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Tuesday, March 30, 2004

The emerging church - alien or phenomenon

Darren of the Living Room has posted this letter from Angus Cruickshank in which he questions certain aspects about this "phenomenon" called the emerging church, and some of its pitfalls. As humans have the propensity for organization and formalization, so do those in the emerging church, despite their apparent dislike of it.

Angus also mentioned that emerging churches seems to work on the cell type principle of meeting with those of like mindedness. He calls this exclusivist, saying we end up having the rich meeting with the rich, poor with poor - and, I guess, social activists with social activists. If you`re not in the right category....well, read the post. Then read my response:

The emerging church is not a phenomenon. Maybe it is seen as a phenomenon by those who are part of it. But, to modern churches, it is as alien as Christendom is to those who do not go to church. Yet the Gospel is supposed to be embodied in a community of faith that is open to all.

It appears to me that the emerging church is no different to other types of churches in its desire to relate to outsiders - and young people. It is no less exclusive to secular people outside it than the modern churches are. I say this as many emerging churches appear to make a big thing of being authentic, particularly to those under 40. Authentic to whom - their faith community? Perhaps, but also to those outside their faith community. In other words, those who desire to be in emerging -type churches do not desire to be in modern-type churches as they want to be able to provide an authentic - yeah - it's an emerging buzzword - community for those who are not Christians.

Perhaps emerging churches do "target" groups of people such as young families or students.Perhaps they do see themselves as missional commuties. But it is not clear how many secular people become part of emerging communities and branch out to start resultant cell communities.

Does the emerging church reach out to the surrounding community with the gospel any better than other churches? Some in emerging churches have come from churches that did not relate well to outsiders. But could it be that emerging communities are no less alien to the surrounding culture than most modern churches and there is an "emerging church culture" that has to be overcome by newcomers, particularly the over 40's.

Furthermore, if emerging churches are no less alien, but are seen as less judgemental, hypocritical and close-minded by those in the church, is that merely just an acceptable form of alienism?

There are some great relevant, authentic, discipling modern churches. The emerging church is no different. It's just that some in the emerging church - and some who would like to be in an emerging community but are not - appear to think that all these types of communities are relevant, authentic and discipling - or are more likely to be so.

Which is rubbish.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Robins rocks out

You should read this article by Duffy Robins, about postmodern youth ministry. As Jason, who has run the article in full on his site, says, it sound much like all the talk in emergent blogdom.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Mortal God and divine freedom

A column in today's Dominion Post discussed a London production of His Dark Materials, a stage adaption of atheist Philip Pulman's three-volume fantasy for children, which climaxes in the violent death of a senile God. Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr Rowan Williams has applauded the play, but asks "Which God is it who gets killed? Is this what a believer would recognise as the real God?"

Easter is coming up soon, and Christians remember a God that was killed, and rose again to life a few days later. The Passion of the Christ gave us preview. Pulman has a contempt for organised religion, and views the church as the agent of domination. Dr Willams thinks he has a point.

"If you believe in a mortal God who can win and lose his power, your religion will be saturated with anxiety and with violence."

"If you see religious societies in which anxiety and violence predominate, you could do worse than ask what God it is that they believe in."

"The chances are that they secretly or unconsciously believe in a God who is just another inhabitant of the universe, only more powerful than anybody else."

Clearly, the god in His Dark Materials is not the God of the Bible, or of Easter. So Dr Williams wonders why the church has often behaved as if it were there to protect a mortal and finite God.

He asks a good question: What would a church look like that actually expressed the reality of a divine freedom that makes human freedom possible?

Any thoughts?

Friday, March 26, 2004

Every kind of church is not ok

Every kind of church is not OK. There, I've said it too. If the church is the greenhouse of transformation, why aren't more people being transformed? If the church is a place to "reach" someone, why isn't our "reaching" doing any transforming. Perhaps it is because our out reaching is actually "in reaching" and this inreaching is not getting enough candidates to be transformed, either because not too many want to be "inreached" or those doing the inreaching have no candidiates to select from as all their friends are "in the bless-me club".

Sorry if that sounds so cynical, but for some churches that is the reality. I'm getting a little sick of people who seem to think church is some sanctified once-a -week "bless me club" where you can feel good, all get along fine, and tell each other how to "reach out" to outsiders without actually doing it yourself. That’s not evangelism, it's hot air. It's not even New Testament Church. It's not OK.

Sometimes I think we spend more time on process and programmes than our passion and the people we have a passion for. And I mean those in the church and those we hope to get into the church. But in so doing, I think we have lost our passion and we are fast losing people - but we have heaps of programmes for people to replace the "backdoor gang", and we seem to think that they will all work out if we get the process - and the programmes - right.

Yeah right.

Rant over. More later

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Gay clergy

Reading this post from Karen today reminded me of how some people have more of a phobia against gay people leading church, than they do regarding people with incompatible religious beliefs. In New Zealand a gay Presbyterian was recently barred from training for the ministry at her third attempt, despite her own minister being a lesbian. No mention was given of the fact that the woman concerned did not believe in the virgin birth or other fundamental Christian beliefs. Now the Church will discuss the role of homosexual people in leadership at the church general assembly in September.

Is sexual orientation really a bigger deal than theological or religious beliefs? Are church leaders employed - or refused - on the basis of their sexual orientation - or gender for that matter - or their ability to lead a church, including theological belief? When will churches make a higher priority to discuss incompatible theological beliefs over sexual orientation?

Perhaps some church leaders believe that gay people, even single and celibate gay people, have differing theological beliefs purely because of their sexual orientation, and as a result they are barred from ministry unless the denomination is gay friendly.

politiking and polls

Banning gay marriage while allowing civil unions seems to be the American way at the moment.(both sites require registration)

This decision has annoyed people from both sides of the debate. This may be an election issue. Its certainly an issue in one county of Oregon, where all marriages are banned - gay and straight.

