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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.

Saturday
Jul272013

Back from Nigeria! Off to Johannesburg - FastForward leadership conference

The last two weeks have been another whirlwind! I arrived back form an amazing trip to Lagos in Nigeria where we had the most amazing opportunities to meet beautiful people doing truly wonderful work in the Church and the broader community! While there I had the change to speak at a number of events and meet with some wonderful Church leaders and Christians in business. There is a strong commitment to the societal transformation and there was great support for the Alpha Course - a most amazing tool for evangelism.  We also had great support for 'EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption' and the work of 'Unashamedly Ethical'.

This morning I flew to Johannesburg to speak at the FastForward leadership conference at the wonderful Gracepoint Church!  This is a most remarkable Christian community that holds personal holiness and social holiness in equal esteem.  Indeed, one can only honour God when one is right with God and in right standing with God's will in the world.  Gary and Jacqui Rivas are doing amazing work here.  I am thankful for them, their ministry and our friendship.  Truly amazing people in an amazing community of faith.

I promised to upload my slides from my talk at the conference today - however, my internet access is a little sketchy, so please do check back in a day or so when I get home I will upload my slides and the videos that I used at the conference. If you are interested in an earlier post I did on the subject of the Church and its growth and change please follow this link for some thoughts and ideas that I had back in 2009.

Tomorrow I will be speaking on justice and partnership at their morning services in a message entitled 'A partnership between the pavement and the pew'.  This morning I was inspired by this beautiful quote in my morning devotions.  Perhaps it will challenge, inspire and encourage you on your journey of loving service?

People may come to our communities because they want to serve the poor; they will only stay once they have discovered that they themselves are the poor.

Jean Vanier (founder of the L'Arche communities)

 

Thursday
Jul042013

Help required - Safari and Google search error

I am hoping that someone on the internets may be wise and benevolent enough to help with a problem I am having with Safari and Google Search.  I am currently using Mac OS X Mountain Lion (10.8.4) - every time that I try to do a search using google.com (or search using google in the address bar) I get an ERROR 403 (Forbidden)!!1 message.

Here is a screenshot (and below it is some of the technical data). Does anyone have an idea what the problem may be and how I could fix it?  By the way I have had this problem since upgrading to Lion some time ago, and each time that I 'restore' the contents of my Hard Drive onto a new computer it follows me...

Any help would be much appreciated! Thanks, Dion

Monday
Jul012013

On humility and humiliation

Humility is worthy of admiration....

Humble people impress me.

I long to be modest, restrained, dignified, gracious... Humble!

However, whenever God grants me the gift of growing in humility I am slow to accept it. The path is long and difficult, and I lack courage and perseverance. You see, often the path to humility comes through seeming (or real) humiliation. Giving up the 'self', my pride in achievements and recognition, in exchange for a gracious embrace of my failings and imperfections.

Still, I pray that God helps me along this path. I certainly have enough failures and faults to pave it!

This quote on humility and humiliation is a wonderful insight for me. Perhaps it may mean something to you?

Years ago, someone told me that humility is central to the spiritual life. That made sense to me: I was proud to think of myself as humble! But this person did not tell me that the path to humility, for some of us at least, goes through humiliation, where we are brought low, rendered powerless, stripped of pretenses and defenses, and left feeling fraudulent, empty, and useless—a humiliation that allows us to regrow our lives from the ground up...

- Parker J. Palmer, Let Your Life Speak

Monday
Jun242013

A prayer for Nelson Mandela, and ourselves

Last night a friend from the UK asked me if I could write a short prayer for Nelson Mandela that could be used by some Christians in the UK. After some prayer and thought I wrote the following:

Loving God, the world is yours. You have lovingly created each person, and by your grace you sustain and transform creation day by day. We praise you for every aspect of nature that displays your Glory.

Today we want to thank you for your son Nelson Rolihlala Mandela. In his life you have shown us the courage of standing for justice, the patience of suffering for peace, and the hope that forges forgiveness. We thank you for giving him the gift of wisdom to lead, the gift of mercy to forgive, and the gift of love to break down the walls that divide.

Today we pray that you will complete your perfect will in him. Offer him peace in his time of struggle. Surround him with love as he faces the unknown; and when the end of this life comes embrace him in your love and restore him to fullness of joy.

We pray that the courage of his conviction will continue beyond his earthly life. May the principles justice, reconciliation and peace that he suffered for be rooted more deeply within us. May his life inspire us to live more sacrificially for you and for the sake of all whom you love.

