one at a time...
Monday, July 31, 2006
Jesus: "I don't like crowds. Go back and read my story. Yes, I had crowds from time to time, but most of the people in them just wanted more wine, food, and power. Then, when I didn't give them what they wanted, they killed me. Nope. I don't like crowds. Besides, my best work was done one on one. You know...the woman at the well, the crazy guy, the blind man, the prostitute. That's when I did my best stuff."
Me: "But...um...that isn't very efficient."
Jesus: "I know. I don't believe in efficiency."
Jesus: "Let me put it this way. I believe in making disciples one at a time. Very slow stuff."
Me: "But Jesus, I thought you were into 'fast'."
Jesus: "Nope. I'm about slow. And small."
Me: "Oh, man. If I keep listening to you, I'm going to be fired!"
Jesus: "Good for you."
Me: "Good for me?!? Uh, Jesus, it's not that easy!"
Jesus: "I didn't say it would be easy. I said it would be hard."
Me: "But hard is...well...hard."
Jesus: "Tell me about it.
Go read the full quote 'here' - thanks Paul!
Friday, July 28, 2006
Much has been written by theologians and biblical commentators about the significance of the water jars and wine; the point being that the new wine of the messianic kingdom made the prior Jewish religious ritualism obsolete and seem empty by comparison. A new thing was happening and Jesus was its source and its focus. In John 10:10 we get that famous saying of Jesus, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full", and here right at the beginning of John's gospel Jesus is demonstrating this new found freedom and abundant life, being at home in a party with freely flowing alcohol. This sign is itself a foretaste of the abundance of the heavenly banquet, the direct opposite of the rules-obsessed religion of the Pharisees.
That's the generally accepted interpretation of this miracle, and its one that I am persuaded by. However, I want to add another dimension - one that I think is often overlooked. When we strip back this deep symbolic theology and look at the wedding couple, what do you think they made of this event when they became aware of it? I think they would simply have felt blessed - helped by this man Jesus and spared a whole lot of embarrassment and shame. We don't know if they had acknowledged Jesus for who he is - it was so early in his ministry that it's highly unlikely that they had. But there he was, in the midst of their wedding celebration active in giving them, and anyone else who was open to receive, a taste of the
And that's pretty much par the course for the rest of Jesus' ministry - he was to be found amongst people and in situations that the most religious people in his society would not have expected him to be. God was active outside of the boxes that religion had placed him in. Throughout his short public life, Jesus was plagued by the religious elite accusing him of hanging out with drunkards and being too comfortable in the presence of sinners. Why did he get this reputation? Because he was hanging out with drunkards and spending time with sinners!! He even gained a reputation of being a drunkard himself; such was the company he willingly kept.
I wonder if we, the church today, are in danger of falling back into the trap of boxing God up again. Are there places that we don't expect God to be or ways we don't expect him to act? Would we expect to find God in a club, for instance, or in a mosque or in a brothel? Can we expect to find signs of the kingdom in those places, as God takes it upon himself to be involved in people's lives at his own initiative? Or, does God hold back until people are in more 'Christian' environments?
Of course, it's pretty obvious what I think the answer is to those rhetorical questions - God is at large!
the monkeysphere and the small world...
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Steve has generously posted his notes 'here' both as text and as a Quicktime movie file, so go and check it out for yourself! In addition, Jonny has blogged his thoughts about Steve's presentation 'here', and wikipedia's article on small-world networks is 'here'.
Monday, July 24, 2006
update... read more from the BBC 'here', 'here', 'here', 'here', and 'here'
Sunday, July 23, 2006
It's a 'refreshing' surprise because I think the general reluctance to blog about the occassion reflects the honesty of the 24 hours and the struggle to find a single (or agreed) voice for the conversation and practices that we're all involved in. This was highlighted from the off when Ryan stood up to give the opening presentation, which began with a slide reading simply '24 hours...', and said "I didn't know what this thing was called so I just put this" - none of us did Ryan so '24 hours...' works for me!
I'm hesitant then in breaking the blogging silence over this '24 hours...', and certainly don't see myself as the GRUNT blogger that Andrew Jones longs for (a grunt blogger - yes, but not the GRUNT blogger!). However, I do feel the need to record here that, for me at least, these two half-days were perhaps the most enjoyable and useful 24 hours of 'conference-type' stuff I've been involved in for as long as I can remember. The discussion was always open and honest and, despite being in a room full of emerging church 'household names', no one ever presumed to speak for all or be the 'leader' or guru or whatever. It was a genuine conversation of equals, all passionately involved in seeking to discern and join in the missio dei in their own context.
The BIG question of the 24 hours revolved around whether we should form a more intentional network to better share resources and support each other in struggling with the issues. Whilst identifying strongly with some of the voiced concerns about naming a 'movement' and being seen to be projecting ourselves as the answer (as an aside, see Steve's great comment to my post 'here' for a view as to why this would be so dangerous), if that particular '24 hours...' was anything to go by I for one would value further opportunities to get together to think theologically, ecclesiologically and missiologically (I'm sure there's something relevant here about 'iron sharpening iron' or something), and to hear more amazing stories of what God is doing in and through the UK emerging church.
Update... 25/7... the silence is slowly crumbling... more blog posts relating to the '24 hours...' are slowly emerging (!)... see comments of Steve Collins and Jonny Baker, and further thoughts (with piccies) from Andrew Jones.
Update... 26/7... Richard White joins the now 'not-so-silent' silence! (I think I'll leave the updating here since if you're reading this you're probably reading the other blogs anyway!!)
