong to (and which this blog is named after).

    Someone the other day said that I keep my cards close to my chest when I talk about the group - I tend to share what we do in our gatherings in impersonal ways and talk about the theory of emerging church rather than about who we are as a group in more intimate ways.

    I do this because our little group is a fragile thing, that is still forming identity and finding its way. We (like all communities and churches) are made up of real people - each with our own brokenness and issues - it wouldn't be appropriate to share details that might approach this personal ground.

    However in creating such boundaries I guess I run the danger of painting an all too rosy and perhaps rather sanitized picture of what our little group is like, what its like to lead an emerging missional church and the issues that such groups face.

    Whilst the past year of birthing Livingroom has been a wonderful experience there have also been times of real lowness and frustration. I've been confronted numerous issues on a personal level as I look at my giftings (and lack of them), the places I get my self worth, the old paradigms that I still unconsciously hold onto and my own personal weaknesses and brokenness.

    Working in a small group has its definite pluses but it can also be a lonely and frustrating process. Momentum is difficult to maintain and the pool of resources (not just financial) are much lower.

    Amidst the excitement of new beginnings and possibilities comes periods of doubt. It is easy to fall back on old habits of ministry that are 'safe and comfortable' even though that I know that God is challenging us to break new ground.

    In preparing for tonight's group I found myself reading Mtt 7:13-14 - the idea of a 'narrow path' is one that I can relate to at the moment. At times I wonder if we're on a path at all and if we're just 'bush bashing' - maybe we lost the track a while back?

    Yet there is a call to continue to move forward that drives me on - despite the the narrowness and congestion of that which surrounds our 'path'. I'm not sure what the destination is (or is there one?) but the call is to keep journeying - and we do.

    Rural Emerging Church?

    4 April, 2004 7:30 PM

    Tasmania is a beautiful state of Australia. It has some incredible wilderness areas, beautiful beaches, amazing produce and the people are very relaxed and friendly. It is rather cold (most southerly part of Australia and closest to the south pole) but a good wood log fire fixes that quickly enough. I'm having a great time - home tomorrow on a morning flight. Will update more then. However in the mean time I have a question for your Emerging Church people.

    Friday night I flew into Launceston and was met by my host Ben who with his family have been here in Tasmania for almost 10 years working as a church planter/missionary/church consultant. His family is originally from the US.

    In Launceston I had a great dinner with a number of people from that region who are interested in missional church models. I got to share the journey of the Livingroom over that meal and answered quite a few questions. They were very open to what I had to say and were really grappling with some meaty missional issues. One of the questions raised was about planting such churches in rural areas which present their unique pressures. For example in a town where everyone already knows everyone (and everyone�s business) and where there are only a few small churches already - there are challenges in starting something new and different.

    It got me to thinking about the variety of emerging missional churches that I know of and as I think about it � they are all in urban or suburban contexts. Is there anyone out there doing something new and �emerging� in a rural area? Some of the group last night were trying to birth something and I�d love to be able to encourage them with the story of another group/s. If you know of any could you please let me know below in comments or via my contact page.

    P is for Emerging Missional Church

    1 April, 2004 3:48 PM

    On Saturday after I did my little presentation on the missional church there was another guy speaking by the name of Mike Frost from Sydney. Some of you will know him from his excellent book The Shaping of Things to Come. Mike is an incredible storyteller and speaker who I've found inspiring to listen to for many years.

    The part of his talk that I enjoyed most where is exploration of 4 Characteristics of the Emerging Missional Church which I found really helpful in describing a lot of what I see happening in some of the more missional emerging churches around the globe. I've expanded on his main points below with some of my own reflections and a look at a biblical narrative that I find helpful in unpacking it.

    Proximity - Many of these new communities (and older ones who are 'remissionalizing') are exploring creative ways of having proximity to those who do not yet follow Christ. By proximity he means that we are putting ourselves into positions where we will bump into and interact with our world. This might happen on any number of levels both formally and informally, individually and corporately. For example my friends in Hobart all decided to move into a suburb 5 minutes walk from a particular pub. They live amongst that community and socialize in that one pub every Sunday night at the same time. They have proximity to both staff and patrons of the hotel.

    Another group in Sydney have started a cafe as a business. They run exhibitions, have bands and all the things that normal cafes have and in the midst of it a group of followers of Christ are having daily interactions with those who are not yet believers.

    It also comes down to an individual informal level. I go to a local cafe to drink coffee at the same time each day. In doing so I find myself in a space where I begin to know and relate to other regulars and staff. Others in our group have proximity in their sporting clubs, work places, universities, book groups etc.

    I love the story of Philip and the Ethiopian in Acts 8:26-40. Philip in this story allows God to put him in proximity to the Ethiopian. God tells Philip to go to a particular road and then to go walk beside the carriage the Ethiopian was traveling in. Initially all he was instructed to do was to 'stay close' to the carriage. It was out of this closeness to the Ethiopian than an opportunity arose.

    I guess the question needs to be asked of the Church and Christians today - what are we in proximity to? Are we living in proximity to those in our community or do we tend to spend more time in proximity to one another as fellow believers? It strikes me that often as churches we make our members so busy with Church related activity (committees, bible studies, services, leadership teams etc) that there is barely enough time for quality time with our own families - let alone be intentional about living in proximity to our world.

    Presence - Proximity alone is not enough. Rubbing shoulders is a step in the right direction but just to be near someone generally does not have much impact. Presence is about relationship, about knowing and being known.

    Our friends in the pub in Hobart not only go each Sunday night, but they make an effort to know and interact with others in that place. They talk, they buy them a beer, they listen, they invite them home for a bbq. All of these things build presence.

    The group running the cafe in Sydney run their business as any other cafe owners would, except that they are intentional about hearing the stories of their patrons, knowing their names and becoming involved in their lives. In this sense they are the presence of Christ in that space.

    In my local cafe I've started to learn the names of the staff, have meaningful conversations etc. Others in our community are very intentional about their relationships with those they work, play and socialize with by sharing meals, baby sitting kids, sending cards etc.

    In Acts 8 - because Philip was close to the carriage he was able to hear what was going on in the life of the Ethiopian. He heard the searching that was going on and found himself in a position to enter into some kind of relationship with the other man. At the invitation of the Ethiopian (he was very respectful and didn't force himself on anyone) Philip got into the carriage and began to travel with him. He went from being close by to being in relationship with.

    Again we need to ask ourselves are we willing to practice this presence in the world? Before we glibly answer in the affirmative lets remember that such an approach is often one of the long haul that can be one of sacrifice.

    Powerlessness - If Mike wasn't such a 'Christian' he'd probably have resisted the urge to have a 'P' word here and call it 'Humility'.

    Often we attempt to do mission in a very 'powerful' way. We hedge our bets by putting all the resources we can into our 'outreach events' - have the best band, the best speaker, the best venue to optimize the chances of success. We do everything we can to 'make it work' so that all God has to do is 'close the deal'. We also often tend to take the power away from the other person in our missional activities and often 'set the agenda' in our often systematic approaches to mission.

    As I read Acts I see a community who really had very little power - they didn't hedge their bets - they were rather 'ordinary' and powerless - they totally relied upon God. As they bumbled along and experimented and explored life and related to their world - God did the mission and they played a humble almost secondary role at times.

    It is often when we are most out of our depth and reliant upon God that they most powerful missional interactions happen. I guess this is where another P comes in - that of Prayer.

    In the story of Philip we again see this characteristic played out. Who was the powerful character in this interaction? Who took the initiative? As I read the story it seems to be more about God and the Ethiopian to me. Philip seems to be a secondary player in many ways. It is God who seems to be already doing something in the Ethiopian's life even before Philip shows up. Then it is the Ethiopian who seems to take most of the initiative in the interaction with Philip. He invites Philip into the carriage, he asks the questions, he asks if he can be baptized. Philip does speak but it is a genuine response to what God is already doing in the other's life.

    It is out of his humble relating to the Ethiopian that God moves in his power.

    Proclaimation - It is all very well to be close by, to have relationship and to be humble - but in most cases (or all?) there comes a time where some sort of appropriate proclamation is needed. Of course here I'm not just talking about proclamation by words (although in most cases there probably needs to be some element of this) but also proclamation in action.

    In the story we see a time where Philip (in the context of an invitation and questions from the Ethiopian) does some appropriate explaining and teaching. He seemingly joins the dots between the experience and searching on the Ethiopian to the person of Jesus in a very gentle way as they travelled along the road together. The whole process if very much a two way interaction where the experience of the Ethiopian is respected.

    Proclamation can be scary for many of us, especially when we take the 'powerless' approach and allow the other to set the agenda and take initiative in the process. But I guess we need to remember the bigger picture and that we have a God who is also involved in the missional endeavor we play a part in.

    It strikes me as I look through the four points above that in my own experience of Church that everything there I would agree with and have heard before - however mission often ends up looking quite the opposite. To use some more P words - many of the missional approaches I've been involved with previously have been rather Programatic and Process driven. Maybe its time for a fresh approach?

    I'm still working on this - interested in others thoughts.

    Questions for the Emerging Church

    30 March, 2004 9:15 AM

    Received this email from Angus yesterday. With his permission I post it here as a discussion starter. Angus is asking some interesting questions about Emerging Church. I find them helpful although probing - all good ideas need constructive critiques - and am interested in what others think.

    'Darren,

    I have a question about the whole emerging church phenomenon. I understand the disatisfaction with institutional church and its apparent inability to reach the community with the Gospel. However, what I have read of the emerging church has its own pitfalls.

    Firstly, humans have the propensity for organization and formalization, this is even true of an emerging church. Very quickly the way they do things can become the way things are to be done. Falling into the same trap of that which they rejected in the institutional church.

    Secondly, emerging church seems to work on the cell type principle of meeting with those of like mindedness. This has proven to be exclusivist in its actualization to the world. We end up having the rich meeting with the rich, poor wioth poor etc exclusive to the other. Is not the Gospel and a community of faith in Jesus be typified by the crossing of such sociological boundries.
    I have heard of new emerging churches who have decided to target young families and although they would not say it, the expression of such churches is that those outside of the young families demographic are placed on the outer.
    As far as I can see this is problematical for the whole concept of the Emerging Church as such. Does this mean I am against the emerging church movement. No I am not against it but I do have some concerns, and that there must be people who would call things into question, not to hinder it but to be a spur that will help them stay true to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

    God Bless - Angus Cruickshank'

    Looking forward to some fruitful conversation.

    Update - Dave answers Angus's questions at his blog and Tim has been writing on Emergent Theology also.

    The Emerging Missional Church - Thoughts in Progress

    29 March, 2004 2:21 PM

    Things went well with the presentation to our denomination chiefs in Adelaide on Saturday. The response was very positive. I was one of three speakers who each addressed the topic of �new forms of mission church/emerging church�.

    A few people have asked for my notes - I don�t generally use expansive notes � I tend to go with the flow. However here is a general outline (excluding some of the stories and examples that might not be appropriate for a blog) on the way I went about presenting the topic. It is pretty long (be warned - the session was 1.5 hours and this is around 1600 words) and contains links to other parts of this site that describe some of what I talked about. Hope it is helpful for some. Feel free to add, critique, question, clarify etc in comments. I'm particularly interested in how my experience compares to others experiences in their contexts around the globe. Its a living stream of ideas from a guy who is just bumbling a long trying to make sense of the world he lives in.

    Introductions >>

    General introduction to who I am and what I do.

    Context - Culture >>

    we are living in a changing world. We did a very short brainstorming exercise to identify some of the changes we�re seeing in culture � particularly looking at those that impact the way we do church.

    Some of the changes identified (to name a few of many) included new ways of:

    • Learning/Thinking � I now spend as much time online interacting with others and reading article when I work on essays as I do reading books.
    • Communicating � the immediacy of online communication is having major impact on how we communicate.
    • Building Community/Relationships � again online interaction and the ease with which we travel is having a big impact upon many of our primary relationships. Along side this the changing nature of family etc.
    • Views of Institutions � more and more institutions are being viewed with suspicion. The church is just one institution dealing with this.
    • Understanding the global context �..etc

    Context - The Church>>

    We are seeing significant trends emerging in churches that we can no longer ignore and need to grapple with. They include:
    • Overall decline in Church Attendance - The percentage of the Australian population that identifies themselves with a denomination or local church is continuing to decline.
    • Non church going Christians as a growing segment of the Christian population. (this is a fast growing segment of the Body of Christ)
    • Young Adults haemorrhaging from the church. We are ok at doing relevant youth ministry, but the transition to young adulthood sees large numbers of people leaving the church. The stats show us that in previous decades they would return to the church as they had families (in their 20s and 30s), recent indications are that this is no longer so � they are staying away.
    • �The Church is a Joke�. Yes I shared my previous entry � �Jo�s Joke�. This represents message that I�m hearing more and more. In the past month I�d been told the same thing by three separate individuals.
    • There is a growing segment of the population in Australia (and across the West I suspect) that are culturally distanced from the Church and the way in which it operates. 30% of our population are associated with church on some level. 10% of the population are �like us� culturally � ie they talk like us, are open to some of the things we do like group singing to contemporary easy listening light pop music, they have similar moral codes to us. This leaves around 60% of the population here in Australia are culturally closed off or removed from the way the majority of the churches in our country operate. They are people like �Jo�.
    • Most of the Church�s effort goes into reaching out to those who are �like us�. Where do the majority of churches put most of their energies, resources and mission? Well apart from the vast amount of energy that we put into the already churched (just ask yourself how much time we put into the preparation of our services, pastoral care etc), most of us are doing mission that aims at the 10% who are �like us�. I�m no business person, but this doesn�t seem like a very smart strategy. Very few churches are experimenting with ways of connecting with the vast majority (and growing segment) of the population.

    Context - The Church�s Response >>

    How has the church responded to the changes in our world and the growing cultural distance? There have been a number of movements that come to mind:
    • Contemporary Worship � Worship in the language of the people. New styles of music that people can relate to, more every day language being used in songs etc.
    • Seeker Sensitive Services � Communicating the gospel in a language that the ordinary person will understanding. Using multimedia and the arts (often secular) to communicate the messages of Jesus.
    • Alpha like programs � systems of explaining the gospel in relevant language.
    • Alternative worship � exploring new (and ancient) and creative forms of worship that are more indigenous to culture.

    Now hear me right please � I am not attacking or downgrading the importance of any of these methods. I have personally been deeply affected by each of these approaches and know of many others who have come to faith and grown in their understanding of God through each. They are each valid responses to the post-modern world we find ourselves living in.

    However (there is always a �but�), I wonder (please hold back your stones now) if perhaps these above approaches might still be largely aiming their efforts on the 10% of the population that are �like us� culturally.

    You see the interesting thing about each of the above movements/approaches is that they all seem to be about improving the way we do things with the hope that if we do, people will come to us. They all seem to me to be rather attractional � if we build it � and its good enough � they will come.

    Jesus says � �Go into all the world and make disciples�. He says, �You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the Ends of the Earth�.

    I�m struggling to find a place where he says, �build it and they will come�.

    Formation of the Livingroom >>

    at this point I simply shared my own personal journey of coming to the place of planting the Livingroom. I�ve previously written about it here and here.

    Livingroom Core Journeys >>

    As part of this journey we discovered the three core values/dna that will centre everything we do upon. I�ve previously written about them in quite a bit of detail - they are the Inner, Outer and Together Journey.

    Livingroom � Some Specifics >>

    I shared then about some of what we do at Livingroom, some of the things we�ve experimented with etc. Much of it I�ve shared previously on this blog � I�ve provided links for each where I could find them.

    Global Trends >>

    In addition to these features of Livingroom, some of the trends and characteristics of Emerging/Missional Church that I see in the global movement include:
    • Culturally Savvy/Incarnational � take culture very seriously
    • Participatory � all are encouraged to participate/lead
    • Bi-vocational Leadership � Many are lead by leaders with other work/focus
    • Attached Businesses � Many are exploring models of business that not only fund what they do but provide proximity spaces to connect missionally
    • Ancient/Future � exploring both ancient and new ways of praying and engaging with Scripture
    • Question Everything � Scary sometimes but a life giving process
    • Creativity � The Arts and outside the box thinking are central
    • Food/Celebration � the meal features in many emerging churches
    • Practices � Amidst the messiness/chaos of these grass roots communities many are exploring simple disciplines/practices that draw them back to their core values and help them to live them out in daily life
    • Networked � denominations feature less and local and global networks are emerging for support, accountability and shared learning
    • Dissatisfaction � many have an element of angst/frustration/dissatisfaction with �the church�. As with sand in an pearl producing oyster this is healthy, but shouldn�t become the primary reason for the existence of the group � the challenge is to do something positive with the angst and birth something new.

    Of course this is only a partial and sweepingly generalised list. This is a pretty similar list to what Steve Taylor came up with in his A � Z of Emerging Church article. I actually handed out copies of this article. He says it better than I could!

    Looking Forward >>

    In finishing up I wanted to encourage the group to keep the conversation alive. The fact that they are grappling the issue as a denomination and actually funding groups like Livingroom is really progressive. When I share with others around the globe how they support us I get the feeling that many denominations are not willing to engage with this stuff. Its inspiring to be a part of such a permission giving group who not only let us dream, but back us with resources and logistical support however they can. My encouragement was to keep moving forward, keep giving permission, talking up the issues with the wider denominational community and keep exploring ways to resource and develop leaders and groups.

    Throughout the session (1.5 hours) we have quite a bit of discussion, questions and throwing around ideas. Over all it was very well received and I�ve come away feeling very positive about the experience. I guess now the question remains what we�ll all do with the conversation. Looking forward to seeing what emerges.

    Jo's Joke

    26 March, 2004 9:08 AM

    It was a quiet Wednesday morning in my local cafe - a place where I go every day if I can, partly because it serves the best coffee in Melbourne, but partly because I'm wanting to make some connections there with the staff and regulars.

    I was sitting in my favorite position in the window on a comfy lounge chair. I love the spot because I can watch people go by on the street but also still see everything that is happening in the cafe - I'm a people watcher from way back.

    I was sipping on my latte while working on a powerpoint presentation for a talk I'm doing on Saturday when 'Jo', a waitress who I've been getting to know, came up to me to clear my table. She looked over my shoulder at my laptop screen and said - 'You look rather perplexed - what are you working on?'

