Middle-class welfare

In Affluenza, Clive Hamilton writes:

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

The Tipping Point: Connectors

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

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

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


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

Three 'Laws of the Tipping Point'

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

Gladwell highlights three laws of the tipping point:

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

The Expositor II: Judgement Day

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

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

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

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

Are Christian workers second class?

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

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

The Tipping Point - recommended by...

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

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

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

Change in James Bond's universe

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

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

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

Application verses and Bible section headings

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

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

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

Committee Meetings Suck

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

What is your one life-changing meeting tip?

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

Christopher Hitchens - Doug Wilson Debate

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

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

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

Positive but realistic approach to church politics

Michael Jensen has written a great post on church politics.

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

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

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

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

Is there a groundswell of house churches?

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

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

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

Cultural literacy

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

Christianity, socialism and capitalism

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

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

30th November: Greed
7th December: Generosity

What is the actual purpose of entertainment?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Manage your library

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

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

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

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

Email your posts

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

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

May this handy hint bless you.

Ministry of the Pew: gospel champagne

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

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

Stats on small churches

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

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

Benny Hinn is asking for $3mill.

I am up with a sad, teething little girl.

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

Is it for hair care products? Noone knows.

Good luck Mr Gorsky

Really funny story, totally untrue.

From Sabbath to Family Day

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

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

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

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

Preworn jeans --> preworn Bibles

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

Evangelical drinking game

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

Capital 'B' and lower case 'b'

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

Mental health and growth group tradition

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

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

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

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

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

Listening to a lecture online...

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

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

Narrative statement of faith

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

Small Change? - Fear and faith

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

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

William Lane Craig debates

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

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

Different types of church plants III

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

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

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

Different types of church plants II

2. Ex nihilo

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

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

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

Home-educating family

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

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

I like that.

Different types of church plants I

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

1. Re-deployment

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

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

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

The League of Shadows

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

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

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

MTS Challenge 2009

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

It is well with my soul.

Christian Reconstructionism is spooky

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

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

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

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

Some baby steps to pioneer church planting V

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

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

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

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

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

Some baby steps to pioneer church planting IV

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

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

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

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

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

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

Different levels of application of the Exodus-Law event

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

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

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

Stuff Christian Culture likes


Small Change? - Series on Finance @ Crossroads

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

I hate soccer but...

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

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

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

Fundamentalism and mainstream evangelicalism

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Read better; preach better

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

Gav is grumpy

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

Ugly word of the week: praxis

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

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

Qualifications for church planters

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

Justification by death

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

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

We can all chill out

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

Church size and church death

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

MTS apprenticeships and the minimum wage

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

Phillip Jensen and the 18 Theses

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

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

The Bain of the North

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

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

John Stott could bash up your dad

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

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

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

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

The argument in Galatians 3:15ff is:

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

Grammatical term

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

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

Impress your friends.

Immorality of interest

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

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

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

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

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

Dodgy lyric?

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

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

Self-esteem and church growth

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

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

I reckon there's something pretty true in that. 

New Vision 100 Website Online

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

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

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

Ninja turtle - Subversion and church documents

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

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

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

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

What methods does your church use for document management?

Some paths to the NT from the Psalms

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