....and whats all this about. Has the election campaign started? If so then why doesn't Miss Clark want to debate Brash on TV? OK, there's no election campaign, but Miss Clark has debated leaders on TV four times outside an election campaign since gaining the top job so what was the real reason for the non appearance?

Monday, March 22, 2004

Government and Virgin

"When a government becomes powerful, it is destructive, extravagant and violent; it is an usurper which takes bread from innocent mouths and deprives honorable men of their substance for votes with which to perpetuate itself." - Cicero
"Government is not reason. It is not eloquence. It is force." - George Washington
"In all that people can do for themselves, the government ought not to interfere." - Abraham Lincoln
"The most cogent reason for restricting the interference of government is the great evil of adding unnecessarily to its power." - John Stuart Mill
"The government's role is whatever the government defines it to be" NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark

Via Nigel Kearney

....and this brings new meaning to virgin birth

Sunday, March 21, 2004

just thinking...

A few things have happened in blogdom that have made me think. They are encouraging me to reconsider why I am doing this blog. At the moment my mind feels like a food processor - who knows what may come out the tips of my fingers onto the keyboard after my thoughts
I`ll keep thinking - and reading - and learning. One day I`ll type.
So today I`ll leave you with this.

"I don't go along with this living in sin before holy matrimony," said one minister. "I won't marry them if I know about it. I certainly didn't sleep with my wife before we were married, did you?"

"I'm not sure," said the second minister." What was her maiden name?"

And no bolt of lightning struck.

read the rest in the New Zealand Herald - healthy debate in the church

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Mark Pierson's off to Melbourne

Cityside Pastor Mark Pierson is moving to Melbourne. Mark will be spending 3-weeks a month in Melbourne with Urban Seed and one week a month at Cityside for the remainder of the year while Cityside looks for a replacement(s). For those who didn’t know, Mark used to be pastor of Wellington Central Baptist (now pastored by Alan Jamieson) and was also responsible for setting up Mainstage music festivals, which have metamorphed into the biggest Christian music festivals in the Southern Hemisphere - the annual Parachute Festival.

More on Prodigal Kiwi's site

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Emergo Theology

I'm not sure what to think about the talk about emerging churches and emerging theologies. Is an emerging theology really needed for an emerging church?

It seems to me that a lot of the emerging church talk is done by those associated with liturgical or evangelical modern churches - Anglicans, Catholics, Charismatics. Get them all together and there will be lots of similarities and a few differences in theological beliefs. Just like if you get a whole lot of evangelicals from the Open Brethren or Baptist tradition together. Jonny Baker has posted a comment from Maggi Dawn's blog with two questions:

Is emerging church limited to strictly the
conservative/evangelical wing of Christianity?
Can others play too?

Justin says yes ( well, a limited yes), meaning others can play too.

I agree. Others can play too. So let's play. Just a few quick thoughts. As nobody has defined the Emerging Church - nor an emerging theology, if it actually exists, why should an aspect of church that is not defined be limited to an evangelical wing of a church - or even a postmodern church?

That’s why I wrote yesterday that in my view, an "emerging church" - as opposed to an under 30's church - should espouse all theologies - ancient, future, Anglican, Methodist, and the rest. Not to do so would mean that the emerging church would be limited - and some would not be able to play. I don't think the EC should be limited by conservative evangelicalism.

The way Anglicans and Catholics do church (ecclesiology) is a lot different tto the way most evangelicals do it - but I don’t see why there cannot be an emerging community full of, say, Anglo-Catholics.

It cuts to the heart of what an emerging church actually is - some people seem to be able to articulate what an emerging community is and does, even if they are not happy defining it.

We need to discuss out similarities as well as out misunderstandings with each other well before secular people get a look in. Emerging church principles may knock down denomination walls, and that won`t be a bad thing either.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

What is an emerging theology

What is an "emerging theology?" It's a question some people are asking and not too many people are coming up with an answer that satisfies them. A bit like the definition of what an emerging church is. Nobody can be too sure

Well, I think I have the answer - and it satisfies me: There isn't an emerging theology, in the sense of getting a new one. Nor do we need one, as the old ones are doing us fine. So lets combine them all.

Maggi Dawn, who's much more theologically hip and trained than myself, says we need good theology and she's right. Good theology is not just evangelical theology. Maggi suggested taking a leaf from a few theologians that have been around for ages, rather than creating a new theology. And you know what - none of the theologians were at the recent Emergent Convention in San Diego- or any other conference, were they. Was Lesslie Newbigin? No. Were his books at the Emergent Convention? Somebody tell me. Please please tell me now.

Of course, good theology has been around since books were published. Rather than redefining your own tradition, Maggi suggests you fill your shelves with Catholic, Lutheran, Penticostal, and Baptist books. Good idea.

Hey Presbyterians - Catholics are not theological weirdos. And you Catholics - Baptists are actually nice people and have a lot to offer theologically.

Perhaps it is time to put the "ancient" back into "ancient-future" and "trade up traditions for tradition." Brian McLaren is writing a book in which he will invite readers to value the whole range of the Christian tradition Called A Generous Orthodoxy, it may go some way to answering questions relating to what people should be meaning when they say "emerging theology". Should be a good book - the first chapter is Chapter 0 and it will be out shortly.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Agnostic, Prime Minister

New Zealand's Prime Minister Helen Clark is an agnostic. She said so in this morning's paper. She was denying Don Brash's allegation that she was an atheist. Brash is the opposition leader and a son of a former moderator of the Presbyterian Church, but doesn't believe there is a god he can talk to.

Miss Clark - yep, she has kept her maiden name and honorific - is not sure on that one. What she is sure of, is that she doesn't want to know if there is a god. This makes her a hard agnostic. She was brought up Presbyterian as well.

Hey, perhaps we are a politicially agnostic country. Perhaps we don't really know whether Miss Clark is the best Prime Minister or not. Perhaps Miss Clark doesn't either. She's a politically hard agnostic who wants to stay in power, remember.

