Sydney Anglican Youth Ministry Conference

I am heading over to Sydney to meet with the Youth Vision Australia crew next week. We thought that we may as well take in a conference whilst there.
The Sydney Anglican youth department (YouthWorks) are running this Theology of Youth Ministry conference. It looks quite the academic style conference you would expect from the Sydney Anglicans. The week before the conference, all the speakers notes come out in a PDF.

This one caught my attention. The speaker is Graham Stanton, Principal of the Youth Works Bible college. His topic? All Things to All People? The Incarnation and Relational Youth Ministry.

In his notes are the following thoughts and reflections on a book by English Youth Minister and Author Pete Ward;

This incarnational approach (also referred to as ‘relational outreach’) follows five
basic stages: contact, extended contact, proclamation, nurture and church. The aim is
to move young people who are well outside the social group of the existing church to
see them established in their own church, one where the gospel is contextualised
within their own culture. The process seeks to establish a relationship (contact:
‘going to places where [young people] naturally “hung out”’ p.47), and develop that
relationship (extended contact: ‘moves a relationship physically away from the point
of contact’, with the youth worker ‘signalling that [the young people] are significant
to him’ and the youth are ‘expressing an acceptance of the youth minister’, p.53).
The aim of this relationship building is to move to a significant new stage when the
youth worker looks for opportunities to proclaim the gospel message. The
importance of contact and extended contact as pre-cursors to this stage is summed up
in the imperative (attributed to Jim Rayburn, founder of Young Life) that youth
workers ‘earn the right to speak’ (p.60).
Once young people make a response to the gospel the focus of the ministry moves to
nurture and church. Notable in Ward’s approach is that this work of discipleship
needs to be done outside existing church groups. Ward notes, ‘we are hoping that the
faith can become real within their own subcultural setting’ (p.63). The final outcome
will be a new church where the gospel is ‘contextualised amongst a group of people
who were not previously part of the Church. The hope is that Jesus can become real
within the subculture which these people share’ (p.18).

(italics mine)

Wow! Sounds like a Forge conference to me! Not sure the S.Anglican crew would recognize it as such, but boy, some of the stuff being suggested looks like something from Neil Coles Organic Church or as I said, a speaker at a Forge gig. Well they say there is nothing new under the sun, and if God is making moves to disrupt the way we have done church and church planting for a while who says it will not be coming out from all sorts of places, in fact it would be arrogant of me to ever think Forge or even the emerging church in general has some right to claim ideas such as the above as their own – they are starting to leak out in all sorts of odd places! Must be God 🙂

Interesting Comment on Evangelism

“[…they] do not believe in evangelistic strategies, other than the pursuit to be like Jesus in his interactions with others. They do not target people or have an agenda but rather seek to love all those whom God brings to them. They do not hope for a belief change for their conversation partners as much as a life change. Because of their high level of engagement with other cultures, the sacred/secular split is overcome as they practice the kingdom in their midst, in community.”

Eddie Gibbs and Ryan Bolger cited in Scot McKnights, A community called atonement (Abingdon Press, 2007).

I wonder who “they” are? I wonder if “they” look like your/my church, your community group whatever.
I wonder if “just living it out” is just an excuse for not proclaiming their faith, or if in fact their faith is so ‘present’ in their lives that it is open and lived as a natural part of their lives”
Challenging hey, how different is your lifestyle? Enough to make people think, wonder, ask questions, consider their own lives?

To Pay or Not To Pay (post #1)

I have 2 posts in my head, both are completely different topics, but interestingly enough they are titled the same “To Pay or Not to Pay”.

Post #1

I have read posts about this in the past, even chapters in books about this, but now it’s my issue, so I share it with you.

I have a deep down discomfort with local church pastors being paid! I know that sounds like some off the shelf crazy man statement but every time I sit and ponder the issues surrounding pastors being paid I struggle with something inside.

Every time we pay for anything we have raised expectation of that person product or experience. If I don’t pay and I don’t get, I shrug and walk away. If I pay and I don’t get I have something to say about it. Or if I get less than what I desired or expected I am disappointed and go ‘pay’ elsewhere to get a better ‘product’.

Now before you bight my head off and quote scripture at me, I am aware of people being paid for ministry services in the bible. Paul often talked about receiving gifts and offerings. Interestingly enough though, Paul never received money from the people he ministered to WHILE he was ministering to them, and Paul was not a paid local church pastor. (not sure I see many of them in the bible!)
Paul was a missionary, a church planter, in the bible sense of church planting, not our modern style of planting pastors and congregations etc. (Not making comments/judgments here, just observation).

