Monday, November 27, 2006

Bono and Making Poverty History

I've been thinking a lot about Bono, and his popularity, and particularly his involvement witht he MPH and other related campaigns.

I've heard a lot of people talk about how he's a prophet of our generation, which I do agree with in mnay ways, and the difference he's making by using his popularity as a rock star to speak to world leaders-great, and all sorts of other great stuff. I also notice that a lot of Christians are getting behind him and his message, which I reckon is great, but is also in a way, a soft option.

See Bono and the whole MPH movement make no sort of argument whatsoever about what we should be doing with our own personal money, about looking at our own spending and lifestyles. Their main deal is campaigning and petitioning Governments to increase their aid spending, which I'm totally behind, cos I believe that will be the way in which long-term, massive change will take place.

Because as important as it is, me and you sponsoring a child is not going to end extreme poverty. My donations I send off to TEAR or World Vision or whoever will help people, but won't stop 30 000 kids dying a day. So for that reason i'm all for getting stuck into out Government about living up to their promises to spend 70 cents in every 10 dollars of our national economy on global world aid.

But as a Christian response, thats far from enough. See by campaigning and shaking our fists at Government, we feel as if we've alleviated ourselves of any sense of duty or having to play a part in dealing with extreme poverty. By wearing a band or T-shirt, or going to the concert, or signing a petition (all of which i've done by the way) we think we've done our part, which is bullshit.

As i said, me and you donating money won't end extreme poverty for everybody, but it will for somebody. And the Gospel is that we have to care for that somebody.

The Gospel is that it will make a difference for that somebody, and for the somebody that could be helped if we ate out less, and the somebody that could be helped if we lived in a smaller house, drove a cheaper car or drank less beer. The somebody that could be helped if we bought less clothes, CDs and consumeristic crap. And the problem is I'm just as guilty as anybody else of all this stuff.

Bono and the Make Poverty History is a great start, but is far from a complete Christian response.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

What Not To Expect

I found this the other day and really liked it, good stuff of what a good missional community shouldn't look like. Neither Frankston or the Huddle are there yet (not that i think its something you ever really arrive at) but we're on the journey.

TEN THINGS ANYONE WHO JOINS IN A TWENTY FIRST CENTURY MISSIONAL CHURCH PLANT SHOULD NOT EXPECT

1.) Should not expect to regularly come to church for just one hour, get what you need for your own personal growth and development, and your kid's needs, and then leave til next Sunday. Expect mission to change your life. Expect however a richer life than you could have ever imagined.

2.) Should not expect that Jesus will fit in with every consumerist capitalist assumption, lifestyle, schedule or accoutrement you may have adopted before coming here. Expect to be freed from a lot of crap you will find out you never needed.

3.) Should not expect to be anonymous, unknown or be able to disappear in this church Body. Expect to be known and loved, supported in a glorious journey.

4.) Should not expect production style excellence all the time on Sunday worship gatherings. Expect organic, simple and authentic beauty.

5.) Should not expect a raucous "light out" youth program that entertains the teenagers, puts on a show that gets the kids "pumped up," all without parental involvement. Instead as the years go by, with our children as part of our life, worship and mission (and when the light shows dim and the cool youth pastor with the spiked hair burns out) expect our youth to have an authentic relationship with God thru Christ that carries them through a lifetime of journey with God.

6.) Should not expect to always "feel good,"or ecstatic on Sunday mornings. Expect that there will ALSO be times of confession, lament, self-examination and just plain silence.

7.) Should not expect a lot of sermons that promise you God will prosper you with "the life you've always wanted" if you'll just believe Him and step out on faith and give some more money for a bigger sanctuary. Expect sustenance for the journey.

8.) Should not expect rapid growth whereby we grow this church from 10 to a thousand in three years. Expect slower organic inefficient growth that engages people's lives where they are at and sees troubled people who would have nothing to do with the gospel marvelously saved.

9.) Should not expect all the meetings to happen in a church building. Expect a lot of the gatherings will be in homes, or sites of mission.

10.) Should not expect arguments over style of music, color of carpet, or even doctrinal outlier issues like dispensationalism. Expect mission to drive the conversation. OH AND BY THE WAY-You should not expect that community comes to you. I am sorry but true community in Christ will take some "effort"and a reshuffling of priorities for both you and your kids. Yes I know you want people to come to you and reach out to you and you're hurting and busy. But assuming you are a follower of Christ (this message is not for strangers to the gospel) you must learn that the answer to all those things is to enter into the practices of "being the Body" in Christ, including sitting, eating, sharing and praying together.

Your role as a minister

"Keeping your community attentive to God" I really really like that as a definition of our role as ministers or pastors or whatever we wanna call ourselves as church leaders. That was a part of one of the Eugene Peterson quotes I put up the other day, but really liked it-so gave it another run here.

U2-Best concert ever!

