Thursday, February 28, 2008

Towards Vision 3/4

Another bit of Warren (Robert not Rick!) from a little book called Building Missionary Congregations. Published in 1995 so a little dated but nevertheless a helpful pointer for those talking about vision.
"The following is a list of the marks of a missionary congregation. However, it is important to note that this is based largely on theoretical work. Another list needs urgently to be constructed out of observation of what actually happens on the ground. The two need then to be in dialogue. Either list has the potential to 'convert' the other list; both stand to gain and be enriched.

1. Celebration. This is taken in its widest sense and refers to the ability and desire to enjoy life and the gifts that God has given, and to participate in celebrating the new humanity modelled for us in Christ, opened up to humanity by his death and resurrection.

2. Whole life Christianity. Expressing faith in God in the whole of life. The focus of church life would shift from 'church organisations', to daily life - to the home, work place, and community life. The emphasis would be on personal growth, relational growth, and obedience to God 'in the market place' - with all its ambiguities. The church needs what has been called a 'hippopotamus spirituality - a spirituality suitable for surviving in the mud!'

3. Simplicity. Both in lifestyle ('enough is enough'), and in church structure. The institutional aspect will need to be significantly trimmed, as the church's life becomes outer-directed. Familiar landmarks will go. There will be no room for resources without vigorous pruning.

4. Community. Only a community living by a different set of values has the strength to witness prophetically to modern society. It cannot be done by lone rangers. Such 'community' involves building loving, honest relationships which stand out against the 'fragmented relatedness' of consumer culture. vision

5. Empowering. A missionary congregation is one that has broken out of the provider/client relationship into collaborative ministry and equipping individuals to make their contribution.

6. Doing things differently. The pastoral and maintenance church tends to be marked by doing different things (church groups and activities). A missionary church will be marked more by doing the ordinary things (work, leisure, family life) differently.

7. Engaged. A missionary church will be strongly engaged in the local community, and deliberately working with 'all people of good will' (see Raymond Fung, The Isaiah Vision).

8. Distinctive. Such a church multiplies the number of points of contact with the surrounding culture as its members live Christianly. This happens as effective initiation evangelises the whole person, including their world view, value system, personal identity, and lifestyle.

9. Dimensional. Enlightenment Christianity functions in separate compartments, spirituality and mission rarely connect. A missionary (and ,post-modern') congregation thinks of the depths of whole-life issues, and of the spiritual dimension within every issue.

10. Still. A missionary church will be an oasis of peace and quiet, in a frantic world, able not to be driven by doing but reflecting on experience before moving on."(pp53)

Warren, R (1995) Building Missionary Congregations. Zondervan

Tuesday, February 26, 2008


This week the collecting box came out and these guys that Neil has been blessing for years through a simple hello, a cup of tea and a laugh - blessed Neil.

Neil is a volunteer that helps out at Faith House on a Monday night; I think he is an engineer by profession. His place of work have seconded him to be part of team to go to Bangladesh for a fortnight to help build homes and have said something along the lines that they will make any money that Neil raises.

who co-ordinates FH, made a suggestion last week to the guys who come along to the drop in that they might like to contribute. I must admit I raised an internal eyebrow as some of these guys own what they wear and little else; but a nice sentiment nevertheless.

This week the collecting box came out and these guys that Neil has been blessing for years through a simple hello, a cup of tea and a laugh - blessed Neil. Okay £8.94 wouldn't even cover the return tube fair to Heathrow - but there was an enormity in their giving. Literally some of these guys gave all that they had.

There was something else given that could be missed here - FH had given something to these men that they are not often given. The chance to bless through their giving.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

There will be blood....

Kate and I went to see There will be Blood last night - hmmm?

Go and see this film with the realisation that it is about the brokenness that comes with greed and selfishness coupled with competitiveness hatred and anger; a couple of great monologues by Daniel Day-Lewis which are worth seeing again in this context. It is the outworking of this in oil man Daniel Plainview that is the focus of the narrative throughout - I made the mistake of expecting more; and came away feeling I'd missed the point.

Daniel Day-Lewis was staggering I thought in this - who became more menacing and lacking in humanity as his wealth grew; however personally it felt all a little slow and predictable for me.

There is an interesting caricature of the inauthenticity of Church, particularly when Daniel Plainview gets saved in order to secure the land he needs. The Eli Sunday character as the minister of the local church shows himself to be as greedy and competitive as Daniel Plainview albeit with a different currency!

I came out of the cinema not convinced - but this morning feel I would probably buy it on DVD when it drops to about £5 in the 'oh no we bought too many of these' bins in Sainsbury's.

HollywoodJesus account here

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Pitter Patter...

I wanted you all to know about the sound of pitter patter of a new arrival in the Cotterill house.

