Thursday, September 7, 2006

I've moved!

I've finally cracked it with blogger. It's just too crap. I've moved across to wordpress.com which is just super.

You can now read this blog at http://www.afootinbothplaces.wordpress.com/.

The new RSS feeds are:
Blog - http://afootinbothplaces.wordpress.com/feed/
Comments - http://afootinbothplaces.wordpress.com/comments/feed/

Hope to see you there.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Jesus' Discipleship

I had to write an essay on Jesus' process of developing disciples and apply it to my context. I thought I'd post it so you can read it if you're interested.

Jesus’ Discipleship

As I read through the gospels I see Jesus engaging people from all spheres of society with his life and message of the kingdom of God. From the religious elite, to the average peasant, to those considered outcasts such as tax collectors and prostitutes, Jesus engaged and challenged them with the news of the kingdom. Wherever and whoever Jesus was engaging with there are signs of him calling people to become disciples. In some circumstances he challenged with the good news, in others he comforted with the good news, but he was always calling people to follow him.
If Jesus had a linear process that he used in developing disciples then he kept it to himself and the gospel writers didn’t try and tease it out. This isn’t to say that he wasn’t intentional about discipleship, he certainly was, I’m just not convinced that he had a clear process that he worked through with people to help them become disciples. As we observe Jesus it is apparent that he used different elements of the gospel with different people, depending on their situation. Some people’s circumstances called for incredible grace and mercy, others harsh words of judgement or challenge, Jesus met people at their point of need and engaged them with the gospel accordingly.
In surveying the gospels, particularly Luke, I found that Jesus uses several different means to develop disciples. He put forward hard challenges to encourage the recipient to step up to goals and ideals of the kingdom of God; he performed acts of power to display his authority and show signs of the coming kingdom of God; he spent his time teaching the vision and values of the kingdom of God; he lived a life modelling prayer and finally he empowered and gave tasks to those seeking to become disciples.
In an attempt to assess Jesus’ different methods of developing disciples I will explore each of these means listed above.

Hard Challenges.
From the very beginning of his ministry (Luke 4:14-30) Jesus was levelling hard challenges at those who saw themselves as assured of salvation. Jesus challenged them by reinterpreting what they thought to be God’s will and opening their eyes to the new covenant. Jesus used this approach of hard challenges with the Pharisees as seen in Luke 7:36-50. Here Jesus is anointed by a woman deemed to be unclean by the Pharisees while he is sitting at their table. When the Pharisees challenged Jesus’ behaviour he responded with a parable and reinterpreted their view of forgiveness and cleanliness. He called them to the new way the kingdom of God is bringing in and they are left asking a key discipleship question, “Who is this that even forgives sins?” (Luke 7:49).
Jesus challenges his own disciples many times, sometimes even harshly using rebuke such as when he says to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men." (Matthew 16:23). He challenged all the disciples in Luke 8:22-25 when he calmed the storm after being woken by the disciples who were fearing for their lives. Once he calmed the storm he said to them, “Where is your faith?” (Luke 8:25) and once again a key discipleship question was asked, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” (Luke 8:25)
Jesus put hard challenges to those who aspired to become his disciples. In Luke 9:57-62 we see him call into question the commitment of a couple of people who were eager to follow him. When these people ask to be allowed to tie up loose ends before following Jesus his response is hard and to the point, “No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:62) It’s not clear what the response of these people was, but text gives the impression that at this time they could not bear the cost.
Jesus used this method of hard challenges with the rich as is seen in the story of the rich ruler. After a rich ruler claims to have kept all the commandments Jesus calls him to sell all his possessions, give them away to the poor and then follow him. The rich ruler left dismayed because there was no way he could bring himself to part with all his possessions and therefore he could not follow Jesus. Jesus then extended his challenge from this one individual to all rich people saying, “Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18:25)
There are more examples throughout the scriptures of Jesus using hard challenges to develop disciples, it is a radical approach as people either rise to the challenge or otherwise find themselves turning away. It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t use this method of developing disciples anywhere near as often with the poor or outcast as he did with the rich and powerful.

Acts Of Power.
One of the methods Jesus used in his development of disciples was acts of power. Jesus healed the sick, cast out demons, controlled the weather and performed other miraculous signs of his power and authority. His acts of power were signs of the coming kingdom of God and displayed his authority for those around him to observe.
There are many examples of Jesus performing acts of power among the crowds as he journeyed and taught. One such example is found in Luke 7:14-17 where Jesus raises the only child of a widow to life as he is being carried out of the town. The response of the people there was very significant, “God has come to help his people.” (Luke 7:16) Jesus act of power had drawn them towards a realisation that God had come to help them, that he did care about them, a key lesson on their journey of discipleship.
Jesus used acts of power to develop his disciples into better followers of him. In Luke 5:4-11 we see Jesus instruct these fishermen to lower their nets after they had been fishing all night. In obedience, a crucial element of discipleship, the fishermen lowered their nets and caught more fish than they could manage on their own. Simon Peter’s response to this was to acknowledge Jesus as Lord, to recognise his own sinfulness before him. Jesus then called them to follow and they left everything and followed him. Clearly this act of power developed the disciples trust and belief in Jesus, allowing them to make such a bold step as to leave everything and follow him.
Jesus also used acts of power to challenge the faith and discipleship of the Pharisees. In Luke 5:17-26, while he was teaching as the Pharisees and many others were there listening, Jesus healed a man and forgave his sins right in front of them. Jesus used this act of power to display his authority and teach the Pharisees about forgiveness, to challenge them to acknowledge his authority. Differing from many other passages, this text doesn’t show us a negative response from the Pharisees, it’s not clear if they joined with the others present in praising God, being filled with awe and saying, “We have seen remarkable things today.” (Luke 5:26)
Jesus also used acts of power to encourage those powerful in his society to become disciples. Not only did he display his authority for them to witness and wonder at, but he also used these situations to teach them about the values of the kingdom of God, particularly his concern for the poor and outcast. We see an excellent example of this in Luke 8:40-56 when Jesus is on his way to a synagogue leader’s house to heal his daughter and is stopped by a woman very outcast by the Jewish culture. Jesus values and takes time with this woman and the synagogue leader’s daughter dies. Jesus goes on to display his power over death and raise the synagogue leader’s daughter to life, but the lesson that those who are outcast are valuable to God was not lost. It was a significant counter cultural action that Jesus used to teach the values of the kingdom of God.
There are many other examples of Jesus using acts of power to develop disciples throughout the gospels. It is significant to note that again Jesus uses this method in different ways for different circumstances. He gives people access to the kingdom of God in the way they most need it, whether that is restoring the life of a widow’s only son because without him life would have become much harder for her or letting a rich man’s daughter die so that he learnt God’s heart for the outcast.

Teaching.
One of the key methods Jesus used to develop disciples was teaching. Jesus taught using sharp pithy sayings (Luke 5:31-32), he taught by reinterpreting the law as it was meant to be understood (Luke 6:1-9), he taught in parables (Luke 8:1-18), he taught massive crowds of people who would sit and listen (Luke 6:20-49), he taught in the synagogues (Luke 4:44) and he taught his closest followers privately (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus taught pretty much anywhere at anytime and his topics ranged broadly. He taught using means and content that people would understand and not just for the sake of teaching but to challenge and encourage people to greater levels of discipleship.

Modelling Prayer.
Throughout Jesus ministry he regularly withdrew to spend time with his Father in prayer. Even though his ministry was successful and very public he regularly withdrew from the crowds to pray (Luke 4:42, 5:16, 6:12). Although Jesus does not appear to use this intentionally as a method to develop disciples his modelling of prayer and solitude with God must have had a significant impact on those around him. Particularly on the night before he was crucified when he asked his disciples to pray and he withdrew and prayed in anguish (Luke 22:39-46). Their failure to follow his example and command at such a crucial time must have had a significant impact.

Empowerment.
A key method in Jesus approach to developing disciples was empowering and giving them tasks, sending them out to “preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” (Luke 9:2). While Jesus disciples went with him and no doubt joined in his ministry at particular times there are two specific instances mentioned in Luke that are worth noting. When the twelve were sent out with authority and specific instructions and a chapter later in Luke when Jesus sends out the seventy-two (Luke 10:1-17). This method of empowerment is significant as it enabled Jesus’ followers to participate in his ministry and further explore what it meant to be a disciple. In their task they would have been tested and challenged, providing opportunities for them to make steps forward in their discipleship. Luke 10:17 says, “The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” They had participated in the kingdom of God through the authority of Jesus and experience the power of God, a significant formative experience as a follower of Jesus.

