Farewell to Crossroads

In 2009 I will be working as the assistant pastor @ Crossroads and Dan Shepheard will take over the leading pastor role. In 2010 Nikki and I will leave Crossroads and find another home church and, God willing, Crossroads will find another assistant pastor.

Although the formal process is not completed, the plan is that I will begin leading the AFES team at the UTas. Sam Green will continue on, part-time as a staff worker on campus and part-time focusing on his Islamic ministry. I'm really excited at this change, although it will be sad to leave Crossroads. In fact, at first I wasn't super-keen for uni ministry either, but a older mentor, Col Marshall nudged me in that direction back in April this year and my wife Nikki, along with other trusted friends, confirmed this advice.

Here are my farewell sermons to Crossroads on Acts 20:17-38, "A Farewell to arms; a call to arms":

  1. The road to Jerusalem
  2. Ministry and life
  3. The commisioning

Hundreds of years from now

Of course, hundreds of years from now some people may find in heavy metal precisely the musical language best suited to their praise.
- John Frame, Worship in Spirit and Truth (1996)

What does Nehemiah mean?

Anyone raised on a healthy bran diet of Gospel and Kingdom will tell you that it is about the reestablishment of the kingdom after the exile, a pale imitation of the great restoration which the Lord Jesus brings about.

But is this the primary concern of the text itself? Or is it as interested in giving a godly example of faithful service and spiritual leadership?

It is because of Nehemiah's place in the Bible's storyline that he is worthy of note - Nehemiah gets a 13 chapter book, nott some faithful, godly guy in the tribe of Zebulun in 988 BC. But this doesn't mean that Nehemiah's place in the Bible's storyline is the main thing that the book focuses on.

If you preached Nehemiah with a major emphasis on biblical theology, would those broader theological structures drown out the text itself? Is this just as bad as preaching on leadership methodology from the book?

Nick's latest post says...

 ... good stuff again. Whatever. How many ways do I have to say "Subscribe to Nick and Bron's blog"?

Nifty computer library stuff

Do me a favour O Muses of the Internet:

Can you suggest some good software to easily store and search 1. Expository notes 2. Notes on books read? What are pros and cons of different systems?

Thanks magical ladies.

Aussie website to help the church with technology

Communicate Jesus

More on the stupidity of charging for sermon downloads

I thought this article summarised the issue very well.

I really like the comment about not coercing generosity. There's something sleazy about overcharging for conference attendence or charging for sermons in order to raise funds.

Did Driscoll give Don preaching advice?

I wonder. I just watched this sermon of Don Carson in Seattle.

And what is striking is just how conversational the entire sermon is. This is not the Don I am used to. No high-pitched yelling at strange moments. No four-syllable adjectives. No foreign words pronounced with an accent. It's a pity, in a way, cause I love Don's yelling and vocab.

Planning to be thoughtful Part III

4. Do something. Don't wait for someone else to teach you how to act in a loving and thoughtful manner towards others,take initiative. Start by praying, of course, for prayer is a concrete, valuable, world-changing act. But then think what else might help. We worry about interfering, when most of the time we should be more worried about inaction. A text message, a phone call, an email, a card. Do something

... and then write down in your diary to do something again some time in the future.

Planning to be thoughtful Part II

2. Guys can tend to react to things the first time around and then forget about it. We don't realise that most personhood involves consciousness that retains continuity across time. So return to important bits of information over a long period of time. Write things down in your diary in a future week - "Ask Carl how he is feeling now about breaking up with Allie".

Girls may think this is silly or worse - fake. If you really cared, they would say, you would just remember, wouldn't you? No. Guys can't remember anything except for the stats for the new iPhone or Cricket match. We need to write things down.

3. There is a difference between listening and knowing information, on the one hand, and really understanding and caring on the other. So set aside time to reflect on how other people are feeling. Think deeply about how this hardship may have affected someone: what it would be like, how it would colour their experiences, how long it would weigh on them. Think deeply about just how important this success was for someone: how hard they had worked for it, how pleased with themselves they are, how they hunger for recognition.

Planning to be thoughtful Part I

Young women, in general, have to struggle with paranoia: being too thoughtful, too self-conscious, too worried.

Young men, in general, have to struggle more with the opposite: thoughtlessness.

How often, young men, have you been confronted with someone in deep distress and been rebuked for having been thoughtless about their predicament? Perhaps they have told you a little bit about what they have been going through, and you honestly did listen - or thought you did - but you kinda figured that if you needed to do anything more about it, someone would've told you what to do. Later on, you are told that you were thoughtless for not having realised how bad it was that you didn't do anything about the information you had.

Here, then are a few proverbs to help guard against thoughtlessness:

1.  A lot of thoughtfulness is achieved through simple organisation - so get organised. Guys need this, because we can't hold all this stuff in their head. It is sometimes said that guys can't multi-task like girls can. That's a lie. What we can't do is multi-think. Cows have four stomachs and girls have four brains. They can think about making turkish delight and what their mum said to them last night and whether it's Saskia's birthday this week or next.

So if you are going to give yourself the best chance in the world of being thoughtful, you need to write important bits of information down.

Christmas Eve at St George's Anglican

My very dear friend, Paul, is the assistant minister @ St George's. I went there for Christmas Eve and it was an excellent event. A couple of things:

  • He and his wife Jo were serving mulled wine to us as we entered.
  • It's a big and impressive building which, when done up with candles and entered at 11pm, is very atmospheric.
  • The senior minister's wife is a very talented pianist/organist. This sole accompaniment did the job of three or four instruments.
  • The First Noel has great lyrics. Fi quoted one of them here.
  • The whole service, including the Christmas message, was full of gospel and was phrased with such warmth, humour, depth and clarity.
  • There were maybe 80 people there, across a range of ages. This in a church buildling which I doubt has half that number normally.
  • Nathan and Fairlie did a sweet little folky rendition of O Holy Night.
  • It was interesting that Paul included many acknowledgments not only of our spiritual need, but also of the needs of the poor, grieving and suffering.
Two final comments:

Firstly, I have a prophecy. If the Anglican Diocese of Tasmania has the sense to keep Paul there, and if God is merciful, then I suspect St George's could become a very important church on the Hobart scene in the coming years.

Secondly, I was sitting behind Christina who is a serious muso. Afterwards she commented on my singing voice: "I didn't know you were a singer!". You heard it: A Singer.

Herman Dooyeweerd online

Has one of the silliest names imaginable. He is also a profoundly influential Chrisitan philosopher, who helped lay the groundwork for modern presuppositionalism.

His major work, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought is now online (Part I-II, Part III-IV).

H/T Steve Bishop

The incarnation makes Bono cuss

After attending St Patrick's Cathedral he said:

The idea that God, if there is a force of Logic and Love in the universe, that it would seek to explain itself is amazing enough. That it would seek to explain itself and describe itself by becoming a child born in straw poverty, in shit and straw . . . a child . . . I just thought: "Wow!" Just the poetry . . . Unknowable love, unknowable power, describes itself as the most vulnerable. There it was. I was sitting there, and it's not that it hadn't struck me before, but tears came streaming down my face, and I saw the genius of this, utter genius of picking a particular point in time and deciding to turn on this.

(H/T Al)

Lanyard church

I just bought some Christmas gifts from JB Hi Fi. The staff all wear trendy clothes but show that they are staff by wearing lanyards.

Dave Jolly tells me that when bike shops are open on Saturdays, the staff don't have to wear their uniforms, they just have to wear a lanyard.

I guess megachurch helpers, if they are trendy, have all their staff and volunteers wearing lanyards. Except for the pastor. He has a Kylie mic.

Better to aim and miss than not to aim

It is easy to get nervous when a pastor sets numerical goals, but I think concrete goal-setting is a good discipline. It keeps you thinking and moving forward and helps you reflect on the past. The key is to do it with a sense of humour and a big chunk of trust in God, so that you only ever treat them as a servant, not a master.

After all, it is very hard to measure the most important things in church life. It is only on the last day that our work will really be shown for what it is.

