Thursday, March 31, 2005

Reflections on my Lenten fast

Lent is the period of 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday, a season in which Christians traditionally give something important to them up, as a sign of commitment before God, a time for a bit of a spiritual clean up in the period leading up to one of the most important events on the Christian calendar, Easter.

I chose to give up alcohol and TV, which was no easy task! But a great exercise. Neither was a great inconvenience, although it was particulalrly hard missing the Simpsons!!

The TV one was done just because I realised how much of a waste of time most TV is, and I thought there's plenty of other better things I could do with my life.

The alcohol one was a bit more important. I haven't been drunk in ages, and am pretty much in control of how much I drink these days, so its not like its something I needed to do to get myself off it, or that it was a problem. It was more a test of priorities for me.

I kinda thought 'Well if I can't not drink, then its too much of a priority in my life, and could become a problem' so I set myself a challenge.

A challenge which, I unfortunately did not completely stick to. I was at a mates 21st, and there was nothing else there decent to drink, so I had a can, and the other time was a decision not to refuse somebodys hospitality. A week into it I went sailing with a mate, and the owner of the boat asked if I wanted a beer, and I said no, and I think he really took that as almost an insult. Its funny, for Aussie blokes, buying somebody a beer is such a sign of hospitality, and its almost rude to refuse. Its like when you're at a mates for dinner and his Mum won't take no for an answer for seconds, and you almost have to eat it out of courtesy.

Although I didn't really pass my challenge, I don't feel I've failed it either, if that makes sense?
Its not like I was hanging out for a beer so bad and couldn't resist that I just had one (although it was getting pretty hard by Good Friday!), so in that sense I proved to myself I was able to give it up for something more important.

A great challenge, through which I learnt quite a lot about myself if nothing else. Not sure if I could do the internet like Gaz did, but maybe my reluctance to do so is a sign that I need to do that next year...

Bono launches clothes with a conscience

Bono launches clothes with a conscience - Fashion - www.smh.com.au
I've always been a fan of U2s music, and a lot of the causes Bono is into, and I think this is another great one.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Sex Night

I'm helping to run a sex night at youth group this week. Needless to say, its not an actual night of sex, as the name may suggest, but instead is aimed at getting young people thinking about smart sexual decision making, and how being a follower of Jesus might affect that.

So I thought I'd chuck it open to see if anybody has any ideas or knows of some good resources around to create some healthy dialogue around this topic. Its something I cover a lot with kids at school too, so all ideas are welcome. When have you seen these kind of nights done well, when have you seen them done badly.

No double entrendes intended in this post, so please don't take anything as such!

the rev

the rev I'm trying out a new way of linking to other people's blogs, so hopefully this works! Check out what this crazy bull-fighting dude has to say about church and other assorted stuff!

Monday, March 28, 2005

Good Friday Appeal

The Heard had another great day out on Friday, helping out with the Good Friday Appeal. Apparently I got my name read out on the TV, as well as appearing in the background of many shots! We were stoked to be able to have got all these prison officers to put our hats on! Disproportionate Head Boy was in the back of the phone room, and was dancing around live for about 6 minutes. Plenty of publicity and we were able to help a great cause. Another awesome day out! Posted by Hello

Jesus Walks

One of my favourite blogs, the Alternative Hymnal, is back in action and running again. It often has some really great critique of songs we hear on the radio, and what spiritual meanings may be being alluded to in them. A couple of days ago, he posted on one of my favourite songs at the moment-Jesus Walks by Kanye West.

I definitely don't think he would call himself a Christian, yet writes some really goos stuff on Jesus nonetheless. For me it exemplifies many people's longing to be like Jesus, and their resonance with his lifestyle of love acceptance and forgiveness, yet their feeling of being unable to follow His Way.

I'm looking everywhere for a clean version, cos I'm currently attending a church that wouldn't let me play a song with the word shit in it. Personally I wouldn't have any problem with playing it in church, but thats another issue.

I like it because its a real song about a dude singing about his struggles to follow Jesus, and his own self profession of his need for some divine help. In many ways I think that is a much more worshipful song than many Jesus Is So Hot Right Now songs we sometimes hear in church.

Worship songs that portray the full gamut of emotions toward God, including anger and despair, and cries for mercy, such as some of Davids Psalms such as (10,13,69) , might go a long way to giving voice to many more people's spiritual walk?

Check out his thoughts, and read the lyrics here

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Backyard Missionaries

Got this link via Hamo, whose blog name happens to be Backyard Missionaries-a title that really resonates with me. Its only a short read, but a good little summary of how many people are starting to view church and mission. Check it.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Eyes Closed?

