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Posts from May 2012

Tim Tams, Steel and Aquaponics

Enjoying a weekend in the Sydney area. 

- NZ time in my body so I am up early.

- Troy Bronsink is streaming his "Songs to Pray By" all weekend long. Good stuff. Sounds a bit like Mumford and Sons.

- Vatican Leaks: Apparently THE BUTLER did it!

- Looking at Wild Goose Festival opening on the West Coast this summer. That would be worth attending for family and friends in the Portland area.

Wild goose

- My family are at a Urban Vision retreat in NZ led by Bob and Gracie Ekblad who, when I was there on Friday, shared some good reflection on sustainable ministry to the poor and then led a charasmatic-style prayer session.Interesting couple with an unusual mix of experiences - including liberation theology, Toronto blessing, faith healing, monastic living and Old Testament Bible teaching. 

- I ate my first Rum and Raisin Tim Tam. YUM! Pretty good biscuits. Not sure if NZ can match that.

Tim tam rr

- This weekend we are discussing ministry in a steel production city where the steel industry is going down the toilet and unemployment is increasing. Add to that some "severely unaffordable" housing and its a real challenge for these Baptist churches that I am speaking to this weekend. 

- Speaking of urban experiments, I was thinking about The Urban Farming Guys, a team of families that was sent out of a church in Kansas City, MO [where my wife was born] into the poorest area of their city. Their urban agricultural experiments are INSPIRING others, like my mate Tony Arcus the NZ hard-drive repair guru, to set up aquaponic systems on this side of the planet. Watch TUFG "Farmin' in the HOOD' and then check out their weekly updates. 


This weekend I will be in Shellharbour, just south of Sydney. Thanks to Brian Pember and a small network of Baptist churches who are bringing me over for some chat, reflection, discussion etc about the future of the church in Australia and beyond. Should be good. I think they have invited other churches to join but I guess we will find out tomorrow. 

A No Looking Back

Image ("No Looking Back") lifted from Aussie blogger and mate for over 30 years,  Andrew Hamilton the Backyard Missionary.

On holiday. No posts. But plz. watch my video

Finally, I have got my family away for a few days holiday. We are close to the beach at a friends bach (shack) which happens to be much bigger than our yurt and quite nice. We haven't got away all year, not even for a weekend, which is crazy because summer came and went here but we didn't have a car and couldn't really get away. But now we have wheels (thanks to a donation of a 99 honda) and a place to go (thanks Wendy), and so we are fishing and watching movies and cooking up our favorite foods. 

This weekend I will fly to Australia to talk to Baptists and others in the Shellharbour area.

But until then I will be in holiday mode and not blogging. 

I am reposing [opps - supposed to say "reposting" but i guess 'reposing' is also appropriate] this video below because I just put it together this month, and because it shows where we are living and the kind of vibe that happens here when festivals happen. And because hardly anyone actually watched my movie which was really disappointing.

So please, make my day and watch my movie. 


Original Post:

So PassionFest blew us away again this year and it was so good to be here. Its a festival for justice-minded Christians hosted at the Ngatiawa contemporary monastery here in New Zealand. I managed to put a short video together to give you a taste of the festival. Our kids appear constantly and my wife Debbie is teaching spinning and asking young people what they think PassionFest is all about. Hope you like it. 

As much as you need: An invitation to Kirchentag

I am about to accept an invitation to speak at Kirchentag which will happen in Hamburg next year. Every two years, 100,000 Protestants gather in a German city for this festival. In 2011 Kirchentag happened in Dresden and I had the privilege of being on a panel to talk about building and keeping relationships in the church world, as well as leading a workshop on blogging and the internet. It was a great time. The outdoor worship was amazing, as I shared in my post "A worship service your city won't forget".


Anyway, the theme of this 34th Kirchentag is "As Much As You Need" and they want me to lead a Bible study on the feeding of the five thousand, John 6:1-15.  I am about to say YES because it's an amazing event and because Germany is such a crucial country right now as the world steadies itself from a global recession and so many countries look to Germany to help them out. 

The question Jesus asked his disciples in that passage, "Where are WE going to get enough to feed these people" is the same question Germans are asking of themselves. Its not a case of standing back and letting God act apart from his people, but of partnership with him as Jesus and His Body the church find creative ways of providing for a hungry, hurting, struggling world. 

