Monday, November 28, 2005

Newbigin on Mission's False Dichotomy...

I promised someone I would post some more 'False Dichotomy' quotes. My equally 'good, learned, and passionate brother', Captain Andrew Clark :o) (Army Renewal) is adding some interesting thoughts (here). But onto Newbigin...
"Here we must face frankly the distortion of the gospel that is perpetrated in a great deal that passes for missionary encounter. A preaching of the gospel that calls men and women to accept Jesus as Saviour but does not make it clear that discipleship means commitment to a vision of society radically different from that which controls our public life today must be condemned as false." pp 132
Newbigin, L (1986) Foolishness to the Greeks : The gospel and western culture. spck


and a bit more Newbigin to chew over...
"So words without deeds are empty, but deeds without words are dumb. It is stupid to set them against each other. It is, for example, stupid to say “The one thing that matters is to go everywhere and preach the gospel; all other activities such as schools and hospitals and programmes for social action are at best auxiliary and at worst irrelevant …. Why should people believe our preaching if there is nothing happening to authenticate them?...Our preaching is mere empty words if it does not have behind it a costly engagement with …all the powers that rob men and women of their humanity…But equally our programmes for teaching, healing, feeding the hungry, caring for the sick and action for justice and freedom are futile if they do not point beyond themselves to a reality greater than they – to the great healer, the great liberator, the one who is himself the living bread. Pp 11-12
Newbigin, L.(1988) Mission in Christ's Way: A Gift, a Command, an Assurance. Library of Christian Stewardship

I am still not convinced that we get this balance right. Perhaps because we have been ingrained with the either/or means to an end approach to mission. Perhaps because we have been guilty of words that are empty. Perhaps we have been guilty of actions that don't point beyond themselves.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Images of Church...

I seem fast becoming a Prodigal Kiwi(s) groupie!

Alan Jamieson uses two pictures to illustrate what church should and shouldn't be (here). His insights are well worth a read.

"The Church at Auver" painted by Van Gogh and the classic "Blitzed St Paul's" convey distinct and contrasting images of church. Alan Jamieson has them on his wall - I want them on mine now too as a reminder of what church should and shouldn't be. One standing for hope amoungst fragmentation and destruction - the other standing as an irrelevant out of shape obstacle to be walked around.

Monday, November 21, 2005

I'd rather listen to Buddha...

The dedication ceremony for the baby had gone well. New families were in church and I was conscious that for some it was a 'different' experience.

"...thanks for a lovely service..." the aunt was shaking my hand. "...thank you" I reply " you go to church often or was that all really odd for you?"

Through a bite on a biscuit she says "Oh no we were brought up in the evangelical church - so I do guilt really well" She laughs some crumbs. "The layers of guilt piled on my young shoulders were too much - the only way for me to find peace was to walk away from the church and its guilt inspiring Jesus"

She smiles through the crumbs "Oh dear I think I've said too much...!" undaunted she smiles again looks me in the eye. "Do you know I felt free - a freedom - once I walked away...once I was old enough to know that I could walk away... I turned to Buddha... I'd rather listen to Buddha...Buddism has everything I need and guess what ... no guilt!"

I drink from my cup of tea and smile back "Funny really... Jesus is really all about freedom - I'm sorry that for you it was made to be about guilt..."

I felt sad. The subject changed - I was lefting thinking ... 'what have we done to the message of Jesus...!?'

Friday, November 18, 2005

In Gratitude...

"so you'’re meeting up with someone you met on the internet…....hmmm .... never met him before…...uh huh.... don'’t know him.. hmmmmm?” Kate probed! That was sometime ago and Rob aka The Shiny Headed Prophet and I have met several times since.

Driving to Bluewater for a coffee with Rob I'’m listening to some teaching CD'’s that someone at church lent me years ago. Gordon MacDonald is talking about resilience in leadership and ministry and points to the importance of having people around you that challenge and inspire you.

Coffee drunk, good conversation completed I drive back to Poplar thinking. I'm glad that I started blogging because I have made friends that challenge, inspire and invigorate me. Some I have met, most I don'’t even know what they look like! I'm glad that I have a good network of friends beyond the internet that challenge, inspire and invigorate me in different ways -– some because they make me think, some because they make me laugh. I'm glad for all those that have crossed my path and for whatever reason no longer do. I'’m glad for all those who through the years have offered me more than I give them. Also I am glad that Rob isn'’t a mad mass murdering axe-man using the internet to groom blogging christians!

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Bosch on Mission's false dichotomy...

Over the last few months I have collected several quotes that help identify or explain what I perceive as mission's false dichotomy. This blind spot that presents a dualistic approach to mission needs attention if we are truly to understand and engage in holistic mission.

