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malcolm chamberlain

musings about the emerging church, mission and contemporary culture...

God is at large, intimately involved in his world in ways that the church is maybe just waking up to!

the real attraction...

Friday, March 30, 2007

Alan Hirsch has an interesting post 'here' exposing the attractional model of mission as "literally out-moded" in a post-Christendom context. What is particularly intriguing is the fact that at the end of the post Alan feels the need to write (perhaps prompted by past misunderstandings of his argument)...

"another ambiguity can be explained by saying that while a more missionally defined church moves from a come-to-us mentality to a go-to-them mentality, nonetheless all expressions of church should be attractive. That is, we should always be culturally compelling. Don’t mistake not being attractional for not being attractive."

I hear the distinction well, but would add that even when we focus on being attractive we do so, maybe unconsciously, because we are trapped in the attractional mission model. We try, as churches, to be relevant (and so attractive) to our surrounding context, but still expect people to come to us when we get the relevant thing right.

From my reading of the gospels, it's Jesus who is the 'attractive' one (if you'll excuse the obvious mis-implications of that statement!) For example, when Philip was telling Nathanael about Jesus in John 1, he was able to say "come and see" because he knew that in seeing and meeting Jesus, Nathanael would get it and be drawn (attracted) towards him. Jesus is the one who is attractive and, I guess, attractional (after all, he calls people out of their current situation to follow him). The problem is that the Church and much of what passes for Christian mission is often so caught up in trying to be attractive and relevant that it obscures, by clever programs and reasoned arguments, the One who truly is attractive - Jesus!

Our task in mission is to, like Philip, direct people to Jesus recognising his involvement already in their lives. This will lead us into incarnational 'sent' mission because that's where Jesus is, and it's 'out there', so to speak, in the ordinary, that people will find him and be drawn to him.

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:55 PM | link | 1 comments |

vulnerable spaces...

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Mark Berry writes...

I'm feeling stirred to ask some questions... what is our sense of communitas? where is our sense of shared liminality and spirit? how can we abandon the need for "huddle and cuddle" and truly embrace the dangerous journey? For me this means that we shouldn't be expending our energy creating gatherings to which the needy will be drawn, this isn't about creating safe spaces in our places but is about creating safe space between me and another... safe not because it is risk free, but safe because it is open and honest, safe because ALL are vulnerable not because none are."
(bold highlighting mine; read the full original post 'here')

There's a lot of talk about communitas in the emerging church, and a lot of discussion about how Victor Turner's findings and theories can inform and shape missional communities in liminal (post-modern) culture. There is a danger, however, that all this can become simply a conversation about semantics - 'let's call it communitas instead of community' - rather than praxis. I think Mark hits on an essential insight here... what distinguishes communitas from structured community is the 'space' in which it occurs - the 'dangerous journey' as Mark refers to it. Communitas is, by definition, organic and undefined; it is built around relationships and assumed roles, rather than programs and structured hierarchies. It may also, as Turner strongly argues, be temporary, and inevitably give way to structure at some point (and this tendency is evident in some more established emerging church communities currently grappling with questions of leadership, pastoral support structures, etc).

Communitas or not, I'm drawn to Mark's comment that I've highlighted in bold. In my own journey I've valued the 'spaces' (by that I mean relational spaces as much as physical spaces) where I can be real and honest about my faith and my struggles, and that hasn't always been possible in church communities. Mark calls for a space that is safe not "because it is risk free, but safe because it is open and honest, safe because ALL are vulnerable not because none are." I couldn't agree more Mark!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:53 AM | link | 3 comments |


Sunday, March 25, 2007

posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:52 PM | link | 0 comments |

resisting the hyper-real...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

I finally got round to reading 'this' excellent thought-provoking post by Jason Clark, reflecting on Jean Baudrillard's notion of 'hyper-reality' and its connection to the emerging church conversation. In some ways it's an uncomfortable read because Clark asks searching questions of the emerging church and, in particular, whether it is actually more 'real' than the structural church it critiques. He suggests that, steeped as we are in the consumerist and image-saturated culture of the West, the emerging church can be just as capable of projecting an image - a 'hyper-reality' - with little or no correlation to reality...

