In the Chute final rego details

76 registered.
18 candidates for church planting assessment.
10-12 candidates we reckon will actually complete the pre-assessment paperwork and actually be assessed.

I'll be doing assessment interviews with David McDonald from Crossroads Canberra, cause we kind of go to the same church :-P

I'm really looking forward to hearing Mark Dever and Al Stewart and Andrew Heard speak. Not so excited about Jim Wallace to be honest.

Reckon the biggest highlight will be to meet and chat and scheme with everyone.

Starting small

My first article for Geneva.

Is idolatry the major definition of sin?

Stu asks the hard questions.

I've posted comments over there, so I won't repeat them here. But I both share his concerns with the new dominance of this image for sin and yet think that there is something more biblical about it than previous, secular definitions that focussed on selfishness rather than false gods.

Positive characteristics of Pentecostalism

Joe reports J. I. Packer's twelve point list on his blog, Talking Pentecostalism.

Like a solo flute

The evangelists have told their stories up to this point not only with a steady crescendo of drama and narrative tension... but also with a persistent build-up of scriptural quotation, allusion, reference and echo. A glance at the biblical references in the margins of Mark 11-15 will make the point. Even the burial narrative has strong biblical resonances. After this, the resurrection narratives convey the naked feeling of a solo flute piping a new melody after the orchestra has fallen silent. Granted that the evangelists felt so free, as our own scholarly traditions have insisted, to develop, expand, explain, theologize and above all biblicize their sources, why did they refuse to do so, here of all places?
N. T. Wright, Resurrection of the Son of God, p. 600.


City on a Hill (formerly Docklands) now online

Nice looking website, don't you think?

I love the cartoony Melbourne skyline with animated lights and sun and aeroplanes. Very cute. I like that they've started a pastors' blog. I like the 'Sunday Services' page tells you how to get there via train, car and tram with cute icons for each. The structure to the site is pretty clear and easy.

I don't like the fact that I can't choose to open things off the menu bar in different tabs. It's all animated within the site itself. I don't like that you can't scroll down on the first page, or that the frame for the site doesn't change when you navigate to different parts. The information on the site could also be more integrated, with the information about the preaching series being linked to the recordings of the sermons.

Obviously everything will get tweaked in the coming weeks, but it's a nice start. Well done guys.

Benny Pfahlert attended the A29 Oz Conference

And wrote up a review, in typical Pfahlert style. Here's some highlights (I quote):

  • They spent a lot of time talking about 'The Message,' or what Acts 29 thought was 'the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.' I was very impressed and could see that they are Grace Alone, Faith Alone, Christ Alone and Scriptures Alone people. They understood and clearly articulated what was the difference between THE Gospel and the FRUITS of the Gospel. I was very encouraged.
  • The Acts 29 blokes were earthy, tough, straight talkers.
  • Acts29 are unashamedly complementarian. Thank the Lord for the 'man up' message of these brothers. Too many organisations have custard in the spine on this issue which results in less Australian blokes reached in the long haul.
  • They're on about the great commission primarily. They see making disciples as the primary activity, that, when blessed by God, gives birth secondarily to a church, i.e. a group of believers. They're after conversion growth not transfer growth.
  • I got no hint of them having Pentecostal or Charismatic theology, in fact, they considered anything even remotely "gospel plus" as anathema. They spoke vigorously against prosperity teaching and wordless incarnational evangelism. They were very serious about reaching out without selling out.
  • American generosity. Acts 29 said repeatedly, "We have come to serve." I believe them. They don't want "Acts 29" badged churches. They genuinely want to share their tools and resources.
Here are some of his questions:
  • There was not a lot of expository preaching; this is understandable as most talks were topical, but when there was a reasonably long section to deal with e.g. 1 Peter 5:1-5, the speaker skipped across it. Not a big deal, but a difference I noted in comparison to my heritage.
  • They spoke repeatedly about contextualization i.e. taking time to be truly missional... Ironically I did not feel that the Acts 29 leaders did this with regards to working out what was the best way to recruit and train church planters in Australia.
  • Dave Fandy used the word "calling" erroneously to refer to being called by God to plant a church.... Half the world's Christians use the word "Calling" erroneously, but I raise it because it surprised me. Acts 29 were so careful with their use of language, and if there's a word you want to use carefully in ministry recruitment, it is the word "calling."
  • Speaker choice. It is very curious to me that the Australian church planters put on the ticket at the conference were Steve Chong (Kirkplace Presbyterian Church, Sydney) and Will Henderson (Engage City Church, Brisbane). These two men were godly, humble saints, but neither of them have had much experience in church planting (nor claimed to be experts). Steve began in January 08 and Will's church launched on 15th Nov 09. I would have liked to have heard from one of the nations best practitioners who was long in the tooth.
  • Acts 29 do not understand ministry apprenticeships nor the role they've played in Australian church history. When I explained MTS Apprenticeships to both the International Director and the Aus/NZ Director, it was like someone pressed 'pause' on their screen savers (their faces). When I finished my 60 second description of the MTS recruiting strategy (MTS Challenge à MTS Apprenticeship à theological education à MTS Trainer), they simply got back onto talking about what they do in the States. It was like two ships in the night.
I think the full thing should be appearing on Sola Panel sometime soon.

Why I didn't sign the Manhattan declaration

Challies says he agrees with John MacArthur:

John MacArthur offers this explanation as to why he will not sign. "It assumes from the start that all signatories are fellow Christians whose only differences have to do with the fact that they represent distinct 'communities.' Points of disagreement are tacitly acknowledged but are described as 'historic lines of ecclesial differences' rather than fundamental conflicts of doctrine and conviction with regard to the gospel and the question of which teachings are essential to authentic Christianity. … [It would] relegate the very essence of gospel truth to the level of a secondary issue. That is the wrong way—perhaps the very worst way—for evangelicals to address the moral and political crises of our time.


