Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Pax Christi: Two Critical Doctrines

The posture of a biblical pacifism rests upon two doctrines in particular. These are the sine quibus non of a biblical pacifism. In this post I will briefly relate those two doctrines and their importance not only for the case for a biblical pacifism, but the practice of it.

1.The Doctrine of the Resurrection

Firstly, biblical pacifism depends upon the resurrection. If Christ has not been raised, we have believed in vain. But if Christ has been raised, then we have hope indeed. Christ’s own resurrection is his vindication by the Father, and his vindication includes the vindication of his teaching. Since biblical pacifism primarily and overwhelming looks to the teaching of Jesus, this vindication is essential. Further, the embodiment of Jesus’ ethical teaching in seen in Jesus’ way of life. This, it must be granted, was the perfect human life of a righteous man who died non-violently resisting violent human beings. To be a disciple of Jesus is to follow his teachings, and obedience to his teachings necessitates imitation of his life, in this regard as in any. It will not do to privilege either the mission of Jesus or the divinity of the same. Jesus’ ‘pacifism’, if we may term it that, is grounded in precisely his assumption of the human nature.

Further, the resurrection of Christ leads directly (theologically speaking) to the resurrection of the saints. So long as death is the great enemy of humanity, death is the great thing to be feared and avoided. A hope born from the sure bodily resurrection of the saints is a hope that begins to treat death in a fundamentally different manner. For we are all destined to die once. The question for the Christian is not, ‘how can I avoid death?’, but the sure hope, ‘I will not undergo the second death’. For the biblical pacifist, the doctrine of the resurrection relativises death, and grants an invincible fear: not that we shall not die, but that death is not the end.

2.The Doctrine of the Justice of God

Recently I have come to view this as the beautiful doctrine of the justice of God. I refer both to the character of God, that He is Just, and to the act of God, that God enacts Justice. The latter flows naturally from the former. For, though God is patient, which the scriptures show us again and again, He is not indulgent. He will be patient with sinning sinners, but only for a time. If he were indulgent, He would indulge them forever, and God would not be good, but permissive to the extreme, allowing all manner of evil to persist unchecked forever. On the contrary, God is patient, desiring repentance, but just, bringing judgment. This judgment occurs both temporally, in that God does not grant immortality to those who persist in rebellion, and eschatologically, in that God does not intent for this order of things to persist indefinitely, and rather brings about a final day of reckoning.

The beauty of God’s justice is simply in that – justice is a beautiful thing. What enhances God’s justice all the more is the beauty of his mercy, in extending forgiveness through the death of his one and only Son, Jesus Christ. For in so doing, God does not extend his patience in vain, waiting for sinners to repent who never would or could, but extends patience for repentance and the means of repentance alike. Yet, the very act of mercy assures that justice will be done, either way: that either on the one day of judgment, Jesus paid the price on Calvary, or on that very last day of judgment, each shall bear the penalty upon themselves: this is the second death.

For the biblical pacifist, this doctrine too is both necessary and inspirational. For it means that God will deliver justice, “Vengeance is mine” saith the Lord, and so the believer is not bound to deliver it themselves. We need not fear that anyone should escape justice, in this life or hereafter, for the very sovereignty of God assures us that justice will be done. The pacifist God of so much western christianity fails at this point, as Volf has so keenly discerned. Moreover, that it is God who delivers justice is the clear point at which our imitation of the divine perfection must diverge. Since we are called to imitate his character, but not usurp his authority, we do not arrogate to ourselves the right to judge, but trust in both his authority and character. The strength to die a martyr’s death, even one that ‘accomplishes nothing’, is predicated on the belief that it is not up to us to ultimately deliver the right outcome.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Sermons, Holy Spirit and Exodus

My church is putting up a website which will host my sermons, but I will continue to host them independently as well. Latest uploads include some more sermons on the Holy Spirit, and the start of our series on Exodus.
Sermons ahoy!