"... at the heart of our bent towards the hyper-real, and fetish of church, is our entrenchment in capitalism and the market place. We need to really understand how capitalism has captured our understanding of what it means to be real, and find some ways out of it into non-commodified forms of church, to find the spaces between the doing of church and the consumption of church that will enable a liberating and ‘real’ change."

Ten days ago a group of emerging church practitioners met for a 24 hour conversation and, as part of this, we discussed what a more intentional supportive network might look like. A constant refrain in this was the need for a 'spin-free' environment, where real stories could be shared and real support gained without the perceived need to make everything look rosy! It seems to me that the network was, in less technical and academic language perhaps, engaging with the same issues that Clark does in his post, recognising that so often we are engaged in 'hyper-reality' rather than reality.

The discussion arising out of Clark's post (also worth reading) highlights the fact that a contextualised church in post-modernity will have to grapple with the 'hyper-real', but there must also be a case for prophetically modelling something different that is more authentic. I, for one, would welcome the space where struggles and failures could be shared and even celebrated as part of an emerging story, recognising the hand of the ever-present God throughout. As soon as we start to get overly preoccupied with neat packages, strategies and structures we become in danger of killing genuine emergence and buying in to the consumerist image of the 'hyper-real' church.

As Clark puts it... "What if real church doesn’t look like the idealized images we are endlessly portraying about church"?

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 11:50 AM | link | 0 comments |

archbishops podcast about slavery...

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rowan Williams makes his first YouTube broadcast, appearing alongside John Sentamu (the Archbishop of York), to reflect on slavery past and present. Watch it 'here' or click on the frame below...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 4:30 PM | link | 0 comments |

adventures of ASBO Jesus...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

'This' new blog from Jon Birch is well worth adding to your reader!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:20 AM | link | 0 comments |

setting the imagination free...

I don't normally get all retro and point people back to earlier posts, but the discussion that's been developing through the comments on 'this one' is well worth reading! If you get a chance, go take a look, set your imagination free and add your thoughts...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:45 AM | link | 0 comments |

home delivery...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

'This' is an excellent one-minute spoof video that gets the point across!

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 10:03 AM | link | 0 comments |

spiritual contours...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Jonny Baker has posted ('here' and 'here') a helpful list of words which, he suggests, map the contours of contemporary spirituality. It's a list well worth looking at and spending time with.

As I reflected on it, I noticed that the list had a very positive gloss, as might be expected from someone such as Jonny who is contextually engaged with contemporary spirituality. Personally, I am drawn to pretty much everything in Jonny's list, and relate much more to the contours he paints than much of what passes for 'spirituality' in churches. I'm certainly not 'down' on contemporary spirituality and find exciting signs of life and the hand of God in much of what I contextually engage in.

However, missional engagement also requires us to be prophetically critical of our cultural context for the sake of the Kingdom, and I wonder if there are negative (or less positive) contours that we also need to identify if we are to have integrity. As a comment on Jonny's post, I suggested that one such 'negative' could be that much contemporary spirituality has a tendency to be consumerist - 'Mind Body Spirit' fairs, for example, can be intensely consumerist and focussed on paying (or charging) for spiritual experiences (which is why, incidentally, dekhomai offers everything free to highlight the place of gift in the midst of the marketplace.)

Last week I was speaking at a gathering of church-type people about contextual mission and contemporary spirituality, and one person levelled the charge that it all sounds very selfish! He may have a point, though I did challenge him to level the same charge at church people too, who can be just as precious and 'selfish' about their traditions and ways of expressing faith. Maybe consumerism isn't simply a contour in contemporary spirituality, but more a foundation of contemporary culture which we've all unwittingly been seduced by. But even so, we must be prepared to expose it and allow the challenge of Christ to speak to it, rather than pretending it isn't there.