Perhaps there is someone better.

Like Prime Ministeral aspirant Peter Dunne, leader of the Christian stacked United Future Party. Like Don Brash or Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson.

The difference is that perhaps we are a soft agnostic country in that we would like to know who the best Prime Minister - and governing party - should be, but collectively we can't make up our minds. The polls are split.

Maybe we don't even know whether we should have an early election. Would we all vote if we had one? Or don't we believe that good, honest political leaders actually exist, leading to difficulty in deciding whom to vote for.

Could it be that we are politically indifferent - taking a lead from Miss Clark's indifferent views on the institution of marriage?

Miss Ciark - who has been married for more than 26 years - says marriage has a lot of "inappropriate connotations". Politics certainly does. She is on record that if civil unions were available in the early 1980's she would have got one, rather than being married.

It's all a bit sad - she cried on her wedding night, her best man was politician Jim Anderton ( or was he husband Peter Davis's best man, we were never all that sure ).

Mr Anderton strongly suggested in the early 1980's that Miss Clark should be married to save her politicial career. Maybe it saved his as well, as at one stage he was Deputy Prime Minister under Miss Clarks leadership.

There may be more - watch this space!

In the meantime read this:

If you tried to guess who was the best-selling artist of all time, the first names that would come to mind might be van Gogh or Picasso, Charles Schulz or Matt Groening - Messrs Peanuts and Simpsons respectively -right?

WRONG! It's Annie Vallotton and you've seen her work everywhere
read all about it and see an illustration you've probably already seen.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Irresistable, really

found here via this site

flogging blog posts for publication and distribution

The following comments are selections of a series of emails that
Duncan, who lives in the UK, and I exchanged following my post on this topic and Duncan's subsequent follow-up above. For what it's worth we decided to add much of this exchange to the public conversation, and agreed together to publish them both here and on his blog...

So after Duncan's post, I wrote:

Hi Duncan,

I just want to clarify a few things in regards to creative commons licences.

As a journalist, copyright is something I have thought about a lot. Before I read your post I didn't know about these licences. I do know about copyright law though, and I see a difference between distribution and publishing.

My comments regarding unethical emailing was done without the knowledge that Steve had a creative commons licence. Now that I know he has one that makes an ethical difference. I thought these licences were to make it easier to publish articles as you only have to get permission from the author on one occasion, not the second or third etc. Does this mean that If I see another article on Jeffrey Overstreets site I can post it if he has a creative commons licence as I have already asked for his permission to post the initial article on my blog?

It is my understanding that a creative commons licence does not make too much difference in regards to NZ copyright law in terms of publication unless you make money from the reposting without the permission of the author.

As the creative commons site says "Want to encourage other writers and artists to make, transform, and build on your stories, provided they don't resell them?" (my emphasis).

But if you edit or add to a work licensed by creative commons for
publication, you must have a creative commons licence to do so even if you comply with copyright, unless agreed to by the author.

If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one unless the author agrees otherwise.

Duncan... these licences don't protect you from anything, do they?

Duncan responds to me the next day:

Hi Dave,
Hmm, you raise some interesting points actually.

I have to confess I'm pretty fuzzy on the difference between publishing and distribution. I guess you're saying emailing is distribution, not publishing? But what if it was distributed on a mailing list with a thousand subscribers?

If someone has a Creative Commons license on their blog, you can click through and see which one they are using, to find out what terms they are licensing the material under. In I think all cases, this should at least permit non-commercial reproduction without alteration, providing the author is attributed, the original source is linked to, and you also link to the Creative Commons license that covered the original post. Even if your blog normally refuses to allow people to reproduce your material, anything reproducing someone else's work covered under these licenses, and any derivative works, is usually required to be covered by a similar license. It wouldn't mean you'd have to have a CC license for your entire blog, but you'd have to indicate that that entry (or at least, the reproduced section of it) is covered by that CC license.

Does this mean that If I see another article on Jeffrey Overstreets site I can post it if he has a creative commons licence as I have already asked for his permission to post the initial article on my blog?

Technically, if it's covered by a CC license, I don't think you ever need to ask permission, providing you comply with the other aspects of the license.What I'd usually do though is simply include a pertinent excerpt, and link to the original for the reader should they wish to read the whole thing. I guess it depends on how you conceive of the purpose of your blog. Mine is to present my own ideas and experiences, linking out to others. Other people may adopt a more newspaper or magazine format, reproducing material from around and about as well as editorial comment and in-house articles.

It is my understanding that a creative commons licence does not make too much difference in regards to NZ copyright law in terms of publication unless you make money from the reposting without the permission of the author.

Certainly, Creative Commons licenses explicitly state that they do not reduce the rights you have under fair use aspects of legislation. I suppose it is an interesting question whether an author could state that their CC license had no legal authority in New Zealand, and therefore not allow you to use material released under one. But since a CC license is about the author waiving their rights under law, I think any defendant would have a fairly strong moral case. It is hard to imagine a realistic situation where this would come to court... perhaps where an employee put a CC license on something that his employer later decided they owned. (Not revocable, remember.)

As the creative commons site says "Want to encourage other writers and artists to make, transform, and build on your stories, provided they don't resell them?"

Interesting question: are there any CC licenses that explicitly say, hey, use my stuff, and even sell it yourself if you like? (Probably not!)

Duncan...these licences don't protect you from anything, do they?

Arguably they protect the author from being pestered with requests to republish their material, when they're quite happy for anyone to do that. And I suppose they reinforce the things you don't want to be done with your material, though the license merely states things that are already in law, rather than creating any protections. But primarily the license protects the person copying the work or making derivative copies, reassuring them they are doing so in a way the author is happy with. That's what is such a pity about the case with Steve ­ he isn't actually happy for his work to be reproduced (in this case anyway) in the manner allowed by his license.

That's why he really needs to review that license.

Nice to hear from you! An interesting discussion.