I'm feeling all very emerging and excessively creative sitting listening to the pitter patter of our new MacBook. We are going all open source don't you know - It's been fascinating to say to Eryn - there you go - work out how to use it then let me know!!

Tattoos; Piercing and goatee beard to follow!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Fragmentation 3/3...

Here's the last of the much maligned Strategic Framework's focus on fragmentation, in the original it was under two separate headings.

Fragmented Community and Society

· Due to the way in which housing is organised many of our towns and cities have fragmented into communities of the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. This can lead to a marked difference in the quality and quantity of the facilities available in these communities.
· Physical fragmentation can lead to a lack of mutual understanding and sympathy.
(Strategic Framework UKT (2002)

Opportunities exist in…

· How can we ensure The Salvation Army maintains a presence in a wide variety of communities and has a socially diverse membership?

Fragmentation... 1/3
Fragmentation... 2/3

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Church beyond singing...

"now, this ...." he looks around at a room of assorted humanity "... is my church, my family, there is something special here...".

"I've tried churches before, we sing songs and then no-one wants to know you afterwards..."

"That's a shame Tyronne..."

I'm talking to Tyronne who has opened up to me about how his faith was shot through and how Faith House over three years has been there for him.

"I used to come for the free handouts", Tyronne continues, "not now, this ...." he looks around at a room of assorted humanity "... is my church, my family, there is something special here...".

I don't really know Tyronne - what I do know is enough to know that this is a significant moment for him and actually me. The moment hung for seconds and then was gone as the need not to miss out on a new coat was then his priority.

Tyronne stayed and prayed with us and then left after hugging his family that is Faith House.

Travelling to and from Faith House is good reading time for me - so the context for this evening is set by a back issue of Leadership Journal. In particular an interview with some guy reaching into one of the poorest areas (aren't they always!) in Portland. Two questions inparticular:

"What shoud a church expect if it begins to reach out to people on the margins? Don't expect it to grow numerically. It will grow your church, but it will grow it deep...!"

"What do you mean by see the gospel"? I guarantee there isn't a homeless person in Portland who couldn't tell you the gospel verbatim. They've had to listen to it three times a day to get a sandwich. They've heard about Christ, but they haven't seen Christ..."

Monday, February 18, 2008

What it is to be a Father....

It's funny but somewhere, somehow I was conditioned to think that my fatherhood was going to take the form of Saturday mornings watching the school team on the touch line with all the other competitive parents. It might have been to do with the fact that mine is a male dominated family. I haven't had the role model of knowing what it means to be a father to daughters.

I have gradually got used to the interminable dance shows where you watch complete strangers for 3 hours before your daughter dances her bit for 5 seconds; I've gradually got used to those pink fluffy shops that to be honest I didn't even know existed; I've got used to finding hair bobbles and slides in my pockets and that our bathroom resembles Bodyshop. But no-one, I repeat no-one prepared me for the 'family ballet' afternoon at the Royal Opera House.

Eryn seemingly has a talent for ballet and has been selected for the Royal Ballet's chance to dance scheme. Free tuition for 3 years with instructors from the Royal Ballet. She has done really well and we are really proud of her. In an effort to win parents over and to gain their enthusiasm we were invited to the Royal Opera House and for 4 hours we were taught ballet. Pointing toes, first position, second position, skipping, jumping, galloping we were all regular Angelina Ballerina's, culminating in a show. All in the Fonteyn ballet studio where Darcy Bussell trains.

Hilarious - what a great afternoon, even if my tutu was too tight!

Go Ery!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Culling Facebook Friends...

I can hardly believe it but I quite miss them now they are no longer around.

For several years I have been bombarded by e-mails from speculators from Africa wanting to be my buddy, wanting to be my best friend. I've changed my ISP and email address so no longer do I hear from William Zuma from Swaziland; Mrs Janet Komoah from Ghana; Mrs. Grace Edward from Botswana; Brother Jeff Ikey from Zimbabwe; Mrs. Susan Shabangu or Deacon Allen from Nigeria wanting me to share in untold millions. I miss their friendship that knew no bounds. Their concern as they tried really hard to get to know all about me. Their empathy for my family as they try to align themselves to my life. I miss their interest as they want to share my life. Their agenda my bank account!!

But not to worry I now have people I hardly know wanting to be my friend on Facebook. It is all a bit bizzare to me - it is great that I have been able to catch up with genuine friends; re-connect with the Youth Club at Poplar; connect with family across the world - but on the whole 50% of those listed on my friends list I consider acquaintences, some even good, but not friends. There is another agenda thing going on - these 'friends' are after another form of currency that is counted in the amount of friends they have listed. I'm a Facebook scalp.

Friendship with an agenda of stealth can never be friendship. I still shudder at the instructions that we as Christians need to get out and make friends in order to evangelise them. It is so easy to see through, a shadow of what evangelism should be.

