From a Moore College lecture

And I paraphrase:
All the exciting stuff seems to happen in the Continental reformations. The English Reformation seems like rolling over and lighting a cigarette.

P.S. to Church planting reflections

Another thing that struck me was how one of the big negative comments was: 'the new venue they meet in: it's really cold!'

It made me realise that this is something that a keen pioneering leader, or even a keen core group, may not think about too much. But this is something (in Tasmania especially) that will have an enormous impact on how visitors to the new church feel about the church.

Church Planting Thoughts

I was listening in on people talking about visits to young church plants. A common reflection was the tendency for the new church plant to feel all wrong. It feels like a bunch of people who don't really know each other thrown into a room and told to get on.

This is one of the weaknesses of the otherwise pretty safe 'hive off' model. You end up with a motley crew of eager Christians but no church vibe or identity. It would seem then that one of the most important things for a hive off plant to focus on would be forging their identity.

This problem can be avoided if the church plant is made up of a deliberately selected team. Such a plan has more of a group feel from the beginning.

Total Tentmakers

A tentmaking missionary goes to another country, fully thinking of themselves as a 'gospel worker' as doing 'ministry'. They put their career in second place, they let the priorities of ministry govern their choices.

There is a place for this sort of thing in the Western world too. People who have the same ownership and commitment as paid ministry staff, people who let the priorities of ministry interfere with their jobs and careers paths. People who might drop their career for a season to work in ministry full-time but then who will once more return to secular work if need be.

I'm not saying that this is everybody's job and I don't think all Christians in secular should be made to feel guilty or careerist if they are not in this group.

But I do think it is the right thing for some. I have seen examples of this, I think, and have been greatly blessed and encouraged by them.

MTS Challenge Tasmania 2008

Have you registered for the 2008 conference?
  • I will be doing the 'challenge to ministry' sermons. I want to come at it from the angle "why you shouldn't do full-time ministry"
  • Dave Thurston will also be speaking. He has been an enormous blessing to Tasmania by lovingly pastoring and mentoring many of our Bible College students in Sydney.
  • Tracey Gowing will also be our guest over the weekend. She has worked for many years in the AFES movement and will be a valuable part of the conference.
  • Excellent kids program for 2-12 year olds with good leader-child ratio.
  • Cry-room for younger kids.
  • Special stream for those not considering full-time ministry but wanting to support the movement from the pew. A workshop on this whole topic will be run by Chris Jones and Keith Van Der Schoor.
This is the ministry conference for Tasmania, don't miss out. Registrations close August 10. Visit the sexy new and follow the simple links. 

Marshall McLuhan on Technology

1. Extension: a hammer as an extension of the hand.
2. Exchange: a book as a permanently accessibly mind.
3. Entrancement/exclusion: television mutes interactivity, cars render us virtual amputees.
4. Evolution: "man becomes, as it were, the sex organs of the machine world".

Crossroads Changes: Staffing and Structures

Last Wednesday we announced two big changes in the near future for Crossroads"

Dan Shepheard will take over the main leadership role at Crossroads in 2009 and I will leave Crossroads in 2010. I will move to another church and begin to work for FOCUS at UTAS, leading the team there.

We have decided to formalise our 'one church, three services' structure, making Sunday 5:30pm, Crossroads House 10:30am and Tuesday Crossroads 7:30pm all ongoing services. Therefore we will not be moving the Sunday evening service to the morning. Furthermore, we plan to set up a formal small groups ministry for those who primarily identify with the Sunday evening service.

From the Philosophy of Technology to the Use of my Mac

I have been reading all sorts of stuff about the philosophy of technology and the oppressive nature of 'technique' and the fact that no technology is neutral, but as artefacts of human culture all are necessarily value-laden. I have explored the need for truth, safety, clarity, beauty and all sorts of stuff.

But now I have to bridge the gap from that stuff to the daily use of information technologies, transport technologies and so on. I don't want to just bemoan the current state of our culture. I want to do better than that. Hmmm. Maybe I should just tell the assistant minister he has to do the sermon instead.

Sojourn Community Church

This church, on the other side of the world has proved to be a great blessing and encouragement to us. If you only listen to Driscoll and Piper sermons online and you only sing Emu music songs, surf over to Sojourn and nose around a bit.

Tassie Retreat 2008

We went to Avoca Beach. Bron made food. And it was very good.

One motto we passed onto the Bible College students who are considering to return to Tasmania, was:

"Until it's signed in blood, you got nothing."

That is, there is no ministry job guaranteed here in Tassie and you cannot expect a job just because you are mates with church leaders in Hobart. You can't expect a job simply because you talked about possibly working in a church at some stage.

