Thursday, May 29, 2008

Scott’s tips for “Keeping a pulse on culture”

I’ve been reading Scott Hodge’s blog probably as long as any other. It’s a regular stop off for me, for all kinds of reasons. First off, Scott’s a funny guy, who often posts stuff that makes me laugh. Secondly, he periodically comes up with a little gem that will set my mind thinking about the things of faith, mission or ministry; and finally I like to listen in to his radar about other good stuff that is going on around the web.

One of Scott’s recent posts is a response to an e-mail he received asking questions about how people in ministry keep up with “culture”.

1. Here’s the question…

I’m in the process of reading through tons of blogs, which incidentally, is how I happened on yours. I’m a 45-year-old white guy who is the “minister of music” at a 50-year-old church. Our church is in the beginnings of what is going to be a painful change in terms of trying to become more “relevant.” My question for you is how do I “catch up” culturally on a personal level? I have a 19-year-old son who has done a pretty good job of keeping me from fossilizing (I have a Facebook, do Twitter, and I’m about to be blogging myself) but I was wondering if there are some books you could suggest, some activities to engage in, or some other magical pill that would aid me in the process. Any thoughts you can give me would be most appreciated

The hugely interesting 11-point response is well thought through and is full of points of reference that are worth exploring. It set off a train of thought in my own mind.

2. Here’s the post called “Keeping a pulse on culture”

3. ….and here’s my ramble, which I left as a response…

“Great post, Scott! Really interesting stuff. The thing I’ve been rolling around in my head, though, is so much of the stuff you mention is such familiar territory to me - kinda my lingua franca, if you will: stuff that stimulates me, excites me, encourages me and forms the basis of much of my thought about BEING Church…. BUT, if I transplant it to my local Church situation, does it get lost in translation for those who I spend my waking days with, off of the cyber-grid I spend so much of my existence hooked in to?

Am I an early adopter because I read the blogs and the mags…and the books, or am I inhabiting a world that is foreign those folks I serve & minister with and to?

This is not in any way meant as a criticism of your post, but rather I’m just rolling out a little bit of self analysis it has stimulated.

I’m going to answer my own questions to a degree, with the upbeat conclusion that all this stuff DOES help me, because – at least in my own little world – people are sharing the stuff, networking, breaking down denominational and cultural barriers, learning from each other’s experiences…the list goes on….”

Any thoughts of your own, people?

Thanks to Scott for the pic

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Good question, Jason

I’m glad Jason Clark , Pastor at Vineyard Church Sutton, coordinator for Emergent UK , and all round good fellah - asked the question
Where have all the UK bloggers gone?”,
and in the process managed - through the responses provide – to hook me up with a bunch of interesting UK blogs, most of which have some kind of emerging vibe.

Check out the responses to Jason’s question:

I was particularly interested to discover the Ian Adams’ wonderfully-named In the Belly of the Big Fish blog and Pace Bene website - a neat little bit of synchronicity which took me back to the site where Ian is the founding Pastor – mayBe in Oxford. A year or two back, I used to bounce over to the mayBe site very regularly, having become captivated by their creative, authentic and elemental community’s web presence.

Thanks for the pic, Jason!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

It's that man again!

At the risk of having so many blog posts about Michael Frost that I could be branded some kind of weird fanboy, I’ve posted a YouTube ad for Mike’s visit to England later in the year.

Mike, you’re gonna have to stop writing books that have such a big impact on me, mate!

Red Rock

I’m a sucker for the coffee shop/Church initiative double whammy. (FRWY, Q Café, Sutton Sally Army are other examples of these Third Places)

The Highway Community’s Red Rock Coffee looks like it would be well worth a visit if you are ever in the Mountain View CA area.

I like what The Highway say in response to the question “Why does a Church own a Café?”

The church has long asked people to come through its doors to experience what we have to offer, whether it’s teaching, music, counseling, help, food, community, or support. It’s a good idea, in theory, and one that the church has operated on for the last two centuries or so.

However, in the work culture of the Silicon Valley, it grows more and more difficult to serve our community as we’re increasingly over-busy, over-networked, and over-loaded with information.

Even before the inception of Highway, we had long dreamed of a public place where ideas, lives, music, art, food, dialogue, and relationships could collide in an open, community setting. Since the café has turned into the postmodern intersection of public life, it seemed the perfect environment to evolve into ‘the place.’

Red Rock is our attempt at a new expression of Christ’s challenge to spread his love and message to the world. As a non-profit we hope to live out the example of service through our business, and by giving back to the community that sustains us.

BTW, if you need really good video resources for Church, you really should check their Highway Video site too. It’s amongst the best stuff available.

