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Jesus, in the gospels, talks about the fact that people are known by their fruit. I came across on someone’s blog (http://mark-bymaswell.blogspot.com) a graphic that looked like:

Click to view my Personality Profile page

I liked this so much I clicked on the graphic and got my own which you see above.

Now I am not a big fan of personality tests and I am not convinced I am that extraverted, though I do think I am more extraverted than introverted. Yet this one in describing potential jobs (I have done these) and other aspects does for once describe me.

I don’t propose we all know each other by our personality type test results but these do give ourselves a feel for what is happening internally.

Jesus’ command still resonates though. We are to be known by our fruit, what we reproduce and what we give away.

So how do you know people?

The title of today’s post again comes from my wonderful wife.  We had a weekend retreat, 2 days of the Australia day long weekend, and at one point we were on the beach at Mooloolaba and talking.

My wife said something like, this weekend will end up in the blog.  I replied not necessarily.  The next thing we know is a photographer started taking fashion shots of a girl in a bikini right in front of us against the rocks.  I think my super son may have ended up in one of the photos but I am not sure. My wonderful wife said “Now it will” I said I was still not sure.

Our super son kept digging a road and making a city, my wife and I kept talking about life, the universe and everything.  Next thing my wife says, looking over my shoulder is, “Oh dear she’s in the water”.  Referring not to the photographer but the model.  I did not look.

And I thought yes it will end up in the blog now.  And I said “That’s a great title for an entry in the blog”.  So it became one.

We did have a nice weekend away and came back to some cleaning up around the house.

I said to someone this week a friend used to say it is always easier to turn a moving ship and we have seen that this week.  Things we thought were going in one direction have moved in another.  I feel like saying we are a boat and “Oh dear she’s in the water” but that may be stretching the analogy too far.

So what did you do for the Australia Day weekend?

It has been said that a sign of an open mind is being convinced you are wrong.

Over Christmas I met someone from what is best described as a multi-site church.  I respect the church and its pastor who I met once and then exchanged  emails with.  I expressed a concern that I am not convinced multi-site churches are a good idea.

I am still not convinced they should be planned for.  Remembering history however reminded me I am wrong to expect these not to happen, we just are used to them being called something else.  The something else is the change of title of the Senior Pastor or Minister or Reverend to Bishop.  In history we have had popular bishops, one of the most famous is Ambrose of Milan.  He was elected by the leaders of the day, both clergy and governmental and the people.

I am wondering if this is much different from some of the “New Apostolic” leadership we are seeing in some charismatic and Pentecostal circles.  Some people are pastors of thriving churches and others want this person as their bishop.  It does not mean they hear the bishop preach every week but they do hear him regularly as a form of unity.

For those who think this sounds a bit like the Anglican Church or even the Roman Catholic Church you are probably right.  What we often think about these churches is their abuses and deficiencies not why they came about in the first place and what was valued.  Someone else who seems to think that the “New Apostolic” is the “New Episcopal” is Mathew Clark.  A couple of his articles can be found here and here.  Every so often I think the Pentecostal church is repeating everything the early church did as well just in a faster manner.

So what about the self-confessed apostles?  I think they need to stop believing their own press. Yet there are other pastors who end up growing a congregation that is too big for a single service and a single location and ends up becoming a multi-site church.  This still means there needs to be good, or more likely for a larger church excellent pastoral care, at the local level but it is not the bishop who will visit you in hospital but a local leader.

I am willing to admit I get things wrong.  What keeps you humble?

It looks like this will be a week of confessions. Today and tomorrow reflects areas of my thinking where I have changed my mind, at least to a certain point.

When I was at Fuller Seminary one of the earliest pieces of writing by Robert Banks that I read was on TEE, Theological Education by Extension. The basic idea was that it is better to put the theological training where the people are rather than uproot them, move them and have them go back.

Recently I have been thinking about online theological education as part of a paper I am writing and I have been trying to decide if it is truly communal. I was leaning towards the no until I remembered the aforementioned paper.

So I am thinking if the person at the other end has a good community around them plus good communication online then there is a good chance that this form of distance education is a new form of TEE and all the benefits of Banks’ work applies. At the same time there is a chance this does not happen. The community at the other end of the educational institution may not want to be questioned. The community may not be supportive enough or able to deal with new knowledge quickly. This does not mean that the ideal is non-communal or a failure but there needs to be equipping and preparation of the outcomes of the education. Just like missionaries are debriefed so should theological students be warned of the implications this may have with their peers, sub and super-ordinates.