My Context.
I live, work, minister and play in a suburb of Melbourne called Preston. It’s a very diverse suburb with many religions, races, subcultures all mixed in together. It’s not a wealthy suburb, although there are more and more people with money buying older houses and doing them up to live in. There are significant issues in the areas of drug and alcohol abuse, housing, isolation and unemployment. People from our church live in this and the surrounding suburbs, we generally meet in Preston at my house. Our group is made up of mostly white middle class christians although as time goes on we are growing in diversity. Our missional focus is around the idea of creating safe spaces for people to come, away from their worry, their drug or alcohol addiction or their otherwise unhealthy living arrangements. We run a weekly community meal and are hoping to start a low cost housing arrangement with a focus on creating healthy transforming communities.
Under the headings below I will seek to address the question of how Jesus’ methods of discipleship might be integrated into my context.

Hard Challenges.
Most of the members of my church have been Christians for a long time. Over the years it is easy to become complacent and apathetic or arrogant and self assured in the faith. Following Jesus’ method of hard challenges is a very useful method of developing disciples with people in this situation. A concern may be that this method is open to abuse. Obviously Jesus employing this method is different to a fallen human employing it. If I was to adopt Jesus approach of giving people hard challenges in the hope of helping them develop in their discipleship I would want to make sure the challenges I was putting before them were only from the gospel, not add ons or extras to what Jesus requires. Too often in the history of the church people have been excluded for not taking up a challenge that really had very little do with the gospel.
As I noted when commenting on Jesus employing this method, it appears to be something he mostly used with those who were powerful, wealthy and self-assured of their place in heaven. Although the call to follow Jesus is significant for everyone, Jesus seemed to approach those on the margins of society with more grace than challenge, I too would want to adopt this approach. People on the fringe are often cynical of the church and don’t understand that Jesus wants to meet them. Hard challenges to people who already outcast is not a method of developing disciples I think Jesus modelled.

Acts of Power.
This method used by Jesus to develop disciples is one I find hard to know how to integrate into our life today. By demonstrating his authority and power Jesus was making it clear who he was and what God’s intention for humanity was, Jesus acts were signs of the coming kingdom of God. While I certainly believe that God intervenes in sometimes miraculous and powerful ways today, I’m not sure of exactly how this is meant to be used for discipleship in my context. I guess if God granted me the gift of healing or miracles then I would be able to use them to point towards the coming kingdom and God’s power, encouraging those around me to greater discipleship. However I don’t seem to have these gifts, nor do any others in our church. Maybe we should be praying for them and if God grants them, to use them boldly, calling people to follow Christ because of his power and love for them.

Teaching.
This method has certainly been the dominant approach under Christendom and although we don’t want to react too far against it we are seeking to find a healthy balance. Instead of having one professional teacher our church tends to share the task around and use different group learning techniques. Specifically we have adapted Lectio Divina
for group use and find that it enables group members to teach one another regardless of their status or education. Teaching is still a significant method of disciple development for us, occurring every week in our worship gathering and through the regular reading of scripture.

Modelling Prayer.
We’ve just begun a missional discipleship Order called the Kaleo Order. This Order is designed to pick up some of Jesus method of modelling prayer as an approach to developing disciples. In the same way that Jesus withdrew to spend time with his Father as fuel for his ministry and mission, we are encouraging people to do the same. The Order uses a particular method of bible reading and prayer that we think is appropriate for our specific context. Members of the Order are also required to meet in small groups fortnightly to share what they’ve learnt and keep one another accountable to our spiritual disciplines. These groups allow members to learn from one another, to model to each other and encourage each other to greater levels of discipleship.

Empowerment.
Empowerment is probably the easiest of Jesus’ methods of developing disciples to integrate into our context. As soon as people are a part of our community in any way we encourage them to participate in our missional activities. Of course those who are not Christians are not sharing the stories of Jesus with those we serve in our neighbourhood, but they are serving and loving those on the margins right along with us. They are participating in the kingdom of God and in doing so are drawn closer to Jesus and ultimately into discipleship. For those who already following Jesus they are empowered and encouraged to take bigger risks in mission, putting themselves in places where they must rely on God. This approach to developing disciples works very well in our context.

Conclusion.
Jesus didn’t have a linear process of developing disciples, but he did have several methods that he used repeatedly throughout his ministry. He leveled hard challenges at people, performed acts of power displaying his authority and intention for humanity, he taught the values of the kingdom of God, modelled a prayerful relationship with God and empowered those who sought to follow him with kingdom tasks. In our context we can and do seek to integrate these different approaches to developing disciples, empowering people to live out and experience the kingdom of God seems to be the most appropriate and successful.

Monday, August 28, 2006

There's a problem with a white Jesus ...

I collect interesting images of Jesus from Flickr using tags and an RSS reader. Mostly it's good for a laugh and sometimes it's even helpful, but today a problem with Jesus being so white occurred to me. I was looking at this picture

227530618 5D51Dffbee M

and I thought. If people have this picture of Jesus in their heads when they read the stories about him then it's no wonder we find it hard to view him in his context. A white Jesus tells lies about who he really was, what he looked like and what he did. If we started picturing Jesus as more like what he really was then maybe we'd find it easier to make the jump back into 1st century Palestine when we are learning about him.

Just a thought.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Cricket - something of the kingdom of God

So I'm sitting in the car doing some uni work while Gulinder (our refugee friend from Afghanistan) has his first cricket training session. I'm sitting here realising that for Gulinder this experience of cricket training is bringing forth some of the kingdom of God. For those of you who don't know him, Gulinder fits pretty clearly into the category of the marginalised. As a religious minority in Afghanistan his family was persecuted, Gulinder himself kidnapped and tortured by the Taleban before his family fled the country. He has since lost all of his family members in the journey to Australia and in many ways has nothing left. At his first cricket practice this morning I am watching him participate with a group of others who accept him as a person of value with something to offer. I know the kingdom of God is much bigger than this as well, but here I see a sign of God's transforming, restoring work of the kingdom of God. It's exciting and rewarding.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Creative Reflection

I had to write a creative reflection for uni about what I would do mission/ministry wise if I knew the world was ending in five years. It's pretty long, but I thought I'd post it anyway.

What would I do if the world were ending in five years?

I believe that people’s lives are transformed as they are brought into contact with the Living God through community. People encounter Jesus through other people, not books or organisations. If the world were ending in five years time I would want to spend all my time and energy helping people encounter God through other people. I would want to motivate other Christians to take the journey with me and give ourselves to the task of creating transforming community housing. Houses where people with material needs can have somewhere to sleep, where people with social needs can connect with others, where people with emotional needs can be heard and where people with spiritual needs can meet with God.
In Preston, where I live, there is a housing crisis among the poor. Housing is expensive, if you are forced to stay in a boarding house you can pay up to $160 a week for a small and uncomfortable space. It is possible to rent private housing for the same price but only if you have the references, finances and know-how to make it happen. If you are eligible for government housing there is a 10 year waiting list, it’s unclear exactly what you are meant to do in the meantime.
All of this puts people in desperate situations. People stay in each other’s government housing illegally, they squat, they scrape together the money to stay in a boarding house but then don’t have enough for their other material needs - let alone trying to save anything so that they might plan for the future. Living in these kinds of desperate situations, with financial strain hanging over your head all the time, usually has very negative outcomes. People don’t cope well with the strain and end up making bad choices often in the areas of drugs and crime, putting themselves into worse situations. The strains continue to grow and the desperation spreads. Marriages and friendships break down because of the strain, mental illness and general health problems arise, participating in general society becomes harder as people become outcast.
There are government and other social solutions to these problems. There are systems in place to help people get access to support for housing, drug and alcohol problems, financial difficulties and even social support groups, but these solutions are not enough by themselves, the problems are not being resolved. People can get case workers who help them know who to contact, which places to go to and what to say, but the underlying issues aren’t being resolved. There is a housing crisis in my area, but the crisis goes much deeper than housing.
In many local councils the government seeks to find initiatives that will help develop healthy communities. Activities that will bring people together, programs that promote religious tolerance, projects increasing environmental awareness and sustainability. These initiatives are good things, but so often they are out of reach of those who are marginalised and who are truly in need of healthy community. These initiatives often only serve the middle class who of course also need healthy community, but are no where near as desperate as those on the fringe of our society.

In the hope of addressing some of this issue I am dreaming of a creating healthy transforming housing communities. Safe places of belonging that are created with the ideals and values of healthy community aimed at transforming their occupants. I would love to find investors to purchase properties in the houses of our street (there’s one for sale out the back of my place right now) and create low cost share housing with a intentional focus on healthy community, not just a place to eat and sleep. The houses would be run by people who come to our church and not just as staff but as live-in or live-out members of the households sharing life with the other occupants.

In an attempt to flesh out this dream a little more I have created the following headings that need further explanation.
Investors
This project requires investors who have a desire to see their wealth used to support the underprivileged in Melbourne. These people would need to be willing to give their material resources to the project and not expect normal investment returns. Although this investment may bring some longer-term financial gains for the investor, the focus is on the gains for the occupants who currently don’t have a safe, secure or supportive environment to live in but would through the project.