I think I will accept the invitation. Kirchentag will happen in Hamburg May 1-5, 2013 and my session will be May 3.  Is anyone else going top be there, apart from the 100,000 Germans, I mean?

'Mighty to Save' and other worship songs that annoy me

Sorry if I sound grumpy today. It might be my age.

I am not usually a huge fan of contemporary worship songs. I don't like extended chorus singing. This is the stuff of nightmares for me. I can pull off a few tunes with everyone else but then my mind wanders. Sometimes I sit down on the pew and read my Bible until the songs are over. Sometimes I scan the introduction to the hymnal, looking for historical inspiration. Or even trivia.

Perspective critic

In moments like these, I prefer Anglican churches because there are more books available to read than Baptist churches and certainly more than Pentecostals churches that offer no reading material whatsoever. But if a solid hour of voice-lifting, arm-swinging, anthem-bashing is not your bag then you shouldn't be in a Pentecostal church anyway. Right?

It's even worse when the worship songs are lame or badly written or have sentences that just hit me wrong.

The old chorus "Sing Hallelujah to the Lord", for example,  always striked me as being just  . .  plain DUMB! Hallelujah is a command, a call to action. It means "publicly acknowledge Yahweh" and is used in the Bible to spur on acknowledgement of God's great acts in a public fashion. It's never used towards God. How do you command God to praise Himself? 

Last month, while fully immersed inside a thousand-strong-crowd of teenage Baptists, I found myself closed-lipped while the song "Your love never fails" was belted out by the band. The offending sentence went like this:

"You cause all things to work together for MY good"

Where did that word "my" come from? It's not in the flipping' Bible passage! Here is the original, unedited version from the BIble. 

"And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose". Romans 8:28


Not 'my good',  just 'good'.The passage in question is NOT talking about our own personal satisfaction but of God's greater good  - of which everyone will eventually benefit either directly or indirectly.  When did we stop seeking God's good purpose and substitute it with our own? Are we silly enough to think the two things are the same? Am I the only person that noticed? Am I taking crazy pills?

Another annoying song is Hillsong's "Mighty to Save". The line that bugs me is this one:

"Saviour, he can move the mountains"

It's not that the statement is untrue because actually, God can do whatever he wants, including the relocation of mountains. It's just that the particular idea of moving mountains, which occurs most strongly in Isaiah, the minor prophets and later in the Gospels, is almost exclusively in relation to people moving mountains and not God. Jesus told his disciples that they could move mountains. The Isaiah passage [Remember Godspell's "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord"], as Jesus enlightens us, was in reference to John the Baptist who would level the mountains and fill the valleys. 

Mountain moving is the job of God's people!

Yes, our Saviour could move the mountains if he wanted to, but he has commissioned us to move them so let's get on with it, not in our own might or by human power, but by God's Spirit (Zech 4:6-7)

INewImageThe idea behind this lyric, in my opinion, is the same lazy "let go and let God" philosophy that inoculates the people of God from doing anything practical or hands-on because we assume if we just sit back and sing some more songs then God, who is somehow energized by our inaction, will stand up, bare his almighty arm and get things done.

This song is from Hillsong, an Australian church. That surprises me. The Aussies are doers, aren't they? Diggers, Stickers, People of Action rather than talk? [I am speaking to Baptist pastors in Australia next week] But here it sounds like "Hey, there are a whole lot of mountains that need moving but there's no need to bust our guts; God will sort it out, so just be still and chill, let go and let God, say your prayers and then . . . Bob's your uncle. Or in other words, no worries, mate, lets just pass the buck on to God again.

This is Hakuna Matata theology.

Jesus did not say to his disciples, "If you want to remove the mountain, host a city-wide worship evening and when people have reached a heightened sense of spiritual well-being, have them pray that God will do something and then return home feeling like they have done well."

No! "YOU say to the mountain 'Be removed!', said Jesus.

The orders have been given. We are called. We are sent. We look up at huge mountains and we feel intimidated because of their size, and we feel scared because shifting centers of corrupted power and leveling mountains of injustice do not make us friends with those caught up in the institutionalized powers of Babylon. But we act anyway, in faith, because this is what Jesus had in mind for us to do. It's all part of training for eternity and its something that God helps us with but choses not to take on by himself.

