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February 2012

Posts from January 2012

Covenant Making is not always evil

Yesterday I was at All Saints [Hataitai] Church to witness and participate in a covenant signing ceremony. But before you get all excited about that word "covenant",  I should tell you that:

1. Yes, I know all about last week's contract/covenant controversy at Mars Hill Seattle and agree that covenants can be abused to control people and I am glad people are sharing exactly what their covenants and commitments entailed. Nothing wrong with a second opinion and the wider-church crowd wisdom.


2. Yes, I am aware of the personality-driven "Covenant" of Destiny Church in which some church members actually wear a covenant ring with Bishop Tamaki's name on it! Apparently the rings cost $300 and were only offered to male members. This practice is weird, creepy and cult-like, it has been suggested, and a good reason to look elsewhere for a church that is focused on Jesus, not the pastor.

I am NOT repeat NOT talking about either case OR about the hundreds of egomaniac preachers who manipulate people's desire for God towards building up the their own ecclesiastic capital [numbers] or financial empire [dollars]. This post has nothing to do with the Shepherding Movement, Gestapo glove-slapping, Kool-aid parties, David Koresh retro-sunglasses or setting up VIDEO TEMPLES for hand-clapping tithing zombies! It should be obvious but that Bible verse "Every eye shall see him" [Rev 1:7] is NOT talking about a YouTube strategy for your pastor's videoed sermons.

It's about Jesus. [Someone say 'Amen!']

Covenant making can be a healthy thing when done right. Yesterday was a good example. Yesterday was the day Urban Vision had its yearly covenant making. The usual suspects where present and there were also some new teams formed and sent into Auckland, Dunedin, Waikato and the Philippines. The teams and communities came up to the front one by one and signed the Covenant. Some were not able to commit to the same level this year and chose the "Companion" option. No pressure for the Companions to upgrade their commitment and those leaving were blessed and prayed for. Reminds me of the phrase "Leaver Sensitive Churches" from Alan Jamieson

This is the Covenant they signed for 2012:

"I freely choose to covenant to fully participate in God's building of the Kingdom as part of the Order of Urban Vision. As part of this Covenant, I choose to uphold and outwork Urban Vision's three commitments:

Deeper intimacy with Christ Jesus, our Lord and Saviour

Journey further with my Urban Vision community in increasing wholeness, integrity and friendships

Play my part in sharing God's loving justice in this world, especially amongst the poor and marginalized in our neighbourhood"

Signature:                                                            date:

Justin archbishop david and bishop tom

Bishop Thomas Brown [middle] led the communion. Urban Vision Founder Justin Duckworth [right, with the dreadlocks] was waffling on about something . .  can't quite remember what :-] but he did note that Bishop Tom, who is retiring as Bishop of Wellington in March, did "everything right" in his dealings with Urban Vision and will be sorely missed. Archbishop David Moxon [left] flew down from Auckland to witness the event and to deliver a great message. He finished off by illustrating the words of Jesus with chapter headings from Justin and Jenny's book [Against the Tide, Towards the Kingdom]:

Going Deep: Throwing out the "Next" and the "New"

Staying Faithful: Throwing out Experience seeking

Living the Dream: Throwing out Entertainment

Finding our Vocation: Throwing out Career

Trusting God: Throwing out Financial Security

Nurturing Healthy Relationships: Throwing out the Hollywood Romance

Opening our Homes: Throwing Out the Picket Fence

Peddling against the Current: Throwing out Respectability

Sidenote: Nice to see Rev. Simon Winn who is Vicar at All Saints. We met in Oxford at CMS some years ago.

So, do you have a good example of covenant making?

Tall skinny elves at The Hobbit casting call

I took my tallest kids over to Lower Hutt today for The Hobbit casting call. Filming starts next month for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey and they were looking for extras: the short, the tall, the skinny, men with big biceps [not me} and those with 'character faces'. Unfortunately, 3000 people turned up and they could only handle 800. The rest of us were turned away but told we could apply online. The Herald said they were "overwhelmed" but it should have been a surprise. We all want to be in the movie!


My kids and I would have made great elves. I am 1.96cm (6'5'') and my son, who turned 21 today, is just a little shorter. The Hobbit will not be the same without us but we forgive Sir Peter Jackson for his oversight and will wait eagerly for the movie.