Three common Christian misunderstandings of life after death

From Resurrection of the Son of God:

  1. 'Spirit'/'Spiritual' versus 'Flesh'/'Natural' is not the distinction between physical and non-physical. But the distinction between being empowered and animated by the Spirit of God or this natural world.
  2. Our ultimate destiny is not going to heaven, but Christ coming from heaven to the new creation.
  3. When we die, we don't get fast-forwarded to judgment day, but there is an 'intermediate state' of some kind, where we wait for the final judgment.

Five days to register for In the Chute

Are you one of those people who tends to leave everything to the last minute? Know someone keen to church plant who is a little like that? Then this reminder is for you.

Registrations for our first In The Chute conference close in five days. That's right, the doors close on Sunday November 29. So don't miss your chance to:

  • Hear key Christian leaders (Al Stewart, Jim Wallace) and church planters (Andrew Heard, Paul Dale) talk on the nuts and bolts of ministry in Australia
  • Meet up with other Christians determined to plant new congregations
  • Be assessed as a church planter by The Geneva Push

Getting there couldn't be simpler. Just click here to register for In The Chute online.

Why I signed the Manhattan Declaration

Al Mohler writes:

I cannot and do not sign documents such as Evangelicals and Catholics Together that attempt to establish common ground on vast theological terrain. I could not sign a statement that purports, for example, to bridge the divide between Roman Catholics and evangelicals on the doctrine of justification. The Manhattan Declaration is not a manifesto for united action. It is a statement of urgent concern and common conscience on these three issues -- the sanctity of human life, the integrity of marriage, and the defense of religious liberty.

My beliefs concerning the Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox churches have not changed. The Roman Catholic Church teaches doctrines that I find both unbiblical and abhorrent -- and these doctrines define nothing less than the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But The Manhattan Declaration does not attempt to establish common ground on these doctrines. We remain who we are, and we concede no doctrinal ground.

H/T Craig's shared items

Manhattan Declaration

Check it out!

While the whole scope of Christian moral concern, including a special concern for the poor and vulnerable, claims our attention, we are especially troubled that in our nation today the lives of the unborn, the disabled, and the elderly are severely threatened; that the institution of marriage, already buffeted by promiscuity, infidelity and divorce, is in jeopardy of being redefined to accommodate fashionable ideologies; that freedom of religion and the rights of conscience are gravely jeopardized by those who would use the instruments of coercion to compel persons of faith to compromise their deepest convictions.

Signatories range across quite a spectrum of Christian denominations, which makes it quite strange. Feels like it blurs important distinctions between the denominations and swallows them all up as 'fellow Christians' and 'fellow believers'. Evangelical signatories that I and my readers may know of include Charles Colson, Tim Keller, Bryan Chapell, Wayne Grudem, Josh McDowell, Al Mohler, Jim Packer, Cornelius Plantinga, John Woodbridge and Ravi Zacharias.

The statement itself seems like a pretty good statement to me, on some interesting and important issues; well worded and grounded.

Some good moments:

  • On abortion: "Our commitment to the sanctity of life is not a matter of partisan loyalty, for we recognize that in the thirty-six years since Roe v. Wade, elected officials and appointees of both major political parties have been complicit in giving legal sanction to what Pope John Paul II described as 'the culture of death.'"
  • On marriage: "The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture.  It reflects a loss of understanding of the meaning of marriage as embodied in our civil and religious law and in the philosophical tradition that contributed to shaping the law. "
  • Again on marriage: "We further acknowledge that there are sincere people who disagree with us, and with the teaching of the Bible and Christian tradition, on questions of sexual morality and the nature of marriage.  Some who enter into same-sex and polyamorous relationships no doubt regard their unions as truly marital."
  • On religious liberty: "Restrictions on the freedom of conscience or the ability to hire people of one's own faith or conscientious moral convictions for religious institutions, for example, undermines the viability of the intermediate structures of society, the essential buffer against the overweening authority of the state, resulting in the soft despotism Tocqueville so prophetically warned of."
H/T Margaret.

Difficult second generation

Rodney Stark writes;

Having surveyed a large number of [new religious movements] ... I noticed that it was typical for the founding generation to apparently lose hope of saving the world, and to turn their movements inward, as they neared the end of their lives. That is, unless something comes along to renew hope and commitment, as the first generation evaluate the results of thirty or forty years of conversion efforts and see that they have succeeded in attracting only two or three thousand members (if that many), they are inclined to lose heart. As this takes place, often a new rhetoric is voiced; this de-emphasizes the importance of growth and explains that the movement has succeeded in gathering a saving remnant, which is all that was ever intended, actually.
Rise of Christianity, p. 185

Christian men: marry single mums

Watched this video today. There's a Driscoll sort-of-from-the-text application at the end, encouraging 'the best of men' to consider marrying single mums.

This is awesome and I pray God continues to provide Christian single mums with mighty dads to be brave enough to dive in the deep end, loving them and their kid(s).

Difference between exclusive and nonexclusive religion

Rodney Stark writes:

Exclusive [religious] firms engage in the collective production of religion... Nonexclusive firms cannot sustain collective production and therefore specialize in privately produced religious goods. As defined by Laurence Iannaccone (1995), privately produced religious commodities can be transferred from the individual producer to an individual consumer without involvement by a mediating group. New Age crystals are a current example of a privately produced commodity, as are astrological charts, or psychic healing....
Exclusive firms are far stronger organizations, far better able to mobilize extensive resources and to provide highly credible religious compensators, as well as substantial worldly benefits.
The Rise of Christianity p. 203-204

I don't like prayer meeting revivalism

Revivalism in all its forms is kind of yucky. It despises the normal, power-in-weakness way that the Lord works and always hang out for the big waves of conversion. It is always slave to a particular recipe that will somehow guarantee revival.

Today revivalism appears in those who hunger for 'movements' and want to find how to magic these into existence. But it's still just revivalism.

