Adjusting to House Church

... and Sunday Morning Fellowship Group is moving from a fixed venue to a house-church setup. We'll rotate through the homes of people who have big living rooms, one month each.

Not many of us are used to House Church. I wonder if we will find it hard to think evangelistically about a house church meeting. Most of us haven't even been in house churches. Will be, just by default, not even think about inviting people to attend house church? Will be, just by accident, do and think and talk in ways that reinforce that this is just a fellowship group for Christians?

How can we break out of this mindset? How can we get into a evangelistic house church culture?

Shutting Down the Core Group Meeting

I'm gonna shut down the core meeting for Tuesday Crossroads. We do better building momentum and ownership in our ordinary meeting and further reflection and prayer can be done informally.

When we meet monthly to review, plan and pray we just seem to be psyching each other out. Maybe we'll do it again some blue day...

My Life at a Glance

I am having an email discussion with a pastor in NSW about how to implmement Getting Things Done for ministry. To make it all concrete I wrote down my current GTD system:

Collection Places
Home paper inbox, portable paper inbox, office paper inbox, email inbox, phone inbox (if I can't be bothered getting a pen out I write a TODO in my phone), SMS inbox, answering machine. I know some peopel keep their computer desktop really clean and empty so that it functions as an inbox for attachments (i've never done this).

Actions Lists
I have a filofax type binder diary about A5 size with a day-per-page calendar and a bunch of dividers. In this I put:
- Calendar
- @computer
- @phone
- @ errands
- @ office errands
- @ Sunday errands
- @creative writing
- @ home
- @ read (I also just have a reading pile)
- 'tickler pages' - I insert pages into my filofax along the lines of the 43 folders idea. I have one per week for the current month and then one per month after that.
- Hard Landscape checklist I have laminated and check at my weekly review and then move forward in the binder to the next week. This has my weekly, fortnightly, monthly, twomonthly etc regular tasks.
- agendas
- waiting for
- someday maybe
- project list (i also store a calendar of the next three month's preaching/workshop engagements)
- checklists: runway checklist (things to remember at the moment in church and family, household chores I said i'd do, things to work on in preaching, reminders about new procedures, when my holidays are), 20Kft checklist (i have both areas of responsiblity and church short-term goals), 30k checklist (church and personal 1-2 year goals), 40kft checklist (church and personal 3-5 year goals), 50kft checklist (church mission and values statements and personal lifelong goals), occasional checklists (I put an MCing checklist in when I am MCing at church, for example)

- Starred items in GMAIL: i have recently started starring things if they are part of a project or if they are a TODO.

I keep my project support material in manila folders
- Sermon series (John, 1John, 1Peter)
- GATAS Church Extension
- Archive Stuff at Home
- Put DJ Sermons on YouTube
- Session Reports
- Write Letter to Bible College Exiles
- Subscribe to Music Magazine
- Kid's Minsitry
- Ministry Lab
- ASA Mentorship Program
- Return Dumbrell Article to Bernie
- Give Advice to Rob S.
- MCing
- Linking and Learning

Areas of Responsibility Support Material
GTD doesn't distinguish this, but I find it helpful to have AoR support material as available as Project support material. Each of these tends to have a min-GTD system for them

- Mike Jolly (MTS apprentice)
- Dan Shepheard (staff)
- Steering Committee
- Tuesday Service
- Sunday a.m. Service
- Hobart MTS Apprentice Training Meetings
- MTS Tas Network Coordinator

Reference System
I keep this separate from my project material in five filing cabinets at home or office:
- A-Z general
- A-Z topical sermons
- A-Z sermon illustrations
- A-Z people
- Expository Sermons in canonical order
- Someday Maybe files (when a project is postponed, it is kept separate from regular reference material)
- A-Z general church files (at office)
- A-Z church someday maybe (at office - separate project files for each postponed project)
- A-Z people (in locked cabinet in office)
- A-Z confidential (in locked cabinet in office)

Empowering Language for Roster Overseers

The other day me and Dan worked up some little slogans to help our roster overseers be assertive in the frustrating task of managing our church rosters. Here are a couple:

  1. If you want to impress upon people that they are in charge of the venue keys, for locking up, passing the keys on and notifying the roster overseers about who they gave the keys to: "If you've got the key's, you've got the keys."
  2. If you want to call someone to account for not turning up to church when rostered on say: "Not turning up to church causes stress on others and disrupts the church."
  3. If you want to explain to others in the church why there is no tea and coffee tonight at church say: "The kitchen roster is not happening tonight because x didn't turn up for some reason."