So you are at the end of a computer, do you have a community?

Janet Evanovich’s Plum Lucky is another “between-the-numbers” book in the Stephanie Plum series. Before you stop reading these comments be aware they will not end up where you think.

The “between-the-numbers” books seemed to have started out as a publisher’s idea of generating extra revenue and indulging stories that are a little on the sillier side. So far we have had Santa Claus, Cupid and Leprechaun look-alikes appear in the three books.

Now I am not protesting the silly use of these characters. They are grounded in reality, somewhat, so I am not real upset with the clash of genres. What I am more concerned with is the world the modern detective style novel is set.

I believe it was Eugene Peterson who commented that many pastors read detective fiction because in a world of greys it is nice to have black and whites like good guys and bad guys. And then at the end of the day for the bad guys to get caught and the good guys to win. I am starting to get concerned that many pastors are going to read detective novels of this sort. The reason is that more and more “detective” novels are focussing on the marginalised of society. What I am thinking of is the characters who are taking drugs, laundering money, visiting prostitutes or even being one. I have no question that these people exist. I lived long enough in New York to meet some. What I am concerned with is thinking these are all the problems of life and that these are the norm.

You see how long does it take a young man reading novels about prostitutes (see Tara Moss’s Fetish for example) make him think this is acceptable practice? In Evanovich’s novel Lula, a regular character, is a former prostitute. In the later books there is no mention that she was very abused at the end of the first book. She is just made out to be a fun character with a very poor dress sense. In setting these novels in the “real world” the normal world is changed.

Two different blogs I read have recently posted about meeting people’s needs where they are. This is not usually detectives but housewives (see Simon Holt Carey’s blog) and businesspeople (see Richard Mouw’s blog). We need to give answers to hurting people as well as the marginalised. We need to see the world we live in as needy and needing the light and salt of Christ whether this is city, suburbs, “normal people” or the marginalised.

I think Plum Lucky is a fun read. It is fluff and it is meant to be. Yet for once this piece of fluff has tickled my nose of discontent and made me think of far more than I expected.

One of the most famous maxims on leadership at the current time is from John Maxwell, “Leadership is influence”.

This has led many churches to decide that their mission is to influence the world. This idea is starting to come under alot of attack by those who are re-reading the Bible and thinking about these issues.  People such as Alan Hirsch, Greg Boyd and others are recognising we are at the end of the Constantinian or Christendom era and need to go back to the mindset of the early church for reaching out to people.

I don’t want to consider the issue today of emerging and missional church, see yesterday’s posted videos for great insights.  “Would Jesus on a bad day say, ‘What would I do?'” and the fact that we don’t do these things to be hip were lines that I loved.  I want to consider the passage of John where Jesus says “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:35).

It seems to me that if we want influence we need to first have love.  Jesus disciples were not to be known by arguments where in the Messianic kingdom they would sit but by the fact that they loved one another.  This is a bit of a radical idea.  We remember the disciples for their faults or triumphs not their love.  We remember Peter who sank and denied his Lord, not the Peter who was restored. We remember Peter who preached and saw thousands saved but not the Peter that ends up in jail with John.  We are reminded at this point the disciples don’t blame each other.  If it was me I could imagine Peter and John saying, “If only you hadn’t gone over to heal that guy” and “If only you listened more closely to our Lord”.  Peter and John end up singing in jail together.  That is a mutual love which we rarely see.  Discipleship is not about doing it alone but, in love, with others.

I am not saying this is easy, sometimes it is very hard but if we really want influence then we must have love first.  So what ways does love lead to influence?  I’ll let you answer that.

The worst trouble in surfing the net is I find things to buy. At least the DVD set from IdeaRipple is affordable.

Get a preview here:

So am I the only person interested in the emerging church movement with hair?   It sure feels it when I see something like that 🙂

Online Learning and Teaching in Higher Education by Bach, Haynes and Smith was an interesting read for me. The reason for this was it reinforced my own biases on the issue.

This reinforcment is best demonstrated in one of the tables (2.1 p. 34) in book describes simple to complex uses of virtual learning environments. The simple end of the spectrum is ideas such as “A quick and easy way to use the web to distribute course materials and carry out course administration” and “A means of communication between students, tutors and outside contributors.” At the complex end there is the idea of “A platform for collaborative student projects” and “Delivery of complete online courses with fully integrated activities”.