This is something we have failed to make clear in the past and it has caused painful misunderstanding.

Preaching and pastoring

I read Tim Keller say recently:

In a small church, people will listen to your preaching if you are a good pastor. In a large church people will let you pastor them if you are a good preacher.

What do you think? 

Mid-sized groups / Clusters

So this stuff has got a bit of momentum behind it:

"A mid-sized community is small enough to have a shared vision but big enough to do something about it"

They're talking about focusing mission on the groups around 12-70 people, because both celebration events and small groups tend to lose their evangelistic focus very easily.

As someone who doesn't particularly enjoy the small group, this strategy suits me to a tea. And yes, from my experience, it is very very hard for a group of 6-12 people to really be more than a community group and Bible study. 6-12 random people from church struggle to have an outgoing mission I've found.

This is more or less what we have done at Crossroads with our satellite services, House and Toilet Block Tuesdays. It has helped us a lot, especially in coming out of a period of transition and recovery. It is also what was did in 2001-2005 with iChurch and Hobart Central. One of the mistakes we made the first time was setting them up as autonomous churches (with all the burdens associated with that) rather than being a little looser with it all.

I have definitely found that this approach means more of your church growth is through conversion rather than transfer and also more leaders are raised up.

Midsized communities in Europe

This looks like an interesting little report.

"Let's track this one through..."

Let's not. I am not interested in tracking anything except for wolves and fugitives. I will definitely not track anything through.

Reaching residential colleges

What have been your experiences trying to reach out to residential college students with the gospel?
  • Having someone in the formal college hierarchy may help, especially with room bookings and holding things on campus: a chaplain or resident fellow
  • Regular Bible studies or evangelistic Bible studies may not work the best, it's like trying to organise a share-house Bible study. Because you live at college and you are around so many activities all the time, it's very hard to be regularly committed to something.
  • Find the keen Christians and devote a lot of time with them. Work really hard at creating a culture of college Christians being committed to local churches/ministries. It'll be hard to get them committed but if they do commit, they'll be very committed, since they are not bound up with many family duties and other social networks.
  • Help the college Christians integrate their college lives and Christian lives. College is such a bubble, it can be hard to make it consistent with everything else. Encourage them to invite church friends up to college dinners, do your 1:1 meetings with them at college, rather than outside of college.
  • Hold many hospitality events like 'philosophy gyms' , study groups or whatever. Contribute to the college community.
  • Hold irregular evangelistic events, do them well, but informally, still be thinking in terms of contributing to the college community.
I don't know if these are all good ideas or not? What do you think? What have been your experiences?

Peter Adam on preaching well

Peter Adam has this nifty stuff about how to make preaching really cool. He insists that the key to engaging and passionate preaching is not in the area of homiletics (presentation and delivery) but actually in exegesis.

Poor preachers only look for the 'meaning' in the text and this meaning tends to be conceptual, rational, dry. Then they proceed to teach this meaning in their sermon. Small wonder the result can be less than stunning.

Peter suggests that we go back to our texts and look for all the other things in there: the images, the emotions, the motivations, the structure, the language, the senses and so on. Once we have truly grasped the full weight of the text, our sermons will be very different.

Hubris in saying 'hubris'

My sermon last night began with too much theory: it included a section contrasting the biblical view of sin with hubris and had long and confusing Augustine quotes.

Now this is all part of the intellectual style of Tuesday Crossroads... but i went too far I think. I should've scrapped that section. And also had less quotes from The City of God.

Sermon did end well though and I was also thankful to God that there was a good turnout.

Sermon note short-hands

I use 'Xn' for Christian and 'Xnty' for Christianity.

Preaching to Emos

I read a kind of annoying blogsphere debate about whether or not emo teenagers need you to preach about judgement or mercy and it seemed that the answer was 'both'.

When youth workers want to youth culture they are often thinking theologically: what are the ethical and philosophical commitments of this youth culture and how can we critique them?

But I'm increasingly thinking the first response should be a version of the good ol': 'Oh, look! Christians can be cool too... see?'

In the first place, though many youth subcultures don't adopt views because they have been persuaded about the truth of philosophical propositions. And on a conscious level, youth subcultures often won't realise or admit the emotional and social factors that drive their choices. But they are aware of the aesthetic appeal of the subculture. It just looks better, feels better. The subculture seems to be a more real and more authentic expression of the world they live in. More than that, it just looks beautiful, exciting, interesting, compelling: it's pretty.

Christianity, by comparison, looks fake, two-dimensional, dull and ugly.

