Volume 3 Number 1

December 2004

Because of the nature of these reflections they have also been sent

to people not normally on the list so that you can get some thoughts

on 'Introducing God'.

The Christian Reflections for this month are on the 'Introducing God'

seminar that was run in Hobart on Wednesday 17.11.04. Dominic Steele,

the author of the course walked us through the course and here's what

I have thought about it:

1. The way he ran the seminar was superb. because:

a) He didn't do a Moore College one hour intro about the Bible being

the word of god and the gospel being the centre of the Bible and the

Bible's storyline is..... he just gave a punchy sermon (very good

sermon) on: 'the son of man came to seek and save the lost'

b) he went through the whole 'this is a postmodern society' stuff and

showed how to respond as evangelistic christians to these issues. it

was a real 'the making of' semianr that could be applied to all sorts

of things, not jsut introducting God

c) he prefaced his broad comments on postmodernism with a statement

that this was 'slip slap slop' philosophy... 'that way you know that

i know that this is very broad and general'. this is much better than

christians pretending or seeming to claim that they are being

academic when they are really being overgeneral (like 'Does God

Believe in Atheists?' etc)

2. Thoughts on Introducing God (IG) and what's already happening

at Crossroads/Hobart Central:

a) A lot of the comments about how to run evangelistic meetings and

how to evangelise postmoderns are things that happen already in our

weekly Sunday meeting. That is good to see how sensitive we are to

philosphical climate, and therefore an encouragement to us

b) A lot of specifics about IG we are already doing with

'Island Gospel Lounge/Beer and Bibles' and the SUS courses on a

Monday night - going

through the Bible's storyline, allowing people to ask questions etc

c) In fact, an advantage of our Island Gospel Lounge model over 'IG'

is that because it is not multi-media heavy our studies do not take

over the whole venue. We can run several studies for non-Christians,

and a follow-up course for those who have done the original studies

and a evangelism training course for Christians all at the one place.

d) Dominic encouraged leaders to run the plug for IG at the venue and

in the same style as it will actually be run when the course begins.

We follow a similar approach at Island Gospel Lounge - inviting

Christians from the various Growth Groups to come along to 'shout'

food and coffee for the evening, and running evanelistic training

courses at the same venue. This gives the Christians a 'feel' for the

night so they know what they would be inviting their friends to.

e) Good food and drinks at the meeting is clearly so much better than

just weak church cordial.

f) Following the Bible's storyline is being done. Scripture under

Scrutiny definately does that through following Romans 1-5 (FYI this

is one of Don Carson's suggestions in Gagging of God [p. 504]), the

Ethics course does this in a more circuitous way by looking at

christian ethical issues and the foundations for them.

3. Some more negative thoughts about IG:

a) Some of the graphics of IG are a little daggy, but you can never

totally win with that.

b) i like the fact that there are quite a lot of passages in Luke's

gospel over the eight weeks and weekend away. Still, i think that the

selection of passages feels a little haphazard to my neat mind. that

is more meaning liking things tidy rather than anything else :-)

c) As it is, the 'large venue' approach to IG i don't like the feel

of. Of course for many churches it would be totally unrealistic for

them to do anything else but in an ideal world, i think there would

be a better way to manage things.

As it is, the 'large venue' IG seems to be the same as the 'seeker

service', with many of the same criticisms levelled at seeker

services applying across. in fact it is worse in some ways since it

is also repetitive and distant (since the preacher is always

preaching the same message on the video).

It ends up saying that there is one big church meeting for

non-Christians and then our normal worship service for the

christians. that's clearly not a good road to go down. once it gets

to big church size, i think we need to own up and say that's what it

is - its a church. a seeker service church meeting. what i think

would be better if you are going to run it for the entire church,

evne move the whole church to a resaturant for the 8 weeks if need

be. Then there should just be separate tables for all the churchgoers

who haven't brought friends along. granted this would not work so

well for churches who need to cater for kids and so on. also it would

be spending extra resources on getting the other people along.

nevertheless i think that when things get so large-scale it is better

to put them in the 'church' category than the 'para-church' category.

if it is uunrealistic to shut down the main public meeting, then

perhaps all the growth groups could shut down, or whatever. i just

like the idea of keeping such a big group meeting as a church


d) I can imagine once Christinas have been through the course a few

times that maybe the 'vibe' of the meetings might suffer a little as

Chrsitians glaze over during the talk. Maybe the high of seeing new

people coming along and worrying about what they think would offset

this, but still it would feel a little funny I think, having say 40%

of the group knowing the talks word-for-word.

I suspect it would be better to run the official IG video on a

on-again off-again cycle. first time you play the video, second time

the preacher prepares some sermons that do a similar sort of thing.

This would be particularly good if the 'whole church' idea in point

(c) were applied. Once series of sermons a year the preacher would

plan to be IG/postmodern/firstdate/Biblcestoryline talks.

3. Here are the things which were challenging and helpful and which I

hope to take on board more at Crossroads/Hobart Central:

a) Dominic told us that he works hard to move people in IG from being

'customers' to being 'owners'. This includes things like being open

to the idea of them brining food, helping with the washing up, being

involved in a joke telling competition (wasn't so keen on this one

but hey?) or helping choose dinner music for the following week. This

is a thought that we ought to apply more to both Island Gospel Lounge

and Sunday night church (of course not inviting non-christians to

preach or whatever!)

b) The weekend away. i was definately not keen on this idea before i

came to the seminar. Now I am open to the idea, provided that a lot

of work is done to make the paricular group/table discussion group

develop over the whole time and do stuff outside of the set course

time as well. I think provided that is all done well and it is only

people who have gotten to know each other, it would work great.

c) The idea of the 'first date' approach rather than the 'proposal' i

quite liked. We don't want to propose to people the first time they

come along, rather we want them to come on another date. Very good

idea for people, particular when they want to invite best

friends/family etc. This idea of not coming on 'heavy' at first but

rather just listening and discussing makes a lot of sense. Of course

I think there is still a time and a place for a gospel blast too!

d) The idea of the DVD meaning that people can do peer-to-peer or

even subordinate-to-elder evangelism is cool. The fact that this

also allows for free discussion since the speaker is not actually

present is good too.

e) A long-term course is definately cool if you can get people to

come. The idea of always mentioning the length of the course as you

go along and making a real effort to make it something people want to

come back to is good. Having a calendar of all the dates is a good


f) The planning which means that the IG discussion tables can move

seamlessly into Growth Groups I really like. rather than chanelling

young christinas into our existing growth groups, instead start a

whole new Growth Group and make the christian who invited their mate

change Growth Groups in the process too! This seems to be an organic

way of re-shuffling Bible studies groups so they don't get stale, let

the gospel re-shuffle them.

g) The introductory night is a very good idea, rather than launching

straight into the whole course

h) Running an evening where the welcome, the study and the

after-teaching discussion are all 'items' in the evening is great

since it turns the whole evening into an 'event'. At the moment, I

think the Island Gospel Lounge can sometimes be a bit like an

adult-ed course where people turn up and do the course and although

the Christians work hard at discussino afterwards it is not clearly

seen as a whole

'event'. consequently people stop coming after the 5-week course

because they have done their course. They don't own the entire event.

