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  • What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    What are we thinking? Reflections on Church and Society from Southern African Methodists.
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    Methodism in Southern Africa: A celebration of Wesleyan Mission
    by Dion A Forster, Wessel Bentley
  • Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    Christ at the centre - Discovering the Cosmic Christ in the spirituality of Bede Griffiths
    by Dion A Forster
  • An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    An uncommon spiritual path - the quest to find Jesus beyond conventional Christianity
    by Dion A Forster
Transform your work life: Turn your ordinary day into an extraordinary calling. by Dion Forster and Graham Power.
Download a few chapters of the book here.

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Join 100 Million Christians in taking a stand on Corruption and Poverty! Click here for more information.  Follow @EXPOSEDCAMPAIGN on twitter, like EXPOSED on Facebook - visit the EXPOSED website.

Sunday
Dec012013

62km 18 bridges in London on a Brompton - 1 awesome ride!

Here's a great video from Ben Lovejoy of our Bromtpon Night Ride (we rode 18 of London's bridges).  You'll see me on Doris my Yellow Brompton (wearing a sleeveless jacket over my high visibility jacket! It was COLD! Way to cold for an African boy!)  What an iconic ride.  I actually did about 21 bridges by the time I got home.

For an awesome ride report, written in iconic MI6 style, see Agent Orange (aka, Agent Red, White and Blue) great report - My Orange Brompton.

Thanks Ben, David, John, Andrew, Chris and the crew from the London Brompton Club.  That is a night to remember!

Here is my Endomondo GPS track from there ride.  The group split up at Richmond station where they caught the train home.  I rode the rest of the way to where I was staying. A respectable 62km.

 

Friday
Nov292013

Hermeneutics and homiletics - On Malcolm Gladwell's story of David and Goliath  

A good friend of mine @JohannGrobler alerted me to a fascinating TED talk given by one of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell on the Biblical narrative of David and Goliath.  You can watch it on Youtube below.

It is fascinating to watch Malcolm share his perspective on this well known Biblical narrative.  He is not only a very creative and astute thinker - able to find a novel angle to well known data, and then develop a point that opens up new possibilities for thought - he is also a very engaging and effective orator.  I enjoyed watching the talk a great deal!

What Johann wanted to know was whether what was said about David (that he was probably more agile and skilled than Goliath as a warrior) and Goliath (that he was so large because of a cancer that causes unnatural growth (acromegaly). One of the side effects of this disease is short sightedness and double vision) were true.  Well, my answer to Johann's question is quite simply, I am not sure!  Unless we have medical evidence on Goliath's condition and corroborating testimony to substantiate the suggestions made about David by Malcolm Gladwell, Gladwell's theory is as plausible (or unplausable) as any other theory.  We cannot have absolute certainty on the theory without substantive evidence to support it. 

I can say, however, that I found what Gladwell said sensible and very interesting. What he suggests is certainly not outside of the realm of possibility. He does offer some second tier evidence to support his hypothesis.  To support his claims about David's skill he cites historical documents and data about the effectiveness and accuracy of sling shot users in the ancient world.  To support his claims about Goliath he cites some studies from contemporary (modern) medicine - although I am sure in both cases there is probably equally significant evidence and cause for reaching different conclusions.  That is the nature of academic debate.  Simply because and article is published, or a point is substantiated, that does mean that it is more true than another point.  There are some very bright and intelligent people who believed all sorts of crazy things (with medical evidence to support their claims).

What struck me as most significant about this talk was the manner in which Gladwell has adapted the disciplines of hermeneutics and homiletics so effectively in making his point.  What he is doing is very similar to what millions of priests, pastors, rabbi's and imman's do every week.  He has taken a narrative (in this case the Biblical narrative of David and Goliath) and interpreted it creatively in order to argue a particular point - the point here is found in his conclusion, i.e., that we must not be too simplistic about our accepted view of dominant narratives, and that giants may not always be what they seem (which implies that underdogs may also not always be what they seem).

