Heresy hurts people

“False teaching wrecks people’s lives”, Gary Millar observes in this great sermon on Titus 2.

Whether it’s the false hope and subsequent doubt that promises of faith healing gives, or the broken and confused relationships that comes with undermining a right view of sex and gender, or a lack of hope that comes from a denial of the resurrection and second coming or that families become estranged from the wider church community by holding to unorthodox views, false teaching is not just wrong, it is destructive.

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The Grey is an exciting film that works on many levels

Now I thought The Grey was just a survival film with Liam Neeson. Whatever. And even as I began to watch it, I thought that maybe the wolves were one of many hurdles the survivalists had to face.

How I wrong I was. Not only is The Grey an awesome and thrilling and surprising adventure/survival film, not only is it beautiful and well acted, not only is it the most awesome Man vs Wolf showdown since The Neverending Story (“COME FOR ME G’MORK: I AM ATREYU!”), but it is so much more. It works on multiple layers of meaning:

  • Religious - not just that there is a scene where the main character shouts out to an unresponsive sky ‘I’m callin on ye!’. But the whole film paints the journey from a hell, through a purgatory to a heaven.

  • Political - a beleaguered group of men lost deep behind enemy lines, being knocked off one by one by a more primitive foe end up desecrating the corpse of one of their enemies.

  • Psychological/moral - examining various fears, hopes, excuses, virtues and vices.

  • Gender study - note how the men never really bond with each other, but all their identity is grounded in the (absent) women in their lives: daughters and wives.

  • Exploration of the problematic relationship between humanity and nature.

Check out Thomas Caldwell’s review.

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Mirrors 27th April 2013

  1. We’ve almost finished our 17 week series on Ecclesiastes at the Uni Fellowship. It’s been especially exciting to start to get my head around the second half of the book, that expands on the themes of wisdom, time, society and joy (click here to subscribe to our podcast).

  2. How the ‘viral’ Harlem Shake phenomenon was actually not really viral. At one point in this article it uses the promotions term ‘pre-viral’: how cynical but unsurprising. Thanks to Karl for the link.

  3. Thanks to Alan for this link to an article examining arguments against Gay Marriage based on the long-term and unanticipated social consequences of law changes.

  4. I don’t especially like the productivity tips in this article. They’re more clumsy bits and pieces rather than a real system. However I DO like the distinction between ‘List People’ and ‘Pile People’.

  5. Simone, in continuing to defend extroverts shares 4 myths about extroverts.

  6. Sometimes we don’t help someone because we can’t do much and we can’t solve the problem. Dave McDonald urges us to be bold with ‘little acts of kindness’:
    Sometimes people’s problems don’t go away. Bereavement and loss. Chronic pain or fatigue. Depression or anxiety. The serious illness, such as cancer. It may seem like there isn’t much we can do. But, let me encourage you to think again. Maybe there’s something you could offer that would just make things a little easier. In fact, it might make all the difference in the world. It could be as simple as popping over for a cup of tea. Maybe you could offer to read the Bible with them or pray for them. If you offer anything, please make sure you follow up on it. Little things show that you are still thinking of them. They indicate that you care. They demonstrate commitment. They’re not hard to do. Little acts of kindness can make a very big impact.


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Chronological work notes or topical?

A couple of new senior staff have joined the Uni Fellowship of Christians this year: Luke and Suzie.

They are both organised and disciplined people. But they manage their work notes differently. And it’s worth observing the difference.


Some people keep a Moleskine or spiral notebook and keep a chronological list of notes about whatever meetings or projects they are working on. They cross things off, or write other annotations to help them navigate this list.

The advantage of this is that there is no additional processing need after the notes are taken. They don’t need to be removed and refiled.

This is an alien workflow to me. Watching in on it is like going for a sleepover at a friend’s house when you were a kid… and seeing all the odd things ‘other families’ do. It’s like a separate branch of the evolutionary tree. It is reptiles instead of mammals.

