Faithorama Archives

Page:

One Year On From Leaving LivingRoom - a Personal Update

8 December, 2008 3:01 PM

Today I realized that it's been just over 12 months since our little family moved on from LivingRoom.

As a result I thought perhaps it was a time to do a little reflecting upon the last year as we've transitioned as a family from the community. I hope this jumble of thoughts, experiences and half baked ideas comes out OK :-)

A few significant 'moments' and 'observations' from the last 12 months include:

Moving house in Decmember last year (we celebrated our first year anniversary in the house last weekend and it's beginning to feel like home.

Adjusting to a new area - we've moved from North of Melbourne to East - from a very multi cultural area with a lot of social economic variety to a quite mono cultural area with a more middle to upper middle class feel - from an area where churches have traditionally struggled to the 'bible belt' where there are some very large churches (well large in comparison to LivingRoom).

Our second son, Henri, arriving in June. He's a beautiful little boy and while he's only just started giving us a full night's sleep has been a wonderful little fellow to have in our family. Xavier is now 2 and a half and is growing up fast. He's enjoyed living only a few minutes from grandparents.

New Church - We started attended 'One Community Church'. On some levels it was a logical choice (we have a lot of friends there and it is walking distance) but in some ways it couldn't have been more different to LivingRoom (it's relatively large, their worship style is very 'contemporary', they've just done a big building project etc).

Despite some of the differences the heart of the church is quite similar to LivingRoom with a real heart for mission, some amazing people and a similar Theology.

To be honest when we first started going to 'One' (and a couple of other churches locally) late last year we had quite a bit of 'culture shock'. Despite having grown up in and working in churches quite like it - having been out of that type of church for a few years meant having to make some adjustments on a number of levels.

For example the 'singing thing' was really bizarre. Listening to a monologue sermon for 20 minutes without a chance to interact/discuss/question/reflect/do anything creative was particularly challenging for me. Being a part of a community that had just invested significant time and money into a building was also something I had to get my head around.

However over time and particularly as we've invested more into the relationships in the place we've begun to find ourselves more and more 'at home' in this community. I'm sure a few of our friends have raised their eyebrows at the idea (I've done so myself) but at this point it seems right - at least for now.

'Ministry' - for the first time since my early 20's I'm not either a 'minister' or leader of a church. This perhaps has been one of the bigger adjustments for me. It had been something I'd been transitioning to for a while (I'd not been in paid ministry for a year or two and I'd increasingly been thinking about my work as tied to my faith) but it was a bit of a shift in how I saw myself (and perhaps has been a shift in how others saw me too).

I've continued to see what I do in my work and business as tied to faith (ministry if you want to call it that) and have seen that continue to grow and open up opportunities. To be honest I'm not quite sure what to do with it but I've grown my blogs now to a point where I have the opportunity to communicate with a couple of million people each month.

There's an opportunity there and I continue to grapple with how to allow God to use me in that way. Mainly that looks nothing like what I would have regarded as 'ministry' before - and is relating to and seeking to be there for people.

Interestingly in the last two weeks I've been asked by a few people to do some preaching. I've not done any (a part from writing daily blog posts.... which at times feels similar) for 12 months and am looking forward to doing a little more of it.

One of the other interesting things is that since releasing my book in April (another 'event' from the last year) I've had quite a large number of people wanting to talk about faith and spirituality as a result of the introductory chapter of the book where I talk a little about my background. I only included it in the book to give a little context to my story - but it seems to have connected with people - and stimulated some interesting conversations.

The other reflection that I have about not being in a 'formal' ministry position these days is that on some levels I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Being able to attend church without feeling I have some responsibility to keep things going, without having to have to prepare anything, being able to sit with my family - all of these things have been very refreshing.

All in all 2008 has been a real year of transition. With the change has come a mixture of excitement and the challenge of adjusting - but all in all it's been a good experience.

Christian SMS Spam?

7 July, 2008 3:33 PM

A few weeks ago I started receiving SMS text messages from an unidentified phone number urging me to pray for different 'issues' in Australia.

  • The first was to pray 'against' polygamy (there was a news story that day that a small group of Muslims wanted the laws changed to allow it).
  • The second was a call to pray 'against' an 'axe murdering spirit' that had come to Australia and that had last visited us in the 1800's.

OK - so the messages were a little 'odd' but I ignored them. I've got nothing against prayer and while I probably spend a little more time praying 'for' situations than 'against' them (a whole other discussion) I just put it in the 'quirky basket'.

A few days ago I got another message from the same number welcoming me to 'PrayerForce 1 Prayer Ministries'). Their goal is to 'take Australia for Christ'.

I replied asking who was behind this new 'ministry' and how they got my number. They refused to do so but said that they are a group of 'christians prayer warriors' who have gathered numbers from a variety of personal contacts, phone books, internet and church denominations.

My ensuing 'conversation' of messages with the nameless 'Prayerforce 1 Prayer Ministries' representative was frustrating at the least.

I attempted to communicate that I felt unsolicited and anonymous SMS messages were perhaps not the best way to promote their organization. To me they come across as spammy and border on being illegal (here in Australia organizations generally have to ask you for permission before they send emails or SMS marketing messages).

The response to this was a little disturbing but also slightly amusing - they said that they would 'treat ur church as illegal & spammy' and they threatened that as they had been around for 20 years that they could 'nform the people 2b wary of u'.

From what I can tell they've either got my number from an old Baptist Union contact list or perhaps from an old White Pages telephone book. I think I've managed to get off their list for future SMS's but the whole deal has left me feeling quite frustrated and annoyed.

So How Would I Promote a Ministry

I was going to leave this post at that - but perhaps I would not be taking my own blogging advice. I have written many times about how when you critique others that perhaps it'd be more effective if you also proposed some constructive ideas. Let me turn my attention to how I'd advise Prayerforce 1 to promote themselves more effectively. Here's two ideas that come to mind.

1. Permission Based Marketing - I think SMS is a potentially very effective way to run a prayer type ministry. It's a fast and effective medium to get messages out there to large numbers of people. However I'd strongly recommend that they get permission before sending these messages. My understanding of the law is that it is actually the law to do so. I run numerous email lists and am required to have people confirm their subscription twice before I send emails - this is as a protection against spam.

2. Be Personal and Identifiable - A personal name and tone in writing and communication goes a long way. The fact that Prayerforce 1 refuses to tell me who they are (ie who their leaders are) leaves them looking a little suspicious. I'm sure they are great people but this approach simply leaves me feeling wary from the get go. Personal introductions and names would help a lot.

Exploring 'Christian Blogs'

11 October, 2007 9:11 PM

Tim Challies just published an Interviewing with Me that explores some of the themes of my last few years of blogging where I've transitioned both in thinking and action from seeing myself as a 'Christian Blogger' to being a Christian who is a blogger. I won't rehash it all here - but will leave you to read it for yourself - enjoy.

Pornography Addiction Resource

29 November, 2006 1:14 PM

Siteheaderplain R1 C1I'd like to introduce readers to a great new resource called The Fight - a DVD based resource for guys struggling with pornography addiction.

The resource has been produced by my brother Adrian over the last year or two and is going to help a lot of people.

When you get the DVD you get 2.5 hours of teaching, testimony and encouragement on the topic - broken down into short bite sized pieces to be watched over a 30 day period as a daily devotional.

It also comes with a 14 track compilation album of Aussie artists and a workbook that is designed to be used in a small group.

It's designed either to be used by individuals or groups.

Adrian is also working on 'Fight Club' which is an online space where guys working through the material can connect online together in forums and journals.

Prices range from $18.15 (AUD) for bulk purchases up to $36 (AUD) for single purchases to overseas buyers.

Socks and Everyday Spirituality

19 November, 2006 2:45 PM

LivingRoom has had some great gatherings of late. I've been a little (or a lot) lax in keeping up to date with reporting on what we've done. So I'll try to do a little catch up and describe a couple of resent gatherings.

Last week our Sunday afternoon group had a great afternoon on the topic of 'everyday spirituality'.

Our leader (I'll call her 'E') started the gathering by pulling out a sock (I've never been in a church service that involved socks before). The sock was full of something/s and had a knot in the end of it.

E told us that inside the sock were 13 household items and that we had to pass it around and write down what they were as accurately as possible. We passed the sock around and over 5 or so minutes most of us had a list of 13 things. We've got kids in our group so this appealed to them and they got into it too.

After we'd compiled our lists E got the kids to open the sock and reveal the items and we ticked off what we'd got right and wrong. There was everything from a clothes peg, to a toothbrush, to a coin, to a wine bottle cork, to a phone plug/jack etc in the sock (I scored 12 out of 13).

Then with the 13 everyday household items in the middle of the group E handed out quotes to everyone. The quotes were all on the topic of 'everyday spirituality' and were from a variety of perspectives. Some of the quotes talked about finding God in everyday moments, others talked about how everyday spirituality 'watered down spirituality', others were people's own personal experiences of everyday spirituality.

After reading the quotes we were invited to choose one of the 13 items that represented something to do with everyday spirituality to us. We were then invited to share it and what it triggered for us.

What people shared was great and included some practical ideas on how people found God in the everyday, through to people sharing some of the personal things they'd been going through lately.

The three parts of the gathering appealed to me for a couple of reasons. Firstly they were inclusive of the kids (less so the quotes). We're still learning how to incorporate children into our gatherings and it was a good experiment and engaged with them well.

Secondly while the three parts of the gathering were quite separate they all added to it and engaged people on different levels. The sock exercise wasn't particularly 'spiritual' but it actually conjured up numerous ideas and thought processes for me.

Looking for Online Christian Resources

17 July, 2006 11:01 AM

I'm running a seminar on 'Internet: Mission and Ministry - Online Mission Possibilities' in a couple of weeks for my local denomination's 'Rev Up'.

I'm looking forward to sharing a little more about blogging and online ministry (as I see it) and hopefully generating some discussion on the topic to hear what others are doing and have seen.

As part of the session I'd love to feature a list of creative online ministries, sites and resources that are examples of what people are doing around the world. I already have some but would be interested to hear other people's suggestions.

I'm particularly looking for examples of how people are using sites for:

1. Mission (the outer journey) - actual web evangelism and online justice projects
2. Community building (the together journey) - sites that attempt to build community between Christians (either within churches or wider fellowship)
3. Worship and Prayer (the inner journey) - sites that are about helping people to grow closer to God (ie the focus is spiritual formation).

For those of you unfamiliar with the 'inner, outer and together journeys' - they refer to LivingRoom's core values and I'm attempting to find examples of people, churches and groups of Christians who are exploring how each can be done via the web. They need not be 'emerging church' type resources - I guess rather than pushing one approach to faith or theology I want to use this list simply as a showcase of the types of things people are doing.

If you have any ideas I'd love to hear them either in comments below or via email (from my contact form).

Thinking about 'Ministry'

17 July, 2006 9:14 AM

A couple of weeks ago I had an interesting conversation with a guy that I'd not seen for a few years. Last time we saw each other I was working part time for a fairly large church as a youth pastor and was studying theology with the rest of my time.

As we chatted and caught up he mentioned that he'd heard that I had 'left the ministry'.

It was an interesting phrase - one that I'd not heard for some time and had not considered as applying to myself.

We chatted about what I was doing now and despite my best attempts to explain the processes I've been through in the last year or so he seemed to be disappointed with my decisions. I got the feeling that he saw my move from being a paid minister as being something of a failure or a loss (not his words - but his tone of voice and words indicated that it was disappointing).

I've been pondering this quick conversation (it ended prematurely as he had to go) ever since - not because it upset me in any way (it didn't) but because I'd not really considered anyone else had any real feelings about my journey and I found it ironic that others see my move from paid ministry as being a loss of some kind when I actually see the move as helping me to do more effective 'ministry' than I've ever done before.

Now I don't want to critique anyone who does 'paid ministry' - I've got nothing against it at all and think it's appropriate for many people. God's used people who work full time as pastors, missionaries, ministers etc for centuries and I'm not about to write that off. Ultimately discerning sorts of decisions and calls are between an individual and God (within the context of the wider Body).

However the last couple of years of my own journey has taken me off the path of paid ministry and into a territory that both has excited and (if I'm honest) has terrified me. Having spent 10 years of my life working for churches and studying theology I've entered the ranks of the self employed small business owner.

I don't want to sugar coat the last year or two - the transition has not been one without moments of doubt and disappointment. There have been moments when I've wondered why I studied theology for so long to end up in business, there have been moments when I've felt guilt about earning an income that is quite a bit more than my part time student minister salary and there have been moments where I've wondered whether blogging as a job is as worthwhile an activity as working in a church preparing sermons or visiting congregational members etc.

However amidst the moment of doubt are glimpses of purpose, meaning and confirmation that we're on a good path. As I ponder the experience I can't imagine life in any other way than it's unfolded so far.

I've alluded in this article (and elsewhere) to the idea that I feel like I'm doing more effective mission or ministry now than I ever used to do as a paid minister. I've had people ask for examples of this since last time I made the statement and have struggled a little as to whether it's appropriate for me to share them. My struggle is two-fold:

1. I've become increasingly uncomfortable over the past couple of years of telling the 'success stories' as people in ministry. I'm a little torn on it to be honest. On the one hand it's great to be able to share what God has been doing around us and how he's calling us to join him in that work. On the flip side I sometimes get the sense when I'm seeing people talk about such stories that they are presented in ways that are more about celebrating the work of the person telling the story than in celebrating God's work. I also worry a little that there is an element of telling war stories and not really honoring the fact that we're talking about real people who deserve respect and privacy. To be honest I'm not sure where I stand on sharing examples except to say that I'm not completely comfortable with it.

2. The second reason I've resisted sharing examples is that most of my interactions with people in my business are in the online medium. While there are increasing opportunities for face to face conversations and relationships - most of what I do happens via email, instant messaging and blogging with people who are very tech savvy. To share of what I see God doing in these interactions not only feels odd in terms of honoring their stories (point #1 above) - but it also feels a little bizarre as the examples I could give of what's been happening could well be ready by those I'd be writing about.

So I've resisted the calls for specific examples and stories and hope in doing so that I don't offend or frustrate anyone.

What I will say however is that I continue to find God working around me.

Here are a few general thoughts that come to mind in terms of some of the lessons I'm learning:

  • While the internet is often talked about for it's 'evils' I'm constantly discovering it to be a 'sacred space' where people explore what it means to find life.
  • I'm finding that when you connect with people around topics that they are passionate about, that are life giving for them, that you have an opportunity to connect in some wonderful ways.
  • Non churchy types could actually teach the Church a thing or two about building community, generosity and making a difference in the world we live in.
  • Mission is about living with people on their turf. It's also often about letting go of your own agendas and assumptions and learning to wait for the other person to set the agenda and invite you to journey with them.
  • Living out Kingdom values is not always easy.
  • While it's possible to speak about the Kingdom of God in very 'religious' or 'spiritual' terms - it's often when we talk about it in everyday language in the natural rhythms of life that it has the most impact.
  • The words of St Francis to 'preach the gospel always - if necessary, use words' really are very wise.

None of the above is rocket science. Most of it I've known 'in theory' for many years - but it's only been the last few months that I've begin to understand some of it. I'm still working it out and much of what I'm learning is solidifying in my mind - but the journey is fun so far.

Love Thy Neighbor

16 May, 2006 11:18 PM

Robert Bruce has written and posted a thought provoking and challenging poem on his blog titled Love Thy Neighbor.

The Da Vinci Code - A Christian Response?

15 May, 2006 10:33 AM

Da-Vinci-Code-2 I'm fascinated by the response of the church here in Australia to the Da Vinci Code.

On one hand there have been a number of 'campaigns' that I've come across encouraging Christians to boycott the Da Vinci Code movie and book. The reasoning is that if we all avoid it we send a clear message that it's not something that we believe in. The fear behind the boycott is that if people do see it that their faith will be rocked and that it will lead people away from the Church and Jesus.

On the other hand I've seen a number of churches who have booked out cinemas on opening night and who are going to see the movie as a group. Not only that, they're encouraging their members to bring along non church going friends and family. They are seeing the Da Vinci Code as an opportunity for evangelism. The theory behind their approach is that people will be going to see the movie whether the Church boycotts it or not and that they think that rather than it being a potential threat to faith that it's one of the few natural opportunities that Christians will get these days to have a conversation about faith, Church and Jesus.

Quite a few people have asked me over the past year or so what I think about the Da Vinci Code and whether I'd read it or not.

My own opinion of the book was that it was not particularly well written in a literary sense but that the story was a good one from an entertainment perspective. I read it as a novel and not as non fiction (as it's been intended to be read). I don't understand why anyone would read it in any other way.

I didn't feel my faith or beliefs were impacted by the experience in one way or the other but do see it as an interesting discussion starter on the issues that are contained within it. In fact I've had a number of conversations with people who have read the book that have led into what I call 'God moments' where people seem to have new encounters and understandings of God. I believe that God used the Da Vinci Code in these conversations to do something significant as people were stimulated to ask questions and search deeper as a result of the themes that were raised in the book.

I think the second approach (of churches actually engaging with Da Vinci Code and seeing it as a connecting point) is a great one. I've seen similar approaches work really well when people have engaged with children around Harry Potter.

I find that in the culture that I live in that there are not a lot of things that cause people to talk about the deeper issues of life (this is especially the case for men).

Movies (and books) are things that people still do talk deeply about (some movies more than others of course). Rather than purposely stepping out of the discussions that people will have about Church, the Jesus story and faith I think we need to intentionally step into it.

I believe that God uses all types of things to draw people to himself. Some of these things we might classify as 'Holy', others might be more unexpected. The question I guess we need to answer as Christians is whether we'll join him in the unexpected places to be a part of his work?

The State of the God Blogging Community?

17 October, 2005 2:33 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manhood

29 September, 2005 11:27 PM

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

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

His second post is Seven Steps to Manhood.

Looks like an interesting series to follow.

Meet Steve Addison

31 May, 2005 6:02 PM

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

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

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

Recent posts include:

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

Spam Evangelism

26 April, 2005 2:45 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spirited entrepreneurship

25 April, 2005 7:31 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Read more at Spero News | Spirited entrepreneurship

Pope Read his Last Rites

1 April, 2005 8:20 AM

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

Update -

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

Postcards from the Corporate World

23 March, 2005 1:36 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Who was Jesus?

23 March, 2005 9:34 AM

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

Who was Jesus?

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

Gregory of Nazianzus, A.D. 381

B Rasta 2B GuruB Ethiopian Jesus 2058 Christ PantocratorProofBowJc582B

Festival Victoria?

21 March, 2005 12:53 PM

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

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

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

The question is - what is 'Festival Victoria'?

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

But what is 'Festival Victoria'?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benediction Incarnation (Forge)

26 February, 2005 10:31 PM

Marcus blogs a benediction he wrote for the alt worship night a couple of us put together for Forge last week. The theme was incarnation. His benediction was one of the highlights of the night for many. Here's just a little bit of what he's written:

'May you love your neighbour, not the ones you wish you had but the ones you have; human and creature!
May you be connected to community built on good sex and intimate friendships.
May you know peace and reconciliation in the war zones of relationship, family, household, church and culture...'

He also posts a few pictures.

Lentblog 05

29 January, 2005 12:03 AM

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

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

Read more at planet telex - Lentblog 05

The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

24 January, 2005 8:30 PM

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

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

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

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

Read more at The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience

Soul Survivor 05

16 January, 2005 10:34 AM

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

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

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

- Journey Resources
- Living Room Core Journeys

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

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

Sex Talk available for Download

25 November, 2004 3:02 PM

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

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

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

Lets Talk about Sex - Again

17 November, 2004 12:31 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lets Talk about Sex

5 November, 2004 9:25 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 September, 2004 12:26 PM

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

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

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

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

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

Compassion

24 September, 2004 7:34 PM

compassion.jpg

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

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

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

backflash2.jpg
I can't imagine 5000 people all showing up to see me - and not just to see me but wanting something from me - its pretty likely that these would have been needy and demanding people - you see thats who seemed to be attracted to Jesus. Some would have been asking for teaching, others healing, others blessings, other a touch, others trying to trick him. Quite honestly (and I'm a bit ashamed to say it) - its my worst nightmare.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

featurespic1.jpg
Again I think we often fail in this area too. You see one of the ways I (we?) cope with the needs of those around us is to see them as objects. Often we do this by labeling people - grouping them together and making gross generalizations about them. We think we know them because we've read about that type of person - we think we know their issues because we see the symptoms or some of their behavior - but do we really see them? Do we see their potential? Do we really see them as humans or do we cope with their neediness with a quick glance rather than a deep soul searching look.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pope Sets up a Vatican Sports Department

4 August, 2004 3:11 PM

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

"The Vatican now has a sports department.

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

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

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

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

Continue reading Pope sets up Vatican sports department.

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

Missional Entrepreneurship

26 July, 2004 11:50 AM

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

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

Let me explain a little with a story.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Too Busy for 'Presence'

19 July, 2004 9:06 AM

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

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

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

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

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

Alan on Liturgy

11 July, 2004 7:39 PM

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

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

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

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

Talking About Money

6 July, 2004 8:58 AM

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

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

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

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

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

I left my long comments there.

Church Online Discussion Forums

17 June, 2004 12:07 PM

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

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

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

Your thoughts in comments would be appreciated.

Love Thy Neighbor Survey

28 May, 2004 2:04 PM

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

The Bible is Innerant?

23 May, 2004 1:46 PM

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

Work and Faith

18 May, 2004 10:12 AM

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

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

Pain

4 May, 2004 12:06 AM

The Greenman has been writing about pain:

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

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

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

Inner, Outer, Together... Balance?

3 May, 2004 4:59 PM

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

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

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

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

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

The Call of Jesus

3 May, 2004 1:30 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Virtual Faith Project

27 April, 2004 2:46 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tragedy of Saul

22 April, 2004 5:47 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I've got more reading to do...

More Thomas Kelly

20 April, 2004 3:26 PM

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

A Testament of Devotion

16 April, 2004 10:49 AM

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

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

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

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

Here's a couple of taster quotes:

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

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

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

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

Stations of the Cross

7 April, 2004 10:15 PM

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

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

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

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

Examining Samuel

19 March, 2004 5:30 PM

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

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

Online Spirituality

17 March, 2004 5:19 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fasting

15 March, 2004 2:28 PM

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

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

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

Recounting the Journey

11 March, 2004 8:56 AM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Compartmental Spirituality?

2 March, 2004 8:18 AM

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

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

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

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

Treasure

26 February, 2004 3:21 PM

Tuesday night at Livingroom we continued to work through the Sermon on the Mt - we were up to Mtt 6:19-21. 'Do not store up for yourselves treasures here on earth'.

Well - quite a challenging passage once again which I don't think any of us didn't squirm at least a little bit in as we fleshed out the passage over dinner.

At first we talked a lot about money and possessions, something that none of us have a whole heap of - most of us have made some sort of decision to live simply. But then we began to wonder if 'treasure' might mean other things for us. What do we store up - what captures our attention and thinking - what gives us a sense of worth.

The reality for us was that whilst we might not be hoarding physical riches that all of us struggle with our own treasures - whether they be hoarding knowledge, accumulating skills, thirsting after fun, experiences and novelty.

Of course none of these things are bad, nor is money or owning 'things', I guess the challenge comes when we look a bit deeper at our motivation.

The following verses (22-24) flesh it out a bit further. What is it that captures our 'eyes'. Our eyes are a lamp to our whole body - what we turn our gaze to, the things that consume our thoughts, are indications of what is going on with the rest of us.

The challenge is to 'let go' and raise our eyes from our treasures. Easier said that done - hence the squirming Tuesday night as we spent time honestly sharing our 'treasures'.

The Passion of the Christ

21 February, 2004 2:43 PM

There continues to be a lot of talk about The Passion both in the media and in a lot of conversations I'm involved in. It is released here on Wednesday.

I've just updated my Previous Post on the Passion with 11 reviews, 10 resources (including study guides, photo/video galleries, background info, preparation exercises etc) and a collection of other articles. Hope they are helpful to some.

The Passion of the Christ - A Review

10 February, 2004 11:49 PM

the passion.jpgWell there are loads of previews happening of Mel Gibson's 'The Passion of the Christ'. Quite a few of my colleagues got invited to previews - unfortunately I didn't manage to get one so I'm relying upon the reports and reviews of others.

Following are a collection of reviews on the Passion of the Christ which are followed by a number of resources on that might be of use in preparing to watch the movie and a list of articles exploring some of the controversy surrounding the movie. I hope that this list of resources is useful, please leave your thoughts in comments and feel free to suggest more resources.

Reviews/Columns/Articles on the Passion
- The Passion of the Christ - a Review
- A Review of the Passion
- The Passion of Christ - An in Depth Review
- Hollywood Jesus - The Passion
- Robert Novak: The Passion - A Review/Column
- Movies.com - The Passion
- Lifeway - Review
- The Passion - a review by Terry Inman
- Christian Spotlight - The Passion of the Christ
- Mel Gibson - Feminist
- The Passion - A review by Keith A. Fournier
- A Review by Lisa Bevill


- Hype vs Hope
- An obscene portrayal of Christ's Passion
- Dr James Dobson on the Passion
- 'Passion of the Christ' is a graphic profession of Mel Gibson's faith
- The Passion of the Christ' will leave its mark on viewers
- Gibson's 'Passion' leaves this critic uninspired
- Critics crucify Gibson's Passion
- Good and Evil Locked in Violent Showdown
- Brutality of 'Passion' is draining
- 'Sickening' Passion slammed
- Hating Mel
- Film focuses on suffering
- The most controversial story ever told? Questions of truth and consequences
- Graphic Gospel
- Jewelry Maker Sells Out 'Passion' Wares
- Violent film lovers suddenly sensitive - Critics who praised decapitations in 'Gladiator' blast Gibson movie
- When sacred goes cinematic, passions flare
- 'The Passion' offers a teachable moment
- The Passion inspires Questions
- Denver pastor posts sign that reads "Jews Killed Our Lord"
- Jesus Christ makes the headlines
- Christ Moves Movie Goers
- Jews, Christians Upset Over Pastor's Sign
- Even 'Passion' has product tie-ins
- Ash Wednesday opening of 'Passion' draws crowds, but violence keeps some away
- Passion Watcher Dies
- The Passion Inflames the Web
- Reaction To 'Passion' Shows Media's Disdain For Religion
- A great list of Bloggers Reviews of the Passion

Resources
- The Passion of the Christ - Official Site
-
- The Passion - Unofficial Site
- The Passion - Photo Gallery
- The Passion Outreach
- A Reflection Guide to the Movie �The Passion of the Christ�
- Passion FAQs
- Facts, Faith, and Film-Making: Jesus� Passion and Its Portrayal - A Study Guide for Viewers and Reviewers
- Discuss the Passion - Discussion Forums
- Christ's real passion was life
- A Worship Leaders Resource to the Passion
- Gibson's "Passion": Some Need-to-Know Background
- Black Theology and the Passion
- Passion Sermon Ideas
- Scholarly Smackdown: The Theology of the Passion (two New Testament scholars analyse the theology of the Passion
- Is the Passion Biblical?
- The Passion of Christ - Quotes and Video Clips
- The Passion and Preteens - Advice
- Censor stands by Rating
- Filmgoers flock to the Passion
- The Passion - Discussion Page
- Scholars say few details known about crucifixion
- The Reason for the Passion

Is the Passion of the Christ Anti Semitic?
- 3 views on the passion side by side - Protestant, Catholic and Jewish
- Jewish groups left out of Passion
- Who Killed Christ?
- "Passion": A Step Back for Jews and Christians
- An interview with Cardinal Dar�o Castrill�n Hoyos about the Passion of the Christ
- BBC: Religious Battle over the Passion
- Gibson Reworks 'Passion' to Mute Anti-Semitism
- Gibson's right to his 'Passion': Overreaction will cause more anti-Semitism than movie itself
- A Jewish View of the Passion
- The Passion: Christians and Jews
- Rabbi, Christian preacher, voice concerns over Gibson film

In addition to those here is a review that was emailed to me this afternoon. Written by a couple of guys called Paul Harvey and David Limbaugh (whom I do not know - if anyone knows of any links to these reviews I'd be happy to post them).

