Archive for the ‘Evangelism’ Category

Cracking the code

This week we quietly formed a team to do what may turn out to be our best thing yet.

We formed a team to crack our cultural code.

From flickr by hevva75Like me, you may have read stories of missionaries cracking the code of a culture – Peace Child is the classic – that is, understanding the core assumptions and aspirations of the culture, and finding the points of purchase for the gospel in relation to that. Whilst inspiring, I have never really been able to see how to apply it, since the cultures in question have often been traditional.

Recently I have been digging into Tim Keller’s work. It seems to me that he has done exactly the same time, but this time in relation to a culture that is much closer to our own – New York city. His take on NY culture deeply impacts on how he articulates the gospel.

The thing is, NY is close, but is definitely not Inner West Sydney – for one thing, we are far less altruistic, and equally less ambitious. I know we aren’t NY, but what are we?

And that’s why we formed the team. With some members who are trained in media and communications, their task is to understand the Inner West cultural code, and to crack it wide open, understanding its fault lines and how to gospel speaks into those.

As far as I can tell, no one has got this done yet. And I am sure we will need help, which is why I’m inviting anyone who wants to digitally contribute to give it a go.

From time to time, I’ll be posting on where we’re up to, and we’ll see if can can get some traction on this issue together. As far as bring Christ to the Inner West, there are few more pressing tasks!


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Cinema in the cemetary

We had the biggest event at St John’s Ashfield for decades last Friday night – we’ve called it ‘Cinema in the Cemetery’, and over 4 weeks we had 800 people onto the property, including 400-500 last Friday night.

From flickr by ka ka (not quite St John's!)

Four things stood out about it

  1. The entire project was totally member initiated and executed. Some great gospel hearted people called an open meeting of our evening congregation to talk about how to connect with local community members. They came up with a few terrific ideas (I was overseas at the time!) and Cinema in the Cemetery was one of them. A few agreed to drive the project, and we made use of our project structure (see here for a description of how it works). It was a beautiful moment of the body of Christ being the body of Christ.
  2. As we thought about it why do this thing, we realised that it was possible to run an event that was a combination both of blessing the community in some (even small) way, and at the same time making a connection – it didn’t have to be an either / or. The other thing is that we are here for the long haul – it’s OK to build links and connections with people slowly, that possibly bear ministry fruit in months or years. That’s not the only events we want to run, but it’s OK to some events with that in mind.
  3. We got media coverage, which was great. The media snowball works like this (as far as I understand): the papers run a story, the radio stations pick it up that morning / afternoon, and the TV channels report on it that evening. We had a perfect storm like this. The Telegraph ran a story on Friday morning, I did 3 radio interviews on Friday afternoon, and the Network 10 program ‘The 7pm Project’ covered it on Friday night (or at least they would have if their technology had worked. What i learnt was: don’t be afraid of media. They seem to more or less hate us, but that ain’t always true. Figure out what you want to say and make sure what you say both responds to them and is on message. I had a cute line about the difference between a graveyard (a place for people to rot) and a cemetery (a Christian word, a place for people to sleep – and then wake up!)
  4. It not often in church life that things work out better than hoped for! We’ve had lots of people say, ‘when’s the next one?’, and a facebook group of 100 people. We had planned to stop this week, but are rethinking – if there’s momentum there, absolutely best to go with it!

It was a great start to the year, and we’re praying for God to keep using it and other things we do!

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It’s so good to see clear Christian articles in the central space of the SMH. Great work by the Dean, Phillip Jensen for taking the initiative to write the article and get it published.

And he does a great job of explaining and exposing the views of Joe Hockey.


from flickr by designldg

Which is why it’s such a shame that he seems to drop the ball over the line.

Just as Hockey’s pale, anaemic religion is clear for all to see, the piece seems to veer off along a ‘we’re right and you’re not’ path – highlighting the mutually exclusive teachings of Christianity and Islam, and the way that churches that take Scripture seriously are growing, along with some bare assertions about the heart of Christianity.

The problem is that, though those things are true of course, they don’t actually show why it matters that Hockey’s hokey moralism be opposed for the feeble thing it is.

And it matters precisely because religion-as-niceness has nothing to say in the face of real evil – other than bleet ‘be nicer’. This is part of the great apologetic significance of the cross and resurrection – evil is real (in a sense, although that’s another story), no pretending, and God-in-Christ overcomes evil with good by absorbing that evil in himself, and rises to new life in victory and glory. And so we Christians can name evil for what it is, entrust ourselves to the glory to come, while doing everything in our power now to walk in the footsteps of Christ in overcoming evil with good.

I wonder whether 2 things are going on here.

  • First, the article feels like a modernist response to a post-modern position – a response which is strong on it own terms, but in the end is speaking a different language.
  • Second, and related, Hockey’s piece is sheerly individualistic in nature – that is part of its weakness – and requires a response that highlights the cosmic nature of sin and evil – and the cross; but the response is also couched in individualistic terms.

Of course, it’s easy to snipe from the sidelines. It’s excellent that the issues are front and center in the public square.

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UTS mission this week

I’m speaking at a mission for the UTS Christian group Credo this week and next.

4 (apologetic style) talks and a debate this week, 2 (more directly proclamatory) talks next week. The students have been working incredibly hard to make it unmissable on the campus, and I’m really looking forward to engaging with the campus.

If you get a moment, do pray for the mission, for the courage of the Credo students, for the openness of their friends and contacts, and for me as I strive to be faithful to Christ.

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Had a great morning with Julie-anne Laird on evangelism yesterday.

Highlights were hearing about how she applied principles of

  • culturally appropriate ministry programs where
  • permission was given to include a Christian component

and then used that as the starting point for a funnel into connecting with large numbers of unbelievers, an initial presentation of the gospel, leading to an invitation to an evangelistic course and eventually into church. Hearing how it worked for playgroups, kids clubs and youth groups was terrific, and then also trying to apply the model to young adults, where it’s not altogether clear.

As well, a really great challenge that each of us should have 5-10 unbelieving friends we are regularly in contact with and praying for; and the big challenge – family is not your first ministry, it is your first ministry team – that is, the way to not neglect your family while you serve is to include your family in your service!

All very thought (and action) provoking.

The format seemed to work as well – a short sharp hit on a specific topic. I’m thinking of doing it again, maybe on church finances and vision-oriented budgeting for non-accountant Senior ministers – what do you think?

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Just a reminder that Julie-anne Laird will be at CCIW this Friday morning.

She is the Director of Evangelism for the Melbourne University Christian Union (the AFES group at Melbourne Uni), and leads evangelistic initiatives at her church. She is absolutely fascinating both in her take on the whole question of evangelism, and in how she puts the theory into practice.

The details are:

Venue: The Attic, enter from 175 Great North Rd, Five Dock.

Time: 10am-1pm sharp.

Cost: $5/person, just to cover a few costs.

Let me know if you’re planning on being there. It promises to be a great 3 hours of input and discussion in an area we all care about.

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Just a heads up: Julie-anne Laird, a superb evangelistic operator, will be coming to CCIW on Aug 7 to talk to us about evangelism.

Julie-anne is both a practitioner and a theorist – the best of both worlds. If anyone wants to hear her (10am-12:30pm, St Alban’s Five Dock), let me know. Numbers limited.

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