The Elders

Having quoted heroic chuckling Church man, Desmond Tutu in a previous post, I’ve been prompted to reacquaint myself with the work of The Elders, the group of seminal global statesmen and women brought together as part of an initiative envisioned by Peter Gabriel to act as elders to our global village – guiding & supporting us through the major challenges the world faces today.

This is not new news, but I’m glad to revisit it again, and would urge you to check it out if you’re not already familiar with it.

The pic is borrowed from the quite beautiful Elders site…Thank you

Monday, May 19, 2008

Made from girders!

Thanks, Thomas, for letting me know about the new Irn Bru ad!

Makes you proud to be Scottish!

Friday, May 16, 2008


HT to Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch’s “Shaping of things to come” for introducing me to this little poem:

Go to the people
Live with them
Learn from them
Love them
Start with what they know
Build with what they have
But with the best leaders,
When the work is done,
The task accomplished
The people will say 'We have done this ourselves!'

-Lao Tsu (700 BC)

Scott of The Rock

…wanted to give a little shout out to Scott Harris who contacted me this week via Facebook.

Check out his blog and the site of The Rock, where Scott is lead Pastor.

He’s a friendly guy – go say “hello”, and tell him Johnny sent you!

Thanks to The Rock family for the pic


Watching the Rangers game this week – and perhaps most especially the fans* – made me wonder about identity, and how mixed up and muddy it can get. Quite reasonably, an English buddy of mine asked why the resolutely Scottish Rangers supporters waved the Union Jack. Now, you’d imagine that a reasonable simple question deserves a reasonable simple answer, but it’s WAY more complicated than that, and I’m not even sure I can explain it correctly.

Firstly, there’s the red, white and blue which the kits & flags share; then there’s the supposed loyalty to “the union”, which with Scottish Parliament and a SNP first minister is as fragile now as it has ever been. On top of that, what is the Britishness that such loyalty is directed towards? Is it the amazing rainbow-hued multi-ethnic society that I’m glad to experience every day in London, or something else that existed in the past but has long been consigned to history?

The waters are further muddied, because those supporters are likely to whistle raucously with the rest of the Tartan Army in protest at the playing of the British National Anthem, “God Save The Queen” for the England team on the now rare occasions when Scotland and England meet on the football field.

Also, in Scotland there’s in a growing interest in and affinity for all things celtic, not to be confused with Rangers’ bitter rivals Celtic!

No wonder it’s confusing.

For me – and I say this as someone who’s loyalty as an armchair supporter has been with Rangers since I was old enough to utter the word – I do struggle a little with seeing the Union Jack waved. Having moved to England from Scotland in mid 70s, and being of a generation when the flag was hi-jacked by the far right when my sympathies were more in line with Rock Against Racism and the upbeat joy of 2-Tone it still creates a kind of uncomfortable feeling when I see it flown.

• I’m hugely proud to be a Scot (with an English accent)
• I baulk at describing myself as “British”
• I’m probably a Londoner as much as anything else
• I feel like a Celt, not an Anglo
• I’m still a Rangers supporter, but I renounce bigotry
• I’ve never met an Irishman I haven’t gotten on with famously
• My family is a glorious mix of the celtic, anglo and Caribbean, but when Scotland are playing there’s only one team for us
• I agree with those eminent theologians at Hard Rock, and would wish to Love All, Serve All
• Ultimately, my identity is bound up in my saviour Jesus

There’s a quote attributed to Desmond Tutu that I’m finding increasing resonance with:

Jesus said, 'If I be lifted up I will draw all, all, all, all, all. Black, white, yellow, rich, poor, clever, not so clever, beautiful, not so beautiful. It's one of the most radical things. All, all, all, all, all, all, all, all. All belong. Gay, lesbian, so-called straight. All, all are meant to be held in this incredible embrace that will not let us go. All.

*If you’re reading this outside of the UK you may not realize that somewhere around 100,000 football (soccer) fans effectively invaded the city of Manchester to support their team in a major European soccer final.

Monday, May 12, 2008

attempting abandonment

Interested to read Lucy's latest blog post.

Lucy is going to go authetically incarnational in the heart of London. It will be really interesting to read how the adventure goes right from the off.

Good on you for taking the brave step. Lucy! (and big thanks for the pic to illustrate this post)

Peace & blessings


Saturday, May 10, 2008

Roots - thoughts

OK – just a few thoughts – not definitive, not comprehensive, not particularly well written….just a few scribbles…..

If Roots & The Salvation Army are familiar territory for whoever might be reading this, my ramblings should make some kind of sense. If, on the other hand, you’re reading this without that background, hopefully there will be a few things that might be interesting and useful.