-------------------------------------------------- the passion 2.jpgI really did not know what to expect. I was thrilled to have been invited to a private viewing of Mel Gibson's film "The Passion," but I had also read all the cautious articles and spin. I grew up in a Jewish town and owe much of my own faith journey to the influence. I have a life long, deeply held aversion to anything that might even indirectly encourage any form of anti-Semitic thought, language or actions. I arrived at the private viewing for "The Passion", held in Washington DC and greeted some familiar faces. The environment was typically Washingtonian, with people greeting you with a smile but seeming to look beyond you, having an agenda beyond the words. The film was very briefly introduced, without fanfare, and then the room darkened. From the gripping opening scene in the Garden of Gethsemane, to the very human and tender portrayal of the earthly ministry of Jesus, through the betrayal, the arrest, the scourging, the way of the cross, the encounter with the thieves, the surrender on the Cross, until the final scene in the empty tomb, this was not simply a movie; it was anencounter, unlike anything I have ever experienced. In addition to being a masterpiece of film-making and an artistic triumph, "The Passion" evoked more deep reflection, sorrow and emotional reaction within me than anything since my wedding, my ordination or the birth of my children. Frankly, I will never be the same. When the film concluded, this "invitation only" gathering of "movers and shakers" in Washington, DC were shaking indeed, but this time from sobbing. I am not sure there was a dry eye in the place. The crowd that had been glad-handing before the film was now eerily silent. No one could speak because words were woefully inadequate. We had experienced a kind of art that is a rarity in life, the kind that makes heaven touch earth. passion 3.jpgOne scene in the film has now been forever etched in my mind. A brutalized, wounded Jesus was soon to fall again under the weight of the cross. His mother had made her way along the Via Della Rosa. As she ran to him, she flashed back to a memory of Jesus as a child, falling in the dirt road outside of their home. Just as she reached to protect him from the fall, she was now reaching to touch his wounded adult face. Jesus looked at her with intensely probing and passionately loving eyes (and at all of us through the screen) and said "Behold I make all things new." These are words taken from the last Book of the New Testament, the Book of Revelations.

Suddenly, the purpose of the pain was so clear and the wounds, that earlier
in the film had been so difficult to see in His face, His back, indeed all over His body, became intensely beautiful. They had been borne voluntarily for love.

At the end of the film, after we had all had a chance to recover, a question and answer period ensued. The unanimous praise for the film, from a rather diverse crowd, was as astounding as the compliments were effusive. The questions included the one question that seems to follow this film, even though it has not yet even been released. "Why is this film considered by some to be "anti-Semitic?" Frankly, having now experienced (you do not "view" this film) "the Passion" it is a question that is impossible to answer. A law professor whom I admire sat in front of me. He raised his hand and responded "After watching this film, I do not understand how anyone can insinuate that it even remotely presents that the Jews killed Jesus. It doesn't." He continued "It made me realize that my sins killed Jesus" I agree. There is not a scintilla of anti-Semitism to be found anywhere in this powerful film. If there were, I would be among the first to decry it. It faithfully tells the Gospel story in a dramatically beautiful, sensitive and profoundly engaging way.

Those who are alleging otherwise have either not seen the film or have another agenda behind their protestations. This is not a "Christian" film, in the sense that it will appeal only to those who identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ. It is a deeply human, beautiful story that will deeply touch all men and women. It is a profound work of art. Yes, its producer is a Catholic Christian and thankfully has remained faithful to the Gospel text; if that is no longer acceptable behavior than we are all in trouble. History demands that we remain faithful to the story and Christians have a right to tell it. After all, we believe that it is the greatest story ever told and that its message is for all men and women. The greatest right is the right to hear the truth.

We would all be well advised to remember that the Gospel narratives to which "The Passion" is so faithful were written by Jewish men who followed a Jewish Rabbi whose life and teaching have forever changed the history of the world. The problem is not the message but those who have distorted it and used it for hate rather than love. The solution is not to censor the message, but rather to promote the kind of gift of love that is Mel Gibson's filmmaking masterpiece, "The Passion."

It should be seen by as many people as possible. I intend to do everything I can to make sure that is the case. I am passionate about "The Passion." You will be as well. Don't miss it!

---------------------------------

passion 4.jpgThis is a commentary by DAVID LIMBAUGH about Mel Gibson's very controversial movie regarding Christ's crucifixion. It, too, is well worth reading. MEL GIBSON'S passion for "THE PASSION"

How ironic that when a movie producer takes artistic license with historical events, he is lionized as artistic, creative and brilliant, but when another takes special care to be true to the real-life story, he is vilified. Actor-producer Mel Gibson is discovering these truths the hard way as he is having difficulty finding a United States studio or distributor for his upcoming film, "The Passion," which depicts the last 12 hours of the life of Jesus Christ.

Gibson co-wrote the script and financed, directed and produced the movie.
For the script, he and his co-author relied on the New Testament Gospels of
Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, as well as the diaries of St. Anne Catherine
Emmerich (1774-1824) and Mary of Agreda's "The City of God."

Gibson doesn't want this to be like other sterilized religious epics. "I'm trying to access the story on a very personal level and trying to be very real about it." So committed to realistically portraying what many would consider the most important half-day in the history of the universe, Gibson even shot the film in the Aramaic language of the period. In response to objections that viewers will not be able to understand that language, Gibson said, "Hopefully, I'll be able to transcend the language barriers with my visual storytelling; if I fail, I fail, but at least it'll be a monumental failure."

To further insure the accuracy of the work, Gibson has enlisted the counsel of pastors and theologians, and has received rave reviews. Don Hodel, president of Focus on the Family, said, "I was very impressed. The movie is historically and theologically accurate." Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo., and president of the National Evangelical Association, glowed: "It conveys, more accurately than any other film, who Jesus was."

passion 5.jpgDuring the filming, Gibson, a devout Catholic, attended Mass every morning
because "we had to be squeaky clean just working on this." From Gibson's perspective, this movie is not about Mel Gibson. It's bigger than he is. "I'm not a preacher, and I'm not a pastor," he said. "But I really feel my career was leading me to make this. The Holy Ghost was working through me on this film, and I was just directing traffic. I hope the film has the power to evangelize."

Even before the release of the movie, scheduled for February 25, 2004, Gibson is getting his wish. "Everyone who worked on this movie was changed. There were agnostics and Muslims on set converting to Christianity...[and] people being healed of diseases." Gibson wants people to understand through the movie, if they don't already, the incalculable influence Christ has had on the world. And he grasps that Christ is controversial precisely because of WHO HE IS - GOD incarnate. "And that's the point of my film really, to show all that turmoil around him politically and with religious leaders and the people, all because He is Who He is."

Gibson is beginning to experience first hand just how controversial Christ is. Critics have not only speciously challenged the movie's authenticity, but have charged that it is disparaging to Jews, which Gibson vehemently denies "This is not a Christian vs. Jewish thing. '[Jesus] came into the world, and it knew him not.' Looking at Christ's crucifixion, I look first at my own culpability in that." Jesuit Father William J. Fulco, who translated the script into Aramaic and Latin, said he saw no hint of anti-Semitism in the movie. Fulco added, "I would be aghast at any suggestion that Mel Gibson is anti-Semitic." Nevertheless, certain groups and some in the mainstream press have been very critical of Gibson's
"Passion."

The New York Post's Andrea Peyser chided him: "There is still time, Mel, to tell the truth." Boston Globe columnist James Carroll denounced Gibson's literal reading of the biblical accounts. "Even a faithful repetition of the Gospel stories of the death of Jesus can do damage exactly because those sacred texts themselves carry the virus of Jew hatred," wrote Carroll. A group of Jewish and Christian academics has issued an 18-page report slamming all aspects of the film, including its undue emphasis on Christ's passion rather than "a broader vision." The report disapproves of the movie's treatment of Christ's passion as historical fact.

The moral is that if you want the popular culture to laud your work on Christ, make sure it either depicts Him as a homosexual or as an everyday sinner with no particular redeeming value (literally). In our anti-Christian culture, the blasphemous "The Last Temptation of Christ" is celebrated and "The Passion" is condemned. But if this movie continues to affect people the way it is now, no amount of cultural opposition will suppress its force and its positive impact on lives everywhere. Mel Gibson is a model of faith and courage.

Bible RSS feeds

9 February, 2004 12:26 PM

Want to bring RSS technology to your reading of the Bible? Check out Bible RSS Feeds which give you the option of following a feed that gives you a verse per day or that presents you with a reading plan that will get you through the Bible in a year.

I'm sure that this is what Paul was thinking things would end up like when he was writing those letters 2000 years ago.

Counter Cultural

4 February, 2004 9:55 PM

I really enjoyed Livingroom last night. We had three people there for the first time which was nice. They are all interested in joining us in our journey as ongoing members. We spent the first half of the night over dinner (a great Thai curry) getting to know each other and telling the story of the Livingroom so far. It was helpful for me to look back on where we�ve been and to try to put it into words.

After dinner we spent some time doing a Lectio Divina on Matthew 5:38-48.

I found the passage really challenging. Its always interesting to take a deeper look at a passage that you �think� you�re familiar with. Growing up in Sunday School you hear statements like �love your enemy� and �turn the other cheek� all the time.

Last night it struck me how counter cultural these words of Jesus were and are. We are constantly being told to look after self, to get ahead and to not let others walk all over us.

Two questions stood out to me last night:

�If you love only those who love you, what good is that?�

�If you are kind only to your friends how are you different from anyone else?�

The call is to go the extra mile � to step beyond the messages we hear each day. Its not something that you can do half heartedly.

Centering Prayer

3 February, 2004 1:23 PM

Notes from a Truth Seeker - Centering Prayer, Severely Messed With is a great description of the method of 'Centering Prayer'.

Rachelle describes it really well and it seems quite similar to some of the ways I go about prayer. Here is a bit I like:

'I once took a course on prayer with Eugene Peterson. When he came to our small group, I told him that I thought my prayers were just worrying in front of God. (I had read something by Richard Foster which indicated this was a no-no so I was�.worried.) Eugene�s face did this wonderful thing where all of his skin instantaneously gathers upwards towards his temples in an all encompassing smile. Then he said, �Worrying in front of God. I like that. Well, that�s just fine. Just. Fine. But one thing you can also do is ask what the Trinity is already doing for the people you are worrying over. Ask what the three of them are cooking up and see if you can get in on it.� That is a big phrase for Eugene �get in on it.� He�s always encouraging us to pay attention to stories, ours and God�s, and make sure we�re aware of how we�re in on it. Anyway, he suggested I get an icon, Rublev�s , of the Trinity sitting around a table to help me visualize that already on-going conversation of God regarding all those I�m pray-worrying over. So I did.'

Thanks Rachelle.

Balanced Spirituality?

19 January, 2004 10:03 AM

Yesterdays session at Soul Survivor went pretty well. We had a group of about 50 young adults there and they seemed to really enter into the process. The approach I took was to challenge them to do a 'Spiritual Fitness Test' using the 3 Journeys of faith as a framework.

When I do this topic I generally get people to move to different sections of the room (or tent as it was yesterday) to represent which is their strongest and weakest journey. The results have always been the same on each occasion I've done it. The weakest journey is always the 'Outer Journey'. The strongest one is always the 'Inner Journey'. The 'Together Journey' is usually pretty strong. Of course there are usually individuals who are strong in each one, but overall that is the trend I've observed and it was the case again yesterday with 75% identifying the 'Outer Journey' as their weakest link.

I wonder why the 'Outer Journey' of Mission, Service and Justice is one which so many people are uncomfortable in? Are we lazy? Are we paralyzed by fear? Have we forgotten the 'great commission'? Are we too busy? Is it not being preached about? Are we too selfish? Are we too comfortable? Have we lost the skill of talking to the unchurched about faith? Do we have any unchurched friends? Are we too insular?

What is going on? I don't think the church in the west has much of a future unless we ask and answer some of these questions.

Journey Resources

17 January, 2004 10:40 AM

At Soul Survivor tomorrow I'm talking about the 3 Journeys of the Livingroom.

I want to give those attending some starting points and resources for thinking about their faith in these three areas. These are the books and resources I've come up with off the top of my head on each journey. I'll be giving out this link tomorrow at SS.

Please leave your suggested additions (and which journey they fit best into) to the list in comments and I'll add them (NB I'm trying to develop a list that will not only help mature and older Christians but young ones too - anything you can suggest will be very helpful).

Inner Journey - Connecting with God
- Examen of Consciousness - Ancient reflective exercise.
- Lectio Divina - Ancient way of praying through Scripture.
- SOAP Life Journalling - A more modern way of meditating upon Scripture.
- - is good on all three journeys.
- - a good book on holistic spirituality which picks up on all three journeys.
-
-
- Labyrinth Australia - Labrynth UK - Good for all journeys
- Cultivating a Heart for God - Neil Cole

Outer Journey - Connecting with the World
- Ignition - a 12 week missional exploration of Acts for small groups.
- . How to grow missional communities.
- Eyes Wide Open - Michael Frost
-

Together Journey - Connecting with one another
- Renovare - small groups meeting together for prayer, sharing and accountability.
-
- - Spiritual Direction together. Picks up all three journeys. (suggested by Hamo
- - How Friends and Mentors Can Make Your Faith Grow. (suggested by Paul
- - How God Shapes Us Through Relationships. (suggested by Paul
-

Soul Survivor

15 January, 2004 7:45 AM

I'm going to Soul Survivor today with Steve from Forge. He is speaking this afternoon and I am doing a session on Sunday so I thought I'd go check it out. Should be interesting — he's going to be talking about different models of church that he's seeing spring up around Melbourne. On Sunday I'll be talking about 'Holistic Spirituality' which should be fun.

Update: Steve's session went really well. We spent the day catching up with people, enjoying the sun and making new contacts.

I'm looking forward to sharing my session on Sunday. Originally I was going to be sharing on the topic using the Holistic Spirituality Model that I've previously shared about here on this blog. But in the last few days I've decided to share using the Living Room's Core Values as a framework. I like both models but find our core values a little simpler and I guess more relevant because we are constantly working on them in our week to week interactions with each other. Looking forward to Sunday's session.

He Speaketh

13 January, 2004 10:32 AM

ioocmudcake01.gifLast night I had the opportunity to go speak at the opening night of a Salvation Army creative arts youth conference. I spoke about Mudcake Spirituality (or at least that is what I started speaking about).

I really had a great night - it was one of those surreal experiences when you are speaking but you feel like you're having an out of body experience. I felt more like an observer or listener to what I was saying than the one doing the speaking. Not in a bad way mind you. It is hard to explain - except to say that it went really well.

Daily Blogotionals

5 January, 2004 2:44 PM

Andrew Jones has really been getting into the blogging thing of late since his switch to Typepad. He's got comments, a fresh look and seems to be having a lot of fun with it. (We should petition him to write a 'tall skinny blog tip' for the blog tip series because he's a blogging legend). Typepad must suit him because he's just started a new blog, Our Daily Blog.

'He writes: i hope to host a daily devotional site. In 2004 we will be reading through Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a' Kempis. A new reading will appear each morning, and you can use your RSS readers to pick up the feed.
Look forward to your comments and thoughts on the site, and to grow together with you.
'

I toyed with a similar idea a while back but wasn't sure I could keep updating it daily. Glad Andrew has decided to do - I'll be a keen reader!

E-vangelism?

20 December, 2003 9:42 AM

I was just sitting here minding my own business - making a powerpoint reflection for tonight's party when my MSN Messenger beeped at me - someone was initiating a chat.

I opened it up and didn't recognize the person's nickname or email. He was 'Sam'.

Sam: So did you get the minx?
Darren: Did I what?
Sam: Did you get the minx?
Darren: ......
Sam: How did last night go? Did you catch any carp?
Darren: No - I actually went to a Christmas party.
Sam: Ok...
Darren:......
Sam: Hey I wanted to ask you about those tires - are they working out ok?
Darren: Who is this?
Sam: Sam
Darren: Sam who?
Sam: Are you feeling ok mate?
Darren: Who am I?
Sam: Darren
Darren: I think you might have the wrong Darren.

He did. For a while there I thought I'd lost my memory or something.

Anyway - Sam and I ended up talking for about 40 minutes. We started with surfing and motor cross (I greatly disappointed him by knowing virtually nothing about either) - then we talked about the rugby and our common hatred of the English winning the World Cup - he then asked me what I was into - I said photography. He then launched into how I should get into photographing naked women. Ok - getting weird now. I steered the conversation back onto his work and we talked about IT for a while. He then asked what I did. I refused to tell him at first - I sometimes like to do that - gets them curious. I eventually told him

Darren: I help run a church
Sam: Oh...
Sam: Sorry about the photographing women cracks!
Darren: It's ok
Sam: My family is religious - but I never go to church

The conversation then took an interesting turn. Sam proceeded to tell me everything that is wrong with the church. He finished his 'speech' with -

Sam: The church really just needs to get with the times mate - it has become so irrelevant - sorry but that is just the way I see it.

I think I might have freaked him out by saying that I agreed. We then talked about Living Room for a while and the philosophy behind what we're doing. He liked that we didn't sing songs or have 'sermons'. He wanted to come to the party tonight (Wales is just too far away).

He shared a bit about his travels through Tibet and some of the philosophy that he'd picked up there. He found it to be a very 'spiritual' place. He also talked about some personal stuff that he'd learnt and a couple of things he was struggling with. Asked me to pray for him there on MSN. I did.

We finished by saying we'd chat again some time.

What a strange experience, quite freaky really - whilst it felt like I was in the right place at the right time it also felt quite strange to be talking like that with a total stranger on the other side of the world.

Religion Brings Greater Happiness

13 December, 2003 10:32 AM

Just found this interesting article on Religion and Happiness. Here are some extracts

'If pursuit of happiness is really your goal, forget all that. Only spirituality and a sense of purpose bring bliss, says one British researcher....

Joseph's study seeks a recipe for happiness, looking beyond religious faith, which other studies have shown is one ingredient. He looks at self-actualization and purpose in life, too....

"We're not saying that all religious people are happier than non-religious people," Joseph tells WebMD. "It's just that, on average, religious people tend to be happier because they have a greater sense of purpose in life."

Actually, a spiritual path outside of organized religion works in the pursuit of happiness, too. "Religion is only one path to sense of purpose," he says.

Interesting - Read the rest here.

>>Divine Womb

12 December, 2003 6:04 PM

mother child.jpgGod joined with Mary and created
The divine fertilised human
Nestling into her womb, nourished by her blood

God joins with us and creates
A divine planted idea, an inspiration
Which settles in us, and feeds

But after the ecstasy of impregnation
9 months of waiting, hoping, growing
The invisible inside, waiting to be born

And while we wait, difficulties arise
Herods try to destroy
Authorities try to rationalise
Husbands doubt,
While redemption gestates

We are all wombs of the divine
Pregnant with that which God envisions us
How will we feed it?
Who will it most resemble, us or God?
How long are we prepared to be patient?

We wait.
We wait
We wait for the invisible to become visible
For the seed to flourish
For vision to be born

SOURCE: GREYSPACE@VAUX.NET

Fluffy Faith?

11 December, 2003 11:36 AM

I'm sad today. Not because of anything that has happened on a personal level - but because of circumstances and situations that I have heard about in the past 12 hours from friends.

- People who should know better doing stupid things.
- Leaders compromising beliefs through actions.
- Repercussions of poor decisions and actions rippling out through the lives of so many.
- Communities and families being broken apart when they need not be.

I'm surprised by the depth of what I feel about a situation so far removed from my own context. I'm angered by the selfishness of people I've never met, I'm reminded of the brokenness of humanity, I'm saddened as I think about the grief others must be feeling and I'm challenged to consider my own relationships and community.

Whilst I do not know of the specific details of this situation - I'm also left wondering about discipleship again. So often faith is allowed to be fluffy, shallow and infantile. I'm not just talking about new Christians - but especially about those who have been 'disciples' for many seasons. Without strong and growing foundations when the pressure of life mounts its so easy for things to crumble.

My concern is that when Churches are allowed to be shallow and fluffy environments that the crumbling of one key person can actually cause the collapse of many. Its very sad stuff - your prayers would be valued on this one for all involved.

Mosque Revisit

10 December, 2003 7:43 PM

I was just looking back through my archives at what I was doing one year ago from today and found a post about an event that caused a bit of a fuss but which was the first in a series of interactions and dialogue with people of other faiths.

The original post was 'Mosque Visit. (the old comments were deleted in the move to my new domain - probably a good thing as many were not too nice).

Other posts followed including:

- Muslim Blogisphere
- Interviewing Bilal part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.
- Ritual, Rhythm and other lessons from other Faiths
- A Muslims Reflection on Easter
- Inter Faith Dialogue
- Muslim Lover
- A lesson from a Buddhist Nun
- Jihad

It has been quite a year of learning, exploration and building relationships.

Advent

2 December, 2003 10:08 AM

I have been thinking a lot about Advent this week. The churches I grew up in did not really taken much notice of the 'Holy Seasons' apart from the normal Christmas and Easter services that 99.9% of Australian churches do. I'm not sure why they largely abandoned the idea of Advent. I think its unfortunate because what I am now learning is really helpful.

So as an 'advent novice' I'd love to hear people's experiences of it. Do you participate in Advent reflections/gatherings/devotions etc in any way? If so how? What resources do you find helpful? What does it mean to you?

In my looking around I've found the following online resources:

- 2003 Advent Reflections - one for each day (it also has some useful explanations of the season and some of the rituals people use during it)
- Steve's reflection on - 'if Jesus was coming to dinner Christmas Christmas eve, what would we be doing?' - a blog entry.
- The History of the Advent Calendar
- Four Themes for Advent (looks good!)
- Reclaim Advent: A creative Exercise
-
Grace Cathedral's Online
Stainglass window Advent Calendar

- I'm an Advent Christian - Article/Personal Reflection
- Preparing for the Holy
- Seeing the Unexpected in Advent
- Advent Fridge Art - Bringing Liturgical Life into the Home - There are some 'interesting' ideas here for helping children connect with the season.
- Advent Calendar
- Close Encounters of the Liturgical Kind
- Praying Advent
- Where did the
Season Advent Come from?
-
An Indian Advent Meditation
- An Advent Address - Based on Mark 13: 24-37 (Blog Entry)

Books
-
-
-

Quiet Day Reflections

20 November, 2003 3:11 PM

Today's quiet day went really well. We spent the morning alone in silent prayer and then the afternoon sharing our mornings with each other. Thanks to those who prayed for me today that I'd have a rich time - I did.

One of my colleagues started our morning off with a reflection using the metaphor of a 'river' to think about our lives. It launched me into a worthwhile couple of hours of contemplation.

I'm not going to share it all except that I felt led to Psalm 1 and found the imagery of the trees growing on the banks of the river to be a really encouraging and helpful image to think about where I am at and where the Living Room is also.

The passage talks about seasons of bearing fruit. This got me thinking about fruit trees. The amount of time in a year that they actually bear fruit isn't that great. The majority of the year is spent in preparation for the crop.

The sense I got from God today is that this past year has been a time of preparation for me and Living Room. Its been a time of putting down roots, of growing and forming. The fruit hasn't all come at once, but the work that we've been doing has been incredibly important for the season ahead.

A lot of what I sensed God saying today was about plugging into him - preparing for what is to come by building solid foundations etc. I'm not sure what is ahead for me and us as a group - but I am excited by the possibilities.

The Lord of the Rings and Religion

17 November, 2003 11:21 PM

With the upcoming release of Lord of the Rings - The Return of the King I've noticed a few Christians asking questions about the trilogy. Some ask about the religious symbolism in the movie, others are talking about Tolkien's understanding of faith and others are wondering whether Christians should go see it.

Following is a few Lord of the Rings links and books that attempt to answer some of these questions (and more) - enjoy.

Lord of the Rings: Christian Myth at Work - At Islam Online

Lord of the Rings: Judeo Christian Ethics and Mythos

"Lord Of The Rings" Based On Christian Beliefs?

Finding the Lord, in 'Lord of the Rings'

Why The Lord of the Rings Is Dangerous

The Lord of the Rings: Christian or not?

Christian History Corner: The Lord of the Rings: What Harvest? - A reader's guide to the best of epic fantasy

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: A Christian Classic Revisited

Lord of the Rings: Tolkien's Christianity - Lord of the Rings -- A Christian Classic?

The Lord of the Rings and the Christian Faith

Sacred Texts: Sources of Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings and Philosophy- One Book to Rule Them All (Book)

Does The Lord of the Rings Teach Salvation By Works?

The Lord of the Rings rooted in racism: Academic

Lord of the Rings Two Towers - Spiritual Connections

Tolkien's Lord of the Rings: Truth, Myth or Both?

Lord of the Rings - Return of the King Review

Did Tolkien Intend for Gandalf to Represent Christ?

Lord of the Rings - Fellowship of the Ring: Review at Hollywood Jesus

Frodo's Quest Inspires a Search for Allegory

I hope that there is something there that interests you - feel free to suggest your own links or comment on the questions raised in comments.

You may also be interested in a similar collection of links about the Matrix and also Harry Potter

If you have found this entry helpful helpful please consider making a contribution to help keep this site running.

Online Spirituality Focus Group

6 November, 2003 11:32 PM

I took part in a fascinating focus group tonight on the topic of Spirituality. We had a great discussion on the topic and its got me thinking. I thought I'd post the main questions for us to discuss here.

1. How do you define spirituality?

2. How do you 'practice' spirituality?

3. What are some of the ways that help you discover/develop the spiritual aspects of your life?

4. What aspects of spirituality do you find hard to explore?

5. If we were running a 10 week university course on spirituality what would be the core topics you would want to include?

Feel free to answer some or all of these questions in comments below. I'm looking forward to your thoughts.

Matrix Revolutions

6 November, 2003 2:08 PM

I completely forgot that today (or was it yesterday) was the release of Matrix Revolutions. The only thing that reminded me was that when I took a look at my blog stats this morning 10 of the last 20 referrals from search engines contained the word 'Matrix' in them. This afternoon it was 14 out of the last 20.

That in itself is not that interesting - but what got me thinking is the other words that were part of those referrals.

The most common search phrase that referred people to my blog was 'Matrix Revolutions Explained' - the second highest was 'Matrix Revolutions Philosophy' - the third was 'Matrix Revolutions Christian' and the fourth was 'Matrix Revolutions Religion'. A variation of other similar ones were there also.

Obviously my referrals are like this because of the content of this post about the different interpretations of the movie - but I'm still amazed how this series of films has obviously made people think about deeper aspects of life and faith.

On a related note the BBC slams the film. They write:

'The third and final part of the Matrix trilogy concludes in a blaze of obfuscatory special effects, leaving the audience dazed and dulled.

No-one really expects sequels to be better than the original, but Matrix Revolutions is a crushing disappointment in almost every way.'

Life Transformation Groups - LTGs

3 November, 2003 2:10 PM

Has anyone had any experience of Life Transformation Groups? I've seen a lot of churches using them lately and wonder what people think about them? Its something that some of us have been talking about but none of us have been a part of before. Your thoughts would be greatly valued.