All this we pray in the name of Jesus, the great liberator, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen


There are the thoughts that informed this prayer.

In this prayer I tried to capture a few elements:

- A prayer of petition ask for God to bless and care for his son Nelson.


- A prayer of thanksgiving, thanking God for the many good things that we have been blessed to witness as a result of his courage and conviction for justice, and reconciliation.


- A prayer for strength, for him, his family, and for all of us, that we may continue in the work that God worked through him.

Please continue to pray for our precious nation, and for the freedom that Mr Mandela lived for. We are facing some challenging times at present.

With grace and peace in Christ,

Dion

Monday
Jun242013

A misquote that means a lot - contemplating courage and change

Two of yesterday's readings from the revised common lectionary (23 June 2013) offered me cause for reflection. Not that I don't reflect on every week's readings, but I am facing some changes in my life and so my thoughts are currently a little deeper than normal. The readings in question were Luke 8:26-39, 1 Kings 19:1-15.

Our minister, Yvette Moses, is a very good preacher. She took a very creative, and challenging, line in harmonizing the message of these two texts. With reference to Luke 8.33-35 she asked why it was the the town's people were not afraid of a demon possessed man. Yet, they were filled with fear when they saw the possessed man sitting calmly at the feet of Jesus - in his full mind. It made me wonder, how often have I preferred the madness of the world to the calm of Christ? How often have I feared the wrong things and wrong people, and in so doing missed the miracle of transformation that is taking place within me, and all around me, all the time.

In dealing with the second text (1 Kings 19.1-15), Yvette reminded us that just a week or two earlier in the lectionary reading we heard how the Prophet Elijah witnessed God performing a magnificent and powerful series of miracles (the burning of the water soaked altars and the destruction of the Baal priests on Mount Carmel). Yet, in this passage the the prophet is overcome with fear and dread because of the threat of Jezebel! The threat of the queen overshadows the miracle of God the King. So much so that Elijah wishes he were dead. Again, I wondered how often have I forgotten the faithfulness and power of God, and instead focussed on the few small challenges of my current circumstances, allowing my life to be overshadowed by what is only a momentary threat, a matter of such minor insignificance in the face of a mighty and everlasting God.

All of this reminds me of the following quote (which is wrongly attributed to F Scott Fitzgerald. Thanks invisibleforeigner for pointing this out):

For what it's worth: it's never too late to be whoever you want to be. I hope you live a life you're proud of, and if you're not, I hope you have the strength to start over again.

- NOT F Scott Fitzgerald.

Still, it is a challenging quote! It is never too late to become that person that God longs for you to be - just as a parent lovingly longs for their child to grow to their full potential in life so as to find blessing and be a blessing to others. God longs that for you, and I know God longs that for me. If you are not moving confidently and clearly towards that peaceful goal then I pray that you will have the courage to and the opportunity to change course. I am making a few small changes in the next months. I pray that they will honour God and bring blessing to those that I have the privilege to serve.

Sunday
Jun162013

A wonderful Father's Day!

I have travelled a little less this year than last year. It is just awesome to be home for Father's Day!

I got breakfast in bed. At Church they had a special focus on dads - Liam said he loves me because I take him to school on my Vespa sometimes! Ha ha!

After Church we came to the Strand beach for some lunch and enjoyed a rare day of perfect winter weather!

A perfect day! I am so thankful for my wonderful children. They are an immeasurable gift. I am equally thankful for my wonderful wife, Megan.

Friday
Jun072013

The Church and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's)

Yesterday I had a chance to do a presentation at the Stellenbosch University Winter school on the role of the Church in reaching the Millennium Development Goals (MDG's).  Here are the slides from that presentation.

The good news is that there has been some great progress towards achieving the 8 MDG's and addressing extreme poverty across the world.  However, it is critical that we finish well! It would seem that some early strides were made, and that now many governments have slowed their progress on more difficult issues.

The role of the Church is crucial in this process.  My reasoning was quite simple:

1.  The Christian faith is the largest faith on earth.

2.  Our scriptures are clear that we should work for justice for all people.  The earth is the Lords, we have stewardship of it and we need to do a better job of caring for one another and the plant.

3.  There are simple and practical things that we can do.  They begin with prayer but must move to action.

4.  I encouraged the listeners to move through the 4 stages of engagement (as mentioned by David Korten in his research), namely from A) Charity B) Projects C) Advocacy and Policy engagement to D) Social movements for change (e.g., like the suffigen movement in the last century).

