A generous doctor bought me books

I know this Christian doctor who really loves books. He reads and forms his own opinions about books that guys at Bible College struggle with. He just really loves books.

Out of the blue he SMSd me, asking for my address because he was so excited about Mark Seifrid's chapter on Romans in Beale and Carson's Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament that he simply had to buy and post me a copy.

And THEN he felt he had to send me some 'light reading' too... so he posted my John Woodhouse's new commentary on 1Samuel.

Crazy doctor guy.

Number 2 guy in the number 1 spot

Mark Driscoll said to this UK church planting network that the reason that he thinks a lot of churches plateau at 60-80 people is because there is a 'Number 2 guy' in the 'Number 1 guy' spot.

Christmas Churches or Easter Churches?

I'm listening to some stuff Mark Driscoll did in the UK that I pulled from the Acts 29 site. The cool thing about these sessions is that they are predominately Q+A and I really enjoy this format.

One nifty little observation Driscoll made was that most churches either have an increased attendance at Christmas or Easter, but very few at both. 

Crossroads is an Easter church.

I've always felt like a bit of a scrooge for not putting lots and lots of energy into Christmas things every year. We have done a variety of things in the past. Some of them have worked - like a Midnight Christmas Eve service and a 'Bethlehem Marketplace' thing. But generally, Christmas hasn't been our big thing.

Uni Ministries and Uni Churches

I think a Christian Union will go particularly well if there were one or more church that was strongly committed to its ministry. These churches could be called 'uni churches'. These churches will in turn have a symbiotic relationship with the CU.

These churches don't need to be exclusively focused on uni students, I am not advocating homogenous churches. But these 'uni churches' have a very deliberate interest in and concern for university ministry, among other potential ministry concerns.

It's not enough to give lip-service to supporting uni ministry. Little things make a difference. A 'uni church' will be shaped by the uni calendar, not just by the school-term calendar. A uni church will pay a lot of attention to issues relevant to students and will deliberately pray for the CU student committee, missions and other things.

A strong CU doesn't remove the need for strong 'uni churches'. The two need to be working together to make the most of this important mission field.

See what God is already doing...

Have you heard this advice given to people when entering into a new missionary situation? It doesn't ring true to me. Why is that? Can anyone help me clarify this?

It could simply be acknowledging that God is at work, providentially, in all things and that we should hope to be able discern some of the ways he may be preparing for his gospel to be preached.

But it could be opening the way for some kind of doctrine of prevenient grace, where God is at work in salvation apart from special revelation in the gospel of Christ.

There is also, perhaps, a danger in us reading too much into what we imagine God might be doing. After all, the first answer to this question must always be: God is giving people over to their sin, for his wrath is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people who supress the truth by their wickedness.

Missiology precedes ecclesiology... NOT!

This is one of Frost and Hirsch's big slogans in The Shaping of Things to Come. I don't buy it. 

Our Theology and our Christology come first, I agree with them on that. But out of our Christology comes our Soteriology (doctrine of salvation), not our Missiology. I think they blur Soteriology and Missiology together, since Soteriology is the 'mission of God'.

Soteriology precedes Ecclesiology, but Ecclesiology precedes Missiology. This is because it is out of our salvation that we gain our new identity and out of this new identity that we come to share in God's mission.

Lecture-sermon for Friday a.m. of MTS Challenge

I'm preparing some material for the MTS apprentices and trainers for tomorrow morning. I wanted to do a bit of a survey of Emerging Church/Missional Missiology, trying to help those attending to get a better grip on what it's all about, encouraging them to learn from all the good stuff and giving some analysis along the way.

I have picked out four areas:
  1. Informal, plural leadership structure
  2. Open, communal church structure
  3. Incarnational approach to culture
  4. Missional approach to evangelism

Blog essay series on a 'Presbyterian heretic' (?)

The Pook has started a blog especially devoted to the latest book by Presbyterian theologian Andrew McGowan, whose views have been seriously questioned  by some within the Presbyterian Church of Australia.

Blue Like Jazz

Is annoying but a great read and I've just finished it. Donald Miller writes like Douglas Coupland and a bit like Benny Walter and I can't help but imagine him living in one of those grotty early-Crossroads sharehouses.

There's something a little bit inauthentic about someone deliberately adopting a laid-back and airy tone when they actually do have strong tastes and opinions.

There's something really fantastic about a Christian book written by someone who is a very gifted writer. Fresh descriptions and interesting sentences are all over the place; new expressions of old ideas.

It did really motivate me to want to go out and 'do mission' too.

Tips for doorknocking

I like this summary of hints and tips for doorknocking that was written by someone from the Christians in the Media crew. 

Valedictions in emails

I like valedictions in emails, it's one small way to make an email a pleasure to read. My friend Luke is working very hard to vary his valedictions so that his emails are refreshing to receive.

Your brother in the joy of the Gospel,*


*that's one of Luke's :-)

Or Egypt?

... for that matter Egypt gets even more attention...  


Why does Ezekiel devote three whole chapters to prophecies about and against the nation of Tyre? It is as if Tyre is the 'Babylon the great' of Ezekiel's prophecy.

A tip for reading missionary prayer letters

The most important prayer letter you can get from a missionary is no letter. This is a time to really pray for them, for they may be undergoing such an ordeal that they can find no time, energy or words to communicate with their wider support base.

Sermonettes on materialism

I'm gonna preach three sermonettes at our "Toilet Block Tuesday" service as a part of The Be All and End All series:
  1. Why matter is good (1John)
  2. Why materialism is bad (Luke 12)
  3. Why some things matter more (1Cor 15)

Why Tim Chester doesn't believe in incarnational mission

I think Tim has hit the mark here.