Friday, September 19, 2008

Review: Ed Stetzer Breaking the Missional Code

Stetzer and Putnam (hereafter, Stetzer) have produced a book that addresses many of the key issues in the 'missional' push at the moment. Their book offers two major barriers for the Australian reader, the first being a hokey tendency to use their catch-phrase throughout, 'break the code', and secondly the tendency to pepper their content with stories. The latter is a feature I find particularly common among American writers, though Stetzer's book has the saving grace that the stories are much more grounded in truth than some pop-theological offerings.

"Breaking the missional code" basically translates to: become aware of your cultural context and its needs and figure out how to communicate the gospel to it. If you've become familiarised with even the basics of 'missional' thinking, this is fairly basic stuff. Stetzer does have some valuable things to say though. Firstly, Stetzer is clear to point out how this differs from the Church Growth and Church Health movements. His analysis of recent church movements brings clarity to the origins of 'missional'. One point he makes abundantly clear is that this process is not about transferring or importing models and methods that aren't a fit, but using similar processes and methods and working out what will be a fit. His material on sacrificing our 'preferences' is also sharp and insightful.

Much of the value of this book emerges towards the end. Stetzer considers church revitilisation, church planting, missional leaders, and "the process of breaking the code". Those last two chapters provided good food for thought. Depicting the kind of leader that can pull this off is both a challenge and a question - are you that kind of leader? and if not, can you become that kind of leader, or should you seek another role? The process chapter breaks down a number of specific, practical, directed activities for understanding both the self and the cultural context. This is the kind of material one could, and should, pick up and work through and not leave on the intellectual top shelf for another time.

The book is written in a fairly easy and appreciable style. It would be well suited as yet another book for leaders trying to think missionally, and needing some more input (more imput is always good. Stetzer makes the point that missional leaders are always trying to learn everything they can), as well as regular church folk trying to get some buy-in to the whole concept of missional.

3.5 stars

Breaking the Missional Code: Your Church Can Become a Missionary in Your Community

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Review: Lencioni The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

I picked this book up from my senior pastor, who was given it as part of a ministers’ retreat. He’d found it helpful and I’m into reading books, so I gave it a read.

The first thing to say is that this is a genre of book well outside my normal range. I have little to zero management or leadership experience, especially in any corporate sense. The book is pitched primarily towards the business world, though others have no doubt found it useful (including clergy). That said, one of the things I have learnt recently is that I need to read diversly, and acquire skills and talents in areas that are not my area. That includes ‘leadership’.

The book consists of two halves. The first half is the ‘fable’. It depicts a CEO brought in to a company with an excellent executive team, who are failing miserably to work as a team. It shows that CEO bringing the team together based on the 5 dysfunctions. These include: absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, inattention to results. The second part of the book breaks these down in straight-talk – what they are, why they are a problem, and how to do something about them.

Frustratingly, the book provides no rationale or theory for its hypotheses. Why these 5? Are they right? Nonetheless, I suspect Lencioni is on to something, or some things. In thinking about the church, I was struck by thinking through a number of questions:

1. Inattention to results – our churches tend to avoid the question of converts. A growing church has converts – lost people coming to know Jesus and follow him as disciples for life. It’s almost a taboo question to ask about fruit from mission or evangelistic activities. It shouldn’t be. We need to be measuring our churches against both faithfulness and fruitfulness, and hiding behind calvinist and the sovereignty of God won’t cut it.

2. Avoidance of accountability and lack of commitment. I would say our churches in Aus. are characterised by a lack of commitment – people don’t buy-in and ‘own’ what church is on about – especially missional engagement with lost people. Too many of us treat the church like a cosy nest for saved people. We don’t get on board with things, and avoidance of accountability flows out of that – we are slack at confronting people about sin, and won’t call people on failing in responsibilities because they’re no more committed than we are and we don’t like confrontation.

