Geneva church planters summit

Just got back from Sydney. And glad to be home. Xavvy liked his transformer and Star liked her Dora pencils.

After two days of heated an in depth discussion, prayer and share and countless mini pastries, we have concluded:

That planting churches is definitely a good idea and that someone should do it.

Seriously, I'll give you some updates about the summit and outcomes tomorrow morning.

Jesus All About Life by Murray Smith part 2

Part 1

This is not a perfectly structured review, so, as with Part 1, I simply have a string of reflections:

  1. Dave Miers has also just posted a very positive review of this book, if you want another perspective.
  2. The book covers a lot of ground, including a significant amount of apologetic territory and some basic advice on how to pray, read the Bible and choose a church. This makes it a very valuable tool for a range of contexts.
  3. It's not too 'youth'. I could happily give it to someone in their twenties without too many jarring bits.
  4. Prayer is encouraged every step of the way - from general prayers of thanks for the created world to prayers of repentance, to prayers of conversion. This is a nice structure. It does raise the question - Should we encourage people to pray who don't have access to God through Jesus by the Spirit? That's a whole other theological minefield, but I think the answer is yes, even though I don't have the full answer for why!
  5. Murray holds back from a strong presentation of hell. The closest it gets is on page 74:
... From the very beginning, people have turned their backs on God. They've said 'thanks, but no thanks', and have tried to live their own way without him. all of us have done this in different ways. Not even the best of us have lived the life we were made to live. The awful result is that our hearts have become sick, and our relationship with God has been ruined. That's bad news.
He comes close to it when explaining the purpose of Jesus' death (pages 90-94), but even then, we are told that forgiveness is costly and that we are guilty, without being clearly told what the cost of forgiveness/guilt is:

Jesus knew that forgiveness isn't cheap, yet he spent his whole life offering God's forgiveness to others, free of charge. He did that because he knew that he was going to pay the expensive price for the most wonderful free gift ever offered.
.... In Jesus, God reached out to us and dealt with out problem for us. God was willing to give up his own Son to pay the price for everything we have ever done wrong.

We stay in the world of metaphor and the 'price of sin' is never personalised as the personal wrath of a just God.

This could be fine in many contexts. I don't think that every single gospel presentation has to have a complete presentation of the wrath of God in order to be faithful. However, this is a large book, that covers so much ground. And it is being presented as a introduction-to-Christianity manual. I think it is misguided to leave out a clear explanation of the judgment of God.

Video Briefing

Vision 100 has just started publishing video briefings for pastors in our network.

Video Briefing 1 ~ Mikey Lynch from Vision100 on Vimeo.

Restructuring church leadership

Sam has posted some details about the leadership restructure at Hunter Church.

Turns out they are just like NCIS, which is nice.

Review of "Deliberate Simplicity"


Sounds like the book has interesting ideas:

1. "Churches should focus on a few important things and do them well. This does not necessarily mean focusing on excellence ('Good enough is called good enough because it's good enough' 57).... We keep asking, "What is the simplest thing that could possibly work?"  We try to have just enough to facilitate our mission.  Just enough money, Just enough time.  Just enough leaders.  Just enough space.  Just enough advertising."

A cool comment. Although I think that there are two, competing proverbs that need to be weighed: "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing badly" and "If something is worth doing, it's worth doing well."

I don't think the ideal of simplicity is always right. It misses the point of momentum, I reckon.

2. "Multility" = "keeping it cellular."

Yeah... but I reckon that the big gatherings add energy and momentum to the multiple cells.

3. "These churches are similar to terror cells (he calls them 'unterror cells') as they can be reproduced, they have uncomplicated aims, they are trend setters. A strategy for doing this is to focus on multiplying leaders (188-195).".

I really dislike comparisons to terrorist cells, no matter how skillful these cells may be. It is in bad taste, I reckon.

Preaching @ Geneva Push summit

The Geneva Push summit is on Tuesday 29th to Wednesday 30th September. About 25 leaders from around the country are going to be gathering to talk about what's already happening around the country and what we can do to accelerate that, by God's kindness.

Over the two days, Al, Andrew and myself will be preaching through Ephesians 1-3.

I've got Ephesians 2.

Don't lose sight of global mission

Ed Stetzer has a great post about the reasons 'missional' churches aren't committed to global mission.

PDJ quote on Reformed Charismatics

Speaking of someone who said they were a 'Reformed Charismatic' because they followed the Reformed theology of Calvin and while seeking to have passionately emotional faith.

That is a ridiculous confusion of categories. It is an insult both to the passionate zeal of Reformed theology and an insult to the Charismatic movement which is much, much more than sheer emotionalism. That type of fuzzy thinking is going to help nobody.


Thoughts about being positive about creation

Discussion about 'cultural engagement' or 'loving the city' or 'Christian Hedonism' provoke a lot of heat and a lot of crossed wires. But it's an important discussion, I think.