If you've no idea what I'm talking about here is how Jacob's Well describes LTGs.

Fear of the Stranger

29 October, 2003 10:10 PM

'Christian communities fear difference sufficiently that they usually spend a considerable amount of time tending the margins or boundaries of their communities, not in order to connect with those outside but, rather, to protect themselves from strangers.

Sometimes discussions of church membership are more concerned with who is in or out than about how to be an open and welcoming community. This fear of difference is reinforced by a dualistic view of church and world that assigns good spiritual aspects to the church and evil material aspects to the surrounding world The result of this dualistic way of thinking is that Christian communities can excuse their refusal to move out to the margins as a calling to practice piety.'

- Letty Russell in 'Church in the Round'

Hospitality

27 October, 2003 1:14 PM

When did Hospitality become an Industry rather then just a normal and expected part of life and faith?

Psalm 121

25 October, 2003 2:15 PM

Have found myself drawn to this Psalm the past few days.

I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from GOD,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains.

He won't let you stumble,
your Guardian God won't fall asleep.
Not on your life! Israel's
Guardian will never doze or sleep.

GOD's your Guardian,
right at your side to protect you--
Shielding you from sunstroke,
sheltering you from moonstroke.

GOD guards you from every evil,
he guards your very life.
He guards you when you leave and when you return,
he guards you now, he guards you always.

How Inclusive?

21 October, 2003 10:13 AM

Leighton asks 'Should a church�accept everyone�regardless of their commitment to Jesus Christ?' I left my comments there.

Where Would Jesus Go? - Revisited

17 October, 2003 1:49 PM

Michelle (I'm trying to get her to start a blog - it'd be great) has been dropping by my blog for a little while now and last night left a great comment on an old post (Where Would Jesus Go? - which at the time created a bit of debate). I thought it was a pity to leave a good comment like this lurking in the archives where no one will stumble on it. This is what she wrote:

Just gotta throw this into the mix, even though it's an "old" discussion. Here in Cape Town, South Africa, there's a church for prositutes - begun simply because there are those trapped in a lifestyle they can't see out of, but feel they need a place to meet God and that they'd be shunned if they turned up on an ordinary church doorstep. Pretty spot-on re the last one I suspect. Anyway, this church is providing a place for the street ladies to meet God and out of that has come some life-changing stuff.

Yes, we DO need to get out into the world to be able to see and change it. We need to be able to relate to how people "out there" perceive things in order to minister in a relevant way to them. There are many folk who simply won't come to us.

I don't feel we should hate the sinner. God requires us to love each other as Christians, to show His unconditional love. I believe that a conviction of "sin" in one's life comes into focus the closer you get to God - pretty soon you'll know you can't keep it up and still be completely God's.

And yes, if Jesus were here today we'd find him hanging out at the places folk need him most. Whether it's the member keeping up apperances in the back pew at church or the drunk passed out in the alley outside the bar. See this article on Next-Wave for inspiration!

Thanks Michelle.

US Faith Poll

17 October, 2003 11:08 AM

'Fully 92 percent of Americans say they believe in God, 85 percent in heaven and 82 percent in miracles, according to the latest FOX News poll. Though belief in God has remained at about the same level, belief in the devil has increased slightly over the last few years � from 63 percent in 1997 to 71 percent today.'

Other observations from the study include:

- Women were more likely to believe in the supernatural than men.
- Republicans are more likely than Democrats to say they believe in the God, heaven, hell and the devil.
- Democrats are more likely than Republicans to say they believe in reincarnation, astrology, ghosts and UFOs.
- Young people are much more likely than older Americans to believe in both hell and the devil.

Potluck Worship

15 October, 2003 9:24 AM

"The origins of the word liturgy can be traced back to a combination of the ancient Greek leiter or work and laos or people and meant "something performed for the benefit of the city." Early church leaders used it to refer to "something performed by the people for the benefit of others." ...This notion, when applied to the work of worship, was new to me. I had rather naively viewed worship as something like a meal in a restaurant. If the worship leaders, who might be compared to the chef, host, hostess, and servers, did their work well, we "feasted." If their effort was more routine, we might be filled and satisfied. If their work was sloppy or inattentive, we might leave hungry or frustrated.

On that Sunday morning at East Harlem Parish, with a ministry that crossed the borders of race, class, and culture, I had a different experience. Worship was more like a church potluck supper. Everyone contributed; everyone participated; everyone benefited."

From Charles Foster's Embracing Diversity: Leadership in multicultural congregations. (p100)

What Queer Eye for the Straight Guy Can Teach the Church

8 October, 2003 7:53 PM

group05.jpgOk...this post could be the end of what is left of my rep... give me a chance ok?

The last couple of Monday nights I've found myself home and in front of the TV. For some reason I've been watching Queer Eye for the Straight Guy which is in its first season here in Australia. For those who haven't watched its basically about five gay guys (the fab 5) who spend a day giving a straight guy (with no 'style') a make over. They usually give his apartment a renovation, update his wardrobe, give him a hair cut, teach him to cook a dish and help him with some social or relational skill.

I've heard a lot of people here complaining about the show on talk back radio. Some are Christians ringing up to share their moral views, others are average Joe conservative Aussies who don't want their kids to see it and others just think its dumb.

I don't think its the most amazing show on TV at the moment - I find the stars of the show mildly amusing - I'm a bit over all the sexual innuendo already (I can't imagine how they will keep finding suggestive gay jokes for a whole season) - it is all a bit superficial at times - but I will admit I've learnt one or two things about what's lacking in my wardrobe!

But the thing that caught my attention the most was a statement made in the first week by one of the stars. To paraphrase him he said:

'We just want to help this guy reach his potential.... to be the man he has the potential to be.'

It strikes me that although he went about it very differently, Jesus actually spoke of something very similar when he said 'I've come that they may have life'. (Jn 10:10) As I look at his ministry this is what he did - he drew people into life itself. Sometimes he does it in a very quick yet tangible way as he touches someone who has been lame for life and other times he lives with them for years, challenging attitudes, teaching and encouraging them to grow.

Jesus was on about helping people to reach their potential. His make over was generally a lot more comprehensive than the fab 5, but he was in the life giving business and as his Body so should we be.

Sheep without Shepherds or Shepherds without Sheep?

7 October, 2003 9:49 AM

Joe asks the question over at Ooze blog.

Confession

6 October, 2003 10:36 AM

The Washington Post has an interesting article on the changing nature of the sacrament of Confession in the Catholic Church. Here are some excerpts:

'Gone are the days when it was customary for Catholics to confess frequently, even if they had no serious sin to declare. Gone, too, is the sense among Catholics that they cannot take communion at Mass unless they have recently been to confession.

There are many reasons for the decline in confession-going. Many Catholics find the ritual too formulaic or say they are too busy. But the major reason, experts say, is a changed sense of what constitutes a sin....

At the same time, some priests and scholars say they have seen a modest revival of interest in confession, especially among young people whose spiritual searches are drawing them back to the traditional religious practices that their baby-boomer parents left behind....

Some Protestant scholars have observed renewed interest in the practice of confession in their denominations as well.'

Running the Race

6 October, 2003 12:13 AM

Imagine running for 24,800 miles over 7 years in nothing more than a handmade sandals and robe! Why? Surely there must be a sponsorship with Nike involved, maybe a movie deal or some sort of big financial incentive?!

Not so for Genshin Fujinam, a 44 year old Buddhist monk from Japan who has just completed his 7 year ancient path to enlightenment which not only includes thousands of miles walking and running, but also an incredible amount of prayer, meditation and fasting along the way.

Did I mention that any monk who starts such a journey but fails to complete it, must die by his own hands by hanging or disemboweling himself?

Suddenly getting up in the morning for a 15 minute quiet time doesn't seem to onerous!

Read more of this amazing feat here, here and here.

Papacy Musings

5 October, 2003 10:44 PM

Robert is watching the situation with the ailing health of the Pope and asks the question who is next in line? It will be an interesting process to watch - the implications will be significant.

The Ruthless Church

30 September, 2003 11:56 PM

Steve who is currently in London has written this challenging reflection which echoes around in my head tonight - mainly because it reminds me of numerous similar conversations I've had with young people the last couple of years.

PS: sorry about the title of this post - I couldn't resist.

What a Pearler

30 September, 2003 9:49 AM

'The Kingdom of heaven is like a man who is looking for fine pearls, and when he finds one that is unusually fine, he goes and sells everything he has , and buys that pearl.' Matthew 13:45-46.

What passionate imagery of the Kingdom of God.

I was once given this little parable to speak on. I was preparing to present a challenge to 'give up all' for the 'pearl of Jesus' when a soft voice whispered in my inner ear.

'You're the pearl Darren.'

There began another journey of discovery, healing and freedom.

Church Leavers

29 September, 2003 12:54 PM

Just founds some amazing stats from a study on people leaving the church.

��They were not leaving 'mainline' churches in decline. They were leaving growing evangelical, pentecostal, and charismatic churches.

��They were not leaving during 'adolescence'. They were leaving as adults, predominantly between thirty and forty-five years of age.

��They were not leaving after being involved for a short time. They were leaving after an average of 15.8 years of involvement.

� They were not leaving from the fringe, but from the very core. 94% were church leaders. P18 40% in full-time Christian study or work or both.

There is heaps more here. Insightful stuff.

Jesus - Strikes a Pose

28 September, 2003 2:16 PM

This morning I went shopping - summer is coming (I HOPE) and I'm one or two T-Shirts short. So I decided to walk down Brunswick St and into the city. (a good half hour walk). I've talked about Brunswick St before here - its heaven - great cafes, bars, organic food shops, internet cafes and fashion shops. Its got a real alternative edgy vibe.

As I often do I decided to treat my walk as a bit of a prayer exercise and ask myself the question - 'Where is Jesus in Brunswick St?. Another way of asking it is to ask 'Where are God's fingerprints?' (this is part of an exercise from Ignition)

Today I saw Jesus in all the usual places on Brunswick St - in the community, the eating, the celebration of yesterdays football final, in the community care centers, in the park etc. But today I also saw him in a new place....the fashion!

Jesus featured prominently and explicitly on five T-shirts and one sweatshirt that I saw today. And I'm not talking about T-shirts I saw in Christian bookshops or from Christian fashion labels - I'm talking T-shirts in edgy alternative fashion shops and on street-wear labels!

In some the message seemed a little sarcastic - those I saw included:

'JE$U$ $AVE$!' another simple said 'Jesus loves me' and a third said 'Jesus is my homeboy'.

The others had pictures of him.

I also saw a huge sign of Jesus which said 'Jesus was a Refugee' which was in the window of a multi cultural center. It was a larger version of a postcard that has been very popular on the streets that is campaigning for rights for refugees.

Lastly I saw Jesus in some street art in the city. It was a chalk artist in one of the Malls. The rest of his work wasn't religious at all so I'm not sure he was a Christian.

I'm not sure what my point is - or even if there is one - except to say that Jesus seems to be featuring a fair bit in pop culture in Melbourne at present - interesting.

Fundamentalism

12 September, 2003 5:45 AM

"The regressive appeal of the religious fundamentalisms has to be taken seriously at this time. After 11 September 2001, and the collapsing of the World Trade Center in New York, all of us should be concerned about the rising tide of fundamentalism, especially within the three monotheisms: Islam, Judaism and Christianity. In the contemporary world, where so much is open and uncertain, where traditions have been shaken or overturned, where we stand almost naked before the spirit, there is a strong counter-revolutionary force: a desire for absolute certainty, religious security, and nostalgic traditionalism. Fundamentalisms offer us a parodic version of our need to turn back to the past, only here the turn back is a full blown regression, a deliberate and systematic retreat from the demands and revolutions of the modern period. This is not going back in order to move forward, but going back to escape the tensions and complexities of a different present.

Fundamentalism also supplies a distorted version of the past: its past is largely invented, a projection of regressive social values and anti-modern perspectives into an imagine former era."

David Tacey - The Spiritual Revolution: The emergence of contemporary spirituality

Street Evangelism Madrid Style

6 September, 2003 10:16 PM

Spent the morning wandering the streets of Madrid today before we head off to London tomorrow. While I waited to meet up with V (shopping :-) I witnessed three groups of people doing street evangelism in 5 minutes. I�m always somewhat drawn to people doing it to see their approach....I�m not sure why, I personally struggle with the �cold call� approach and would rather build relationships with people in the places I naturally live and relate in.... however I still am interested in others approaches.

The first couple I watched were walking down the street chanting while holding signs. Their signs and chanting were in Spanish so I didn�t get the full gist of it but I did recognise the words �SIN� and �JESUS� on the sign.

The second group was similar. As they walked one held a sign (again with the word �SIN� clearly visable while the other played a harmonica (mouth organ) through a megaphone.

The third group (6 people) had signs hung around their neck each with a different part of John 3:16 on them. They were attempting (unsuccessfully) to get those passing by to arrange them in the correct order. It reminded me of a memory verse game we used to play in Sunday School as children.

I am not in a position to judge these different approaches, partly because my Spanish doesn�t go past saying �hello�and �thankyou�and partly because I only saw 30 seconds of each group, however I wonder what the result of their time is and what other approaches people take around the world?

here are some of my photos from our visit to the Museo Nacional Del Prado here in Madrid.

Cut and Paste Central

13 August, 2003 5:44 PM

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

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

Prayer of the Vine.

3 August, 2003 4:53 PM

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

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

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

Nudie Bar Mission

20 July, 2003 9:09 AM

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

Create a God

16 July, 2003 10:00 AM

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

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

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

15 July, 2003 12:39 PM

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

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

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

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

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

I added the following to the models outlined above:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I also added a few other brief comments about

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

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

Sunday Stroll

13 July, 2003 1:50 PM

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

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

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

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

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

The Rhythm Method of Mission

8 July, 2003 3:50 PM

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

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

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

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

Examen

7 July, 2003 9:53 PM

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

BBC tells Christians to Get with the Program!

6 July, 2003 10:55 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paganism in Australia

4 July, 2003 11:31 AM

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

Is working in a church a hindrance to spiritual development?

3 July, 2003 11:37 PM

John Campea asks the above question.

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

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

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

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

Is working in a church a hindrance to spiritual development?

3 July, 2003 11:37 PM

John Campea asks the above question.

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

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

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

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

Kingdom Talk

3 July, 2003 3:18 PM

On Tuesday I read the four gospels.

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

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

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

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

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

Who's the Missionary?

1 July, 2003 10:17 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Quotable

30 June, 2003 10:32 PM

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

The Game

29 June, 2003 9:39 PM

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

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

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

i Church 1.0

27 June, 2003 10:58 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WWJG II

27 June, 2003 4:07 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Passion and Brokenness

26 June, 2003 3:38 PM

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

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

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

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

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

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

Go? Attract?

24 June, 2003 5:10 PM

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

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

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

I would answer the question by saying YES.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where Would Jesus Go?

23 June, 2003 10:09 AM

'If Jesus was to show up in your town or suburb today to spend a week - where would he go, who would he hang out with and what would he do?' I asked a group of Christian youth and young adults during a workshop to work on the above question.

The list they generated was a fascinating one. It included

- in the homes of single moms
- at the local high school with the smokers
- at the horse racing track
- he'd do a shift on the kids help line
- in the pubs and clubs
- on the streets helping the drug addicts and homeless
- at the hospital healing people
- at the strip club/brothel
- talking to the dorks at school
- in the public housing estate with the refugees and unemployed
- he'd stand up against the casino
- at the gay bar
- he'd confront the prime minister about the way we treat refugees and indigenous people.
- he'd hang around with 'ordinary' people

There were a lot more responses but you get the picture.

Paul's words 'You are the Body of Christ' ring in my ears as I look at this list.

There is a lot that can be said about that verse — it speaks of many things. It is one that often gets pulled out to talk about unity between Christians (and so it should). But I wonder if that's only half the picture.

Bodies give us a physical presence. Without a body we'd be limited in our capacity to do anything. We are the body of Jesus — we are his physical presence in the world today.

We are pretty good at identifying where Jesus would turn up in our culture — the gospels give us a pretty good idea of that — but when it comes to his physical presence in the world today I think the responsibility rests largely upon our shoulders.

If the above list is where Jesus would go — and the Church is his body — why is it not in these places in force? Is the body of Christ suffering from paralysis?

The gospels show us that Jesus also spent time with his community and time in prayer with the Father — we as his body need to do likewise — but so much of the gospel is about him connecting with those outside his immediate circle of followers.

I'm going to the pub again....no....its too early to be open....I'm going for a coffee

Sunday Rant

22 June, 2003 2:26 PM

I know I mentioned this post in my last one but Randall Friesen is spot on the money with his post on HP.

I like this little bit: 'The closed spiritual skies over peoples lives have been opened wide, God is at work, calling speaking, moving. We've been praying for a greater hunger and thirst in the world, haven't we? But when God pulls the lid off our spiritual eyes, it turns into open season on what people move toward. All things spiritual are released and men and women's hearts are just hungry enough to look for answers in ALL the places, right or wrong.'

I cannot remember the amount of prayer meetings I've been in over the years where people have prayed that God would move in our nation and around the globe - that people would have their eyes opened to the spiritual, to God. I've seen people cry, jump up and down, make weird noises and do other bizarre things as they pray for 'revival'.

In recent years I've noticed that a lot of my non churchy friends have begun to explore 'spiritual things', that our society is also fascinated with it, the spiritual/mysterious is in the TV shows and movies being watched, the books being read, shopping way people are exploring their health and in the conversations that they have. Here in Melbourne the 'Mind, Body and Spirit' festival is one of the best attended exhibitions of the year and New Age festivals, Yoga classes, meditation groups etc are springing up all over the city.

People of all ages are searching - they want to dialogue - they are willing to make sacrifices to connect with what is 'out there'.

What an opportunity we have to join people in their spiritual searching and to share our stories and hear theirs. Yet what do we do? We condemn their activities as of Satanic, we withdraw from any activity that we don't understand or that looks suspect and in the process we ostracise ourselves from the people who we are called to love.

It reminds me of this true story that I wrote a while back that still makes my stomach churn today.

I don't understand why we continue to gather together in our little 'holy huddles' praying that God would do something in our world when its so obvious that he's already out there doing it and waiting for us to join him!

Yes - On this Sunday God is at the New Age festivals wooing people to him, God is in the pubs and cafes where people are discussing their latest philosophical ideas whispering in their ears and God holding the millions of children in his arms as they read Harry Potter stimulating their ideas and intriguing them with the wonders of life.

The question is - Where are us Christians on this Sunday and what are we doing?

I'm going to the pub.....

Harry Potter - a debateable debate

21 June, 2003 4:23 PM

Stumbled upon a Harry Potter discussion that makes me angry. Jake writes about how it will drive teens to become witches and rants agains parents letting their kids read and watch HP.

I guess Jake comes from a similar camp as the person who just wrote me an email complaining that my Gary Kotter entry was also 'flirting with one of Satan's favourite tools'.

I responded to Jake with this comment:

I think the debate over whether Harry Potter is good or evil is a pretty useless one.

You see I don't think such a discussion will ever stop young people from reading it - there is nothing you can say or do to stop the kids I teach in Religion class in the local primary school from reading the book or seeing the movie.

A more useful discussion to have would be how do we journey with kids who do read and watch Harry Potter? (which here in Australia is most of them!) If our stance is blatantly standing against something that they love do we cut off an opportunity to talk to them about Spirituality? I think that in each of the books that there are numerous entry points to a fantastic discussion about faith, spirituality and ultimately Jesus.

This doesn't mean we should endorse the occult, witchcraft. However if we spend all our time protesting about the book I suspect we've missed an amazing opportunity - an opportunity to dialogue, to interpret, to tell our own stories and to help the millions of Harry Potter readers to enter into a life beyond anything that the books will ever speak about!

So I say - get out there and read it - look for the Jesus themes - find the entry points for life giving conversation - don't be scared of it - God's bigger than anything it contains - and engage with the children of our world who are currently intrigued by HP but could potentially be obsessed with JC!

All I'll add is that I personally enjoy the books and movies and that as a result of reading them I've had some amazing conversations with the children (and adults) I have contact with. I believe that God can show up in the most unexpected and ordinary places in life - even in a Harry Potter book!

update: Randall says it alot better than me! Nice post mate.

Holistic Spirituality - Wrapping it all up

19 June, 2003 10:01 PM

Thanks for your patience with me on this series of posts. I've found it helpful to write it down. I'm doing another camp next week on the topic so its been helpful preparation.

Here are the posts in the series one last time. INTRO - TRUTH - WONDER - ACTION - LOVE

In summing up I'll make a few last points:

- I'm not a 'Spirituality Expert' by any means at all - in fact in looking at the four quadrants I wonder if I've even really got off ground floor yet!

- The model is not perfect. The four areas overlap significantly and on the two dimensional diagram (pictured below) it is difficult to be strong on both Truth and Love or on both Wonder and Action.

- The model does not describe 'how it is' for all - rather its designed as a framework to think about spirituality - to evaluate the status quo and to inspire growth in new areas.

- This model is not only relevant for individuals but churches might also be able to identify their corporate strengths and growth areas on the model. The diagram pictured makes some gross generalisations about where types of churches MIGHT be able to be plotted.

- The hypothesis of the model is that we can all grow in each area and that a holistic spirituality draws on all quadrants (aims for the middle). Each of us will probably be able to identify one or more areas where we feel we are more comfortable, this might be due to personality, upbringing or experiences. Its fine to have a strong area, but the point of the model is to encourage us to not only celebrate our strengths but to spur us onto developing other ways to connect with God.

- There are dangers in going to the extreme in any area of the model. Individuals and communities can get dangerously out of balance at times - balance is so important.

- In looking at my own life I can plot myself on the model at different places at different times in my life. I suspect this is a normal and healthy thing, especially for young Christians making sense of their faith.

Here is the diagram - I have a word doc copy of it if you'd like a larger copy.

I'm very interested in your feedback on this last series of posts. What do you think of the model? Is it missing something? Does it over emphasise something? Where would you plot your strengths and growth areas? What ways do you use to keep balance?

Holistic Spirituality - LOVE

19 June, 2003 8:53 PM

LOVE is the final aspect of the Holistic Spirituality model that we've been looking at this week. Similarly to ACTION the focus is not on the individual in this quadrant but on others — however LOVE is expressed with a narrower focus upon the community of faith. Concepts like 'community', 'fellowship', 'body of Christ' and 'Church' are dominant in here.

People who operate naturally in this quadrant feel most connected to God and alive in their faith when they are journeying with other followers of Jesus. This may mean journeying with others in the areas of TRUTH, WONDER and ACTION but also includes the day to day sharing of life in big and small ways (through meals, pastoral care, shared living and developing friendships with other believers etc).

As with other areas previously explored, Jesus was constantly developing this aspect of Spirituality in his own life and that of his disciples. He calls a diverse group of people to come together to follow him not only as individuals but as a community sharing the ups and downs of life. Together they not only worshipped, learnt and did mission but they also engaged in the normal activities of life including weddings, meals and festivals.

Unity among those he left was of paramount importance to Jesus as we can see in his prayer of John 17 and the topic of LOVE was a constant feature in his teaching.

The early Church recognised early that their only way forward was to continue to journey together. The picture of this dynamic community is an inspiring one (Acts 2:43-47). It is no wonder that this was a growing group that was attractive to those living in the world around them because there was such an emphasis upon caring for those in need and shared life together.

Paul also was convinced that faith was not something for the individual but rather for communities. His language is almost always written in the plural, and his teaching is often focused upon how believers should live together. The Body of Christ imagery(1 Corinthians 12:12-31) paints a wonderful picture of how we are called to operate corporately. Similarly 1 John 3 calls for love to be central.

Likewise the Old Testament is equally as focused with the theme of journeying together. 'Family', 'tribe', 'nation' and 'the people of God' are all central.

My personal journey in this aspect of faith is still developing. As an introvert I sometimes have found it a little difficult to grapple with but recently have felt a growing awareness that the Church is just not cutting it in this area. I wonder if perhaps we delude ourselves that we are in 'community' with our cups of coffee after church and a quick sharing time at the end of bible study. Maybe we're not really willing to risk of getting close to others, maybe we're just lazy or maybe we've just bought into our cultures individualistic obsession!

I think its something we really need to grapple with because in my experience people today are just not willing to believe these days unless they first feel a sense of belonging within communities of faith.

How do you go in this aspect of Spirituality? Is it something you feel you've experienced either in the past or currently? How do you seek to develop community with other believers?

UPDATE: Here are the complete set of links to this series. 1. INTRO - 2. TRUTH - 3. WONDER - 4. ACTION - 5. LOVE - 6. Wrapping it all up.

Holistic Spirituality - ACTION

19 June, 2003 8:57 AM

ACTION is the third quadrant of the Holistic Spirituality model. This is where spirituality extends beyond being purely an 'inner' thing and impacts the world around us. The emphasis leans more towards 'doing' and ones attention comes off the self and is lifted to include others. The two areas of JUSTICE (seeking to stand up for injustices faced by individuals, groups and the environment) and EVANGELISM/MISSION (seeking to share the Gospel message with others whether within or across cultures) generally dominate this quadrant. They are often seen as separate but I feel that they can and should be, where possible, strongly linked.

In the same way that some will find themselves naturally drawn to connecting with God in the areas of TRUTH and WONDER, others will find themselves feeling most alive in God when they are participating in what God is doing in the world they live in. This can be expressed in many ways ranging from as formal missionaries both locally or overseas, to sharing ones faith in a place of study, work or home, to being involved in local community groups.

Jesus was constantly engaged in Action. If you were to tear out every page of the gospels where he didn't heal, cast out a demon, preach, stand up for someone or against some issue you would have very little left, if anything. His mission statement (Luke 4:18-19) should have given those around him a hint at what his focus would be as should his teaching which called people out of a selfish focus to that of service. He was also interested in drawing his disciples into this action frenzy as can be seen from his calling 'I will teach you how to fish for people'. (Matthew 4:19) through to his last words to them 'Go make disciples' (Matthew 28:18-20) and 'You will be my witnesses'. (Acts1:7-8)

The early church was eager to grapple with Jesus' commands to action. Empowered by the Holy Spirit and under persecution they changed the world they lived on baptising thousands and planting churches as they were forced to scatter throughout the known world. Along the way they continued the pattern of healing (Acts 5:12) and preaching that had been established by Jesus.

The Old Testament is also rich with material in this area with many passages showing Gods desire for his people to be creating a just society. The exhortation to care for the widow, orphan, refuge and the poor are repeated again and again. (Isaiah 1:17)

James sums it up as bluntly with the words, 'Faith without works is dead, it is no faith at all.' (James 2:14-17) Billy Graham says faith without works is like inhaling without exhaling (which could be rather messy). Another nice analogy is that faith and works are like the two chemical components of salt, sodium and chloride, both of which by themselves will kill you if you sprinkle them on your steak and chips but when combined as salt they are a life giving property. Maybe this is what Jesus meant when he told his disciples that they were 'the salt of the earth'!?

This is another area that I personally have grown a lot in over the past few years. Growing up I always shied away from it, mainly out of fear that I didn�t have the formulaic evangelism method that I'd been taught in �missions lesson� at church down pat. It might also have been slightly put off by the fact that our youth pastor forced us to go door knocking and street evangelising with him every now and again! More recently I�ve been relieved to find that mission is not just about bowling strangers up in the street with a bible and �selling� them Jesus and that relational evangelism is also a valid and effective approach in the times we live in! I've also felt a growing passion of late for a number of local and international social justice issues and have begun to explore what my personal response might be. Again, I'm no expert in this area, but am loving the recent freedom that I've found to operate within it.

