Reforming church, culture and our city

Reforming church, culture and our city

Moving my wordpress blog to …

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Just to let you know that I will be moving my wordpress blog to my own web server at

www.thereformission.net

eugesblog.thereformission.net

looking to hear from you there 🙂

euge

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Written by eugenehor

August 13, 2008 at 3:32 am

Posted in Uncategorized

A Portrait Of Dorian Gray … in each one of us

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The Picture of Dorian Gray is a novel by Oscar Wilde. It’s the story of Dorian Gray, a young man so physically attractive that he draws the attention of an artist who desires to make him the subject of his portrait. He tells Dorian that he’s never seen a face more attractive and pure. And when the painting is finished, as Dorian looks at his portrait, he’s taken in and deceived by the attractiveness and beauty of his own looks. So taken in and so deceived by his external appearance, that he begins to live a life of secret pursuits and self-indulgence. His external appearance remains untainted and pure, hiding a life of wickedness. Even murder leaves his physical appearance untouched. The years of hidden wickedness pass and one day, alone and suspicious, he uncovers the portrait he had kept hidden for so many years. And as he looks upon his portrait, he’s shocked by the ugly and hideous face that he now sees. The portrait now bears the scars of a life of hidden wickedness. Afraid of being found out, he hides the portrait, but his act comes to an end as the artist enters.

Seeing Dorian’s portrait, he realizes what has happened in Dorian’s life. He is overcome with grief and pleads with Dorian to turn his life around and seek God’s forgiveness. “Does it not say somewhere” he pleads, “Come now let us reason together. Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red as crimson, they shall be as white as wool.” But Dorian will not listen and in a fit of rage and anger he silences that voice with a knife. Reaching for the knife once again Dorian decides once and for all to destroy his portrait – removing the only visible sign and evidence of secret life of wickedness. The moment he plunges the knife into his portrait, the portrait returns to its beauty, and a disfigured and unrecognisable Dorian Gray lies stabbed to death on the floor.

The Picture of Dorian Gray you could say is a parable highlighting our problem. Many of us are deceived by our external appearance, that hides a darkness within. On the surface beauty, religion, morality, good works but beneath the surface, a deep seated self-centeredness and independence that has rejected our creator and God. We look alright, but we’re rebels in God’s world, choosing to live our way only for ourselves. Beauty on the outside that hides an ugliness within. And that’s the reason why Jesus died. He died to pay the penalty for our rebellion. He died to take the punishment for our rebellion. He was punished so that we might be forgiven. At the cross a great exchange takes place, where the innocent (Jesus) takes the place of the guilty (you and me) so that we might be right with our creator and God. God made Jesus who had no sin to take our sin for us, so that in him we might be right with God (2 Cor.5:21).

Appearances can be deceiving, and sometimes we deceive ourselves thinking that we’re good people. We think we don’t need God, and we certainly don’t think we need Jesus.  We’re not when you look at what lies within. You and I need Jesus to save us from ourselves and from the judgment we deserve for rejecting our creator and God.

My friend Andrew’s exegesis of “Confucianism” …

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A terrific series of short blogs on understanding confucianism by my friend Andrew. This is a must if you are a leader in the Chinese church or a missionary working in an Asian setting. As an English pastor in a Chinese church, to work missionally means exegeting the culture we are both working with and reaching. The complexity of this in a Chinese church is that we are working with OBC’s (Overseas Born Chinese) while trying to reach ABC’s (Australian Born Chinese). Clash of cultures, values, philosophy of ministry? You can expect it. As Christian leaders in ministry we are to not just teach the gospel; we are to not just guard the gospel; we are to also point out the lies and what is false around us (Titus 1:9) in both OBC and ABC culture.

If you want to better understand the OBC mind and the culture that often implicitly shapes their thinking, have a read of Andrew’s blog on confucianism by clicking here.

You can find Andrew’s regular blogs at Andrew’s Space on my blogroll.