I gave three examples:

- Micah Challenge Australia and the 'Finish the race' campaign at http://www.micahchallenge.org.au

- Unashamedly Ethical which is a global ethics advocacy community with support and encouragement http://www.unashamedlyethical.com

- Promising life, a South African project to work for the maternal health care and the reduction of infant mortality in South Africa (we have one of the best policy frameworks for basic health care, and great allocation of resources, yet delivery and implementation by the Department of Health in South Africa is dismal!) join them here http://www.micahchallenge.org.za

Of course I would encourage you please to sign up to EXPOSED and send a strong message to the leaders of the G20 that global corruption is not acceptable!  Go to the website or sing up below http://www.exposed2013.com

Thursday
May162013

Solitude and community

In my devotional reading this morning I came across this remarkable quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer about solitude and the Christian community.  Of course Bonhoeffer's context was that of Finkenwalde (the roque seminary he set up for pastors who were not willing to serve the Nazi controlled Church).  

Our Master of Theology students at Stellenbosch University have been studying what it means to have a spirituality that is missional - i.e., to have a spirituality that is alive in God's presence and discerns and acts upon the will of God in the world.  This is a world engaging spirituality, rather than a world-negating spirituality.

This is part of my current journey.

 

Let him who cannot be alone beware of community. He will only do harm to himself and to the community. Alone you stood before God when He called you; alone you had to answer that call; alone you had to struggle and pray; and alone you will die and give an account to God. You cannot escape from yourself; for God has singled you out. If you refuse to be alone, you are rejecting Christ’s call to you, and you can have no part in the community of those who are called... 
"The challenge of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another. Everyone must fight his own battle with death himself, alone... I will not be with you then, nor you with me" (Luther)
Let him who is not in community beware of being alone. Into the community you were called—the call was not meant for you alone; in the community of the called you bear your cross, you struggle, you pray. You are not alone even in death, and on the Last Day you will be only one member of the great congregation of Jesus Christ. If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ.  If you scorn the fellowship of the brethren, you reject the call of Jesus Christ, and thus your solitude can only be hurtful to you.
"If I die, then I am not alone in death; if I suffer they [the fellowship] suffer with me" (Luther)
- Dietrich Bonhoeffer from Life Together.

 

Tuesday
May142013

Meeting Archbishop Justin Welby - the Archbishop of Canterbury

This week I have been in London for the amazing Alpha Leadership Week.  As my previous post said I was privileged to be able to speak at the conference! What an amazing joy that was.  I am so thankful for that rare and undeserved privilege!

If you are interested in receiving a copy of the slides of my talk then please download them using this link.

We have over 200 African delegates among the 6000 registered guests that attended the conference this week.  Among them are about 70 African Church leaders, overseers of denominations, Bishops and Cardinals.  

I was overjoyed when I heard that Archbishop Justin Welby, the newly appointed Archbishop of Canterbury, was willing to host a reception for these Church leaders at Lambeth Palace.  The Archbishop and Nicky Gumbel are firm friends for many years and he was pleased to spend some time with our guests speaking about the renewal of the Church, our collective mission in the world, and his own experience of the Alpha Course in his life and ministry.

It was a most inspiring time as we spent almost 2 hours in Lambeth Palace, of which about half of it was spent in the ancient Chapel.

I had a chance to meet Archbishop Welby personally and speak with him for a few minutes about the ministry of Unashamedly Ethical and EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption.  We also spoke about my family, my ministry, and the teaching that I do at the University of Stellenbosch.  He is such a wonderfully warm and affirming man.

In his address to the Bishops he encouraged us to seek a deepened faith life through prayer and spiritual discipline, and to encourage that same life for our sisters and brothers in the clergy and among all disciples of Christ.  He also spoke of the important role of the Church to be an instrument of justice and peace in the world - not only is this an act of obedience to God's will in the world, it is also a strong witness of God's love at work in the world.  Then, he spoke about the importance of evangelization.  It is the task of Christians and the Church to be good news in the world, as well as proclaim good news to the world.  We are to do this with love, courage and creativity - he spoke particularly strongly of the Alpha Course as a tool that achieves this task through fellowship, hospitality, and creating the space for questions around faith (rather than giving concrete answers).

It was a most memorable event! 

Archbishop Justin Welby and Dion Forster

There have been many equally significant encounters with equally important people - the ordinary people like me who come from all over the world - that I would like to write about.  I'll do that as soon as I find a few minutes to write. The worship, fellowship, teaching and learning have been just wonderful.  I have not experienced anything like it in some years!

