Thursday, December 16, 2010

Believing and Belonging – Muddy Waters

At our staff meeting we have been having a discussion about the ways we see people are connecting with us and how we can help them in taking another step – this is what I have come up with after our discussions. You will notice I have tried to muddy the believing-belonging categories because in my/our experience it is messy and I wanted to reflect that in our strategy. Do you agree with the muddy water premise?

The site is here -but this is what we have said:


Welcome to Macquarie Anglican. Our aim is to help you love God and others, and we think this is best done in community. So come and get involved! You choose how.

Investigate
Perhaps you have not had much to do with a Christian community previously and you would like to investigate how they work. Why not try ours? You would not be alone, we already have a number of people who are investigating and trying things out-no strings attached. Come along to one of our meetings. If you would like to let us know you are coming (you don’t have to) feel free to email info at macquarieanglican.org

Belong
Come to church more regularly or join a small group that explores the Christian faith. Our next two groups begin on February 9, 10am-11am or 8pm-9pm. Please RSVP by emailing info at macquarieanglican.org .

Explore
Explore a biography of Jesus through a Simply Christianity course. One hour per week for five weeks. Our next two Simply Christianity Groups begin on Thursday January 6, 10am-11am or 8pm-9pm. Please RSVP by emailing info at macquarieanglican.org .

Serve
Get involved and join one of our teams serving the community. Most teams have training from time to time, please contact info at macquarieanglican.org for details.

Just wondering what you think?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Lessons, Carols and Biblical Theology


We have a tradition of Lessons and Carols at our Church. Jeff Willey, who is a teacher at the Conservatorium High School, does a great job of training a choir for the day. I have been thinking I would like to use the occasion to tell the big picture story of the bible, to engage in some biblical theology. Better Gatherings has done it! What an excellent ministry resource. If you don’t do Lessons and Carols this could be a good reason to start, you can devote the whole service to reading out loud the unfolding story of God’s grace.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Adversarial Church Planting

Recently I have become aware of a trend that seeks to promote church planting by describing the inadequacies of established churches. Two examples include Total Church and the recent ACL address.

To be clear; I like much of what these authors say and I am not anti church planting. My father and mother were involved in planting churches, our established church has planted, re-potted and revitalised congregations. Many of the criticisms that are made of established churches are valid. It is true some churches and ministers have lost their way and can make it difficult for church planters. Despite this I dislike adversarial church planting for five reasons:

  1. It is not shaped by grace. Paul in writing to the Corinthians writes to a church which is clearly dysfunctional and in desperate need of help. Paul’s solution is not to point out all their faults with a mind to planting another church; instead, Paul confronts their issues with the gospel of grace and continues to plant churches.
  2. Church planting is about the gospel of grace. I am concerned that new churches established in a reactionary way may have DNA’s/ identities that encourage Christians in new church plants to treat their brothers and sisters in more established churches as second class citizens.
  3. It encourages a lack of graciousness in the established churches. I have felt this tension. Near my local church there have been several attempts at church plants. In one case it was another Anglican church who planted a new congregation with very little notice or discussion. I support what they were trying to do, I even thought it was needed, but it was a challenge to be gracious when we were completely ignored in the process. On the other hand, a different Anglican church established a congregation near my church and the leader came and we talked together about the exciting possibilities of his church, he has my encouragement and support. Indeed, some members of our church have gone there with my blessing. I like Broughton Knox's insight when he says: “Moreover, Christian fellowship is naturally not restricted within the local congregation; the congregation is the expression of the fellowship which is the church of Christ. This latter will overleap the limits of geography to create fellowship between congregations.” D. Broughton Knox – ‘Selected Works’ Volume II, Church and Ministry – (Matthias Media 2003) Page 27. S
  4. Established churches are not always the competition. Sometimes the established church would only be too glad to help out-we know we can’t do everything. In my case we have administrative and physical resources, a staff team who would only be too happy to pray with and support a church planter.
  5. It encourages leaders of church plants to be angry-ministers-planting churches out of frustration, disappointment and anger. Although it is true established church leaders face this problem too.