Dan is writing the short and mid-term goals for Crossroads at the moment. I had a preview of the draft and here are some of the numerical goals for 2009:

  • 4 house churces in Crossroads House
  • 40 people at Tuesday Crossroads
  • 100 people at Sunday 5:30pm Crossroads
  • 6 smallgroups
  • 30 new church partners
  • 2 new elders

Seven habits of online integrity

The habits he advocates are: (1) refresh your values in cyberspace by comparing your online life with your offline life to see if the values you take online are the same you hold in real life; (2) pledge personal online integrity, simply creating and adhering to a pledge that you will maintain your values online; (3) seek trusted accountability to ensure that you will maintain your integrity; (4) apply helpful technology that will protect you and help steer you away from some of the internet's seedy underbelly; (5) balance online and offline life to ensure that you are not being consumed by addiction to the internet; (6) practice humble authenticity through self-examination and by avoiding "virtual cliffs" in cyberspace; (7) become a cyber ambassador for good by extending Christian values and Christian character into cyberspace.
(from a review of Virtual Integrity by Daniel Lohrman)

Do you agree? Disagree? Want to add anything else?

H/T Challies.

Meeting with Tassie Bible College students

This was a very encouraging and exciting meeting.

Mars Hill was small but Driscoll was happy

Seattle had a lot of snow, attendance was very, very low but Driscoll writes:

I preached to 80 people at the first service in a room that seats 1300, and the best attended of the four services today was about 250 people. But, those are people who Jesus loves and our attitude toward them says a lot about us. Even if there is one person, that one person is someone God has brought for us to minister to and if they are willing to come we must be willing to love them with Jesus love. I walked the floor acting as a greeter today, thanking the volunteers, and one kind woman asked me if days like this bummed me out. I said no and explained that I can still remember the days when even having 80 people at one service would have been a huge win. When you've pastored a church from your living room onward you learn that your job is to love everyone that God brings and search your heart if you cannot do so wholeheartedly because the attendance is not high enough for you to feel that so few people are worth your time even though Jesus considered them worthy of dying for.

You can read the rest here.

Dick Lucas looks like Penfold from Danger Mouse

Dick Lucas is one of those mighty preachers of the 20th Century. He is also one of the crew of hugely influential English evangelicals converted by Eric 'Bash' Nash. You can hear him preach on Psalm 2 here.

An interesting thing to note about Dick Lucas is that he looks an awful lot like Penfold from Danger Mouse.

Sneak peak at someone else's organiser

It's good to see how someone else organises themselves. Matt uses the GTD system (which I strongly recommend) and here is how.

Explaining Hell, explaining Joshua

jml is in Hobart. We drank three plungers of coffee and ate bacon and eggs yesterday. It was summer yesterday; Tassie had a good summer this year.

We were discussing some of the drawbacks of the otherwise wonderful book, Reason for God by Tim Keller. One comment jml made was well worth repeating (I quote loosely):

If you explain Hell well, you have also explained holy war in the Old Testament. If you don't explain Hell well, you still have to explain holy war.

Justin's tabula rasa: church repotting in Sydney

Justin has been in New York, soon he will be in Sydney. The way he talks about Sydney makes it sound like New York, which is cool.

(The way some other pastors talk about Sydney makes it sound like the dull Good Weekend magazine you pull out of the weekend SMH, which is uncool.)

He's doing a series, 200 words, asking what the DNA of a mature church in Sydney should be like. Everyone is commenting on these posts, it's possible that if you don't comment too, you may not actually exist!

It's great to watch a thoughtful publically think through how to fashion a philosophy of ministry. Thanks Justin.


Ben has started a blog about doing technology well in church.

For example: "Have graphics like Mars Hill".

Great concept.

Worship, authority and presence

I'm reading John Frame's book on Worship. Alan was asking me about the Regulative Principle. This would be a good book to read, Alan (I borrowed it from Stine, perhaps you can be next in line?).

Frame has a threefold definition of covenant lordship: authority, control and presence. He expects worship to recognise all three.

I have inherited a Knox-Robinson view of church - that church is gathering around the word of God, first of all around Christ in heaven, secondly around the preached word, on earth.

I have also inherited a view of worship that emphasises the all-of-life dimension and observes that 'vertical worship' is rarely emphasised in the NT descriptions of church.

In my circles, I think the 'authority' dimension of lordship is emphasised. We gather to hear and respond to the authoritative word of the Lord. At best our 'corporate worship' is a powerful experience when the Word is proclaimed with great authority.

I don't think we are so good at thinking about the 'presence' dimension of lordship. We don't comfortably acknowledge and marvel at the living presence of God within us. I think thoughtful, awed contemplation of the fact that God chooses to dwell with us would add another valuable element to our 'corporate worship'.

David Jones explains the Tassie church scene to UK evangelicals

On the Evangelicals Now website.

Keller on entrepreneurs and cultural renewal

I just listened to these two addresses from Redeemer Presbyterian Church's Center for Faith and Work:

It's good hearing thoughtful but very Christian advice on how to think about work. I imagine jml would like these. Funniest comment:

Doctors and pastors will have to retrain in the new heavens and the new earth.

Jake Bevan is doing an MTS apprenticeship

 My son, Xavier, reckons Jake Bevan is the coolest thing in the universe; Mike Jolly is livid. You can find out more about Jake's apprenticeship plans on the MTS Tas blog.

Lessons learned from 30 years of student ministry

These notes from Lindsay Brown's address were passed on to me this week (H/T Sam):

  1. You must be able to: coach, catalyst, encourage.
  2. Look after your family: the danger of neglect.
  3. Be generous in your treatment of others. Watch out for jealousy.
  4. Don't worry about the numbers.
  5. Speak well of others. Don't give in to bitterness - grace is the foundation of all service.
  6. Keep up your reading. Beware of dryness.
  7. Think legacy. Beware short-termisim. Have a long view.
  8. Be clear in your vision. Watch out for confusion.
  9. Build inter-connected teams. Beware individualism.
  10. ??? Surprise!
  11. Develop a prayer life. Beware of praylessness.
  12. Keep pressing on - remember it's a privilege. Don't give in to discouragement.
  13. Don't try to do everything.
  14. Handle disappointment.
Which ones stand out to you? Which ones do you feel you really need to learn? Some that stand out to me, that I need to remember: 2, 4, 12, 14.

Campus-based or church-based theological education?

I hot button issue in the Vision 100 movement here in Tassie is whether to major on campus-based or church-based theological education. Several churches are getting really into the BILD network's Church Based Theological Education program.

I don't think you need to choose absolutely between one or the other. But even though I have never been to Bible college, I lean towards campus-based theological education.

Meanwhile, Nick has just posted on the importance of church-based education for the necessary growth of the church planting movement here in Tas.

Pros and Cons of social networking

Here are two pretty good posts on social networking:

I think Ed's post is much better in the was it displays a greater degree of familiarity with the social networking culture. Perhaps the Gospel and Culture one is better in the clear description of its theological framework.

I've read little else in the Christian blogsphere that tries to be so thorough and balanced as these two pieces. Much seems to reactionary or too 'pastoral' for my liking. This stuff is much more useful and thought provoking.

The Tipping Point: this reminds me of Bron

Maven is a yiddish word. I love yiddish words.

Malcolm Gladwell writes:

The critical thing about Mavens, though, is that they aren't passive collectors of information. It isn't just that they are obssessed with how to get the best deal on a can of coffee. What sets them apart is that once they figure out how to get that deal, they want to tell you about it too... 'They know where the bathroom is in retail stores. That's the kind of knowledge they have' [says marketing professor Linda Price]. They are more than experts. An expert... will 'talk about, say, cars because they love cars. But they don't talk about cars because they love you, and want to help you with your decision. The Market Maven will. They are more socially motivated.'

Bah humbug

Ed Stetzer just posted some stats about the holiday season. One of them noted that in America, the increase in attendance at Christmas time is mostly regular churchgoers attending more often still. I imagine even of the irregular churchgoers who attend at Christmas time, they are a pretty hardhearted lot, in general. Not the type to be easily won over by a nice Christmas event.

If you can truly reach and evangelise some people @ Christmas time, then that's a fantastic thing. If you can, as Graham commented on my previous Grinch post, use Christmas as a service to the community/raising awareness/making contact time, then go for it.

But I am sceptical of the monumental importance and effectiveness of Christmas events.

P.S. This isn't actually a huge hobby horse of mine. But it does make good blog material, don't you think?

