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Posts from April 2011

Faith 2.0: Religion on the Internet

Yesterday I listened to the podcasts from Faith 2.0 Religion on the Internet, a conference last week in England about religion on the internet. Jointly sponsored by Tony Blair Faith Foundation and Durham University.

Catherine-wybourne The best talk in my opinion is the keynote speech [download here] by Catherine Wybourne, the "invisible nun" from Holy Trinity Monastery and blogger at ibenedictines. She seems a competent native and her online instincts are spot on. I might adopt her . . .

There is another podcast on extremism which has an interesting talk on Muslims in second life and virtual reality but unfortunately ends up in some tense conversation which is not really on topic. It should be noted, and was noted, that extremists online are from many faiths and not just Muslims.

The first three podcasts are more helpful and worth a listen although a little fast forwarding here and there might be in order. Podcasts 1, 2, 3 

Best speaker was Dr. Heidi Campbell, esp. on the second podcast. Heidi came up to Orkney Island to interview me for her book called When Religion Meets New Media. If you like the conference podcasts, you will probably appriciate Heidi's book. As part of her history of religion online, she mentions my efforts in the early part of last decade in the area of communal blogging and virtual reality experimentation like our cyber seminary. Hey . ..  just buy the book.

Related on TSK: Church 2.0, Cyberchurch Symposium, Virtual Church in the 1940's, The Skinny on Cyberchurch

Mission in Digital Frontiers: Learning Day in Adelaide

Next week I am doing a learning day at Uniting College, Adelaide, South Australia. Thanks to Dr Steve Taylor, Director of Missiology, for inviting me over. You might remember Steve for his EmergentKiwi blog or his excellent book The Out of Bounds Church?: Learning to Create a Community of Faith in a Culture of Change.

Best intro to what we are doing next week is found on Steve's blog:

MISSION IN DIGITAL FRONTEIRS: a learning day with Andrew Jones

Thursday 28 April 1:30pm – 3:00pm Pioneering lessons

Pioneering is hard work and Andrew Jones has been doing it, and seeing it, for over 20 years. This session offers some wisdom on sustainability, dealing with difficulty and building creative partnerships.  It is by invite only, by simply asking for the pioneer password. The aim is to encourage folk with a pioneering heart and is jointly hosted by Mission Resourcing Network and Uniting College.

3:45 – 5:15 pm Social media as fresh expression of mission

The digital world is a fast moving frontier. This session with explore the potential of blogs, Facebook, Twitter for congregations and communities in mission. The content will cover getting started, strategies for effective network and the shape of mission theology for a digital world. The aim of this session is to both upskill and encourage local churches to think about their use of the internet.

7-8:30 pm Social media and justice-making in God’s mission

This session will explore the relationship between social media and justice-making. Can the use of social media be an outworking of “Your Kingdom Come”? If so, how? The session will share stories from around the globe mixed with theological reflection. The aim is to explore the potential and pitfalls that face those surfing the digital frontier.

Registration Form: low res here, high res here

Lunch with the Backyard Missionary

Today I am up in Butler, north of Perth, about to have lunch with Backyard Missionary blogger Andrew Hamilton and his wife Danelle. His blog is legendary - an emerging church kind of blog with varied thoughts on life ranging from Rob Bell to surfing.

Hamohead Why backyard? Because Andrew is a reticulation engineer and spends a lot of his time in people's backyards, digging trenches and setting up sprinklers as part of his business. But I suspect its also because the best moments of ministry happen not so much in churches, and Andrew is also pastor at Quinns Baptist so he is not opposed to that, but those life-changing moments and conversations happen even more in the backyards of ordinary people who share life together over a bbq, a cold drink, and an informal chat.

Andrew's blog post on whether our mission structures are attractional or incarnational is probably the best one out there and I have pointed to it before.

He is also well remembered on the blogs, as well as being National Director of Forge Australia, for his good natured chat with Don Carson regarding the emerging church at the Baptist Seminary, along with mate Geoff Westlake - who I had dinner with a few nights ago. The links to that audio no longer work but Andrew has some good reflections on that conversation which added so much to the whole conversation.

He's a good bloke and its a priviledge being his friend for these 30 years or so.

Storytelling the good news through blogging (Perth Event)

This Saturday morning I am teaching on storytelling the gospel for a group organized by Scripture Union in Perth, West Australia. Its part of a social media training tour that was suggested to me at Lausanne World Congress last year in Cape Town. Peter Barney, also at Lausanne, asked that I do something in Perth. So here I am. Along with Geoff Westlake who has been a friend for 2 decades. And I know that both Peter and Barney will have a lot to say.