Tomorrow I have the joy of sharing in an event for EXPOSED - Shining a light on corruption at the Houses of Commons with Dr Tony Campolo.  That is set to be another highlight for Christian justice this week!

 

Tuesday
May072013

I want to change the world! Lord, begin by changing me.

My great friend @EtiennePiek69 gave a great gift about a year and half ago 'Common prayer: A liturgy for ordinary radicals'.  I have used it almost daily as my devotional guide.  The liturgies and reflections for each day are a remarkable blessing to me.

In my quiet time this morning I came across this quote which spoke to me directly.  Perhaps it may speak to you?

We have real difficulty here because everyone thinks of changing the world, but where, oh where, are those who think of changing themselves? People may genuinely want to be good, but seldom are they prepared to do what it takes to produce the inward life of goodness that can form the soul. Personal formation into the likeness of Christ is arduous and lifelong.

- Richard Foster (American Quaker and writer).

Have a truly blessed day today! May the Lord grant me courage and discipline to be changed, even as I desire to change the world!

Monday
May062013

A glorious Spring day in London

I arrived in London from Cape Town (via Dubai) at 7am or so this morning. The transit in Dubai was super tight - less than an hour after our landing was delayed! So I was not sure if my luggage would arrive with me at Heathrow. It did! So I caught the tube from Heathrow Terminal 3 to South Kensington. As I was coming up the escalator I heard two Afrikaans voices behind me. When I looked around I saw Rassie Erasmus (ex Springbok Rugby player and Stormers / Western Province Rugby coach). He may not remember it but we were in the army together in Bloemfontein - for a while at least. We were both looking for directions and so I asked if I could have a picture with him.

After that I headed to the flat of some friends where I am staying - just beautiful! I had a quick shower, grabbed my note pad and computer and headed to my first meeting.

That meeting ended just after lunch so I rented a Boris Bike and cycled through Hyde Park on my way back to my accommodation! It was awesome! Spring is out in full force. The weather was perfect and since it is a bank holiday every Londoner (or just about) was out in the sun!

I've been awake since 2 AM when I transferred flights in Dubai, so I'll admit that I am feeling pretty zonked. I'll answer some emails and then unpack and get some sleep this afternoon!

Tomorrow the meetings with the Alpha Africa leaders and team begin! We'll be staying somewhere in Surrey (I think). And then back for Alpha Leadership Week! I am both excited and extremely nervous about speaking at the Leadership Week!

I would appreciate your prayers Megie, Liam and Courtney back home, and for me as I meet with wonderful people and seek to establish relationships and partnerships to benefit the work of God's Kingdom!

In my devotions this morning I read the following quote:

@digitaldion: Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel prayed, “I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And You gave it to me.”

May this week be filled with God's wonder-full blessing in your life!

Friday
May032013

Leaving for London to speak at the Alpha Leadership Conference

On Sunday I will be flying from Cape Town the London (via Dubai) to speak at the Alpha Leadership Week and have a number of meetings.  In particular I shall be focussing on spending time with the Alpha Africa team, our EXPOSED team in London and signatories and friends of Unashamedly Ethical while I am there.

Of course I will also get to spend some time with friends and family and quite a number of friends from Cape Town and Somerset West and Cape Town who will also be at the Leadership Week at the Royal Albert Hall.

I am so excited! It is a magnificent opportunity and I am praying for some deep and significant friendships and partnerships to form for the transformation of our precious continent!

The talk I was asked to give was on leadership.  When I considered the topic I realised that a lot of Leadership talks focus on leadership as if it is something that one does from the 'top' or the 'front' of an organisation.  The reality is, however, that most us don't have the responsibility of privilege of leading from that position.  Most of us are called to lead from the 'middle' of groups or organisations.  That can be quite a challenging task that requires a special measure of courage and grace.

So, I will be talking around the topic of 'From a lone nut to a leader' (based in part on an idea from Derek Sivers' great talk at TED a few years ago).  Here is the little video they recorded as a promo at the Alpha offices in Kensington when I was there in December last year.

If you're in the area, or plan to be at the Leadership week please do hook up with me.  The easiest is probably to send me a tweet on @digitaldion

Please can I ask for your prayers for Megan, Courtney and Liam while I am away?  Liam is a little sick just at the moment.  However, we trust the Lord that he will be restored to full health very quickly! I arrive back in South Africa on the 18th of May (the day before my darling wife Megan's birthday, and of course the Saturday before Pentecost and the Global Day of Prayer).

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