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.

I love this Facebook Group

Mr Meaty . It's a silly name but an awesome concept. Young Christian men wanting to encourage each other in godliness.

Spiritualising church size and children's ministry

There's such a danger in spiritualising church size. Mega church think they're more spiritual cause it feels so exciting and impactful, churches of a hundred feel like more of a community, house churches feel more apostolic and down to earth.

I think that's all silly. There are advantages and disadvantages to each size. We tend to spiritualise whatever size we like best or whatever size we've had the most experience with.

Moreover, we tend to fear the other sizes, and spiritualise that fear too. We've never experienced the other sizes working well, so we assume they are dangerous:
  • We fear megachurches not caring for people intimately, not realising they can have better small groups than other churches,
  • We fear churches of a hundred for being so caught up in the rosters and programs they have no time for evangelism and relationships, not realising that the public meeting can contribute great things to the community life and evangelistic effort of a church,
  • We fear house churches because they don't have programs to make us feel like we are doing ministry, not realising that the informal ministry can often be more profound and tailor-made than any program.
At the moment with Crossroads House, we need to keep reminding our parents not to spiritualise the Sunday schools and kids programs of larger church sizes. These larger programs are not caring for kids more they are just caring for kids differently. In fact, we have the opportunity to really emphasise that the responsibility for nurturing kids is first of all the parents, and secondly the church community. Only in a tertiary sense is it the role of some program on Sunday.

Sojourn wishes you a very merry Christmas

Sojourn is a church in Louisville that I like. It's an Acts 29 church. And it is offering you their Christmas CD for free download or you can pay them as much as you think Radiohead's last album was worth. Buy one and give one to someone who's not a Christian.

Different types of types

I was listening to a lecture on typology that included the following list:

  1. Moral examples (eg Abraham is an example of faith)
  2. Types of one complex entity established as a type through a whole bunch of propositional statements (eg David is a type of the messiah)
  3. Types of successive structures whose recurrence establishes them as a type (eg exodus-new exodus)
  4. Types whose significance is drawn from their very nature (eg priesthood anticipates the great high priest)
  5. Types whose significance is drawn from their relationships to other types (eg 'rest' becomes typological when connected to 'sabbath')
Hmm. I wonder if this post is so dense as to be totally meaningless.

Vision 100/MTS Leadership Conference - Community survey seminar

I chaired the Vision 100/MTS Leadership Conference last night. It was a big improvement on the year before and I was really pleased we had over 30 leaders, elders, women leaders, apprentices and young guys and girls who are keen to lead. People came from several ministries and denominations and from all around the state.

Some of the things:
  • DJ preached on Acts 18 and challenged us not to fear but continue in our ministries. It was a great preach.
  • Dan reviewed Christ and Culture Revisited as only a MTC graduate knows how, Belinda reviewed Women are spaghetti and men are waffles (using her platform to challenge all the male leadres to be sensitive to the differences between genders) and Bill reviewed Soul Cravings.
  • We spent a lot of time in prayer and reporting, hoping to give an honest appraisal of how our minsitries are going.
  • After dinner we split into smaller groups and helped each other troubleshoot problems in our ministries.
  • Graham Sayer and I ran electives to end the evening. Graham on 'the Front Line' - encouraging our churches to see their ministry in the workplace and mine on community surveys and cultural engagement.
You can download my seminar on 'Cultural Engagement ' here . It focuses some attention on how to do interviews with people in the community about their culture, and how to use this material in our ministries.

Guy with a moustache at Tuesday Crossroads

Last year Huw grew a moustache for Movember, but we have missed out on moustaches since then at Tuesday Crossroads.

Last night a guy with a moustache turned up to Tuesday Crossroads. He came just because he saw a flier in the UTas chaplaincy building. He was a pretty interesting character and he was pretty keen to come back.

Stine Jolly says that God likes bringing those sorts of people to me. I don't know what that's supposed to mean :-)  ! 

Legalism - but what kind?