Just this week started my new gig as the Chaplain for the Victorian Christian Schools Basketball squad, which is awesome fun. So far my complete lack of knowledge about anything to do with the game hasn't yet come through-which is good!

At the end of the day I was asked to close in prayer (something I think people presume I'm better at doing cos I'm a minister!) so I was in the middle of the court and asked everybody to join with me in prayer. For a lot of them who are accustomed to this, they just shut their eyes and bowed their heads.

I often like to not close my eyes when I pray, and I noticed a lot of kids did too. It did make me wonder as to why it is we're even expected to always close our eyes during prayers, and whether we should ask kids at school to or not? It was funny, cos I made eye contact with a few of them whilst I was praying and they gave me this 'what are you doing with your eyes open?' look.

I wonder what image of God we portray when we always ask people to close their eyes? Are we telling them that God is only out there and beyond, not here and present also? Last year on the final VET retreat I asked them to keep their eyes open whilst we prayed, as a bit of a way of acknowledging that God is amongst us, can be revealed to us through the other people in the room. To acknowledge that we are the closest thing to God that many people will see, and that God often works primarily through his people, and is not just a big impersonal deity. Dunno what the kids thought, but I liked it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Festival Victoria

I have been unable to post some of my thoughts on the Franklin Graham Crusade, um I mean Festival, up until now, but here I go.

First of all the advertising wasn't that clear, I wonder how somebody would feel if they'd gone along expecting some sort of fun concert, and were pumped with this?

I think this method of mass evangelism has very little relevance or place in todays ministry setting. It worked in the 1950's, and that was fantastic, but I just don't know how much it works these days. I hate using the modern vs postmodern thing as a way of bagging out stuff, but it really is such a modern method of evangelism. People just don't respond to that kind of thing anymore.

If we're gonna do evangelism today, in my opinion-its gotta be relational, its as simple as that. People still respond to altar calls, and thats all cool, but most won't get there without being invited by a friend. This method totally reinforces the bounded set model which I blogged about earlier. Its very one way, and allows for little of the dialogue postmoderns love.

I know of very few people who wouldn't currently call themselves followers of Jesus that went, from my understanding most in attendance were card-carrying church members. I've heard similar from a few other sources.

I was really impressed with the massive emphasis placed on follow up this year, a big criticism of mine in the past. If all of those people who made a commitment are followed up and discipled, then maybe it will have all been worth it.

But I do wonder, as have others, what would have happened if churches spent this much time and energy on relational evagelism, on being Jesus to their friends. What if the money was spent on taking the good news of a bed to sleep in to the homeless?

I have no doubt, and it was my prayer, that God totally worked through that event. I have no doubt much of the way I do ministry is just as flawed, but I pray that God works through, in and sometimes despite of me anyway.

My other issue is with the theology of 'come down the front now and you're saved' I realise that is how some come to faith, but definitely not all. Its so much more of a journey, and I just don't like how black and white these events try and make faith, as I just don't think it is so.

Darren and Phil have both posted much more articulate thoughts on this, go check out what they've got to say, and read the comments too, very interesting stuff.

Saturday, March 19, 2005

Constantine and Hell

This blog has some good quality discussion papers on the movie Constantine, and he's just posted some really good thoughts on heaven and hell-a hot topic for debate at VETAMORPHUS yesterday!

It was a great discussion, we were all able to respectfully hear each other's differences of opinion, and I know I was challenged a great deal in my own thinking on the matter.

As I have mentioned briefly in previous comments, heaven and hell do not in any way shape my theology, nor my understanding of mission and passion for evangelism. The reason I love sharing with people about Jesus and His Kingdom isn't so that I can save their eternal souls, its because I have experienced the Kigdom here on earth, and I believe that a relationship with Jesus (a concept that still needs a little more unpacking) is the ultimate fulfillment of life here on earth.

God's Kingdom (that which is never fully explained by Jesus-only alluded to in stories) is something worth fighting for whilst on earth. A place where people live as Jesus did is surely something worth pushing for here and now. At the end of the day, we don't know anything about what happens after we die, those of us who believe in the Bible will say it gives us some pretty good ideas-which are totally up for interpretation too, but we just don't know.

These are still very under developed thoughts, and its something I'm still shaping my theology and understanding of, but thats pretty much where I stand at the moment.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Centred Set vs Bounded Set Evangelism

I'm loving my new Cultural Anthropolgy subject at Tabor, fits in really well with my Forge stuff too which is a bonus. Not particulalrly theologicall challenging but thats how it is sometimes.