Ok bear with me or rather with Bosch... he might help explain how justice got dropped from the agenda.
The South African missiologist David Bosch has pointed out how much damage has been done by the usual English translation of dikaiosune as "righteousness" and the consequent insulation of an idea of inward and spiritual righteousness from an outward and manifest justice in social relationships....

It is easy to see how the use of the two different English words righteous and just for the single biblical word dikaios, and the consistent translation of dikaiosune in the New Testament as "righteousness" while the Hebrew equivalent tsedeq is translated both as 'Justice" and as "righteousness," has seduced evangelical Christians into a mental separation between righteousness as an inward and spiritual state and justice as an outward and political program. But to accept this dichotomy is to abandon the gospel and surrender to the pressure of our pagan culture. pp132

as quoted in

Newbigin, L (1986) Foolishness to the Greeks : The gospel and western culture. spck
Ahh that explains a thing or two ;o)

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

I'm a lady...?

Kathryn sparked a trail of thought and some memories.

There was a time we were RURALarmy! Having expressed a sense of vocation to the inner city, The Salvation Army decided to send us for trainiing to Chatteris in the Cambridgeshire Fens. When we looked out of our bedroom window we could see Ely Cathedral 12 miles away???

One night there was a call. "Are you The Salvation Army?... well .... there is a homeless man sleeping in the town centre"

Town centre is a very loose definition of Chatteris town centre - a couple shops and a bank is probably closer. I jump in the car armed with a flask some sandwiches and the charity shop keys. Sure enough there was our "man of the road" outside the bank. He gratefully guzzled the tea, ate the sandwiches and was keen to take up my offer of a change of clothes.

So to the Charity Shop. I find him jumper in his size "here you go..." he caught it and smiled through years of grime and a bushy beard. Then he looked bashful. " would you mind if I had a womans jumper... they are cut a bit wider and are more comfortable...!"

"er... OK...!" - I catch the jumper hang it up and start looking through the ladies jumpers and find one he is happy with.."Would you like some trousers....?" The bashful look makes me nervous. "um... would you mind if I have some womens ..? The elasticated waists are more comfortable...?"

"right - hmm ... OK....?" As I walk to the womens rail I make a mental decision to avoid offering underwear...!

When we tried to offer shelter - he didn't want to know. That was his choice and however hard it was for me to understand that choice it was his. I'm glad of our rural experience. The issues we faced may not have been as intense but they certainly were the same as that we face today in inner city Poplar.

People on the margins have had lots taken from them, sometimes all they have left is the power of self decision and however hard it is to understand respect of that choice is important. When it gets difficult is when those choices self harm.

"What do you want me to do for you?" Jesus' use of the 'blindingly!' obvious intrigues me in Mark 10:51

The power of choice?

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Sunday Sulk...

Sometimes we're pretty full on Sunday's. Sometimes we're pretty empty. Mostly we're somewhere in between. Well today we were pretty empty. I know it isn't about numbers. I know there is the danger of a pride thing going on. Everything that could go wrong went wrong - yeah I know it isn't important, but tonight I feel vulnerable - I laugh outwardly but in reality I'm suffering a Sunday sulk!

I haven't been responsible for Sunday morning for a couple of weeks so I've had time, space to be a little more creative. U2's "Peace on Earth" with a loop of war, war graves and poppies made for a good space of reflection. Kids and balloons. Video clips from "To End All Wars". Verbally I tried to paint a picture of reconciliation using imagery from the story of Jacob and Esau. You know today I really tried but it felt that no-one turned up to the party! It was really hard work.


As Kate and I talk - I remember the guys from our detox centre leaving early - beaming and waving mouthing to me 'thanks'. Ok that was encouraging, last week they cowered at their first ever experience of church. I tell Kate of a conversation I had with someone damaged from another church that images of Jacob and Esau opened. Ok that was encouraging. At least unlike last week everyone I speak to doesn't burst into tears! that was encouraging!

So I come to a conclusion. What isn't encouraging is that you'd think I'd have grown out of the need for a pat on the back!!

Sulk to self-chatisement in one blog!


Friday, November 11, 2005

What if... [a random thought]

Something said in a recent conversation about Church social engagement and social work got me thinking. I couldn't help but think the person had a 'means to an end' philosophy when it came to mission.

What if the social work that church has been engaged in hasn't pointed to the kingdom? What does it say about the Christians that have facilitated that 'Heresy of Mission'? What if social transformation hasn't pointed to the community of justice, freedom, love, grace that Jesus represents because Christians have used it as a means of disguising the 'hook', leaving the message and ministry of Jesus as nothing more than a wriggling worm?

It reminded me to beware 'wriggling worm mission!!'

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

An insight into Depression...

"So when someone you know finally caves in and falls apart, remember that you have no idea how long this person carried his secret burden. And I don’t care who you are. You cannot carry unending sorrow and burning anxiety forever. No one is that strong. And no one can be that heroic."