"Legalism" is a term that gets used in popular Christianity with a range of meanings, but all of them are blurred together. There are at least three kinds of legalism:

  1. Merit theology - you must obey God's law to go to heaven.
  2. Adding to God's requirements - in response to God's grace, you must not only obey the Scriptures, but these human traditions as well.
  3. Judgmentalism - a proud and 'pharisaical' attitude.
These are all connected in a range of ways. Galatians 2:11ff shows that in adding the law of Moses to the gospel (legalism 2) you end up creating a form of merit theology (legalism 1). Likewise, merit theology can feed the pride of the human heart and so lead to the judgmentalism of legalism 3.

But they are not necessarily connected. Someone may believe in merit theology, but be a very gracious, kind person. Or someone may disagree with you about what moral duties are necessarily implications of the gospel, without believing in merit theology. 

Crossroads sermon: why plant churches?

Last Sunday, along with other Tasmanian churches in the Vision 100 network, we devoted our church service to thinking about and praying for church planting. Most churches had guests from other churches and preached on Acts 11:19-30.

Here is my sermon , arguing the case for church planting and expounding God's word in Acts 11.

New ways of reaching out to the city of Hobart

We had the Vision 100 Prayer Day yesterday, which had a good turnout and a great vibe. Along the way, we heard of some cool new ideas in Hobart churches:
  • Cornerstone's Mount Stuart congregation ran an information and support night for TEAR last night. This was advertised in the area around the church's meeting hall, and some people from the community came along simply from a flier in the letterbox.
  • One of the growth groups at Christian Reformed Church of Kingston 's Summerleas Road Church did a bunch of doorknocking in their area last Saturday.
  • A group from CRCK's Blackman's Bay Church has just started an outreach to the skaters, since their meeting hall is right beside a skateboard bowl. They gave away sausages to them as a first step in building relationships with them.
All good ideas. I hope that there will more news from these groups as well as more similar ideas.

Peter Jensen's presidential address

Peter is a great speaker and this opening address for the Sydney Diocese's Synod is a great sell for their Connect 09  plans to contact everyone in Sydney. 

Along the way, Peter touches on a whole range of ways that think and plan and change for the good of the gospel mission. Including:
  • Serve good coffee (the smell of coffee in church buildings is 'evangelical incense').
  • Get the church researching the outside community.
  • The possibility of a local mission society (especially for the spiritual 'deserts' and 'lost tribes' of Sydney).
I love the idea of a year-long mission push. It makes us consider things that we just can't consider in a month of mission each year in a local church.

It's good stuff. Much of it should be seized by Tasmanians for our mission here. 

What kind of faith are you talking about?

'Faith' can have a few different meanings in the Bible, you gotta be careful which one you're talking about:
  1. Faithfulness: like in Romans 3:3.
  2. Trust: like in Romans 4:5.
  3. Body of beliefs: like in Jude 3.
There are some variations within these groups which may also be worth consideration:
  1. The gift of faith: mentioned in 1Corinthians 12:9 is not the general, passive faith that all Christians possess. Is it faith with a certain prophetic insight built into it? Or with a certain moral optimism built into it?
  2. "True piety, genuine devotion" (BDAG, "pistis", 2.d.a): I hadn't really clarified this one in my head before. But perhaps this is the best way of thinking about Acts 6:5 or 11:24 for example. Will have to sit on it a while.

In case you've forgotten...

Tim Keller reminds us why we should plant churches.

Christian Coffee House

I've been thinking about Christian venues the last few days: cafes, concert venues, hostels and so on. Places run by Christians, but primarily for the general public. Places that offer a good venue for Christian events, places that provide a good venue for cultural events and discussion for anyone. Places that may employ people trying to get back on their feet, places for general 'marketplace' interaction with non-Christians. I'm not so much thinking about businesses on church property, but businesses out in the thick of things - open for outsiders, not just the after-church Starbucks.

In a lot of missionary situations, part of being a missionary is also being a founder... of hospitals, schools, businesses. That can get lost here in Australia. A lot of our ministries begin small and scale up slowly. The exciting and risky think about a business is that it's a huge investment upfront. There's something really cool about that.

What do you think about these sorts of projects? What are your experiences of it? I'd be keen to hear stories of where it has worked or why it hasn't.

