Friday, February 25, 2005

Valuing every decision

Tonight I'm going down to Montrose, in outer-eastern Melbourne, for the Warrnambool Mission core leaders' weekend. Trav's asked me if I could talk about valuing every decision a person make that brings them closer to God. So here is some of the stuff I'll be talking about.

A farm with a fence
A lot of the time we look at God's Kingdom in terms of who's in and who's out. We work out whether someone's in or out by whether or not they display certain traits that we consider to be Christian. This is kind of like your generic farm, where the farmer keeps the animals together by putting a fence around them.

This point of view has a significant effect on the way to we do mission. It means that we focus almost entirely on getting people who aren't Christians to pray the sinner's prayer (which isn't actually in the Bible).

A farm with a well
Out in the desert, the farms are so big that there isn't much point in having fences. Instead, to keep the animals wandering off, the farmer digs a deep well. The animals will stay near the well, so that they don’t die of thirst.
We can also look at God's Kingdom like this. Rather than looking at each person as being inside or outside the boundaries, we could look at how close each person is to the centre (God), and whether they're moving closer or further away from him. If take this point of view, everyone is potentially part of God's Kingdom, and nobody is excluded.

Every decision is important
Instead of focusing on just getting a person to pray the sinner's prayer we should be concerned with each decision that brings a person closer to God.
The scale below shows some of the stages leading up to a person becoming a Christian. But the journey towards God doesn't stop with the person being reborn.

This scale is also helpful. It shows that a person needs to have more than just knowledge of the gospel to be converted. They also need to have a positive attitude about it.

The person in the bottom left section has little knowledge of the gospel, but still has a negative attitude toward it. The person in the bottom right section thinks the gospel is good, but doesn't know very much about it. The person in the top left section knows heaps about the gospel, and doesn't like it. The person in the top right corner is well-informed about the gospel, and thinks it's good.

So, for effective mission, we don't just need to get the story across, but to make it look attractive. If we do or say something that doesn't make the story much clearer, but makes it seem good, that is still evangelism.

If we can work out roughly where someone is on these scales, then maybe we can work out what is needed to get them to the next stage. We have to take into account what knowledge they already have of Christianity, and what attitudes they have towards it. It might not be appropriate at this stage to try and get them to commit to Christianity. First they need to make a heap of other decisions, and they'll have to keep making important decisions after they become a Christian.

'Gray's the color of life', Gospelcom
The Shaping of Things to Come, Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, pp 47-48
Some stuff Naomi Swindon talked to us about at core leaders' weekend last year


As this week was O'week at University of Ballarat, I've been at a party almost evey night since Saturday.
Last night Chooka, one of last year's Fine Art graduates, now a tattoo designer, had a party in his garage, where we spray-painted the carpet (an old one he got for $20).

At the party there was a lot of talk about a guy called Jebus, who is apparently pretty cool. He's short and fat and produces alcohol from nowhere.
I had an idea that Jebus was from The Simpsons, and was possibly also mentioned in Futurama. I looked the name up in UrbanDictionary. It said

A version of the word Jesus created by Homer Simpson when he became a missionary. Used for comical purposes instead of using Jesus.

Variant of Jesus, used because it's less offensive.

Generally used by the general public and webcomic authors so as not to spark religious debate.

Jebus is indescribable. And short. But we love him anyway.

It reminded me a bit of Tripod's song about Justin, which Trav heard earlier in O'week. People reckon Jesus is pretty cool, but they don't want the social stigma of being associated with the church.

Monday, February 21, 2005

The shape of church + Spiritual stuff

A few of us been thinking, talking, and experimenting about how we can be the church amongst people who aren't Christians, and one thing we tried Tuesday night was having a party. As far as I know, those of us who did mix with people who weren't Christians, all got into conversations about spirituality with at least one person during the night.

One thing me and Alt Tab were talking about the other day was, what if, for our church gathering, we just opened up our house once a week so that our friends, whether they're Christian or not, can come and interact?

I think that this kind of a gathering would not have been good for someone like I was a few years back, when I was a new Christian, because my Christianity wasn't something I thought about a lot (mostly just when I was around other Christians, participating in offical church programs). I didn't see every activity or place as spiritual. Therefore, if I was in a place or participating in an activity which I didn't consider spiritual, it was very unlikley that I would think of or talk about spiritual issues. If I went to a party, or just over to a mates place, I wouldn't see that as a missional opportunity, or as having any spiritual relevance.