Is ACTION a natural and important way that you connect with God? In what ways have you experienced or struggled with it? Why do you think so many people do struggle with it? (most groups I've taken through this model have identified this as their weakest area) Leave a comment to spur the rest of us onto action!

UPDATE: Here are the complete set of links to this series. 1. INTRO - 2. TRUTH - 3. WONDER - 4. ACTION - 5. LOVE - 6. Wrapping it all up.

Holistic Spirituality - WONDER

17 June, 2003 11:59 PM

In the WONDER quadrant of the Holistic Spirituality model the experiential is important. This way of connecting with God focuses on engaging our hearts, senses and emotions. Prayer is a dominant idea, as is Worship. Interaction and engagement with the Holy Spirit is often a focus for people who connect well in this area. Experiencing God through creation and the mystical methods of reflection and prayer are ways to engage this area of spirituality. Contemplation and meditation are also important. The focus is largely about developing intimacy with God.

While some people will connect with more naturally connect with God through their minds others will be much more comfortable connecting with their hearts. Church comes alive for these people during times of worship and prayer, through story telling, use of image and creative/alternative/ancient forms of worship. They might also be energised by their own personal times with God in prayer and meditation.

Jesus operated out of this quadrant in his life. We often see him in lonely places praying and fasting (Mark 3:13). These times seem to energise and empower him. We also see him interacting with and led by the Holy Spirit. (Matthew 4:1) It is evident that his relationship with the father is one of real intimacy. He not only has knowledge about his 'Abba' (Daddy) but he has oneness with him. We find Jesus not only prays in private but also in public (John 17) and that teaches his disciples to engage in prayer also. (Luke 11:1-13) Jesus style of teaching through parables and storytelling is also a way of helping his followers to engage the wondrous side of their spirituality. His preaching is also filled with challenges to be intimate with God - John 15 (the vine and the branches) is a wonderful picture of this intimacy. 'Remain in me and I will remain in you. This is wondrous language!

The early church also engaged in this sphere of their faith. We find in them constantly meeting for prayer (Acts 4:24) and worship (Acts 2:46) and there is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is an important and empowering focus for them. (Acts 21-13) Paul constantly models prayer for the communities he writes to (Ephesians 1:16-23) and encourages them to do likewise. (Colossians 4:2-4)

The Old Testament is full of wonder - Psalms and Song of Songs have a life time of material for engaging the heart and describing an intimate relationship with God.

I personally have grown a lot in this area over the past ten years. Its been refreshing to discover God in new and refreshing ways through prayer, worship, creation and story telling. In the 90's I began to explore some of this through 'contemporary worship'. My church also gradually began to be more open about the Holy Spirit (and eventually even described themselves as 'mildly Charismatic'!) I found the journey to be wonderfully refreshing although at times wondered if the heavy focus upon 'singing' was perhaps too narrow! I made a concerted effort to expand my wondrous horizons and soon discovered that I could connect with God through creation (bushwalking/camping), through my own creativity (photography) and in more recent years in some more alternative and ancient forms of worship. By no means have I arrived in this area, but I'm loving the journey.

How do you find this aspect of faith? Is it an area you feel you are growing or stagnant in? Does it energise you or frustrate you? What have you discovered on the journey that might inspire, encourage or resource the rest of us in this area?

UPDATE: Here are the complete set of links to this series. 1. INTRO - 2. TRUTH - 3. WONDER - 4. ACTION - 5. LOVE - 6. Wrapping it all up.

Holistic Spirituality - TRUTH

17 June, 2003 4:45 PM

Thanks for those of you who have expressed interest in the 'Holistic Spirituality' model that I mentioned earlier. Sorry to those logging on yesterday to get the next instalment - Its been a crazy few days!

As I wrote previously: "The model is pretty simple - and identifies four main ways that people tend to connect with God. We each tend to be strong in at least one area and often are week in one also. Alan's hypothesis is that to develop in one's spirituality they should be growing in each of the four dimensions.

The first of the quadrants of the model is TRUTH.
This way of connecting with God is predominantly through thinking. Here ideas are important and the brain is engaged. Theology is central as is putting words and language to faith. This is where we seek to understand more of who God is, who we are, what belief and faith is. Here Scripture is held onto, and is generally regarded highly and it is studied vigorously. The focus is largely 'God' with the mind.

Some people will naturally be 'thinkers' and love to connect with God in this way. Their favourite part of church might be a good meaty sermon where the Word is expounded and the mind is challenged. People who are strong in this area might be drawn strongly to bible study groups that take an intellectual approach to their activities or to reading stretching books on faith or theology.

Jesus was someone who operated in this way throughout his ministry. We find him as a young boy in the Temple(Luke 2:46) expanding his mind (and the minds of those around him!), we see he has a good grasp of Scripture and that he uses it to resist temptation in the wilderness (Luke 4:1-13), he also quotes it throughout his ministry and in his teaching stretches the minds and theology of those listening to him. He also was keen to see his disciples grappling with his teachings - John 8:31-32, "if you hold onto my teaching you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free."

The early church also developed in this area - we see in the early chapters of Acts that the community was devoted to the teaching of the Apostles(Acts 4:13) and that Paul in his letters was keen to stretch his reader's thinking at times. He writes to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:7 — 'Think about what I'm saying. The Lord will give you understanding in these areas'

Hebrews 5:11 — 6:1 challenges us to move beyond the basics and to get onto the solids of faith. Too often I fear that we don't really grapple with this area of faith. God has given us the capacity to think but do we extend this gift to our faith?

Of the four areas that I'll be covering this week, Truth is probably my 'weakest link'. Whilst I am not interested in putting the guilt's on anyone who struggles in this area, the point of this model is to encourage us all to do some thinking about where we are strong (and celebrate that) and where we are weak (and make decisions to improve in that area). Over the years I've had to force myself to grow in this area through enrolling in a Theology degree (its only taken me 9 years so far), reading some meaty books and throwing myself into conversations and debates I might otherwise have avoided. Every time I do I'm constantly amazed at the way my faith is deepened!

How do you go in this area? Is it a natural and energising part of your faith or do you also struggle with it? What have you discovered that might help the rest of us grow and extend ourselves as we seek to engage our minds? Do you use any exercises or resources that help in this area? Leave your comments below so that we all might benefit from your experience.

UPDATE: Here are the complete set of links to this series. 1. INTRO - 2. TRUTH - 3. WONDER - 4. ACTION - 5. LOVE - 6. Wrapping it all up.

A significant equation

14 June, 2003 5:03 PM

Significance = Others Opinion of You + Your Achievements

Tomorrow I'm speaking at Horsham Church of Christ (which is about 3 hours to the west of Melbourne. I'm doing a 'Holistic Spirituality Workshop' in the afternoon and then in the evening speaking at a youth gathering.

In the evening I'm talking about the messages that our world says to us, largely through the media.

The average Aussie teen is exposed to 600 commercials every day (I'd say that's a conservative estimate). So by the time they are 60 they've seen or heard 13,140,000 ads! Add to that the 8 years of television shows that they watch in a life plus all the time online, in magazines, at the movies and in front of computer games and you've got a lot of messages!!!

We are hearing ALOT of messages. Some are really worthwhile, but I suspect that many may be outright lies! For instance, one study showed that one in four commercials made some direct statement about beauty. Another showed that 69% of women on TV were significantly under the weight of the average weight of women. Another showed that overweight men on TV were always cast as the funny guy who was the butt of the joke, bald men were generally cast as geeks or nerds and that the powerful, romantic and serious roles generally ended up with guys with athletic bodies and full heads of hair!

I think the equation above (which is taken from a course a church here in Melbourne runs) is a pretty good way of summing up a lot of these messages that we hear. To be significant you have to make others think highly over you and be a high achiever. The more I think about it the more I see this as true...both in my own life but also in the lives of those living around me.

Today I asked myself the questions: When do I feel most alive? When do I feel most worthwhile and valuable? When do I feel at my lowest?

The answers surprised me and point to the fact that I often feel most valuable when another person has told me I did or do something well or when I've just done something that I'm proud of...whether it be a good grade at school...buying my latest gadget/toy... writing a good post on my blog ...or standing in front of the mirror and realising that those push ups have been having an effect!

Not that there is anything wrong with being liked or achieving - they are fine things in their own right - however when we base our value and significance upon them we're setting ourselves up for a fall. Its just impossible to always have others like us and to always be successful

There have been two times in my life when I've contemplated ending it all. In hindsight I realise these two times were when I went through times of rejection by others and realisation that I had failed at something I saw as important.

Its a risky equation to buy into! It therefore doesn't surprise me that Australia has the second highest suicide rate in the world per capita and that so many of those ending their lives are 18 -25 year old males. All day every day they are told to achieve, succeed and make sure they are loved. So when the day comes when the rejection of another or a failure inevitably comes the reason to go on living disappears.

The people who came up with the above equation also came up with a second one that they say describes how God views our significance. When I first looked at it I cringed a little, it sounds a little corny...however I can't think of a better way to express where true significance comes from. Its definitely a better 'equation' than the first, but I'd invite your response to it if you feel moved to do so.

Real Significance = Gods Opinion of You + Jesus' Achievements

Interview with Bilal 3

13 June, 2003 4:19 PM

This is the last part of my interview with my Muslim friend, Bilal. Here is Part 1 and Part 2

What social responsibilities does your faith leave you with?
One of the main pillars of Islam is Zakah (or charity) in which we give financially so that those who are less well off. Whilst I do not personally have any involvement with the distribution of this money I believe through my giving that I am having a positive impact upon the wider community.

I also feel I have the responsibility to care for my family as a result of my faith. Family is central to my belief. I did not leave home until I married and even after doing so remain close to my family. As my dad gets older my responsibility for caring for him grows. At some point in the future he will probably move into our home so that we will care for him.

Our Mosque is also proactive about getting involved in the wider community. We annually have an open day where people can come and receive a tour through our buildings, eat our food, hear about our prayer and ask questions. Last year we had thousands of people through over the day. We also take part in local community days, sometimes even working with local churches to put them on. These are very important to us, especially with the current focus on Islam. We try to debunk myths that people think apply to us.

What is it like being part of a minority group here in Australia?
In recent times being a Muslim in this country has become more difficult. I personally have not been persecuted but others from the Mosque, especially some of the women, have been on the receiving end of comments and threats in the street. The media is mixed in their portrayal of Muslim people, it concerns me that at times we are portrayed with sweeping statements and generalisation.

Up until the latest renewed focus on Islam I had not had much feeling of being ostracized from the rest of my wider community.

The other issues for me are the normal problems of finding time and space to pray and a few dietary considerations as living in a society that is so preoccupied with sexually loose morals. This was difficult for me growing up especially as a teenage boy.

What are the main misconceptions people have about Islam and Muslims?
I think the general population does not misunderstand us. There are a few stereotypes that come out in the media from time to time though. The big one is that all Muslims are violent terrorists and extremists. Others are that we oppress women and that we are all Arabs who are intolerant of other people's faiths. In my opinion none of these are true.

What is your view on how Islam values women?
We value women very highly. They are individuals with rights and responsibilities like I have. Both men and women are supposed to dress modestly and behave appropriately. Some of our female friends choose to ear the veil and do so not because they are forced to but rather because they find it actually brings freedom from having to conform to the way our society expects women to behave. My wife makes decisions for herself, she works, she socialises and she is my equal.

Holistic Spirituality

13 June, 2003 10:26 AM

What is the number one topic I'm getting to speak about lately?

Developing a more holistic Spirituality.

Before I go any further I'll say that by no means am I an expert in the topic, some days I look at my own spirituality and wonder if I'm kidding myself!

However its something people are really keen to explore and something that I've been thinking about a lot of late.

Whilst I'm not a big fan of 'models' I use one in my workshops as a framework to help people flesh out their current strengths and areas for growth in their spirituality. The model was developed by a guy here in Melbourne called Alan Hirsch (who blogs occasionally at Stinky Convoluted Past). Its something that gives me a framework to think about my own faith and that I've used for a few years now in the communities that I've been involved in - I've found it very helpful. In some ways it reminds me of a simpler version of Richard Foster's .

The model is pretty simple - and identifies four main ways that people tend to connect with God. We each tend to be strong in at least one area and often are week in one also. Alan's hypothesis is that to develop in one's spirituality they should be growing in each of the four dimensions.

No one will ever 'arrive' or 'make it' in any one of the dimensions — that's not the point. Rather the encouragement is to not rest on the areas that we might be strong in, but rather to continue to expand our understanding of God and the ways in which we connect with him. This will sometimes mean us leaving our comfort zones, sometimes it might even mean opening out minds to things that we'd previously 'written off' - but in my experience as we do this, we enter into new dimensions of our faith.

It takes a while to unpack the model - but over the next week (starting Monday) I'll attempt to flesh it out a little.

As I do, I'm especially keen for your feedback and also your ideas about how YOU develop your faith in each of these areas - practical ideas would be great as I'm toying with the idea of developing a resource which will be a practical companion to the workshops I do.

UPDATE: Here are the links to Parts 1-6 of this series. 1. INTRO - 2. TRUTH - 3. WONDER - 4. ACTION - 5. LOVE - 6. Wrapping it all up.

Kids and God

10 June, 2003 4:49 PM

This afternoon I did my usual session of teaching RE again in the local primary school. Today I took a video camera into the class to interview them. I had a group of 8 ten to twelve year olds and we did interviews on the topic of 'What is God like?' I was a little sceptical that we'd be able to get much out of them as most of them are not church kids - but their responses were quite amazing. I wish I could video stream it for you...however for legal reasons (and my lack of technical nouse) I can't. After we finish videoing next week I'll put up some of their responses.

I will say that they were very open to talking about God and very honest in their responses. They didn't feel the need to pretend that they knew or believed God, some expressed that they were not sure. Others had some really great insights on deep topics....somehow we got onto is God male or female?. Others talked about their experience of prayer....it was quite a comprehensive session.

I love the way kids so honestly tell it like it is.

Pentecost - Church Emerging

8 June, 2003 9:24 AM

Pentecost is here and I'm excited!

I'm looking forward to a great celebration with two other local churches this morning. I've just finished a practice run through my input and am feeling personally challenged by the message. (I almost went forward for Salvation in my own lounge room....but then who would have prayed for me as I knelt at the alter....I mean couch!?)

Seriously - I love Pentecost. What an amazing transformation of 120 pretty ordinary people, who must have been pretty confused and unsure of their future. They must have been somewhat overwhelmed by the last words of Jesus which laid before them a world wide mission! How could they possibly fulfil that!? What I love about it is that they go from being a church in hiding (locked away in some room) to being on the streets communicating the gospel in ways they never would have imagined previously! The before and after shot is an amazing study in contrasts.

I think this is a very important message for the church today. We too live in a crazy world - we too have a world wide mission given to us. This week I've been chatting to a number of church leaders around the globe, in New Zealand, Canada, America and the UK. One thing I notice is that we are all asking questions about Church and that a lot of the questions I suspect are pretty similar to the questions that Peter and the other 119 might have been asking as they gathered to pray that day.

Who are we? Where are we going? What does church look like in this changing world? How do we do mission? How do we communicate the gospel to our world when we don't speak its languages? Its amazing to see how so many of us are asking the same questions at the same time at all corners of the globe.

I come away from the first few chapters of Acts with real hope. We worship a God who is into transformation big time! God is interested in change and in bringing wholeness. He does it on an individual level (take a look at a before and after shot of Peter if you want proof), he does it on a communal level (check out Acts 2:42f) and he does it on a world wide level (that 120 people became 3120 in a day...and just look at the numbers today in 2003!). There is hope. In fact as I think about it, if there is one day in the year that us Emerging Church type people hold onto, learn from and celebrate the most — I reckon Pentecost should be it!

There is so much we can take from this passage, I feel like I've got about 3 or 4 sermons in me!

- This is a community of prayer, even before the fire and wind - this has to be key for us today!

- This is a group who see the importance of community, again even before Pentecost they are meeting together, they understand that God desires us to do faith together.

- This is a community that is willing to be moved, reshaped and refined. They are willing to let God move them, even in very sacrificial ways. Some of them sell all their possessions, others end up in international mission and others give up their lives. Are we willing to be moved by God? Are we willing to let him reshape us as individuals and as communities so that we can be better suited to serve him?

Ok - now I've 'warmed up' on you I'm going to go to church... Have a happy birthday Church!

Hillsong

7 June, 2003 10:49 AM

fridaysixpm (6th June - permalinks not working?)has an interesting review of a TV expose on Hillsong an Aussie Pentecostal church which has attracted alot of criticism over the past years.

You can get the transcript of the program here

fridaysixpm writes:

"There's a lot I could say about this church. Of course I respect people's right to express their spirituality in whatever way seems appropriate to them, but as far as I'm concerned Hillsongs as an organisation embodies the worst of consumerism and sexism while denying its members the full range of human experience (God wants you to be happy all the time!). For outsiders, the Hillsongs phenomenon is fascinating, as well as an annoying tax scam. For thousands of church-members, it can be close to abuse. "

Update: Eddie has a rant on a similar topic.

Thanks for the discussion that is going on in comments below - lets remember to treat each other with respect as we discuss. On the topic of prosperity - I highly recommend the book 'Praying like Jesus' (pictured above/right).

Update 2: I'd like to thank all that have contributed to this conversation - we've had around comments left over the past 13 months - its obviously a hot topic that people feel very deeply about on both sides.

I have deleted a few comments left on this thread from people taking both sides who were unable to contain their anger to a point where their comments got to a stage of personal attacks and crude language.

After a lot of thinking about it I've decided to close comments to this thread as I feel we've probably achieved as much as we can with the discussion. I'm not sure that anything anyone can now say would add much to the conversation or change too many people's minds either way.

I've appreciated all those who've participated in this discussion - valid points have been made from numerous perspectives. I see validity in both sides of the conversation personally but feel that the conversation is perhaps heading in a direction where it could be seen as more destructive than anything else. As a result I'm closing comments as of now. I'll allow the comments already post to remain as a record of our conversations and hope its a useful resource to those thinking through the issues discussed.

Pre Fire and Wind

6 June, 2003 8:28 AM

Something I've written for Sunday:

As I stood up to speak to those that had gathered, his words still rang in my ears.

He'd said, �Go, make disciples of all nations!�

He'd said, �You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.�

I looked around at those who had gathered — the 'witnesses' — and my heart sank.

There was John, James and Andrew — simple fishermen. Sitting with them was Matthew the Tax Collector and Simon the Zealot. Then there was Philip, Thomas, Bartholomew, James, and Judas (son of James). They were just simple guys, average in so many ways. We had lived with and loved him for three years yet after all that time had deserted him when he most needed us.

His mother Mary and some of his brothers were with us also as well as Mary and Martha and some of the other women. Lazarus sat on the window ledge talking with Nicodemus.

Then there were the other nameless faces scattered throughout the room.

There were those he had healed — who were once blind, lepers and lame. There was the woman who had bled for most of her life. There were even one or two that he'd raised from the dead.

There were widows, beggars, prostitutes, Samaritans, adulterers and tax collectors. There were the old, the children and the poor.

And then, there was me. Simon Peter — the Rock! Yeah Right! More like Simon Peter 'Mr foot in mouth'. I'd disowned him too. I couldn't even admit I knew him to a servant girl. What kind of witness was I!?

We had gathered together because he had told us to wait in Jerusalem — but we were scared and confused. Our leader had gone and we felt alone. We were unsure of who we were and what our place in the world was.

I looked out the window at the world we had been called to go to and I was afraid. The streets were filled with people of all nations yet we were not equipped to communicate with them. Our own nation was living under oppression — these were troubling times — how could we make a difference?

He'd told us we would be his witnesses to the world yet we were so few, so uneducated and so powerless. We had little money, influence and no real social standing. In fact, many of us were on the fringe and some were outright outcasts!
Locked away in that room we were a timid and fragile group of 120. What could we hope to achieve?

We began to pray.

Alt-Quiet Time

4 June, 2003 10:59 PM

Is it time for some 'Alternative' Quiet Time/Devotional material to be developed? Does anyone know of any personal devotional material with an edgy, creative, alternative and post-modern feel?

Shortly after I made the decision to 'invite Jesus into my heart' as a young child my Dad sat me down one night as he was putting me to bed and gave me a colourful little book that looked something like this. It was a daily devotional book for kids complete with cartoons, stories, prayers and activities. Dad told me that one way I could grow my friendship with Jesus was to have something called a Quiet Time or a Daily Devotion. From that time I endeavoured to have one every morning.

Through the years my devotion to devotions varied between being once per day to being once a year (if that!). I used all kinds of material. As I got older the material I used got a little more hip and mature. When I got online I even found ways of having a quiet time there.

In more recent years I began to grow dissatisfied with some of the printed and online material I'd found. Often they seemed so packaged - a short reading, an easy question or two and a prayer to read just didn't cut it for me any more.

As with so many other GenXer Christians I began to experiment with some ancient forms of prayer and reflection. I've also tried some newer forms of journaling. These have been amazing for me - they've re-ignited some of the passion for Jesus that I'd lost over the years but they've also left me thirsting for more.

There seems to be a lot of resources being developed 'out there' for corporate prayer and worship experiences - alt-worship has been a dynamic and growing movement in the past decade or so. But I wonder if there is much being developed in the area of personal devotional material with an edgy, creative, alternative and post-modern feel? I'm keen to find some if you have any ideas - I'd like to develop a bit of a resource page for it if there is any out there....and if there isn't, perhaps some of us should put our heads together and develop some!?!

Sabbath, prayer, worship, creeds....

3 June, 2003 4:55 PM

There is a very interesting discussion going on over at signposts after last Tuesday's gathering between Living Room and Nexus (one of Phil and Dan's congregations). The conversation in comments there is covering everything from is Sunday the only day a church should gather through to what is worship and prayer through to creeds. Good stuff.

I can see clearly now...

2 June, 2003 1:13 PM

glasses.jpgOn Friday I got new glasses. My old ones were getting pretty scratched and my prescription needed a small adjustment. I could still see out of the old ones fine, but it was time for an update.

When I walked out of the optometrist wearing my new specs I was amazed at how clearly my new glasses allowed me to see. I had become so accustomed to the scratches and old prescription that I had not realised how fuzzy my vision had gradually become.

It reminded me of when I first got glasses and realised for the first time (I was 13) that it was possible to see individual leaves on trees from a distance. I had always known trees had leaves, but had become accustomed to seeing trees as green blurs where leaves just merged into one another.

I wonder what other things we get out of focus without realising?

Today I've been preparing for this Sunday's Pentecost sermon at NCBC and have been reading the Acts 1-2. As I read the story of this dynamic community of faith I wonder if perhaps we, as church today, have gradually been loosing focus. Maybe without even knowing it our lenses have become clouded by the scratches of politics, power, comfortability and fear. Is it time we had our prescription checked to enable us to cut through the fog and get to the core of who we are and what we should be on about?

Evangelism

30 May, 2003 12:34 PM

Todd responds to: 'The standard punch line in an evangelistic sermon is:'if you walked out of here right now, got hit by a truck and died, do you know for sure you would go to heaven?'

Interview with Bilal II

30 May, 2003 9:44 AM

After a few mainly encouraging comments and emails in response to Part I of my interview with my new Muslim friend Bilal here is Part II (Part III will follow)

What is your understanding of worship?
I see worship as something that we do with our whole life. There are times when it is a focused thing in prayer or fasting, but I feel it is bigger than that. Worship is pleasing God with the way we live. I guess I am lucky that I have ways of constantly being reminded throughout my day that I am supposed live a life of worship to God.

How does your faith impact you in the low times of life?
I think it impacts me in lots of ways. One way is through the community that I am a part of. When my mother died was the lowest point of my life and yet it was the time I felt most loved by those around me. I knew I really belonged and that people cared. They brought food to my father, they sent cards and they prayed for us. It was an amazing time. I feel my community actually helped us to grieve rather than leaving us to do it ourselves.

The other thing that helps in these times is prayer. Because I am praying all day I have a constant source of strength in those times when life gets too much for me. Sometimes its hard to motivate myself to pray and my mind will wander, but because we do it every few hours the next time is often better.

What part do scriptures and study play in your life and faith?
At different times in my life the Qu'ran has meant more to me than others. Deep down I know that it is the words of God revealed to Mohammad and I know that it tells us how to live our lives. To be honest there have been times where I have found it to be hard to relate to but I have never doubted that it is Gods words. Sometimes I'm amazed by the amount of subjects that it covers, it really does give us a basis to live and make the decisions we need to make for life.

I have never studied the Qu'ran seriously, but I do turn to it on occasion and enjoy when the Imam speaks from it and explains its relevance. A number of times its almost as if God has been speaking directly to me through his words.

Interviewing Bilal - Part I

26 May, 2003 4:56 PM

As part of my multi-faith dialogue subject for college I've had the amazing privilege a few weeks back to interview a great guy by the name of Bilal about his faith. Bilal is a 25 years old and lives in Melbourne. He works as a plumber and was recently married. Both Bilal and his wife are committed attendees at their local Mosque and are serious about grappling with their faith. The time that we spent together were most interesting. He went to great lengths to assure me that he 'was not an expert' in Islam and just a 'simple and uneducated man' but what I saw in his life was a rich and challenging spirituality I am incredibly grateful for the glimpse that Bilal gave me of his faith as it greatly informed my understanding of Islam.

Bilal has been really generous with his time with me and has also been gracious enough to let me post some excerpts of our interview here. This is just one question of many that we talked about. I'm happy to post more if there is interest. (Although we had a great discussion I've presented his answer as an uninterrupted monologue so as to give a flow to his thoughts.

How does your faith impact your daily life?
There are lots of way I see my faith having an impact on my life. Some of them are very practical. Actually it is the practicalness to every day activity that makes me love Islam. Sometimes when I talk to Christian friends they can't believe how much I have to DO in my religion, but I can't believe how little their faith seems to impact their every day life.

Prayer - The main actual impact is through the prayers that we do. I need to arrange my day carefully so that I'm able to pray five times. I am lucky in that I work for myself and determine my own hours, however it can get a little tricky at times. I have friends who have had problems in negotiating with their employers over this issue. On the positive side I find the regular prayer times to be really worth the effort as they force me to think of God during my day and he becomes a part of my workplace, home life and social settings and not just a one off thing in my week. Every time I pray I recommit my covenant with God and seek his guidance. I am constantly working out my faith. I find that even though we recite largely the same prayers every day that they give me a great framework to explore who I am and what my place in the world is.

Diet — Another thing we need to be aware of is what food and drink we have. The main things we are not allowed to eat pork and we are not allowed to drink alcohol. At times this can also be difficult, we have had a few interesting moments when we've eaten with non Muslim friends, but generally this again helps us to focus on God in the everyday of life. I also feel that somehow it represents the purity that we strive for as we relate to God.

Fridays — I structure my working week so that I do not work on Fridays. This is the day that I spend with friends and family at our local Mosque. When we get together we pray and spend time with each other. Often on this day we'll eat together — it has a real community building focus to it. I am able to do this due to my work situation, it is too difficult for others so there are also other times we come together as a community in the evenings and even on the weekends.

Ramadan — Fasting during month of Ramadan is obviously a fairly major focus of the Islamic year for us. In this month we do not eat during the. It sounds like a big sacrifice, and at times it is, but I always look forward to this month because it means a lot to us.

I was really challenged by the commitment and effort that went into Bilal's faith. The logistics of prayer, diet, fasting and community involvement seemed overwhelming to me yet the results of these things were significant to his life and faith. I could not help but wonder if we are missing something as Christians by often allowing faith to become one of the many compartments of life, often explored only for a few hours a week at certain times and places. Bilal has a rhythm to his life which does take real commitment but also is constantly helping him to see and connect with God in the everyday of life.