Here's some things I think need to be stressed:

  • We must never lose sight of the fallenness of this world, and the imminent return of Christ to bring the new heavens and earth.
  • We must not so worry about losing sight of point one that we never make room in our theology for making positive statements about this world. Failing to say something true for the fear of implicitly denying something else is not an option.
  • 'Cultural engagement' is an unhelpful way of casting the discussion, because it can imply that this has to do simply with 'relevance' and be focused on deliberate Christian efforts to be be relevant. This discussion is not primarily about Christian cultural behaviour, it's about the objective value of God's creation.
  • 'Transformation/redemption' are unhelpful categories, not merely because they are using biblical terms contrary to biblical emphasis. Moreover, their focus tends towards the mission of the church/of Christians in a way which I am not convinced about. It seems to me to be an extremely subsidiary goal, that our gospel ministry will make our societies good places to be.
  • Casting the debate in 'vs' terms gets messy and foolish: secular work vs gospel work, social justice vs evangelism etc.
  • First of all, best to think in terms of objectivity. The world simply is a good creation of our loving God. People simply are rightly deserving of love and care. Arising out of this, it is better to think in terms of love and worship and thanksgiving.
  • The primary distinction, I think, is between love and mission, being and doing. The two interrelate, but they are distinct. The great commandments and the great commission do not compete, they are not 'twin missions'. One is about our very existence, the other is about our task. The two work together and refine each other in a range of ways, but we must not simply melt one into the other: 'true love is to tell someone the gospel', 'mission is anything that show someone the power of the gospel'.
  • The 'cultural mandate' of Genesis 1:28ff is the 'first great commission' in a sense and therefore our service to God in this creation is a mission. That does complicate my presentation a little bit. I simply want you to know that I am aware of that.
  • The healthiest ministries hold these things together well, even if they don't have articulate them clearly.

Jesus all about life video

Here tis:

Looks pretty nice, I reckon and definitely prompts thought and discussion.

Big core group for big church plants

If the long-range plan for the church is to be under two hundred, the critical mass can be as small as twenty-five or thirty adults. However, if the plan is for the church to grow over two hundred that is too small. The critical mass should be between fifty and one hundred adults.
- P. Wagner, cited in A. Malphurs, Planting Growing Churches

Scripture Under Scrutiny published in UK

DJ showed me the other day that Pete and Anne Woodcock have published the SUS studies with the Good Book Compan - Romans 1-5: God and You.

They asked Phil's permission and have put a thank you note to him at the front of the book: "With thanks for all the years of hard work together". Sad and touching.

In the Chute registration form

Online here.

Also, subscribe to Al and Andrew's Twitter feeds (you can used Google Reader to do this if you're not into Twitter) and also the official Geneva Push feed.

Put your money where your mouth is: respect

Fi, as usual, has posted some great thoughts on her blog:

When you find yourself in a group of people, before you say anything, look around and think about the people who are there. Consider if any of them have positions of authority over you or if they should be shown honour. For example, I think that it is appropriate for me, a youngish, Western female to submit to men and to show honour to older women and perhaps to non-Westerners.

Why Christian Rwanda went so bad

Steve Addison posts an explanation.

Reasons pastors quit pastoring


  • Coveting others' gifts and
  • Nothing seems to change.
H/T Acts 29

Listening to PDJ's sermons on the Holy Spirit

I'm up to John 16:7-11, while I do the dishes and make porridge.

Good stuff. It's a great excuse to visit the beautiful website.

Preaching everywhere

  • I'm preaching to the University Fellowship of Christians today, again on Thursday, for the first of a three-week series I'm doing on Titus.
  • I'm preaching tonight at Tuesday Crossroads on The Spirituality of Passion and Pleasure, for the first of our four-week series on Sex.
  • I'm preaching at Crossroads Classic on Sunday night on Faith, for the first of a series call 'The F Word'. I'm only doing the one sermon.
  • I'm preaching at The Geneva Push potential stakeholders' summit next Tuesday on Ephesians 2.
I like preaching so this is fun. I know some people for whom this could not be more hellish. But I'm looking forward to it.


Christian Rwanda the home of genocide - why?

Steve Addison posts an intriguing problem for us:

Christian churches, seminaries, schools and other institutions were sprinkled throughout the land. And yet all of this Christianity did not prevent genocide, a genocide which some leading church officials did little to resist." (quoting another article).

I'm looking forward to the follow up post!


Robert Alter on the Pslater: arty Psalms

 Bernie posts about a fresh translastion of the Psalms, and the role they might play enriching the lives of busy people.


Gordo quotes Mark Thompson.

I heartily agree. It's an important doctrine and I find the various denials and softenings of the doctrine unpersuasive, slippery and potentially destructive.

Better man

I don't think I'm necessarily a more productive man because I'm married to Nikki. But almost exactly for that reason I am sure I am a better man and, in fact, a better minister of the gospel, because I'm married to Nikki.

I value her not simply for what she does for me (although I'm happy not to clean the toilet, don't get me wrong). I value her for what she has taught me, how she is so different to me.

Tuesday Crossroads' Facebook presence


Pete Woodcock sermon roundup

Christian Facebook updates II

One of my most popular posts has been on Christian Facebook Updates. It's number one when you type those three words into Google. But it's basically a negative piece.

What follows, then, are five positive suggestions for using Facebook updates Christianly, followed by five reminders why ordinary Facebook updates are still cool, followed by five boundary markers to avoid (in my opinion) bad updates:

Positive suggestions

1. Frame the update in terms of a questions, realisations, doubts - 'Mikey never noticed that Isaiah was all about the remnant before, 'Mikey wonders what the sin that leads to death is'. It's more dynamic than mere pronouncements.
2. Sharing links can be a good way to encourage others, without the main Facebook update being too preachy.
3. Share really concrete things about church life. If the sermon you just heard was good or you are 'really pumped' about some new event, tell us why.
4. Don't forget to include the down side of your spiritual life - 'Mikey hates being on usher roster', 'Mikey sometimes finds it hard to really trust God'.
5. Pastors, pay attention to the details in your ministry-activity updates: 'Mikey is writing a sermon in ugg boots and a beanie.'