Real Live Preacher gives an honest insight to ministry with depression (here). I don't suffer myself - even with Chelsea losing once every 40 games - but I have good and close friends that do and RLP shows what it is like in the depths.

This guy can really write. Probably why half the world follows his blog!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Newbigin on Mission's false dichotomy...

I used this today in a lecture...
"When the message of the kingdom of God is separated from the name of Jesus two distortions follow, and these are in fact the source of deep divisions in the life of the church today. On one hand, there is the preaching of the name of Jesus simply as the one who brings a religious experience of personal salvation without involving one in costly actions at the points in public life where the power of Satan is contracting the rule of God and bringing men and women under the power of evil. Such preaching of cheap grace, of a supposed personal salvation that does not go the way of the cross, of an inward comfort without commitment to costly Action for the doing of God’s will in the world – this kind of evangelistic preaching is a distortion of the gospel. A preaching of personal salvation that does not lead the hearers to challenge the monstrous injustices of our society is not mission in Christ’s way. It is peddling cheap grace.

On the other hand, when the message of the kingdom is separated from the name of Jesus, the action of the church in respect of the evils in society becomes a mere ideological crusade"… pp9

Newbigin, L.(1988) Mission in Christ's Way: A Gift, a Command, an Assurance. Library of Christian Stewardship
Church as peddling cheap grace ... church as a mere ideological crusade ... no thanks.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

All for Charity...

It is some time since The Ashes were won, so it was good to hear from Darryl from The Ashes Blog who even hit BBC fame with his blog covering the cricket (here). I loved popping by his blog during the cricket, particularly the pictures were -if you are into English/Aussie cricket - pretty funny.

I'm not sure how many cricket fans pop by URBANarmy - stats show a predominance of North American's but Darryl has asked me to plug a charity push for the World Vision's Pakistan earthquake appeal by putting a poster together for his Ashes blog re-enactment photos.It's up for sale on Ebay at the moment (here).

Here's his sale:-
"Now, exclusively to Ebay, you can purchase this fantastic 8 inch by 12 inch print of original re-enactments from The Greatest Series - England v Australia 2005. Each of the five Tests is covered:
a.. Lord's - "Adam Gilchrist celebrates the wicket of Freddie Flintoff - caught Gilchrist, bowled Warne for 3."
b.. Edgbaston - "Ricky Ponting trudges back to the pavilion after being dismissed for a duck."
c.. Old Trafford - "Michael Vaughan salutes the crowd after scoring a century at Old Trafford."
d.. Trent Bridge - "With a beer and a cigarette in one hand, and a ball in the other, Shane Warne very nearly won the game for Australia."
e.. The Oval - "Under dark and gloomy skies, Andrew Strauss is caught by Simon Katich close to the wicket. This photo is a re-enactment of the bad light."
It's not serious - and it's not meant to be - but you will be proud to hang this print up on your wall. It has been professionally printed on photo paper, and it looks just like the sort of thing you would get at the Channel Nine Sport Shop."

Looking for some Ashes memorabilia with a difference? check out the sale - it's for a good cause.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Gordon Needs...

Saturday Silliness

Guess who hasn't anything to prepare for tomorrow!!?

Rob aka The Shiny Headed Prophet and Kathryn amoung others point to some mindless and daft silliness. Here's the idea type your name followed by needs in quotation marks in google ("Gordon Needs") then copy down the first 10 sentences. Here goes:

* Gordon needs fast start Saturday
* Gordon Needs Near-Perfect Race
* Gordon needs rescue
* Gordon needs to summon Batman
* Gordon needs your help so he can steal $233 million
* Gordon needs to buy the goat
* Gordon needs a push
* Gordon needs to run up front all night long
* Gordon needs to get real
* Gordon needs gman because gman is the right man

Yep silly - but it made me smile! Yes I know Gordon needs to get out more!! Poor old Kate is wrestling with sermon prep for tomorrow and I am playing around with Google!!

The Incarnational v Attractional debate...

Van S over at MissionThink has been doing a good job of fleshing out the Hirsch and Frost material in his local context and he has published an article based on his mullings. (here)

The general jist of H&F line is that an attractional church trys to polish itself up in order for people to come to it but an incarnational church is one that goes to them.
"... by attractional, we mean that the traditional church plants itself within a particular community, neighborhood, or locale and expects that people will come to it to meet God and find fellowship with others.… By anticipating that if they get their internal features right, people will flock to the services, the church betrays its belief in attractionalism. … If we get our seating, our parking, our children's program, our preaching, and our music right, they will come. This assumes that we have a place in our society and that people dodt join our churches because, though they want to be Christians, they're unhappy with the product. The missional church recognizes that it does not hold a place of honor in its host community and that its missional imperative compels it to move out from itself into that host community as salt and light." (Hirsch and Frost 2004)
A centre based church like ours could be perceived as being attractional, whereas more emerging expressions meeting in public places etc... would be seen as being missional and therefore incarnational. But we would hate people to think that we offer our ministry to our community as a means to hide the hook as we reel people in...! We offer space in a variety of ways that people share with us as we journey together in the pain and joys that are inner city life...sounds pretty incarnational to me.