The disadvantage, it seems to me, is that you are left having to work back through several pages of notes to scoop up all the relevant notes, TODOs and deadlines, rather than having everything relevant to a particular project in one place.


Those influenced by GTD, along with others, take notes as they go, but in a temporary way. Their goals is to process these notes into a system - whether paper-based or computer-based - where all these notes are group according to information type (reference, action, date) and/or project type.

The disadvantage is that it creates a time/work gap: the need to process. Things can get lost in transit from notes to system. An additional disadvantage is that it is messy.

The chronological method can keep everything in one place the whole time. The only mess is if your crossing out/annotations are scribbly - but even then, that is mess inside a controlled environment of the notebook.

Whereas the topical approach risks having piles of paper of various kinds. And if the final system is also paper-based, then it involves paper sorted and organised in a range of manila folders or plastic sleeves or section dividers.

What are you? A chronological or topical workflow manager?

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The wrath of nature is ok, just not the wrath of God

In his excellent sermon on the invasion of Canaan, Gary Millar quotes from this Irish Catholic blogger, about the recent BBC version of The Day of the Triffids:

I’m a bit of a sucker for disaster stories so on Monday and Tuesday night I watched a new two-part BBC adaptation of the sci-fi classic, The Day of the Triffids in which the world gets over-run by man-eating plants.

This version had a new environmentalist message. The triffids were being cultivated because they produce oil in a nice eco-friendly way. The slightly inconvenient fact that they are also flesh-eating is kept from the public but eventually the public finds out that they are flesh-eating when they escape and start, well, flesh-eating.

In the two episodes (which were rather a drag unfortunately), we got lots of warnings about what happens when you interfere with nature, namely that nature will eventually inflict its wrath on you. Come to think of it, this was a sort of Wrath of God story with nature standing in for God.

In fact in the last few years there have been several ‘Wrath of Nature’ movies; The Day the Earth Stood Still and The Day After Tomorrow to name but two. In both movies, and in this latest version of The Day of the Triffids, we are led to believe that we deserve what’s coming to us.

The funny thing is, no-one would ever make a movie these days about the Wrath of God in which the message also was that we had it coming to us. We’re able to accept that if we sin against nature we deserve our punishment, but not if we sin against nature’s maker.

Religion did surface briefly in episode two when the hero found himself at an abbey run by a seemingly kindly nun. She had arrived at a pact with the triffids in which they would leave the abbey alone. She said this was an answer to prayer. This being a BBC drama, needless to say it wasn’t. It turned out that the old crone - played by Vanessa Redgrave - wasn’t kindly at all. Instead she would trick people into sacrificing themselves to the triffids. That’s why they were content to wait outside the abbey rather than attack it. Sigh. Will the BBC ever again make a drama in which the Christians are nice people? Some of us are, you know. Really. One of them might even be your mother.

In any event, the irony of the story’s message appeared lost on its makers because it was essentially a religious message about the need to repent or face the consequences, the consequences in this case being the destruction of nearly the whole human race, a bit like in Noah’s Ark actually. Give me that Old Time Religion, even if it is dressed up in environmentalist clothes.

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Startups vs Small businesses: relevance to ministry?

I’ve been doing a bit of lazy thinking and web surfing (do people still say ‘surf the web’?!) around startups. I guess I’m thinking how the ‘startup’ framework might provide a fresh approach to launching new ministries (and parachurch ministries) to the way I’ve normally thought about it.

I wonder if the risk of starting things slow, and only staffing and building in proportion to growth, is that often the founder becomes completely entangles in the new ministry - like the owner/manager of a small business. And sometimes the new ministry gets stuck at a fairly small scale because that’s how it was started.

Here’s some interesting stuff about startups from Paul Graham:

Millions of companies are started every year in the US. Only a tiny fraction are startups. Most are service businesses—restaurants, barbershops, plumbers, and so on. These are not startups, except in a few unusual cases. A barbershop isn’t designed to grow fast. Whereas a search engine, for example, is….