Goals for MTS Tasmania

One of my jobs is being the Executive Network Coordinator for MTS Tasmania. At our Training Day in February I laid out some goals or values I would like us to adopt. Here are two of the headings:

1. Own the Transition to a Movement

  • It is tempting to say “We don't need MTS Nationally, we're too busy with our own thing here”.

  • It is tempting to say “Oh I see some things differently to the standard MTS bandwagon”.

  • I would like us to be one step ahead of the reactionaries who want to distance themselves from MTS. I would like us to say “I'm not some mindless groupie, I can see that there are flaws in this approach... and yet I am still committed to the overall direction. I only see things clearer because I'm standing on the shoulders of giants. What we have in common is far more than what we don't”.

  • MTS is making an exciting transition from an organisation to a movement. It is a great opportunity for us to be a part of this national movement.

  • Even if we don't get anything tangible out of it, we should want to share in the heritage of MTS.

  • Even if we don't get anything tangible out of it, we should want to identify and be aligned and visibly stand beside the network of MTS.

  • God-willing Tasmania will be even able to make a contribution to Australian evangelicalism through our affiliation with MTS.

2. Training Should Be Expensive

  • If the training we offer is actually worthwhile we should feel it in our weekly schedule. We can't take the credit for being committed to ministry training if we don't also suffer loss because we are spending precious time in our busy weeks on training.

  • We must regularly attend ministries of our apprentices for no other reason than to observe, encourage and critique our apprentice.

  • We must regularly invite our apprentices to do things with us for no other reason than to observe us.

  • The formal MTS guidelines recommend us to be formally training our apprentice for three hours a week, on top of meeting with them for one hour a week one to one.

  • These guidelines also recommend that we spend ten hours together in ministry with our apprentices every week.

  • This is a “love language” thing too. We must train our apprentices in such a way that they feel, know and understand they are being trained. This is where the cumbersome paperwork can fulfill an important function.

How To Lose Motivation and Other Important Things

This one is passed on from a friend of mine:

We had some process consultants yammer at us a while back. One of the
ideas that I liked was defining what a "hand off" is.

Roughly, "A hand-off occurs whenever you separate responsibility (what
to do), knowledge (how to do it), action (doing it) and feedback
(learning from doing it)."

The idea is that you lose something (information, motivation etc) with
each hand-off. Not rocket science, but I like the definition -- it's a
handy checklist.

Before Driscoll There Was Woodcock

I think Mark Driscoll is great but I had the blessing of encountering an equally big, bold, offensive, funny, colourful, cultural engaged pastor before. One of the preachers who played a huge role in my conversion was the UK evangelist Pete Woodcock:

All the things that we love and hate (and love to hate) about Mark Driscoll I had already experienced in the ministry of Pete Woodcock.

So have you encountered Pete Woodcock yet? Let me know what you think. You can find his sermons from MTS Challenge 2006 Tasmania on the Crossroads website, or a bunch of sermons on the Co-Mission website.

Some Bible Reading at ChurchThings

  1. Don't start talking until you have arrived at the lecturn, stopped and looked at the congregation.
  2. Know what kind of Bible reading it is. If you are reading a declaratory, call-to-worship opening reading, then don't tell people the reference and wait for them to turn to it, and don't read it like it's a menu. Declare it in a Thus-saith-the-Lord way.
  3. Don't tell me the page number. Even if you are using a pew Bible, lots of churches have at least two editions in their pews.
  4. Wait for all the rustling of pages to die down. All of them. If you are not used to being up the front then this may feel like it takes forever and ever.
  5. Announce the reading twice. I like it if the first announcement is the full title: "The Gospel According to John, Chapter 1 verses 1-8" or "Paul's First Letter to the Corinthians Chapter 3 Verses 22 to 28". I like the second announcement (after people have found their page) to be briefer: "John 1 verse 1" or "1Corinthinas 3 verse 22".
  6. Pause briefly before leaving the lecturn.
  7. If you are using the microphone, project your voice just as much as if you weren't using a microphone.