I thought it was an interesting discussion as well - and emailed back:

just attempting to answer a question of yours, particularly as I sense that that you are a person who thinks things through.

First, some definitions.

Publish = to make generally known (there are not restrictions on who can view).

Distribution = to give a share to each of a number (there are
restrictions on who can view).

You asked I have to confess I'm pretty fuzzy on the difference
between publishing and distribution. I guess you're saying emailing is
distribution, not publishing? But what if it was distributed on a mailing list with a thousand subscribers?

You raised a good point, and I compare this with the scenario where papers like the New York Times requires registration to view its site. Anyone (who is not blind and can read) can view the New York Times online as long as they register. Of course anyone can read the physical paper if they see it. Any one can view the emailout as long as they subscribe. I actually see the difference is that I consider an emailout (to one or a million people) is not a publication as it is sent to a restricted group, whereas publishing is in the public arena and is not sent to people, the people come to the publication. There is the possibility of no restrictions.

Also to throw a spanner in the works, anyone with an internet connection has the possibility of stumbling across your blog by accident ( as I recall that is how you found my blog), but it is impossible for everyone to stumble across an emailout by accident.

That is why I consider your blog a publication.

That's what is such a pity about the case with Steve ­ he isn't actually happy for his work to be reproduced (in this case anyway) in the manner allowed by his license. That's why he really needs to review that license.

And I happen to agree with you, Duncan. Thanks for filling me in about the licence.

Good conversation, lets publicise it - or at least distribute it! It will
come up again and again.

outta here


I add some final thoughts:

Is it OK to post, without permission or attribution, an article, a blog entry, or a picture on your blog that you didn't create?

That comes under fair use laws. Fair use is limited, or use of content, for example a few sentences of a New York Times article as opposed to the whole article.

Flogging someone's website templates and stealing posts can really annoy people,especially if there is no attribution. It is also breaking the law, which is worse. So always ask written permission and use attribution when reposting articles and blog entries in full.

Back to fair use. For fair use to enter the picture, you have to implicate a right of the copyright holder.A good post on fair use is here. Read it. Fair use is not always an infringement of copyright, but abuse is not fair use and could infringe copyright. I believe fair use applies to all publications, and I include blogs here. If blogs were excluded, maybe anything that was copied from blogs without permission, no matter how small, would be an infringement - like some of the content in this blog entry, and this piece, from a 1985 Wired Magazine no longer online, which was sourced from another blog.

Chief among the [Internet's] new rules is that content is free. While not all content will be free, the new economic dynamic will operate as if it were. Intellectual property that can be copied easily likely will be

Friday, March 12, 2004

Open Letter to Steve Taylor

Dear Steve,

I understand why you are disappointed that people have been cutting, pasting and emailing your letter to Mel Gibson to others. The letter you posted on your blog. I understand why you are cross with the Internet. I understand why the magazine that is publishing your article is annoyed that others have seen it prior to publication. But this publication does not hold the copyright.

It sounds like you wrote the article for a Christian publication in New Zealand and posted it on your blog for feedback. Perhaps, as you say, that was a little naive. There is no legal requirement for people to consult writers before emailing articles they have seen posted on the Internet.

In New Zealand, copyright laws are such that if you are working for yourself, or a freelancing, you hold the copyright. So you hold the copyright for everything original you post on your blog. If you send the article to another publication, you also hold the copyright. If you are employed by a magazine or paper, they hold the copyright.

Trouble is, unless you want to pay for it, it is very difficult to enforce Internet copyright through legal action.There is nothing illegal about cutting, pasting and emailing articles to friends. It is done every day and this does not breach copyright as it is not classed as publishing. However if a magazine or paper was to run your post, or if I was to post it on this site without your knowledge, we would be acting and publishing unethically as we would be breaching copyright.

I notice that you have now taken the letter off your site. I trust that was your decision, not a decision of hte editors of Reality Magazine. Reality Magazine should not dictate where their articles are otherwised published.

Reality does not hold the copyright. You do. If the magazine or paper holds the copyright, that is a different matter.

Perhaps you could repost your letter to Mel back onto your site, even if you wait until publication date of April 19. It is a great piece. People need to read it. Not everybody reads Reality magazine. What you have written needs to be read, it needs to be said. It demands international readership.

Perhaps you are somewhat naive, as you said. But really, I thoink you should be honoured that people want to read your work, as opposed to being annoyed that they e-mailed it without your consent. People are not required to ask for consent unless they want to publish it - and even then some don't ask for permission. Even if you make it clear that written permission - and a link to your blog - is mandatory for republishing your work on other blogs or Internet sites, that would not stop people from emailing around your articles and postings. People will flog your stuff.

I almost posted your letter on this site - however I would have asked for written permission and linked to your site as I did with the article from Jeffrey Overstreet. That is the ethical way to do it, and I would expect written permission for any of my original postings and articles I write to be posted eslewhere. No permission means no post.

However, many do not subscribe to these ethics, and there is nothing illegal about emailing cut and pasted articles - or URLs - from any Internet site. Ethics appear irrelevant in the world of e-mail, it is virtually unenforceable anyway, but should be upheld ( and enforced) in the world of Internet publishing with exactly the same rules as in the print media.


Dave Crampton

Thursday, March 11, 2004

Jesus is my Homeboy

That's what Pam Anderson's t-shirt says.

Thanks to the Passion of the Christ movie, Jesus has all of a sudden become cool. Jesus is now dope. Jesus is now da bomb. Jesus me ol' buddy, mate, pal, hoochie, homeboy, whatever. Jesus is way cool. Perhaps this coolness is now the fashion of the passion.

It sucks.

I wonder, in a world that increasingly embraces spiritually, while disregarding religion, if it will ever become cool to say "Jesus is my saviour", or "Jesus is alive"?

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

cutting the crap in emerging blogdom

There are two types of people who regularly read my blog: Those that know me and know that I blog, and those that know that I blog but have never met me. Many read this blog daily, and I am thankful for a growing readership.