How would you go about it? How would it be organisationally related to the local church? Who runs it? Who owns it? How do you combine employees with volunteers? How to you balance good business with a possible Christian financial support base?

Please give me your thoughts, but let's avoid cynical responses for now, ok?

Don Carson evaluates evangelicalism

Acts 29 blog has posted both:
  1. Another attempt to describe how smart Don Carson is (If you ever want to feel like you have the intelligence of a NASCAR fan that just finished off a six-pack (I think it's a Red Neck law), then listen to D.A. Carson talk about, well, anything), and
  2. A summary of his address "Five Trends in the Church Today" .

Phillip Jensen explains how to think about visions, goals and numbers

Phillip's latest 'blog post'*  various misunderstandings of the Sydney Diocese's vision :
  • They are about reaching the population, not getting 10% more people in our churches,
  • They are about doing it urgently, not necessarily in exactly 10 years.
It is so important for those of us not used to strategic planning to understand how these sorts of goals are supposed to be used. They are, in a sense, a thought experiment to prompt action and enable evaluation.

*Imagine if he enabled comments :-)

Q+A on God and suffering

Dan and I stumble our way through answers to three questions:
  1. How does the Bible explain 'natural evil'?
  2. How do you explain total depravity to optimistic people?
  3. How can you enjoy reading the OT when it commands genocide?

Ideas for using art in mission from Krakow

Ed Stetzer posted this video, which has got some cool ideas.

In another one of his posts from central Europe, Ed writes:

I know this is not a famous video where someone calls church planters pirates, or some speaking blooper that gets played over and over, but I do hope that you will take the time to watch these videos.

Uni ministry and missions

Uni ministry began as a gathering of those considering pastoral and missionary work, as far as I understand. Is this still a central concern?

More most AFES ministries, the Mid-year Conference (MYC) is the showcase for the ministry. So then, I would think the following should be central to MYCs:
  1. A focus on encouraging and training students for mission on campus - every MYC should be like St Andrew's Hall for missionaries to the campus.
  2. A call for students to consider pastoral ministry - every MYC should be like MTS Challenge for students.
  3. A call for students to consider oversea mission work - every MYC should be a missions rally.
Now maybe most MYCs include a bit of each of these things. But are they the focus of energy and planning and measure of success? Or just tack-on widgets?

Teach the book for the non-bookish

Tim Chester has a cool post about nonliterate Bible teaching. 

On the one hand, we need to recognise the heritage we have in teaching people how to read because we believe in the Book.

On the other hand, I like how Tim's explanation of the nonliterate form of teaching is also to holistic pattern of disciplemaking. Groovy.

Them kooky Eastern European church planters are at it again!

Aww you guys!

Church Summit last night

It was a beautiful, sunny evening. 30 people rocked up, including people from all three services. Crossroads House parents even organised babysitters to come. Nick and Shelley cook this very powerful laksa in a massive catering pot. It made Joel sweat and cry because it was too spicy.

Our church band leader, Nick, did a survey with us about church music. I wanted more Shout to the Lord (I'm not being cynical) but noone else liked that idea.

I did a seminar on how to find your replacement in ministry. You can get that on the Crossroads website .

Dan then gave us Five things that are going on at Crossroads and why you should care:

  1. Staff 2009: Dan and I will swap roles, he will become "Home Missionary" I will become "Assistant to the Minister". This is to anticipate me leaving Crossroads at the end of 2009. We will want to increase our budget to pay our staff fully over the next year. It looks like we could have two new MTS apprentices next year. We are on the lookout for a new volunteer secretaries.
  2. Commit to grow: This is Dan's key vision for next year. We will look at the theme of 'the body of Christ' at the church conference in February. We hope to plant a new Crossroads House church in the new year. Deri will be starting a fourth mixed smallgroup this month. We want to get all of TBT active in evangelism. We hope for a very engaged summer - engaged with the community, with non-Christians, with cultural events and good deeds.
  3. Make a Mess: Next year will look really messy. Lots of new things, programs, converts, issues. we should expect this to cause fresh kinds of problems for us as a church. Which means...
  4. Staff 2010: Dan admitted that he was not a 'king' (to use Driscoll's nomenclature). We would need to find a pastor/preacher in 2010 who could help care for the church be tidying up the mess of 2009. But if all of this sounds worrying and scary...
  5. We'll still be praying the Word, preaching the Word, singing the Word... we'll carry on with the same "101" stuff.
Dan spoke really well. It was an exciting night.