i) the division of different types of evangelists was good: the rock

star (Billy Graham) the cowboy (invited by a christians to come and

chat with his non-christian mate and then rides off) and the everyday

(as it sounds). Little ideas like these are good to use when talking

and thinking about evangelism

j) the division of 'evangelees' (ugly word) was also good: the back

packer (talk once and drive for a gospel challenge once-off. this can

work, trust god!) the speech pathologist (one-dimensional

relationship, for a short term, try to get to the gospel, and get

multi-dimensional quickly) the work mate (longer term but one

dimensional, take time but otherwise same as speech pathologist)

brother (slower slower slower). 'Most confusion and angst comes from

treating everyday evangelists as if they were rock stars and treating

brothers like backpackers'

k) The whole concept, already referred to, of moving people from

being 'one dimensional' relationships into multi-dimensional

relationships is a great way of putting a very good principle. That

we should both 'enfolding into the community then...' and 'become

convinced of the gospel then...'

l) A passing comment: it is better to give non-Christians a new word

- 'autonomy' - than to try to redefine a word they have so many

misconceptions about 'sin'

4. Some thoughts about the practical application of these things for

Crossroads/Hobart Central for 2005:

a) Run IG for whole church once a year, during normal meeting time,

since our venues and style are suitable for guests. Maybe not full

dinner, but we'll see. Then the following year, write our own series

and then the year after that use IG or something of that sort

b) Run the Island Gospel Lounge evenings more as 'events' with a big

group welcome and a short 'item' and other bits and pieces of that

sort. Make it clear that there are several parts of the evening, that

the study is the central and longest part but that the discussion

time is also a segment of the evening.

c) Publish little calendars of the dates of the course, showing the

follow-up courses and the weekend away date as well, so that the

follow-up courses aren't introduced for the first time at the end of

the course

d) Make a much higher priority of doing social things with the group

outside of Island Gospel Lounge times, press this on the leaders

e) Use a non-multimedia version of IG as one of the courses available

at the Island Gospel Lounge.

f) Think about ways to make the move from 'customers' to 'owners'

both with people at Island Gospel Lounge and with church.

g) Try to slide the Bible Study groups into Growth Groups and be more

mindful of that strategy and goal.

Volume 7 Number 6

Review of Introducing God... the book
(Dominic Steele, Introducing God: meeting the God who loves us, Media Bible Fellowship: Annandale, 2006)

I was sent a copy of this book in order to review it on my blog. I'm afraid it's not the most glowing of reviews. I pray that I am not speaking out of some Aussie tall-poppy thing, nor trying to show off how different I am. I am totally supportive of the Introducing God thing and am sure that this book will be a saving blessing to many. However, here are my comments, for what they are worth:

1. Some general comments about evangelistic books

I don't particularly like them, and have not given them away much either. I read many of them when I first became a Christian back in 1997, some were painful, others were very influential. If My favourites, not counting the Gospels, are:

Mere Christianity, C. S. Lewis
Escape from reason, F. Schaeffer
The Case for Christ, L. Strobel
More than a carpentar, J. McDowell
A Hell of a life, J. Dickson
Basic Christianity, J. Stott
A Fresh start, J. Chapman

It is a special sort of person who would read such a book as one of their first steps in exploring Christianity. They are often pivotal after the person has looked into Christianity a little bit already, and want something to chew over on their own.

This is one reason why I think it is a mistake to write 'evangelistic books' with the absolute outsider too much in mind.

2. Some general comments about Introducing God... the course

These can be found in an ancient version of Xn Reflections when it still just an email thing. I have put them in my blog archive.

3. Some general comments about Introducing God... the book

The book is good. It looks nice. The spiritual bios are really good. I was worried at first that they would all be people who were converted through doing the IG course, but that's not the case. The most heartwarming, and non-formulaic would have to be the charismatic-feeeling bio of Maureen Drummond in chapter 2 and the conversion in later life of Vince Williamson.

It's a straightforward evangelistic book. It would be good to give to non-Christians interested in finding out more on Christianity. In that way, it is a great blessing. But, since there are other great evangelistic books already out there, this one left me fairly underwhelmed. Dominic Steele is a great preacher, and the IG course is pretty cool. I don't think his sermons translate to great reading material. I think that rather than transcribing the sermons, it would have been better to write different material that would really work in print.

The book was deliberately written to pair up with the course. I was therefore struck by how they are almost identical, except for spiritual bios at the end of each chapter. The book refers to the course. I imagine it would be very boring to attend the course after reading the book or reading the book after the course.

I know, I know, it's probably deliberate, to make sure that people really get it. Hearing things in different media, learning styles and so on. But it still feels a little redundant if not patronising.

It would also be nice to have reflected some of the inventiveness of the course. Apart from images matching the text and discussion questions at the end of the chapters, there is little of the multimedia, community, postmodern sort of gimmicks in the book. It's a pretty standard little volume. And by the way, I didn't actually like the photos scattered throughout the book, it felt a little tacky to me.

Appendix: Little fiddly things

Dominic Steele introductory chapter

- The dating metaphor is introducing rather jaggedly on page 9. I think that it is a very helpful metaphor in explaining to Christians how to approach evangelism, but not so helpful when explaining the non-Christians experience of 'seeking'.

- Often there comments in parentheses made sentence read with clumsy informality. An example of this is also found on page 9.

How can we know God? introductory chapter

- Bible verses often appeared in bold. This seems unnecessary.

- I haven't chased this through carefully, but I think there was inconsistency in placing full stops inside or outside quotation marks.

- '15 years' should be written 'fifteen years' on page 16.

- Athens is introduced as city like ours, where there is a massive diversity of religions. We are then shown how, in addition to actual religions, sport and materialism also function as religions for many people. From this point on, all of Paul's critique of human religion is applied only to these metaphorical religions - materialsm, sport and selfishness.

This is inconsistent, unhelpful and even feels a little sneaky. The people of the West do have actual religions beliefs. God speaks against actual religious beliefs in Acts 17. The IG book even recognises that our world is full of religions - Islam, Buddhism and so forth. But when it comes to applying God's criticism of human religion, we retreat to the safer territory of metaphorical religion.

I think this is a common tendency in preaching. We assume that we have to apply the Bible's condemnation of idolatry to materialism and other 'religions'. I think it is a mistake to only go at these metaphorical religions.

- The verse numbers should be removed from sections of Scripture quotes in the book.

Chapter 1

'If we came about by accident, then we are purposeless. However, if we are made by a creator, then our creator gives us a purpose, a meaning, a morality, a right and wrong.' (24)

This teleological argument is a very powerful one for the existence of God. However in this common form of expression, it is not fully articulated. As it stands, this argument falls foul of the Eurythro's paradox:

Are things good because God says so, or does God say they are good
because they are?... if the former, good becomes arbitrary. If the latter, God is subject to a higher reality 'goodness'.

Being created by a god gives us relative, subjective purpose. We are meaningful as far as he's concerned. It is because we are created by the God who is good, valuable and meaningful in himself that makes us truly valuable.

- The quote from the Enuma Elish on page 25 is really helpful, but it isn't given the dignity of being quoted in the same format as the other quotations in the book.

Chapter 2

- 'Autonomy' is defined in a footnote on page 37 as 'a self-governing state, community, group or individual'. This is one definition of autonomy, but it is not the definition most often used in the book - including the sentence which has this footnote. It is most often used in its abstract, rather than concrete sense - 'the condition or quality of independence'.

- The illustration of sin on page 38 is quite unhelpful to me. The illustration is about ignoring speed limits and drink-driving legislation and setting my own standards. I think it is a muddy illustration. It seems to imply that the government is necessarily right in the limits it sets. For a somewhat irreverent Australian, comparing godliness to being a sensibile, law-abiding citizen doesn't enhance the horror of rebellion against God.