Rethinking the face of the unchurched

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Stetzer in his book on Breaking The Missional Code has some useful thoughts on how we can be thinking missionally in reaching the unchurched. It’s important to realize that our culture and the landscape of our cities have changed. Thinking missionally begins when we ask, ‘What is the profile of the people we are trying to reach?

Firstly, we need to understand who are the unchurched in our city? What do they look like in our city, schools, universities and marketplace?

  • If you’re a worker in the marketplace, what is the face of the unchurched? The same holds true if you’re a student or parent.
  • What are the religious backgrounds of the unchurched around you?
  • What are the questions the unreached around you are asking?
  • How do the unreached around you understand spirituality, God, church?
  • What do unreached around you do in their spare time?

Did you know that in our city, there are 70,000 Hindu’s, 161,000 Muslims, 153,000 Buddhist, 1.2 million Roman Catholics, 600,000 who have no religion, and 428,000 who remain unstated?

Secondly, we need to understand the changing ethnic face of our city. The ethnic diversity of our city now means that there isn’t a homonogeous cultural group across our city. There is no longer one culture in our city, and every culture needs to be exegeted for the gospel. Thinking missionally means:

  1. Understanding people groups we are reaching or might want to reach i.e. the ethic composition of your locality and their movements in our city. The ABS 2006 Census information is a useful resource
  2. Understanding population segments of the people we might want to reach i.e. common experiences that binds people together in our city. E.g. second generation ABC’s, factory workers, restaurant workers, North Shore professionals, victims of crime, single mum’s with young children etc. These are the tribes in our city that we might want to reach or are already reaching through our existing churches.
  3. Understanding cultural environments of the people we might want to reach, because people are not just bound by their language and common experience, but by their geographical environment which often brings them together. E.g. apartments in Balmain housing Sydney university Mandarin students, Korean professional families living in Newington, Sri Lankan’s in Wentworthville etc.

Written by eugenehor

August 2, 2008 at 4:19 pm

5 Books I’m Currently Reading

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Written by eugenehor

August 1, 2008 at 12:10 am

Coffee musings: God & Godlessness …

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Was sitting in a coffee shop at Rhodes on my day off reading Bernard Salt’s The Big Picture: Life, Work and Relationships In The 21st Century. This is definitely a must read for those wanting to reach our city, engage culture and plant churches. Bernard Salt, if you aren’t aware is an Australian economist who advises corporate Australia on consumer, cultural and demographic trends.

One of the things he points out is that Australia is not the god-fearing nation it once was. In the 1901 census, less than 1% of Aussie’s said that they had ‘no religion’. 100 years later that has risen to 18%. I looked up the recent 2006 census at the ABS, which points out that 3,706,550 people said that they had ‘no religion’ out of a total population of 19,855,288. That’s 18.6% of the Australian population who believe in absolutely nothing. The number could be actually be higher given that an additional 2,223,957 people state that they have no religious affiliation, and most people unthinkingly tick the census box that aligns with their childhood religious affiliations. At the very least 30% or one-third of the Australian population have no religion. Personally I believe it’s higher as the vast majority of people who call themselves ‘Christians’ don’t actually belong or go to church on any given Sunday.

Take the Anglican church as an example from the 2001 NCLS survey on church attendance. Only 177,700 (11.7%) of those calling themselves Anglicans in Australia actually attend church on a weekly basis, even though 1,341,103 people called themselves Anglican. In fact, the NCLS survey points out that weekly attendance in 2001 would be about 1,660,000 for Anglican, Catholic and Protestant churches. This equates to 8.8% of a population of 18,769,249. As I have often said, we live in a post-Christian culture.