I like this taxonomy which I had in some form in my own head already. You see when you have a background in computing and move to higher education there are impulses to use technology to fix everything. The problem is that technology introduces new issues. See the writings of Jacques Ellul on technique/technology if you want to be convinced.

The rest of the book is helping people to consider what changes are really needed if the subject being taught has a certain elements like lectures, tutorials or other teaching strategies to make them work in an online environment. These changes include deciding on a useful computing environment, design a useful look and feel and the actual changes required.

For those unfamiliar with this field this is a great introductory book from an education and information view. For those familiar with the field the last two chapters are the most helpful. What I took away from these was unfortunately something not expected – this is a lot of hard work. To make these changes properly requires more time and effort than my current workload allows. Institutional commitment to embracing all these changes is always another factor. While we have had incremental changes while I have been here the longer term issues are still to be decided. Multiple schools with multiple ways of doing things makes it more of a challenge.

Overall look at this book if you are deciding to explore the issues of online learning.

My super son sometime this week said “I don’t like my daddy” in a pique of temper because I was disagreeing with him.  His amazing mother who was in the room at the time said “Well I do like him and we are keeping him.”  It is always nice to know you are loved. 🙂

Last week I finished off Charles Stross Singularity Sky.  Some people see this book as a farce others as amazing science fiction.  I have no doubt in my mind that Stross actually meant it as a little of both.

To set the scene.  Imagine if Tsarist Russia of 1905 had the Edinburgh Festival of 2005, say, suddenly arrive in town.  Complete with mobile phones and an audience with a desire to be entertained.  The major “science-fiction” enemy is the alien force called the Festival which like its namesake also has Critics, a Fringe, Bouncers and Mimes.  I think it was this re-use of familiar ideas to theatre as enemies that made the book for me.  It was a dig at Festivals and all the attendant issues they bring as if Stross had seen the impact and was not happy with it.

At the same time it is a fun story of cross and double cross, of no one quite like they seem, sometime due to incidents forcing them to be someone else when things go out of control.  A bit like yesterdays post.  Confusion can reign.

I read the book because one of its sequels was getting good press and my library had this one.  Some other books I want the library does not have and I consider that rare given the generally high number of books I find in Brisbane City Council’s library.

So yes the secret is out.  My budget is not high I have a good library.

So what are you reading this week?

Ok, a quick confession, once I knew what I was writing I could not resist the idea of adding multiple question marks at the end of title.

Many years ago friends of mine moved church under somewhat painful circumstances as they had been on staff and then weren’t.  I met up with them a year or so later and they seemed in someway to be missing the mark and really confused about priorities.  A couple of years later when a mutual friend had some celebration, I think it was a marriage, they seemed back on track and talking about God, Jesus and church again.  I remember making the comment at the time that I had never seen such a spirit of confusion on people before.

Now I don’t usually go to the spooky extremities of Pentecostalism to explain what I see even though I have experienced some of them.  This was one of the exceptions to the rule.

At the same time I must now consider the issue of what happens when multiple choices confront someone and it is not yet clear what is the will of God?   Many years ago I felt I had five choices to decide between before the year was out and God would show me which one.  As it turned out I had been warned my job of that time would end due to problems with unions amongst other issue.  I interviewed locally and with someone overseas and eventually took the overseas position.  At the time it was all very confusing.

Theologically how do we process a number of things coming together at once and confusing us?  One answer is to argue for the sovereignty of God which is what I am inclined to but that implies God “brings” confusion.  Another is synchronicity especially as posited by Jung whereby these things are coincidental but come together at once.  Another is that in some way by having these things come together we are made more mature, like suffering.  Another is the idea that life is hard and we must sometimes make decisions without hearing a clear voice from God.  I always attribute this view of maturity to Philip Yancey but I think the idea pre-dates him.  Finally our own finitude must be accepted as part of the problem.

If I think about it how about a footprints type time when God carries us?  The storms we face metaphorically, are stilled by Jesus.  Yet these are always easier to deal with after the fact.  What do we do in the midst of a situation when we seem to have a Spirit of confusion as there are so many options?

As you can guess I’d like to say I have an answer but I am not sure I do.  In the end my friends came out of it.  For others I  know, I suspect they are still in the midst of it. One answer which is easy is to say “be patient” but this is not very pastoral or helpful to the hearer who wants an answer now.  Yet maybe in all these confusing situations God is teaching us patience to, dare I say it, bless us in the future both with patience and with renewed trust and hope.

So how does God teach you patience?