I also read other weblogs, and I have noticed a little unnecessary hierarchy in emerging church blogdom. There's a pecking order, and it's unnecessary. There are some emergent blogs EVERYBODY seems to read - and include on their blogroll. There are some "famous" or "recognised" voices in blogdom. They get the hits, some get the comments, but, in my opinion, are not necessarily the best blogs in terms of content.

So lets cut the crap here. Lets forget about hierarchy. Lets not post lots of crappy comments on Andrew Jones' blog -( a blog I actually read a lot and like a lot like, BTW) just to get hits on your own blog. Just comment when you have something worthwhile to say - as opposed to comments like " I'm glad your kids are enjoying school today, Andrew", or "your attitude sucks". How can you judge an attitude of someone you have never met? Are you really glad Mr Jones' kids are enjoying school, or are you a grease-artist?

Instead of quick comments, perhaps you could trackback to your site and write something constructive thait adds to the debate. If you consistantly write good posts, then consider getting trackback yourself so others can track you back.

To contribute to the anti-hierarchy, I have decided to alter my blogroll. If you don't want to know who is on it, you don't have to look. Read the news instead, thers at least 30 choices of newspapers on this site. I will be deleting some names and adding others, for my own reference, that may or may not be widely read. They may or may not be from people who have been in full time ministry for five years, but does that really matter? Of course not. Content matters, and thats the only criteria for being on my blogroll.

I blog just about every day. Others blog a few times a month. We need some more people who are prepared to put some serious thought and time into their blogs, who regularly write from the heart, not just the head. There's lots of them out there and some of them are on my blogroll.

Jokes are fine, but after you see the same joke on three or four different blogs it starts to wear a little thin.

Polite rant over.

If you don't understand or read emerging church blogs, then read some other posts below. They`ll probably be more interesting. Hey, you may even find a link to something funny.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Gay sheep and civil unions

The New Zealand Government is almost ready to air two bills that, if passed, will ensure that unmarried couples have the same rights as married couples. One is a Civil Union bill, similar to Vermont's civil union legislation, and the other is a bill called the "Legal Recognition of Relationships Bill". One bill aims to recognise unmarried relationships legally ,amending loads of other bills to eliminate discrimination on the grounds of marital status. The other aims for social recognition, particularly same sex relationships.

The Government is taking this measure as it does not think it is politically achievable to amend the Marriage Act 1955 to include same sex relationships. It is not known how many people in New Zealand are gay, but studies show that one in eight sheep are gay. - well, rams anyway. New Zealand has about 80 million sheep so, according to the stats, it is a pretty gay country. New Zealand also three gay MP's, one of whom is a Cabinet Minister, and another a transsexual. This nationwide magazine has alleged that our Prime Minister is a closet lesbian.

I have been writing on same sex partnerships, legislation and related issues. You can read a couple of my articles on same sex relationships and civil unions on Scoop media here and also over here

Christianity Today has also posted this article on civil unions today. The article notes that some support civil unions but are opposed to same sex marriage.

Forty years ago Christians would be horrified to think that that gay couples would even suggest to have access to marriage, or have their relationship legally recognised as equivalent to marriage. It was a view that two unmarried people of the same gender having regular sex was not "in the nature of marriage", for obvious reasons. Many Christians these days see it as a matter of justice that gender should not be an issue in regards to marriage, while others, both in New Zealand and in other countries, are campaigning hard-out for a "one man one woman" marriage requirement. US President Bush wants to amend the US Constitution (something only done twice) to ensure marriage is defined as between a man and a woman. New Zealand does not have a constitution. Thirty-eight US states have already defined marriages as between a man and a woman - so gay sheep are out of luck. ( Does the US have any sheep?)

What do you think? Should same-sex partnerships be legally and socially recognised by governments? To what extent?

Monday, March 08, 2004

I think this is cool

from liquid thinking" -so I DO quote sources....

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Is wireless free Internet the way forward in the church?

Every generation must learn how to make the scriptures and church practices more relevant to believers: Here's a run-down found on Richard Tallent's site.

 Two years ago, we started hearing of churches with alternative services in coffee-shop-style rooms with smaller crowds, live music, fresh Starbucks, and video presentation of the "normal" sermon.
 Ten years ago, the thought of a pretty waterfall photo as the backdrop to song lyrics projected on a 15-foot screen was somehow undignified compared to dead-tree hymnals or lop-sided, blurry transparencies.
 Fifteen years ago, a trap set, electric bass, and electric guitar (with distortion!) was bordering on heresy.
 Thirty years ago, football tables started appearing in youth rooms and "family life centers" (i.e., gymnasiums) started becoming popular.
 Fifty years ago, the official church hymnal, a prayer book, the 1797 Authorized Version of the Bible, and the Sunday School circular were the only acceptable things to be found reading.
 200 years ago, persons designated "Bobbers" would walk the aisles with a long rod and whack anyone over the head who fell asleep during the sermon.
 Nearly 500 years ago, two heretics named Wycliffe and Luther had the odd idea that reading the Scriptures for yourself in your own language should not be verbotem.
 Two thousand years ago, the man who wrote most of the New Testament droned on so long that a young man in the audience drifted to sleep and fell out a window and down three stories.

Today, we spend much of our energies discussing how to make the scriptures and church practices relevant to secular people, while some believers still find church irrelevant. Others are promoting technology such as wireless free Internet access to make churches more attractive for Internet-savvy believers who can go online to find message- related sites. Here's one church that is using Wifi :: Here's someone who thinks Wifi will change the way teaching is done in church.

Do you think is Wifi is the way forward? Or is Wifi more about Almighty Google than Almighty God?

Will Wifi really encourage studious parishioner who want to read online commentaries, make electronic notes or read alternate translations related to the sermon - or will that turn sermons into seminars? Maybe Wifi will be more of a distraction and encourage those in the congregation to check and send e-mails, read sites like this or play games like this (throwing rocks at boys - great game!) during boring sermons. They won't be listening to MP3's for the same reasons as not listening to a walkman - headphones are not a good look during sermons

Then there's the issue of people who can't afford laptops or are not Internet -savvy missing out on Wifi - but they'll probably take in the sermon as they would not be distracted. But those online won't be asleep during sermons.