Labels: emerging church
description or prescription...
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
One of the things that I started thinking about yesterday, in the light of the book, is how a definition founded on genuine observation of what is happening could so easily become an 'off-the-shelf' model that others try to follow, so missing the central point of contextualisation. The book, based on extensive research, describes the Emerging Church in terms of nine common practices...
"Emerging Churches (1) identify with the life of Jesus, (2) transform the secular realm, and (3) live highly communal lives. Because of these three activities, they (4) welcome the stranger, (5) serve with generosity, (6) participate as producers, (7) create as created beings, (8) lead as a body, and (9) take part in spiritual activities." (Gibbs & Bolger, Emerging Churches, SPCK, 2006, p45)
As I read the book (and listened to Ryan talk yesterday) I recognised so much of what Dream had become in that description (though there are some aspects that we don't exhibit so clearly too). However, neither Dream nor the many EC groups that Bolger and Gibbs researched set out with this 9-part plan as a model to emulate - they simply evolved (emerged!) into this identity. The important thing for all of them, which was heard time and time again in the stories contained in the book, was that they were seeking to build faith communities that were true to their context.
Bolger and Gibbs' work is invaluable in gaining an insight into what is coming into being under the banner 'Emerging Church', and the 9-point definition is a useful handle to understand the commonalities of EC groups. However, I do fear that what has been stated as observational analysis may be adopted by some as a blue-print and so become restricting and controlling of genuine emergence. If well-meaning initiatives simply set out to 'create' the 9 points of Gibbs and Bolger's analysis, they are likely to simply fall into the trap that the EC has been intent on avoiding - turning up and 'doing' church for a group of people according to a pre-determined model. All of this is not to undervalue the book - I'm glad it's been researched and written and have found it incredibly affirming. I just hope it's properly understood for what it is - analysis - and is not abused as a model to follow.
I'm looking forward to hooking up with Ryan and Karen and others again on Thursday for a 24 hour consultation - maybe this is something we could pick up there!
tuning the eye...
Thursday, July 13, 2006
I first came across this approach to planning worship several years back when I read 'The Prodigal Project' and was deeply persuaded by Mark Pierson's description of the worship 'leader' as 'curator'.
There Mark asked...
"What would happen to the worship I prepared if I looked at it differently? What if I saw the task not as a mechanical, logical, modernist one of putting stuff in the right order so that it 'progressed' through a form to give a predetermined message with an anticipated outcome, but instead saw myself more like a curator of an art gallery?"
He then explains what he means in using this term 'curator'...
"A curator who considers the space and environment as well as the content of worship and who takes these elements and puts them in a particular arrangement, considering juxtaposition, style, distance, light, shade and so on. A maker of context for worship rather than a presenter of content. A provider of a frame inside which the elements are arranged and rearranged to convey a particular message for a particular purpose. A message that may or may not be overtly obvious, may or may not be similar to the message perceived by another worshipper." (Riddell, Pierson & Kirkpatrick, The Prodigal Project, SPCK, 2000, p63)
"Each service also attempts to remain faithful to the Augustinian axiom that only God gives God. Because of this the services are designed in such a way as to minimize specific doctrinal statements in favour of employing the Christian narrative to create a space for reflection and encounter. In this way Ikon resembles more an optician's surgery, which helps the eye become more receptive and sensitive to light, rather than a painter's studio, which would offer images for the sight." (Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God, SPCK, 2006, p75)
I love that image of worship seeking to tune the eye (and heart and mind) so that it can see, rather than telling the eye what to see. Granted, this approach is more risky in that it opens the worship experience up to whole range of (mis)interpretations, but the stories of many people who have had profound experiences of God in the midst of such 'open' worship keeps me walking in this direction and trusting the Spirit of God who 'leads us into all truth'.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
stop the traffik...
Monday, July 10, 2006
check out the 'web site', get informed, join the campaign and add the banner to your blog/web site (find out how 'here')!
the habit of giving...
Thursday, July 06, 2006
moving beyond the self
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
I agree wholeheartedly with Pete that the essence of Jesus' call is to look beyond yourself to the building of the kingdom marked by giving love. I've always been concerned when I hear so-called evangelistic talks that seem to be using fear tactics to get people to become Christians - the kind of 'tell them how bad hell is and then how to get out of it' kind of preaching!
However, I am struck by a paradox in all of this, in that we are only truly able to look beyond ourselves when secure in ourselves. This is why, for me, the personal aspect of relationship with Christ is so important. I'm reminded of a discussion that took place earlier in the year on the Dream blog 'here' in response to an article by Professor John Suk. There I wrote the following...
However, my fundamental belief in the missio dei keeps me anchored in the 'earthed' gospel (REAL good news) of God's intimate involvement in this world. The ascension of Christ does not indicate an absence of God as Jon Suk seems to suggest. It was followed by Pentecost which signified the exact opposite - a fuller and more intimate engagement of God in the world. For that reason, I am comfortable to speak of a real and dynamic relationship with God, through Jesus, by the powerful presence of his Spirit. BUT, and it's a big but, this 'relationship' does not end with me - it's not about a fluffy feel-good factor! This relationship compels me to be engaged with God's world too - to be in relationship with those around me living out the society of God.
Incarnation was not only a one-off event (God becoming flesh for 33 years) but is a timeless truth - God is engaged and calls his Church to be the same.
a healthy dose of irony...
Tuesday, July 04, 2006
When it comes to a good book
Stephen King's resume just can't compare
39 + 27 = 66 books
And if you're Catholic...there's even more