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I spend my days doing stuff for Soul Survivor NZ and my church "Blueprint" in Wellington NZ. I am perplexed, amazed, in awe of, and spend a lot of time thinking about this revolutionary called Jesus and what it means to follow Him.

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We act least like a Christian in Church (post two)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007 by Sam

I want to be quite careful about how I say this, especially after reading this from Scott McKnight the living legend, and this from Scottie - a legend because his bowels are so nasty his odour can clear a room of hardened men. It burns the back of the throat and makes the eyes water.

Now, it is a bit frustrating because I would love to have a good story about how I grew up. But I have had a pretty good Christian up-bringing, and have done all the things a good Christian kid should do. The camps, leading worship at church, degree from Bible College, tours with bands etc etc etc. And yet I have had a major (underline freaken MAJOR) re-adjustment about how it looks to follow the person of Jesus, and what it looks like to be living a life for Him which cemented itself about four years ago.

Ask me when I was 17 about the poster (found in a Christian mag with a huge circulation here in NZ, in the Soul Survivor UK festival booklet etc) below and I would have said, "yep that looks right, I hope one day i can have a life of significance like that guy".
Now I think that it is absolute rubbish.... this is NOT significance, and in no way is the destination I believe Jesus had in mind for us as I see it in the Gospels.

And so the re-adjustment in my worldview hits as I start doing youth-work, and it looks nothing like the picture. Its hard work, often boring, demanding, it doesn't feel "significant" like that stupid poster. As I start seeing with fresh eyes the needs in the kids around me, and the poverty in the world and as I start sharing life with people who are incredibly broken and messed up, as I start becoming aware of how much junk I actually have in spite of my nice upbringing something starts happening. I somehow wind up more transformed than the people I'm doing it for...

Without getting overly critical at some groups, I think we need to encourage and foster way more honesty in the pursuit of Jesus. I didn't feel like I could be honest as a kid at camps when I didn't feel super spiritual but everyone around me looked like they were (so sadly i faked it!!). I struggled when my rock-star dreams came crashing around me because I thought that it was significance and that in certain bands I was actually "somebody". I have discovered the hard way that speaking in front of groups is pretty empty. That my identity is not wrapped up in this stuff, and that it doesn't make me a better christian.

But the problem is that I'm still seeing young people get drawn in to a whole lot of empty Christian fluff. Our principle outward energy seems to be big meetings and crusade-like events. I'm still seeing huge amounts of young people (when we have the honest chats) dreaming about being a worship leader, speaker or in a band... basically that they will be significant following Jesus when they get to the front, when they are on stage. I could tell you story after story of young people I have sat down with who feel like utter failures because they don't feel "significant" like the conferences model "significance" to look like.

I would argue that we are dreaming the wrong dreams, and actually modelling a whole lot of stuff that looks very different to what we see in the person of Jesus. My experience is that the buzz of serving and living for others day by day does not even come close to the buzz of the high at camp or at the meeting. The mystery of "dying to self" which is painful and does not happen without a fight, but mysteriously "coming alive in Christ" couldn't be more true in my experience. But it has required huge amounts of courage to own my doubts, to give God my questions (which have increased not decreased over the years), to own my junk, to feel the freedom to question models that appear to be accepted as the "norm" in the Christian world.

And so am starting to realise that where we put our energy, time, money, how we go about our "normal" week is actually way more important than how we behave in the meeting.

To be very honest I'm angry. Angry that so many young people are missing out on the honest conversations about following Jesus; the conversations around faithfulness, around serving others, especially the poor, about the hard times, and the many moments of failure. I'm angry because I'm having so many conversations with kids disillusioned and munted because they couldn't keep the "happy christian" facade going any longer.

I think this quote by G. K. Chesterton nails it "its not the Christianity has being tried and failed. Its that it has never really being tried" (doesn't the guy just look like the sort that would be fun to have a good beer and a chat with?)

I long for the yarns of grace, of freedom, of hope, of real "significance" living for others, and serving even when we are not acknowledged by the crowd. And I have a suspicion that a mini-reformation is taking place, but it is requiring courage to talk honestly about what it looks like to follow Jesus, to be honest about the models around us that we feel uneasy about, and to be able wrestle with big questions even though it feels uncomfortable and we cannot come to conclusions quickly.