Martin Luther King understood this and used the mountain moving imagery from the Scriptures to move some actual mountains, with the help of God.

And so, until someone can tell me a good reason to sing along with everyone else, I will keep silent on these lyrics and continue my historical research in the hymnal book intros.

 Related on TSK: Bible Study: Jesus and the Loony


Goodbye Sister Donna

Saddened to hear of the passing of Donna Summer. I enjoyed her songs on the disco floors in the 70's and after that embarrassing period of flared jeans and polyester, I enjoyed hearing of her new life and how her connection with God gave meaning and purpose.

Like Whitney Houston and many other singers, she got her start in the church:

Summer's performance debut occurred at church when she was ten, when she replaced a vocalist who had failed to show up. Her priest invited Summer to perform, judging from her small frame and voice that she would be an "amusing spectacle", but instead Summer's voice recalled a voice older than her years and frame. Summer herself recalled that as she sang, "I started crying, everybody else started crying. It was quite an amazing moment in my life and at some point after I heard my voice came out I felt like God was saying to me 'Donna, you're going to be very, very famous' and I knew from that day on that I would be famous." Wikipedia

Her voice was a gift of God but as with any gift, there was an ethical and spiritual obligation that came with it:

"And I started crying, and I heard the voice of God say to me, 'You're going to be famous, and this is power and you're never to misuse this power." Donna Summer, CBN

Well done, LaDonna Gaines!

It might interest you to know that she became an accomplished painter over the last chapter of her life, during her time in Nashville. Her painting style was described as post-impressionist or neo-primitivist. 


Mother's Arms, by Donna Summer

But I will always remember her as the disco-singer who turned out good. Dang that girl could sing! Have a listen.

Blog banter on church leadership and fresh expressions

Up at 4am this morning. Interesting blog banter going on from 3 Brits:

1. Richard Passmore on Fresh Expressions

"I think FE may actually hinder change in the longer term because of the gravitational pull of the institution and accompanying orthodoxy. I think we are already seeing dissenting voices being marginalised as FE spreads and the orthodox centre gathers pace. I was talking the other day to someone about how some of the most pioneering imaginative work (both inside the Church of England and outside) i see are not part of FE. Is Fresh Expressions a Movement?

 Fresh expressions comment on passmore

2. Mike Breen on church leadership.

At the end of the day, what most pastors want (and have been trained to want!) is minions to execute the most important vision of all. Their own. In doing this, they effectively kill people’s ability to get a vision of their own. Why the leadership movement is leaving your church leaderless

A good sharp post by Mike Breen! Worth a read. I left a comment regarding the choice between leaders and entrepreneurs. My comment hasn't popped up yet [don't you miss the coComment web service that stopped in March 2012?] but I have blogged on this before:

"Leaders help move the existing and sometimes struggling structures forward into greater productivity and encourage people to follow. Entrepreneurs invent and innovate new structures tailored for the changing situations, but not without continuity with the past. In a world of relentless change, entrepreneurs rule. If the church expects their impact to continue, it needs to create and celebrate a culture of innovation, finding precedents in the Scriptures [come on . . . look harder] and examples in the developing non-western world." Tallskinnykiwi, Entrepreneurs or Leaders? 

3. Phil Wood explores the impact of Mennonites on fresh expressions/emerging church with his post entitled Mennomergent

Baptist monks and couch-surfing apostles: 10 Signs that the future church is here already.

10 years ago today I published an article on Soularize that suggested the church still had a long way to go before it was hitting its target but that there were early signs that prove hopeful and promising. Reading the article [Postmodern Church: Are We There Yet?] again today, it seems a lot of those first-fruits are more visible and integral to how we do church today.

10 Years! This was a long time before appeared and became a vehicle for young pilgrims to cruise the planet, and before my term "deep ecclesiology " found its way into books, and before the new monastic orders were considered normal inside the Protestant denominations. 

10 years

Here are 10 quotes I picked out of the article that strike me as relevant to the new churches and missional social enterprises being launched by the next generation.

1.  Church needs to be missionary as well as missional. We need to act our our "being sent" by actually going out to THEIR HOUSE and bringing church with us as we go.

