Creating Ownership, Empowering, Values, Paradigms...

I'm currently overseeing an inter-church IT group. It's a good idea, but I'm not doing an awesome job.

It was a reaction against our small churches having disorganised IT. It goes like this: a whole lot gets done by an over-eager volunteer. Then no-one updates the content. And they get a job interstate. And the domain name is not renewed. And only one person can do the tech support. And. And. And.

We are now much more organised... and are also very unmotivated.

So I'm now trying to think how to, with little available time and energy to inspire and energise the team. Should I send them out to dinner together? Should we take on some mammoth, technically demanding task? Should blow it all up and start again?

I like the idea of us being a virtual IT community, with minimal time wasted on meetings. But the reality is, I think, that if you want high degrees of ownership and empowerment you need to have a human face. You need to be letting down Mikey, not letting down an internet mailing list.

Also, to have a high degree of ownership you need to feel in control and in charge. So the challenge is to correct against the over-correction. I need to let our IT guys get excited about something and make a mess of things... without going to the extremes of old and without controlling them too much.

In the end, I need to channel some of that energy into getting them excited about doing the routine things I want them to do.

And I don't want to put too much energy into this particular group, because I am a preacher and an evangelist, not an IT manager. And I want a pony. And a laser gun. And I want Mark Driscoll to be our associate minister. And I want a gigantic water slide.

Atheism: Good; Religion: Bad?

See my addresses on the Crossroads website. What do you think?

Brief for a Wedding Sermon Volume 3

Addressing Non-Christians

I'm not sure of the exact numbers, but probably 1/3 - ½ of the people there will be non-christians. I (the groom) admit that I honestly don't know what it's best for you to say to them. I ask that you think about what will be helpful for them. If any of these very un-thought-out thoughts seem good or useful, then feel free to use them, but it's fine to not use them:

  • Remember this isn't the only chance these people are likely to come into contact with Christianity/christians (they at least know us for a start). So it might be helpful to think about what you could say that'll make it easier for Christians to share the gospel with them in the future, or which makes them more open to the gospel. E.g. You could criticize the idea that “religion and politics are taboo topics” or “don't talk religion or politics” which, of interest to the left-leaning person fosters ignorance and a lack of understanding between people; which keeps relationships at a more superficial level; and which gets in the way of true tolerance and graciousness because it's based on the premise that you can only get along peacefully and lovingly with people different from you, if you censor your differences.

  • I feel it can be unhelpful to say a lot of the things which often start with “and if you're not a christian here.....”. Maybe it's better to mostly just speak to everyone as being under God's wrath and needing forgiveness.

  • Perhaps we (the groom and the bride) are a helpful point of connection with the non-christians there. They are hearing about what is central and most important in our lives, and our greatest hopes, loves and joys and fears (Heb 4:1).

Brief for a Wedding Sermon Volume 2

Addressing the Bride and Groom

The “St.John's Hobart Presbyterian Church Order of Service for Marriage” describes the sermon as “Words of Counsel – the Minister offers the Bride and Groom a few words of counsel and presents them with a gift of the Bible”.

I (the groom) seem to remember hearing talks at weddings (of Christians) where the minister addressed the bride and groom, commending either the Bible or following God to them in their married life. Perhaps this happened in connection with presenting the Bible to the bride and groom? Anyway I felt it created the impression that somehow the Minister was the true religious one, who believed the Bible and that following God and his ways is good and right, whereas the bride and groom aren't truly committed to God in their own right, but will only believe and remain churchgoers with the constant exhortation, reminding, and encouragement of their pastor. Now, I know that exhortations and encouragement are important parts of the life of the church and the salvation of people including ourselves, however on this occasion, I'd rather sacrifice calling on us to follow God or the Bible in order to avoid re-enforcing the idea that “the church faithful are the product of the power and influence of the institution of the Church” or similar ideas. Although it's true that God may use words of ministers to sustain our faith, it's also true that:

  • the bride and I will stand because God – not you – is able to make us stand

  • We believe the Bible and in the goodness of following God ourselves, and not necessarily any less than you do. We don't necessarily need your (a minister's) encouragement and call to follow God any less than you need ours.