My thinking has changed a lot now. Because I see everything as spiritual, I'm more open to God communicating through things that have traditionally been considered secular, or everyday. Because of this realisation, I'm far more likely to contemplate the spiritual in an everyday, 'secular' setting. These days I probably don't go ten minutes without thinking about God.

So I don't think any longer that there would be a problem with the church gathering being very loosely structured. If God is a huge part of our lives, and we are open to hearing his voice through all sorts of ordinary stuff, then I don't think the it would be a much of a problem if the church gathering was as I described earlier.

Sorry if my posts are rambling a lot. I'm trying to sort out a lot of stuff in my head, and I want to have a record of my journey.

Thursday, February 17, 2005

'If God will Send His Angels'

from Pop by U2

Nobody else here baby
No-one else here to blame
No-one to point the finger
It's just you and me and the rain.

Nobody made you do it
No one put words in your mouth.
Nobody here taking orders
When love took a train heading south.
It's the blind leading the blond
It's the stuff, it's the stuff of country songs.

Hey, if God will send his angels
And if God will send a sign
And if God will send his angels
Would everything be alright?

God's got his phone off the hook, babe
Would he even pick up if he could?
It's been a while since we saw that child
Hangin' round this neighbourhood.

See his mother dealing in a doorway
See Father Christmas with a begging bowl.
And Jesus' sister's eyes are a blister
The High Street never looked so low.

It's the blind leading the blond
It's the cops collecting for the cons.
So where is the hope and
Where is the faith and the love?
What's that you say to me
Does love light up your Christmas tree?
The next minute you're blowing a fuse
And the cartoon network turns into the news.

If God will send his angels
And if God will send a sign
Well if God will send his angels
Where do we go?
Where do we go?

Jesus never let me down
You know Jesus used to show me the score.
Then they put Jesus in show business
Now it's hard to get in the door.

It's the stuff, it's the stuff of country songs
But I guess it was something to go on.
Hey, if God will send his angels
I sure could use them here right now
Well, if God will send his angels...

Where do we go?
Where do we go?

I used this song in the presentation I showed at the church gathering on Sunday, because, like a lot of the people I quoted, the narrator is saying that if God is allowing so much crap stuff to happen, then either he's helpless or he doesn't care.
The first time I listened to this song I thought it was blasphemous. Later on in my spiritual journey, when I was asking some of these questions, it helped me express my frustration to God.
Now I've got another interpretation of this song, which I arrived at because of the part that says, 'Well if God will send his angels / Where do we go?' What that says to me is that maybe God doesn't intervene (as much as we'd like) because he wants us to get up and stop being lazy.

House party

On Tuesday night we had a party at our house, to try and get our friends who are Christian mixing with our friends who aren't.
(A lot of them don't have any friends, or even co-workers, who aren't Christians.)
In some ways the party was really good and in other ways it was pretty disappointing. More than half the Christians who came along didn't mix with anyone they didn't know (so they only talked to other Christians) and left the party quite early. However, the Christians who were sociable got to know our other friends, and we all had some great conversations.
By about midnight, we ended up sitting in the lounge, mostly singing and passing Alt Tab's guitar around (those who could play). We ended the night by watching the video of Alt Tab and Kate's baptism - someone who hadn't been able to make it to the actual celebration wanted to see it. It was after 4am by the time I got to bed.

I'm thinking that in terms of getting the Christians who didn't mix to mix, we might need to take them individually to other people's parties, so that they won't know many people, and will have to interact with unfamiliar people.

Like little kids

Yesterday, Alt Tab and I were at home watching Dr. Phil, who was saying that normally little kids don't notice if another kid is 'abnormal' - like if they're really tall or short for their age.
It reminded me that when I started school, in one of the most racially diverse parts of Melbourne, I never noticed race - until it was pointed out by adults. The Asian, Indian and Arab kids didn't seem particularly different to me or the other European kids.
Jesus said that his Kingdom is made up of people who are like little kids (Luke 18:15-17).

What do the others think?

As I mentioned a little while back, I was asked to prepare a sermon for last Sunday night's church gathering. Instead, I put together a PowerPoint presentation, and organised a discussion.

What I'd originally wanted to do was interview on camera a number of people who weren't Chritians, asking them about their perceptions of Christians, God and the Bible, and show the video to the church. What I found was that a lot of people were quite happy to talk about these things, but were to shy to talk about them on camera.
So instead I showed a PowerPoint presentation I'd put together from people's opinions, art (Gustave Doré, Diego Rivera and Michelangelo), photos and music ('If God will Send His Angels' and 'Please' by U2).
These are the quotes I used:

If God is real, where ... is he? Why isn't he fixing the world?

God isn't doing anything because we created God, not the other way around.