If some church leaders feel that their services are not as relevant as they used to be, Wifi is not the answer to bring back the relevance. I think Wifi is an additional tool that will work for a select group of people - mainly young professionals that are Internet savvy and have laptops. Perhaps about 3 percent of the average congregation, if that - and half of the 3 percent may find Wifi a distraction.

What do you think - is Wifi the way forward or, unlike most church evangelism, should it's use be restricted to outside the four walls, in situations such as house churches and cell groups?

Friday, March 05, 2004

March Next-Wave magazine is now online

Just in case you weren't aware, the latest Next Wave e-zine is now online.
Among the articles is a new feature called Answers from The Other Side with views from practitioners in the emerging church scene. This feature will appear in the next few months and will provide many voices and many different "answers. There will be two contributors each month. This month features Todd Hunter and Andrew Jones. Read it - and work out for yourself whether "Andrew is da man or Todd is da man".

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Best supporting country

in today's LA Times, and New York Times - GO KIWIS!!

the evangelisation of the passion - A letter to Christians

Christianity Today film reviewer and writer Jeffrey Overstreet has posted an excellent commentary on the Passion of the Christ on this website he edits about - or aimed at, perhaps - Christians who want to make evangelical mileage out of the movie. It's my longest ever post, but it is essential reading. With his written permission I include it in full here. It is, quite simply, superb.
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Most Christian press publications will lavish praise upon Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ. They will celebrate the arrival of a film rich with spiritual power, rendered with riveting and even excruciating detail.

Some will go so far as to declare that in this film, the Church has a fantastic “evangelical opportunity.”

But the fact that many Christians—many churches—are responding to the film as if it is a call to arms, an exhortation to use Gibson’s work as a blunt instrument of evangelism, reveals that they are blind to one of the very things that makes many people steer clear of the Gospel.
People view Christians as self-righteous. They see believers as thinking they have all the answers. They see us as confrontational, militant, ready to ambush them with a sales-pitch for Jesus.

This very thing happened this morning in Dallas. A crowd of believers and unbelievers filed into a cinema, experienced a work of intense and complicated art... something that requires a good deal of time for recovery afterward... something that requires contemplation.

But just as the credits started the roll, and while the music was just beginning to soar... the system was shut down.

A team of ministers appeared on stage.

The gospel was explained and an altar call was held.

Some filed out... believers and unbelievers alike... astonished that they were not allowed to absorb the film and think about it. They were ambushed, taken advantage of, while in a state of high emotion.
This is wrong... just plain wrong. It is presumptuous, arrogant, and manipulative. And I believe it is further hardening people's hearts, making them not want to have anything to do with a religion that does not allow them to experience something for themselves and have their own thoughts about it.

What is even worse is this: Believers come out from behind the walls of their churches only when they have their own story to talk about. They do not show much interest in hearing... much less discussing... the stories that the rest of the world has to tell. How will we ever get to know them and understand their questions, fears, and problems if all we do is come out and beat them over the head with Gospel tracts? Moreover, how will we ever be open ourselves to what God might say to us through a work of art... even one that an unbeliever crafted?

Now that there is a movie about Jesus on the big screen, sure enough, here we come, ready to sign folks up for Jesus as if The Passion of the Christ is some kind of army enlistment commercial. I saw a commercial for the movie the other night immediately followed by an ad for a local church, in which two smiling mild-mannered ministers basically said that after people get out of the movie, they should come on down to the local church and get their questions answered by the experts.

Folks, The Passion is not propaganda. It should not be treated as such.

The Passion is a remarkably imagined, powerfully executed work of art. Yes, it has the power to transform perceptions, hearts, whole lives. It gives us opportunity to examine how good and evil are in conflict, how God has worked and still works in our lives, and it gives us a wonderful… but human, and thus flawed… expression of one of spiritual conflict.

But we should note two things:

One--We should consider our own responses, search our own souls, after seeing this work. That should come before we worry about someone else's response.

Two: Meaningful movies happen all of the time. Why are we only bothering to interact with our culture about this movie?

Each month, a flurry of new films comes to theatres. Many of them are produced merely to make money, and very little attention or care is given to the quality of the storytelling, the acting, the technical aspects. These “flashes in the pan” are quickly forgotten, until they resurface on DVD, and the process repeats itself.

But several films, almost every month, reflect the passion of individual artists to tell meaningful stories to the rest of the culture. These films are in some way worthy of praise. And even if the artist did not intend to communicate anything about Jesus, anything about Scripture, anything about God... if they made something with excellence, they have given us something worth exploring, worth discussing, something that is, like The Passion of the Christ, flawed and yet revelatory.

When this happens, it is important that people gifted with vision and discernment be there to hear these stories and to discuss them with others in the audience.

Scripture exhorts us to “test all things and hold fast to what is good.” Instead, most churchgoers fear the culture's offerings, or else just prefer to stick with what is familiar and comfortable and "Christian."
It is especially important that Christians follow the example set by Jesus, who listened passionately to broken people of all kinds, and helped them find wisdom in their own words, helped them realize what their own questions revealed. He transformed the way a woman thought about drawing water from a well… a very practical and mundane act. He led Nicodemus to consider the profound implications of wanting to begin life anew… that there is, indeed, an offer from God that allows us to be forgiven for our past sins, so we can be “born again.” Jesus had a knack for metaphors.

Does the church remember the power of a metaphor? Do Christians realize that metaphors happen outside of the Bible? Do we know how to look at a great film like House of Sand and Fog and realize what it shows us about the consequences of sin? Do we see what it says about spiritual emptiness? Pride? Greed?

