hong kong

There are books in which the footnotes, or the comments scrawled by some reader’s hand in the margin, are more interesting than the text. The world is one of these books.

George Santayana

I returned from Hong Kong on October 1st – and its tough to summarize the experience of this dense, Asian, multi-cultural city that sits between – both physically and culturally – East and West.

Hong Kong is a city built in layers. Physically the city is like a cake – it has a lower (underground) layer (at least in the downtown core of Kowloon), a middle street level, and an upper level of walkways that cross streets and travel through buildings to other buildings. But Hong Kong is also layered – or stratified – in other ways, and that makes it both complex and interesting.

Hong Kong marks the transition between Eastern and Western culture. It is stratified economically, and physically by virture of the layers I note above. But it also a liminal place – a place that is situated in between and so is a kind of nowhere land. It is both a city and a state. It is both a hybrid, and something else. At times it feels like a unique blending of factors, at other times cultures and ideas are held simultaneously, alongside each other without mixture, like parallel tracks. It’s not always easy to figure which is which.

But the mixing, and density and fluidity make Hong Kong a city of cruciality. It’s a term sociologists use to describe the tension of these unique settings, where you can see that these things exist side by side, and the pressure is on to figure out where you fit — who you are here, and what do you believe? Are you eastern or western? Are you Confucian, Buddhist or Christian? Is one right and the others wrong? Are you trying to generate a unique blend of these things so that you can more easily exist in this plurality? Are those believers who meet at Island ECC in the downtown on Sunday trying to just look and sound like one another, like some Western export of faith, or are they bringing their unique cultures to the Cross – to the Jesus who was born and lived as an Asian?

As an outsider and visitor, one feels displaced. It’s disorienting. But that experience of discomfort allows for the perspective of an observer, allows one to see how these different worlds exist side by side. Even though I never quite lost the feeling of looking through a window pane or a display monitor, I was still amazed by the unique expression of this peculiar and very modern city, sitting on the edge of the world’s oldest empire.

Intro to a Theology of Place


Who had heard of “missional” church prior to 1998 (the publication by the GOCN)? Now “missional” is everywhere. What really changed? Sometimes we need new language in order to see. The language of “place” recovers a lost imagination, one obscured in the legacy of Modernity where we traded “place” for “space,” the concrete for the abstract. Recovering language helps us recover an ability to enter the texture, colors and rhythms of the places we dwell. “Place – An Introduction” introduces the loss and recovery of place.

I’ve finished the introductory volume I began working on last summer. it is 80 pages and 12,000 words, with lots of full color images. I approached the subject with an aim to integration – to move beyond abstraction and words alone – and to appeal to both artistic and structural types. The book still leans to the academic side by virtue of many footnotes! And hopefully, also by continuing to encourage rich theological reflection. Links —

Intro to Theology of Place

“Len’s writing provokes thinking, stirs the imagination, and calls forth and nurtures one’s inner longings to put down roots, to invest in one’s home, neighbourhood, workplace, and city, and to join with others in welcoming and bearing witness to God’s presence and kingdom in our midst. A valuable contribution!”

Patrick Franklin, Assistant Professor of Theology and Ethics, Providence Theological Seminary.

Also available for Kindle

Introduction to a Missional Spirituality

Back in 2009 Roger Helland I began talking about the integration of mission and spirituality: that these were never meant to be two parallel tracks, but a rhythm of life in discipleship. That book came out around 240 pages, and is aimed at college and seminary students and others doing serious theological reflection. It left room for something more integrative in execution, and more introductory.

I’ve finished the introductory volume I began working on last summer. It is 80 pages and 12,000 words, with lots of full color images. I approached the subject with an aim to integration – to move beyond abstraction and words alone – and to appeal to both artistic and structural types. The book still leans to the academic side by virtue of many footnotes! And hopefully, also by continuing to encourage rich theological reflection. Links —

Intro to a Missional Spirituality

“If we are to avoid the legalisms associated with driven activism or the disobedience associated with wimpy passivism we will need to learn how to worship God in the fulness of life. This is no mean feat and in fact requires a serious reorientation from the prevailing evangelical spirituality of quiet times in quiet places. Len has gifted us with precisely such a reorientation in this book. I am grateful.” –Alan Hirsch

Also available for Kindle. Download a sample here —

Intro Missional Spirituality

Hong Kong

Off to Hong Kong this week with this great crew from George Fox Seminary. A learning journey and exposure to one of the great cities of the world – with all its complexity, gifts and challenges.