I am very amped about the future, because the revolution has begun, and many people are moving beyond the discouragement and frustration, and putting that energy into new ways of expressing "significance".

Got to run...

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Random Theory

Monday, February 26, 2007 by Sam

Im sitting at BCNZ up in Auckland... and its hot. I was in Taruanga in the weekend; it was hot. And so here is my genuis thought. Let move the summer holidays to the end of Febuary.

That is all (post two about acting like a christian on its way)


We act least like a Christian in Church (Post One)

Tuesday, February 20, 2007 by Sam

Saturday Night saw my mate Darryl give yet another brilliant yarn to the folks at Blueprint Church. I'm gonna give you his first point (with some sam harvey embellishments) mainly because the second point was really good but I cant remeber it that well, didnt really take any notes on it. Something about changing the way we view ourselves or something fluffy along those lines.

Anyway after thinking about it, what was so good about the talk was that it wasn't a "lets get sorted so God can maybe use us" talk, it wasn't a "You are going to change the world" talk, it was a couple of practical things that we should be doing if we profess to follow Jesus. Its so refreshing to hear stuff that we should and can easily do.

Point one: We should all be involved in helping the poor on three levels.
  • Sponsor a child. All of us should be doing this even though we are distant from the person and they are often just a picture on the fridge.
  • Connect ourselves (via a trip to a 2/3rds world country) so that these people suffering move from pictures to a reality in our life. That we would know someone who is living in poverty overseas. I know this is a strong view, but my perspective is that every single person who follows Jesus should go as least once in their life to spend time with the poor. I spent three years in South America as my parents served as missionaries and it has so profoundly changed my world-view it cannot be overstated. We spend huge amounts of money on study, cars, rent, christian confrences. We will be more transformed than all of this stuff combined, and we can all afford it if push came to shove.
  • Connect in NZ to the poor. Darryl mentioned some of the needs here in NZ that we should all be a part of (as he ranted about here)
As he was talking I wrote down the words "we actually act least like a Christian in church".

Following Jesus looks like hanging out with the un-popular kid at school. Following Jesus looks like giving our time and money to those that struggle physically, emotionally etc. Following Jesus is looking at creative ways of blessing people with no strings attached (click here for a great yarn along those lines). Following Jesus looks like the struggle in the secret place not to sin. Following Jesus is hurting and being confused by circumstances and situations that are not right in the world. Following Jesus is being angry about injustice, and giving yourself to make a difference even if it feels small. Following Jesus is sharing life with those that are on the fringes and looked down upon in our culture, with those that are hurting (which is why my friend Stu's latest post blows me away).
Following Jesus is plodding along doing normal life in an abnormal way. You can continue the list yourself this definitely isnt the extensive list : )

All of a sudden it seems that our church gathering (while freaken awesome times and really important) is not just what it looks like to be a Christian.

But where does most of our energy go? If "the medium is the message" then what are communicating?
I for one have had a really huge adjustment about what it looks like to follow Jesus in the last 6 years, and yet have grown up in a healthy Christian family, with part of that time overseas living amongst the poor, being to all the camps and events one goes to, studied at Bible College for three years. And with all this Christian input I still had a really imbalanced idea about what it looked like to follow Jesus.

To be continued...

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As Promised

Saturday, February 17, 2007 by Sam

Firstly thanks for Chez for his post, my apologies for not allowing comments... that was indeed a bit cheeky but I appreciate his honesty. Both Chez and Phil have posts in relation to the one I posted, and you can comment there.

As promised last in my talk at blueprint and again in feilding last night, here is the talk by S.M. Lockridge that I quoted. I want to be a black preacher...

