"Not Yet Christians"

I find this expression very patronising and tacky.

An elegant idea; a beautiful website design

This is how The WhiteBoard Sessions describe themselves:

The Whiteboard Sessions is about the power of an idea in its raw, most conceptual form. One simple idea could forever change your life and ministry. We’ve invited 8 of the most inspiring leaders in ministry to share one compelling idea in just 30 minutes each. They come from different ministry circles and use a variety of methods, but they all have one thing in common: a love for the Gospel of Jesus Christ and a desire to see lost people reached. You will be stretched by their thinking and challenged by their insights. The very idea you resist could be the key to God’s future for you. Who knows, you might even find confirmation for the dream God’s already revealed to you. But whatever the reaction, one thing is certain: you will never be the same.

Facebook for Pastors

Get it free here.

You know, I'm just not convinced. I feel in my heart that it's hard for organisational leaders to take control of what is fundamentally a grass-roots technology. It's the same reason I think that organisationally-driven blogs don't seem to work.

I don't know though. I've ummed and aahed about resubscribing to Facebook. I don't like chitchatting on Facebook. But it is kinda sad when I miss out on someone's birthday party cause they only advertised it on Facebook.

What do you think? Should I return to the Island?

Sermon Stealing

I don't link to other blogs much and I also generally don't like loooong blog posts. But Ed Stetzer has a post on Preaching and Plagiarism that I thought was pretty groovy.

A couple of years ago I heard Don Carson speak at SMBC and he told us how he rebuked a preacher for plagiarising stuff - Don Carson's stuff. I can't think of anything more frightening than being confronted by the Don, can you?

I'm Crazy Too

I don't often link to other things on the interweb. But I like Steve Addison's blog very much and this post made me laugh and encouraged me:

Crazy About Europe

Seasons to Revise Church Plans

I noticed the other day that there are a few times in the year when church plans are formulated:

  1. December-February: The formal planing phase. This is where you think and pray and plan about what you would like to happen in the coming year.
  2. May-June: The realistic planning phase. This is where you begin to see clearly what God is actually doing through your church this year. You may need to change plans, re-write the preaching calendar. This time last year, we started planning the 'edgy' uni student service that has now become Toilet Block Tuesdays. Yesterday we came up with another big idea, that we'll discuss with the elders at the May meeting and announce at the church's next Brainstorming Summit.
  3. August-September: The home-stretch planning phase. This is when you realise how little you'll actually manage to get done before the end of the year and you begin to put your energy behind the most important things. You also begin to anticipate and prepare for things that will happen in the coming year. In 2007, this was when we began the Morning Fellowship Group which is now dubbed Crossroads House. I wonder what will happen this year?

Impact as a Verb

Anyone who loves language has their grammatical quibbles. Recently Gordon Cheng pointed out the corrected meaning of enormity.

Of course language changes and we need to get over ourselves. But everyone has a right to get irritated about some novelties.

I particularly don't like the revolting way that corporate-speak (and church-speak) uses 'to impact' as a transitive verb so:

That sermon really impacted me.

As I understand it, "impact" as a verb originally meant "to press down firmly, to tightly pack". I plead with you that if you want to use "impact" in the sense of "have a profound effect upon" then make a little noun-construction as follows:

That sermon really had an impact on me.

Sermons: Plateaus, Nosedives and Arrows

  1. With the right gifts and enough hard work, you can write a sermon that is a plateau: from start to end it is engaging and challenging. There are spikes along the way, but it's pretty straight.
  2. A trap for young players (and busy pastors) is for sermons to nosedive: the introduction and the (long) first point are pretty strong, but the sermon is a gradual downhill from there. It may well end with a cute little summary/conclusion, a little prayer (a re-packaging of the summary for God to listen to) and then announcing the next song.
  3. But how many sermons have an arrow in them? Sermons that build to a great climax of confrontation, appeal and inspiration; sermons that really get you on the ropes; sermons that silence the congregation?

I know that God is the one who persuades my hearers and the power lies in his word. This doesn't stop me working hard at my exegesis, theology, introductions, illustrations.

But for some reason I can, unintentionally, let my convictions to get in the way of putting good work into the end of the sermon. I don't work as hard as I might on landing it well.

Perhaps this is made worse when you don't set aside time in sermon preparation to go over the finished product and refine the end? Perhaps this is made worse when you don't study those preachers who end well?

Watch this Space

There could be a few very exciting announcements at Crossroads July Brainstorming Summit...