Gordo is finishing up at MattMedia

He just announced the news on his blog. I suppose many of us will be facing changes in life circumstances due to economic pressures. We need to be praying for Gordo, and others in his position, that they can continue in the path of spiritual thinking that he lays out in this post.

Final sermon in "Small Change?" series

Generosity. It came in at a 'short and punchy' 45 minutes.

I am second

 Has a nice website with a bunch of people, including famous people, talking about their faith. I haven't looked at it in detail, but I like its design and I like the idea.

*H/T Steve Addison

*Only just got around to finding out that this expression, used to show who your source was, means "Hat Tip".

Tyler Durden's guidance to would-be entrepreneurs

jml sent me this link ages ago. It's kinda cute. The same site also has Kurt Cobain's guide to startup success.


The metaphor of Ultimate Fighter irks Seumas. Perhaps he'd prefer this?

Summer Reading Club

Stine Jolly has started a book club for TBT and she is channeling all her librarian superpowers into the task.

The challenge is to read one book from five of her six categories and to review one of the five at TBT.

Here are her categories:

  1. Theology
  2. Philosophy/apologetics/ethics
  3. Evangelism
  4. Puritans
  5. C. S. Lewis
  6. Practical theology/counseling

Powerful, scary quote

By Gary North, a Christian Reconstructionist:

We must use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political, and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.

Some of the reactions of your average evangelical tends in this direction. We get annoyed at religious villification laws one minute and upset about Muslim chaplains in state schools the next.

Problematising the communitarian story

I think Tony Payne linked to this article, which has sat in my To Read bookmarks folder on Firefox for a million years.

It calls into question the over-emphasis on community theology in a very interesting way. It explores how the "communitarian story" diagnoses the modern condition, explains its origins in the Enlightenmnet and provides solutions in community.

Then it unpacks the dangers of placing community front and centre in our doctrines of the gospel and the church and even God.

The very helpful category it introduces is the category of authority. The Enlightenment wasn't just a move to individuality but a move to individuality as the source of epistemological authority. What we need is not just restoration to relationship/community but submission to authority in relationship to God and the relationships of the church.

Jolly the Angry Apprentice

Continues advising MTSers re: evangelism on the MTSTas blog.

Best method of evangelism and church planting

I have been listening to some lectures on evangelism and church planting by Roger Greenaway that were given at Calvin Theological Seminary.

In one of them he declares that small group evangelistic Bible studies are the most powerful and strategic method of evangelism and church planting. They are so flexible and so constantly used.

What a shame, he says, to ever send out a missionary or a church planter who has never had experience in sitting in on one, let along leading one.

I'm no Scrooge but...

I'm not very convinced that Christmas is a very good evangelistic opportunity. Well it is, in the same way that a wedding and a funeral are. Minimal.

I do completely believe in the incarnation of Christ, but when we write tracts and sermons asking "What's the true meaning of Christmas?" I don't think anyone actually cares.

As for "reclaiming the Christian view of Christmas". May as well reclaim the pagan view of Christmas. The true meaning of Christmas now is family. And family is good. Christians believe in family too.

So I propose: rather than fighting some silly rear-guard acton trying to make people care about the spiritual significance of Christmas, and consequently ruining Christmas day with a church service... why not instead just use the time to love your family, write cards to distant relatives and eat a nice meal?

TBT birthday speech

There are no unanswerable objetions to the Christian faith. There is no monolithic expression of the Christian faith. In fact there are many reasons that lead me to say it is necessary for all people, and that means it is necessary for all of you here, to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus Christ.

It is because of these convictions that Crossroads Church came into existence. And it was compelled by these convictions that we began this Tuesday evening service in particular. We meet every Tuesday night in this hall at 7:30pm, to teach and live according to these principles for anyone, not just those who are convinced and enculturated churchgoers.

I want to thank....

And I want to end with one statement, that may be provocative, but that I am convinced is true: You should come to one of our regular meetings, Tuesdays 7:30pm.

The birthday that was

TBT had it's first birthday party last night. Jolly has some photos over on his blog.

Here's some of my thoughts/reports:

  • Over 100 people came. We raised over $100 for TEAR foundation (most from purportedly 'silver coin donations' to garden produce, and book sales).
  • The weather was looking awful. We were setting up in the rain. It was like Mordor. But Fi and Nikki had prayed like Elijah earlier in the day and out of nowhere the sky cleared for a lovely sunny evening. The weather closed in again just in time to drive us in for a cosy indoor folk music set with Nathan and Fairlie Collins.
  • The people were from Crossroads, other churches, family, friends and community visitors.
  • It was much better than I was hoping for, I was very pleased overall. I was expecting 50-70 people, with one 'rush hour' across the whole three hours and lulls either side. Instead it got busy in the first half hour and there were still around 30 people there.
  • Dan and Joe manned the garden stall and came up with this reflection: "At the party we has three stalls: Home grown vegies, Christian books, and TEAR fund gifts. If you were only going to have three stalls, they'd be the exact three you'd want."
  • Thanks to local businesses who supported the event with food:
    • Con from the South Hobart IGA
    • Terry from the South Hobart Butcher
    • Nadine from Mondo's Bakery
  • Thanks to all the people who helped organise:
    • Kerri, Joe and Yvonne (stalls)
    • Ant, Nick, Nathan and Fairlie (music)
    • Dan and Jake (sourcing and cooking food)
    • Jolly, Emma and co (advertising)
    • Jake T (council navigation)
    • Emily and Jess (facepainting)
    • Shiloh (birthday cake)
    • Others I've forgotten

Proclamation Trust is not stupid

Shane reckons it's stupid to charge for sermon downloads. Shane is right. The Proc Trust is not stupid. They are now offering their sermon downloads for free. There are so many treasures here - make sure you look at their EMA and Conference Material link as well as their Free Sermon Downloads link.

Two treasures:

  1. Phillip Jensen getting pretty grumpy at English clergy about gospel ministry in 1986 (shame they don't have the 1988 stuff online - that's even more in your face)
  2. David Jackman with mindblowing expositions of the Jacob story in Genesis 28 and 32. If you've even wondered how to make sense of Jacob and his incredible dodginess, these "expositions for Expositors" are a must.

Filey and Piley

A long time ago Nikki and I used to joke about these little critters called Filey and Piley who would go around our house making piles of stuff - or filing things away.

Matt asks whether it is ever good to to make piles.

Shane says: It's stupid to charge for sermon downloads

And he is absolutely right.

A call back to expository preaching

Mark Thompson writes a great post on expository preaching. Clearly preacher like Driscoll and Keller are in view, with their tendency to sometimes use their text as a trampoline.

I reckon his comments are very good, although I would want to argue that there is a place to integrate other theological disciplines into the exposition, as long as the sermon overall remains tied to the text.

I also fear that some champions of expository preaching can confuse or conflate it with exegesis-preaching, where the entire structure and drama of the sermon is based around exegetical questions, methods, scaffolding. Exegesis-preaching can end up making hearing God's Word secondary and 'learning how to read the Bible for yourself' primary.

Nice devotion on a nice proverb

People come into your life for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

Craig quotes this proverb, which I have never heard before and like very much, and then reflects on its significance for his church, where people move on quite regularly.

Crossroads also has a mobile congregation and this post is very helpful to us. Thanks Craig.

The body text of emails

A couple of things I think are important for the body text of emails:

  • Have short paragraphs: email paragraphs should be more like bullet points.
  • Put a purpose statement towards the start of the email.
  • Embolden the most important text: the relevant actions and dates.
  • If it's really important, follow it up with a phonecall.
  • Make sure you include a warm salutation and valediction.
  • Put separate stuff in separate emails. Don't hide an invitation to dinner in an email about church rosters.

Example of a philosophy of ministry

(EDIT: See here on my blog for a more recent post on this topic)

I am convinced it is a very valuable thing to take the time to carve out a philosophy of ministry. It's something that I have emphasised with Tassie Bible College students, too. Here's a sample philosophy of ministry to check out.

Recipe for lack of expectation in church: ball of fire

Justin posted this ripper quote last week.

Luke H asked about empowering leadership

And this post is pretty relevant, I think.

Brainstorming on evangelism

Sola Panel has posted an article that gets very practical with thinking about evangelism. There's some good stuff here.

What's Best Next?

I just stumbled across this blog and, as a bit of a GTD geek, I like it. Have any regular readers already come across this one?

