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Saturday, June 29, 2002

I've been reflected on something, off and on over the weekend. I read it on Thursday. Andrew Pritchard (A Spiritual Director, supervisor, and lecturer in Raumati, NZ - he's also written an interesting article, entitled, "Your Church's Personality"), in his article, "Spirituality of Addition, Spirituality of Subtraction" wrote of his experience with "burnout" (not that I'm burnt out), and he made this comment which has attached itself to my thinking, "As I look back over my life it is so often the painful times, the crises, that have bought the most growth. Burnout...helped me to see that people respected me for who I was not what I achieved..."

I got to asking myself, how I cope with painful and disilluioning experiences....? But also, most pressingly, I started to reflect on people who are a part of my life, and started to wonder how many actually respected and loved me for who I was, rather than for my activisim - my willingness to help out, to use the gifts and skills that God has blessed me with etc. What if I couldn't do many of the things that I do...who would still be there...?

I've found these really useful questions to reflect on in the context of friendship, and the depth of connection we share with others...I reflected on Jesus and the closeness and depth of his friendship with his closest circle of disciples, I thought about their disertion of him, but then of their return...of their eyes been opened to the significance of who had deeply connected with their lives...I thought of friendship and the disappointments of friendship...I thought of Eugene Peteson and all the things I'd read by him about "friendship" - deep 'spiritual' friendship. I thought about a lot of things, but was left with the question, "who would be there if I was able to 'do'...? and the primacy of my need for friendship, communion, love, and acceptance from and with God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I also resolved to read and reflect more deeply on Aelred's 'book', "Spiritual Friendship".

Paul Fromont 6/29/2002 02:50:00 PM
Friday, June 28, 2002
Threshold to the Future by Mike Riddell - Book Review by Ian Mobsby (from "Gospel and Culture Network - UK", their newsletter - Spring 2000.)

"Mike Riddell’s latest passionate book follows closely on the heels of previous titles that have won him a good reputation. It is a must for anybody who has an interest in Western post-industrialised societies and their culture. The author is concerned with the re-integration of Christian groups into their culture and their local communities - a matter in which he experiences some frustration with the established church.

Mike addresses the demise of the Church in Western society. He analyses the reasons for this when interest in spirituality has become commonplace, interest often of a perfectly healthy kind. He compares the church a terminally ill patient who, buoyed by steroid medication, may comfortably deny their illness to themselves.

The author looks at the elements within cultural change and their effect on the zeitgeist of our times. This is uncomfortable reading: it highlights how great a challenge faces the Church as we move from modernity to post-modernity and all its new uncertainties. It is frightening to think just how isolated the Church is becoming from popular and local culture.

In a key section, the author finds in Acts 10.1 - 11.18 evidence of how the early church met the crisis of changing culturally from a solely Jewish following to an inclusive one, offering guidance and hope for us in our own period. He gently leads us to reappraise our attitudes, values, and activities, and to centre ourselves anew on Christ. I personally was deeply challenged by warnings about the ‘sin of holiness’. It can be much easier to rely on following a set of right behaviours than to live in a relationship of dependence on an invisible God who demands obedience: a God who went to some of the most broken and lost places of our world, talked, ate, and drank with all. Riddell's emphasis on relationship rather than pragmatics is refreshing.

When looking at the principles of Christianity, Riddell reminds the reader that the world now strives to be non-hierarchical, gender-inclusive in structures and language, creative, holistic and whole. Work is increasingly seen as demanding workers to be team players rather than individuals competing their way up the career ladder. This world is moving away from the traditional structures of institutions, the family, work, and leisure. Our Church, however, still draws on those traditional structures. Can the church change?

In our visually-oriented world, Riddell challenges the church to make room for artists and their expressions of Christianity. In a world that mistrusts institutions, the power of art to communicate truth is vital. Testimony - ‘this is my story of God’ - may be the Spirit's exciting lead in the place of traditional evangelism and sermons. Riddell anticipates a Church alive in smaller, non-institutional gatherings of community-focused Christians.

The author ends by analysing some projects in Australia and New Zealand that have started to grapple with the issues of being Church connected in the World. These include projects related to the alternative/creative worship international movement, and community projects attempting to 'build into' the everyday, such as cafe’s and bars.

I give this book ten out of ten. I do not do this lightly; I feel this is a very important book for a Church that needs to stop and listen."

Paul Fromont 6/28/2002 10:31:00 PM
I purchased a copy of a new book, written by Kiwi's, Alistair Mackenzie and Wayne Kirkland. It's called, "Where's God on Monday?"
It's a wonderfully helpful little resource for gaining a biblical understanding of work, and for helping to make the connections between our Christian faith, and workplaces. Fantastic for a small group to read together and talk about.

Paul Fromont 6/28/2002 08:15:00 PM
I'm thinking about doing something around this theme for Easter, 2003 - "Jesus at the Movies"

Paul Fromont 6/28/2002 03:30:00 AM
Brian McLaren responds, "Faithfully Dangerous: Christians in postmodern times."

Paul Fromont 6/28/2002 03:24:00 AM
"...The great, invigorating challenge for us preachers is not that Jesus was God, but that God was Jesus."

William Willimon

Paul Fromont 6/28/2002 03:18:00 AM
Okay, if you really want me too...........here's another Australian media report - "While Christianity declines, Buddhism grows rapidly" By Kelly Burke, Religious Affairs Writer, June 18 2002

Paul Fromont 6/28/2002 02:49:00 AM
Thursday, June 27, 2002
Graham Cray's "Presidential Address to the Diocese of Canterbury Synod - 22 June 2002." here.

Paul Fromont 6/27/2002 10:35:00 PM
A couple of good articles. The first is Seeking Hope in the Ruins of Postmodernity by Tim Corney. I read it in Zadok a few years ago, but have now discovered it 'online'. Also below Tim's article you'll find one by Graham Cray. Enjoy.