I think the term pre-evangelism is helpful if pretty ghastly. What does it convey?

  1. The 'pre' conveys that the activity in question is in itself not evangelism, so that we are not mistaken about what constitutes evangelism.
  2. The 'pre' also conveys that the activity is not meant to be evangelism, so that we can be confident that our non-Christian friends will be safe.
  3. The 'evangelism' conveys that the activity still has a latent goal - to share the good news with non-Christians. Sometimes this goal is rightfully secondary, just under the surface. This is true with events such as a public lecture or debate. Sometimes the goal must be consciously made tertiary, so that other things like friendship and love are dominant. This ought to be true with church social events, for example.

Verse for the Day

Isaiah 2:20 (New International Version)

20 In that day men will throw away
to the rodents and bats
their idols of silver and idols of gold,
which they made to worship.

Ironic Cross Cultural Clash

I spoke at a forum organised during the meeting of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church of Tasmania. I was asked to discuss 'Our Changing World' and how the church needs to adapt to culture change. I was speaking in the main church hall of a Presbyterian Church which has stained glass windows and organ pipes and pews.

At one point I was suggesting that it takes major adjustments for in order to make room for new people in church: we have so many cultural and institutional barriers we aren't even aware of. I said that it may require churches to close down all their programs and structures and set them up afresh.

Now as I was saying this, I used various metaphors including: "We may just need to re-install Windows".

It turned out later that I caused offence, because some of my audience thought that I meant, remove the stained glass windows in their church building and re-install new windows.

Something to Discuss with Your Deep Mates

I have decided to encourage my friends, Christian or not, to subscribe to Andrew Cameron's Social Issues Briefing .

I think they'll appreciate a service which helps them think broadly and ethically. People I know want to be responsible and thoughtful but don't know where to begin.

I hope it also creates a bit of a sober-minded, positive environment for political and ethical discussion.

Finally, I think it'll help me process the material Andrew sends out, and help me test his conclusions against people from a range of philosophical perspectives.

You should do it too.

Preaching to Pastors

There are no doubt many pastors who need to be challenged and rebuked and inspired to spend less time on nitty gritty, adminny, pissy stuff. Hence the proverb:

When you preach to pastors, challenge them about wasting time on unimportant stuff.
But I think that there are many pastors who feel discouraged, dirty, angry and even guilty for the necessary admin they have to do. They are doing it as a part of their ministry, as a part of their love for the saints and the lost. Hence the proverb:

When you preach to pastors, comfort them that their meaningless parts of their job are not in vain.

Personal Relationships with Missionaries

At our May Brainstorming Summit, we were discussing how we could make the most of relationships with Christians - those in our family, church, ministry teams, city, country, world.

How do you make the most of your relationships with Christians on the other side of the world? We decided that it is good for every Christian to adopt a few countries, churches, Bible College, missionaries or whatever. That way, something of the brotherly love, interpersonal relationship stuff can be expressed even in our global vision.

Someone half-remembered a quote which I like very much:

"Know something about everywhere and everything about somewhere."

Invite Someone to House Church

How might you invite someone to house church? It's easy if you are convinced that house churches are so biblical that of course you want someone to encounter Christianity in the context of house church. But what if you aren't so convinced?

  1. Don't worry about inviting them to church. Focus on inviting them into the Christian community. Maybe they won't want to come to a house church meeting until they're converted.
  2. Run a very informal house church meeting, so that it's not as weird to sit in on. It's much weirder, perhaps, to attend a formal meeting in an informal setting.
  3. Invite someone to the lunch straight after the regular house church meeting.
  4. Realise that there are many things that are very attractive about the informal, social, communal rhythm of the house church and don't worry so much

I Don't Think House Churches are Bodacious But...

Here are a bunch of reasons why they are good even if they're not the totally most awesomely biblical absolutely necessary thing in the universe:

  1. They allow for a lot of participation. Rather than this participation being second-class outside of the public meeting stuff, the open participation of regular Christians is central to the regular meeting.
  2. They raise the bar for joining church. There is no comfortable, anonymous place. If you want to have something to do with church and Christ, it's a big, all-or-nothing thing.
  3. Christians are more aware that church and family and lifestyle all go together. Rather than being embarrassed that a living room is a weird place to invite my friend, I want them to be there because the church is the family of God.
  4. They lower profile of the public meeting can potentially raise the profile of the everyday activities of life.
  5. They don't require the same type of oraganistional commitment, and so allow for flexibility for the public meeting.
  6. They don't require the same type of organisational commitment and so allow for more energy to be spent on other meetings and ministries.