Saturday is actually my Dad's birthday. April 16th. He would have been 78. He passed away in 2004 in Queensland, Australia. His funeral came a day after my brother's funeral so it was weird timing and quite an emotional rollercoaster ride.

My blog was a great outlet for me during that time. I got to express the deep and conflicting emotions that I felt during his funeral in the form of a poem called Just One Nod. It's a piece of creative writing that I expressed in Aussie-speak, appropriate for the Australian context, something that points to the inability of some men to find appropriate outlets for emotion without resorting to violence, more than it points to a son grieving the loss of his father.

My father's death was, for me, a passage-way into a new level of adulthood, beyond the fear of losing one's father, a sad but also a strangely liberating occasion that I marked with an ear piercing. In fact, my friend Doug also lost his dad around the same time and we both had our ears pierced together. Mark Scandrette joined us, making three volunteers for a Pictish Piercing Party in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. It wasn't the wild primal tribal piercing ceremony that we anticipated but it was meaningful nonetheless. The story I told about that still ranks number one for that search request. Not as bloody as it sounds. And actually that post is a terrible example of blogging - during the training I will show you 7 things I should have done to that blog post.

So . . . blogging the whole journey of losing my father was, for me, a therapeutic experience.

But behind the scenes, there were "secrets and lies" in our family and it wasn't until my fathers death that we, or at least I, felt some freedom to talk about it. And blogging once again became a relief valve for those secrets.

It happened accidently. When the Ted Haggard infidelity event hit the media, I posted a video that I found online, and, strangely enough, my blog hit Google search number one for "Ted Haggard video". Thousands and thousands of people were viewing my blog and I felt I should not only point them in the right direction, but also offer some of my own thoughts. Which I did.

Dumbell 15 kg I felt I could relate somewhat to the Haggard kids and I wanted to blog something that might be helpful to them, and to all other kids with prodigal parents who did something dumb. I posted something quite personal called Carrying Your Dad's Dumbbell. That post ends with some words from Jesus on taking our load, and a prayer that he might do just that.

When I think of storytelling the gospel on blogs, it's moments like that when I feel the good news flows and people respond. Certainly much more than a widget saying "IF YOU WANT TO RECEIVE JESUS THEN PUSH THIS BUTTON!"

So, although I still have a lot to figure out, one thing I have learned about storytelling the good news of Jesus through blogs is this: The hardest, toughest moments of your life, those times when you don't feel like blogging or when it really hurts to tell your story to your audience, are often the most meaningful. It's not easy to be vulnerable enough to share how God is real in the midst of tragedy or disappointment but it is precisely those moments when our voice is strongest, and when we find God nearer to us than ever before. When we find ways to capture those opportunities and bravely share our story, and how God's story inteweaves with ours,people are attracted to the One who draws near to us in our weakness, in our pathetic humanity, and shows Himself real.

In those times, we become storytellers.We become bloggers. We become the publishers of 'glad tidings of great joy'. And the story of the greatest news in the world finds a ready audience.

How to tell that story, how to be heard, how to be found on the internet, how to supplement that story with other media, how to integrate with other social media so that we can easily stream our lives . . . these questions will be the subject of our talk in Perth. Thanks to those of you who are coming along. Please keep me connected with your story by leaving me a link to your blog, or the first stages of your baby-blog.

A few links you might be interested in:

Talkin' bout storytelling and media in Los Angeles

Blogworld and my Keynote talk - [and my slide pres.]

Social media and the Cape Town Commitment

The Spirituality of Blogging

Find your Inner Luke and Blog On

You might be a faith blogger if . . .

Upstream Collective in Prague: Try the cheese!

The Upstream Collective arrives in Perth for a missions/history experience that is designed to have an impact far beyond the lucky people who are on location.


Welcome to Prague, everyone.

My question for you to consider:

As the Middle East currently goes through a political transition that mirrors Eastern/Central Europe 20 years ago, what can we learn from the church in Czech Republic that might help us react responsibly and helpfully?

On a less syrious note, my practical suggestion, to help you enjoy the city, is to TRY THE CHEESE, and I am talking about the fried cheese known as "Smazeny Sry". Watch the video of Derek Chapman and myself and dont take me seriously when I say that the C[S]yrillic alphabet started with this great dish.

Andrew, Amy, Hannah and myself being ourselves from Derek Chapman on Vimeo.

And if you are following along with the UPstream Collective, here are some more links:

Participant Blogs include: Dining with sinners, Missions Misunderstood, Missional church network, non modern blog, Almost an M.

Follow: Upstream Vimeo and Upstream Flickr. Twitter is #js2011

Top 200 Church Blogs. Do reformed nerds really rule?