- Double quotations marks appear to be used inconsistently, see for example the double quotations marks around 'good' on page 39.

- The Christian cliche 'anger is not the opposite of love, indifference is' pops up on page 43. This is a sloppy use of language. Anger is the opposite of love. Love is postive concern. Anger is negative concern. Indifference is the opposite of all forms of concern. It's like saying
'death isn't the opposite of life, non-existence is'.

- 'What would happen if Rupert Murdoch was immortal?' page 45 asks. This is a distracting illustration. I am immediately thinking that sooner or later he would be ousted by another.

Chapter 3

There are a lot of family illustrations. Perhaps too many?

Chapter 8 (did I run out of steam?)

Hell is described in purely negative terms, as the horror of being cast out of God's presence. Although it feels awful to have to advocate for thinking of hell in stronger terms, it seems that you can't go past much of the active element of hell - God is present in wrath and judgement.

- Further, God's judgement is said to be because he 'respects our decision'. In a sense, of course, this is true. But it is pretty misleading language to use.

Volume 7 Number 5 (bonus post)

Tim Keller cites a book by David Brooks named 'Bobos in paradise':

Over last hundred years there was always a cultural war between the bourgeois and the bohemians.

Now we have a hybrid of the two: 'bobos'. They have the moral relativism of the bohemians with the materialism of the bourgeois.

Tim Keller suggest urbanised Christians need to be the opposite type of hybrid: love of diversity of teh bohemians with the moral seriousness of the bourgeois.

Perhaps they could be called 'obobs' he says...

Volume 7 Number 5

1. God hasn't just opened his home to us, he has opened up his family to us. For us to be like him is not even just to have peopel in our homes on our terms, at our times, when we're in control. It is to welcome brothers and sisters into the fabric of our lives.

2. Acts 6-8 contains an interesting irony: The apostles appoint deacons to free them up to preach the word, and yet in the end it is these deacons who also turn out to be gospel preachers.

I don't think this is because the apostles weren't doing their job necessarily, but I think it is an encouragement about how things pan out.

3. A preaching book I am currently reading speaks of 'verfremdung' as a preaching technique. The term is German for 'alienation', and was used by Bertolt Brecht, the situations Berline cabaret dude.

The idea is we have become over-familiar with things (eg the gospel). Therefore the artists (preacher) needs to confront peopel with familiar things in unfamiliar ways. This alienates peopel with the familiar so that they acutally hear it afresh.

Verfremdung. Do it.

4. The same preaching book observed that lower class people in West Berlin respond well to highly referential, symbolic language. Perhaps the highly referential nature of hiphop, developed in American slums is another example of the same principal.

It made me reflect on simplicaity, clarity and so forth. I think that for some people when you speak in a clear, precise way, they often react as if you are being technical, confusing, or irrelevant to them. Perhaps over-precision, and even the drive to John-Dickson-liek simplicity are quite bourgois things.

If we want to reach the lower-class or the uneducated, perhaps rather than striving for crisp, simple, precise language, we need to embrace more refernetial and symbolic language. Living cliches, pictorial language etc.

5. Phillip Jensen says: "The symbol of Christianity if not the fish. it is not the cross. It is our love for each other."

Volume 7 Number 4

1. When you can't figure someone out it's sometimes because you are not seeing a dimension of their character (eg bad temper, extremem defensiveness).

Sometimes you can encourage this by dealing with conflict in a different way to them.

2. This is a reminder that hypcorisy and self-control can sometime be confused. Self-control is actually harnassing the problem. Hypocrisy is only having enough self-control to master it before others. Sometimes it is better to first learn to 'be who you are' before others, and then to deal with it properly.

3. How do local churches relate to the universal church? Are gatherings of Christians to read the Bible and pray equally church: around a dinner table, in a CU, in a Bible study group? If a church has a BBQ is that less church than when a CU meets?

Some would say only the Sunday gathering is really church at all. Some would say that as long as the Bible and prayer is involved, there is no difference between an Growth Group and a Sunday meeting. Some would say that as long as Christians are involved somewhere along the line it's church ('whatever we may mean by that...'). Here's my thoughts:

a) A public gathering of a church is the fullest expression of the universal church. It is a community that has gathered together deliberately as a local church and it is engaged in the activities of the heavenly church: prayer, praise, hearing the word of God, encouraging one another and so on.

b) A gathering of Christians to read the Bible and prayer (eg Growth Group, CU) is engaged in the the activities of the church, but is not intentionally gathered as a church. It has not been ordained as a local church. It is therefore not properly speaking a church in the fullest sense. At the same time it has much of the spiritual significance of a church.

c) A gathering of a local church to have a BBQ is not engaged in the the central activities of the church, but it is still gathered as a church. This activity is an deliberate activity of this group of people who have been ordained as a church. It is therefore not properly speaking
a church in the fullest sense. At the same time it has much of the spiritual significance of a church.

4. Our church recently realised that we were making the whole process of signing people up on rosters a nightmare, because it relied on peopel taking the iniatiative all the time to put their names on the roster. Established churches tend to slot people into the roster, then publish the roster and ask peopel to make changes as needed.

The reason we hadn't approached it that way before, I suppose, is because it is aht result of quite a 'club' mentality. Each member of the club is just assumed to be willing and expected to serve on the rosters. So we'll jsut plug them in!

It got me thinking... sometimes it is appropriate to adopt a club mentality. I wonder, how many other things do new churches make difficult for themselves because we don't adopt a club mentality?

Volume 7 Number 3

Time to break the silence on this blog re: David Allen's "Getting things done". This book is a wonderful blessing in personal organisation.

It is the kind of book that if you are already fairly organised you can flip through and get lots of hints and tips from to include in your own way of doing things, such as:

  • For any job, goal, meeting, plan, chore always ask 'What is the next, actual, concrete, physical action I need to do to get this done?'. That can be quite a difficult skill to master. We tend to gloss of the next actual action to the overall outcome. For example if I want to get my car fixed, my first action is to find the mechanic's number. In a meeting, when a problem gets raised, the next action may be simply to talk with the person who raised the problem and then re-evaluate next time, rather than devoting 10 mintues with everyone giving their opinion on the problem.
  • Make your filing system as uncomplicated as possible. Don't bother with hanging files in your filing cabinet. Just let the manila folders sit in the filing drawer. If you are going to use hanging files, restrict it to one manila folder per hanger, so that you don't complicate the system by having to find the right hanger then the right file.
  • Whenever a job, task or chore requires more than one action to be completed (even writing aletter, buying a stamp and posting it), consider it a 'project' and keep track of it on a separate 'projects' list. That helps you break down even the most mundane of jobs into do-able actions... rather than seeing 'write to Grandma' on your TODO list, and getting a gush of all the things you need to do to get that done.
  • Keep separate TODO lists for each sphere of activity: @ Phone, @ Computer, @ Home, @ Office, Errands etc
  • Have an INBOX. One INBOX. Regularly flush it clean. Don't even put anything back into the INBOX. You don't need to necessarily do everything in your INBOX. Just get it into your system so it will be done later.
  • Have a series of checklists on your overall goals, things to remember for various levels of life:
    1. Runway items: things you need to keep being mindful of day-to-day
    2. 10 000 foot items: things to be aware of in your various projects
    3. 20 000 foot items: things to be aware of in your overall areas of responsibility
    4. 30 000 foot items: 1-2 year goals
    5. 40 000 foot items: 3-5 year goals
    6. 50 000 fot items: life goals
  • Do a weekly review where you scan over everything, to capture any outstanding items. Plan for the future week. Do this early afternoon of the last day of your working week, so that you enjoy your day off and start the next week well.
  • Keep your calendar free of everything except those things which must happen on that day. Never put the things you'd just like to do on that day.
  • Change anything in your personal organisation system that makes you resist getting organised: never have a filing cabinet more than 2/3 full, have your INBOX within reach of your computer/desk, get a stapler that makes a satisfying 'thump'.
  • When ideas or possible actions come up along the way, write each new idea on a separate piece of paper. This means that each separate piece of paper can be filed away immediatley, rather than being re-written/crossed off etc.
  • There are three ways to decide what you should be doing:
    1. By first asking what context your are in, then by time is available, third by asking how much energy you have and lastly by asking what is the greatest priority.
    2. By considering the three types of work you could do: Predefined work, Defining the work you have to do, Doing work that just turns up.
    3. By consider your higher-level goals.
But I think there is probably a large mass of us who would most benefit from putting the whole system into practice. It's threatening to read a book on personal organisation, because most of us take some degree of pride in our self-discipline. But because of this it's very hard to hear the suggestions of a different approach. I think that even to get the most out of the book, it is worth reading it as if you are going to implement the entire system.