It tends to confuse consequence with cause as well. Often 'revival' behaviour is the result of God working in people's hearts. But revivalists (or movement mongerers) somehow thinking that if we can get these behaviours happening they will cause a revival/movement.

One thing that I don't like about old-school revivalism is the prayer-meeting thing. Somehow mid week, whole church prayer meetings are more powerful:

  • than praying in the Sunday service
  • than praying in private or in the family home
  • than praying in small groups
But I don't know exactly why.

Ten ways to be an honest preacher

Murray posts ten points.

Beat everything else to the calendar

Great advice from Eugene:

If someone approaches me and asks me to pronounce the invocation at an event and I say, "I don't think I should do that; I was planning to use that time to pray," the response will be, "Well, I'm sure you can find another time to do that." But if I say, "My appointment calender will not permit it," no further questions are asked. If someone asks me to attend a committee meeting and I say, "I was thinking of taking my wife out to dinner that night; I haven't listened carefully to her for several days," the response will be, "But you are very much needed at this meeting; couldn't you arrange another evening with your wife?" But if I say, "the appointment calender will not permit it," there is no further discussion.

The trick, of course, is to get to the calender before anyone else does. I mark out the times of prayer, for reading, for leisure, for silence and solitude out of which creative work - prayer, preaching, and listening - can issue." (Contemplative Pastor, 31-32.)

What things do you make a point of marking into your diary early?

H/T Al

Outcomes-thinking are key to church growth

Andrew Heard's first article for Geneva.

The kind of gritty practical wisdom (rather than no concrete advice), biblical argument (rather than crummy biblical proof-texting/character studies) and God-glorifying outlook (rather than mere how-tos) that we hope to sustain.

The value of retaining the adjective demonic even in psychology

This post argues that we lose something when certain psychological disorders are understood merely in medical terms:

One of the concerns with the medical model is that what used to be framed in moral terms is now being framed in medical terms (e.g., addiction). This is worrisome for a couple of reasons. First, it undermines personal responsibility. I'm not bad, I'm just ill. I can't, because of this illness, be held accountable for my actions. Second, if I'm ill my treatment is in the form of a pill. But no pill creates virtue. In short, the medical frame causes us to look for "treatment" in all the wrong places....
In trying to explain evil, identifying its causes, we unwittingly tame it. To explain evil, to understand evil, is to lessen evil. True evil can't be explained by psychology or history. Evil is inherently inexplicable. That is the source of its horror....
In short, even as a psychologist, committed to identifying the causes of behavior, I feel the need to keep this superstitious term, this term of darkness from an ancient enchanted era. A era of angels, devils and demons. A era of good versus evil.
There seems to be something important here. We need to keep a moral dimension to our understanding of psychology, even psycholigical disorders. Both a religious and a medical explanation can be unhelpfully exclusive.

The religious person argues, 'Because it's demonic, it must not be treated medically'. The medical person argues, 'Because it's medical it must not be treated religiously'.

Why not both? Could a demon not cause harm that might be alleviated with medicine? Could not an illness need to also be dealt with religiously?

Google Wave: I'm not a believer

At least, I don't think it'll replace email. Email ain't broke. It don't need fixing.

Also, when talking about Google Wave, let's not confuse the actually product with a bunch of sexy, but supplementary features that are also involved in its release.

But although it won't replace email, it'll be pretty useful in certain contexts. Here's five use cases.

Moore College new website up and running

Very nice.

He is not the God of the dead but of the living

The argument from Exodus 3 that Jesus uses to refute the Sadducees is normally taken this way:

If God says that he is (present tense) the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
And if God is the God of the living,
Then Abe, Zac and Jake must be living.

This is fair enough, even if it feels to put a lot of weight on the present tense! After all it could just mean, I am the God who was the God of Abe etc.

But I was thinking today that it could be taken slightly differently:

If God was the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob when they were alive,
And if to be their God was to be faithful to his covenant with them (what this phrase 'the God of Abe, Zac and Jake' normally alludes to),
And God's covenant faithfulness ensures life to his people,
Then Abe, Zac and Jake must look forward to life from their covenant God.

What do you think?

Mobilise church members through projects

Andrew has posted some great advice on how to mobilise the church well through 'structured freedom'.

I particularly like two ideas:

  1. Offering both program and project roles for people in church. The program is the ongoing commitment, the project is the seasonal commitment.
  2. Providing a 'link person' and a 'project brief' to a team of church members running an event.
Often we can either control a project, or else kind of support if from afar, letting go of the reins almost entirely. The idea of providing a 'project brief' (the equivalent of a job description in the world of ministry programs) is very helpful.

But the other thing that is very important, is good 'face time' making sure the project leader actually, actually reads and understands the project brief.

Hungry Beast - what do you fear?

This vox pop is very moving.

Have you come across this show? It's worth watching, I reckon. Not polished, and pretty mixed bag in terms of content, but as a result, it's very fresh.

Did you hear about their marketing scholarly report hoax? Cheeky.

It's a frustrating show, because it flits between quite heavy reporting and political comedy skits. Kind of Chaser with more heavy content. Perhaps like U2 interviewing people in Sarajevo during ZOO TV. Veeery pomo.

Help: Is it a breach of copyright to quote a book or a song in a sermon?

Will suggested that it might be:

Should we be open to question about our ethical purity if we quote from a newspaper in our sermon or use brand names in our allusions to popular culture? How about if I read out the lyrics to a popular (or unpopular) song? What about if I hum the theme song to a TV show to make a point?

Can anyone confirm this on the basis of Australian copyright law? I'm not interested in what you think should be the case but what legally is the case.

The TBT crew have gone crazy like a carpet warehouse ad

They've organised a community event in Moonah to reach out to the (generally poorer) Northern Suburbs. The highest 'ranking' pastor involved is Jake Bevan, a first year MTS apprentice.

Featuring BBQ, live music, entertainment and a short talk by Jimbo Mobbs (NSW)

Call it initiative, or call it mental, either way, it's pretty good, huh?