Audio on parenting

By Ted Tripp can be found here.

Secret weapon

In the Pilgrim's Progress , prayer is Christian's secret weapon. I've got that. I've also got my wife. She does a stack of the house management stuff, she does our finances (for which I am eternally grateful), she loves and plans for our kids, she cooks for Tuesday Crossroads and she looks after me when I'm pathetic, miserable, exhausted or sick.

She complements me in a lot of ways. Her background was poorer and more left-leaning, mine was richer and more right-leaning. She listens to the kids' feelings when I just stand on principle. She's a clean person while I'm a tidy person. She slows me down from being a workaholic cyborg. Her weakness in a beautiful piece of irony, corrects my weakness: she has shown me how unfeeling and independent I can be.

Nikki knows my flaws and is not babmoozled by me. She wants me to be a godly Christian, not a hero Christian leader. She prefers Bible studies to sermons and lo-fi stuff to big events. One her big jobs is to tell MTS apprentices lots of stories about me to prove I'm actually human.

Thanks Nikki.

Books for eager evangelists?

Graham is asking for suggestions to give to an eager evangelist over on the MTS Tasmania blog.

The sufficiency of Scripture

Luke has started a series on the doctrine of the sufficiency of Scripture, which he reckons has been underemphasised by many.

Wayne's happy as the assistant minister

And he is thankful for senior ministers . I'll be moving down to an assistant minister role @ Crossroads next year. This is part of a two-year transition.  This is preparing for the current assistant minister, Dan Shepheard to step into the senior minister position. I'm kinda looking forward to being the Number 2 like Rob Lowe.

What is mission anyway?

A new member of the Sola Panel has asked a question that needs to be asked again and again and again.

Shane's latest Tat Tuesday photo

Can be viewed here. Wouldn't it be funny if all of these were all actually on Shane's body? Then I'd  go to his church for sure.

Review of Gladwell's new book

I've been posting some stuff on The Tipping Point just as the author's new book, Outliers has been released, because I'm retro.

Challies has posted a review of the new book. Challies doesn't know how to blog in less that 500 words it seems to me.

Three hot tips for mission

Now that exams are over Nick is back doing more important things. He just posted a three part series from a conversation with a missio.

Review of C. S. Lewis sci-fi trilogy

Wayne has just posted a brief review. Have you read these books? What was your favourite? Did you think the idea of having Merlin involved was silly?


Michael Jensen has just started blogging material for his next book.

Piper on Lloyd-Jones: beware extended warnings

I finally got round to listening to one of Piper's bios, this one on Martin Lloyd-Jones. David Jones (Cornertone Presbyterian, Hobart) was deeply influenced by L-J and I was deeply influenced by DJ, so I that's why I chose this one.

One of the things Piper observed, was something like: Ordinary people hear long, complicated, serious cautions as a red light.

I think this is an important point. Many people can say they aren't cessationists, or that they believe secular work is good, or that emotions are good. But if miraculous gifts, or secular work or emotions are only ever spoken about along with long, complicated, serious cautions then ordinary people will hear 'not good'.

Another little comment PIper made:

This conference always ends on the note of world missions, deliberately. If you don't go away more excited about world mission, then this conference would be an abuse of experiences.

New: MTS Tasmania 'cricket teams' blog

One of my roles is the MTS Tasmania Network Coordinator. I am currently gathering a 'cricket team' of people to support and promote the MTS movement here in Tassie. I'm the twelfth man, the proper place for a Christian leader.

We have just started a new blog, please come on over.

It's annoying to try to preach about greed

The hard thing about preaching on greed is that if you can't be too general and you can't be too specific.

If you are too specific it's very easy for people to dismiss the application "That's just you", "I've seen how you actually live", "That wouldn't work in my situtation".

But if you are too general then you don't get to the guts of the matter, for with greed, the devil is in the cumulative power of the details. More, you can end up making people feel vaguely guilty for buying a packet of burger rings and vaguely guilty for eating an extra piece of pizza, without really establishing an overall approach to wealth and greed.

Here's my attempt to preach on greed

Bibliography for art and aesthetics

Steve Bishop has just posted one of his extensive biblios, this time about art. It seems to me that Christians are often so clumsy when it comes to talking about art. I think it would be great if a course in aesthetics and art history was part of every Bible College degree.

Happy birthday dear TBT

The Bible Talks (TBT) is the astonishingly imaginative name of a Sydney ministry. Indeed, this abbreviation illustrates one of the difference between Sydney and Hobart. In Sydney, TBT stands for The Bible Talks, in Hobart it stands for Toilet Block Tuesdays.

Here's why it's called Toilet Block Tuesdays:

We are celebrating our first-and-a-half birthday next Tuesday, 9th December from 5-8pm. We're going to have all live music, a sausages sizzle, stalls... all the kind of church-fete stuff, except with a groovy South Hobart feel. So instead of CWA ladies knitting beanies, we'll have Tip Shop ferals making frightening thing out of old collanders.

Please come and join with us as we celebrate our first-and-a-half anniversary.

Mark Dever interviews Don Carson

You pronounce it Deh-ver not Dee-ver. Listen here, and if you have time, check out the archive!

Middle-class welfare

In Affluenza, Clive Hamilton writes:

We are told that welfare payments for wealthy people act as incentives to take more responsibility for their own health care and retirmenet incomes and to have more children, while welfare payments to poor people act as disincentives to work and to take responsibility for themselves. It is not clear why middle-class recipients of welfare are deemed immune from its harmful effects. Support for single mothers is derided; support for wealthy mothers, in the form of the non-means tested family payments, just helps them meet the cost of having children.
What do you think? Fair call?

The Tipping Point: Connectors

In his chapter on "The Law of the Few", Gladwell describes three types of people who have inordinate influence in spreading ideas. The first of these is the Connector. This is the person who manages to keep in touch with large numbers of people and thereby create bridges between diverse social worlds.

The thing which really inspired me in this chapter, was to be a better acquaintance, I quote:

Most of us, I think, shy away from this kind of cultivation of acquaintances. We have our circle of friends, to whom we are devoted. Acquaintances we keep at arm's length. The reason we don't send birthday cards to people we don't really care a great deal about is that we don't want to feel obliged to have dinner with them or see a movie with them or visit them when they're sick. the purpose of making an acquaintance, for most of us, is to evaluate whether we want to turn that person into a friend; we don't feel we have the time or energy to maintain meaningful contact with everyone. (pp. 45-46)


When it comes to finding out about new jobs - or, for that matter, new information, or new ideas - "weak ties" are always more important than strong ties. Your friends, after all, occupy the same world that oyu do. They might work with you, or live near you, and go to the same churches, schools, or parties. How much, then, would they know that you wouldn't know? Your acquaintances, on the other hand, by definition occupy a very different world than you. They are much more likely to know something you don't. To capture this apparent paradox, Granovetter coined a marvelous phrase: the strength of weak ties. (p. 54)

Three 'Laws of the Tipping Point'

The premise of Gladwell's book The Tipping Point is that trends, movements and epidemics gradually grow until they reach a certain point, at which time they grow extremely rapidly. He wants to explore some of the small things that make things 'tip'.

Gladwell highlights three laws of the tipping point:

  1. The Law of the Few: movements are tipped by a few unique people who have disproportionate influence.
  2. The Stickiness Factor: movements gain broad influence when they are communicated in an especially memorable way.
  3. The Power of Context: small environmental changes may have a great impact on how a movement is received and transmitted.
This is a useful little checklist of things to keep when you are examining anything you are trying to 'tip'.

The Expositor II: Judgement Day

When it's been a long day, a few sips of beer can produce bizarre trains of thought.

It's hard to know how to describe my job. Pastor? Preacher? Priest?

This guy who came to Tuesday Crossroads suggested I write up business cards with bizarre names such as 'Spiritual Guidance Expert' or something.

Then, somehow, I decided on Monday night that I like the word 'Expositor'. I am The Expositor. I like it because it's an alien word that needs explaining, rather a familiar but misunderstood word that need redefining. I like it because it centres on the ministry of the word. I like it cause it sounds similar to Exterminator.

Are Christian workers second class?

Tony Payne argues that Christian workers aren't second class, because their primary focus should still be Christian ministry. They are just doing it in a different way.