So what is the system? Well it means having 10 buckets that capture your life:
  1. INBOX: Everything goes into the inbox. If you can't fit it in there, write a note about it. You must regularly (daily/weekly), flush your inbox item by item. Start from the top and work your way day. Never put anything back into the inbox. Never get more than one thing out at a time. You don't need to do each thing, but you need to put it in the system. So your email inbox should always be getting to empty. It is not a reminder page. Archive emails you won't answer immediately and put a reminder in your system.
  2. Rubbish: If you are not going to do anything about it, if you don't want it for future reference, then get rid of it.
  3. TO DO lists: Have separate lists for each different context. These are all single-action items. If you need to do more than one thing to complete a task, it is really a project (see below).
  4. Calendar: Only for 1. Things that are going to get done and have to get done on that specific day. These need to be actions not just topics (eg 'call David', 'brainstorm conference'); or 2. Reminders of things that will be happening on that day (eg 'preaching at Montrose').
  5. Waiting for: The list of things you have asked others to do, that you may need to return to and follow-up (eg 'Bernie send me Kevin's email address', 'Beckett return my encyclopaedia').
  6. Remind me later: A filing system or part of your calendar that contains things you definitely want to start thinking about again at a later date. I have a page inserted in my diary (it's a binder-style diary so i can insert pages), that lists actions I need to address each week/month of the coming year - 'start planning sermon on Acts 20'.
  7. Someday/maybe: List of actions that you don't need to do now, and you don't necessarily want to do in the forseeable future, but you want to keep record of (eg Learn Chinese).
  8. Project support material: The various checklists, information and other items relating to the more-than-one-action items you are doing at the moment.
  9. Checklists: Those things that you want to make sure that you remember in a certain area of task (eg things to do when packing for a holiday). Can be kept in reference file or project file.
  10. Reference file: Stuff that requires no immediate action, but that you want to keep to refer to later. Books, Bible studies, letters, brochures. File in one A-Z system, only have one extra level (eg Conference/Church Conferences)
Each of these are very clear and distinct buckets. Everything needs to go in one of them. They should never serve more than one purpose. An INBOX shoudl not also be a reminder list. A calendar is not also a general TODO list. A project folder should not contain general reference info or ideas for next time you do that action.

As you flush your INBOX, then you ask the following: What is it? What is the next action?
  1. If no next action... Dump it? Put it in the Reference file? Put it in the Someday/Maybe file?
  2. If next action... Either Do it (if it takes less than 2 mins), Delegate it (and put into Waiting for list) or Defer it (and put it into TODO list, Calendar or Remind me later system) - simple to remember: Do, Dodge, Delay or Destroy.
Ok that's enough. John 14:31.

Volume 7 Number 2

Sorry about not posting for a while.

1. Thinking about our how our job is an expression of our worship of Christ is a challenge. There a three levels we need to think on. First, we need to think how we conduct ourselves morally. Individually, we should strive to be godly, dilligent and kind in our work.. But also professionally, many of us have job which is itself a godly activity. A mother or a doctor are actually doing a godly thing for their employment.

Second, there are the spiritual activities that we can be invovled in because of our work. We have opportunities to love individuals we meet through work, we may be given opportunities to speak about Christ to our workmates, we all have the opportunity to pray for our workplace and workmate. Moreover, if we are earning money, then some of this is given to the church, some to those in need, and the rest is used to stop you being a burden on others.

Third, we should remember that every part of our lives are an offering of worship to Christ. This should drive us to constant prayers of thanks, as well as prayers that what we do may be pleasing to him. This should surely motivate us to do everything we do with excellence.

2. I have been thinking how we might improve on our 'newcomers nights'. Have we been pitching these evenings in too much of a 'program-church' way? Can it be more personalised? This might involve some of the following:

(a) Make the invitation to be an invite from me (as the pastor), even given by me and held at my house? This would provide more of a sense of getting access to the pastor... rather than just to the institution.

(b) Pitched as an occasional thing, rather than an official, organised program that they may plug into. So rather than:

"'Crossroads' (some nebulous insitutional consciousness) is organising this program that isn't specifically for you but you may like to come"

Make it:

"Mikey would like to invite Tom, Dick and Jane around to get to know you and share with you a bit about what it means to be a part of the Crossroads community"

(c) Don't have generic fliers... especially not general-info fliers as they currently are. Rather, have letters, or at least invitations with 'Dear ____' on them.

3. Reasons why we might apologise for a public statement that causes offence:

(a) Because we were factually incorrect

(b) Because we were unkind or unwise in when/how/where we said it

(c) Because we

4. Some logistics of using email in ministry organising:

(a) Realise it has a low grab-rate. It may seem more efficient, but in some ways it is less so. Many people are more likely to forget an email or not feel they have to worry about what it requests.

(b) Realise that you are sacrificing the opportunity for valuable face-time/phone-time. You can use email to organise ministry but it seems to have less relational value. Most people tend not to feel like they've caught up with you if they receive an email, whereas an organising phonecall can also give a bit of a social dimension.

(c) If organising something, never send an open-ended email to a group list like:

"How shall we do lunch? Who wants to bring what?"


"When shall we meet? What's a good time?"

This tends to freeze people up... it's a diffusion of responsibility. Noone responds so then you get crabby and complain to the email list's inaction. As a result people either feel guilty or resentful.

Far better to propose a time/venue, or propose who should bring what things for lunch. Then you can always re-negotiate as you go.

5. I have heard that some hospitality staff think of the post-church crowd as one of the most nightmarish customer-groupings of the hospitality week. They take over several tables, often people don't order anything, they assume the waiting staff realise that all these separate tables are together, they always want to split the bill, they move chairs and even move tables after placing orders, they don't listen to the waiter/waitress when he/she is trying to ask who ordered the skinny capuccino...

Surely an area of godliness we need to grow in.

