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.