Isaiah's Doctrine of the Priesthood of All Believers

1Peter 2:5 and 9 tell us that all Christians are priests. Peter quotes Isaiah 8 and Isaiah 28 to establish his case.

Both passages are remnant passages. The nation of Israel as a whole is condemned by God but within the nation there is a faithful remnant who put their hope in the Lord and gather around his prophet.

In both Isaiah 8 and Isaiah 28, the Lord promises to be with this remnant, to be their sanctuary. So it is that the true sanctuary is not the temple in Jerusalem, but the Lord himself. The true people are not those who have the national religion but those who put their hope in their Lord's promise.

Argument for Principled Pragmatism

It is hard for those who want to argue for principled pragmatism to argue their case. How can I say to a preacher who is faithful and godly but just out of date, who is not strategic, who is dull? After all, God's Word will do its work, won't it? It is not our power, but God's Spirit that builds the church.

I had a little thought that may contribute to the case for principled pragmatism: the gift of evangelists to the Church. If all you needed was God's word faithfully taught, then all you would need is teachers. But Christ chooses to give evangeslits to his church as well.

Isn't faithfully teaching God's word enough? Perhaps you could say that in a sense even God doesn't think so. He chooses to give people uniquely suited to bringing his word to the world.

Phillip Jensen on Uni Ministry

Mainly from interviews and conferences with Capitol Hill Baptist:

  1. Talk really quickly because students have short attention spans.
  2. Become an expert on sex and sovereignty (of God).
  3. Assume those who think they're Christians aren't Christians.
  4. Don't fear academics.
  5. Remember that you're always ministering to 18 year olds. Keep learning how they think.
  6. Don't be Peter Pan. Learn when to stop wearing jeans and when to stop playing sport with them.

Is-less Sermons

Someone passed on some preaching advice from Andrew Cameron (Moore College) the other day:

If you wanna make your preaching more dynamic and engaging, then try really hard to remove the verb 'to be' from your sermons.

Parachurch isn't Poneros

Some of the comments to my previous posts have assumed that uni ministry is kinda suckful because it is not a real church and so detracts from the church. Some of these posts have seemed to imply that parachurches are in principle bad.

I have heard this from traditionalists, who only want to allow for structures of Christian organisation that formally fit under neat theological and ecclesiological and institutional categories. In their case, only gatherings that are delcared to be churches are legitimate, other gatherings are necessarily threatening to church order.

I have also heard this from progressives, such as Mark Driscoll and Phillip Jensen. In Jensen's case, he says that any gathering of Christians around the gospel is not only sufficiently, but necessarily church.

I don't agree:

  1. I believe the Bible teaches that church is both an organic/spiritual and an institutional entity. I believe that the organic gathering of God's people is sufficient to be a church, but is not necessarily a church unless it is declared to be so.
  2. I think that provided parachurches keep reinforcing the fact that they are not churches, there need be no threat to the local church.
  3. I think mission organisations, Bible College, denominations, small group Bible studies are all examples of other parachurches. Uni minsitry is as legitimate as these.

Why Uni Ministry is Totally Awesome

I've been doing a series of posts on uni ministry in the AFES vein. The natural thing was just to do the pros and cons, but I have been putting off the pros for quite some time. The time is coming and has now come. Why does uni ministry totally rock?

  1. It frees you up to have a narrow ministry focus. You are not obligated to fulfill every single role of a local church, but focus on things such as equipping and outreach.
  2. It creates an opening for sermons and general teaching ministry on a level of academic depth that other ministries would not allow.
  3. It is an environment where a whole range of cultural pecularities can be emodied without alienating a wider audience.
  4. Younger people or univeristy students can tend to be quite swift in cultural change and a specialist ministry can adjust to this more quickly.
  5. It allows for a ministry style which harnesses the more tribal or hive behaviour of younger, single people. I suspect that when this behaviour is harnessed well for the gospel - !!!without becoming cultish!!! - then great fruit results.
  6. You have access to people from around the world, at a time of change in their lives, with a higher percentage of leadership-ability people.
  7. It can end up invigorating the local church because those who are or were involved in an intensive uni ministry are passionate about Christian ministry, full-stop.
  8. It forces Christians from a whole bunch of churches to meet
  9. It gives plenty of opportunity for Christians to find boyfriends and girlfriends.