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Wednesday, April 30, 2003

An interesting book which I purchased yesterday - Discerning the Spirit of the Age: Towards a Christain Counter Culture by Derek Tidball who is the Principal of London Bible College.

Chapter titles:

'Just Do It' or 'Jesus Did It'?

Magic Kingdon or Jesus' Kingdom?

Fast Food Junkies or Gourmet Connoisseurs?

Consumers or Disciples?

Tourist's or Pilgrims?

Settlers or Pioneers?

He quotes a lot of Bauman, some Drane, Lyons, Wasko, Callum Brown et others

Paul Fromont 4/30/2003 12:25:00 PM
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
Two questions as part of my sermon preparation (for this Sunday) which I'd love to 'hear' your thoughts on:

How might we experience the ‘resurrected Jesus’ today?

As a Christian community; as individuals, how might we serve in practical ways as witnesses to the present reality of the resurrection?

Paul Fromont 4/29/2003 12:52:00 AM
Saturday, April 26, 2003
I liked this recent blog statement by Jonny Baker:

"...it has always struck me that the church or any other organisation or movement gets renewed two ways - by people who leave the centre to make new things happen on the edges that creatively open up new directions and possibilities; and by people who have the patience to help those at the centre gently change. i don't always have the patience for the second but i'm glad others do. both groups tend to dismiss the others approach, but i reckon that over time having both approaches is better than having one..."

It's good to see increasing reflection and commentary around the ecclesiological role of the "edges" and the "centre." As those of you who read my musings will know, the practicalities of this: creatively nurturing, stretching, and growing a congregation's (both "edges" and "centre") upward, inward, and outward life (contextualised mission) is an ongoing source of experiment, challenge, and reflection for me. How to transition established, largely institutionalised congregations from self-focus to a focus on, and embrace of the 'other'...to the embracing of life in place of atrophy and 'death;' to an intention moving outside of the 'walls.'

It's good to see the Church of England encouraging missional activity within there denomination. Perhaps the Anglican Province of Aotearoa-New Zealand should follow there lead...hint, HINT, HINT...

Thanks Jonny

Paul Fromont 4/26/2003 01:02:00 PM
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Today marks the 5th Birthday of our eldest daughter Sophie. As you can imagine all is very exciting in preparation for the party later this morning (it's a public holiday in NZ / Australia today - ANZAC Day), and the presence of a lot of her friends. She's wonderfully social. She starts school on Monday and is really looking forward to that too. HAPPY BIRTHDAY Sweetie!

Paul Fromont 4/24/2003 12:48:00 PM
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
I've been reflecting for some time now on how we disciple - how we nurture and grow Jesus followers - how we encourage growth ('continuous learning' to use an expression common in business) at every level of our humanity, in a transitional, post-Christian, 'post-modern' (terms I use only to suggest that the world of 2003 is significantly different for the world in 1988 when my life journey began an intentional Jesus-following focus). Perhaps these terms expressed something true about the world then too, but as I reflect on how I learned what it meant to learn from and follow Jesus, I'm conscious that the practices of study & reading (in particular) are increasingly out of vogue especially amongst males in NZ. Recent statistics suggested that once we leave formal education we read dramatically less. I'm conscious too, that what I read and who I read and engaged with are not necessarily people whom many today will think too or want to engage with - the English Puritans, Jonathan Edwards, James I. Packer, Martyn-Lloyd Jones (literature & audio). I had a solid doctrinal and theological education. Brian Hathaway in an article on "Discipleship" written two years ago (?) wrote,

"...I HAD BEEN CONCERNED for some time about the level of disciplship in many of our churches. Several people had also talked with me expressing their disquiet about this area and so we decided to run a session on discipleship at the Congress. As I rang around about two dozen pastors of successful churches, places where I knew people had been coming to faith in Christ, and asked them about their discipleship programmes and whether they would be prepared to share with others at the Congress what they were doing, almost without exception there was a poignant pause on the other end of the line... I found it exceptionally hard to find anybody who was prepared to deal with this topic at the Congress. I have come to the sad conclusion that there is a huge gap in the discipling programmes in most evangelistic churches in our nation and the level of disciple-making is abysmally low.