Some baby steps to pioneer church planting, Part III

Start making connections with people in some of the following ways:

1. Cold contact
This could be of a more survey-type: I'm wanting to start a church in the area what do you think? Can you tell me a bit about yourself? About the area? Is there anyone else you could suggest I speak with? It could be more direct: I'd like to share the Christian faith with you, do you have some time?

Be prepared for: A lot of knock-backs, a lot of good conversations that go nowhere. 

2. Diaconal ministry
Find some practical way to serve the community. This could be through a new initiative, or through an existing organisation. It can be a simple as offering people food, a listening ear or whatever. It could be offering english conversation practice or more professional services.

Be prepared for: A lot of messed up people. Blurred lines whether people are Christians or not or what their motives are for coming.

3. Build relationships
The whole dwell amongst them, go to their "third places", speak their cliches, breath their BO.

Be prepared for: A long haul. 

4. Start a program
Scripture in the local school, an evangelistic Bible study, a church service. Just advertise every way you know how and hope that people come.

Be prepared for: A lot of advertising. A lot. I think a successful advertising campaign gets a return of 1:1000. So if you want a Bible study of 8 people, be prepared to print and hand out 8000 fliers.

Some baby steps to pioneer church planting, Part II

(None of these are especially original ideas. But I think they're worth posting.)

Walk around the city/campus/suburb you are going to try to win. Just soak it up. Be curious. Be attentive. 

Authors often suggest that wannabe writers should always keep a little notepad to jot down thoughts, scraps of overheard conversation and so on. I reckon a pioneer church planter should be like that. Or have a dictaphone like a coroner.

Chit chat to people. Stickybeak. Catch the bus. Ride a bike. Wander around at different times of day. Find shortcuts.

And pray man, pray like a pentecostal driving out demons.

Alex's GTD Gmail tip

Alex has a nifty way of using gmail filters to automatically create a Waiting For list:

Whenever he requests something he wants to keep track of, he also sends a blind carbon copy to himself.


He creates a filter that says:  

"Whenever gmail receives things sent from his account to his account..."


"...make those things skip the inbox and get labelled "@WaitingFor".

Email labels, like sports cars, I don't normally like. But I think I will take this one for a testdrive.

I don't wanna talk about politics and economics... I just wanna talk about Sartre

I don't feel qualified or interested in politics or economics or any other 'ics'. I like 'isms'.

But it feels like a lot of the issues that I need to be able to respond to as a preacher are Christian reactions to political and economic concerns facing our world so maybe I don't have any choice.

Series title: "God and Money"

We have decided to change the preaching calendar at our 5:30pm service in the light of all the economy razzamatazz that's been going on. I will preach four sermons on money, starting on 4th November.

We need a good series title. Any suggestions?

Fresh ideas about ministry

Nick is blogging a whole bunch of cool ideas about ministry at the moment. Maybe it's cause he's wagging class -  but don't tell JWW.

The Jensens: gospel gun

I liked this quote from the post just linked to:

the Jensen brothers, who are the two barrels of the gospel gun for Sydney Anglicanism.


Driscoll's Aussie posse - future plans?

Driscoll has an Aussie posse now. They will ride on horses and cause trouble in small frontier towns. They will be guns for hire.

Galatians 2:2 - what would've happened?

What would have happened if Paul's gospel had not been received by the Jerusalem apostles? Would it be possible, since they are all recognised as prophets? Paul thought is was possible, since he deliberately met with the apostles in private in case it went badly.

What happens if apostles disagree? If prophets disagree? Is it possible?

We have a few examples in the Bible of sinful prophets: Balaam, Jonah, the man of God in kings who eats when he shouldn't, Caiphas, Judas. So it is possible to have a true message from God and then fall away.

