Donald update: since my last post I accepted a call to be Minister at Wadestown Presbyterian Church in Wellington, starting in early 2020. The eagle-eyed among you will notice that it is now 2022 which tells you something about how often I blog.
One question which has increasingly weighed on my mind in the last five to ten years is -- what's up with the world? What's up with the church? Everything seems like it's gone crazy.
How has western society & culture got the way it is?
The big reflection I've had is that current middle-class, big-city New Zealand life is a bit of an abberation. So much social change has occured over the last century and we just don't think about that at all. The word Teenager was first used in the 1930s, around the time high school became compulsory. My grandfather was working for the bank at age thirteen.
If you look at the world described in the Bible it sounds very foreign to us. But if you look at the world as it was even a hundred or two years ago actually that sounds pretty foreign too. We have no sense of perspective. We've had two world wars in the 20th century, all before my time. Before my parents' time.
I've read all sorts of books trying to understand how my corner of the world got the way it has. Charles Taylor, a bit of Alastair Macintyre, more. Half read some James K A Smith. Probably need more book-reading time. It felt like they all have bits of the puzzle.
In the last year I came across Mark Sayers' work. And the story he tells of how the world got this way, and how the church got the way it is, is the best story of this that I've heard. He's read even more books and seen more as a pastor and weaves the stories together into a cohesive whole that really makes sense.
A bonus for us Kiwis is that he's Australian, and speaks from an Australian context. When I read stuff from the USA, which overproduces Christian content, their culture is in a very different place. They're just grappling now with the sort of church decline we've had for a decade or three. The Australian context is much closer to ours.
I'm not going to tell you his answers but I can thoroughly recommend his (old) podcast that I'm slowly working through, This Cultural Moment. I find myself listening and nodding along and frantically making notes. I've even done the IT thing and passed it through a transcription service so I don't miss bits.
The question after you absorb all of this stuff is, of course, where to from here? I don't have that answer yet!