So, let me personalize this.
I have had this idea of a community chaplain, run under the auspices of Scripture Union. It’s like a school chaplain but the boundaries are just a bit wider, suburban if you like.
The idea is like a missionary to the suburb, but the job description looks like what any Christ follower could/should do – just on steroids, that is – committing more time and under a more formal set up…rewind the conversation back to the paragraphs above… could not the same be said of a local church pastor? This role is just what any member of the church should/could do depending on gifting etc only a paid church pastor/minister just commits more of his/her time to the role.

So the ideal – we all minister together not needing to pay someone (and getting all those nasty expectation issues listed above!).
In the organised church, we keep it smaller and more personable, easily accountable and lean on one another for the sharing of gifts and resources, natural leaders will gently lead guide, facilitate, gifted carers will care, teachers will teach and so on. No need to PAY someone, no need to PAY rent, mortgage and so on. Just put money where it’s most needed.

In the community, no need to pay chaplains, just make sure there are committed missionary people in the right places. discipled in such a way (little ad there) that they know what it means to live a missional existence in their place of residence. Believing teachers in schools would be the Christ light in those places, no need for chaplains being paid, all because we are missional disciples where we are at, in schools, work places – everywhere. (my brother was a good example of this is his job at Challenge Stadium. No doubt he is still now, but we chatted lots about his role as a kind of chaplain to the staff even though he was the HR guy.

So – All too ideal hey!! Sure I admit it. In fact I am guessing that most people in ministry reading the above would say, “I agree mostly. The picture you painted is the ideal and if that happened it would be great, only it does not happen, so paid workers are needed or nothing would happen”

Maybe the reason it does not happen is BECAUSE of the paid workers. The very people we pay to make disciples, to run the church could be the very reason we never get close to the ideal.

China, and early church are examples in which we have never seen such rapid growth iinthe church and in both examples paid workers were not to be seen, at least not to the scale we see it in the west.

So, with a passion to work a day or 2 a week as a community chaplain or even for some great branch of a group like Scripture Union doing, whatever how do I justify asking people to help me raise money to get paid to do the very things I was people I am working with to do for nothing?
Wont they think, “You do it, why should I? I go to work at the school, I’m not going to reach out to my street, I pay you to do that!”
Or they might think, “Are you standing here having a beer with me, or a BBQ or helping me with my garden because you are paid or because that’s just what we do as community?”

In the mean time I have to get back to my paid ministry job 🙂 Aghh I have to eat.

PS –
I found one persons take on it on You Tube

Odd Phone Call

Many years ago, in fact sometimes it feels like it was another life on another planet, I used to be a youth pastor in a large church.
By many standards – we rocked!
Sure I was pretty proud of the leaders I had trained up (many now in full time ministry around the nation) I was pretty stoked with the 100’s of kids coming along each week. We trained these young leaders in the art of follow up and cold (and warm!) calling young people and their friends to ask them to come along to youth group next week, to tell them we cared and see if they wanted to catch up or be in a small group or whatever.

Many years went past, much water under the bridge.

The phone just rang and a ‘cutesy’ young girl voice was on the phone, it went like this;

“Hello Mr Vawser, this is **** form the [local youth group] (the same one from my past!) I am ringing to let you know that I have your daughters name on a list of young girls who may be interested in coming along to youth group Friday night…” stop to take a breath…”It starts with a ‘pre-show’ at 4.30 and then youth begins proper at 5.30 to 7.30 I know Mikaela would love it if she came along and if she did love it she could join me in my small group we have a great group of young girls and they all have a great time would you like to pass this message on if its ok with you of course…” she breathed again 🙂

I had so many thoughts rushing through my head… I was spinning, it was odd.

“She has no idea who I am, I could be some antagonistic pagan Dad anti church, thinking – ‘who is this young girl trying to get my daughter into some cult?'”

“She should know who I am and that I helped start this thing she is ringing about”

“Oh you are so full of pride you jerk Scott”

“Do I want my daughter to be a part of something that I walked away from, something that I question so much of its long term value?”

“What right do I have to choose for my daughter what she does and does not attend when it comes to church?”

“This upbringing did no harm to me” (that hasn’t taken a decade to unpack!!!)

So I took the note down.

I couldn’t help but press a bit further and ask her about small groups, ministry philosophy, core values, mission vision and doctrinal statements…ok not all of the above! 🙂

Then I thanked her for calling and hung up tingling, odd…life is odd.

Emerging Church Article

Great article about the US emergent movement here in USA Today.