Moreover, 1Corinthians 14 tells us that the 'spirit of prophets is under the control of prophets'. So they are able to abandon or deny their true message.

Perhaps then, there would have been some pretty hardcore apostolic discipline taking place in Jerusalem if Paul and the other apostles didn't agree. How would we know who to believe then? I'm glad it didn't happen!

Crossroads myths IV: not a channel church

There's a great church in the channel (of the Derwent = southern suburbs and towns of greater Hobart) called Kingston Christian Reformed Church(es), it's a great church that is committed to planting churches. Their website sux but we won't hold that against them.

But because KCRC is so good, it's easy to think 'they've got the channel covered', like they've put their tag all over the channel, or weed on all the telegraph poles. And so Crossroads is not a channel church.

This is wrong for a few reasons. Firstly, if we are serious about reaching all the 250 000 people of Hobart, rather than just staking out parish boundaries, we just cannot think this way:
  1. Strategically, we need dozens of churches multiplying in the channel, not just one. Crossroads should be willing to help in the task of evangelising the channel, just as KCRC should be committed to central and northern Hobart.
  2. Culturally, it'd be cool to have a range of churches in any area, with a range of styles and strengths.
  3. Demographically, Crossroads has a large percentage of people living in the channel already.
  4. Ecclesiologically, a church shouldn't be only defined by the suburb where it's Sunday service is held.
  5. Socially, not everyone primarily identifies with their 'first place' (where they live). Many people identify more with where they work or where they play. So you can have 'Kingston people' who work in Hobart, 'Hobart people' who live in Kingston and even 'Franklin River' people who live in Hobart and work in New Norfolk, but love rafting.

Economic slowdown and gospel reality

Paul Grimmond has just posted on the Christian response to current economic slowdown and even though it was a long post, I actually read most of it.

Crossroads should consider changing our preaching program for the rest of this year so that we can respond to some of these very topical concerns. Often churches committed to expository preaching can be slow to respond to current issues in our preaching calendars.

We were going to study 1Samuel on Sunday nights, but what should be study instead? It'd be good to do something Old Testament. Suggestions?

The Way of the Master kind of gives me the #$%$%s.

A bunch of guys from TBT who live in a sharehouse and are firing each other up to be "navy seals for Jesus" have gotten into Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort 's evangelistic method, which has a groovy martial arts name: The Way of the Master.

It is "the way of the master" because it is the way Jesus (the Master) evangelises the rich young ruler: confronting him with the commandments, convicting sin and then bringing in the gospel.

The Way of the Master has a cool name. It's funny that Kirk Cameron does it. It's cool that it encourages cold-contact evangelism. It urges Christians to be direct about the hard truths of the gospel and that's very important I think. It gives an easy to memorise structure to shape our evangelistic conversations. And these guys I know are being blessed by God with opportunities to use it.

But there are some significant problems with The Way of the Master:
  1. It's the way of the master when dealing with a confident Jew during the time of Jesus' earthly ministry. Is the story of the rich young ruler given to us as a model for evangelism? Is it more a peculiar form of pre-evangelism? Even if it does have principles we can imitate, should they be applied to all people?
  2. It's a script that works well with cold-contact but poorly in conversation. The approach is very confrontational and this would just suck in a conversation with people you know. You don't really launch into a conversation at a dinner party by calling the hostess a lying, adulteress murderer. Conversations flow differently. They allow for more sound bytes and gentle reflections, rather than a in-out Black Hawk operation.
  3. It's a script, a dialogue that expects certain answers. Unless people understand that this is what you are doing with them it will seem really fake and pushy, I reckon. It probably requires a fair bit of skill to lead this kind of conversation and make it flow. The danger is that the script dominates the conversation and the Christian just becomes like a call-centre person who won't move on until they get the right answer... "computer says no".
  4. It presupposes a whole lot of shared ground. Don Carson argues at length in his book The Gagging of God (the Christian Ulysses - we have it on our shelf, but who has actually read it?) that with many people today, we need to tell the whole Bible's storyline. We need to do Acts 17 not Matthew 19; we need to do Two Ways to Live, not The Way of the Master.
Perhaps there are a lot of cultural reasons why The Way of the Master could work well with a lot of people in certain parts of America. I would not recommend it as the way to evangelise Australians.

