Tuesday, May 26, 2009

is jesus homeless?

I came into my little study this morning to find my "Jesus is homeless" bag in the rubbish basket. What?! Who has done this?! Further investigation is made and I discover that my wife is responsible. Gulp?!

'Please tell me why'.

'It is theologically incorrect.'


So methinks about it for awhile.

I believe Barby is right. Jesus is not homeless. Far from it. Not only does John 14 make it clear that he has a home in heaven which he is preparing for those who are his, but 1 Cor 3 (and elsewhere) would suggest that Jesus makes his home in the hearts of those who are his right now - whenever they gather, wherever they are.

The 'Jesus is homeless' idea comes from a desire to demonstrate that Jesus has compassion for the homeless and because he walks this world enfleshed in his people, so should his people. However is it not a little ironic - even self-defeating - to announce this concern by speaking of the homelessness of Jesus? Quite the contrary. As the homeless who are his gather together, Jesus actually makes his home among them. WOW! What a truth...

Meanwhile those who have homes who are his consider that part of their mission task in the world today is to provide homes for the homeless. This is done with the hope not just that the homeless will be 'homed' but that they will respond positively to the gospel which motivated this 'homing' activity as they hear it shared with them ... so that they too will join Jesus in his John 14 home one day.

nice chatting


Saturday, May 23, 2009

a strange spirituality

This week I have been in Chiangmai at the OMF base for the Mekong Region. It is my first venture in my job with Langham Preaching, working to help pastors with their biblical preaching.

As I have moved around this Mekong Center I have encountered plaques and pictures (under photos of heavily whiskered men, it must be said!) that speak of a strange spirituality. It is a spirituality about which I am unaccustomed to hearing in the conversation of Christians back home in New Zealand.

In a world where I spend much time with people talking about the absence of God in their lives on the one hand OR the presence of their own career plans on the other, I encountered this unassuming plaque by the front door:

In a world where we dare not act until we have researched carefully and strategised fully because this is what opens the door to the resources we need to achieve our mission, I encountered this statement from Hudson Taylor right near the administrative hub:

In a world which is active and proactive and reactive and is really too busy to pray (something to which I can readily testify myself), I encountered this statement in the seminar room:

In a world which thinks habitually in terms of finding personal significance and leaving a legacy - and which is far more aligned with "it is all about me" than it cares to confess, I encountered this statement on a wall in a lounge:

Maybe here in the heart of God's mission into the tribal areas of South East Asia we find being exposed some of the glaring omissions in the spirituality we cultivate back home? Maybe we are too self-sufficient and too central in our dreams for God? Maybe here is an example of life in a post-Western Christianity pointing the way ahead for the post-Christian West? Or maybe it is heavily-whiskered idealistic and out-dated nonsense that needs to be muzzled? Hmmm...

nice chatting


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

men, women, elders, and children

An Indian politician was on BBC yesterday speaking about the ongoing tragedy in Sri Lanka and the loss of life that is occuring. However whereas we would speak of "men, women and children", she spoke of "men, women, elders and children". How interesting methinks to myself.

Is this a reflection of their greater respect for their elders - and the time and space which they make for them?

Over the years I have urged preaching students to think carefully about how and to whom they apply their sermons. If they are not careful, they will default to assuming that everyone is a bit like them.

To assist them I have them imagine that their congregations have:
a Matthew: unconverted, unchurched; needing to be softened, awakened, humbled
a Sunil: enquiring, interested; needing to be informed of what being a Christian involves
a Joanna: convicted, seeking; needing to be guided directly to Christ
a Jessica: young (in age or faith); needing to be built up and led on
an Anne: ageing both physically and spiritually; needing to be encouraged and affirmed
an Ian: in a bad space in his private world; needing to be acknowledged
a Sarah: ‘de-churched’, hurt, cynical; needing to be heard and welcomed
and a Peter: mature and healthy; needing to still stretch and grow further

BUT THEN I put all these names on the whiteboard and ask the students to come up and tick the ones on whom they are most likely to focus with their application and the ones they are mostly likely to overlook.

