Category Archives: Fresh Expressions

New Books in Preparation – New Monasticism & Spirituality in the City

Well its now a new year, and I am now well on the way to completing the manuscript for my next book exploring New Monasticism, which I am writing for Paraclete to be submitted by the end of February 2010.

Writing  this book has really helped me think quite deeply about this important model of church, and I have enjoyed interviewing a number of people including a Benedictine Abbot, a Franciscan Friar and a number of new monastics including Shane Claiborne, Mark Berry, Ian Adams and others.

I have also written a chapter in a book exploring spirituality in the city, which is a multi-authored book which I think is being published by Continuum.  In this chapter I explore the increasing phenomena  of post secular spiritual tourism, and in particularly that evidenced by the many flower shrines you see where people have died.  It names something very important symbolically. So I hope that contribution assists people to explore the subject.

I am also pleased to let people know, that I am involved in three other books. All three are all multi-authored books in the Ancient Faith Future Mission series published with Canterbury Press.  These will cover Fresh Expressions and New Monasticism, the Kingdom of God and Small Missional Communities.

So I seem to have become involved in a number writing projects!

Jesus, Trinity, Mission & Inclusion in John 4:1-42

Last Wednesday, Jon Oliver, (author and training Ordinand for Pioneer Ministry on placement with Moot) led our Quest Evening, designed to explore biblical texts and open them up as Stanley Hauerwas says to ‘an interpretative community’.  Well we looked at John 4:1-42 and the Samaritan Woman at the well.

This text is always challenging and beautiful.  It expresses the mission of God to blur boundaries of the sacred in the secular, challenging cultural taboos, and gives us a palpable foretaste of the Kingdom of God.

I love it that God seeks out the excluded and the lost, those that are hated within their own cultures.  Why it gives me a hope that someone like me can be acceptable to God with all my faults, insecurities and complexities.  But this time there was more.  The Woman, was exposed to the reality of the Trinity. Christ is present as the Redeemer. Then in verse 23, But the hour is coming and is now here, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.  Beautifully Jesus finishes off the Samaritans question about the Messiah as coming with the words ‘I am he, the one who is speaking to you’.

So in this encounter, the Woman experiences Jesus as the Redeemer, empowered by the Holy Spirit, in the worship of the Father.  It doesn’t get more Trinitarian than that, with a woman he was not supposed to speak to, and with a people the Jews despises as unclean.  So what does Jesus do – he goes into mission mode, loving them into understanding, and then stays with them for two days – something a Jew was banned from doing.  I love it.  This is the radicalness of Christ and the New Testament.  A radical love that seeks to restore all things into restored relationships.  This is the context of real mission, and it inspires me to keep going when I feel so inadequate and crap so much of the time, in a dysfunctional church and a broken world.  It is the hope of this Jesus that keeps me alive, in this Missio Dei of the Holy Trinity, and the love of the God Human Jesus, that my life has meaning and purpose.  Without this God, I don’t know where I would be….

Attractional v Missional Models of Church

Attractional Model of Church

I have now finished two out of the three lectures I am giving at Carey Baptist College in Auckland.  Today I explored the socio-cultural forces behind neo-spirituality driven by information technology and consumerism, and then explored a Trinitarian Ecclesiology as a basis of Christian Spirituality to engage with a context of neo-mysticism.  Finally, we looked at issues around leadership as all the denominations face the challenge of reframing from a Christendom to a post-Christendom context.

It was a good day, I forcused on the need to let go of an attractional model of church born of Christendom as incompatible with a post-christendom context of neo-mysticism, and the importance of a missional relational model of Christian Community.  Matt Stone has written a great blog on this, so check that out.  So my use of New Monasticism is a form of missional model, where the communities Rhythm of life lies at the heart of the community.  So offer the model below of a more new monastic missional model.

My reflections on the training morning with Baptist Pastors, is just how entrenched the attractional model is.  There is still a desire to form sexy forms of worship to get people in, but as I said then, this just recycles Christians rather than makes an impact with unchurched people.  It is hard to conceive of the missional model if you are operating within a model of attraction within a worldview of Christendom. My hope is that the training will play a small part to enable people to shift their worldviews to be able to see the need for an incarnational and missional model of church.

So I think the world church has much to learn from the likes of Missioners such as Vincent J Donovan of an Incarnational model of church, that seeks to use a methodology using a synthetic or transcendent contextual theological model.  A good day, but we so need need to help people get beyond an attractional model of mission.

Developing an Anglimergent network in Australia & New Zealand

I am really pleased to say, that I think my small contribution to exploring new ways of being church in the context of Australia and New Zealand, has created some fruit, through some increased energy and interest in developing specifically Anglican and missional new ways of being church to engage with our post-religious, post-Christian, post-secular culture of spiritual tourism.  

Accordingly, and following discussions with people, I have just set up a new Anglimergent Australia and New Zealand group which I hope will encourage the development of new networks in Australia and New Zealand, to then develop this indigenously.

So if you are interested in joining this and contributing to developing this new network within a global network, please click here

What sort of Church will emerge to engage with the challenge of a post-Christian world?