  • I a sense we do believe “in and of ourselves” in that God's spirit is in us and we're new creations, and we don't need anyone to teach us, nor is our faith dependent on any man.

  • You're not an intrusion on the wedding – some vestige of tradition or the historical place of the Church in society. Rather you're there at our invitation with the expectation that in speaking from the Bible and of God, you'll speak to us words we long to hear and be reminded of, and to declare to those present things we would want to say.

  • A minister telling us to believe something doesn't make us believe something – we mostly believe if we can see for ourselves it's true.

Perhaps, if you want to call upon us to follow God or the Bible, then just do it in a way that acknowledges that you're reminding and encouraging us to do what we're already deeply committed to doing.

Richard Dawkins in his “Root of all evil?” TV program for instance had some of the false ideas about why people believe that want to avoid re-enforcing:

The only truth they need is God – God as interpreted for them by their pastor.”

...Believing because you've been told to believe rather than believing because you've looked at the evidence.”

...Religion is about turning untested belief into unshakable truth through the power of institutions and the passage of time.

Brief for a Wedding Sermon Volume 1

Here are the suprisingly detailed but surprisingly wise instructions given me by a couple I am to marry this year:

Regarding Heaven and Hell

I feel there's a danger in getting married and having a big celebration and a beautiful ceremony, that the event will automatically communicate that our great hope and goal in life is to be married... Even the impression that during our wedding ceremony, our focus and joy in life for that hour is temporarily on each other rather than God is to be avoided...

Weddings and entering marriage are often thought of, and spoken of in heaven like language. “Happily ever after”. Marriage can be seen as the great goal and destination in life and a secure permanence and belonging. Entering a state of blessedness or bliss. Even the Bible talks a bit about the goodness of marriage (Prov. 5:18-19; 12:4; 18:22, 19:14; 31:10) We hope to have joy in marriage, but we're not placing upon it expectations that only heaven and God will meet. Our hope is heaven – of knowing God, his kindness and forgiveness now and forever.

  • Our great delight will not be in the wonderfulness of each other but in the gloriousness of God. Making each other our great delight and love at the expense of God would be as much of a waste and as meaningless as a parent placing their delight in and giving their love to their pet mouse rather than their child.

  • Our sense of meaning, roots, permanence and belonging won't be in marriage, house or children. All those will pass away – we'll enter heaven unmarried – brother and sister in the church, which will be married to Christ and our earthly home will be gone.

  • Despite the marriage vows to serve each other, the LORD is our helper, our ever-present help in trouble.

  • Our great goal and destination in life is to enter the true heaven and enjoy God's affection forever.

  • Our great earthly joy (even on our wedding day) is nothing other than the embarrassingly good goodness of knowing who the true and living God is, knowing that he is a very great, holy and righteous God, and that we were crucified on the Cross with him so that our very great sins are paid for and he loves us and will treat us kindly forever.

Marriage is also thought of and spoken of in hell-type language. (perhaps starting out as heaven, or expected to be heaven, but turning gradually into hell). A place of oppression, tears and unending suffering. Or maybe just a loss of going out with mates and all other pleasurable freedoms in life. the bride and I certainly fully expect many difficulties and pains as we live together. We've already caused each other pain, even without either of us being unloving or “to blame”. Even the Bible talks about the troubles and trials of marriage (Prov. 19:13; 27:15-16; 21:9, 19; 25:24, Matt 19:10, 1Cor 7:28). the bride and I aren't going to enter hell through marriage either. Though painful times may come, they are all for our good and the good of the Church and given to us by God who is loving us – not by God who's abandoned us and is against us as in hell, so we have hope and joy in salvation whatever earthly pain may come. The LORD is with me; I will not be afraid. The LORD is my helper; what can man (or my spouse) do to me? (Ps 118:6)