Lastly, should you read this book? This book has some helpful things to say, especially if you’re involved in a team focused on a task, or if you’re in leadership of a team. It’s probably not a book worth buying, to be honest. It’s a quick read though, and you can get the guts of it quite rapidly, in fact my review has told you the core elements already!

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: A Leadership Fable

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Three (Four) Loci of Living

I’m picking up a Driscoll thought here (though I’m not sure it's his to begin with, but that’s whence I derive it). Basically, the thesis is this: people center their lives around three places: where they live, where they work, and where they play. People live where they can afford to, work where they have to, and play where they want to.

When you expand that concept a little, you also realise that people tend to idolise in one of those categories, which may also then form a locus of escapism from the other two. Some idolise their home, either in terms of their family, or in terms of a sanctuary of retreat. Some idolise their work, and may invest themselves in their work for escapist purposes as well. Some, and I suspect the majority, idolise their leisure.

Enter stage right: a christian. Their life consists of three loci, but preferably four. They live somewhere, they work somewhere, and they worship somewhere. Now, granted that each of those may be defective in some measure (there are homeless, unemployed, and un-churching christians), but that is the generic shape of their life. They may also, and I would suggest should, have a fourth locus of play.

Enter stage left: a missional christian. That’s the guy or gal who has figured out that the reason God doesn’t just short-cut them out of this world and into the party-with-Jesus is that God’s gracious plan of redemption involves reaching lost people through imperfect saved ones. That should reorient every single one of those loci. Home, the geographic place of family and neighbours, must now be seen as a possible place to extend gracious love. Work, likewise. Especially these two to the people who idolise and/or escape in those loci.

But it’s church and play that are the most important to re-think. church is generally not the place the lost turn up to. When they do though, they should find it a real place of welcome. Secondly, a christian whose loci are only home, work, and church, is in danger of seeing ‘church’ as the place they do ‘ministry’, and so collapsing any sense of mission in their life into edification-only. The place of play is key to missional strategy. If that’s the place that most lost people are escaping to and idolising at, it’s where they are most to be found, and most to be engaged. It also happens to be the easiest place to ‘get into’. Breaking into a workplace or home setting is difficult and restricted, but joining or entering or situating oneself in a place of leisure is relatively easy. Choose a place of play, commit to engaging lost people there, building relationships of trust and love, and living the gospel before them, in word and deed.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Tolkien and Del Toro – Between the Silmarillion and the Golden Army

Recently I watched Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. It’s a brilliant movie, and the post-Pan’s Labyrinth Guillermo is in fine form. In many ways, comparing Hellboy 2 to Hellboy (1) is very insightful. The first movie follows a fairly classic comic/mutant/superhero adaptation formula. It’s enjoyable, but not mind-blowing. The second movie raises the bar significantly, and a large part of that is Guillermo’s refreshing conceptualisation of the fae.

At this point, I think it’s worth articulating a real bifurcation in the portrayal of ‘elves’ from Tolkien through the modern (fantasy genre) period. For Tolkien, elves are otherworldy, strange, etherial, but they also serve rather definitely as a picture of un-fallen humanity. They are as we might have been, had we never sinned. And yet, for Tolkien too, they exist in this world marred by evil also. So their existence is marked by fundamental tragedy. They are creatures unfallen in a fallen world, but they are not a race with a redemptive meta-narrative. Instead they fade and depart into the West.

The concept of elves has gone all sorts of directions since Tolkien, across fiction, role-playing games, computer games, and the like. Perhaps one of the most interesting case studies would be the concept of ‘dark elves’, their evolution particularly within roleplaying sub-genres.

Guillermo, though, represents a very distinct conception of the realm of the fae. His artistic portrayals, as in Pan’s Labyrinth, and latterly Hellboy 2, depict the fae as essentially strange, a third way. This maps very well to some medieval conceptions of the fae. I think of Thomas the Rhymer in particular. For humanity stuck in a dualism between Heaven and Hell, the Fae represented a third alternative, neither one nor the other, but because they stand outside that fundamental duality, their character is marked all the way down by their alienness.