What do you think theologically? Moreover what do you think pastorally? Do you think it is right to put more emphasis on the value of godliness in the workplace, rather than on doing ministry while working full-time?

The Tipping Point - recommended by...

Two years ago, when Crossroads was going through "The Hullaballoo", a time of major reflection and change, Nikki and I spent a week in Adelaide with the staff of Holy Trinity. The senior pastor, Paul Harrington, and his family kindly had us stay with them for that time. It was nice having a senior pastor talking about his biiiig church while reclining lazily in a couch, drinking a glass of wine, his crummy VW combi visible out the living room window.

Among many, many helpful hints, Chris Jolliffe, the pastor of their 10am congregation (which met in a cinema at the time), recommended The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell. It's not a Christian book, but an insightful examination of how ideas and fashions spread.

It has been on my To Read list for two years. Finally I got it out of the State Lending Library. So far I have enjoyed it a great deal. Stay tuned for more posts on The Tipping Point.

Change in James Bond's universe

I saw Quantum of Solace last Friday. I only bothered to figure out what the title meant about half an hour before watching it. It was silly but it was good.

Jason observed that there is less gadgetry in the new Bond films. This review observes a slightly more profound change:

The fact that [the Bond girl] pays a ghoulish and fatal price for her association suggests a shift in the franchise's moral universe. "Everything and everyone you touch dies, Mr. Bond," taunts an adversary near the film's climax. Where bullets miss, we see this line hit.

Application verses and Bible section headings

I'm currnently working on Galatiasn 4:21-5:15.

I was struck how 5 verse 1 is as closely linked to what comes before as it is to what follows. If I were to preach only on the Sarah and Hagar story, I should rightly end with this verse. And yet in the NIV 5:1 is separated by a section heading.

How often does this happen? I know that 'therefore' marks a new logical entity, that it marks a new section. But it's sad the way Bible section headings do not form neat preaching units. Hebrews 1:1-2:4 is big another example.

Committee Meetings Suck

Dave Miers, who grew a dirty mo, has some awesome advice on making church committee meetings not suck.

What is your one life-changing meeting tip?

I think mine was 'What's the next action?'.

Christopher Hitchens - Doug Wilson Debate

This is an interesting debate to listen to. Rather than focusing on Goodness or Truth, the angle for this debate is Beauty.

Doug Wilson wrote The Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire which is a cool-sounding title. Has anyone read it?

Christopher Hitchens is another sexy British atheist. He is very funny and persausive. He expresses at the beginning his desire to debate in 'devout colleges' rather than simply high profile universities.

Positive but realistic approach to church politics

Michael Jensen has written a great post on church politics.

I agree that we need to be godly and honourable in church politics.

I don't like hearing older ministers being cynical about the denomination... if they really feel that way, they should have the guts to quit and go independent. If they are going to stay, they should learn to be positive.

I also don't like hearing progressive evangelicals boast about how clever they are at abusing the system... and then complaining about the liberals denying the denomination's creeds.

Besides, there is so much room for growth in godliness (patience, forgiveness, kindness, faithfulness) when you try to do church politics properly.

Is there a groundswell of house churches?

Ed Stetzer questions the claims that house churches are popping up all over the place and are more effective in mission.

I agree that there is a place for house churches but also wonder whether the champions of house churches are really so much more fruitful in their mission than other forms of church.

It's a question that often comes into my mind when I read Tim Chester's blog, for example.

Cultural literacy

Al has just started a series on the importance of cultural literacy. It should be worth the read, indeed I imagine the discussion threads may also be very engaging.

Christianity, socialism and capitalism

I tried to wrestle with this question on Sunday night and you can listen to the result here.

This preaching series will resume on the 30th November with two final weeks:

30th November: Greed
7th December: Generosity

What is the actual purpose of entertainment?

I like this question so I hope other people start a vigorous discussion thread that I can read and benefit from.

Phillip Jensen continues to engage with Driscoll's theses: the Holy Spirit

This video begins with the "you don't believe in the Holy Spirit" point. He gives a great defence of the Word/Spirit theology and also does a great job of teaching us about good preaching rhetoric.:

No (laughter).... Great preachers have a way of goading you... I suspect 'afraid of the Holy Spirit' is a red rag to see if the bull will rise... what he's wanting to say is: 'There's a ministry of the Holy Spirit that I believe in that I don't think you believe in and I think you're scared and I think you're wrong.

"Your Trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible":

He doesn't mean it to be rude and offensive. It's an attention getting device. I wasn't offended. But I think he has a complete misunderstanding of Sydney Anglicans. He thinks we're cessationists.... I think he missed the target completely.

"You are so reactionary to Pentecostalism that you don't have a robust theology of the Holy Spirit":

Because we do have a robust doctrine of the Holy Spirit we react against Pentecostalism.

Manage your library

Here's 100 tips and tools for managing your library.

Personally, I don't like big libraries a great deal. I think there's something a little obscene about every pastor owning thousands and thousands of dollars of books that he has only read once and then chucked on is shelf, and then urging all his congregation to buy lots and lots of books that they read once (if at all) and then chuck on the shelf.

An exception to this is reference books, and those which are such classics they will get the re-read.

I'm a big believer in borrowing books and using libraries. Perhaps a pastors should buy book, and donate them to a local Christian library. That way they are investing in a new area. Then when they move to a new place, they have less stuff to move with them and they can start again at building up the local Christian library.

Email your posts

It's much quicker and easier to set up your blog so that you can just email through your posts. Your subject line becomes the blog heading and the body text is the post.

On blogger, you customize/edit settings, then select 'settings', then 'email'. Then all you have to do is give the name of your mail-to-blogger email address.

May this handy hint bless you.

Ministry of the Pew: gospel champagne

This paper has exerted a huge influence on my personal ministry and all the ministries I have been involved in.

If you haven't read it, please make it a priority. If you have, it's worth a regular re-read. Moreover, I think it should be a fixture in your discipleship plan.

Stats on small churches

In this research, it is argued that small churches in America have a clear idea of who they are and what they are supposed to do - they just don't know how to get there!

One of the barriers is entrenched leadership within the church that is resistant to change. Another is lack of clarity about where to put time and energy.

Benny Hinn is asking for $3mill.

I am up with a sad, teething little girl.

Benny Hinn needs $3million dollars. It's not that he cares about the money, he says. He just wants to get on the with preaching the gospel.

Is it for hair care products? Noone knows.

Good luck Mr Gorsky

Really funny story, totally untrue.

From Sabbath to Family Day

I don't like calling the weekly day off 'Family Day'. Mind you, I think 'Sabbath' can be a little unhelpful too.

I love spending time with my family on my day off and I think I should love it. But there is more to rest than minding your kids, giving your wife a break and walks in the park.

Sometimes I wonder if 'Family Day' implies that you are not seeing your family any other time during the week. That's a bit yucky.

Also, some guys, and I'm one of them, also need 'me time'. Is it somehow unspiritual or anti-family for those guys to want to go bush on their day off from time to time? Or build a cupboard? Or play soccer?

Preworn jeans --> preworn Bibles

A sure-fire way to get nominated for a leadership position in your church.

Evangelical drinking game

Every time Mark Driscoll says 'true story' skull your beer.

Capital 'B' and lower case 'b'

It's Bible study.
But it's biblical studies.

Mental health and growth group tradition

Mark has just posted a series of very open and remarkable posts about his painful experiences of his wife's mental illness. It is warming to read and surely brave to write. Thanks Mark.
I think we do have a need for support groups where we can just talk openly with others about our struggles. In my circles this is not well dealt with in our church's structures.

The main community structure we provide is the growth group/Bible study group. But, we insist that this is for growth in the gospel through prayer and Bible study first and foremost. It is not just a share and care group. The theory goes, if you get this right, then all the others things (community, evangelism, sharing) will flow naturally out of that.

From my experiences, the other things don't often flow naturally out. If there is not structural modelling of the other things, we don't know how to do them. More than that, there is an implicit, unspoken message that you cannot focus on them for fear of overemphasising them.

In my experiences the occasional group just happens to gel and all the things flow. But most of the groups are average. More than that, in most groups, not only does communtiy, sharing and evangelism suffer, but even prayer gets gradually depleted to a little 5 minute slot at the end.