Conversations with God

26 May, 2003 9:43 AM

I was just going through some old files and stumbled upon this. I was speaking at a youth conference in 2001 and in the lead up was praying about what to speak about. Often when I pray I write (or type) my prayers down and then also write what I think God might be saying in response. I don't presume to say that 'this is what God told me' - but I'll post it and allow it to be what it may be for who it may be.

In preparation for State Youth Conference - 4 May 2001

What do you want for these young people Jesus? What word, what message, what thrust? If you could pick them up and put them wherever you desired or make them into the type of people you'd want, who and where would they be?

I already have done what you talk about. These people are already who I want them to be! I put them together in intricate detail to be as they are and not only that, they are already where I want them to be. They are in the schools, the families, the universities and the workplaces that I planned for them to be. They are in the relationships I want them to be in. I wouldn't transport them to another place or time, I want them here and now for a purpose. I desire for them to find me in the places they are — to thirst after me there — to interact with me there, to know me there and to join in the things that I am already doing there! I'm at work in their schools, their work places, their universities, their families and their friendship groups. Tell them to join me in that work. Challenge them to spot me — to know my heart for those places and people and to participate in the coming of my kingdom! Assure them that I created them as they are, in this era, in this place as an essential part of my plan.

Seek me and you will find me. Know that I am God, that I made you and I have plans for you. Join me in these plans, engage with me and together we will impact the places that you find yourselves, in ways you'd never have dreamed of. You are the ones for the job, you are in the place to do it and now is the time to get into it. I am with you — I love you — be with me.

Fired up

24 May, 2003 11:44 AM

Rowland Croucher looks at being 'On Fire' as Pentecost approaches.

"When I was a staffworker with students and graduates of our Australian universities, I discovered that about 50% of 'fired-up' Christian students lost that fire within ten years. Why?"

God's timing...

22 May, 2003 5:19 PM

Sometimes God chooses the most inopportune moments to confront you with where you need to grow.

Last Sunday I was in the middle of preaching. I was standing up in front of 200 or so people and was getting really worked up about Matthew 10. I was talking about how Jesus calls us to 'give up our lives', to 'take up our cross' and to 'travel light'. The call is a radical one, its life changing, you can't even attempt to do it without making significant sacrifice or lifestyle alternations from the 'patterns of this world'. I was getting pretty passionate about this.

I was particularly focusing upon how our culture often encourages us to accumulate and to consume and yet how this in these passages seems almost diametrically opposed to the call of Jesus.

I was getting worked up and I glanced down to my Palm Pilot where my notes were and I realised that whilst I strongly believed what I was saying I also represented what I was calling people to move away from. I was...no...I am up there with the best of consumers and accumulators. I drove to that church in my one year old car, had prepared the sermon on my cool little laptop and would go home after to my fully equipped house.

I stopped mid sentence as the reality of it hit me. I'm not sure what the congregation thought of me but after a few seconds I had to look up and admit to them that whilst I was passionate about what I was saying that I really wondered if I had any idea of what Jesus call really meant in practice.

On one level I can honestly say that I genuinely would give anything to respond to the call of Jesus...but also at exactly the same time I realise I have not really even begun to grapple with it.

Are we Missing Something?

21 May, 2003 9:49 PM

Jordon Cooper observes some differences between Church going and non Church going bloggers posts. He wonders if perhaps we (as churchy bloggers) get a little obsessed and lack something in our posts. I commented there

I agree and disagree.

I agree that non church goer's blogs can be more a celebration of life than many Christian bloggers that I read. This is why I've been spending more time surfing them of late. There are some amazing blogs out there and I think we (as Churchies) can lead too sheltered a life by just linking to and surfing to each others blogs)

I don't completely agree with your post though on a personal level because I choose not to post about some issues on my blog. This includes potential posts on the parties, the personal conversations, relationships etc that I have. Its not that I don't 'have a life' but rather because

1. I need to keep some distance between personal life and public life.

2. I need to protect my family a little because of their personal situations (ie due to their commitments at work and to other groups I'm not at liberty to post on some issues)

3. The reason I started my blog was because I was exploring what it meant to start a new form of church and I felt incredibly isolated, rather scared and alone and very unsure as to how to explore my dream. The blog was one of the ways I hoped to grow in my understanding of church, ministry, my role etc. It was my hope that through it I'd be able to grow, connect with others on the same journey and perhaps even contribute to what others are doing. I guess this is reflected in what I do and don't post about. As a result many of my posts (I estimate just over half) focus upon church, faith or related topics.

I wonder if you're generalising a little about it - could the same thing be said for bloggers who focus their blogging on politics, or science, or computers? ie they seem to only to be able to think about those issues and 'seem' devoid of other relationships or interests.

What do others observe and think on the topic?

Ignition is igniting!

20 May, 2003 4:22 PM

Just had yet another email from someone using the Ignition course. I met with the other Forge guys today and we are getting really excited by the feedback we're getting about it. One guy here in Australia ran the course in a local cafe and just by having it there has seen the cafe owner and his wife virtually come to faith. He's so happy with it that he's about to start using it with over 100 young people in his church.

There are dozens of groups running here in my state at the moment. We're getting reports of groups being sighted running it in local cafes through our city that we don't even know of. A couple of very large Melbourne churches have just started groups too.

Every day I'm getting queries about the online version. We've heard there are groups running in New Zealand (multiple), Illinois(US), Lancashire (UK) and Alberta (Canada). Heaps of people have been downloading the free trial too.

Its an exciting feeling to know that there are so many people interested in exploring mission - but its also a little daunting!

I'm interested to hear the feedback of any of you who've started a group?

Why I don't go to church

19 May, 2003 10:48 AM

I was talking to a friend last week about Rachel's series of posts on Why I don't go to Church where she asks people who don't attend church anymore a series of questions. My friend, who doesn't go any more, asked if they could answer them. Here is their response....its long (25 questions in all) but very interesting.

1. What is your definition of church?

In a general sense the Church is made up of all those who follow Christ — both those who choose to gather together in a formal way and those who do not. The church is not buildings or clergy, it is people who love and are moving towards Jesus.

2. What do you feel is the purpose or aim of church? What should it be?

I may be cynical but in my experience of churches there is a vast difference between what I feel the purpose is and what it should be. Unfortunately I get the feeling that the church is losing its way. This is why I have chosen to remove myself from most elements of it.

To answer the question — I believe the purposes of the church should be numerous.

It should be in the business of creating spaces for people to connect with Jesus in a dynamic way. The church is not responsible for if people do connect or not, that is the individuals responsibility, but the church should be exploring relevant ways to help people on their journey. It should be a place that resources, supports and inspires people in their love and relationship for God.

The church should be in the business of growing community among its believers. Unfortunately this is an area where things often break down. If it wasn't for the fact that we are all human it would work brilliantly!

The church should be in the business of impacting the world we live in. Call it mission, service or justice — I don't care — but do it! Jesus constantly called his followers to impact their world — to preach, to heal the sick, to cast out demons and to accept the sinner and ostracised.

As I said — I think the church has become distracted from its core call in all these areas.

3. What issues do you think the church is failing to deal with adequately?

It is failing to grapple effectively with its purposes. I think it often names them. Every church I've ever been to has had a wonderful mission statement — but I'm yet to see one that is living it out — or even really attempting to.

I think many churches are paralysed by fear. They are afraid of change, afraid of the world around them (that they are called to impact), they are afraid of 'sinners' and they are afraid to commit to real community.

One of the big failures that I see is that they are called toinclusivity yet time and time again are exclusive. It staggers me that we follow a man who entered into community with the most 'repulsive' people in his culture, yet most churches are unwilling to even consider such an act.

4. How do you see the church operating in the future?

inclusivity yet time and time again are exclusive. It staggers me that we follow a man who entered into community with the most 'repulsive' people in his culture, yet most churches are unwilling to even consider such an act.

4. How do you see the church operating in the future?

I wonder if the church will exist there. If it doesn't make some fundamental changes it will end up being an extreme minority.

5. If you were to change one thing about church, what would it be?

I would infuse it with love. What's love got to do, got to do with it? Love casts our fear. Love is at the core of everything Jesus talked about. Love, love changes everything. Hands and faces, earth and sky. Love, love changes everything. How you live and how you die

6. What do you believe to be the necessary actions/behavior of a Christian?

A Christian is a person who is in relationship with and moving towards Jesus. They are not someone who has it all worked out and they have not 'arrived'. They 'sin' but they continue to seek God and allow her transformation and healing in their lives. They seek to live lives of love for God, others and self.

7. Why are you a non-church-goer?

Complicated question. There are many reasons, let me try to sum up some of them (watch out, this could be messy!)

After years of church going I became frustrated by the way it has become institutionalised. It frustrates me that it has become so rigid and closed to change and fluidity. Jesus gives a radical call to follow him, the majority of churches have become too comfortable, they have become like clubs and they have lost the passion. Like you (ed: Darren) said last week on your site, read Matthew 10 and compare the call of Jesus to his disciples with the way your church operates. Read Romans 12 and tell me where there is a church in the West grappling with that stuff! We've lost the plot — I have become disillusioned with being virtually the only person in a community of faith that wants it to be more than a nice and safe place to come and feel all warm and fuzzy with my middle class privileged life. Attending church sucked life from me — I figured that it was not healthy for me to continue to go.

8. What role did those who were in the church have on your decision to leave?

I wasn't asked to leave, although I've heard since that some people are happy that I did. I attempted to discuss my frustrations with others in the community including leadership. They just asked me to 'tone it down'.

9. What or who finally 'pushed' you?

Two reasons.

The church I was a part of began to talk more and more about money. It was subtle, but it became more and more obsessed with raising money for its new building. The current building wasn't being utilised, we were not growing, and it was proposed that the reason was we needed a new flash looking building. A campaign started to raise the millions needed to make it so that our community would flock onto our turf to be saved. Related to this was the topic of money in sermons. Our pastor read the book called 'You need more Money!' written by a prominent Australian pastor. Some of these ideas of prosperity began to gradually creep into his sermons. I cannot remember Jesus telling his disciples to accumulate resources, buy property and get all the latest and greatest technology in order to further the kingdom. It all made me feel physically sick.

The church rejected one of my friends who was brave enough to tell a pastor that he was struggling with homosexuality. He was told to either leave and not associate with anyone in the church or to repent and change. There was no offer of counselling, there was no understanding that he needed time to talk through what he was going through, there was no acknowledgement of God's love for him — he either had to change instantly or leave. I felt physically sick.

10. What did you find most hurtful?

I watched my church slowly become obsessed with money. I also watched my friend reject God.

11. What feelings accompanied your decision to leave?

I left feeling broken and emotionally burnt out. I still feel drained years later.

12. Do you think you connect with God more, less or the same amount now as you did when you attended church?

I go through stages of closeness to God, but this is no different to when I attended church. Overall I feel more connected to Jesus now.

13. Do you still regularly meet together with other christians/groups/organisations? If so, please describe.

Not formally. I regularly connect with Christian friends for meals, to see movies, to pray and to talk about faith issues. But it is not formal. I would call it church though.

14. What other groups, organisations do you now go to to meet the needs that church did....if any.

I am very involved in community groups. I volunteer considerable time to local groups that have a social justice outlook on life. I will always serve my community — not just because I'm a community minded person, but out of my faith. I also am involved in a book club which is a place of community building and where we often talk about issues of faith. (although I'm only one of two Christians in the group)


15. How has this changed your relationship with non-christians?

I have so many more relationships with non-christians (I hate that term). I now have more time to connect with them as I'm not totally consumed with church activities. I also feel more free to talk about faith without them worrying about me trying to drag them to church to be saved. Since leaving the church I have had three non Christian friends become Christians. Two have joined churches, one meets regularly with me and another friend to pray and learn.

16. What do you miss about church now?

I cannot honestly think of anything. I feel so much more free now.

17. What is it about church that doesn't connect with where you're at?

I've said it all I think. Oh...I hate singing, I always found it to be an experience that stressed me out and made it difficult for me to connect with God. Why can't church have 'bush walking worship'?

18. Would you go back? Why or why not? Would anything make you go back to church?

I've considered it. I actually feel that one day I may go back, not because of what I'll get out of it but for what I can offer. Not that I feel I have anything much to offer, but I see some little new churches starting in my city that I'd like to support. It scares me though.

19. Which would you prefer - people inviting you to attend church, or leaving you alone in your decision not to?

My old church friends do not talk to me any more because I associate with unacceptable types. So I never get such an invitation. It doesn't bother me.

20. What are the most important/effective ways for you to sustain your christianity as a non-church-goer?

Prayer, service to others, eating with others. I celebrate life in the small things and see God in them every day.

21. What is the vision God has given you for your life?

In the normal things that I do, every day, I have the ability to be a light, to help others connect with the life that God offers. I always try to find what God is already doing in the world around me and to join him in it.

22. What do you say when people ask you "What church do you go to?"

'I don't go to A church'.

23. What question don't you like other Christians asking you?

Is your belly button an inney or an outy? Mine is a major outy...they always want to see it.

24. What question do you wish other Christians would ask you?

Nothing springs to mind. I think I've said enough!

25. Is there anything else that you'd like to mention?

No — thanks for the questions.

Fearful Flash

15 May, 2003 11:18 AM

What do you think of the Flash introduction to Josh McDowell's latest campaign?

Leighton feels ill observing the way it plays on parental fears and questions the basic premise of Josh's campaign.

For me it triggered some of the the arguements put forward in Bowling for Columbine which had the idea of 'Fear leading to Consumerism' as a central them. Interesting that its not just secular media and goverments that are using the strategy.

Whole life 'Mudcake Spirituality'

14 May, 2003 11:35 AM

How does faith become a whole life thing?

This Sunday morning I'm guest speaking at Wattle Park Chapel. The topic I'm working on is to challenge people take the step away from 'Sunday faith' and towards 'whole life faith'. I'm going to talk about Mudcake Spirituality and explore the idea that Jesus calls us to this type of passion not only for those special times of worship where we gather together 'at church' but in the day to day of life.

Two passages have been ringing in my ears the last two weeks. Firstly Matthew 10 and secondly Romans 12. In the first Jesus calls his disciple to a new radical life of following and serving him. Its a life that calls for sacrifice, interaction with their world, significant investment in others, travelling light, danger, persecution and giving up virtually everything. Of course coupled with the sacrifice and hardship is the reality of a God who knows the numbers of hairs on your head who will provide everything you need on the journey and who will speak in your defence in times of trial. Jesus calls his followers to a radical life that impacts every aspect of life.

In the second passage (Rom 12) we read a similar call to 'offer your bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice'. What a powerful call. The rest of the chapter (and those that follow) flesh this call out. Such a life is one of humility, where gifts are exercised, where love and serving others is grappled with, where others are honoured and where prayer and hospitality are central to life.

Sometimes I look at my life and I wonder if it resembles Jesus call at all. In a world of compartmentalisation its so easy to slip in and out of 'spiritual life'. In a world where consumerism promises fulfilment and identity its so easy to tie oneself down by the weight of what we accumulate. In a world where 'I' is central it is so easy to ignore the call to community and serving the other. In a world Reality TV, 24 hour sport and lifestyle programs its so easy end up living vicariously through others, becoming numb to ones own life and loosing the child like spark that we're called to enter into life with.

I feel like I'm constantly shaking myself out of my apathetic state to remind myself of his call. How do you go about making faith a 24/7 thing?

Update: Here is a series I've written about Holistic Spirituality which presents a framework (or model) for thinking it through. Holistic Spirituality - Part 1

RE: Children

13 May, 2003 8:36 AM

Today is my first taste of RE (Religious Education) in a local primary school with children. I was asked to be a part of a team (of 2) to go into the local primary school once a week to do a half hour class of Protestant Christian RE. The school also runs a Catholic, Muslim and a Jewish RE class for other children.

Our class will have about 16 children ranging in age from 5 through to 11 so it will take a little bit of effort to be relevant to the full age spectrum.

We have decided to develop our own material and look at the topic of 'What is God like?' Over the next term of 7 weeks we're going to get the kids to make their own TV program on the subject. Each week they'll do an activity and we'll video it, (ie act out a bible story, paint a mural etc). We'll also get them to interview each other on the topic and in the last week will have it all edited into a 'TV show' where they'll see themselves telling themselves 'What God is like'.

Should be fun. Its a great exercise to have to think through some basic elements of faith at a level that a child would understand. I'm looking forward to this afternoon!

If anyone has any ideas or thoughts on doing RE with primary aged children (including any fun but meaningful activities) just let me know.

Manipulove continued

12 May, 2003 10:22 AM

Rachel just emailed me an article titledFirst bombs to pulverize army, now sermons to 'save Iraqi souls' which adds to the conversation that Richard is having over at The Connexion. It begins:

Baghdad -- First came the bombs, pulverizing the Iraqi military. Now come the Bible brigades, intent on saving Iraqi souls. At least that's how it looks to many Muslims, who say their worst fears of a latter-day Crusade are being realised by the plans of the Rev Franklin Graham - son of the Rev Billy Graham, confidante of President Bush and unabashed critic of Islam - to send relief workers into Iraq... More here

Manipulove

12 May, 2003 9:02 AM

The Connexion comments upon a group of conservative Evangelicals who've come out saying we should heal 'rifts' with Muslims that threaten missionary work. While all in favour of reconciliation Richard makes an excellent point about the motivation behind it:

I may be nit-picking, but let's not condemn assaults on Islam because of the effects it might have on evangelism, or the potential threat it poses to lives and livelihoods. Let's condemn the rubbishing of Islam because it's wrong in itself and contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I couldn't agree more. We shouldn't love others because it might open a door for them to become one of 'us'. We should love them because they are made in the image of God, because God loves them and because it is a call at the heart of the message of the one we follow in Jesus. Any other reason I feel is somewhat manipulative.

Ritual, Rhythm and other lessons from other Faiths.

9 May, 2003 11:32 AM

Most of you will know by now that I'm doing a subject at bible college at the moment on Multi faith Dialogue. (hence my posting on Lesson from a Buddhist Nun, Jihad, Muslim Blogisphere and Interfaith Dialogue...to name a few recent 'multi faith' posts.

This morning I've been reflecting upon the experiences that I've had in visiting a Mosque, Buddhist temple, Synagogue and Hari Krishna temple and having one on one conversation with a Melbourne Muslim man. Its been an amazing experience, one in which I feel like I've had my eyes opened incredibly.

One of the main differences I've noticed between Christianity and these other faiths is the level that we connect faith to the every day of life. (forgive me for the gross generalisations I'm about to make!)

After each of the above inter faith experiences I've come home challenged by the way that there are inbuilt rituals built into the every day activities for those practicing these religions. For Bilal (a Muslim man I interviewed) it revolved around the 5 daily prayers, the dietary regulations and the visits to the Mosque. For the Jewish student rabbi we met yesterday it was the three daily prayer times, the cap he wears, the way he prepares food and the different aspects of his clothing, for the Hari Krishna we met it was the food that he ate and the various prayer times throughout his day and for the Buddhist Nun it again was her food preparation, regular meditation times and dress.

In each case there were tangible, rituals or symbols throughout every day that meant that their spirituality was constantly being explored, stretched, developed and exercised. In each case a rhythm of life was being lived out that allowed regular connection with God. At times the rituals were incredibly sacrificial and showed extreme commitment but in every case the person sharing told of how their ritual brought incredible richness to their faith.

Before I go on I need to say that in some (although definitely not all) of the above cases we were talking to leaders and people who perhaps took their faith to the extreme where as some of the people they worked with did not - but none the less I was still impressed and challenged by their commitment.

I have been a member of three churches in my life time and a minister/pastor in each of them. Yet to be honest I've never seen faith related to every day life to the extent that I did in these other religions in any of my churches. That's not to say that I haven't seen Christians living out their faith in the everyday, rather I have not seen a church give their members practical ways to encourage them to find Jesus in the nitty gritty of life. Its often talked about as being the ideal, but practical tools, rituals and methods are rarely suggested.

As protestants has our fear of ritual actually gone too far and been part of the reason that so many of those that attend our churches find it so hard to live out what they hear and do on Sunday in the rest of their lives? Where are the tools that help us explore our connection with Jesus from Monday through to Saturday? Why have we watered down faith and thrown out so much of our rich heritage of ritual such as the practices of those such as the early monastic tradition who sought to create a rhythm of live connects faith to every day experience through methods like Comments (1)

Examen Explained

7 May, 2003 9:37 AM

As I mentioned yesterday, last night at Living Room we spent some time looking at an ancient form of prayer called Examen of Consciousness (no not X-MEN prayer...ExAmen). A few people have already emailed asking for information so I thought I'd outline the process here. I've found it amazingly helpful for me in my personal prayer life as well as using it with groups of people.

Examen was developed by St. Ignatius Loyola whowas a practical kind of person which is reflected in this daily method of prayer he recommended to his brothers. They prayed it numerous times per day as part of their daily rhythm of life.

It is is a prayer where we try to find the movement of the Spirit in our daily lives as we review our day. There are five simple steps to the Examen, which should take about 15 minutes to complete. Many people make the Examen once around lunchtime and again before going to bed. This prayer can be made anywhere�on the beach, in a car, at home, in the library.

The following is just one interpretation (of many) of these five steps to discerning the movement of Gods Spirit in your day.

Before you start: Try to be in a place where you are least likely to be disturbed, and where there is the least amount of external noise.Perhaps you light a candle or change the lighting when you pray to symbolise the start of this activity. Then sit comfortably and still yourself. Relax, be aware of your breathing, your body and how you are feeling.

1. Recall you are in the presence of God

We are always in God's presence, but in prayer we place ourselves in God's presence in an especially attentive way. God knows intimately. He loves you in the deepest way possible and desires for an intimate connection with you. In John 15 Jesus says 'abide in me and I will abide in you' — his invitation is to make our HOME in him. As you still yourself be aware that God is present with you, in creation of your surrounds, your body, in those around you. Remind yourself of his presence with you and desire to BE with you. Be still and know that you are with God.

2. Look at your day with gratitude

After a few moments, begin to give thanks to God for the gifts of today. Special pleasures will spring to mind: a good night's sleep, the smell of the morning coffee, the laugh of a child, a good meal or lesson learnt. As you move in gratitude through the details of your day give thanks to God for his presence in the big and the small things of your life.

3. Ask help from the Holy Spirit

Before the next step of reviewing your day, ask that God's Spirit might help you to look at your actions and attitudes. Ask the Holy Spirit to help you to understand the motivation of your heart, to see the gifts of God and how you've responded to them. Ask that you'd learn and be shaped as your reflect. Remember, this is not a time to dwell on your shortcomings rather, it is a gentle look with the Lord at how you have responded to God's gifts. It is an opportunity for growth of self and relationship with God.

4. Review your day

This is the longest of the steps. Here you review your entire day, watching it like a movie that replays in your mind. Be sure to notice the details, the context of what happened and how you acted. As you look through the day, notice especially your motives and feelings. This is not psychoanalysis, rather it is a time for you to discern your daily motives, actions and reactions. Don't try to fix everything in this stage, just examine how conscious you have been of God's presence and actions in your life.

As you review you may wish to ask yourself some of the following questions.

When did I fail today? (why?)

When did I give love today?

Where did I receive love today?

What Habits and life patterns do I notice in my day?

In what ways did I notice God in my day?

When did I feel most alive? Most drained of life?

When did I have the greatest sense of belonging? Least sense of belonging?

When was I most free? Least free?

When was I most creative? Least creative?

When did I feel most fully myself? Least myself?

When did I feel most whole? Most fragmented?

As you review your day allow your thoughts to wander through the situations you've been in and allow God to speak, challenge, encourage and teach you.

5. Reconcile and resolve

The final step is our heart-to-heart talk with Jesus.

Here you talk with Jesus about your day. You share your thoughts on your actions, attitudes, feelings and interactions. Perhaps in this time you may feel led to seek forgiveness, ask for direction, share a concern, express gratitude etc. There may be an area you've felt challenged on or some action you feel you need to take out of this time. Resolve with Jesus to move forward in action where appropriate.

You might like to finish your time with the Lords Prayer.

Compiled by Darren Rowse 2002

As I said earlier, this is just my interpretation on the steps having drawn upon a number of online sources and put them all together. Once you've done Examen a few times you will find your own rhythm and method. You might like to add some music, candles or images to help you pray.

I was amazed by some of the conversation we had last night after doing this exercise as a group. I think we all enjoyed just spending some quiet time, reflecting on the small things of life. I was personally challenged to remember that God is even in the 'normal' and 'mundane' and to realise just how 'rich' my life is although I so often take it for granted.

I'm interested to hear how others go with Examen

For another 'ancient prayer' method check out my entry on Lectio Divina

Examen of Consciousness

6 May, 2003 9:11 AM

Looking forward to Living Room tonight - we're going to take a look at St. Ignatius Loyola's Examen of Consciousness method of prayer. Its a way of seeing God and connecting with him in the everyday of life that I've found really helpful over the years. Will post more later...

Has anyone else used it in their communities?

The New Age of Me Me Me!

4 May, 2003 2:01 PM

Interesting article in the Age's Sunday magazine today on the New Age. (sorry no link to article) In particular it focuses on the 'self-obsession' of it all. One person interviewed said:

"I've spent hours and weekend doing courses on kinesiology and working on positive affirmations, but I feel like I still need to work on myself a lot more."

The article examines the growing numbers of people who are willing to pay increasingly large sums of money to 'find themselves'. One of Australia's fastest growing festivals is the 'Mind Body Spirit' festival which tours nationally, the Psychic association estimate that they did over 1,000,000 readings last year and people are paying big bucks to get in on the action.

I reacted in two ways to the article. Firstly I'm amazed and encouraged by the spiritual openness of people today. The article confirms a lot of what I've been noticing in conversations with people I've met locally, people are more than happy to talk about spirituality and explore what it all means. There is a huge opportunity for us as followers of Jesus to be a part of this growing conversation.

Secondly at times in the article I felt like I was reading something about Christianity. This week I was in a local Christian bookstore and was amazed by the vast numbers of 'Christian Self Help' type books on the shelves. So much of what was available for purchase was about personal spirituality, improving oneself and reaching our potential. Of course in a dark back corner of the shop I found a small section of books about mission and making an impact upon our world, but the predominate focus was SELF. Of course, like with the New Age, people are obviously spending big bucks on Christian Self Improvement too!

Muslim Fear

30 April, 2003 10:32 AM

Interesting post at Signposts here today after Phil chats with a Muslim friend about the feeling around his Mosque in regard to the invasion of Iraq.

A Muslims reflections on Easter

27 April, 2003 12:13 PM

This is a really interesting reflection on Easter from Karen who converted to Islam 9 years ago from Christianity.

thanks to Islam4Real for the link

Easter - Part Three

22 April, 2003 4:09 PM

It is Easter Sunday. A day of celebration yet we decided not to begin with Church but with creation and the great outdoors. St Kilda is bayside Melbourne. A beautiful clear day and the attraction beckons. Around the bay people are running and walking. Picnicking. Enjoying the company of family and friends. Laughter and relaxation. Good food along a packed Acland St. Spirited fun at Luna Park. The bay and the esplanade is splendid. For me images of the Kingdom abound. Testimony to the fact that God remains active in this world is self-evident. The vibe of St Kilda today was living life. Now I know this can be distorted and self-indulgent but if anyone on this earth should live and demonstrate a life of transformed celebration then it should be followers of Jesus. After all he modelled this zeal for friends, partying and others so perfectly. And what better day to be in a celebratory mood! So we did just that.