It seems with a lot of Christians that any time something good happens, it's because God willed it, and when something bad happens, it's 'part of god's plan,' which is the most obnoxious excuse I've ever heard.

Half the Christians I talk to don't believe in God either.

What's the point in even having a religion if you're just going to take one, pick and chose the parts you don’t like, and then get rid of them?

People do religion to much for show.

If you believe in God doesn't that automatically make you a Christian?

Isn't the god from Judaism, Christianity and Islam the same God just different beliefs ... I thought they all had the basic concept ... creator of life.

The less gods a religion has, the more violent they are and the less tolerance they show.

It's not just other religions that the more radical Christians damn but their brothers and sisters in other denominations too.

I believe in one God-like being for lack of a better word, but I'm not a Christian.

I know more about Christianity than most Christians my age. I am thankful for my Christian knowledge, as it provides me with legitimate answers and views on their questions and attacks.

People use the Bible to justify almost anything they want to, from slavery to murder.

The Bible that people read in church is edited. Books are missing, pages are missing. It's put together as people see fit. Some places in the Bible are extremely loosely translated.

I'll admit it's a good moral book, but it takes away the free choice. God wouldn't make laws that we govern ourselves by. Why would he let his people fight over him? Huh? He wouldn't. Supposedly he’s an all-loving god, yet he lets people represent him and fight for him. What ... kind of god is that?

For example you have the crusades. First the priests say that it's a sin, evil, not join the crusaders and then they were sent off to kill thousands.
I personally feel sorry for all who believe in any religion 'cause there's a huge chance that their going to be wrong.

I'm for anything that gets you through the night, be it prayer, tranquilizers, or a bottle of Jack Daniels. But to me religion is a deeply personal thing in which man and God go it alone together, without the witch doctor in the middle.
- Frank Sinatra

Religions, all of them, give man something to live for. Without that we'd be depressed, useless slobs.

The Judeo-Christian metaphor of God is simply that, a metaphor. It is just a symbol used to explain something more complex.

There's no heaven. There's no hell. There's six feet of dirt and maggots.

God created us as little animals and helped us through evolution. The big bang? How the hell do you think God made the universe? He triggered the big bang. The Bible is a little bit inaccurate at times, because it was written by several people spanning over the period of thousands of years. And scientists are also right most of the time, they just come up with any [rubbish] they can think of to lead minds away from the Bible to explain their discoveries.

The majority of the Bible is ridiculous, if you think about it for a minute, and think of it happening, literally as it’s told, today. Its just a bunch of stories created to keep people in line and to behave civilly in society.

God works in weird ways.

'God' is everything, in everyone. It's like a huge soul. A force. He's not one, he's infinity. God is an entity. The thing that makes us know what's right and wrong. No one needs to tell me what God is. God is what I make him.
I met God while on mushrooms. That's where you meet God. Not in a book you read. God is the experience.

God is that old ... guy that lives in one of your neighbours' basement and is a cleaner (not like Bruce Almighty) at your school and one day he will smite us all with a really wet mop.

Once the presentation had played through, I got everyone to form little groups and discuss how we can respond to this. If they wanted they could use these questions to guide their discussion:
Do you agree (partly or completely) with any of the opinions expressed?

Would you have identified with any of them earlier in your life?

Do any of your friends, family, co-workers have similar opinions?

What might have brought people to these conclusions?

How can we respond to these ideas?

The guys in the sound booth recorded the session, so I'm going to see if I can get an mp3 of it served somewhere.

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Liquid blogs

There were a lot of bloggers at Liquid yesterday, so I stuck a big sheet of paper on the wall for people to write their blog URLs on, so I could publish the list here:
Blue trike Life - John Marchant (¿johnman¿)
Emergent Layer - Christop Booth
Small Things - Tab Bird (Default Tab)
Prodigal Kiwi - Paul Fromont
LivingRoom - Darren Rowse
signposts - Phil & Dan McCreddsomething
neurotribe - Stephen Said
GG's Probes - Gordon Gray
flyinginbluesky - Barb Daws - Leighton Tebay (LT)
No Diggity - Digger
Travbox - Trav Barnes
Unordered - who's this? - Alex Wegman

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Universe and everything

Went down to Richmond AOG, in Melbourne, yesterday to meet with the other Universe campus directors and with the student leaders.
It looks as though the other campus groups are using similar strategies to us this year - getting rid of the weekly, traditional church service-shaped meeting and focusing on sharing God through the students' natural social networks, but still having a few modern 'outreach events' throughout the year.
I think eventually the 'outreach events' will be dropped, at least in Ballarat, because I know they don't work very well here.