1. In a big, busy life, mundance Facebook updates enable us to share everyday life with one another.
2. Facebook doesn't tend to promote artifical posturing. We are often quite real in our presentation on Facebook.
3. Ordinary updates enable us to find new points of connection with existing friends/acquaintances - 'I didn't know you liked Joy Division too!'
4. Facebook is a way for busy Christians to keep in touch with non-Christians - a good reason to avoid being cringe-Christian in your updates.
5. Mundane updates enable pastors to open their everyday life to their church.

Boundary markers

1. Avoid sounding pious or triumphalistic.
2. Keep your most sceptical non-Christian friend in mind as you post.
3. If you're a pastor, don't advertise your own church events on your own Profile updates - create a Page for your church/ministry.
4. Avoid hollow groupie comments about church/pastor - 'Pastor Dan preached an awesome sermon this morning! Praise Jesus!'
5. Avoid preachy updates - 'Christians must always live by God's grace: his power in our weakness'.

Public critique of public Christians

Steve Kryger over on the great blog, Communicate Jesus, posted a critique of phase 1 Jesus All About Life's Sydney campaign.

This received a mixed response, included many who were disappointed with him airing these criticisms in public. What would non-Christians think of this kind of behaviour? Why didn't he contact the Bible Society personally first? How can he sincerely want them to do well, if he doesn't take it upon himself to fix it himself?

Steve has responded to these criticisms in a followup post.
This is something that we are still getting the hang of, in the Christian community, especially in relation to blogs and stuff. It's something I've wrestled with on this blog, not to mention some earlier dramas surrounding a magazine I helped publish here in Tassie.

Here are some of my thoughts and the thoughts of others I have consulted:

  1. Blogs are more than private journals. There needs to be some etiquette/ethics in how we publish news and opinion.
  2. Blogs are opinion pieces. They are almost by definition just representing one point of view and they are at their best when they express this point of view fairly bluntly. To get upset by a blogger's opinion is like getting upset at Jesus telling people to 'gouge out [their] eyes'. Just because I write a negative piece about Christianised Facebook updates doesn't mean I hate you, or you're not allowed to have a different opnion, for example.
  3. Although the church is a spiritual family, we also do need to relate to one another in a range of other roles - as fellow-workers, as staff, as public figures etc. We mustn't over-use the ethics of family relationships to the exclusion of other forms of legitimate relationship.
  4. Just because someone is offended doesn't mean it was wrong to say something in the first place.
  5. When critiquing a public person or a public event, it is perfectly legitimate to do so in public. There is no need to first speak to them in private. If the person can't handle public critique, they shouldn't presume to take on roles as a public figure.
  6. When critiquing a public person or a public event, bear in mind that they are a real life person, with a mum and kids. This may soften your tone(for an example, see Challies' reflections on his past reviews of Rick Warren).
  7. When seriously critiquing a public person with whom you have had some personal dealings it would be best to allow them read the piece in advance and discuss it together.
  8. The Australian Christian scene is still small, and so to some extent we will always relate a little like an extended family. Therefore there are some things that you might not say, becuase you will hurt your 'uncle'.
  9. Christians can tend to respond with their guts, rather than their minds, when it comes to upsetting people. We need to take that into account, sometimes bearing with that weakness, sometimes seeking to educate it.
  10. Love, of course, may also dictate that we might choose to be more gentle than we need to by rights, for the sake of other people.

A single man has his mind set on the Lord's affairs

I wake up at 4:45am-5am, go for a run and meet one on one with someone at 6:30am Monday to Friday.

Paul Dale can also levitate.

Vision 100 News feed

The latest goss from Tassie churches in the Vision 100 network.

Children of divorce speak

From SBS' Insight last night.

H/T Fi

Way of the Master review Part IV: Anthropology

Part I
Part II
Part III

The Way of the Master claims to bypass reason and aim at the conscience:

You don't need to be an espert in apologetics. Instead, you'll learn the forgotten biblical principle of bypassing the intellect (the way of argument) and speaking diretly to the conscience (the place of knowledge of right and wrong) - the way Jesus did (Training Manual, blurb)

It is this unbelieving, anti-God, Law-hating carnal mind that we're trying to reason with in appealing to a sinner's intellect. We must therefore, as soon as possible, find a place of harmony between the sinner's mind and God's Law. (Training Manual p. 73)

There is something in this. There are intellection questions that are raised simply to avoid having to take God seriously. There are doubts which arise out of personal sinfulness. We do suppress the truth by our wickedness.

And yet I think the WOTM approach is both too optimistic and too pessmimistic about human nature.

1. Too Optmisitic

About the conscience. The Fall affected our whole nature, not simply our intellects. Our consciences also can be darkened, seared, hardened, distorted. See, for example, Philippians 3, 1Timothy 4 or Titus 1. In fact, much of the prophetic rebuke of the Jewish nation is that they were at peace in their religious hypocrisy.

Thoughts and sin mututally influence one another. On the one hand, as WOTM says, our sinful behaviour can distort our thinking. But on the other hand, our sinful ideas can produce sinful behaviour, which is technically consistent with our thoughts.

Therefore, certain non-Christian behaviours are, from the conscious and subjective point of view, full of integrity because they are in line with their intellectual worldview. It is the worldview itself that is the primarily sinful thing!

There is a place for discussion the intellectual arguments against the existence of God, and so exposing the sinful ideas; just as there is a plce for discussion of our moral failure and so exposing sinful consciences. Both are needed.