    I'm never quite sure how to explain what I do - the talk I was preparing for was to our denominational heads - I wondered how to explain without freaking her out. She knows I'm 'religious', she sees me reading my bible there some days and sees me meet with people from my community of faith there each week - but we've never talked explicitly about 'Church'.

    In the end I told it as it was - 'I'm preparing a presentation for the national leaders of our church - I am a bit perplexed, I'm trying to work out what to say.'

    She just stood there looking at me. She did look a little freaked, but she didn't move away from the table. I sat there waiting for her response. It didn't come - she just stood there looking, thinking and seemingly waiting for me to say something.

    It was one of those moments where I began to rack my mind for something to say. Do I change the topic? Should I sit her down and explain the gospel using a picture of two cliffs and a cross representing a bridge? Should I gather up my stuff, pay for my coffee and run screaming from the cafe never to return?

    I said none of these things but instead found myself asking her a question that if I'd thought about it would never have asked.

    'What would you say to them?'

    Again she stood looking - time stood still - the silence between us was excruciating. There she stood, peroxided hair with a tinge of pink, pierced nose and lips, ripped baggy pants, tiny crop top, exposed midriff, tattoos. I took in the site and wondered if I'd actually said the question out loud.

    Eventually, after what seemed like an eternity 'Jo' responded to me. Not with words however but with hearty laughter. Actually it didn't start with laughter, it started with smiling eyes, progressed to a giggle hidden behind a hand and then progressed to a hearty belly laugh. Others in the cafe began to look, hopefully thinking that she was laughing at some witty joke I'd told her rather than laughing at me. I didn't know how to respond, so I began to laugh with her, all the time wondering what, or who, the joke was.

    She wiped her tear filled eyes and tried to compose herself. 'Sorry' she said. 'I don't mean any disrespect. I can't imagine talking to people like that, but if by some strange chance I did, the only thing I can think to tell them is that the Church is a complete Joke.'

    I wasn't quite sure how to take Jo's words. Part of me did feel a little offended to be honest, but most of me found myself agreeing with a lot of how she explained herself. She went on to share that she had had some experience of the church growing up but had left as a teen. In more recent years she had been back on a few occasions for friends baptisms and weddings. She described those experiences as 'like visiting another planet' and 'like stepping back in time'.

    She very articulately explained that her friends just didn't talk, relate or behave like people did in church. Add to that her opinion that the church wasn't really handling issues like ordaining women, sexuality or child abuse by clergy very well and her opinion was simply that it was all a joke that she could never take seriously.

    At that point 'Jo' had to serve someone else and I was left to ponder her words. The cafe got busier and there was no opportunity to talk more except for the moment when I went up to pay. I thanked her for her thoughts and said I might quote her in my presentation. She said that was cool and almost embarrassingly said - 'Don't get me wrong, I'm a very spiritual person, but I just didn't find church to be a spiritual place - sorry'.

    I wonder if I have guts to use her words on Saturday!?

    Update - well I've finished preparing for my talk and Jo's words are central to what I shall share. I'll update here on how they are received when I get home tomorrow night. No posting tomorrow - off to Adelaide now. Have a good weekend.

    Characteristics of the Emerging Church

    22 March, 2004 12:31 PM

    What do you see as characteristics that are common between Emerging Churches around the globe?

    I've been spending this morning preparing some material to speak this coming Saturday at our denomination's national board. As I said previously, they want a presentation on 'emerging church/missional communities'. I'm enjoying the preparation process.

    Describing the Emerging Church is something that I find to be a slippery topic. I've previously reacted against putting a definition upon it and ended up attempted to do so in a very loose manner. I think its probably more helpful to describe some of the common characteristics that we see emerging in such churches. I guess that is what I was doing in my 'Church Planting Lessons Series earlier in the year. Whilst I described what we at Livingroom were learning I realize I was also describing what others around the globe seem to be learning also.

    I'm really keen to see what others see as the characteristics of the Emerging Church and would appreciate your thoughts? As per usual I'd love to learn from the experiences of others and hope that what is shared can be beneficial to us all. So have a go - what are the characteristics of the Emerging Church? If you can think of examples to illustrate your points please include them with links if appropriate. Also if you'd rather write a post on this on your own blog, just leave a comment below with the link and I'll add them to this main post.

    Introducing Proximity Space Blog

    20 March, 2004 3:10 PM

    I've been meaning to introduce Kevin from Proximity Space for a few days now, but in the busyness of life I keep forgetting to when I'm online. I spent a morning with Kevin this past week as he came down to Melbourne here for a bit of a break.

    Kevin is an American based in Sydney who is part of an exciting Emerging Church project in a Cafe. I won't mention which cafe because I think he likes to keep some anonymity between his blog and it (tell me if its otherwise Kevin and I'll add the details).

    I've heard about the cafe through a number of people and it sounds like an exciting space which is fostering opportunities for community building, mission and personal spiritual growth. It sounds right up my alley!

    His blog is Proximity Space and it is his attempt to 'create a space for leaders and participants in the Emerging Missional Church to engage and critique some of the thoughts and things that I think I am learning through creating a proximity space in the marketplace in the form of a cafe.'

    Please stop by and say hi, introduce yourself, encourage Kevin and his team (its full on work that they do which can leave one feeling pretty 'spent') and interact with the things that he's writing about and learning. Don't be discouraged by the lack of recent updates on his blog, he promises to post entries more often in future! Kevin desires his blog to be an interactive space of learning for himself and others. I highly commend the work he's doing to you - he's got some great stuff to say!

    Also I'd like to mention Synapse Chronicles which is run by Kevin's mate Grant who is also linked to the same faith community/cafe that Kevin runs. Grant's blog is a fascinating read on a variety of topics including politics, books, social justice issues etc - highly recommended stuff!

    A New Kind of Christian

    12 March, 2004 5:54 PM

    Yesterday I was rummaging through my college library looking for books on fasting (writing a paper on it for my Spirituality class) when I found a book that I've been meaning to get my hands upon - Brian McLaren's 'A New Kind of Christian'. At first I was quite surprised to find it there - the library took a step up in my eyes - and then I was quite happy to know I now didn't have to buy myself a copy.

    I've been interested to read it for a while now largely due to the ripples that it caused across the emerging church blog scene a year or so back. Its been great to see the impact that its had - but its left me curious.

    So - I'm one chapter in. The introduction was great. I found it quite touching to read which surprised me somewhat. You see I feel I've taken some steps towards a 'New kind of Christianity' - yet even from within the place I currently find myself I can relate to some of Brian's depression and feelings about faith, church and God. I'm looking forward to getting further into the book over the weekend.

    Why are the Churches Failing?

    10 March, 2004 9:38 AM

    Interesting opinion piece in Melbourne paper, The Age today entitled Why are the churches failing?. It talks about the decline of the church here in Australia and vaguely refers to the Emerging Church without using the term, mentioning a movement within the Catholic Church here in Australia.

    'In Melbourne and around Australia, a spiritual movement begun 10 years ago in Sydney is quietly on the rise.

    "Spirituality in the pub" - informal dinner, speaker and conversation events held in suburban pubs - has grown to 40 groups meeting regularly around the country, eight of them in Melbourne. SIP gives Catholics a safe and welcoming place where they can listen to each other's "longings, insights, questions, needs and aspirations".

    SIP is one of the versions of "religionless Christianity" developing on the margins of the institutional churches as they face increasing numerical decline.'

    Thanks to Eddie for the heads up.

    Emerging Church Cartoons

    4 March, 2004 10:23 PM

    Check out these amusing Emerging Church/Alternative Worship Cartoons

    Thanks to Michelle for the heads up.

    Presenting.... The Emerging Church!

    2 March, 2004 4:02 PM

    I've been asked to go and speak to the National Board of our denomination later this month about 'Emerging Church'. They've asked me to speak for 1.5 hours - I'll be one of three people coming to talk from around the country on the topic.

    I'm a little unsure as to how to approach it. They want me to incorporate some of the story of the Living Room, which is not a problem, but what else should I say? There are many directions one could tackle the topic from - but I'm interested to hear how others would approach it? Any thoughts?

    Are Emerging Churches More than just Churches with Cool Buildings?

    1 March, 2004 8:19 PM

    Another Emerging Church article in the mainstream media. (Excerpts Below)

    It is interesting to see these articles starting to 'emerge' in the media. One of the things that I notice about this article is that it focuses very much upon describing the buildings and places of worship of these emerging churches.

    I know articles like this one have to pick a focus - perhaps this is what is going on here - but perhaps its also symptomatic of our obsessions with buildings? The temptation is often to define or name a church by its buildings whether they be house churches, pub churches, cafe churches, warehouse churches....er...Livingrooms (not that we named it that because thats where we meet!)

    Do 'emerging churches' run the risk of being known for and defined by their buildings? Will it be the church that can find the coolest buildings that will be the churches that are seen to be the latest cutting edge development?

    I think there is so much more than meeting in a place that looks different or cool to Emerging Church. Yes some of us meet in new places to reflect our context, but hopefully we can be known for more than our buildings.

    I'm not sure I have all the answers, but these are some of the questions that come to mind as I read this article. What do others think?

    Here are some Excerpts from the article mentioned above.

    'Some churches in South Florida are flocking to offbeat real estate like abandoned nightclubs and shopping malls as part of a movement toward more informal, intimate settings....

    Resurrecting pizza parlors as places of worship may seem odd, but it's part of a movement in religious circles toward more informal, intimate settings, referred to by some religious observers as ''emerging'' or ''postmodern'' churches.

    ''Our intent is not to take anybody who would already be in church,'' said Guy Melton, senior pastor of the Church of Hollywood Downtown. 'We want the people displaced from church, turned off by it or the `never beens.' ''

    Pastor Dan Kimball, author of Emerging Church: Vintage Christianity for New Generations, said younger generations are often turned off by impersonal, old-school houses of worship that hold services ``like a movie theater, where you sit down and watch a program.''

    Many people are looking for a more communal, interactive, homespun feel, he said....

    Some of the newer congregations meet in school lunchrooms and movie theaters or rent space from established churches, but others find an empty free-standing storefront or a forlorn shopping center and negotiate a deal.

    While most of the renovated churches are of the smaller, storefront variety, there are exceptions. Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale and The Faith Center in Sunrise are jumbo size. Faith snapped up the Sunrise Musical Theatre at 5555 NW 95th Ave. in 2002 for an estimated $6 million. Seating capacity: 3,732.

    Calvary takes big to another level entirely.

    The church, one of the largest in the state, bought a former computer factory on West Cypress Creek Road for $22 million in 1996, said Mark Davis, executive pastor. The draw: a 300,000-square-foot main building -- plenty of room to house an estimated 16,000 weekend worshipers.'

    Backyard Rhythms

    29 February, 2004 12:15 AM

    Hamo posted this interesting entry on the rhythms that his church has decided to meet in over a 4 week cycle.

    I think its fascinating that 'churches' all over the world are forming that look quite different from one another, (ie Livingroom is quite different to what these guys are doing), yet at the same time there are some really common themes emerging. Its really encouraging to see groups like Hamo's that are so missional and committed.

    Drop over to Hamo's and encourage this great group of people.

    Church of England encourages fresh expressions of Church

    19 February, 2004 11:56 PM

    Today there is more attention on Emerging Church in the media - although todays is in Christian media - with this report in The Church of England Newspaper.

    They write:

    'General Synod gave official encouragement to �fresh expressions of church� in response to an extensive study of alternative and emerging church in the UK.

    Mission-shaped Church, a report presented to General Synod last week, reviews church plants, caf� churches, cell churches and other grass roots initiatives and asks searching questions about how the Church can relate to the local community and modern day culture....

    �The existing parochial system alone is no longer able to fully deliver its underlying missionary purpose,� the report states. �On this basis we strongly recommend an integrated strategy of neighbourhood and network, of the new and the old, in partnership, never in competition,� Bishop Graham said. �What the Archbishop of Canterbury has called a mixed economy�.'

    'Hip' Church

    19 February, 2004 12:02 PM

    After yesterdays post on the article in the NY Times on Emerging church I've been thinking a bit.

    There is an interesting discussion going on over at Metafilter on this article...

    One thread has caught my attention....someone said:

    'I'm not so sure I want my church to be hip. It would make me suspicious or something.'

    Someone else responded with:

    'I want MY church to be real.'

    Very interesting stuff. Something inside of me started to ring warning bells when I read the article yesterday - I too worry when the 'hip' type language gets associated with churches. For me 'emerging church' is not about 'hip' or 'cool' - its not about turning down lights and changing the music to attract unchurched people - its about rediscovering the call of Jesus to Love God, love our neighbor and love each another as followers.

    Emerging Church in the NY Times

    18 February, 2004 10:43 PM

    Hip New Churches Pray to a Different Drummer is an interesting article in the New York Times about Emerging Churches.

    Here is an excerpt - 'Called "emerging" or "postmodern" churches, they are diverse in theology and method, linked loosely by Internet sites, Web logs, conferences and a growing stack of hip-looking paperbacks. Some religious historians believe the churches represent the next wave of evangelical worship, after the boom in megachurches in the 1980's and 1990's.

    The label "emerging church" refers to the emergence of a generation with little or no formal attachment to church. The congregations vary in denomination, but most are from the evangelical side of Protestantism and some are sponsored by traditional churches. Brian McLaren, 48, pastor at Cedar Ridge Community Church in Spencerville, Md., and one of the architects of the fledgling movement, compared the churches to foreign missions, using the local language and culture, only directed at the vast unchurched population of young America.

    The ministries are diverse in their practices. At Ecclesia in Houston and Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, Calif., artists in the congregation paint during services, in part to bring mystical or nonrational elements to worship, said Chris Seay, 32, pastor of the four-year-old Ecclesia, which draws 400 to 500 people on most Sundays.'

    Update - There is an interesting discussion going on over at Metafilter on this article...

    One thread has caught my attention....someone said:

    'I'm not so sure I want my church to be hip. It would make me suspicious or something.'

    Someone else responded with:

    'I want MY church to be real.'

    Very interesting stuff. Something inside of me started to ring warning bells when I read the article yesterday - I too worry when the 'hip' type language gets associated with churches. For me 'emerging church' is not about 'hip' or 'cool' - its not about turning down lights and changing the music to attract unchurched people - its about rediscovering the call of Jesus to Love God, love our neighbor and love each another as followers.

    Church Planting Lessons - Part F

    17 February, 2004 12:12 AM

    This is the last part in the series of 'Lessons' I've been learning having being part of planting the Livingroom over the past year. Also Read Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D and Part E.
    10. Have fun - Ok, this might not be the most technical lesson or one you'll find in too many books - but if the process isn't life giving and enjoyable people are not going to want to be a part of it. Let your creativity run rampant. Try new things, keep them surprising and unpredictable (Jesus did). Eat lots of good food, drink some good wine, enter into the celebrations of your culture, watch movies together go on trips as a group, laugh lots and enjoy one another's company. Don't be too serious - life's too short.

    Well those are the 10 things that came to mind when Rich asked me for my 'insights' - by no means are they exhaustive - some of it is tested and other parts are works in progress.

    I'm really interested to know what others have learnt along the way - what would you add or subtract?

    By the way - I'm away for a couple of days now on a retreat - looking forward to reading your thoughts when I get back.

    Church Planting Lessons - Part E

    15 February, 2004 3:58 PM

    This is part 5 in the series of 'Lessons' I've been learning having being part of planting the Livingroom over the past year. Also Read Part A, Part B, Part C, Part D and Part F.
    8. Participation is key. This is something I have learnt but also something we at Living Room can work more on. Church has been too passive in most settings for too long. I don't see the call of Jesus as being passive at all. All members of Livingroom participate in what we do almost every week. This happens best in the meal we eat in that everyone is responsible to bring something to the table whether it be a main dish, bread, wine, sweets or fruit. Even new people are asked to bring something on their first or second week. Participation can and should extend beyond this to the gatherings themselves. Worship, learning, prayer etc can all be very participatory. Even very reflective meditative exercises can become a group process with the right debriefing.

    9. Community - Shared life. Read Acts 2 and you get a picture of a dynamic community of people who are very involved in each others lives. Community extends beyond a cup of coffee after a service or a 'sharing time' at the end of a bible study. It includes these things, but I think we need to be striving to really know each other. To go around the group and say one thing that happened to us this week seems a rather empty expression of community - shouldn't we already be aware of what is going on in others lives because we've been connecting with them and sharing life already? This is a challenging one for us - we live in a culture that is very individualistic, to break the patterns takes intentionality.

    Church Planting Lessons - Part D

    13 February, 2004 4:39 PM

    This is part 4 in the series of 'Lessons' I've been learning having being part of planting the Livingroom over the past year. Also Read Part A, Part B, Part C , Part E and Part F.
    6. Incarnation - I've already hinted in the last point that we're interested in different cultural groups. This is not because we want to keep people separate from each other (I hope that the different clusters that emerge our of Living Room will meet together regularly and be involved in a variety of activities in partnership) but because our approach to mission and church is incarnational.

    Christ gave us a model for mission - he came and made himself a part of humanity - in particularly a culture within the human race. He learnt the language of that culture and operated from within the rhythms of it. This is an approach I believe we can take as we look at the different cultural groups in our midst. For us this is quite accentuated as I live in a very multicultural city with many ethnic and sub cultural groups. Mission (and then church) will look different in each of these groups as it takes seriously the culture. In the same way that we respect and work within the culture in overseas contexts when we do mission (these days) we should also respect and work within the subcultures we move in here in Melbourne.

    Instead of converting people and dragging them from their host culture back into the church (where they will become like us) - the Incarnational approach is to GO into the world and make disciples there.

    7. Sending vs Attractional approach - Central in the idea of incarnation is 'going'. Churches often take a very 'attractional' approach to mission. They say things like - 'if we just tweak what we do or look like more people will come'. If the band plays a different style music, if the car park is bigger, if the foyer is a warmer color, if our preaching is better - people will come.

    I'm not sure how biblical this is. Christ said - GO into all the world and make disciples where you find them. Of course the 'attractional' models do 'work' with a certain percentage of the population - but I think in Australia this percentage is shrinking. I'm excited that more and more churches are gathering 'in the world' rather than hoping that the world will come to them.

