Learning from the Koru

December 7, 2005

I was reading a portion of Steve Taylor’s new book, “The Out-of-Bounds Church” and he remarks about something he calls “Koru Theology”. The Koru is a fern that grows in the South Pacific and is one of the primary symbols of New Zealand.

Here is a picture of a Koru…notice the repetitive shape, and how much it follows the designs of fractal geometry.

Here is just a portion of what Taylor says about the concept pictured by this fern:

At the heart of the fern sits a tiny, curled frond. If it’s given space, it unfurls…and the fern cannot grow unless it is given a clear path toward the sun. So the Maori burn off undergrowth to encourage new life. The cycles of death and decay are the compost of the new. This is Koru Theology.”

Taylor’s book is about new concepts of understanding our relationship with God and what the Church will look like in the next few generations. He comments on how today’s church often focuses on the past and its failures. The Koru promises that if someone is given enough light (Truth directly from God) and space (the place to make mistakes), they will grow and create something that has never existed before, a shape never seen. He believes that we hinder each other’s growth by insisting that people focus their lives on the structures of the past and examples from the past instead of being birthed into new examples of what Christ wants to build upon this earth.

In another place, Taylor says,

“Koru theology invites us to discover the possibilities of who we might become rather than dwelling on who we have been. The brokenness of the past needs to become the ground upon which the new life is built.”

I believe that Taylor is seeing something profound. There is a tendency in any human endeavor to rely upon traditions for acceptable behavior. Unfortunately, the primary purpose of Tradition is not behavior but passing down unchangeable truth. For instance, one generation might pass down the truth that the Bible is a valuable guide for life and practice. For some people, that might mean sticking to a particular translation of the Bible because it represents good scholarship and accurate rendering of the Greek and Hebrew into English. For another generation, that might mean having the Bible on PDA, CD, Computer, iPod, Cell Phone and Screen Saver. These are new ways to honor the Bible that the last generation would never have thought of.

I recently had someone tell me that they thought computers were evil because they were used for Pornography and that we shouldn’t put the Bible there. The same case could be made for paper, since that is where porn started, isn’t it?

Look at the Koru and see your future. If given space, you can be whatever God wants you to be.



  1. Sometimes it is hard to build when the ground keeps breaking beneath you and the overgrowth hasn’t been cleared.

  2. On the corporate side of things… It is important to not be bogged down by the failures of the past but it is also important to learn from our predecessors. I think there has been some valuable insight into the christian life that has been lost over the years by running from litergy and tradition. I suppose finding the balance, as with all things, is the key.

  3. I have to agree with twoboysmom. I think balance is key. It is unwise to charge forward, disregarding the lessons learned from history. Though, it is also important to not let the past drag you down or discourage you unnecessarily.

  4. I agree about learning from those who went before. As I said, it is the Truth that needs to be sent down from generation to generation. But what is often handed down is not truth, but ways that truth is lived…and these often change from generation to generation. But I also believe TBM that Liturgy can be rediscovered with each generation as long as the generations before don’t pressure them.

  5. PT: I agree. I grew up in a “Bapticostal” home and in my adult years have come to appreciate the reverence of the liturgical services. I know many who grew up attending a liturgical service that are now seeking the evangelical charismatic churches. It is the truth underlying each way of worship and what is taught that counts. This is a topic of frequent discussion for me and my hubby. We struggle with how to present the truth of God’s word to our two boys without just teaching a lifestyle. I know at some point it will be up to them to submit their lives to Christ. We strive to give them the tools to go further than we have ourselves. And we pray alot! Of course, we think Gateway is a fabulous place to learn and worship with our family!

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