Paul Fromont 6/27/2002 10:05:00 PM
This Australian originating article might raise some issues...."Post Christendom "Worship"?" (pdf.file). For example, how do you feel about a statement like, "Public worship is inappropriate..."

Why People Don't Go to Church...the published results of the Australian National Church Life Survey - to be published in July 2002. AUD $25.00 (ISBN 0859109526). Should make very interesting reading...for those of us "down under"

Paul Fromont 6/27/2002 09:35:00 PM
Well, I've been travelling inter city today, so I've had a chance to listen to a few tapes - I finished off a series by Graham Cray that I started some time ago. The others were a continuation of Willard and Hunter's "Kingdom Living Conference" series. What did I take time to jot down...?

"Worship is to be caught up in the love language between the Father and the Son. Worship is to be caught up into the experience of God...it's a transformative experience in which we are more deeply converted, and more deeply transformed by both the transcencence of God and the immanance of God..."

Graham Cray (with some addition by me)

I often lament that in my life my experiences of worship is so much less than what Graham describes...I guess I'm one of those statistics that I talked about on the 24th June.

"...Christ is Israel as God intended...Christ is humanity as God intended..." (a nice summary of one of NT. Wright's central arguments. I like it...).

Todd Hunter

Paul Fromont 6/27/2002 09:21:00 PM
Wednesday, June 26, 2002
New book out by James M. Houston (Board of Governors’ Professor, Spiritual Theology, Regent College) called The Mentored Life: From Individualism to Personhood

Paul Fromont 6/26/2002 01:03:00 PM
"Faith is homesickness. Faith is a lump in the throat. Faith is less a position on than a movement toward, less
a sure thing than a hunch. Faith is waiting. Faith is journeying through space and time."

Frederick Buechner.

Paul Fromont 6/26/2002 12:57:00 PM
Tuesday, June 25, 2002
A great article, "Crime, Crucifixion and the Forgotten Art of Lament" by the Kiwi Theologian who has most influenced my thinking, and journey - Chris Marshall.

Chris teaches New Testament at the Henderson Campus of the Bible College of New Zealand

Paul Fromont 6/25/2002 01:30:00 PM
Was reading the June copy (pdf. File) of “On the Road” (the newsletter of the Anabaptist Association of Australia and New Zealand) yesterday. Doug Hynd, in his “President’s Report” concluded with this very timely, and needing to be prayerfully and deeply reflected on question:

Is there any prospect for a Christian community that can, in the words of Karl Barth, “Represent God’s cause in the world, and yet not wage war on the world, love the world, and yet be completely faithful to God…?” Doug continues, “Can we live in openness to the call to such discipleship and the building of such a community?”

Here’s some very provocative questions/responses by Jesuit Priest, author, and peace/reconciliation advocate, John Dear (from the March edition of “On the Road”)

“Why is it that most people support
war? Why do people give in to the
patriotic, nationalistic fervor behind
militarism and support the slaughter of
fellow human beings? Why do people
choose destruction instead of life?
…we choose destruction instead of
life because we are faithless. We do
not believe in the living God. We do not
worship the God of non-violence, the
God of peace, the God of life. Instead,
we worship the idols of death and place
our faith, hope, trust, and security in
our weapons. And because of this, we
follow them down the wide road to

Why do so few find the narrow
gate, the narrow path to life? Because
it is hard to be sane when the culture
around us is insane. It is hard to speak
of peace in a permanent war economy.
It is hard to insist on life when life is
cheap, when the next war seems
inevitable, when our leaders glorify the
way of destruction…Given the trouble
and persecution we invite if we oppose
the culture’s road to destruction, we
prefer to mind our own business, make
our money, pay war taxes, submit to
the culture’s apathy, and not waste
time struggling in a ‘hopeless cause’
against the insurmountable imperial
mindset that breeds war.”

From - “Jesus the Rebel: Bearer of God’s Peace and Justice” by
John Dear, pp. 51-52

The whole experience of reading “On the Road” highlights, for me, the incredible, and sometimes seemingly overwhelming challenge of being church in our emerging world. The challenge of better ‘balancing’ the tension between the “inner journey” (the nurturing of our core relationship with God and the consequences of that relationship on our individual lives), our "journey together" in community, and the “outer journey” (our giving expression to the call to obediently, lovingly, and faithfully follow Jesus Christ. Our looking ‘outwards’ toward the world and toward each other). How are new expressions of church going to keep the diverse dimensions of church praxis in a healthy tension with one another, without succumbing to the easy option of focusing almost exclusively on “navel gazing” - On “my” needs (my needs to be healed, to experience God, to be loved, to feel accepted and needed etc.)…?

It seems so often (and this is a generalisation) that our experience in any one church context is so one-dimensional, depending upon what ‘stream’ of the church we happen to be in, e.g. Charismatic and Pentecostal (with their focus on Worship, on feelings, and on the experience of God through song), Mennonite/Anabaptist (with their very real commitment to issues of social justice), Evangelical (with their emphasis on the Word, on right doctrine, and right thinking.).

What emphasis might characterise “alt” or “emerging” expressions of church - will we, in time, be seen to have been ‘different’ but equally ‘one-dimensional,’ or will we discover and encourage new ways of operating in multiple dimensions…?

Will we keep the tension between such entities as: the poet and the protester; the artist and the prophet; the victor and the sufferer; and, the servant and the mystic…? Will we put the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ at the center and see what responses, forms, and expressions of church grow out of that central reality?

Paul Fromont 6/25/2002 11:47:00 AM
Monday, June 24, 2002
Here's a really thoughtful article entitled, "VIOLENCE IN CHRISTIAN THEOLOGY" by J. Denny Weaver. It will no doubt 'rattle' a few dearly held understandings of the "atonement" in particular. It's quite a long article but well worth a read by those with an interest in the "atonement" and violence. Published by "CrossCurrents in 2001. I'll be making more comment in tomorrow morning's 'post'.

