Category Archives: Community

How Home Groups Work at IMAGINE


(From the wiki page:

NOT HAVING ANY NORMAL kind of weekend services mean that our home groups bear the main responsibility for ministry at Surry Hills Baptist Church. Here’s how we arrange them.

The basic idea: a church can look after itself.

  • For a small church, operating without resources, the preparation of a weekly message or sermon or set of studies is the primary drain on individual time.
  • This can be reduced by utilizing existing material, and presupposing that the whole church is responsible for ministry.
  • There is better material available online than most small churches are able to produce on their own. We use that.
  • This approach is in several respects liberating. It is based on “body ministry” (Eph 4, 1 Cor 12, John 15). Without denying the usefulness of special expertise, a church should be able to look after itself. Over time, this may mean that there are no church attenders, only participants.

We focus on dinner and discussion.

  • We decide at the start of each quarter what study each group would like to pursue: e.g. Psalms, which we studied thematically in late 2014, or John 1-7, James, and Revelation, before that.
    • Everything is open. We organise things using a wiki.
    • Very focused and topical studies should be possible, though they may be better suited to more structured evening courses.
  • We select a podcast or study on the subject each week as we go along, before the weekend. This requires some effort from one individual each week to select a good one; how that task is distributed is up to the group.
    • There are an enormous number of extremely high quality podcasts, MP3s, videos, and so on, online. (See Resources list, below.)
  • This link is sent to the group’s email list by the preceding weekend.
  • The group watches or listens to the podcast before the home group that week.
    • This means there is no material to be covered on the night.
  • Instead, we have dinner and discuss the podcast, as well as whatever else is happening.
  • This has several advantages:
    • Because the material was not prepared by someone in the room, people feel free to say what they really think about it.
    • Because the groups set their own schedules, they can easily reshuffle the weeks around if something comes up.

We tested this in 2014; here’s how it went…

  • No-one had much trouble joining the email group or using the wiki.
  • Pre-homework sounds like a lot of commitment, but in practice, it was rare that anyone missed listening to the podcast before the home group. Listening isn’t difficult.
  • One person borrowed a commentary (Keener’s Gospel of John; — we have a lending library, btw) and then read through that each week — when learning is self-directed, there is scope for each person to pursue the questions that they are most curious about, and learn in the way that best suits them.
  • Hospitality matters! Each week is a meal and discussion. Eating together does a lot for building friendships. One person set themselves a new cooking challenge almost every week of the year. Another person started baking a cake or dessert each week. The standard of food was very good, and this contributed enormously to the atmosphere and the welcoming nature of the meetings. 
  • A lot of time was spent going out to restaurants or movies on weekends, without any formal organisation. Home groups have to be based on friendship and wanting to serve and get to know a bunch of amazing people. There’s no substitute for that.
  • One comment at the end of the year: “Each week’s home group meeting is like going on a journey of culinary and spiritual discovery.” 

Inquiries about home groups:

Image credit: Public domain, 

I wish you a true incarnation

Christmas 2013.

Christmas — and I’ve looked this up so pay attention — is “a time for family”. It’s for people who like holidays, and surprising their kids with presents, and traditions like Carols by Candlelight, and having people around for lunch and dinner, and catching up with distant family, and shopping and bargains and watching cricket. None of which is bad, but none of which is noticably Christian either, not even the cricket. If Christmas had never existed, we wouldn’t have taken on mid-winter festivals just for those reasons. These were side effects of celebrating Jesus’ incarnation. I want to suggest that that celebrating “Incarnation” would be much more sensible than celebrating “Christmas”.

Thinking about that word, “Incarnation,” means asking a familiar question. What if God was one of us? Not a small-g god with magic powers, but the one unique capital-G God. You know the one: runs all the lowest laws of physics, and knows every level of abstraction up to your deepest thoughts. The one who couldn’t need a universe, so must have only wanted one. Or better, what if he wasn’t one of us — was everything that we are not — but then chose to become one of us? Being global, universal, transcendent … acting local. That’s Jesus’ incarnation.

Descent, by Luci Shaw

Jesus’ Incarnation is the opposite of Christmas. It was not about taking a break from life’s labors and troubles, but rather, taking them on when he didn’t have to. Voluntary vulnerability, deliberate dependence, conscious descent, that’s what incarnation means. It’s about becoming something different and riskier and lower for the sake of others. A donkey could have trod on him, and a government did. Incarnation is difficult, and won’t win approval, and never quite fits. But the best way to celebrate Jesus’ Incarnation is for you to incarnate. What must you become, and for whom?

2 If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, 
any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, 2 make my joy 
complete: be of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord 
and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in 
humility regard others as better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look 
not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. 5 Let the same 
mind be in you that was[a] in Christ Jesus,

6 who, though he was in the form of God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
7 but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
8     he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.

