Forge Cuts From Gospel Moorings

We invited Steve Timmis of The Crowded House in Sheffield to join us at the recent Forge festival and I found his session on Sunday morning very helpful. I have really appreciated Steve’s insights as a church planter and long term practitioner.

Today I was reading the reflections of Johnny, a bloke who accompanied him on the journey. You can read his full post here, but this is a summation of it.

“Forge is a large boat, filled with evangelical and non evangelicals cut off from gospel moorings enjoying the jerks and jolts of the rough seas of dodgy doctrine as if it were part of the gospel ride. There are many lovely gospel hearted people in Forge but I can’t help feeling they have lost their way.” download trois 3 the escort

These are very strong (and deeply offensive) words and I don’t have time to respond to them properly right now.

If we have “cut ourselves off from the gospel” and are ‘enjoying dodgy doctrine’ then I’d really like to hear about it. I am happy to accept that we all have our blind spots and maybe Johnny knows something I don’t.

I’m very open to hearing thoughts, comments and reflections from those who know Forge as to whether we have “lost our way”. No prizes for guessing my opinion, but given that the question has been raised I am happy to hear from those who know us as to what we need to hear.

Re-imagine – the blog


We have just started a new blog for those in the forgewa reimagine stream.

At the start of 2008 Forgewa began its ‘reimagine‘ stream, working with 6 established churches who are on the journey of exploring what it means for them to live as a missionary community.

This blog is way for them to share learning, explore ideas and encourage one another along the way.

You are welcome to listen in, share your own thoughts and add to the conversation.

I am hoping that my contribution to this site will be a minor one as those who are actually doing the learning contribute to it and foster the discussion.

Grassroots Pics

Just go here taps movie for some great pics of the recent Forge Festival.

I have chosen one that for me stands out – not because its a fantastic pic – but because it captures something of the heart of the festival.


The pic was taken during a short time we set aside to honour older missionaries and those who had gone before us -acknowledging that we stand on their shoulder. Of all the people we could have chosen (and there are plenty) Smithy finished up being the one. This image shows 3 ‘generations’ of Aussie missionaries.

Smithy was and to some extent still is the roving itinerant evangelist who was responsible for starting the ‘God Squad’ (mission among outlaw bikers) and for paving the way for others to take seirously the task of mission that says ‘go’ rather than ‘come’.The fact that I finish up deeply knitted into the forge community is no surprise, as this man was one of my heroes as a teenager and inspired me to follow Jesus passionately more than almost anyone else I can think of. I loved his direct, straight talking approach to preaching and his courageous example of following Jesus into the difficult places. We honoured him as one who paved the way for the rest of us.

The others in the photo are Alan Hirsch the founding director of Forge, and Kim Hammond, currently the Victorian director and the festival organiser.

The festival is very much about gathering the tribe and celebrating the missionary adventures God has called us to. I really didn’t want to come home at the end of it as it felt like we were amongst family and people who genuinely shared our hearts for the work we are called to.

Home again…

Its been a great 4 days of hanging with the Forge tribe from all around Oz and even a few from overseas. Alan & Deb Hirsch made the trip back from the US for the event and it was great to see them again. We spent a couple of hours over lunch yesterday in their home strip of Acland St, St Kilda. When I am around the forge crew I am reminded again of how much I value those relationships.

This year’s festival was brilliantly organized by Kim & Maria Hammond and had a huge diversity of options for people seeking to learn in many different areas with workshops and electives in 5 different streams.

The general sessions were great value. Frosty led off with a stoing challenge to us to live out the truths we already know and to be people of action rather than content with talk. It was pretty classic ‘Mike’ as he pulled no punches and spoke boldly to all of us present.

Sally Morgenthaler was first up on Saturday morning and spoke about living out of our true identity and the importance of authenticity in mission and ministry. She did a great job and provoked us to think about how/where we may be living out the type of life we feel we are supposed to be living rather than actually being content with living as ourselves. I had the opportunity to have a long conversation with Sally over dinner and it was great to see the same person around the meal table as we did behind the lectern. She is living what she preaches.

