Matthias Media’s awesome new book Wisdom In Leadership

Matthias Media were nice enough to send me an advance copy of Wisdom In Leadership by Craig Hamilton and I'm really happy to say it's a great book. I'm relcutant to give commendations for books unless I actually think they are not only true, but also well written, worthwhile reading and a needed contribution. Craig's book is all three. It's kinda the book on leadership I'd want to write if I were to write one. So he's saved me the trouble.

It's the book we needed.

It's an Australian, Reformed evangelical book on leadership with all the little cultural quirks of tone and emphasis and theological focus and clarity that makes it stand out from similar good and good (with lots of theological qualifications) books on leadership out there.

I think a lot of Reformed evangelical stuff on things like leadership can be so so careful to be theologically precise that we spend the bulk of our books and articles laying the theological foundations and then scribble out a few scatty bric-a-brac hints and tips in the final page. This book actually treats the distinct subject of wisdom in leadership with the attentiveness it deserves in its own right.

It's a really big book - about 500 pages - but it's broken down into about a 100 really really short, punchy chapters. It offers meaty theological underpinnings without being so bogged down in being theologically precise that it doesn't give detail practicals. Craig is clearly a leadership and productivity geek who has read widely, thought deeply and synthesised theologically.

You can track my Twitter (look for @ministrymatrix or 'Wisdom in Leadership' or 'Wisdom for Leadership' - #sorrynohashtag) for other reflections on the content.

You can go here to get Matthias Media to send you 7 chapters for free here.

Or you can come and hear Craig speak at my National Pop-Up Blog Tour events in Brisbane, Melbourne or Launceston - and get a discount code to buy your own copy.

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Mirrors 29th May 2015

  1. Thom Rainer gives 15 ways to take care of guest speakers.
  2. For an odd detour, you might like to read Kevin de Young's review of 'Deviant Calvinism'.
  3. Patterns among fallen pastors: no personal accountability, ceased personal devotions, spending time with another woman (often in counselling situations), thought 'it would never happen to me'.
  4. Is it a bad idea to turn out the lights during communal singing? This article does a good job of listing good and bad things about having the lights off for communal singing. This really is a grey area of theological practicalities, so we must beware of reaching a particualr conclusion about it and then being dogmatic. Personally, I think there is a happy middle ground - lights being significantly dimmed, without being all-black.
  5. Why do women cry more than men? Is it just sociological? Or biological?
  6. John Dickson gives some thoughts on how a Christian should approach voting.
  7. Is it possible to home school if you have a chronic illness? Christina shares her experience in a beautiful post.

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‘Pastoral Care’: How (mis)using biblical words superspiritualises pragmatism

There's been a lot of discussion about how using 'worship' to talk specifically about the church meeting, or singing in church is unbiblical, and potentially unhelpful. It gives the church gathering and the singing more theological weight, and so more emotional weight and rhetorical weight, than they actually have.

Well the same is true of 'pastoral care'. In everyday usage 'pastoring' and 'pastoral care' refers to counselling, caring for people, responding skillfully and tactfully to problems that arise in the lives of people. It is relational practicality. Interpersonal skillfulness.

But when we use the biblical word pastoring/pastoral/pastor... then it sounds more spiritual and valuable, as if it is the higher ground.

So when we say of a minister  'he's not a great preacher but he's a great pastor', or 'he's not good at leadership but he's very pastoral', 'Im not into all this how-to, strategic stuff, I'm more into pastoral care', or 'let's consider this issue pastorally' it sounds pretty deep.

Why not rephrase these and see how they sound:

  • he's not a great preacher but he's great at relational practicalities,
  • he's not good at leadership but he's very skillful relationally,
  • I'm not into all this how-to strategic stuff, I'm more into how-to counselling stuff,
  • Let's consider this issue from the viewpoint of interpersonal issues.

