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Posts from July 2011

John Stott. Gone for now.

He was one of the most important evangelical leaders of last century. John Stott passed away yesterday at age 90. I will remember him mostly as the guy behind the Lausanne Covenant - his story and influence was all over the Lausanne Congress I attended last year in Capetown - but I will also remember him as I first saw him: the guy in the ugly blue sportscoat who spoke to us at Fuller School of World Mission.

John stott lausanne

And when I say UGLY blue sportscoat, I am talking about an putrid shade of blue that could only be conceived in 1970's England. Not the blue in this photo. Oh no .. .  a shade far paler and pukier - a kind of blue that is somewhere between James Bond in the wrong decade and Austin Powers without his mojo.

Sometimes I see that blue colour and I think of John Stott. Sorry Uncle John. But one bad fashion moment can have a lifetime effect. [Don't worry - I have chosen a photo for this post with a blue that is far more acceptable.]

But more importantly, I will also remember what John Stott was talking about and why it surprised me. It was the mid-nineties and some crazy Canadians from Toronto at a Vineyard church near the airport were experiencing some really weird physical side effects during their protracted prayer meetings. They had just come down to USA for the first time and were holding a few meetings at John Mott auditorium in Pasadena, where I was living.

I expected John Stott, when he was asked what he thought about the "Toronto Blessing" to just dismiss it, or perhaps condemn it like most other evangelical leaders at the time. Instead, he said he was "suspending judgement".

I decided to do the same. To suspend judgement until I knew some more. So I visited the meetings, met the leaders, chatted to the crazy Canadians and found myself in a better position to make judgement after that suspension.

I still find myself faced with complex issues that need a "suspended judgement" and that's when I remember John Stott.

BBC said something similar:

' . . . it was his success in decoding the complexities of theology for lay people for which he will be best remembered. '

Related: More at Lausanne and Christianity Today. Details of MemorialNYTimes

Oh . . and if you were wondering where my "judgement" landed in regards to the Toronto Blessing. Well, if I told you, you would probably LAUGH!

Man on the Moon

If you believed, they put a man on the moon 40 years ago today. July 21, 1969.

I believed. I was 7 at the time and I remember the New Zealand newspaper photos being in colour. Amazing moment. My teachers at Willow Park Primary School in Northcote wouldn't stop talking about. I am not sure if I was more impressed with the astronaut walking on the moon, or the profound discovery that newspapers could actually print more colours than black and white.

Man on moon auckland star

Gathering in Prague

We have just finished a round of informal meetings and meals and chats in Prague, Czech Republic. It lasted over a week and a half and we had people fly in from everywhere.

Some days everyone came out to our campsite for a bbq and other days we met in restaurants or hotels around Prague. Its a spectacular city to do this in and the weather was great.

Prague gathering

Quite a different way of doing a conference. It was more of a non-conference, and it didn't have a name, but we managed to make some important and strategic decisions and forge some new partnerships. Some of these you will hear about soon.

One of the interesting observations was that many of the ministry leaders who were involved with the church planting movement a decade ago were now involved in wider, more holistic ministry that included social enterprise, micro-business, and some kind of monastery or old building they were rebuilding to create an intentional missional community. Even the Asians.

If the Lutheran Reformation 500 years ago was impacted by the Reformers being given empty church buildings, this new reformation is taking shape by young people being given empty monasteries and figuring out what to do with them. Monasteries have a great history of holistic mission and the repurposing of these structures is shaping the way mission is done today.

In fact, the land we were staying on, and hosting our parties, used to be a Premonstate monastery in the middle ages and is now being rebuilt for a new season of missional social enterprise and training by evangelical Christians.

Thanks to Mathias and the staff at Mosaic House, Miss Sophies, and Sir Tobys for their great hospitality. Definitely the best hotels and hostels to stay in Prague. Miss Sophies seemed to be the favourite. The management have told me that the discount code for all these hotels will be available to Tallskinnykiwi readers for an extended time. The code is "tallskinnykiwi".

Elevator hotel prague

Global nomad event tonight

Tonight we are having a BBQ at our truck and will be talking about existential migration, global nomads, and the spirituality of travel. A number of Wheaton College students on assignment in Europe are coming over, as well as some hostel workers who work with backpackers every day and probably ARE backpackers when they get away. Should be fun.

Violet Burning: The Story of our Lives

One or our favourite bands, The Violet Burning, arrived in Prague in preparation for Colours of Ostrava, Czech Republic's largest music festival. We often meet up with this band on various occasions and various countries and always have a great time. Last night, the band came over to our 'van down by the river' for our regular Friday Pizza Party and i talked to Michael Pritzl (pictured left) about the new album, The Story of our Lives.

Violet burning at jones pizza party


The Violet Burning is one of the bands I admire most for their integrity, something that undergrids their music production and distribution and every aspect of what they do.

Violet burning red

THE STORY OF OUR LIVES:Liebe über Alles, Black as Death, and TH3 FANT^5T1C MACH1N3 was dreamed for 5 years and took 3 years to create, Michael told me. 34 original songs in a concept album containing 3 discs. The artwork is stunning. Some of the black and white photos were taken with out-of-date film to achieve a uniquely goth-industrial look.

Violet burning story of our lives

We played it all through today. Absolutely amazing. I am not a music critic but to me, the softer songs carry shades of Bowie, Joseph Arthur, Neil Young (Where do we belong?). The harder songs are Cure-like with shades of Floyd [original concept album] and typical of The Violet Burning passion.  All amazing music but placed in a concept album, it becomes a musical journey, a pilgrimage of sound and words, an experience.