Homileticians use this approach frequently, they communicate and idea by using 'foundational knowledge' as a connecting point with the audience.  Then they draw on other authoritative sources (in this case history and medicine) to introduce new knowledge that will support the reasonable acceptance of desired truth.  In Biblical studies we teach our students to understand that the text always has a historical context, that the 'players' in the narrative have depth to them (they are seldom what the narrator or author of the text has presented).  The intention is to use whatever data is available to unpack the deeper and more subtle truths about the elements of the story (the characters in the story, the plot lines, the intention of the author or narrator (what did he or she include or leave out, what was emphasised, what was underplayed - Gladwell does this a number of times in his talk), what was the situation of the recipients of the narrative (what did the author assume about them, their needs, their religious and social framework etc.).  The process us called hermeneutics - the science of interpretation.

I am grateful to Johann for pointing me to this great talk, and for raising the question that allowed me to view Malcolm Gladwell's talk with a more enquiring mind than just accepting admiration.

Friday
Nov292013

Remembering the life and witness of Dorothy Day

Today many Christians will commemorate the life of Dorothy Day. She was the co-founder of the Catholic worker movement, a deeply committed pacifist and servant of the poor.
Her life was shaped by a contemplative faith, out of which arose her quest for peace and justice in the world.

As with many great leaders she was not free from controversy. 

I have often considered that in order to bring about a substantial and lasting change in society there needs to be a family significant disruption of the status-quo. The 'powers' of every structure and age are resistant to change. It is seldom an easy process, but I do think that a peaceable approach, emanating from a position of deep faith, soaked in grace, stands the best chance of bringing change without resulting in significant brokenness.

My prayer is that I, and many others, will embrace the discipline of daily faithfulness to the Gospel of grace and peace, that in our prayer, our action and our words we will serve in small ways that contribute to the positive transformation and renewal of the world.
Tuesday
Nov262013

Shopping in London with the Brompton and a T Bag.

I went shopping at the Tesco's near to where I am staying today. I wanted to pick up a few supplies and so I pedaled Doris my Brompton M3L to the shops with the Brompton T Bag (by far my favorite bag in the Brompton range... Well, my favorite out of the three that I own - the B bag doesn't count of course since that is a bag to put the Brompton into when I travel. I own the T Bag (it used to be known as the touring pannier) and the C Bag).

I overloaded it slightly with milk, bread, 2L of Pepsi, and other bits and bobs. Regardless of the extra load (so much that I couldn't close the bag), it still handled like a dream since the bag mounts to the luggage block on the front of the bikes this keeps the center of gravity very low.

It is so convenient having the Brompton with me in London. As on previous trips, I ride it between meetings and appointments. I use it for sightseeing expeditions. And of course I also use it to run errands!

Sunday
Nov242013

Arrived safely at London Gatwick

I arrived safe and sound at London Gatwick airport. Doris my Brompton bicycle seems to have survived the flights as well as I did!

We almost missed the connection in Dubai due to delays from Air Traffic Control. I am so glad to be here!

I can't wait to see Craig and Kath, Rich and Karen and the kids! I'm on a coach from Gatwick to Heathrow now where I will meet Craig and Kath.

Tomorrow I have a few meetings in Kensington with the Alpha International team - so Doris will join me on the tube into London!

Wednesday
Nov202013

Multimodal transport and the Brompton bicycle

I am very fortunate to be on the faculty of one of the most amazing Universities in the world - Stellenbosch University in the wine lands around Cape Town.

The University is situated in a most beautiful setting, surrounded by magnificent mountains and vineyards. The town of Stellenbosch has experienced a property boom in recent years. Partly it is because of the University, but also because of the beauty and climate of the region. I live 20km from Stellenbosch in the equally beautiful city of Somerset West which is on the slopes of the Helderberg mountains overlooking the ocean. However while we share the Cape's beauty with Stellenbosch we don't benefit from the great weather - Somerset West is cooler, windier and the weather is less predictable (like most coastal towns).

The result of the growth in residence of Stellenbosch is quite severe congestion during term times. The 20km drive from home to University to teach can take 25 minutes during vacation times and over an hour during term times! Another nightmare is parking on Campus. As with many Universities, parking on campus is scarce and restricted. Frequently I find it easier to park off campus and walk or bike in.

This is where the Brompton works perfectly! I can load it into the boot (trunk) of my car and drive to Stellenbosch. Then I can either park at my office and leave my car for the day and only battle the traffic in and out of town at the start and end of the day. The Brompton then gets me on campus, to meetings, to the library and even into town if I need to buy anything. At times I have even opted to park my car outside of the congested area (at a shopping mall just outside of town, or at the station) and then cycle in and out of town. That is often quicker than getting through the narrow streets and traffic lights to get to and from the office.