Hobbit casting call jan 28 2012

Actually, it was quite a fun day and a few people turned up in costume. I saw a Gimli lookalike and the guy didn't have any make-up. I suppose thats what they call a "character face".

What if church could be more like summer camp?

Camps are cool. My youngest kids went to Christian camps last week. TJ (9) went to El Rancho and Hannah (14) went to Lakeview Bible Camp with some Gospel Chapel people from Foxton. They had a great time. They came home with huge smiles and heads full of memories.

I also have very fond memories of New Zealand camps when I was younger.

Camps are where you can hang out late at night, dress badly, discover yourself, fight the giggles at 2 in the morning, watch the uninhibited speaker embarrass himself publicly, eat poorly cooked food, get up surprisingly early to pray, create and perform silly skits, pee in a freezing cold cement toilet block, and share your life-changing decision with your new friends as bonfire flames lick your eyelashes.

Why can't church be like more like camp?

Uv ngatiawa

Well, actually, it can be! As you know we arrived at Ngatiawa Camp a month ago and are still here. This is an old Presbyterian camp that was purchased 8 years ago by a network of Christian communities called Urban Vision and turned into a contemporary monastery that has been embraced by the Anglican church.

Founders Justin and Jenny Duckworth tell the story in their book Against the Tide. Justin is working on his Ph.D on contemporary monasticism and I expect he will have some great contributions to make once he is finished.

In a way, its like a camp that goes on forever, a perennial camp, a camp where no body has to go home because this is their home. They have fixed up the buildings, added gardens, a milking shed for the cows, art spaces for creativity, extra accommodation, a chapel for their 3 daily services, and a wifi signal. But its still a camp. Except the food is better.

Yth forum 1

We cooked pizza for 50 people last Friday. Every day new people seem to turn up. Lots of young people. Lots of Anglicans, especially since last month's big profile [read article]. Anglican Youth Network Facilitator John Hebenton has been here all week, hiding himself away in the prayer hut. Yesterday, Bishop Richard Ellena dropped in for a cuppa.

Last week a young guy named Tim flew up from Christchurch and hitched his way to Ngatiawa Camp, just to stay one day before flying back south. People are looking for a better way to do church and models like this are giving hope to a new generation.

A lot of young people around the world are starting intentional communities that begin with the template of a monastery and then reduce the weird elements to make it fit the context. But another option is to START WITH A CAMP and add what needs to be added. Seems to be working for Urban Vision.

Want to check it out? Come for PassionFest in Feb right here at Ngatiawa and bring your tent.

Related: Prophets of a New Order, PassionFest in 2012

Top 15 Ways Pastors Get Rich

Ever been ripped off by a pastor? It's embarrassing.

In San Francisco many years ago, my wife and I were relieved of our wedding rings at a Pentecostal meeting. The mega-church preacher had flown in "unexpectantly" from Argentina to host this spontaneous meeting for us pastors and leaders. I don't remember if I handed over my ring before or after he put his hand on my head and knocked me backwards since it was all a little cloudy that night, and still is, actually, but I do remember wondering how the pastor was going to get all that jewelry through customs. And what he would do with the money once all that gold was melted down.

"A church isn't a family business you know; it is a family, but it's not a business." Mark Vrankovich, How Pastors Get Rich.

Pastors get rich money

I may have been ripped off but at least I was done over by a PRO. Lets face it . . . the guy was GOOD. The $10 wedding ring I have now is silver and, due to some knuckle swelling, has permanently mounted itself to my finger so I can safely enter a prosperity church and return without having to explain a ringless finger to my wife. If I wanted to, that is.

There is a great article at cult watch called "How Pastors Get Rich" in which Mark Vrankovich outlines some nasty practices you should watch out for. Its a little scary, and if you see some uncomfortable parallels with your own church then it might be time for a second opinion from someone outside the church.

Top 15 Ways Pastors Get Rich.

1. The Multilevel Marketing Pattern

2. Books

3. DVDs

4. Hyped Conferences

5. The Christian Speaking Circuit

6. Pastor Owned Businesses that Feed Off the Flock

7. The Honor the Pastor Scam

8. High Pressure Offerings

9. Cathedral Building Wars

10. Siphoning Cash into Property

11. Excessive Wages

12. Perks

13. Nepotism

14. Their Fabricated Tithing Doctrine

15. The Carrot and the Stick

Related on TSK: Ka-ching in the Ka-church

Image source.