It would be strange to wish you a “Merry Incarnation,” when merriment is so trivial by comparison. The joy of incarnation comes in authenticity, in freedom from pretense and self-interest, in pouring everything into the deepest, truest needs there are, and most of all, in being indwelt by God’s spirit, refreshing as a spring of water. It’s not about being better than anyone. It’s about being true to God, and to yourself, and others. Being reconciled and making peace. It may mean doing what nobody else is doing; being what no-one else is being. It could take as many forms as there are people in the world. It is creative because God is creative; and loving and selfless and just and true for that same reason.

If you want to be merry, I recommend giving Christmas a go. It’s not bad. But I’ll wish you a true incarnation instead, for 2014.

— Nigel Chapman

R&D — Imagine Reading and Discussion Group


Meeting Saturday morning for coffee — fortnightly. See calendar in sidebar!

  • You have a question, issue, or aim in your Christian life that would benefit from reading and discussion.
  • You talk about it with the group and decide how to tackle it by reading, talking to people, watching videos, whatever works best. If possible you team up with someone with similar interests.
  • We meet up to talk about our progress, or chat via an email list in between. So you don’t have to be able to get there every week.

Email for info. Venue each week is arranged on the email discussion list.

If you don’t have a question you want to get into, then see if these books give you some ideas (all available for loan).

  • Basinger & Basinger: Predestination and Free Will: Four Views (IVP, 1986), 185pp.
  • Beckham, Bill: The Second Reformation: Reshaping the Church for the 21st Century (Torch Publications, 1997), 256pp.
  • Blomberg, Craig: Interpreting the Parables (IVP, 1990), 334pp.
  • Blomberg, Craig: Neither Poverty Nor Riches: A Biblical Theology of Material Possessions (IVP, 1999), 304pp.
  • Boyd, Greg: Letters From a Skeptic: A Son Wrestles with his Father’s Questions about Christianity (SP Publications, 1994), 192pp.
  • Boyd, Greg: The Myth of a Christian Nation (Zondervan, 2005), 210pp.
  • Brueggemann, Walter: Praying the Psalms: Engaging Scripture and the Life of the Spirit (Wipf & Stock, 2007), 100pp.
  • Campolo, Tony: We Have Met The Enemy and They are Partly Right (Word, 1985), 224pp.
  • Carlson, Richard F.: Four Views of Science and Christianity (IVP, 2000), 276pp.
  • Chadwick, Henry: The Penguin History of the Church #1: The Early Church (Penguin, 1967), 320pp.
  • Chadwick, Owen: The Penguin History of the Church #3: The Reformation (Penguin, 1964), 464pp.
  • Cloud, Henry: How to Get a Date Worth Keeping (Zondervan, 2005), 241pp.
  • Cragg, Gerald R. : The Penguin History of the Church #4: The Church And The Age of Reason: 1648-1789 (Penguin, 1960), 304pp.
  • Crockett, William: Counterpoints: Four Views on Hell (Zondervan, 1996), 192pp.
  • Fee & Stuart: How to Read the Bible for All It’s Worth (Zondervan, 1993), 272pp.
  • H. Richard Niebuhr: Christ and Culture (Harper & Row, 1951), 260pp.
  • Hays, Richard B.: The Conversion of the Imagination: Paul as Interpreter of Israel’s Scripture (Eerdmans, 2005), 216pp.
  • Hybels, Bill: Descending Into Greatness (Zondervan, 1993), 224pp.
  • Johnson & Van Vonderen: The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse (Baker, 1991), 234pp.
  • Kinnaman, David: UnChristian: What a New Generation Really Thinks about Christainity (Baker, 2007), 256pp.
  • Kreeft, Peter: The Best Things in Life: A Contemporary Socrates… (IVP, 1984), 192pp.
  • Lewis, C.S. : The Abolition of Man (Macmillan, 1947), 128pp.
  • McGinn, Bernard: The Essential Writings of Christian Mysticism (Modern Library, 2006), 571pp.
  • McGrath, Alister: C.S. Lewis: A LIfe (Hodder & Stoughton, 2013), 432pp.
  • McGrath, Alister: Christian Theology: The Basic Readings (Blackwell, 2008), 220pp.
  • McGrath, Alister: Christian Theology: The Basics (Blackwell, 2008), 210pp.
  • Neill, Stephen: The Penguin History of the Church #6: A History of Christian Missions (Penguin, 1964), 528pp.
  • Palmer, Parker J.: To Know As We Are Known: Education As A Spiritual Journey (HarperCollins, 1983), 134pp.
  • Peter Enns: Inspiration and Incarnation: Evangelicals and the Problem of the Old Testament (Baker, 2005), 208pp.
  • Peterson and Williams: Why I am Not An Arminian (IVP, 2004), 224pp.
  • Plantinga Jr, Cornielius: Not The Way It’s Supposed To Be: A Breviary of Sin (Eerdmans, 1995), 202pp.
  • Shaw & others: Readings in Christian Humanism (Augsberg, 1982), 688pp.
  • Southern, R.W.: The Penguin History of the Church #2: The Middle Ages (Penguin, 1970), 384pp.
  • Thiselton, Anthony C.: The Living Paul: An Introduction to the Apostle’s Life and Thought (IVP, 2009), 198pp.
  • Thomas & Turner: Clear and Simple as the Truth: Writing Classic Prose (Princeton University Press, 1994), 226pp.
  • Thomas Merton: Praying the Psalms (Liturgical Press, 1956), 48pp.
  • Tozer, A.W.: The Knowledge of the Holy (Christian Publications, 1961), 150pp.
  • Tozer, A.W.: The Pursuit of God (Christian Publications, 1948), 106pp.
  • Vanauken, Sheldon: A Severe Mercy (Harper & Row, 1977), 240pp.
  • Vidler, Alec R. : The Penguin History of the Church #5: The Church in an Age of Revolution: 1789 to the present day (Penguin, 1961), 304pp.
  • Walls and Dongell: Why I am Not A Calvinist (IVP, 2004), 230pp.
  • Walton, John: The Lost World of Genesis One (IVP, 2009), 192pp.
  • Wright, N.T.: Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today (SPCK, 2011), 212pp.
  • Wright, N.T.: What Saint Paul Really Said (Eerdmans, 1997), 192pp.
  • Yancey, Phillip: The Jesus I Never Knew (Zondervan, 1995), 288pp.
  • Yancey, Phillip: When is God When it Hurts? and Disappointment With God (2 books in one) (Zondervan, 1996), 264pp.
  • Yoder, John H.: The Politics of Jesus (Eerdmans, 1972), 264pp.
At 182 Campbell St

