Archive for the ‘Mission’ Category

Join us for a week exploring Celtic spirituality

June 11, 2010

On September 20-24 we will be leading a course on Celtic Spirituality as part of Fuller Seminary’s DMin program.  Based on the island of Lindisfarne, off the coast of Northumberland, we will have sessions on Lindisfarne history, spirituality, as well as hands-on workshop on Celtic art, worship, reflection on mission issues, and sharing stories.   In addition to sessions led by us, we have recruited some significant speakers who live and work on Lindisfarne itself. 

As well as those who are formally enrolled in Fuller’s DMin program, we can also accommodate others as ‘audits’ (which roughly speaking means you have the experience without doing the work – and pay a lot less for the privilege!).  For details, see   And to enrol (or enquire more), email Julia at

Search for an authentic church

March 4, 2010

Jim and Casper go to Church is the title of a fascinating little book that came our way recently.  Written by two friends, Jim Henderson and Matt Casper, the book documents their visits to churches of all shapes and sizes in their US homeland.  Nothing surprising in that, you may think, except that Jim is a fervent Christian and Casper is an atheist.  They agreed to suspend their preconceptions and to engage in honest dialogue about their experiences.  Their trip included megachurches such as Saddleback and Willow Creek, as well as more ordinary traditional congregations and some emerging ones (Mars Hill, among others).  Amazingly, they managed to keep their bargain, and the book is one of the most honest dialogues you could imagine.  They both learn something along the way, but the most interesting thing is Casper’s take on what he experiences.  At Saddleback he tries to roll the stone back from the door of the replica of Jesus’ tomb, only to discover it’s locked – and wrly expresses the hope that they will unlock it in time for Easter (yes, they really do have a life-size replica of Calvary perched on top of an artificial tomb).  At Mars Hill, he finds himself somewhat repelled by Mark Driscoll’s aggressive style and is puzzled as to why ‘he likes to talk about sex a lot … at least once every minute’ (p102) when he could be talking about Jesus.  And at those two and all the others they visit, he wonders why there is so much emphasis on self-improvement when his reading of the Gospels suggests that disciples are supposed to care for other people, not themselves – summed up in his big unanswered questions addressed to Jim, ‘Is this what Jesus told you guys to do?’  Jim, for his part, is challenged because all the things that churches do to make themselves more attractive to outsiders actually turn Casper off – not just the kitschy environment at Saddleback, but the drumkits, noisy music and worship leaders that seem to be everywhere.

By way of a contrast, this online volume came through our computers this week.  The brainchild of Australian Jay Jeffries, it is billed as a Bible for spiritual searchers, and is gradually being released on the website in installments.  We both contributed to it, so we have a stake in seeing how it goes – but we can’t help wondering what Casper would make of it.  Because there are a lot more like him than there are Jims in this world.

Jim and Casper go to Church is written by Jim Henderson & Matt Casper, and published by BarnaBooks: ISBN 978-1-4143-1331-2

Angry Christians

February 10, 2010

We’ve just come across this new blog, dedicated to telling us what’s wrong with emerging church and Fresh Expressions, complete with extensive sections naming and shaming the ringleaders.  If you’re one of them you’ll probably want to check it out to see if what they’re saying about you is true.  Lucky for the church mice, we don’t get a mention, which either means that we’re too insignificant to bother with or so totally heretical that they wouldn’t know where to start.  The only question we have is what makes these people so angry?  Which bits of the gospel do they not get?  Who do they imagine might be attracted to a faith that seems to consist of putting other people right?  Or maybe there is an alternative version of the fruits of the Spirit or the Sermon on the Mount which includes acrimony and aggression as hallmarks of discipleship?

A Conference worth Considering

December 16, 2009

We don’t normally draw attention here to events in which we are participating, but this one seems to have escaped the radar of a lot of people in the UK who would find it useful.  Sponsored by the University of Aarhus in Denmark, and taking place at the end of January, the theme is ‘Church and Mission in a Multireligious Third Millennium’.  As well as church mice it includes a line up of missiological stars including Stanley Hauerwas, Brian Stanley, Darrell Guder, Bryan Stone, Heidi Campbell, Pauline Cheong, and Andrew Walls – to name just a few.  Further details are here.

Notes from the bottom of the world

November 26, 2009

Great excitement in Adelaide all this week, as we’ve been teaching at Tabor College.  Lots of engagement with themes that, to be honest, we’ve become so familiar with that we’re surprised how much excitement we’ve stirred up.  New forms of church, Fresh Expressions, Mission Shaped Ministry – all stuff that we take for granted in the UK, but which is news (and very good news, it seems) to Christians in this city.  Meetings with the archbishop as well as students (all of whom are also church leaders – and from a wide variety of traditions and types of church).  Some of them have found it a bit challenging hearing from a female church mouse, but that’s not especially new in the grand scheme of things.  Overall, the experience has made us quite proud of all that has been accomplished in UK churches in recent years, and also makes a trip to the other side of the world worthwhile as we realize we have been bringing totally new thinking into this situation.  Whoever would have imagined that tired mainline churches in the UK would have so much to share with others worldwide.  Something to do with the missio Dei, probably.