I still agree with his assessment, and my question continues to be HOW (in very practical terms)? Do we formalise the early process? Do we encourage and help people read - what would you give to people to read today? I'd start with Tom Wright's "The Original Jesus". Would anyone still use, JI. Packer's classic, "Knowing God"? What are other Kiwi churches doing? What about those in Australia (our closest neighbours)? Does a post-modern context mean a markedly different approach? Is it more about practical than theoretical? How do we meaningfully catechise (if we should do it at all)? Do we teach doctrine? What would be most critical for a new follower of Jesus? Are small group work & 'mass produced' workbooks still meaningful or do we need to be more contextual? What about Renovare resources or is something more doctrinal/theological more appropriate for new believers? Does teaching/catechising need to be more intentionally connected to the everyday & the ordinary.

Paul Fromont 4/23/2003 06:38:00 PM
Monday, April 21, 2003
SPACE on Easter Thursday went well. A small group of us transitioned from "The Last Supper" - wine, grape juice, cheese & crackers, and hot chips - to increasing darkness as we created some reflective space to enter into the events of Good Friday. Used slides of art having to do with the crucifixion. Ambient music by Mark Laurent ('Stations of the Cross') & Officium by Jan Garbarek / The Hilliard Ensemble. The highlight for most people was that gathering around a table for a shared meal and conversation. Ages ranged from 18 months to 70 years. A useful way of helping to contextualise the events of Good Friday was the use of an audio track of a Maori welcome onto a marae for a tangi and the accompanying wailing etc. Seeing Jesus on the cross and listening to it was really powerful. Aided by Ben's re-working of Da Vinci's "Last Supper" - complete with Big Mac's, Coke, Heineken etc. we thought about what food Jesus might have blessed in our context - 2000 years later. We re-worked the confession on page 91 of Jonny Baker's great little book, Alternative Worship. We did the same thing with the invitation from pp.92-93 (which funnily enough I had already prepared and re-worked, for our local context, from Mike Riddell's great essay, "Bread and Wine, Beer and Pies" in Mass Culture).

And lastly, not related to the above evening, a great little essay by Gerard Kelly, "The six habits of highly connected people."

Paul Fromont 4/21/2003 03:23:00 PM
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Happy Easter everyone - we are a resurrection people. Jesus is Alive!

Well yesterday worked out a little differently than planned, and provided new opportunities to find God in the present moment. We didn't get to the Cityside Easter art installation, nor to Colin McCahon, nor to the Auckland zoo with the children...instead I found myself at my wife Kathryn's side in Waikato Hospital (A&E / ER). I'd had to call an ambulance that morning after having Kathryn collapse / faint through out the early hours of Saturday morning. So Easter Staurday was spent in the 'tomb' that is Waikato Hospital's A&E / ER facility - no natural light! Kathryn's home now, and we hope & pray on the improve. Finding God in the Present moment - lot's of glimpses / encounters in the Hospital. Suffering, crying, pain - young and old - European and Maori - all with a story of how they got there - some were bashed. Some fell off their BMX bikes. Some had fallen. How did I find God - lot's of ways as I reflected upon what I was feeling about everything...it's another 'world.' I certainly was deeply grateful that I had medical assistance and was terribly conscious that in many other parts of the world that isn't the case. I was confronted again by the faility of life.

So we didn't get to Cityside but I was 'deepened' by God through my 24hours, starting 9.00pm on Good Friday...

Paul Fromont 4/19/2003 01:25:00 PM
Friday, April 18, 2003
Off to Cityside Baptist in Auckland tomorrow morning for their annual Easter Art Installation - Stations of the Cross - Nice to see it's made mainstream media this year - here (not sure how long this link will be up for) and in the NZ Herald yesterday.

The latest issue of Zadok Perspectives arrived yesterday - some good articles and book reviews, including a very positive one for John Drane's Beyond Prediction and Ross Clifford & Philip Johnson's Jesus and the Gods of the New Age: Communicating Christ in Today's Spritual Supermarket - again, very positively reviewed.

Also, a plug for a very, very good book with much to say about the shape pf the church to come and our place in it is Aussie Charles Ringma's Catch the Wind - you won't have seen that in the CBA Top 10 Bestseller list which won't come as a suprise to any of you reading on the fringe....Charles now teaches at Regent College in Vancouver...