A bit for you…

There’s a growing buzz about the emerging movement, and depending on your point of view, its robust growth and rising influence are worthy of applause, scorn, or perhaps just puzzlement. Fitting for a movement that eschews hierarchy and dogma, emergents defy simple definition. Perhaps the best one can say is that they’re new-style Christians for the postmodern age, the evangelicals of whom the late Rev. Jerry Falwell disapproved.

Postmodernity is nothing new. Philosophers will tell you we’ve been living in the postmodern age for decades. But its expression in the context of fervent Christianity, in the form of the emerging church, is a fairly recent phenomenon, only about a decade old.

(more)

Under the Microscope…

CBS News has learned Sen. Charles Grassley of Iowa, the ranking Republican on the Senate Finance Committee, is investigating six prominent televangelist ministries for possible financial misconduct.

Letters were sent Monday to the ministries demanding that financial statements and records be turned over to the committee by December 6th.

According to Grassley’s office, the Iowa Republican is trying to determine whether or not these ministries are improperly using their tax-exempt status as churches to shield lavish lifestyles.

The six ministries identified as being under investigation by the committee are led by: Paula White, Joyce Meyer, Creflo Dollar, Eddie Long, Kenneth Copeland and Benny Hinn. Three of the six – Benny Hinn, Kenneth Copeland and Creflo Dollar – also sit on the Board of Regents for the Oral Roberts University. (more)

It’s Reformation Week! Protestant Birthday.

In the silence surrounding his death, Jesus became the best possible companion for those whose prayers are not answered, who would give anything just to hear God call them by name. Him too. He wanted that too, and he did not get it. — Barbara Brown Taylor

More Gold from David Timms –

Reforming the Church

490 years ago (October 31, 1517) Martin Luther nailed his famous 95 Theses on the Power of Indulgences to the door — the local community bulletin board — of the Castle Church at Wittenberg, Germany. That document launched the Protestant Reformation and specifically railed against the Church’s practice of selling people forgiveness for their own sins and for the sins of the dead. To buy such forgiveness was to purchase an “indulgence.” It raised a lot of money!

Following Luther’s outcry, the Church has never been the same. Yet, it continues to require reformation.

Each generation inculturates the Church just a little bit more. “Civil religion” describes Christianity that eventually merges with culture; no longer a narrow way of Christ-following but a broad path to social acceptance. It happens imperceptibly, sometimes over generations, and renders the Church innocuous. Congregations take that small but lethal step from “becoming all things to all men that by all means we might win some ” (1 Corinthians 9:22) to simply “becoming all things to all men.”

Not every congregation needs the same kind of reformation.

The renowned Willow Creek Community Church near Chicago, Illinois — begun in 1975 and now attended by nearly 20,000 people — recently concluded that for many years they have failed to encourage the spiritual formation of their congregational members to the extent that at least 25% of attenders (as many as 5,000) would describe themselves as spiritually stagnant and perhaps ready to leave the church. The church needs reformation, and now has the vision to see it and the will to address it.

If I were to write my own 95 Theses, a few of them (in no particular order) would read this way:

Let the Church rediscover its commitment to broad issues of social justice (poverty, homelessness, education, health care) not just placarding against abortion and gay rights. Historically the Church has led the way with the schools, hospitals, shelters, and charity that have formed the foundation for Western civilization.

Let the Church return to its roots of making disciples not simply converts, understanding that a raised hand or a signed card is no achievement. Rather, we call people to transformed lives in a world hungry for an authentic option to its own plastic superficiality.

Let the Church be a city of refuge, a place of grace rather than legalism. While we genuinely and consistently urge each other to live lives of selflessness, purity, and godliness, we forgive unfailingly whenever people express contrition and repentance.

Let the Church constantly affirm its mission to work first with people not property, to build the Body before buildings, to focus constantly on ministry ahead of facilities. Too many congregations have become mired in debt and distracted by the development of acreage rather than hearts.

This Reformation week provides a great opportunity to look at the state of the Church today, but also the state of our own lives. While we re-cast a vision for the Church that honors Christ, let’s also be open to the Spirit of God casting light on areas of our own hearts that need reformation and transformation.

May our prayer be, “Lord, reform your Church … and start with me.”

In HOPE –

David

To subscribe: Email djtimms@hiu.edu and write “Subscribe to In HOPE” in the subject line. This is a free service; no advertisements; no sharing of the e-list. Unsubscribe in the same way.

You can find back issues of “In HOPE” (2005-2007) at http://www.hiu.edu/inhope/.

David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. “In HOPE”, however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. “In HOPE” has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.

God The Gardener

“I am but dust called to die to self and live in Christ. My walk with my Lord is limited by my belief in myself and my desire to be something, anything, other than dust.” — Wendy Cohen

The Garden

When did we start to view the Kingdom of God in manufacturing terms rather than organic terms?