My conviction is church planting has to have at its core, the promotion of the Gospel, not only to those who don’t believe but also to those who do. In the end let’s plant churches and let’s encourage those in established churches to get on with the proclamation God’s grace, but let us not be adversarial in our promotion of church planting. Just wondering – what you think?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Church Planting

I am writing an essay that is considering issues around church planting in the Sydney Diocese. Initially I am looking at the broader literature and have noticed that most advocates of church planting examine either all or some of the following five areas to support and articulate the cause (many overlapping):




Biblical

For example Keller in the Redeemer Church Planting Manual argues:

“Virtually all the great evangelistic challenges of the New Testament are basically calls to plant churches, not simply to share faith. The Great Commission (Matt 28:18-20) is not just a call to make disciples but to baptize. In Acts and elsewhere, it is clear that baptism means incorporation into a worshiping community with accountability and boundaries.”

Theological

This usually involves discussions around ecclesiology and missiology. Murray Stuart’s Church Planting: Laying foundations is a good example

Historical

This often includes an overview of the Pauline programme of church planting, references to the Celtic Missionaries, Reformers, 18th and 19th century protestant heroes and more recently C. Donald McGavran's work.

Contextual

This often includes:

  • Observations about the stultification of the current churches and leadership, for example Al Stewart's ACL address or the Trellis and the Vine.
  • Observations that variously describe the gap between church members and their local communities. These observations are made using the frameworks of philosophical enquiry and or social and behavioural sciences. This includes world views, gender, ethnicity, generation gaps…
  • Observations about the lack of church growth for example in Australia:

o Between 1991-2001 (even with the growth in the AOG churches) Protestant churches in Australia declined by 6% and Australian church attendance declined, by 3%

o In 1991 - one church for every 1561 people in Australia

o In 2006 (estimated) – one church for ever 2054 people,

I have noticed that much of the emergent church material is driven by these observations.

Pragmatic

The oft quoted pragmatist Wagner is a good example:

The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches. (Wagner, “Church Planting For a Greater Harvest,” Page 7.)

In addition to this there is lots of how to material.

Just wondering if I have missed anything? Comments?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Book Review- Total Church

Tim Chester and Steve Timmis in their book Total Church: A radical reshaping around gospel and community, are passionate about the gospel and the future of the church. The book raises significant questions about the way churches operate and provides a challenging alternative (2007:15).

Chester and Timmis were nurtured and equipped for ministry in English main stream churches and show a genuine concern for the decline of the church in England (2007:36). An underlying assumption of the book is that the church is valuable and worth continuing with. They are keen, however to differentiate themselves from both main stream and emergent churches without wanting to dismiss each of these approaches completely (2007: 16-17).

One of their key hypotheses is that there is an increasing gulf between those who attend church and those outside the church (2007:61). This, they note, has resulted in diminishing opportunities for non-Christians to hear the gospel. In this context they make a number of observations about current church life and practice which provide a back drop to their exploration.

The authors note that churches, while concerned about the gulf, have continued with “attractional” models of ministry despite there lack of effectiveness. They cite youth and children’s ministries that are failing to stem the flow of young people leaving churches let alone attract new young people (2007:177). Further to this they argue that where attempts have been made to bridge the gulf Christians have often “thrown the baby out with the bath water”. The authors question programmes of social involvement that do not explicitly include the gospel proclaimed (2007:52). This same concern is also identified in the context of world mission where programmes are identified as part of missio Dei even if they fail to have any explicit connection to the gospel (2007:103).

Chester and Timmis also suggest that many churches of an evangelical commitment are not engaging the marginalised. They cite examples where it is easy to find pastors who pastor large middle class churches but difficult to find pastors who will work in marginalised areas.

Further to this they argue that even when the gospel is proclaimed, and there is someone listening, the approaches that main stream churches take seem to be ineffective. The authors cite apologetics that include uncritically, enlightenment epistemology or alternatively have embraced postmodernism (2007:159f). These influences are also noted in the development of theology. It is argued that these world views weaken our theology of church and mission and have failed to help us engage in a real theology or spirituality that helps us deal with the ‘stuff of life’ and the mission of the church (2007:150). All this contributes to the increasing gulf between the church and those outside it and diminishes the opportunity to proclaim the gospel.