Neo-Reformed Movement and the Fiasco

- David Fitch asks an interesting question regarding Driscoll as the poster-boy for the Neo-Reformed Movement and the emphasis on hierarchical authority:

My question is: are these assumptions part of the larger Neo-Reformed movement as a whole and does this mean that the Neo-Reformed will always be inhibited somewhat from true missional engagement? (Can I say “just asking?”). It will always be a movement prone to attracting Christianized people who are already habituated to submit to a pre-established hierarchical (male) authority.

Lydia issues a challenge: "Neo-Calvinists, your integrity is on the line here. The world is watching."

- Pastor Jonathan Martin from Why Mark Driscoll is wrong about women in church leadership:

I find it hard to believe that he has not noticed that most women in ministry on the ground are not, in fact, mainline Protestant liberals who are embracing some leftist agenda, but fire-breathing Pentecostal females who are preaching the whole gospel with other-worldly boldness.  Or is the neo-Reformed movement so elitist and self-congratulatory at this point, that this escapes their attention?

Related on TSK: Why I am not a New Calvinist, by one guy who should be.


Lausanne Young Leaders

Nominations are open for the Lausanne Consultation for North American Younger Leaders, July 24-26, 2012 in Madison, Wisconsin. Go here to nominate someone. Feb 3 is the deadline.

Because this gathering is by invitation only, we are seeking recommendations. Participants must:

  • be in their 20s or 30s
  • have a broad influence in their country for the task of world evangelization
  • reflect the diversity of the Body of Christ, including ethnicity, gender, and denomination.

Although it has been difficult to see how exactly the young people are "carrying the baton", and although this will not help the balance of North American influence on the wider movement, it should be a good meeting. Nominate the right people and it should make a difference. Here's an image I made from the last Lausanne gathering I went to in Cape Town. Hopefully you will dance better than we did.

Lausanne dancing

Can anyone guess who that white megachurch pastor is???? Clue: (Minneapolis)

Previous: Lausanne Young Leaders 2006, Lausanne Fringe 2011.

Best Coffee in Wellington

Wellington, New Zealand. This little city of 400,000 apparently has more coffee shops per capita than New York and more coffee roasters than London. It's fast becoming a coffee capital of the world.

I went to visit Peoples Coffee at the recommendation of pretty much everyone. We visited Matt Lamason, who started the business in 2004 with his wife. He made me us a wicked expresso with extra shot. Strongest coffee I have ever had. But not bitter at all.

Coffee shop wellington


Peoples Coffee deliver their beans to coffee shops all over Wellington and even up in Auckland. They have a strong philosophy of providing a better world for their customers and suppliers. We saw green coffee beans from all over the world but not Indonesia. Apparently they were not convinced that the Indonesians were being fairly treated so they have suspended the coffee supply. Having just been in Indonesia with Wolfgang, we were both able to tell some stories about coffee growers we knew and maybe we can get that supply happening again.

Anyway, great to see a business with such a high standard of ethics and a strong philosophy of mission. They have a special relationship with Urban Vision which describes the coffee initiative this way on their website:

"The Peoples Coffee . . .  is the first justice-oriented business initiative so far in Urban Vision and will hopefully spawn other Fairtrade/Organic business ideas."

Visit the Peoples Coffee Blog

Back to Turkey for earthquake follow-up

Looks like I am going back to Turkey next month. You remember a few months ago we delivered blankets and warm clothes in the first week of the earthquake. There is some follow-up work with the earthquake that I am involved in. Very exciting but will be hard to leave the family.

I am looking for a sponsor to get my flight there. I am also receiving donations for the earthquake and making sure they go to the right place. You can see how we spent the previous money here and our philosophy behind the how we spent it.

6a00d8341c5bb353ef0162fd1a7f0a970d pi

I might be open to some volunteers coming with me. There is also a need for some young people to spend a year in Van to help with the rebuilding. I would love to see some Kiwis and Aussies go because there is a special connection with Turkey. Email me and tell me what you're thinking.

Related: Emerging Philanthropy: Now Funding and not Soon Funding