Had John D'Alton last week who was brilliant, such an inspiring cross-cultural missionary here in Oz, and this Les Henson guy has some a pretty well grounded approach to church and mission stuff.

He was talking about different Biblical models of conversion (a word I don't mind now, as its much more about an ongoing process rather than salvation-which I do believe in,but am not prepared to say I understand-which I've often heard used to give an all too narrow understanding of faith) and how many churches and evangelistic crusades (don't even get me started on why I don't like them!) seem to focus too heavily on the Pauline model of a dramatic conversion;as opposed to the more up and down model of Peters conversion or the steady constant conversion we see in somebody like John.

He was talking about the Bounded Set model, which I believe we need to move on from, which likes to box people as Christian or not, in or out, and the goal is to take people out of their world and bring them into ours. If you've made a decision, you're right. I've seen many people operating out of this model who too often approach evangelism as an arrogant pouring out of knowledge, rather than a conversation between friends-where both sides have something to learn and to teach.

The Centred Set is centred on Jesus and the lines of in and out are a lot more fluid, its not about us trying to tell somebody their eternal destiny, its a place where religious titles and adherence to strict doctrine mean less than faithfulness to God and love of others take precedence. He used a different diagram, but its a similar line of thinking to the whirpool analogy I used a while ago when writing about Forge.

It was an extremely encouraging and liberating day, it confirmed and gave Biblical back up for some ideas I've been brewing on, and gave me some great new material to chew over.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Constantine-The Movie

Went and saw Constantine last night, and man, thats one intense movie! The plot is pretty unplausible, some of the acting a bit shoddy, but man it got me thinking.

Keanu Reeves' character is some sort of exorcist, trying to maintain the balance between good and evil on earth. A whole lot of stuff happens, he earns his way into heaven by being self-sacrificial and its all OK in the end.

The thing that it got me thinking about was the whole spiritual warfare deal, something I have very little experience of or knowledge in. I have generally just considered that its a probably a reality on some level, but something for others to deal with. Being a pretty skeptical person, the whole idea hasn't been one I've immediately taken on. There would seem to be precedence for it in the Bible, but I've never really checked out or looked into the stories.

We had some great discussions at VETAMORPHUS on it last week, because Bob Larson (that crazy exorcist dude from John Safran vs God) was in Melbourne last week.

I think a lot of what many people would class as demon possession may be able to be attributed to mental health issues, and a lot of people can handball blame for bad things happening in their life far too easily to things like spiritual attack.

I do believe there are spiritual forces at work for both good and evil in the world (althought I definitely wouldn't class that as Christians vs Everybody else) and I would probably do well to be more aware of those things.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Respect!

I've just gotta says a massive big ups to all of those who work with children! Had coaching this afternoon and the kids were just totally unresponsive, they argued and cried when they couldn't go first in line, or if somebody got the coloured hockey stick they wanted! I'm a pretty patient person, but little thing s like that can totally bug me.

Particulalrly childrens ministry people, you've got to organise something for them to do every single minute, whereas teenagers we just organise to hang out and do nothing! Brilliant!

Total new level of respect for all those doing stuff with kids-keep up the good work!

The Heard Rolls on

Once again The Heard have managed to make a massive public spectacle of ourselves, the arrival of Princess Mary and Frederik today being the excuse to make ourselves Heard. The day started off with an appearance on the Today Show, before heading off to welcome Our Mary, and more importantly, the little underdog Frederik, to our shores.

There were chants aplenty:
We're standing at Fed Square, and we're, gonna see Mary (Going to the Chapel)
Mary had a little Dane
Oh when the Prince, goes marching by etc

Heaps of photos, and about eight or ten radio and newspaper interviews-including my good self on MX! Bring on Moomba! (We'll be there most of the day, and in the bathtub race, so come on down!)

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Technology dependant?

Its been interesting the last day not having my mobile, as its currently in for repairs-again! I've fully been feeling lost without it, as its my main method of communication with everybody-I can't remember the last time I got a phone call at home.

I think its been a good lesson in getting over my own sense of self-importance, its good to discover that my life and the world does indeed go on without me having a phone.

I've been thinking about getting a funky little PDA to use as my diary, but now i'm not so sure. I hate the cultural expectation that says we always need to be doing something with our time, the concept of time for yourself almost doesn't exist in a lot of circles. I think one of the consequences of having gadgets and devices to help us, and supposedly make our life easier, is that we are now expected to do more stuff. For no other reason than because we can.

I think mobiles, and particulalrly the internet, are such a method of escapism for many of us, particularly teenagers. if we don't like our real world, we can escape to the virtual world. If we want to appear too cool for a party, we'll just jump on the phone, and act like the people we're talking to are so much cooler.