Another key hypothesis that forms a backdrop to Chester and Timmis approach is that even in churches where the gospel is preached faithfully and people are being converted there appears to be a genuine lack of community (2007: 38). In this context the authors raise concerns about programme centred churches with huge budgets, buildings, and staff teams. They question the use of resources needed and the failure of the laity to be genuinely engaged in mission and care for one another.

Questions are raised about the out sourcing of pastoral care and the failure to disciple and equip people in a way that sees them taking initiatives for the Gospel in all of life. In this context questions are also raised about how success is measured (2007: 187f). Their conclusion is that many churches and pastors are looking for glory, not the way of the cross.

In this context these authors offer radical alternative. Chester and Timmis argue that to address the gulf between the church and the outsider, and the lack of community what we need is the Gospel to shape and form our attitudes and identity. They argue Christians are called to a dual fidelity.

1. "Fidelity to the gospel word - believed and proclaimed
2. Fidelity to gospel community - bonded and missional".

In practice this dual fidelity leads to a radical reshaping of church life. They are committed to "small church and a high buy-in from members. In contrast to the pursuit of large church and a low buy-in from members ". The illustrations on pages 42-43 are a good summary of this radical reshaping. In the first illustration the individual is juggling many responsibilities, church being one of them. In the second diagram the church is at the centre and together the church made of 15-30 individuals juggles these issues together. Examples are given of buying houses, caring for unwell individuals, caring for the marginalised and discipleship.

This radical reshaping also impacts the structure of the church. Very few are paid and those who are often have part time jobs. There is a leadership structure with accountability and training but the requirements of those overseeing each church are much less rigorous than those of traditional churches. This also provides flexibility for continuous church planting.This book could almost be seen as a modern out working of Roland Allen’s: The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church or Robert Banks’, Paul’s Idea of Community.

Perhaps the greatest impact of this radical reshaping is the ability of the gospel community to bridge the gap between the church and the outsider . This is one of the great strengths of the book and a great reminder of what is possible when people work together and are passionate about evangelism. In my own veiw John Dickson’s Promoting the Gospel, has much in common with the evangelistic methodology of this book

One of the other great strengths of the book is the analysis of the challenges that churches face. I am someone who oversees a middleclass church and the gulf between our church and the community is a growing concern. People are also craving community. These issues are addressed by the authors in a stimulating and thoughtful way with an ecclesiology which provides a helpful corrective to the view that church is just a Sunday gathering.

In my context I think there is room to apply much of what is said to small groups. We have a number of small groups that are beginning to function along these lines.

While it is difficult to disagree with much of what Chester and Timmis have argued there are a number of issues which need further reflection. They include:

  • The almost communitarian zeal for community. For example selling a house or choosing a job almost sound like group decisions. I think the Bible calls us neither to communitarianism nor individualism but to iterrelationism.
  • Suburbia (where I live) does not have central hubs for locals, many people travel significant distances in and out of the suburb for work, shopping or lesuire. This makes the formation of community as envisaged challenging.
  • I think they have overstated Luke’s “bias to the poor” in Chapter 4.
  • It would be good to see their ecclesiology interact with Church History.
  • While it is possible to see this model working well with new churches it is difficult to see how this could be adopted in a large existing church. To be fair this is not what they were intending to address.
Total Church: A radical reshaping around gospel and community it is a book I would highly recommend Christian leaders read. Just wondering what you thought.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Book Review - Leading Cross Culturally by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter

Leading Cross Culturally: Covenant Relationships for Effective Christian Leadership, by Sherwood G. Lingenfelter was published by Baker Academic in 2008. It is the third in a series addressing issues of culture and the practice of cross-cultural ministry.

Lingenfelter invites us to consider the difficulties of cross cultural leadership through a number of lenses including case studies, personal reflections, sociology, anthropology leadership theory and theology.

Parts 1-3 of the book examine the areas of inspiration, trust and power. Part 4 reflects on the implications of these observations for the difficulties of cross cultural leadership. Central to his thesis is the belief that leaders in and of cross cultural teams must first commit themselves to God and His vision of this world. In particular to the transformation of knowing that we are part of the same “covenant community” (Lingenfelter 2008:75). Lingenfelter argues that it is only on the basis of this theological understanding that leadership in the cross cultural context can be truly effective.

