Archive for March, 2010

The Pilgrim’s Podcast #27: Steve Chong, Kirkplace, Spiritual gifts, Mentors and Bruce Lee

Posted in The Pilgrim's Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2010 by stephengardner

Here is the lastest installment in the Pilgrim’s Podcast saga. This is a great episode! Steve Chong is a really great guy who is involved in a stack of really great initiatives.

He is the lead pastor at Kirkplace Presbyterian in Kograh and the director of RICE. Steve has put a lot of thought into how to do church, one of his great passions is freeing up people to use their gifts and passions for God, rather than have a program that people have to fit into. There is stacks to learn from this session about doing church differently!

One of the highlights of the interview was hearing parts of Steve’s story, including those men who have helped shape him the most. He shares with real warmth about his friendships with Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll and our very own Al Stewart and Andrew Katay.

It was a great privilege for Mark and I to head out to Kirkplace and check out their building, it is one sexy place!

Have a listen


Have you made the cut?

Posted in Uncategorized with tags on March 19, 2010 by stephengardner

I’m a total hack when it comes to anything to do with websites. This even includes not being able to navigate myself around the dummy-safe wordpress blog templates. You might have noticed some misplaced photos in previous posts, links that dont work properly, and in particular, the feeble blogroll down the bottom right hand side of the page.

I think this picture has a lot to say about blogging

I’m really sorry I haven’t updated the blogroll in ages! The truth is I forgot how to do it! But, I’ve repented and put in some hard yards learning how to plumb the depths of the old wordpress template…well that’s a lie, i’ve just learnt how to add others to the blogroll.

Have a scan, let me know if you reckon there are others worth putting on there. I havent tried to put every single blog I know on the list, mostly the ones I look at from time to time, and mostly ones that update pretty frequently.

Sorry if you are a blogger and haven’t made the cut! Let me know what your blog is…

A stroll through Dogmatics: I.1

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 18, 2010 by stephengardner

A few of us from MTC have begun a Dogmatics reading group. The idea came from Andrew Errington and its a cracking one! The approach of the group is not to read every single word of the entire dogmatics, but to read key sections.

To help keep me on track I thought I would post what I’ve found to be the most stimulating section, fortnightly, until the group finishes (or I get finished!).

This week we read I.1 The Doctrine of the Word of God.

In all three modes of being God is the one God both in Himself and in relation to the world and man. But this one God is God three times in different ways, so different that it is only in this threefold difference that He is God, so different that this difference, this being in these three modes of being, is absolutely essential to Him, so different, then, that this difference is irremovable. Nor can there be any possibility that one of the modes of being might just as well be the other, e.g., that the Father might just as well be the Son or the Son the Spirit, nor that two of them or all three might coalesce and dissolve into one. In this case the modes of being would not be essential to the divine being. Because the threeness is grounded in the one essence of the revealed God; because in denying the threeness in the unity of God we should be referring at once to another God than the God revealed in Holy Scripture–for this very reason this threeness must be regarded as irremovable and the distinctiveness of the three modes of being must be regarded as ineffaceable.                          (Church Dogmatics I.1 360-361)

This comes at the end of an interesting section where Barth suggests the term ‘modes of being’ as a better category for understanding the distinctiveness within the trinity, rather than the traditional, ‘personhood’ language. Some have thought this sounds too much like modalism, but that is quite obviously not the case, as this section shows. But strikingly, Barth suggests, that the three modes of being in God are essential for Him to be God.

Pilgrim’s Podcast 26: David Ould, Anglicanism, Liberalism,

Posted in The Pilgrim's Podcast with tags , , , on March 17, 2010 by stephengardner

Here is the next installment in the podcast journey. It has been a particularly productive time for the old Pilgrim’s, perhaps not quite so productive on the college front, but hey! You cant have everything.

A particular highlight was singing happy birthday to David, I think our voices sound quite nice!

Have a listen to David and let us know what you think.


Leading communities III

Posted in Church, Leadership with tags , , , on March 16, 2010 by stephengardner

So far, I’ve suggested, that many of our churches have  a problem; a created divide between those in leadership and the rest of us sitting in the pews. And in the last post I suggested we tend to recreate this problem by the way we train future leaders.

Today I want to begin to flesh out some of the implications this might have for church life. And I want to suggest that one of the symptoms of this problem is when a leader begins to blame his/her congregation. Bonhoeffer takes this accusing back to a misplaced model of ‘visionary dreaming’. He describes it this way:

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realised by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of the brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.             (Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Life Together, 27-28.)