6. It is hard for blokes to welcome new blokes into the church. Blokes are less likely to go out for a coffee and 'chat' together. This is a reason why it's good to be on the lookout for shared activities. If you discover that a blokes is doing up his car or building a shed, this is prime getting-to-know-you material. Sheds are to guys what cups of coffee are to girls.

7. Covenant and creation: I read an article in the Reformed Theological Review (P. Williamson, "Covenant: The Beginning of a biblical idea" 65:1) arguing that it was incorrect to think about Adam and Eve being in a covenantal relationship with God. Three things:

(a) The writer said that we shouldn't define 'covenant' too broadly. We must retrict ourselves to the biblical usage. I don't think this is quite fair. I think of the covenant with David, which doesn't appear to be characterised by much formal ratification.

Theological categories, if helpful in describing biblical truths, can often be broader than the specific uses of the word in the pages of Scripture. For example, the category 'prophecy' is helpfully used, even if situations where someone is not specifically called a prophet. That's why we can call Joshua-2Kings 'the Former Prophets'.

Do we need to find proof that Scripture uses the word 'covenant' to describe the Trinity's commitment ot redeem the elect? Do wee need to find Scriptural use of the word 'covenant' to describe God's relatoinship to Adam and Eve? I don't think there is anything theologically misleading in using 'covenant' in broader cases, as long as you think through the reasons why God chose not to use that word all the time.

(b) One reason the article gave for not using the word 'covenant' for God's relationship to Adam and Eve is "Rather than establishing or framing such a divine-human relationship, a covenant seals or formalizes is. The biblical order is relationship, then covenant, rather than covenant, hence relationship."

I would want to clarify this. Even if a relationship already exists before a covenant is made, a covenant creates a new relationship: a covenantal one. It brings a new type of relationship into being. Think about marriage. More than that, when God initiates a relationship with someone, and then makes a covenant with himself, then it is right to see the whole relationship as being covenantal. The relationship was initiated with the purpose of establishing the covenant.

In fact, it is probably right to take this a step further, given the character of God as the faithful God. All God's dealings are in accordance with his good plans and intentions and God remains faithful to his plans and intentions.

In all of these ways, it is right to see the historical and concrete examples of 'covenant', often tied to cultural conventions of the ancient world, as being more concrete expressions of God's promise-making-promise-keeping character.

(c) The article sees covenant as an idea that was introduced by God after the Fall of man. It doesn't represent the way things originally were, and therefore it doesn't represent the end-goal that the whole world is moving towards:

"Rather than allowing creation to be subsumed under covenant, covenant must be understood in the context of creation. The priority of creation over covenant has important ramifications for salvation history. The latter is concerned not merely with the restoration of the divine-human relationship establsihed at creation, but ultimately with the renewal of all things, including the creation itself."

I don't think that by emphasisng the covenant-nature of God's dealings with himself and the world necessarily subsumes creation under covenant. In a sense it does, in so far as God's prior intentions in creating the world are more important than the sheer fact that he did create the world. But more generally the relationship is a bit more mutually supportive than that.

Further, I don't think that a focus on covenant limits our view of salvation to the restoration of divine-human relationships. As far as I can see, the biblical covenants always carry with them humanity's responsibility over the earth, and God's commitment to bless humans with a place of rest.

Volume 7 Number 1

1. A guy called Myka articulated the problem with postmodern/relativist tolerance quite nicely: It reduces the power our beliefs have over ourselves and others.

2. An important thing to prepare people for when they go to Bible College is that godliness for them will look very different, serveing God as full-time Bible College students, rather than active church members/ministers.

3. The incarnational model of mission seems to place the stress on us imitating the incarnation, by incarnating ourselves in the culture we are trying to reach.
I think a slightly different emphasis would be helpful: James 1:21 tells us that God has already incarnated his Word in us. We are already in the world/in the flesh/"in-carnate". The challenge is not so much becoming more in the world, the challenge is for the Word that is planted in us to have control over every area of our lives.
If we take seriously the call for us to humbly submit to the word planted in us in every area of our lives, we will find ourselves thinking throuhg all the 'incarnational-mission' questions: how does the word of God planted in me affect my reaction to sport, or art?
But I think it is important to recognise that it is not being in the world that we need to strive for, rather it is the Word being incarnate in us that is teh miracle.

4. "There's no secret to x (fill in the gap: preaching/church planting/cultural engagement)... you just gotta get on with it. You gotta put you trust in the gospel, not in some methodology".

That is the evangelical cliche in the circles I move in. Intuitive, pragmatic, just-get-on-with-the-gospel. The intuitive approach has many benefits. It releases you from having to have the perfect model. It recognises that you learn through doing. It allows you to incorporate exceptions to the rule. It can help you put your trust in God and his gospel, rather than the latest technique.


There is a hidden tyranny of the intuitive approach. Let me list some of its dangers:

a. It can be naive: all of us have certain assumptions and models of doing things that shape what we do and how we think. Our intuition is informed by millions of examples and ideas that contrict what we think is normal/natural/right.

b. It can be impervious to criticism: if you define clearly what principles and plans shape your ministry, you are open to having these points assessed, questioned and challenged. But if you say that what you do is just an intuitive application of getting on with the gospel, you may subtly imply that those who disagree with you are disagreeing with the gospel.

c. It can be slow to change: there are certain big-picture assumptions that shape everything we do. If we don't lay them out clearly, we may never see them.

d. It can be arrogant: there are so many things that we can learn from people who have gone before us. Failing to take the time to think through the practical wisdom of others, and to learn from the mistakes of others is putting a lot of faith in our intuition.

e. It can be unfair: the intuitive thinker and just-get-on-with-it approach acutally does borrow plenty of theoretical ideas from here there and everywhere. In practice it recognises the value of the critical, analytical and theoretical thinkers. But if someone is in our church and has these gifts, they would not receive the encouragement and support to develop them. The intuitive church praises insightful analysis in books, but rejects it when it appears in the church.

f. It can be unbalanced educationally: There are some people who are more theoretical/analytically minded. They will better learn how to do x (preach/church plant etc) if we explain these things with a more sturctured model.

g. It can be unbalanced criticially: It is very common to hear:

"Now don't get me wrong, we can learn a lot from church growth manuals... *but* we must never ever put out faith in those things...".

It is not so common to hear:

"Now don't get me wrong, we must not put our faith in church growth manuals.... *but* if we want to serve God in our generation, we must learn how to grow and improve in even the practical elements of ministry."

The assuption is that our danger is always corporate, managerial, program-driven stuff. I doubt this. I think that sometimes our danger is to put our faith in hackneyed, un-thought-through, derivative, intuitive models, rather than having the dilligence and humility to think how best to do ministry in our context.

Volume 6 Number 6

1. At a conference I attended recently, Alan Hirsch desribed our age as one of Rapid Disconintuous Change (RDC) as opposed to Gradual, Continuous Change (GCC). Whereas 20 years ago a church could develop 5, 10, 20 year plans on the basis of reviewing the past and projecting into the future, now we can look ahead no further than 3 years, and even then we need several plans that get reviewed constantly.

2. At the same conference, another speaker, C. B. Samuel observed that it is first world tourists who come to poor countries like India and give up their faith in the face of suffering. People in the third world don't do this.

3. A reflection came to me out of attending this conference. Many of the speakers challenged us with the failure of the church to have answers to the great systemic and structural problems the world faces. We are too focussed on a personalised, individualised spirituality, they said.
However when I read my Bible, I don't see a major focus on Christians to have the answers to the world's problems. Yes we should speak out against injustice. But has God spoken to us in such a way that we need to have an answer to these large-scale problems? I think we are being made to feel guilty for something that Christ doesn't demands of us.