Lingenfelter’s book is the product of a disciplined and mature reflection on the difficulties of cross cultural leadership and ministry. Its particular strength is its stance that leadership in the cross cultural context should be shaped by a biblical word view in conversation with the cultural context and more secular insights. Despite this strength, the use of biblical text, at times, appears to take what was descriptive of leaders and of the early church as prescriptive for leadership and the church now. I think the book would be strengthened with a more biblical theological approach to the issue of leadership.

Friday, August 20, 2010

It's about time we acted like radical, almost subversive counterculture


I have been thinking about reaching those who are 50+ "the once were churched". In doing so I have been talking with people who are over 50. Some of the things people have said include:

  • The 50+ group are very hard to get to listen because of their very "once were churched" status.
  • They have generally bought into the spirit of the age that "if there's a god he certainly will know I am basically a good person" ( Judge not lest you be judged" ) or "that it's a load of superstitious nonsense" ( after all we have read Richard Dawkins and the Da Vinci Code ).
  • Most current Christian resources aimed at this group are too predictable, too patronising and too glib.
  • "We do need something else that is just a little bit NOT what people expect from the local Anglicans. It is about time we acted like a rather radical, almost subversive counterculture and not a lot of apologetic folk who people used to listen to (and who people turn to for a reassuring funeral in a nice setting....a bit late for evangelism at that stage )."
Do you agree? How would you go about this?

Friday, June 25, 2010

Adopted into a new culture



Interesting thought:
“The Christian inherits the pilgrim principle, which whispers to him that he has no abiding city and warns him that to be faithful to Christ will put him out of step with his society; for that society never existed, in East or West, ancient time or modern, which could absorb the word of Christ painlessly into its system … not from the adoption of a new culture, but from the transformation of the mind towards that of Christ”(Walls 1996: 8).

My thought is, Christians are pilgrims who have been adopted into a new culture, that of Christ’s. This should put us out of step with all other cultures but in step with one another. Just wondering what you think?


Walls, Andrew E. The Missionary Movement in Christian History: Studies in the Transmission of Faith. Maryknoll, N.Y: Orbis, 1996.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Different Cultural Mindsets

I have been studying cross cultural ministry over the last few months and one of the obvious issues is the misunderstandings that develop because people come from very different cultural mindsets. Research has been conducted to understand these differences, for example Geert Hofstede in studying over 50 countries, examined 5 five cultural dimensions (see here also).

Hofstede's 5 cultural dimensions include:

  1. Power Distance Index (PDI) that is the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally.
  2. Individualism (IDV) this refers to the strength of the ties people have to others within the community.
  3. Masculinity (MAS) this refers to how much a society sticks with, and values, traditional male and female roles.
  4. Uncertainty Avoidance Index (UAI) deals with a society's tolerance for uncertainty and ambiguity; it ultimately refers to man's search for Truth.
  5. Long Term Orientation (LTO) this refers to how much society values long-standing - as opposed to short term - traditions and values.
Hofstede concludes about Australia:

"The Geert Hofstede analysis for Australia reflects the high level of individuality Australian's hold dear. The Individualism (IDV) index for Australia is 90, the second highest score of any country in Hofstede’s survey, behind the United States' ranking of 91.

This individuality is reinforced in Australian’s daily lives and must be considered when traveling and doing business in their Country. Privacy is considered the cultural norm and attempts at personal ingratiating may meet with rebuff.

Power Distance (PDI) is relatively low, with an index of 36, compared to the world average of 55. This is indicative of a greater equality between societal levels, including government, organizations, and even within families. This orientation reinforces a cooperative interaction across power levels and creates a more stable cultural environment."

Compare that to Hofstede's conclusions about South Korea.
"South Korea's highest Hofstede Dimension is Uncertainty Avoidance (UAI) at 85, indicating the society’s low level of tolerance for uncertainty. In an effort to minimize or reduce this level of uncertainty, strict rules, laws, policies, and regulations are adopted and implemented. The ultimate goal of this population is to control everything in order to eliminate or avoid the unexpected. As a result of this high Uncertainty Avoidance characteristic, the society does not readily accept change and is very risk adverse.

