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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Humility

It's been said that humility is a strange thing; the minute you think you've got it you've lost it. I think I had it and lost it and now that I'm aware that I've lost it I think I may have found it again if you know what I mean.

The image for this particular post is just how I feel right now. I don't want this blog to be about me all the time as if this is some online pity party but I do want to be honest so I can successfully navigate the journey that God has called me to and, hopefully, inspire others along the way.

Today I am led to consider Psalm 25:1-3

"To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

in you I trust, O my God. Do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me.

No one whose hope is in you will ever be put to shame, but they will be put to shame who are treacherous without excuse."

Sometimes when we feel wretched before God and we survey the wreckage that can become our lives at times then we all that we have left is to kneel before God and bare our soul in humility. My prayer today is that I will not be put to shame. I will continue to drive a taxi, talk about God, work towards planting a missional community, be a dad and seek to be a good husband. In the midst of all of this I put my trust, once again, in God.

I took my eyes off the prize and have not always run a straight race but today I choose life and the goal to which I am called in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Compromise - Part Two

I've committed to be open and honest in this blog and this is no exception. This last week has been so encouraging as people both churched and unchurched have begun to catch the vision that I have for a presence in Newcastle CBD to reach out to the pub/club subculture. I certainly feel that I am called and equipped for such a role and am praying for and talking about others who may want to join me in the vision.

There is a downside to ministering in such an environment and that is the constant spiritual and emotional bombardment. I hear and see things that I don't want to be a party to. I hear men who have zero respect for women; I listen to very open lesbians; I hear people talk about sex in all sorts of ways; I hear teens talking about their search for ecstacy pills for the night; I see people vomit; I get some women who tell me that I am good looking and my ego battles and I feel ashamed at my humanness and frailty.

Tonight I became aware of how much I need to be accountable and how much I need to get my personal spiritual life in order because the temptations to compromise in many ways is huge. I have noticed that my conversation shows signs of compromise; I swear now and then and go along with men who tell me about their visit to a brothel and what she did. I don't agree with everything but as far as they are aware I am another member of the male fraternity and I don't like that assumption or perception.

I feel called to be a Christian presence in an area where the church is not very present or relevant but I need to be strong in many ways. I feel tired tonight and ashamed of choices of I have made. I upset my wife tonight and I am not proud of that. Please pray for us as we seek to serve God, raise our kids and build a healthy marriage.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Compromise

To even engage in discussion with someone with another religious/faith position is, to some Christians, akin to unleashing a Frankenstein's monster of compromise and syncretism. But is dialogue necessarily a bad thing?

Tomorrow I meet with a representative of the Baptist Union of NSW to discuss the church plant idea and making it a reality. As I have been reflecting on the vision in readiness for the meeting I have been wrestling with the desire to introduce people to Jesus but without forcing an agenda onto seekers too soon and, thus, alienating them.

A couple of weeks ago I met with three unchurched friends and they all affirmed and supported the idea of a faith community and a place for discussion and searching. They were aged between 19 and 26 and I asked what advice they had as far as presenting topics to unchurched people. They said they didn't want to be preached at and they wanted their views to be respected and affirmed. This, by the way, was precisely their problem with institutional Christianity as they saw it; it preached dogmatically and was unwilling to allow people to hold their own views whilst journeying towards faith in God as Christians understand it.

If I talk openly with a Buddhist and even learn things from her own faith journey am I already building the monster that will turn on its creator or am I laying the path towards truth? Can I listen, humbly and sincerely, to a New Age believer and welcome them regularly into a faith community and still hold firm to my own faith position while supporting them in their journey?

I told my friends that, by virtue of my position and integrity, I had to confess to having an agenda. To give them the idea that all faith positions were valid and the discussions were merely a study of religions would have been a false starting point. I did say, though, that if someone can for months and didn't convert to Christianity I would still welcome them and affirm them as an integral part of the faith community.

As I continue on this journey I'd appreciate input. The regular readers of this blog are a consistent source of love, encouragment and challenge. I welcome and embrace your thoughts.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Narrative

A couple of weeks ago I met with my supervising professor to talk about the direction of my Masters program. We agreed that I would spend this semester doing Independent Guided Study which basically means that within a set word count we set the parameters of the paper(s). The topic we settled on in light of my vision for planting a faith community was Narrative Theology. I am in the process of writing a 2,000 word book review of "The Nature of Doctrine" by George Lindbeck followed by a 7,000 word paper on Narrative Theology where I will intersperse stories from the taxi with theological reflection.

As I have researched this topic and the whole concept of how we do evangelism and how we interact with our stories and the stories of unchurched people I have found some intriguing material. A fascinating website is The Tangible Kingdom. This is the project of some people in Denver who wanted to connect with unchurched people. You can get a preview of the book by following the link at the bottom of the home page.

What is interesting me is that there is an untapped mission field in our urban communities of people who have a story to tell and are interested in our story if they are given the space to share their own journey. Last week I picked up a young man from a party. He was probably in his late 20s and looked fairly street wise. He wore a hooded top which in Newcastle at the moment is often a sign of a gang-type mentality. As we drove to his home the topic of my life outside taxi driving came up and I mentioned that I was an ordained Baptist pastor and my idea of a faith community.

We had about 10 minutes to go to our destination and he said "So what can you tell me about myself in the time we have left?" I didn't know quite what to say so he continued, "Is it okay for me to be out on the piss on a Saturday night?" I said that I didn't want to make any judgments but sometimes people got drunk to escape the realities of life at which he tapped his head and said "I have plenty of demons up here." He went on to briefly tell me that he thought there was more to this world than what we could see and he thought there might be something that I would call God.

As he hopped out at his house he asked for my phone number and said he would be interested in talking more about my project and more about God. I am a novice at this so don't hold me up as a model of narrative evangelism but I am finding that as I show a genuine concern and interest in people they soon open up to discuss faith and spirituality. Each person is a complex web of stories that have been knit together over a number of years and we need to be careful not to impose our values or our narrative on them too soon. As I listen and engage I am finding that unchurched people open a door at some point and invite me to find a point of connection with my story and their story. This is the heart of the project I am working through at this time.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Water Under The Bridge


It seems more difficult to find the time to blog with all of the activity that life seems to generate. IF anyone wants to keep up with my prayer needs and ministry updates you can add me in Facebook and send me a message asking to join the prayer list.

My wife and I have had long discussions about how to respond to the many unchurched people that I am connecting with in the taxi. Over the last week or so I have met with one of the key church planting people for the Baptists in NSW and have another meeting in Newcastle on Friday August 15th. There is a lot of interest in my ideas for reaching a group who are well outside of the church's normal sphere of influence.

What I think is most exciting is that I met 3 unchurched friends in a pub last week and asked them for their opinions on my idea to start a faith community/discussion space for anyone interested in spirituality. They were 19, 21 and 26 and gave me great feedback, endorsed the idea and, as I found out later, began telling their friends.

My wife, Tanya, has come up with the name "Water Under The Bridge" which we are going with at the moment. I am still not sure of the exact shape of the community or details. I am going to meet with the owner of 2 pubs in the city about possibly using a room outside of the pub hours. The nature of the idea is that is fluid and collaborative and will adapt to meet the needs and questions of the community.

One of the things that I spoke to my unchurched friends about was the need to create a safe, loving space where people can feel support and nurtured. They were adamant that they did not wish to be preached at and wanted the space to explore spirituality in their own time.

I'll keep you posted both here and on Facebook but God has highlighted a need and we are talking with interested Christians about how best to meet that need in a sensitive, loving way.