4. Someone has said "Christianity began in Nazareth with one man. Then it moved to Jerusalem and became a movement. Then it moved to Rome and became and institution. Then it spread across the empire and became a culture. Then it moved to the USA and became an enterprise."

5. Some sins/follies that need to preached against: cynicism, apathy, lethardy, despair.

6. Missiologist Ralph Winter described Paul and his team as a particular manifestation of 'church' - a 'sodality'. By conrast, the Jerusalem church was the more familiar manifestation of church - a 'modality'. Is it true that both the missionary team and the established church are properly understood as manifestations of church? Is this a 'way forward' in thinking about the church?

7. In church's that claim to have moved beyond 'worship services' and 'preaching' and 'institutions', they don't get that far. They moved all the things that are so good about these things into the world of 'conferences', 'training intesives' and 'plenary sessions'. I think I'd rather keep them as part of the regular spiritual life of the church myself. And I think preaching is a better word than 'plenary session'!

8. 'Paradigm shifts' are important things. Conversion is a paradigm shift. Deciding to give one's life to full-time Christian ministry is a 'paradigm shift'. Trying to position a church to be committed to evangelism (or anything else) is a 'paradigm shift'.

To achieve a paradigm shift two things are needed. We need to paint the radical contrasts between what we need to be doing and what we are currently doing. There needs to be an awareness of the radical break. But if we only do this, we can cause reactionary thinking. Those who find it hard to make the shift feel defensive. Those who are on board with us might take things too far.

Therefore you also need to show how what people are already doing is related to where you want to take them. You need to affirm what's already there, and show how that will contribute to where you want to take them.

9. Words of wisdom from theologian Mark Baddley: Some people want to try and derive everything aspect of theology out of the trinity. They seem to argue that everything that is can be understood from this starting point.

However, as Calvin points out at the beginning of the Institutes, we also need to know about cretaion. For we believe in creation, God made something other than himself. More than that, he created the world freely, it didn't have to be the way he chose to make it.

Therefore you cannot derive your understanding about everything purely from your understanding of God. You also need to understand the world that God has made as a distinct sphere of knowledge.

Volume 6 Number 5

1. What is the key social unit of focus for Christianity? The family? The church? The individual?

Traditionally evangelicals have focused on the family. Is this correct? Jesus does sometimes lower the importance of the family in favour of spiritual realities. He also lowers the importance of the family in favour of caring for the outcast.

2. "Nothing is more annoying to non-Christians than the Christian presumption that without religion, morality would cease to exist" A. Lohrey, "Voting for Jesus", The Quarterly Essay, p. 69.

We must be very clear whether we are saying
a) Without religion morality would cease to exist
b) Without religion philosophically justifiable morality would cease to exist

3. Matthew 6 and Hebrews 13 connect love of money, contentment and fear for security. I would often speak about covetousness and love of money together.
The connection is more obvious in subsistence cultures. But even in the first world, we find our sense of security in our pleasures and luxuries. Desire for luxury is rarely as simply as brute hedonism.

4. Crossroads' evangelism focus group asked a wide range of peopel for their input on evangelism. The comments of one seasoned evangelist was that people at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder prefer tradition and stability in church, rather than trendy, contemporary church. The reason give was because the rest of their lives are such a mess, they want something safe and predictable from church.

5. In sermon review sheets, don't get to ask questions like:
-What new things did you learn?
-How were you changed or encouraged as a result of this message?

6. If we only do sermon reviews, we may slip into thinking that everything is the preachers' fault.
In addition to doing sermon reviews, it would be good to occasionally do listener reviews. After all, if I fall asleep or drift off during a sermon, it may be my fault not the preachers.
I like the idea of spurring on the congregation to growing in their listening skills, just as we spur on the preacher to grow in their preaching skills.

7. Sometimes when encouraging other pastors to engage with and learn from their cultural context, we imply that they must all be relation people can just informally lock into philosophical conversations out and about. But some pastors find this friendship model very straining.

Another mode is the learner model. Rather than trying to initiate an informal chat in the marketplace, you can just ask people permission for you to ask them questions about their values and so forth.
Often these sorts of surveys and interviews are done as a thinly veiled evnagelistic method. But as a genuine means of getting into relational contact with non-Chrsitians they are a real alternative to the friendship approach.

8. Instead of saying:
"Our society's definition of faith is totally different to the biblical one"


"The Bible's definition of faith is counter-cultural"

9. It's not enough just to avoid Christian subculture. I need to ask, what does a Hobart Christian actually look like in positive terms? How will we contribute a unique element to the heavenly choir when Christ returns?

10. Does Saddleback Church really have 'Saddleback Sam' as a hodge-podge profile of what non-Christians in their area are like? That's trippin.

11. I can't remember where I read or heard this: "The ancient Israelites went to church only 3 times a year, and when they did it was for a huge feast!"

Volume 6 Number 4 - Part II

Another idea someone emailed to me. This time about planning for giving one's spiritual bio at church:

"Could this be done in such a way that it indirectly affirms the importance of genuine, life-sharing relationships with friends and family and Christian family that we were talking about?

Could we find our four testimony writers by asking for people who want to commit to spending some real time preparing and praying about it, and who would like to use it as an opportunity to invite friends and family, both Christian and non-Christian, along - just as they might for a baptism? I'm not talking about a pressure thing, just thinking it is a cool opportunity that might really appeal to some people.... It could be an event. If you were giving your testimony, you could invite people who are special to you, who care about you enough to come because even if Christianity means nothing to them, it means everything to you, who would be interested in meeting your Christian friends....

Could we offer the testimony-givers a Preachers Workshop style opportunity to meet together in July to compare drafts and pray about those they are inviting/have invited? ...or meet one on one with an Elder to workshop it and pray?

There are so many ways to approach a testimony, and it would also be good to think about it from a story-telling point of view. It doesn't have to be chronological, but people always seem to automatically take a straight approach... but there are so many exciting possibilities!

We could run a SPECIAL month long group, open to anyone and everyone, which meets weekly in August to work on writing testimonies. One week could be a Benny or JML or Des (or all three, or someone else) talking about different approaches to get them excited; one week could be reading each other's work and giving feedback; one week could be everyone presenting their finished work to the group; one could be talking about how the testimonies might be used. For some, that might be sending it to am non-Christian friend or relative, or an influential Christian friend or relative who would be encouraged to hear the part they played. Others might want to do the whole testimony-event-main-meeting-invite-your-world-type thing, others might be content to just call it practise for when next someone asks how they became a Christian. (Or they could ALL be a pretty exhibition on the walls of the cinema... endless possibilities!) Every week could also involve a hearty slab of prayer. If, out of this, comes a number of testimonies spread out over a number of public meetings, that would be awesome, if not, other good stuff will have come out of it so who cares.