South Korea has a low Individualism (IDV) rank of 18. The score on this Dimension indicates the society is Collectivist as compared to Individualist. This is manifest in a close long-term commitment to the member 'group', be that a family, extended family, or extended relationships. Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount, and over-rides most other societal rules and regulations. The society fosters strong relationships where everyone takes responsibility for fellow members of their group."

This research has produced some generalisations about different cultures which I think are a helpful starting points in understanding each other. Just wondering what you think?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Do you ever speak to the Women in your Church?

We have just begun a new preaching series from the book of Exodus called, Follow ME . The focus of the series is on God and His leadership/ character.

Last Sunday I preach at our 7pm congregation on Exodus 1-2. One of the things that I spoke of was the courageous women that we see in the text. Women who feared God, for example the midwives, Moses mother, Miriam, the Pharaohs daughter (although it is not clear if her motivation was the fear of God).

I then spoke directly to the women in our church and encouraged them to be fear God and be courageous. What has been interesting is that a number of women have spoken about how moving it was to be spoken to directly as women.

Most of the time I speak more generically – just wondering what your experience has been?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

It's not that I don't care on purpose...

I have been looking at the McCrindle Research web site and I noticed on the flash banner across the top these words":

"It's not that I don't care on purpose... it's just that I don't care." Stuart age 17.

That sums up what I hear people say about Christianity and what I hear some Christians say about having grace filled conversations with others.

Just wondering what you think? Is this your experience? What's the way forward?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Trying Something New


This is a zooming presentation-very easy to put together. Click the links above if you want the site and a better view.

What do you think of using presentation tools with sermons? -Is it a question of how many people you are preaching to?

Monday, March 08, 2010

Still thinking about cross cultural ministry

I know it's been a while since I have posted but there have been some significant things to consider before our AGM-I will tell you about them in the next post.

I have not given up on thinking about cross cultural ministry. In fact I am planning to attend the Biennial Missions Conference 4-6 May at the Sydney Missionary & Bible College as part of the Masters program I am undertaking there. Keep you posted as I learn more.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Perhaps we have been arrogant –continuing the discussion

I used to swim in this river every day.

I have been thinking about issues related to cross cultural ministry

Seven or eight years ago I read Rolland Allen’s classic The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church. Only later did I discover that many of the principles he argued for were adopted by BEM the mission my parents worked for. No wonder what he observed resonated!

One of the issues that Allen raises is the very paternalistic and often arrogant way missionaries , sent by the Church of England, treated indigenous peoples. He observes that the indigenous person was not often entrusted with significant leadership and churches/ministries rose or fell on the presence of the “white missionary”. In my observation the indigenous person was also expected to adopt all the “trimmings” of the English church as if somehow these were superior. Allen argues that this placed huge restrictions on the development of Christian ministry. I am not questioning the intent or the desire of these missionaries to see the gospel proclaimed and to guard the truth, in many ways they were just reflecting the colonial culture of the day. I know we all have blind spots too! I wonder though, is there a link between these sorts of attitudes and the establishment of many independent churches in Sydney?

As I have spoken with some ministers of independent churches, with backgrounds different to the white Ango culture, they are often frustrated with the “established” church. They argue that there are simply too many hoops, to many demands to do things in a "certain way" . As a result they would prefer just to go it alone.


Just wondering what do you think?

Monday, January 18, 2010

"They should just learn to speak English..."

I have been thinking about the issues of cross–cultural ministries and a way forward for our Korean children’s and youth ministries. I have been wondering out loud what theological resources we might bring to the discussion.

I was reading Nehemiah 8 –this morning when I read this:
They read from the book, from the Law of God, clearly, and they gave the sense, so that the people understood the reading.
Carson makes the point that the “book”, the Law, was written in Hebrew but most people spoke Aramaic so it needed to be translated and exegeted. Their response:
12And all the people went their way to eat and drink and to send portions and to make great rejoicing, because they had understood the words that were declared to them.
The principle, the gospel should not be hidden by language.