By night we visited a young adult service at St Hillary's. I think I was the oldest there and most were 16-25 years. Good folksy unpolished worship in song and role-play message. As far as Church goes it is clearly a pretty happening place. Good to reflect on the Resurrection. In the one breath I can say that I love the church and yet find it thoroughly exasperating. But my passion for communities of believers within all cultures is driven by a dream that one day the church, by whatever name we call it would reflect more of Christ and the Kingdom Now. How do we relate to existing churches if we are involved in incarnational work? I work with a overseas mission organisation and we encourage our workers who feel the need for whatever reason to attend a non-contextualised Church in the situation of their work among an unreached group to keep a cordial relationship with that church but not to take on any leadership role. Why? So as to stay focused on the task at hand. This is a discipline that is hard to keep and even more the case in Australia as we consider incarnational ministry and yet also can hear the voice of the existing church calling us to support what is already established and in many cases struggling.

Monday morning and we find ourselves 90 minutes down the coast watching the RipCurl Pro at Bells Beach. Sensational. Another day of creation and traces of Kingdom. Another subculture and serious tunes by Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, John Butler Trio, FooFighters and The Waifs. Easter 2003 - thanksgiving and M.I.L.K (moments of intimacy, love and kinship) intermixed with the ever-present challenge of mission and more than my share of chocolate.

My Easter - Part One

22 April, 2003 12:20 PM

I'm sorry that my blogging has slowed over Easter but we had an interstate visitor and man did we have 4 days of Christ and Culture.

On Thursday night from the airport we took Naomi (Nomes), a dear friend of ours to that classic icon of Melbourne eating — the Vegie Bar on Brunswick St. (Nomes is in her early 20's and after sharing some short-term mission trips together and a mission thinktank called 'unearthed' we just love dreaming and doing mission and it rocks to have her down). Anyway - back to the Vegie Bar. I love the deconstructed feel of this place for it stands in the face of so much sterile modernity constructions. Revealed beams, scarred walls, rough textured concrete flooring, edgy art and trance music. It has a real vibe. The imagery and the multiple messages somehow manages to direct conversation to things meaningful. Yet I hear of church after church that is selling or demolishing their old stain-glassed buildings and going for sterile modernity constructions that feel more like a boring office space than a place of spiritual inquiry and solace. Imagine the kind of space one could create. Perhaps not multi-purpose as per the Saddleback/Willow Creek church growth model of church but so much more multi-experiential. It this just me or are others feeling the same? If anything we should be selling our large multi-purpose buildings that are not naturally part of the community and buying up stacks and stacks of small creative spaces that are. Just a thought.

On Friday morning we made our way up to the local park for a �Ecumenical Stations of the Cross�. Good concept. Using a public space to facilitate reflection on the death of Christ but 10am on a public holiday saw few using this park. So it was Church just moved to a new location. We were talking about this at �Living Room� last week and wondering how could you do something like this in a way that connected in with the natural rhythms and gathering places of our communities in this area in the days leading up to Easter. An art inspired spiritual journey along Brunswick Street or in North Fitzroy or on High St?

In the afternoon we got on our bikes and took the Yarra trail into the city. There is a real bike-riding ethos in Melbourne. Some people in the inner north are quite vocal about this and see a bike ride as a stance against our the environmental vandalism caused by our dependence on cars. I love this for I see it as an expression of a longing for Shalom and a restored world. Kingdom stuff that believers should be at the forefront of. But for many of us and me included a bike ride has been or is often just exercise or a way to improve our body image. But how about it as expression of my worldview and my values. Sure makes a bike ride all the more meaningful and challenges our sacred/secular divide.

In at Federation Square was the MILK art display. MILK is an acrostic for �Moments of Intimacy, Love and Kinship�. It was a beautiful day and there were hundreds of people just taking it all in. No sermon. No music. But a picture tells a thousand words and you could not but come away inspired to be more accepting, loving and appreciative of others. On Easter Friday God was there. The reason for the Cross brilliantly illustrated.

We decided it was time to put some of this into action. So I loaded a foam mattress into the back of our car with doonas and pillows and we headed off to the drive-in. We (my wife Chrissy, Nomes, Yolly and I) all crawled into the back of our 5-door hatch and with the rear door lifted up we got mega cosy watching �The Wild Thornberry's�. It was a moment of intimacy, love and kinship. My daughter is still raving.

But this is only Friday and Sunday is still coming.

Mission and Easter

17 April, 2003 1:57 PM

Hiya all. As Darren flagged yesterday I am going to fill in while he and "V" cruise around tassie. He is brave handing this over to me. I hope I am able to create some lively conversation.

As part of some study I am doing, I was reading an article by Harriet Hill who critiques the missionary idealist in her article �Incarnational ministry: a critical examination�. The thrust of her paper is that the demands of incarnation are not realistic and often not appreciated by the recipient culture.

Our Living Room �Easter� reflection on Tues night (see Darren's entries below) on the humanity of Jesus got me thinking anew about this and left me convinced her thesis is a depressing justification for compromise when measured against the Easter story.

In the night before his death in the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus is grappling with how realistic is it for him to fully identify with us. Will I take this on and so separate ultimately from my past, my eternal presence with the Father?

No bugger em' it is just too much....

What if appreciation was his measure of decision? He would have packed it up right then and there. The kind of values Jesus employed in identification were not up for grabs. They were part of his very core and way of relating to us.

If there is no acclaim I am out of here...

Easter gets me pondering Mission. How far am I willing to go in terms of incarnation. Are my principles up for grabs because of the seductive messages of my culture urging me to sell my soul to the material, to self and to lifestyle? Am I after acclaim or am I a follower of Jesus?

The People of the Boxes

12 April, 2003 10:38 AM

I'm off to Camp. I don't think I'll be posting til Monday night. Have a good weekend all!

I'll leave you with the beginning of this beautiful little piece that veiled4allah posted:

The People of the Boxes

By Dawud Wharnsby Ali:

There were once some people who all saw their lives like empty boxes
They looked around the world collecting up the things they liked
They filled their lives in boxes with the goodies that they gathered
And they all felt in control, content and they all felt all right
They climbed inside their boxes, they settled with their trinkets
They neither looked nor learnt much more and closed their lids up tight
Once they fastened up their boxes they smiled there inside
And they all thought in their darkness that the world was clear and bright...

The rest is here

Camp

11 April, 2003 5:51 PM

Tomorrow I'm off to speak at a camp and will be away from the blog for a few days. Today has been a day of polishing up some of the studies that we'll be doing. I've been given the theme of 'Get Real' which gives a fair bit of scope.

The first study will be looking at 'Masks' - getting real with ourselves and each other.

The second study is about getting real with God - I'm using my Mudcake story to talk about being like a child.

The third study is about getting real with our World - focusing on some of the 'faith without works is no faith at all' ideas in James.

I've gots lots of hands on stuff for them to do - should be fun times!

Hope my blog taster will keep you entertained while I'm away!!!

A bible study with George Bush, Mother Theresa, a refugee and Bill Gates.

9 April, 2003 10:46 PM

Graham at Organic Church has been talking about Fuzzy Thinking lately.

It got me thinking about a fun bible study that I've run a few times now. The idea originally came from Mark at Phuture - we called it a 'fuzzy logic bible study'. Its an exercise which can be used with virtually any passage of Scripture. All you need is a few recent magazines, newspapers and a group willing to think outside the box.

Before the group meets - go through the magazines and newspapers and cut out a variety of pictures of people's faces. Try to get a wide variety - get a few famous faces, perhaps a politician, a movie star, a sporting hero, a humanitarian. Also include some 'nameless' faces of different ages, racial back grounds and religions. Put these pictures in a hat (or a bucket, bag etc).

When the group comes together let each person choose a picture at random from the hat. The picture they've chosen is the person that they will 'become' for the bible study. They must put themselves in the shoes of this person and attempt to speak their words as they discuss the passage. If the picture is a 'nameless face' let them come up with a bio for the person.

Pick a passage that would generate a lively discussion from a variety of people. For instance the beatitudes would be a passage that might be interesting for a group such as Bill Gates, Mother Theresa, a Middle eastern refugee, Tom Cruise, a single mother and George W Bush. After the discussion while still in character, debrief the group on how it felt to look at Scripture through another persons eyes.

It's an exercise that takes a certain type of group to make it successful — but each time I've done it we've ended up having some very surprising and rich conversations. For me it was personally challenging to attempt to put aside my own cultural background and take a second look at some familiar passages.

If you try it — let me know how it goes.

Inter Faith Dialogue

9 April, 2003 7:59 PM

Today I had a number of very encouraging emails from Muslim bloggers who linked into Living Room through links to my previous posts on Jihad. There were a couple of comments left also on the last site which were really great. Thanks to my new friends for your words and for dropping by. You're always welcome here - your presence is valued by me and I look forward to learning more about you and your beliefs.

On a related topic - I'm wondering if anyone knows of any blogs dedicated to interfaith dialogue conversations? Not blogs that try to convert people of other faiths, but rather blogs dedicated to understanding, communicating and building relationships. If there is no such blog would anyone be interested in participating in one? Just an idea.

Lastly - I finished my tutorial paper on Jihad this afternoon. I'm not sure if I will post it here yet - I have to present it to class tomorrow so I'll see how it goes over there first. If anyone really wants a preview shoot me an email.

Jihad

6 April, 2003 12:07 PM

Does anyone know much about Jihad?

I have to write an paper on "What is Jihad?" this week and am interested to hear and see a variety of perspectives if any of you have thought about it or done any investigation and research on the topic.

The more I read the more I realise how many perspectives there are and also how far away from the original meaning many interpretations floating around in the media are. I'm finding it very difficult to sort through the agendas of the authors of the articles I'm reading to get to the heart of the topic.

Leave your comments and ideas here or email me if you have any constructive personal thoughts or articles that you have found.

A lesson from a Buddhist Nun

3 April, 2003 2:27 PM

Today our 'multi faith' class at college visited a Tibetan Buddhist temple where we spent 3 hours talking with a Buddhist Nun. She talked for a while about meditation and led us in some of their meditations (which I found very beautiful and creative) but also let us ask her questions on pretty much anything.

The conversation eventually came around to the topic of war - as it does so often in these times we live in - and she responded by talking about PEACE. I found her words very insightful.

At the crux of her words was the question, 'do we really understand what peace is?' She made the comment that she sees alot of people demonstrating, waving signs, shouting slogans, calling for peace - but she wonders if those calling for it actually have 'known and experienced' peace for themselves....within themselves.

The dialogue continued around this theme for a little while. When asked what our response should be to this war - she hinted that there was a place for political calls for peace on a global level - but the main challenge was for us to look at our individual situations and ask how we could bring peace there in our own circle of influence. (my words) This starts with our own individual sense of peace and confronting the areas within ourselves that are 'at war'. Once we are able to work through some of this we can begin to raise out eyes and look wider at our relationships and seek peace in them.

When we do this we are in a better place to seek peace on a global level. We shall be more effective, we will have greater credibility and more influence on a global level if we are first at peace with ourselves. If we don't know what peace is and practice it in our own lives how can we hope to bring it to our world?!

This made me think of the words of Jesus - 'love your neighbour as yourself'. If we take these words seriously we need to learn how to 'love ourselves' - otherwise we shall never be in a position to truly love those around us - and in the wider scheme of things, to love our world.

A Question cont.

1 April, 2003 4:08 PM

Spent a great morning with Steve, Mark and Kel from Forge/Dreamland. We spent a fair bit of the time working through the question I asked here on the blog last week about the core values or aspects of 'what is church'.

It was great to really get back to basics again and talk this one through. We came up with some similar conclusions to some of the comments that were left on the previous post.

Whilst we wern't too tight with our definitions and thoughts there were a number of recurring themes that our discussion floated around including : Christ Centredness....Community and Relational focus....Outward/Mission focus....Worship/Prayer/Inner Transformation....Scripture

Still interested in others thoughts.....we're talking through this topic more tonight at Living Room.

A question

25 March, 2003 3:36 PM

A question for you my friends - What are the 5 most important, non-negotiable, aspects of faith and discipleship for you? If you had to boil it down - you had to get to the crux of it all - what would your core values, your DNA, be when it came to your faith. (It doesn't have to be five - it can be less or more if you wish - but start with a few at least)

This is part of the process we're going through at Living Room at the moment - we're dialoguing on it as a community. Its a question we're initially asking of each other and answering as individuals as we try to make some sense of who we are corporately as a community of faith.

Another question that taps into the same topic that a wise friend often asks is - What makes a Church unique from any other group of people, whether they be the local football club or a local Mosque?

I'd be very interested to hear the 'blogging community's' (what ever that is) response to either or both of these questions. Responses invited - discussion will be highly valued!!!

Interview with God

25 March, 2003 7:33 AM

Take a look at this Interview With God Little Corny - but a nice idea.

Thanks to Presurfer (again) for the link.

A childs prayer for Iraq

23 March, 2003 7:43 PM

This morning I worshipped at one of the Living Rooms Parent churches. It was a very liturgical gathering with a time set aside for anyone to come forward and light a candle for any issue that they wanted us to pray for. The process was to come forward - light the taper - and share a prayer. At the end of the prayer we would all say the words, Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

A number of people came forward and prayed for the Iraq situation in a variety of ways. It struck me though that most of us didn't really know how to pray about such a complex situation. Our prayers either gave away that we were feeling either numb, angry or confused.

Lucy (who is 6 or 7) came to light a candle after others had prayed. She had a bit of trouble keeping it alight but eventually did. She stuck it in the sand and paused for a few seconds before saying...

I wish this dumb war would stop

She then sat down as us adults echoed the words - Lord in your mercy, hear our prayer.

Lucy in that moment was able to cut through alot of the crud that many of us were feeling and was able to express in a very profound way her own cry for peace. One might look at her prayer as being overly simplistic or not understanding the full situation but I was inspired by her childlike faith and was able to finally put words to some of the feelings I've been having. I think I'll be praying Lucy's prayer from now on.

I wish this dumb war would stop

Pictures of Hope - Isaiah 35

21 March, 2003 12:57 PM

Last night I was asked via email by one of the young people that I worked with a year or two back 'why is God allowing such violence to happen?' She is deeply affected by what she is seeing on the news 24/7 and is trying to make sense of it all, trying to 'find God' in the senseless violence she is witnessing.

The passage I read today in Isaiah 35 is a hopeful picture of flowers, singing joy, site for the blind, hearing for the deaf, leaping for the lame and words for the mute. There is water in the desert and a highway of holiness.

Restoration is at the heart of our God - however this is not the case in the passages around this one. Instead there is mass destruction and chaos which results from the selfishness, violence and greed of the people.

I suspect this is applyable to what we're seeing in our world today.

There are no easy answers to the questions of my young friend. All I could say to her was that restoration, wholeness, justice and peace are central to God's purposes. Without telling her what stance to take politically I encouraged her to hold onto these same purposes in a personal sense. As his people we must continue to pray for and practically work towards peace and justice in whatever ways we can.

Do as I say, not as I do

20 March, 2003 8:45 AM

Yesterday my chaplaincy class visited one of Melbourne's leading private schools. It was a nice change to get out of the normal lecture theatre to hear a lecture from the schools chaplain.

The session was held in the schools newly constructed chapel — a modern and innovatively designed space, complete with all the latest audio visual gear, beautifully crafted pews and the latest in architectural design. One of the main points of the lecture was that the chaplain had been experimenting with the cutting edge audio visual equipment in communicating the story of Jesus. He seemed quite proud of the fact that the school had invested over $1,000,000 in his new facility. It was a nice space but I came away from the time there feeling somewhat distressed.

It was not the content of the lecture that got to me, he did have some good things to say, rather I was again struck by the contrast between the gospel message that was spoken in that place to students and the surrounds that they were said in.

The chaplain was asked about Jesus relationship with the poor and responded that they did share that that was an important part of Jesus message to the students. Also when pushed he said that they also talked to the students about consumerism and how they should consider how they thought about money. Call me cynical if you wish, but I couldn't help but wonder what impact those messages would have as they were conveyed on the big screen in surround sound in such a place.

Study in contrasts - Isaiah 25-26

17 March, 2003 3:06 PM

Isaiah 25:1-5 is a great study in contrasts of Gods ways towards different groups.

God turns mighty cities into ruins, strong walled cities into rubble, beautiful palaces disappear.

On the other hand the poor find a refuge in the storm in God, the needy in distress are sheltered in the rain and heat.

I love the imagery of Isaiah 25:6-10 also where we see a 'wonderful feast for everyone around the world' depicted.

What a picture of hope it is - what an inspiration at the type of life we should be aiming to live and usher in for those around us. 'elicious and good food, well aged wine, choice beef. Death swallowed up forever, all tears wiped away, no more insults and mockery.'

Its no wonder that the people will sing the song of Isaiah 26!

HANDS on Wedding.

15 March, 2003 4:49 PM

Weddings are always so fun! V and I are just home from another one - we've had 5 or 6 in the past few months. As I blogged a couple of days ago I officiated at this one - something I really enjoy doing. I finally did come up with a talk 'with a difference'. I talked about the happy couples HANDS. I won't go into great detail except that I talked about three qualities of HANDS and how I think they relate to LOVE. It was quite a fun talk and people seemed to engage with it. I spoke about how hands speak to me of 'intimacy', 'individuality' and 'action' all things that in my opinion are essential ingredients to love.

After the ceremony at the reception V and I were seated at a table with two other couples, neither of whom we had met or known of before. The next four hours was an amazing time. As we ate some great food and drank some beautiful wine they quizzed me solidly about my job as a minister, about my training, about our planting of the Living Room and about my views on 'church' and its relevance today in society. None of those on the table were 'church attendees' but all said they were intrigued by my 'Hands talk' and surprised that they actually related to what a minister had said!

I am always staggered by the interest and eagerness of many people I meet to know more about church. As we talked today I got the sense that these four people were genuinely hungering for a church in their area who would accept and connect with them relevantly. Unfortunately their experiences with churches and life had led them to reject the institution and view it as largely irrelevant to their lives. It struck me that it wasn't for a lack of trying on their part - but in most circumstances it was from a lack of understanding and warmth from the churches they had previously had contact with.

I came away from this wedding both deeply encouraged by the searching of many in our communities but also deeply saddened and disturbed by the way that we often get it so wrong as church.

A Message About... - Isaiah 13-24

14 March, 2003 3:08 PM

Have spent the last couple of days struggling through this chunk of Scripture, Isaiah 13-24. I group it all together because just about every section is titled (in my NRSV) 'A message about....(insert place here)' Following is then a description of a different place, from Assyria to Moab to Jerusalem to Earth. The reading is pretty heavy, not overly uplifting. Its filled with ruins, destruction, war, floods, drought, corruption, pain, famine, death and ultimately the destruction of the Earth.

What can we make of such a section? Can't say I've heard too many sermons preached out of this section?

Question - if Isaiah were to write 'A message about...Earth' in the year 2003 - what do you think it would contain?

wedding bells

13 March, 2003 4:25 PM

Am marrying a couple on Saturday and am looking for any creative ideas people might have on some words of encouragement for them in the ceremony. I have a number of different wedding talks - however at this wedding am looking for something fresh. Any thought appreciated.

Selective Faith

13 March, 2003 2:51 PM

I had a conversation with a class mate yesterday which continues to have me thinking today. She had been at a Christian Youth Festival over the weekend here in Melbourne. One of the speakers was presenting a topic to the teens and young adults assembled — her message was a familiar one (I'll be paraphrasing here) — the thrust of her talk was for the young people not to smoke, drink, swear or have sex. The message was being lapped up by the young people assembled at this meeting.

My class mate reacted very strongly against this message. She made the observation that the speakers message seemed empty in comparison to her observations of the way the speaker looked and acted.

There she stood making some sweeping statements on personal morality yet she was dressed in an outfit which my friend estimated would have costed in excess of $550. Is this another example of how the Church often is selective in what it speaks about?

Would it not have been just as beneficial (if not more) for these young people to hear about a faith that not only impacts ones decisions about whether to drink, swear or smoke or how to express ones sexuality — but also a faith that impacts ones decisions about how to spend money, what career path to take, where to live etc?

As I've said before - in my reading of the gospel - Jesus speaks a whole heap more about money than he does about some of these other issues.

What I learned at the porn show

12 March, 2003 1:27 PM

WHAT I LEARNED AT THE PORN SHOW is a really interesting article written buy a guy who went to a porn convention to hand out bibles. He writes:

'Allow me to share some recent discoveries I've made about God, life and people in an very unlikely place - at the AVN Adult-Expo in Las Vegas. This is the largest porn convention in the world that attracts over 75,000 people and the heavy hitters in the adult entertainment industry.'

Isaiah 10-12

12 March, 2003 9:56 AM

Got a little carried away this morning and read Isaiah 10-12 rather than just the one chapter.

I find it fascinating to observe the imagery that is used in this writing. Particularly in Isaiah 11 where there is a description of the coming of the Messiah. Its an amazing picture.

Some 'highlights' from the description include:

- He will never judge by appearance, false evidence or hearsay.
- He will defend the poor and the exploited.
- He will rule against the wicked and destroy them with the breath of his mouth.
- In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together; the leopard and the goat will be at peace.
- Babies will crawl safely among poisonous snakes.

What an amazing picture of wholeness - what a fantastic image to hold onto heading into today.

ANTI SHALOM - Isaiah 9

11 March, 2003 3:55 PM

Once again this passage in Isaiah 9:1-7 gives us a glimpse of the way God desires things to be. Its a messianic picture where the main theme seems to be that of Peace.

In that day of peace, battle gear will no longer be issued. Never again will uniforms be bloodstained by war. All such equipment will be burned.

Again I can help but contrast this picture of what God seems to be working towards - a picture of wholeness of Shalom - to what is happening in our world today.

I close my eyes to try to visualise the desires of God - the Shalom, the Peace, the wholeness that this passage talks about - but all I see in my head are the instruments of war being amassed in the middle east.

It all seems so destructive - so Anti-Shalom. I know the stated aims of the western leaders (including my own prime minister) is to bring peace to our world with this war - however it all seems so horribly the wrong way to go about it to me.

What if we were to put the billions of dollars being spent on weaponry into purchases that will build our enemies up rather than shoot them down. Simplictic I know - maybe I'm too simple - it all just seems so terribly at odds to these Scriptures I keep reading....

Once again I'm left asking - if these passages in Isaiah are glimpses of Gods purposes for humanity - then why do we continue to work towards other seemingly opposite purposes by our actions!?

Pray for Hirarc

10 March, 2003 11:38 PM

This weekend V and I looked after our young friend Andy again. For new readers - he's a 20 year old guy that we have come visit once per month for a weekend to give his family a break - he's got Downs Syndrome and they need a bit of respite once in a while. I've blogged about my mate Andy before here.

Anyway - Andy has 'a way' about him - he's amazingly perceptive at times.

I was putting him to be on Friday night and we had our normal prayer time. I asked him what he wanted me to pray for. He thought long and hard about it and eventually answered by saying - 'pray for Hirarc'. Its not unusual for me not to understand some of what Andy says - so I asked him to explain. Again he said 'pray for Hirarc'. Again I looked quizzically at him and he elaborated by saying - pray for the war in Hirarc.' He went on to say 'if you pray for Hirarc the war will stop'.

What faith Andy has - challenges me every time!

Out of Context - Isaiah 8

10 March, 2003 4:53 PM

Strange how some words leap off the page at you when you're reading the bible. The words that ring in my ear this afternoon still after reading Isaiah 8 this morning I'm sure were not the 'main message' that the original writer of this passage was trying to convey. I'm also sure I'm reading them totally out of context - however as I read them and now reflect upon them they 'fit' - they made me go 'ah haa'. I won't analyse or explain them here exept to say that today as I read them they gave me real strength, confirmation and peace. They came from verse 11:

'Do not think like everyone else does.'

God is With US? - Isaiah 7

8 March, 2003 1:48 PM

'The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel — God is with us.'

'God is with us'

I wonder if my faith actually reflects this some times — do I live a life that reflects that God is with us? Do I live a life where it is evident that God is with ME? I know that there are bits of my life where God feels 'with me' — like times in creation, times in prayer, times in deep and significant conversation with others. But I wonder if I actually live a pretty segmented life. I'm not so sure I live as though God were with me all day every day! Maybe Immanuel should mean 'God is with me — sometimes.'

But to just look at God being with ME — is to probably miss the point. Its US that he's with! Or is he? I wonder if the way we live as his people in community reflects his presence? Is the way I look at, treat and relate to those around me reflecting that God is with US. Its perhaps easier to grasp that he's with ME — of course he is, why wouldn't he be? I'm a pretty special guy if I do say so myself — but to acknowledge that he's with US means to acknowledge that the OTHER had God with THEM too! Heaven forbid — I've seen some of THEM! I've seen how some of THEM pray, I've heard some of THEIR politics, I've read THEIR blogs and I've heard some of THEIR worship songs!

'Immanuel - God is with us.' It is a beautiful name — but its so much more. In a rich and complex way it pulls together what Jesus was on about. In his very name we see summed up the two greatest commandments of Love. Firstly to an intimate connection and relationship with a God who desires to permeate every crevasse of our existence and secondly to community with the diversity of neighbouring travellers.

Cleansing and Calling - Isaiah 6

7 March, 2003 1:47 PM

Interesting to see how closely connected Isaiah's 'Calling' was to his 'Cleansing' in Isaiah 6. He is forgiven and cleansed in one breath and in the next is given a calling. Almost seems a stark contrast to the way we work in church sometimes. A person almost has to prove their faith before they are given any responsibility or role in the church. I can understand why in one sense, however perhaps it would be better to take this approach. It reminds me of the approach of Jesus who in one breath calls his disciples into relationship with him with the words 'Come follow me' and who in the next breath calls them to action with the words 'and I will make you fishers of men'.

Often new Christians have a sense of wonder, energy and openness to sharing their faith — I wonder if we stifle the impact they could have by making them have a year of 'spiritual formation' before they are given opportunity to take up a role within the Church or do any sort of mission.

This chapter is also a great reminder at how linked our personal faith is to our calling or ministry. As a minister I'm always tempted to spend my time doing - but need to remember to continue to 'be' with God and allow the 'cleansing' and connection with God to take place.

Me, Myself and I(saiah 5)

6 March, 2003 4:23 PM

Today's passage in Isaiah 5 picks up the familiar themes of Justice and Righteousness. Again the imagery is rich - that of a vineyard that has the potential to produce a great crop but instead produces wild and sour grapes. The consequences are dire.

Its interesting to take a look at the 'sin' of the people in these chapters - I can't recall one mention of sexual sin yet. SO FAR the things that displease God are pride, arrogance, self obsession, oppression, greed, piety and selfishness.

The society of the time seems to be a 'me' focused place. In my reading of the passages - this is what is peeving God off the most. Reminds me so much of today where life is so often about getting oneself ahead - accumulating My own fortune - making sure that I am happy.

I wonder if we in Church sometimes only add to this I-centric attitude? Most of the worship songs we sing are as much about ME as they are about God. Often the preaching resembles a SELF help seminar. I wonder what would a Church that was less in tune with our self obsessed culture and more in tune with God's other obsessed paradigm look like?

Contrasting Imagery - Isaiah 3-4

5 March, 2003 10:05 AM

2 chapters today - both filled with contrasting rich imagery.

Isaiah 3 is filled with anarchy and self centeredness. Children leaders, people taking advantage of one another, fighting, shortages of food and clothing, ruins, guilt, foul stenches, shame, ugliness and destruction are just some of the pictures.