Karen on Twilight

On Sola Panel.

This is a great post because it doesn't just do a crummy surface-level Christian critique of the books/films, skimming over the surface and attacking the boringly obvious. It takes time to really get a feel for the book, its characters, its author and its readership. And it comes in on a surprising and fresh angle:

Observing the Twilight phenomenon, a friend remarked to me that now a whole generation of young men will grow up to hate Edward Cullen the way men throughout the centuries have come to despise Pride and Prejudice's Mr Darcy—for giving women an unrealistic portrait of what to look for in a mate

I really think SP are getting into their stride. Seems like the best bloggers are becoming the most consistent, and the content is getting more juicy too.

Will rants about intellectual property

And puts some good arguments against its common application.

I especially like his points about sloppy application of the 8th Commandment to copyright infringement, his challenge for Christian organisations to give away stuff for free (rather than hiding behind 'covering costs') and his questioning of current copyright laws regarding use of purchased content.

Hospitality versus entertaining

Kind of a false distinction, but still kind of a cool reminder:

Entertaining is when you go to a lot of fuss and bother. Hospitality is when you share what you have.

H/T Sarah

Justin is learning from St Helen's


Parenting: grace not entitlements

Stu writes:

We are culturally addicted to the notion of entitlement, rather than grace. If as parents we insist on doing exactly the same thing for each child (the same baby book, the same birthday parties, the same number of new outfits, the same hours of help with long division), then we have confused entitlement and grace, and we will train our children to stand for their 'rights' which are no rights at all.

Cool, huh?

The Training Mindshift

This article is awesome. It's kind of the MTS manifesto and it's radical and obvious all rolled into one:

A 'training strategy' on the other hand, increases the number and effectiveness of gospel
communicators, both personal and public. A training strategy will raise up more speakers and so
increase the number, variety and effectiveness of events. Events can be used to train workers. If all
members are offered some training in evangelism, more unbelievers will attend our events. It is a
strategy of chaos and inconvenience. It takes time to train evangelists and these young evangelists
will build their own ministries as they preach the Word. We are no longer in control of the program. As
the gospel is preached, Christ by His Spirit gathers his people into all kinds of fellowships which don't
fit our neat structures.

One of many articles and videos that are starting to populate the Geneva website. Perhaps you should:

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Going to heaven?

N. T. Wright writes against this way of thinking about the Christian life-after-death, or rather life after 'life-after-death':

'Heaven' for Paul, here as elsewhere, is not so much where people go after they die - he remains remarkably silent on that, with the possible exception of Colossians 3:3-4 - but the place where the divinely intended future for the world is kept safely in store, against the day when, like new props being brought out from the wings and onto the stage, it will come to birth in the renewed world, 'on earth as in heaven'. If I assure my guests that there is champagne for them in the fridge I am not suggesting that we all need to get into the fridge if we are to have the party. The future body, the non-corruptible (and hence 'eternal') 'house' is at present 'in the heavens' as opposed to 'on earth'... but it will not stay there. For us to put it on on top of our present 'house' (clothes, bodies, houses, temples and tents; why mix two metaphors if four or five will do?) will require that it be brought from heaven (5:2).
Resurrection of the Son of God, p. 368

Evangel Cathedral

I need to link to this again.

Must the church fix loneliness?

Someone shared this blog post with me. Here's an excerpt:

Thinking out loud about this, I also wonder if we are not making the problem worse by framing church life in social terms. Many people seem to think that deep friendship is the sine qua non of the church. I can't tell you how many times I've sat through sermons where the church has been called to "get into each others lives."

There is nothing wrong with this. But we are confusing means and ends. "Getting into each others lives" is not an end as it is so often framed. It's a means toward an end. What end? A moral end, to be a better person today than you were yesterday.

In short, we need to think of churches as moral rather than social communities. When I go to church I need to have ethics on the brain and not intimacy. This, I think, is a huge problem with many churches. People go to church to have their relational needs met. They don't go to get morally challenged or changed. Thus, if I have a good social time at church then church is great and fulfilling. Conversely, if church is a lonely affair I stop going and think it sucks.

I think the author is onto something here, don't you?

Scripture Alone doesn't rule out a place for tradition

Michael Jensen's article on Sola Scriptura and how it relates to the history of Christian thought and doctrine is very helpful, I reckon.

He draws out three approaches to Tradition:

0= no place for tradition at all
1= tradition helps us understand what the Bible is teaching
2=tradition and the Bible are both authorities for Christian doctrine

Don't forget to check out the mass of comments after this article.

Matt Chandler talks about church planting

(H/T Sojourn Church Planting Centre)

Driscoll announced return to Oz in 2011

Steve Chong just tweeted:

@pastormark chose @acts29 bootcamp Bris 2announce plans that he is back in oz 2011 2 ignite chrch planting in different capital cities with acts29.

I've got a lot of very mixed feelings about this, to be honest. Mainly disappointment that Acts 29 couldn't resist the urge to do their own thing here in Australia. It feels pretty colonial and cliche American to me and pretty confusing for the local scene.

Nevertheless, I pray that God uses it for gospel good. As Al Stewart says, "There's plenty of sinners to go 'round."

Your reactions?

Are Catholics brothers and sisters in Christ?

I get really annoyed by sloppy comments like "You can be Catholic and be a Christian". It's a slippery, sloppy use of the idea 'to be a Catholic' and doesn't help at all.

In contrast, here are some more clear-headed and careful comments:

I would also say that many Catholics are not brothers and sisters in Christ. In fact, I would go so far as to say that a Catholic who believes what the Catholic Church teaches about justification—that it is based upon a mixture of faith and meritorious works—is likely not a brother or sister in Christ. I say 'likely' because there are some Catholics who trust fully in Christ, even though their confession of faith might state otherwise. In other words, it seems to me that the Bible teaches that one must believe with faith alone, but it doesn't require that he or she believes in faith alone as a body of doctrine. John Piper makes this point, for instance, quoting John Owen who wrote: "'Men may be really saved by that grace which doctrinally they do deny; and they may be justified by the imputation of that righteousness which in opinion they deny to be imputed.' ... Owen's words are not meant to make us cavalier about the content of the gospel, but to hold out hope that men's hearts are often better than their heads." Accordingly, some Catholics appear to fully trust in Jesus, despite the teaching of their church.