2. Too Pessimistic

Both conscience and intellect can be appealed to, to some extent. Although both are fallen, both still do function. in fact, there are some places in the Scriptures where human reason and motivations are spoken of surprisingly positively - for example Romans 7 (if taken to be speaking about a non-Christian, as I do), or Romans 10:1-3 or the Thessalonian 'nobility' in Acts 17.

While teaching that the human mind is objectively darkened by sin, the Bible can still speak of legitimate subjective motives.

Self-centredness of strong marriages?

Supposedly Christian responses to marriage breakdown may have majored too much on trying to help people build and sustain relationships without giving them the outward-looking focus of serving God. In so doing we are buying unwittingly into the spirit of the age; we appear to accept much of the implicity relational primacy of our culture and just try to show our readers how to do it better than the world outside. Instead the whole paradigm needs to be challenged.
C. Ash, Marriage, p. 129

Matthias Media U.S. conference

What fun.

Awesome insight into power and society

Like many postmodern thinkers, Foucault is onto something really good, but then makes it absolute. In the following section he makes some observations about power that I think we should listen to.

How often do you hear of people blaming a particular pastor or Bible College or or community or organization for their problems? It's never that simple. The winds of power are not centralized nor are they controlled by individuals. Moreover, the 'victims' often buy into power and so share the blame too. It's only because you believed the ideal that you were so hurt by the reality.

Anyways, here's Foucault:

[Power does not result] from the choice or decision of an individual subject; let us not look for the headquarters that presides over its rationality; neither the caste which governs, nor the groups which control the state apparatus, nor those who make the most important economic decisions direct the entire network or power that functions in a society (and makes it function): the rationality of power is characterized by tactics that are often quite explicit at the restricted level where they are inscribed (the local cynicism of power), tactics which, becoming connected to one another, but finding their basis of support and their condition everywhere, end by forming comprehensive systems: the logic is perfectly clear, the aims decipherable, and yet it is often the case that no one is there to have invented them, and few who can be said to have formulated them: an implicity characteristic of the great anonymous, almost unspoken strategies which coordinate the loquacious tactics whose 'inventors' or decision makers are often without hypocrisy.
History of Sexuality I, p. 95

Don't ask me stupid!

... cause all I'm gonna do is google it anyway.

To get full experience, type in a search to this website, and then it'll generate a URL. Go to that URL...

(H/T Nathan)

In the Chute: Geneva's first conference

The first two speakers announced are Mark Dever (via internet) and Jim Wallace (former SAS, now ACL director).

Only spaces for 100 peope, so get in there quickly! <>

December 7-9, 2009

Tuesday Crossroads short film

Just in case you didn't see this on Facebook, here's the short film some of our church partners made for the Tuesday Crossroads comedy night:

Inspiring people

A great idea. A slightly cheesy concept, in exactly the right way. Well executed... better than 'Thanks Jesus for the french fries' :-)

Preach the gospel and sometimes use words

Francis of Assisi never actually said it.

(H/T Steve Addison.)

Sojourn has a new website

Looks pretty nice I reckon.

The Nines - nine min. presentations on mission

Check it

Sing with your eyes closed?

A nice little piece on the Hunter Church blog. I can relate to this, too. Look away from the screen of death definitely can help thoughtful singing of the words.

Btw, this is an attractive, no-nonsense website, don't you think?

Distinction between choice and consent

Trippy distinction on the morality of arranged marriages:

In the matter of consent in marriage, the distinction is important. It is too easy to pour scorn on arranged marraiges as sub-Christian. On the contrary, arranged marraiges in some cultures may sometimes be wise and loving arrangements - so long as the couple themselves freely consent to the arrangement. They must be free to consent or to refuse any marriage that is proposed. This is in principle not very different from the freedom of a woman to accept or refuse a proposal of marriage from a man. She is not (in most cultures) free to say, 'No, won't marry you, but I will marry John Smith whom I prefer'.
(from Marriage by C. Ash, p. 230)

Jesus All About Life on 7PM Project

It starts at 4:12 in segment 2:

(H/T James Burleigh from Summerleas Church. No way would I ever watch 7PM project!)

Don't have too high a percentage in small groups

Andrew Heard:

You don't want too high a percentage of your church in small groups because that would mean your church is not growing. You always want a fringe of people who are just starting to check your church out.

Big Ed reflects on the blogging world

Third, blogging is a man's world. There are very few women on the list (unless they are contributors like in Out of Ur and GetReligion). I wonder why. Even in my own limited experience, I have noticed that those who leave comments on my blog are mostly men and those who comment on Facebook are much more likely to be women.

Fourth, although group blogs are receiving more attention in some circles, it is interesting to me that (depending on your count) 14 or 15 of the top 20 blogs are associated with individuals-- in several cases named after the blogger. That seems less common in secular blogs. For example, this Technorati top 100 ranking shows no "one-man" blog in its top 20.

He also lists the blogs he follows, showing that he still hasn't signed up for Christian Reflections :-(


Ten reflections on honesty

From last night's sermon on Exodus 21-23:

  1. Truth is freedom and lying is a slavery. You expend a great deal of energy propping up lies. In the end, you begin to believe your lies.
  2. Don't betray your friends, family or faith out of embarrassment. Be comfortable with who you are and who your people are.
  3. In work and in life, stand for what is true, over what is political.
  4. Strive for integrity in public and private, at church and at work, rather than being a different person in different parts of your life.
  5. Make it your ambition that your word be a very precious thing and that others value it. Resolve to be a honest, reliable, faithful, trustworthy person.
  6. This requires self-discipline and organisation.
  7. In Bible teaching, seek to be faithful to the text of Scripture, rather than making it say what you wish it said.
  8. Bind honesty together with love. Do not bully with the truth by being an emotional nudist, or by being overly blunt.
  9. A great thing about Facebook and the internet is that it forces much more of our lives into the public sphere, stopping us from being a different person in public.
  10. Honesty with ourselves will make us vulnerable, humble and repentant in leadership, evangelism and spirituality.