Hmmm. What do you think? Does this surpass the original plan? It may be a more "organic" and inclusive approach... With the initial idea it might be hard to find people who are simultaneously (a) willing and able to write it (b) keen to invite friends and family (c) willing to do the public speaking thing "

Volume 6 Number 5

"Hi Mikey,
I have just got a few reflections I thought I might share with you which have come from my ringing around the churches for MTS Challenge Conference expereince. I am sure these would not apply to crossroads, but I thought they were 'things that we shouldn't let slip'. Bear in mind that these come from a Christian trying to contact other Christians - how much more should the following be the case if we are to win outsiders:
1. Ensure that the church is in the phone book, and preferably on the net too. The web page should have a phone contact that meet the below, and should give the pastors name, the street address, and time of meetings.
2. Ensure that the phone number given does not lead to an answering service. If there is a church office phone it should be diverted when not staffed. A mobile number may be preferable.
3. The pastor should not be (in my opinion) the hardest person in the church to contact. If he is so tied up with church responsibilites that he cannot speak to outsiders, then he is too busy 'waiting on tables' and should delegate.
4. Contacting a church (office, postor whatever) should be a friendly experience. Outsiders contacting a church should not be treated with an undue level of suspicion. Perhaps we could learn from worldly businesses in this regard which seem know how to be polite to customers.
5. Perhaps one of the reasons communitee awareness of the Anglicans & Salvos is so good is partly because they are very contactable.
(this is partly me just wanting to vent my frustration... ;o)

Volume 6 Number 4

1. For those preachers convinced in the value of question times as a way of learning and responding to the word of God:
a) sometimes preach shorter sermons (less than 40 mins in our church's case),
b) consider holding a forum-style discussion rather than just preacher-answers-questions arrangement
c) have a panel to answer questions/ask questions/react to the sermon, rather than just one person

2. I heard someone recently say that church attendance and growth sky-rocketed during the 1950s in Australia largely due to the growth and Establishment of suburbia. The churches of the day catered to their bourgeois values.

3. Rosters and other church maintenance tasks, finance committees etc, if run badly can absorb massive amounts of time and energy. They can cause bitterness, exhaustion. They can take keen servant-hearted Christians away from other forms of service. They can even lead to these things in the long-term being run badly, or unimaginatively.

Church leaders should put their money where their mouth is: if we say all gifts are valued and the more visible gifts deserve no special treatment, then we should pour energy into praying form training, reviewing, supporting, guiding, encouraging overseeing our maintenance roster people.

4. I attended a conference evening session where three speaks spoke for 40 mins each. Goes to show what you can do in 3 hours.

Christian Reflections Vol 6 No 3

1. Someone said that a novelist they knew tried to just bear one person in mind as they wrote their novel. They didn't try to cater for absolutely everyone.
Perhaps we should apply the same to our church organised events. Fresh ideas for what topics to cover and how to run the meeting could be discovered by thinking of one non-Christian friend in particular.

2. My standard line: We don't need a seeker service because our regular meetings should always be accessible to non-Christians.

My 'yeah but': Are seeker services necessarily bad? Given that the good ol' bare bones gospel *is* good for Christian and non-Christian alike, the more evangelistically bent service will be good for everyone who comes, just as the 'worship service' will be good for the non-Christian. Martyn Lloyd-Jones always ran a 'seeker service'.
I suppose I shouldn't just dismiss the idea, but should always be open to re-considering it.

3. A different angle on why we should promote women preaching to women:
-Not just because we want to prove that we aren't total misogenists
-Not just because they want to because they feel they are good at it
-Not even just because other women find it helpful
But because we are convinced that preaching is a very significant and powerful and central means of conveying the word of God. If God has given the gift of preaching to women, we should think very seriuosly about why he has chosen to. And we shoudl think very carefully about if and where the best ways to use this gift are.

4. A friend of mine currently on short-term mission in Bolivia says: If you are considering going to be a missionary consider learning some practical skills now - carpentary, cartooning, massage, whatever. You never know how they may be helpful. For example, being a skilled cartoonist will dramatically improve your ability to communicate to people when you are not very good at speaking the same language.

5. Should I consider making the time after church more conducive to pastoral and evangelistic counselling? The preacher mingling around in the tea and coffee foyer may promote chit-chat. The preacher could be set aside and a culture is promoted where people can come to speak seriously about issues raised in the sermon. This could be a far better use of time for the preacher. He could also publically invite newcomers and 'seekers' to come and see him, to make appointments during the week, publically stating that he would really like to hear about who they are and where they are from etc etc.

6. I have stated in a previous Christian Reflection (pre-Blog) that better than just discovering the Big Idea of the passage is to discover the Big Purpose of the passage (following Jay Adams). Taking this still further, we should then ask of our Big Purpose a question - Why? How? When? Who? The answers the passage gives to this question form the points of the sermon.

Big Idea - The church is one body with many parts
Big Purpose - Use your gifts to build the church
Possible question - Why?
Points of sermon - 1. God's desire 2. For the good of teh church 3. You are as valuable as other peopel in church etc etc

7. How can I explain 'dialectic' in really simple cut-the-crap terms?

8. A friend has recently proposed that a good model for the Christian life = dramatic improvisation. Not that we make up our morality as we go along, but just that there is a great deal of flexiblity in our application.
Just as an improvisor is given the general form, bounds and structure to work within, we are given the description of who we are and how we should think and be. But there is a great deal of flexibility in how we work that out.
Two things that I would say to clarify this are
a) the things that the Word of God gives as us 'general form' are far-reaching in their influence. We cannot take the 'general form' of SCripture and wander too far without distorting Scripture
b) the Spirit of God is at work in us, guiding us as we 'improvise'

9. The way to reach a person's will is through:
a) the intellect (Llyod-Jones)?
b) the imagination (Sibbes)?
c) all of the above?

10. Immanual Kant said that there were certain questions that we could never speak confidentally about because they were beyond our experience and understanding - they were off in the noumenal realm. Therefore it could end up being as logical to believe one thing or its opposite. For example atheism or theism, free will or determinism.

How Kantian am I when it comes to understanding biblical information? How often do I say: "What was the purpose of this bit of Scripture? I don't want to know anything unless it has practical application. Otherwise it is purely speculative and vain theorising." This is a pretty common evangelical argument (seen right back in Augustine and Calvin).

Can this reasoning go too far? Can it end up practically denying the significance and reality of the things the Bible tells us and become purely concerned with the speech acts of the Bible?

11. One motive for wanting to grow in theology is the desire to think God's thoughts after him. This is a wonderful thing when it is done in humility and faith. But without brokennes and dependence on grace, it is another form of legalism/mysticism/hubris.
Maybe this explains why unconverted people can be so obsessed with theology. They hunger for the sublime experience of thinking god-like thoughts.

12. As an MTS trainer I have resolved to meet at least quarterly in a 'formal' way with the wives/husbands of my MTS apprentices. Part of this should be to provide some training to them for preparing to go into ministry. But also it is an opportunity for them to hear straight from me how their husband/wife is going, what they are achieving, what my hopes and fears are.
It's pretty hard for them to only hear stuff from their husband/wife. It distances them from the apprenticeship. It puts the person doing the apprenticeship in a tought situation too.

13. Almost my entire Chrsitian life I've said stuff like,

-God is sovereign, but I don't mean 'let go and let God'

Then I stopped and wondered what exactly what 'let go and let God' meant. What does it mean? And do I actually disagree with it?

I think I actually do believe in let go and let God.

It's just that I am not a dualist. I believe that God has chosen to speak to me in the Bible. And that God calls on me to do certain things as I am able.

But my mindset is still very much 'let go and let God'. I don't do them, God is working in me to do them. I should exist and act always with that awareness and dependence.

The sovereignty of God is not just a doctrine I wheel out to comfort me when I am discouraged. It is not just a theological idea that I defend, but in day-to-day life I act as if I were 100% repsonsible. It should affect they way I think and feel and act in my Christian life all the time.