Ten Stylistic Things That Make Preaching Good

  1. Alliteration and assonance.
  2. Few rhetorical questions, especially in the appeal.
  3. Quotes that are paraphrased at points rather than a paragraph read in full.
  4. Nifty little asides into historical theology, systematic theology, the pastor's personal opinions or whatever else.
  5. Biblical phraseology and citations that are not referenced.
  6. Using a full square metre with your gestures - above, below, left, right, up, down.
  7. Strong, clear linking sections between points.
  8. Fresh and vivid ways of saying familiar things.
  9. Indirect methods of application - delcaration, appeal, reasoning, exclamation, hints and tips, threat, description.
  10. A sermon that goes longer than a commercial television sitcom.

Extreme Converts - How to Pastor

I used to be good at this. But that was because I was a pretty extreme person living a pretty extreme lifestyle. Staying up till 3am chainsmoking and talking about predestination or quitting pot was pretty normal.

Now I don't know how to do it anymore, because I have no experience at ministering to converts from extreme lifestyles without being right alongside them.

Phonecalls is part of the answer. You can't expect them to keep a regular commitment. They may be in Perth next week and kicked out of their flat tomorrow and back on smack by Thursday and going to a pentecostal church for a month.

But a regular phonecall is achievable, it keeps you in touch and if it is regular and spiritually profound it can be enough. I intend to be more consistent with phonecalling any extreme contacts and converts we are given.

Crossroads Values Statement

I put our Values Statement up on our website, instead of the Vision Statement. The Vision Statement is just a long and forgettable rewording of the Mission Statement, so I filed it.

The Values Statement may have many flaws. But it does aim to describe something of what makes Crossroads Crossroads and not another church.

... But I Asked the Church What They Thought...

There are different levels of consultation and if we want to be servant leaders, growing a relationship of trust and mutual ownership with our church, we need some skill in deciding which type is best. Otherwise we may defensively claim that we "consulted the church" when the church feels they weren't listened to, or we thought we "took the time to hear people out" when what the church needed was clear direction.

Some types of consultation:

  1. Collaboration: The church is actively involved in the entire planning process and the leaders share the decision making.
  2. Participation: The church is asked to share they ideas and criticisms at each step of planning. The leaders facilitate involvement, but the final decisions rest with them.
  3. Involvement: At certain points in the planning process the church is asked to give their thoughts. The leaders lead the process and use the input to inform their decisions.
  4. Reaction: The church is asked to give their feedback after the decisions have been made or are about to be made. The leaders direct this process and the input affects the final decision.

Blunt and Nasty or Clear and Edgy?

I was being trained by my MTS apprentice the other day and he reminded me that I'm not the best at saying things clearly and concretely and simply (I have other superpowers). More than that, he stressed the importance of sometimes being blunt and putting stuff out there, especially when speaking from the front.

I think he's got a good point. The hangups I have about being blunt are:

1) I really don't like it when this is the only weapon a church leader has in his arsenal. The church aren't doing what I want so I'll tell them off publically (or maybe run a training course...).

2) I think that if this is used too often, and other things aren't also done then the bluntness ends up being discouraging.

3) I don't want to come across as a leader who's angry.

Natural Leadership in the Household of God

There are natural 'elders' in the church, those who because of spiritual gifts practise oversight of the congregation even though they are not ordained. There are also natural leaders in the church who because of their natural office ought to practise oversight in the congregation even though they are not ordained.

I want Crossroads to emphasise the importance of the second type of natural leaders - the husbands, parents, household leaders and men. I want the church to know that the most important structure is not the small group but the household devotion. I want us to spend as much time strengthening the natural structures in our church as the programmed structures.

And I suspect that these structures will provide much more organic opportunities for evangelism, edification, hospitality and the concrete application of gospel truth.

Ministry Under the Sun

Ecclesiastes' observations about work and wisdom and pleasure in a meaningless, mortal and twisted world under the sun are true for ministry too, from a human point of view..

Under the sun ministry, too, is meaningless toil. One man's ministry is a deadend, plateaued numbers, minimal conversion. Another man comes along, does the same thing, and yet is massively blessed. This is a miserable business.

One man gives his life to God, makes great sacrifices for the gospel and his wife is diagnosed with cancer and dies, leaving him with four kids to look after. Another man is corrupt and selfish and yet is making millions of dollars a year and has a happy family.

Meaningless! Meaningless! says the teacher. Utterly meaningless!

This is why we need to fix our eyes not on what is see, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

Hospitality Events: Bring a Friend to what?