Of course another benefit of the Brompton is that it fits neatly under my desk at the office, and can even be covered and taken into the Library or a lecture theatre without a rousing any interest or suspicion. I simply fold the Brompton and pull the cover over it, pick it up and go!

A final thing I love about the Brompton is it's carrying capacity. With the T Bag or C Bag I can carry my laptop, some books, my camera, and at times have even carried at data projector in the bag.

In this post is a picture of Doris in front of the Faculty of Theology building, and folded and covered in the journal section of the main campus library.

I'll be heading to the UK and Holland at the end of this week and Doris my trusty M3L Brompton (which is lighter than Darth my black M6L) will be packed into the B bag, checked onto the flight and taken along!

Tuesday
Nov192013

A last trip for the year! England and Holland

On Friday this week I have the great honour and joy of speaking at the Median 25 conference in Cape Town at 'Church on Main'. It is a wonderful opportunity to hear Mike Pilavachi, Archbishop Thabo Makgoba, Dr Nadine Bowers du Toit, Dr Frederick Marais and Nicky Gumbel (via telecast).

I have been asked to speak on the state of the Church in South Africa and Africa. I will draw on some recent statistical information and research about Church shifts in the country, as well as some of the most recent and groundbreaking research on global and continental Church shifts in the Christian faith. Diana Butler Bass' book 'Christianity after religion' is particularly insightful, as is the classic 'The next Christendom' by Philip Jenkins. I will also draw on some insights from the sociologist Peter Berger, and of course the missiologist Andrew Walls.

In short I am advocating for the Christian Church to be good news rather than just proclaimers of good news. I am advocating for a Church that is primarily relational in character, rather than propositional in nature. I am advocating for a Church that creates space for the asking of 'big questions', without feeling the need to give definitive and absolute answers on every subject. I am advocating for a Church that is humble, just, and merciful. In short, I am hoping to present a picture of a Church that is active with the 'things' that God is doing in the world - a Church shaped by the 'missio Dei' (the work of God). This Church, the missional Church, is alive since God is alive. This Church is powerful in doing good, since God is powerful in doing good. This Church is less concerned about programs and projects than it is about a servant identity that brings healing and transformation in society and the world.

I'll give a few examples, tell some stories, share a few statistics and give some ideas for consideration from the research and current discourse on the Church, and of course from my own experience.

Unfortunately I will have to leave the conference early since I am catching a flight to England on Saturday afternoon. I will be in London for a week for some meetings (Alpha International, EXPOSED, Unashamedly Ethical and then some academic meetings). On the 1st of December I move across to Holland where I will be going to spend 2 weeks working on my post doctoral research at Radboud University, Nijmegen where I am doing a second PhD.

I am looking forward to the time to read, reflect, pray and of course reconnect with friends and discover new things. I would ask for your prayers for Megie, Courtney and Liam. I will miss them so much in the 3 weeks I am away from home! However, the great news is that I will do very little travel in 2014! I return home on the 15th of December and will then have a lovely holiday with my beautiful family. Such a blessing!

Monday
Nov112013

Wines2Whales 2013 all done!

Well, the wines2whales 2013 race is all done! We had an awesome last day's ride - 4h47 from Grabouw to Onrus. Again, the tracks were super! The trails are well made and offer a great variety (single track, jeep track, fast descent, looooong climbs and amazing scenery).

I took a stupid fall about 35 KM into the ride while climbing a switchback above Houwhoek inn and broke my ring finger on my right hand. The downhill and single tracks were a little uncomfortable for the remainder of the race. But my riding partner Andre took us through the last 40 KM in style!

We managed to take about 3 hours off last year's time! Quite remarkable!

Now, I just need to keep up my fitness and loose a little weight before next year :-)

Saturday
Nov092013

Wines2Whales Race 2013, almost done!

We have two awesome days of riding - on day one we rode 5h15 for the 75km from Lourensford farm to Oak Valley in Grabouw. As usual the Gantouw pass was a serious climb. But Andre and I do well.

Today we rode 4h12 for the 70km 'single track' day on Oak Valley, Paul Cluver and Thandi.

Tomorrow we ride from Grabouw, through Botriver to Hermanus. It has been awesome!