    Church Planting Lessons - Part C

    12 February, 2004 12:57 AM

    This is part C in the series of 'Lessons' I've been learning having being part of planting the Livingroom over the past year. Also read Part A, Part B, Part D, Part E and Part F.
    4. Multiplication rather than Addition. So far this is only theory for us - we are yet to test it but I have seen other groups take the principles of multiplication and really have an impact. The principle is simple, rather than growing one large group by adding people to it one by one - start multiple new groups. When the initial group grows to around 12-15 (this is the number I'm thinking about for us - what number this is is up to each group and probably will depend on a number of factors) start to plan to start another group. I've seen this principle lived out in a couple of circumstances and the growth has been quite amazing. Neil Cole's organization in the US has started around 400 communities in 5 years this way. If you put multiplication into the DNA of groups at the beginning their growth can be quite virus like. (I've written previously on the power of Multiplication here.

    5. Simplicity - Replica-table (is that a word?) - in order for a virus to spread - the organism has to be pretty simple and easy to replicate in a variety of different cultures. By replicate I'm not talking about cloning but rather taking the DNA and allowing something new to emerge elsewhere.

    For us - our DNA (our 3 Core Journeys) is pretty basic, but has the scope to express itself quite differently in different groups of people. For instance if our next cluster/community is birthed among caf� goers it will express itself quite differently to if we started a cluster among artists, or families meeting in homes etc. We've tried to keep things as simple as we can - not only in DNA but in gatherings etc. Renovare is also a great tool that helps with this - again it can be run in a variety of different groups very effectively effectively.

    Church Planting Lessons - Part B

    11 February, 2004 1:24 PM

    This is part 2 in the series of 'Lessons' I've been learning having being part of planting the Livingroom over the past year. Also Read Part A, Part C, Part D, Part E and Part F.

    2. Mission needs to be central. - Too many churches (and individuals) have the attitude of having to have the worship, constitution, structure, preaching, buildings etc worked out before they do mission. In this sense they want to get their ecclesiology worked out before they work out their missiology. I believe this is the wrong way around. Ecclesiology should emerge out of missiology. This is the way I see it happening in Acts. The early church didn't really have much worked out when it came to how they organized themselves when the Holy Spirit got them into Mission. As you do mission you begin to see what the church should look like. As you begin to interact with your wider community you begin to see what shape worship might take etc.

    3. Read 'The Shaping of Things to Come' - by Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. It is the best thing I've read written about missional church. Also I would recommend Ignition for any group starting out as a new group. It will give you a language to talk about Mission and help people to challenge some of their paradigms of church/mission. We ran it as our main meeting - I would suggest either running it as a separate meeting or to break it up a little with other stuff if you're just starting out as it goes for 3 months and you might need to be also working on other things. I know of a number of groups who started with Ignition and ended up planting churches - its a great starting point that will give your group a great paradigm and language for mission.

    Church Planting Lessons - Part A

    10 February, 2004 11:49 AM

    Rich in a recent email wrote 'I would REALLY like to get your insights some time about starting and maintaining a home church. For example, what resources have you found to be particularly useful?'

    I ended up writing quite a long email back to Rich with 10 'lessons' I've learnt over the last 12 months of starting the Livingroom. I found thinking through the process quite helpful, so thought I'd share what I wrote (with a few extra reflections) in a series here over the next week or so. Here is 'lesson' number 1 on DNA.

    Hi Rich, I'm not sure I'm really overly qualified to answer the question as we're only 11 months in and I guess the jury is still out on what we are doing and how sustainable it will be. I like to think that we'll survive and even thrive this year, but you never know. What we're doing is pretty fragile.

    My 'insights' are pretty random and chaotic at the moment - but let me share some of what comes to mind.

    1. DNA - Getting some sort of DNA/Core Values etc together has been really important for us. I would recommend that any group starting out take their time on working through this stuff as it is foundational. I've seen a number of new churches fall over because this was not done - it was assumed that everyone was on the same page, but when the time came to make important decisions there was a whole heap of different expectations on what the group existed for. For us this process centred around story telling - I think you will find descriptions of some of the process on the blog back in March sometime (here is one exercise we did using Timelines).

    Thats the first of 10 'lessons' - I'm interested in hearing others reflections and lessons as we go - feel free to add your own experiences below.

    Also Read Part B, Part C, Part D, Part E and Part F.

    Introducing Neurotribe and Flying In Blue Sky

    10 February, 2004 12:03 AM

    Neurotribe is the blog of one of a good friend and colleague - Stephen. Stephen is someone I'm sure many of you will enjoy reading (if he can keep up the regularity - consider it a challenge mate).

    He's already weighed into the Defining Emerging Church Discussion. Its one to watch if you're interested in yet another perspective on some of the stuff that is happening in churches here in Melbourne.

    Whilst on the topic of new Melbourne Emerging Churchy type blogs - I'd like to introduce you to another friend - Barb - from Flying In Blue Sky. Barb will also add a lot to the global conversation. She's been blogging for a while now - I hope she's gone public....I guess she has now!

    Building Community

    6 February, 2004 8:07 PM

    We had a worthwhile session this morning at Forge. As I said in the previous post, I was teaching on building a sense of community in emerging churches.

    In doing so I really told the story of the Living Room and shared some of the lessons we've learnt along the way. Nothing I talked about is 'rocket science' by any means - most of it is common sense. Here are the main headings of the talk:

    • Community grows best in the context of Mission and Spiritual Formation
    • Establishing Core Values is Important
    • Storytelling shapes Community
    • The Meal is Central
    • Participatory Gatherings
    • Corporate Evangelism
    • Micro Groups
    • �Us� based prayer/learning experiences
    • 'Show and Tell'
    • Weekends away
    • Intentional invasion of one another�s spaces

    I'm not sure that much of that will make sense without explanations - am happy to embellish if anyone would like explanations.

    What have you found builds community within your own contexts?

    Emerging Church Learning

    5 February, 2004 11:55 PM

    I had a very worthwhile day today at the Forge intensive. We spend a couple of hours this afternoon having a good discussion on the Theology of the Emerging Church. Quite insightful.

    Tomorrow morning I'm running a session entitled 'The Basics of Forming Community' in which I'll be sharing 10 lessons learnt in the last 11 months of Living Room that have helped us grow a sense of community. Not that we've 'arrived' or are experts at community - I'll also be raising 5 or 6 questions that I'm left with on the topic.

    Someone remind me and I'll blog some of it over the weekend. Got to run now. I hope you're all having a great week.

    What is the Emerging Church?

    30 January, 2004 11:08 PM

    Andrew Jones is trying to define the 'Emerging Church'. I've grappled with this previously also.

    I actually have mixed feelings on the term - partly because so many people use it to describe so many things - many of which I'm not sure are really too 'emerging'.

    I also don't really like to 'define' things because then they tend to become boxed. The beauty of what I see happening around the world when it comes to communities of followers of Jesus is that there is such diversity, creativity and fluidity. I worry that when we label we perhaps run the risk of institutionalizing a dynamic movement of God.

    However - we are human and we seem to like definitions - so in my struggle to deal with the fact that the word is being increasingly used (including here by me) I suspect some loose definitions should emerge (sorry - I couldn't help myself).

    The Dictionary defines 'emerge' in a number of ways. Let me list a few and then make comment on each as I see them applying to the Emerging Church

    • 'Movement' - All the definitions below have the idea of 'moving'. Static things don't emerge. The emerging church is a church on the move. It is changing - both position and shape in my observation.
    • 'to rise from or as if from an enveloping fluid : come out into view' (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)For something to emerge it must have somehow been covered or enveloped. This means that it previously existed in some form. I don't believe that the emerging church is a completely new being. In fact it is an ancient movement which we see beginning to emerge 2000 years ago. Yes there is a freshness about much of what the emerging church does today - but it would be arrogant to say that it is completely new. The cliched image might be of a butterfly from a cocoon. It previously existed as a being - but comes forth in a changed form.
    • ' to come into being through evolution'(Merriam-Webster Dictionary) - Throughout history the church has changed shape many times. Movements, leaders and forms have come and gone as the church has sought to make sense of the call of Jesus in a variety of cultures and periods of history. At times the changes have been rather quick - but many have slowly morphed and evolved over time. The 'emerging church' continues to evolve as it seeks to take seriously the gospel in an ever changing world.
    • 'to come out of an experience, condition, or situation, especially a difficult one' (Encarta) - Many studies and much anecdotal evidence shows that the church in the west is under increasing pressure. Many people both inside and outside the church are increasingly dissatisfied and/or disillusioned with the church for a variety of reasons - too many to list here. Out of this pressure is emerging a growing call for change, dreaming and reinvention. Emerging churches are often born out of experiences or situations of pain, discomfort or dissatisfaction with the status quo.
    • 'to rise up from or come out of a surrounding environment or substance' (Wordsmyth) - as already mentioned - the emerging church often develops as followers of Jesus grapple to make sense of faith in a rapidly changing world. The rate of change around us in society has motivated many to consider expressing faith, worship, prayer, teaching, mission etc in new and creative ways in order to be relevant and connected to the wider culture.
    • 'to rise, as from an inferior or unfortunate state or condition.' (Info Please - Whilst I would not want to say that the church is currently in an inferior or unfortunate condition on a global level - often those starting and involved in Emerging Churches feel that the need is dire. I know of numerous new forms of church that have been born out of existing churches on their death beds. This is not always the case - but often new things are birthed after the death of old ones. The image of regrowth after a bush fire springs to mind. Out of the charcoal comes new shoots of green life - and the ecosystem begins a new cycle.
    • 'To reappear, after being eclipsed; to leave the sphere of the obscuring object.' (Webster's) - Some argue that since Christendom many of the core functions of the church have been somewhat eclipsed or obscured. The Emerging church attempts to rediscover the heart of the gospel. It seeks to strip back those things that might distract or cover up the basic calls of Jesus.
    • 'to become known, especially as a result of examination or questioning' (Cambridge) - One of the features of most of the new forms of church that I'm observing is an insatiable desire to ask questions. Virtually no question is out of the question as people seek to discover what church, worship, prayer, mission, community etc really are. Asking questions stretches one's comfort zone - but also leads to discovery and learning.

    I'm afraid I haven't really 'defined' anything - I'm still resisting that a little I guess. The only other thing I'll say before I head off to bed is that there is great variety within the Emerging Church. It isn't just about ancient prayers, coffee, art, story telling, cafes and being trendy. It is expressed in many ways in many cultures. I also don't really think it is up to any of us to say who is in, or who is out of the Emerging Church. It probably goes without saying, but unfortunately with definitions (as much as this is not one) often comes boundaries and statements like 'us and them'.

    I don't believe 'Emerging Church defines a specific group of communities - rather it perhaps should be used more as a descriptive term of something that is happening in the church as a whole - as a movement (or may its just that its 12.16am here and starting to see double - time to stop I think).

    I suspect this post will be a living one. I'm not satisfied with what I've written and suspect I may never be. Interested to follow the discussion over at Andrew's blog - but also keen to hear other's comments here if you'd like. How would you define the Emerging Church?

    Creative Worship Reader

    30 January, 2004 11:14 AM

    As regular readers will know - I'm involved in running a subject at a local college this semester in 'Creative Worship - in Postmodernism' (I still don't like the title, but we have to run with it now).

    We are currently putting together a list of readings and texts for students and I was wondering if anyone reading this might have any suggestions? We're taking a look at the emerging culture in the first week or so and then looking at some of the ways that the church has responded to it in the last few decades (ie contemporary worship, seeker sensitive services, alt worship, ancient future worship etc). So we are digging up readings on these topics (both pro and against), but also ones on 'tips for creative worship' etc.

    We're after books, journal articles, online essays etc. Whatever you may know of. Please leave your tips below - I'm happy to publish the list (giving you credit for your suggestions) here on the blog - perhaps we could all learn something through the process. Some of what we're going to use are:

    - Prodigal Project - Riddell, Pierson and Kirkpatrick
    - Alternative Worship - Jonny Backer
    - Worship Evangelism - Sally Morgenthaler
    - What is wrong with Contemporary Worship - Stephen Said
    - Is this the next new worship? - Andrew Jones
    - Tech Cathdrals

    There is heaps more - but am running out the door. Any suggestions?

    The Tribe Gathers

    28 January, 2004 8:32 AM

    Today I'm hosting the Forge National Tribal Gathering. Sound pretty primitive doesn't it! There will be no rain dances or human sacrifices - don't worry.

    Forge is a missional training network that helps people to rethink church and mission. Out of the network many new forms of churches (like Livingroom) have been birthed around Australia. We are the people behind Phuture (which is a site that no longer exists).

    The core of what we do is a year long internship in which interns experience intense times of learning, 20 hours a week in missional contexts, peer learning groups and individual coaching. We also run 3 intensives and a variety of other half day events throughout the year. We're also involved at speaking at festivals, conferences and camps and are getting more involved in the bible colleges in Melbourne. We also do consulting with churches - helping them to think about mission in their own contexts.

    Anyway - today and tomorrow the key stake holders from around the nation are gathering in our livingroom for story telling, learning and planning. Its always a fun time.

    Melbourne Emerging Churches

    28 January, 2004 8:24 AM

    Eddie has put together a list of 'alternative-worship/emerging churches' in Melbourne. Good idea.

    Cafe Church

    27 January, 2004 10:12 PM

    Hamo has come to stay with us for a couple of days - he arrived tonight just in time to come to Living Room (as depleted as we were in number tonight!) We had dinner together, shared stories, some good Western Australian wine and ate vegetarian spaghetti.

    After dinner we went to one of our member's boyfriend's place. He is part of Cafe Church which is an interesting Melbourne church experimenting with gathering in cafes. They were having a film night in a backyard where they invited those in the local neighborhood to come and have dinner and watch a movie together.

    Hamo and I had an opportunity to speak with Steve the leader of the group - Hamo asked about what lessons they had learnt in the three years that they had been going. Steve answered by saying that two of the key things were that

    1. People wanted to grow closer to God. Without this key desire in people such a group would become just an empty social group.

    2. A core group of committed people living out the faith was important for them. He talked about how they were not 'directive' in style - but rather more fluid - and it was therefore important to have faith modeled by the core group.

    Good reflections.

    Creative Worship

    27 January, 2004 1:54 PM

    I spent this morning working with Mark on the upcoming subject we're running at Tabor College on 'Creative Worship - Postmodernism'. I'm really looking forward to the semester ahead. We're going to tackle the topic in a fun and interactive way.

    We've got readings, topics, assessment - now all we need is some students! Apparently there are a few who are interested already which is promising - should be a good year of learning.

    Museum Church

    25 January, 2004 5:05 PM

    V and spent the afternoon today at the Melbourne Museum. As we wandered through the exhibitions my mind wandered back to when I was a child visiting the old Melbourne Museum back in the 70s. Things have changed a lot.

    In the 'good old days' the Museum was a much more static, dark and passive experience. I remember looking at some displays and thinking that the display cases themselves looked like they belonged in a museum. Everything was behind glass, the walls were all beige, security guards kept you away from all exhibits, the only way to find out information about an item was to read a rather uninspiring 'essay' next to it and exhibitions rarely changed from visit to visit.

    The new Melbourne Museum is a different experience altogether. For starters the architecture is very 'now' with big airy spaces, loads of light and enough room too have a good game of indoor cricket (OK, I might be exaggerating slightly on the cricket thing).

    The changes don't stop with architecture - the whole vibe of the place is different. People are encouraged to engage with the exhibits wherever possible. There are buttons to push, draws and slide out displays to pull out, movies to watch, things to touch, audio tracks playing to recreate scenes and many displays are of a 'walk in' nature. Then in the middle of it all are cafes where you can have your coffee. The museum is now something to be fully experienced with all the senses. And I'm just talking about the 'adult sections' - the 'children's museum is even more so!

    As I tend to do my mind began to wonder across to the topic of 'Church'. I found myself wondering if the church could learn something from the Melbourne Museum?

    I wonder if for many churches the 'old model' of a predictable, passive, hands off experience of God has crept into what we do. Maybe it is time for something different. I wonder what it could look like if we allowed ourselves to dream of something new.

    On Emerging Church

    24 January, 2004 10:39 AM

    An experience of God is an interesting article worth taking a look at. Here are a few excerpts:

    'Most of the evidently successful "mega-churches" and
    church-growth movements have actually been failures because they have watered down the "radical gospel message of transformation of individual and
    community lives," a leading religious innovator told a crowd of nearly 1,000
    Presbyterian leaders on Jan. 23....

    He said his studies of "the emerging church" have revealed that all
    successful 21st-century churches are:

    - Intentionally missional;
    - Multicultural;
    - Multi-sensory; and
    - Multi-media.

    "Post-moderns don't want to be put on a committee," he said. "They
    want to be equipped to make a difference in the lives of others."'

    Taste the Shaping of Things to Come

    23 January, 2004 9:27 AM

    Quite a number of bloggers have been talking about the great book The Shaping of Things to Come lately.

    I have just been told that you can download a free chapter from the book in PDF file at the publishers website - Hendrickson. Scroll to the bottom of the page to find the download. It is well worth the effort.

    3 Top Questions for Business Church

    8 January, 2004 1:37 PM

    Brand Mantra makes reference to an interesting article Learning to Grow Again by Ian Davis (requires registration) which presents the 3 top questions for Business today.

    I wonder if the questions are actually similar to those that we should be asking as Christians about the Church?

    Davis writes (with some modifications from yours truly)

    "Boards and top managers Church leaders would do well to ask three basic questions.

    1. What is success? - (Good question - how do we define a 'successful church'? It goes beyond being a numbers game surely?)
    2. How can we nurture talent emerging leaders?
    3. What is the role of business church in society?"

    Forgive me for the lack of personal comment on this - I'm posting on the run today! Interested in your thoughts?

    The Shaping of Missional Church

    7 January, 2004 12:20 PM

    I've have really been enjoying the opportunity for a bit more time to dedicate to reading a variety of books in the past few weeks. I'm sure that when I get the computer back at home (the update is that it is frustratingly not likely to happen this week) that I'll blog on some more of it.

    One book that I've been slowly working through over the past month or so is The Shaping of Things to Come by a couple of friends - Alan Hirsch and Michael Frost. I've blogged about it previously but am continuing to be challenged and stimulated by it. Here are a couple of quotes from it regarding 'Missional Church' which is the central theme of the book.

