Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Recent family happenings

Just a couple of family updates.

Josh's soccer team were lucky enough to be coached by Steve Corica as a treat last week. Steve has played 40 games for the Socceroos and scored the premiership winning goal for Sydney FC last year. His work had a big impact - the boys won 5-2 on the weekend against the strong Harbord side!

Zoe had her fifth birthday party last Saturday and it was a hoot. An old friend of our Dominique did her amazing show for the kids and had them all completely entranced.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Jamie - Vineyard Pastor from Chile

Last night I had the opportunity to spend a couple of hours with a Vineyard pastor from Chile, Jamie. He was here visiting his brother who goes to Seaforth Baptist just down the road, pastored by a great friend Dave Rowe. Our time together was rich, hurriedly telling each other about the Vineyard movement in our countries and our own churches. He has been in chile for over 15 years, having gone there from his home of South Africa on a missionary trip. He ended up marrying in Chile and having 4 children, while pasturing a couple of larger churches and a couple of church plants out of them. He lost his third child at the age of 3.5, just two weeks after they planted their current church. God has really worked in his family and church through the mourning process. I felt such love for him and his journey as we spoke and prayed together, knowing we would likely never have the chance to meet again.

We both kept coming back to the centrality of the presence of God in our churches as we meet. As Vineyard it is in our musical worship that we truly foster this relationship of intimacy with Him. As he spoke about how this intimacy in worship developed in each of his churches, and how each time new people would start to come and be broken by the love of Jesus AFTER the church had begun to surrender in worship. I felt convicted again of the things God has called us to at NorthHarbour – in the old vineyard saying we are to be “people of His presence”. I pulled out Alex Venter’s book “doing Church” and we both emphatically agreed about the importance of the message of this passage:

Church should be structured and done in such a way that the minute the presence of God is not there everything should collapse. If the Holy Spirit withdraws at any point because He is grieved for whatever reason everything should go wrong. We should be as vulnerable as that! The universe is. It would instantly implode if God withdrew His presence and His Word (Heb 1:3). It is my considered opinion that most Churches do not even know if God’s presence is
among them or not. Business continues as usual because what sustains them, what makes them ‘tick’, is their own programmes, personalities, power and control. Would we know it if God withdrew His presence and wrote ‘Ichabod’ over our Churches because ‘the glory had departed’ (as in the Temple in Ezekiel ch. 10)? Would anything change in the Church to show us that in reality everything has changed that ever could change—because God is not there? John used to say that if the Lord did not ‘show up’ when we gathered we should have
the courage to call it a day and go home because there is no other reason for meeting!

The Vineyard in Chile is growing strong, as it is in Australia. My time with Jamie was so encouraging and challenged me to re-visit the very things God put on or hearts when Liz and I reluctantly :-) trusted him to move to the Northern Beaches and help birth this little community from scratch.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Money - again

Just saw this new article on Money and Giving at FutureChurch - posted on this here a while back and discussed in a sermon during February. Hohstadt's view in the article is similar to others including Len Sweet, and one I primarily agree with.
A quote "In summary, New Testament giving is far more radical and robust, visionary and volatile, than any of the other reasons for giving we've been given so far. "
It is worth going to the site and having a read, if only to see the surreal photos of the author in his conducting stage of life.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

The Power of the Blog

The Sydney Morning Herald has an interesting article on blogging, saying
"BLOGGERS and internet pundits are exerting a disproportionately large influence on society".
Something we bloggers already knew but the secret is getting out.
Some more quotes from the article:
"Bloggers and blog readers are 'influentials"
"The strongest part of their influence is on the media"
The more I read and pray at the moment, the more I believe the Christian voice is to be a prophetic one - speaking God's truth into the darkness, calling people back to the Lord, reminding ourselves of God's heart for the alien, the widow, the lost. Cutting through the "spin" and hype.
We know that mass media will never provide a clear vehicle for that prophetic voice. Maybe the blogosphere increasingly will?
Read the article at the SMH site

Friday, April 07, 2006

Was Judas pushed?

The gnostic Gospel of Judas is being pumped up by the National Geographic Society, and no wonder if hey have paid over $1m for rights to it. The SMH article is here, and some good blogged responses from scholars are already out - Scot McKnight and Ben Witherington. It is frustrating that the NGS and writers such as Elaine Pagels use unsubstantiated manuscripts such as these to get front page news, constantly muddying the waters for the average punter as to the authority of the bible. I am amazed at the number of people I speak to who think the Da Vinci code is factual, and Jesus got married and didn;t really die on the cross, mostly because it was the last thing they read or heard about on the subject. Maybe we need to do a better job of getting solid historical Jesus scholarship on the front pages of our newspapers??
peace john

Monday, April 03, 2006

Emerging Church "Denominational Rifts"