Interview: Dave Taylor

Dave Taylor plans to plant a church in Sydney with Sovereign Grace Ministries. We're Facebook friends :-)

Christian Reflections: What books have been especially helpful in your thinking over the last few years?

Dave: 'Living the Cross Centered Life' by C.J.Mahaney, 'The Reformation' by Stephen Nichols, 'Spurgeon' by Arnold Dallimore, 'Simple Church' by Thom Rainer, 'Down Under' by Bill Bryson.

CR: Can you tell us a bit about where you're from and what your past ministry experience is?

Dave: I grew up in Spalding, England, in a small rural church. I moved to Cardiff, Wales at the age of eighteen to attend university. At that time, the Gospel didn't sparkle before me... However, following a series of sinful major blunders in my life... the Gospel began to sparkle, and I was amazed that God would save me…

...After many months [my pastor, Pete Greasley] started to engage me with the question, "What do [you] want to do with [your] life?" It took some time, but... in 2000 I headed off to America... to be a part of the Sovereign Grace Pastors' College to continue my training. It was a great year! I not only got to learn theology, I saw the Gospel worked out in the Church, in marriages, in parenting, and in friendships. For a whole year I got to be a part of C.J.Mahaney's care group… it was a rich time.

I returned to a two-year internship at... the church that sent me to college... I had the privilege of getting involved in almost everything from worship leading to running Christianity Explored... I also had the privilege of helping Pete in his church planting work, watching two local churches get planted...

I then became Executive Pastor of Christchurch... and in God's kindness seeing the Church go into a new phase of their story...

CR: What do you think is fair about the critique of the 'reformed charismatic' movement that's come out of Sydney?

Dave: To be honest this is a tricky one because at the moment I'm still trying to figure out who exactly it is that speaks on behalf of Sydney? It doesn't take long to realise that this is a very current topic... the discussion seems wide and varied as you read through people's comments…

However, answering this question in relation to the 'headlines' I'd say that I think the critique of 'reformed' is very fair.... The challenge for me relates to the critique of 'charismatic'. It seems to have been narrow and one size fits all which is just not the case and that's why we made the decision to put a short video on our website... to hopefully avoid us being put into this narrow 'charismatic' box.

CR: What contact have you had with Australian church leaders so far? What's their responses and advice?

Dave: One of the best things about this season has been the overwhelming kindness and support I have received from pastors in Sydney and beyond. Apart from a couple of challenging emails, the overarching welcome from folk has been so encouraging and kind to myself, my family, and Sovereign Grace Ministries. Big shout out to Sydney…. Thankyou!!

CR: How will you maintain a focus on evangelism, rather than simply attracting Christians attracted to the Sovereign Grace Ministries brand?

Dave: To be honest, this is a new one for me. Here in the UK practically no one would care if Sovereign Grace Ministries, or any other movement really, were planting in a city near you. Folks don't tend to follow 'brands' over here... I guess my answer to this question would be two-fold;

'Won't do' – What we wont do is to try and unsettle folk who are in other churches and seek to attract them to us on the premise of 'come with us, we'll do you good'.

'Will do' – What we will be doing is preaching 'Christ and Him crucified' and positioning folk as best we can... If people are truly amazed by the Gospel in heart and action, and if there are appropriate private and public structures in place to facilitate evangelism, then I believe that this will help keep our focus clear.

It is my prayer that the focus would not be on anyone's brand, but on the Gospel, on Jesus and all that He has done for us. It isn't therefore our heart to come and just 'attract', it's our heart to come and be 'co-labourers of the Gospel' with others wherever we can.

TBTeam assignments

I want us to get fired up about 'friendship evangelism' (bad term, important mindset). So, inspired by Fightclub, and Dan Shepheard's old youth ministry, I'm gonna hand out assignments to the leadership team of Tuesday Crossroads tonight.

I've put each challenge in a little cash slip envelope, to make it fun.

The challenges are things like:

  • Catch up with an old school friend,
  • Be chatty to everyone you interact with,
  • Catch public transport and chat to the people you sit next to,
  • Go to the pub and talk to people at the bar,
  • Piggy back on someone else' hobby.
Will let you know how it goes.

Advice for joining a new church

I heard some great advice recently about moving to a new church or a new city.

First of all, someone who had moved multiple times said:

It's really hard to break into a new church. You've just got to impose yourself.

Secondly I heard these two bits of advice for settling into a new city:

Never turn down an invitation and host people (in your home or out and about) once a week.

Way of the Master Review Part III: Cold Contact Evangelism

Part I
Part II

The WOTOM methodology focuses on a scripted (or memorised and then personalised) dialogue and envisions a lifestyle of stranger/acquaintance evangelism. A lot of the training course is built around preparing you emotionally and practically for talking to strangers.