Sunday
Oct202013

Faith and Reason

I love theology. I love theology in this sense, that is, theology as an attempt to know something about God and God's nature and will.

There are few theologians that I love as much as Stanley Hauerwas. Here's one more reason why I love his theology:

[The claim] that some think theological claims must be grounded in empirical proofs is based on the assumption that there is an essential tension between faith and reason. Even Christian theologians have sometimes underwritten the assumption that the faith of Christians cannot be rationally defended. However, the very presumption that reason is one thing and faith is another betrays a distorted view of reason. What Christians believe is not a “take it or leave it” choice, but rather an ongoing claim that all that is exists by God’s good grace. The working out of that claim is never finished.

- Stanely Hauerwas

Via @irregulartheology.

Sunday
Oct132013

3 years 10 000km and still an awesome bicycle! 26" Mongoose Canaan Team

I bought my Mongoose Canaan Team three years ago from a friend who had owned it for about a year before that. It is a super bike. Since I have owned it I have done an average of 3000km of awesome mountainbiking a year on this lovely bike! Sure, there are newer and fancier bikes on the market, but this one suits me just fine!

Yesterday I did a lovely 45 km ride along the Helderberg - Schapenberg Black route (including Hans se Kop). The 26" wheels can handle the tightest of corners and the most technical of terrain. I will be doing my fourth Wines2Whales stage race on it this year. I love it! I am so grateful!

My time on the bike is often spent alone. I pray, reflect work out solutions to challenges, change my attitude about people and things that I have not been engaging appropriately... And of course it is good for my health! Since having a bad motorcycle accident in 2008 cycling has been a wonderful way to stay fit, enjoy nature and strengthen my leg (which was badly broken requiring pins and screws, and a form of exercise that was low impact).

Tuesday
Oct082013

It is time to #ShineAlight on Corruption - #EXPOSED2013 is a week away!

It's time to let your light shine!
Have you arranged your Vigil, Church service, business gathering, or prayer meeting for some time during 14-20 October yet?  Simply go here:  http://www.exposed2013.com/act/10-action-tools/33-organise-a-vigil
Or, follow these simple instructions!
1.  Please watch this short video (2 minutes) about the EXPOSED Vigils http://t.co/i9EK7QqqjK
2.  Simply invite a few friends, set a venue, and download sample prayers, scripture readings and the video from here http://www.exposed2013.com/act/10-action-tools/33-organise-a-vigil
3.  Please register your Global Vigil on the global map here, so that others can see it (shine a light!) or join you if it is an open meeting or service!http://www.exposed2013.com/act/10-action-tools/78-register-your-vigil
4.  Post some pictures, video, or a short report on your website, facebook and twitter.  Please use the hashtag #ShineALight 
5.  At your Vigil, and during the week, please get as many people as you can to sign the Global Call to end corruption. Simply go here on your computer, cellphone or tablet http://bit.ly/signGC or visit the website and sign up there, or download and print a sign up sheet to gather signatures automaticallyhttp://www.exposed2013.com
In a week's time we shall be joining millions of people from 138 countries around the world in Christian witness!  God cares about the poor and about corruption - it is time to shine your light!
Here is a simple, and powerful, way in which you can show your solidarity with this great cause.  The Bible tells us 'Learn to do good, seek justice, stand for the rights of the poor and oppressed' (Isaiah 1.17).
1.  Please print the attached 'Sing up Sheet' and carry it with you for the week.  Do your best to fill a few sheets with signatures for the Global Call to end corruption! We need One Million signatures to take to the G20 in 2014!  
2.  Please print the 'One in a million' sign and keep it with you.  Please get as many people who have signed the global call to take a picture of themselves holding the sign 'I'm one in a million'.  Ask them to post their picture on twitter, facebook, to send it to friends or family.  
Graham Power is One in a Million - founder of Unashamedly Ethical and the Global Day of Prayer
Please use the hashtags #shinealight and #EXPOSED2013 so that we can get some real traction! (See the example photograph of Graham Power, founder of the Global Day of Prayer and Unashamedly Ethical movements, attached to this message).
Completed forms can either be scanned and emailed back to me, or you can enter the details on http://www.exposed2013.com or directly at http://bit.ly/signGC (note the capital GC for Global Call).
Thanks so much for your partnership in this important work!
Together with you in Christ,
Dion