    'The Missional Church doesn't immediately think in terms of strategies, but in terms of people and places.' - I've been really challenged by this concept since starting Living Room. Previously church has always been so much about getting the program, service or strategy right. The idea behind this is that if we build the best possible program that people will come to us. This attractional methodology is something of a trap. Like Alan and Mike I don't completely write it off - there are times where it can be effective for some individuals, but I suspect we will be much more effective as the mission we've been left to make disciples if we take another approach and actually 'go' and build relationships.

    'Too much existing bible teaching happens to passive groups of Christians, many of whom are not involved in any kind of risky missional activity.' - Again, this resonates with me. As I think back over the past years to the most invigorating times of bible study that I've had - they have always taken place in the context of mission. Conversely the times where I've found Scripture a struggle to find inspiring are times when I've withdrawn into myself or holy huddles and not been engaging with the world I live in.

    You can buy the book here.

    Mars Hill - Emerging Church Article

    31 December, 2003 10:14 AM

    Just found this interesting Article on Mars Hill in the Seattle Times. Here is an excerpt:

    'But in the past few years, certain in-city churches, founded by people in their 20s and 30s, have quietly amassed followings. Around the country, Seattle is becoming known as a center for these churches, variously referred to as "emerging," "postmodern" or, galling to their founders, "Gen X" churches.

    Typically, they seek alternative ways of presenting the message of Christ - ways that tap into current youth culture rather than villainize it, as some churches do. Often these churches are small and less top-down, more like a gathering of friends. They value intuitive experiences of God, encouraging a vital relationship with him, rather than assuming people already have one. They are often culturally liberal (welcoming of, say, nose rings and expressing one's love of God through punk rock) but theologically conservative, emphasizing early Christianity and the root meaning of Bible stories.

    But here, too, Mars Hill has become an anomaly. With its sheer size and orthodox theology - far more conservative than most other emerging churches - it no longer fits neatly into that niche....

    The Rev. Karen Ward, pastor of the postmodern Church of the Apostles in Seattle, says Mars Hill is "espousing a certain tradition, a very conservative, fundamental, Promise Keepers ethos." Emerging-church pastors, she says, are generally more open to saying they don't have all the answers. '

    Interesting article - interested in your reflections

    Are Emerging Churches Still Emerging?

    24 December, 2003 11:45 AM

    I've only got a few minutes of my public library net access left - but thought I'd post to this link that someone sent me via email. Thanks Andy.

    Christianity Today asks 'are Emerging Churches still Emerging?

    Also just found Canadian Christianity's 'Emerging' churches going back to basics

    Have a great Christmas all - thanks for your comments and well wishes in the last post. I appreciate your kind words! Hopefully will be back online from home again on the 5th Jan!

    Sing, sing a song

    22 December, 2003 7:28 AM

    On Sunday night V and I went to my old church to drop off the presents from last night. It was really nice to go back. They did a little interview with me to hear a bit about how Living Room is going. They also generously gave us a gift which was a complete surprise and greatly appreciated. The church there has a lot going for it and are very supportive of new things.

    It was a strange feeling to be back in a 'contemporary worship' service (full of Christmas Carols) after 10 months of Living Room. It is only the second time I've sung a song corporately since February. I personally don't mind singing (although Carols are not my favorite) - I even used to worship lead occasionally - but I realized tonight that I haven't really missed it much at all. In fact it is quite refreshing to be a part of a community that has deliberately chosen to find other creative ways to worship.

    By no means have we found all the answers when it comes to worship. We need to grow a heap more in it and will continue to experiment and explore - but I'm enjoying the journey.

    Living Room Christmas Party

    21 December, 2003 9:39 AM

    candles.jpgOur 'redemptive party' last night went really well. About 30 friends of Living Room showed up from a variety of different places - some were churched others not.

    It was an informal night of great food (V cooked up a storm), good music, interesting conversation, lots of laughter and a chance to reflect upon the birth of Jesus.

    We invited people to bring a gift for a child in need. Tonight I'll take about 40 gifts over to an organization who works with refugees, families affected by drug dependancy and homeless people.

    We also set up a place on our landing for people to reflect upon Jesus as 'the light of the world' - basically it was a spot to light a candle and read poems/prayers. It was really nice to see people taking time out from the party's center to light a candle.

    Lastly we had a series of projected images shot up onto a wall where people walked in that picked up the Christmas story as depicted in art throughout the centuries. It was the thing that seemed to grab peoples attention the most.

    I had some great conversations with a number of people on the edges of our community - one of whom has just decided to become a follower of Jesus after years of relationship with two members of the Living Room. Its been really exciting to be able to share some of her walk over the past few weeks since making that decision. Its brought a real life to the group as a whole.

    Overall the night was a lot of work - we are very tired this morning - but well worth the effort.

    Now....back to the cleaning up process!

    Santa Read - 'Moving Beyond the Worship Service'

    20 December, 2003 4:56 PM

    Justin Baeder of Radical Congruency Justin Baeder has written a great article over at the Ooze called Moving Beyond the Worship Service

    It is well worth the read - and I'm not just saying that because his Secret Santa asked me to mention it for them!

    Actually this Secret Santa is taking a very unique and ingenious approach by not only asking bloggers to link to Justin's writing - but by donating $1 to Tear Fund in Justin's name for each one of that links up (limited to just those asked).

    Creative Worship - Postmodern Culture

    9 December, 2003 10:01 PM

    Today it was confirmed that Mark Sayers and I will be running a subject at Tabor College (a bible college here in Melbourne) next semester. We've been developing it for a little while now but today got official word that it is going ahead.

    The subject is called 'Creative Worship - Postmodern Culture'.

    We're still finalizing the curriculum but it is our hope for it to be a very interactive and hands on 14 weeks of exploring some of the new forms of worship that are emerging around the globe at present. Some would call what we're studying 'alternative worship' but its a term I'm not entirely comfortable with. Having said that 'Creative Worship' isn't my choice of title either but its what we've been given - I probably would have called it 'Emerging Worship' if I'd had the choice....anyway) We'd also like to give students an opportunity to experiment, dream and put together some creative worship experiences of their own for their communities of faith and each other.

    If you're in Melbourne and are interested in the subject it will be held out at Tabor on a Tuesday afternoon. It can be done at diploma, degree or grad dip level. Let me know if you'd like more information.

    Church Growth

    4 December, 2003 11:35 AM

    Here are a few thoughts from the Forge Intensive session I went to on Monday about Missional Church DNA. The speaker was Alan Hirsch.

    The church in 100AD was approximately 25,000 people in number. The Roman Empire at the time was 45 million people.

    By 300AD before Constantine the church is estimated to be 27 million people. The Roman Empire was 60 million. Something happened that brought about an explosion in this time.

    Alan made a number of observations:

    - they had no (or very few) centralized buildings
    - they met in small ecclesial units - often based around households
    - there was very little in the way of professional clergy
    - they were persecuted - their movement was often quite underground
    - they grew through multiplication - not through growing large churches

    Interesting to compare this early approach to they way we go about things today.

    The Shaping of Things to Come - Book Review

    3 December, 2003 11:20 PM

    Hamo just posted a review of The Shaping of Things to Come. Both the book and the review are well worth the read.

    Paul at Prodigal also has a collection of great quotes from the book. (see 2nd December 2003 entry)

    It looks like the book is getting out there - I heard this week its in the Christian best seller list here in Australia at the moment and starting to doing well overseas too.

    Emerging Church Intensive

    1 December, 2003 9:09 AM

    Today I'm spending a day in Melbourne's eastern suburbs at an intensive for those exploring Emerging Church, Mission, Leadership etc.

    I work voluntarily for an organization called Forge (webpage is a bit out of date) who put on three week long intensive (on different subjects) each year. These intensive make up the core teaching elements of a year long internship where students are placed in Missional contexts for a year to explore incarnational mission and new forms of church. It is an exciting program that I myself did two years ago.

    This week's intensive is on Leadership and covers topics including:

    - The DNA of Missional Church
    - Images of Leadership: The Wounded Healer
    - From Machine to Organism: New Images of Church & Mission
    - From Discipleship to Leadership
    - Prophetic Leadership
    - The Innovator & Innovation
    - Belonging before Believing: Creating Community as a Missional Activity
    - Unlikely Images of the Church
    - The Future in 3D
    - If I could do it all again...

    One of the best things about these intensives is that you get together with other people thinking similar things from all over the country. The first time I went I felt like I was coming home. Up to that point I felt like I might be a heretic or something - to find other people asking similar questions was amazing.

    The other great thing about these weeks is the quality of the speakers. All are practitioners (no theoreticians are invited to speak) and all are top quality people from around Australia and the world.

    If you're ever interested in flying out here for one of these intensives (or for the year long internship) let me know and I'll get you the information.

    I'm Reading 'The Shaping of Things to Come'

    30 November, 2003 8:22 AM

    I've previously posted about The Shaping of things to Come but have finally got my copy of it and am about to delve into it.

    I always like to read the first lines in books - here is the first paragraph from the intro:

    'In this book expect to encounter revolutionary ideas that will sometimes unnerve you. We hope to reawaken the latent apostolic imagination at the heart of the biblical faith and to exhort God's people to courageous missional engagement for our time - living out the gospel within its cultural context rather than perpetuating an institutional commitment apart from its cultural context. In writing this book we are advocating a wholesale change in the way Christians are doing and being the church, and because of this ours is not necessarily a popular message. We've become disturbingly aware through personal experience and observation that those who advocate such a thoroughgoing re-calibration of the church will not always be met with open arms by the prevailing church leadership. And yet we feel compelled to lovingly challenge the church to dismantle many of the arcane institutional structures it is now beholden to and to bravely face the future with imagination and courage.'

    This looks like a worthwhile read - its called 'The Shaping of Things to Come' - its written by Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch - it is published by Hendrickson and you can get it for as little as $13.60 (US) here.

    I'm interested in what others who have read it think.

    Progressive Prayer Party

    28 November, 2003 7:40 AM

    I'm really intrigued and stimulated by a desription of a - Traveling Thanksgiving and church dedication show. It reminds me of a progressive dinner - but with a real focus upon prayer. Here is an excerpt:

    'It was the Vine & Branches traveling Thanksgiving and church dedication show. Everyone made some kind of appetizer for all to eat. Eating is good. We started off at Matt's new place, hung out, ate, then prayed part one of the Evening prayer from the Common of the dedication of a church. So we blessed and dedicated Matt and his new place as an outpost of the Kingdom.'

    They then went on to the next persons house and did the same thing.

    Here is the prayer they prayed at each place:

    'We, as a community of people drawn together in your Name, bless this house to be used as an outpost for your Kingdom here on earth. Give your grace to those who live in it, bless them, bless their guests, protect them from all evil, and fill these houses and these people with your Peace. In the name of the + Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.'

    This is a great idea and something I'm looking forward to doing a version of next year! Thanks for sharing it Alan.

    It reminds me of an idea we at Living Room have been toying with of visiting the workplace/university/school of each person in our group. To see and know more of where they spend most of their time - and where appropriate to pray for them there. I think this type of activity could be very empowering and moving.

    Wolfgang on Worship

    21 November, 2003 6:08 AM

    "The image of much contemporary christianity could be summarized as holy people coming regularly to a holy place on a holy day at a holy hour to participate in a holy ritual led by a holy man dressed in holy clothes for a holy fee. Since this regular performance-oriented enterprise called 'worship service' requires a lot of organizational talent and administrative bureaucracy, formalized and institutionalized patterns developed quickly into rigid traditions. Statistically, a traditional one or two hour 'worship service' is very resource hungry but produces very little fruit in terms of discipling people, i.e. in changing their lives. Economically, it is a 'high input, low output' structure. Traditionally, the desire to worship 'in the right way' has led to much deominationalism, confessionalism and nominalism. This not only ignores the fact that Christians are called to worship 'in spirit and in truth', rather than in cathedrals holding songbooks. It also ignores the fact that mots of life is informal, and so too is Christianity as 'the Way of Life'. Do we need to change from being powerful actors and start acting powerfully?"

    Wolfgang Simson - Houses that Change the World

    Just Don't Call it Church

    15 November, 2003 12:47 PM

    Just read an excellent reflection by Karen - Raw Faith about the idea of 'Church'. Karen is a 'new-er' Christian and has a fresh style of writing that gets you thinking. She sums up very well what a lot of us struggle with when it comes to Church. Here's her first paragraph:

    'Well, I'm having another spiritual crisis. As a new-er Christian you can probably set your watch, or at least your sundial, by my spiritual crises. Five months into her walk? She's processing through the whole is God a man or a woman thing, right? Eight months into her walk? She thinks she wants to be a priest right? One year into her walk? She's thinking of going back to atheism, right? Two and a half years into her walk? She doesn't get church, right? Right' Read more

    Emerging, House, Cafe, Organic, Post-Modern?

    6 November, 2003 9:55 AM

    'So what kind of church is LivingRoom?'

    It is the question of the moment. It gets asked at BBQs, conferences, down the street, at family dinners - anywhere at all.

    Its a good question - but its difficult to answer because to this point we havn't found a way to describe who we are in a nice neat way.

    Most people assume we are a House Church - it is tempting to go with this because its a term that most Christians are familiar with - and after all we do meet 90% of the time in one-anthers homes. However the language does come with some baggage. Here in Australia the House Church movement has a bit of a reputation of being very insular in it's focus whereas we want to have a real missional edge to what we do. I also wonder if defining or identifying ourselves by the place where we meet (ie House Church...or for others Cafe Church etc) is helpful. At present the home is a relevant place for our meetings, but down the track this might not be the case. Already we meet from time to time in other contexts.

    Another name we've considered is Missional Community. This one sits better with me. I've always been a little uncomfortable with the term Church because of the baggage that those in our wider community have towards it. Missional Community picks up on two of our three Core Vales (those of the Outer and Together journey) but it misses the third (the Inner Journey). Perhaps it should be Missional Faith Community - but then its getting a bit wierd. This sort of language is good for us who know what it means, but its not terminology that most people would grasp easily.

    I guess there are difficulties with most labels. People will always have baggage with certain terms. When it comes down to it our words to describe our identity will only ever be secondary anyway. Of primary concern should be who we are in reality. The proof is in the pudding as they say - and people will know what this Living Room thing is by the way we live our lives.

    Interested in your thoughts.

    emergingchurch.info

    2 November, 2003 1:55 PM

    Thanks to emergingchurch.info for kindly featuring me as 'pick of the blogs' for the month. (Thanks too to Paul for the heads up.

    Whilst over there admiring the poo brown color they surrounded my quote in (that sounds terrible...I actually like brown...I have a couple of T-shirts that color) I checked out Matthew Glock's reflection entitled Words betray us... adventures in cross-cultural emergence. He starts with this:

    The constant instantaneous flow of ideas and information provided by the Internet emboldens those who want to see the church emerge and flourish in today's world. It is pretty cool being able to post some thoughts on your blog and before you know it reactions come from around the world. The very strength of the emerging church blogosphere reveals its weakness. Much of what you read concerning the emerging church could bear the title, �The emerging church in the white, anglo, post-modern, post-christian subculture�.

    His thoughts resonate with some of the stuff I've been thinking about for a while now - especially since coming home from out trip.

    Oh, and while there I also found a couple of interesting new Emerging Church bloggers - Wee beautiful pict and What is the Emerging Church.

    What do we do with New Christians?

    28 October, 2003 4:43 PM

    Should we extract New Christians from their 'secular' networks, or resource them to live there missionaly?

    Recently I've found myself in a number of conversations with new Christians.

    Its so exciting to spend time with people who have just made a decision to journey with Jesus and who are discovering God in new ways. They have so much energy, so much passion and the biggest and most fantastic ideas about sharing Jesus with those around them. It is inspiring to hang with them.

    Having had these conversations I'm left asking the question 'What do we do with new Christians?'

    In some senses they are 'babies' in their faith, they don't know much, sometimes they come with 'rough edges' and behavior that disturbs those of us who have lived our lives almost exclusively in church circles.

    One of the typical responses that I've seen from churches is to extract the new Christian out of their current life and place them in a new and improved one. This is done for their protection and to build them up in faith. They are told to 'clean up their act' behaviorally, to stop hanging around with their current friends (who have a bad influence on them) and to spend copious amounts of time at church services, in bible study groups, in new believers classes, baptism classes and socializing...sorry 'in fellowship'... with their new family.

    I know numerous people who within weeks of becoming Christians went through this process, even to the extent of being told to change jobs, end long term relationships and move into new suburbs to be closer to their new life at Church.

    Whilst I agree there are times when extraction might be good (ie in cases of addiction or abuse) I wonder if it is really a wise - or biblical - approach.

    Neil Cole recently said 'What you do with a new Christian in the first 24 hours is crucial - the first 24 hours is like an imprint upon their lives that will greatly impact how they live for years to come.' He went on to say that if you treat them like 'babies', they will usually continue to live as babies.

    His approach was very different. It included immediate baptism (no classes or preparation period), immediate immersion in Scripture (they get them into small groups that read 30 chapters a week) and immediate evangelism and praying for friends. They are not babied but rather their energy and passion is harnessed and the momentum is allowed to continue. New Christians are not extracted from their network, rather the aim is to start a new church within it. The new Christian instantly becomes a missionary in the world they live. As a result they often see whole families, groups of friends and networks won for Christ very quickly.

    This approach makes a lot of sense to me. What do you think?

    Church and Discipleship

    27 October, 2003 7:57 AM

    'We need to lower the bar of what it means to be a church and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus.'

    Neil Cole - 15th October 2003

    Differences between Traditional/Seeker/Emerging Church

    20 October, 2003 9:08 AM

    I received an email from a college student in the US over the weekend asking for information on Emerging Church's approach to Care.

    Due to personal circumstances this week I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get around to answering it so I thought I'd open it up for discussion in the hope that others might be able to offer her some wisdom. Here is what she wrote...

    'In my Pastoral Thelogy class I am studing the differences between the traditional, seeker sensitive, and the emerging church. I was hoping that some of my research would come from people who are involved in these churches and who have a understanding of them. If you could give me any information on the views and ways that the emerging church does things it would be greatly appreciated.

    The topic is care.
    Definition
    Assumptions/Starting point
    Styles
    Visitation
    Water Baptism
    Communion
    Baby dedications
    Weddings
    Healing ministries
    Counseling Funerals
    Ministry to the poor/ compassionate ministries
    Church discipline
    Methodologies
    Models
    Metaphors
    Biblical Example of how the emerging church would do care

    Feel free to contribute to the conversation below.

