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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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My role in my kids lives is changing, and that’s not easy, but it is ok.

My role in my kids lives is changing, and that’s not easy, but it is ok.

Josh with my Dad, Mal, and Leeanne’s parents Robert and Martry

My son Josh will be waking up in Australia for the first time in four and a half years.

That is now two of my children living more than thirteen thousand kilometres away.

That reality certainly has had me reflecting.

I am realizing that there are two distinct phases of being a parent.

In the first phase you are completely responsible for the teaching, care and nurture of your child.

In the second phase your only responsibility is as a cheer squad, willing them to win the race of life that lies ahead of them. The problem is that there isn’t really a line you cross to say you have moved from one phase to another… its a day by day transition that happens so gradually that you don’t really notice.

As Josh waved goodbye and walked into airport security I remembered my own experience of waving goodbye to my family as I stepped onto a coach that would take me to the Australian outback town of Broken Hill.

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I love the heart, vision, challenge and pathway that I am seeing.

I love the heart, vision, challenge and pathway that I am seeing.

There was a two week period where I attended two conferences that were quite different but at the same time similar, and influenced by a very challenging author and what I was preaching about at the time.

The first conference was the National Assembly of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. That was followed by the Deepening Community conference hosted by the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement. While I was doing all this I had also been continuing to preach through Ephesians chapter four and was processing two books by Danny Silk (Culture of Honor and Keep Your Love on) which have been challenging and inspiring.

These diverse experiences and inputs somehow wove together, and a picture is emerged that had me feeling both excited and daunted.

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Heaven on Earth, we need it now. I’m sick of all of this, hanging around.

Heaven on Earth, we need it now. I’m sick of all of this, hanging around.

It’s interesting to search for “Ephesians 4” on this site and very quickly you discover just how much God has brought me back to this book, and this particular chapter since I started writing. This coming Sunday I will be launching the series by doing an overview of the profound vision that Paul paints in the first three chapters.

I was privileged to share a sermon series both in Canada and at my church in Hobart that explored this one chapter.

The central idea of the whole sermon series was that Paul’s vision of the church is radical in the proper sense of the word.

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Donald Trump spews cliches. The world is more complex than a cliche will ever capture.

Donald Trump spews cliches. The world is more complex than a cliche will ever capture.

We Christians created the platform on which Trump now stands.
We Christians created the platform on which Trump now walks.

It was an interesting experience being an Australian, living in Canada and watching the U.S. Presidential election race.

It’s kind of like watching a slow motion car crash, where everyone knows the outcome is going to be horrible, but they continue to watch.

I am reminded of the children’s story, “The Emperors new clothes“, where the whole world saw an emperor walking without clothes, but no-one said anything because they were worried about what other people might think. Eventually, a little child spoke up and it was like the spell was broken.

I kept waiting for the little child to speak up, but I’m not sure anyone is listening.

Apparently, the reason people like Donald Trump is that he is not “politically correct”, he is the anti-Obama, anti-complexity, anti-people-not-like-me candidate.

At one level it is understanding. The world is more and more complicated, and we are a generation who has received our main shaping stories through television and films in which there is always “baddies” and “goodies.”

As the world has become more complicated, our movies have become less so. We have developed an almost insatiable appetite for super-heroes who save the world by beating up the bad guys and for romantic comedies where love results in everything being wonderful.

Despite what some books might suggest, we actually don’t like shades of grey. We want a black or white world. We want to be able to talk about bad guys and good guys.

We have also reduced our Christianity to this level of simplicity. We have managed to reduce our faith to four simple statements that form the minimum entrance requirements for heaven, and then we wonder why people who purport to be Christian can have a worldview that is so different to ours.

We separated our faith from our lives and made it about what happens after we die, so there was no real guidance about what it meant for complex moral issues, economics or relationships.

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We’ve got rid of the people who make us uncomfortable and now we wonder why we are not effective!

We’ve got rid of the people who make us uncomfortable and now we wonder why we are not effective!

Ephesians 4:11 makes it clear that some people are called to a particular kind of ministry.

The Apostle was to live on the frontiers, bringing the Kingdom to new places in new and unexpected ways. In their wake they left fledgling groups of Christians who were bringing the Kingdom of God into their particular context. These groups were Kingdom Cells.

The Prophet was to speak God’s word into this moment, not only to the church but also to the world. It was their job to highlight the places of darkness where the Kingdom of God was still to permeate.

The Evangelist had the joyful task of inviting people into God’s Kingdom by introducing them to Jesus.

The Pastor/Teachers were to carry the weight of responsibility for those in their care. They were to walk alongside their flock, loving them, helping them discover their vocation and equipping them to fulfill it.

In the English it appears that the gifts of Pastor and Teacher are separate, but in the original language it is clear that they are related, which makes sense. A pastor who can’t teach produces dependency and a teacher who doesn’t care produces alienation

These gifts are still sorely needed in the church today, however our paradigm of church has reduced their effectiveness and missed the whole point of what Paul was trying to communicate.

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Different so we can serve each other

Different so we can serve each other

Poatina Morning Tea devotion given today

I don’t feel like jumping on a plane and flying to South Africa
And the request for a suitcase is real.
I have destroyed 2 in my last 2 trips oversees, so if you have a sturdy one that would be great.
Getting read to go to South Africa,
I was really affected by visit to Robin Island.
What would i have done if I was Nelson Mandella
Does life happen to you, or do you make life happen?
In South Africa
White people were in power, and they used that power to oppress the black and coloured people as a way of staying in power.
They were not treated as Human Beings
And yet Nelson Mandela never lost hope
As i was travelling on a bus in South Africa I read the story of Nelson Mandela
The white people were bullies
His people were killed by bullies for over 20 years
And they threaten his wife and children
A horrible place
How would you sustain hope in that situation?

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Who is on the God journey?

Who is on the God journey?

Solo or together??

I’ve been enjoying the podcasts I have been listening to from Wayne Jacobsen and Brad Cummings. (www.thegodjourney.com)

They are two Americans who have been on significant individual personal journeys with God and each week record a dialogue that bounces off emails they have received, current events or things they have encountered.

There is one aspect of their dialogue though, that I am not completely convinced about.

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A thought for today

A thought for today

A word from the word

Rather than my normal blog today I thought I would simply share a passage of scripture from this morning’s quiet time.

I was up to Ephesians chapter 4, and these words have been going round in my head all day.

I have my quiet times using the message so these verses are from that version:

No prolonged infancies among us, please. We’ll not tolerate babes in the woods, small children who are an easy mark for impostors. God wants us to grow up, to know the whole truth and tell it in love—like Christ in everything.

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