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We actually need a reformation of Christianity so our institutions better reflect the intention that was always meant to define them

We actually need a reformation of Christianity so our institutions better reflect the intention that was always meant to define them

So much has happened for us as a family, and for me as an individual since we left Melbourne in 2010. This photo is almost surreal.

As I write I am sitting aboard the Spirit of Tasmania II after a whirlwind visit to Victoria to celebrate my daughter’s 22nd birthday.

We came across on Tuesday evening and spent much of Wednesday driving as we visited the Mornington Fusion centre where we had lived for five years before travelling up to Bendigo to be with Maddi.

Seeing my little girl now all grown up and returning to Victoria, where I led the Fusion team for five years put me in a reflective mode, particularly in light of what I have been thinking about as I prepare for Sunday.

There has been a lot written about the church and what it is, or what it isn’t and mostly people are responding to the institutions they have encountered.

One of the features of institutions is that they are built for permanence. They were initially established in response to an idea or vision someone had, and then they take on a life of their own, and sometimes the idea or vision can go missing but the institution trundles on.

In order to lead we need to take a look at the original visions or ideas that built our institutions. This is definitely true of the institutions of church.

It was fascinating and a little disturbing for me to uncover the original idea behind what many of us call church while I was in Canada. In the 1950’s Donald McGavran blended sociology and marketing principles with simple theology in a way that made sense to a lot of people. While very few people know his name, almost every modern church has been influenced by his “Church Growth” paradigm.

Bono sang, in the song “Cedars of Lebanon”:

Choose your enemies carefully ’cause they will define you
Make them interesting ’cause in some ways they will mind you
They’re not there in the beginning but when your story ends
Gonna last with you longer than your friend

While Donald McGavran is not exactly my enemy, the paradigm he proposed definitely is because it produced institutions shaped by quite a different vision than I understand what the church is meant to be focussing on.

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N.T. Wright’s new book gives a fresh perspective on the confronting nature of the Kingdom of God

N.T. Wright’s new book gives a fresh perspective on the confronting nature of the Kingdom of God

We are home from Orford after a very relaxing week. One of the things that is great about being away is that you are not surrounded by all the unresolved aspects of your life. I love the familiarity of home and the convenience of being surrounded by all my stuff, but I have learned the importance of “getting away” in releasing the pressure for the whole family and giving the space to gain a sense of perspective on life.

One of the things I love about being away is the chance to read a book. This time I finished N.T. Wright’s How God became King.

I have his three major academic tomes, however I find his shorter books a bit easier to digest.

His latest book was an important one for me because it was engaging with the question of the nature of the Kingdom of God. This is important for me because Leeanne and I, before we were married, agreed that we wanted our marriage to take seriously Jesus’ charge in Matthew 6:33 to “seek first [God’s] kingdom and his righteousness.”

I love that N.T. Wright has provided a fuller and more nuanced picture of what the Kingdom of God is that is solidly biblically based. He has helped me see a number of things in a fresh way, and I am left feeling like there is much more to understand.

One of the things I am most grateful to Wright for, after reading a number of his books, is the way that he has re-married the Kingdom of God with the cross. His theology actually becomes an integrated ecclesiology and missiology that challenges the very way I live my life.

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Talking ’bout a reformation

Talking ’bout a reformation

One of the things that I have enjoyed about doing the Arrow Leadership program are the number of ideas that bubble around in the back of my head in the weeks and months following one of the week long residential conferences.

Last week Senior Pastor from Barrabool Hills Baptist church, Graham Clarke, made the assertion, that we are on the edge of a second reformation.

This kind of talk is not new. In the late nineties a German church-growth researcher, Christian Schwarz, put forward the idea that we are in the era of a third reformation. He asserted that the first reformation took place in the 16th century when Martin Luther fought for the rediscovery of salvation by faith, the centrality of grace and of Scripture. He said the second reformation was around the 18th century when personal intimacy with God was rediscovered. In his view the third reformation is a reformation of structure, or how we actually do church.

I believe Schwarz got it wrong.

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