This will be a bit strong for some of my mates that read this who don't quite have the same world view as me when it comes to the person of Jesus, but you have put up with me ranting on for so long now I figure you can let this one slide (yet again).
Coming on the heals of my post on homosexuality it feels a bit American fundamentalist for my liking, but as this guy explains something of the character of God I would want to highlight the words "His mercy is everlasting....His love never changes....His word is enough....His grace is sufficient.... His yoke is easy, and his burden is light".
We Christians have a reputation for being very judgemental, what I see in the person of Jesus is extraordinary grace to those who are hurting, and for those that are on the fringes. I for one am still struggling to believe that this grace could be for someone like me... but im getting there slowly. That's my King.
May we one day have a reputation as people of unconditional love and reckless grace.

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Contrary to popular belief...

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 by Sam

Yesterday I brought a little TV to complete my bachelor pad (and to probably make it more difficult to actually "recharge" on my day off as I blogged about here). I caught a bit of the late-night news, a piece on the homosexual community leaving the church "in droves". The video of the piece can be seen here. And while the media are obviously out to stir things up and make a good story, it is still tragic that this is our reputation.
It would be great to sit here all day and really analyse the news clip (the destiny march, the comments of stuart lange who is a person I enormously respect and enjoyed the lectures of at BCNZ etc), but I can only procrastinate from writing a talk for so long... I will save that for a good coffee with those that want to yarn about it. Although I would be interested in Chez's reaction as I believe (I could be wrong) that we hold somewhat different views on this issue.

What really rips my guts out is that we (if we go to a Christian church we are sadly lumped in) have brilliantly managed to alienate, and I would argue, really hurt a community in our society that should know more than anyone that we stand for grace, love, acceptance etc. We have missed out on our churches being hugely enriched by the homosexual community. Somehow we have made this a great big naughty sin, and forgotten about the greed, the judgmentalism, the superior moral attitude's rampant in Christian culture that I suspect from the gospels would have really got Jesus mad. It seems ludicrous that we welcome those that struggle with lust, that are divorced, and get all agitated by this issue.
Im picking Jesus would be saying these days (as these great ideas suggest) "Contrary to popular belief I don't hate anyone who's gay"

The reality is that this is a complex issue, and a very divisive one in our churches at the moment. More than ever we need good voices to help us guide this discussion.

A great resource that I have found very helpful is this transcript of a talk between Tony, and his wife Peggy Campolo. Both hold very different views on the topic, but provide a great dialogue and perspective that I think is so healthy and important for those of us that follow Jesus. And a good read for those who wonder if all Christians are anti-gay. That is certainly not my angle, or that of many of my peers.
Another brilliant resource is this essay (the link downloads the pdf straight away) by my good friend Stu McGregor. In his words its an essay "that takes us through a survey of the Biblical, biological, psychological and philosophical debates. It’s conclusion may be controversial, but I think it was hard earned". One of the more intelligent people I know, I envy Stu and his ability to be so articulate and well thought out - if people want a super deep theological discussion on a blog, I am wrong person. Stu on the other hand is the one.

Comments are closed on this one because I dont want to turn it into a big freaken bun fight. They are closed to remind us that while it is a very important issue that needs to be thought out from a christian view point, we need to keep it in perspective with all that Jesus said (and in this case didnt say). And finally because I really don't want to put hours into replying to comments if the world discovers this and gets all angry.
If you strongly disagree or have something to say, blog about it : )
If you really really don't like what I have written (or really really do) you can email me at sam at soulsurvivor dot co dot nz

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Sunday, February 11, 2007 by Sam

Who hasn't fallen in love with youtube, and wasted a few hours looking at silly videos. Amongst all the rubbish there are some real gems. Check out this one, cant remember who to hat tip, but its one of the quater million people that have already looked at it!


Cool stuff going on

Wednesday, February 07, 2007 by Sam

Like many of us I suspect, I am prone to a bit of discouragement from time to time. The needs of the world around us, the hurt that friends are experiencing, the "constructive criticism" from mates that doesn't feel very constructive, the hurt in my own life starts to build up sometimes to silly levels. I was reminded again today that there are more people in slavery than at any other time in history... I dont know about you, but it feels like there is just so much to do, and that the efforts of those giving themselves to trying to make a difference are drowned in the apathy and selfishness of the world in which we live, not to mention the battle with my own selfish living, my self centerdness etc etc.