Every year the results are the same - and just as scandalous.
Anne is virtually forgotten by virtually everyone.

This is one of the biggest blindspots in the Western church. Advocates of children and youth ministries love to say "children and young people are NOT the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today." Well, stay with the logic for a moment. "The elderly are not the church of yesterday, they are the church of today."

If eternity matters, then the elderly - on average - are closer to eternity than anyone else. Should they not receive therefore evangelistic priority?

What does it take to be able to apply God's truth to the elderly? You have to build some relationships. How do you do that? I have some favourite approaches. One is to visit them and ask open-ended questions about the pictures and photos on their walls - and watch a whole world and story open up.

And it is a while since I stirred things up about worship (and alcohol, for that matter!) - so let me pass on the delightful reflection of Steph Robson, a former student of mine: "love them enough to sing their songs!" AMEN Go on, I dare you! Once a month interview an older person about a hymn they love and why they love it - and then sing it with them as a congregation. Yes, in church! WOW - what a novel idea! Would that be so difficult? Would that be so retrogade?

I better stop there, before I get in trouble

nice chatting


Thursday, May 07, 2009

post-C W and post-W C

In Disciples of All Nations (OUP, 2008), Lamin Sanneh refers to the "flagging fortunes of a post-Christian West" and the "robust potential of a post-Western Christianity." (51)

I like that contrast - but I need to read it carefully!

For 25 years I've read the books, attended the seminars and even taught the courses on the challenge of a post-Christian West. Now it is my hope that, God-willing, I am able to spend the next 25 years engaging a post-Western Christianity.

But my prayer is that it won't be a sequential reality, first one and then the other. I hope I can keep a conversation between the two going on in my head. In this shrunken globalised world of ours it should not be difficult to do and it may be a conversation that is as relevant as it is urgent.

Why is it that those writing about the "flagging fortunes" are often so slow to sit humbly at the feet of those with "robust potential" and learn from them? Why can't we see that it might be post-Western Christianity that can help those mired in a post-Christian West the most? I wonder what this help might look like?

One of the things that enthuses me about starting with Langham Partnership International is that it is ideally placed to advance this conversation usefully.

nice chatting


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

a media moan

Every now and then my frustration with the media builds and builds until it bursts into a post. Today is such a day.

(a) Television in NZ has joined the global craze for "breaking news" flashes across the screen. While this creates an immediacy and an intensity designed to hold viewers, none of this should be confused with depth or significance. I have yet to see an important story follow the flash. One of the enduring powers of the media is NOT just the angle they put on a given story, but what they choose the story will be that they give us.

(b) TV3 is blanketing the country with huge billboards that say something like "It is all about the story". I am grateful for the reminder. However the image clutters the message in that the entity which dominates every image is the TV3 reporter. Over the last few years - probably as the competition heats up - I have noticed an increasing focus on the reporter in the way a story is relayed. In reality "it is far too much about the reporter." The medium is clouding the message, if not eclipsing it at times. Whatever happened to TV being a mere "channel" for the news?

(c) As for Swine Flu. Yes, it is something about which to be concerned. However I am left wondering whether some of those ridiculously sensational headlines that we have seen have more to do with creating a story in a way that plays on peoples' fears in order to "sell" the news in a way that is increasingly profitable. In financially tough times the media moguls have seen an opportunity to make a buck. Too cynical? I'll need some convincing to change my mind!

Then I think about the other news we talk about - the good news, the gospel of Jesus - and how we report it to today. God forbid that a variant of (a) occur whereby we treat people to a series of intense 'breaking news' items that keep people living in shallow-lands and miss the headline significance of the gospel. God forbid that a variant of (b) occur whereby we allow the messenger to eclipse the message as the gospel is lost in a clutter associated with the preacher:teacher and we forget that it is all about the story. God forbid that a variant of (c) occur whereby we allow marketing forces to take over our approach to the point where we miscontrue what is dangerous and wrong - or sinful and evil - as we pursue the creation of an impression that we are successful or effective.

The good news is true news before it is any other kind of news. Our approaches with it must be consistent with this feature.

nice chatting

Paul Windsor