    The quiet re-emergence of the church

    16 October, 2003 12:05 AM

    Melbourne Newspaper The Age today had an interesting article entitled The quiet re-emergence of the church. Its about some of the changes that are happening here in Melbourne in the church.

    I was excited to hear about it (thanks for the email Rob) but was a little surprised by the content - it didn't really go into much detail or give any specific examples of communities that were 'emerging'. Maybe it wasn't the place for examples but I found it a very general and not very grounded.

    Whilst I'm glad it is on the agenda, I'm somewhat disappointed by the article and wonder what the point of it really was.

    Update: Signposts already has commented on it - similar sentiments to mine, yet more eloquently expressed.

    To Save or not to Save...

    13 October, 2003 10:38 PM

    'Emerging churches are not seeing people saved.' Steve responds with a good post.

    Does anyone know how to make tents?

    3 October, 2003 6:10 PM

    Do we need to rethink how we encourage 'ministers' to think about training, careers and skills?

    I'm a little unsure about posting this...but here goes. .

    When I was 21 years of age and began to feel God's call to 'ministry' (I still struggle with that word) I turned to those 'wise ones' around me for advice as to how to move forward. The encouragement I received was pretty unanimous.

    I should quit studying the Marketing degree I was studying (I was three quarters of the way through) and go to bible college full time. I should work part time in any job I could get. If the opportunity for part time ministry as a youth pastor arose I should quit my secular work, cut my study back to part time and take the work. It sounded sensible so I quit my degree, enrolled in bible college and took a job selling office stationery part time. A position came up at my home church to be a youth pastor and I took the job.

    After 10 years of working in churches and as a missionary in high schools — I find myself wondering about the wisdom of the advice I was given and the decision that I made.

    Let me state clearly that on one level the path I've taken has been most satisfying. God is good and has provided for me in so many ways. He's also been gracious enough to use me in the work he's doing around me.

    However I wonder if there might have been another way?

    You see I now find myself in a bit of a predicament....

    I'm now 31 years of age. I have almost finished a Bachelor of Theology. I have no other formal qualifications. I am working for a small organic church that has amazing potential in many ways, yet because of its form it's unlikely to ever employ a minister more than at a part time rate. Most of my limited work experience outside the Church is in laboring, retail sales and other 'odd jobs'. I live and feel called to one of the most expensive parts of the city to live. I am able to pick up the occasional gig speaking in churches, marrying people or taking photos at weddings. I'm married to a wonderful woman who fortunately is able to earn a reasonable wage — however in the medium term we'd love to start a family and share the parenting responsibilities which will mean her cutting back on work.

    Now I'm not sharing this to have a 'pity party' (although to be honest it does stress me out at times) but because I am concerned that the 'wise counsel' we give our young people exploring a life of ministry could be setting them up for a more a fall.

    I know so many ministers who get to mid-life only to find that they are trapped in full time ministry even though they are burnt out or have lost their call (and even their faith) because they have no other skills or options to sustain them and their families. They are unable to take a break from ministry because they know nothing else than working in churches.

    Today over lunch one of my colleagues reflected that he wished he'd continued to work in the business world along side his study and ministry. He said he'd recommend to any young person that they explore tent-making as a way to sustain themselves in a life of mission and ministry. As he spoke I found myself wondering what life might be like if I'd managed to complete my marketing degree and continued to circulate in the group of friends and contacts that I once did instead of ripping myself from it and immersing myself in the Christian world.

    These are unfinished thoughts. I'm interested in others thoughts and experiences.

    By the way, if anyone knows how to make tents, I'm willing to learn.

    Is the Emerging Church just another Male thing? II

    3 October, 2003 5:05 PM

    The conversation that we started on this topic has kindly been continued (and extended to include the 'whiteness' of many Emerging Church people) over at The Ooze's blog. Check out the comments for some interesting perspectives.

    Distinguishing Accents

    2 October, 2003 9:07 AM

    One of the highlights of our recent trip OS was just listening to the huge array of accents and languages that people spoke. There were common words between some languages, but also huge variety. Even within small regions the accents could vary incredibly.

    This week as I've surfed around different blogs and sites of people grapple with issues of Emerging Church I've begun to wonder if perhaps we are speaking different languages (or at the very least with different accents) when it comes to what we are doing.

    I've seen people write about the commonalities between what is happening in Europe, the US, Canada, Africa, Downunder etc - but I've never seen anyone try to describe the differences.

    I think it would be important for us to identify these for a number of reasons.

    1. So we can celebrate our diversity. I don't believe we are called to be clones of one another. I'm a big believer that church should rise up and be relevant to particular contexts. I'm all for us creating indigenous worshipping communities and therefore believe that there should be a vast variety of different expressions of Church across the globe. Our differences are not something to hide and push under the carpet, but they should be celebrated.

    2. So we can learn from and challenge one another. Having said that we should be diverse, there is also room for examination of our differences in order to spur each other on. I suspect that each region of EC has a lot to offer and teach other regions out of their own personal experience and context. This is not done in order to clone, but to encourage, inspire, teach and bring some accountability.

    Having said all this it can be a little daunting to point out differences - they can often be framed as critiques - I've found this post quite hard to word out of this fear - however if done so in love I think it might be a worthwhile venture. In doing so lets allow each other the grace to make some 'sweeping generalizations' and keep in mind that even within our 'regions' there will be an incredible amount of diversity also.

    So what are the accents, flavors and unique things that you're observing about EC in different parts of the world? What can we learn and celebrate?

    As I rush out the door this morning a couple of basic observations spring to mind.

    Firstly I think there is a lot that we have and will continue to learn from those in the UK when it comes to Emerging forms of Worship.

    Secondly, one of the emerging strains I've noticed out of a lot of Aussie and NZ EC's is a strong missional and justice focus.

    Got to run, interested in your thoughts.

    emergingchurch.info

    1 October, 2003 9:29 AM

    This looks like an interesting new site on EC.

    Controlled Chaos

    26 September, 2003 2:52 PM

    Its amazing - you begin to gather with a few other likeminded people - you pray, you dream, you talk and you begin to grow as a community. You spend time listening to each others stories and as you listen to God and each other you begin to see a way forward as a group. At some point you look up from your red wine and vegetarian meal at those around you and you realise that you're 'a Church'! It all seems rather chaotic, haphazard and random.

    What's even more amazing is that one day you jump on the net and find yourself talking to a guy who lives on the other side of the world and he asks what your church does when it meets. You tell him and after a short pause he says 'That's exactly what we do - virtually word for word!'

    Perhaps things are not quite as haphazard or random as they might seem.

    Hypothetically Speaking

    25 September, 2003 10:40 AM

    Here is a 'Hypothetical' Question: If you were asked to run a 14 week course on 'Alternative Worship' how would you approach it? What articles and books would you use? What subjects would you cover? Who would you use as a model and what resources would you point your students to? What ideas would you like to see explored? What assessment tasks would you give?

    The group that you'd be 'hypothetically' working with would be a mixture of worship leaders and bible college students (mixed ages from young adults though to....older adults).

    Loving Critique?

    23 September, 2003 3:11 PM

    Lately I've been hearing an increasing among of criticism of some of the newer forms of Church that are popping up around the place. At first it was nothing direct but were under the breath comments, remarks that could be interpreted different ways or 'knowing looks' between people at meetings. But lately some of the criticisms are beginning to surface in more tangible ways. (which I actually think is a healthy thing and welcome)

    A lot of this criticism is that those in the 'Emerging Church' are too negative and cynical about the 'mainline' Church. Some have even gone so far as to say that the EC is actively setting themselves up against and working in opposition to what most churches are doing having written them off as being irrelevant.

    I've sat on this argument for a while now and spent some time asking if there is some element of truth to it.

    To be honest I can think of a few times when I have heard negative remarks made about the mainline church in conferences or in conversation - there are times when I've wondered if those speaking have gone too far with their critiques. I've witnessed on a few occasions bridges being burnt and relationships being broken over such comments. This saddens me as in my reading of the words of Jesus in John 17 - we are called to unity and love as we interact with one another as his disciples.

    However I wonder if there is a place for evaluation and critique when it comes to thinking about the state of the church today. Without it does the church run the risk of becoming somewhat stagnant? It strikes me that throughout history the church has often made great leaps forward in times when those within (and particularly those on the fringes of it) have had the courage to ask questions, make stands and argue against those in the centre. We see this throughout history, going right back as far as Paul in making a stand over the Gentile issue.

    Unfortunately as we trace these instances back through history we also see that these can be times of pain and even of splitting within the body. In nature we often see that its in such painful circumstances (even to the point of death) that change and new growth comes.

    Perhaps we find ourselves with somewhat of a paradoxical calling?

    We are called as the Body of Christ to love one another. By this love the world will know of our discipleship. However we are also called to be a dynamic organism that is willing and able to change and become renewed as we worship and reach out to our world. There is some tension here - yet I do not see a problem with these two callings working themselves out together.

    I've got more to say - but have to run. Thoughts anyone?

    Boxing the 'Emerging Church'

    21 September, 2003 10:48 AM

    In the current Hot Topic Penny writes an interesting question/comment:

    'I've been in the middle of moving and have missed a couple of months reading, but all of a sudden (it seems to me, at least), this exciting new stuff going on at Living Room and others has become labelled and to some extent, put in the box of 'Emerging Church'.

    I read here some months back that there are now conferences on Emerging Church, discussing how they should be structured...AGGGHHHHH!!! Here we go again! I've been part of a church for 7 years that grew from nothing - it had no denomination requirements, no structures in place - the church was completely free to follow its own vision of building community. 7 years down the line, and it's hard to tell it apart from other 'new' churches. The people wanted the same leadership roles, the same Sunday and Wednesday meetings, the same accountability....

    I'm frustrated that such a cool idea like Living Room has felt the need to align itself with others who are doing similar 'new' stuff - why not have the courage and vision to do your own thing and not harp back to the old structures (which come from the Roman Empire, not Christ)?

    Will the 'Emerging Church' become just another historical ideal, like all the other denominations that have come and gone?'

    Thanks Penny, there are some interesting questions there that I'd like to open up for discussion.

    Pete Ward talks about the importance of 'Liquidity' for new churches - do we run the risk of solidifying as we develop relationships with other new churches, as we name our movement and even as we formalise what we do? How do we keep the spark of creativity, enterprise and life burning?

    Networks

    20 September, 2003 10:36 PM

    In my jet lagged state this afternoon I was fortunate enough to spend an hour or so with Ian Mobsby from Moot. He's passing through Melbourne after spending a few weeks out East (New Zealand) where he's spent time interacting with some innovative churches there.

    It was good to hear more of what God is doing in London through and in the gang at Moot. It sounds like they are on a similar journey to us at Living Room exploring art, story and community. He also suggested some great contacts of people doing similar stuff to us that I'm keen to connect with.

    The more I hear about what is going on around the world the more inspired I am here in our local context.

    Alfresco Dining

    17 September, 2003 6:32 PM

    Last night V and I spent a very pleasant evening with Steve, Jonny and Jen (who we all think should start a blog - it would be a good one!). We ate alfresco in their courtyard making the most of Londons mild weather while it lasts. Jonny and Jen cooked up a storm!

    Its always an interesting experience to meet people that you've only ever 'virtually' interacted with before. It was good to hear more of how the Alt Worship and Emerging Church movement is going here in the London. The more I hear the more I realise how similar our experiences are across the globe, especially between the UK and Australia - we seem to be talking a similar language which is refreshing.

    Thanks for your hospitality guys!

    Moot

    17 September, 2003 1:08 AM

    Had an email from Ian Mobsby last night. Ian was out from London last year visiting Melbourne - touring some of the Alt Worship and Emerging churches downunder in Aus and NZ. We had a good couple of meetings with him and I was hoping to catch up with him here in London. Ironically Ian is presently downunder! Luckily we can catch up on the weekend after I return.

    I also happened to stumble upon a group blog that he's part of called Moot. It looks good. Thanks to Jonny and Steve for the heads up on this new blog.

    What does an Emerging Church Minister Do?

    11 August, 2003 5:14 PM

    Hamo has been asking What does an Emerging Minister Do?. Some of his responses to his own question are pretty much spot on the money.

    Its a question I remember asking early on in this blog as we began meeting as a community. Its a question I still find myself asking on almost a daily basis.

    I've been fortunate enough to receive a grant from our denomination that enables me to dedicate 3 days a week to Living Room. Sometimes it feels wierd being paid 3 days a week to lead a community with only 8 (currently) people in it. What do I do with my week?

    So far it involves preparation for our Tuesday night gatherings, catching up with group members for care and team building, teaching RE in the local primary school, meeting with other local ministers for prayer and support, networking with other Melbourne emerging churches, spending a fair bit of time in our local shopping strips watching, meeting people and praying, occassional speaking at other churches and occassional meeting people interested in joining our group.

    When we get back from our trip I've been lining up to meet a couple of community workers in our local area to see if there is some way we can be more involved in their projects also.

    I guess I'm learning that this type of leadership role is very different from my previous involvement in more mainline churches. In those roles program preparation took up alot of my time - so far working for the Living Room has been alot more relational, observational and prayerful. But then again, maybe its just me.

    Gerard Kellying it up II

    7 August, 2003 6:12 PM

    Today I spent another day in seminars and round table discussions with Gerard. I really find him refreshing in many ways. I couldn't help but compare him to other Emerging Church 'experts' who have come down under to do similar sessions and to be very grateful for Gerard's humility, diplomacy, openness and insight. Maybe its that he's speaking out of an European context and not a North American (something that maybe us Aussies can relate to differently?) or maybe its just his personality. Anyway - its good.

    There is no way I can synthesize what he's talked about into an easy bite sized blog entry - but here are some of the trains of thought that have passed through my brain the last couple of days. (some are my thoughts (DR)- others are paraphrases of Gerard's (GK))

    * 'Gee instant coffee is bad' (DR)....sorry...not on the topic but its been on my mind today!

    * 'If you want to know how to run church, learn how to do mission. Asking 'what should church be like?' is the wrong question. Find how you engage with Gods mission and the other details will flow from it.' (GK) Preach it Gerard - top stuff!

    * 'There are two jobs in vine (Jn 15) — 1. abide in Christ and 2. go and bear fruit. Therefore we need to be driven by two forces — firstly being drawn in to Christ — but secondly being pushed out by the Holy Spirit. There is some tension and paradox between these two things that we need to learn to live in and grapple with' (GK) Too often we say its one or the other - that one is more important or takes precedence as being 'the way'. They should not be divided. (DR)

    *'The question is not 'is the bible the word of God?' — (20th century question) Rather the question is to ask 'is the bible a book?... Scripture was not 'a book' for the first 1500 years - perhaps we need to recapture some of how it was treated in that period today.' (GK) I loved how he talked about how hypertext has helped us recapture some of the dialogical ways people can interact with Scripture. (DR)

    * '20 years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do.' (Mark Twain...he wasn't there in person...) I've always been inspired by this kind of talk...Tony Campolo talks about a survey of 90 year olds where they were asked what they would do differently. They responded that they wished they'd taken more risks and that they'd invested in more things that lasted beyond the grave. Profound stuff. Very few (if any) wished they'd spent more time at work, or that they'd had a bigger house or earned more money....hmmm (DR)

    * 'We need to become 'people gardeners'. (GK) This reignited some of what I've been tossing around in my head of late. Part of my vision for Living Room is that it be an environment where people are nurtured to growth, to bear fruit and to be a part of this in the lives of those around them. I love the biblical imagery of plants, gardens etc. Maybe we should rename ourselves the Glass House. (DR)

    Many thoughts. Going back tonight to have dinner with Gerard and a couple of other Forge bods.

    Gerard Kellying it up

    6 August, 2003 9:09 AM

    The next couple of days I'll be Gerard Kellying it up. Looking forward to meeting the guy and hearing what he has to say. Sounds like the guys in Sydney and NZ had good times with him, hope they didn't suck all his energy out of him!

    Alternative Alternative Worship?

    5 August, 2003 4:36 PM

    Is 'Alternative Worship' the best name for..... Alternative Worship?

    I was talking to a friend last week about Jonny Bakers book Alternative Worship. As soon as I mentioned the title he began to react against it. His arms crossed, his brow became furrowed and he made a grumpy 'huff' like sound.

    Over the next few minutes we began to unpack his reaction and a lot of it boiled down to the term 'Alternative Worship'. 'What's it alternative to?' 'Isn't worship....worship?' These were just some of his initial questions - and ones now I think of it that I've heard many times before. When I began to unpack what 'alt worship' actually is he was more than happy to explore it - he even agreed that its something the church needs to explore more - but he kept coming back to the validity of the term.

    Its left me wondering if there is a better name? Maybe its a bit of an Aussie thing but perhaps the risk is that people will react against it and throw the baby out with the bathwater purely because of the word Alternative? Not sure what would be a better word though? 'New Worship' could have a similar critique - 'Experiential Worship', 'Creative Worship'....hmmmm

    Do we even need to label it? Not sure...just wondering.... thoughts?

    The Shaping of Things to Come

    4 August, 2003 3:31 PM

    I'm really excited to announce the impending publishing of an amazing new book written by two of my workmates here in Australia. It is called 'The Shaping of Things to Come and its written as an agenda/handbook for the emerging missional church and the chapters I've read are spot on. But don't just trust me, here's what Leonard Sweet and Eddie Gibbs write on the back cover of the book.

    "For the first time we in the West are living in what has been called a �post-Christendom era.� Most people throughout the western world have seen what the Church has to offer, and they have found it to be wanting. The current credibility gap has made it hard to communicate the gospel with clarity and
    authenticity. Paradoxically, this is the case even though it is currently a time of almost unprecedented openness to the issues of God, faith, and meaning. This is a time when the need for, and relevance of, the gospel has seldom been greater, but the relevance of the church has seldom been less. If ever there was a time for innovative missionary effort in the West, it is now.

    This raises enormous challenges for God's people in the West. The Shaping of Things to Come explores why the Church needs to recalibrate itself, rebuilding itself from the roots up. Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch build their case around real-life stories gathered from innovative missional projects from the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and England. These spirited experiments of Gospel community serve to point out just how varied a genuinely incarnational approach to mission can, and indeed needs to, become. They present vital nodes of missional learning for the established Church as it seeks to orientate itself to the unique challenges of the twenty-fi rst century.