1. I like this. I believe in cold contact evangelism:

  • We won't be able to reach everyone with the gospel through friendship evangelism alone. 
  • We mustn't trust in friendship, as if God needs our personalities and social groups to convert people.
  • We must remember and rejoice in the fact that God can save someone in the most simple way.
  • Cold Contact can embolden us and prepare us to share the gospel with our friends
The WOTM gives many simple, practical steps to prepare you to share the gospel with unbelievers, rather than sending you off to do an open air preaching gig in week one;
  • "Make the effort this week to practise being friendly and greeting complete strangers each day until the next session. When you walk into the grocery store, the gas station, or work, give a friendly greeting to people you don't know (Of course be friendly with those you do know too!) If you don't normally rub shoulders with strangers go somewhere where you can" (Training Manual p. 26)
  • It encourages us to make the most of using tracts (although sometimes giving some odd suggestions where we might put them!)
  • Practise what you might say at the start of a cold contact converation by speaking out loud and watching yourself in the mirror. Do this until the sound of your own voice doesn't freak you out.
  • Bring up spiritual conversations by responding thoughtfully to the issues people raise (although sometimes their suggestions are a little cheesy, if not rude).
They rightly encourage the camaraderie that comes from doing evangelism together. They describe going with friends to your local 'fishing hole' - a shopping mall or public park where you 'fish for men'. And they give you the simple acronym, PIE: Pizza, Intercession, Evangelism.

2. There are problems with their method, however:
  • The danger with any evangelistic script, is that it becomes staged and unnatural. This is the case with any memorisable gospel presentation, but I think it is accentuated with the WOTM because it is actually a staged dialogue, not simple a monologue. We have to prompt our interlocuter to respond a certain way before the presenation can continue.
  • The approach, and the presentation is adversarial. At its extreme, like in their You Tube videos of cold contact evangelism, this is more like circus.
  • Their approach doesn't emphasise the need to ask for permission before engaging in evangelistic conversation with a stranger. Instead they encourage us to try to hook people into a conversation. I don't like this at all. It's like the street hawkers for phone companies and environmental groups. I think we have to begin a conversation with a stranger by stating clearly who we are, and asking permission to talk.
3. There is problem with the strategy of focusing on cold contact.

I had misunderstood them on this point. I thought that they wanted you to do the WOTM with your friends and family too. That you were meant to be in your face with them, like they were with strangers. It's not quite what they're saying.

Rather, they acknowledge that it's so much harder to be bold with friends and family, so advise you to spend most of your time and energy talking to strangers instead:

So, make it easier for yourself: learn to witness to strangers. Make it a way of life to share the gospel with people you don't know. This will help encourage you to be bold. (p 33)

They recognise that friendship is a different thing altogether, and actually give an excellent list of ideas of how we might relate to our friends and neighbours (if only they had put more time and energy encouraging this!):

The greatest way to love our neighbours is to share the gospel with them. But neighbours are like family - we don't want to offend them unnecessarily, because we have to live with them.... A friendly wave, a gifts for no reason, fresh-baked goods, etc, can pave the way for evangelism. Offer to mow your neighbour's lawn or help do some painting. Volunteer to pick up their mail and newspapers while they're on vacation. Compliment them on their landscaping and ask for gardening tips. Invite them over for a barbecue or dessert. Pray for an opportunity to share the gospel, and be prepared for it when it comes. (p. 112).

I have lot of criticisms of their focus on cold-contact evangelism:
  • The whole flavour of the training manual is like pepping keen young Christian guys up for the Christian equivalent of extreme sports. It's not really about doing the most effective thing for Christ's mission, it's about doing the thing that feels the most full-on and scary.
  • They seem to feel that as long as they dump the gospel on people, 'my hands are clean'. That's a far cry from the 'day after day', pleading and imploring with tears of the Christ and his apostles.
  • Especially in non-Christian culture, we need to take our time to share the whole biblical worldview. Even proper comprehension takes much longer than WOTM acknowledges.
  • Their understanding of friendship is pretty cold and clinical, like in the quote above, we are kind to our family simply because we have to go on living with them! Or again:
"Understand that you can develop a rapport and build a 'relationship' with someone in three or four minutes, if you care about the person's salvation. Once the door is open, then share the truth, knowing that the person to whom you are speaking may not have a tomorrow" (p. 33)

There is so much wrong with this quote! The quotation marks around 'relationship' are very telling. The simplistic view of what true human friendship can be is quite sad. The thing you are caring about is not the person themselves, but merely their 'salvation'. You can't help but wondering what kind of heaven it would be, filled with people who are not genuinely loving of others!

4. In correction to the WOTM, I want to stress the value of friendship evangelism. Which is really not a method of 'evangelism' at all, but rather a context is which evangelism takes place.

The normal Christian life should have built into it a 'salvific mindset', as John Dickson puts it. We should all desire to live out our faith and share it in whatever context we find ourselves. But this is not simply by creating times to share the gospel with strangers. Rather it is within the rhythm of our normal lives.

The vast majority of people in Australia become Christians through friends and acquaintances. If we are really passionate about evangelism, therefore, we ought to be very interested in investing in true, meaningful relationships with unbelievers. It is while we are getting on with being loving people, that the opportunities come up.

It is actually harder in a different way. Cold contact evangelism may be scary, but it is easy to get it done and to tick the box. But to invest in deep relationships and keep breaking out of the comfortable ruts of Christian community is harder and more demanding in the long-term. And also more powerful. Perhaps it's a little boring, at first, for a keen young Christian blokes, but that ordinariness is humbling.

But all the way through the WOTM course, they keep undermining the value of true friendship with their rhetoric. Although they claim that love and kindness and God's grace important motivators, these are almost said in passing, as disclaimers... The fires of hell and the urgency of the task are the dominant ethical motives in the WOTM's rhetorical universe.

