Expose ministry apprentices to great leaders and great opportunities

It can be easily, the longer you train apprentices, to slowly build a ministry machine into which they fit. They have their roles and you provide your curriculum.

But this is not the way to train great leaders.

Some people try to compensate for this by giving apprentices free reign in some area. They are given a blank canvas ministry opportunity. An open field to run (or build or farm) in. And this can help promote initiative and risk. But can also sometimes feel a bit artificial.

Another, complementary option is to deliberately build into their training 'exposure to great':

  • Find ways to get them meeting with, learning from, working with, helping and watching great leaders. Get them out of your ministry hierarchy, and get them sitting in on important skype meetings with important leaders, get them assist in planning the whole ministry program or strategy. Send them off for a season to work with a church planter.

  • Find ways to get them doing great things - far bigger and more demanding than a 'mere apprenticeship' might require. And rather than just throwing them in the deep end, commit a higher level of training, supervision and support than you normally give them in their regular duties.

This is especially the case if you perceive you have been entrusted by Christ with an exceptionally gifted ministry apprentice. You need to really stretch, grow, prepare and envision them during their time training with you.

Can you share examples of how you've done this?

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Andrew Heard’s critique of John Dickson’s ‘Hearing Her Voice’

Link to the PDF, hosted on Lionel Windsor's site.

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Evangelical liturgy: interviewing the guest preacher

One quaint bit of evangelical liturgy that comes up at conference events and even evangelical events, is the requirement that we do a 5 minute interview with the preacher before they preach.

There's nothing wrong with that. But there's something wrong with getting into a rut that assumes you have to do it. And there are a few reasons why you might not do it:

  1. It takes up time - especially in a full-program conference, using up time on a 5 minute interview is stealing time from the sermon.

  2. It introduces the preacher with off-the-cuff comments rather than their prepared introduction. I'd rather my first words of engagement and connection with the congregation be the carefully planned engaging words I've written, rather than the impromptu answers to getting to know you questions.

  3. It assumes that the 'real you' is your hobbies and family and minsitry experience. These are part of who the preacher is. But more fundamentally they are a child of God and a preacher of the gospel. And this is the main thing they are in front of us for.

  4. Building on this, implies we must have a 'friendship' connection with the preacher before they can preach to us. Now there are gospel principles that might lead us to choose to 'humanise' the preacher - for sure! And at the same time, we don't need them to talk make a couple of jokes and talk about their bicycle to show them to be humble and human.

  5. It relies on the preacher being a good interiew subject. Not all great preachers are great at public interviews or great at Q&A.

  6. It often lowers the event to a jokesy, folksy tone, right before the proclamation of the word.

  7. There are other perfectly adequate alternatives: a bio in the booklet, personal illustrations in the sermons, a brief introduction by the event MC.

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Lone Survivor, SAS Training and Ministry Training

Nikki and I saw Lone Survivor the other day. Brutal. Such powerful filmaking that it stopped the jingoism from ruining it.

At the start there's this brutal 'found footage' of Navy SEAL boot camp (a far cry from hot young things in lycra jogging in a local park - or church planters eating pastry and attending plenary sessions in a conference centre!). Harrowing experience. Who does this?

Some say the best ministry training should be like SAS or Navy SEAL training: to be the best you need to just be thrown in the deep end and be able to survive without too much hand holding. The idea is that too much pampering won't produce the kind of people we really need.

I kind of like that. I get it.

And at the same time, it's gotta be said: the people who survive in these kind of elite teams are ALREADY highly trained. In order to get in, and in order to surivive in them, you need to already be extremely capable.

So yes, we need to throw people in the deep end. But this is not a substitute for training and preparation. It is one element of larger process of skill and character formation.

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Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill removed from Acts 29 membership


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Gideons, doctrinal bases and the textus receptus ESV

I did a little bit of reading about the Gideons recently. I got Rocky Racoon stuck in my head as a result.

They have a curious doctrinal basis. It doesn't touch a whole lot of topics, but a few ones that in their focus and wording mark out the particular cultural background to the movement:

"The Gideons International is a diverse association in that our members come from many Protestant denominations with a common interest in spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ. All Gideons also hold important core beliefs:

The Bible is the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the eternal Son of God.