And finally I just caught up with the February announced news yesterday that NT. 'Tom' Wright will be the next Anglican Bishop of Durham.

Paul Fromont 4/18/2003 01:45:00 AM
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
A great little article by Aussie, Mike Frost - interacts with Paul Hiebert and Walter Brueggeman ('Cadences of Homes')

"Christians are a dim, ego-tripping minority which is dead set on telling everybody why they ought to become Christians, instead of finding out why they're not." (Max Harris, quoted in Mike's article)

Read the rest of the article, Evangelism as Risky Negotiation here

I also picked up Mike's latest book yesterday, Freedom to Explore: A Provocative A-Z for the Church, pub. 2002.

Other great articles by Mike (if you haven't read much by him), here

Paul Fromont 4/16/2003 12:44:00 PM
Tuesday, April 15, 2003
A quote sent to me by my friend Jeff Haines who's reading Eberhard Bethge's Biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer:

Dietrich Bonhoeffer.

From a Sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:26f, Preached at Barcelona on 29th July 1928.

There is a word that when a Catholic hears it kindles all his feelings of love and bliss; that stirs all the depths of his religious sensibility, from dread and awe of the Last Judgment to the sweetness of God's presence; and that certainly awakens in him the feeling of home; the feeling that only a child has in relation to its mother, made up of gratitude, reverence and devoted love; the feeling that overcomes one when, after a long absence, one returns to one's home, the home of one's childhood.

And there is a word that to Protestants has the sound of something infinitely commonplace, more or less indifferent and superfluous, that does not make their heart beat faster; something with which a sense of boredom is so often associated, or which at any rate does not lend wings to our religious feelings-and yet our fate is sealed if we are unable again to attach a new, or perhaps a very old meaning to it. Woe to us if that word does not become important to us soon again, does not become important in our lives.

Yes, the word to which I am referring is 'Church', the meaning of which we have forgotten and the nobility and greatness of which we propose to look at today.

Paul Fromont 4/15/2003 01:32:00 PM
Saturday, April 12, 2003
Interesting comments from Leighton Tebay. Thanks Leighton. Dan over the Tasman sea at Signposts drew my attention to it by quoting this section. It's just 'crying out' to be teased out some more....

I wonder if the body of Christ needs to dual boot. Modernity and postmodernity are like Linux and Windows. They can share files but they don't run the same programs. Because the issues that divide the two mindsets are so polarizing I wonder if any institution could accommodate both. This new wine is going to need some new wineskins. Is the emerging church willing to create alternative worship, evangelism, discipleship, mission and community?

Check the rest of Leighton's blog here, and some comments by Dan, here. It would be good for a few people to take a moment to add an original paragraph to Leighton's one above. In what directions might you want to take his thinking..........? I'm going to give it some thought today...

Paul Fromont 4/12/2003 01:15:00 PM
Thursday, April 10, 2003
Ambient, reflective gathering here in Cambridge next Thursday evening (7.30pm) to engage with and reflect on "...the table of Jesus as a place of welcome ...a foretaste of the royal feast that will mark the completion of all that God set in motion through the resurrection..." So, the "The Last Supper" and the events of "Good Friday" will frame our evening - I've titled it "Bread and Wine, Chips and a Cross." If you're coming along you might want to take some time before then to reflect on this question, "What is your favourite Jesus story and why is it significant for you?"

Paul Fromont 4/10/2003 12:45:00 PM
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
Andrew Jones (via his blogsite – here) alerted me to a new phase in the journey of St. Thomas’ in Sheffield, England (see under the heading "The Order of Mission"). I had cause to check them out last year (via cyberspace) with regards to the way in which they have developed a three-pronged ministry focus – upward, inward, and outward.

