Mirrors 30th October 2015

1. A visual journey through the book of Romans, from Lionel Windsor.

2. A survey of Cru (Campus Crusade for Christ) staff to student ratio across the United States:

  • % of uni students involved in Cru (between 0.10%-0.60%, but mainly ~0.30%)
  • ratio of staff:total student numbers (between 7000-16 000)
  • ratio of staff:students in Cru (between 1:12 and 1:40)
  • numbers of staff raised up and sent out 

3. I've felt weird about using off-shore virtual assistants, so it's nice to see some Christian, Australian-based options. Sam Jensen is now offering this service. Has anyone used this kind of thing before? I've not yet tried it out.

4. 30 questions to ask your kid after school instead of 'How was your day?'.

5. In this podcast, Thom Rainer interiews Lee Strobel and Matt Mittelberg about evangelism and local church leadership. I love the practical, do-able ideas they give on building evangelistic culture in the local church. I love how evident it is that these guys are just sincerely passionate about evangelism. I love that Lee Strobel sounds like Alan Alda from MASH.

6. Six costs of real friendships.

7. Steve McAlpine's critique of The Suburban Captivity of the Church.

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Renewing an Existing Ministry - Down to Earth Tips

Ministry renewal stuff often focus on the transformative stuff — prayer and vision and modeling and qualitative change. These things are absolutely true. And all these things will help when seeking to breathe fresh life into a plateaued ministry or repot a dying church.

In this post, though, I’d like to add some more hard, down-to-earth tips that I observe often happen in these kinds of renwals. They are the fruit of prayer and vision and all that. But I suspect that sometimes the order can be reversed and these things can stimulate things and so stir up that more ‘soft’ stuff.

1. Work Harder

Seasons of renewal bring a resolve to work harder, even among those who are already working hard. Stagnation is often marked by a freezing of possibility. And so our imagination shrinks. It doesn’t mean that these ministries aren’t busy and people aren’t working hard - they are often slowly grinding into dust!

And yet, those who bring renewal often come in and double or triple efforts. They stretch themselves and those around them. And they also speed up or simplify complicated and demanding things that were previously absorbing everyone’s time and energy.

2. Set a High Bar When You’re Struggling to Get Anyone

The viscious cycle of desperation means that we struggle to find anyone to fill our gaps in ministry, and so we lower the bar of spiritual maturity and practical skill. But if we’re not careful this just makes things worse.

Of course our expectations need to match reality. And yet often effective renewal brings a fresh resolve to stand by values and ideals - such as spiritual maturity and ministry quality. Better to work with a smaller team, do less and do it right, than limp along in compromise.

3. Replace Managers with Leaders

Ministries can run very well with a lot of managers who keep their various responsiblities ticking. In fact the elders and ministers can be functionally nothing more than managers overseeing the meager growth, comfortable plateau or slow decline of their church.

Leaders who bring renewal bring a new role description to ministry leaders. Rather than simply managing activities, running meetings, sending communciations and delivering reports - elders, staff and ministry team leaders are expected to actually lead. This means setting vision, evaluating progress against vision, coaching team members, delegating and recruiting new leaders.

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Mirrors 23rd October 2015

1. An example of in-depth contextualisation and how tricky it can be - why a white feminist decided to stop wearing dreadlocks.

2. "A person gets a flier about Easter services in 2013. In 2014 we forgot to flier that street. They get another Easter flier in 2015. Why do we expct many people to come from getting 1 flier every 2 years?" - Bernard Cane has lots of good stuff to say about diligent and integrated outreach and promotions in this seminar.

3. Brian Harris gives his ethical and pstoral reflections on the same sex marriage debate. The section on James Nelson's spectrum of responses to homosexuality in the church is helpful: rejecting punitive, rejecting non punitive, qualified acceptance and full acceptance.

4. Someone recently recommended this tool to me: https://youcanbook.me/. I've so far found it a really helpful to speed up the process of trying to find convenient times to meet people. 

5. For organising group meetings, http://doodle.com is the go-to tool of choice.

6. Why being a pastor-scholar is nearly impossible. Love the dose of realism here!

7. Dominic Steele has posted all the video interviews he did at last year's and this year's Nexus Conference.  

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My review of The Martian

I wrote a review of The Martian for Gospel Coalition Australia.

Most of all, The Martian is a wonderful celebration of humanity — our ingenuity and resilience. I found the film’s climax infectiously joyous rather than cheap or sentimental. On a deeper level, the film was able to celebrate humanity without becoming atheistic. For all the delicious irreverence and resourcefulness of Watney and his colleagues back on Earth, the script does not push them into shaking their fists at God and declaring god-like independence. In fact the film has some charming displays of folk religion along the way. Not only is The Martian a better film than Scott’s 2012 sci-fi horror Prometheus, but its universe is more recognisable than the cruel, atheistic world of that film.

Read the full review here.

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