This article (pdf) from Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church has just come out and I came across it at Tall Skinny Kiwi (who is mentioned in the article), it gives a great background to how the emerging church in the USA began and the authors perspective on different evolutions of missional church.
Mark Driscoll is a powerful EC voice but very, very theologically conservative and this is bringing him into conflict with Brian Mclaren and others - the first "denominational" rifts in the emerging movement are becoming clear and this article lays them out very clearly.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Speaking for Justice

What a rich season of impartation we find ourselves in here in Sydney-town. 6 weeks ago it was Brian mcLaren, 3 weeks ago Tom Wright and in a couple of weeks we have Jim Wallis from Sojourners speaking at the University of Sydney. And Bono on Andrew Denton's show recently too. I am so grateful to all the organisations who are bringing these guys to town.
I was talking with Andrew and Jess after our gathering on Sunday who also felt that we are in the middle of an amazing time of opportunity for evangelicals (or post-evangelicals or generous evangelicals as I am starting to think of us) in this part of the world to truly grab hold of an expanded theology and missional practice around issues of social and environmental justice. These issues seem to be on everyone's lips.
And it is not just among church types - I spoke recently at my Toastmasters group on the Make Poverty History campaign and had an overwhelming response of support. It is wonderful to turn up to meetings now and see all the white arm bands!
Currently I am preparing for our next teaching series on Habakkuk, and came across this great bit in the excellent commentary from Frank Gaebelein (written in 1970):
"the present day evangelical ministry needs to declare itself more boldly against injustice; it should be free to exercise this God-given obligation without being criticized for preaching merely a social gospel. Proclaiming the gospel is not incompatible with responsible exercise of the prophetic ministry".
It is interesting the Jim Wallis and others founded Sojourners a year later in 1971, and their faithful commitment to this ministry has long been bearing fruit. But it does truly seem that their voice is made for a time such as this - get along to see Jim if you can.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Prosperity doctrine

many (perhaps most?) evangelicals I talk to struggle with the perceived prosperity doctrine of australia's large pentecostal churches such as Christian City Church and Hillsong. I think it is too simplistic to stand back and accuse these guys of preaching a prosperity doctrine - a bit like people in the Eighties saying all the Vineyard was about was Signs and Wonders. But i do struggle with a lot of the things I see and hear. Ben Witherington has written a strong blog post on this topic, using the USA equivalent in Joel Osteen's church. check it out here http://benwitherington.blogspot.com/2006/03/whats-wrong-with-prospering-gospel.html

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Bible Translation controversy

In recent years two major new bible translations have been released - Todays New International Version (TNIV) and the English Standard Version (ESV). The blogosphere has been alight in recent days after Ben Witherington (big-name scholar) accused Wayne Grudem (another big name scholar with a long history with the Vineyard) without naming him of derailing the TNIV and basically creating the ESV as a half-cocked translation, all in the name of countering the TNIV's gender inclusive language. Witherington has since withdrawn his post but you can still catch Grudem's response at the following blog http://theologica.blogspot.com/2006/02/grudem-responds-to-witherington.html. Its amazing how the blogosphere has brought discussions like this into the public domain.

To some of us this is about as interesting as watching grass grow. To others its quite fascinating, I fall into this category and I have done a little of my own digging.

You look down the advisory committee's and translation teams for each version and it a veritable who's who of scholarship, with some interesting results.

TNIV Translation Committee
includes R.T France, Gordon Fee (Regent College), Bruce Waltke (Regent College), Douglas Moo

ESV Translation Team and Oversight Committees http://www.esv.org/translation/team
includes Wayne Grudem, J.I Packer (Regent College), Gordon Wenham, Iain Provan (Regent College)

ESV Advisory Board
includes Todd Hunter and Jack Deere (both big Vineyard names)
Philip Jensen (leading Sydney Anglican, some will find it ironic he sits on the committee with two Vineyard names, esp. Jack Deere, after the events outlined in this Vineyard position paper http://www.vineyardusa.org/upload/TheBriefing.pdf)
R.C Sproul
Max Lucado

Interestingly Darrell Bock and Craig Blomberg (both scholars whose work I respect) are listed on the advisory team of the ESV but have written endorsements for the TNIV on their website. Blomberg's article, though long, is excellent and has certainly tilted my favour towards the TNIV for the next translation I will buy. check http://www.tniv.info/pdf/Blomberg.pdf

Another good resource is the Better bibles blog http://englishbibles.blogspot.com/2006/02/j-i-packer-and-esv-team.html, who have some interesting criticisms of J.I Packer and the ESV team.

Given the breakdown of Regent College faculty amongst the two teams (one senior NT and OT scholar on each side) there must have been some great discussions in the staffroom before Gordon Fee left. I have a couple of public debates on mp3 on the role of Women in minstry between Fee, Packer, Watke etc which make for good listening



Tuesday, February 21, 2006

are you post-charismatic?

