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Posts from September 2011

European Church Planting Survey

Hey. If you are starting churches in Europe then we need your input. There is still time to get your information into a survey hosted by some friends of mine.

Go here:


Church planting

I noticed that most of the groups represented are European or American mission groups but very few are from outside Europe, despite starting lots of new churches inside Europe. And 90% of respondents have been MALE which makes sense because the "church planting" thang is quite a male way to look at the European mission project and less integrative than  . .  say . . 'missional social enterprise' in which many of my female colleagues prefer to invest their energy.

Also, one of the categories is "emergent" church planter or networker and although it is not clear what that word means, I chose it to represent the simple, non-institutional churches or monastic centers [including holistic missional enterprises] we are helping to start in European cities. You might choose it to, even if you dont like the term.

One of the observations arising from this survey is this: Its really hard for church planters to accurately measure their impact, both personally and for their church/ministry and for their community. Especially their wider community. One of the problems of a sharp focus on church planting is that it can be unhelpfully self-referential in its critical approach and accounting of a holistic impact beyond its four walls. Counting bums on seats and numbers of new communities tends to rule as the main measurement criteria. A few other tools are helpful but there is a need for something more comprehensive.

But some of us want to change that. One of the projects we are sponsoring is a tool to measure holistic impact. Its called the Transformational Index. Later this month a team of people will gather in UK to add some final touches. I will not be there but will let you know what happens. You can read more about it from Brad Sargent.

But if you want to know the real brains and heart behind this project, then you need to meet the girl who started the emerging church network.


Easy Divorce among Evangelicals

If easy divorce is the latest church growth strategy for evangelicals, then why don't we just start giving altar calls for unhappy couples at the end of our services?

I'm joking, of course. But the truth is not funny. Check this out . . .

QUESTION: Why did 120 Coptic Christians in Egypt recently leave their denomination?

ANSWER: Because its easier to get a divorce if you are evangelical or Catholic.

Under Coptic rules, adultery is the only valid reason for a divorce but outside the Coptic world, there is more scope for divorce for those in unhappy marriages. According to Al-Masry Al-Youm yesterday, "The Evangelical Church applies the 1938 Coptic personal status law, which permits divorce for nine reasons, rather than being restricted to cases of adultery." One source says these 120 Christians are expected to switch over to Evangelical or Catholic but applications have not yet been made.

In the USA, Pat Robertson just added another valid reason for divorce . . . ALZHEIMERS!.

Rings broken divorce

Robertson stated on the 700 Club that someone would be justified in divorcing a spouse afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease because the disease is a "kind of death". Joni Eareckson Tada, a disability advocate and really wonderful peson (I met her some years ago) is outraged at Robertson's remarks. I don't blame her.

ALSO: Recent studies showed that divorce in USA is higher in the Bible Belt than in the NorthEast.

New Jersey is among those with the lowest for both sexes; states with high rates for both men and women include Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas.

Earlier studies from Barna showed that Baptists beat out all the other denominations when it comes to divorce.

Evangelicals and easy divorce . . . What does this say about us? Is Mohler right in saying that divorce is the scandal of the evangelical conscience?

Rowan Williams on Fresh Expressions

"I believe very strongly that whether we're talking about inherited models of church or fresh expressions, the real heart for the next generation is pretty well bound to be in those small groups of people working at their relationships, at their understanding, together, quietly, in the long term." Dr Rowan Wlliams, Changing the Landscape

It is suggested [but not confirmed] that Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams might retire next year. Not sure if that is accurate or not. But either way, he has been a great friend and guide to the next generation. His support of the fresh expressions movement is something we hope to see imitated by other countries.

I highly recommend reading his address called Changing the Landscape, given earlier this year, in which Dr Williams adds some great balance to the conversation  - the need for small groups (cells) and the importance of the big event. The reality of the "mixed economy" and at the same time the necessity of allowing Jesus to hold together all those differences. Great stuff.

Rowan Williams 2007

Rugby World Cup

Update: IT HAS BEGUN!! These sites will keep you up on the games: SportalAllblacks.comStuff, and NZ Herald Rugby World Cup.

As a Kiwi its my duty to offer an apology to all my friends from England, South Africa and Australia for the solid beating you will receive at the World Cup which starts in a few days in Auckland. Let me extend the same apology to friends from Scotland, Ireland, WALES, France, Canada and the USA. I just want you all to know that we New Zealanders really do love you all and if you do lose, and you will, then please return to your home country with the pride that your rugby team had their arses whipped by the best team in the world!

200px All Blacks logo svg

A little quote from Wikipedia for you to meditate on:

The All Blacks have held the top ranking in the world for longer than all other countries combined and in over 100 years only five of the top twenty ranked test rugby nations have ever beaten New Zealand.