Paul Fromont 6/24/2002 05:50:00 PM
Up to tape 5 (side A) of the Kingdom Living Conference with Dallas Willard & Todd Hunter. I was really struck by this statement from Dallas Willard:

“The first step in the renovation of the heart is the directing of the mind toward God…Jesus comes primarily to help us do this because God is so great there's no way we can comprehend him in himself, but as he comes to us in nature, in history, in other peoples, and above all, in Christ…[as] your mind is directed toward God, your feelings change…”

The latter part of Dallas' statement reminds me that that’s still my prayer after 10 years of following Christ – that my heart would be enflamed with Christ’s love toward the Father, and with his love toward the world; that my feelings would exceed the changes that have occurred in my thinking. “Lord hear my prayer!”

He also quoted from the wonderful English Puritan, Thomas Watson. Luckily I have a few of Watson’s books so I’ll try and find the quote which sounded like it was from either, “A Christian on the Mount, or a Treatise Concerning Meditation;” or “The Upright Man’s Character” – both from “The Sermons of Thomas Watson” (the introduction to which is dated, Nov. 7th 1657).

I always find it interesting to see what ‘connections’ a statement like Dallas’ above triggers. In my case it was a ‘connection’ to the preface of JI. Packers book “Knowing God,” and AW. Tozer in his book, “The Knowledge of the Holy.”

In his preface, Packer suggests that:

“…In reducing God to “pigmy” proportions, we cannot hope to end up as anything more than pigmy Christians…The modern tendency is to spawn great thoughts of humanity while leaving little room for thoughts of God. The modern way is to set God at a distance, if not to ignore him altogether…”

While Tozer writes,

“…It is impossible to keep our moral practices sound and our inward attitudes right while our idea of God is erroneous or inadequate. If we would bring back spiritual power to our lives, we must begin to think again of God as He is. A right understanding of God is basic to practical Christian living. It is to worship what the foundation is to a house; where it is inadequate or out of plumb the whole structure must sooner of later collapse.

The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of him…we do the greatest service to the next generation of Christians by passing onto them an undimmed and undiminished view and experience of God as He truly is…”

Paul Fromont 6/24/2002 12:53:00 PM
Sunday, June 23, 2002
Was reading the May 27, 2002 copy of the Challenge Weekly (NZ publication) and it had an interesting article entitled "Building Great Kiwi Churches". The statements in it which I found most interesting are these. They're from a US context, but New Zealander, Gordon Miller comments that NZ wouldn't be dissimilar. Certainly the things I hear people I know, saying, would suggest the same kind of thing:

"According to a Barna survey in the U.S. three-quarters of attending adults don’t experience the presence of God during worship - and half of all churchgoers say they haven’t felt connected to God or in His presence at any time in the past year, despite attending church regularly. Even more alarming, only four per cent of Protestant senior pastors saw facilitating or enhancing worship as really important for their churches."

"My concern is that we have been in conference mode for many years, bringing in overseas speakers as though they will have all the answers for us, but they have not."


Paul Fromont 6/23/2002 01:23:00 PM
Saturday, June 22, 2002
I was reflecting this afternoon on the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11) and one of the barriers to gathering a group of people around a common vision or dream - the problem of a lack of common language. People who can actually talk and communicate in a way that others readily understand and relate too. Perhaps this happens when people interact with the same material (a sermon, lecture, movie, book, article(s), activity etc.), but what if they never do...? I think its great the way that churches are interacting with each other via technology, or sharing a book together and 'talking' about what it's saying and it's implications, e.g. the group reading Dallas Willard's new book, "Renovation of the Heart" Anyway, I'm just thinking aloud. In Christ are the effects of Babel overcome...? Any other creative ways of getting a group (with different learning styles etc.) talking the same language...?

Paul Fromont 6/22/2002 07:25:00 PM
One of my all-time favourite novels (VS. Naipaul's first novel - I seem to recall) has recently been produced as a movie. It's started its season in NZ. Can't wait to see it - "The Mystic Masseur." I'll post a review when I've seen it.

Paul Fromont 6/22/2002 02:58:00 PM
Continue to run the race Mike, Amber and everyone else at West Palm. Just caught up on your June 20 entry Mike. Nice to read about some "movers". Praying for you.

Paul Fromont 6/22/2002 12:35:00 PM
Friday, June 21, 2002
Continuing to listen to the tapes from the “Kingdom Living Conference” with Dallas Willard and Todd Hunter. Today it was tape 3. The statement that really stuck in my mind was this one by Todd Hunter:

"Move with the movers...we spend so much of our time, energy, and [creativity] trying to interest the disintersted...The way you create change in any social situation is to move with the movers..."

This really struck me as being a 'truism' that has been a real experience in my life. Reminded me of St. Paul's statements about a "remnant." I get exhausted trying to cajole, encourage, draw attention too etc. etc. But I keep holding out, hoping to deeply connect with "movers" for the sake of the Kingdom. "Lord hear my prayer..." Perhaps, as Todd continues on, I'm not listening as deeply as I need too to others, and am therefore failing to see those "movers" whom God has connected me with. Anyway, enough wistful musing. It's a great encouragement to share the journey's of others with the aid of this great technology...I can wake up and 'be' in Ohio, Kentucky, Florida, Auckland, California, London, Prague, Canada, Australia etc.

Paul Fromont 6/21/2002 02:53:00 PM
"The Cross remains at the heart of our quest, evocative, provocative... a sign pointing to another way."

Brian Draper.

Paul Fromont 6/21/2002 01:02:00 PM
Thursday, June 20, 2002
A really interesting newspaper article from "The Dallas Morning News" about one of my heroes Stanley Hauerwas, "Stanley Hauerwas preaches a gospel that jolts: Christian theologian says believers lack sense of radical obedience." Published 20th April, 2002. (put Stanley's name and the title in a search engine and you should locate it.)

Paul Fromont 6/20/2002 09:37:00 PM
I was just checking Jason Evan's site, and thought I'd check out "Waters Edge". Joel, probably without knowing it, captures the sense of what I was saying on the 20th about Dallas Willard and Todd Hunter. Check him out - his entry of 19th June. This is one of the things I enjoy about 'blogging' - these kind of random, unplanned global connections...

