Thursday, August 30, 2007

I am off

I am sitting in Auckland airport about to fly off for 4 weeks. Firstly I am in england for a week and a half at the International Agnlican Youth Network conference at High Leigh. then I go to the Bronx for a few days, even preach there, and then attend the Ministers meeting for TSSF for a week, before returning home for a three tikanga meeting with the Bishops. Wahoo is all I can say.

I will try to keep blogs going during that time, even photos maybe


Mission Shaped Youth Ministry: Conference in Australia:

Mission Shaped Youth Ministry: Conference in Australia:
To be honest I was a little underwhelmed and disappointed with this. But I suspect that was more my fault, with too high an expectation really. AS a result I did nto engage as much as I had hoped. But that was my problem. I often (I discovered in Dunedin) try to persuade people, and maybe I did not have the platform to persuade people of my great ideas. That is a little humbling.
But I did gain quite a lot of insights and have some really good conversations.
• I really liked the honesty and frustration about just how successful the emerging church stuff in England is, and eh fresh expressions/mission shaped church initiatives. It is early days. It is small. Who knows how long lasting it will be, or effective in reaching people who know nothing about Christianity?
• I enjoyed the beginning of the discussion on what the rich Anglican tradition offers mission. I was also frustrated at the level of engagement with that. It seems this sis a crucial question, and yet some seemed to want to dismiss it.
• I was excited by the schools stuff, especially seeing young adults engaged in missions shaped youth ministry in schools and their wondering what will emerge from that. These young people will struggle to engage with church as we do it, and are not part of that. They are meeting for bible study, prayer, “worship” and mission, but have no links with our church. So how do we resource them? I was excited by young people seeing a opportunity in their local context and being “resourced” to engage with that, and out of that came “mustard – check it out!” They did not import ideas, programmes or people to do their mission in schools. Their work was not planned by older people , but the church leadership in their parish gave them space to create mission and church in schools that makes sense to the young people they are ministering among.
• Not surprisingly I bumped up against the “worship” thing. I was a bit surprised to here and ordained person define worship as glorifying God! Is it really? Is it only that? Or is it an encounter with God as a community that shapes our imagination, our sense of who we so that in our lives we glorify God?
• I get this impression that a lot of evangelicals think that by definition they are engaged in mission shaped youth ministry. But some of it didn’t sound new and still really wanted people to join them as they currently operate. And that is problematic I think.
• In the end I left wondering what Mission Shaped Youth Ministry might be? I am not sure it was clearly stated, and may be it can’t be. I was left wondering if it is mission to young people, or young people being empowered in mission? Or empowering young people to be the church, or maybe offering young people our version of church? Or is it something else completely?


Some thoughts from the Leaders in Congregations course with Kevin Ward:
• How can you be alone with your own/God’s thoughts wired with someone else’s?
• The role of leader in the future is to identify, mentor, resource and trust young people to create church for themselves and their peers. Through this we might learn what church might be, rather than what church is now. To do this we must not fear the future. That reminds me of something Steve Taylor said at a thing he did earlier in the year, that we are a resurrection people, not a crucifixion people, so rather than focussing on the immanent death we should focus on the new life that God is bringing through this death. ( at least I think that is what he said)
• I was struck by how often church leaders (and maybe others) identify the problem that needs fixing, and then the solution, and then they set about persuading others to act ion it. I have to say from my experience, that the problem is not quite accurately identified, and the solution is often not quite what was needed, and often leads to the next problem. I wonder what would happen if leaders stopped viewing themselves as the fount of all wisdom, and worked with others to both identify the problem, and then trust them to find the best solution that works for them. Sure, leaders need to be part of that, making sure that it si a good solution, but they do not need to have all the answers, as we (and I include myself in this) so often seem to think we do.

large chunks of scripture

It has been awhile.

I have been pondering this comment and question from Ben. I think it is a great question, and I am not sure I have any easy answers.

BTW - following on from your thought about having large chunks of scripture read out in church and re-installing that in our evening community I can report back that people have really taken to it and it's become a highlight of the service for me (and others I suspect) and as an aside to your post I have come across one recent frustration and that is people who say that they want "deeper teaching" in the service. As we explore that idea more I discover that they want more teaching on peripheral Scriptural themes rather than just constantly hearing the central gospel themes. My frustration comes when I don't feel like they/me/we have really got a grasp on "living out" as opposed to just "knowing" those central themes - do you keep banging away until people seem to get it and live it? Do you move on to other themes so that people don't get bored and perhaps they come back to asking themselves some of the questions you have posed here at a later date.
Christian faith has always seemed to me to be a fairly simple matter (though often challenging to live out), some people though seem to want to make it quite complicated and sometimes I wonder if that's a smoke screen of just knowing more stuff as a substitute for actually living the simple stuff well and allowing ourselves to be shaped by scripture.
Any thoughts?