Celebrating our time at 182 Campbell St

We’ll be having a RaThEr MaSsIvE farewell party at 182 on 17 November at 7pm.

If you’ve spent a part of your life with us here, whether for Imagine, Surry Hills Baptist Church, 100 REVS, Marriage Equality, Pastoral Care for LGBT Christians, A Different Conversation, Sticky Issues, the Kinchela Boys Home Aboriginal Corporation, the Creative Collective, HopeStreet’s 2010 ministry, Inner City Church Planting, HopeStreet in general, TableFor20, Sticky Bar, Evening Courses, Sunday meetings, Home Groups, Weekends Away, Coffee Crawls, Cyclopaths, or ANYTHING else that we’ve done in the last eight years here, then come along as we farewell the old building.

Please forward this message to anyone you think might want to see it. Thanks!

Here’s the Facebook EVENT link:

Drop us a note on (or to Zac or Lauren) if you have a story about us that you’d like to share, or you’d like to help run the night. We’ll also have an AGM in the afternoon, but more on that later. And remember to subscribe to the Newsletter to stay up to date on everything that’s happening — more to follow.


Opportunity to support Aboriginal Studies in the National Curriculum

On December 12-13 this year the Aboriginal Studies Association will be having its annual conference at Sydney University, with a major focus on the National School Curriculum review. Sandy Chockman is a member of Imagine, who, with Tiffany McComsey, organized the recent Kinchela Boy’s Home exhibition in Kempsey. She has been asked to curate a similar exhibit for this conference, to be called “No Names, Just Numbers. In the Shadow of Kinchela Boys Home”, and is taking time off from her work to do so. Most of our regulars will be familiar with the Stolen Generation men and women’s stories, but you can read more in last year’s IMAGINE newsletter, or the weighty 1997 Government Report, Bringing Them Home.

Sandy writes:

I cannot truly explain the urgency (and grief) I feel as I see the men struggle with health issues and the burden of the pain they carry. I think they are so courageous in facing this pain and wanting to leave a healing legacy for their families, for the mob. Their grace and honesty IS powerful and deeply spiritual stuff.

What would greatly increase the impact of this exhibition would be for some more of the men and women who were taken from their parents and sent to the Kinchela Boys Home, or the Cootamundra Girls Home, to be present and to be able to speak from their experiences. The conference organizers are making some arrangements, but they have a limited budget. To bring several more to Sydney and accommodate them overnight, as well as to feature artwork by the former KBH man Richard Campbell, that we saw at Easter this year, would cost a little over a thousand dollars. It represents a rare opportunity to shape the future curriculum through the voices and experience of primary witnesses. I grew up in a part of Australia where Aboriginal voices were, as far as I can remember, completely absent from public education. This is one very powerful way to help redress that.

If you’re one of our regulars and wish to donate to the normal Imagine account, you can do so by labeling the transfer “ABA CONF”. Otherwise, for information or inquiries about this please email Sandy Chockman, using our main contact address, which we’ll forward through. Thanks,

— Nigel.