Paul Fromont 6/20/2002 04:34:00 PM
I love this expression that Steve Taylor uses in his June 20 entry - "Marginal creative communities." I for one find it really interesting, on a number of levels, not least because as emerging churches in a 'transitioning' world, we are on the margins or fringes. The sooner we realise that, the better. Insights like these help me understand the 'margins' and to see the possibilities for church, worship, and mission. Imagine if we embraced that location, found God already at work in that location, and added some real creativity and prayer - what might the emerging church look like in say a decade....? Check out Steve's church - link on my blog - "Graceway".

Paul Fromont 6/20/2002 01:18:00 PM
Great new article by Brian McLaren, published in Discipleship Magazine - Old Book, New Eyes : Reflections on Making Scripture More Accessible to Postmodern Readers

Paul Fromont 6/20/2002 01:08:00 AM
I’ve been listening to tapes from the “Kingdom Living Conference” with Dallas Willard and Todd Hunter (thanks for the loan Geoff). Wow. Today it was tape 2 (side 2) and Dallas Willard’s comments on the “Kingdom of God”.

Here’s a couple of statements which I wrote down:

“The Kingdom of God is God in action. The Kingdom of God is where what God wants done is done…a reality that will one day be true of every realm and dimension of life.”

“Grace is God’s action in our lives…”

In talking about Jesus sending his disciples to the “lost sheep of Israel,” Dallas made this comment: “…we need to refine our message for the people who are in our congregations. We need to preach the gospel to the churches. They are the prime field of evangelism in the Western world - the people who are in the churches, not the people who aren’t…” [emphasis, mine].

This latter statement was the most provocative for me, thinking as I do from the perspective of churches as “missional communities.” Now as I ‘wrestled’ with this statement, I also had at the back of my mind a statement that I had made in a recent sermon drawing out the missional aspects of Gen. 12:3 -

“…‘Mission’, for Israel was not a matter of going out beyond it’s borders, but of being; to be what they were, to live as God’s people in the sight of the nations. How they lived in the sight of those around them was critical to their serving as the missionary people of a ‘missionary’ God…In many ways, Israel’s call to live in the sight of nations as a “missional community” serves for us as the primary (but not ‘only’) model by which we are to serve the ‘world’ within which we live. God calls us to be a community which in reflecting his character, his ‘values’, his commitments, and priorities, will serve his ongoing mission to “bless the nations…”

Now I know I’m taking a liberty, because I’m not Dallas, but I’m pretty sure that he isn’t making an “either/or” statement. He seems to me to be talking about priorities, especially when you think of Christians in terms not of whether you’re “in” or “out” (and therefore, presumably not a Christian), but rather in terms of whether a person (sing.) / persons (pl.) are following Christ and seeking to learn from him, and to become like him, or not!
What if we took seriously both the “incarnation” and statements from the likes of Francis of Assisi who said, “I preach the gospel at all times, and where necessary, I use words.” Would we stand a better chance of hearing what Dallas is saying?

What if we also inserted this statement by Dallas into any ‘conversation’ you and I might be having, “…“One can be a professing Christian and a church member in good standing without being a disciple.” (from The Divine Conspiracy). At the heart of this reality is that “we have accepted non-obedience to Christ [ as being synonymous with ‘Christian’].” (from Spiritual Formation: What is it, and How is it Done). This is a part of what I think Matthew 7:21-23 is saying.

So whilst Dallas’ statement provokes, I’m of the view that he’s right. The prime location for evangelism is the church, because we’ve settled for something far less than is expected of us as followers of Christ. In not following Christ, and learning from Christ we settle for a ‘model’ of “Christian” which fails to radically, powerfully, and distinctively convey the reality that to follow Christ is the way of the cross - the way of suffering. This has real implications for Gospel versus culture.

We need to consider afresh that the incarnational life of the Church starkly serves to either affirm or undermine the truth claim of the gospel of Christ. I think Dallas is indirectly saying that currently we who are supposedly “in” are in fact undermining the full significance and truthfulness of the gospel by our allegiances and the ways, in which we live and act.

To follow Christ and to preach the message of Christ, not a message about Christ (I think we’ve generally not grasped the full implications of this point) is so much more than I’ve settled for - so much more radical than I’ve understood.

If we prioritise the making of Christ-followers-24/7 then mission becomes a natural and intentional extension of the outworking of our central relationship with Jesus Christ.

Paul Fromont 6/20/2002 12:48:00 AM
Wednesday, June 19, 2002
I recently re-read this 1999 Atlantic Monthly article by American Harvey Cox -
"The Market as God." I think it's still a provocative commentary, 3 years after I first read it.

Here's an excerpt:

"A FEW years ago a friend advised me that if I wanted to know what was going on in the real world, I should read the business
pages. Although my lifelong interest has been in the study of religion, I am always willing to expand my horizons; so I took the advice, vaguely fearful that I would have to cope with a new and baffling vocabulary. Instead I was surprised to discover that most of the concepts I ran across were quite familiar.

Expecting a terra incognita, I found myself instead in the land of déjà vu. The lexicon of The Wall Street Journal and the business sections of Time and Newsweek turned out to bear a striking resemblance to Genesis, the Epistle to the Romans, and Saint Augustine's City of God. Behind descriptions of market reforms, monetary policy, and the convolutions of the Dow, I gradually made out the pieces of a grand narrative about the inner meaning of human history, why things had gone wrong, and how to put them right. Theologians call these myths of origin, legends of the fall, and doctrines of sin and redemption. But here they were again, and in only thin disguise: chronicles about the creation of wealth, the seductive temptations of statism, captivity to faceless economic
cycles, and, ultimately, salvation through the advent of free markets, with a small dose of ascetic belt tightening along the way, especially for the East Asian economies."

