Mirrors 29th November 2013

  1. We can demonise the past or sentimentalise the past. These photos help us see the past as the same as the present: ordinary people.

  2. Rhys Muldoon is one of my favourite kids entertainers (I could never bear the Wiggles: ugh!). In this article from the Age, he talks about his negative experience of going to Hillsong.

  3. Nikki and I are big fans of Alain de Boton. But his ‘religion for atheists’ thing is fascinatingly pathetic. It’s kind of like ‘romance for singles’. Anyway, in this post, Dan Anderson critiques the de Boton.

  4. Simone Richardson has been posting some really insightful stuff about pastors, assistant pastors, conflict and personality types:

  5. Lists of ‘how technology has ruined life’ are generally tiresome: they blame technology for human disorganisation or sin and they sentimentalise technology and culture of a previous era (see point 1 in this edition of Mirrors!). But there’s some nice ideas in this list, to plan some time for in the New Year.

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Sermon Illustrations Part 6: How to deliver illustrations

  1. Plan and prepare how much of the illustration you will quote verbatim, and how much you will paraphrase. It is easier to listen to if you only quote the most necessary bits, and fill in the gaps in your own words.

  2. Take the time to get the relevant facts straight. Figure out the name of the person who won Survivor. Get the date correct. Or whatever.

  3. Is it dense language or a complex story? Which parts do you need to slow down or repeat? Which bits need a brief explanatory aside?

  4. Figure out what it is about the illustration that attracted you to it, and make sure you make that bit come alive: is it the key word you need to memorise? The dramatic pause before the reveal? One particularly crisp turn of phrase?

  5. Perhaps ‘preach’ or ‘expound’ the illustration a little - unpack its power, weave it back into the point you are making in your sermon.

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Dissecting the ‘5Ms’ - Part 3: Org charts, teams and management

To implement the 5Ms, or almost any other ministry model, you need to start building an organisational structure to your ministry and you need to establish teams. If this structure is going to stay standing and these teams are going to stay functional, you are going to have to start managing/bishopping.

It is a big turning point in a ministry’s life when it breaks out of the single leader’s personal (dis)organisational system. When the ministry is no longer largely controlled by your desktop, your diary, your calendar, your control - it is free to spread and expand. Responsibility is more like information than money: it spreads and increases, rather than simply changing hands.

How can you make the change:

  • From one central control (the pastor, the eldership, the steering committee) of all actions, projects, ideas and decisions to multiple centres of control, where the centre provides a high-level oversight?

  • From managing every job by a roster (based on duty - everyone taking turns), to giving over areas of responsibility to teams (based on vision and belonging - everyone having a unique part to play)?

  • From a cloud of random ministries, jobs and roles largely driven by tradition or by being reactive and largely organised based on who-knows-who to a clear overall ministry structure, that gets built and streamlined?

  • From either micromanaging or abdicating to managing in ways that provides direction, accountability, alignment, urgency, coaching and support?

And in keeping with the rest of this series. If you can’t figure out how to administer and oversee teams and organisational structure, your 5Ms attempt will most likely be dead in the water.

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Sermon Illustrations Part 5: How to store illustrations

  1. Store them separately from the sermon in which you first used them. You want to be able to find the illustration easily, without having to remember which sermon you used it in!

  2. File in as simple an A-Z filing system as possible. That limits the number of levels in which something can be hidden. Harder to find things once they are three-layers deep in a file-folder structure.

  3. Don’t bother saving them. Just let Google store them for you. For many illustrations it’s probably easier to find the quote again by googling, than by searching your own file system!

  4. Own the fact that like with all filing, you may only use 5% of your illustrations again. You are storing everything because you don’t know which 5% you’ll use again! Regular reviewing and purging will help keep it under control.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://genevapush.com/blogs/xian_reflections/sermon-illustrations-part-5-how-to-store-illustrations (NB: to comment go to thegenevapush.com/xian_reflections)

Mirrors 15th November 2013

  1. My church has been doing a kind of pre-evangelism/diaconal ministry, running ‘open forums’ on issues where people in our community need help, support and advice. We have done ‘marriage’ and ‘parenting’ and just recently I participated in a panel on ‘building better staff’ at a small business event. You can listen to the audio here. These events have been run exceptionally well and the content has been great too. They are a great way to give friends/acquaintances/colleagues a first-contact with the church.

  2. Steve Kruyger puts into words what I’ve been thinking for a long time: 5 reasons not to provide a feedback form at an event.

  3. Kevin de Young challenges preachers to ask of their next sermon: “Can I make my best point–the one I’m most excited about, the one I can’t wait to deliver–without noting anything from this week’s passage?”

  4. Dave Moore advises us to answer questions with statements (that is, actually answer the question) and statements with questions (that is, try to figure out why someone wanted to make the comment they made).

  5. I know we talk a lot about ‘mummy guilt’ but I can definitely relate to Challies post about ‘daddy guilt’. I often get ‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ (the superior Ugly Kid Joe version) playing in my head, when I really don’t have the power to go out and play soccer at 6:30pm at night:
    I don’t think I failed the family. The simple fact is that I need rest. With the march of age and the weight of responsibility, Aileen and I need it more than the children do. I believe I served them better by taking a few days to not rush around, to not expend a lot of effort and energy, but instead to enjoy deep rest. I believe I can serve my family better now that I have experienced this rest.

  6. Sam Rainer reminds us that if a church is health and growing then it will be messy!

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://genevapush.com/blogs/xian_reflections/mirrors-15th-november-2013 (NB: to comment go to thegenevapush.com/xian_reflections)

Sermon Illustrations Part 4: Where to find illustrations

  1. Everyday experience. Creative writing workshops always urgent writers to carry a pen and paper with them everywhere, to help them be alert to potential material wherever they go, and be ready to capture it.

  2. Drawing out the content in the passage you are preaching on.

  3. Other parts of the Bible.

  4. Faux-etymologies: ‘dunmis’ is the word from which we get ‘dynamite’ from. This is poor exegesis but makes for colourful illustration. As long as you are clear that you are not doing exegesis.

  5. From current events.

  6. From literature, songs, movies or pop culture.

  7. Nature and science.

  8. History.

  9. Popular level Christian books - often they are really just sermons turned into book form, so they have good illustrations.

  10. Dictionaries of quotations.

  11. Sermon illustrations websites.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://genevapush.com/blogs/xian_reflections/sermon-illustrations-part-4-where-to-find-illustrations (NB: to comment go to thegenevapush.com/xian_reflections)

Mirrors 8th November 2013

  1. Greek scholars admit to inventing Ancient Greece. This funny spoof is a great way of exposing how silly a lot of the Jesus myth conspiracy theory stuff that gets trotted out. Did you see that latest one? New evidence ‘Roman creed’ that demonstrates that the Romans invented Jesus… what was the ‘new evidence’? The Works of Josephus!?! Sigh.

  2. Challies interviews John MacArthur about the anti-charismatic ‘Strange Fire’ conference. MacArthur says some sensible stuff, including answers to people who say that he should’ve had more ‘forums’ and ‘heard from both sides’:
    Our decision not to host a debate at the Strange Fire Conference was intentional. Debates are rarely effective in truly helping people think carefully through the issues, since they can easily be reduced to sound bites and talking points. By contrast, a clear understanding of biblical truth comes from a faithful study of the Scriptures. Our hope is that the conference sparked a renewed desire for that kind diligent study on this important issue. I also expect continuationists to respond in writing to the things I have written in the book. I welcome that kind of interchange. It allows people to think carefully, over a prolonged period of time, about the arguments on both sides of the issue. It has always been through the written word that theological disputes like this have been grappled with in church history. That requires the kind of devotion and effort that brings serious discussion to the fore. I have taken those pains in Strange Fire, and would hope that others would interact on that same level.

  3. Simone shares a new theory on different kinds of expository preaching that suit different temperaments of people. I think she’s onto something.

  4. An interview on the Harvard Business Review Ideacast that states the obvious: working fathers struggle with work-life balance as much as working mothers. Along the way it makes the observation that white-collar men sometimes transfer machismo to working long hours, instead of having big muscles and being able to fight fires. It also reminds us that the idea of man going ‘off to work’ and leaving woman ‘at home’ as a relatively recent construct.

  5. How a late-person thinks. I posted this on my Facebook and it caused a comment flame war. Seems that early-people don’t have a sense of humour after all :-P It’s a silly little article, but I think it captures the outlook of the late-person. These differences do exist, even if you work on them. I have disciplined myself to become punctual. And yet I am STILL more likely to be mildly late, in contrast to an ‘early person’.

  6. I recently preached on guidance and decision making at our final ‘Citywide Gathering’ for the year.

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‘Not your church(es)’: the pedantry of piety and politics

When you study Greek at Bible College, you have to learn the dozen ways in which a genitive can be used: the possessive genitive, the genitive of apposition, the subjective or object genitive, the partitive genitive and so on. And within each of these categories there are finer differences.

But it seems that often in conversation with ministers this subtlety gets lost. There are many ways of using the genitive. Indeed there are many ways of just using a possessive pronoun ‘mine’, ‘our’. However piety and politics won’t have it:

The pedantry of piety: It’s not YOUR church, it’s JESUS’ church

Sure it’s a good rhetorical line. And talking often about ‘my church’ MAY betray a deeper presumption and pride.

But talking about ‘my church’ may well just be a way of saying ‘the church I fellowship with’, ‘the church where I minister’. There’s nothing theologically suspect or dishonouring to Jesus in that construction.

The pedantry of politics: They’re not YOUR churches, they’re OUR churches

Sometimes parachurch networks, like MTS or Geneva will get pulled up by denominational leaders: ‘Stop talking about YOUR churches, they say. These are not ‘MTS churches’ these are ANGLICAN (Presbyterian/Baptist/foo) churches.’

Of course on the level constitutional precision this is correct. And it MAY be responding to a legitimate quasi-anti-denominationalism. (Of course it MAY ALSO betray a territorial spirit in the heart of the denominational leader - perhaps we need to get a bit pious and remember: they’re JESUS’ churches!)

But talking about ‘our churches’ may also merely be another way of saying ‘the churches affiliated with our network.’

It is possible for the same church to be Jesus’ church, my church, a Baptist church AND an MTS church.

NEXT WEEK: the pedantry and piety of datives…

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Sermon Illustrations Part 3: Why illustrations fail

  1. When they need explaining!

  2. When they leave people wondering: ‘What happened next?’ or ‘Is that accurate?’

  3. When they clash: with your personality or the culture of the congregation. If you come across as proud, or the illustration seems in bad taste, if they don’t fit your personality, if they don’t with with the knowledge and interest of your hearers, if they are inaccurate or inauthentic.

  4. If they overtake the sermon: too funny, too emotional powerful, too long.

  5. If they include a theological distortion.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://genevapush.com/blogs/xian_reflections/sermon-illustrations-part-3-why-illustrations-fail (NB: to comment go to thegenevapush.com/xian_reflections)

Mirrors 1st November 2013

  1. Steve Kruyger gives a 3 examples of how churches figure out what things to advertise the most.

  2. Did you hear about the John Macarthur anti-charismatic conference? A big hoo-ha in the USA, but a slightly different scene to here in Australia. This post, from Kevin DeYoung, clarifies how the Puritans would be BOTH ‘cessationists’ in one sense (WCF 1.1: ” those former ways of God’s revealing his will unto his people being now ceased.”), and yet also have a place for ongoing ‘secondary’ kinds of revelation:
    A detailed analysis of the writings of the Westminster divines reveals that these churchmen possessed both a strong desire to maintain the unity of Word and Spirit and a concern to safeguard the freedom of the Holy Spirit to speak to particular circumstances through the language and principles of Scripture. God still enabled predictive prophecy and spoke to individuals in extraordinary ways, but contemporary prophecy was held to be something different from the extraordinary prophecy of New Testament figures. In the minds of the Scottish Presbyterians and English Puritans, prophecy was considered to be an application of Scripture for a specific situation, not an announcement of new information not contained within the Bible. The Scripture always remained essential for the process of discerning God’s will.

  3. Steve Kruyger has picked out some highlights from Kevin DeYoung’s book ‘Crazy Busy’. I liked these ones:
    We’re not actually in danger of working too hard. We simply work hard at things in the wrong proportions. If you work eighty hours a week and never see your kids and never talk to your wife, people may call you a workaholic. And no doubt you’re putting a lot of effort into your career. But you may not be working very hard at being a dad or being a husband or being a man after God’s own heart.

    Stewarding my time is not about selfishly pursuing only the things I like to do. It’s about effectively serving others in the ways I’m best able to serve and in the ways I am most uniquely called to serve…“Unseized” time tends to flow toward our weakness, get swallowed up by dominant people, and surrender to the demands of emergencies. So unless God intends for us to serve only the loudest, neediest, most intimidating people, we need to plan ahead, set priorities, and serve more wisely so that we might serve more effectively.

  4. Simone gives a rich analysis of reasons for conflict between a senior minister and an assistant minister. She manages to tackle it without attacking one side or the other. She also recognises the unique nature of ministry, rather than just blaming ministers for being petty or unprofessional. And best of all she gives great concrete advice, too! Thanks Simone!

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