Members must also:

Have received Jesus as their personal Savior.

Endeavor to follow Him in their daily lives.

Be members in good standing in their Protestant/evangelical churches.

Have the recommendation of their pastors."

They also emphasise belief in "the endless lake of fire for the unsaved" and the resolve to "follow Christ in your daily life".

What is good about these brief doctrinal markers? What is lacking?

They distributed the NKJV for a long time. But they have recently moved to the ESV. But it turns out they have a peculiar attachment to the Textus Receptus, and so the ESV publishers have produced a special Gideons version.

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Contribute to Christian Reflections

Every now and then I try to put before you, my readers, the opporutnity to give back to the ministry of Christian Reflections.

Do you enjoy getting the titbits of ideas, theories, advice, links and controversy? Why not throw a little change into the busker's hat?

I work as a home missionary for AFES, working at the Univeristy of Tasmania in Hobart. Like all missionaries, my ongoing work is funded through ministry partners.

You can give to my ministry ($25? $50? $100?) - and so the expression of that ministry here on the blog, through the AFES website.

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Preaching applications: who are you preaching to?

It seems that we preachers get stuck in a rut of only preaching to a few archetypes. We have particular sins, personality types, or caricatures that we return to again and again in application. Not only is this unfair on people who loosely fit this mould, but it is also failing to apply the gospel to many others.

Here are some of the different 'Mr Men' and 'Little Miss' characters you might address in your application:

  • Little Anxious

  • Mister Spirituall Dry

  • Mister Up-Himself

  • Little Miss Manic-Pixie-Dream-Girl

  • Mister Hyper-Zealous

  • Little Miss Flippant

  • Mister Complacent

  • Little Miss Discouraged

  • Mister Idealist

  • Little Miss Conservative

  • Mister Pragmatic Non-Intellectual

  • Little Miss Angry

  • Mister Worldly

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Mirrors 11th July 2014

  1. Kevin de Young spells out a case for the Presbyterian form of church government in bullet points.

  2. Dave McDonald explains why it's different to care for those with chronic illness, compared to those in crisis.

  3. Tim Challies, as a baptist, obviously, gives his answer to the question "At what age should we baptise?"

  4. Phillip Jensen compares 'non-denominational' networks to 'inter-denominational' networks.

  5. A nice gem from Dave Moore: 'whatever is your bare minimum is your priority'.

  6. So apparently the home field advantage is not because the PLAYERS are adversely affected by travel or more encouraged by their larger home supporters. It's because the UMPIRES feel pressured by the home crowd to rule in favour of the home team... or so this blog argues.

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Mirrors 13th June 2014

  1. What things help young people raised in church keep their faith into adulthood? 'Here 2 Stay' is a ministry committed to encouraging this. The factors they list include: family nurture, serving in mission, positive peer community, peak experiences, generational connection and rites of passage.

  2. A friend of mine runs a productivity consultancy business, called Spacemakers. You might like to check out his blog.

  3. I had this 9 Marks audio of a panel talking about 'reaching the unreached' in my list of things to blog for so long I can't remember what I liked about it :-/

  4. All the talk about Gen Y and Gen Z can be used as a cop-out for being a bad leader. Blame them for being slack, when really you are the one being slack. A helpful corrective: Do millenials really want anything more than good leadership?

  5. You may not fully agree with Andrew Heard's 'free market' view of a church's missionary giving, but there's still lots of juicy concepts in this video.

  6. What is the world coming to? Luke showed me this recent Korean fad: watching someone cook and eat on YouTube. I THINK it's meant to give company, while you eat at home alone, in the same way that Grandma leaving the TV on in the background fills the silence. These videos go for hours....

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Keeping relationships current helps you deal with crises: family crisis example

'Networking' can have a bad name. It seems like a sleazy thing involving business card exchanges and cocktail parties.

But building relationships and keeping them current is a good and healthy and normal thing.

Driving home from a family holiday the other day, Nikki and I were chatting about how it's important even in a family context.