Church blog rankings have one purpose and one purpose only: To allow the reformed bloggers to ridicule the emerging church bloggers. If there was another purpose, it would be for all of us church bloggers to stroke our tender blog-egos.

Kent Shafer just released his Top 200 church blogs and it seems the Reformed bloggers are kicking butt. Again. Ouch!

[you probably didnt know it was a contest . .  ay?]

as of March 26, 2011

Name Author
alexa rank
compete visitors
google pagerank
google reader
yahoo inlinks
1 Between Two Worlds Justin Taylor
2 GetReligion Various
3 The Resurgence Various
4 Michael Hyatt Michael Hyatt
5 DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed Kevin DeYoung
6 Jesus Creed Scot Mcknight
7 Don Miller Don Miller
8 Internet Monk Various
9 Pyromaniacs Various
10 Dr. Albert Mohler Albert Mohler

OK - I am looking at 5 blogs that would probably be "Reformed", 4 blogs that would probably come under the "Emerging" label, and one blog (Get Religion) that would be neither. 5-4. A fair win.

  Ed stetzer tweet

Perhaps Ed Stetzer is correct: "Reformed nerds rule. Emerging church is dead".

But wait! Lets look at another list.

Wikio has released the Top 20 religion blogs and you will find a completely different list of blogs. I copied this from Maggie's blog.

Top Blogs - Religion and Belief - April 2011

 In this list, the Reformed dont win at all. HA HA!! Does it make a difference that the Wikio list is composed in UK? Yep I guess so. A little reality:

1. Language matters. All these blogs are English only so its not fair to call any of them "world's top blogs" without ranking foreign-language sites.

2. Geography matters. Even Kent admits that.

3. Criteria matters. Kent uses 5 criteria to measure his Top 200 but there are many ways to measure a blog. Blog Rank, for example, uses 20 different criteria and the results are very different.

Christianity  Blogs: The ultimate rank

# Blog Title RSS RSS Site Score Badge
1st Challies Dot Com 16,010 83,758 77,742 380,327 5 rss 100 100
2nd Christian Personal Finance 8,614 7,774 28,051 50,636 5 rss 99.65 100
3rd Desiring God Blog 28,258 n/a n/a 139,671 3 rss 99.34 100
4th Ragamuffin Soul 6,829 169,061 198,138 104,784 5 rss 99.33 100
5th 22 Words 5,331 20,004 38,332 68,112 5 rss 98.7 100
6th ChurchCrunch 4,390 120,018 74,351 31,758 4 rss 98.53 100
7th Bible Gateways Verse of the Day n/a 444 1,344 2,764,431 7 rss 98.52 100
8th Tall Skinny Kiwi 2,842 n/a n/a 83,240 5 rss 98.35 100
9th Church Relevance 5,151 149,605 359,709 5,546 5 rss 98.3 100
10th Between Two Worlds 37,385 n/a 2,295,000 135,292 6 rss 97.99 100
11th 7,086 299,510 480,589 66,098 4 rss 97.95 100
12th by Pete Wilson 2,266 n/a 309,525 108,871 4 rss 97.85 100
13th Compassion International - Christian Blog on Child Poverty 3,285 14,057 72,600 41,028 5 rss 97.62 100
14th Human3rror 2,180 370,913 141,873 41,500 4 rss 97.61 100
15th Perry Noble dot com 10,618 223,936 439,366 85,798 4 rss 97.52 100
16th Logos Bible Software Blog 36,790 n/a n/a 43,605 6 rss 97.17 100
17th GetReligion n/a 38,152 205,524 434,509 7 rss 97.02 100
18th TheResurgence n/a 24,524 100,569 309,464 5 rss 97 100
19th Albert Mohlers Blog n/a 44,634 112,904 364,716 4 rss 96.96 100
20th n/a 124,851 404,776 230,241 6 rss 96.95 100

In this scenario, I beat out Justin Taylor (who was number one on Top 200) but Tim Challies rules the roost. [once again].

Top Blogs
And in fact a lot of reformed bloggers dominate the BlogRank list as well as Kent Schafers Top 200 . . . so . .  I have to reluctantly agree with Ed Stetzer and admit that the Reformed bloggers, actually, win in the blog game and emerging church bloggers, in fact, lose!

At least they do for now . . .  but just you wait . . . heh heh!!


RELATED: Why the Reformed bloggers are beating the Emerging Church bloggers.

Introducing Fringe Expressions

You've heard of Fresh Expressions? Good. I want to introduce the idea of Fringe Expressions which is our next major project.


But before I waffle on about what I mean by that strange phrase, I need to pause . . . and say . . .  THANKS to our sponsors for the incredible last season of support for our Missional Entrepreneurs Project.