As always, Roots was a great weekend – everything I hoped for – and more.

More challenging – scarily so – confronting poverty up-front & square between the eyes is never comfortable, especially when you live in relative comfort & wealth.

More life changing
– again scarily so. Hearing some of the things we heard over the weekend, my guess would be that many of us will have to confront big questions about our own personal circumstances and situations.


We had some really excellent speakers with us, notably the Simple Way’s Shane Claiborne, who was on top form. Radical, authentic, engaging and soaked in Scripture, Shane is a guy who clearly takes the teaching of Jesus wholly seriously. His powerful story telling certainly had me checking myself.

In the smaller seminar venues, Shane always impressed me because in each of the Q&A sessions every answer he gave came with Biblical back-up…every time, as if it was as natural as breathing for him. This was really telling during the late night debate session on pacifism. For me he scored high, simply because it was hard to argue with clear teaching from Scripture….certainly made me think hard.

Jeff Lucas was very good in the AM Bible Studies as usual. His humo(u)r and passion as evident as ever. Somehow, listening to Jeff in that first slot of the day that is really uplifting. He did look sickeningly tanned though! He’s clearly been somewhere a lot more exotic than Southport on a wet weekend!

Nims Obunge of the Peace Alliance spoke too, and was on fire! Anyone who can utter “religion sucks!” in what was essentially a Salvation Army meeting and get away with it deserves a round of applause! I’m glad our tribe is slowly coming to terms with the difference between religious legalism and real authentic faith. Nims’ exploration of the Biblical premise for peace was on the nail.
So good to hear Chick in one of the late night sessions…and sorry to have missed my good buddy, Duncan.


As I usually do I spent a good amount of time in the Resources tent and picked up a raft of books to work through over the next few weeks.

· Chick YuillA Terrible Beauty
· Tony JonesThe Sacred Way
· Shane Claiborne - Jesus for President
· NT WrightSurprised by Hope

I’ve already devoured Chick Yuill’s A Terrible Beauty in much the same way as I did last year’s Others. There’s something really captivating about reading an author who you actually know…someone who is part of your life, part of your journey. As Russ Rook says in his forward to the book, it’s like reading the book, having watched the movie… A Terrible Beauty is authentic, personal and occasionally raw exploration of the central mystery and mixture of agony and ecstasy which is most sharply focused in the Crucifixion. Chick's writing is heartfelt and real - highly recommended.

This week’s reading as I commute to the office on the train has been Jesus for President, and I’ll get to the others books in due course. Man, I love to read.


Good to see fellow bloggers Chris, Dan, Matt, Mel, mrsparker, Heather and Kevin.

(Hope I didn’t miss anybody)

Wish you’d been there Thomas – thanks for the txts, Twitters & Facebook stuff!


Thankfully, much of what God has done through Roots is now happening effectively at a local level in The Salvation Army, so the need for the big event could be questionable. Now it has been announced that there will be a break from the event in 2009

Much as I love Roots as an event in itself, for the reasons I outlined in this & previous posts, I am kind of pleased that the guys at the hub of all this made the decision. I’m sure it was a tough call, and a heck of a lot of prayer was involved -– but much of what was once thought to be cutting edge and radical has moved into the mainstream of our tribe’s activity in the UK. Maybe the time is coming when we need to be pushed even further.

Because of next year’s gap, I guess I’ve been made to look backwards a little, to try and get a better understanding of the things God has blessed through the amazing initiative that is Roots, which had birthed so much that is good about The Salvation Army in the early 21st Century

I’m glad that Roots has broadened the world view of Salvationists….opened our doors to outstanding speakers who have enriched our view of mission – Tony & Bart Campolo, Steve Chalke, Jeff Lucas, Tim Costello….amongst many many others

…helped move mission back to the forefront of the thinking of many Salvationists

…encouraged a wider participation in social action amongst UK Salvationist

…challenged people to radical incarnational living

…just freed us up a little to be a little less buttoned up, a little less reserved and a lot more like we were birthed to be

…made us face up to what authentic Salvationism means

Big big thanks to those early Roots pioneers – I’m not sure precisely who they all were, but Phil Wall and Russ Rook have to be in there – and I know there are others.

If you know more about the early days of Roots, I’d like to know more.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Roots 08 is here!

…later today Janet, the kids & I start the trek north to attend the Roots conference in Southport.

I’m really looking forward to it - as ever.

It’s a weekend to get re-energize, to listen even more closely to what God is saying to the Church, our movement and us as individuals, to meet up with friends I just don’t see enough of, to re-connect with inspirational people who have impacted me in ways they don’t even know, to laugh, to hang out with my wife, to make new friends, to hear Shane Claiborne… go public!