Bernard raises the question of “what do you think happens when a society moves over 100 years from a position where almost everyone is a ‘believer’ to a position where the majority believe in nothing?” His answer is simple and honest. If the majority of people are no longer convinced of life after death, or if they no longer believe in divine accountability or judgment, they will begin to focus on the present, and live for the here and now. He says that, “the interests – and pleasures – of the individual would rise and replace the interests and well being of the broader community, which he points out has been the story of the second half of the 20th century in Australia. In other words, in our culture there has been a move towards an individualism that doesn’t just focus on the now, but is primarily concerned with our own personal pleasures and comfort, or as Bernard puts it, the flourishing of a culture of ‘high consumerism and self-gratification’.

I love the way he puts it,

“By 1987, Hollywood would deliver unto us a philosopher who encapsulated a bold new way of thinking. The messianic Gordon Gekko was a champion of, rather than an apologist for, a virginally pure and commercial form of hedonism. Gekko’s message was simple, ‘Greed is good.’ In less than a decade, Gekko would send forth four of his finest female New York disciples, to advance the noble cause of wantonness, in Sex and the City. And verily they did gather up the poor, the lonely, the downtrodden, those in desperate need of designer shoes, and offer then hope and a way forward” p.47

Hedonism he points out is the new religion in our cities which places self and lifestyle above everything else. It is living by the mantra that says, ‘if it feels good do it’. And Hedonist seek relief from their inner torment in those dens of self-gratification – our shopping malls, our luxury good stores, our “bulky goods stores, where you can hear wailing and gnashing of teeth, ‘I want that apartment and I want it fully furnished right now.’ And after they are spent, they rest.

Living in post-Christian Sydney, it’s important for us to realize as missionaries in our city, that this is our mission field.

Generation Next …

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Last last week I stumbled upon a useful report titled, “How Young People View Their Lives, Futures and Politics: A PORTRAIT OF “GENERATION NEXT”. Put out by the PEW Research Center for People and the Press last year in the US, I think it’s a must read not just for those of us in Youth ministry, but those of us who pastor churches if we are to be missional in reaching people. While the survey was done in the US, it would be fair to say that youth culture in Sydney is not far behind. Living in post-Christian Sydney (where 4 in every 100 people are Bible believing Christians), unless we understand the tribes we are trying to reach for Jesus, we will not speak their language or or engage them in culturally relevant ways.

Here are some of the report’s finding’s of this particular tribe … ‘Generation Next’. You can download the detailed report by clicking on the link above.

Generation Next is made up of 18-25 year-olds (born between 1981 and 1988).

  • They use technology and the internet to connect with people in new and distinctive ways. Text messaging, instant messaging and email keep them in constant contact with friends. About half say they sent or received a text message over the phone in the past day, approximately double the proportion of those ages 26-40.
  • They are the “Look at Me” generation. Social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and MyYearbook allow individuals to post a personal profile complete with photos and descriptions of interests and hobbies. A majority of Gen Nexters have used one of these social networking sites, and more than four-in-ten have created a personal profile.
  • Their embrace of new technology has made them uniquely aware of its advantages and disadvantages. They are more likely than older adults to say these cyber-tools make it easier for them to make new friends and help them to stay close to old friends and family. But more than eight-in-ten also acknowledge that these tools “make people lazier.
  • They maintain close contact with parents and family. Roughly eight-in-ten say they talked to their parents in the past day. Nearly three-in-four see their parents at least once a week, and half say they see their parents daily. One reason: money. About three-quarters of Gen Nexters say their parents have helped them financially in the past year.
  • One-in-five members of Generation Next say they have no religious affiliation or are atheist or agnostic, nearly double the proportion of young people who said that in the late 1980s. And just 4% of Gen Nexters say people in their generation view becoming more spiritual as their most important goal in life
  • Asked about the life goals of those in their age group, most Gen Nexters say their generation’s top goals are fortune and fame. Roughly eight-in-ten say people in their generation think getting rich is either the most important, or second most important, goal in their lives. About half say that becoming famous also is valued highly by fellow Gen Nexters.

Written by eugenehor

July 28, 2008 at 3:59 am