No offence if I once met you in a lift 5 years ago; or met you at a friend of a cousin's wedding - unless you send me £5 you are - just like friendship evangelism by stealth - history!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Eryn on Prayer...

Kate: "Are you going to say any prayers tonight Eryn...?"

Eryn: "No!"

Kate: "Why not?"

Eryn: "Because tonight Mum - I'm going to rap them...!"

Kate: "!"

Children are such a gift!

Friday, February 15, 2008

Heaven is important but it is not the end of the world...

Thanks to Prodigal Kiwi for pointing out NT Wright interviewed in Time here

To whet your appetite:

"...I've often heard people say, "I'm going to heaven soon, and I won't need this stupid body there, thank goodness.' That's a very damaging distortion..."

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Towards Vision 2/4

through such knowledge positives can be affirmed and negatives can be addressed as the personality of the church can be matured so that it becomes a richer reflection of Jesus.

Robert Warren ( here ) makes an interesting application of Walter Wink's work on church essence. In terms of identifying vision for church, Warren reflects on the story of Moses, to encourage churches to discover that 'what is in your hand' is where courage can be found for the task ahead.

Warren explains what it is to discover the 'Angel of the church'; the letters in Revelation 2 and 3 he notes are addressed mysteriously to the Angel of the Church. This points, he suggest, to the letters being written to the essence or character, the corporate identity or personality of the church.
"The Angel of the Church is the coincidence of what the church is - its personality - and what it is called to become - its vocation" Walter Wink
In other words the angel of the church is about seeing the church as a whole and being able to discern the church's character; spirit or feel in order to speak into it. Getting to grips with a church personality through identifying its 'Angel' will mean an understanding of the interweaving of:
  • Where the church has come from –its history
  • Where it is – its context
  • What it is – its personality
  • What it is called to become – its vocation
The more fully we know someone or a group the more likely we will know how to help them address new realities, importantly Wink suggests "real change must affect not just the visible forms an institution takes but somehow must alter the spirit, the core essence, of the entity as a whole". Then through such knowledge positives can be affirmed and negatives can be addressed as the personality of the church can be matured so that it becomes a richer reflection of Jesus.

Warren, R. (2004) The Healthy Churches Handbook.Church House Publishing


7 marks of a healthy church...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ringma on Ongoing Conversion...

While religion ever slides to the right and to the embrace of conservative ethics and politics, the Bible remains a dangerous book calling us to ongoing conversion. That conversion is not simply the call to abandon our own pathetic and pitiful personal wrongdoing, but also involves a conversion from the social deformities that inhabit our soulscape. The idolatries of our time - control, consumerism, exploitation, militarism, narcissism - need to be expelled from our ways of thinking and acting, as much as the personal wrongdoing of greed, pride, lust and deception. (pp 139)

Ringma, C. (2003). Seek the Silences with Thomas Merton.

Monday, February 11, 2008

People Like Us....

In little more than a whisper, Tom as almost an after thought, an aside to himself said "The trouble is that they don't want to help people like us."

Faith House was intriguing tonight; lots of conversation and chat, probably to do with the fact that there weren't so many guys in which meant there was room for us all to sit and enjoy each other's company.

I was uncomfortable at hearing the injustice that Tom shared with us. For weeks he was denied his freedom pass on the buses because he was seen as an alcoholic, homeless waster; for weeks he fought the injustice; for weeks he was made to feel like rubbish. With a smile on his face he told us that eventually he wore them down and won his freedom pass and free travel around London, a freedom pass he was legitimately entitled to.

The smile faded when he told us what the council official said.

"The trouble with you people is that you will just go and sell it for booze..."

In little more than a whisper, Tom as almost an after thought, an aside to himself said "The trouble is that they don't want to help people like us."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Fragmentation... 2/3

Continuing to looking at the Strategic Framework shows how rather than being a prescriptive little red book, it actually could help in the articulation of vision. The second area of questions aiming at stimulating a local response looked at the issue of family.

Fragmented Families

Families of all shapes and sizes form an essential building block in society but many families fragment under the pressure of 21st century living. There is a gap in culture and understanding between the generations that can lead to mistrust and fear. (Strategic Framework UKT (2002)

Opportunities exist in…
  • Can we make our churches more family-friendly places where people of all ages can worship God and discover more about his plan for their lives?

  • What more can we do to reconnect fragmented families?

  • How can we improve our work with young people and enhance our ability to bridge the generation gap? (Strategic Framework UKT (2002)

Fragmentation... 1/3

Faith Development: Von Hügel... 3/3

Having identified Infancy/Institutional and Adolescence /Critical Von Hügel moves on to what he identifies as being an Adulthood/ Mystical stage in faith development.