One of the hardest and most stressful things is to have to deal with a family crisis with your adult siblings. Your parents are ageing or ill, or one of the nieces or nephews have gone off the rails, a marriage is on the rocks or there are major financial or alcohol problems. It's so hard to 'talk business' with your siblings. It can lead to awkward exchanges and even nasty conflicts. Misunderstandings abound as siblings pair off to plan and scheme on the phone without including others.

Keeping relationships current with your extended family is a massive help in preparing for these seasons. If you don't bother with birthdays, Christmases, family gatherings and so on because they are 'such a bore', 'so fake', or 'too much effort', then you will be totally out of practice in relating to your siblings when a crisis hits. There won't be any relational money in the bank. You won't be in a good groove.

But there sheer regular effort of talking together, eating together, smiling at each other all sets you up to be in a better position when you need to sit down across the kitchen table and talk about a big issue.

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Working on Christian Reflections blog tour material: leadership

I'm working on material for the blog tour - the first leg of the tour is this coming Tuesday in Launceston, Tasmania.

One of the sessions will be on leadership.

It's common for modern leadership stuff to major on how leadership is all about culture, influence and persuasion. And those things are important.

It's common for Christians to major on Jesus' teaching that we should pursue servant leadership. And this is crucial for our ethics of leadership.

But fundamentally leadership is not about influence. Nor can it be fully defined by the concept of servanthood.

Leadership is about power. It is being in a position of power over others - to compel them to do things. And it brings with it a corresponding responsibiltiy to use this power rightly.

'Servant leadership' can guard against some abuses of power, but not all. Many of the great absolutist dicatators claimed to be 'servants of the people' and even dress in military or civilian clothes to demonstrate that they are not kings. But sadly this 'service' can be used to justify all manner of oppression - it's 'for the good of the people'.

By talking openly about power and authority, and seeking to discover what the Bible teaches about these topics, we are forced to think about justice and mercy. These things also are needed to restrain power.

Click here to register and pay for a Christian Reflections Pop-Up Blog Tour event near you.

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Urban church planting means lots of churches in close proximity (same parish?)

Cities are big, densely populated and diverse.

If we are serious about reaching cities with the saving message of Christ, we need more than a one-church-per-suburb parish system. We need to be willing to tolerate multiple ministries in close proximity. In fact we should proactively multiple ministries in close proximity.

There are simply far too many people and far too many different KINDS of people in any one urban area, to be be realistically 'covered' by a single church.

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Questions to ask to test your culture

Some more helpful stuff that came out of the Coaches Conference:

Testing 'engagement' in your ministry

There are three questions to ask to see what level of 'engagement' there is from the people involved in your ministry:

  1. What do people SAY about your ministry? Do they talk about the ministry informally? To outsiders? Do they say good things or bad things or incidential things?

  2. How long do people STAY with your ministry? Do people find it hard to stick? Do they leave after brief involvement? Or they they lock in and become part of the community?

  3. How hard to people STRIVE for your ministry? Do you create opportunities for people to participate? Do people readily accept these opportunities? Or do you have a volunteer crisis?

What kind of culture do we promote here?

What are the things we value? Prize? Celebrate? Expect? Approve of? What is the air our community breathes?

What are the things we look down on? Ignore? Critique? Censure? Care less about?

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Support Christian Reflections: make a donation

Do you get a lot of value out of Christian Reflections? I regularly get people from all over the place that they find the content stimulating and practically helpful in their Christian thinking and ministries.

A couple of times a year I reach out to you, dear reader, and ask you to consider contributing something small towards Christian Reflections. By making a donation towards my ministry with AFES, you can also support my online ministry through Christian Reflections.

Donations can be made through the AFES website here.

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Lesson to learn about expo stalls from National Training Event

NOTE: Sorry about the images not displaying properly. I’m trying to figure out how to turn off the automatic word-wrap setting on the new site. Don’t know the HTML to do it :-/

Churches might need to have expo stalls at local community fairs. Para church organisations like AFES groups and Bible colleges and mission societies need to have expo stalls for large Christian events, such as AFES’ National Training Event.