Of course there is a time for rebuking cowardice and a failure to come out of the closet as a Christian. But that is not the only sin we Christians are capable of. We must beware of assuming that Christians are always guilty of the sin of not being evangeslitic enough, and never guilt of not being loving enough.

The modern view of character

Tim Chester observes:

The contrast becomes even more stark when we realize that modern character is achieved through self-expression and expressed in self-fulfilment while biblical character is achieved through self-denial and expressed in self-sacrifice.

Purpose of marriage

The argument of this book is that marraige is not in principle God's remedy for human loneliness. This remedy, in general, in principle and for all men and women, is fellowship and friendship. If in our society the unmarried... do experience loneliness... we are not therefore to point their hopes inevitably in the direction of a sexual relationship, but rather to human relationships of friendship and fellowship....
We conclude that marriage ought to be considered under the umbrella of the governing ethic of human responsibility (to the Creator) and of the human task (over the creation).
C. Ash, Marriage: sex in the service of God (p. 122)

The contemporary critique of theology: power

The modern critique of religion no longer makes any critique of the content of faith, but is a purely functional critique of the psychological, political and social effects of the faith. It no longer asks whether it is true or false, but only whether it has the function of oppression or liberation, alienation or humanization.'
(J. Moltman cited by C. Ash, Marriage: sex in the service of God)

Clothing tips

For ministers dressing up for formal occasions.

H/T Challies.

Forming a core team

Tim Baldwin on forming a core team and launching a church from Dan Godden on Vimeo.

H/T Grounded and Growing

'Retard' is still a yucky slang adjective

And yet it has crept back into everyday speech.

A great reminder to be thoughtful in what you say, rather than just picking up cultural habits.

Way of the Master Review Part II: The Law and the gospel

Part I

WOTM draws on passages such as Mark 10, Romans 3:19-20, Galatians 3:24, Romans 7:7ff to argue that we must preach the law before we preach the gospel, to arouse an awareness of sin.

1. The basic point is good and right. You have to know sin to understand your need for your saviour. You need to know your predicament in order to understand your need for rescue. It is good, right and brave to approach evangelism with a willingness to speak up front about hell and judgment.

A whole range of pastors and theologians with two initials are quoted to defend this approach: C. H. Spurgeon, J. C. Ryle, A. W. Pink and others.

But the problem, I think, is to argue that this is the way of the master:

Your job isn't to convince the person that there is a God' according to Romans 1:20, he already knows that. Rather, it is to convince him that he needs a Saviour, which the Moral Law will do. (Training Manual page 65)

2. The texts appealed to do not build a strong case:
  • Mark 10 is a unique treatment, for many reasons. In fact Jesus doesn't even get to the gospel. More than that, he doesn't seem to press that Rich Young Ruler for his claim to have obeyed the commandments, but rather for his failure to sell everything and follow Jesus. Later, when the disciples claim that they have forsaken everything to follow him, Jesus credits that.
  • Romans 3 and Romans 7 do in part talk to us about a subjective awareness of guilt, but that is not their primary point. Their primary point is that the law confirms our objective guilt before God. It is the role of the law is sealing and confirming beyond any doubt that God is right to judge us, rather than the role of the law to arouse a personal sense and awareness of guilt.
  • Galatians 3:24 is talking about the role of the law in salvation history, not in the personal conversion story. In fact, in context, this passage argues that now that Christ has come, the law no longer has a role to play!
3. Preaching the law before the gospel is not the one, biblical way of evangelism.

Acts 17 and John 4 demonstrate different approaches to evangelistic approach. The former affirms the desire for the Creator to know his creatures and then accuses us of guilt for our rejection of created realities, not transgression of the moral law. The latter describes the offer of eternal life, before the accusation of adultery.

Of course WOTM advocates can squeeze these into the WOTM framework, but there are significant difference in emphasis and approach in these passages.

But I don't want to get bogged down in choosing narrative examples. We can always squeeze them into our system. I would rather draw on larger theological categories:
  • Romans 1 and 2 demonstrate human guilt, not before the moral law, but because our knowledge of God from creation.
  • Romans 3:19-20 demonstrates human guilt through Israel's moral failure - if they have failed to please God with all their privileges, we are all guilty.
  • Some passages, such as Joel or Obadiah, accuse people of guilt because of their treatment of Israel, the chosen people.
  • Many NT passages seek to arouse human guilt by proclaiming the gospel itself - see John 16 or Acts 2.
4. The law itself, in particular, is not needed to arouse guilt. It is God's word at work in the human heart by God's Spirit that does it.

5. The WOTM approach is more cultural conditioned than it will admit. For example, their suggested response to someone who doubts the reality of hell:

Explain that because God is good, it makes sense that He will punish sin. (Training Manual p. 54)

Does it make sense? Really? Try that response on your average Australian pagan! The Training Manual offers many testimonials for people who have been been blessed by WOTM, and it is telling that most of these come from places like Texas, with a huge nominal Christian population.

Among nominal Christians, all you need to do is arouse their guilt for what they already know, and implicitly believe, and call on them to respond.

With pagan, postmodern, biblically illiterate people, something more thorough, more slow, more holistic is needed.

Calvin, Tony, Baddeley, ministry and pragmatism

A detailed discussion of knowledge and practice. Well worth the read.

This is one of the most ridiculous things in the universe

Its name is Wonderful.

Global Christian standup comedy

We did our first Tuesday Crossroads standup night last year. I was listening to REM on a drive up to Launceston and as I listened to 'Man on the Moon', about Andy Kaufman and was inspired to ask a bunch of our members who have comic talent.