TIP: If you want to tune into the World Cup and hear the backstory and the background and the BACKSTABBING  behind the games then I recommend my old friend Murray Deaker who blogs and spurts inflammatories and emotional outbursts at Deaker on Sport, once he gets back on his game.

Jacob in the Koran

It's September 9 again. Welcome to the second Blog a Koran Day, an opportunity for non-Muslim bloggers to blog a short passage from the Koran.

I am writing this from Turkey where I took my family to visit The Blue Mosque a few days ago in Istanbul.

Here is my passage from the Koran:

And recall Our servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They were resourceful, and with vision.
We had chosen them to enforce awareness of the Hereafter.
And they are with Us of the elite, the best.
—Qur'an, sura 38 ('Sad), ayah 45-47[18]

Not much comment to add. Jacob is mentioned 16 times in the Koran but never as wrestling an angel or deceiving his brother. And no mention of the ladder. But Jacob is taught as God's servant, prophet and leader who was submissive to God.

That was the reasoning about Us, which We gave to Abraham (to use) against his people: We raise whom We will, degree after degree: for thy Lord is full of wisdom and knowledge.
We gave him Isaac and Jacob: all (three) guided: and before him, We guided Noah, and among his progeny, David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron: thus do We reward those who do good:
—Qur'an, sura 6 Al-An'am, ayah 83-84[35]

Last year's Blog a Koran is here. Let me know when your post is up with a comment below. We are doing these on the blogs and not Facebook so that they are more accessible to our friends and cousins around the world.

Also, I bought a book yesterday by Carl Medaris called Speaking of Jesus: The Art of Not-Evangelism which is highly spoken of in the media. I look forward to reading it.

More blog resources are at Idiot's Guide to Islam, Guardian, The Koran Blogspot. Suggestions for more links?

The World's First Megachurch

Istanbul: This morning I did a tour of the world's first megachurch. The Hagia Sophia (Aya Sofia in Turkish), opened in 537AD. The original name given to the first construction of this church (360 AD) was "Megalo Ecclesia". Translation: MEGA CHURCH.

Andrew at hagia sophia

Hagia Sophia is one of the Top 20 largest churches in the world if you measure the square footage but only has room for 10,000 people. Its so tall that some people say you could stand the Statue of Liberty under the dome without a problem and there would still be room for Notre Dame. It's now a museum and no longer functions as a church. In fact, when the Moslems took it over in 1453, they covered up the mosaics with plaster and paint. But as a museum the images are allowed and gradually the mosaics are coming back into public view.


Last year I took my family to a different kind of megachurch - Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Seating for 46,000 but not nearly as grand as the Hagia Sophia.

I used to be quite harsh in my critiques of modern-day megachurches but have since softened and become quite ecumenical. One book that opened my eyes and made me repent of some of my biases was Beyond Megachurch Myths: What We Can Learn from America's Largest Churches (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series).

How does your church rank on the Informality Scale?

How much does your church resemble the community around it?

Contextuality is a hot issue. Pyromaniacs have posted a lot on engaging the culture over the past year. Emerging church folk have popped up on the other side to defend it. Even I had some response to John McArthur's "Contextualization is a curse" rant. More importantly, there is some discussion in the Lausanne scene about the relevance of John Travis's contextualization scale C1-C6.

There is a underlying suspicion that contextualization leads to syncretism, C1 somehow being morally neutral and each step forward up the scale being a little more daring and dodgy which finally, unless stopped by well-meaning people, ends up at a C6 which everyone knows is a negative and compromising stance. Cody Lorance has responded with an argument that the inherent negative connotation between contextualization and syncretism is not helpful.

There are other problems I see. The scale assumes there is a single culture and a single kind of Christian gathering or approach. This may have been somewhat true back in 1988 when John Travis created the scale but less so now with so many different models of church working in complex environments.

Another bad habit that needs to be addressed:

Contextuality and the Travis scale automatically points our attention to the fields out there somewhere but very rarely do we apply it to our home situation. It is assumed the churches in our sending countries are somehow perfectly adjusted contextually to our societies and the only time we need to pull out the Travis C1-C6 scale is when we go overseas.

Not so.

The first church I pastored in USA was highly contextualized (dare I say 'syncretized') to the professional business world around it.

- The church board meetings were set by Roberts Rules of Order (1876) as recommended by the Southern Baptists and other Christian ministries. and were probably not much different that any other secular organizational board meetings.

- The church financial structure was set by the 501c3 taxation requirements.

- The thinking and argumentation in the sermons was influenced by Scottish Common Sense Realism introduced by James McCosh in 1868.

- The stance on alcohol was contextualized with the secular Temperance and Abstinence movements of the 1800's.

- The dress code on Sunday morning - suits and ties for men - was a close match to the business dress code during the week.