2. Modernity divided church into CHURCH (the ecclesiastic) and PARACHURCH (the seminaries, missions, youth ministries, etc). What we are seeing now is intentional communities and travelling teams that not only support the church - THEY ARE CHURCH

3. Pilgrimage is becoming the way of missions for postmodern young people . . . There are pligrim points of interest and learning, and available couches in the homes of believers around the world for a new generation of couch-surfing apostles and prophets. 

4. The eucharist becomes the central point of the service.

Also already happened

5. The [church] stages are shrinking because believers are no longer under compulsion to perform the gospel. The community of God becomes a better apologetic for God than the stage ever was. . . . The stage also shrinks because multi-media happens in multi- spaces, on multi-walls, in multi-rooms, by multi-people. Entryways, hallways and sidewalks become stages for art and expression.

6. One of the happy remarriages is church and business . . .  the businesses also formed the platform for their ministry outside their church and their country

 7. . . churches will increasingly include the monastic model as well as the ecclesiastic

8. If the house churches are structured around hospitality, conversational evangelism, interactive teaching and relationships of trust, then there is no doubt that women will play a major role. 

9.  . .  the integration of young and old, children speaking into the movement and the older teaching the younger. The modern world saw church get sliced and diced into sub-groups and more sub-groups of sub-groups that ministered to sub-groups. The postmodern world is a good opportunity to integrate the ages, as well as letting people minister as a family rather than an individual.

10. Many of these [unchurched] believers are finding ways to connect and share life with each other. These connection points and celebration events look like house churches but they are different. Whatever they are, they are part of the postmodern church landscape.


Btw, I am writing this from a contemporary monastery started by young people who were Baptists. At least they were ten years ago. Lots of couch-surfing pilgrims coming through. Who woulda thought???

Also, ten years ago I used VJ software to present this talk rather than powerpoint, a practice that I kept up during the noughties and one that Len Sweet would suggest 5 years later. Good on ya, Len!

Related: My predictions for this decade

Global emerging church gathering in Brazil

Update: I am reposting this because Encontro Global Tribal Generation 2012 happens next month. They had over 4000 in attendance when they did this event 2 years ago. A teaser for this year:

Olgalvaro Bastos Jr who is hosting the gathering is the guy who kicked off our "new wineskins for new wine" discussion on the video in the previous post. Olgalvaro is the author of A Revolução do Pensamento, a book that describes the emerging church movement in Latin America, which, as everyone knows, started in Chile in the 90's. Hope you can read Portuguese.

Original Post: A global gathering of alternative ministry leaders will take place in Brazil this year. June 6-9 in Uberlandia. The theme is "Rediscovering the faith of our Fathers". Check out Tribal Generation. A similar event they hosted two years ago in Brazil had over 4000 young people attend. I expect it will be mainly Latin Americans. 

TG 2012 Banner ENG, tribal generation, encontros

I am trying to get there and am speaking on something profound and vital [which means I am not sure exactly what] but I don't have the funds just yet for the plane trip which makes me feel a little unsettled. But I am hoping to find some sponsors by June. Keep ya posted . . .[May 2012: Dont have the funds to get there yet.]

Tribal generation 2012

Videos from Underground Ministries Roundtable

I just uploaded some videos I took at the Global Roundtable of Underground Ministries which we held at Cornerstone Festival in Illinois last year. Sorry it took so long to get the videos up. Hope you enjoy them.

Attendance was a little spotty in places because most of us were also involved in Cornerstone Festival [I taught 3 seminars] but we managed to have some really good discussions about what God was doing in our countries and what new movements were springing up.

Here is a taste of our morning worship, this time led by an American, a Romanian and a Portuguese. And a Canadian on his big drum.


Olgalvaro Bastos Jr from Brazil kicked off some interesting discussion about the emerging church in Brazil and the need for "new wineskins for new wine." Denny Hurst (Portugal) added some history of the hippie movement in the 1970's, Calvary Chapel, the Christian rock scene and other precedents for this new movement. 

Other leaders shared their point of view on the new wineskins. In this video there are leaders from USA, Canada, Chile, NZ and Brazil.

The discussion on wineskins continued with Romania, Canada, and Brazil and America.

There are more videos. I will upload them when I get a chance.