Pews, Pulpits, Pastors, Preaching and other things that can get in the way…

I have just come off the end of an incredibly busy time in my schedule and, as a result, have not been able to write much during that time. Having said that, I am about to begin work on an article that covers a subject which I believe is close to God’s heart at this time. To kind of "set you up" for that, please read the following article written by Dan Kimball. It is insightful yet plays right into the very thing God is beginning to make clear to those of us who are exploring what He is truly saying about His church.

Pews, Pulpits, Pastors, Preaching and other things that can get in the way…

A theme has been developing in my mind and heart as I look and think about what we have created as "church" through time. Not the theological definition of the "church" being the people, but what we have structurally done and practice in most of our churches and the fruit of what it all produces.

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The Painful Lessons of Multiculturalism

This article was recently released via the Australian Prayer Network’s regular mailing list. It is thoughtful, insightful and well worth considering as it relates to Australia. What are our inherant values?  What policies need to be rethought? It is reprinted for your consideration ….

By Michael Nazir-Ali, Bishop of Rochester, England.

 (Australian Prayer Network Editor’s comments:  This article written by an English Anglican Bishop draws on the experience of Britain.  We reproduce it as the lessons learnt, and points the writer makes, are pertinent to our current situation here in Australia. Let us pray we as a Nation, learn the lessons spoken of in this article before we suffer the same fate as Britain. The writer was born in Pakistan where he studied Islamic History.)

Islamic radicalism did not begin with Muslim grievances over Western foreign policy in Iraq or Afghanistan. It has deep roots, going back to the 13th-century reformer Ibn Taimiyya, through Wahhabism to modern ideologues such as Sayyid Qutb in Egypt or Maududi in Pakistan.

The Soviet occupation of Afghanistan gave it the cause it was looking for, and Afghanistan became the place where Muslim radicals were trained, financed and armed. The movements that were born or renewed do not have any kind of centralised command structure, but co-operate through diffuse networks of affinity and patronage. One of their most important aims is to impose their form of Islam on countries such as Pakistan, Egypt, Malaysia and Indonesia. This may be why they were not regarded as an immediate threat to the West. Their other aims, however, include the liberation of oppressed Muslims in Palestine, Kashmir, Chechnya and elsewhere, and also the recovery of the Dar Al-Islam (or House of Islam), in its historic wholeness, including the Iberian peninsula, the Balkans and even India.

In this cause, the rest of the world, particularly the West, is Dar al-Harb (House of War). These other aims clearly bring such movements into conflict with the international community and with Western interests in particular. So how does this dual psychology – of victimhood, but also the desire for domination – come to infect so many young Muslims?

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A Prayer .. written by Sir Francis Drake

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves;
When our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little;
When we arrive safely because we have sailed too close to shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when with the abundance of things we possess,
we have lost our thirst for the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life, we ceased to dream of eternity;And in our efforts to build a new earth,
we have allowed our vision of the new heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery;
where losing sight of land, we shall find the stars.

We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.


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Take Nothing for the Journey: A Fresh Look at Church Health

This is a powerful article that was recently published on the Next Wave eZine and written by
‘I have always been fascinated by these wagon wheels with their wide rims, strong wooden spokes, and big hubs. These wheels help me understand the importance of a life lived from the centre. When I move along the rim, I can reach one spoke after the other, but when I stay at the hub, I am in touch with all the spokes at once.’

Henri Nouwen, Here and Now (1994).

Wagon WheelChristopher Alexander is an architect who advocates building in process and not from a plan. He argues that this is the ancient way, and that the modern and mechanistic approach demonstrates our lack of spirituality. Alexander is not a believer.

Alexander relates that one of the fundamental problems in architecture arises when the building is going up and the designer must make simple choices. For example, should this column be 5" or 6" in diameter? He talked about how the designer’s own ego could get in the way of constructing the right building. The question he would finally ask is: "which choice is a greater gift to God?" He continued,

"You can build a building that everyone says is wonderful.. a success.. but does that make it wonderful or a success? No… You can build a building that no one says is wonderful or a success.. but can it be wonderful and a success…? Yes..” 1

When we reduce truth to formulas or success to size, we are far along the road of idolatry and the worship of technique.2 We have sold out to the evil Empire, and forgotten that we are strangers and aliens here. Leonard Cohen opines …

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Facing

I was doing a bit more reading this week (finally nice to get back to it after such a busy month) and came across this provocative article. It’s written by Brad Nelson and can be found on the Next Wave e-Zine website.