- The titles and functions of the church leadership were set in accordance with similar titles  [like "executive"] used in the secular business setting.

All in all, I would say it you viewed that church alongside the typical for-profit business down the road, it would probably be rated C5 on the Travis scale. However, if you compared Sunday morning in church with the Sunday morning rituals and informal dress codes of the neighbors, it would rank much further down the scale - perhaps a C2.


OK, a little off topic but still related:

Here is another kind of C1-C6 scale that I created to measure your church's formality or informality. Don't take it too seriously, but how would your church service rank?


C1 - Courtroom. The most formal. Assigned seating. Silence while being addressed by a robed official sitting higher than everyone.

C2 - Corporate business meeting. No agenda deviation. High dress code but more interactive.

C3 - Classroom. Orderly but interactive within boundaries. Semi-formal dress. Leadership from front.

C4 - Coffee Shop. Interactive but people seated and orderly.

C5 - Club. No seating. All casual dress. Fully interactive.

C6 - Children's birthday party. No dress code. Interactive games and activities. Food. Laughter. Gift-giving.

Hanging out in Istanbul

We are taking a week's holiday and we chose Turkey. We arrived in Istanbul yesterday. Amazing, wonderful, historical city. The people are REALLY REALLY friendly and I totally recommend all my friends to come to this country to visit and enjoy. Last night I went out with my son, Sam, who is with us for a few more days before leaving us to study filmmaking in Wellington.

Watch out, Peter Jackson!


A few days ago, Turkey announced that they are handing back to the non-Muslim minorities a billion dollars worth of buildings that were confiscated since 1936. The Christians will also be allowed to reopen their Seminary that was closed in 1985. FANTASTIC! This is a great move and one that will no doubt speed their journey into joining the EU.

I hope the churches, who have 12 months to reclaim these buildings, schools, cemeteries, etc, will use them wisely. I bet other countries will offer to help them think through what could be done to repurpose some of those buildings for ministry in the 21st century. I know I have some ideas . . . .

The Hagia Sofia, of course, will remain a musuem. It was taken a long time ago and thats all water under the bridge. Bummer!

Istanbul hagia sophia

Fresh Expressions Gathering in UK


There was once a movement in the churches in UK back in the 1980's and 90's. It was called "alt. worship". Then the movement discovered some colleagues on the other side of the pond and the movement was renamed "emerging church". Then some bishops waved their hand and rechristened it "Fresh Expressions". It was the same but it was also different. And it now had the blessing of the church which meant an easier ride, less enemies, more funding, greater understanding but also less punk rock and wild rebellion. It also meant a little historical editing and some loss of individual voices that were subsumed into the bigger picture.

But its been a great ride and a great privilege to sponsor projects under all of these titles.

A special gathering of Fresh Expressions leaders starts tomorrow. Today is the last day to register. [PDF] David Male, founder of Netchurch and author of Church Unplugged, is organising this meeting. I can't be there, as I told David. Apologies to all! Hope it goes well!

But I do send greetings to the 50+ people who will be there. They are coming from 10 countries. Thats great!

Fresh Expressions is an international movement with a different flavor in each country. My observations from a busy year of traveling and interacting with Fresh Expression leaders in many countries:

In England, Fresh Expressions is primarily an Anglican and Methodist movement. The Anglicans coined the phrase and have cast the most obvious Fresh Expression shadow. The Church of Scotland have been doing a tremendous job with their 'emerging church fund" but they have not yet fully shifted their terminology over to FE. [There might be some history there]. Some other fresh expressions of church are reluctantly being counted among the others but are reluctant to hand over the keys to the Anglicans and here I am talking about the Anabaptist type groups like Urban Expression. But by and large the FE movement is a RAGING SUCCESS and there might now be 3000 fresh expressions of church in the UK.

In most of Australia, the Uniting Church is one of the strongest voices for FE but the Anglicans are strong in Sydney. My time in Adelaide was amazing and I wouldn't be surprised if that city emerged as the FE leader in Australia.

In New Zealand, the Baptists are busy getting some networking going around the country and the Anglicans are also involved. Obviously.

In South Africa, probably the Anglicans but I didn't see many new expressions of church.

So it really is an international movement but the event this week will feature only English speakers. That's a bit of a shame. I think if they wanted to attract more leaders from the 'colonies" then they just might have to ask a few of them to speak as well as listen.

Bishop Graham Cray will be speaking. I highly recommend hearing him. He has served the movement well as an ambassador, cheerleader and guide, [see his thoughts on monastic FE] and we all owe him. Same for John Drane. And Maggie Dawn. Ok - I guess there are lots of great speakers, even if they are all English :-]

Related: I am hoping many Fresh Expressions will start on the margins and work towards self-sustainability. I am calling these Fringe Expressions and we are starting 50 of them this year.

Fringe expression fresh