Check out this site and see - http://www.robbymac.org/charismatic/
be warned though you need around 15 minutes to do it justice, it reads like a short non-fiction book. Well researched, the site will take you on a journey through pentecostal and charismatic movements of the last century and before, leading to a defining paradigm of post-charismatic - still very much committed to the workings of the Holy Spirit, but grounded appropriately within the Trinity, and with a right focus also on elements of Word and Spiritual Formation that were often lost to Charismatics. There is an excellent critique of authoritarian leadership movements. Its good stuff, certainly resonates with a lot of my thinking and experience.

Update, Brian Mclaren, Resurrection and stuff

Whew! Its been a busy couple of weeks. Just finished off the 1 Corinthians series on Sundays at church, it is amazing how many of the things that were in my heart to share at NorthHarbour were raised in the text of this book. Has really confirmed a commitment to teach primarily through the bible a book at a time, rather than go for too many "topic" series, though we will spend a couple of weeks on God and the environment shortly as it is a very present theme for so many of us.

went to Brian McLaren last Saturday - realised when I got there I had already listened to most of the material on the internet from Emergent UK (http://www.emergent-uk.org/ukresources.htm) . Was worth being there though - mostly to hang out with Tim from NorthHarbour (www.timbarrett.org ) and spend some time with Pete Horsley and the Small Boat, Big Sea guys. And Brian did prove to be a man full of grace.

The busy-ness has been tough on the family recently - Liz and i especially have been quite worn out. We are so set on this NorthHarbour VC thing not being just an achievement that we can notch on our belt, but definitely something that God is building. Have felt a mingling of joy and grief in my heart over the last few weeks, especially as we have worked through 1 Corinthians 15. So magnificent to look forward to our bodily resurrection alongside Jesus, who is our prototype for new life in a renewed creation (Creation Take 2, as Darrell Johnson puts it). But it has also impressed on me how far our present experience can be from the resurrection - the pain we feel, the dysfunction that doesn't shift, the anger, greed and petty selfishness that haunts our human existence. Maranatha! The tears have been flowing on Sundays....:-)
The last few days have been uplifting, getting lots of sleep, and it feels as though we are moving again into a season of grace.
I'm off to my next Spiritual Direction training retreat this weekend, really looking forward to it (though praying Liz and the kids will also be able to relax and rest in my absence). I love these weekends away with a large group of primarily high Anglicans, Catholic priests and those who have dropped out of the church through dissillusionment - we approach Christ through very different lenses most of the time (with me being a "generous post-evangelical"), but the conversations are always rich and there is immense interest and dialogue of our different viewpoints and experiences.
Andrew Hughes is preaching in my absence, and with others like Pete Stremp and Vijay looking after the details, what a blessing to be able to nick off and leave NorthHarbour in such capable hands. peace john

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Next Salsa event

Our next big Salsa event is coming up soon, a family affair for a Sunday afternoon at the Community Centre where our church meets. Details at:

Planning Day

Last Saturday saw our crew come together for the first NorthHarbour VC planning day. It was all we could have hoped for- heartfelt honesty, great ideas and enthusiasm, a sense as always that God is at work amongst us. Of course we have way too much we'd love to do for a group of already busy people, but I believe we had a taste of what lies ahead.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

audio success

It looks like we have finally overcome the technical hitches and started to get a decent recording of the Sunday message happening. SO if you want to have a listen to what I spend about 15 hours a week preparing and 30 minutes delivering, click here

Sunday, January 22, 2006

new faces

the last couple of weeks we have seen some new faces in our meetings. we are amazed at the beautiful people God is bringing along - to be honest we are still amazed anyone at all has joined us on this wild ride that is churchplanting!
And yet (almost in spite of Liz and I) a community has formed and grows - people with hearts to love another, to serve Christ, to work out our salvation together. Even though it feels like we could "do church" so much better, it is somehow just right. God is glorified in our realness rather than our slickness, our efforts rather than our execution, our desperateness for Him rather than our years of experience and wealth of knowledge.

He is good.

Monday, January 09, 2006


What a sensational month away. just got back around midnight last Friday after driving all day from Brunswick Heads.
The first two weeks in Crescent Head were very relaxing - catching up with old friends and new as we do every year. This family photo is from the wonderfully named "Delicate Nobby" beach on the way to Point Plumer

Then on to Brunswick Heads for Beach Mission (after a couple of days at Port Macquarie for Xmas). Mission, well... mission rocked. We absolutely loved it. The kids fell in love with all the 17-25 year olds on the team- we have made a lucrative offer to Ardie one of the guys to let us adopy him as an older brother for Josh. Not sure how his parents feel about it though.
Liz was in her element doing the cooking, it was great to watch. Highlight for the team was probably the day off at Mullumbimby - check out the pool with the views over the Macadamia farm.

And all the interactions with the local people were great - the band night was huge with well over a hundred people coming to see Another Day Down, a punk/emo rock band with a Christian message (check them out at www.anotherdaydown.com.au). Photo here is of our Josh with the drummer Matt - I don't Josh will ever wash that T-shirt again......