Mobile phones, whilst meant to help us to communicate, often mean we have less actual communication skills. Of course, i'm looking forward to getting mine back, but I really hope I can use it less in the future.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Clean Up Church A Success

Last night we as a church were lucky enough to be able to serve our community in a very real and practical way with Clean Up Australia Day-and it went really well!

We met at the church building to start, I lead a short reflection on why we were doing it, and did a Lectio Divina (a method of reading Scripture over and over, and listening for the voice of God through that), we had communion then headed off.

We met at the church to do communion and that for a couple of reasons. The first was simply because not all people may have heard that it was on, and I didn't want people to rock up and miss out on church just because they weren't there the week before.

The other was that, as much as I love to challenge people's perceptions and ideas about church, it is still good to give people something that is familiar, a sense of security almost. Not everybody is up for doing way ut there different models of church, and thats totally fine, so I thought it would be helpful for those who may have felt a little uncomfortable witht he idea of just picking up rubbish as church.

I asked them to divide up into groups with people they didn't know that well (which some people didn't do, which was to be expected) and then just wander around and pick up rubbish for an hour or so.

I gave them a few questions to discuss on the road, which were:
1) Do you feel Christians are known for caring for the enviroment? Why/Why Not?
2) Do you think how you care for the enviroment affects your spiritual walk?
3) Have you ever had any significant spiritual experiences in nature/
4) Does this feel like church to you? Why/Why Not?
5) Could you do this as church every week? Try and name the values that determine why you said yes or no.
6) What 'core practices' do you feel we need to do to call ourselves church?

The main topic I wanted to engage with was the enviroment, but it was also a great oppurtunity to reflect on some different models of church stuff.

It was really interesting hearing people's responses to the fourth question, and really encouraging to see people engaging meaningfully with that and the fifth question.

The general consensus was that most people wouldn't want to do this as church every week (neither would I-but I could) but this kind of practical service to our community should be a more regular part of the life of our church-which was good to hear.

We didn't get much discussion on the core practices question, but we'll be covering that a whole lot more in the future.

Generally the feedback was really positive, and it was really well received.

I think mase made a good point in her previous comment that this model of church would maybe leave a lot less room for people slipping in and out. One of my main qualms with many churches is how easy it is to just rock up and consume,a nd this was totally not like that.

A friend messgaed me and said 'So is there any actual service on tonight/' and I said 'Yes, we're the ones doing the service...'

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Flexible Church

I'm so excited about church this week, it should be wicked as.

Just last week I realised that this Sun was Clean Up Australia Day, and I thought that might be something cool to do for church, so I spoke to Grant and he let me run with it-which was cool as.

We're meeting at church at 6 to catch up with anybody who didn't hear the announcement, having communion there, then driving up to Ballam Park to do a bit of cleaning up till about 8. We're also gonna have a bit of a barbie to raise money for our youth camp the next week.

I think we might break up into little groups and I'll give them a couple of questions to discuss as we wander around together. I'd like to discuss what people's impressions are of whether or not caring for the enviroment has anything to do with our spirituality. I believe it does, and I'll be interested to hear other's reflections.

It will also be a great oppurtunity to put into actiona little bit all of our discussions on not needing to do church in the building in the same way etc. And quite simply, just a great way to serve our community.

If anybody is in the area, feel free to come along!

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

Good summary of Forge stuff

Although we have attended different Forge Intensives in different states, mine and this guys thoughts and notes are quite similar. He's posted some other good reflections on it all, so read them too if u can. Read his to save me the hassle of typing mine out! Thats very un-emerging church of me I know, but thats life :)

First day at Tabor

After much deliberation, consideration and prayer I have decided to transfer my theological studies out to Tabor in Ringwood-where I did YITS three years ago. I'll be able to get a few credits from that, and most of my credits from CCTC will transfer over, so it should be good.

I'm doing a bachelor of Ministry, and will probably only need to do another 11 units to be finished. Not sure how it will all fit with the Ministry Stream and Ordination process, but I'll work it all out no doubt.

Its funny, cos I'm not leaving cos I disliked CCTC, I was actually starting to enjoy the theological stuff I initially despised. And I am a little hesitant about not getting that depth at Tabor, but CCTC has taught me how to think, and I'll carry that with me wherever I go.

As much as I don't like going around saying 'God told me to do this, or that' really, it is mainly a decision based on my understanding of where God wants me to be at the moment. Hopefully I'm hearing loud and clear, and it'll work out OK.