Occupants
A set of criteria would be applied to an occupant to determine if they are eligible: 
- current housing situation - the applicants current housing situation would need to be deemed illegal or unsustainable.
- attitude - applicants have to be interested in exploring this as more than just a housing option. They must be willing to contribute to creating a healthy community and growing themselves. This is important as it helps the occupants take responsibility for their own lives.
- income - if an applicant has an income that is deemed to be too high then they would not be eligible.
- level of assistance required - applicants needing high level assistance and supervision could not be accepted. Occupants must be able to catch public transport, cook, pay bills, speak some English, be on the way to trying to get work, trying to do study, or trying to get full time volunteer work.
- illicit drug use - applicants must be illicit drug free for the last 6 months
- children - applicants would need to be deemed safe around children. A Police Check would be required – specifically for criminal acts involving children. Other criminal history would not prohibit or exclude the applicant.

House Carers + Assistants
The role of the House Carers would be critical to the vision of creating transforming community houses. The House Carers, whether they lived-in or lived-out of the house, would be regularly available to the occupants and responsible for working with the occupants to create a healthy, safe and supportive living environment. If the House Carers did not live-in then they would need to be very close-by, either next door or at least in the same street. Proximity is one of the keys to creating community. The House Carers would be responsible for the day to day running of the house, they would be crucial to creating the environment that allows for transformation.
There would also be roles in assisting the House Carers:
- Support Resourcing - this would require someone to focus on ensuring that the occupants are connecting with the various support services offered by the government and others in the local area. This isn’t a case management role, but someone who would inform occupants of where they can get support and encourage them to do so. This role is totally scalable based on the time and ability of whoever fills it.
- Financial Management - house finances is one area that may require quite a bit of oversight and guidance. Someone from the church community would need to volunteer their time to help occupants manage things like bills and shopping expenses as well as offering their services to occupants with their individual finances.
- House Maintenance - keeping the house in good working order would be an important role and someone with the gifts and skills to manage this would be required.
- Jobs Hunting - again this is not meant to be a replacement to existing social services in this area, but occupants may like some help applying for jobs, going to interviews and searching through papers, the internet, etc.
- Volunteer Work - in cases of long term unemployment where occupants are still seeking work but are also in need of something to fill their time volunteer work is a helpful option. Someone from the church community could help organise volunteer work for the occupants, either with Northern Careworks or elsewhere.

Community Meals
One element of creating transforming community houses would be the community meals. A regular community meal would be a feature of the house with each occupant bringing something to the meal to share and spending the time with others in a healthy social environment.

Rent
Rent for the occupants would be worked out as a percentage of their income. This is important to help occupants learn to budget, it would also help with some of the running and maintenance costs of the house.

Children
While there is an element of danger in having children involved in a project like this there is also potential for incredible gain. Children can break down many social barriers and see the world in a different way from adults, they bring something to a community that just isn’t available if it’s all grown-ups.

Drugs and Alcohol
It’s very likely that drugs and alcohol would be an issue in most houses. So that a safe environment is created all houses would need to have a no illicit drugs policy and depending on the circumstances houses may need to be alcohol free as well. On the alcohol issue it seems that allowing the household to come up with its own rules is significant way of encourage the occupants to make healthy decisions for themselves

Northern Community Church of Christ

Northern Community Church of Christ is the church that Loam (our congregation that I am dreaming would run this housing idea) is a congregation of. Attached to Northern is Northern Careworks - the community concern/development arm of the church. These houses would come under the banner of Northern Careworks for legal, administrative, insurance and financial reasons, allowing us to focus on the day to day aspects of the work.
Northern Careworks also runs an Opportunity Shop which would be the source for the furnishing requirements of the occupants. The Opportunity Shop could either supply the items free of charge or at a reduced rate for the occupants.
Northern Careworks is mostly staffed by volunteers, occupants could volunteer their time to Northern Careworks if they were unable to find employment but were looking for something regular to do. This may also help with future employment opportunities.

Spiritual Input?
Some attempting an endeavor such as this would demand some form of Christian input into the house and community that is generated there. I however think that this would send the wrong message. I am not dreaming about this so that people would just become Christians. I sincerely hope that people would meet God as they are served and loved in the context of community, but this is about a vision of the kingdom of God. As we live out the reality of the kingdom of God people are given access to a vision of who God is and what his agenda really is. Apparently the poor are the most over evangelised group in society. If we enforced weekly bible studies we would send the message that we don’t really care about them or their situation, we just want them to become one of us. It is my hope and prayer that as we serve, love and live with people who join these houses they would encounter God and seek to become like Jesus themselves.

My ‘heartburst’?
Thomas Bandy’s book ‘Mission Mover’ speaks of heartbursts. The idea is that your heart bursts for a particular sub group of people. Whether they are connected by interest or by location is irrelevant. The key is that your focus is on them, you feel called to the particular task of serving, loving, sharing with them, no one else. Bandy says ‘"A heartburst is simply an urgent desire to help a clearly defined group of people experience Jesus."
, it is "a desire to connect that person with this hope."
Mine is clearly the marginalised people in Preston, the ones I know who live in dangerous and damaging environments with no hint of transforming community around them. These are the people I feel God drawing me to, he’s pulling my life in their direction and pushing me to live like Jesus with them.

A team?
"A true team is a small group that shares similar core values and beliefs, celebrates an enthusiasm for a mission, eagerly interfaces their skills to achieve that mission, and seriously holds one another accountable for the fruits of the mission."
Ideally this team would be our congregation Loam. We’ve already been talking about how we might make some of this a reality and there are some amazing people in that bunch that are keen to get stuck into this project. Particularly I want to work on this project with my wife Jay as she has some fantastic gifts in areas that I’m not so great in and I can see us complementing each other well. I’m also excited to work with another friend Kate who brings a depth of wisdom and discernment to every situation that would be much needed on this journey. I’m keen to work on this project with all of the people in our church, to encourage them to share the journey and take big bold steps of faith together.

Spirituality?
At Northern we’ve just begun a missional-discipleship order that provides us with a framework of spiritual disciples plus a particular method of prayer and bible reading to use. I am hoping that this approach to the spirituality of Jesus would sustain us as we journey on this road. I am very aware however that this would grow and change as we do over time.

Character and Skills?
There is always work to be done on my character and skills, but specifically for this task I can see that I would need to become much more disciplined. Regular contact with occupants even when I don’t feel like it, making time and space for Jay and I in the midst of such an intense environment, encouraging the rules and guidelines we create in the face of protest, all these areas would prove to be a challenge to my discipline. Also, managing conflict would be a skill that I need to improve on. I am imagining that there would be the potential for lots of conflict in these houses and much of the resolution of that would fall to me.

Style of leadership?
Currently my approach has been one of taking people along on the journey with me. I imagine that this would continue to be my style of leadership in this environment. It’s unlikely I would change and become more authoritarian, although there would undoubtedly be hard calls that need to be made in some circumstances. So far the process of taking risks and encouraging people to come along for the ride appears to be working as a method of leadership in this environment.

A mentor?

"A mentor is someone who speaks from his or her own experience of life struggle, spiritual victory, and constant growth to help you overcome adversity, discern hope, and customize a learning path."
I can think of no one better for this role than Shirley Osburne who runs St Martin’s in Collingwood. She is a practitioner in this area with mountains of experience and the scars to prove it. She is warm and open towards Jay and I and only lives around the corner, practicing the same kind of hospitality and concern for the poor that we wish to.

Summary.
If the world were ending in five years I would want to spend the time working on building healthy transforming communities through low cost housing arrangements with people in my local area. I would want to do this with my wife and congregation Loam as my team and be mentored by a long term practitioner in this area Shirley Osbourne.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

A community meal

Inspired by a whole range of events, circumstances, truths, prophetic words, strategic thinking, obvious realities and God's heart for those around us, Loam has decided to host a community meal each week. We hope that in time our ability to serve our neighbours will grow. We hope that we will be able to take bigger and bolder steps of faith, risk more and be precious about less, but this seems like a good place to start.

On Sunday evening from around 5ish, at our house (146 Raglan St, Preston - if you're around feel free to drop in) we are having a meal. We're inviting neighbours of all flavours to join us. I'm really looking forward to it, something tells me it could be a bit messy and that it's another step along on our exciting journey together.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

I don't want more Christians

I don't want more Christians - I want more people around like Jesus.

Mission is not about getting more people to sign up to be in our club. It is about recognising the greatness of Jesus, seeking to be like him yourself and encouraging others to do the same. It's the about of the kingdom of God, about participating in the creation of that place where ultimately there will be no more tears, pain, oppression, abuse, poverty, loneliness, despair, etc.

I don't want more Christians because lots of Christians I know aren't actually that involved or even interested in this kingdom, I want more people like Jesus.

I realise this is just semantics, but it's also about perception. I realised today that when I think about Christians I don't think about people of the kingdom of God. I think about Christianese people, people from the world of Christendom, with their own little world they are trying to protect, their own culture, language, etc. It's sad that I associate this word so strongly, maybe I need to stop using it for a while ...

