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Posts from July 2012

Mission: Where? What? How?

This morning I am teaching a module on mission for Praxis training.

Mission praxis new zealand teaching

Part of the session will include looking at 3 missionaries that kicked butt but for some reason never made it into the popular evangelical mission history books. Although some of them are making a comeback. I'm talking about Charles de Foucauld, Toyohiko Kagawa and Roland Allen. In particular, Charles de Foucauld because of the huge amount of people he influenced (Little Brothers of Jesus, Thomas Merton, Dorothy Day, worker-priests in Belgium, etc) including many that are now a part of our present mission practice.

And a little bit of recent mission history never hurt anyone, even if it is a little skewed. (Click image to enlarge)

Edinburgh 1910 mission

Taking your time in a rushed world

The two brothers from The Holy Transfiguration Monastery just left us. Its been a great three days. This morning we had our final breakfast and chat with them and we all shared what we learned. As for me, I was impressed with their perspective on time, their patience to wait for God's timing, their reluctance to hurry or conform to the world's rushed schedule that caters to the idolatry of NOW and the cult of youth.

One example: They talked with Brother Roger from Taize about opening up to new people and he suggested they wait twenty years. Which they did. It gave them time to develop a deeper spirituality and core rhythms. 

A lot of new church plants wait until they can run a good worship service before they open up to the public. There is little talk about whether the community has the spiritual depth to receive and disciple newcomers. 

It reminded me of some other voices in my life:

One is Bobby Clinton who taught Leadership Theory and Change Dynamics at Fuller Seminary. He said that if you want to figure out how long it will take to bring change in your community, you take your estimate and then double it. And double it again. And that's how long it takes.

Another is my German friend Hans Peter Pache who asks how to build a cathedral. The answer is that you plant an oak grove and in a hundred years you have enough wood to build your cathedral. The rest is simple.

Cathedra ajones

And Jesus. The disciples insisted that they rush up to Jerusalem to get there in time for the Feast. Jesus said the time for them was always right, always ripe, always NOW, but for him, his time had not yet come. 

Stuff takes time. A lot of time. A tree needs to bear fruit in season but a season might be different, and might be longer, than we expect. 

Baptist Monasteries. NOT an oxymoron.

Graeme and Oz just arrived from the Holy Transfiguration Monastery in Victoria, Australia to hang with us here at Ngatiawa Contemporary Monastery. They are Baptists and they are monks. They even wear habits. 

We had a chat about Baptist monastic movements. Some of the noteworthy and historic Baptist monasteries that have made their radar include the famous Ephrata Community in Pennsylvania, the Baptist movement in Georgia (the country, not the state) which is basically monastic, and a few Baptist monasteries in Africa. Also the Seattle crowd and Northumbria, although not Baptist, made the conversation.

They describe the Holy Transfiguration Monastery as being somewhere in the middle of old-school monasteries and nu-monasticism. It started in the 1970's in the suburbs of Geelong (Breakwater) and has recently moved out to the rural area where they are reconfiguring, [ transfiguring?? ;-) ] themselves. HT was formally accepted into the Baptist communion a few years ago as well as the BWA. It took the monastery 37 flipp'n years to be acknowledge by the mainstream evangelical church. I am hoping newer monasteries will be embraced sooner than that. 


Related on TSK: Read what I wrote about Baptist Monasteries in 2003 regarding the Southern Baptist (BGCT) embracing a monastery in Austin, Texas, which I visited that year and enjoyed a very well hopped and well brewed beer.

Bringing Abigail home: miles needed

Does anyone have spare miles? We could use some to get our daughter home from Europe. Abigail has been volunteering at a Christian based hostel in Prague and has completed an informal micro-apprenticeship on how to run hostels, something we think will become very valuable. 

Abi is fearless and competent, friendly and generous, all qualities needed to change the world. She is the world's most adventurist diabetic teenager. You might remember her a few years ago as the unfortunate 13 year old girl caught up in the HPV immunization controversy. She was the girl who refused the jab, but ended up getting the needle against her will.

She has moved on from that episode and has blossomed into a delightful young lady and indispensable part of our team. This photo is of Abigail in Egypt last year at the Mahaba (Agape) school at the Ezbet El Nakl Garbage City in Cairo.

Abigail in egypt

We are very proud our red-haired missional Abigail. But it's time for her to come home. Abigail needs to fly sometime late August from Europe (FRK, PRG are best) to NZ (AKL or WLG). Let me know if you can spare a few miles, either with a comment or email: tallskinnykiwi at gmail dot com.

Jim from OldTruth Passes


Blogger and Reformer Jim Bublitz passed away, after a long bout with illness - we prayed for him a while ago. Jim ran the OldTruth blog and launched many bloggers into their calling. Jim and I found ourselves on different sides of the argument concerning the Reformation and the emerging church but I found Jim very likable, as did my readers. Read my Response to Jim: Emerging Submerging of the Reformation and in particular the comments where Jim comes back again and again to interact with readers, always in a nice and generous manner. Here is Jim's last comment on my blog:


You summarized me in your last comment by saying "we should all strive for a deep reform that involves both doctrine and ethics", but to be more representative of what I said in my post, it would be more accurate to depict my view and the Reformers view as "ethics *DERIVING FROM* doctrine". Orthodoxy that drives orthopraxy, and never orthopraxy isolated from orthodoxy. There may be some folks in my camp who appear to focus only on doxy, but if there is no praxy from them, then they are lacking a real doxy.

Ok, I think that really is my last comment (I hope). Thanks again Andrew. PS: Tell your wife not to get so upset by a little ECM 'bashing'; it's all a part of the conversation we are having with you:-) We Reformed Christians are getting a bit of beating here too.