Some baby steps to pioneer church planting, Part I

Find your supporters. The good thing about not getting a full-time pay to begin your church plant is that there is a lot of pressure on you to gather a team of prayer supporters. These are an important part of the team, they are the ones who will pray the church into existence, the ones who will be following your progress and supporting you from the grandstand.

A couple of other advantages come from gathering your prayer/financial supporters:
  1. You are forced to explain what you are aiming to do over and over again as you try to gather supporters. This helps you clarify your vision.
  2. Some of your supporters may point you to new opportunities, ideas, people, resources.
  3. Some of your supporters may want to join you in the launch team.

Phillip Jensen speaks about the future of church planting in Sydney

A lot of this is very in-house Anglican, but it is good to hear someone reflect on the overall state of play in Sydney Anglicanism.

I really like the distinction Phillip makes between planting a service, 're-deploying' in order to do evangelism and starting a church by doing evangelism. The former is good, but may be illusory, merely 'rearranging the deck chairs' as David Jones would say. The latter is much harder, but very important.

Long blog posts suck

Sola Panel and Challies and Pyros are all so bloody long. I like long sermons and short blog posts. If I want to read an article, I'll subscribe to a magazine.

I'm not saying long blog posts are bad, I'm just saying I don't read them. They, like 20 minute sermons, are for "other people".

Heads of Households gathering

This Monday night we are calling our first gathering of the men of Crossroads House. We want to meet with all the men, especially husbands and dad, once a month @ Knopwoods Retreat in Salamanca.

This is nor a formal meeting, but an informal gathering of the 'natural' leaders of the church. We don't plan to have a detailed agenda, but we hope that the spirit of the meeting will be 'no bull'. I pray that we will talk openly about our struggles and victories as we seek to serve the Lord.

I also pray that this will turn out to be something that we invite non-Christian mates to, because it is a place where men are talking honestly and supportively together.

Don't blame 'elders for life'

Regarding the Presbyterian Church of Australia, some people blame the whole policy of 'elders of for life' for all sorts of difficulties that come up in local churches.

I don't think that's right. I don't necessarily think 'elders for life' is right, either; but I don't think it's justifiable to blame 'elders for life'.

You see just because someone is an elder of the PCA for life, doesn't mean they have to remain an elder of any one particular local church for life. That is an unwarranted assumption.

Moreover, just because there may be no legal reason why an elder ought not step down from a leadership team, doesn't mean there is no other reason for them to step down. Presbyterians very quickly get bogged down in needing a legal reason for everything and that's very unhealthy. You could simply be persuaded that it doesn't honour the Lord and benefit the church for your to continue in a particular role.

This means that elderships, churches, presbyteries and ministers need to be brave enough to speak the truth to one another, not as a legal ruling, but as truthful words spoken in love. It is our failure to be firm, loving and honest with each other in our churches that means 'elders for life' becomes a bad thing, not the rule in and of itself.

Movement advantages of house church

Crossroads' morning service is called Crossroads House and we hope there to embrace the advantages of house churches. Tim Chester has an interesting post on this, arguing that every Christian should sit in on the church meeting and be able to think 'I could do this'.

I am not convinced that this is the only way or the best way for churches to be. After all, Crossroads has more traditional styles of church meeting too. But I think it is a form of church that has some clear advantages.

The gospel of freedom

I've heard quite a few people say that freedom is a very good angle in to sharing the gospel with people in a postmodern culture. We will be doing this at the Crossroads Tuesday night service, studying Paul's letter to the Galatians: 

The series, Freedom and Faith , is beginning next Tuesday.

Junkyard checklist

I accidentally coined this term while do a GTD accountability session with Luke the other day. This is my first checklist. The one that I definitely check every week. It's all the temporary things that I just really want to remember just at the moment. Things like emphases I need to include in my preaching, resolutions about exercise, current issues with parenting, what the new rubbish night is and so on.

