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This week I was asked in my Homiletics class about the role of preaching in a missional church environment after someone else had spoken on a Reformed view of preaching in church.  This was a good question.  Recently we were at a restaurant we like, Captain Americas, and found out a while back they had 9 stores, now there are 1.

These two ideas are connected as I answered from last weeks blog.  We are in a time of transition that the attractional church is picking up those non-churched who have an idea of church from their living in Christendom while the missional church is picking up other non-believers.  I said to the class the period of time this transition may last is 200 hundred years.  This was a figure plucked from the air but it does reflect my thinking that this transition is not necessarily a short period.

Now can you imagine a time when there are no McDonald’s restaurants or whatever is your favourite fast food chain?  There was a time when no kid knew who Ronald McDonald was as he did not exist.  I can imagine a time when parts of the fast food industry goes the way of food cooked on an open-fire spit eaten with your own knife at barbarian long tables.  Things change, they sure have for Captain Americas.

I think it will be the same for the form of the church.  The form of the church we are familiar with, the attractional model, will disappear over a period of time but not overnight.  There was a time when you invited people to church because they had expressed a desire to fellowship with Christ, not because they wanted to hear a good sermon and make a commitment.  I think this time will come again.

On occasion I have described this as a move from large churches to niche churches.  I heard someone who did not like the idea talk about it as “But everyone still shops at <insert name of large department store> rather than going to a niche boutique.  Niche boutiques have more troubles surviving.”  This is true to a point but niche stores still survive and some of the big chains, like Starbucks this week, do sometimes close their doors in light of pressure from the niche or better established market.

Now in the end I do not thinking marketing metaphors are good description of church but I do recognise that change is in the air.

So what do you think is the lifetime of the attractional church?


I have just come across someone whose work I have not been exposed to.  I feel I must now share the two great insights that Taylor Mali has shown me and that I will share with students in the future:

1) The the Impotence of Proofreading

2) Like You Know (about uptalking and speaking with authority)

Well the weather today was warmer so I rode my bike.  Instead of it being around 2.4° it was 3.7° so I put on my big coat, scarf and somehow made it to work successfully.

The coat has a long history – I bought it at a London Fog outlet in California as I was moving to New York.  A few years later as a gift I bought my then fiancee, now wonderful wife, a coat from the same store too.  The coat is one of my most travelled possessions, it has been to New York, London, Edinburgh, Berlin, Rome, Sydney, Melbourne, Durham, York, Oxford, Dubbo, Bathurst as well as numerous airmiles in between.

Someone then asked me this morning did I have the whole cape thing going on?  Funnily enough I had been thinking of seing people ride around Oxford with this effect.  I had mine tied too tightly for that effect.

Now it may seem that I hate winter from these sort of comments about big coats and being tied tightly.  The reality is I actually like winter as long as I am warm.  I remember in New York on winter Saturdays my routine was to go to the subway, get a train to the library, walk a couple of blocks around my favourite stores and then come back to my warm home.  Being out too long with no purpose never filled me with joy.  I never missed church due to the weather just possibly bad health.

The other thing that makes me love winter and I remember it again this morning, soon it will be spring and new life will start appearing and this is something we all appreciate.

This semester I am anchoring a class in Homiletics.  I am looking forward to the class as a whole though some topics are very much out of my depth of experience, thankfully I have a battery of good visiting lecturers to help.

One question I want to raise in class is what topics can you not preach on, particularly biblically?  So far we have had one suggestions – clowns.  And saying “the joy of the Lord is my strength” I don’t think will make that topic come alive.

I have thought of areas such as depression, alcohol abuse, incest, romance, lying, loyalty, lust and many easier topics to have biblical texts to preach from.  One I have got stuck on is drug abuse – I can not think of a biblical reference about this – though there is the issue of the use of “pharmaceuticals” as the word in the greek would be today.

Now I next think what it would mean to preach on these in a way that is biblical and still provides a vision of God’s Kingdom that does not condemn nor condone sin but looks to the Spirit to convict of sin and for people to have the freedom to repent or ask for healing as necessary.  This makes the preaching task not a simple find a text and preach it but to move between two worlds as is the title of John Stott’s classic work on preaching.

I have had students ask me in the past if I am a geek, or worst the biggest geek at my institution.  While the answer is always sort of, I was not the biggest geek in my last institution.