On Muslims Destroying Religious Shrines and Pagan Artifacts

Are the Muslims REALLY planning to destroy the pyramids? I think NOT. The story this week from Egypt appears to be a hoax. Which is good news.

Last year we had a fantastic tour of both the pyramids and the Cairo museum by Ibrahmim Morgan, an egyptologist and historian. We even took a camel tour of the area. So you can imagine my concern this week to hear of plans to destroy the pyramids or cover them with wax because of their pagan symbolism.

Destroy pyramids

But apparently there are no such plans to destroy the pyramids. 

Calls from a Bahraini Sunni cleric to destroy Egypt’s Great Pyramids have been revealed as a hoax. The demands were made from a Twitter account which claimed to be owned by Bahrain’s President of National Unity, Abd al-Latif al-Mahmoud. Source

But the story, even though a hoax, does illustrate the tension between religious extremists and pagan artifacts which have been destroyed and defaced through the ages by Christians and Muslims alike. What is our response to pagan symbols? Idols? 

Pyramids egypt giza

But first, let me show off my pics of me in Egypt last year. This is the photo where you imagine my right hand is actually a little lower than it is and it looks EXACTLY like I am holding the pyramids in my hand and you say  . . . . "Wow that looks EXACTLY like you are holding the pyramids in your hand!"

Andrew sphinx cairo egypt

This is the famous Sphinx and I am attempting to do a Maori hongi nose-touching greeting. But, obviously, as you can see, even with my head positioned lower than it should be for such an amazing photographic illusion, the Sphinx has no nose, ever since its face was vandalized, they say, in 1378 A.D. by Mohammed Sa'im al-Dahr, a "fanatical sufi of the oldest and most highly respected sufi convent of Cairo." Source.

Looks like payback time for the sufis. According to news reports, sufi tombs and shrines are, in fact, being destroyed in Timbuktu, Mali. This is a tragedy and an outrage. In fact, I am considering doing a series of blog posts, one for each sufi shrine destroyed in Mali. That would be a way of preserving them on the internet, even though the physical tombs and shrines are disappearing.

In Morroco a few years ago I visited the tomb of the famous sufi mystic and poet Sidi Ali ibn Harzihm. It would be a terrible shame to see these shrines around the world being destroyed. So much history to learn from. I believe we should preserve pagan history and learn from it.

Yes, you can preserve something without worshipping it!

William Carey, famous Baptist and father of modern day missions movements, believed along similar lines. He was a positive force in PRESERVING religious history, even though it conflicted with his own views. The Ramayana, Hinduism's major mythological epic, only existed on birch bark and palm leaves before Carey and Joshua Marshman decided to print it in book form for the world to read and understand.

"I have recommended the Ramayana to begin with, it being one of the most popular of all the Hindoo books accounted sacred .. The Ramayana will furnish the best account of Hindoo mythology that any one book will, and has extravagancy enough to excite a wish to read it through." William Carey, July 24, 1805

What about icons? As I blogged once in "How your Emerging Church can stay in Calvary Chapel", the subject of icons has come up before and the Second Council of Nicea 787 names 'the pictoral icons" as something good which the church has received. Jean Luc Marion in his book The Crossing of the Visible (Cultural Memory in the Present), distinguishes between the idol, which receives the "gaze" and the icon, which passes the "gaze" onward to it proper destination.

What about pagan symbols and practices already embedded in Christianity? Now thats an interesting subject. I recommend a book by some friends of mine called Pagan Christianity. Or have a look at a few of my blog posts:

Easter at the ancient stone circle, Sometimes I dress like a pagan, Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, We Bow Down and Worship Thee.

Wish I was in Poland

In Poland right now there are thousands of young people gathered for Slot Festival. Our family are normally there because Slot is on our teaching circuit but this year we are in NZ and have to sit it out. We hope to be there next year.


We are, however, helping to sponsor a band from Egypt called Massive Scar Era (Mascara) to be at Slot and Freakstock and a festival in Czech Republic. We need to raise $1500 for their rental van. I committed to it, not really knowing where the money would come from. Let me know if you want to jump in on that one. Read more about the Egyptian band and why I believe their Europe trip is important here.

TSK: Reflections on Slot, Being FakeBrianMcLaren at Slot

Insider movements, Wycliffe's translation and missiological controversies

There is a kerfuffle on the internet that might be worthy of some exploration. The controversy around Wycliffe's Bible translation, currently on the back burner and under the WEA spotlight, has created a lot of talk about insider movements, contextualization, dynamic equivalence, postmodernism, and the connection between the emergent church and insider movements among Muslims. 

 And it raises a series of other questions about the integrity of missional practice on location vs. satisfying the accountants in the home country, sustainability vs. dependance, colonialism vs. equality, missionary paternalism vs. freedom for younger churches to self-theologize, etc.

I was thinking about doing a weekly post to flesh out some of these issues, probably each Sunday.

Is this of interest to anyone? If so, lets start chatting about it Let me know in comments below. If not, lets move on to another diversion.


Liverpool: Fresh Expressions Over One Third

New emerging church research on the Diocese of Liverpool just released by Church Army:

"The proportion of fresh expressions of Church compared to parishes is 38.6%. If compared to the number of churches, which might be a closer comparison, that proportion is 30.4%. Either way, about a third of the ecclesial bodies in the diocesan family are current or recent fxCs [Fresh Expression Churches]." Research Paper by Church Army, Summer 2012.

Interesting: 60% don't use a church building, only 29% meet on a Sunday. 39% of cases used an existing church, 23% a church hall and 37% a secular venue including houses. 

HT: Opinionated Vicar and kudos to the Admiral.