Mission strategy from New Vision Church, Part IV

A final challenge to put effort into running a good public meeting:

You have one chance to reach a visitor. I think excellence breeds excellence and growth.

Mission strategy from New Vision Church, Part III

The New Vision integration strategy:

Our staff is constantly scheduling appointments and meeting with people to encourage and help them go to the next level. This could be helping them come to know the Lord or helping them become involved in the ministry. We do not have a great assimilation process other than our ministerial staff helping people get plugged into the ministry.

Mission strategy from New Vision Church, Part II

Here is the New Vision Baptist Church approach to community involvement:

Last year we had about 200 people become involved in short term mission trips. In the local community once a quarter we do a community outreach event where we take part in different service projects such as handing out rolls of quarters at the local dry cleaners or we will work with Habitat.

Usually each community event will have seven or eight different options in which people can become involved and the event takes place on a Saturday four times a year. We also have other ministries going on in the inner city. Some of the members of New Vision are African American. We have partnered with them in their community doing things such as an after school program. We are also involved in planting a church in the Dominican which has excited our members.

Mission strategy from New Vision Church, Part I

Ed Stetzer has been running a series called 'mega church week' for about three weeks now on his blog; I suppose that's kinda fitting. This interview is with the pastor of New Vision Baptist Church , Brady Cooper.

Here are some excerpts that I liked:

We also see fruit from our evangelism strategy. We call our strategy the "as you go evangelism strategy."

The strategy encourages every member to have at least one person that they are praying for and developing a relationship which allows them to share Christ. Because of these things we baptized 120 people which was the highlight of our summer.

Nick is making our job even harder still

Nick says: 

If we are gonna plant 700 churches in Tassie we need a lot of people to do it without being resourced with lots of people and pay from local churches.

Entrepreneurialism: how to do a fundraising pitch, Part III

My presentation should avoid:

1. Things I know are not true
2. Things I don't understand
3. Things that make me think
4. Internal inconsistencies
5. Typos, errors, unpreparedness

Entrepreneurialism: how to do a fundraising pitch, Part II

To convey everything about yourself that you want to convey in your pitch you should aim for a presentation that:

1. Develops in a tight, logical progression,

2. Provides me with things I can relate to,

3. Presents a range of validations to my claims,

4. Demonstrates the believable upside to my proposal

Entrepreneurialism: how to do a fundraising pitch, Part I

jml sent me this link to a TED talk. I like everything about the TED talks. But that's another post.

This TED talk is about how to do a pitch to a venture capital if you are an entrepreneur. So much of it is relevant to Christian pioneers, whether church planters or para-church planters, such as AFES evangelists starting new ministries. I like the fact that the dude who is giving the talk is like a 1960s vaccuum cleaner salesman.

In a pitch to possible investors, you need to convey:

1. Integrity
2. Passion
3. Experience
4. Knowledge
5. Skills
6. Leadership
7. Commitment
8. Vision
9. Realism
10. Coachability

Nick just made our job harder


Phillip Jensen is a rare combination of expository preacher, pastor, visionary, strategist, evangelist, church planter, and entrepreneur. He is the sort of man who wakes up with 14 fresh ideas before breakfast every day; better yet, he soon discerns that 13 of the 14 deserve to be thrown out in the trash, but sees how to bring about the 14th. He is enough of an iconoclast to get your attention, but is so committed to being faithful to the Bible that the independence of his judgment is safe-guarded by a passionate biblicism. In Australia and the United Kingdom, he is, in Christian circles, almost a household name. The record of God's hand upon him in fruitful ministry deserves to be better-known. One may disagree with him here and there, but I must add this: I would rather engage in a university mission with Phillip Jensenthan with any other person on God's green earth, for he simultaneously maintains clarity on the gospel, penetrating reading of the culture, holy boldness, and genuine care for lost men and women.

