Monday, August 27, 2007

the mistake of maturity

There are times when mature people really frustrate me.

Seasoned pastors and leaders (and lecturers themselves, it must be said) can peer into a training programme like ours at Carey and be a little too hasty to contribute into it out of their current and exciting 'growing edge', rather than rewinding to what was useful for them when they were at a similar age and stage as the students.

Sometimes this ends up as being as dumb as trying to build the fifth storey of a building without taking time to lay the foundation properly. I am surprised by how often people of maturity are unwilling to extend to students the grace of time to grow - the very grace on which their own growth has been so dependent. How often do I come across a pastor/leader in their 50s expecting a graduate in their 20s to be far more advanced than they themselves were in their 20s?! That seems so unfair to me. We are in such a hurry today. But fruit takes time to ripen.

Afterall the student years are not the end of a training experience, they are merely the beginning of a lifetime of training. Not everything has to be crammed into those student years. Some things can wait for the trajectory which living life creates...

And if you don't mind me changing the image from 'foundation' to 'core', then consider these two comments that ring continually in my ears (emphasis added by me):

"If we avoid rehearsing the core of biblical faith then it will be lost in one generation. If it goes without saying, then it needs to be said." (Peter Adam, Hearing God's Words 17)

"During the past twenty years there has been a quite frightening tendency to assume the center without really being able to articulate much about it and then to gravitate to the periphery ... (and) sooner or later the periphery is in danger of displacing the core - at least in our affections and energy, and perhaps in our theology (or that of our children)." (DA Carson, The Gagging of God 566-567).

Yes, "that of our children" ... and that includes our 'spiritual' children as pastors and leaders and lecturers. We need to keep building the core and we need to keep giving students the time to get that core in place.

I keep warning myself that 'an emphasis in a teacher easily becomes an extreme in a student'. I need to keep that warning alive.

I keep apologising to students for prefacing my instruction with 'when I was at your stage this is what I found helpful...' Maybe I need to put that apology to bed.

nice chatting


Thursday, August 23, 2007

contemporary slavery

The final course in Carey's BAppTheol is the Integrative Seminar. We choose a theme. The students select a specific topic. Then in their 6000 word piece of research they are required to move FROM some kind of social scientific analysis of the topic THROUGH a biblical-theological lens and then ONTO a missional outcome of some kind.

Next week we gather over three days to hear them present their findings. In 2007 the theme has been Contemporary Slaveries. Here is a list of the specific (and yet abbreviated) topics that have been selected:

Honour/Shame killing of women in Pakistan
Prostitution in Kolkata
Practise of Trokosi among Ewe of Ghana
Female Genital Mutilation in Africa
Intimate partner domestic abuse in NZ
Enslavement of wives in Chinese society

Children on the cocoa farms in Cote d'Ivore
Children producing Nike soccer balls in Pakistan
Sex slavery of girls in Cambodia
Child sex workers in Philippines
Child prostitution in South Africa
Child soldiers in DR of Congo
Child soldiers in Uganda
Female child workers in Indonesia
Selling children in Samoa
Assimilation of Aboriginal children
Child-stitchers of Pakistan

Forced labour in contemporary USA
Forced migrant labour in UK
Forced labour in Burma
Bonded labour in India
Domestic workers in Phillipines

Human trafficking in Texas
Enslavement and the will-to-power
Unthinking hedonistic materialism as enslavement
Skilled immigrants as refugees in NZ

We are in for a gruelling few days, aren't we?

My prayer is that the students will be changed forever as they discover a new capacity to bring World and Word together, with a fresh determination to live their lives in both places.

nice chatting (actually - I lie ... this stuff is ugly and awful)


Wednesday, August 15, 2007

hand head heart

Carey has been a building site since classes started in March. The floor above us has been gutted and refurbished. It all finishes tomorrow. I've been disrupted much less than others - partly because I've been too busy admiring the skills on display.

Start with the project manager. Every day for months there is this row of vans outside belonging to every kind of sub-contractor. How does he figure-out who needs to be on-site and at what time and in what place? The vision and the teamwork is amazing. Then there are the specialist skills of the plumbers and the electricians, the plasterers and the carpenters, the concrete-cutters and the carpet-layers and the elevator-installers... Having not grown up with tools in my hands, I've wasted a lot of time just watching skilled hands at work.

And that's just what happens once I get to work! Closer to home there is even more admiring going on. Take that extension to the Hillsborough motorway nearby! Watching 'every valley filled; every mountain brought low' to create a road with perfect flatness. WOW! And what about the way they keep the traffic flowing - as they build six overbridges - by creating these temporary roads that skirt around the edge? That is so clever! Only one bridge has been completed so far. I cannot begin to describe the excitement I feel about driving over each of the other five.

"Paul, you are a sick man and need help." Yes I know.

However the more I've reflected on this the more I realise that there is more going on than what meets the eye. While I've admired what people can do with tools and machines in their HANDS, it is not just about hands. It is also about HEADS. There are clever architects behind that building-site. There are brilliant engineers behind that motorway [I know this for a fact because when one visited I forced him into the car for a drive-by the motorway and a view from up Mt Roskill and compelled him to give me a running commentary on all that our eyes surveyed. Thanks Damian ... "and you are still a very sick man, Paul"].

Then when I took a walk around upstairs late yesterday something else dawned on me. It looks so beautiful. Surely the architects and concrete-cutters alike must walk through those rooms and feel a joy and contentment about a job well done. The finished product is a work of art. There is passion and pride and HEART going on here.

So - as I've sat with all this - I think what really inspires me is the integration of hand and head and heart so evident in this final product. The gaps between the three have become so small! And yet it is on this issue that such a melancholy about the prevailing Christian spirituality can overwhelm me. If head and heart and hand in our churches had a race, 'heart' would pip 'hand' at the finish line and 'head' would come a distant third. I fear I might spontaneously combust if I hear someone say once more that what we need today is more 'heart knowledge', not 'head knowledge'. ["Yes, Paul - then you really will be a very sick man"].

There is a better way forward. For argument's sake, take just the 'head' and the 'heart'. We tend to view these to be like two non-overlapping circles. They deal with very different realities. The feeling stuff is here and the intellectual stuff is over there - and never the twain shall meet. What about seeing them more like a single ellipse with two poles? There is still some distinction - but now there is also integration and the opportunity for the gap between the two to become small. Sometimes I find it is as if my heart is feeling deep thoughts and my head is aflame with passionate ideas. "Case closed - you really do need help, Paul!"

While I seek out that help, I am going to keep praying and working to see the people of God engaged in the mission of God looking more like ... ... upstairs.

nice chatting