I wonder if, as well as adding to Jonny's 'positive' list, whether there are other contours of contemporary spirituality that we might feel the gospel (in the fullest 'Kingdom' sense of that term) challenges?...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:21 PM | link | 2 comments |

protesting the protest or reforming the reformed?...

Monday, March 12, 2007

Andrew Jones has a great way with words...

"... you can see why a lot of Reformers are not happy with the Emerging Church. After effectively getting rid of quite a number of meaningless rituals like Lent [and Christmas in Scotland] as well as the English monastic system and other things associated with Popery, the emerging church seem to be undoing some of these gains.

Don Carson describes the emerging church as a protest movement. Is it true? Are we protesting the protest? Are we rebelling against the Reformation or are we helping the church to reform again to regain its status as the one holy catholic church? I hope its the latter."

Read the whole post 'here'

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 8:43 PM | link | 0 comments |

university shooting...

'This' is pretty frightening... the first gun crime at a UK university, and the crossing of a threshold that nobody wanted to be crossed.


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 1:38 PM | link | 0 comments |

the simpsons' contribution to the evolution debate...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

hat tip... Matt Stone

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:35 PM | link | 0 comments |

God with a mission...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Christopher Wright talks 'here' of a "God-centered refocusing of mission" that "turns inside-out our obsession with mission plans, agendas, goals, strategies, and grand schemes." His bullet point implications of this are excellent...
  • We ask, "Where does God fit into the story of my life?" when the real question is, "Where does my little life fit into the great story of God's mission?"
  • We want to be driven by a purpose tailored for our individual lives, when we should be seeing the purpose of all life, including our own, wrapped up in the great mission of God for the whole of creation.
  • We wrestle to "make the gospel relevant to the world." But God is about the mission of transforming the world to fit the shape of the gospel.
  • We argue about what can legitimately be included in the mission God expects from the church, when we should ask what kind of church God expects for his mission in all its comprehensive fullness.
  • I may wonder what kind of mission God has for me, when I should ask what kind of me God wants for his mission.
  • We invite God's blessing on our human-centered mission strategies, but the only concept of mission into which God fits is the one of which he is the beginning and the end.
hat tip... Paul Fromont


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 2:42 PM | link | 2 comments |

dream is five!...

Thursday, March 01, 2007

This month Dream celebrates its fifth birthday - five years since that first service in the Camel Club in Liverpool City Centre!! So much has happened and so much has changed since then, and we'll be celebrating some of that as a community over the course of the month - watch this space and the Dream website for upcoming details...

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posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 3:07 PM | link | 1 comments |

spirited exchanges uk web launch...

The new Spirited Exchanges UK web site goes live today, funded and supported by Trust Greenbelt.

Those who have followed the SE UK journey so far, will know that the inspiration for a UK network of church leaver groups came from the work that Jenny McIntosh has been involved in in New Zealand as a response to Alan Jamieson's 'A Churchless Faith'. (The story of the first five years of Spirited Exchanges in New Zealand is told in the follow-up book, 'Church Leavers, Faith Journeys Five Years On'.) The aim is to connect church leavers with each other so that they can meet in a safe agenda-free environment to talk openly about their faith journeys post-church.

At Greenbelt 2005 Jenny inspired a number of us, who attended her seminars, to work towards realising a network of similar but contextually appropriate groups in the UK. It's not been a speedy process and hasn't revolutionised the world, but there are now a handful of pilot groups meeting across the UK, feeding back how this is (or isn't) working in their locality, as well as a growing email database of people who want to keep in touch with SE UK. The development of the website is the next stage in this evolution!

There is no agenda to begin a new brand of groups or roll out a marketable program. Part of what we're discovering is that some SE-type groups have started organically and been going for some time. They may not be called Spirited Exchanges but may want to be part of a wider network so others can know of their existence. If you belong to such a group and would like to feed in to the SE UK network or are interested in being connected as an individual, visit the website and let us know!


posted by Malcolm Chamberlain, 9:49 AM | link | 5 comments |