There seems to be a great deal of room for simple, loving support groups, both in caring for the church and for serving the community we live in. But as far as I can see, the current growth group model just doesn't deliver.

Listening to a lecture online...

And the lecturer, discussing the dispensationalist view of eschatology rightly said:

When interpreting the Bible, presuppositions are especially dangerous if you don't think that you have any.

Narrative statement of faith

Tim Chester has posted a new Crowded House statement of faith. It's the combination of narrative theology, vision statement and creed. See what you think.

Small Change? - Fear and faith

Here is my first sermon in the Crossroads series on Christianity and finance: Small Change?

In this one, I'm not dealing directly with money, but rather with how we ought to cope with uncertainty and fear.

William Lane Craig debates

Is apologetics out of fashion at the moment? Cultural relevance is the thing, not apologetics. Unless you're Tim Keller, but then not many of us are that cool.

But if you happen to be uncool, then you may be interested in this site which has compiled all of William Lane Craig's debates, whether audio or transcripts.

Different types of church plants III

3. Down-size
A house church does not aim to begin a large service in a rented hall with a paid staff. It aims to stay small and start new churches whenever it grows too large for any one living room to hold.

Lots of things are not a problem for house churches: they don't need many rosters, property, band rehearsals or even someone who can preach a sermon for half an hour. Houses churches are able to reproduce quite easily because of this simplicity. It also means that more time can be invested in building deep relationships with Christians and people who aren't Christians, rather than with strengthening the church structures.

It is a danger that the house church turns in on itself and loses all momentum to grow. Also, this strategy depends a great deal on the context and the gifts of the team: it relies on a great deal of personal investment which some people find extremely draining and it revolves around small gatherings that some outsiders may find intimidating.

Different types of church plants II

2. Ex nihilo

Some church plants begin with a man with a Bible on his knees: the evangelist gathers a church (and possible his income) from converts and eventually, by the Lord's grace, a church is born.

The only thing needed is an evangelist; you don't need money, property or people. Therefore you can do this sort of church planting regardless of the state of current churches. This kind of church plant is most likely to reach the totally unchurched and will have greater freedom in trying new approaches to ministry.

Although not finanically expensive, it is personally expensive. You need to right person and the right person needs a great amount of spiritual strength to persevere through possible disappointments and other hardships. At worst, this kind of church plant can end up gathering up a lot of damaged and disgruntled people, rather than genuine converts.

Home-educating family

John pointed me to this interview with Allan Carlson. In it, he says this:

Even if you're not a home-schooling family, you should be a home-educating family

I like that.

Different types of church plants I

Church planting can take a range of forms. There is no one 'right way' do do church planting, but a range of ways depending on your context, your gifts, your ministry philosophy and the opportunties that the Lord opens up. Here are a few

1. Re-deployment

Phillip Jensen recently spoke about starting new services within an existing church as a form of church planting where we re-deploy existing members in order to do evangelism. Starting a new service, perhaps on a Sunday evening, or mid-week is a common method of reaching out to a new group of people, without rocking the boat too much.

This approach can hold the difficult tension between homogenous services (Chinese Church, uni church) and diverse church community. It also saves a lot of resources, because the different meetings will naturally share staff, administration and possible venues.

Because this approach is safe, it may not actually lead to re-deployment but merely re-arrangement. We start a new meeting, but not actual evangelism is done. You can start a new meeting without having to ask hard questions about your strategy and approach and without having to really count the cost for the sake of the gospel.

The League of Shadows

Comic book geeks know that originally the League of Shadows was called the League of Assassins. But in Batman Begins they renamed it the League of Shadows and made Liam Neeson the boss of it. They are this secret society of evil ninjas who control everything behind the scenes. It's all very cool.

Churches have their leagues of shadows too. We were talking about a guy name Keith the other day. He is the Ra's al Ghul of his church. He's not the big up--the-front flashy guy. But I reckon he's probably controlling everything behind the scenes :-)

The nice thing about godly league of shadows guys is that they aren't control freaks, rather they are humble and faithful. They probably don't even know just how many strings they are pulling and what a spiritual legacy they are leaving

MTS Challenge 2009

We have just confirmed Greg Lee from Hunter Bible Church to speak at our MTS Challenge Conference in August 2009.

It is well with my soul.

Christian Reconstructionism is spooky

I've been reading a bit of stuff by Christian Reconstructionists. It's a strange world.

One thing I find really hard to take is the dead certainty with which they write. They comes across like they are so convinced that they have understood God's word correctly and are so convinced that they have teased out its correct and only applications correctly. More than this, they seem to read Scripture really tightly. Romans 13, for example is taken to explicitly limit the role of government to the administration of justice. I think this is reading too much into the text.

One thing about them that is often misunderstood, is that many of them believe that you cannot force a society to adopt God's laws. It is only through successful evangelism that their reconstructionist program will be realised.

One thing that is uncomfortable to admit, is that many of their goals are legitimately biblical, if not necessarily biblical. That is, I don't think their case that they have figured out God's economics and God's politics is correct. But many of their principles are legitmitately derived from biblical principles and so we can't be biblically opposed to much of their project. The death penalty, for example, was truly commanded by God in his good and right law. Therefore, however much we may believe that the death penalty should not be applied today, we cannot be absolutely opposed to someone else who does.

Some baby steps to pioneer church planting V

Work hard
Starting something from scratch is impossible. It is so tempting to choose something easier or to become a gathering point for disgruntled Christians. It is so hard and lonely and small and disappointing to have your dreams crash up against the miserable ordinariness of reality.

So on the one hand, you need to kep the vision alive. On the other hand, you just need to be prepared to work hard.

All ministry is hard work, but pioneer church planting especially so. Of course you need to beware of overwork and assuming that you are the all-powerful god who can give birth to a church. The point still stands: this kind of ministry requires perseverance.

You need to work hard at making contacts, work hard at praying, work hard at meeting one to one with your team, work hard at meeting up with new contacts, work hard at raising support, work hard at evaluating your strategy.

Linked to hard work is patience. The church may be born, but it may take two years longer than you hoped in your strategic planning document. Sometimes it can be like playing chicken with the devil: who's gonna swerve first?

Some baby steps to pioneer church planting IV

Keep the Vision Alive
During those early months and years, it may be very hard, discouarging and hard to tell whether what you have done will survive or not. You are the one who is carrying around the vision for the new church, you are the one who is driving it forward, so you need to find ways, by God's grace, to keep it alive:

  1. Set aside a day for prayer once a month.
  2. Keep teaching the Bible. Find some context to keep opening the Bible. This is where the motivation for you ministry is coming from, don't dethrone it for the sake of strategy.
  3. Keep reading books about church planting to keep yourself sharp.
  4. Have some friends and mentors who are keenly interested in the project. Their enthusiasm for the project may prove more constant than yours.
  5. Make sure you continue to repeat the vision to your team. The more they grasp it, the more momentum you will have.
You can find the previous posts here.

One thing you can't deny about Obama...

Is that his story is very parallel to Matthew Santos' election in West Wing season 6 and 7. But that's not actually the thing I want to talk about.

Another thing you can't deny about Obama is that he is a really good public speaker. On the blog I can't link to enough, Con Campbell draws some rhetorical lessons from Obama's victory speech.

Con Campbell lectures at Moore College. He is a jazz saxophonist. He has just written a book all about verbal aspect,  which is sort of the jazz of Greek scholarship. Con recently preached at the Tasmanian Leadership Conference and you can here those rockin sermons here on the TLC website.

Different levels of application of the Exodus-Law event

Fi asked a very sharp question in response to this post. I thought I would expand on it further here:

There are different ways that the whole big Exodus from Egypt and subsequent giving of the Law 'event' can be understood:

  1. In a general, analagous sense, we see God acting in saving grace, and susequently calling on people who receive his grace to respond. In this sense it is analagous to the Chrsitian experience. For a 'true Jew' who shared the 'faith of Abraham' this is surely a key part of their response to the law.
  2. In a more specific, sense, the Exodus serves as a 'type' of Christian salvation. In this context, too, the law is given as a joyful response to God's salvation.
  3. One variant of these two applications is the application to the 'visible' church. We find this in 1Corinthians 10 and Hebrews 3-4. The professing church, like the nation of Israel, is a mixed multitude. All experience something of God's saving grace, but need respond appropriately if they are to truly be saved.
  4. In the flow of salvation history, the Exodus did not actually grant salvation in the NT sense to every individual Israelite. For them salvation and redemption and belonging to God's people didn't necessarily mean being justified. In this context, the law is added as a conditional covenant which, in theory, demands obedience for justification.
  5. In the background of all of this is the recognition that salvation for any Israelite, as for Abraham, was through faith in the promise of God. This promise came first and was in no way set aside by the conditional elements of the law covenant.
This is stupid stuff to blog about because it is almost bound to be unclear and misunderstood. But I submit myself to the 'invisible hand' of the blogsphere which will surely let the riches of truth trickle down to all...