That evening TSK was up and he was in great form. It was a mix of zany humour, great insights and genuine inspiration to live as the people of God. It was really good to have him back in Oz offering his insights on what God is doing all around the world, from the point of view of one who sees more than most. We had some time to reflect and laugh about our teenage fundy days spent at Maylands Baptist back in the early 80’s. How things have changed…

Sunday morning saw the festival joined by the congregation that normally meets in Life Expedition – a group of Asian young adults led by Tim Goh. One of the things that impressed me hugely over the weekend was the way the volunteers from the church served at the festival. These guys set up, cleaned up and did everything in between – and they did it with fantastic attitude. Hats off!

The keynote speaker for Sunday morning was Danielle Strickland, a Salvo leader from Canada, but now working in Oz. She is one of the most sensational communicators I have heard in a long time. She spoke with passion, insight and more than a touch of attitude. If you ever get the chance to hear this woman speak on living out God’s dream for the world then don’t miss it. In terms of ‘learning’ this session was my personal highlight, partly because of the personality of the speaker, but also because she re-ignited some embers in me that had grown a little dim. Maybe we’ll need to look at getting her over west to shake up the local crew.

Daz Gardner finished the weekend off with a challenge to actually make change happen – not to just hear more good stuff and then go back to business as usual. Daz was as raw and raucous as ever and his message was a great way to tie together the weekend.

As well as the opportunity to be challenged from the front by some great communicators, it was also incredibly valuable to simply be there with our Forge team and with people from all around the country who are seeking to express mission and church in ways that fit their context.

Its interesting reflecting on the take up of missional incarnational ideas around the place. It varies greatly from state to state and denomination to denomination. My observation this time around, is that more people are making the shift from thinking about missionary praxis to actually getting on with it. And more established churches are recognizing the need to adopt a missionary posture if they are to genuinely engage their communities.

I wonder where things will head in the next 10 years as more churches pick up on the missional incarnational approach, while others go harder at the established form. Let’s hope we all keep learning!

Re-Imagining in 2008

Over the last half of the year at Forge WA we have been promoting our stream for established churches called ‘Re-Imagine’ and next year it looks like we will have around 50 people involved from both city and country, with more in the country than the city!

We will be running a parallel program in both the city and Busselton and expect it to be really really valuable, both for those involved and for us as we sharpen our own focus and work with those still in the ‘system’.

We realise that for many people they don’t feel called to jump ship and pioneer, experiment or start from scratch. We also recognise (despite the strange things I continue to hear about us occasionally!) that God is at work in established churches and that they can also operate with a missional incarnational focus.

The ‘missional incarnational‘ is our distinctive and the primary flavour we will be shaping the year with. In essence we are talking about: mission: going out and incarnation: going deep – embedding in a particular context.

You can see what we are up to here.

I am very excited about the possibilities for mission and learning.

Nuts & Bolts

All the talks from this Forge WA Training Day have now been uploaded.

If you’re interested in the nuts & bolts / practicalities of starting a missional incarnational community then you ought to tune in here. It was a great day and really worthwhile for those on the journey.

I also noticed that because it was very practical and specific, those who didn’t have the background at times were struggling to grasp the ‘why’ of what we were proposing.

If you want to listen then go here cooler the movie star wars episode v the empire strikes back movie

Forge Festival 08


Good design does have the power to inspire doesn’t it?!

I reckon this looks fantastic and reflects the feel we want to create at the National Forge Festival in April next year. For more info go here.

Normal Service…

I actually have a heap to say but have been buzzing around the country like the proverbial blue arsed fly for the last few weeks, so the blog has taken something of a back seat. Get ready for a post deluge…

I have just returned from a very valuable and productive 3 days in Melbourne meeting with the Forge National Team. Our job was to begin the process of re-examining everything we do and re-evaluating it in light of the fact that Forge is now 11 years old and in a new phase of its life cycle. We are no longer the new kid on the block and our message is now ‘out there’ and infecting the mainstream.

With Hirschy no longer physically present I am aware that there have been questions raised of whether the Next Gen leaders have the ability to sustain and keep developing the movement, or if Forge will fade into insignificance along with many other good ideas that ran their course but relied heavily on a dominant personality to give them life.

