The first cycle of Open Book for 2015 is largely done and dusted. For those who have journeyed with us, it’s been a rich time of reading James Smith’s book, Desiring the Kingdom.  Together we’ve explored how to leverage our everyday habits to align with and experience the reign of God. Through the combination of rich liturgy (Taize songs, Northumbrian prayers, creative Bible reading), open discussion, reflection on art, and the designing of rich practices, we’ve each been in the process of forming a new habit that helps us follow Christ in the fullness of life he offers. We have two sessions (June 4 & 18) before we take a month-long break.

In our second cycle for 2015 (starting July 23) we get down to brass tacks.
Here’s our big question:

How can I seek first the kingdom
through my everyday vocation?

We’re talking about vocation. Whatever you do with the majority of your time can become a vocation, situated within your call to follow Christ.

kingdom-calling-coverThe book is Amy Sherman’s Kingdom Calling: Vocational Stewardship for the Common Good. It’s far more practical than Smith’s book, which is good news if that was a hard slog for you! Her companion web-site here gives you a feel for its scope. Whether you’re a business person, a bar tender, a builder, a teacher, or an artist; whether you’re a student, a retiree, a mum, or looking for work, there’s lots of great stuff here to discuss. … How do you restrain sin and promote shalom in your everyday “work”?  What does it mean to be a “righteous” person who works for the common good?

Check the calendar at the bottom of the page for key dates, and pdf links to carry you through until you get your own copy of the book (presently $10 on kindle!). Also, you might consider registering for Malyon College’s “Transforming Work” conference on June 20, or auditing “Principles of Vocational Stewardship” at Malyon Tuesday nights if you want to go even deeper.

We have a soft-start from 6:30pm – feel free to rock up early and eat your dinner or share a cup of tea. At 7pm sharp we get into the night, finishing each night by 9pm with supper together and an unrushed chat over coffee. OPEN BOOK includes some basic spiritual practices and prayer, before unpacking the pre-reading scheduled for that night.

For each week, it helps to think through how the reading provokes you in 4 ways:

1) Questions: what didn’t make sense?

2) Challenges: what did you think was wrong?

3) Implications: if this is true, what does it mean for how the church follows Christ today?

4) Applications: what does it look like for you to live out of this vision?

Following are the dates when we’ll meet. I’ve also included pdf links for the readings if you’re not able to get the book in time–just click the KC references below. That said, give credit where credit’s due, so do buy the book preferably by the first week.

If you want to get an overview of Sherman’s book, listen to her one hour talk at Q Ideas on “Seeking the Prosperity of Our Neighbours” here.


June 4 | OUTDOOR MOVIE NIGHT & SUPPER – We’re either watching The Intouchables or The Way (email us with your preference!), following up the theme of embodied worship. … Bring an outdoor chair, a blanket to keep warm under the stars, and a snack or drink to share … We’ll provide the hot chocolate! (Indoors if bad weather.) … The movie *starts* at 7pm, so arrive from 6:30pm as always.

June 18 | “HOSPITALITY & HOME-COOKED DINNER” – Bring some food to share for a pot-luck dinner, eating at 7pm. This night is a fusion of Open Book with Open Table … so, have a read of the 12 page chapter on the practice of hospitality (Ana Maria Pineda “Hospitality”), and join us for a really relaxed night of eating, discussing, laughing, and sharing in communion. It’s open to anyone. The key question is this: “What does hospitality look like in my life, and how can I extend God’s table grace to others?” 

[On this theme, you might find these other articles/chapters stimulating:
Yancey (1997) on Babette’s Feast
Dorothy Bass on “Eating”
Wendell Berry on “The Pleasures of Eating”]

Then, we’re into the new cycle on KINGDOM CALLING [KC] from Thursday 16 July.

July 23 | Kingdom Calling #1: KC 1-23 (Foreword + Intro)

August 6 | Kingdom Calling #2:  KC27-44KC45-63KCAppA235-241(Ch. 1, 2 + Appendix A)

August 20 | Kingdom Calling #3:  KC64-75KC77-86(Ch. 3, 4)

September 4 | Kingdom Calling #4: KC91-100KC101-115 (Ch. 5, 6)

September 17 | Kingdom Calling #5: KC116-128KC129-140 (Ch. 7, 8)

October 1 | Kingdom Calling #6:  Open Week Sharing + watching either a session of LICC “Fruitfulness on the FrontLine” or Regent College’s “Reframe” series … Read KCAppB-D (Appendices B, C, D)

October 15 | Kingdom Calling #7: KC143-150KC151-168 (Ch. 9, 10)

October 29 | Kingdom Calling #8: KC169-182KC183-198 (Ch. 11, 12)

November 12 | Kingdom Calling #9: KC199-222 (Ch. 13)

November 26 | Kingdom Calling #10: KC223-234 (Conclusion/Afterword … Integration/Application)

December 10 | END OF YEAR CELEBRATION – details t.b.a.

Hope to see you there!


Transforming Work

This is more of a plug than a post, but anyway!

How does the following quote from Mark Green, at London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC), strike you?

Here in the UK, the church’s primary mission strategy has been:

‘To recruit the people of God to use some of their leisure time to join the missionary initiatives of church-paid workers.’

LICCIt’s a strategy that has yielded much fruit – in evangelism, in social action among the poor, the young, the old, the disadvantaged, as well as in reaching out to the rich, the adult and the privileged. Praise God for the ability of church leaders to mobilise their communities for such mission. Still, this is mission that most Christians can only participate in during their leisure time. What about the rest of their time?

The reality is that 98 percent of Christians – i.e. those not in paid church work – are not properly envisioned or equipped for their mission in the 95 percent of their waking time that they aren’t involved in church activities, wherever that might be – workplace, schoolplace, clubplace. And that is a tragic waste of the church’s missional potential. Too few Christians have eyes to see what God might be doing in the places they already naturally spend their time, and where they already have relationships with those who don’t know Jesus.

Pastoring is tricky business. It’s natural to give the most energy and attention to what we are invested into. For many pastors, this means that the Sunday gathering typically points back to what God is doing in and through the church gathered. This is all good stuff. But, it leaves many people wondering how their faith relates to their every working life.

But what if the tables were turned? What if the main stories we tell, the big wins we celebrate when gathered, are first and foremost about God’s work in our mundane existence? God’s love expressed through our labour? God’s creativity pulsing through our common work of cultivating the world?

It’s these kind of questions that drive Malyon College’s Workplace Centre.

On Saturday 20 June, they’ve put together a really varied group of speakers from across Australia, and a fantastic diversity of workshops, all aimed at one thing:

How do we Transform Work, bridging the Sunday–Monday gap?

I’ll kick it off by laying a theology for work—that all of life is ‘sacred’ to God, so we can serve Him fully in our so-called ‘secular’ lives. From there you’ll hear from experts in the marketplace who live their faith, helping others to do so as well, through their career. There’s also some great stuff for those in ‘church/parachurch’ ministry, to help turn the focus outwards.

Enough said. Check out Transforming Work, and hopefully I’ll see you there!