How do you do a good expo stall? Here are some good lessons and a few awards:

1. Attractive signage and cohesive space draws the eye: Prize to Ridley College

Top points for overall space presentation. They has this lovely purple and this podium-like pillar and solid, curved backdrop. Would’ve cost a lot, I imagine, but it was very striking and marked out the Ridley space well.

I’m afraid I don’t have a photo of this one, as I only thought of this blog post after I left NTE :-/

2. Have something really awesome to give away: Prize to Moore College
There are the basics, like pens and thumb drives and lollies. But something special and distinctive. Something that looks nice and is actually useful. Moore College’s funky little multi-coloured post-it note package was a stand-out:


And inside there was a layer of multi-coloured bookmark stickynotes and then a pad of larger standard stickynotes:


3. Too much junk cheapens your brand: Prize to SMBC
SMBC had chips, chocolate, frisbees, pens, highlighter-triangle-things, stress balls. And so many chips and chocolate. But the end result? Great place for stuff. But the delegates end up having a lower view of your brand:


4. Have a tsotchke that fits with your core purpose: Prize to SMBC
On the other hand, look again at the photo above. See that globe stree ball? THAT’S good. I mean, what has a pen got to do with world mission? But the WORLD? Well that’s got a lot to do with world mission. It not only has the logo of the college on it, but it embodies the mission.

And when you think about it a little more, even the stress ball thing kind of works.

5. Have a stall that people can interact with: Prize to OMF

Something intriguing and playful, that draws you to the stall and leads to productive conversation with the stall owner. OMF has this great visual display of bowls of white and brown rice. The amount of rice represented the population, the white rice represented the ‘reached’ peoples and the brown rice ‘unreached’:


6. Have a very clear next action… and make it seem easy by using an app: Prize to Geneva Push

What’s your goal for people who stop to talk with you at your stall? What’s your next action for them? Geneva had the goal of getting people to give their contact details and sign up for the email newsletter.

And for some silly reason everything feels easier when it involves an iPad interface. And the stall has an iPad on a stand that you could plug in your email address to subscribe then and there.

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Ministry New Year’s resolutions: I really should spend more time…

Almost all of these could be an area of improvement all at once (almost all)! But is there one or two you particularly plan to focus on this year?

  1. Spend more time with my family?

  2. Spend more time with non-Christians?

  3. Spend more time in thinking, study and sermon prep?

  4. Spend more time in prayer and Bible reading?

  5. Spend more time debating with other pastors on Facebook?

  6. Spend more time discipling and raising up leaders?

  7. Spend more time planning about the future of your ministry?

  8. Spend more time getting the admin and structures and finances in good shape?

  9. Spend more time working on improving on ministry skills?

  10. Spend more time in hospitality?

  11. Spend more time being a practical help to others?

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Ministry work hours 8: The Value of Counting Hours

As the previous blogs in the series have stressed, I’m not persuaded that work-per-hour thinking is the best way of thinking about ministry work.

But I do think there is a place for keeping a timesheet and counting hours. Here are just some of the benefits of this secondary grid for evaluating our ministry work:

  1. It forces us to see what we really actually do. Just the very act of measuring things normally makes us better at using them.

  2. It helps us budget our time better. When you realise how much time is lost in meetings, or how much time is spent on the sermon - or how little - you can make some more strategic decisions.

  3. It helps you budget time longer term too: when you add up how much time something takes, you can work out how you might re-distribute that time. Often when we stop things we just let other things expand to fill the vacuum, or we just take on things mindlessly. It might be better to proactively replace that thing.

  4. It helps us say ‘No’. It is easier to say No to new requests, projects or appointments if you see that you literally have no more time available. To say Yes would require you to get rid of something else.

  5. It can help others in your life: your wife my feel you are working too much, but when you have an objective timesheet, this may turn out to be merely her subjective impression… or it may be accurate and help her persuade you to slow down!