If this sounds anti-Catholic, please keep in mind that the Catholic Church says essentially the same thing about Protestants. From the Catholic point of view, the evangelical's hope in justification is found in our observance of baptism, which reflects the Catholic sacrament of baptism. We Protestants may think that we're justified by faith alone, says the Catholic, but it's actually on account of our baptism, which finds legitimacy in the sacrament of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Am I offended by the Catholic view? Well, maybe a little. But I can deal with it because I realize it's not personal, and that Catholics are simply expressing the teaching of their church with candor. Hopefully my comments are read in the same light.

(H/T Sola Panel)

Talking Pentecostalism

My friend Joe has a website with stacks of articles he's written about Pentecostalism.

Pentecostalism has been one of the most influential movements of the 20th Century and is looking to be a global force in the coming decades. Where the church is growing most rapidly, Pentecostalism is very influential.

If there were two worldviews worth knowing a lot about in preparation for the future, they are probably Pentecostalism and Islam.

Joe has hundreds of people visit his site, mostly from America, and most Pentecostals, who really appreciate the site.

Oh my goodness he writes so well!

N. T. Wright's prose makes me want to change my view of justification :-)

Check out this summary of the message of 2Corinthians 3-6:

This is what happens when the past resurrection of the Messiah and the future resurrection of his people meet in the middle in the present ministry of the apostle. This is what inaugurated eschatology looks like and feels like in the streets and the prison cells of Ephesus. And this long argument about apostolic ministry, held in tension between the past and future, squashed between the present age and the age to come, is the setting for the all-important passage 4:7-5:10, to which we shall return in the next chapter.
The Resurrection of the Son of God, p. 306

Listening to Paul Dale at the moment

Nikki subscribes to the Church By The Bridge podcast and I borrow her ipod sometimes. CBTB has a beautiful website.

Get involved in ministry outside your local

I do this by natural temperament or something, but for many pastors it is something that needs to be spelled out:

The last tactical principle is to get involved in a ministry outside your own church. Amen, Zac! The bloke who trained me gave me this rule of thumb—namely, that you should serve on one broader ministry or committee for your own denomination (e.g. a denominational school board or regional committee) and one that's inter-denominational (e.g. a Scripture Union Family Mission or a Katoomba Convention Committee). Some can do more than this; few should do less.

Ministers who, by their frontline enthusiasm, won't do any denominational work are spending all the denominational dividends without reinvesting any capital. Furthermore, they leave the resources built up by evangelicals available for take over by liberals. (From Sola Panel)

Even in the early days, it can be so easy to focus on 'just getting the sermon perfect' and fulfilling ridiculously amibitous post Bible College plans to study Greek and Hebrew for half an hour every morning and so focused on your local church where you are in control, that you don't consider giving to the wider Christian community.

Five Cs of ministry

The MTS movement has used three Cs for a long time, as a structure for ministry training: Conviction, Character and Competence.

In this post, Sandy describes a suggestion for an additional two: Commitment and Capacity:

This is one of the shortest of all the chapters (it was less than two pages), and the hard work is left to the application guide here, which speaks of the need for the 4Cs (which is familiar to those involved with MTS): conviction, character, commitment and competency.

I was particularly helped by the observation by application guide author Ken Noakes that a fifth C was needed: capacity. He distinguishes between competency to carry out a role and capacity to do so (e.g. from possessing self-discipline, time availability and management, etc.)

"Give every one of the kids the same"

Stu begins a series of posts about that funny parental tendency to give the same thing to each child "to be fair":

People have different needs, and treating them fairly means treating them differently, not the same. This is obvious when we take an extreme example: let's say one of my children is physically disabled, so we spend a few thousand dollars equipping the bathroom so they can use it easily. We don't immediately think we have to spend a few thousand dollars on something specifically for each of our other children.

If we think treating people justly or fairly will mean treating them according to their needs, then we will feel free to do different things for different people. 'Loving others' does not call for a one-size-fits-all response; it requires us to know people well and think about how to love them.

Rant about young people, old people and technology

And other things.

The future of Australian church planting

Al Stewart, of The Geneva Push, with pigs:

Approaching relationships in a heavenly way

Fi writes another wise post:

I've prayed that I will share myself with people, and put them first. I like it when God answers this prayer because then I'm a little more like Jesus, the relationships are a little more like they will be in heaven and I'm more myself than at any other time. Too much time spent worrying over your image or fears turns you into a caricature of your true self. If, by God's grace, you can forget these things, then the living's easy - you have only to be the woman or man God made you to be.

How to talk about theological education in cultures where the piece of paper matters

Peter Scholl starts thinking out loud.

Rodney Stark: women who marry pagans don't apostasise

It's funny how this is contrary to anecdotal evidence in the Australian church and the warnings of the Old Testament about being led astray by pagan spouses. Could it be because Australian Christians tend to date non-Christians rather tha marry them, our lower lever of commitment, or something else?

That Christians seldom lost out via exogamous marriages is also in keeping with modern observations of high-tension religious movements. Female Joehovah's Witnesses frequently marry outside the group (Heaton 1990). Seldom does this result in their defection, and it often results in the conversion of the spouse. Indeed, this phenomenon is so general that Andrew Greeley (1970) has proposed the rule that whenever a mixed marriage occurs, the less religious person will usually join the religion of the more religious member.
(Rise of Christianity, p. 114)

Quick rant about Facebook messages

I've posted plenty of positive stuff about Facebook, now let me get nasty. Here's two annoying things about Facebook messages (especially with my eye on University mission next year):

  • The fact that people (especially students) do their social and meaningful emailing through Facebook messages and reserve email for junkmail/formal mail really sucks. Why exchange a powerful and very adaptable tool for a really lame equivalent? "Un-like"
  • The fact that Facebook Pages can only send 'Updates to Fans' and not 'Messages' also sucks. You'd have to go out of your way and check your 'Updates' or else program your email alerts to tell you when someone send you an update. Most people won't do this I guess. Why this annoying distinction (rhetorical question, please dont' answer)? "Unlike"

What to look for in a 'worship' pastor

Unfortunate name, important responsibility.