Wednesday, August 9, 2006

Part 5 of Jesus in the Margins

Probably the best post in the series and this one gives me a warm and fuzzy feeling 'cos it was dedicated to us. :-D

"The Son of Man came exegeting Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 and correcting the doctrinal errors of the Pharisees, and all the other factions in Israel."

Oops, that's the USAmerican evangelical approach to social change. "Preach the Word!" Too bad our Supreme Example didn't use that approach, eh?
Haha, I love a bit of prophetic inappropriate humour!

Whoever thought an ordinary table of people could be the place where heaven and earth meet?
Man I pray that we could start to get the sense that our tables might become these places ...

Whoever thought that eating together with the most unsavory of friends would reshape a nation's vision of holiness?
What are the revolutionary actions of the kingdom that are happening around us that we need to take notice of? Visiting refugees in detention? Opening your doors to drug addicts? Visiting lonely old people whose families don't care for them?

People at the margins might not be able to follow our fine, finessed, exegetically precise, "inner logic" trails to getting right with God, but they sure do know how to eat. And they'll eat with Jesus when he invites them. It was the spiffy, religious know-it-alls who were "too good" to mix with the dusty riff-raff. "Why do you eat food with unclean hands? Why do you eat food with homosexuals, terrorists, racy women and social rejects? God just wouldn't eat with people like that."

Jesus of Nazareth, gritty as he was, was and is and will forever be God.
It gets better still ...

Here's the clincher. Some of you will have to bite your tongue. There's no record that they had "to repent" to eat at Jesus' table. The fact that they came--tax-collectors, prostitutes, lame, blind, diseased--and ate and enjoyed Jesus' welcome was repentance enough.

Now, I didn't say that they didn't ever change, did I? I said there's no evidence that they had to change before they came to the table. There's a word that is really loved and lived by those in the margins. It's the word grace. Grace. Embracing Grace.
Wonderful isn't it?

For those of you who are part of our community I thought I'd also post John's prayer for us to encourage you.
Tim and Jay and your team of friends, may you know the deep joy of the Father's heart and experience the power of the Holy Spirit as you incarnate the living presence of Jesus the Messiah to those you love in your community. I truly admire and respect you.
Amen!

Wednesday, August 2, 2006

Part 4 of Jesus in the Margins

John Frye continues his Jesus in the Margins series here.

When Jesus broke bread, he broke Israel.
With his meal-time habits, Jesus was speaking a new language and introducing a new world.
What in our culture is this powerful? Consumerism ... Meh, maybe. Lord give me the vision and insight into my culture that you had. Help me see where the fault lines of the kingdom lie.

Every meal Jesus ate in his ministry was a transformative expression, a here and now enactment of the presence of the kingdom of God.
I'm hungry.

Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Part 3 of Jesus in the Margins

A few snippets below to encourage you to read the whole thing here.

Jesus didn't change the margins with ideas. He changed the margins with concrete actions. His meal-time practices were "provocative theatre." You could see the people, smell the food, hear the laughter, dip into the same dish with Jesus. You could actually live in the kingdom of God with Jesus. The last first, the least the greatest, the child the proto-type disciple. You could breathe deeply the grace of God and see shame flee away forever.
Following Jesus was, by his culture's standards, an R-rated action movie, not a purpose-driven Bible study.
We don't read about Jesus critics saying, "This man welcomes sinners and gives them new ideas." We read, "This man welcomes sinners and eats with them."

We'd rather "believe" in Jesus than eat and drink him.

Surrender All: A Call to Sub-Merge with Christ. Ash Barker - Action Taken or Intended.

Action Taken or Intended:

I feel that it might take a few years to process the contents of this book. So my plans for action at this point will be preliminary at best.

I need to spend some time reassessing my relationships with God. I’m convinced and convicted that there are areas where this relationship works more like magic than faith. I need to identify and repent of the areas where I seek to manipulate and submit myself to God’s will.

In my connection with the community I will seek out the seeds of the kingdom of God rather than simply becoming dismayed at all the evil in the world. I will hold tight to the coming reality of God’s reign.

Having moved into a neighbourhood I feel God call me to serve I will seek to stand with the poor more than tell them how to get their lives together. I will seek to become more a part of this community around me with the support and encouragement of the members of my church and order.

I will seek to further develop the discipling relationships that we are seeking to setup through the Kaleo Order at Northern Community Church of Christ.

With my congregation of NCCC Loam I will use some of the practical exercises to help us dream up a shared missional task.

Surrender All: A Call to Sub-Merge with Christ. Ash Barker - Personal Response Part E

Part E - Re-integration: Practical Sub-merging

In this section Ash’s wisdom and insight into the practical implementation of these ideas becomes clear. Using the metaphor of the well to talk about the significance and timing of team health, presence, partnership, discipleship and worship made all these ideas seem somewhat achievable although still very daunting.

Packing a final punch before finishing the book the chapters on ‘Barriers to Sub-Merging’ and ‘The Challenge’ probe deeply and I found myself exposed and obviously wanting in some areas. It might have been possible to keep the ideas in the rest of the book at arms length but these two make it clear that this is a personal invitation.

Surrender All: A Call to Sub-Merge with Christ. Ash Barker - Personal Response Part D

Part D - Re-creation: Identity and belonging below the surface

Poverty creates unhealthy identities for everyone. The poor see themselves as less than human because of their lack of power and the non-poor see themselves as gods because they have so much power. For God’s reign to come about both these identities need to be reshaped by him.6 The kingdom of God gives a new identity to the poor as it brings them from the margins to the centre and it speaks a harsh word of judgement on the non-poor who have marginalised others. If there was ever any question about whether God was for the poor Ash dispels it with a wonderful piece of logic, “Since God is just He has a priority for those facing injustice.”7

The question that then faces us is how we deal with these broken identities? How do we have them transformed so we can see God’s reign realised. Ash suggests that ‘discipling relationships’ are the key, “unless we can find and develop these discipling relationships, everything else we want to see happen will not have the necessary human resources.”8 I totally agree with him, without deep relationships that are intentionally about helping us follow Jesus better we will definitely fail. It’s when these kinds of relationships are weak in my life that I struggle to hold it all together.

Throughout history there as been committed communities and movements that have helped God’s people hold a vision of and work towards realising God’s reign. In different eras they have faced different challenges and taken on different forms, we need to learn from these and look to the challenges of our current context.

To be able to face the radical discipleship challenges of transforming neighbourhoods we are going to have reimagine some elements of how we’ve been doing church. Ash suggests we look to order to support and sustain us as we go about this challenge.9 Orders are a high commitment environment where there is a strong focus on formation in the context of community resulting in action. They rise and fall on the integrity of the members and their ability to live out their calling. They provide a strong discipling and support basis for radical action from their members.

Another area of church that Ash suggests be reimagined is the church as a social movement. A vehicle for action that is more open and inclusive and founded on a clear ideology.10 Ash compares these groups to tribes that do not have as close community bond, but share a common identity and purpose; they gather together and partner with other tribes.

Surrender All: A Call to Sub-Merge with Christ. Ash Barker - Personal Response Part C

Part C - Re-location: Taking poverty personally as neighbours

There is no other way to get involved in the task of neighbourhood transformation than moving into the neighbourhood. This section is all about incarnation, as Ash says, “To only talk about the gospel of God’s reign domesticates it to another ideology. The reign of God must be lived out as a neighbour if it is to catch on in the hearts and lives of the poor.” It is clear that poverty is in many ways the result of bad and broken relationship. Relationship breakdown between man and God, man and creation and man and man. However as Christians we can offer hope and reconciliation through Jesus, not just with words but with our whole lives. As both poor and non-poor Christians we can offer this hope, but the greatest challenge is for the non-poor. Will we stand in solidarity with the poor, “joining our lives together to fight injustice, to have a stake in a common future together”?

Our example of the incarnation obviously comes from Christ himself, in being born and living amongst us on the earth he was literally the en-fleshment of God. We have a vision of the kingdom of God lived out through Jesus to model ourselves on. While this provides us with an incredible resource it also has limitations. Ash points out that we cannot be God and no matter how hard we try, those of us born non-poor will never be able to become truly poor. This doesn’t render the model of the incarnation useless however, because even though we cannot be God, when we form as the body of Christ we function this way and although we cannot become poor we can “stand in solidarity with the poor and movements ‘of’ the poor.”

This concept of being the body of Christ should open our eyes to the fact that this task is not one we go about ourselves or fit into our existing schedules. It requires us to be relationally and geographically amongst those we are seeking to serve and journey with as we carry out the task in community. We will have to work hard and be creative in the ways we build this community, intentionally making ourselves accessible and available to others.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Surrender All: A Call to Sub-Merge with Christ. Ash Barker - Personal Response Part B

Part B - Re-orientation: God’s reign as an anchorage

This section is about the kingdom of God and Ash does an inspiring job of sharing the vision of God’s reign. I found the section on shalom very informative and helpful in my understanding of how the kingdom of God would have been understood then and should be now. Jesus as the hope of shalom is a powerful image for both the poor and non-poor alike. He is hope for the poor and in many ways threat to the non-poor. This hope was and still is politically dangerous, it overthrows and turns our world’s powers upside down.