You all rock. Yes, you rock indeed!

We just completed our first year of NO REGULAR INCOME [ouch!!] and YET we were able to keep going by the grace of God and the generosity of people like you. In fact, we were able to minister in over 20 countries last year and help equip over 500 missional entrepreneurs for effective ministry in their cities.

We could not have achieved the outcomes of the Missional Entrepreneurs Project without the generous sponsorship of these wonderful churches, individuals, businesses and organizations  . . . . [no blushing you guys!]

Top sponsors last season: CMS, Gateway Baptist, Maclellan Foundation, Grace Community, Theo Presents, Edugames, Christian Associates, Sir Tobys, PT and Magz, Jarda B. from Google, and the families of W, Sheng, Webb, LaBorde, Warren, Standerfer, Thomas, Fernandez, Chapman, Blick, Allis, and others. LOVE YOU ALL!!

Also a big thanks to my wife and 5 kids who have camped [cramped??] in an overlander truck and tents for the past year, switched to home-schooling, endured many hardships and sacrifices . . .


. . . as well as some scary, hair-extending moments

. . . like driving through a bumpy swampy wasteland in Albania

. . . and getting chased by drug dealers in the Rif mountains of Morocco

. . . and eating camel couscous in the Sahara desert.

[hmmmmm . . . that camel was quite good, actually]


Well, our family, minus one son who jumped off the truck to get into university in Texas, is about to launch out in a few weeks for our next season of ministry overseas with a very special focus:

We are going to partner with leading mission organizations and denominations by helping them start 50 new church/mission structures around the world that will act as role models for church planting in the toughest parts of the world.

As well as being highly effective fresh expressions of church and mission, these new communities will bring a lasting, holistic impact through these 3 strategies:

1. Through social enterprise and mico-business they will move their ministries towards long-term sustainability.

2. Through social justice ventures they will touch the needy in their cities in measurable ways - ie, a spiritual, social, financial and environmental impact.

3. Through social media streaming they will contagiously share their story to leverage their experience and compel others to follow their examples.

Sneaky . .  huh?

These 50 new communities will be fresh expressions of church but, also, because they will intentionally position themselves to impact those on the fringe, we will call them "fringe expressions".

By fringe, I mean the cultural fringe (alternative, non-churched, victimized) the economic fringe (poor, needy, vulnerable) the geographic fringe (church-unfriendly areas and countries) and the spiritual fringe [NOT your father's old-time religion] where traditional church efforts make little progress.

Or in other words, they will go where no fresh expressions or missional communities or emerging churches have gone before.

What we need for this next season [and this is where you come in] is:

- Business entrepreneurs to advise on how these social enterprises can launch successfully

- Social media geeks to assist these ministries to have a compelling online presence

- Social justice practitioners to point us to the most urgent needs in their countries

- Denominations and mission agencies who want to partner with us in starting a fringe expression in their backyard

- Sponsors to fund this project with $$ and ££. €€'s are good too. I figure the project will take US$210,000.

- Sponsors to support our family with a salary. Half a pastor's wage should be enough.

- Prayer supporters and cheerleaders to encourage us and some to host us as we pass by in our truck.

- 5 cities to launch missional social enterprise centers that will provide training and resources for the movement.

Biggest needs right now are visas (US$500 - really urgent actually), a replacement computer (US$1500) [Andrew's Macbook died 3 months ago and the whole family is sharing ONE computer, which is not easy with a compulsive blogger in the family . . .  not saying who . . .] and plane fares to get to our European gatherings (US$2400). We also need insurance and rego for the overlander which is in Prague right now (US$750).

Donations can be made in UK through Stewardship [tallskinnykiwi - 20041672], USA through Community Development Initiatives Inc. (yep, 501c3, tax deductible, etc). Email me at tallskinnykiwi at gmail dot com for more details.

A quick and painless no-brainer love-gift??? Use this Jonesberries Paypal button.

oooohhhhh yeah I feel that love!!!!!!!!

Our newsletter has more info including all the dodgy countries we are about to enter. Can't say everything on the blog [let the reader understand]. In the box below you can request your inclusion into our somewhat irregular, annoyingly propaganderous, often intrusionous and yet strangely and suprisingly intriguing newsletter of the intrepid adventures of our family and team as we venture forth into the world of fringe.

join our mailing list
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So . . .  time to launch forward into the next season. Fringe Expressions is an 18 month project and it will be a strrrreeeeeeeeeeetttching challenge for all of us. Can I count on your support?

UPDATE: Fringe Expressions Facebook group

RELATED: Bishop Graham Cray: Fresh expressions on the Fringe?

Share the Guide: How can we sustain our fresh expression?