There is no question that Alan is a phenomenal thinker/practitioner and has been the catalyst for some radical shifts in thinking in the Oz church, however if the energy in the room over the last few days was anything to go by then Forge is alive and kicking and as potent as ever. FWIW, we regularly do ask the question ‘has our time come?’ ie. ‘Have we done our job and need to disband and get on with something else?’, because we don’t want to be a tired lame institution that is simply propped up by a sense of longing for the olden days, but at this stage that time still seems like a long way off.

When people ask if our job is done, we only have to look around to see how many churches are genuinely operating with a missional incarnational (MI) paradigm. Many have aspects of ‘incarnationality’ (is that a word?…) present, but it is not the undergirding philosophical and theological framework from which most operate.

We agreed that the concept of MI is out there and has definitely been listened to by a wide range of people. In places the language has been adopted (and sometimes co-opted) but we are a long way from seeing a dominant shift in praxis.

While we did work on the issues of purpose, mission, identity and outcomes the purpose of our time together was anything but forming a ‘document’. A document is as useless as tits on a bull if the people present don’t know and own its content and then live it out with passion. What value about our team is that there is no shortage of sharp clear thinking and no one feels shy about offering their thoughts.

In his book ‘Good to Great’ Jim Collins writes that the best teams are where people can ‘go hard’ in the meeting room and yet still love each other and enjoy time together outside. I think that describes us pretty well. Forge national meetings are no place for the faint hearted, but by the same token when the day is ended we seem to party very well together also.

The last few days were significant especially because it was the first national team meeting where Al wasn’t present. It was our time to own more deeply the things we have been speaking of and living out, or it was our time to lose our way and wander off down a dogleg. I think it is a testament to Al’s ability to embed the DNA of Forge in each of us that there was actually a lift in the energy of the group as we pondered the new challenges ahead.

We did finish up with a couple of statements, but they aren’t transformative in themselves. What is of value is the conversation and debate we had to form the statements and the sense of shared ownership that emerged from the time we spent.

Our mission statement was “to birth and nurture the missional incarnational church in australia and beyond”, but over the last few days as we grappled with the questions of what we are doing now, we modified it slightly to ‘helping cultivate the missional incarnational church’.

In terms of ‘who we are’, we described ourselves as ‘a network of missionary practitioners who are cultivating leaders for the missional incarnational church’

Ultimately what we hope to see and what we will be working towards over the next period of time is the establishment of a significant number of healthy MI Communities all around Australia either by the establishment of new works or the transformation of current churches.

We have used the word ‘cultivate’ in our mission statement quite intentionally because, like the farmer, we recognise that we can provide the environment and do all the right things, but ultimately the final result is beyond our control.

Anyway, that’s the latest on what is developing with Forge in Oz.

I think we have exciting and challenging times ahead

Forge Pioneering Internships

As many of you would know we at Forge are constantly seeking out missionaries who will choose to invest their lives in a specific people group.

You may wonder what the criteria for an internship placement is… Well Daz from Forge Tasmania & Third Place Communities (also the primary guest at our third intensive) has developed a way of describing the kind of work we hope people will do.

Field Placements must be:

Missional: This refers to the outward movement of God’s people into the world as a “sent” missionary community. The intern must locate themselves, (along with their mission team/ community/family) within the hub of the people group they are hoping to connect with. They cannot simply run programs and send out invitations. For example: if the intern is choosing the surfing community, they must spend time at the beaches, out in the surf, and wherever else it is that surfers spend regular time. They cannot merely organize an event with a surfing movie and Hawaiian Pizza down at the local community hall. The intern must seek to ingratiate themselves into the fabric of that culture.

Incarnational: This refers to the downward and embedding movement of God’s people into culture and community. Over time, the intern must seek meaningful, evangelistic engagement with the host community. Moving into the community is one part of mission, building deep connections and engaging meaningfully is another. The intern and associated mission team, must seek to deepen their presence and work toward embedding the gospel.

Team Based: Mission is a community activity and responsibility. Part of the development of a missionary leader is the experience of working within a team. The intern must be directly connected to a mission community or team in some way, even if they are pioneering something new. This will become an essential part of the learning. The team can be made up of friends, colleagues, or family members, anyone with whom the intern is engaging in mission.

Experimental: Experimentation is essential for pioneering mission and foundational to the formation of missionary leaders. During the course of the placement the intern will be encouraged to experiment and try out new ways to engage in mission.

If you’re interested then give me a call and we can chat some more!