Isaiah 4 is a more hopeful picture of the grace of God. It contains pictures of Shalom — of wholeness. I love this imagery — fruit, lushness, beauty, washing of filth, cleansing, shade, shelter from heat, hiding place from storms and rain.

The contrast between the two is stunning - the question in my mind is - which is more descriptive of the state of our world (and even the Church) today?

Lastly the image that leaves me pondering today is that in chapter 3 of God as 'the great prosecuting attorney - presenting his case against his people.' This is not a portrayal of God that I've ever seen before and has left me surprised. Why is it that we generally only talk about the biblical images of God that are not confronting? We hear about a nurturing, comforting, shepherding God on a weekly basis in most churches - but where is the confronting, judging and sometimes angry God of Isaiah?

War - Isaiah 2

4 March, 2003 4:01 PM

Today I read Isaiah 2 and was confronted by many things again. So far my main personal challenge has been to catch a glimpse of the purposes of God and to compare them with the purposes and ways of his people. (both in OT times and today - including my purposes)

Interesting to read verses 1-5 in light of what is currently happening in the world.

In the last days 'the Lord will settle international disputes. All the nations will beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. All wars will stop, and military training will come to an end.'

Again in this passage we get a glimpse of the heart of God. Peace seems to be fairly important to him. The transformation of implements of war into objects of provision and life is a beautiful image. Just imagine the missiles, bombs etc being transformed into things that could feed the starving in our world....

If these are Gods purposes - and we are the 'body of Christ' - how should we be living them out today?

False Worship - Isaiah 1

3 March, 2003 4:56 PM

I've decided to take a walk through Isaiah the next few weeks. Today started in logical place of Isaiah 1. I was struck by the words in verse 17.

'LEARN TO DO GOOD. SEEK JUSTICE. HELP THE OPPRESSED. DEFEND THE ORPHAN. FIGHT FOR THE RIGHTS OF WIDOWS.'

In context they stand in stark contrast to what the people of God have been doing. God describes their efforts at connecting with him as sinful, empty and false. Their actions are described as 'worthless slag' and 'watered down wine'. The tone of Gods words is of frustration, disgust and anger. It is confronting.

God says he's even at the point of not listening to or seeing their prayers because of the emptiness and hypocrisy of the peoples behaviour! This doesn't sound like the God we hear about most Sundays - a God of love, patience, acceptance of us just the way we are...This God is confronting at the emptiness and futility of his people's faith!

Makes me wonder what God thinks about what we do as his Church today! How seriously do we take the call to justice? How central is defending, helping and fighting for the rights of the less fortunate to our faith? Have we lost sight of some of the central purposes of God? Do our worship services seem empty and even 'false' in the eyes of God when we fail to grapple with the things that seem to be fairly and squarely upon his heart?

The Silence is Deathening

28 February, 2003 8:32 AM

shhh.jpgWhile we are talking about issues that the Church (and the world at large) has been a little too silent on...

The UN on Wednesday released a revision of its forecasted population figures. The good news is that they have revised the forecasted population in 2050 from 9.3billion to 8.9billion. Population growth is slowing which is good as far as overcrowding issues goes.

But wait - lets dig into the report a little deeper and find out WHY we have such results. I urge you to not skim over these findings, allow them to sit with you for a while today.

'About half of the 0.4 billion difference in these projected populations results from an increase in the number of projected deaths, the majority stemming from higher projected levels of HIV prevalence.'

' Over the current decade, the number of excess deaths because of AIDS among the 53 most affected countries (largely African and Asian countries) is estimated at 46 million and that figure is projected to ascend to 278 million by 2050.'

I was stunned when I read these figures on page 7, in a little and probably largely unnoticed article, in yesterdays paper.

278,000,000 people to lose their life in the next 47 years, within my lifetime, from one cause and its page 7 news! What kind of twisted priorities do we have? Why don't we hear these types of reports mentioned in church? Why is there not some major response coming from the Body of Christ? Yes efforts are being made and they are valuable - but largely they come from individuals or organisations who we give our loose change to to 'fix it'.

I wonder what the response from Church, World and Media would be if 278,000,000 people were projected to die in the West in the next 50 years?

Didn't he say something like - 'Love your neighbour as your self'....and 'Whatever you do for the least of these you do for me'?

When the Church is Silent

27 February, 2003 10:59 PM

sh.jpg
I have been thinking a lot today about the topics that we as church choose talk about and what we seem to avoid.

It strikes me that the church at times talks a lot about issues of personal morality. Sexuality for instance is an issue that most Churches have no problem in preaching about, confronting individuals (and the world) on and defining what is right and wrong in.

However there seem to be a number of other issues that often get left out. Consumerism, Individualism, Elitism and Materialism (to name a few) are issues that in my reading of the gospel that Jesus had things to say about. They are also things that permeate our culture in the West yet which we tend to sweep under the carpet.

Just last week I heard of a church attendee who was asked not to come back to their church of 9 years because their struggle with their homosexuality had become public. The leadership of this church was quick to act on this issue - in their eyes it was a clear cut call and they felt compelled to confront. I've heard similar such tales on numerous occasions in the past few years.

However I'm yet to hear of a church where the leadership confronted an individual member on the way they spend their money. I'm yet to hear a tale where someone was asked to leave a church because in their job they made decisions which exploited or oppressed the poor. I've never heard of a church sitting down a member out of a concern for their workaholic tendencies.

Why do some parts of our life seem to be impacted by faith while others are kept separate? Why are some 'compartments' of ones life open to the church's scrutiny and comment while others are largely ignored?

Burning Bush

26 February, 2003 5:41 PM

No I'm not talking about burning any world leaders - rather I'm talking about Exodus 3:1-12, the passage I'm preaching on this Sunday.

I've been thinking alot about this passage where Moses is confronted by God through the burning bush - and I wondered if anyone out there might want to contribute to my thinking/preparation process!? Any ideas?

Have been thinking about drawings the similarities out between the calling of Moses and the calling of us. Moses was a man whose people were in chaos. God desired to do something about the mess they were in and chose to come to their aid - through Moses.

I wonder if there is a parallel to the place we find ourselves in today - our world is in chaos - I think God sees our plight and perhaps desires to make a difference through people.

The question is, have we seen our burning bushes??

Done lots more thinking, but interested in others thoughts!?!

Stormy Times

24 February, 2003 7:23 PM

Was reading through Acts 27 this afternoon and thinking about the situation that Paul found himself in on a boat in a violent storm that lasted 14 days. The chaos of that situation must have been amazing. There was almost a mutiny, people couldn't bring themselves to eat and they must have lost hope of survival.

Yet Paul was able to influence and even lead in the situation despite him being a prisoner and therefore relatively powerless.

Made me think of the times we are living in - some days when I watch the news or look at the paper it seems like the violent storm we find ourselves in is almost overwhelming. The gloomy skies of war, poverty, terrorism and the rampant fear that so many have - life is chaotic. Its easy to get swept along with it all, to be overwhelmed and to loose hope.

Our world needs 'Pauls' right now. People willing to stand firm on the rocking boat. People that can make some sense of the situation and point to solutions. People that are able to encourage the world to move onwards and to have hope and people willing to help people catch glimpses of a God who desires to bring life.

John 3:What?

21 February, 2003 3:08 PM

Rachel's latest post about a Christian Billboard with the reference to John 3:16 got me thinking about the whole John 3:16 phenomena. Yep - the verse that was drummed into all of us who went to church from year dot that we were told sums up the whole gospel in a nutshell. I can remember saying it over and over again before Sunday School one week in the hope that I'd be chosen to resite it for the class and get my reward (chocolate)!

Recently someone asked me why this verse was so popular - why it was chosen to sum up the whole gospel? Does it sum up the whole gospel? The more I began to think about it the more I began to wonder if perhaps we've got it all wrong! What single verse would Jesus leave with us to sum up the gospel message if he had a say in it?

Now before I continue I will say that I think Jn 3:16 is pretty good - it says a profound thing. I will also say its pretty hard to sum up something so profound as the gospel with just a few simple words. However i want to put forward an alternative verse and want to ask you to put forward yours!

The suggestion I have is that we keep Jn 3:16, but we don't go to the Gospel of John, but rather the first letter of John. Yes - 1 John 3:16. For those of you with memories like mine it says:

We know what real love is because Christ gave up his life for us. And so we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.

To me this not only encapsulates what Christ did, but points us onwards to what our response should be. The call of Jesus is not simply to get people saved - it encompassed that, but it was so much more. It was (is) a call to a life of making a difference in our world, in the lives of those around us. Its a call to love. If the gospel stops with God's love for us then its only half the picture - its an incomplete gospel.

Interested in your opinion - what verse would you suggest that sums it all up?

The biggest threat to the Church?

20 February, 2003 7:53 AM


In class today Tom said something that struck me. He was talking about the challenges that the Church of today faces as we move into this new century. We got on to talking about the competitors of church. Some would say that the biggest threat is coming from Islam or other religions. He said he thought the biggest competitor was not another religion, but rather marketers who are subtly creating a new religion of consumption.

Of course there is not an international conspiracy, there is not a competitive group of marketing types out there planning ways to get rid of the church — they are just doing their job. However in reality the Consumption mentality is gradually growing and growing.

Tom quoted many interesting stats from both Australia and the US that illustrated the point. One that stays in my mind this evening was that in the US per capita income increased 95% between 1968 and 1998 — but in that time giving in churches decreased by 20%. In the same period average levels of savings have plummeted and the level of the average persons debt have sky rocketed.

Some of this can be explained perhaps by increased costs of living — housing costs — health insurance etc However I suspect its more to do with a consumption mentality that has crept into many churches as it has crept into society at large. I agree with Tom in his assertion that this is something that the church needs to address — and something we need to address fast. It is something that I think that gospel has something to say about and therefore it is something that the church should be taking a critical stand on also.

Sadly though, after a recent trip to a Christian book shop, I wonder if the church may have actually done the opposite and bought into the whole consumption thing themselves.

Intense - ive

18 February, 2003 10:02 PM


This week I'm participating in a 10 day intensive subject at college studying under guest lecturers from the US - Tom and Christine Sine. Tom is the writer of 'Mustard Seed vs McWorld' (and numerous other books) and he and Christine wrote 'Living On Purpose' (the title of the subject I'm studying). After two days I'm finding it pretty good. I have probably covered most of what we've done previously in my study with FORGE - however its good to have the lessons previously learnt confirmed by someone outside our context.

The premise of todays lectures was that as Christian leaders we need to be looking at future trends in order to be effective in producing good discipleship in our churches and communities. Its a simple and logical idea really, one which businesses and corporations generally do pretty well and one which most churches and church leaders would agree with in theory. However when it comes to practice I'm not so sure that most of us do too good a job of it.

Often as leaders we are so busy in maintaining the status quo in the present and dealing with the past that we don't have a spare moment to think about or plan for the future.

I guess we need to be balanced in this - we could go to the other extreme too and spend so much time reflecting upon future possibilities and strategising for them eventuating that we never think about the here and now.

The challenge I felt today was to spend some more time doing some discerning about the place where we live and are planting the Living Room. I've done a lot of personal observation over the past few months but will spend some time in the next couple of weeks seeking out more information from others. I actually sent an email to our local Council member requesting information - I wasn't sure about getting a response from her, but within a few hours I had a reply - she is willing to meet and talk about the opportunities and needs of our local community. She has already indicated one or two possible areas that we might be able to make contributions to some local issues. I guess its all a part of the discerning process - all part of spotting what God is up to in the neighborhood and discerning how we are to join him in it.

Lectio Divina

16 February, 2003 3:45 PM

Last week I mentioned a passage that God spoke to me through when I did a Lectio Divina on it. A few people emailed me asking what Lectio was or asking for information on how to do it. Personally I've always struggled a bit with my own personal prayer life - particularly with the idea of a quiet time - maybe its my personality type, maybe my temperament or maybe I just drink too much caffine - I've found always found quiet times a struggle - that is until I was introduced to Lectio.

Lectio Divina is an ancient monastic method of reading the Scriptures. Latin for 'Divine Reading' or 'Praying the Scriptures', Lectio Divina is a quiet and contemplative way of coming to Gods Word in which the participant allows the rhythm of Scripture to wash over them as they meditate upon the passage.

There is no one way to do it - I'm sure there as are many versions as their are people using it - but I'll post here the way I've written it up for my community to use. We've done it from time to time as individuals, in small groups and even a few times in groups of up to 200! (although it obviously has to be adapted) I've written it up as follows - feel free to take it or leave it...

The method (NB ? there is no one way of doing this - you may wish to put on some quiet music, use some images of Christ or other art/photos, or get out in creation and work through the following steps.)

1 - Stop/Relax/Connect with God. - Calm your body. Concentrate on some slow breathing - try to clear your mind of the busyness of life and your day. Simply call out to God - ask for him to touch you as you pray.

2 - Scripture Reading 1 - read the passage you've chosen twice. Read the Scripture slowly. Allow its words to wash over and sink into your consciousness as you become familiar with the passage. Don't try to interpret it or understand it. Picture and even enter the scene, watch and interact with the characters. Listen for words that catch your attention, when they do, savor them, toss them around in your mind. In the silence that follows the reading meditate upon what you have heard, let the verses begin to stir up memories, thoughts or ideas as they come. If a word/s or phrase/s from the passage strikes you say it out loud or write it down - don't embellish or explain it.

3 - Scripture Reading 2 - read twice more. As you read the Scripture again, continue to allow it to wash over you. Let its rhythm and repetition flow. In the silence that follows continue to enter into and engage with the scene and the authors words. What theme/s emerge for you? How do you and your experience connect with what is being read? What is Christ speaking to you at this time? Write in a sentence the theme that you feel God is speaking to you through the text.

4 - Scripture Reading 3 - read twice more slowly. Continue to interact with and meditate upon the Scripture as previously. What action might God be calling you to through these verses? Let your meditation lead you to silent prayer, thanksgiving, petition, confession etc. Interact with God on what you are thinking, communicate with your thoughts and ideas. Journal your thoughts and prayers if this is helpful. Write to God as if writing to a friend. Go with the flow, let your mind be taken in whatever direction you find it goes.

Make note of any action that you feel God is leading you to.

When you feel comfortable ending your time, thank God for interacting with you ? pray about any other issues that you may have on your heart.

Divine Encounter

13 February, 2003 4:25 PM


This morning I encountered the divine in a simple way.

I met for the first time with the local baptist ministers here in the inner north of Melbourne. Just four of us. We talked about how things were going for each of us, planned a couple of things and then went in the chapel to pray. It was very different to what I'm used to in that the prayers were largely read - they were simple - they related to real life and in a very beautiful way I felt that through them I went very deeply into the presence of God in a way I could almost feel.

I realised while I was there that is was something I'd not been fostering as much lately - it was a very peaceful experience and one that made me felt not only connected to God but to the others in the team. I came away with energy and motivation that had been lacking earlier.

Navel Gazers Anon.

11 February, 2003 7:15 PM


Kevin was doing Lectio on Mark 1:29-39. It grabbed my attention because I did a Lectio on it last week.

The verses that particularly got my attention were 35-39 as follows: "The next morning Jesus awoke long before daybreak and went out alone into the wilderness to pray. Later Simon and the others went out to find him. They said, "Everyone is asking for you." But he replied, "we must go on to other towns as well, and I will preach to them, too, because that is why I cam." So he traveled throughout the region of Galilee, preaching in the synagogues and expelling demons from many people."

I've always been challenged by the way Jesus took time out to spend time alone with God. I guess what has struck me for a long time is that if JESUS - divine - Son of God! - needed to take some time to connect with his father - then how much do I need to as a broken, fallen mere mortal!

But this week as I read this passage I was drawn less to the fact that Jesus took the opportunity for such a time, but rather I was drawn to the result of this time.

Out of this inimate few hours with his Father Jesus propelled himself into his mission, into the world. Out of this time where he perhaps caught a glimpse of the heartbeat of God he seems to urgently desire to spend time with the people God's heart breaks for. He didn't sit the disciples down and teach his inner core team, he didn't send his disciples away and stay contentedly in his own little relationship with his father - he straight away was propelled into action.

I'm not sure that on those all to infrequent occassions when I do stop to spend some intimate time with the Father that the same thing happens. I fear that too often I come out of these times in my own little world, thinking my own little thoughts, largely unchanged and unwilling to let what I've just experienced impact those around me. Basically I felt convicted that I'm a bit of a navel gazer - can't get my eyes off me...

I guess to extend it to a corporate level I wonder if what most churches do Sundays would follow the pattern we see here of Jesus either? I suspect that too often services end up focusing those attending upon themselves and the church and not enough on the world we live in and our response to it. Imagine if people came out of church every week propelled into mission, propelled into relationships with their neighbors, propelled into making a difference in the world they lived.

Imagine....

::?Sacred?:: - OR - ::?Secular?::

6 February, 2003 2:28 PM






I have been interacting online with a great group of young Aussie Christians the past year or so on a discussion forums site - they really get me thinking about my own journey and theology.

One of the recurring themes seems to be questions like - 'Should Christians watch TV?' or 'Should we be going to movies?' or 'should Christians go to the pub?' or 'Should we be reading Harry Potter?' or 'should we go to parties where there are the more dubious types of people and activities?' I guess in many ways these are good questions and ones that many young Christians typically ask - questions that as I grew up I asked.

What alot of these questions seem to be asking is 'how as Christians should we be interacting with our world?' and 'do we run the risk of being influenced negatively by this world if we do interact with it?'

My fear is that as Christians we often write certain spaces, people and aspects of the world we live in off as 'secular' or 'unholy'. They are places that we should not go, people we should not speak to etc because they may have a 'bad influence' on us. By inference I wonder if we are really saying that these are places where God is not present.

As I read the bible I don't meet a God who is not present in certain places. I meet a God who is working in some very unlikely ('unholy' even) characters lives. I meet a God who parties with the Tax Collector, interacts with prostitutes and touches the leper. I meet a God who is bringing the whole of creation to himself and who calls his people to join him in this task.

I was reminded at the Forge Intensive today by another Darren that Jesus said in John 5:17 'My Father never stops working, so why should I?' and then in v19 'the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does'.

Jesus looked for what his Father was already doing in the world - in the 'unholy' places and people and then he joined him in those places. God is at work on the fringes of our society as much as he is at work in the centre. He is at work as much in the local pub or movie theatre as he is in the local church.

As Darren shared today - ' the question is not whether it is ok for me to be in the pub - the question is whether it is ok if I'm NOT in the pub?!'

Yes we do need to be balanced in our thinking - we do need to be accountable when we go to the fringes and to look at our motivations. We need to evaluate our own limitations and weaknesses and to discern where God is calling us to join him. However I think it might be more 'sinful' to write of such places and people as 'unholy' than for us to actually go to them and find what God is doing there and join him in it.

To use the fork or two hands? - that is the question!

1 February, 2003 2:09 PM

ioocmudcake01.gifI find myself feeling a little low this 1st day of Feb. So I'm posting a story that I tell when I speak in churches or schools - its a story of an event that impacted my life incredibly - in fact it was an event that I credit with turning my life around. Its also a story that brings a smile to my face. I hope you enjoy it...

I entered the cafe in the hope of finding a small quiet place to sit, relax and read whilst enjoying a cappuccino. Caf�s have always been a favourite place for me. Not only do they give a place to escape the busyness of life but they meet some deep dark need within me to be cool and sophisticated. Don't ask me where it comes from, I guess deep down I'm a yuppie at heart!

I stood at the counter waiting to order when I heard my name being quietly called. "Darren....Darren" At first I thought it was my imagination and ignored the impulse to see from where it emanated. However it persisted. A small pleading voice coming from the end of the counter. Looking around to see if anyone had noticed and to check no one was watching me ( I had to keep up the 'cool' front!) I stole a quick glance in the direction of the calling.

Anyone else would have seen nothing out of the ordinary, but to me it was obvious from where the voice came. There at the end of the counter stood the one that now had me mesmerised. My heart leapt as I moved forwards, captivated by the beauty.

latte2.jpgEncased in a glass cabinet was the biggest, richest, moist looking dark chocolate mud cake that I'd ever seen! It took everything within me to stop from regressing to a primitive neanderthal state as I stood there gaping at this work of art before me. This was no ordinary cake.

Mud cake and I go way back. We are one. Where there is mud cake there is Darren. I had to possess this cake. I was an integral part of its destiny. It was as if I had found a long hoped for soul mate. I was going internally berserk. The excitement was huge, yet I contained it. One must be sophisticated after all.

I ordered my mud cake and cappuccino and found a table by the window, barely able to hide my excitement.

I waited. The hustle and bustle of the caf� went unnoticed as I strained to see if the waiter was on his way. After what seemed like an eternity he appeared before, me cappuccino and cake in hand. He placed it before me with a wry smile on his face. It was better than I'd expected. The wedge of cake before me was massive, bigger by far than any I'd seen or hope to receive again. Not only was it big, it was accompanied by a generous serving of fluffy whipped cream.

I waited for the waiter's retreat, all the time trying to seem aloof and unaffected by the splendour before me. I had to remain 'cool'. He was gone, the time had come.

cutlery.jpgWith trembling hand I took the small fork I found along side the cake and gently sliced a small, moist sliver of chocolate delight, dipped it in the cream and lifted it to my lips.

I've always considered my taste buds to be pets, some say a dog is mans best friend, I beg to differ. They were in for a treat! They leapt with excitement and showed their appreciation with a flood of pleasure filling my mouth and radiating into my body. This was sensational!

The fork followed the same path time and time again, not too fast, one did not want to draw too much attention to oneself. I had an image to protect here!

Baby9.jpgIt was after the initial waves of euphoria began to subside that I began to realise that my restraint in partaking of my mud cake was a wise move. I was not alone in my part of the cafe. The table directly in front of me was occupied. There before me sat two people. the elder of the two was a woman, probably in her early thirties. Beside her sat a young girl, probably around three, blond, extremely cute, wearing a little pink frock and visibly excited.

You know how children are when they are excited, they fidget, they look around, they pull at the sleeve of adults around them and they bounce. Boy oh boy was this lil girl bouncing! Something very, very cool was about to happen.

The bouncing began to increase in ferocity with the approach of the waiter, he came it seemed, bearing the object of this little girls desires. A latte and piece of carrot cake was placed before the woman. The milkshake placed before the little girl was largely ignored as she strained, on her knees now, to see what else the waiter had for her. There it was. The little girls eyes widened in shock as before her was placed another piece of Mud cake. She was soooo excited!

It was the same sized piece as the one that had been put before me just minutes before, but in front of this tiny girl it seemed huge, it was bigger than her head! The whipped cream alone would have filled both her cupped hands and not only that, but much to my jealous disgust she had two scoops of vanilla ice cream on the side!

Electricity now seemed to be passing through this young child as she surveyed the enormous pile of cake, cream and ice cream before her. Held back momentarily by her mother until the waiter had left them alone the anticipation grew. I knew what was to come, I had just been there, this girl was about to be in heaven!

I could not take my eyes of this picture. The moment had come. As I continued to nibble at my cake, trying so hard to control my excitement for fear of seeming uncool I watched this child DEVOUR her cake. There was no fork. Instead she reached out to this huge piece cake, dumped a handful of cream and another of ice cream on top of it and then proceeded to pick it up with both hands and shove as much of it into her mouth as possible in one go! It was not pretty. There was chocolate instantaneously spread across her face from one side to the other, there was cream in her hair and their was saliva and goop all down her little dress. She fully entered into the experience of eating this cake, no holding back.

Baby1.jpgShe had eyes only for the cake. She didn't care if she was being watched, she didn't care if she was messy, she WAS in heaven. The joy in her face was unmistakable, this was an intensely passionate moment.

As I sat there, fork in hand, nibbling at my cake I felt convicted. Personally I feel it was a 'God moment'. Like he was whispering into my ears with the picture before me.

'Darren.....you see that little girl? You see how she is going after that cake? THAT is the way I want you to go after me.'

Too often I know I go through life with a fork in hand. Trying to be cool, trying to be sophisticated, worried about how I look, concerned with what others might say and as a result nibbling at life and nibbling at faith.

Baby4.jpgThat day a child gave me insight into another way of living, one I'm sure I once partook in, one I now strive to embrace. She reminded me of the words of Jesus who encouraged his followers to enter into life like a child. Kids have passion, they express themselves, they are single minded, they don't mind what others think, they are unashamed! Sometimes being a child is messy, sometimes others do gawk and point, but in the midst of it all I've found a way of life that I'd not give up for anything. It is the way of two hands and no fork!

Darren Rowse 2003

Who's In - continued...

20 January, 2003 9:02 AM


Just checked the ongoing 'Have Your Say' conversation in the Who's In post. Was surprised to that the conversation continues there! Thanks for them - there is some really insightful thoughts and stories there - thanks to those who are using my 'Have your Say' section to share their own experiences - its a real privledge to hear your story. Check out, Laura, Paul, Richard, Johanna, Alan, Bene, Rachels etc comments in that post particularly - they are top quality!!! Debs last comment gives a bit of a feel for what has been said. She writes:

'wow - what an amazing story - my friend and I are viritually howling our eyes out here in our study. We both have had similar experiences of being cast out of churches - not because we did the unforgivable sin, but because we were broken people searching for a God who we thought accepted such people. Thank God we found a church that allowed us to be broken and in time find healing.'

It seems that my story of the woman who was ostrasized by her pastor was not such an extreme or isolated case! This saddens me and makes me all the more determined to help facilitate something that is different.

Sunday

19 January, 2003 12:26 PM


Tonights service at DCCC continues the theme of 'Where is God on Monday?' Its been interesting to hear over the month the stories of different members of our congregations share where and how they experience and sense God during their week. I've personally found it very refreshing and just as stimulating, if not more than the preaching that we normally hear from the 'experts' week to week. (including my own preaching!) Its great stuff.

Tonight we are taking a break from the story telling and I'm giving people some space to think about the year ahead. They'll receive a sheet with a blank timetable of their week on it. They'll then plot the things that they generally do in a normal week and then spend time reflecting upon where they expect to experience God in it. I guess the challenge is to realise that God is there 24/7 - and we need to learn to tune in and be more open to experiencing and being under his direction in the 'normal' things of life and not just on our 'Sunday worship experiences', mid week small groups or the times we set aside specifically to pray.

One of the books I've found helpful in thinking this through with a small group is Tom and Christine Sine's . I'm looking forward to meeting and learning from them in person in a couple of weeks time as I do an intensive subject with them at college.

Who's In?

13 January, 2003 10:04 PM

I was told this true story over a year ago by a friend. It shook me then and continues to haunt me. It now plays a part in shaping the type of church I want to be involved with. (Names have been changed to protect the violated and violators) Its long but I can't share it any other way!

Margaret was a spiritual person. She had always sensed there was more out there, some power that was behind life, some being that seemed to be reaching out to her, desiring to entwine itself with her life.

Margaret grew up in suburban Melbourne in the 60's an 70's. A time where a young woman could 'find herself' . A time where one could experiment with who they were and what there place in the cosmos was. She began to reach out to an unseen but felt God.

Over the years her exploration included trips to Asia to spend time with various gurus, reading books about astral travel and in more recent years she and her young daughter became regular visitors to the New Age festivals that seemed to spring up around the outer suburbs of the city. At times Margaret seemed to find the enlightenment and peace she hungered for at other times she felt empty and longed for more. Her search continued.

After decades of searching Margaret met a Christian that introduced her to a local church and its pastor. The pastor met with her a number of times and in time introduced her to Jesus. She and her daughter became Christians and felt wonderfully and warmly accepted by this community of believers.