Anyway, they’ve chosen to explore in community what it might mean to become a “missionary order” built around a ‘rule of life’ (based upon the idea of a ‘monastic rule’), pattern, and purpose for living. What particularly interested me is the way in which Alan Roxburgh’s concept of a 'missional church’ (see chapter 7, Missional Church) is given (either with or without the input of his thinking around the area of missional church) ‘flesh.’ Again it has me wondering aloud about the benefits of a committed or covenanted ‘core’ at the ‘leading edge’ (suggesting a church that is moving & growing into the call God has upon its life) of a church community – see my post of 12th March. The notion of a covenanting ‘core’ seems increasingly important if we are going to take seriously our missional identity, and especially if the notion of “liquid” or “fluid” churches becomes increasingly mainstream in the West – see for example Pete Ward’s thinking on the subject in his book Liquid Church. I wonder if one of the key problems in many churches is very low level entry ‘requirements’ (if you will) for people wanting to join a local church community. I wonder if we’re experiencing the consequences of little or no formal expectation of what membership might mean in practice – we expect little and we consequently get little by way of commitment, growth, community, service etc. Anyway, St. Thomas’ has stirred my thinking again, and could well be of interest to those of you with an interest around “new monasticism” or the work of Viv Grigg around the subject of Protestant religious orders. I wonder how this might work with respect to new church plants, house churches etc. where communities and commitments might better be able to be formed around the practice of the spiritual disciplines, the "Daily Office" etc.

Paul Fromont 4/09/2003 12:22:00 AM
Saturday, April 05, 2003
"...Dr Roxburgh said many of the approaches churches use to address the uncertainty of this cultural shift are flawed, drawn more from outdated business theory than the Bible. While he believes strategic planning is helpful if it is tightly focused on specific goals, he believes vision statements are of little value. “Vision statements are about predictability and control. But God has filled churches with people who don’t want to be lined up with the ‘vision’,” he said..."

A dilema for me. I work in the world of "business" where "strategic planning," "vision" statements etc. are significant 'givens'. My natural, trained tendency within a church leadership context is to incorporate business approaches around process, roles, and planning. The dilema? It doesn't feel right. Intuitively, the context calls for a different response. I'm increasingly thinking only in terms of "values" so as to create space for creativity, flexibility, freedom, and discernment. Highly specified direction and strategy seem out of place for a people following the leading of God, present by his Spirit, 'blowing' from where we cannot tell, nor to where... But a much looser approach it seems to me challenges notions of what leadership does, and how that leadership is expressed. It seems also that many within the 'body' struggle immensley with less structure and planned 'predictability.' Very few church leadership books seem helpful in a transitional or post-modern context...I have had significant 'perspective changing' input into my journey by people like Eugene Peterson who in many ways (some ways in which he does this were alluded to recently by Todd Hunter on his blog) subverts the business/pastor model. For me this raises a dilema at the level of leadership praxis...a dilema I'm not sure is widely felt in my context..........

Paul Fromont 4/05/2003 11:48:00 AM
Friday, April 04, 2003
I've been pretty busy, and haven't had much space to think, reflect, or read. Feeling a bit disconnected from what you're all up too.Maybe next week. A couple of things I have done. I've ordered NT. Wrights new book, The Resurrection of the Son of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God: Volume 3 (in the Christian Origins & The Question of God series). I hadn't expected it until June 2003, so it's great that it's early.

And I've discovered this interesting article, Celtic Christian Spirituality, by Father Gorazd (Vorpatrny).

Introductory Statement.

"...THE ANCIENT CELTIC CHURCH had intimate ties with the same Desert Fathers of Egypt, Syria, and Palestine who fostered the ascetic literature and monasticism of the Byzantine and Slavic Orthodox Churches. This essay attempts to elucidate Celtic Christian spirituality and monasticism in the light of Orthodox Christian monastic and ascetic tradition. Specific points are illustrated with salient examples drawn from the Celtic Saints, the ancient Christian East and, for a perspective closer to our own times, from nineteenth-century Russian Orthodox monasticism, along with commentary from contemporary Orthodox writers. These flourishings of monastic sanctity, separated by great distances in space and time, manifest a deep internal kinship and harmony..."

Paul Fromont 4/04/2003 12:52:00 PM
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
A recent article, Rugby and Church: Worlds in conflict? by Kevin Ward who will be presenting 'papers' at The Future is Tomorrow:An UnConference Exploring Possible Futures for Church and Mission in Aotearoa New Zealand. To be held in Cambridge, NZ on the 13-14th June, 2003.

An old article from the Anglican Diocese of Sydney's newspaper, Southern Cross online. Focuses on a 2001 visit to Australia by Alan Roxburgh. Affirming and differing views expressed - Culture Shock by Jeremy Halcrow.

Paul Fromont 4/02/2003 01:34:00 AM

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