A Window into the Soul

I came across this wonderful image on Richard Littledale’s blog.  It is a wonderful reimagining of church art in a contemporary way.  I love the guy in a hoodie praying!

Becoming a People Movement

You may remember that I blogged about Living distinctively a couple of months ago.  One of the main parts of the study is a DVD interviewing Christians who are working at the top of their field.  One of the people interviewed was Patrick Dixon, “Futurist”.  He was inspiring so I decided to follow him.  He just uploaded this to YouTube:

 

There are some fascinating statistics quoted here as he uses them to illustrate how we move from “hierarchical leadership” to “people movement”.  The Church ™ is currently struggling to integrate a hierarchical management structure within newly formed teams that are created to work together.  The “people movement” that Patrick describes is surely the perfect description of the calling Jesus made upon each of us.  A transformative, missional community.

So how do we encourage people to work effectively together?  How do we enable “teams” to create real relationships within them?  How do we foster our communities to become more than institutions but people movements that spread from place to place?

10 Reasons Why Social Media Matters

I came across an article about social media and church websites entitled “10 reasons Why Social Media Matters”.  It is very good at highlighting the shift in the flow of information that I hinted at yesterday in my blog post about advertising.  This is also the conversation that Pete Phillips and many others have been having about the seven principles of new media.  No longer is Big Brother giving us information from the top but now there is genuine interaction between those on the ground.  This shift is as big, if not bigger than the invention of the printing press!!

I’m not sure I necessarily agree with the original article but it is certainly pointing in the right direction.  For example, point seven:

7) Social media needs Christians

I’m not sure that this is actually the case.  Perhaps a more honest statement would be The Church(tm) needs social media.

Jennifer Aniston’s Sex Tape

For a while I’ve been looking at social media as a communication tool.  You will have noticed that I have posted  many blogs about the ways in which the internet can create a sensation that either builds up or destroys its target.  This flash mob video is a great example of how something can spread like wildfire and become a sensation.  However, who can forget the 10 million hits that destroyed United Airline’s reputation?

Above we have a great example of how the internet viral has challenged mainstream communication.  By bringing all of the viral clichés together with the words “Jennifer Aniston’s Sex Tape”, Smart Water pinpoint two key things:

  1. Viral video clips sell things by word of mouth and recommendation unbelievably well.
  2. We can identify what has worked in the past but it is really difficult to say what will work in the future.  It is a totally deregulated phenomenon and out of the hands of “the man”.  “The man” wants to use it but doesn’t know how.  And if it is used by “the man” people are less likely to pass it on as it stinks of “the man”.

Self Service

Jon at ASBOJesus so often manages to identify the big issues around us and point a million watt light at them.  Here he has so succinctly juxtaposed the society in which we live and the way our world works with the ancient symbols of faith. 

As a Church we are at a fascinating point in history.  In the last fifty years the world has changed drastically.  We are experiencing the beginnings of a paradigm shift.  The world is changing.  Technology is altering the way in which people interact with each other.  We are becoming more consumer oriented as a society.  People work out quickly what is of worth to them and decide whether to buy into it or not within a relatively short period of time. 

As we are working out how we can follow the way and speak authentically in the modern world it is important that we don’t mimic the world at the expense of the faith.

Post-Christendom

@unvirtuousabbey posted this on twitter.  I could write you a few thousand words about post-christendom or I could let it speak for itself.

1984

I made the mistake of jokingly saying “I can’t wait for them to just put an implant in my brain that does all of that” in front of my wife yesterday.  I am a typical tech geek.  I have an iPhone 4 that does everything.  People say to me “you’re never off facebook” and my reply is usually, “I’m never on facebook, I am on the bus”.  I connect to people all the time and it rarely impacts upon daily life as it happens whilst I commute, walk or eat my lunch.  Yesterday my mother in law mentioned that she had lost her phone (old fashioned nokia) and asked me to text it to ask anyone who may have found it to contact her.  I said “if I lost my iPhone I could go to your computer and find it on a map.  I could send a message to it, lock it down and wipe it’s memory.  At this point wife had a small fit and said “Are you mad?  You are half way through reading 1984!!”

She has a very good point.  Technology is able to set us free, connect us with those we love and enable us to network with others… but it could also be used to perpetuate a regime.  I have a mobile device in my pocket that identifies me and my movements.  Some people even use it to publish where they are via facebook or foursquare. 

There is of course more to this interaction between husband and wife yesterday and the conversation progressed.  I recalled that a couple of weeks ago we went to a friend’s house and they have a new Xbox Kinect.  I didn’t play but I did watch people jumping around their living room looking foolish (I suspect this is better than playing).  Yesterday afternoon I mentioned that it was “cool” and speculated that I would possibly like to have one in the future if I ever had the money.  Wife again had a small fit and said she wouldn’t have one in the house.  She had noticed something else about the experience.  When the three-year old child walked past the screen it said “hello Toby”.

