Friday, May 27, 2022

On the days of Genesis 1

Much is said about the days of Genesis 1; much of this muchness is about explaining that they aren't days as we know them. But this presents massive theological problems, which seem to be put to one side.

If you make the days figurative you dehistoricize the creation, removing it from our time-line, and you depersonalize it, removing God from our world.  
In denying the creation account really happened, you mean that something else happened, and it is this something else that defines and expresses what is truly real and denominates every aspect of our being and nature. Whence the information about this 'something else'?

The days connect God to us: they show the tempo of creation is the same as our life tempo...the first move of fellowship between creator and creature. God thus shows himself present and active in the same world and by using the same basic denomination of existence that we are in. The world created as the setting for that fellowship.

The days ground our relationship with God, our understanding of ourselves and the point of salvation in Christ.

The days are there for a reason!

Because the days historicise time: give it tempo and dimension, they show the dynamic conjunction of God's domain and our domain. That God, the one who is love, not only 'is' but is here with us. Genesis 3:8 exemplifies. The God who is near, not far of, and with connection defined in terms of the shared tempo of passing time.

The days thus show 'heaven and earth, creator and creature, come together' in the same flow of time and material realm that circumscribes our living. Yet at the same time they show that God creator is distinct from, prior to and sovereign over the creation he has authored.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Thinking about planning

I don't know how many churches have a well thought out strategy for their work.

No, I don't mean the trivialities of a sweated over 'vision' statement, mission statement, etc. We already have those in the New Testament. Paul is quite clear on this.

Strategy is a 'how to do it' game that takes into account the people, the place, the challenges, over the medium to long term (you could also use the 5 Ps of church planning: People, Place, Performance, Proclamation, Pastoring).

More structure is needed.

An approach I've used in preparing a church strategy used a framework of three elements. Now, to be clear, this is the church as a corporate entity, the strategy operates at various levels that rely on individual Christians proclaiming their faith in the ways that come to hand and according to their gifts.

1. Contact: acquaint and gain mind-share, recognition, low spiritual intensity, may raise idea of Bible reading if and as appropriate.

2. Engage: introductory spiritual activities and events; set the course to moderate spiritual intensity, not seeking 'closure' on person's response; rarely would involve attendance at a church gathering but may include Easter, Christmas attendance, may involve small group/SIG (special interest group) attendance, general community/cultural courses or functions. Personal bible reading encouraged with brief guides available, perhaps for some, start indicating the discipleship path if they have expressed Christian interest; or offer a 'course' of say 10 weeks on Christian faith and growth. This might be modelled on the Didache or Augustine's Enchiridion (but without the parlous elements of his theology, of course)

3. Integrate: moderate to high spiritual intensity, regular attendance at gatherings, on the discipleship path: small group, training course attendance, serving (in some way),  personal bible reading and study expected. Avenues opened for formal Bible/theological and specific serving skill training (e.g. for youth, elder, work, adult education, facilitation, Koukl's 'Tactics', etc.).

This is just the framework. Your strategy would hang activities off these that form an connected set of movements of people from 1 to 3 that are right for your church and its setting.

Here's an example of one line of a church strategy.

This church was in a location with significant numbers of recent Chinese immigrants.

It started 'contact' events in Mandarin for them on English and Australian Culture

The next step was Mandarin-English Bible classes and finally a Mandarin speaking Congregation, with English gradually enlarged, without overtaking in the short to medium term.

Alongside this the congregation was encouraged to a series of social events on Chinese culture and history. These were public.

They included people from the Mandarin group contributing their 'story' from home, introduction to Chinese crafts and food and stories about cultural celebrations.

We also did intro to Mandarin. People could then write and speak simple polite words and phrases: thank you, hello, please, how are you?