With the kingdom of God transforming as it reconciles the world back to God, many elements of society are turned on their head, most notably the place of the poor and the marginalised. By the action and authority displayed throughout Jesus life, he shows us that it is possible for the reign of God to be brought forth here amongst us. “It will take all we have to see this authority of the kingdom beat off the powers of this world, but it is possible.”1

With Jesus as the hope of shalom our task must become focused on finding him and sharing him amongst those who need him the most. We must move away from spending our energy trying to work out who is in and who is out and instead share this good news.2

The kingdom of God does not stop with people’s individual lives, but goes on to transform the rest of society as well. This means that we as God’s people cannot stand by while governments, law, businesses and cultures are unjust. We must be engaged in the task of transforming these elements of our society.

Surrender All: A Call to Sub-Merge with Christ. Ash Barker - Personal Response Part A

Part A - Diving in as disciples: A call to release

Although I’ve been involved in ministry to the New Age I’d never really considered the difference between magic and faith. “Magic attempts to manipulate spiritual forces so that the supplicant can get what the supplicant wants. But true religion is about surrendering to God so that God can do through the supplicant what God wants.” This definition brings to light much that is wrong with contemporary Christianity, so riddled with consumerism and individualism that in many ways it is no different from the New Age. It’s also a very helpful distinction to make with people who have journeyed spiritually for some time and are meeting Jesus for the first time, pointing them to surrender rather than manipulation.

While this distinction is helpful it’s also quite overwhelming as it brings to light how much of my walk with God is based on my attempts at controlling him rather than submitting to him. Thankfully Ash goes on to stress the need for community in the task of resisting this temptation which he further breaks down into the temptation for power over authority, the spectacular over God’s will and relevance over faithfulness.

Surrender All: A Call to Sub-Merge with Christ. Ash Barker - Summary, Appreciations, Reservations.

I've just finished reading this book and have to write a review on it for uni, so I thought I'd post bits of it as I go.

Summary:
Surrender All is a call to radical discipleship. Ash Barker holds back nothing in his call for christians to give up everything and focus their lives on the kingdom of God. The challenge is to release all we have and reorient our lives in line with God’s reign, relocate and reintegrate others and ourselves with the poor others to serve in the task of recreating identity and belonging inside God’s kingdom. This work is filled with real stories from the journey of UNOH that inspire and encourage, practical insights into how these changes might be put in place and a depth and wisdom that only God provides. This is a book that should be read with caution, the reader cannot leave unchanged without knowing they are missing out on God’s kingdom dream and the hope for the world.

Appreciations:
The tone of a book which calls for a radical fresh approach to discipleship from its reader is a delicate balance between challenge and humility, particularly when you have an Australian audience well known for it’s ability at cutting down tall poppies. Ash finds this balance perfectly, he has the honesty to speak openly of his failings and the ability to laugh at himself which endears him to his readers. At the same time however he has an authority about his writing that stems from both his God-given prophetic gift and the experience of tough decisions made and consequences faced. He makes it very hard for the reader to dismiss or walk away from his words, they demand a response.
Another fine balance is struck within this book that many other writers fail dismally in their attempts to achieve. There is a theological depth and an intellectual rigor found right alongside very useful practical ideas. As someone who is constantly reading I found this very refreshing, finally a book that can stretch my brain and give me practical tools to help me work through its wonderful ideas at the same time.

Reservations:
I feel that there is very little to write in this section other than that this book was at times hard to follow. Particularly in the ‘Part D - Recreation: Identity and belonging below the surface’, there were terms used and not clarified, such as tribe, movement, clan and others, that made it hard to follow what was being said. It seemed that Ash was seeking to develop the idea of different types of structures working together, but a lack of clarity meant that this idea didn’t come across.

Part 2 of Jesus in the Margins

More good stuff on Jesus in the Margins from John Frye here.

People say that the West is not a shame based culture and they are right to an extent, but we certainly do have some element of honour and shame operating in our culture. If a drug addict walks into a fancy restaurant or tries to make friends with the those above them in our social structure they are quickly shamed away with certain looks and harsh words, putting them back in their place. The honour and shame system might not have as much of a hold on the rest of our culture (law, politics, etc), but many people work hard to be honoured and not to be shamed.

What is our response as people who seek to follow Jesus' example? Do we seek to be honoured? Without realise it are we guilty of shaming those who are blessed in the kingdom of God?

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Jesus in the Margins

Cool post from John Frye over at Jesus the Radical Pastor on Jesus in the Margins.

I love the question 'Who is marginalised?'

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Mission Shaped vs Mission Flavoured

Found this article by a guy called Ken Morgan a while ago. I've been meaning to post it for ages.

I like this article because it helpfully pushes us to think about what mission shaped churches are really about. As with any idea that increases in popularity there will be lots of people who jump on the band wagon and use the terminology without really thinking about it. I feel several challenges to Loam from Ken's words.

The contrast between these statements causes me to wonder about how we go about thinking through our shared task of mission.

"Sought to discover and meet the needs of unchurched by engaging with them in relationship, then serving them in a relational ‘peer’ approach" and "Perceived the needs of the unchurched from a distance and opted for a ‘provider-client’ approach to serving them."

And I wonder how we are going at giving those who are new to the faith in our midst the authority to shape what we do.

"Allowed those new to the faith to influence its form and style." and "Designed its look and feel based on its own idea of what the community needed."

A helpful tool for keeping us remaining shaped not flavoured, thanks Ken.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The answers to Spiritual Formation?

An interesting post on the Christianity Today Blog about spiritual formation. It's probably nothing new if you've been thinking about the possibilities of recapturing some of the power of the monastic movement. The idea is somewhat connected to what's been going on at Northern, which should get going properly next week. It's going to be an interesting experiment to be a part of, I'm very much looking forward to getting going and hope to post more of my thoughts as they happen.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Forge Intensive Tuesday - Marcus Curnow

I thought I'd post up my raw notes from the intensive ... totally unedited I'm afraid, so please excuse anything wrong, offensive or unintelligible.

Marcus Curnow. The Economy of God.
Resourcing a spirituality of engagement: Living the Word on the Street

Message of Jesus into a bumper sticker.
- finding your life by losing it.
- Jesus is a bloke.
- Jesus, don't leave earth without him.

The economy of God

... is an attempt at capturing for our contemporary context something of the subversive power that 'the Kingdom of God', the central image of Jesus' teachings, had in a world of real kings and kingdoms.

The biblical understanding of "economy" is grounded in the ancient Hebrew spiritual exercise of 'keeping Sabbath'. It is neither solely material nor spiritual, but extends to encompass all aspects of what it means to produce and consume as a living being.

Beyond money, this economy includes elements of time, of energy, of work and of re-creation, of relationship with the spiritual, the created order and other people.

Embracing the economy of God involves a realisation that abundant grace underpins an ethic redistribution that is the only way out of the spiritual and material slavery that is so characteristic of the dominant economy of our world.

how do we view time? it shows us something about our culture.
- time is money
- time management
- time wasting
- passing time

redemption of time - making it sacred, it needs to be pointed and directed towards God

language of business ... we have an abundance of time - all eternity.

Alternative Economic Voices
- Vandana Shiva
- Wendell Berry

What does the dominant market economy fail to factor into its economics?
- Spiritual, Communal, Agricultural, Environmental etc.

Books:
The art of the common place - Wendell Berry

Sabbath Economics 101
Genesis 1: God as Creator who rests, Work that is Good.

Exodus 16:11 manna ... Sabbath first mentioned
- 16-18 Gather only as much as you need
- 19. Don't store any up!! Exodus 1:8-14 Store Cities
- Have a rest Day
- 33. Store it up for what - Worship ... Remember ... Central to their spirituality

Sabbath and Jubilee
- Leviticus 25:35-42 Releasing Community members from debt (Deut 15:1-11)
- Lev 25:13,25-28 Land to original owners
- Lev 25:47-55 Freeing Slaves (Deut. 15:12-18) Lev 25:42 The land is Gods and gods people aren't to be Egypt
- Isaiah 61 Ezekiel 46:17-18

Jesus and Sabbath
- Luke 4:19 Jesus wanted to renew this tradition
- Mark 2 Conflict with the Pharisees: Who you eat with, How you eat, Where and when you eat, Feeding 5000 etc.
- Matthew 6:The Lords Prayer ... again central to their spirituality

Early Church
- Acts Chapter 2, 4-6
- 2 Corinthians 8 : Paul's Ministry of Reconciliation has an economy

Empty throne ... the forgotten worship symbol of modern Christianity ... we have no king other than God.