The 39 Articles make a similar point:
Article XXIV
Of speaking in the Congregation in such a tongue as the people understandeth. It is a thing plainly repugnant to the Word of God, and the custom of the Primitive Church, to have publick Prayer in the Church, or to minister the Sacraments in a tongue not understanded of the people.
In our muti-language communities, for those who do not speak English, we need gatherings that speak the mother tongue, after all English is not the heavenly language- my Korean friends tell me Korean is, anyoung haseyo: )

I disagree with those who insist that all gatherings should be in English "They should just learn to speak English and come to our church." To do so is to turn language into an idol. Australians could not be accused of that could they? ..;)

Just wondering what you think?

Friday, January 15, 2010

Where are the holes in this position?

Ok, so I am grappling with the issues of children and youth ministries in a cross cultural setting. Do we go for separate ministries or look at some type of integrated approach. In the last post I wanted to explore how our theology might inform and interact with this issue. One area that I have been thinking about is the role of the church in our communities.

I am conscious that in the debate around these issues, some people do not think the church has a mission. I also recognise that it is possible to over-realise and under-realise your eschatology. To expect to much or expect to little. So for example the words in the Lord's prayer, your kingdom come, will mean different things depending on your ecclesiology and eschatology.

In my own view I think the church does have a role to play in its community. I understand 1 Peter 2: 9-10 to be speaking about God’s gathered people who as a part of their gathering have a role in proclaiming to the world his “excellencies”. I also think that the context promotes this as something that is expressed in word and deed. I see this sitting comfortably with
Jeremiah 29:7 “But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile”.
In the end I am convinced that the church/congregation has a role to play in shaping a society ,as a beacon of light for the gospel.

The question is then; In a multi-ethnic society what is the role of the “local” church?

I guess my first thought would be that the God’s gathered people can shape a society and be a beacon of gospel light by being a place where the gospel transforms us so much that being in Christ is more important than cultural differences. Church is the not yet new community pictured in Rev 21 and the now community spoken of in Galatians.

27For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. 28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:27-28

Just wondering what you think of this argument? I know it is not new. Where are the holes? Do you run a homogeneous church? Is this too idealistic? Or perhaps you could argue that there is enough difference already within a homogeneous congregation and to push for much more is a bridge too far? Tell me what you think.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Can you help me develop my theology?


I am trying to work out which way we should go as a church when it comes to children’s and youth ministries and the cross cultural question. One of the issues that always comes up in this discussion is the issue of the homogeneous church (Tim Chester has discussion about the issues involved) :

John Stott is cautious when it comes to the homogeneous church:
“… although there are circumstances in which a homogeneous church can be a legitimate and authentic church, yet it can never be a complete church in itself, since it cannot reflect the universality and diversity of the body of Christ. This being so, every homogeneous unit church should take active steps to broaden its fellowship, in order to demonstrate visibly the unity and variety if the church.”John Stott, The Living Church, IVP, 2007, Pg 42
John Woodhouse approaches the issue differently and by implication appears far more ready to support the homogeneous church when he argues that:
“You are all one in Christ Jesus”, Gal 3:28). This heavenly reality finds expression in this world as the Spirit brings Christians together in various localities (1 Cor 1:10). In other words the unity of which the Christian gospel speaks applies first to the spiritual unity of all, from every place and every age, who are members of God's household. It applies second to the relationships in the local gathering of Christians. ...The question is, how should we express our unity with believers beyond our local congregation? ..The answer will vary according to circumstances.... However we will want to express our love and unity with others to the extent that it is feasible.
John Woodhouse / Briefing #284 / May 2002
While their ecclesiology is different, in both instances it appears there is room for the homogeneous church and that there is a desire to find active steps to broaden fellowship beyond the local church/congregation.

My dilemma is I feel like these positions truncate the whole discussion. Having accepted some role for the homogeneous church and established the need for fellowship beyond the local congregation we quickly move on to a discussion of pragmatics - i.e. what do “active steps” look like? This would be ok if the discussion of pragmatics continued a conversation with theology. It is like we disengage our theological brain. I know I have been guilty of this and am interested correcting this and developing my theology.