Today I feel particularly geeky as I am excited I have found 2 new websites about online education (DEANZ and WikiEducator) and a free book (Terry Anderson’s Theory and Practice of Online Learning).

Now if I just have time to read them …

This is a review of the last chapter of Creating Significant Learning Experiences.  The chapter serves multiple purposes, first it reminds us of why we teach, second what does it mean to learn and how people learn and finally the issue of changes in teaching to help learning.

Here Fink returns to some classic thinking of Parker Palmer from To Know As We Are Known: Education as a Spiritual Journey and The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life.  The second of these is still on my list to read.    And looking at some more of Parker Palmer’s work there will be others.

Back to Fink however.  Fink’s desire is to find a new metaphor for teaching and uses the idea of a helmsperson who directs the ship based on the level of the crew.  Sometimes the sailing might be slow other times it may be quick.  This depends on the crew and the terrain.

I think this relates well back to the issue of teaching and discipleship.  I do not believe there should be a difference philosophically between the two.  The process of significant discipleship means that a discipler needs to understand where a disciple is at and steer them forward, similarly for education.  The role of helmsperson does seem appropriate for both.

In the end I heartily recommend this book and will start next week to digest Bain’s What the Best College Teacher’s Do.

To celebrate my wonderful wife’s birthday we decided to visit the Mornington Penisula for the weekend.  This does not appear to have been a good idea.  We now all have coughs, colds or still feel cold as we froze.  Our accommodation while ok was not brilliant and was cold.  The water was so cold when my super son put his feet in the water he screamed.  Looks like from now on sanity breaks will be in Queensland or NSW.

The good stuff was an expensive trip to Mornington Penisula Chocolates and seeing Sorrento.  It is a nice area but in future we will do day trips not breaks.  The countryside is gorgeous and Cape Schanck is a great area to walk around.

If only we had been able to find better gluten free food it might have been ok but in the end this was more insanity than sanity for us.

This is from Tall Skinny Kiwi about Australian work practices.  🙂 Where are you in the crowd?

Last night after a great class I finished Neal Asher’s Brass Man.  I enjoyed it as a read and while one part of the conclusion was expected the rest was a great surprise and a great read.  If you enjoy, slightly gory, but thinking Science Fiction I heartily recommend this series.

Today however is Friday and this morning, our thermometer, which was a gift for my wonderful wife last week said it was 2.3° outside.  It was very cold.  This was even more obvious with the frost outside and the frozen rubbish bin.

With one thing and another I ended up taking my super son to kinder.  When we arrived there I noticed a film van.  Now having lived in New York and seen filming, even the filming of the shocking Godzilla, I am not too phased by such a thing.  I look to see if someone famous is there that I might know by sight but I just kept on driving.

After leaving my super son at his kinder I walked back to my car.  I had to wait, and wait as one person in a car stopped in the middle, looked at the filming, stayed stopped and then realised they were stopping me getting to my car.  They then pulled up and got out to let one or two kids out to kinder.

I got really frustrated.  I was thinking to myself.  Irresponsible person, kids are important, no rubber necking.  But in the end I thought – hey its Friday and tonight we are finishing off the celebration of my wifes birthday so I have good things to enjoy.

So whether you are frozen, frustrated or involved in filming today have a great weekend.

I have been reading David Fitch’s The Great Giveaway and a few blogs about the emerging church.  This particular post of David’s really got me thinking.

I have been trying to process the comment that David makes that attractional churches have a role to attract those who are still in Christendom.  In the end my thinking now comes down to the following diagram:

What this is trying to say is that there was a time when the church just was missional.  It moved through a transition to what I would consider we think of as “traditional” –  church where the thinking of many is to be there for the state and/or the congregation.  Some traditional churches, and this includes some Pentecostal churches, then moved to an attractional model whilst not changing much.  Other churches started and were never “traditional” even though they have their own traditions, they were attractional from the beginning .  Some churches though have also thought to move/return to a missional model.

I think we are in a transitional time.  We are not quite at the end of Christendom as the diagram indicates that there is a point where we are in Christendom and then we are in post-Christendom.  I think this is a inaccurate portrayal of a transition transition and thus in the time we are in we need both the attractional and missional churches.

So what sort of church do you think we need to be?


David Morgan, lecturer, theologian, husband, father and blogger.
July 2008
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