Still all very good things. But no longer the superspiritual higher ground! :-)

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Inner city ministry has its comforts but it’s far from easy

We had Steve Timmis, from Crowded House and Acts 29 at the recent Geneva Multiply conference. One evening Steve spoke on the topic of 'reaching the unreached' and had an extended rant about how far too many church planters are going for trendy, inner-city, latte-sipping hipster church plants. Who is reaching the new immigrants? The rural areas? The housing estates?

There was a good point here. We need to go beyond the familiar and the comfortable and the convenient. We need to be reaching out beyond those who are just like us, to reach those who are different than us, beyond those who are close to those who are far off. I like that very much.

There are some clarifications:

  • The vision to reach the unreached is a burden that lays on us all as a community, not on the shoulders of each individual church planter. Some will go to trendy inner-city areas, some will go to comfortable leafy suburbs, some will go to harder areas. The challenge is on a strategic level and a communal level.
  • Of course if anyone is going to go to harder areas we need to challenge everyone. So we need rants like this one from Steve regularly.
  • The difficulty of caring for some parts of society is a deep and ingrained social issue. It's not just a Christian issue. Or a trendy church planter issue. Or an evangelical issue. Our entire society struggles to know how to reach and care for some groups of society. Of course we should strive to be on the cutting edge of these challenges. But the radicals among us mustn't kid ourselves that we can definitely find a 'solution' to the social 'problem'; and the rest of us need not assume guilt for failing to either.
  • Properly speaking, the suburbs are the comfortable place, not the trendy inner-city. The inner-city culture is often hostile to Christianity and alien to Christian cultural values. Planting a church among pluralistic, libertine, post-Christian young professionals is hardly the comfort zone for conservative evangelicals.
  • Although there may be physical comforts associated with inner-city ministry and less gritty and demanding social problems to navigate, the trendy inner-city ministry often has a greater hardness of heart than some other areas. So the discouragement and spiritual opposition is actually harder.
  • It's just not true that it's easy to plant a church in the trendy inner city. I've seen some trendy inner city churches grow quickly from strength to strength. But I've seen others struggle in the 20s, 30s or 40s average attendance for years. The inner-city brings some big obstacles to establishing a church:
    • very high transience makes it hard to build a critical mass and establish leadership
    • when people get to a more stable phase of life, they often buy and move to the suburbs
    • high costs of living, hiring etc

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Guest blogger: the philosophy of ministry of FOCUS at UTAS - vision and mission

Thanks to my colleague and friend Luke for writing some articles for Christian Reflections. Luke will be talking about his ministry at FOCUS UTAS:
At a time when many people are concerned about the changing nature of university of life with students spending very little time on campus, doing external studies and working part time jobs. International student workers such as myself experience no such worry. We busy ourselves making the most of this strange and wonderful season of life where the nations come to us. I don’t know how long its going to last for; I can imagine waking up one morning and getting a text from a mate who is actually on top of current events saying ‘Man, what will this do to your international student ministry?’ and my googling whatever’s gone on and finding that its all over; the students won’t be coming (or wont be coming much) to Tasmania anymore. But that day is not today and so while this strange phenomenon is occurring I want to make the most of it.
We have about 3 years to make contact with International students through our fliering at uni. Then we get them to Friday Night FOCUS. We help them to realise they’re now free of their childhood, culture and country and so should be asking big questions and thinking big thoughts; who is God? how can I know? who is this Jesus that 1/3 of the world say they follow?
At FOCUS UTAS we want to get as many non Christian International students into our big Friday night meeting as possible. So we offer:

  • Fun: through games and discussion time.
  • Food: always nutritious and sometimes delicious (cooked by FOCUS supporters).
  • Friendship: formed as we enjoy the above.
However, we explain that as great great as these things are the best thing FOCUS offers is Teaching from the Bible; a way to know God and a way to be friends with God through Jesus.