Paul Fromont 6/19/2002 12:01:00 AM
Tuesday, June 18, 2002
Three statements I've found really helpful in the last couple of days. One was Eugene Peterson (posted 17 June) about our expectations of "community", the other was Alan Creech's quoting of Frodo (from the movie "Lord of the Rings"), "we don't choose our times, but what we can do is choose what to do with the times we are given." And the final statement was this one by Margaret Killingray in the latest "Word for the Week" from the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity. She wrote, taking the title of one of Eugene Peterson's books),

"We are called to 'a long obedience in the same direction' - not to quick results. We need to work steadily and be prepared to wait for results we may never see. Have faith in the Lord. He accepts that, not just the things we do."

I think for me, they capture both a sense of personal disappointment ("what could have been" or "what I hoped would have been..."), perhaps an unhealthy expectation of others, and yet also, a high level of excitement (and fear) about the things that God will do in the future. For me it's about a long, patient, and often slow obedience in the same direction. It's about following Christ. It's about being "...a person who has decided that the most important thing in life is to [become progressively more like Jesus]; to do what Jesus said to do. A disciple is not a person who has things under control, or who knows a lot of things. Disciples are people who are constantly revising their living in order to carry through on their decision to follow Jesus, [and to take seriously and gratefully the fact that God has chosen them and called them]..." (amended statement by Dallas Willard, from his article, "Rethinking evangelism" published in 2001 in Cutting Edge Magazine). "Lord hear my prayer."

Paul Fromont 6/18/2002 11:59:00 AM
"Faithfulness demands more than the recounting of received orthodoxy; it requires the encounter of a living tradition with a continually changing culture."

Mike Riddell

Paul Fromont 6/18/2002 12:04:00 AM
Monday, June 17, 2002
Link to a short audio interview (15 mins.) with Eugene Peterson - the pastoral ministry. [scroll down the web-page].

Paul Fromont 6/17/2002 12:07:00 PM
This section of a poem by New Zealand and Otago poet, Brian Turner, called "Taking Off" reminds me of my childhood in North Otago, the South Island of New Zealand. It never fails to amaze me just what feelings and images journey with us as we grow, and journey though life and also of the importance of open 'space' for me - of 'space' outside of our normal and often corrosive urban/suburban context. It reminds me also of Annie Dillard, and the wonder of seeing the 'world' afresh through the 'window-frame' of her words.
Finally, it reminds me of Jesus and his times of solitude and wilderness:

"I take off for the hills
to escape the rage
of my neighbours mower
savaging grass,
to find some breathing space,
and the find the wonder is
wonder hasn't died, happiness beckons,
and the wind in the tussock murmurs
And not before time.

Paul Fromont 6/17/2002 11:55:00 AM
Reading Seven Magazine today, and specifically an article by Kiwi Mike Riddell, called "Image Is Nothing" reminded me of a conversation which I had with a good friend of mine the other night, Andrew Shepherd. He made the very accurate comment that Mike is more well known overseas than he is in his own country. I'm not sure that Mike might necessarily like the term "Prophet" being used to describe him (but that would be a huge assumption on my part) but I certainly agreed with Andrew linking Mike to this scripture (albeit out of it's historical and geographical context), "No Prophet is accepted in his home in his home town" (Lk. 4:24). I think that's true of Mike. He's got some some really incisive, provocative, and important things to say on a whole lot of levels. I'd highly commend his book, "Threshold of the Future: Reforming the Church in the Post-Christian West". I also really enjoy his novels. If you want to explore more, and you haven't already you'll find other stuff in Seven Magazine's "relics". Also, a not well edited transcript of his notes - "Forgotten Fire - Maintaining intimacy with God in an age of despondency", from a workshop at Epicentre, September 2000.

Paul Fromont 6/17/2002 12:47:00 AM
I found this pdf. document very helpful earlier today, "What is Healthy Congregational Spirituality: A Guide to Resources" by Marlene Kropf, who writes out of a Mennonite context.

Paul Fromont 6/17/2002 12:25:00 AM
Interesting church site - Ordinary Community.

Paul Fromont 6/17/2002 12:23:00 AM
A thought provoking article in today's NZ Herald, The Universal power of Touch

"As a society we are afraid of touch," she said. "We suffer from a fear of inappropriate or 'bad' touching. "Lack of touch - touch starvation if you like - is one of the major causes of depression and suicide in this country...We are a touch-deprived society." I wonder if this adds another dimension to Jesus' washing of his disciples feet...?

Paul Fromont 6/17/2002 12:20:00 AM
Sunday, June 16, 2002
I came across this statement by Eugene Peterson. I must confess this was an assumption I've always held, but sadly, I'd have to concur with one wiser than me, that's not reality and I'd better just get over it - although it's still a source of sadness to me after over 10 years.

"Most of us assume that, having decided to follow Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we will find ourselves in a spiritual community of like-minded friends, a family of brothers and sisters, enjoying one another’s companionship on our way to glory. More often than not we are disappointed."

Eugene Peterson - from his introduction to Larry Crabb's, "The Safest Place on Earth: Where People Connect and are Forever Changed."

Paul Fromont 6/16/2002 03:11:00 PM
Saturday, June 15, 2002
An interesting article in this weekends NZ Herald - a New Zealand perspective on Eric Schlosser's book Fast Food Nation . As Christians we're often very concerned about our spiritual health, but what about our physical health - our diet's etc....?

Paul Fromont 6/15/2002 04:16:00 PM
Thomas Merton audio tapes can be obtained from Credence Communications. Too expensive for this Kiwi boy though (exchange rate and all that kind of thing).

Paul Fromont 6/15/2002 02:42:00 PM
Friday, June 14, 2002
"If I were to start a church today, all the money, time, and resources we usually spend on the sunday morning service would instead be directed towards developing lots of smaller, "missional" communities (I first heard Todd Hunter use this phrase and I like it a lot), no big sunday show but instead relational worship experiences that are the main impetus of a broader network/web/community of communities." Amen to that!

Jeremiah Smith (thanks Kevin for the link).