After quite a bit of thought, I wonder if instead of preaching to the themes, we preach to the lectionary. In other words, let the Bible speak for itself. Joel Green, who is a New Testament Theologian (i.e. someone who tries to read the bible theologically, and vice-versa - he taught the course I took for the first half of the year) talks about the Bible converting peoples imagination, and the task fo the preacher is to help that conversion happen. Basically, rather than trying to teach people about the Bible, or the main themes, to allow people world view to be changed by the Bible. I am not sure if this is making any sense.
I think what I am trying to say is that we as preachers need to start with and deal with the passage/s for the day, on the passages terms, and not in terms of any themes, and to expect that as that passage was written for the church/people of God, and as we are the church/people of God, then that passage will speak to us. The corollary to that is in my experience those of us who read it often read scripture with the end pint already known. WE know what this passage is saying, and usually that is something that backs up our point of view. Scripture should nee be read like that, but should challenge us, mould us, take us further into God, even when we are taken far from what we thought was going on, and far from our comfort zone.
That is enough of a ramble, but a conversation about this would be good.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What was Francis’s foolishness?

About a month ago I went to the Solomon Islands in my capacity as Minister Provincial of Third Order, Society of Saint Francis.
A big part of what we (The Minister General, Dorothy Brooker also went) did was to lead some studies for the local TSSF members. Here are some fo my thoughts from the first of these.

What was Francis’s foolishness?
Well many things really:
One was to not only read scripture, but to pray and to be shaped and moulded by scripture, especially the gospels. This meant he was not only open to the bits be liked, but also the hard bits, like Jesus’ invitation. To the rich young man to go, sell everything he has and “come follow me.” We tend to gloss over that one. Or the story of the Good Samaritan, (which is not about good neighbourly behaviour, but answers who is my neighbour….people I do not normally include in that) As an aside, at a conference I was at yesterday, someone talked about a t-shirt he had seen which said “Jesus loves porn stars” There was great mirth and laughter. The thing is, Jesus does love porn-stars, as does God. Porn stars are among those for whom God so loved that “he sent his only begotten son”. Some how I feel like we think that real Christians are all nice and middle class like me.
I ramble. What I was trying to say was that Francis’s foolishness was in his willingness to pray with and be moulded from within by the gospels and the whole of scripture. That is a very risky thing. It takes you to places that just seem really outrageous and foolish. Like selling everything you have, renouncing your birthright, kissing and living among lepers, relying on what people give you for your meals each day.
Well, all this is very well, but the hard part is how to appropriate the foolishness of Francis for today. How do we appropriate his stories and his foolishness and apply them to life today. (It is a similar question to how to read the Bible for today, a hermeneutical question.) As an OFM brother said to Dorothy. Francis is dead, so to ask what would Francis do is a non question. The real question is what would someone living our their Franciscan calling do? (Kind of like the WWJD stuff as well)
An example is the story of Francis giving away his horse to the poor knight (after he had ridden out of Assisi the day before all decked out in the latest knight gear to join the crusade and become a heroic knight, only to have Christ come to him in a dream to tell him he was following the wrong Lord) So what do we do with this story. I don’t have horse and am not off the Iraq, the modern crusade. It involves reading it to see what the horse represents, and how to take that into today. The horse was a symbol of wealth and power. Only the wealthy owned a horse, only knights, the powerful, rode these kinds of horses. So what are my symbols of wealth and power? How do I let them go?
Foolishness. All this is foolishness. How can one be successful as a youth minister, as a Christian, and a person with this kind of attitude? Ah… there is a question. For that is one of the things we seek today. To be successful. To be outcome driven. A choice then. To follow the way of Francis, to let go, to rely on God, or to seek success for God!! Which to follow? And what does it mean to be successful. And what do I loose in this quest? My soul perhaps?

Thursday, August 02, 2007

my own thoughts

I am in Dunedin at a leadership in congregations course for my Otago M.Min.
Some random thoughts:
• As I watch young people walking down to university and work with their mp3 players/ipods plugged in, I wonder what the cost will be of people never being alone with their own thoughts. Their world is filled with others thoughts in the music. Will people be able to sit alone with only themselves and their thoughts? Will the be able to sit in silence with God? If not, what will that do to their soul, and our society.
• As we struggle to introduce and manage change in our churches, will it be enough? I listen to leaders talk about gearing up for the next change, and think of my own pseudo Gen X frustration with the lack of change. And I am old. Our change is so slow and laboured, compared to what young people swim in. Will it eve be enough? Or should we stop trying, and instead of trying to change what we do, should we just change people’s imaginations so that they can allow new things to emerge with their resources and prayer?
• What hope is their when so many of our leaders are so old, boomers nearly the lot? Will they let go enough for real ministry to a younger age group to happen? Or will the continue to think they have all the answers still?