Pastoral training

In an age of computers, so much time can be lost in ministry due to an inability to use software well. Given many pastors, and even more student workers, will be the main administrators for their church, it would make sense for them all to take a course in:
  • navigating the internet
  • basic netiquette
  • using office software (spreadsheets, word, powerpoint)
  • touch typing
Because these things are not important, it is all the more necessary that pastoral incompetence not let them waste a pastor's time.

Should this be in Bible College curricula? Or MTS apprenticeship guidelines?

Christians shouldn't gamble, but...

I bet you that before the end of October 2008 Crossroads will have to start a fourth small group Bible study. What do you reckon?

Interaction during church services is crummy

If a church has over 50 people in it, I dislike interaction from the front. A little bit is fine. But that sort of "Hi everybody!" "Morning Mikey" sort of thing is tacky, I think.

I similarly think that breaking up into small groups to discuss things should be kept to a minimum. I have come to the public gathering of the church to engage in large-group activities, I'm not in the frame of mind for small-group activities. I find it a bit invasive.

Tentmaking motives

There are a whole range of reasons for tentmaking but I don't think evangelism is one of them. Well it might be. But it's not one of the reasons given to us in the Scriptures. The apostle supported himself financially because...
  • he had to out of necessity
  • he wanted to as his 'boast'
  • he was setting an example to young Christians of hard work
  • he sought to distance himself from mercenary philosophers
But not because he wanted to have a more authentic connection with the unbelieving world. 

If you're not gonna preaching for 40 mins, don't bother

Beginning preachers do well to preaching for 20 minutes. Some preachers or congregations have limitations that mean they should only have 20 minute sermons.

But as a basic rule of thumb, if you can't (or won't) preach for 40 minutes then don't bother.

Keeping Tassie pastors sharp after College

A Tasmanian Bible College student wrote to me: 
I was wondering Mikey, how do we over the next several years keep this
new wave of ministers across several denominations, Anglican,
Presbyterian and Reformed sharp?  We'll all be beavering away in our
local areas and ministry with varying successes so there needs to be
something larger to keep us from straying theologically and encouraged
that even if there are local failures or setbacks.

This is a really important question for the Vision 100 movement down here in Tassie. In some ways, asking the question is the first step. Below are some of the things that I think will be especially helpful to us:
  1. Every leader personally valuing and investing in relationships with other leaders. It is a service to your local ministry to invest in relationships with other leaders. Ultimately this should not be managed from some episcopal head office, but initiated by local leaders. Pastors should think of this as a part of their job description.
  2. Every leader being willing to deepen these relationships by being honest and vulnerable to one another. Sadly, relationships between Christian leaders is so often defensive, we are not comfortable opening up to each other or asking advice of one another, for fear of interfering or treading on toes. We need to initiate situations where we ask for critique, accountability, advice. Why don't pastors invite their fellow pastors to come in to evaluate the state of their ministry? Why do we leave this up to denominational committees?
  3. Certain conferences here in Tassie should be in place to strengthen the movement by strengthening the network of leaders committed to the movement. Conferences often become a combination of resource-delivery and political courtesy. The whole time is spent running workshops and trying to win over new people to join the network. I would hope instead that a few of our conferences, like the MTS Challenge Conference and the Vison 100 Leaders' Conference will serve the purpose of encouragement and enrichment for our leaders. These conferences should give the platform to local movement leaders, not rockstar preachers. These conferences should give ample time for honest sharing, advising and networking between pastors.

What does it mean to have discernment?

Decision-making and wisdom will always be important topics to be across, especially in a world full of options and information. Laura has posted some thoughts here.

Submission or Stealing?

Copyright law may be dumb. If copyright law is dumb should Christians pirate stuff? No, but only because it's illegal and God tells us to submit to the governing authorities. If copyright law is dumb, then technically, not all forms of pirating are actually stealing.

What do you think?

Des Smith preaching like a vampire.

Des wrote this sermon while lying on his back in his sleeping bag at our Tassie retreat. We all thought he'd slept in and forgotten to do his sermon preparation, we were wrong.

Des Smith is a very gifted preacher. He's currently studying at Moore College and attending Church By The Bridge. People in Hobart just like to know that Des is out there somewhere.

Church by the Bridge is a funky groovy church headed up by Paul Dale who loves Jesus and doing triathalons. He comes from the UK. People from Crossroads sometimes go to CBTB when they move to Sydney.

Jean Calvin en francais

Calvin is a pretty colourful writer. At times, the French version of his writings has even more colourful, if that were possible. For example, again from Psalm 4. The English version of his commentary (by Anderson) on verse 2 has the pretty plain:

With the grossest malice.

But the French version: 

 D'une malice si evidente qu'on la pourroit toucher au doigt.

Which translates:

With a malice so evident that you could touch it with your finger. 

David's prayers based on personal righteousness

Ever felt a little uncomfortable who understands the gospel of grace, that David often appeals to God on the basis of his own righteousness? Rescue me because I'm good sounds more like the Pharisee than the tax-collector!

Well I gotta test this out, but Calvin has an interesting take on this in his commentary on Psalm 4:

He did not boast of his own righteousness except in reference to his enemies, from whose calumnies he vindicated himself. He had the testimony of a good conscience that he had attempted nothing without the call and commandment of God, and therefore he does not speak rashly when he calls God the protector and defender of his right.

Get drunk on sermons

AFES has an archive of National Training Event sermons that date back to 1978. Your doctor strongly advises you to enjoy in moderation.