That difference is why there’s a distinct word, “startup,” for companies designed to grow fast. If all companies were essentially similar, but some through luck or the efforts of their founders ended up growing very fast, we wouldn’t need a separate word. We could just talk about super-successful companies and less successful ones. But in fact startups do have a different sort of DNA from other businesses. Google is not just a barbershop whose founders were unusually lucky and hard-working. Google was different from the beginning.

Risk vs Growth

One of the big risks about a startup approach to ministry (or ministry!) is that if you invest a lot of money into something before you can know for certain that it will work. So it feels safer to just slowly grow something.

But there is an inverse ‘risk’ to not investing a lot up front: that is the risk of slow or no growth. The slower model brings the risk of investing a lot of time and energy - generally a lot of the founder’s time and energy - in slow growth.

Anyways, just thinking…

Startup Guys

This blog post wouldn’t be complete without a link to this video.

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Church Community Builder Implementation Journal Part 5

I really should have included this earlier, but here you go:

We paid for data migration because we were merging several spreadsheets into the one software:

  • Current students

  • Graduates

  • Supporters

which makes a list of almost 1000 names.

We didn’t want to pay extra for ‘Groups’ migration, so what we did, in collaboration with the CCB team, was great a ‘custom drop down’ with various options:

‘Current Student’



‘Current Student/Supporter’

‘Current Student/Graduate’ (for staff who are graduates and who want to be on the current student mailing list)

‘Current Student/Graduate/Supporter’


Then we could very easily add people to these three separate groups by searching people by ‘Custom drop down 1’ and then bulk adding them to the relevant list.

Entire Church Group

One other small note: the CCB software comes with a few groups already set up. This is names ‘Entire Church’. However there will be people in your database who are not currently active members of your church - so you don’t want to send them bulk announcement messages.

What we did was rename ‘Entire Church Group’ as ‘Entire Databse’, to make it clear that this was really an administrative group, rather than an announcement group.

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Gary Millar on holy war

I have been thoroughly enjoying this audio from Gary Millar at Queensland Presbyterian Theological College. I really like his preaching: it’s the kind of preaching I try and preach. And I really like the accent as an extra treat.

This sermon in particular is the most helpful treatment of the invasion of Canaan that I have heard.

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Crowds like black and white. Crowds like following someone important.

I thought this comment by Simone on her blog was insightful and confronting:

Narcissists tend to rise to the top - they are ambitious and very good at promoting themselves. It is comforting to have a narcissist in charge. They tell you they know exactly what to do. They tell you how to live. Crowds like black and white. And they like the feeling of following someone important.

How do we respond? Resist the tendancy to follow an important leader. It’s idolatry. Don’t be impressed by ungodliness - boasting etc.

It’s sad that the problem with bad leadership is not just the leader but the followers: a toxic mix!

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Mirrors 12th April 2013

  1. Thanks to Murray for pointing me to a blog post on power and authority from a Christian academic at Monash University.

  2. Don Miller reflects on the down side of Generation Y’s optimism: Why most twentysomethings are delusional. I liked this bit:
    I know you read a Seth Godin book convincing you you could be a billionaire by creating a tribe. And you read a Timothy Ferris book convincing you you could work four hours a week and be rich. Guess what? Both of those guys work as tirelessly as depression-era farmers. They do this because the laws of the universe haven’t changed. You have to work to eat. And you have to work hard. I’ve watched scores of twenty-somethings quit their jobs and start businesses based on books written by people who sell fantasies. These writers tell one story about a guy who bought an island because he created some online business and convinced people they could do it too. Don’t be fooled. The chances of that happening to you are about the same as winning the lottery. Writers are making millions by convincing people they can win the lottery too. But the rules of free commerce have not changed: 1. Identify something people need or want. 2. Create that thing and create it well. 3. Sell that thing at a competitive price. 4. Clearly communicate what that thing is. 5. Give half the money you make to the government. 6. Give a percentage of your money to causes that need your money. 7. Love your spouse and your children, because in the end little else will matter. They don’t care about your money.