In manufacturing, we build our widgets, perfect them, create a market, sell our products, build our capital, float public shares, organize take-overs and mergers, and exist for wealth creation. We measure our effectiveness according to the capital we acquire: property, facilities, equipment, inventory, cash reserves, etc.

In manufacturing, we report regularly to the Board or the stock-holders, who expect tangible results, improved products, expanded product lines, and a healthy “bottom line.”

But the Kingdom of God is distinctively organic. It corresponds more to a biological plant than a factory plant. It incorporates people not machinery. It embraces cooperation not competition. And the bottom line is not cash but Christ.

Let’s not underestimate the implications of such a shift in metaphor. When we discard the industry model and embrace the garden model we discover some remarkable freedoms.

First, nobody assesses gardens by the criteria “bigger is better.” While we may marvel at acres of gorgeous landscaping, we can delight just as much in a small plot. Second, we may diligently tend a garden but we can’t force growth. That’s the Gardener’s job (1 Cor 3:6). Finally, organic entities have natural life-cycles where decline and death is normal not shameful. The Gardener holds a shed full of options when it’s time for a re-plant.

Jesus chose metaphors and parables for the Kingdom from the agricultural context of His day — seed sown by a sower, grain and tares, mustard seeds, etc. Was He simply accommodating the agrarian culture of His day? Or might He still use such images today, to move us away from “God the Industrialist” to “God the Gardner”? I suspect the latter.

The manufacturing model for the church reduces people to either salesmen or customers, and assumes that accumulation signifies success. It demands quarterly reports and clear job descriptions (spiritual gifts). But the organic Kingdom of God confronts such spiritual capitalism. And by doing so, it frees us.

Consider this important change of metaphor … and let’s bloom where we’re planted.

In HOPE —

David Timms

To subscribe: Email djtimms@hiu.edu and write “Subscribe to In HOPE” in the subject line. This is a free service; no advertisements; no sharing of the e-list. Unsubscribe in the same way.

David Timms serves in the Graduate Ministry Department at Hope International University in Fullerton, California. “In HOPE”, however, is not an official publication of the University and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the Administrators or Board. “In HOPE” has been a regular e-publication since January, 2001.

God Spoke Through YouTube!

As I often do, I was surfing ‘YouTube’ the other day and saw the video clip of U2’s “Miss Sarajevo”. A powerful, almost haunting song inspired by a documentary of the same name that Bono helped produce about a beauty pageant held in war torn Yugoslavia with guns booming all around, a sort of protest song.

Bono introduces the song by saying;
I’d like to dedicate this song to those who lost their lives
In London, in the UK bombings last week… and Iraq
We want to turn our song into a prayer
And our prayer, is that we, they, we
Do not become a monster in order to defeat a monster
That’s our prayer

The song moves stunningly through some powerful lyrics that include line like;

Is there a time to run for cover
A time for kiss and tell
Is there a time for different colours
Different names you find so hard to spell

A time to turn aside
Is there a time… a time for human rights?

As the song draws to a close on the massive video screen behind the stage roles out the first six or seven of the UNIVERSAL DECLARATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. A young woman stands and humbly reads them out in the darkness of the now silent stage…

• All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights
• No one shall be held in slavery or servitude; slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms
• No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…

And so on.

I wiped tears from my eyes as this clip finished and began to wonder, how many times do our church services move us to weep over injustice?
How many times does our weeping lead us to act?
How many times do our actions lead to change, new life – Justice?

I am no Bono. I can’t captivate millions of people with my words. But I live in a nation that allows me freedom of speech (mostly!) – do I use it?
To be honest I am not even sure what I believe on many issues of injustice, not to mention what to do if I had a strong belief on issues of injustice.

Someone asked me recently, “What is one thing you really want to do before you die?”
I was completely surprised, by both my answer and how quickly it came.
“I would like to be arrested for a Christ cause”, I said.

Are there ‘political’ issues in our nation that are ‘anti-Christ’? I think there are. Are there injustices, abuses, creation destruction, human rights violations, all here in our own ‘lucky country’? Too right there are!

Where am I, Where is the Church when it comes to standing…no shouting up for these issues? Sad to say, on the whole it is small minorities around the nation that stand up for these issues. I am too much like the Levite in the Good Samaritan story, he saw the injured man (read the articles, decided to know more about these awful things, write an article for the A/C), crossed over the road, and went on his way.
Sadly most times these minority vocal Christian groups are seen as odd, marginalized, radicals, lefties, liberals and so on by fellow believers.

I sometimes wonder if Jesus might have been more comfortable amongst this crowd!