Going back down to Melbourne in an hour and a half, for Liquid.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

The parable of the bloggers

It struck me, while reading Trav's new blog, that sharing God with people is like sharing blogging.
The first time I heard about blogs was in 2001, from my old friend Dr Dave. I can't remeber what it was, but it sounded interesting, and when I started university in 2002, I began to read some, such as Nothlit and LivingRoom.
Eventually I started my first blog, Shenanigi, which eventually became News Scents and then Stuff Wars. Between Shenanigi and Stuff Wars I managed to convince Tab to start a blog. She got her sister to start one, and then we both encouraged John to start photizo, which was followed by Blue trike Life. I showed my brother Yedsa how to start a blog after he showed me how to stencil. While we were at Ignite Warrnmabool, Tab convinced Dave to start blogging, as a way of keeping eveyone informed about what he doing without having to send out annoying emails. When we got up, she got Harvey to start one as well, but it doesn't exactly seem like he's really into it yet.
And finally, Trav, who once said he would start a blog, but first he had to inject tomato sauce into his veins, has now satrted a blog.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Wild at Heart

This book deals with the West's masculinity crisis, focusing on Christian men.
In other words, it looks at why so many men are bored with church, doing work they hate and afraid of getting close to their life-partners. It looks at why so many of us have become almost lifeless, and how we can get our lives back.
It's the best book I've read so far this year.

Coffeehouse Gospel

The point of this book is to help Christians talk about God stuff in normal conversation, and, I suppose, also to show them that there is a need for this.
While Matthew Paul Turner has a tendancy to mistake postmodernity for modernity, and to overlook the fact that Western society is increasingly heterogenous (meaning there are heaps of very different subcultures, or tribes) he really hammers home the importance of listening to people who aren't Christians, being out in the world, being familiar with at least the basics of Christianity.
Might be using some stuff from this for mission training at Ballarat Universe.

Professional Christian

As of a few days ago, I'm the Universe campus director for Ballarat. Although the position is voluntary at the moment, someone has been talking to me about the possibility of doing two days paid ministry at the uni next year, after I've graduated, and someone else says they want to help me get financial supporters.
It would make it a lot easier for me to get by, but there are a couple of things about it that don't really seem right too me.
Firstly, I don't want it to even be possible for me to end up just being 'in the ministry' for money. A related problem is that the students I'm meant to be serving, if they know I'm getting paid, are likely to think that I'm just doing it for the money. And anyway, should I really need to be paid? I should be more concerned with these people because it's necessary, whether I'm paid or not. Really, I should have a normal job, like the people around me.
The other thing is that if I'm being paid, then I have to please the people who're paying me. And I don't think what pleases Christians is always what pleases God.

Thursday, February 03, 2005


Thought I should mention that I'm going to Liquid on Wednesday, with John & Tab. Trav (who insists he needs to inject tomato sauce into his veins before he starts a blog) is also coming down, but only for the evening session.
So if you're going too, please say, 'Hi,' to us.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

‘A Song is a City’

from A Song is a City by Eskimo Joe

See him walking in the park
With a few things on his mind
He’s been talking with the ones
With the ones that he loves

Tell me who is gonna pay
I’m so anxious I don’t know
You can see it on their face
As it takes its toll

And he takes its time
Yeah he takes his time
No one ever, ever gonna mind
I don’t care what the future holds
All I know is that I’m getting old

I think I’ve had an affair
At least that’s what they call it these days
And it wasn’t very fair
To the ones that I love
Well I just pushed her away
There was nothing I could say
Now I hang myself each night
With the noose that I built

And he takes his time yeah he takes his time
No one ever, ever gonna mind
I don’t care what the future holds
All I know is that I’m getting old

This restlessness and sorrow in this song made me think of King David’s affair with Bathsheba, and its consequences (2 Samuel 11 and 12). It led to David arranging for Bathsheba’s husband to be killed, and later led to David’s public humiliation and the death of his and Bathsheba’s son.
The scary thing, for me, is that it all started off from what we might see as a relatively ‘small’ sin. David was walking around late at night, on the roof of the palace. From the roof he was able watch Bathsheba having a bath.
I wouldn’t be surprised if it wasn’t the first time he went up there late at night to perve on chicks. It seems kind of like the ancient Palestinian version of channel-surfing late at night, hoping for a sex scene.
The thing is, the ‘little’ sin led to David having an extramarital affair, arranging a murder, experiencing the embarrassment of Nathan the prophet pointing out what he’d done, and then the misery of his baby son’s sickness and death.