I’ll be presenting the first chapter of “Broken Futures” there and when I get back I will likely post the entire, un-abbreviated chapter here. I’ve had a few people read the first three chapters (still in draft) and so far the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive. It’s been a fun project that has been on the back burner all summer long.

Speaking of which – an amazing summer. Great weather which is extending into the fall. Three months of learning in wiring, plumbing, framing and heating and general carpentry. Most problems are eventually solved – sometimes with creative solutions, sometimes with outside help. The house has taken shape around some new bones; bone grafts in other parts. It helps to be building on a solid foundation. Yes, easy to collect metaphors in a process like this. One of those metaphors makes it into the introduction to “Broken Futures.”


Brian Harris, at Vose Theological Seminary, names 15 passages that must build any Christian worldview.

1. Genesis 1:1 An opening: We are not alone
2. Genesis 1:26-28 An identity: We are made in the image of God
3. Genesis 2:19, 20 A task: To build a world with a better name
4. Genesis 12:3 A responsibility: Blessed to bless
5. Genesis 50:20 A conviction: God can bring good even from evil
6. Exodus 1 An understanding: When the choice is between bad and worse
7. 1 Chronicles 22:6-10 and 28:1-3 A value: The temple David didn’t build (or, not such a bloodthirsty book)
8. Matthew 5:21-48 An investigation: Getting to the heart of the matter
9. Mark 12:28-33 A summary: The Jesus Creed
10. Romans 3:23 A dilemma: Actually, sin does matter
11. Romans 5:8 The gospel: Christ died for us
12. 1 Corinthians 13:13 A permanence: Three things that remain
13. Galatians 3:28 An irrelevance: Goodbye to the old divides
14. Colossians 1:15-20 A reconciler: Christ, through whom all things are reconciled and hold together
15. Revelation 21:1-4 A vision: A new heaven and new earth

Do these work for you? What would you choose? HT to Scot McKnight.

complex leadership and denominational futures

Another great article by S. African scholar Nelus Niemandt —

” The research investigates the role of leadership in the transformation of denominational structures towards a missional ecclesiology, and focuses on the Highveld Synod of the Dutch Reformed Church. It describes the missional journey of the denomination, and interprets the transformation. The theory of ‘complex leadership’ in complex systems is applied to the investigation of the impact of leadership on a denominational structure. The theory identi?es three mechanisms used by leaders as enablers in emergent, self-organisation systems: (1) Leaders disrupt existing patterns, (2) they encourage novelty, and (3) they act as sensemakers. These insights are applied as a tool to interpret the missional transformation of a denomination.”


blog absence

I didn’t plan a blogging absence — but we bought an old house in Port Arthur and all my spare time has been invested in framing, wiring, tearing out lathe and plaster, more wiring, trips to the hardware store… you get the picture. We also did two weeks holidays — and I haven’t been reading much through all this.

I HAVE — on the odd day — written or revised on “Broken Futures.” The book is now half finished — and I’m preparing the submission to a major publisher. I expect to complete the work this fall, so the earliest it will see print is the spring of 2016, and more likely not until the fall.

I also won the Grace Irwin prize for the best Christian book by a Canadian author in 2014. Whether or not No Home Like Place really deserves that award, it was an honor to win!

It’s been a good summer. I’ve enjoyed the challenge of physical work — and lost about 15 pounds in the process, meaning my pants no longer fit! Still a solid bit of work to do before winter, and in particular before September 1st. The plumbing inspector wants a change. The electrical people want to see an arc-fault breaker installed. Keeping the city happy. More to come on this story, but that’s it for this Wednesday!

experimenting into the future

coverIn Introducing the Missional Church Roxburgh and Boren describe the early stages in shifting a church culture as “experimenting into change.” They warn first of risk aversion. What shapes a risk averse culture?

1. some of the theologies of conversion push toward perfectionism
2. a culture of professionalism pushes us toward a need for control
3. church systems are shaped by the need for performative leadership.

The authors argue that we usually select board positions because of demonstrated ability in managing the existing paradigm of church life. These people care deeply for the congregation, and they know how things have been done, but have little sense of alternatives. Furthermore, “performative” leaders (leaders oriented primarily around maintenance) are invested in success as measured by traditional church (and business) values. They do not want to risk shame by leading the church into unknown places. (183-84) Similarly, Kevin Kelly of WIRED Magazine writes, (more…)

encounter with Jesus

imageLuke 24:13-32 and the road to Emmaus. Emmanuel Levinas writes that “A relational life is dependent on encounters that are revelatory.” What’s happening along this dusty stretch of road? Who are these disciples and why are they struggling? Why was Jesus hidden to them? Where is he hidden to us?

Audio: Listen