It is reprinted for our consideration:

 

For several weeks I’ve been studying the significance of facing. Only I have never actually taken the time to connect the concept of facing to praxis.

The story of Lazarus being raised from the dead makes for a good metaphor. Having heard about Lazarus’ sickness, Jesus eventually decides to turn and walk back to Judea—all the while knowing that Lazarus is, in fact, already dead. Jesus knows he’s not walking toward Lazarus. He’s walking towards a tomb and a shiva ceremony. And while Jesus certainly knows the dramatic ending this story will have, that does not prevent him from weeping. This picture of Jesus turning his face and walking toward the pain is striking to me.

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A Lenten Prayer

When I was born again, I was first involved with a high Anglican church. I loved it .. all the pomp and circumstance. It had the capacity to stoke the showmanship of a precocious fresh teen at the age of 12. All the grandeur. But then I grew a little older in my late teenage years and became very jaded with it all because the ancient rituals seemed to have so little contemporary relevance to a teenager from Sydney in the 1970
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Figuring Out Church

We are not in search of a new church to join at present. What we are in is a search to find a new way of being church. Two very different mindsets .. and that’s what I liked about this article. It challenges mindsets and it shifts the focus.

What I mean is, so much of what I read coming out of the emerging and/or emergent church community, has its focus on what’s wrong with the institutional church. We’ve just left one, so heck, we know there’s a bunch wrong with it! What I’m interested in is what might be right with the things that God has us pursuing at the moment. It’s the difference between always looking back and starting to look forward to the new thing God would have us invest ourselves in.

This article puts the onus onto the searcher, rather than the church. Now while that may not be a popular approach in much that is being written and blogged today, I must say I like it!

It is re-printed for your consideration:

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Investigating a Rule of Life

One of the things I am being strongly motivated to investigate at present is a “Rule of Life”.

It’s crazy really. I have been a Christian for almost 30 years. My Protestant heritage has meandered from High Anglican through to Baptist, then to “Bapti-costal”, to full-blown Pentecostalism and now to rediscovering what it is to simply be a Christian .. and yet, it’s not been until now that I have “stumbled” onto this ancient practice of the “Rule of Life”.

The Apostles of old, the Desert Fathers and the medieval, or, Ancient Mystics all had profound insights into the how to live the Christian life with a true, living and sensual spirituality coupled with a pragmatic desire to see the rule of Christ’s Kingdom extended here on earth. How is it then, that after nearly 30 years of church life, it has only been in the last eight years or so that I have slowly ”stumbled” onto more and more of what has been known for milennia? Why has all this remained hidden from me for so long?

These are questions I cannot answer but I am so thankful that they are now “coming to light”. In many ways, it was John Sandford who triggered this quest within me. As a young and developing prophetic ministry, I was struggling with my identity. Why was I so different to most? Why did I seem to be alone in my experiences? Was I as weird as some suggested I was?

John Sandford helped me to see that I was simply a prophet in the making and that a part of that “making” was the “dark night of the soul”. This led to the discovery that an ancient mystic named St John of the Cross had already written extensively about this process because he had lived it almost a thousand years before I was born. Guy Chevreau then suggested I tap into some of Thomas Merton’s writings on Contemplative Prayer as a precursor to reading St John of the Cross. Graham Cooke talked with me many times about the writings of the Desert Fathers and the Ancient Mystics.

What a rich tapestry of Kingdom experience and history is woven by these authors. Writings not borne out of “perhaps” or “maybe”, but insight borne out of hard won experience in the Secret Place before God. We need what they have to teach. It is far richer and more penetrating than almost all of the froth and bubble available at our local Christian bookstores today.

I have a confession to make. I am prone to distraction. I’m a gadget-guy and as such I think I would make a good magpie. Anything bright and shiny has the potential to catch my attention and steer me off course. I have to be very careful to maintain my focus. As a result, it seems to me that investigating the development of a “rule of life” may in fact be one of the things that will ensure I lead a dedicated and fruitful life, committed to the very specific things to which I have been called.

Maybe you see some of yourself in my confession. Perhaps then, you and I will realise that developing a “rule of life” for ourselves in this day is not such a far fetched idea. So, go on! Cross the line. Decide to step over the barriers we have built up between ourselves and other Christian traditions and delve into a wealth of life-changing experience.

The following is reprinted for your consideration …..

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