I’m not a particularly paranoid person but when wife said “can you imagine if they put one of those on every street corner?” I was left with an icy chill running down my spine.  Will I one day be hiding from the Xbox and iPhone and writing by hand using a contraband journal and pen?

“The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed–would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper–the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.”
– George Orwell, 1984

Worship Idea – The Digital Nativity

I don’t speak Portuguese. I don’t think you have to…

[UPDATE!]  It is now the english version!  Thank you so much Tronis!! [/Update]

Fishing Net or Safety Net

I recently blogged concerns about Fresh Expressions moving people from one form of church to another rather than reaching new people.  Share the guide has blogged a brief introduction to a forthcoming grove booklet by Matt Stone asking the question “Are fresh expressions actually being fishing nets and reaching the unchurched, or are they merely safety nets, picking up disenchanted and bored churchgoers?”.  There are some interesting statistics that the study highlights.

Over 87% of those surveyed in every expression, and 100% in three of the expressions, had attended a church before. Hence, they were primarily churched or dechurched, rather than unchurched.

If this is an accurate assessment of Fresh Expressions I have some further questions about the consequences of this. 

  • Is it a problem that Fresh Expressions are reaching the churched or dechurched? 
  • Is this just plugging into the consumerist society in which we are currently living and turning God into a product that we are repackaging?
  • If this is a problem, how can Fresh Expressions more effectively reach the unchurched?

This grove booklet should make some interesting reading.

Mission, Culture and Context

One of the things that is constantly appearing in the UK press is the breakdown of community and a society that is becoming increasingly individualistic and consumerist.  Post enlightenment we have moved from a sense of corporate experiences to an increasingly individualistic experience.  The pre enlightenment communal experiences were usually local and consisted of village life.  People shared experiences through their interpersonal interaction.  Art and music came from within a community and was shared within the community.  With the proliferation of the printing press there became an increasing connection with the national and international experience and yet people were still largely located within their local community and the shared experiences found therein.  In recent decades we have had national corporate experiences such as the music chart and a limited selection of television channels.  The days when everyone would be listening to the same Christmas Number one single across the entire country.  We have now moved into a hi-tech world in which each individual can consume a cultural diet catered to their personal desires. The internet feeds our individual musical tastes and TV has so many channels that even the advert, the champion of consumerism, is suffering death by remote control.

The result is that the common experiences and common cultural references are becoming much fewer and much farther between.  Our sense of connection with others is dwindling.  This is framed within the context of globalisation.  People are striving to connect with others of a like mind via the internet.

I’ll illustrate this change by using a metaphor that many may be familiar with.  Some people used to use the slightly derogatory terms “visible church” and “invisible church” to distinguish between those they perceived to be church attenders and “real” Christians.  To push this, we are now becoming a society that contains a dwindling sense of “visible community” and a fast growing “invisible community” – an unseen collection of virtual communities that reach further than even the participants  may realise. 

As Christians, there are important implications of the changing nature of our communities.  Bevans and Schroeder illustrate this in their book Constants in Context: A Theology of Mission for Today:

As God is present and active in every created particle in the universe, so those who are called to participate in this presence and activity need to recognise their interconnectedness and responsibility for all that exists.

Bevans and Schroeder

God is throughout the whole of creation and as we unite with Him it is important to recognise our reliance upon and part within the whole.  As followers of the way we are called into a pre-existent community with the Godhead.  We express belief in God as trinity, we find a community that Brian McLaren in Generous Orthodoxy describes by saying:

The early church leaders described the Trinity using the term perichoresis (peri-circle resis-dance):  The Trinity was an eternal dance of the Father, Son and Spirit sharing mutual love, honour, happiness, joy and respect… God’s act of creation means that God is inviting more and more beings into the eternal dance of Joy.  Sin means that people are stepping out of the dance… stomping on feet instead of moving with grace, rhythm and reverence.  Then in Jesus, God enters creation to restore the rhythm and beauty again

We are invited.  The dance is taking place and more dancers are required.  We are called to participate with God and participate with each other.  We do not come before God as individuals but as equal partners.  We join in with this dance not with enlightenment phrase “I think therefore I am” but with the African proverb “I am because we are”.

So how does this impact upon our modern communities?  As our tangible, real world communities erode and our corporate lives extend from the front door to the car door, how do we engage with the our role within “all that exists”.  But then as our lives extend increasingly into online communities of like-minded people, how do we ensure that we continue to take part in the dance of the trinity?

I wonder if I should try to claim on my Scotch’s Lifetime Guarantee.