  6. It helps you see patterns of busy seasons, quiet seasons, unproductive seasons.

  7. It holds you accountable to work and to rest.

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Mirrors 24th January 2014

I observed that Iron Man 3 and Mission Impossible 4 are not about the scary domination of technology, like the Matrix, but rather about when it doesn’t work. Well for some reason I succeeded in posting the 31st January Mirrors this morning and not posting the 24th January one. Oh well here it is. Two for the price of one.

  1. Is Facebook failing because the News Feed is too full? I’m not so sure. Any internet usage assumes you will miss a large part of what you could possibly catch.

  2. Leaders need to be careful how we use and define language.

  3. A helpful gender-specific insight from Charlie Pickering: ‘domestic violence’ isn’t a thing that just passively happens. It is men being violent to women. It is odd how we mustn’t talk about differences between genders… unless we must…?!

  4. Busy isn’t respectable any more. I don’t think it ever WAS respectable. Some of these reactionary posts, like posts about poor technology usage, can overstate the problem and so over-prescribe the solution. But they do make helpful observations.

  5. A fun review of Michael Bird’s new systematic theology. Keep an eye out for when the reviewer picks up on and critiques Bird’s particular theological quirks.

  6. Which of these outdated web features does your ministry’s website still have? Some of these (like auto play) are so obvious it’s not funny. But then others are too trendy to be true. The over-simple, user-action website is annoying to me. It is no help to the consumer who wants to know about the people, the history, the values of the organisation. When a website is too basic and iPhone-ish, I feel like it is a bit junk-food.

  7. What if you realise that you need to give some additional feedback during a staff member’s annual review? The basic rule is there should be no surprises at an annual review. But what if you really ought to say something?

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Campus ministry at UTAS - Part 1: Fellowship Groups not Bible Studies

Over the next month or so, I’m going to talk through some of the aspects of how we do the campus ministry at the University of Tasmania, called ‘University Fellowship of Christians’. I have people asking about how we do things from time to time, and so I figured it’d be helpful to put it all down in one place.

Fellowship Groups: not Bible Studies

Our small groups are not small group Bible Studies or gospel communities, but rather they are missionary prayer groups. About half of them might do Bible studies as a part of their meeting time, but this is not compulsory. What is compulsory is that they spend time in evangelistic prayer:

  • They run from 30-90 minutes.

  • They have from 3-15 people.

  • They are groups mainly around faculty/course or residential college.

  • They pray for their non-Christian friends and classmates, for other campuses using AFES’ monthly PrayerNet bulletin, for world mission, using a range of resources, such as the CMS Prayer Diary.

A Missionary Society Not A Church

We are very clear that we don’t intend to be a local church. We are not able to provided holistic pastoral care for our students. We are not aiming to meet all their discipleship needs.

Rather we are a missionary society on campus, who is focussed on engaging students in evangelistic mission AND training up Christian leaders.

So we don’t run growth groups, that might double-up and overlap with the growth groups students might attend with church. We don’t want them dropping out of church because ‘I already get that on campus’, not do we want them avoiding our campus small groups because ‘I already go to a growth group at church’. Our groups are doing something different and unique.

Evangelistic Prayer, Evangelism and Overseas Mission

It is my conviction that one of the best ways to start getting people thinking and acting evangelistically is to get them to start regularly praying evangelistically. It is hard to look at your classmates from a merely worldly point of view if you are praying for their conversion each week.

More than this, the group begins to function as a small form of evangelistic accountability. When you ask for prayer as you invite a classmate to the evangelistic course, you are also prompting the group to ask you next week how you went!

In the same way, one of the best ways to get people to seriously consider full-time ministry and overseas mission is to get them to pray for the great and plentiful harvest. I want students to be heavily exposed to world mission through involvement in our ministry. And I think praying for world mission is more powerful than short-term mission trips.

Pastoral Care, Socialising and Training

It’s not that we neglect to care for the people in our groups. We give training to our group leaders to provide pastoral care to their group members, we encourage them to plan social times and do one to one ministry.

We do these things because even though we are primarily an evangelistic and leadership training ministry, we are still a CHRISTIAN ministry. We do not want to neglect the spiritual welfare of others, simply because it is not our core mission.

We also have a larger structure, ‘Faculty Clusters’ that provide some of these things. More in a future post.

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