Theologian, author, educator and Touchstone film reviewer Rev Dr Steve Taylor and his family felt the calling to return home to New Zealand late last year from South Australia. Steve has taken on the role of principal at the Presbyterian Church’s Knox Centre for Ministry and Leadership in Dunedin.
Over the past year Steve has also been working on his latest book ‘Built for Change’ due out in April this year. Steve and his family are settling in well and enjoying Kiwi life once again. Since 2010 he has served at the Uniting Church’s theological college in Adelaide, first as director of missiology and later as principal.
Now Steve not only serves as principal at the Knox Centre, he also lectures in theology and mission. “I enjoy engaging with students. The way the Knox Centre trains ministers is unique. We put the students in the field for an internship at a church so students can gain practical hands on experience,” he says. “They spend the other 30 percent of their time in the classroom and working on assignments relating to growing ministry skills.”
There are very few Pakeha Europeans at the Knox Centre, which Steve says is indicative of our multi-cultural communities. One goal Steve is working on at the Knox Centre this year is to make ministry training available throughout New Zealand through online courses. He would like to see more missionaries trained in pastoral roles and ministry as they are often sent into places where those abilities are needed. Historically New Zealand’s early history was missionary, Steve says. An approach focused on mission can inspire and challenge people.
Quoting John Wesley, ‘The world is my parish therefore God is already in the world’, Steve asks how do we recognize and participate in a modern way compared to the colonial missions of the past. In his new book Steve explores how churches Down Under are adapting to the 21st century. He says, like everywhere else in the world churches in NZ and Australia face unprecedented change but he has noticed an overabundance of American literature about how to respond to that change.
He felt a real need to explore what is happening in contemporary churches and theology as they relate to Australasian culture and church life. His new book tries to answer the question ‘How do churches respond as Christians today?’ Steve says Built for Change includes seven stories of change within non-profit organisations in Australia and New Zealand, and a reflection on calling, prayer life and change processes.
Steve recounts one awe inspiring moment he had while visiting a struggling rural church which was facing closure. The lay women at the church decided to change it into a café. Instead of having a Sunday service they decided to offer free cups of tea and coffee to their community instead. “This was well received by the mayor and the community. The church began offering Sunday hospitality rather than traditional Sunday worship. In an ordinary everyday idea they have found a way to offer the life of the church to their community,” Steve says.
Steve hopes the stories in Built for Change will help to inspire lay people and give a road map for church leaders to move ahead and change church life. It challenges theologians, academics and people from all walks of life and faith to explore Jesus as an innovator. “The book is a leading inwards as well as outwards,” he says. Follow Steve on his Blog Emergent Kiwi