I am genuinenly attracted to the emerging church scene. I love the creativity. The freedom. The connections that they make are good for me but I'm discovering that many em. church expressions may like the 'missional incarnational' tag but in all reality some are as attractional as the instituational church from whoms clutches they suggest they have escaped. The irony remains that while some emerging concepts of church model themselves as being incarnational because they meet in public places - their motive remains to 'attract' people to their alternative 'non-embarrasing' means of doing church - which still seems pretty attractional to me? There are some healthy looking exceptions to this - not intentionally critical - analysis.

It could be that a group of disenfrainchaised believers meeting under a new emerging 'missional frainchaise' with video loops, ancient-modern icons washed down with Coldplay and Moby actually in terms of incarnational influence in their community are as removed from community as how they perceive the institutional churches they left for their new adventure. And actually the label they hang on to and like to buzz and bound around in slick HTML leaves them more an oxymoron than the missional incarnational church they crave to be.

So what is the measure of incarnational influence? Perhaps it is more a 'state of mind'. Perhaps more a question of motive than a question of substance. An attitude. Perhaps more a question of the reality of mission than simply rhetoric.
  • So you are a missional incarnational expression of church - who would miss you if you weren't there anymore?
  • So you are a missional incarnational expression of church - who is it you find yourselves ministering to.. people like you?
  • So you are a missional incarnational expression of church - what point has there been to your existence - for whose benefit?
  • So you are a missional incarnational expression of church - How dirty have you got trying to be transforming influence in your community?
  • So you are a missional incarnational expression of church - Why do you do what you do - to embody the gospel by standing up for true love, justice and grace?
Maybe there are more questions to be asked. 'Attractional' v 'Incarnational' I am drawn to the sentiment but I not sure it is as easily defined.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Tears of a rapist

I'd not seen him before, no one at Poplar will know him. He didn't look up. He just kept staring into the bag of grocery's I'd just given him. He just kept looking down.

"There's something else....I've done something awful... I'm so ashamed..." A story of wrong choices, wrong friends, a drinking spree getting out of control, arrest, DNA swabs, cells and a rape charge has me sighing at the brokeness of what I was hearing.

The story told - he looks up into my face looking for rejection. I say nothing...

"My life didn't used to be like this... where did it go wrong..." I say nothing...

He half composes himself - "I'm in court next week... I'm scared..." I put my hand on his shoulder. "I'm sure you know if you are guilty" His shoulders shake as deep sobs interrupt the moment.

I look into his eye's "What do you want me to pray?"

Through his sobs he barely whispers "that justice will be done..."

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Holiday Reading...

Holiday reading was productive.

I finished Ann Morisy’s Journeying Out: A New Approach to Christian Mission. I have to say it has been the read of the year so far. Anyone who makes Bosch accessible is worth a read!

She makes so much sense and gives concepts to feelings and opinions that we have held and seen develop, she articulates the reality that we have discovered while involved in urban community ministry at Poplar. For instance…

The power of the Principle of Obliquity (that of mission that is an unspoken tacit expression and demonstration of Kingdom of God)

The concept of Cascades of Grace – the impact of kingdom in action on observers and not necessarily just the recipient.

Social Capital – level of reciprocal relationships within a locality or society. Specific reciprocal relationships which say ‘I do it for you if you do it for me’. Generalised reciprocal relationships which say ‘I’ll do it for you without expecting anything in return’. She makes connections in terms of the importance of this Grace centred mission/social capital in terms of social cohesion. She makes connections in terms that churches need to operate beyond solidarity groups ie family, friends, own socio economic grouping etc…. and be variegated!

I loved what she had to say about chaplaincy to your community. I loved what she had to say about mission through telling stories.

In addition she also introduces an analysis of mission and offers a means by which the false dichotomy of mission can be closed. She points to the Explicit Domain – where explicit teaching provided by church in order to form and nurture recruits. The Foundational Domain – covers mission as the work the church has to do in order to help people gain confidence in their perception of there being an enduring reality and possibility of God. The Vocational Domain – is that area of the churches life which provides opportunity to enable people to respond to that sense within them that they could do more in their lives – developing their moral self. Each working together brings credibility to the gospel, each apart serves only to feed a theologically partisan approach to mission which makes the gospel false, dilute and cheap.

Ann Morisy’s Journeying Out: A New Approach to Christian Mission goes next to Graham Tomlins The Provocative Church on my 'highly affirming' bookshelf.