Our church musos are all Sojourn fanboys, so it's nice to see Mike Cosper here:

Tim Smith took us out for Thai food while we were in Seattle, so he deserves a video embedding too:

University Fellowship of Christians' Citywide gathering

I'm planning to run a monthly evening meeting as the backbone to the University Fellowship of Christians next year. I've been umming and aahing about a name for it for a while - I really didn't want to just call it something vomitous like 'Evening Meeting' or 'Bible Talks'.

I've settled on 'Citywide Gathering'. I know, I know, it's a little bit charo, a little bit 'love the city, learn from the city', but the main reasons I like it:

  • Emphasises that we are a uni mission for all the UTAS Hobart campuses (Clinical School, Art School, Conservatorium of Music), not just the large one in Sandy Bay.
  • Highlights the significant role that UTAS has in Hobart's cultural life. We have one large university for the whole city, in fact for the whole state. This gives UTAS a peculiar centrality.
This post is also an excuse to link to our new website again. One of the best websites in the universe, I reckon.

If Malcolm Gladwell were a Christian he'd be Rodney Stark

I'm currently reading The Rise of Christianity. It's a fun and intriguing read. Will blog some bits and pieces later. For now, let me just throw a few titbits. He claims:

  • The early church was not predominantly poor, but middle class, or even wealthy.
  • The early mission to the Jews largely succeeded.
  • Christianity expanded through friendship evangelism, not mass conversions.
Stay tuned...

Male insight/Female intuition

One final observation from Love and Respect by Eggerichs:

It's true that women have intuition and that men should listen to them. It is also true that women have blind spots and need the insight of their husbands... (229)

Your husband will feel you appreciate his insight and counsel when... you recognize his problem-solving approach as his male brand of empathy... you sometimes let him 'fix things' and applaud his solutions... you admit that you can sin and thank him for his perception and godly counsel. (237)

I think this is cool. One of the most annoying characters in advertising is the bumbling idiot McCains' husband who never has a clue and is always tolerated and patronised by the ever-competent wife.

Latest post in Sandy's Leadership series

I'm really enjoying these posts from Sandy Grant. I enjoy all the leadership tips, the personal responses to it and the critical review of the book he is reviewing. Great stuff. I'm hoping we can republish this material on the Geneva website.

Benny Pfahlert is on Twitter

MTS' National Director is on Twitter. I reckon he'll be a good guy to follow - he's a real character and very down to earth. Also' he's in touch with people getting on with the great commission all over the country.


We're live

Pastors don't even know what Jotham's fable is!

A great Don moment was at the SMBC Preachers' Conference a few years ago, when he was illustrating the problem of biblical illiteracy (I quote loosely):

And it's not just lay people. I was at a pastors' conference and mentioned Jotham's fable. And they didn't know what I was talking about! Let alone what the difference between a fable and a parable was...

And we were all nodding our heads and tutt-tutting... while casually skimming through our Bibles trying to find Jotham and whispering to one another about what the heck was unique about a fable.

The pornification of marriage

Challies is did a series (available as a couple of e-books)

Here's an excerpt from his post 'pornifying the marriage bed':

My great concern with young men today (which is really more a concern for their young wives) is that they may perhaps inadvertently or perhaps intentionally pornify the marriage bed. They may bring impurity to the pure, selfishness to the selfless. Having given themselves over to pornography, they have had their whole perception of sexuality altered, shaped by professional pornographers. They may be imposing on their young brides the impossible expectation of a porn star. With the vast majority of young men having been exposed to pornography (at least 90% according to recent studies), with a large percentage of them having been addicted to it and with many enjoying it still as they enter into marriage, they need to have their understanding and their expectations reset according to the One who created sex.

And here's an excerpt from a post by his wife:

Today's wife has good reason to believe that sex is no deeper than the physical and that her husband wants and needs her only to meet his urgent needs. All around us society screams this message—that sex within marriage, sex designed as mutual pleasure from husband to wife and wife to husband—is the relic of another age. Instead it tells us that sex is actually nothing too special. It is just the release of pent-up hormones, an enjoyable act that can be shared with just about anyone with little ill effect. Many wives bring to marriage these messages from society, from movies and books, from parents, from previous relationships. The worst part is that your own husband may confirm the bad messages by taking what he can get, settling for your body in those times that you refuse to give him all of you. He rolls over and goes to sleep unfulfilled, convinced that he cannot arouse you or please you. Meanwhile, you roll over feeling used, confirmed in your suspicion that he is a pervert who is just after your body. The vicious circle commences and grows with both husband and wife contributing to it.

It turns out that women need sexual detox, too. You may have never looked at pornography and you may not have a long and extensive sexual history. But still, you have absorbed messages that are causing you to withdraw your heart from your husband. You believe lies and allow these lies to shape your marriage. Thankfully truth trumps error like spades trumps diamonds (it doesn't, doesn't it?). So let's bring some truth to the error.

Izaac's flame has started a blog


Dining etiquette

I wasn't sure on which blog this post belonged.

How will the resurrection take place?