  3. Con Campbell has a new book out - Outreach and the Artist:

  4. I don’t normally link to things for lolz, but I thought this latest tubmlr sensation is also a funny reflection on the frustrations of life as a parent AND a window into the follow of human desire and consumerism.

  5. I’ve just subscribed to Dave Moore’s blog Ministry Principles and Pragmatics. Dave is on staff at Hunter Bible Church in Newcastle.

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Instant messaging

I reckon it’s great. So much better than phonecalls: exhausting things! But great ways to share ideas and collaborate.

You can have extended breaks when you need to. You can take your time to answer. You can cut and paste helpful things. You can trawl back through.

And even Instant Messaging when someone is in the same room. I know that is weird at first. But it’s very good for those little interruptions and bits of questions and requests for information. The person can take their time to answer as it suits. It’s just a nice extra thing to have.

But you need some rules around IM. Here are a couple:

  1. You gotta not get offended if people ignore you, suddenly stop answering or check out.

  2. You gotta feel comfortable doing the ignoring.

  3. You gotta work hard at non-verbal stuff: smiley faces, uh-huh’s, mmms. Show you are interacting.

  4. Hit enter lots! People don’t want to wait for 3 minutes while you write a paragraph. Hit enter every ten seconds, even if you haven’t finished your sentence.

  5. Be careful how you talk and whether it is recorded. You can run the risk of talking quite freely on IM… but a written record might be preserved. I recommend having all chats ‘off the record’ - or at least going off the record when it gets sensitive.

  6. Others?

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Being productive on planes Part 2

  1. Kindles are very light and effective ways to carry around a lot of reading material. I’ve never totally managed to embrace the eReader, but they’re worth a mention. Anyone want to go in to bat for the eReader?

  2. You can waste a lot of time and energy fussing about finding the perfect cheap fare. Meh. Just book em. It’ll all come out in the wash.

  3. Get frequent flier membership and book always with the same airline. It’ll pay off long term.

  4. Flight lounges. I so wish I could justify paying for membership. I’m hoping I’ll eventually fly enough to get the gold status. So nice. So much better than rotting in food courts and boarding gates when flights are delayed - or when you just want to get to the airport early to do some work.

  5. Get to the airport early. Don’t kill yourself with the stress of risking missing flights.

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Mirrors 5th April 2013

  1. Dealing with depression: what do you do “when the black dog howls”? And what is bad advice?

  2. Will Briggs from St David’s Cathedral, Hobart, reviews the Griffith Review edition on Tasmania.

  3. A stimulating interview with Phillip Jensen on the life, times and ministry of John Chapman. A great read to help grasp how much history, upbringing and personality shape us.

  4. Al shares the great success of the St John’s Presbyterian Church Harvest Market. 7 people came to church the next day whom they met through the market :-)

  5. Thabiti Anyabwile has been reviewing and reflecting on Doug Wilson’s kind-of—pro-American-slavery-sort-of-ish book Black and Tan. I subscribed to Thabiti’s blog because I am often provoked by his thorough explorations of racial issues from an evangelical perspective. This series is well worth reading. It’s also a reminder that every Christian leader has the strange spots and blind spots. Doug Wilson can do such a great job debating Christopher Hitchens… and then publish a book like this. Here’s Thabiti’s round-up of the blog conversation.

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Blogs are free, I know that. But people who write blogs put a lot of time into them.

I’ve been blogging since 2006. And have recently been back into the groove of blogging daily. It can be a therapeutic pensieve for me, but I know that it is a pleasant diversion and positive help to many of you who write and tell me (and I trust many others who have never written/commented).

But it does take time and effort and energy to keep it up. I have seen many blogs fire up for a time and then disappear. It’s a challenge to keep going. It is something I have chosen to invest in. And something I trust is of genuine value.

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