Would you like to work with FOCUS TAS? email for more information

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Mirrors 22nd May 2015

  1. The theological rationale for doing good in a fallen world in the last days: love everybody because of the image of God, show mercy because of our experience of redemption, stay hopeful because of restoration, work hard because of justification - and always remember the people.
  2. Does nature even exist? A discussion about different models for thinking about environmentalism.
  3. Looking for some fresh congregational tunes? Check out Scott Robinson (WA).
  4. Seven reasons churches are busy: failing to ask 'why' when starting a new ministry, no process for eliminating ministries, some ministries are started just to please people, some ministries have become sacred cows, ministries operate in a silo, sometimes new ministries are started to unleash more and more people for ministry, no process for evaluating ministries.
  5. Lots of pop-sociology and sociological theology, ethics and other grumpy rants from Phillip Jensens 2008 KYLC sermons: 

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Assistant minister position in growing independent church in Launceston, Tasmania

My mate Karl is the pastor of The Branch Evangelical Reformed Church, an independent church in Launceston, Tasmania.

The church is growing and he needs help to care for the church and train up leaders so that the church can continue to reach more and more people.

Check out the job ad here.

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Preaching preparation hacks

I'm doing a session on preaching for the upcoming Christian Reflections Pop-Up Blog Tour 2.0 in Hobart.

I'd love your input to help round out my contributions:

1. Preaching preparation challenges

  • Especially occasional preachers: what are the challenges you encounter in preaching preparation?
  • What seems to take the most time?
  • Which parts do you find it hardest to set aside the time to work on?

2. Preaching preparation hacks

  • Especially more experienced preachers: what were the challenges you used to encounter in preaching preparation?
  • Which ones are still challenges?
  • Which ones have you overcome? How?
  • What hints and tips do you have to speed up or smooth our preaching preparation?

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How CCB could help campus ministries better

I was asked by someone in the Church Community Builder office to provide thoughts on how CCB could better help non-church ministries.

Here was my reply, as a result of brief reflection. Anyone else got thoughts? Any Elvanto fanbois wanna explain why Elvanto solves these problems better?


1. Cost is more prohibitive in a college ministry - so a cheaper price scale to enable us to move to Deluxe Version would be wonderful.

  • We are based on external donors rather than regular givers.
  • We tend to be more organisationally complex than a church of equivalent size:
    • campus ministries tend to have more staff per member than churches, because we are leading, much young people with a higher turnover,
    • we often run more conferences and events in a calendar year,
    • we are managing not only church members but donors, graduates.

2. Group Promotion would be great if we could leave people in a group based on GRADUATING DATE (a custom date field we create) rather than age.

3. Small groups are more likely to be a 'front door' for campus ministries, and so being able display:

  • PRECISE times custom built in the 'when and where' section of groups - rather than just morning/evening etc. we have worked around this by adding time-based customfields... but it'd be great to just use a calendar style function
  • Group Leader-defined Venue - rather than having the where in 'when and where' being a drop down of customziable fields, it'd be great if the group leader could just type it in

4. We have to track precise volunteer roles of lots of student leaders, and be able to provide easy reports on this:

  • we currenty use POSITIONS to do this, but it feels quite 'clunky' because I understand that Positions are primarily design to create rosters, right?

5. Campus ministries are built by networks of 1:1 mentoring relationships, and there is currently no easy way to pair people not based on department-coach-group leader hierarchy, but based on  who is in charge of mentoring whom:

  • we currently use Process Queues to pair people to one another - but it's not intuitive and it manually requires us to add new mentors as 'queue managers' each time as needed.

6. A non-HTML email option would be great, as college students can tend to interpret html-rich emails as spam/advertising.

7. I suspect there are features around Process Queues would help the support-raising process, but haven't played around with this enough to know if Process Queues are already. 

8. We track relationships not just to individuals but also to churches andother organisations. It would be great to have clearer guidance on how to treat organisations as 'people' in the CCB system.

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