Stuff Christian Culture likes


Small Change? - Series on Finance @ Crossroads

  1. Change and fear (9th Nov)
  2. Capitalism and socialism (16th Nov)
  3. Greed (30th Nov)
  4. Generosity (7th Dec)

I hate soccer but...

Soccer is a low-scoring, silly game where there seems to be a lot of falling over by little men in silky outfits. Upon conversion, I was so dismayed that the Christian community was deeply absorbed in two foul sports: soccer and cricket.

On a general level, why are such lame sports the world sports? Why soccer and cricket and swimming? I think it's a sign of the Fall. A perfect world would give greater attention to ice hockey and freestyle BMX.

Anyway, be that as it may, Alan has got evil plans to use beach soccer for the glory of God and although I hate soccer, I love his plans. Go over and visit his site -  give some suggestions..

Fundamentalism and mainstream evangelicalism

Fundamentalism says
Someone's beliefs always affects every area of their lives.
Someone's lifestyle always affects every area of their beliefs.

"Don't trust an atheist, communist or homosexual"

Mainstream evangelicalism* says
Someone's beliefs or lifestyle can have an affect on any area of their lifestyle or beliefs.

Fundamentalism says
God tells us exactly what to think about every area of life.
We can always understand perfectly what God tells us.

"I vote/parent/think that way cause that's what God's word says"

Mainstream evangelicalism says
We should seek humbly to apply God's word to every area of life.
We can only imperfectly understand what God tells us.

Fundamentalism says
There is no different between a law and a principle.

"If women are to be busy at home they can never go back to the secular workforce"

Mainstream evangelicalism says
Laws are universal and timeless, principles are flexible.

*I don't know what the best nomenclature is here. I try to find something that was fairly neutral.

Read better; preach better

I reckon this blog will be very important for would-be preachers of the gospel. Posts seem relatively short, too, which is a plus!

Gav is grumpy

Gav Perkins has posted a very timely post about the importance of ministry faithfulness in the little things. Amen!

Ugly word of the week: praxis

Des asked me about this on; wondered if there was anything he was missing for why people liked using the word.

Nope. There is nothing he is missing. Praxis is part of that mutant sludge family that includes 'missional' and 'utilize'.

Qualifications for church planters

I have to begin drafting some material for Vision 100 to help us screen church planters. Those sorts of things are really hard, I don't want to narrow down the qualifications down too much, as if only one particular personality type can plant a church. Will give it a go and let you know what I come up with.

Justification by death

Fi passed on to me a witticism by David Cook (principal of SMBC) that is right on the mark:

Australians believe in justification by death; as soon as we die, everything will be alright between us and God.

We can all chill out

Laura tells us that the new POTUS is neither the Messiah, nor the Antichrist, so we should just chill out a little.

Church size and church death

Dying churches have more people on their rolls than in attendance. Growing churches have more people in attendance than on their rolls. Dying churches tend to comfortably meet their budget out of their savings and investments. Growing churches tend to struggle to meet their budget.

MTS apprenticeships and the minimum wage

We decided to start paying our MTS apprentices according Tasmania's minimum wage rather than according to the recommended MTS 'scholarship'. That's an increase of nearly $10 000 pa.

Phillip Jensen and the 18 Theses

The Sydney Anglicans site has two videos of Phillip responding to Mark Driscoll's 18 theses.

I'm sure it's really good stuff, but every time I try to watch it, the video begins buffering and then stops altogether.

The Bain of the North

Al Bain has just started a blog. I imagine there will be plenty here to get you thinking, get you angry, get you commenting.

Al went to SMBC and did his final year project on immanence and transcendence in Barth, Moltman and Scripture. He's now living in Launceston and has a great veggie patch.

John Stott could bash up your dad

John Stott's books are a must-read. In particular, his commentaries in the very variable Bible Speaks Today series are the bees knees.

The law was not meant to provide a means of justification - or was it?

Galatians 3:21 is used to prove that God never intended the law to be a means of justification. I think this is squeezing more theologial jus out of the text. Of course life cannot come by that law, given that humans are all sinful. But does that mean that the law did not offer justification and therefore life to any who could, theoretically, keep it perfectly?

Taken on its own, in isolation from broader salvation history, the law does indeed offer a means for justification. It never succeeds, because no individual can keep it, but the offer is real.

The argument in Galatians 3:15ff is:

  1. This offer does not set aside the previous offer of righteousness by faith.
  2. The failure for the law to deliver righteousness doesn't mean it was useless - it served to expose sinfulness.

Grammatical term

In an 'if... then...' sentence:

The 'if' bit is called the protasis and the 'then' bit is called the apodosis.

Impress your friends.

Immorality of interest

Exouds 22:25-27, Leviticus 25:35-37 an Deuteronomy 23:19-20 forbid Israel from charging interest against fellow Israelites.

What does that mean for Christians today? Ever wondered that?

Law and transgression in Galatians 3:19 and 3:24

The law was "added because of (or for) transgression" and "was put in charge to lead us" could mean one of the following:

  1. It managed and restrained our sin. 
  2. It exposed sin and declared it to be violation of God's law.
  3. It provoked and deepened by making God's demands explicit.
  4. It awakened guilt and so gave individuals a sense of their need for forgiveness.
I think number 2 suits the flow of God's argument best, although I think all four are true and taught elsewhere in Scripture.

Dodgy lyric?

And the saints below
join with the saints above
Rejoicing in the Risen Lamb

Are the saints above currently conscious and actively involved in rejoicing in the risen lamb? Is the theological so minor and disputed that it'd be ok to sing in church? What do you think?

Self-esteem and church growth

Often church growth advice focuses on organisational adaptation. I came across another reason for churches under 100 people stagnating: the churches have low 'self-esteem':

This is an important process to go through because many small churches genuinely want to grow but are unable due to their corporate poor self-esteem. This is not dissimilar to a person to wants to grow spiritually, mentally, professionally, etc., but their self image is so skewed that they can't move forward. Until that person sees things more accurately, including their potential, they are unable to grow.

I reckon there's something pretty true in that. 

New Vision 100 Website Online

After two packets of chocolate covered honeycomb, many cups of coffee and a lot of heavy metal, Christian and I have just flicked the switch on the new Vision 100 website. 

It's got sermons, some training materials and all our newsletters. We will aim to upload content, update events and improve the visual design regularly. So please come back again soon.

Let us know what you think by emailing info@vision100.org.

Ninja turtle - Subversion and church documents

Since 2005 Crossroads has used subversion to manage our church documents. Because the software I first used was called TortoiseSVN, it got called 'NInja Turtle' and the document repository itself got called 'the Sewer'.

Our current resources page just publishes pdfs saved in one folder of our repository.

It has been a very helpful tool to have. It's nice being able to travel back in time and retrieve old documents that have been changed or deleted a long time ago. It's nice to ensure that we all have the same version of various guidelines, goals, calendars and other documents. It's nice to have access to church documents even if I'm away from my personal computer. It's nice to be able to direct people to a central place to get documents, rather than have to send attachments all the time.

There are problems of course:
  • We currently don't have an web-based way to edit documents on the repository. This means that for someone to add or change things they have to download software, export the repository... all of this are big psychological barriers for people.
  • Filing and naming conventions are always difficult. There is no one way to save everything that seems obvious to everyone.
  • It has been a major culture change to get people to update the central respository, rather than just documents on their personal computer.
But overall it has been a huge blessing and I'm sure our problems will eventually be ironed out. Thanks to Alex for suggesting we use it, for jml who developed our setup and for Christian who is no doubt going to improve it further and make it available to others in the Vision 100 network. 

What methods does your church use for document management?