    This book is a bountiful multi-course meal, each serving presented with charm and class. It will satisfy even eclectic appetites, and please the most discriminating palates. Four Stars."
    LEONARD SWEET

    "It is especially helpful to have an Australian perspective on the 21st century missional church as these two authors are engaged in church planting in one of the most secularized societies in the Western world. Their contribution brings an in-depth theological refl ection as well as providing a broad scope informed by their extensive reading in theology, culture and mission as well as their on-site visits to missional churches in the USA and the United Kingdom. Furthermore Mike and Alan are not armchair-theorists but are engaged in innovative and risk-taking ventures in church planting and the mentoring of leaders to extend this strategic ministry. Their contribution to the literature is as substantial as it is engaging."
    EDDIE GIBBS

    A little about the authors:

    MICHAEL FROST is the founding director of the Centre for Evangelism and Global Mission at Morling Baptist Seminary in Sydney, Australia, and he is the author of several books, including Seeing God in the Ordinary: A Theology of the Everyday. He is a leading communicator and evangelist, and he speaks internationally on issues associated with spirituality and mission.

    ALAN HIRSCH oversees missional leadership development for his denomination in Australia, and he is also a key mission strategist for churches in the UK andNew Zealand. He is a mission strategist, teacher, and church leader, and is known for his radical approach to mission-in-the-West. His local church, South Melbourne Restoration Community, is a model of incarnational mission and ministry in postmodern settings.

    Its being published by Hendrickson and should be available in the US in August and here in Oz in September - keep your eyes open as I'm sure it will be a very worthwhile read.

    Emerging Church Planting Resources?

    29 July, 2003 4:31 PM

    In the past few days I've been asked (in person and via email) for suggestions on resources for planting Emerging Churches.

    I'm not the biggest reader going around so don't have alot to suggest but I thought I'd open it up to everyone to answer. Leave your suggested books, websites, people, blogs etc in comments. The people asking the questions are regular blog readers, so you'll be directly helping people in getting into some planting.

    Have I ever mentioned Ignition as a great resource??

    Career Counselling

    28 July, 2003 9:02 PM

    How should an emerging church planter financially sustain themselves and their family?

    Today I worked another shift at the warehouse that I've been picking up casual work at for the last few years. This morning my boss pulled me aside and asked me to consider taking on full time work there. I knew immediately that it wasn't going to work at present for several reasons. Firstly I study a day a week at bible college (just 1 year to go now!), secondly I work for Living Room a couple of days a week and thirdly warehouse work is slowly killing my back, knees, neck, sinuses, feet...etc.

    However its got me thinking about where I'm headed 'career wise'. In 12 months I'll have a bachelor of Theology and at the end of next year the grant that funds the Living Room runs out. I'll have time on my hands and will be looking for a way to earn a living that has the potential to keep a family going.

    So how does an emerging church planter make a living? I'm not expecting or even wanting to be rolling in cash - but one has to live somehow. I can't see how the model of church we're developing is going to fund a full time minister (and I'm not sure I'd want it to). I wonder if there will even be a place for paid 'ministers' (I don't like that word so much these days) in emerging churches?

    I'm a little confused - thinking on my feet here - do I take on a warehouse job or something in a local cafe or bookshop - do I find a position with a para-church organization - do I keep trying to pick up speaking engagements and weddings where I can - do I go to university or tafe and get another qualification. (or do I start charging my blog readers big bucks to log onto this site and read my ramblings!)

    I'm not really asking for advice (although if you've got some feel free to comment) - just thinking out loud - wondering - dreaming - stressing - hmmmm.

    Melbourne Musings

    17 July, 2003 1:11 PM

    This morning I met with three other local Baptist ministers. (hi guys) We meet every second Thursday morning for prayer and support. There is an increasing amount of co-operation between our groups. One exciting prospect is that it looks like we'll be sharing office space/resources soon which will mean we will be bumping into each other on a daily basis. This emerged out of my Emerging Lonelienss.

    It's fantastic to find other local people speaking a similar language.

    Yesterday a Melbourne friend MSN'd me to tell me that he'd just been thinking about virtually the same stuff that I wrote about in Village Life - and then the next morning he logged onto my blog to see my post. (maybe God's trying to tell you something mate!)

    Every couple of weeks lately I've been hearing of new groups starting around the city to meet to talk about forming new communities. Some are using resources like Ignition, others are doing it their own way. In the past month I've had two Melbourne churches email me asking for help/information about how to 'reinvent' themselves.

    My bible college is even planning on running a subject next semester titled 'Emerging Church'!

    A few minutes ago I also received an email from another guy involved in leading an emerging church who wants to meet weekly for an hour to swap notes, encourage each other and pray. I lept at the opportunity.

    Add to this the weekly time I spend with the guys at Forge and my online and real life interaction with other Melbourne groups and individuals who are thinking about experimenting with new forms of church - I feel very fortunate to be not going this alone.

    Something is happening in our city which inspires me!

    Of course I'm seeing similar stuff happening around our country and globe also. Are we living in the early stages of another Reformation?

    Preaching Sux

    17 July, 2003 1:10 PM

    Hamo says some good stuff about Preaching that takes my post on the topic a bit further.

    Quotable

    9 July, 2003 8:49 PM

    "Do you want to be a mourner, lamenting the passing of the church as you knew it, or do you want to be a midwife, helping to birth a new Christianity?"

    I love this quote from Herbert O'Driscoll which I've heard before but never knew who said it til I saw it on wanderer :: worshipper :: lover of leaving (one of my new favs on my daily blog run).

    Stats on the background of Church attendees

    9 July, 2003 11:26 AM

    This is an extract from a great essay on the state of the church in the West that I had emailed to me last year written by a guy named Kevin Ward from NZ. He writes:

    "I decided to research the backgrounds of those now attending my church. The results were even more marked than I had imagined. What it showed was that 87.7% of those attending the church had been attending another church as adults before they came to this church. Of the remaining 12.3% who had not attended elsewhere as an adult, 5.2% had gone to Sunday school or youth group at the church, 3.1% to Sunday school or youth group elsewhere, and only 3.9% came from a genuinely nonchurched background. Interestingly the largest group of attenders at this church, 33%, came to it from mainline Protestant churches. I then wanted to find out if this pattern was true of other churches that had experienced growth over this period. I researched 3 other churches that had grown significantly. A charismatic Anglican church, evangelical Presbyterian church, and Pentecostal church. The results were similar with in all cases at least 75% having come from other churches and only between 2.7% and 4.0% having a nonchurched background. Interestingly with the Pentecostal church the pattern was similar to the Baptist church in that the largest single group were those from mainline Protestant churches, in this case 38%. In terms of the percentage from a nonchurched background there was no difference between the Pentecostal and mainline churches.

    Since doing this research I have found the pattern is very similar in other western countries. Sally Morgenthaler in the US asks "How do we explain the growth of the megachurch? Simple: musical chairs - church hopping growth. And it represents more than 80% of the people who have come in our doors in the past decade.. The megachurch's feeder system is the smaller church, and disgruntled believers who have quit their churches." In Canada additional research by Don Posterski and Irwin Baker has found that 5.5% of church attenders come from an unchurched background, and that there is no difference between mainline and conservative churches. Finally in Australia the NCLS research has found that 7% of church attenders are newcomers, of which 4% are returnees to church life after a period of time away, and only 3% are actually involved in attending church for the first time. "

    I have a copy of the full article if anyone would like it.

    Answering the Inevitable Question

    8 July, 2003 8:08 AM

    Yesterday our landlord, Mrs C, (who occupies the ground floor of our house) invited V and I for coffee. Mrs C is an elderly Italian lady who speaks very little English — her daughter came to translate for us as my year 7 Italian doesn't get me very far at all. She is very friendly and has made us feel very welcome.

    The inevitable question came 5 minutes into our 'coffee'. 'What do you do Darren?' It's a question I often think twice about before answering — you never know how it will come across saying that you've just 'started a church'.

    The conversation that followed was truly bizarre. Not only was I trying to explain 'Emerging Church' and 'Post modernity' (something that I find hard enough to do with some of my closest friends) but I was doing it through an interpreter, to someone from my grand parents generation who was born on the other side of the world and has always belonged to a little local Catholic church.

    I'm not sure Mrs C will be joining us at Living Room any time soon. She's probably downstairs right now wondering what she's gotten herself into with the wacko couple she's got living upstairs and wondering why this priest is married! However despite all this she seemed happy that there were young people 'in the church' — something she'd given upon seeing.

    I really enjoyed the challenge of having to explain what we're doing across the cultural divides. Interested to hear how others go about explaining what they're doing to friends, family and elderly, Catholic, Italian ladies!??

    Preaching - The Emerging Church Way

    7 July, 2003 12:11 AM

    What is the place of Preaching in the Emerging Church?

    On the weekend I had an email arrive in my inbox that asked me to complete a survey for someone who was doing a survey of Emerging Churches. The guy asking the questions is doing a doctoral study of preaching in the emerging church. I found it to be an interesting research topic and am also wondering what 'preaching' looks like in the EC's around the globe.

    At Living Room after 4 months we are yet to have a 'sermon' (in the traditional sense of the word), there have been no monologues and nothing that resembles preaching in the sense that I've previously seen it in the churches that I've worked. The only times I give a sermon these days is when I'm guest speaking at a church or a camp — and even then it often ends up more like an brawl (workshop might be a more correct way of saying it) than a 'sermon'.

    Having said that, there has been a lot of group learning, teaching and exploring. Scripture has been opened and expounded virtually every week. People have been challenged and stretched by God through the worlds of those sitting around the table with them. Whilst some weeks I do prepare something for the group to grapple with, most weeks the group itself is responsible for each coming prepared to participate in the learning experience.

    The way the survey was worded, I'm left wondering if what we are doing is weird? The questions 'seemed' to assume that the recipient of it was the one doing 'the preaching' and that they were solely responsible for preparing a sermon. The questions focused largely around topics and preparation of sermons.

    I had presumed that in the post modern world we live in that methods of 'preaching' might be undergoing some change. Are we weird, maybe even heretical in the approach we're taking?

    Those of you actively participating in or observing EC (or any community of faith for that matter) - I'd really be interested in hearing about what you're doing in this area. Does your community do 'preaching'? If so, what does it look like from week to week? In what ways is preaching changing shape in the church today?

    Forging

    30 June, 2003 10:31 PM

    Today I spent the day at a Forge intensive. Forge is a mission training network here in Australia that runs training for people wanting to explore innovative mission and church planting. It was great to sit in a room with 40 people today, many of whom are experimenting with new forms of church across Australia (and one from New Zealand and three from the US), and to share stories of faith and emerging church. The teaching is pretty fantastic also!

    Fred Said...

    13 June, 2003 1:07 AM

    I love Fred's latest two posts.

    First he posted on the shifting values in approach to evangelism.

    And then he posted an honest post titled The Hurt of Who Am I and Where Do I Go which is a great post about the current place he finds himself in on the emerging church journey. Reminds me a little of some of my own recent feelings

    They are both well worth the read.

    Emerging Loneliness

    9 June, 2003 11:44 PM

    I've been feeling lonely of late - I'm wondering whether it might be something will be effecting others exploring new forms of church?

    Its been 3 months since my last Sunday of working at DCCC (my last church). A few people have asked me lately how the transition has been from a fairly sizeable, mainstream type church to Living Room. The transition has been pretty smooth, I'm really enjoying the change for so many reason. However in the past week or so I've begun to notice a change in my emotional state. On a number of occasions in the past two weeks I've found myself feeling very low.

    Its taken me a while to be able to put words to my feelings, but after a lot of prayer, some good chats with V and quite a bit of thinking I've realised that one of the main differences between the two ministry roles is that the isolation I now feel. For one of the first times in my life I've been feeling incredibly lonely.

    At DCCC and in other positions I have always worked in ministry as a part of a larger team where I had daily interaction with colleagues. We had weekly meetings for prayer, planning and support plus all those inconsequential chats over the photocopier and coffee machine. In addition to that there was a weekly rhythm of meetings, services, bible studies, outreach activities and other programs which thrusts one into relationships with hundreds of people every week.

    Living Room is so much different to that. There are only 8 of us in the group, I'm now working from home and our weekly rhythm is a lot less program centred. Whilst I'm enjoying the change from a program based ministry to a much more organic experience of Church, I realised this week that I'm grieving the loss of daily contact.

    I guess this is magnified a little by the small numbers of others on a similar journey here in Melbourne. There are hundreds, if not thousands of ministers and pastors in our city, but only a handful that wouldn't stare blankly back at me as I share what we're trying to achieve with Living Room.

    Its a strange feeling realising that you're a lonely 31 year old minister.

    Anyway, now I know what I'm feeling and why I've started to make some changes in my week. In addition to the amazing people I'm connecting with through this blog, I've also decided to be a lot more intentional with the way I spend my week.

    Is this an experience that others are finding also as they explore new forms of Church?

    Fallacies of Emerging Church

    9 June, 2003 9:55 AM

    Leighton writes about 3 Fallacies of the EC.

    1. The emerging church types are just a bunch complainers criticizing from the sidelines.

    2. here is no such thing as perfect church. (Which usually implies, the church has always been like it is today)

    3. All we need to do is repackage the gospel for a new generation.

    Each is expanded here.

    Missional Schmissional

    28 May, 2003 12:46 AM

    I've just been reading Kim's article Characteristics of Missional Church again (which I think is a good one btw) and am wondering about this word 'missional'. Its a word I'd not heard used until around 2 years ago but since then have been hearing it all over the place. It seems to be a buzz word, at least here in Australia it is, something that gets attached to all kinds of activities, communities, people, programs and strategies.

    I don't have a problem with the word itself, but I'm wondering if maybe we're kidding ourselves with the vast array of things we slap it on as a label? I've no doubt that there is some great mission going on around our globe at the moment, but I wonder if sometimes we 'talk' more about it than we 'do' it? Perhaps its just a Aussie problem but in the past year or so I've been asked to do the guest speaker thing at 4 or 5 evangelistic events only to arrive and find that the only people there are Christians. Yet at the end of the night everyone congratulates themselves at having had a great missional activity.

    I wonder why we (I) struggle so much with Mission. The way I see it is that it should be central and a natural part of our lives - yet so often it becomes 'an activity' (if we do it at all) and often a very unnatural activity at that. Why do we get it so wrong? Is it fear? Is it that we don't actually know what it is? Is it that we are worried about not being politically correct? Is it because most of us don't even know anyone who isn't a Christian? Or is it that we are just too wrapped up in our own little lives that we don't have the time or inclination to connect with those around us?

    UpdateFred asks the question

    Has evangelism become more of a communal practice than an individual practice? I wonder if this might have something to do with it?

    Missional Church

    23 May, 2003 1:41 PM

    I just added a good article titled Characteristics of Missional Church by a local guy called Kim Hammond to Phuture. I think it makes some good points.

    A taste: "It's about a loving missionary God incarnating the world to save it. It's about mission being at the heart of the Trinity, and many in the church have forgotten it. The missional church is about getting back to the great commission and the great commandment. To go into the entire world while loving our neighbours as ourselves. "

    Mirror of Erised

    17 May, 2003 10:28 PM

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

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

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

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

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

    16 May, 2003 9:50 AM

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

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

    His four points were

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

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

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

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

    Church Building Amnesty

    13 May, 2003 2:23 PM

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

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

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

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

    Church Buildings

    13 May, 2003 2:14 PM

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

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

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

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

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

    What do you think?

    Postcards from the Edge

    12 May, 2003 1:38 PM

    jenson.jpg

    Spend a day with John Jenson.

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

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

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

    Questions

    8 May, 2003 8:23 AM

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

    The Testosteroneless Church II

    3 May, 2003 11:10 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

    'New' Evangelism

    1 May, 2003 5:19 PM

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

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

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

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

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

    Church: R & D funding needed

    30 April, 2003 1:18 PM

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

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

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

    The Testosteroneless Church

    30 April, 2003 12:11 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Experiential Worship

    30 April, 2003 10:24 AM

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


    Diddle Question

    29 April, 2003 3:30 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Hobart Emerging Church

    28 April, 2003 8:35 PM

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

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

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

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

    Will blog more on these guys soon.

    Boxable Church

    27 April, 2003 10:54 PM

    Over at Stinky Convoluted Past Steve posts this

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

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

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

    Amelie

    27 April, 2003 10:31 PM

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

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

    Youth Ministry

    27 April, 2003 11:52 AM

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

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

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

    My Easter - Part Two

    22 April, 2003 2:49 PM

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

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

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

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

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

    Beyond Extraction

    17 April, 2003 3:28 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Brand New Mission/Emerging Church Resource!

    4 April, 2003 5:19 PM

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

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

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

    Todd Rants

    29 March, 2003 8:30 AM

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

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

    I think Todd should rant more often.

    Old words

    28 March, 2003 4:15 PM

    Rachel found an old thing I posted on a previous church online discussion (scarey how the net records your every word even from other places and times!!!) I thought it was interesting to see some of the earliest things I was working through when it came to 'Church' - its actually not that different from what I feel today - here it is...

    I'm a strong believer in 'church' I think its an awesome thing when
    operating in a relevant way to its culture. The church has been an
    amazing place of growth into wholeness for me and many of my family and
    friends. Its a place that I love dearly because it is where I met Jesus
    - the one who authored and perfected life!

    However, I've had an increasing frustration with the church in Australia in
    that I wonder if its really being and doing what it should!

    Studies show that 85% of Australians believe in God, over 66% pray
    regularly and over 60% believe in some type of afterlife - yet less that
    20% attend any type of church regularly. (figures for 1999 - talking
    with people in the know it seems that this 20% figure is continuing to
    fall)

    Exit polls of those leaving the church have found that the major reasons
    that bring about this decrease in numbers is not because of theological
    or belief issues. Rather it is about how people are being asked to
    belong to and participate in the community that is the deciding factor
    for them. So much of what we DO in church is so foreign to such a large
    part of our society. How many of our non churched friends would
    regularly gather with a group of people to sing for 30 minutes and
    listen to someone give a 20minute (plus) monologue?!? Many of us who
    have been brought up in this environment have come to love singing and
    listening, but not too many of the young people I work with in the
    warehouse at wishlist would get off on it!