(D A Carson, Research Professor of NT, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, Illinois)

Big churches enabling smaller churches

I found this quote from Northland 's pastor Joel Hunter provoked a whole bunch of ideas and pushed a whole bunch of buttons for me:

It means that these people gather together because they need some help or want to be connected to a larger group in the church to worship, but they are going to do their own pastoral care, their own education, their own community service, all of that kind of stuff where thy are. And that fellowship is important. So for us the development has really birthed a vision of being able to-- plant churches is probably too big a term for us because the term church has so much western baggage to it-- but we are enabling small congregations to do evangelism and discipleship and service and worship together all over the world. And so that's the course that we are on right now. That is where everything is pointed here in our church.
It has tremendous benefits to our people's maturity because when you come to a church and you are constantly reminded that you are just getting filled up for the people who are not there inside the church with you, and everything we do as a church is to make us witnesses and servants to those who are not regularly in church programming. It really does give you a better handle on how and what it means to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

 Northland does a whole bunch of internet church stuff that I don't dig - even more than I don't dig the video preaching stuff at Mars Hill. But I liked some of these thoughts.

You can read the full interview with Joel Hunter here. 

Important distinctions in IT and beyond

There are a range of phrases that can be used in the computer design world.  "Putting lipstick on a bulldog" actually made me "lol". I am flattered that jml thinks these remind him of some of my sermon headings.

I would love to hear from you where you know of things in your websites, IT infrastructure or indeed even your churches where these different expressions apply.

Young Workers vs Young Professionals

The 'young workers' demographic group in church is often associated with lethargic 5pm congregations. Not as zealous as the 7pm youth service, not as thriving with activity as the 10am family service.

But somehow 'young professionals' sound more dynamic, entrepreneurial, creative, vital. Are there ways we think about, talk about and plan about the young professionals that puts them into the lethargic 5pm box?

Should we start churches with names beginning with F?

jml says it's science.

Interviews at MTS Challenge

Everyone agrees they're really good: a spiritual check up. But they take a lot of administrative and relational energy to ensure that everyone at MTS Challenge has them.

If they're so good, perhaps we should encourage other conferences to take them up: Mid Year Conferences, local church conferences.

That way, people don't need to show an interest in paid ministry to get a great interview experience and MTS Challenge does have to bear the burden of all the interviewing.

Why did God give us the internet?

Perry Noble is the pastor of NewSpring Church in one of the Carolinas. Ed Stetzer has an interview with him on his blog. In the interview, Noble quotes another megachurch pastor:

I heard Rick Warren say one time - "I don't think God allowed us to have the internet so pornography can become the giant in the world. I think God allowed us to have the internet so we could reach the world." I believe this with all my heart.

What are the practical goals of your public meeting?

We recently asked this pretty ruthless question of our public meetings. What is our practical, concrete, basic goal for newcomers who attend our public meeting? We have all sorts of far more important, spiritual goals. But what about on the really basic 'next action' level?

We have decided there are four goals we have for newcomers:
  1. Come back next week.
  2. Meet one of the pastors.
  3. Give us their email address.
  4. Sign up for a small group.
Each of these options will have heaps of variations depending on their circumstances, spiritual state and so on, of course.

I suspect that this well actually help us in many basic ways in planning how we run the meeting and in helping people like the usher roster people and the MC of the meeting know how to do their job well. One basic thing is that we have created an end of church power point slide that lists these things as options for people.

Finding leaders

At the very start of some new church or ministry, you gotta find leaders. You don't really just want to appoint leaders, or even train leaders, you want to find leaders. These are the ones who are taking the initiative, showing hospitality, turning up early to set up and staying late to pack down. These are the ones who are internalising the vision of the ministry.

You may invest energy in people, for the spiritual growth, in the hope that they will become potential leaders. But it's out of your hands. You teach, you pray and then you wait.

Justification and the Holy Spirit

Galatians 3:1-14 has a lot of gaps in the train of argument. Many of these have been commented on in depth, for example why all who are of the law are under curse?

But one jump that is rarely commented on is the assumed connection between Abe's justification in Genesis 15:6 and his reception of the Spirit. Hmm. What is the connection?

Phillip Jensen talks about planting churches the Australian Way

This blog summary is awesome but tantalisingly brief.