How does a mother have a Sabbath with kids? So busy, etc.
- Jews did it through ritual, Friday night meal
- there is an ideal and a real ... what is realistic?
- community is essential - a very practical approach to this question

Economy of God is a paradigm - a new way of life

Economy of God and Proclamation
The economic dimensions of the parables of Jesus.
"Earthly Stories with Heavy Meanings:

What you factor into your bottom line.
How do you benchmark success?
What must I do to live a sustainable life?
Renounce your citizenship and change your standard of living
The successful takeover bid ...

What must I do to have eternal life?
- sustainable living? does that factor in?

What is good work?
Good work uses no thing without respect both for what it is in itself and for its origin. It uses neither tool nor material that it does not love.

It does not dissociate life and work or pleasure and work, or love and work or usefulness and beauty. To work without pleasure or affection, to make a product that is not both useful and beautiful, is to dishonour God, nature, the thing that is made, whomever it is made for. - Wendell Berry.

Economy of Urban Seed
- Good Work: Residents and Credo
- More than a Job we are a Mob ... but there is no mob without jobs
- Building economic alternatives
- maintaining freedom

Books:
- Pete Ward: Liquid Church and the commodification of religious product

New Monasticism ...

Danger for Forge Interns
- The only communities that work are those of necessity
- The problem of taking developing world mission models and applying them to Western cultures:
- You incarnate into a sub-culture but not an economy. Everybody still shops at the supermarket.
- Our effort at mission can appear successful but easily end up being marketing to increasingly fragmented society in a way which furthers the fragmentation rather than bearing witness to the economy of God.

What's working ...
- economic sharing
- living within walking distance
- shared sabbath
- shared work
- food coop

a taste of slow
www.atasteofslow.com.au
28 August - 10 September

www.fairwear.org.au
- rather no clothes than clothed exploitation

Make Affluence History
www.makeaffluecehistory.org

Some questions
- What are the economics of the community tI am working, amongst and alongside?
- How is what we are doing connecting and contributing to the local economy?
- How is what I'm involved with challenging the local economy and bearing witness to Good Work and the Economy of God.

Who, how, what, where you eat? How is the process of food production and consumption made sacred in your mission work and community life?

lord's prayer
abba (creator and sustain of our household)
Brand recognitiion and loyalty are yours
may your economy come,
may your way be sung on the sacred earth we know
sustain us this day in the simplicity of enough
reconcile our debts with your forgiveness as we seek reconciliation with our debtors
and lead us through the wilderness, away from the seduction of our vocation
that in the face of evil our life may be saved
amen

Forge Intensive Tuesday - Baxter Krueger

I thought I'd post up my raw notes from the intensive ... totally unedited I'm afraid, so please excuse anything wrong, offensive or unintelligible.

Baxter Krueger.

God is over here, big gap in between us and him. - all other religions
Jesus has come and embraced us, covered the gap in between us and him. - Christianity

Christianity is not about receiving Jesus into our life, it is about us entering into the life of God because of Jesus coming himself into our lives. We have been given Jesus.

Our job is to capture this vision of the Trinitarian, Incarnational view of God and proclaim it to the world.

John 8:12 - “I am the light of the world (cosmos). Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
- Jesus makes a declaration - I am the light of the cosmos.
- exclusive, politically incorrect, arrogant ... true, fact.
- if we believe in Jesus we will NEVER walk in THE darkness, but will have the light of life.
- when we say who Jesus is then we are actually saying something about ourselves.

- the Jesus we've inherited from Western theology is very small, but in reality Jesus is bigger than all things.

John 1:1-3. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all people.

Colossians 1:16. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
- we need to remember that Jesus created all things and holds all things together. He did not set them in motion and is now hands off.

Hebrews 1:1-3. In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.
- in, with, through.

- the church is being squashed by religion (which tells people they are separated from God) and secular humanism (which tells people they can fix it all themselves) and needs to be about the task of making space for people to recognise who Jesus is.

- Jesus doesn't tell us to have peace or joy. He gives us his peace, his joy, the peace and joy that come from within the Trinity itself.

- Father, Jesus, Spirit call us into participation with him, in all of life.

- Jesus is the Father's only Son and we are a part of the family. At this point our exclusivity becomes our inclusivity.
- Jesus received the Holy Spirit as a permanent gift, without measure. He is the annointed one in the Spirit.
- Jesus is the one in/with/by/for all things were created

- what does it mean that we are include into Jesus? All these things also become true of us. Also, when Jesus died rose and ascended, this is also happened to us.

Forge Intensive Tuesday - Alan Hirsch

I thought I'd post up my raw notes from the intensive ... totally unedited I'm afraid, so please excuse anything wrong, offensive or unintelligible.

Alan Hirsch. Forge National Director.

How does the early church and chinese church grow so fast?

- there are many elements, but some don't relate to spirituality, so they will be dealt with elsewhere.

- today - community aspect of how they grew so fast
- victor turner - Al ripped off his terminology - cultural anthropologist - studied african rites of passage - how young boys transition into being young men - 'The Ritual Process'
- most african villages had two separate sections - female and male
- children are raised in the feminine part of the village but look forward to the rites of passage
- men come in to the female part of the village and take the boys to do the rites
- this is a time called liminality - danger, marginalisation, disorientation, ordeal
- boys find each other in a significant way through this process - this called communitas
- the type of community that develops when people are dealing with some kind of ordeal and they bond together to get over it
- being reintroduced into the village - the men's side - creates renewal as the boys (now men) tell their stories
- for the church liminality and communitas are normative for the church - china/early church experienced these ...

- September 11, Tsunami = global Communitas
- we all shared in the experience and were changed by it, bonded together
- Sports teams
- normally no relationship, no connection - give them a ball and some of the same shirts, they begin to experience ordeal and are bonded together.

- The church needs Communitas not Community
- Community is safe, secure and doesn't do well at bonding us together, Communitas is the opposite.

- Scriptural basis
- Abraham
- David and his band
- Exodus
- Exile in Babylon
- 12 disciples and Jesus

- You start with Community - experience Liminality - this results in Communitas.

- Middle Class - obsessed with safety and security, combined with Consumerism adds convenience. this is then a very difficult environment for liminality to be introduced.

If a church begins with a focus on ministry they pretty much never get to mission, but if a church begins with a focus on mission then they will undoubtedly get to ministry. This is because ministry is the means by which you do mission.

How do we get past the fact that we seem to be able to consume experiences and get a false sense of liminality? These experiences make us feel as though we have generated communitas ... but have we really?

Men stay away from the church because although it is run by men it is a feminine system - receptivity, attentive is the focus, not a cause. Men are side by side creatures, not face to face creatures. Men need a cause, the church doesn't provide this.

Living systems theory.
- all living systems tend towards equilibrium
- life = that which exists far from equilibrium
- to activate a system you take it to the edge of chaos, this way it has to adapt, it keeps it alive.
- disturb equilibrium

80% of kids who go from high school/youth group to university lose their faith in the first year. they are taken out of the fish tank and put into the ocean.

It's no wonder people can't manage when they go out into the real world. The people who run our churches are only taught how to manage things inside the church, not about how to deal with the real world, so they can't equip people to deal with reality. They are expert fish tank cleaners, they know nothing about the ocean.

Websites:
Second Hand Books - www.abebooks.com

Monday, July 10, 2006

Forge Intensive Monday - Daryl Gardiner

I thought I'd post up my raw notes from the intensive ... totally unedited I'm afraid, so please excuse anything wrong, offensive or unintelligible.

Daryl Gardiner.

Matt 6 - the things we do in secret the Father in heaven sees and rewards.
- we are the people of the little things rather than the big things (in societies eyes)
- these little things should be a part of everyday lives and if we aren't then we aren't being true followers of Jesus

John 6:66 - Jesus had just fed the 5000 men, plus the rest ...
- Jesus does a really big miracle
- then the people are very impressed
- Jesus then preaches a sermon
- then all the people leave ... except the disciples and they would have if they could.
- at the cross he gets totally deserted

- This is so crucial is because:
- if we don't unpack the ideas of success in the eyes of society then we will have a different idea of success than the Father. We need to have the understanding of the Father.

- each of us should be hanging out with lonely people - that's where Jesus would be.

Larry Crab - 3 needs of people:
- significance
- this comes through sacrificially serving Jesus.
- "Well done good and faithful servant" Jesus.
- security
- self worth

- your heart follows your actions so get out there and do things so that your heart will follow.

Sunday, July 9, 2006

Forge Intensive Monday - Mark Pierson

I thought I'd post up my raw notes from the intensive ... totally unedited I'm afraid, so please excuse anything wrong, offensive or unintelligible.

Mark Pierson. Urban Seed.

Worship sustains people in the following of Christ in the world.
leader has a responsibility to sustain people in their place in the world. Not about pushing them into what you're thinking.