    Studies have shown that only 10% of the non churched population are
    comfortable with and open to 'contemporary worship' style services. (ie
    Hillsong style singing - preaching etc). Yet the same study shows that
    up to 90% of churches are moving towards this type of service. By my
    calculations that leaves around 90% of the unchurched population without
    a church presenting the message of Jesus in a culturally relevant method
    for them.

    I believe that the time has come where the church needs to seriously
    face the fact that if it continues down its current path that it will
    find itself in serious trouble. The time has come for a variety of
    models of church to emerge. This will and should include the
    'contemporary worship' model similar to our services, but it
    should also include a myriad of others that attempt to present the
    person of Jesus to our multicultural society.

    Anyway...

    27 March, 2003 11:49 AM

    Anyway — I don't want to get caught up in all that too much — I have no intention of feeding a flame war — thanks for your positive comments and emails but I'm ready to move on.

    What I'm really interested in the conversation a few posts back entitled A Question. The comments there are really stimulating — lets keep that conversation going.

    New Voices

    20 March, 2003 9:02 PM

    I've been talking of late to Rudy about getting some new voices added to the global emerging church conversation. The observation that many have made is that there is is limited diversity in those contributing to discussions.

    So Phuture through Rudy has invited a number of people from different minority groups to submit pieces that will add valuable insights to emerging church discussions.

    I'm really excited to see what will be submitted for publication. The first of these pieces has just been submitted by DJ Chuang who is DJ Chuang is an Asian American of Chinese descent who is living near Washington, D.C. Check out his article called 'Where are my People>' here.

    Stinky Update

    14 March, 2003 10:59 AM

    After a bit of a dry spell StinkyConvolutedPast has been updated with some interesting info. Al Hirsch has left some great comments on what he calls 'remissioning the church'.

    The Death of Outrage

    13 March, 2003 8:09 AM

    I just posted this great article on Phuture written by New Zealander Mick Duncan.

    He argues that we need to get in touch with a sense of Outrage. He writes:

    "Without a sense of outrage we run the serious risk of being an ordinary person. But God created us to be extraordinary people. Outrage makes you do things that are out of the ordinary. Without a sense of outrage you run the risk of becoming nice person. But God only gave us ten commandments. There is no eleventh commandment that says, �Thou must be nice.� And without a collective sense of outrage, a church runs the risk of fast becoming a nice church. But Jesus, the Head of such a Church, was and is no Mr Nice Guy. It seems to me that Christians have bought into the sickening idea that niceness is the essence of goodness. There are more important things than being considered nice!
    "

    Check out the rest!

    'Church' - 'Christian' - the baggage

    3 March, 2003 2:39 PM

    Just had a stimulating conversation with a fellow Living Roomie about what we are doing. As per usual we covered every topic under the sun including the struggle that we both have with the name 'Church'. As we sat in our local cafe we asked ourselves the question - 'what barriers (cultural or otherwise) would a local community of Christians have in mission in our context?'

    One of the big ones is the name 'Church' or even the name 'Christian'.

    In the inner city suburb where I live the attitude of the average person towards the Church is not very positive. So much baggage is attached to the words 'Church' and 'Christian'. Do we put ourselves behind the eight ball by even using the terminology?

    If I were to put a sign up on the wall of our cafe (which is covered with such notices) advertising a new community/co-operative focused upon the growing of organic vegetables, eating together, exploring spirituality and sharing a common life I'm almost certain that we'd receive calls and visitors within hours! (we live in a pretty alternative part of the city) However if I was to put up a notice advertising a new Christian Community or Church who was going to do the same things - I doubt the notice would still be on the wall at the end of the day!

    So how do we respond? Do we remove the word Church from our vocab, do we attempt to find words with less baggage? Do we soldier on and forget the cultural barrier - letting our actions debunk the baggage that people have? Do we continue to use the words but try to explain our terminology every time we use it? Are their other alternatives?

    Its an interesting conversation, interested in others thoughts...

    Modern Day Prophets - a Critique - Phuture

    2 March, 2003 4:02 PM

    Just posted this article to Phuture written by John Wallis - very confronting

    They seek fame and fortune. The latest rendition of the prophets of days gone by, spouting off about community and authenticity never even knowing what they are. They pontificate to the masses that will listen with the hopes of book sales and speaking engagements. At times they are brilliant at others ignorant and stupid. Their epiphany expected to be heard, embraced and emulated without question. Yet, late in the night they awake in fear just having seen the emptiness of the message. The sun rises and once again they squeeze into the uniforms of revolution, buttons straining to contain the girth. Damn it shrunk again!, they say without seeing the truth. Guess its time for a new uniform.

    Highly Commended Emerging Church Practioners

    27 February, 2003 7:45 PM

    Tomorrow is the last day of our intensive at college with Tom and Christine Sine.

    It was interesting today in class, they did a quick tour of the world of Emerging Church and shared some of the stories of people they've met doing new and interesting things. Among their list was Jonny Baker, Steve Taylor, Karen Ward, Malcolm Hawker and Mark Pierson. I never realised my blog roll was filled with such cutting edge practioners! I feel humbled to be rubbing shoulders with you guys!!! (Of course there are some other people doing some great things in my links that Tom and Christine have yet to meet!!)

    Phuture Update

    20 February, 2003 7:55 PM


    I've added two new articles to Phuture - one from Dave Fagg entitled Prayer, Movements and Belief II and another by Darren Altclass entitled Doing it. Darrens article takes a look at Mission and challenges us to stop just thinking about it and start doing it.

    There's also a new discussion forum asking why Phuture articles on worship and forms of Church are so popular and yet articles written on the topic of Mission have largely gone unnoticed!?

    UPDATE - Again - if you would like to submit an article to Phuture that would engage people in thinking about issues of Church, worship, justice or mission in the age in which we live, please shoot me an email and we can talk about what scope such an article might have. I'm always looking for good articles - just let me know!

    MegaChurch - MiniChurch Conversations

    3 February, 2003 2:03 PM


    There is some interesting discussion going on in the discussion forum after this book review I wrote over at Phuture.

    Greg writes - "I'm a part of a large and growing Melbourne church - you might even call it a Megachurch - and we are growing at a much faster rate than what you said. Every week we have new people looking for a new church coming to our services.We are having to do more building projects just to fit everyone in. In comparison I know of 5 or 6 smaller churches in the same area who are shrinking and who probably will close in the next few years! Almost seems directly opposite to your statistics."

    Darls writes - "It would be interesting to see what the correlation is between your churches growth and the churches around you shrinking! Perhaps there is a direct and sad link - perhaps the reason that your church is growing is that it is killing off the churches aroud you. This what I've seen time and time again - I think its really unfortunate - some of the mega churches around the place have a lot to answer for!"

    Join the conversation here...

    Tribal Meeting

    31 January, 2003 8:35 AM


    Yesterday was the second day of the national tribe gathering for Forge bods. It was good to spend a couple of days with some really good thinkers and practitioners of Emerging Missional Church. These people are all involved in the birthing and running of pretty cutting edge churches around Australia. Most of their churches you will not have heard of - and that's something that they would probably like to continue - they operate under the radar - but are all attempting to reinvent the 'norm'.

    We did a bit of thinking about Margaret Wheatley's book 'Leadership and the New Science' - which was good stuff. She writes about leadership not based upon Neutonian Science as it perhaps has been based upon for decades....if not centuries - but rather she suggests a better approach would be to look at some of the newer discoveries in science as a basis for leadership. Chaos theory, Emergence and Complexity theories have alot to say to us about how we might approach leadership.

    I've still got to do some reading on this, but it was a rich topic.

    We also were led through a SWOT on Emerging Church which was also very stimulating.

    I'd like to get some of the papers that we looked at up on Phuture in the next month or so - will let you know when they are published there.

    Networking

    29 January, 2003 7:13 AM


    Today is the first of two days where the people around Australia who work for/with FORGE/DREAMLAND get together for some networking, dreaming, planning and...of course....coffee. I guess you could call it a national conference if you wanted to make it sound bigger than it is. It will be a good chance to hear what others are thinking and doing and to share where I'm at. I usually come home from meeting with these people pretty inspired - they are all into some pretty interesting and cutting edge stuff. Will report on anything that rocks my world!

    New discussion topic

    28 January, 2003 1:16 PM


    Added new discussion topic added to Phuture. The topic under discussion is

    how should we evangelize happy moral pagans >> who are unconnected with the idea of sin?

    Also - Stinky welcomes our mate Kel to the blog with her first stimulating post.

    MINI-CHURCHES MORE EFFECTIVE THAN MEGA-CHURCHES - GET YOUR STATS HERE

    24 January, 2003 4:45 PM

    A book review that I wrote on 'Multiplying Churches' by Stephen Timmis has just been posted here on Phuture
    Since posting this book review I've had a number of emails requesting more information/blogging on the topic. At this point I don't have alot of time to write much more but would invite your comments on it either here or in the comments section after the article as some of you have already done. A couple of quotes from other pages that might stimulate your thinking are as follows (these are taken completely out of context - but have a look at them to get their full drift)

    Eric Stanford writes"A not-so-big church isn't focused on growing bigger and bigger and offering more and more programs. A not-so-big church is concerned about the pagans in their community being subverted by God, onceborns into twiceborns. Beyond that, there's not a whole lot that not-so-big churches have in common with each other. They're tailor-made (Spirit-made?) for their place. They're gloriously individual. ... "

    Stephen Lim shares: "On nearly all relevant quality factors, larger churches compare disfavorably with smaller ones."1 Christian Schwarz came to this startling conclusion after the most comprehensive study of church growth ever conducted, covering over 1,000 churches on 6 continents. The research and observations of others, along with my experience, confirm its validity.
    In spite of fewer people, staff, facilities, resources, and programs, the average small church produces:
    - better fellowship.
    - better pastoral care.
    - better discipleship.
    - more involvement in ministry.
    - more persons called into Christian service.
    - more spiritual harvest.

    Multiplying Churches

    24 January, 2003 3:18 PM


    Thanks Mark

    Sundays a better way - the conversation continues...

    23 January, 2003 8:31 AM


    Some interesting conversation is happening in this previous post still - the pros and cons of meeting Sundays...

    Birthing Advice

    21 January, 2003 1:20 PM


    In response to my Living Room update post a day or two back I had a number of good emails which have confirmed the direction I was thinking of taking. Steve from Emergent Downunder and I have been conversing on the topic - he posted this on his blog - great advice from someone who has done and is doing it! Some of it is similar to Phil's article. Steve's main points for someone wanting to birth a new community are:

    1. Have fun.
    2. Planters will shape it.
    3. The hardest thing will be letting go.
    4. Serve the culture.
    5. Don't push too hard the dualisms between church and community.

    There is lots more detail in his post.Thanks mate.

    Sundays - a better way??

    18 January, 2003 8:08 AM


    I'm off down the beach this morning with V and some friends to celebrate a good mates 30th birthday. We're staying down there overnight - should be good fun - apart from the fact that we have to come home again early tomorrow for church.

    This gets me onto one of my 'pet topics' - does anyone else wonder whether Sunday is the most appropriate day of the week for church? I can only speak for my part of the world, but for most people living in the streets of North Fitzroy Melbourne, Sunday is an important day. Its the day of the week that the majority of people are home relaxing. Many people spend it with family, many use it to connect with friends and participate in their local community. Its a day for bbq's, sleep ins and coffees at the local cafe. Its a day for day trips with friends, a day for laying under a tree in the park with your special friend and a day for getting ready for the week ahead.

    As I look at the way many of my non churched friends spend Sunday - I would describe the way they use it almost in the biblical terms of the Sabbath. My reflection is that in many ways its a very 'spiritual day for many - even if they don't step through the doors of a church. It is a day of rest for them. In comparison I look at my churched friends and see people who are racing from a service where they are participating in something, to a luncheon, to a meeting for their ministry, to another service, to a supper etc. Sure along the way they connect with friends and may have moments of relaxation - but often at the end of it they look like they've run a marathon - a day of rest....I'm not so sure.

    So why do we as church drag people away from our cultures day of rest, day of relationships and day of opportunity to have an impact on the community and make them so busy? Why are we so obsessed with filling 'the sabbath' with programs? Why is it a day when our volunteers often have their most demanding day?

    Perhaps there is another way? Maybe its in simplifying what we do on Sunday so that it becomes more relaxing and less demanding? Or maybe we should release our congregations to their own devices on Sunday. Let them have brunch with friends rather than have to show up to music practice. Let them see a movie and discuss it over coffee with a non churched friend. Let them go hiking in the bush and connect with God through creation. Instead of Sunday meetings perhaps there is a better time where we can gather to do what we do presently on Sundays.

    I'm thinking the Living Room will meet Tuesday or Thursday nights for these reasons. I'm interested on others thoughts on this? Does your church do things differently? Any ideas on how to tackle this?

    Lessons from an Emerging Church

    17 January, 2003 1:48 PM


    Just posted the second part to Phil McCredden's article on Phuture here. If you didn't read the first part read it here. In this article Phil articulates the lessons he learnt in establishing a new form of church here in Melbourne. He reflects upon 11 lessons which are titled as follows.

    1. Remember this is Church not a small group
    2. A square peg in a round hole
    3. Spiritual Practices
    4. Make sure there is need and you are not just following a fad
    5. Engaging in each others lives
    6. Ensure that the leaders facilitate and don't preach
    7. Face the inevitable opposition
    8. Adapting to the environment
    9. Focus on health and not size
    10. Never underestimate the power of food to create community
    11. There are no boundaries

    Of course you're going to have to read it to get the gist for what he's saying - its worth a look! Interested in your thoughts, leave a comment after the article on the site.

    Dreamlanding

    15 January, 2003 2:38 PM


    Spent this morning with Mark, Kel and Kamahl talking about Dreamland. we spent some much needed time sharing whats happening personally and ministry wise in our lives. We've each had an incredible time of change and I get the sense are all feeling tired and a little fragile! It was good to pray together, something we need to do more of.

    Kel, Mark and I then spent more time thinking through some big issues which have the potential to make or break us as a ministry. Sometimes its all a little overwhelming! We'd value your prayers at this time as we are in a position where we feel quite on the edge and vulnerable.

    Lessons from an Emerging Church - New article

    13 January, 2003 1:09 PM


    Check out the first part (of 2) of this great brand new article entitled Lessons from an Emerging Church by Phil McCredden. Its good stuff, very stimulation, very insightful. I always love to hear about Churches doing new and innovative things - this is one of them! Its refreshing to read an artilce written directly from the experience of someone exploring new territory and not just writing 'in theory'. Check it out - the second part of the series will be out in a few days.

    Blogservations 4

    12 January, 2003 12:11 PM


    Have added a link on the side bar to follow this conversation which I am really enjoying.

    Rachel has jumped into the blogservation again with an insightful reflection on a fun trip to the cricket. Just a part of what she said is;

    I'm not much of a singer really. If I'm driving and alone, I'll start singing. If I'm at a sporting match, I'll join in. Karaoke would be my nightmare (and yes, I have done it once). I usually lip sync (badly) to songs. A lot of church songs I find really hard to sing. I'd rather listen to other people sing, or do something else that is creative.

    Blogservations 3

    11 January, 2003 2:21 PM


    Continuing the discussion Richard writes:

    I'm not sure that it is "overfarming" that's the issue. I see it more in terms of timidity in our sowing. The sower of the parable scatters seed liberally and inefficiently. He does not sprinkle the seed carefully over the good soil so as not to waste any. He hurls it willy-nilly over good soil and bad. How can the church imitate this? I'm sure that this is about far more than how we organise our church services and church structures, though these things will not be left untouched. It impacts on all of the things we do as the church, and as individuals working out of the church. It should shape the messages we send to politicians and the causes were seen to support. In all our activities we should be seeking to imitate the gracious love of God, not calculating a strategy for achieving maximum market penetration. So far, so theoretical. What it means in practical terms will vary from one context to the next, but in most it will run counter to "common sense" - because most of our common sense is shaped by the world and not the gospel. Whenever we find ourselves using words like "efficient", "realistic", "reasonable", or any of the lexicon of management gobbledegook which has become so fashionable in the church, we should be wary. St Paul called himself "a fool for Christ". Maybe it's time the church got out its makeup and engaged in some holy foolishness again. What a bloddy ripper of a statement Richard!!! Couldn't agree more!

    So....this being the case....how do we infect the church with some 'holy foolishness'? How does one help a timid and largely comfortable institution to change course? I've met numerous individuals scattered through churches around Melbourne (and the world now through blogging) that think this way - that are keen for change and open to some revolutionary thinking - but most feel helpless and disempowered every time they share their ideas or dreams in the churches where they worship. They suspect things could be different but the majority are happy with the status quo - happy to keep on keeping on worshiping the 'DitchDigger'. (see Rachels comment and link in Blogservations Continued)

    The debate that I'm hearing in emerging church circles here in Australia is about the way forward. Do we remain in 'mainline' churches and attempt to bring about change from within? Do we band together in new communities and attempt to model a different way? Is there some middle ground - are both legitimate ways forward?

    I guess for me I've decided to take a middle ground approach of sorts by attempting to start something 'new' (whatever that means) but keeping strong links with 'mainline church' by being intentional in my relationship with our denomination and two local congregations.

    What approaches are others taking?

    Blogservations continued

    10 January, 2003 12:41 PM


    For those who've been following this thread of conversation from Quote of the Day and Blogservations. I'm interested in keeping this thread of conversation alive. Debi Warford made the following comment which I found fascinating: Let's take your farming analogy a little bit further. The way I see it, the way a lot of megachurches "do church", they end up sowing over and over again into fields that have already been reaped. Most farmers would tell you that if you continue to sow the same thing in the same field year after year, and never switch to another field, you'll wear out the soil and end up having to spread more and more fertilizer on that soil to make it produce. It's a concept called "crop rotation". See any parallels?

    Wondering what others think? I think I agree with what Debi is getting at (if I'm reading her right). How do we do crop rotation as farmers of the gospel? Are we in danger of over farming the same patches of soil as church? I suspect that here in Australia we are. As I stated in the blogservations post - the way the vast majority of churches 'do church' has been shown to only appeal to a relatively small part of the population. I suspect that this is one of the reasons that church attendance here is in decline.

    Very few ministries are aimed at the majority - who in themselves are an incredible variety of subcultures. What will it take to do this crop rotation thing seriously? Do you agree that its neccessary? What might it look like? If we continue on the same way we are - what will be the consequences?