The opening sequence of Hellboy 2 is a masterful set-piece of backstory exposition. It also peculiarly lays out a piece of theological truth – a restlessness in the hearts of humanity, a hole that cannot be filled. In the genres of roleplaying games, humanity must be set to a ‘racial’ stereotype against the fantasy races, and it is their drive, capacity for rapid change, and diversity that is so often chosen. In Guillermo’s exposition, it is this restlessness and hole-within-the-soul that drives humanity, but without an answer to that hole (a question Guillermo avoids), it turns to vice, specifically rapacity.

Prince Nuada, and the elves of Hellboy 2, are alien creatures marked by ways of thinking essentially strange to humanity. Oddly enough, the concept of honour is one of those. The bizarre oddity of the Troll Market, and the Elemental, are visual depictions of the strangeness of the fae world.

A large part of Guillermo's genius is this – the ability to (visually) portray a concept of the fae that hasn’t been worn through by cliché. This doesn’t deserve to be under-rated, it truly is marvellous. Though I don’t think Hellboy 2 is quite so brilliant a film as Pan’s Labyrinth, it continues to extend our imagination in directions worth going.

ShimCon '08

The southern hemisphere's most underrated christian convention is on again this year!

It's running from Thursday night Oct 2nd through to Sunday lunch, October 5th.
Location: Katoomba
Price: $90
Speaker: Me!
Topic: The Book of Revelation.

So come along for some eclectic fellowship, a minimalistic programme, and some great teaching from the scriptures...

Go and Do (1): Getting it wrong

Attractional church will work. It will also fail. That is, if you do attractional well, with enough hype, you will get a turnover of outsiders and a percentage, by God’s grace, will convert. However, there are large slices of the demographic pie that will never darken the door of your events.

That’s why “Go and Do” is an imperative. If they won’t come to you, you must go to them. Furthermore, since all ministry, and certainly all mission, is cross-cultural to some degree or another, you must go to them and communicate in a manner that will be understood.

In this post I want to highlight three traps in beginning to think about ‘Go and Do’ work:

1. Go...and come and see.

For many, their idea of a church plant or the like is this – go somewhere and start a new public worship service. This is, virtually, transplanting an attractional church. It changes the geographical locus, but little else. As such, it is doomed to fail from the start. Not that it will necessarily fail as an attractional church, but it fails to ‘go and do’ - it’s just taking what you do in one place and trying to do it in another. It also fails because it mistakes one of the end points for the beginning. If you are trying to reach a people group among whom there are few disciples, then your work should move from seeing new converts, to a point where those converts generate a public worship service as an expression of their own Christ-redeemed and transformed culture, not the import of your own.

2. Go...and run an activity

The second error one can make is very similar to the first, except instead of starting a church service, it is to start some other type of ‘activity’ that runs primarily on invitation. Now, in some contexts that is a valid process. But in others, it holds the same problems as point one – you have created another spectacle type activity that is designed to draw people to it, rather than seek people out.

3. Grounding your work in ‘incarnational missiology’

The incarnation is a wonderful theological doctrine. It also, carefully treated, provides a wonderful theological rationale for mission – God sent his one and only Son into the world as a particular, finite, culture-bound Human. However, it provides a very poor theology of mission, and an even worse strategy of mission. To step from the incarnation to speak of incarnating Christ to a culture, or the need for assimilation in a culture, and so on, is a theological misstep. Most, if not all, missionaries work cross-culturally to one degree or another. If one took incarnation seriously as the model for mission, the result would be either assimilation or syncretism – christians becoming so like the culture they had nothing different to say (liberalism), or becoming so enmeshed in the culture they have nothing contrastive to say, but have blended the gospel of Jesus with the gospel of the culture (syncretism). I think one of the reasons Paul is so prominent in the NT is that God has been pleased to hold him up as a very human and particular example of what it will mean to follow Christ. Paul, as missionary, works very hard to relate to each group he seeks to proclaim Christ to, but not at the price of assimilation, identity-forgetting, or syncretism.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Come And See: Thoughts on Attractional church

In this post I want to outline some thoughts I have about attractional churches, and how/why they succeed. However, at the start I want to put up the idea that attractional church is, generally speaking, a very problematic method. I will turn my attention to “Go and Do” in a later post.