I don't think i need to say much more than the fact that it absolutely rocked! They played all their big songs, put on a massive show and were generally awesome!

After seeing the Make Poverty history concert on Fri night, going to a mates bucks party, my juniors winning cricket, the church AGM going well, seeing Borat (so so wrong but so so funny), a footy pre-season launch BBQ and my mates wedding, it capped off one of my best weekends ever!

Vote for me so I win a holiday!

All you need to do to help me win a free trip overseas to do some aid work is follow the link above and vote that I'm hot-even though I look like a shambles in that photo! I'm generally against stupid 'rate how good I'm looking' crap websites, but hey, if it will help win a competition to do something I'd love to do but can't afford, then I can change my outlook!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Prison Fellowship

On Monday night we had a top night, with one of our crew sharing her passion for prison ministry stuff, was a really awesome night.

She talked about how people end up there, how terrible a lifestyle it is, the part drugs play in so many crimes, the troubles people have integrating into society and all sorts of stuff. So many more issues and things to think about than I was aware of.

They do lots of visiting, helping people transition out of prison, mentoring prisoners, helping families-particulalry kids of prisoners. A couple of the projects we'll hopefully be able to help out with will be their Angel Tree project-providing gifts for kids who's parents are in prison and can't give presents, and their Easter project where every prisoner in Victoria get 10 home baked cookies and a little Easter message from people in churches who cook them.

The website I've linked to above is well worth checking out too, provides some good information and ways to help out.

Children of God

Was chatting with a friend the other day about a whole bunch of stuff, and one of the things that came up, was how much we really are ever going to know about God, and Jesus, and all what manner of theological topics.

He then made a really good point about reclaiming our title as Children of God, I didn't understand at first, but it does make a lot of sense.

So often we call ourselves men and women of God, but that implies being grown up and mature, that we know lots of stuff. But if we begin to see ourselves as children, we again are forced into the position of having to rely on God like a little child will rely on their parents. Always asking questions, always trusting them no matter what, always wanting to know more about the world.

And it allows us to not know everything, as children we have so so much to learn, but often as adults we can think we've got ourselves sorted. We don't have to know everything when we're children, we're not expected to know all the answers.

Haven't explained that as well as you said it B rad, but it made sense to me at the time!

My 2nd blog birthday

This was like a month ago, so can't really blame blogger being down for not posting up this post of flagrant self-congratulatism.

Anyway, happy second blogoversary to me!

Back in action

Blogger has been doing some upgrades, which has meant I've been out of action for a while. I always seem to think I have a plethora of great blog posts when I can't write them up, then nothing when I'm sitting here.
Will see how I go catching up.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Eugene Peterson 2

“The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches.

There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world.

The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community.

The pastor's responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades."

Gold from Eugene Peterson

Some great food for thought here

"(P)astors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at analarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs.
Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on thechurch stationary and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays.

But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise ofpastoral ministry hasn't the remotest connection with what the church'spastors have done for most of twenty centuries.

A few of us are angry about it. We are angry because we have been deserted....It is bitterly disappointing to enter a room full of people whom you have every reason to expect share the quest and commitments ofpastoral work and find within ten minutes that they most definitely do not.

They talk of images and statistics. They drop names. They discuss influence and status. Matters of God and the soul and Scripture are notgrist for their mills.


(P)astors have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied withshopkeeper's concerns-how to keep the customers happy, how to lurecustomers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.

Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers,pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations.
Yet it is still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping, to be sure, but shop keeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupythe waking minds of these entrepreneurs; while asleep they dream of the kind of success that will get the attention of journalists.”

Stupid Christian emails

I've thought most of this for ages now, but somebody bothered to write it, so I thought I'd post it here.

I am so sick of receiving chain mail from people, ESPECIALLY from Christians. The one's that say things like 'only pass this on if you love God' or 'if you are a true Christian you will pass this on' are the ones that drive me most nuts. As if passing on guilt fuelled email will prove you are a Christian. Prove to whom? Forwarding a chain letter in order to prove your relationship with God is a poor substitute for the real thing.

God will certainly not judge you by if you passed on an email or not and the people who write them obviously don't know God too well in the first place to trick others into believing this. No, it is only by asking God into your life, apologising for your sins and living for God that will prove you to be a true Christian. So many of them use the verse 'if you deny me before man, I will deny you before my Father in Heaven'.

Refusing to pass on an email to my non Christian friends is not denying God, it is denying the misrepresentation of God that the email presents. Jesus bought hope in the place of hopelessness and peace in place of fear. These emails use guilt motivation to get people to pass it on. What kind of Christian uses guilt for motivation? The kind that has ulterior motives. God's perfects love drives out all fear, so who would use fear to force people into passing on a letter?