So before I continue with the exploration of actives steps, just wondering what other theological resources you would bring to the discussion?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Cross cultural ministry-youth and children’s...continued

Andrew Hong from NDCCCS has written to me about my previous post and with his permission I publish his response to my observations of cross cultural ministry:

A big issue, really. Most Aussie pastors would generally want to go with answer (2) - (combined ministries) because they underestimate the long influence of culture.

However (1) (separate ministries) is actually the best - because Korean-background issues will actually keep arising as Korean Christians grow up and move through successive life stages. Such as when they begin a family and begin having expectations on their children, or when their kids marry - all of a sudden issues will unexpectedly arise that would be different from others around them, if they were in a (2) type congregation... and it's better if these can be recognised and confronted...

So I get the issues Andrew raises and I agree with his observations but I still am not sure, I would like to think we could be more innovative in light of the Gospel (I will get back to this).. just wondering what you think?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Cross cultural ministry-youth and children’s.


One of our congregations is Korean speaking. Something which I give thanks to God for regularly. I will admit there are times where I feel more at home at a Korean Sunday lunch than at typical Australian BBQ-which is less to do with the food (which is fantastic) and more to do with the way fellowship is expressed.

I have been speaking with our Korean families about the future of children and youth ministry in our church. I have been asking the question, in ten years time where would you like to see your children going to church? There appears to be two views:
  1. In an Australian Born Korean (ABK) congregation.
As a generalisation it appears parents who want this are Korean born and are keen to see Korean culture treasured, they are concerned that their children may lose this connection. Korean church is one of the few places where this can be maintained and therefore church becomes a focal point for maintaining Korean-ness. I am not unsympathetic I know that culture matters and that third culture kids have some particular challenges. I know that the average Caucasian Aussie has no idea what this feels like or appreciates the grief involved in seeing your culture modified beyond recognition -I know I still have lots to learn about this. Indeed the ABK solution seems to have been adopted by many Australian Chinese ministries and by American born Korean ministries.

Implications-
  • Long term: We plant an ABK congregation.
  • Short term: We resource English speaking Korean children’s and youth ministries that are closely tied to the Korean congregation and keep them basically separate from our other children’s and youth ministries.
Issues:
  • Greater demand on our resources as we try to provide for different forms of ministry.
  • The long term trajectories need to be embraced.
2. In a congregation made up or people from many cultural backgrounds.

As a generalisation those who are open to this view treasure Korean culture but consider that their children will hold onto their Korean-ness despite being part of a more diverse group. They are happy to see their children integrated into a wider group-even at church.

Implications-
  • Long Term: We work hard at integrating our existing ministries to children and youth. For example imagine running three morning congregations-each one in a different language but with the children’s and youth programs all in English and all together.
  • Long Term: We look at employing ABK’s as part of our children’s and youth ministries so that the particular needs of culture are addressed.
  • Short Term: We work hard at developing relationships between our various children’s and youth programs-and the parents.
There are at least two other important issues:

Theology of Church and Australian Idealism.. I will get back to them soon… For now, just wondering what you might think?

Sunday, January 10, 2010

There is no such thing as an unchurched christian


As part of our series We are all in this Together, we promoting a book written by John Stott called The Living Church.

This is what he says in his opening chapter:

“First, I am assuming that we are all committed to the church. We are not only Christian people; we are also church people. We are not only committed to Christ, we are also committed to the body of Christ. At least I hope so. I trust that none of my readers is that grotesque anomaly, an unchurched Christian. The New Testament knows nothing of such a person. The church lies at the very centre of the eternal purpose of God. It is not a divine afterthought. …

On the contrary, the church is God’s new community. For his purpose, conceived in a past eternity, being worked out in history, and to be perfected in the future eternity, is not just to save isolated individuals and so perpetuate our loneliness, but rather to build his church, that is, to call out of the world a people for his own glory. Indeed, Christ dies for us, not only to redeem us from all wickedness but also to purify for himself a people that are his own eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14).” John Stott: The Living Church p19-20, IVP, 2007.

In other words there is no such thing as an unchurched christian. Acts 2: 47 comes to mind;
And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
Being saved and being added to the number appear inseparable. Tim Chester gives the Biblical Theological take here.

All useful for thinking through the vision God has for his church.