And this koala came down from the tree to greet us.  Reminded us of a certain story in the gospels!

From the other side of the world

November 13, 2009

While this blog has been quiet for a bit, we’ve travelled to Australia and taught a week long intensive course in Sydney – hoping that we might find an odd moment to blog here, but it’s all been so busy this is the first chance, now the course has ended.  A good week with Australian church leaders, mostly young (20- and 30-somethings) and mostly seriously engaged with the missional questions of what church might look like for the 21st century.  And the minority who weren’t quite ready to engage with all this at least kept their opinions to themselves and didn’t disrupt things for everybody else – which is probably about as good as it gets.

The questions here have a familiar ring about them.  When is a spiritual engagement ‘real church’ being one of the most prominent.  How do you tell the difference between something that’s an outreach activity designed to get people into the churches we now have, and a missional community that is itself ‘real church’?  Issues of power and control surfaced perhaps more than they might in some UK contexts, and it’s probably fair to say that some people (maybe a majority) found it hard to believe some of the creative things happening in UK mainline churches.  Just as well we have the Fresh Expressions DVDs to show them, and all the website resources connected with that, otherwise some would have thought we were making it all up.  So we have ended the week with a feeling of gratitude for all the networks we are a part of in the UK, and those of you who are reading this in that context need to know that what we are all engaged with is out in front when compared with other places around the world.  Of course one reason for that is the reality that we know our traditional churches are in bad shape.  But we’ve also learned how to read the culture in such a way as to recognize signs of God at work.  In one discussion this week, somebody commented that our emphasis on connecting with those people we have called ‘spiritual searchers’ wouldn’t work in Sydney, because there are none here.  The reality is that Sydney is host to the single largest Mind Body Spirit festival in the entire world!  How easy it is to be so insulated in our own spaces that we don’t see the bigger picture.  Yet the importance of building bridges is right there in the city centre:

Harbour bridge at night

And we took this ourselves.  Clearly, having something iconic helps develop your photographic skills.

Next stop is Canberra, and meetings with the Anglican diocese to help them work out how they might introduce Fresh Expressions and the Mission Shaped Ministry course there.

A feigy good read

September 12, 2009

It’s not often (well, hardly ever) that a book is so good that we read it through from cover to cover in one sitting – but that’s what happened with this one.  The story of how Michael Volland, with help from one or two others, brought feig to birth as a fresh expression of church in partnership with Gloucester cathedral.  The combination of a personal story really well told with reflections on how and why certain things happened is a winner.  So thanks to Michael for giving us the book.  One to be cherished – and full of wisdom, humour, and spiritual insights.

Ecumenical encouragements

September 6, 2009

This blog has been quiet for a while – a combination of some complicated family situations, intense writing to meet deadlines, summer weather and the garden needing attention, and a whole lot of preparation needing to be done for engagements in the next month or two.

One of the more encouraging events we’ve been part of recently was with a Roman Catholic group who are exploring creative forms of mission.   It reminded us (as if we needed it) of the many ways in which churches of all sorts, and in all parts of the world, are wrestling with the same things as we all try to work out what it means to be spiritual and Christian in a fast-changing culture.  We shared what we thought we know, even led worship for them, but of course there’s always an elephant in the room when Catholics and Protestants meet.  Known as the mass, eucharist, communion, whatever.  It’s not the first time we’ve been to a RC event and been unable to participate in the mass, of course, so we knew what to expect.  But there’s something very odd when you’re invited to be the main speakers at an event and still banished from the sacraments.  A bit like taking the food to a party, even setting the tables out – and then being sent to the naughty corner because some long deceased ancestor had a fight about something nobody really remembers.  Not that this would prevent us going to similar events in the future – but somebody somewhere needs to realize that this is itself a missional issue.  Paradoxically, the other place where we could regularly expect to be similarly excluded would be in Plymouth Brethren type churches, which also think (for roughly similar reasons) that they are the only ‘real’ Christians on the planet.  Two traditions united by an odd mixture of self-confidence and fear.

Apostolic and episcopal

August 17, 2009

An interesting statement of intention from the new bishop of Shrewsbury here about local clergy needing to be more episcopal, and bishops needing to be more apostolic.  Of course, there will always be the McDonaldized systems to struggle with, but we’ll not be the only ones watching to see if he manages to put it into practice.

Baptising bishops

June 24, 2009

It’s not very often that baptisms get into the tabloid press, though bishops quite often do – frequently for the wrong reasons.  But this story surely highlights both a growing trend for the baptism of adult converts, and also shows that a bit of spectacle can be a good thing in terms of getting into the news.  Maybe if more of church happened outside the four walls of church buildings, there would be more interest by the general public.  There’s something safe about being able to stand on a river bank to be part of worship, as compared with being trapped in pews or behind closed doors.  But then, John the Baptist knew all about that a long time ago.


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