Some paths to the NT from the Psalms

  1. In the biblical history sense, most of us are the nations who stand under the judgment of the messiah. How can Gentiles hope to be saved?
  2. In a moral/theological sense, as unfolded across the Bible, even Jews are under sin. We all stand under the judgment because of our sin.
  3. In a typological sense we are part of the new Israel in Christ. There is an analogy between our situation and that of the nation under  the OT kings.
  4. We, like the kings and prophets who wrote the Psalms are human beings. Human nature and divine nature remain constant, and so we can take on the words of the Psalms as our own to a great extent. Care needs to be taken that we realise the difference between our position in history and theirs.
  5. Finally, we are so incorporated into Christ, that we are counted sons of God. The NT grants us a higher position than an Israelite of old. We will judge the twelve tribes, in fact we will judge the nations. We are seated together with the Christ. 

Ministry and grumpiness principle #5

Generally it's right to leave a space of time between initial irritation/disappointment and response. Take the time to pray, to reflect, to caste your grumpiness upon the Lord.

I love that scene in The Apostle where Robert Duvall is going:

I'm angry at you, Lord. I love you, but I'm angry at you. I don't know if it's the devil or the Spirit. But I'm really angry, Lord.

and the mother is downstairs:

He does that sometimes. He's always talking to the Lord. Sometimes he yells at the Lord.

And after that, a brief, gentle, but firm word can carry just as much force as a big grumpy tantrum.

Ministry and grumpiness principle #4

Sometimes it's right to wear your heart on your sleeve before the church. I'm bad at this. I bottle it up.

But sometimes it's really healthy for your church partners to see how they have hurt, disappointed, dishonoured or burdened you. Sometimes it's right to respond passionately. 

Ministry and grumpiness principle #3

Never criticise someone until you've walked a mile in their shoes... cause then you're a mile away, and you've got their shoes.

Take the time to really understand the pressures, different priorities and challenges of the people in your church. They may not be showing lack of devotion to God, simply because they show a lack of devotion to your church. They may be in a different time of life with pressures that are different to yours, that you think are minor - which is arrogant.

Finally, they may be going through something that you know nothing about. Do you really want to snuff out a smouldering wick, simply because you are a little grumpy?

Ministry and grumpiness explanation

I'm actually not grumpy today. I just realised that I have come up with a lot of rules of thumb in this area that I've never posted about. I really don't want to be a grumpy pastor.

Ministry and grumpiness principle #2

Don't get grumpy on email.

Moreover, don't get grumpy on email and try to mitigate it using irony or humour. These things are bound to get lost on email. 

And you can't justify getting grumpy over email by using smiley emoticons.

Ministry and grumpiness principle #1

Insofar as it is right to get grumpy in ministry:

Only get grumpy with people who let you down when you have done everything you can and should do to help them do their job.

But I'm too busy, you say. 
Then, I would answer, you are not in a position to get grumpy. 

Cultural engagement and shampoo packaging

I heard that the British evangelist Pete Woodcock once said that evangelists should read shampoo packaging for clues about how to connect with women.

Fi gives some hilarious example of shampoo silliness on one of her blogs.

Name for children's ministry

I sent an update on our children's ministry to our church's supporters mailing list and got a suggestion for a name for the ministry from a former Crossroads church partner.

They suggested we choose a name that reinforced that this ministry was a service to the families, not just to the children. A Sunday school is a ministry to parents and children. I like this idea very much. Unfortunately, they had no trendy suggestions for the the name.

Why do the liberals get the cool names?

I don't like the name 'CU' or 'EU' for student Christian groups. 'Union' seems meaningless, or a little communist. It seems even more redundant since the introduction of VSU.

I really like Student Christian Movement (SCM) which is the liberal version. Why do the liberals get the cool name?

Movement. What a groovy word.

Reverse mentoring

Two things I hope will be true in both my parenting and my pastoring is that I will always:

  1. Be eager to say sorry to those under me
  2. Be eager to learn from those under me.
I came across this article on reverse mentoring that focused well on the second one of these.

Shane Rogerson v David Allen

Shane the punk rocker rector has just bought Getting Things Done.

How many people does it take to run the church meeting?

At Crossroads, a meeting of 50 people, we have:

Preacher, band (3-4), MC, Bible reader/prayer, ushers (2), kitchen (2), food bringer, creche (2), OHP/sound = 15

At The Branch, Launceston, a meeting of 250 people, they had:

Preacher, MC, band (4-6), ushers (2), kitchen tidy (3), morning tea (2), hall setup/tidy (3), lockup, creche (4), childwatch, cleaner, sound = 26

What lessons can we learn from this? Many, I suppose. One lesson is: don't just be a pew sitter, for there is plenty for you to do, even on any given Sunday! Another lesson is: if you are going to plant a new church, either start with a group of 50-60 people or drastically reduce the format of your public gatherings, otherwise a few people will get worn out running everything and noone free to focus on people.

Transformation of society by the gospel

I feel uneasy with those who make grand claims of the transforming power of the gospel in society, or grand claims about the decaying power of rejecting the gospel for society. When I look at church history, it is not clear that when evangelical Christianity has dominated, society is vastly better. The sexual revolution caused problems for society, sure. but the 1940-50s had its fair share of social and sexual problems too.

I've been reading a history of evangelicalism. One of the characteristics of 18th century evangelicalism was the conviction that if you see individuals transformed by the gospel, then they will transform society. However, my history book argues, in practice, it's not that clear that this happens.

Wilberforce did help abolish the slave trade. But he remained an aristocrat and a man of his time. Meanwhile, across the Atlantic, evangelical Christianity grew in the southern colonies of America, without abolition. British evangelicals tended to be monarchists (basing their views on Scripture), Americans tended to be republicans (again, basing their views on Scripture). And so on. The historian argues that 18th century evangelicalism transformed people within their social context, rather than beyond it.

I think that's probably fair enough. God's word focuses on promoting godliness for the individual, the family and the church. The NT doesn't focus on the transformation of the society or the nation. And perhaps we are too confident in our ability to apply the word of God if we assume that we can extrapolate the correct principles to govern our societies, and that we won't be blinded by cultural prejudices.  Perhaps we are also too presumptuous about God's promises, if we assume that God promises to bless us unambiguously in these endeavors.

Galatians 3:4 - suffered or experienced?

Have you suffered so much for nothing? or Have you experienced so much for nothing?

There are references of Jewish persecution in Galatians 6, in Acts 14 and perhaps in Galatians 2.

But on the other hand, the immediate context of this verse is reference to the reception of the Spirit and the working of miracles. I still tend towards suffering, I think.

The power of blogging for your flock

Alan is not your average pewsitter, but his thoughts on the role blogs play in his life, conversation and theological formation give a good indication of why its important for pastors to be involved in blogs too. 

How to get 24 converts in 18 months

Craig has shared some advice from an evangelistically fruitful pastor on how to lead the way in evangelism .

Mistakes church planters make

Nick has posted on mistakes church planters can make . Another good post from the boy who just wants to graduate from Bible College.

Commentary on Dawkins-Lennox debate

I watched the first bit of the debate between Dawkins and Lennox on the internet and wasn't particularly impressed with the debate rules nor with some of Lennox's responses. But it seems that it's worth a rewatch. At least this article , commenting on the 'rematch' points out some concessions in Dawkins' position.

The Endless Summer of Love festival

Last year we put some thought, prayer and effort into urging our church to make the most of the summer months. We settled on a title, wandering the forests of ambiguous irony: The Endless Summer of Love. 

We are going to do this again this year. It's not about organising a whole bunch of programs, but about encouraging Christians to be involved in the community and creative and evangelism and good deeds. Even though it's not advertising a conference of 'mission' we want to show its importance by commission and printing brochures (thanks Huw for the design).  You can see the cover and inside of the brochure if you like.

Please pray for that it flies.

Common responses to doorknocking in Warrane

Jimbo is trying, by God's grace to plant a megachurch in Warrane. At the moment it's more or less just him. One thing he is doing is doorknocking every week, to get to know the area and try to find some evangelistic contacts.

He has just blogged some of the common responses to doorknocking. Keep an eye on this blog. Jimbo is just getting hang of the whole blogging thing, and it's hard to post regularly when you only type with two fingers, but he'll get there.