This is awesome. It's exactly the sort of conversation I expect rabbis to be having:

The question of how YHWH will accomplish resurrection is the subject of a fascinating debate between the Pharisaic/rabbinic schools of Hillel and Shammai, reported in Genesis Rabbah 14.5 and LEviticus Rabbah 14.9. The two schools are debating whether YHWH will make the new body by starting with skin and flesh and firming them up until finally sinews and bones are formed (the opinion of the Hillelites), or whether YHWH will start with the bones (the opinion of the Shammaites) and work outwards from there. The Shammaites, of course, claim Ezekiel 37 on their side, interpereting that passage as the LXX had perhaps already done. The Hillelites, more tenuously perhaps, claim Job 10.10, reading the passage firmly in the future tense.
N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, p. 197-198

Helping new mums

Bron's doing a series on this and hint number 3 is pretty good:

See also number 1:

Ongoing value of Getting Things Done: five things

Haven't blogged about GTD for a while. Here's five things that I continue to appreciate about this organisational approach:

  1. The habit of taking note of everything. Keeping concrete notes of everything I'm worrying about, need to do, want to remember, have to get around to. This is strengthened by my confidence that I will actually deal with the things I note down.
  2. The conviction that getting the Inbox to empty is a non-negotiable. My email inbox is rarely over ten and only after a week off is it over 25. Most of the time it is zero. Actually sorting through all the 'pending' piles in your concrete and electronic life is very valuable.
  3. The perspective of a unified system. I can see everything I have to deal with in home and work life and with the multiple organisations I am involved in all at a glance. The ability to make decisions in the light of the whole, and the sense of control over the madness is great.
  4. A system to get any new project humming. Whether I need to raise money for my mission work next year, or organise a soup giveaway, or learn to catch squid, I have a way to actually work-up a project plan from scratch.
  5. The resolve (and preference) to always make decisions in the light of the outcome. It is very painful to sit in on committee meetings where we stumble from task to task, worry to worry. It is so much better to be constantly driven forward by the desired outcome.

What does it mean to say that the Bible is clear?

Michael Jensen's article spells out an important and ironically often unclear subject.

Kirkplace has a new website

O glorious web.

It's all set for their New Venue Launch and Street Party on 28th November.

The website uses images really nicely throughout and has a nice amount of information available from the front page.

Good job guys.

Tips for would-be bloggers

Ben's list
Nathan's list

My addition would be: find your voice. Some people have a great blogging voice. Some people are great thinkers and great writers, but just don't seem to have a good blogging voice. I don't know what it is. But it makes me think of that episode in Season 6 or 7 of the West Wing when Amy Gardner tells Matt Santos he's gotta find his Presidential Voice.

The latest installation in the history of Cumberland uni church

Izaac's latest bittersweet post brings back all the feelings of the planting and eventual closing down of Hobart Central Church in 2002-2005.

Docklands Church---> City on a Hill

Docklands Church has changed its name to reinforce that it has a vision beyond the Docklands area of Melbourne.

City on a Hill. to be launched tomorrow

The draft is looking great. Should be kicking off with a decent amount of content, which is rad.

Flights booked for In the Chute

I'm coming up to Sydney the day before to drink too much coffee (at Shenkin if they're open) with Nick and probably buy some Korean BBQ. Then I'm leaving the day after and will buy the kids presents from the airport toyshop.

Tim Baldwin and I will be chairing the public seesions for the conference, which will be fun. I'll have to grow a ponytail.

See you at In the Chute.

Dying and rising gods?

...When Jews spoke of resurrection it was not something that they expected would happen to their god YHWH. Nor was it something that would happen to them again and again; it would be a single, unrepeatable event.
Likewise, when Christians spoke of the resurrection of Jesus they did not suppose it was something that happened every year, with the sowing of seed and the harvesting of crops. They could use the image of sowing and harvesting to talk about it; they could celebrate Jesus' death by breaking bread; but to confuse this with the world of the dying and rising gods would be a serious mistake. The early Christians did not engage in the relevant praxis; they only tangentially employed the same symbols... and they told a very different story from those of Adonis, Attis and the rest. Their answers to the worldview questions were radically different. And the set of beliefs and aims that were generated from within their worldview were simply not on the same map. It is of course quite possible that, when people in the wider world heard what the early Christians were saying, they attempted to fit the strange message into the worldview of cults they already knew. But the evidence suggests that they were more likely to be puzzled, or to mock. When Paul preached in Athens, nobody said, 'Ah, yes, a new version of Osiris and such like'. The Homeric assumption remained in force. Whatever the gods - or the crops - might do, humans did not rise from the dead.
- N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, p, 81.

Choosing student leaders

Commitment and faithfulness aren't high on people's priority list today. Some students go to 4 different campus ministries, 3 different churches and 2 different Bible studies a week. We can't have leaders like this. We are looking for leaders that believe in the mission of this community. We are looking for leaders that are committed to this group of people. We look for leaders that have a passion for the campus they are on. This characteristic is non-negotiable. We can't beg someone to be committed to this community. They either are or are not. If they are then they should be considered for leadership. If not, then we still love them, serve them and include them in our community but they are not ready for leadership.

I've borrowed some ideas from Darryn Altclass and Al Hirsch's Forgotten Ways Handbook and written not only core values, but core practices for our student leadership team. This spells out the kind of commitment I am hoping for from our student leaders. They seemed pretty positive about the move. 

16 verbs for apologetics

On the CASE website.

H/T Craig.

Free eBook on discipleship


H/T Justin Taylor.

Naughty rumours

Maybe it's possible Geneva will team up with AFES and run a church planting conference parallel to the National Training Event December 2010 where Don Carson will be preaching...

It could be that Geneva will be running the 2010 In the Chute Conference in Adelaide with Steve Timmis as one of the speakers...

I've heard that in February 2010 there'll be a gathering of the Geneva church planting coaches to hang out together and talk and pray about how to best support the next wave of church planters...

Register for In the Chute 2009 today.

Evangelical Euphemisms: I'm humbled

"I'm successful in ministry."

A Whitfield hero story

Nick quotes Spurgeon telling a story about Whitfield:

George Whitefield said, when he preached on Kennington Common, where they threw dead cats and rotten eggs at him, "This is only the manure of Methodism, the best thing in the world to make it grow; throw away as fast as you please." And when a stone cut him on the forehead, he seemed to preach the better for a little blood-letting.