All good stories echo Scriptural truths about good and evil, choices and consequences, sacrifice and self-indulgence, slavery and freedom. Art, when it is excellent, is immensely powerful and rich, no matter who creates it--believer or unbeliever.

And shouldn’t we expect that to be the case? Scripture assures us that all men and women have been created by God, in his image, and (according to Romans) that on some level we all know and recognize the truth, no matter how little we acknowledge it or understand it. So of course the truth will become evident, to some degree, in the works of even the most outspoken atheist. Indeed, if anything about an artist’s work communicates anything, then there is something, however feeble, of God’s design reflected in it. It’s our job to separate meaning from lies, excellence from mediocrity, and to give God the glory.

That’s just what the Apostle Paul did when he found a secular monument “to an Unknown God.” He saw a work that inadvertently pointed back to Scripture, and he talked about it.
People come away from movies saying "I liked it" or "I didn't like it" or "It didn't do anything for me" or "I was moved by it." But rarely do they go deeper than that. Rarely do they say how it moved them. That's where we can start taking the discussion to a new level. That's where we can begin to explore a story's meaning.

What does it mean when someone says, “It moved me”? Do they mean they started at Point A, and now they are at Point B? What changed? How have they been transformed? Is it a good change?
Those are the sorts of things we should be talking about.
Our culture has become so desensitized, so numb from being over-stimulated by relentless media, that we have ceased to think about what it is we are consuming. Moviegoers just want the latest thrill. We need to learn to “digest” our cinematic “food.” We need to rediscover productive conversations about what we are watching, just the way the world is grappling with this film about Christ.

And we all need to realize—even Christians—that we do not have all the answers. We can learn from art, and from talking to others about what that art has meant to them.

This is why the favorite films of critics at the end of the year are so different from the favorite films of "the People's Choice." Critics have the job, and thus the responsibility, to guide us into examining the details: quality, meaning, symbolism, and originality. By thinking more critically, we can get more out of our movies and learn to appreciate richer cinematic "food."

NOTE: I am not saying film critics are better than other people. One person has already criticized this letter, saying I am being egotistical. That means I am not being clear... No, of course I'm not saying critics are better than other people. But I am saying that the discipline of discernment, of listening and "testing all things" is our responsibility as Christians. I need other Christians to see the things I don't see, to help me understand more clearly, to get involved in the discussion and lead me to insight and understanding.

But too many believers live in fear that they will be corrupted by the secular culture. They do not want to do the hard work of resisting temptation, testing all things, and striving out to engage the culture while wearing the full armor of God. Most Christians are more comfortable within the walls of the church, talking with other Christians, listening to music they write for themselves and each other that is free of anything offensive (“contemporary Christian music”), copying every cultural event and creating their own “sanitized” and "sanctified" versions. (Take the Grammys, and their Christian “clean” equivalent, the Dove Awards. There's even a Christian version of American Idol going on. How ironic.)

The truth is that Jesus did not just hang out at the church. He spent time with smelly fishermen, hard-working women at the well, religious people having crises of faith, demoniacs, prostitutes, drunkards, lepers, and tax collectors. He listened to them, ate with them, chatted with them, argued with them. He was engaged in the culture. He was not withdrawn, creating a cheap sanitized copy of the world where his disciples could live uncontaminated.

ANOTHER NOTE: Am I saying we must go and expose ourselves to pornography and other terrible, offensive things? No, of course not. We must be wise and responsible. But we must also be involved. Christ saw a lot of evil, and he dealt with it. He spoke the truth... but not in a self-righteous or condemning way... he spoke the truth in love.

Yes, he did tell us to avoid being a stumbling block. We should not take an alcoholic to a bar, and we should not take someone prone to sexual errors to a movie about sexuality. If I have a weakness, I should be cautious until God has helped me overcome that.
Christ exhorted us to become stronger, to put on “the full armor of God” that will help us “stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” This is part of graduating from "milk" to "meat", to use Scripture's words for it.

It would be wrong for me to over-generalize here. Indeed, there are many followers of Christ who are living in the world without becoming of the world. They understand Christ’s observation, that it is not what goes into us that can corrupt us, but what comes out of us that can corrupt us (Christ's words, again.) They see God’s truth showing up in all kinds of art from all kinds of people.

I sincerely hope that The Passion draws churchgoers out from the walls of their sanctuaries and into the local theater. I hope it inspires them to be a part of the larger cultural conversation about movies—what they they reflect, the questions they ask, the truths they reveal.
And I hope this is the beginning of the end of the era in which Christians condemn wholesale the world of mainstream art for reflecting the honest confusion, incomplete philosophies, and idea of popular culture. Sure there are gross and indulgent offenses at the movies, just as there are in professional sports, literature, business, and religion. But we are not to withdraw in disgust from the whole arena. We are to be salt and light, which means we will suffer. So let us suffer as Christ did, out of love for the broken hearts that are out there needing to be heard and loved.

It is time to stop judging the film by its ingredients and start looking hard at what those various ingredients create. (If we refused to hear stories in which people are sinning, we'd have to throw out the Bible!) Relevant storytelling for grownups will show us ourselves, at our best and at our worst. What is important is not how many times the hero said a bad word, but whether or not the WHOLE of the work contains glimmers of truth and beauty.

Well, in the world of mainstream entertainment, there have been... even recently... many wonderful subjects for discussion and exploration.

Here are some of the recent works of art that, like The Passion, are flawed, human expressions, but that also reflect enough truth to merit discussion, debate, and exploration. They have the power to humble, convict, inspire, reveal… Like Hamlet and his players, they can “catch the conscience” of any of us, if we look closely enough, with eyes to see.

Where was the church in conversations about these films?

 House of Sand and Fog—a drama in which people behave desperately, with blind self-interest, and ruin things for others and eventually themselves, having hurriedly constructed their dreams on weak foundations.