Violet burning tv screens

Philosophically, Michael has thought a lot about our interaction with machines, the internet, and how are minds are being shaped by a new big brother. There is a lot of deep thinking that backs up the lyrics, music and art. It's music for thinking people. Totally recommended.

- If you want to support their European mission this summer, you can donate here.

- Other reviews by people who know more about music than me: Every Note Noted, JesusFreakHideout, DowntheLineZine,

- At Colours of Ostrava Festival 2009, Violets also did a gig in a church venue after their big stage set and apparently it was amazing. Video here.

Philanthropists and the Reformation

This week we visited Bethleham Chapel in Prague, where Jan Hus pastored and preached. Sasa Flek gave us a great historical overview of the Reformation from the Czech perspective.

800px Betlémská kaple interior

Normally, when theologians tell the story, they focus on the doctrinal changes of the Reformation and honor the theologians like Wyclif, Hus, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, etc. But the story would not be the same without the businessmen and philanthropists who made it happen.

For example,

- The businessman who sponsored a few Czech students to go to Oxford and hear John Wyclif. These students returned to Prague with the documents and writings that would inspire Jan Hus.

- The businessman who paid for a "preaching station" in Prague where preachers, including Jan Hus in 1402, could articulate their thoughts on the Bible. It was here, at Bethlehem Chapel, that thousands of people came to hear and respond and ignite the Czech Reformation that would influence the rest of Europe.

- As a result of the Czech Reformation, and the negative Catholic reaction to it, the gospel was spread globally through the Moravian missionaries who would not have had a place to live or study or work had it not been for the wealthy philanthropic aristocrat Count Zinzendorf.

The reformation that followed Hus was massive and a hundred years later, Luther's admission that Hus might not be as heretical as previously thought would be a turning point for the Lutheran Reformation. And from Germany to the world.

Now thats a HUGE return on investment, no matter how you measure it. Thanks to God and thanks to some nameless businessmen, who had the foresight to see what could be, and the faith to put their money into it.

Book: Economics of Good and Evil

"Sedlacek's groundbreaking work promises to change the way we calculate economic value." Harvard

I just started reading a FABULOUS BOOK called Economics of Good and Evil: The Quest for Economic Meaning from Gilgamesh to Wall Street. I love it! It might be my best book of 2011.

Although, if I am honest, most books I have read this year have been CRAP!

I met the author, Tomas Sedlacek, last week in Prague at a BBQ. The host, Sasa Flek, who published Czech Republic's top selling book last year, which just happened to be his new translation of the Bible called Bible21, invited me over and let me know that one of the countries top economists would be at the BBQ.

Actually, the BBQ was settling into its calm mid-life before I realized that the red-haired pony-tailed young guy who was grilling my chicken thighs and chatting to me about Zizek, Derrida, and the importance of integrating economics and ecclesiology,  was actually the Tomas Sedlacek I had heard about. [DUH!]

Silly me! I was expecting someone old and boring.

Screen shot 2011 07 13 at 6 15 28 PM

That's Tomas in the retro-sailor-inspired blue and white shirt.

He doesn't look like an economist but he sure cooks a mean BBQ.

Anyway, his book, unlike many of this year's readings, is crap-free and presents quite a unique view of the subject of economics. Apparently it is based on his PhD dissertation which was rejected by Charles University in Prague because, as a treatment of economics, it lacked NUMBERS! Heh heh!!

But the book is not about numbers. Its about economics and theology and postmodern philosophy and ancient Jewish mythology and Greek philosophy and Mesopotamian poetry and Adam Smith's ideas on ethics. . . and a whole lot more. Tomas believes that if you want to understand economics, you need to go back a long way and read widely of all the disciplines.

So, I just started the book and I think I will do a quick blog interview with Tomas if he is up for it. Which means that you should start reading his book now and send me a question or two that I can ask him in the interview. And lets go from there.

His book has been forwarded by ex-president Vaclav Havel, published by Oxford Press and has sparked good reviews by Financial Times and New York Times. Thats impressive! And BTW Tomas will be speaking at Greenbelt Festival in 2012 so you can meet him there.

Now send me those questions and lets get working on a kick-ass interview!


Huge blog discussion right now on effeminate men in the church. Some blog posts have over 500 comments. Wow! If I did NOT have a life . . .  I would probably jump into the conversation :-]

Mark driscoll effeminate men

I dont want to say much. I have heard Mark Driscoll say similar things more than a decade ago when we were both a part of Young Leaders and used to do conferences together. Same stuff.

But I will say this:

In His divine wisdom and providence, God chose Jacob, the mommy-huggin' apron-wearin' kitchenboy and He did NOT choose Esau, the uber-hairy deer-hunting redneck!

‘Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.’ Malachi 1:2-3

Related: The Skinny on Mark Driscoll, Blogosphere ready for Mark Driscoll?

Important events this week in Prague

Prague czech republic charles bridge

More like a series of important breakfast events, planning summits, business innovations. strategic collaborations and informal chats.  And in the middle of it all is my wife's birthday party on the 12th. We have guests arriving from all over. We are planning to take over the world. Really.

If you are coming last minute to Prague, and are part of these conversations, then let me just say  . . . Welcome to the worlds most beautiful city! You will love it here and we look forward to hosting you. If you still need accommodation, everyone is staying at the 3 coolest places to hang in the city. They are:

Sir Tobys - the best hostel in Prague

Miss Sophies, a boutique hotel with an intimate touch.

Both hotels are all offering my friends a discount.  Just enter "tallskinnykiwi" when it asks for the code.

See you all when you get here. Some photos I took on my last trip and recommended things to see.