We did it again this year, and it was even better still.

Funny thing is, I then discovered this link, about standup comedy at Saddleback Church, California - home of Rick Warren.

(H/T Tim Challies, who I only read because of his "A La Carte" weekly roundup)

New revision of the NIV

D J Moo is interviewed about it here.

The NIV has its flaws, but man it reads so well, so much better than the yoda language of the ESV it is.

Interview: Gav Perkins

Christian Reflections: Do you listen to any sermon podcasts? If so, who are you listening to at the moment?
Gav: At the moment I am just listening to Tim Keller. Too many podcasts, too little time.

CR: What are St Ives' plans for church growth? What are St Ives' plans for church planting?
Gav: Christ Church St Ives is a fairly large (by Aussie standards) suburban church in northern Sydney. It is a part of Sydney where ripped jeans and unusual facial hair are not prerequisites for being a church planter (in fact they might actually be an obstacle).

We have adopted a 'hub-and-spoke' approach to growth and planting.

We have one strategy that seeks to grow the large central congregations based around specialist staff who work in either creating excellence and clarity in our large Sunday meetings, or in building discipleship and community through our small groups.

From that hub we have begun and will continue to plant community churches. The purpose of a community church is to reach deeply into a specific existing network. In a dormitory suburb like St Ives one of the last vestiges of community is centred on the government primary schools. Over the last 4 years I have led a plant in St Ives North Primary. The purpose has been to generously engage the school community with the gospel, and we have seen great fruit in that. Recently the Jewish chair of the P&C took it upon herself to post a news item in the school newsletter which lavished praise on the members of St Ives Family Church for our commitment to the life of the school. We are slowly seeing that good-will turn into interest in the gospel.

From next year I will hand on responsibility for the plant and return to the 'hub', where I part of my role will be recruiting and mentoring planters for a cascading series of community plants in St Ives and beyond.

CR: Is training church planters different to training parish ministers?
Gav: The core gift of a church planter has to be evangelism. If the planter is not an evangelist then the plant will only grow by transfer. At the training level we need to identify and nurture the gifted evangelists and expose them to a plant environment. It is vital that every new planter has beside him 1-2 MTS apprentices who will be ready and rearing to plant their own church in 4-5 years time.
The other key skill of a planter has to be a knowledge of how churches work at a systems level. In planting you need to think carefully about how the new church will make and grow disciples. If you haven't thought through the unique and specific way that this plant will do that, then you will either fail, or you will simply replicate the systems of the mother church.

CR: What do you think the bigger Sydney Anglican churches could do better to support church planting in Australia?
Gav: As well as planting new campuses of Christ Church, we are also developing partnerships with other local churches. Last year we sent 30 folk off to help start an evening congregation at a church in East Roseville. Churches like Christ Church need to do more and more things like that.
The future of mission in the Sydney diocese is not in centrally authorised and directed programs, but in large regional churches generously sharing their resources and 'know how' with surrounding parishes.

Understanding the postmodern sinner

We had a forum for pastors/trainers at our recent Ministry Challenge Conference. Pieter Tuit, former professor of missiology at Calvin Theological Seminar, now pastor of a reformed church in Tasmania, made this observation about Tim Keller:

He doesn't just understand the postmodern person. He understands the postmodern sinner. He understands them deep down.

Some right-headed thoughts about church website design


I quite like the idea of collapsing:

  • the 'About' page into 'New Here' and
  • the 'Ministries' page into 'What's On'.
I'm not so sure about renaming 'Services' to 'Sundays', I don't think the ambiguity is that extreme, as we are still used to the different meaning of 'services' in a religious context - 'memorial service' and so on. I also don't like the emphasis on the one day of the week that 'Sundays' gives. I'd probably just go for 'When and Where' or something like that.

Finally, does 'Contact Us' need to be a primary link in quite this way? Can't it live as a footer to the web page?

The Way of the Master review Part I: Introduction

The Way of the Master, commended by the like of John MacArthur, Ravi Zacharias and Josh McDowell, has become a become a bit of a sensation around the world, including here in Tassie.

It is an evangelistic method, training course, website and video series by Ray Comfort and Kirk Cameron (yes that Kirk Cameron).

Many keen young Christians love it, I think, for similar reasons that many love Driscoll:

  • Bold and upfront - appeals to zealous young men, calling on them to be brave;
  • Cuts through the gentle, and sometimes evasive, tendencies of postmodernism and political correctness;
  • Gives very practical ways for keen young Christians to get on and do stuff, without waiting for permission form someone else;
  • Advanced and prolific use of the internet.
The premise of the WOTM is the 'way' that Jesus ('the master') evangelised the Rich Young Ruler - he preached the law, before he preached grace.

The focus of the WOTM is building a lifestyle of cold contact/acquaintance evangelism. Drop tracts, talk to strangers, chat to people in shops.

The outlook is filled with the urgency that comes from dwelling on Hell, and the great need to tell everyone about the way of salvation.

The outline of the WOTM gospel presentation is as follows:
  • Would you consider yourself to be a good person?
  • Do you think you have kept the ten commandments? Proceed to use the deepening of the law as found in the Sermon on the Mount to drive it home. After a person has admitted to breaking a commandment, for example 'Do not give false testimony', ask them what that makes them , ie 'A liar'. In the end they admit to being a lying, murdering, adulterer.
  • If God judges you by these, will you be innoncent or guilty?
  • What would your destiny be - heaven or hell?

Interview: Andrew Heard

Dave Miers has posted one.