The basic thesis of an attractional model is this: create a spectacle, and spectators will come. Whether it’s a church service, youth group, big event, it’s a spectacle, and it derives its attractional pull primarily by its ‘marvellousness’ - spectators come to marvel.

My hypothesis is this: an attractional church begins to succeed if it generates a critical mass of hype. Let’s call that the Critical Hype Point (CHP). Sounds all technical, doesn’t it?

A church, or similar, reaches a CHP when it is generating enough hype that people are sufficiently intrigued that they will come to ‘check it out’. That hype might be because the church has a large number of people already, or it might be because of a reputation for excellent music, authentic community, a gifted speaker, etc.. The result is this – a proportion of attenders become spectators, and this proportion have come along primarily to observe the spectacle. Some of them may stay. Others will take one experience and depart. Some may become addicts to the spectacle itself. Some may convert. Of those, some may stay and become genuine members, and others may depart for another church that better suits them.

‘Hype’ sounds like a loaded word, and to some extent it is. On the one hand, any church that is ‘getting it right’, in terms of being light and salt to the world, should be generating some amount of ‘hype’. On the other hand, it’s entirely possible to generate hype independent of reality. That’s, sad to say, the major business of the advertising world. A church that shifts from missional proclamation of the gospel to the art of being a spectacle will ultimately only produce converts to spectacle-addiction, not converts to Jesus.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Reason for God

I've just finished reading Timothy Keller's The Reason for God, given to me by Mike, and if you haven't read it, you should.

If you're not a Christian, here's why you should read it:

Keller spends half the book considering the most common objections he has heard against Christianity. What does he do with them? He examines them sympathetically and reasonably, and boils them down to the point where their presuppositions are clear. Even if you are unpersuaded by Christianity, I consider it philosophically honest to own where your beliefs come from and at what point arguments are actually assertions and presuppositions.

Keller spends the second half of the book arguing for key beliefs of Christianity. He does so in a way that... avoids the arrogance and/or impossibility of trying to achieve strong proof. Even if you are unpersuaded by such arguments, it's worth your while to consider how orthodox Christianity 'makes sense' of the world in a coherent and persuasive way.

If nothing else, I'd want non-Christians to read this book so that they could have a meaningful, honest, engagement with Christianity.

If you are a Christian, you should read this book because:

The time Keller spends on objections against Christianity is well spent time reading. Perhaps these are things you wrestle with, and Keller's exposition is profound and clear. Perhaps these are things you struggle to explain, and again Keller's treatment is beneficial, helping to articulate some of the 'why' for these objections, and the point at which they become presuppositional.

The time Keller spends on reasons for Christianity is a good shot in the arm. Some of his points cut to the heart of contemporary debates in Western society. Others remind you of the reasonability, or the coherence, or the power, of the sheer beauty, of the Christian story of redemption and restoration.

Throughout, Keller calls upon a vast literature of illustration and exposition. His writing style is not heavy, indeed I found the book a delight to pick up and read.

I give it 5 stars.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Missional means...

'Missional' is the new buzzword. However, unlike some buzzwords, 'missional' does have content - it's meaningful, and it's relevant to the times. That could change - everything could get branded 'missional', but that's not the state of play at the moment. After a big week of talks, training, and deep thinking, here are some thoughts:

1. Missional means a fundamental re-orientation of ecclesiology

The reason God has left Christians on the earth rather than rapture converts directly to heaven, so to speak, is for the purpose of mission. The only reason there is a church on earth is to mediate the salvific and redemptive presence of God to the lost. If you begin to see the primary vocation of the church as missional, not as ecclesial - as reaching lost people for Christ, rather than gathering for the purpose of worship, then your understanding of your personal vocation, as well as your understanding of large worship services begins to fundamentally alter. Although large church services can function attractionally - especially if they develop a critical mass of numbers/hype, a church worship service can really become a ministry vortex, sucking energy and christians in and consuming their time with 'ministry' that is all about edification of other believers (which is an excellent thing, but runs the risk of becoming the only thing).