I reckon Al Stewart would like that quote.

Story of a tough church plant

Izaac shares his reflections on a tough church plant situation. It's great to hear stories like this, because if we only get told the success stories we get a false picture of reality, a false sense of God's sovereignty and no encouragement when our own efforts are struggling.

Leadership on the front foot

Sandy has done a great series of posts on Sola Panel about a leadership book he's reading:

Great example of carefully processing leadership material.

Surge: Saved to Serve

The danger of powerful parachurch movements, like AFES, Navigators or RICE, is that they undermine the local church. That's why it's so exciting to see that the new tentacle of RICE is a conference focused on teaching and empowering young Christians to serve in their local churches:

What is SURGE?? Steve Chong & Matt Chandler from SURGE on Vimeo.

Surge is the brainchild of Pete Chong and its inaugural conference will feature Steve Chong and Al Stewart.

Their goal is to think deeply about the nature of the church and also to provide guidance on how to understand your own spiritual gifts. Rather than young people waiting around being asked to do a job at church, Surge hopes to embolden them to take initiative in serving according to their gifts and the needs they see around them.

This is great, because churches will be renewed when more and more Christians play an active role. This is great, because churches thrive when they put the gifts of people before the pre-existing programs.

It is also an ingenious conference, because it seeks to be proactive about the topic of spiritual gifts. Rather than simply talk about which spiritual gifts we don't believe in, or only focusing on paid ministry, Surge will, God-willing give proper dignity to all the gifts Christ gives to his church.

I've been calling people today and asking for money

Thanks to God, I've now got $50 000 pledged to the ministry at University Fellowship of Christians next year. Halfway to our $100 000 goal.

I'm now on the downhill slope, gathering together the final personal supporters. So I've been sitting down, calling people, then standing up and walking around, cause I find it hard to talk on the phone sitting down.

It's been kind of tiring, but kind of fun. I've been listening to Grizzly Bear while I do it.

I've also got a bit of a fundraising project going. I want to get office space and part-time admin staff for the ministry. So I'm inviting Christian business to kick in together $20 000 and then seeking to match that with another $20 000 from private donations. Half a dozen businesses have expressed some interest, so I'm praying that this will all come together in the next few weeks.

If you are interested in even giving a one-off donation to the work next year (which Tassie businesses will double - how's that for investment), please don't hesitate to get in touch!

Mission to the fringe dweller

DJ dropped Beyond Megachurch Myths: what we can learn from America's largest churches (S. Thumma and D. Travis) on my desk as a joke. I didn't realise it was a joke so I began to skim read it.
One thing that stood out to me was in the chapter "Megachurches water down the faith". This chapter pointed out that 40% of the weekly attendance of megachurches is the uncommitted fringe. In fact, since these people only come from time to time, their totaly number exceeds the overall weekly attendance!

Their observation was that megachurches kind of depend on these fringe dwellers:

These Marginal members as a group... contribute several critical characteristics of the megachurch on which its success is based... They fill the pews; they create the impression of a 'packed house'. Without them, the megachurch would be significantly smaller and less dynamic. These participants balance the intense commitment of the core and committed members.....These less involved members also contribute in terms of the successful reputation of the church in the community. They are the most numerous gropu in the public arena and in some ways the best evangelists for the church in that they are more 'in the world' than core church members.

More than that, the megachurch often does a better job than smaller churches at deliberately targeting the fringe. I remember in Seattle, hearing Andrew Heard say that you don't want too high a percentage of your church in small groups - because that means there aren't new people coming into your church! Megachurches recognise the opportunity:

These marginal participants are the church's internal mission field. The megachurch opens its doors to all marginal, anonymous participants, both seekers and spectators, in order to bring the mission field inside the walls of the church... They are tolerated within the congregation of moderate and committed members precisely because they represent those in need of spiritual maturity....

Where other churches miss the opportunity:

While pastors of other churches know implicitly that they have different levels of commitment in their congregation, they tend to speak primarily to the experiences of either the core group or the unbelievers... They treat the worship participants as a club of the saved, holding up expectations and challenges to help them mature further in their commitments, using language best suited for longtime Christians. Seldom are services or sermon intended to convince or inspire those with the potential to grow in the faith beyond just worship attendance. Many megachurch pastors, however, are well aware of this group in their midst and target the service, the sermon, and the ministries to all those present in the congregation, whether core and highly committed members of marginal members, occasional seekers and first-time inquirers.

One application of this, as Dan suggested on the MTS Tasmania blog, is in addition to putting effort and planning into the mission campaign (for the non-Christian) and the vision campain/conference (for the core), we should consider occasionally doing the Christian maturity campaign for the fringe dwellers.

Can others give examples of how this is working in your context?

Curating songs for Crossroads

It was my last sermon at Crossroads' largest service - Crossroads Classic - last night. I preached on the parable of the prodigal son.

The band offered Nikki and I to 'curate' the songs for that service. This what ministers do every week in traditional churches but it's a novelty for Crossroads. Here's what I chose:

  • When I Survey the Wondrous Cross - with the alternate melody, kind of celtic sounding with a long note on sur-VEY.
  • Be Strong and Courageous - this is one of Xavvy's bedtime songs. I didn't realise Colin Buchannan wrote it, because it sounds like a fireside chorus that's been sung for decades. Beautiful song, wistful and child-like without being twee.
  • Shout to the Lord - a masterpiece Christian power ballad. The reprise of the chorus 'I sing for joy...' sends tingles.
What would you have chosen - favourite three?

Christian worldview approach to art

[Because Christians believe that the whole created world is good, that the whole world has been tainted by sin and that salvation comes from outside of the world] they have the ability to be the most nuanced of artists. We are able to 'trash' practically nothing and 'treasure' practically nothing. We are not naively utopian, nihilistic or moralistic.

So says Ghostface Keller.