Worship leader --> Worship Curator
- responsible for overall shape of the whole service. absolutely everything that's involved is overseen by the curator.
- goal is to sustain people in their following of Christ in the world.

working definition of worship
- responding to god heart, mind, soul, strength.
- not just about taking on information, but responding

- something to take away is important ... paper vs digital

An Order of Service.
- opening ritual
- call to worship and prayer for blessing
- meditation or song/s (depending on participation this sometimes gets dropped)
- prayer of confession and worlds of forgiveness
- scripture reading and sermon
- (response)
- communion (brief) and offering (done with water for it's significance)
- prayer of thanks for gifts
- concerns of the church
- prayers for others (issues are shared and then 'Lord hear our prayer')
- song (depending on participation this sometimes gets dropped)
- benediction

- helpful to have a structure to hang things on, plus it becomes connected to the community.

Sustainability.
- having a liturgy/structure is helpful in terms of sustainability
- in mission.
- multifaceted - different for different people - individual paths
- scripture, prayers, journalling, retreats

Is Urban Seed a Christian organisation?
- the Christian faith, worldview, lifestyle undergirds what is done by Urban Seed rather than imposed over the top of it. It's not that it sets out to be a Christian organisation but rather that it happens to be.

Forge Intensive Sunday - Alan Hirsch

I thought I'd post up my raw notes from the intensive ... totally unedited I'm afraid, so please excuse anything wrong, offensive or unintelligible.

Alan Hirsch

All vices are virtues misdirected. We must direct our life toward the One.

Christology.
- understanding that we have Jesus and his work on our behalf.
- Christology determines Missiology determines Ecclesiology.
- Christology lies at the heart of the renewal of the church.
- if the church wants to renew itself then it has to go back to its founder.
- Show me your Jesus and I'll show you who you are.
- Jesus doesn't go well with religion.
- Jesus is divine, but he is hidden, he invites us to discover him through his humanity.
- Christianity - Christ = Religion
- What is good about the Pharisees?
- they were bible people
- missionary minded
- holiness and purity were serious issues
- zeal, passion, put bodies on the line
- disciplined
- prayer life
- tithe
- feed poor - social justice - custodians of Israel
- believed in miracles
- We do these things as evangelicals, but the Pharisees are the people who put Jesus on the cross ...

- the great commission is actually about making disciples, not believers, it is not seeker sensitive.
- so the early church was actually obsessed with making disciples, it wasn't so focussed on making believers, it wanted people who would love and follow Jesus.
- raised the bar on discipleship, lowered the bar on church - Neil Cole.

- the Church is like a dandelion, we all are seeds, we have ecclesia within us. If God blew us and we were spread out over the earth, we would still be the Church.

- the connection between Jesus and the disciple is the critical connection. discipleship is about becoming like Jesus - becoming little Jesus'.
- the conspiracy that God has is that he wants little Jesus' on every corner.
- Christlikeness.
- it's about embodiment. we live it out. Jesus takes up residence in us.
- spiritual authority - this is directly related to our ability to embody our messages, which is directly related to Christlikeness.
- leadership - it is an extension of discipleship that is based on Christlikeness.

Saturday, July 8, 2006

Forge Intensive Saturday - John Franke

I thought I'd post up my raw notes from the intensive ... totally unedited I'm afraid, so please excuse anything wrong, offensive or unintelligible.

John Franke. Emergent. Seeks to bring missional thinking to the teaching of theology.

To talk about being missional is critical to the heartbeat of God. God's very nature is missional, he doesn't not only have a mission.

Objectives:
- we could gain a better understanding of God and his purposes. (head)
- to have our hearts grow in passion for God's mission. to desire to participate in that. (heart)
- to become more reflect and intelligent about the ways in which we are going to participate. (hands)

What does it mean to say that God is missional?
- most fundamental way to do this is through the Trinity.
- God is triune.
- but what difference does that make?
- well what was God doing before creation? what was going on?
- Augustine and friends. Preparing for people asking these questions ...
- God was giving, receiving and sharing love. In the Trinity God was doing this, through the three persons. This was concrete, real activity that God has been engaged with forever. Well God is love - love is a verb, God has been doing love for all of eternity.
- in this action God is relational, not solitary. God is a relational being, this is show in this action of giving, receiving and sharing love within the Trinity.
- God is missional.
- God extends this love from within the Trinity outwards - a missional activity.
- Creation is a missional activity because it is about sharing this love beyond God. Inviting us into this relationship for all of eternity.
- He created humanity in his image, people of relationship (Adam and Eve). Eve was created out of the very being of Adam, to participate in deep intimate relationship.
- Pericorosis (sp?). The relationship within the Trinity, total interdependence. Humanity was created into this environment. In this way we image God. Giving, receiving and sharing love. Humans were told to be fruiful and multiply. God's love overflows into an activity which multiplies, extends, creates this relationship.
- What does it mean for humans are created in the image of God?
- Rationality? Unlike other created beings, humans have rational capacities. But that suggests that each individual has this and can manifest it for themselves. Very individualist ...
- Exercise of dominion over the created order? - as God does this. Again this assumption comes from the framework of individualism.
- These views are from a western theological framework which tries to understand the Trinity and has an individualist bent.
- As individuals can we really image God on our own? Outside of community? We have been created for an in community, as individuals for community. Without community is there the image of God ...
- Sin entered the equation. Where did it come from? Problematic.
- Flaw entered but God's missional concern goes on. Things are not left in the state of rebellion/foobar. Because of His character of mission, God will not leave things at that. So he enters into covenant (maybe first covenant is in the garden - picture of Christ extinguishing evil). Israel's covenant - I will make you a great nation to bring blessing to all nations of the earth. Jesus comes to fulfill God's mission - "It is finished." Covenantal Climax in Jesus death and resurrection.
- Jesus delivers a surprise when he sends us into the world to participate in the bringing about of the Kingdom of God (John 20). He inaugurates the KoG (the already) and calls us to participate in foreshadowing the fullness of the KoG (the not yet).
- What is this mission?
- to be the community that God intended. Not just hanging out, but being the type of community (interdependent as imaged by the Trinity) that God intended.
- what kind of community?
- identity - interdependence - we see something of God in interdependent communities.
- one that doesn't live to serve itself - this is a Christian community because it is inherently missional
- one that wants to promote the gospel (which is - in Jesus Christ God is reconciling himself to the world)
- a community that is intentional about understanding who it is in Jesus. a missional community that is based in Christ. Christocentric in it's activities. Phil 2:5-11 for more thinking. Emptying self of rights and privileges of God, gives up for the sake of sharing life with us - What are the implications of this for us in the Christian life? Jesus even experiences death for the sake of sharing life with us (mission - giving, receiving and sharing life). The end of these communities is the things that Jesus is on about. Christotelic.

- How does being a Christian community influence our engagement with other beliefs/religions/world views?
- Newbigin - We are exclusive in the sense of affirming the unique truth of the revelation of Jesus Christ. But not in the sense of denying the possibility of salvation for those outside the Christian faith. Inclusive in the sense of refusing to limit the saving grace of God to Christians. But not in the sense of viewing other religions as salvific. Pluralist in the sense of acknowledging the gracious work of God in all other beings. But not pluralist in the sense of denying the unique and decisive nature of God's work in Jesus Christ. (this quote is found in the foreword of a Generous Orthodoxy - Brian McLaren.)

- The Christian community is not just about its specific community. The Body of Christ is global, all who are seeking to be disciples of Christ. 1 Cor 12 - speaks of body with variety of gifts given by the Spirit, given so that none can say it doesn't need the other. This is true on a global scale as well as a local one. A church is at its best when it knows how to give and receive gifts from other churches generously. Jesus prays that all would be one. John 17?

- Our mission is to proclaim/promote/live out now the KoG that will be consummated in the final return of Jesus.

- Bosch. Mission is participation in the mission of God to reconcile the world, wagering on a future that present experience seems to belie.
- will we be fools for Christ?

Questions:
- so what does the community as imaged by the Trinity look like in our context?

Mission - giving, receiving and sharing love.

- The terms we use to describe God (Father, Son, Spirit, Light, etc) are metaphors to help us understand. Analogies that help us understand who God is. God is a father, but a father unlike any father we know. God is a king, but again unlike any king we've known. These metaphors are important, but a single metaphor does not dictate and dominate all others. God has given them all to us. There are feminine metaphors also. Even the label God is a metaphor for Yahweh. God is God - yes, but unlike any other God that we know.

- all other characteristics of God are only expressed in relation to something that is not God (Holiness, Wrath, etc). Love is fundamental because it is primary - expressed first within the Trinity.

Who do we worship? God ... Yahweh, we need to be more specific.

Books.
The Doors of the Sea. Where was God during the Tsumani?

Forge Intensive Saturday - Mark Sayers

I thought I'd post up my raw notes from the intensive ... totally unedited I'm afraid, so please excuse anything wrong, offensive or unintelligible.
Mark Sayers. Discipleship.
This intensive about our heart's motivation, not only our heart's but the heart's of those we seek to lead.

There has been lots of reshaping of how we meet and what we do, but very little discipleship, very little radical follower-ship of Jesus.