And yet we are called to be faithful, in some ways to plod along trying to do our bit. And in truth we see these little glimpses of God's Kingdom here on earth, with little initiatives around the place, and the right conversations beginning to happen. And so here are a few encouraging places that I found positive in the last week...

Debs, one of my hero's (who I have yet to have a decent yarn with, but is someone I respect off the charts) with this great initiative from some of the blueprint ladies. I would encourage you to give to this as generously as you can.

Stu with a great post that deeply moved me, and I think nails it completely. In particular the statement hit home;
Following Jesus will have no value until allow yourself to be overwhelmed by a radical love for yourself, that wrestles with addictions, selfishness, reactions and has an accurate understanding about why you do things you do, doesn’t settle for ‘well this is just who I am’ when it’s not who Christ asks you to be, someone who is transparent and broken, and strong in the spirit, not power hungry or glory hungry but actually content with who you are because God is doing great work inside you

My mate Will has just starting teaching barrista skills to unemployed kids, which is taking off. I am hugely proud of him.

Im stoked about the work of Amnesty International, the foodbanks in many churches including my own, the work of youth workers, social workers, people everywhere who make decisions every week to do something for those hurting, on the fringes, who spend time and money trying to make a difference even when it costs, even when it hurts.

Here are some pics and a letter that were in the local media that were of huge encouragement to me from the Soul Survivor festival. You gotta read the letter! This afternoon of serving the local community was organised by Rebbecca of SSNZ and the local fielding churches.

Some great photos from the festival can be found here if you were not there.

And another article about the event can be found here...

Be great to see these sorts of stories of people trying to make a diffrence amplified, so that more and more people give themselves to serving others... if you have any more yarns that are lurking around then I would love to know.

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Go the commies

Friday, February 02, 2007 by Sam

Tony Campolo wrote a book called "we have met the enemy and they are partly right". In it he looks at other ideologies and pulls out what followers of Jesus need to learn from these worldviews. I recently stumbled across a letter on an old article written by Keith Green that was written by an American Student breaking off his engagement to his fiancee after converting to communism. I love the tone of the letter, and want to have the same passion for cause and teaching of Jesus that this young guy had for communism. There is a lot we could learn from this dude...

"We Communists have a high casualty rate. We're the ones who get slandered and ridiculed and fired from our jobs and in every other way made as uncomfortable as possible. A certain percentage of us get killed or imprisoned. We live in virtual poverty. We turn back to the Party every penny we make above what is absolutely necessary to keep us alive. We Communists don't have time or the money for many movies or concerts or T-bone steaks or decent homes and new cars. We've been described as fanatics. We are fanatics! Our lives are dominated by one great overshadowing factor - the struggle for World Communism.

"We Communists have a philosophy of life which no amount of money could buy. We have a cause to fight for, a definite purpose in life. We subordinate our petty, personal selves into a great movement of humanity. And if our personal lives seem hard or our egos appear to suffer through subordination to the Party, then we are adequately compensated by the fact that each of us in his small way is contributing to something new and true and better for mankind. The Communist cause is my life, my business, my religion, my hobby, my sweetheart, my wife and mistress, my bread and meat. I work at it in the daytime and dream of it at night. Its hold on me grows, not lessens, as time goes on. Therefore, I cannot carry on a friendship, a love affair, or even a conversation without relating it to this force which both guides and drives my life. I evaluate people, books, ideas, and actions according to how they affect the Communist cause and by their attitude toward it. I've already been in jail because of my ideas, and if necessary, I'm ready to go before a firing squad."

I love the passion, the emotion, and the reckless flavour of this letter, and it reminds me of those first times when you knew Jesus was real, where I was blown away by the holiness of this God. I really want (and feel like we are slowly getting back to some degree of "first love" in recent weeks) that totally crazy sense "living like a dead man" with a life totally given to the cause and person of Jesus.
On top of this, I would argue that the early church looks like Communism functioning pretty well, with "no one having need", and the sharing of possessions amongst the community, anyway it looks pretty similar to my un-trained eye (see Acts 2 vs 42 - 47).
Inspiring and challenging stuff

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