2. Missional means relevance, not cool

It doesn't take much to see that christians are not cool, and compared to other sub-cultures they will to a certain degree never be cool. 'Cool' is a cultural value, embodying a culture's sense of ideal and prestige. Christians who seek to be cool to be missional will ultimately fail in one of three ways. (i) They will never be cool enough, because their christian identity prohibits them from embodying the ideals of another culture, (ii) They will be cool enough, but at the expense of their christian identity, (iii) They will wear cool as a facade, pretending to be one thing in order to peddle their salvation-wares.

The question is not 'why are so many christians wearing socks and sandals?' (a stereotype, I know), but 'where are the christians not wearing socks and sandals?' - the lack of certain sub-cultures from christianity is a testimony of the failure to be relevant, and will never be solved by getting socks-and-sandals guys to stop dressing that way, but only when non-socks-and-sandals people get converted, and transform their own cultural expression with their new birth (not start wearing socks-and-sandals because 'that's what christians do').

3. Missional means not just evangelism

Evangelism, while a great word and activity, is so often an 'activity' that fills a 'slot' in the ministry life of a christian. We expect christians to 'do some evangelism', just as we expect them to 'do some discipleship', and half a dozen interior-church ministries. So long as that mindset dominates evangelistic thinking, christians will be poor evangelists. Their efforts will be individual, isolated, set-pieces, irrelevant, embarrassing, and even reprehensible.

4. Missional means all mission is cross-cultural

The greatest deception about evangelism is that there is no cultural gap between christians and their neighbours. To become a christian means to undergo either a cultural transfer or cultural transformation. Most of us have undergone a cultural transfer - we heard the gospel and entered a churchey-culture. The translatability of christianity means that people should hear the gospel and undergo cultural transformation - their own (sub-)cultural life is in part discarded, in part redeemed, in part unchanged, as the gospel works in their heart and mind.

Being missional will mean learning to analyse our own culture as well as target cultures. To see them as distinct and learn their distinctions. Sometimes the gap will be small, other times it will be quite significant. The aim is not to pretend or assimilate ourselves to the target culture, but communicate in a meaningful and respectful way that shows the relevance of the gospel to those in that culture with their cultural-conditioned needs, wounds, and idolatry.

5. Missional means showing relevance, not making relevant

A properly missional approach means learning to understand a culture, to communicate to a culture, and to learn the sins, wounds, and idols of a culture, so that a proclamation of the gospel makes sense to a culture, and addresses those same sins, wounds, and idols. Being missional never means changing the gospel, or deceptively omitting parts of the gospel (though it must be realised that not every proclamation event of the gospel needs to explore and present every facet of the riches and depths of the gospel!), for the sake of gaining either a hearing or a convert. The timeless nature of the gospel means that it is always and already relevant to every language, tribe, nation, and people, but its timeliness means that always needs to address the specifics of every language, tribe, nation, and people.

6. Missional thinking can be theorised, analysed, theologised, but only becomes valuable when practised.

All the thinking and theorising in the world makes no difference in mission until it becomes the practice of disciples of jesus who understand themselves, work to understand others, and put 'being missional' into practice. no amount of hip, no number of hoodies and pithy pop-culture references, no amount of biblical study, will replace on-the-ground day-to-day getting to know a target culture, communicate meaningfully to them, and translating the gospel in a way that addresses their sins, wounds, and idols.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Pax Christi: Hypotheses on dealing with the OT

One of the largest obstacles to any biblical account of a pacifist ethic is dealing with the OT. Here I want to outline some methodological presuppositions as well as some hypotheses to be tested with regard to that obstacle:

1) The New Testament ‘trumps’ the Old.
Just as in many other regards the New Covenant supersedes the Old, fulfils it, transforms it, and so on, a NT ethic trumps the Old. In doing so, it must show continuity – for God does not change, and so must also show why things have changed.
2)‘Just’ violence is primarily about judgment – the destruction of sin and sinners
3) YHWH is a warrior – the emphatic note of the OT salvation-history with regards to Israelite conflict is that God fights for them. In response to that they are to trust in his deliverance, not in military might. Generally God involves and uses them in those conflicts, but not always.
4) OT themes of holy war are transformed, like many others, by a process of metaphorisation, into spiritual themes in the NT

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Driscoll in Australia

A week of Driscoll

I am quite a fan of Driscoll. I thank God for a gifted preacher, teacher, and communicator of God’s Word, and greatly benefit from listening to his sermons. So I have been quite looking forward to his visit to Australia

But my first encounter with him was totally unexpected. It was wednesday and I was in at college heading for my postgrad German class, and he walked out of the dining hall, and I had that moment when you see someone you know but totally out of context. There certainly wasn’t the moment for a brief word of thanks and introduction, but I gave the man a nod and went on to my German class. He went and spoke to the college community about Preaching in the 21st Century, and I have downloaded the talk from the college website. That was an excellent talk that I gained much out of when I listened to it.

The second occasion was “Burn Your Plastic Jesus” - an event held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, which holds about 10,000, and most of the seats (over 9000 at least) were taken. Driscoll spoke for an hour and a half, on false views of Jesus in Australia, took some questions, and presented a picture of Jesus from the Scriptures. Having listened to many of his sermons, and a few on video, it was a new experience to listen to him live. I was more impressed by his gift to understand and apply to the cultural context, in that he clearly had spent time both looking at the research, as well as getting to know Sydney and its people, so that much of what he said had direct impact. He is also very funny, which helps a great deal if you are going to speak for a long time. The whole night was greatly encouraging. One of the guys from my church, mentally disabled, did make the comment that I “was less boring than him”, which will now be my main advertising line! I think it’s because my sermons haven’t hit the hour mark yet.

Engage:

Is a conference designed for workers, particularly young workers. I took a group of 12 up, 11 from my church, and we stayed in a house at Wentworth Falls. There were 4 talks from Driscoll, and 2 from Don Carson. Driscoll’s first talk hit home on Regeneration vs. Religion, and looked at John 1 and 3. His second session took us on to John 4 and extended some of the content of his first talk. Both talks gave a lot of food for thought and fired up some of my group with thoughts, discussion, and stirrings of the soul. His third session was basically an hour or more of question time, and his final talk was John 10 and thinking about sheep, shepherds, and Jesus the good shepherd. This was Driscoll up a notch from the wednesday night. Carson was solidly exegetical over his two talks.

Ministry Intensive:

My last Driscoll opportunity was Monday. Over monday and tuesday there was a ministry intensive conference at the cathedral in Sydney. Driscoll gave two talks on the Monday, and there were also talks from Don Carson and Kent Hughes. These were the two best and most relevant talks I heard from Driscoll during his time in Australia. In his first he outlined the need for missiological thinking and practice, using Acts 17 as a basis. This is the kind of thinking I love Driscoll for and feel our church(es) sorely need. In his second talk Driscoll came out and delivered 18 “Theses on what is wrong in Sydney” (that’s not what he called it, but that’s what it was). My good friend Mike who is staying for the week, has an excellent summary of them. I was deeply encouraged, convicted, rebuked, and motivated by this talk.

In conclusion, I have thoroughly enjoyed Driscoll’s visit to Australia. He’s a faithful and relevant and influential christian leader with a lot to say, and a lot worth saying. What I take away from this last week is not a greater appreciation of Mark, but a deep sense of conviction towards Jesus and what it looks like to proclaim Jesus in my own context and life.