14. Words I don't like (for aesthetic or theological reasons) and my alternatives:

-I am not part of a 'missional' church but a 'missionary' church
-I am not into 'incarnational' ministry but 'crucifixional' ministry
-I am not part of an 'emerging' church but a 'reforming' church

Volume 6 Number 2: Churching planting in the 90s Part IV

(Cont'd from previous)

Option C: The 'Post-Christendom model' (briong the church into the marketplace. Don't put the focus on the public meeting)

-Maximum time is spent on missionary activity and community
-Whole nature of the church is built around Christian lifestyle, rather than meetings and programs
-Can fly under the radar of church tourists
-The mission field can shape the forms church takes, rather than forcing converts to adjust to church forms.

-It is a very slow process
-There are very few existing maps or models. Maybe there can't be, because it differs so much according to the situation.
-It's hard to get a team that's really on-side.
-It's hard to cater for young families.

-Be a very good team player
-Have a strong missiology: know how to translate the gospel and church into the culture you are in.
-Be mindful of ways that you can bless the culture you are trying to reach.

Volume 6 Number 2: Churching planting in the 90s Part III

(Cont'd from previous)

Option B: Put a missionary edge on a conventional church (create ministries in you existing church that especially cater for non-Christians you could be in contact with)

-You can use existing structures
-It's not hard for the existing church members to understand what you are trying to do

-You may get lots of people in the door, but there may be no actual evangelism going on
-The cultural divide between coming along to the evangelistic ministry and actually joining the wider church can become difficult to cross.

-Must find a way for this missionary edge to 'be good news' to the people in the area. You must reach out to their felt needs, not just their theological needs.

(2B Con'td)

Volume 6 Number 2: Churching planting in the 90s Part II

(Cont'd from previous)

2. The content:

Option A: Planting an alternate public worship service (start a church that does church a little different to the existing churches in the area)

-It's relatively known territory
-It's easy to recruit peope (all the people who are negative about the existing churches/ways of doing church)
-You can generally get pretty quick results (at least at first)

-The church gathered its people because it was a new thing getting started. It has no intrinsic 'missionary edge' of its own.
-The vast mjaority of people attracted by this model tend to be Christians who either move into the area, transfer from existing churches or haven't been going to church for a long time
-There is no high 'felt need' for the average non-Christian to want to come to church - alternative-style or not
-It can tend to cater for Christian who have 'commitment issues'. Often these Christians just cycle through
-It takes a lot of energy to do this well (and you've really gotta do it well - see below). About 20 people are required to run a good public meeting. And they generally can't be the same twenty people every week, so you need 60-80 to sustain the rosters required.
-Even given a large core group, not all of the church will regularly committ to these rosters. As a result, the danger is for a committed core to wear out rather quickly. Not to mention there energy is being distracted from evangelism, community and so on.

-Have a comprehensive ministry model ('discipleship plan'). There are roughly 7 developmental stages we go through as we move from unchurched non-Chrsitian to active and commited mature Christian. We need to really think through how we are going to serve people well at each of these stages.
-You need a big team to start with. It is very hard to start with a team of 20 and grow beyond 50 peopel in size. The tendency is to reach roughly 50 members, and then to gradually decline again, partly due to the pressure mentioned in the 'CONS's above.
-Start in a good location. For example, regional areas will often respond well to this model, as they are keen to join in on community life events.
-Make the public meeting very very very user-friendly.

(2B Cont'd)

Volume 6 Number 2: Churching planting in the 90s Part I

I went to this conference about 'mission'. One of the speakers I felt was a little smug, oversimplified things and demonised those he disagreed with.

Another speaker was quite impressive. In particular, his session on approaches to doing evangelism from the 1990s-today. Both the form and the content:

1. The form: He did the good ol' give three options with their pros and cons, the third option being the best.

Often in these cases the person *says* that all three options are valid and so on. But in practice they convey the impression that the first two options are really a waste of time.

By contrast, this speaker not only gave the pros and cons of the first two options and moved on to the next thing. He also told us,

- If you are going to go with this mode, here's how to do it best.

This demonstrated that he really did consider all three options as valid alternatives. So much so that he had thought through how to do each of them in the best way. And so much so that he would 'weaken' his argument in favour of the third option, by helping us do the 'inferior' models better.

Of course, in the end I felt more inclined to hear him out on the third ('incarnational'/'post-christendom') model because of the effort he had gone to.


Volume 6 Number 1

  1. A nice *style* of discussion question. Particularly for teenagers (who tend to thrive on discussion questions) and particularly if you happened to find an image that related to what you were up to (eg on a rafting camp): "If the Christian life/life in general were a river where would you be?" It's good because it can just be re-interpreted anyway you want to. It therefore becomes a great means to get to know someone else.

  2. I think I had always assumed that the Christian application of Isaiah 40's 'your sins have been paid for' would be 'paid for on the cross by Christ'. But actually, it's more 'the *time* of your punishment has drawn to a close, so now God will consider how he will save you. So the application is not to Mark 10:45 so much as Mark 1:14-15.

  3. I understand that 'hope' and 'wait' are expressed by the same word in Hebrews. That's quite good, I think, as 'wait' doesn't carry with it the uncertainty that 'hope' does in English.

  4. A conference speaker recently suggested that we are 'part of community perhaps before we are individuals in our own right'. Could this reflection help us integrate people church life? Rather than first of all worrying and focusing too much on helping them find their feet in their own right, can we somehow help them come to realise their membership in the community? Aspects of what it means to wait on the Lord that this speaker suggested were: 1. Be ready to obey when asked 2. Be able to relax until asked 3. Be expecting to be asked

  5. I think a nifty contrast is between a servant leader, that we are called to be, and a 'martyr leader' that we often adopt... thinking the two are one and the same.

  6. J. Moltmann says a society of pleasure and achievement makes pain and death private affairs

  7. Have I made the Bible only an object for study and investigation and not an object of devotion? This can be one of the difficulties with making acutal Bible reading a part of close relationships: husband and wfie, close mates. The general tenor or whole conversations may be biblical. But the lack of actually reading the Bible with those closest to you can be discouraging for many. But whenever we try, it seems to shipwreck on being half-Bible study, half-inane reflections. So I suggest re-installing the Bible to its role as a devotional book. The key then is to read it at natural, ritualistic points - before saying grace, at the start of a meeting - and jsut read a section, with brief reflection or without comment at all. I think this is a way to bring Bible reading more comfrotably, naturally and centrally into our intimate relationships.

  8. When you face key problems, or wanna address misunderstandings or focus on new issues, as a leader, what should you do? Well as obvious as it sounds, you should deal with them by using your Vision, Mission, Strategy and Goals documents. I know this in theory. I am only now realising how many stresses and problems have been caused because I often don't do this in practice. And so instead of using these problems/issues as an opportunity to re-cast the vision etc, I fit them in a separate category: problem solving.

  9. When, if ever, should a Christian leader appeal to commitment, keep track of commitment and call people to account on the basis of commitment? Should we keep it as a last resort? Should it only be reserved for high level official leadership roles? Should we use it all the time since it is a natural way to motivate people?

  10. Reading Leunig's pantheistic prayer book, I got to thinking that a simple way that we can express our image of God responsibility is to make sure we as individuals and churches regulalry prayer for the environment, endangered species etc. This would also help to show to others that we don't say we care about the environment only when people accuse the Bible of modern ecological exploitation.