We have gotten a little bit creative with our hospitality (aka 'pre-evangelism') events. It's not necessarily appealing to be invited to a BBQ with a bunch of Christians you don't know. It's also pretty easy to forget to ask any non-Christian friends along to just-a-BBQ.

Giving our hospitality events a bit more razzamatazz has made them fun and also more exciting to invite people to. Some recent examples:

  • Night walk up the Cascades walking track
  • Brunch along with short talk/practical on the ABC of car maintenance.
  • Wii night.
  • We're also asking an SMBC mission team to prepare some kind of academic seminar on ... ancient mesopotamian love-myths or something equally esoteric so that we can run a Christian equivalent of a Compass show.
What's next? We'll see...

Ephesians 5:15-21 - why mention wine?

Why mention getting drunk?

  1. It is a sin the Ephesians are particularly struggling with. Perhaps especially because of sexual immorality too. After all sexual immorality is mentioned a lot in preceding verses, and marriage gets the biggest plug of all the issues in the subsequent section.
  2. It is a sin that Christians generally struggle with and shoudl be mentioned.
  3. Alcohol has a pervasive influence on behaviour. The influence that leads to selfish lack of control is contrasted with the Holy Spirit's influence that leads to selflessnes and self control.
  4. These verses particularly have the church gathering in view (see for example the references to singing). In the context of a meal, drunkenness should not be the outcome, but spiritual service in love (see 1Cor 11). I like the idea that this is part of the vibe in this verse.

Conversations about Work

Conversations about our working lives must not fit into the same category as conversations about sport and the weather. They should fit into the same category and Bible reading and evangelism and sexual temptation.

What's a Good Turnout?

You can get yourself down and get crabby at your church if you don't have a rough idea of what a good turnout should look like in your church with all the givens (age and stage of congregation, degree of 'alignment with the vision', amount of advertising and adviting). Here's the Xrds breakdown, with a church partnership of around 70 people:

  • Scary things (like doorknocking): If you get one person who isn't paid by the church to be there, you have a good turnout.
  • Small things (like our gift collectives, an MTS conference or something): If you get 10% there (=7 people), you have a good turnout.
  • Big things (like annual church conference or a whole-church community event): If you get 50% there (= 30 people) you have a good turnout.
I always count staff in my headcounts. I think it's a good principle, to realise we are not just there to run things, but to participate. I also "almost-count" people who take the effort to give apologies. It means that they wanted to come and are with us in spirit.

Paul's Tentmaking Policy and Today

Paul chose not to use his right to payment for gospel preaching. Sometimes he says this is in order to combat the problem of idleness (1Thessalonians 2). But in Corinth, he says it was to distance himself from other teachers who gained cudos through receiving payment (2Cor 10-13).

I can think of one example of where we might, in Australia, also choose to refuse our rights for the sake of the reputation of the gospel. One day I will give my Board of Management a headache by asking them to implement this:

Refusing lawful tax-breaks and fringe benefits for the sake of the gospel.

Many non-Christians see big churches apparently abusing the tax-breaks that religious organisations get and are scandalised. It would be very wise for churches to deliberately choose not to use our rights in this area.

Missionary Slots

I have introduced a few new rules into our public meetings about guest missionary slots or other guest slots, be it someone from the Bible Society or whatever:

  1. No longer than 3 mins. We have very few things in our meetings that run longer than 3 minutes. Guests often go fror 7mins or more. This is disproportionate, and rarely helpful. A guest is going to have as much success in generating interest and raising awareness with my church in 3mins as they are in 7mins.
  2. No more advanced technology than we normally use. If we don't use video regularly, they can't. If we don't use powerpoint regularly, they can't. At the moment we do neither, so neither can they. This is because:
  • Our tech support are not well-practised at using this stuff, so it's a big risk.
  • I can't be sure that the production values of our guest will be high or not. I don't want dodgy videos filling up time in our meetings, doing a disservice to our guest's cause. If we have a policy, I don't have to say this stuff!
  • It is jarring for the general tone, vibe and style of our meetings to have sudden jumps in technology.

Shorter Posts, More Often

I am going to launch into Christian Reflections once more, but with fewer posts and more often. This is my goal.

The blog began when I was having lots of ideas jumping into my head, lots of discussions and suggestions and reflections, but not way to store or express them. Now my role in church leadership has changed, so that the vast bulk of my thoughts and reflections are being processed, implemented or rejected in the day-to-day life and structure of my church.

Perhaps I can catch more of these reflections if I post more regularly.