Characterised by a growing awareness of an inner consciousness of God that is incommunicable and mysterious. There is release from critical analysis and the discomfort of incessant search for meaning; there is a renewed appreciation of the stories of Infancy, but within a new depth of meaning and understanding. No longer is there either the need to define or deconstruct God - there is comfort in the mystery of God.

To ignore this stage of faith development would be to anaesthetise or shut ourselves off from God; equally this stage in isolation to the Institutional and Critical elements of faith development would become self preoccupied. There is a balance to be struck. For instance to neglect the sense of mystery would be for us to be intellectually alive but spiritually barren; or for us to be simply content with the mystery of God would be for us to be guilty of being self absorbed.

It is easy to fall into the trap of seeing these stages as successive stages to pass through; however each contains elements of each other, no one stage is fully matured. What this, Fowler and others offer - with recognised faults - is a helpful support to help understand ourselves as we seek to 'know' the depth, width and height of God. We are called to a mature life of action as our faith is 'perfected'. A healthy sense of faith development helps maintain a position where we can keep learning, unlearning, relearning, co-learning in the comfort of the mystery that is God.


Faith Development: Von Hügel... 1/3
Faith Development: Von Hügel... 2/3

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Towards Vision ... 1/4

Vision is quite a loaded word in church circles; I wonder whether sometimes it can be totally misused by leaders who want to do their thing. "This is God's vision for this place or area ... God has told me blah blah blah... God's will is that we...." is the ultimate in top trump cards; unbeatable like the TVR Cerbera Speed 12 the card to beat all cards.

I wonder if there is a balance between waiting to zapped divinely with the winning formulae and going all corporate 5 year plan - certainly there is a responsibility for us to not drift into vision while not being too prescriptive. When we as church start talking about vision, care needs to be taken, agendas need to be teased out and tested.

Nunhead SA where we worship corporately, has started a process of 'vision casting' and here's the difference there is a sense of a shared accountability, journey and responsibility. Self-preoccupied agendas struggle in such a healthy environment.

Stuart Murray-Williams asks an interesting question that can help in any thought process regarding church direction. "What kinds of churches might leavers rejoin and not leave in the first place?"
  • Churches where God is at the centre, rather than the minister, programme or growth targets.
  • Churches that nurture authentic friendships rather than insipid 'fellowship' or institutional belonging.
  • Churches that are self-critical, alert to destructive interpersonal dynamics and that are working towards healthy community practices.
  • Churches that treat adults as adults and encourage spiritual development rather than spoon-feeding their members.
  • Churches that foster dialogue rather than monologue and participation rather than performance.
  • Churches that welcome questions, eschew simplistic answers and affirm the dimension of mystery in authentic spirituality.
  • Churches that encourage expressions of doubt, anger and lament as well as joyful certainty.
  • Churches that are attuned to the pressures of daily life and do not place unrealistic demands on their members.
  • Churches that engage creatively and sensitively with contemporary culture and social issues.
  • Churches that equip members for the world of work and discipleship beyond the congregation.
  • Churches that embrace a holistic understanding of mission and have realistic expectations as marginal communities in post-Christendom.Pp 55-56
Murray, S (2005) Church after Christendom. Pasternoster

I guess what we need to do with such a list is to ask "How can we be a church that can...?"

Friday, February 08, 2008

Great ad for wind generated energy...

A friend in Canada sent me this great advert for wind generated energy; also a great advert for what it is to embrace... as a kingdom value.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

A Long Week...

I've spent most of this week in Holland at a SA Training Leader's Conference - hence the lack of blog activity. In the spare time I thoroughly enjoyed working my way through Henri Nouwen's The Prodigal Son - Nouwen's honesty, insight and love of art was fascinating and inspiring. I had lots of time before my flight and was able to spend some good time and company with friends in a rather soggy Amsterdam - we ended up in the Rijksmuseum.

Something happened to me - I think largely due to Nouwen's work on Rembrandt's The Return of the Prodigal Son. I fell in love with what I have always felt was fusty ... art. I looked with new eyes at the artist's interpretation of scripture. My favourite being Rembrandt's Jeremiah lamenting the destruction of Jerusalem - it captured my mood of last week perfectly where I was in such a bad mood it made me laugh!! Being so close to such valuable, having watched too many Harry Potter films it was as though Jeremiah was about to look up and say "you got a problem...!"

Before you think I have gone all cultured - I went and asked - in the best art crtics voice I could muster- the guide where the Van Gogh wing was...!

"Van Gogh sir....?" with a very snooty 'oh no' inflection to his voice.

"This, is the Rijksmuseum.... no Van Gogh here...!"

And here I was thinking that Rembrandt was so yesterday...!


I found an interesting Art Concordance/ Index here