Are we producing robust disciples for our missional environment?
- often it seems that discipleship is measured by attendance at church programs.
- maybe we don't really have much of an idea about what a disciple of Jesus really looks like in the western world today.

Often the people who are leading emerging missional churches are on fire, but the people they are leading aren't that keen. So the key is to be able to engender in people a missional excitement, not just trying to to do it all yourself.

Our culture is full of supposed freedom, seemingly endless pleasure, but the reality is that people are often trapped.

So people in our churches hardly remember their call (conversion/call to mission) and they are distracted by this world that seems to promise everything but delivers very little.

The beginning of radical discipleship is by taking steps out into the unknown to begin with. People are standing back where you were, looking out at you walking into the unknown and wondering what to do. How do you encourage people to follow you out into the unknown? How do we challenge people to come with us on the dangerous journey into the unknown?

Often people grew up with a view of God that is either about Control or Conversion. God's love is linked to either of these things. But maybe now people have a more Contract sort of view, if I give to God then I'll get such and such back from him. A Contract view of relationships turns other people or God into tools for the individual to use.

We need to move away from the Contract view towards a Covenant mentality. Contract is based on 'if' - if you do this for me then I'll do this for you. Covenant says that each party will deliver on their promise regardless. The Covenant is done in a spirit of submission, a Contract is done in a spirit of greed. The Contract is about what you can get, the Covenant is about what you can give. A Covenant is about all of life, a Contract is limited. A Covenant is almost anti-individualist. A Contract is begun with the end in mind, a Covenant is eternal. Covenant is principle based and Contract is sort of law based.

Forge Intensive Saturday - Olivia MacLean

I thought I'd post up my raw notes from the intensive ... totally unedited I'm afraid, so please excuse anything wrong, offensive or unintelligible.

Olivia MacLean. Spiritual Disciplines of Solace.

- Book. Remaking - a workbook for Spiritual Formation.

- Make manifest the glory of God that is in us.

- Solace exists to bring out the 'fabulousness' in people. And they believe that every person has that within them.

- Be remade, be part of remaking.
- The gospel is the invitation given by Jesus to join God in remaking the world starting with yourself. We do this with faith and in faithfulness.
- The focus is doing - discipleship based on a correct found of being and believing.
- In order to do and be in wholeness we are invited to belong first with God, within God and with other people.

- Jesus' focus is discipleship
- Why do you call me "Lord, Lord: and not do what I say? (Luke 6:46)

- Paul's focus is discipleship
- Col 2 and Gal 5 - only two examples
- No magic rituals but plenty of discipline
- Grace but not rules or cheap grace

- 4 important things we MUST NOT take as primary objectives:
1. External conformity to Jesus teaching
2. Profession of perfectly correct doctrine
3. Faithfulness to Church activities
4. Seeking specific and special experiences

- 2 primary objectives:
1. Be enthralled by God
2. Remove our automatic responses against God's community

- Action-Reflection Training
- 5 dimensions of the eternal kind of life
- love, confidence and reliance upon Jesus
- a desire to be his apprentice
- exploring abundance in obedience
- deeper inner transformation
- power to work the works of God's community

- The Ways that are explored by Solace
- The Way of the Everyday
- The Way of Contemplation
- The Way of Relating
- The Way of Learning and Understanding

Forge Intensive Saturday - Daryl Gardiner

I thought I'd post up my raw notes from the intensive ... totally unedited I'm afraid, so please excuse anything wrong, offensive or unintelligible.

Daryl Gardiner. YFC NZ.

When we bring the things to God that we know are wrong/bad, he knows that, in fact he knows how they are even better than we do 'cos he sees sin as it really is.

In confession we are really just agreeing with God. When we do agree with God about our sin, he makes us clean.

We can use mission to give the appearance of a totally pure motive when in reality we're lucky if it's 10% ...

We talk about doing ministry/mission for Jesus, but in fact there is usually a whole bunch of other motives at play.
- romantic myth
- loneliness
- ambitious
- romance/pickup
- esteem/glory
- etc

If we are going to continue in ministry/mission without being honest about our motives then it's going to burn us. Our expectations, that we aren't honest about, don't get met and we get jealous, angry, disappointed, upset, etc.

Some people manage to survive this, often it seems by accident.

They move on to sticking around because of the team of people or because of the cause that you're on about.

One of the problems with causes is that people try and make their's look sexier than yours and so you leave to join theirs, but aren't honest about why you're really leaving.

If we stick at it for long enough then maybe we'll get to the point where we are doing it more for God.

What seems to happen is that over time the pyramid turns upside down. You move from doing it 10% for God, 20% for the cause/team, 70% for other motives to the opposite.

Is there burnout? Or is it just us not being honest for too long and that coming back to bite us?

When we say 'create in me a clean heart oh Lord'. What we really need to be saying is 'create in me a new way of looking at the world, show me the misbeliefs I have at the moment that I need to change, etc.'

The loneliest point in a person's existence is when they get the thing they desire most and find out that it doesn't satisfy. - Hindu Proverb.

We have many beliefs including some misbeliefs, we just don't know what those misbeliefs are yet.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Crossing Cultures

Jay and I had some friends who are missionaries in Jordan come and have dinner with us last night. Hanging out with people who devote their lives to a culture so different from ours is always an interesting experience. They usually come across as being a bit weird. Fair enough though really, if they weren't then they probably wouldn't be any good at connecting with people in the culture they are seeking to serve.

Chatting with these guys reminded me how much I enjoy crossing cultures. In many ways that's what Jay and I do best. I seem to morph (hopefully with integrity) from a hippie to a nerd, to a theological student, to a refugee advocate, to a sporting fan to whatever else is required to participate in and connect with the culture. I love it too, the diversity of experiences and relationships is wonderful and the opportunities to connect and share the kingdom of God with different people abound.

I raises interesting questions for me about our congregation called Loam. Are we trying to create a space that connects well with only one subculture? Or are we seeking to create an environment in which many subcultures can engage with God and catch a glimpse of his kingdom to come? I'm not so sure I'm wired up to just focus on one ...

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Gathering together

Our Loam crew meet up on Wednesday night's for a time of worship, prayer and learning. Last night we spent some time using the Prayer of Saint Francis and then used a modified form of Lectio Divina to study Luke 6:39-49 and finished up with Saint Francis again. It was a great little gathering as we had some regulars away, but a visitor or two which added something different. The approach of Lectio Divina allows everyone to have input and aid the learning of the group. Whenever I am involved in Lectio Divina I'm reminded that it is God's Spirit who helps us understand the bible. Theological education and training is helpful, but the role of God's Spirit to draw our attention and give us understanding is irreplaceable and so often He speaks through those who we would expect Him to least. It's a beautiful thing.

It was a thought-provoking and encouraging evening, today I feel better able to live out the kingdom of God because of it.

Back to posting

My life has been more crazy than normal in the last couple of months, but I'm hoping that things will settle at least a little for a while and I can think and post here a bit more.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Church Definition from Webber

While working on yet another essay last night I read this great quote in 'the Younger Evangelicals' by Robert Webber. Thought I'd share it with you.
The church is where the Spirit of God is forming a people who are the expression of God's redeeming work in the world. They are the people in whom the dwelling of God is forming a new creation. They are God's witnesses in the world; they witness to God's victory over the powers of evil and are a sign of the ultimate reconciliation of all things.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Absent.

I was thinking today about how I haven't really blogged at all lately. I've been kinda busy with some new people in my life that I'd like to share with you about.

At Easter Jay and I had a guy stay from West Papua, a young guy whose life has been pretty traumatic and the people who were looking after him thought it'd be good for him to stay with a family over the Easter break. So he came and celebrated Easter with us and our families, our lives haven't really been the same since. We had had some pretty impacting first hand experience of sharing hospitality with someone in a powerful way.

Not long after a this, a good friend who does a lot of advocacy work for refugees (and writes a great blog on it all at http://asylumseekernews.blogspot.com/) called and asked us if we could offer similar hospitality to another guy, this time from Cameroon. Again we did and found ourselves greatly blessed by the new friendship and joy we experienced at being able to care for someone in need.

The same day this guy left us I got a call from the Red Cross to ask us if we could have a guy from Afghanistan come and stay with us. Thankfully we were again in a position to offer hospitality and the last 4 weeks have been some of the most challenging and meaningful of my life. Without going into this guy's story I want to say that it is incredibly traumatic, i don't understand how he smiles, laughs or even gets through the day really. Whenever I talk to him about his story I just want to cry, the injustice and evil are heartbreaking. Yet in the midst of all of this God has been at work; bringing us into the picture and using us to bless this guy in a way that he finds unbelievable, sharing with us the privilege of serving and loving someone to bring about healing, challenging and stretching our understanding of love and sacrifice, bringing a depth of meaning to hospitality that we never knew existed and creating a new friendship based on love and trust.

It's been a joy and a blessing, also a pretty good reason for my absence here I reckon!