    Phuture Updates

    8 January, 2003 10:37 AM

    Phuture has been updated with a new article by Stephen Said called Pigs Might Fly II. Its the second in his series of reflections upon an experimental chuch called Pighouse>. This reflection is upon leadership in the emerging church.

    There is also a new discussion forum with this topic - "Many people that we encounter in our travels share similar sentiments towards "church". "We are looking for something real, earthy, a living faith, deep spirituality" and the like are just some of those comments we hear. And so they set out on a journey seeking the community of faith that will satisfy. Should more effort be put into "building" something where you are rather than searching for something that someone else is building? Is searching for a community that satisfies another form of consumerism? Is this generation significant for it's apparent lack of pioneers? Have your say..."

    Check them out

    And by the way - if you have an article you'd like to contribute to Phuture shoot me an email. As long as it fits in with the general ethos of the site of course!

    Suicidal Church

    8 January, 2003 9:58 AM


    Melbourne Paper The Age has this article today about a New book thats just been released by Dr Caroline Miley called The Suicidal Church.

    It says the church is timid, institutionalised, racist, sexist, homophobic, and impedes the message of the Gospel. The book argues that the church has to take risks, be willing to offend, offer unconditional love and acceptance and, above all, strip away the institutional trappings that allow timid Christians to shelter inside and avoid their biblical responsibilities.

    Miley says when interviewd by the Age; "The discrepancy between what the church is like and what the gospels are like is really the cause of the book. The gospels are about empowerment, and the church is frightfully disempowering; the gospels are about love and acceptance, and the church is not accepting. It's mediocre and drab. I realised it was the culture of the church - it was basically English 19th century middle-class culture. You know, don't talk about sex, it's not nice."

    Looks like an interesting book - I'm sure it'll create some debate here in Melbourne.

    (I have the article saved as a word document if the link at The Age doesn't last long - just email me for it)

    Thanks Cam and Diddle for putting me onto this article

    Blogservations

    6 January, 2003 10:39 AM


    Thanks for the links to my 'Quote of the Day' post (2 or 3 previously). It was unexpectedly but gratefully linked byJosh, Richard 1, Richard 2 and Mike. (all of whom have excellent blogs which I peruse from time to time!

    I like the style of conversations people have on blogs - its like no where else! Snippets on this blog, snippets there.

    Richard 1's post has got me thinking a little more. He writes: "We all want to see growing, lively churches, but it is a mistake to fall into the trap of thinking of the Church as a 'business' with a 'product' to sell....But we do not have a product to sell. We have a gospel to offer. I keep going back to the parable of the sower, who sows seed into every kind of soil indiscriminately, knowing that only some will produce a harvest....." Check out the rest � its good.

    Like Richard, I am torn - I agree in part.... I don't believe we are in 'business' and we shouldn't reduce the gospel to a product. The gospel is not something that can be neatly packaged up to look great and then sold in easily swallowable sized pills. We need to continue to sow the seed. The seed is something I'm not willing to play with, to dress up, its not negotiable in my mind. However I wonder if the way we are sowing the seed is at least in part redundant.

    Farmers over the years have found new ways to sow their seeds. I'm no agricultural expert, but centuries ago I take it that it was done by hand. Today we do it differently to increase our harvests. The seed has not changed (although with all this genetically modified food things are changing) but there are new and different ways of sowing it depending upon the farmer and the soil (culture) they sow it into.

    Perhaps I'm stretching the metaphor to much. But when I look at the way many Churches and Christians sow the seed of the gospel into our culture today I wonder how effective it is. Take a typical outreach service that is run in many churches (including my own over the years). We sing 'contemporary' songs (something that in Australia a 'normal' person would never do unless they were drunk or at the football), we sit all facing the front, looking at the back of everyone else's heads except the 'experts' up the front, we listen to a guest 'expert' talk in a monologue for 20-40 minutes about how we should live our lives (something else the average Aussie at least doesn't do too well) and then we are asked to pay for the pleasure by putting money in the bowl that circulates at the end to pay for the 'guest expert'.

    I'm not saying that this is a completely redundant method - obviously many of us have been touched by these services ourselves. However I wonder if we are sowing our seeds in such a way that only a certain percentage of the population will be open to.

    One study into worship found that the style of music (contemporary worship) that over 90% of Australian churches play every Sunday appeals in style to around 10% of the Australian population. This is a fantastic and more relevant way for reaching the 10% of the population who are so inclined, but what about the other 90% of the population? Maybe we need to readdress the imbalance - if these are the stats and we are called to reach 100% of people why are less than 10% trying to reach the vast majority while the other 90% 'compete' for the minority.

    Perhaps I'm being a little simplistic - but I can't stop thinking about this stuff - as 'Church' we need to really grapple with this - lets keep the 'blogservations' happening...

    Numbers Game

    2 January, 2003 1:21 PM


    Thomas comments on the age old numbers game that so many churches play!

    Emerging Church Similarities

    30 December, 2002 8:56 AM


    Was reading Mike's blog and followed his links to THIS article on characteristics of the Emerging Church at TheOoze by Spencer Burke. As I read, it was as if I was reading my own thoughts - its as if God has downloaded the same thinking into multiple brains. (Matrix Style) Compare Spencers first three points to what I wrote November 29th about the Living Room. Quite bizarre how we're all thinking the same sorts of things!

    'New' Communities

    29 December, 2002 3:03 PM


    Spent a little time surfing today - looking for evidence of the emerging church on the web. Found a few that interest me - they seem to be exploring similar principles to us as we shape Living Room. Its amazing to see the parallel thinking in groups from around the globe. Some of the principles that continue to show up are

    -small congregations/cells
    -growth through planting new cells - multiplication
    -shared life together
    -shared disciplines/practices of members

    Check out these communities - let me know if you come across others doing the same sorts of things!!

    Landing Place
    Circle of Hope

    Meet the guru

    27 December, 2002 8:24 AM


    Our team blog, Stinky Convoluted Past , welcomes Alan Hirsch into its blog team. Al is the head of Forge (my boss at Dreamland - so please leave lots of nice comments after his posts telling him how great I am!) He's one of the foremost thinkers on missional church in Australia and around the world. He's a sought after speaker and writer - one of the deepest thinkers I've come accross and a hero of mine!

    International Conversations

    24 December, 2002 9:01 AM


    Spent more time with Ian Mobsby yesterday - thanks so much to Steve Taylor who put me onto him! The blogging has already paid off for me having met Ian through blog contacts.

    We spent more time talking through the issues of emerging church in our two countries. It seems that there is a lot more politics going on in the UK. So far I've felt relatively free from that here in Melbourne. Perhaps I'm naive, but I've received incredible and generous support from two mainline denominations as I've explored the idea of planting a new type of church over the past year or so.

    I think there is a realization among many denomination heads here that if we don't start to birth new types of communities soon then the church runs the risk of continuing its steady 'decline'. As a result of this thinking denominations here are putting up money for 'experimental' projects and communities and are providing legitimacy and support networks for those of us taking on the challenge.

    I didn't realize how unique a position we are in until talking with Ian and a couple of others this week via email. It seems that in many places around the world that some denominations are not even at the point of acknowledging that the church is in decline despite the evidence being to the contrary in many western countries.

    What is the relationship between 'emerging church' and the more long term 'mainline' (I don't like that word...) churches in your region?? How does this affect what you are trying to achieve??

    A question for Emerging Church practitioners!!!

    21 December, 2002 4:29 PM


    One of the biggest things on my mind as I look at 2003 with reference to 'Living Room' is 'who'?

    Let me put it in terms of a hypothetical - If you were about to start a new experimental church and you could have your pick of anyone to join - what type of people would you be searching/praying for to be among the first to form a core team? What character attributes and experiences would they have? Who would you avoid initially (if any?)? What type of commitment would you ask from them?

    Tipping Point

    21 December, 2002 4:28 PM


    Reading more of the Tipping Point again this morning (for my previous thoughts on it go here) and again found myself connecting the ideas there to starting new churches. In particular I was drawn to his ideas about how epidemics often spread out of small networked small groups rather than super large ones. The idea is that 150 is about as many as can be in an effective organisation or community. Once a group goes over that it is inevitable that smaller 'clans' will begin to develop within it as it becomes impossible for members to maintain relationships (or to even know) with all others in the group. This is why most armies keep units of soldiers to under this number, likewise anthropologists have found that this is the average number of many tribes of indigenous people groups around the world.

    His thesis seemed to be that if you want to start an idea epidemic, then one of the strategies that would help it to be successful would be to utilise small communities or groups. He gave examples of when groups splitting into two when they got to the magical 150. Through this they were able to sustain real growth.

    This fits with alot of my thinking of late when it comes to Church. My experience of churches has been largely with two communities who in my observations have struggled a little with getting much larger than this magical 150 number of committed members. New people come regularly and even join, but there is also an outward flow as people move on to other local congregations. Churches have to find new and creative ways and models of growth if they are to be sustainable and take seriously the mission that we've been left with to make disciples.

    Its my desire that Living Room be an entity that retains its smallness and which grows through multiplying and spawning new communities of faith - not the only feasible approach to the problem I'm sure, but one I'm committed to move towards. Any thoughts my friends?

    UK conversations

    21 December, 2002 4:01 PM


    Yesterday Al and Mark (from Forge/Dreamland) and I caught up with Ian Mobsby formally of epicentre UK for coffee and conversation. It was a really worthwhile time of hearing stories, asking questions and sharing dreams for Emerging Church. As a relative Newbie to EC it was great to sit at the feet (figuratively thank goodness) of these three guys who between them have 30+ years of experience of 'doin it'.

    Am catching up with Ian Monday to talk more specifically - want to pick his brain a bit from the direction of our plans with 'Living Room'. I have so many ideas, yet relatively little idea of where to from here!?!

    Church Brew

    20 December, 2002 1:01 PM


    Quite the discussion brewing at this forum on Do we need a new name for 'Church'?

    Dreamlanding

    18 December, 2002 4:29 PM


    had a good time with Mark, Kel, Steve and Kamahl today. There are some exciting things opening up for us in the new year. Most are 'in the cone of silence', but are going to mean a busy year for us all. I really do enjoy hanging with those people. Its great to be in such regular contact with people who not only think in missional ways, but who are also 'doin it'. To be a part of Dreamland you have to be a practioner of what we are on about. I think that's a great criterior - there are too many people around the traps talkin the talk, but not walkin the walk. I come home from Dreamland meetings inspired every time! (also with a caffine and lolly headache!)

    empty narcissistic echolalia

    17 December, 2002 11:06 AM


    Mark writes a potent reminder to bloggers everywhere on the STINKY blog. Couldn't have said it better myself so I'll quote him -

    "In a world of spin and novelty there is a real danger that we can become a community that sends articles that talk about trends and social phenomenon that we share and critique and talk about and read the latest book/blog/article etc and lose track of any real connection with grassroots mission. We face a danger of hyperlinking ourselves to an empty narcissistic echolalia. We face the danger of becoming a community of amateur christian sociologists." Go here for the rest!

    Preaching - a waste of time??

    15 December, 2002 4:01 PM


    Sunday again - spent most of today preparing for a sermon for tonight at FESTival at DCCC. Hmmm - I love to preach, but in the back of my head has been the question all day 'is preaching a relevant form of communication for today?' Honestly - I don't know....might have to ponder this some more...after tonights sermon!!!

    What do you think?

    Stumbled upon Levi's table on

    14 December, 2002 2:44 PM

    Stumbled upon Levi's table on the web - some of what I'm sensing the Living Room will look like seems to already be happening here - good stuff! Might have to get in touch.

    What is Ignition?

    13 December, 2002 12:37 PM


    Couple of people have asked me about the 'Ignition' resource I mentioned a few posts back - the interest in it here in Australia seems to be really gaining momentum. Looks like a number of churches will be running it with small groups and congregations in 2003. A number of groups have already been running it.

    Ignition is a resource we've developed at Dreamland that is designed to be used in small groups to get people thinking missionally. It is a 12 week walk through Acts and is easily self run by the group. I'm running a group currently and really am enjoying it myself. Am seeing real growth among the group also.
    I'd be happy to supply more info on content or where to get one if you'd like to shoot me an email or leave a comment.

    update - Ignition is now available for purchase online at the dreamland shop.

    Just finished a review of

    13 December, 2002 12:24 PM

    Just finished a review of 'Multiplying churches' to be posted on Phuture - will notify when its up and readable.

    Rachel has got me thinking again

    12 December, 2002 5:02 PM

    Rachel has me thinking again in her Success postWhy do we get so caught up in measuring success by the worlds standards of success?? NOTE TO SELF - blog something on "Multiplying Churches" - edited by Stephen Timmis and Co. This is an amazing little book that presents another way of growing the kingdom - through multiplication (ie churches planting churches that plant churches that plant churches) rather than through addition (ie churches growing one convert at a time)

    Easy to do the mathematics and work out which is more successful. The story that always gets trotted out to illustrate this point is the legend of the invention of Chess.

    The Emperor of India put the call out to his subjects that he wanted a new game invented and that there would be a reward for the inventor of the best one. An old man came to him with Chess - after showing him the game and looking at the other inventions CHESS was declared the winner. The Emperor was so exultant over the invention of chess that he offered the inventor anything he wanted in the kingdom. The inventor thought for a minute and then said, "One grain of rice, Your Majesty."

    "Just one grain of rice?"

    "Yes, just one grain of rice on the first square of the chess board, two grains of rice on the second square, four grains of rice on the third square," and so on. Each sqare got double the grains of rice that the last square had. Doesnt sound like much of a prize til you do the math!

    The Emperor goes bankrupt because 2to the 64th power (2 to the 64 squares in the chessboard, 2 to the 64 grains of rice) is 18 million billion grains of rice. At 10 grains of rice per square inch of rice fields, that would mean that the entire surface of the earth would have to be covered with rice fields two times over, oceans included.

    The point is that the strategy of growing the Church one person at a time is good - but if we could just harness the multiplication theory and set up communities of faith that would reproduce themselves we'd be onto a pretty good thing! Just a thought....

    Leadership 101

    12 December, 2002 4:30 PM


    Reflecting upon some of Alan Roxburgh's speaking today as I worked. He talked about quite a few things, but one that stuck in my head was a new model of leadership that is emerging in the business world. The 'experts'...(what makes someone one of these anyway!?) have found through much research that the days of the old top down, power driven, making them shake in their boots style of leadership are over.

    Instead - a new style of leader is coming to the fore - these are the people that are currently leading the worlds most successful and sustainable businesses - they are often quiet, humble, encouraging types - who get alongside their employees and work with them - encouraging them to do their best. They often work behind the scenes and shy away from being seen 'at the top' grabbing for power.They seek to serve and make those under them succede - they are happy when others do well.

    Reminds me of someone


    Havn't read Jesus CEO: Using Ancient Wisdom for Visionary Leadership yet, but John from my Ignition group said its pretty much about the same thing and a book that he's passing onto some of his MBA students.

    Group Blog

    11 December, 2002 3:05 PM

    As Dreamland we have decided to do a group blog. Mark and Stephen must have been drinking alot of caffine yesterday cause the name for it is....

    Wait for it....

    Stinky Convoluted Past

    There isnt heaps there yet - but I think it'll be a valuable source of information and reflection and add a new dimension to our E-Zine Phuture.

    Dreamland

    11 December, 2002 2:17 PM

    Spent morning with the nutters - Stepen and Mark from Dreamland. As always - fun times were had - mingled with Dreamland talk. Numerous projects are under way - we seem to be entering a bit of a phase of writing resources again. Ignition has just entered its second print run - its an amazing resource that we've just launched that helps small groups of people to think about and explore MISSION! If you want more info on how to get a copy just shoot me an email.

    Just had a great meeting

    10 December, 2002 8:51 PM

    Just had a great meeting with my DCCC small group leaders - what a great bunch - and I'm not just saying that cause they'll probably be logging onto the site shortly! Hi John, Tina and Naomi - thanks for being AMAZING!!!!!!

    What is wrong with Contemporary

    9 December, 2002 2:27 PM

    What is wrong with Contemporary Worship

    This is one of the most popular articles on Phuture - Written by a great mate of mine - Stephen Said.

    Its amazing how the topic of worship seems to stir up the emotions so much - this topic has more 'comments' on it than just about any other on the site.

    FORGE

    3 December, 2002 1:26 PM



    FORGE was good - Mark spoketh well as usual. Did some stuff on Leadership in times of Chaos. Once again I felt affirmed in some of what I've been chewing over in my brain about church in our area. Nth Fitzroy and its surrounds are rather chaotic in many ways, yet someone in the midst of the crazyness there seems to be some real energy, real community and emerging things.

    I live in Heaven

    I walked down Brunswick St recently and challenged myself to look at where God is already at work. I tried to spot God's fingerprints in the place. I walked and observed for two hours and was amazed at what I saw. It was as if I had walked into heaven in many ways!

    I spotted God more in this 'pagan street' than I reckon I would in many churches. In the diversity of people living side by side, the feel of community, the miriad of top quality eating and drinking establishments (like a snapshot of the Great Feast in Mtt 22), the cries for justice in the posters plastering the street posts and walls, Gods creation being continued in the work of the amazingly artistic community, the wonderful parks and the spiritually aware and awake people...evident in the books they read, the films they are watching and the conversations I overheard snippets of. The list of Gods fingerprints in this place go on and on.

    Of course in the midst of it all was evidence of the brokeness of humanity, in the drug addict, the homeless and the sick. Jesus is there too - in the least of these....

    Its refreshing to know that its not up to me to 'take God' to North Fitzroy - he's already there, working, drawing people to him. I'm not responsibe for introducing the concept of God and his Kingdom to that place, rather I'm responsible to join him in what he's already doing there! Phew....I don't have to save the world afterall....will leave that kinda thing to him...

    Just off to the last

    3 December, 2002 8:13 AM

    Just off to the last FORGE intensive for the day - The sessions are "subversive leadership" (Mark Sayers and Steve Said), "The future in 3D" (Davel Fuller), "Why Church Planting" (Milton Oliver) then electives with a variety of people. Tis a pity that I'll have to miss the afternoon as I have a meeting this afternoon.

    Will report on content later.

    Phuture: Serving the Second Reformation

    27 November, 2002 1:27 PM

    Phuture: Serving the Second Reformation is a great resource for thinking through issues facing the Emerging Church. But then again I might be biased as I'm part of the organisation that is behind it - Dreamland

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