Margaret felt alive - she was able to name this previously unknown God that she had felt drawing near to her. She began to grow and mature in her faith yet she still had questions. Questions about how her new found faith in Jesus fit with her previous experiences. Had she not experienced enlightenment and peace through her yoga, her crystals and exploration of other religions? Or was it all just simply of Satan or perhaps just some psychological phenomenon?

She wanted to make sense of it all and began to read a New Age book again - looking for Jesus in their pages. She made an appointment to see her Pastor, surely he would be able to advise her. The appointment came and she shared some of her doubts and experiences of before her conversion. She asked him questions and told him about the book she had been reading. He said very little and she went home confused.

Sunday morning came and Margaret and her teenage daughter went to worship as they did every week. They sat towards the front, eager to learn and connect with God. After the singing had finished the Pastor got up to speak. All was normal at first apart from the fact that he did not stand at his pulpit as was his habit. Instead he began to leave the platform and walked into his congregation. He walked up to Margaret and then pointed at her so that no one could be mistaken about whom he spoke of.

"This woman has been dabbling with things of Satan!" he shouted to his flock. "She is not to be trusted. I do not want any of you to have anything to do with her from this day forward. This woman is a WITCH!" He then proceeded to order her from the building while those she had come to know as friends looked on.

Margaret and her daughter have never set foot in church again. Her daughter who this story was related to my friend by had an incredible distrust for the church and Christians as a result also and says she'll never return either.

This story made me angry. Its an extreme illustration of something that I feel many churches today are guilty of - building walls. The pastor that day put a boundary around his congregation. It was publicly stated and well defined. Everyone knew that morning who was IN and who was OUT. If you had questions, doubts or wanted to try to make sense of the gospel in relation to another belief system you were excluded in a vindictive way from the community.

As I said, this is an extreme case. Many, perhaps even most churches and pastors would take a more gentle and graceful approach with Margaret. However its got me wondering what boundaries we continue to build up around ourselves as churches. I've taken a good hard look at how church operates and I think that most are guilty of the same thing in many and varied ways.

Most of the boundaries we build are very subtle and unintentional - but none the less they exist. They can range from simple things like the language we use and the way we dress right through to the big issues like how we determine membership or issues of theology and exercising of gifts. When we do this the mentality is one of US and THEM. Time and energy is spent by the community defining the boundaries and making sure people are kept on the side that they belong. To become one of US (to belong) means you have to change your behaviour or beliefs. (or at least appear to do so)

The way I read Jesus is that he didn't operate this way. I can't find an account where he told a sinner or outcast to go away and fix themselves up before they could come to him. In fact the people he go most angry at were people who were into the US and THEM game. Time and energy in Jesus community wasn't spent on defining boundaries and keeping people in their place, rather it was spent on drawing people into a life in the kingdom.

I don't have all the answers, community gets tricky at times and so often we find ourselves 'playing the game' without even knowing it. But the kind of church I desire to be a member of is one where belonging isn't determined by what someone believes or what someone's lifestyle looks like - rather I suspect it needs to be based upon something a little deeper like their attitude and what direction they are moving in. Like Jesus community it might at times look quite opposite the way many of our churches operate - with the outsiders taking up central positions and the so called insiders finding themselves on the outer.

What do you think???

Godliness is next to manliness

13 January, 2003 4:12 PM

from Melbourne paper The Age January 13 - By Kelly Burke

"Testosterone is keeping men away from church as religion fails to satisfy the thrill-seeking urge, according to research in the United States.

While women's over-representation in religious participation has been the case for centuries, the question of men's irreligiosity has been largely ignored, says Rodney Stark, a University of Washington professor of sociology and comparative religion. After studying data from 57 nations covering all the world's major religions, he has concluded that male physiology, not socialisation, has rendered them comparatively godless.

The reason men are less likely than women to be found in a house of worship is the same reason men are more likely to find themselves behind bars, Dr Stark claims.

"Recent studies of biochemistry imply that both male irreligiousness and male lawlessness are rooted in the fact that far more males than females have an underdeveloped ability to inhibit their impulses, especially those involving immediate gratification and thrills," he says in research published in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion.

Consequently, men tend to be more short-sighted about their souls. "Going to prison or going to hell just doesn't matter to these men," he says.

The theory is not just pertinent to Western society, according to Dr Stark, nor applicable only to those religions that threaten a negative payoff in the afterlife for non-participation. Although the gender gap was less pronounced in countries where religions such as Buddhism and Shintoism were dominant, the male/female imbalance was still there.

But Gary Bouma, professor of sociology of religion at Monash University, is sceptical about Dr Stark's findings. "The best you can say about his explanation is that at least it isn't insulting to women," he says, referring to the plethora of theories centred on female submissiveness and emotional capacity.

"(Stark) hasn't really changed the question and he does not give the answer... the physiological basis for risk-taking in itself has yet to be determined," Professor Bouma said.

According to 2001 census figures on religious affiliation, men significantly outnumber women in claiming agnosticism, atheism and professing no religious belief. But one of the most strident gender imbalances is to be found in Satanism - 1415 Australian men identified with devil worship, compared with just 383 women.

Dr Stark said says these figures were consistent with his risk-taking theory. "These men are possibly making a religion out of taking risks," he said.

"They're thumbing their nose at the church... making a religion of the irreligious." "

Thanks for the heaps up again Cam!

Quote for the day

4 January, 2003 9:27 PM


Someone once said to me "If you want to achieve things you've never achieved before, you need to be willing to do things you've never done before".

So often in life we dream of reaching new heights. We do it in our careers, in our relationships, in our ministries etc. But more often than not we're not willing to do anything different to reach those new heights! We are not satisfied with where we are at - but we're not willing to move out of our comfort zone to move forward. As a result we keep doing what we've always done and we fail to fulfil our dreams.

This is a principle that can be applied to virtually all areas of life. If you want to see the world, you'd better be willing to get on a plane or boat. If you want a dynamic relationship with your partner, you're going to have to step up to the plate when it comes to putting in some relational effort. If you want a promotion you will need to do that overtime and make the extra effort with your work.

Surely this is true for today's church also. The statistics across many Western Nations show that many Protestant churches are in steep decline. Last week in a Melbourne paper an article reported that one of our largest denominations, the Anglican church, had issued a press release stating that most churches in Australia would cease to exist in 15 years.

I'm not satisfied with this! I don't want the Church to be an irrelevant institution in my country and world when I turn 45! I want it to be a dynamic force that is presenting the gospel of Jesus in relevant and life changing ways! I dream of a church that is not sniggered at when mentioned in conversation, but one that is respected for the contribution it makes to our society.

If this is what we desire - to be somewhere that we are currently not - surely we need to be willing to do some things that we've never done before. We need to be exploring new ways of being church. We need to be open to new forms of worship, teaching, prayer, leadership and community. We should be dreaming, experimenting, tweaking and striving to find relevant ways to connect with our world. We should be changing the ways we think, speak and look. We should be empowering new, up and coming leaders, giving them permission implement their fresh ideas.

If we are not willing to do new things, we shall continue to do the things we've been doing for decades, if not centuries - and I fear we will never reach the dizzy heights of our dreams!

The wisest man I know

4 January, 2003 12:54 PM


Last night we had the privledge of having possibly the wisest man that I know stay over at our house. He is 20 years old, about 4.5 feet tall, he hardly ever stops smiling and his name is Andy.

We look after Andy once a month for 24 hours to give his parents (two remarkable people) some respite from caring for him. You see Andy has Downs Syndrome and his parents appreciate a night together and alone every now and again. So Andy, V and I paint the town beige for a Friday night and Saturday once a month! Heres a pic of V, Andy and me at our wedding.


For me to be honest it was something that made me feel a little uncomfy - don't really know why in hindsight - but my wonderful wife V is the most caring compassionate person I know so I thought I'd tag along with her - do a 'good deed'!

I soon found that it was not I doing the 'good deed' but Andy who gives more than I ever could. Every time I spend time with him I feel I've had a personal visit from God - all 4.5 feet of him is quite divine! His love for people and life seems to know no limits. His patience and kindness to us big, complicated sods astounds me. His ability to talk to just about anyone makes me envious. His childlikeness is amazing. (today he decided to do the chicken dance in the middle of the crowded market where we visited) And his gratefulness for every small thing I do for him makes me feel guilty for the hundreds of times each day I grumble about the smallest hardship.

In addition to all this he has the most amazing faith I've encountered. Sure its simple - but every time I see it I wonder if thats the way it should be for all of us. Last visit he had a sore stomach - he was actually in considerable pain but didn't want to let on that he was suffering. Eventually he asked me to come sit with him in our little back yard on an old park bench we have. As we sat there he rested his little head on my chest and stammered out the words 'D, would you pray for my sore stomach? It will make it feel better.' Then he took my hand in his and placed it on his tummy while I prayed. I didn't really have too many words to add to his incredible demonstration of faith - what could one say?

Hit a nerve?

3 January, 2003 5:29 PM


Seems the last post hit a nerve both positively and negatively with some if the comments are anything to go by! A couple of the comments concerned me particularly and have made me think much on this subject as I worked today. Cameron concerned me because he seems to lump all Muslims into one basket - the one where they are all terrorists. I personally take offence at this as I have always had friends that are Muslim and they are some of the most peace loving people I've ever met. This is another topic altoghether that perhaps we could explore at some later stage. For now you might like to look at my previous post on my visit to a local Mosque here to get a feel for some of my own journey on this.

Ellis concerned me somewhat as they seem to be trying to isolate themselves from all those that don't profess Christianity as their religion. I don't understand this thinking at all - partly because such an approach would almost be impossible here in Australia due to the smallness of the 'Christian Market' (see last post for what I mean) but also because to me it seems to directly contradict the message of Jesus who time and time again took the religious leaders of his day to task for this type of behaviour. Jesus crossed borders, social taboos, norms and related with just about every people group that he should not have related with.

Why do so many Christians seem to have a 'compound mentality' where they look themselves away from the world and only ever relate to their own kind. There are obviously some who literally are doing this, but I suspect we all do in other more subtle ways.

I could write more - but don't want to harp on about it. Lets keep talking about this!

America's Best Christian Paintball Park

2 January, 2003 9:13 PM



Stumbled across this link to the Promised Land Paintball Park . To be honest its a concept that leaves me a tad puzzled.

Now before I say why let me say that I've done paintball (or as we call it here in Aus - Skirmish) and I found it to be a fun, although slightly painful, experience. I don't have problems with it as a game/sport even though its a bit violent in nature to be shooting people, even if it is with paint balls from a low powered air rifle.

What confuses me is why the park advertises itself as a 'Christian' Paintball Park. I know they are not alone in this, so many businesses do it, but I wonder why? I wonder if in doing so do we separate ourselves somewhat from the world in which we are called to engage with.

Jesus gave us the ultimate model to follow in his becoming human, his incarnation, in order to bring humanity life. When we separate ourselves and our businesses from the world we live in by slapping the word 'Christian' on our door, do we we run the risk of alienating some in our communities from the message we proclaim?

Please do not misunderstand me - I'm not saying we should hide our faith - rather I'm trying to work out what the positives of distinguishing ourselves so blatantly are? What makes a paintball park 'Christian'? Many of the 'customer comments' (and there are rather a lot!!) on the site seem to talk about it being a 'family friendly' and 'safe' environment. Its a place where you can only come if you come with a 'member' -I guess the unruly type are kept away - I wonder if Jesus and his disciples would have gotten a game?

I guess I say this from an Aussie perspective also where if a business were to name itself the 'best Christian paintball park in Australia' it would probably stand to go bankrupt in a matter of weeks. The 'Christian' market in Australia is tiny by comparison to that in America - 'Christianity' is not something that a business that is serious about making money would put in its name here - it would have quite the opposite effect! I take it things are a little different in the US. For example, the sales of 'Christian Music' in the US every year is larger by far than the total sales of ALL music in Australia each year.

With such a large 'Christian' market, the cynic in me wonders if maybe putting the word 'Christian' in your business's advertising is probably more a money making decision than it is a statement of belief.

Gee - I must sound like a real grump tonight. I'm not aiming to be and I'm not meaning to launch an attack upon 'Promised Land Paintball Park' - I'm sure they do offer a fun day out, if I were in the Mid West of the US I'd pop by, however think these types of questions need to be asked - anyone got any thoughts???

UPDATE - the original comments to this post got lost in the move to my new domain - if you're interested you can access them here

Chance meetings

28 December, 2002 9:16 PM


Last week we celebrated V's birthday by going out for dinner to a local cafe. Our waitress was obviously from the US and it was obviously her first night on the job. Despite her best efforts the service from other staff was poor - she was obviously having 'one of those nights'. I felt sorry for her - but obviously not that sorry because she did not enter my mind from the moment we left the cafe until the next night when we saw her trying to borrow a video at the local video shop. Again she seemed to be having 'one of those days'. They wouldn't give her a card because she couldn't prove where she lived. Once again I 'felt sorry' for her - but obviously not that sorry because we walked right on by her in the shop - although she obviously could have done with some support or a friend.

Shortly after I got the guilts - we should have stopped, said hi, asked if we could help. She was obviously new to our area, our country and was probably in need of a friend. Had God perhaps put her in my path twice in 24 hours for a reason? Had I missed an opportunity to show another person compassion? I couldn't get her face out of my mind the next day as I went Christmas shopping the next morning with V. I prayed that if God wanted us to meet her that he'd have to give us another chance. I promptly forgot about her again.

Well of course as we jumped on a tram to come home after shopping there she was, sitting right in front of us. V and I almost laughed as we looked at each other. We promptly introduced ourselves and found that she (Mel) lived at the end of our street, that she was indeed a lonely traveller and was appreciative of someone to talk to. We invited her home for a drink - nothing profound happened - but we promised to keep in touch.

Maybe God didn't trust us to give her a call - because yesterday on the tram home from watching the cricket - there was the smiling face of Mel again. Four chance meetings in a city of over 3 million people in 5 days! Last night she came for drinks and ended up stayed for dinner. Again the conversation was not 'profound', but it deepened. I don't know why we keep bumping into her, we may never - but for me its been a lesson in looking for what God is doing in the ordinary interactions and places of life. In the cafes and video shops and on the trams - places where its so easy to be self absorbed - yet places where God often nudges us and provides opportunities to connect with his other children. Its also been a lesson in the patience and grace of God - even slow coaches like me get included in his plans

I wonder where we'll meet Mel tomorrow!?

Worldometers

24 December, 2002 2:38 PM


Have you seen these? Can't guarantee their accuracy, but whether or not they are spot on, they do make some fairly telling commentaries on the world we live in.

In particular I was struck by Population, Food Supply and Health.

Brings things a little more into perspective as we celebrate tomorrow. Thanks Presurfer for the link.

I'm Pregnant

22 December, 2002 7:45 PM


Its true - and you are pregnant too!!!! We all are!

In preparation for preaching tonight I found myself reading Luke 1:26-38 - Mary is confronted with an angel bringing the news of her pregnancy with Jesus. Quite the day for young Mary, not only does she meet an angel, but she finds out that she's pregnant with God's baby! What pressure!

As I read the story I felt that the message God gave Mary through the angel is the same message that he was giving me and my congregation for today. We are pregnant with Jesus. God has placed something of himself in each of us. We were knitted together in his image - his fingerprints are all over us. Many of us are able to lable the seed he's put in us as a 'relationship with Jesus' or 'faith' or even 'spirituality'. Others perhaps can't name it, but may have inklings about it. When we look at a sunset, or watch the waves crash in at the beach, or perhaps even as we gaze into the heaven or eyes of a new born. We may not have the language to describe our feeling, but we just 'know' that God is present with us.

So there is something of God within us, something of Jesus. We are pregnant in a sense with him. I believe that what he's put in us is designed to grow. As a baby does so too does faith. Babies needs nurturing, food, care and protection - as does our faith. This Christmas we need to allow our 'pregnancy' to progress, to feed our faith (and not just our stomachs), to build it up and to take time from the busyness of this season to connect with our maker.

But Mary didn't just stop at being pregnant. 9 months later she gave birth to Jesus. In a very physical way she birthed the one that had been growing within her. She introduced him into her culture, her context. She brought him into the relationships that she had. She showed the world to him and showed him to the world. In a sense Mary was the first missionary, presenting Jesus to her context.

I got the sense as I prayed this week that we too are called not only to nurture our 'pregnancy', our relationship with Jesus - but also to give birth to it in a sense. To not just leave faith as an insular me and God thing, but to introduce him to our world - to release him in our context.

Our world needs people like Mary right now. Turn on the news at night and you'll see it on a global level. We need people willing to 'give birth to Jesus' as we face issues of war, terror and conflict. But it is also needed on a very individual and local level too. You'll see it if you look carefully. When you walk through your neighborhood or watch and talk to your neighbors. The people around us need people like Mary who are willing to 'give birth to Jesus' in their own local context.

Our world doesnt need people to shove Jesus down throats, to bible bash - rather it needs people to 'birth' him through living lives like the one he set as a model. It needs people willing to have relationships like the ones he had. It needs people willing to speak the message that he brought, to touch the people he touched and to stand up to injustices that he stood up against. In this way, in our own contexts we have the opportunity to 'give birth' to Jesus every day. In this way we begin to fulfill the call for us to be 'his body' and in the process take steps towards meeting some of the incredible needs of this world.

I'm told the birthing process is a painful experience. I have no doubt it is on a physical level (I belive you mum!) but it can also be painful to 'birth Jesus' in our context. Its often not easy.

But the birthing process is also one that brings 'LIFE' - to a child, to its parents and to the friends and family around them. This is true for when people 'birth Jesus' also. Life will result - people (including us) reach our potential and discover what living is all about.

This Christmas lets nurture our 'pregnancy'. Lets strengthen the faith that grows within us. But lets also be willing to birth it - to release the faith that we have - to impact the world we live in.

Seasons Grind?

20 December, 2002 2:08 PM


Does anyone else find it difficult to come up with fresh ways of communicating some of the 'annual' gospel topics?

I'm not trying to be controversial, just honest - Every year I wrestle with the Christmas messages that I am asked to prepare for in my preaching. Its not that the story is boring or has not connecting points for the culture we live in - rather I sometimes feel the pressure to come up with some creative, new way of presenting it.

Christmas services at DCCC get some of the biggest turn outs for the year. As I gaze down on the congregation this week I know that I'll be speaking to hundreds of people, each of whom will have heard the 'age old message' tens, if not hundreds of times!

The agendas of those sitting in the pews will be varied

- Some will be out on their annual pilgrimage to get their once a year 'hit' of Christ. They are their to catch the 'spirit of Christmas' - not really to hear me talk, but rather to connect with other 'annual pilgrims' and to sing Carols.

- Others will have been dragged along by our more regular attenders. The 'Draggers' will be hoping that something in my words will help their backslidden children, friends or neighbors to 'see the light'. The 'Draggees' will be looking for the first opportunity for escape from the bizarre wonderland they've found themselves in.

Throw into the mix the normal collection of weekly attendees who between them want everything from modern day parables, to 6 point exegesis's, to postmodern powerpoint presentations and sermons relevant to everyone from the ages of 3 to 99!

Ok, so I'm making myself sick - the hyperventilation has begun....

Christmas a time for family, friends, fun, reflection, giving and peace - I wonder how many other preachers are out there rocking in the fetal position this week?

Sermon Salad

15 December, 2002 7:30 PM


Tonight's FESTival service has just finished and I felt it went well. It was the last one for the year.

I preached on Hebrews 11:19-26. It was a 5 Lettuce Sermon following the 5 "let us" references in the passage. I actually used real lettuces as a visual to help people remember my points.

In brief it went a little like a this....

Lettuce 1 - Let us enter into the presence of God - do we take the ability to do this for granted? Those of us who've grown up in church often take it for granted, we know nothing else. The original readers of this passage might have felt a little difference having had to rely on a High Priest to do it for them. The challenge is to open and use the gift of being able to enter into the Holy of Holies and not just leave it unopened and unused. What a waste it would be for SUPERMAN not to use his strength, his ability to fly, his x-ray vision - what a waste it is for us not to enter into Gods presence as is our privledge, right and responsibility.

Lettuce 2 - Let us hold onto the hope that we profess for he who promised is faithful. In the midst of an often hopeless world we need to hold onto the hope we have in Christ. The promises he makes are amazing and true - the challenge is to hold onto them in those dark times. And when we can't to allow those around us to do it for us. I love that this is not written to individuals, its not 'Let You', its 'Let US'...faith is an US thing, not an ME or YOU thing.

Lettuce 3 - Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. The call is to inspire those around us to mission, to have an impact on our world. Again, the call to mission is not just an individuals call, its our call. YOU have a responsibility here to spur ME on to outbursts of love and good deeds, to make a difference in the place I find myself. I have the same responsibility to spur you on! We're not in it alone.

Lettuce 4 - Let us not give up meeting together. Again - its when we meet and travel together that faith comes alive. Where two or three of us gather in his name JESUS is there among us. I don't believe in faith for the individual - sure, at its essence it is a personal decision - but in its outworking I don't believe its meant to be.

Lettuce 5 - Let us encourage and warn one another. Same message really - although to be able to WARN someone and have them take notice of your words you really need to be in a pretty good relationship with that person. To me this speaks of being in close, loving community.

Here endeth tonights word of the Lord....be encouraged my friends!!!

The Japanese discover Alt. Worship - Greek wedding style!

14 December, 2002 8:45 AM


Was just channel surfing on the old TV - saw a little report from Japan about a new restaurant that is doing booming business. Its normal except for one aspect - after the meal those eating can pay an extra 5 yen (just a few cents) to go out the back of the shop and smash their plate. These normally well behaved and quiet Japanese restaurant patrons are given a marker to write whatever the plate represents before they smash it. Quite a liberating process if the restaurants success is anything to go by!

Sounds like a crazy combination of a Greek Wedding meets alternative worship experience - maybe we should try it this week at church....I can just envisage our congregations all lining up to piff the communion glasses and plates (complete with names of annoying friends, family and workmates) into the baptistry!

Passion

13 December, 2002 11:41 AM


Had email from Kerstin this morning with a question that made me stop and think for a few minutes. Was one of those very simple questions that actually makes you stop and evaluate what track you are on. She asked - "What made you passionate about reaching the "lost" generation of Australia?"

I answered: When I look around me in the streets of the inner city where I live and see a whole heap of young adults - most of whom would never set foot in a church. They are spiritual beings - very - searching for answers. But they see the church in Australia as totally irrelevant.

The demographics in Australian of church attendees show a Huge hole - 18-35's are missing.

I desire to make an impact upon this demographic. On a local level through our little community, but also on a national and global level through working with Dreamland/Phuture.

That's the brief answer. What about you? What are you passionate about???

BIZARRO EVANGELISM

10 December, 2002 9:06 PM


If you had say one thing that you found difficult or embarressing about Christianity what would it be?

I was listening to a Christian speaker last year talk about an interaction that his Christian group at college had in England.

They were asked to engage in a public debate with a group of 'pagans'. Instead of having to argue for the positives of their own belief system, they had to talk about their struggles with it! So the Christians had to talk about the things that they stuggled with, were embarressed about or found difficult in Christianity. The other group had to do the same for paganism.

Apparently the debate was a huge success, and quite a profound moment for many - on both sides of the bizarro debate.
Quite a bizarre form of evangelism - kinda reverse psychology I guess.

What would you say if you had to enter into such a bizarro debate about Christianity? Might be an interesting exercise...

Update - previous comments (pre MT) are here

Mosque visit

10 December, 2002 1:58 PM


Last Sunday afternoon I visited the local Mosque.

No I'm not considering a change of vocation or religion, rather it was an open day where people were invited to come to see, listen to and meet Moslems in their place of worship. I came away feeling warmly welcomed, better informed and rather pleased with myself at having played a small part in developing relationships between this sometimes ostracized group and the community at large. What a great personal illustration I had as I preached this Sunday about following Jesus example of caring for the outcast and identifying with the rejected!

On Wednesday I received a friendly email from a church elder. It read, 'Did you know you were on the ABC News (Aussie National TV Network) at 7pm last Sunday wandering through the mosque?'

The array of thoughts that proceeded to flash through my mind shocked me. After an initial chuckle at the thought of the mix matched outfit I was wearing in my fleeting national television exposure, my first thought was one of horror at the implications of being seen 'in such a place'! What could this do to my career? What if some of my more conservative friends saw me chatting to and shaking hands with 'those people'?

Jesus took 'inclusivity' to a whole new level. To agree with his teaching on the topic is a relatively simple thing. But to follow his example in action sometimes means facing some deeply ingrained beliefs, views and attitudes.

(Previous comments for this post were unfortunately lost in swapping to MT)

Preaching

8 December, 2002 7:21 PM


Just finished another Sunday - it was good. Tonight I spoke about the Kingdom of God. We did some interactive discussion and then I rambled on for a bit. I felt it went ok, although I continue to wonder about the vast amount of time and energy that I put into the production of a service. Someone once said (think it was in a class earlier in the year)

"The average human being spend less than 3% of their awake hours in church services - why then do we as churches put 90% of our own and volunteers time into them?"

Ok so they actually said it better than that - but you get the point. When you add all the hours of preparation that are put into a service from musicians, tech people, speakers, set up etc.... What would be the effect if that time was channelled into something else? For example if that energy was focused upon cleaning up a neighborhood, having meals with non churched friends, a breakfast program for unfed kids......

Don't get me wrong, I love when we get together to pray, worship, learn and just hang out - but I sometimes wonder if our priorities might be a bit out of wack.

S.O.A.P LIFE JOURNALING

1 December, 2002 3:21 PM

S.O.A.P LIFE JOURNALING

Did SOAP life journaling this morning with both morning congregations. Mixed response - some lapped it up while others almost dozed. It was good to have something reflective in services that sometimes can be a little one, or two dimensional.

SOAP journaling the way I've adapted it goes as follows....(from the hand out I gave today)

Have you ever sat down to read the bible, read a chapter or two and then realized that you didn't really take any notice of what you were reading? You are not alone. Many people have a lot of trouble retaining and applying what they read in the bible.

Life Journaling, using the SOAP acronym, is a way that some people find useful. The method is simply a matter of following the letters of the word soap. It is probably most effective when you work through a book of the bible, reading a different chapter each time. (some people find every day helpful) You will need a bible, a pen and something to write in. Use a journal to keep your reflections together.

Scripture - read the chapter that you have chosen. Don't skim over it or read it too fast. Try to enter into what you are reading. You may need to read it two or three times. When a verse, phrase or word stands out or catches your attention, write it down in your journal. (make it a maximum of two verses)

Observation - what is it about that verse or that phrase or word that kind of struck you? What is it that seemed to catch your attention? What insight or observation do you actually want to write down? What might this verse have meant to the original writer or reader? Write your observations of the verse in your journal.

Application - how does your observation impact you? How should that thought, that observation, that insight, actually change you? God isn't speaking to you to increase your information; He's speaking to bring about transformation. He wants your life to grow, to develop, to change. Again, write your thoughts down. What might God be saying to you through this verse? What action will you take as a result of what you are hearing from God in this way?

Prayer � Respond to God with a prayer. Write to him as though you were writing a letter. Tell him how you feel about what you've read, tell him what you think. Ask him to help you as you seek to apply it to your life. Ask for guidance as you act upon it. You may want to write a poem or draw something to signify what you've just thought about. Your prayer doesn't have to be long or deep, just try to make it come from where you are at.
Experiment with different translations of the bible. You may find noticeable differences between them.
This process can be as long or as short or as you want it to be. Mould it to suit where you are at, your time constraints etc. It can be done individually or as a group. As a group, pick a common passage and report back what you've written at the end of an agreed time. Have fun with it.

Page: