Mirrors 27th September 2013

  1. Communicate Jesus lists some ways that you can make it easy for people to take the first step in responding to a call to action. Once you are aware of this, you notice how badly churches often do at giving easy, accessible, basic ‘next steps’ for visitors coming to church. No wonder many of us struggle with follow up and retaining people in our fellowships: it is so hard to know what to DO next to become more involved!

  2. An intriguing post from Phillip Jensen on the difference between a FUNERAL, which focuses on mourning someone’s death and includes a sermon and a THANKSGIVING SERVICE, which focuses on giving thanks for someone’s life and includes a eulogy. He says we need to keep a place for the funeral.

  3. Chuck Lawless lists 10 characteristics of leaders who last:

    • They don’t let discouragement set in

    • They begin with a determination to finish well

    • They share the workload

    • They have a vision bigger than they are

    • They take care of themselves physically and spiritually

    • They invest in their family

    • They treat people well

    • They have genuine friends

    • The learn to laugh

    Great advice in here! I love the little numbered posts on Thom Rainer’s blog. They are like blog junk food, in one way, but they always have good stuff in there. So healthy junk food - like a gourmet burger bar.

  4. 11 Things Simone loves about being a minister’s wife. I love the honesty in this list: it’s not all pious stuff, in fact some of it is cheekily about power and perks!

  5. When you make one decision in your ministry’s tactics or strategy, you are gaining certain benefits, but also taking on limitations. One of the most frustrating things in leadership is when people’s criticisms are really just the urging to adopt a different (perhaps equally legitimate) set of tactics and strategies that happen to be the ones you haven’t adopted. In this situation, the person rarely owns up to the corresponding weaknesses of their suggestion, and the loss of the strengths of the current option. Steve Kruyger explores this issue:

    Once a decision have been made about which approach will be adopted, it’s essential to also make a decision from that point on, not to complain that the benefit of the other scenario isn’t being achieved.

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Stuff I learned from podcasts 1: Toby Neal on Jesus’ miracles

I put a bunch of sermons on my phone before driving up to Devnport and back the other week. Each sermon taught me some things I hadn’t known/seen before, so I thought I’d do a little series:

In this sermon on the beatitudes, Toby Neal (Vine Church, Sydney), Toby takes a fresh angle on the nature of miracles and the created order.

Miracles are not the suspension of the natural order, they are actually re-establishment of the natural order: Jesus returning things to how they ought to be.

Nifty, huh?

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Cathie Heard on being a ministry wife in a church plant

Great nuggets of wisdom in this recent Geneva webinar:

Home truths for church planting couples from Geneva Push on Vimeo.

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Integrity in evangelism: a code of conduct

I really like this section of the AFES staff Code of Conduct. I think it captures the right concerns in terms of integrity in evangelistic relationships:

We, as AFES staff, will….

Seek to honour the Lord through an ethical and open approach in our attempts to persuade others to believe the good news about Jesus Christ:

  • We disavow any approaches which depersonalise people; or that seeks their conversion through manipulative, coercive, or overly emotional means which bypass a person’s critical faculties, or that mask the true nature and demands of Christian conversion.

  • We believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ, and affirm the necessity of the proclamation of Christ every person. As evangelists, we will pursue this goal with openness, revealing our identity and purpose, theological positions, and sources of information. We will engage people of other religious persuasions in true dialogue, listening carefully and responding honestly and graciously.

  • We will especially have care in our evangelistic relationships with international students. We will be diligent in expressing the welcome of the Lord Jesus to people of all ethnic and linguistic backgrounds, and we disavow any racism. We also understand that some will come from cultural backgrounds where there is high respect for older people and authority figures, and also where there is a sense of obligation to those who provide some service or friendship. For these reasons, international students must be treated carefully to give full expression to the freedom of their response to the Gospel without any (even unintended) coercion.

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Campus ministry as leadership funnel not general discipleship

All ministry is about making disciples and helping people mature in Christ. Even a cutting edge evangelistic ministry, if successful, ought to work hard at following up and maturing its new converts.

And yet as a focus, I believe campus ministry (or uni ministry or ‘college’ ministry in the US) should have a particular focus on evangelism and leadership development.

Here’s a few ways that focus works out on the leadership development front:

The whole flow of the campus ministry is basically a funnel helping you narrow down the people to really work with to disciple, equip, coach and mentor as Christian leaders. You can’t really ask a group of 17 year old Christians ‘Do you want to be a Christian leader?’ They don’t know how to make cheese on toast, and may not even be Christians at all! So you narrow it down slowly:

  1. Those who commit to your campus group narrows the pool somewhat

  2. Those who further commit to taking on some formal role of leadership or team involvement narrows it down still further

General Leadership Training

Out of this smaller group you focus your attentions in discipleship, training and coaching. What are the general skills and convictions and character you would like to impart to them, by God’s Spirit, so that they are set up well to serve Christ into the future?

Beware of over-training. Training your general leaders in proportion to them putting things into practise. Train them in the basics, don’t just make them passive recipients of training courses. Training them in the context of actual ministry work that is building the ministry on campus, not in theoretical contexts.

(While being in favour of some amount of cold-contact evangelism, I do worry that sometimes the whole process of cold contact evangelism can become quite quite and toxic in campus ministry. We don’t REALLY do it to see people converted, but simply to provide a context to radicalise young Christians and help them articulate and defend the gospel. The problem with this MIGHT be that it creates a perverse vision of what ‘radical’ Christianity looks like, and equips people in an abstract skill: gospel dialogue with strangers).

Full Time Ministry Training

Out of this general group, there will then be those who are uniquely suited to leadership of churches, ministries, missions, church plants.

You choose those who are gifted, godly. But also those with whom you click and those who are actually keen to give more to the mission on campus.

These are the ones you give your most intensive mentoring, training and coaching.

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Emotional ‘sins’ of highly driven people

I see these in my own life, and as a parent, I see them in (some) of my kids:

  1. Resenting and resisting your human frailty: sickness or tiredness. Fighting against them and becoming depressed when they fail you.

  2. Inability to express personal preferences (what others might called ‘needs’) when it comes to matters of human frailty.

  3. Taking yourself too seriously.

  4. Dwelling on failure and criticism. Focusing on failures in something that is generally successful.

  5. If something throws you off, your whole day feels ruined. If a day gets written off, the whole week feels ruined.

  6. Always going fast, always doing several things at once, always ‘on’ socially, always getting things done now so they don’t need to be done later.

  7. Inability to see seasonal ebbs and flows in life: living in a constant now.

  8. Frustration, anger, or lack of motivation or joy with things you are not really good at.

  9. Frustration, anger, or lack of motivation or joy with things you don’t have clear instructions for.

  10. Impatience, or demonising, or criticising those who don’t function in the same way or at the same pace.

  11. Reluctance to submit to the leader or plan of someone who seems less competent than you.

  12. Paralysis and sulking when you can’t see how to do something well.

  13. Reluctance to ask for help, ask for mercy or ask for advice.

  14. Expect more of yourself than you would ever expect of others.

  15. Shouldering the responsibility for everything.

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Parenting that addresses emotional ‘sins’

A few commenters asked me to give some advice on how to avoid the emotional ‘sins’ described in this post.

Easier to point out a problem than provide a solution, isn’t it?

Here are a couple of thoughts - but please give your own suggestions:

  1. Set an example in your own life - these aren’t just ‘sins’ that kids commit, are they?!

  2. Call them out when you see them. Develop some of those infuriating parental slogans that drill into their heads what is wrong with these ways of responding.

  3. Figure out the opposites and celebrate them when you see them: “Well done for telling us clearly how that you are feeling crabby!”

  4. Deliberately provide a running commentary on your own emotional life, and their emotional life, to help them become more emotionally intelligent: “Can I explain to you what might be going on here?”

  5. Do character studies of TV shows and movies and books - both Franklin and Arthur are character-rich programs that seem deliberately designed to assist with this.

  6. Explore their hurtful behaviour of friends/family/teachers through this grid, where relevant. An upside to this is that it helps kids show sympathy to those who have unfairly hurt them.

  7. Not in the heat of the moment, but in preventative contexts, talk to them about these matters and unpack what is wrong about them.

  8. Explore the personal, practical, ethical and spiritual reasons why these are so bad.

  9. Talk often about God’s sovereignty over all things and build a spirituality that embraces all the ‘givens’ of life: our context, limitations, sufferings, feelings, as gifts/tests from God that can be joyfully received from his hand.

  10. Model prayer when in the midst of the kind of emotional turmoil that sometimes leads to these ‘sins’.

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Charles Wesley: good husband and poet of pets

We hear horror stories about evangelical heroes neglecting their families for the sake of their zealous ministry.

I was recently read book notices in an old Reformed Theological Review (Vol 69, April 2010, No. 1) and there was this example, from a biography of C. Stacey Wood (C. Stacey Woods and the Evangelical Rediscovery of the University by A. D. MacLeod - I’m very keen to read this actually):

On a more sombre note, Stacey’s life story, first, reminds us never to put ministry ahead of family, and to enjoy regular rest days and holidays. His inability in this area had long term costs to his family, aside from his own health. The punishing ministry schedule he set himself meant he had long absences from home, just like his father has, and this at a crucial stage in his boys’ development. When he was at home he was often distracted and anxious.

But then on the very next page was this lovely comment in a review of Assist Me To Proclaim: The Life and Hymns of Charles Wesley by John R. Tyson:

It is delightful to read of his happy marriage to Sally and his diligent role as a father. Yet this produced strife within Methodism because of the itinerant lifestyle that was expected of him ad which he increasingly felt unwilling and unable to maintain.

I was also intrigued by this little comment:

He must have written one poem or hymn almost every day of his adult life. There are oddly amusing poems on unusual subjects, for example on his pets, as well as heartfelt ones about his wife and children. There are also heartbreaking poems from times when he faced the deaths of some of his children.

If anyone can find and share some of Wesley’s pet poems I would LOVE to read them :-)

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Sample philosophy of ministry

I think a philosophy of ministry is a very powerful tool in a ministry. It serves the leaders by helping them make decisions and keep focus. It serves members and potential members by understanding what this ministry is and where it’s going.

A good philosophy of ministry has not only the top-down elements of mission and strategy, but also the bottom-up element of values and culture.

A good philosophy of ministry is a healthy mix of actual values (what we acutally are), aspirational values (what we hope to be) and core values (what we will do or die). So it is a mix of description, ideal and ethics.

And a good philosophy of ministry explains how you are unique in vibe and emphasis.

Here’s the philosophy of ministry we use for the University Fellowship of Christians:


Mission to the univeristy, missionaries to the world:

1. Empower students to thoughtful, creative, genuine and evangelistic mission to the University of Tasmania.

2. Identify and cultivate Christian leaders, especially missionaries, church planters and pastors.


1. We will be a large, diverse, long term and flexible ministry.

2. We will have a global network of missionaries, pastors, church planters and graduates committed to our ministry.


We seek to fulfill our mission and vision with a dependence upon God’s power, and according to the methods he gives us:

1. Clear, persuasive Christ-centred proclamation of the Scriptures.

2. Prayer according to the promises of God.

3. The godly individual and community life of Christians as example, emobdiment and commendation of our message.

4. Loving willingness to serve, sacrifice and change for the good of others.


1. We are not consumers, we are whole heartedly committed to the mission of the University Fellowship of Christians.

2. We are not a church, we are all members of local churches.

3. We are not activists, we rest in the grace of God and devote ourselves to prayer and meditating on Scripture.

4. We are not a ghetto, we are active members of the social life of UTAS.

5. We are not a parasite, we are diligent in our studies and involvement in the University community.

6. We are not a youth group, we expect mature and loving adult behaviour and responsibility.

The AFES philosophy of ministry is also worth checking out:

  • Mission

  • Values

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House of Cards: Humility as a brand of pride

Another interesting little quote from House of Cards, commenting on Southern American culture:

What you have to understand about my people is that they are a noble people. Humility is their form of pride. It is their strength; it is their weakness. And if you can humble yourself before them they will do anything you ask.

On the one hand this is a cynical expose of a certain kind of Christian hypocrisy. Even humility can become poisoned by pride, can’t it?

But on the other hand it is accidentally a lovely observation about how certain Christian values endure in Southern America, isn’t it?

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Illustration of sin: fingernails vs eyeballs

At last weekend’s Challenge Conference here in Tassie, Phillip Jensen gave a very vivid illustration about sin:

We are like fingernails: we live in dirt all the time. Dirty under fingernails is neither here nor there.

But if you get dirt in your eye, even a small amount, it is very painful. We are like fingernails, whereas Jesus is like our eyes: totally intolerant of sin.

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