Paul Fromont 6/14/2002 02:56:00 PM
An interesting comment on 'life' by a NZ journalist/writer/observer of life, Joe Bennett - A book of last words that don't have to be famous

Paul Fromont 6/14/2002 02:44:00 PM
Canadian John Ralston Saul was in New Zealand again a couple of weeks ago to promote his new book "On Equilibrium." During his his talk he made this statement:

Our primary obligation as citizens is to speak up and disagree. The more we are loyal in our lying,
the more our societies will not work well.

Some friends our came to our home for dinner last, and we got to talking about issues of lifestyle - a Christ-following lifestyle. A lifestyle and way of living which give's 'flesh' to the reality that Jesus Christ is King - is over all. We asked and debated lots's of questions - how do we respond to globalisation? How do we make choices about what products to buy (where was it made, was it made fairly from an emloyee point of view etc.) - the kinds of issues that Andrew Jones raised in his recent article - Buffy the Backside Slayer . Also the whole Christian thing about response to consumersim, money etc. A really interesting question. In many ways we had to confess that we had missed the significantly radical ways in which Jesus, in word and deed, subverted for the sake of gospel, so much in his society and culture - but he wasn't carrying placards, orgainising 'mail outs', protest rallies, strikes etc. We often struggle to locate Jesus in his historical context and therefore lose the significance of a lot that he did, and the ways in which his words and deeds were seen and intepretated in his day. (People like NT.('Tom') Wright give us a lot of help in this area) So what does a radical and faithful Christ-following life in our Western cultural context look like...?

The other big question was "Why do we go to church..." All the dimensions of "gathered' church that we currently experience we can experience apart from church - friendship, the sharing of a meal, praying together, growing as a Christ-follower, we don't have to listen to sermons when we can listen to tapes, sermons etc. on our car/home audio systems (including via the web), we can read books, we can practice the spiritual disciplines etc. If we want an experience of God, we can climb a mountain, go walking, surf, listen to music etc. If we want to share 'communion' together we can invite people home for a big feast - to share a meal together. Many people use words such as boring, irrelevent, tiring, deeply disappointing etc. to describe their experiences of church. So, why do we go to church?

Paul Fromont 6/14/2002 12:48:00 PM
Thursday, June 13, 2002
Sorry, but I couldn't resist another "Merton" - in this case a prayer for a transitional time such as ours, and a prodigal such as me who's on the 'road'. Sorry Andrew :-) Savour Alan - you who are the closest person I know to Gethsemani...

"My Lord God, I have no idea where I'm going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it
will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I'm following your will does not mean I am actually
doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that
I am doing.

I hope that if I do this you will lead me by the right road, though I may know nothing about it. Therefore I will trust you
always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. Amen"

Thomas Merton, from Thoughts in Solitude

Also, for those of you who have been following this...you'll know William Stringfellow is a significant influence on my Christ-following journey. He dedicated one of his most significant books (An Ethic for Christians and Other Aliens in a Strange Land) to Merton. So there you have it...

Paul Fromont 6/13/2002 12:53:00 PM
Rachel Langham in her own words is a New Zealander who is "an artistically inclined product of postmodernity..." She does great art - certainly art that I like. A friend has one of her originals and I still remember seeing it for the first time - with it'ts 'person' in the middle and lots of media headlines etc. around it, together with the dominant words "sucked in". Here it is . Have a look at her other paintings on-line as well. Enjoy!

Paul Fromont 6/13/2002 12:14:00 PM
Saturday, June 08, 2002

"Busyness is the enemy of [Christian formation, relationship, community, and mission]. It is essentially laziness. It’s doing the easy thing instead of the hard thing. It is filling our time with our own actions instead of paying attention to God’s actions. It’s taking charge."

Eugene Peterson, Subversive Spirituality, Regent College Bookstore edition, 1994, p.167.

I think this is one of the biggest barriers we face in our performance and activity orientated culture. It's a significant obstacle which will require some serious attention if we are to deeply connect with others. It'll require us creating space for others - space to 'hang-out'; space to pray; space for leisurely conversation; space to dream together; space to listen; space to allow God to form us through others; space to minister to one another; space for love; and space within which to welcome the stranger, the pilgrim, and the outcast. Our relational emerges from our willingness to create time and space for people” – especially for the stranger (the person who doesn’t fit it, the person who inhabits the fringes of society). This ‘space’ is free space – healing space. Space where peoples lives can be lived without fear. Without fear of being different; without fear of hostility, abuse, manipulation, and judgment. This ‘space’ is ‘space’ where people are deeply, lovingly, and patiently listened too. A place where they are accepted. Andrew Jones in his article, Bubbles, Couches and Pancakes uses the metaphor of a couch to talk about our making of space for others

"Couches are a primary symbol of how we [need to be] church in the postmodern era.
Couches symbolize community, hospitality, sharing and collaboration.
Couches are the place where important things happen to ordinary people

Busyness stops authentic community because 'communion' and 'intimacy' takes time. Busyness excludes rather than embraces. Busyness places relationship with God on the periphery. Busyness is often as a result of significant over-commitments, and a lack of clear Christ-centred priorities in peoples lives. Very rarely is busyness an absolute necessity and very rarely are we prepared or willing to make the changes of lifestyle necessary for the costly practice of following Christ - for the costly practice of laying down our lives, and our interests for 'created-in-the-image-of-God' human beings inside of and outside of Christian community. Only when we tackle our busyness will we truly stand any chance of deeply connecting with others in our local expressions of the body of Christ. Only then will we be a people in Christ, who will truly serve the world for the sake of the gospel. Only then will we truly understand what it means to be church for the sake of others.

Paul Fromont 6/08/2002 12:47:00 AM
Friday, June 07, 2002
Jason, I endorse Alan's comments (Alan, loved your latest Merton quote...what he's saying has always been a huge struggle for me...) - Great stuff on "House Churches." Jason, You're right on the button. It's so easy in our pragmatic western culture to simply think that if we have the right location, and the right form or content, then we're 'doing' church effectively (these things are important, but as you say, at the end of the day, they aren't church - people, warts and all are!)...and it's all to easy to embrace the latest trend as our 'saviour' for all that isn't happening in church - our church. Hey, I could 'rabbit on' - read Jason's blog for Friday, June 7th (especially if you're from Bridges, and thinking about 'church planting'). Jason and Brooke, we'll be praying regarding your SA invitation/decision. Shalom.