 Stevie—one of many brilliant documentaries released last year that examines the way that the sins of the father lead to corruption, heartbreak, and worsening sins in the son. It also reveals miracles of compassion, the power of a good role model, the wisdom of angels given to some of the most damaged and unlikely individuals, and the foolishness of the “mature.” It’s one of the most powerful films I’ve ever seen, and I’ll bet you can’t find more than one or two people at your church who have even heard of it.

 Mystic River—a story about how the sins of our past continue to poison our futures until we see them, acknowledge them, and confess them.

 Lost in Translation—a story of failing marriages, in which two lonely people discover that life, even life in a foreign setting, becomes vibrant and meaningful when experienced in the context of compassion, understanding, and love.

 Finding Nemo—a fantasy that talks to kids about the importance of boundaries and obedience, while it talks to parents about the dangers of being over-protective.
Capturing the Friedmans—another new documentary, rated amongst mainstream critics as one of the year’s best films, and one of the best documents you’ll ever see of the way one lie can lead to evil that spreads like an epidemic and destroys whole families.

The Lord of the Rings films. Yes, a lot of Christians have cheered to see the success of a series based on a story created by a Christian. We’ve boasted that, yes, Tolkien was one of us! But have we opened ourselves to the humbling power of what takes place in the story? Most discerning viewers will come away challenged and convicted by at least one of its myriad storylines, inspired by its examples of Christ-like sacrifice, the power of mercy, and the way that even the righteous cannot withstand evil on their own, but need the grace of a Higher Power… “another Will at work.”

To name a few.

If we hope that the rest of the world will listen closely to The Passion of the Christ, the story we care about most, are we willing to attend with equal concern, questioning, and openness to the stories that everyone else has to share?

Look at this: Christ’s last words were a quote, a sign pointing to another work of art. His last words were an excerpt from a song written by an adulterer and a murderer. When he cried out “My God, My God, Why hast thou forsake me?” he was quoting Psalm 22. He was referencing another artistic expression, one written by a sinful, broken, corrupt man. Instead of coming up with original words of his own, he called upon the words written in the desperate expression of someone else.

For me, The Passion of the Christ is a vivid reminder of what God’s son endured. It shows me that he endured so much in order to show me just how far God is willing to go to replace my fear with peace. It reminds me of something else as well: That he loved and forgave even those who murdered him. Similarly, I must attend to those people with my own love, with my own attention, listening to their questions, their frustrations their fears, and… yes… their art.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

how blogs are ruining my life

From the Village Voice

Pick of the blogs

Emerging Church Info, a UK "touching place for the emerging church" is doing a profile on Australian and New Zealand emerging voices this month and the blog you are currently reading is this month's pick of the blogs. Go have a look at their site, check out the emerging voices in Australasia and take part in the discussion boards

So thanks Adrian. I must be doing something right.

Monday, March 01, 2004

I've seen The Passion of the Christ - here's a review

We have just been to see the late screening of The Passion of the Christ. For those who haven't already seen it, I can tell you that it is a movie that will impact you. I wanted to see this movie before my friends told me about it. I also wanted to see if the media frenzy was to be believed. Was it similar to a bloodbath in a butcher's shop? Was it an evangelistic opportunity to take my friends along to do a passion Bible study afterwards?

The movie was subtitled, as it was in Aramaic and Latin. That made it a little more authentic. As I watched this movie, I couldn’t help thinking that this movie may well impact Christians more so than unbelievers. The movie brought the story to life more so than any pulpit sermon ever would. But this movie is more than the beating of one who is the Christ, as it also has a spiritual dimension.

The devil is personified as a bald woman - played by Rosalinda Celentano, but a man's voice is used. During the trial the devil is ever skulking around, and at one stage cradles a baby with a face of a man.

The beating of Christ is immediate and extensive. Christ's eye is swollen shut before he even leaves Gethsemane. It is hard to understand how Christ could stand under his cross after such an extensive flogging, let alone bear its weight for a while. Yet the much- reported violence is not sadistic. The movie relates the reasons for the beating by means of flashbacks. For example, when Christ is beaten there is a flashback 'No-one comes to the father but by me. When the nails are bashed through the palms of the Christ, we are reminded of what Christ said at the Last Supper 'This is my body, which will be given up for you'. This is the message behind the movie.

As well as following the line of the gospels, the movie also draws heavily on the Stations of the Cross. Mary is given a prominent part as she witnesses the suffering, and Veronica wipes Christ's face with a cloth as he makes his way to be crucified. The cloth shows an image of Christ's face and is commonly known as the Shroud of Turin. When Jesus is taken down from the cross, his body is cradled by his mother Mary.

I think this is a movie that every adult Christian should see. It is rated R16 in New Zealand, and I see merits in a lower rating, such as R13, with parental consent. Sure it is probably the most violent movie made about a prince of peace, sure the Christ is beaten to a bloody pulp. Yet the violence, although extensive and extended, is not gratuitous. In fact I was surprised that the crucifixion scenes were portrayed as much less brutal than the violent the beating and scourging. I was encouraged that the movie ended with Jesus sitting in the tomb very much alive, face cleared of blood, but the stake-holes visible in his hands. Still, the Passion is not a movie for young kids.

The movie intentionally emphasised Christ's humanity much more than his divinity. For that reason it is not as evangelistic as many Christians are making it out to be.

Would I use this movie as an evangelism tool and take my mates along for that purpose? Probably not. Would I expect my friends to be convinced that the Christ of the passion is the Christ that gives eternal life? Probably not. But I would encourage them to see the movie. I'd expect them to be impacted in some way. As the credits rolled, people filed out of the theatre silently, without saying a word. The last time I witnessed that was after Once Were Warriors.

Oh yeah, and I didn't get any tracts after that movie either.

It is not hard to believe that the Passion of the Christ is the highest grossing film promoting Christian beliefs. What did surprise me is that it achieved that distinction in just 24 hours. The success of the Passion is bigger news than the Oscars. After 3 days the movie grossed $65 million. It has now grossed $100 million. Mel Gibson will be rich. I wonder if he tithes.