Letters promising good luck if you pass it on are also insane. It's crazy to believe that people believe this stuff. I refuse to be cursed by a letter. I believe in the providence and omnipotence of God. I believe that God uses the circumstances of life to speak to me, change me, mould me, make me stronger. Things that may not seem that fantastic at the time often prove to have a profound effect on my life and character for the better. Yet, if you believe in luck, circumstances that appear bad can be attributed to by luck. If someone chooses not to pass on the letter, any bad circumstances will be seen through the filter of your belief system in luck. It just becomes a self fulfilling prophesy.

If you believe that God is the author and perfector of our faith, circumstances will appear completely different. I entrust my life to the loving hands of my God. I know He has plans for me. My life and its direction do not come down to just luck, but to divine intervention and a purpose that was planned for me before I was born. Luck has nothing to do with it.

Christians have more ways of communication available to them than any other time in history. We have fax, phone, radio, television, the internet and emails. Why would we waste our time passing on chain mail when the message of the love and peace of God is waiting to be heard by millions? I refuse to pass on these letters so don't bother sending any to me. I have better things to do with my time and refuse to be bullied, scared, intimidated or oppressed by mail that will in no way benefit me or my relationship with God.

The only letters I will be passing on are ones that encourage people and have the potential to draw them closer to God, not ones that will intimidate them into submission and false beliefs about what Christianity and a relationship with God truly is.

Chaplaincy 2

My only possible reservation, and its maybe not a big issue, is the issue of getting money from the Government, and how that may affect our position in terms of being able to speak out, or have some form of prophetic voice into, Government.

I remember the people at Urban Seed talking once about why they don't accept Government funding. From what I understood, they felt that by getting money from the Government they would be less likely to be able to speak out against Government things, because then people could turn and criticise them for lack of integrity for then receiving money froma system they may have issues with. I haven't explained that well, but there's just something about those ideas in the back of my mind that would like to explore further.

And the other thing I would like to add about this whole issue is that it sucks for me as its totally come at the wrong time, as I'm moving on from my current schools position, but could work really well as I hopefully move into another school-a public one that would probably be less likely to fund me, but more on that later.

Chaplains in schools

Considering it affects me greatly, as it relates to what I'll probably be doing for a fair chunk of my life, I've been thinking a lot about this whole chaplains in schools debate.

Initially, I do reckon its a pretty top idea. Anything we can do get more quality people helping young people in schools, particularly Christians, is awesome. Great stuff I reckon.

I really am a big fan of the fact that they don't have to be Christian chaplians either. Obviously thats where I'm coming from, but we need to recognise the fact that we live ina secular, yet multi-faith, country. To me this means that we can't impose any one belief system on people, and need to allow space for people of all faiths. I don't really care what you think about other religions (thats another discussion for another day) but the fact is we need to acknowledge their existence and the Government should support them if they want it. (Feel free to post up your thoughts from the other day as to why you disagree Gary)

Of course Christians, or people of any faith or spiritual path don't have a stranglehold on values and morality, you'd be silly to suggest that, but the fact is that we can offer students an alternative viewpoint, something different to a normal counsellor, which i think is a valuable choice to offer.

But having said that, chaplians can just act as 'normal' counsellors or youth workers, so I don't get why people are saying we should just have more of them. I agree we do need more youth workers in schools generally, but chaplians can play the straight counsellor card too. I know with some kids I see at school God never explicitly comes into the conversation, I'm just there helping them with their issues. Personally I believe God is there, working through me if I mention God or not, but thats another issue.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Opt-In Leadership

For a while now I've been wanting to write a lot more about the Huddle, but just never seem to think of it when I'm near a computer.

One of the things I thought I'd just quickly write about was how leadership works for us, in terms of woking out what we do every week, and what we do and don't get involved with etc.

The system we have at the moment is what I call 'Opt-In' leadership, which basically means that anybody who is a part of our community can be a part of, and have a say in, the leadership of our church.

We have monthly planning meetings where we get together and try and discuss how we've been going in terms of our three focus areas (another post for another day), what we're gonna do each week for the next month or so, and any other issues that come up, and just generally chat about stuff to do with where the group's headed.

At the start it was just me deciding what we did every week, which I, and the group, weren't really happy with. The main reason for this wasn't because I felt I was the only one with stuff to say-which i'm clearly not, it was just that I was never organised enought to ask people to prepare things! At the moment I think it is working pretty well, so we'll see where it goes.

This allows for people who want to have input to do so, and for other people who just want to come along and be a part of the group, to do so, which I think is cool. Down the track I'm thinking it might be a good idea to have some spiritual practices which people who choose to be a part of the leadership group would comitt to, but thats very much just a preliminary idea at the moment, so we'll see. That could have the potential to be a bit In/Out, We're Good Enough/You're Not, but yeah, I really don't know.

I do think that groups like this need leadership, its just that it will be a different sort of leadership to most church settings. I'm still working out what exactly that looks like in our setting, but its an exciting journey I reckon.