On Sunday 15th March 2009, I joined a recorded discussion in Sydney exploring the above title on Australia’s ABC National Radio. In the discussions, the group explored the importance of Emerging and Fresh Expressions of Church engagement with our increasingly post-christian post-secular culture. For a link to the radio show click here

Beyond Attraction – reflections on my time in Australia

Speaking Tour I have now had a bit of time to reflect on my experience of Australia, and of the Church here. I think the greatest challenge is going to be the letting go of an attractional model of church and mission. In the training days I have done here – people are somewhat resistant to let go of the strategy of ‘come to us’. This of course is based on a Christendom model of church, colluding with the separation of sacred and secular. It is interesting that this is the number one issue. The church must be able to re-imagine another way of relating to contemporary culture – much more incarnational – being IN culture but not OF culture. We must remember that the traditional church plant approach of taking some people from a church and planting them somewhere else, and then starting with worship, is an approach that recycles Christians and makes very little impact with de and un churched people. True mission is focused on those who are not members of any church.

I was really pleased that Diocese in Melbourne and Newcastle really understood this. So I hope this thinking will go deep in the DNA of these Diocese and a new form of the local church, to engage with it. I have talked a lot of the missiological approach of Vincent Donovan. We must start with incarnational projects that we hope will grow into community, that develop a fellowship that is mission centred, that then grows a contextual approach to discipleship which then finally develops contextual forms of worship, and that sacramental worship, is possibly the last thing to develop. This process, based on the work of Vincent Donovan, is crucial if we are going to form forms of church in a post-christendom and post-secular context. So below is a list I think of the essential focus for these new pioneering start up forms of projects which we hope will birth eventually, contextual and mature expressions of church:

1. Starting project needs to relate to a real collective local need – so time for listening is essential. This listening may require you to walk regularly around the suggested area of the project, get to know people, hear their stories, talk to people in bars and cafes. Time for proper listening is vital.
2. When starting a project – where it happens is important – consider creating a hub in the local community and not to using church buildings for the sake of ease. Remember that many who you are seeking to reach will be using the internet – so use the internet to help build connections with those you are not in relationship with.
3. Build a team of enthusiasts – a commitment to relationality is again crucial.
4. Develop the project so that it continues to meet the need and we hope develop some form of community.
5. As issues relating to spirituality and the Christian faith emerge (and they will), you will need to consider different ways of enabling learning through a variety of creative approaches, and you will also need to find a way of articulating the faith in the language of that context. A great tip at this stage is to ‘give on a needs basis’. No force feeding – exploring the faith in the context of people’s interests.
6. Once the project has become mission and community, you will need to explore worship. I do suggest that something around alternative worship is a good place to start, using an approach starting from where people are at or passionate about. Again this needs to develop at the pace of the community you have developed, and will in time, I am sure, develop the marks of the church.
7. When you get to 7 – then I suspect you will be facing the need to go back to 1 again as contexts develop.

For those that are interested, much of the challenge of the church in Australla relating to its increasingly post-church post-christian culture was the subject of an ABC National Radio broadcast I contributed to. To listen to it, click here

Reflections after speaking at Melbourne

Speaking in Melbourne
Well I have just finished four days of speaking in Melbourne, and I have to say it was a privilege. I hope that the talks and presentations will enable some real experimentation and permission giving to create risk. There is real potential here in Melbourne, as long as people go for it.

Everywhere I go, I always find it such a surprise, that people really are surprised about the Trinitarian & Mystical Communion basis to the Anglican Church. There is a lot of fear, that I pick up. Fear of the rise of fundamentalism at one end of the church, and withdrawal from the world at the other. I hope that the talks I have done will promote re-engagement – an incarnational approach to mission and evangelism. So we will see what happens. But thanks Melbourne Diocese, I have really benefited from your inclusion of me in your training plan this year.

Reflections following the Catholic & Sacramental Anglican Consultation in Melbourne

I really enjoyed the consultation day today with senior clergy from around the Diocese exploring the development of emerging and fresh expressions of church.  It seemed to me to be an issue of encouragement and vision, given how this tradition has much to offer the more post-secular elements centred on spiritual tourism.  So we discussed what is going on in context with spiritual tourism, a Trinitarian Ecclesiology and Missiology, and models of church such as New Monasticism as a form that can live this out.  

But, as usual, the issue remains about how to focus on being and doing post-Christendom activities in a church and structure that still is very Christendom.  I was really impressed by Bishop Stephen of the Eastern Region, who is seeking to give real encouragement for experimentation, and helping sacramental Anglicans to explore a post-Christendom form of mission and ministry centred on apostolic creative activity.

I hope today catalyses activity and collaborative ministry amongst this very capable constituency.  But it requires risk taking and experimentation.

Off on the 3rd book & speaking tour

Well, its been a while since I have done this, but I am now looking forward to going back to Australia and New Zealand.  This will be probably the most complex and challenging speaking tour I have done yet.  Most will be exploring the challenge of new ways of being church for various denominations, and some exploring specifically alternative worship, forms of emerging church and my new focus, new monasticism.  So it does tie into my books, just the most varied groups of people I will have worked with yet.  

These trips always help me to go deeper with the subjects that we explore together, and hope this year will help me in my writing of a new book on new monasticism I am writing for Paraclete Press, which is a real privilege.  

So I will keep blogging here what I am up to, do check out the speaking tab if you are interested in attending elements of the tour, or to see what I am up to.  So goodbye Blighty until April…

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