How exactly you do this 'Oh, Christians can be cool too' thing well? That (like the Bengal tiger)  is another story altogether. Readers: any suggestions?

Worship singing isn't cool

If Seattle grungers can do it, Hobartheads can....

Encouraging expressiveness in worship

Thoughts on Gender Roles

Fiona Lockett has some very helpful things to say about gender roles on her blog, The Long. I think it's very encouraging to women to show how active helping can be and very humblining to men to show how passive leading can be.

Evangelicalism and social change

Also in the same book, Kyle writes:

Most evangelisals believed that social reform would grow naturally from the behaviour of converted individuals. Employing revivalism, however, to convert individuals who, in turn, would then reform society had its limitations. By the 1830s, "the dream of a moral Christian society, transformed outwardly by the voluntary efforts of inwardly converted people, began to collapse," writes Mark Noll. Two failures - the treatment of the Cherokee Indians and slavery - contributed to the demise of this individualized approach to social problems.

Both my posts are based around quotes from Mark Noll. So perhaps I should've read his book instead?

The character of evangelicalism

My friend Joe Towns lent me a book called Evangelicalism:An Americanized Christianity by Richard Kyle. It was a good quick read. He quoted Mark Noll, in trying to define the nature of evangelicalism, especially as it relates to politics, is that it's marked by:

  • moral activism
  • populism
  • intuition
  • biblicism

Getting in the frame of mind to sing

It's hard to get a congregation of people who are not great at singing into the frame of mind to sing. Sometimes a little meditation or introduction can help, to signal the change of gears and to establish the song leader as someone to trust and follow during the singing. It is important that this doesn't degenerate into rambly, meaningless waffle.

Another option that I just thought of today was a long musical introduction to the first song. This gives time to shift into a more musical, emotional frame of mind.

GTD and personal deadlines

David Allen says something about only putting in the calendar those things that absolutely have to get done on a certain day and perhaps information relevant to those particular days.

For all other 'urgent' and 'importnat' tasks, the 'mind like water' theory of GTD, as I understand it, presupposes that we are able to use our unburdened minds to make good decisions about what work to do at any particular time. It is worth mentioning that the weekly review is a regular time that ensures that our mind is like water and that we have made the right decisions about what tasks to do when.

Maybe I have not been ruthless enough in putting things on my TODO list. Maybe over time I will learn to let more things slip through to the Someday/Maybe list and so my mind will be more watery about TODOs. But in the meantime, I find that I do need to set personal deadlines for some actions and projects or else I'll never do them. I do this for three reasons:

  1. Some things I never will do, no matter how much like water my mind is because I really really don't want to do them. I have to schedule them in or else I'll never do them.
  2. Some things have no specific deadline but they reach a point of staleness or redundancy. I need to make a call about the 'point of no return' for certain actions and make deadlines for them accordingly.
  3. The whole process of decision-making about some actions needs to take place in hours or days rather than weeks. If I relied on my weekly review to reassess which tasks need doing, it'd be too late.

GTD and ongoing "projects"

Just today a guy who rasies his own support for ministry asked me:

Hi Mate,
As you know I have to visit churches... and i need to always have this as a kinda 'to do' but its ugly in my projects list... coz its never ending... where would you put such a project? is it a checklist? i.e. i put the churches on the check list and revise it from time to time?

My answer is that this is not really a "project" but an "area of responsibility". This area of responsibility then regularly spawns projects, like killer aliens spawn little facehugger crab things.

Mentoring someone or working on your Hebrew would also fit in this category.

PDJ on Censorship

I really like the thoughtfulness and care with which Phillip Jensen reflects on the whole censorship fiasco back in May.

By the way, this 'From the Dean' functions just like a little blog. Having access to this kind of article by someone like Phillip Jensen is an amazing thing. Whatever other blog trash (like mine) you might subscribe to, surely this is worth it.

No Kingdom divided against itself...

I gotta preach on Jesus comback to the accusation that he drives out demons by the power of the devil. He says if that happened, Satan's kingdom would collapse. I wonder: but why doesn't he fake it? He can come masquerading as an angel of light, he can do counterfeit miracles... why can't he exorcise? Or at least why can't the demons jump out of their host, pretending to be in anguish?

(Moreover, this whole discussion assumes a simple two-fold spiritual realm: God and Satan. What about a more polytheistic world? Lots of little warlord city-states of demons? Satan could drive out lesser demons with lesser kingdoms...)

I'm thinking. And I'm wondering: exorcism must be a necessarily more violent and harsh event for the demon than I thought previously. It's not something you can do for the sake of guerilla tactics. It's not something that can be faked. Hmm.