Can you see Bonhoeffer’s point about the danger of visionary leadership?

There is nothing wrong with visionary leadership, in fact we could do with more of it. But there is a problem when a leader’s vision for the church is not met and the leader becomes ‘an accuser of the brethren.’ This is a symptom, of a far bigger problem, of a leader who does not identify as a belonging member of that community.

If the leader’s vision is not met, who’s fault is it? Surely not his! How often,do you hear leaders speak against their congregations, blaming them for the reasons why the church is not welcoming enough, not growing, not looking for ways to serve etc…

There is a place for a loving rebuke from a leader to his/her congregation. But there is something quite wrong when a leader cannot see their own participation and involvement in the community. Bonhoeffer goes on to say:

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. (Life Together, 28.)

When I grow up I want to work at Google

Posted in Life with tags on March 12, 2010 by stephengardner

Today I had the great privilege of having lunch with Dave Symonds, an old friend who now works at Google as a software engineer. Basically, when I grow up and finish school I want to work there. It is the most seriously decked out work environment I have ever seen.

From their funky reception desk, with themed wall and swinging tyres hanging from the ceiling; to their staff hang out areas complete with pool tables, table tennis tables, wii’s, playstations, food, food and more food.

There are something like 5 full time chefs who provide breakfast, lunch and dinner for the staff. Google obviously prides itself on providing their people with whatever they need to make them feel valued.

Its a truly awesome place. I liken it to walking into Willy Wonker’s chocolate  factory!

A massive shout-out to Dave for showing me around! If you listen to the podcast stay tuned for a future episode with Dave. It should be fascinating, he is involved in some pretty cool things.

Leading communities II

Posted in Church, Leadership with tags , , , , on March 10, 2010 by stephengardner

In the last post I introduced the idea of how the language used by leaders significantly reveals what they think about, and value, regarding community. I want to suggest that as soon as a leader begins speaking about ‘his’ or ‘her’ church they have effectively dislocated themselves from the community of God’s people they have been called to serve.

To go further, my sneaking suspicion is that many leaders are resigned to the fact that they must dislocate themselves from their communities. And my hunch is that the way we go about training future ministers contributes to this.

What do I mean? Take the example of ‘Joe’.

Joe is in his mid twenties and has had five years experience leading the youth group at his local church. During that time he felt a growing conviction that there was nothing more he would rather be doing with his life than teaching people from God’s Word. He mentions this in passing to his minister who excitedly organises a breakfast meeting for the two of them to discuss what this might mean. Over breakfast, the minister encourages Joe to do a ministry apprenticeship at church the following year. After thinking things through Joe decides to give it a shot!

His time serving at church offers mixed experience’s but he continues to feel increasingly convicted about being a pastor and a teacher, so he enrolls in a theological college for the following year.

After thinking through some ecclesiological issues he decides to enter college as a candidate for ordination in his particular denomination. With this comes a necessary change of church. Joe feels the tension of leaving his home church, where he has been deeply connected for so long, while understanding the benefits this move will bring for having a wide range of church experiences. Joe chooses a church in an entirely different part of the city, and one that is quite a distance from his new home near college.

Joe serves at the new church for two years, continually struggling to juggle college work and student ministry work. More often than not college work and the college community win the battle for Joe’s time and energy. Largely this is due to the distance between home and church; because Joe is only able to serve 14 hours/week in his church; and because he knows he only has two years at this particular church. The result  is that Joe’s theological college effectively becomes his primary Christian community.

This pattern of balancing church and theological training is repeated in Joe’s 3rd and 4th year at college. He then graduates, with first class honours, and quickly finds work in a church in a nearby suburb to his home church. Joe is eager to finally have some time to dig deep and contribute to the life of this new church but he also realises his time here will be quite short. Joe is a candidate for ordination and quite eager to one day lead his own church. He realises that in 2-3 years time he could well be given a chance at doing that, which would mean, again, a change of church.

Sorry for the cheesy story, but I hope you can see what I’m getting at. The nature of the way ‘Joe’ has had to train for church ministry has trained him to think about Christian communities in a certain way. They are not necessarily long-term, and they are not necessarily places he identifies with. He has effectively been trained in how to disconnect from church communities.

The next post will flesh out what, I think, are some of the possible implications of ‘Joe’s’ formative years of training…