Paul Fromont 6/07/2002 03:22:00 PM
"People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated."

D.A. Carson, from For the Love of God

Paul Fromont 6/07/2002 02:48:00 PM
"For us Christians, all truth is "relative," relative to this Jew named Jesus. We really do not know what the world is, much less where it is headed, until we know him."

William H. Willimon. (The Intrusive Word: Preaching to the Unbaptized)

Paul Fromont 6/07/2002 02:39:00 PM
Nice to wake up this morning to England's good news...England end heartache - I like this line from Reuters, "If not quite as dramatic as Diego Maradona's 1986 'Hand of God' victory or Argentina's penalty shoot-out win in the second round four years ago, Friday's match will long be remembered probably more for what it meant to England's football heritage and identity than for what happened in the game - incident-packed though it was." I hope you enjoyed it Jonny. Kathryn's cousin up in Yorkshire did. I traditionally always back the country of my ancestral heritage - France, but they're playing well below expectations...and if they don't win by at least two goals in their next game they're out...aaaaaaaaaaaaargggghhhhhhhhh!

Paul Fromont 6/07/2002 02:24:00 PM
An intersting newsletter from Renovare by Richard Foster - Coming Structures for Renewal. I also really like their concept of a Spiritual formation group...I'm looking forward to trying it, and contextualising it for a "Kiwi" context...They also have a useful 'order of meeting.'

Paul Fromont 6/07/2002 01:58:00 AM
Worship Ideas - Art

Josh Lyon, spent some time with Cityside in Auckland, then moved to Toronto in Canada (visit his church online) where he started to experiment with some of the concepts (use of art etc.) that are common at Cityside. Here's a couple of his ideas (from his e-mail) which he's given you licence to use, or to 'spark' ideas for your own expressions of worship. Thanks Josh...I loved your creativity and it's started me thinking. I look forward to having you share from time to time what you're up to...

"I created an installation/service for Christmas eve at my little church in Kingston
The piece used video from The Learning Channel series on the body (birth footage, internal body footage, etc.), a bunch
of writing (mine and other peoples), a soundtrack I created using
strings and body noises (heartbeats, footsteps, breathing)... The focus
was on God in a little baby body, the fleshy reality of christmas as
apposed to the tinsel unreality."

This is what he did at a Freedomize Easter art installation.

"I created a piece for that... a collection
of re-shot video footage from war movies, news footage, music videos and
various other sources. and built a cross out of six TV's playing the
same looped hour of footage but not in sync. The soundtrack was
borrowed (soon to be updated to one of my own creation) and the central
TV had brief flashes of Jesus' head and shoulders borrowed from various
icon art books... basically, the sins of the world literally
'projected' onto the cross."

Paul Fromont 6/07/2002 12:55:00 AM
Thursday, June 06, 2002
Here's an article by Walter Brueggemann that I really liked, especially the 'promo' line: "Through worship, prophetic word, and protest, we are called to expose oppressive social realities and insist: It could be otherwise." I wish I'd seen this before last Sunday's sermon...

Paul Fromont 6/06/2002 01:08:00 PM
I love this quote from the always provocative Walter Brueggemann (he was in NZ last year, and I enjoyed listening to his Sunday morning sermon at St. Peter's Anglican cathedral). I must get hold of a copy of his book, Finally Comes The Poet. 'Everyone' seems to be quoting from it. Not that this case Alan is "everyone" - he's a real gift from God to lots of people 'out there...'. Anyway, I'm 'pinching' this quote from a talk which Alan gave, and you can visit the Midwest Greenhouse 'conversation' - their goal is to equip one another so that they can all carry out God's will for their lives in a more effective way through the creation of new and innovative faith communities." - Church Planters!

"The gospel is too readily heard and taken for granted, as though it contained no unsettling news and no unwelcome threat. What began as news in the gospel is easily assumed, slotted, and conveniently dismissed. We depart having heard, but without noticing the urge to transformation that is not readily compatible with our comfortable believing that asks little and receives even less."

Walter Brueggemann, Finally Comes the Poet

Paul Fromont 6/06/2002 01:06:00 PM
I'm really greatful for archives, especially Next-Wave's archive, in the same way that I'm greatful for a library. It's such a blessing to be able to 'dip' into a book or e-article when the time is right, and I'm in the right place to interact, be critiqued, and also to recieve for the insights and wisdom of fellow adventurers, prodigals, and pilgrims - living or dead. Found these 'old' articles:

Redefining Reality For Church Planting In the 21st Century, by Randy Knutson

That's Not Community! by Rogier Bos

Also this from Tom Sine. The quote below is from the interview linked to Tom's name.

Established Church

More of a rational propositional gospel
More of an institutional character
More traditional worship
More conforming to modern culture
More focused on in-house needs
More inclined to cookie cutter programs

Emerging Church

More of gospel as story or narrative
More of a relational or organic character
More experimental worship
More questioning of modern culture
More focused outward in mission
More inclined to create options for their context.

Paul Fromont 6/06/2002 01:15:00 AM
"The narratives of Scripture were not meant to describe our world…. but to change the world, [my 'God-constricting-world' too] including the one in which we now live."

Stanley Hauerwas, A Community of Character

Paul Fromont 6/06/2002 12:57:00 AM
Desert and mountain places located on the margins of society are locations of choice in luring God's people to a deeper understanding of who they are.

From Belden Lane, The Solace of Fierce Landscapes. I really enjoyed reading this book. I've always felt a connection with God in some of this country's wildest and remotest locations, especially the West Coast of the South Island, and the Volcanic Central Plateau in the North Island. Belden continues to be a quiet and significant voice in my formation as a follower of Christ.

Paul Fromont 6/06/2002 12:54:00 AM
Tragically New Zealand is not immune from misguided religious fervour. Front page of today's New Zealand Herald. Also this story. "Lord Jesus Christ have mercy upon us."

Paul Fromont 6/06/2002 12:47:00 AM
Wednesday, June 05, 2002
Some thought-provoking lectures given by Ched Myers Lectures delivered February 7-9, 2002. Peace-making / Urban mission amongst other things.

Paul Fromont 6/05/2002 12:00:00 PM
For you Kiwi's reading this - Marva Dawn is visiting NZ in September courtesy of Carey Baptist College in Auckland.

Paul Fromont 6/05/2002 11:35:00 AM
Tuesday, June 04, 2002
Hey, Kevin, Alan, Mike and Jason, as seasoned Pastors living on the edge, I'd value your responses to this question, "If a group of Christians were thinking in terms of a new missional church 'plant', what kinds of questions would you be asking as part of the discernment process...?" Don't spend hours, but and e-mail or two would be really valuable...


Paul Fromont 6/04/2002 06:47:00 PM
This is an interesting newsletter - Futurechurch: Connecting and Celebrating New Forms of Spiritual Community. You can subscribe to it. Details in the newsletter.

p.s. this is not an unreserved endorsement of everything in it, but there is some interesting stuff none the less.

Paul Fromont 6/04/2002 04:11:00 PM
New, soon to be published book of Thomas Merton letters, "Survival or Prophecy?: The Letters of Thomas Merton and Jean Leclercq."

Paul Fromont 6/04/2002 01:40:00 PM
Tom and Christine Sine's new website (thanks Jordan for letting us know). Tom and Christine were here in NZ in 2000. It was great to talk to Tom about this whole "Ancient/Future" 'thing' and the ways in which we might be able to connect both to emerging communites' experience of worshipping and following Christ...TODAY.

Paul Fromont 6/04/2002 01:18:00 PM
Interesting 'stat's' from England courtesy of our local newspaper:

Newspapers have overtaken novels as the most popular form of leisure reading, and the average Briton now spends just 11 minutes a
day reading fiction. Research for the organisers of the Orange Prize for Fiction found the average person spends 17 minutes a day reading newspapers and another 7 minutes scouring material on the internet. Britons also spend an average of 5 minutes a day reading magazines, the survey found, and two minutes perusing reference works.

Some 40 per cent of Britons don't read books at all, the survey found.

All told, the study concluded that the average Briton spends a total of six hours a week reading compared with 23.5 hours watching television.

If you're a MOBY fan, here's a link to an article in the May 2002 issue of Wired magazine. Also, an article (Wired, June 2002) on Steven Spielberg and his new movie Minority Report which opens in the States on June 21...

Paul Fromont 6/04/2002 01:04:00 PM
Monday, June 03, 2002
Developing a Christian Spirituality of the everyday - being able to see and partner with God-at-work in the everyday is a special interest of mine. I spend infinitely more of my waking hours as a 'dispersed' rather than 'gathered" (Sunday for a couple of hours) Christian / Follower of Christ ;-). Here's a good article that illustrates what I mean, "A Spirituality of Eating" by Aussie Simon Holt. Bon Apetite!

Paul Fromont 6/03/2002 01:16:00 PM
Sunday, June 02, 2002
Teaching from and reading the Bible has as it's purpose, not the gleaning of timeless principals, morals, and lessons for living which can be applied to contemporary life. Rather its purpose is so much more radical and scary. The aim of these subversive practices is to bring us into the biblical world - to reorientate our vision - to call us to walk the Christ-following, narrow path, with leads to true life. Their practice calls us into a world of struggle - the struggle between death and resurrection.

As followers of Christ we foster, develop, and nurture in our ‘alternative’ communities of faith, people who will actively resist and undermine in their life together, all that falsely promotes itself as “life” apart Jesus Christ, “the author [‘source’] of life” (Acts 3:15). In ‘practicing this kind of community we will serve to contrast life with death! (Eph. 3:10-11). We will use our freedom in Christ to give our lives sacrificially for the sake of others. Our practice of living, and our ‘going in to bat’ (serving as ‘advocates’) for people, powerless in the face of all that diminishes, dehumanises and extinguishes the possibility of life, is a powerful testimony to the truth and power of the gospel, for which we are servants.

There is both tremendous hope and tremendous responsibility as we seek in our corporate expressions of faith to be a people who will be lead by Christ in the power of Spirit into all that each new day brings...

Paul Fromont 6/02/2002 05:20:00 PM
is the best medicine in life.
It is ... a bridge between us
and the perfect love of God.

Aelred of Rivaulx

Paul Fromont 6/02/2002 02:08:00 PM
An interesting article on Annie Dillard, "A FAINT TRACING ON THE SURFACE OF MYSTERY: Annie Dillard: explorer and stalker" by Warren Deason. Warren Deason is minister at Albany Presbyterian Church, North Shore, New Zealand, and a spiritual director.

This book sounds interesting, "Fragments of the Spirit" by Mark I. Wallace. Has anyone read it?

Paul Fromont 6/02/2002 01:59:00 PM
Saturday, June 01, 2002
An interesting article by Sarah Barnett from Sydney, "Modern cinema and the killing of imagination" which asks the question, "Has cinematic risk-taking resorted to pushing the boundaries of moral acceptability rather than experimenting with ideas? What has happened to our imagination?"

Paul Fromont 6/01/2002 06:32:00 PM
Can I recommend that if you haven't already 'scored' yourself a copy, and read Marva Dawn's book, "Powers, Weakness, and the Tabernacling of God" that you do both things. I was reading through it again tonight in preparation for tomorrows sermon. It's a book for now! I really valued the insights of Chapter 4 - It's about the life of churches who follow faithfully their true vocation as a created power witnessing to Christ's victory over the powers.

Paul Fromont 6/01/2002 01:57:00 AM

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