Tempo, meter and rhythm in preaching

I was discussing this with some of the Uni Fellowship, how a poor preacher will speak with one steady rhythm and speed. It's doesn't grab you and carry you. Such preachers often have to rely on colourful illustrations, gritty application, simplistic (and sometimes gimmicky) structure and brevity to hold the congregation.

I encourage preachers to think carefully about how human communication works, and to master a variety of meters and speeds (and volume and gestures etc), so both engage and persuade people.

And then a few days later, I was watching 'The Hip-Hop Evolution' documentary on Netflix and I heard Rakim talk about how he was influenced by John Coltrane to vary his rapping in a similar way. Here's another video (not from the Netflix doco) where he says similar *language warning*

Prior to Rakim's era, hip-hop often had a very staccato, rhyme at the end of every line regularity. After his era there was much more of the variety that we recognise in hip-hop today.

Listen to some of the preachers you most appreciate, and you'll notice that they vary sentence structure, length and emphatic rhythm. You might even notice that they have a few favourite rhythmic patterns that they use :-)

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Mirrors 27th January 2017

  1. There’s 2 sides to every story. Justin Dean was Mars Hill’s media spokesperson right to the end. Interesting listen.
  2. Being church in post truth Australia. An excellent manifesto from Nathan Campbell!
  3. Tim Challies has done a great series on getting older, including: Ageing with graceWith Greater Age Comes Greater Sorrow and Aging Brings Life-Shaping Decisions
  4. There may be gendered roles taught in Scripture, but that doesn’t mean God only gives certain gifts to one gender
  5. Some thoughts on minimalism by Nathan Campbell. Prepare for a storm of comments, Nathan.
  6. Obvious advice on work-life with pretty diagrams. 
  7. About the Pslams of imprecation 
  8. Seven ways leaders demoralise their teams
  9. Six Reasons to Consider Avoiding Cute Sermon Series Titles
  10. Some true & not so true factors in US election. And largely untrue statements about Aussie Christian onlookers.

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The similarities between two unpopular subcultures: rollerblading and Christianity

I took up rollerblading again two years ago. The kids expressed some interest in getting rollerblades/rollerskates for Christmas, and I thought I'd get myself a pair too.


I started rollerskating when I was about 10, and after trying my first pair of inline skates on the St Kilda boulevard as a 12 year old, I was hooked. This was when 'aggressive inline skating' (tricks and ramps and jumps and stuff) was on the rise and so I got into that, until a severe injury on a handrail when I was 16 made me hang up my skates.

Inline skating exploded in popularity in the 1990s, and at its peak was vastly more popular than skateboarding. There was even a pretty ordinary comedy drama film with a very young Jack Black and Seth Green all about a rollerblader:

But somewhere in the late 90s early 2000s the sport went into precipitous decline, and has never recovered. But like struggling bands might say... 'we're big in Japan' :-) Here's a documentary that tells that story:

It was watching this documentary that first got me noticing some of the similarities between rollerblading and Christianity. They speak about the effect that being a mocked and 'persecuted' subculture has on your identity and the cohesion of your community. Over the last few years I've noticed more similarities.  So here we go:

1. The rollerblading community is interested in people joining the sport, not just having a go

To be Rory Shiner has already done a simliar thing to this post, with something he wrote about how the church should be more like a the sport lacrosse, than like the cinema in the way they deal with declining popularity: the cinema will do anything to woo you to get your money, whereas the lacrosse community doesn't just want your money, it wants YOU. The lacrosse community is a formative community. 

Some stuff about this isn't quite the same: rollerblading doesn't need a team, a time keeper, a sausage sizzle.. so there isn't the same parallel that Rory could draw between a lacross team and church rosters. 

But what is similar, is that when your sport is small, you really feel a desire not just to get people to dabble. You want people to engage. I'm more excited by my friend Miranda who regulary rollerblades for fitness, than someone who tells me they have a pair and could do it now and then if they wanted to.

2. 'Persecution'

A need to get the image and the language right because you will be misrepresented by your persecutors

Rollerblading was really hated on the 'cool' subcultures of the 1990s. If you were skating around skateboarders you'd probably hear things like 'fruitboots' and 'rollerfags' and 'What's the hardest thing about rollerblading? Having to tell your mum that you're gay' (which is all interesting in itself, right? How 20 years ago so many insults revolved around a derogatory reference to homosexuality). You were not a 'real' extreme sport, like BMX or skateboarding. You were 'toy' or 'try hard'. It was all easy: they're strapped to your feet, right?

And so on the one hand was a lot of effort to try to improve the image of rollerblading. That's where the term 'aggressive inline skating' came from: to distance what WE did, from the lycra and hypercolour wearing recreational rollerbladers on the boardwalk. We were not fluro-colours recreational 'rollerbladers'... we were  AGGRESSIVE INLINE SKATERS. The videos and magazines of the time modeled a fashion and attitude very similar to skateboarding, and promoting tricks that were serious technical tricks, not goofy stunts.

This was all good stuff. And it is similar to what the church does: the effort to get the words 'right' and to clarify the preconceptions and unfair stereotypes. There really is a place for this. Because you will be misinterpreted by your detractors.

Getting the image right isn't enough: acceptance within a despised community

But in the end it didn't matter how much of this rollerblading did, it was always the loser kid brother of skateboarding. Because, like with Christianity, no matter how cool you look, and how clear you are on what you are and are not... if you are not culturally accepted, you're doomed.

So over time, as the documentary above describes, rollerbladers began to accept they were a despised minority. And with this came a happy sense of belongning: we love what we do, we get it, we love each other. This is the belonging within a subculture, that is very similar to Christianity. And in some ways the very experience of being on the 'outside' became part of the rollerblader narrative.

But the great thing about being part of a small and despised community is that you belong there. I could travel to many places in the world and be welcomed and looked after by rollerbladers. I could probably get personal access to many (all?) of the 'stars' of rollerblading pretty easily. Something about this feels similar to the global family of Christianity.

You might notice that I am using 'rollerblader' more than 'aggressive inline skater'... that's because this is what happened with the terminology. Over time, the aggressive inline community gave up on trying to get the perfect language to distance themselves from other things. They embraced the term 'rollerblader' anew. Besides, this is the term that everyone else understood. Perhaps this is similar to some of the challenges we face as Christians with terms like 'evangelical'?

This sense of being a despised community morphed into simple being an invisible community: a sport so small that no one cared enough even to hate you.

Treatment of other despised sports: welcome others because you know what it feels like

In some quarters there was a hateful backlash against this rejection: rollerbladers would hate skateboarders in return. Tragically there are now some rollerbladers say all sorts of mean things about scooter kids, which is sad. But many know what it's like to be rejected as the new kid on the block and so are quick to defend scooter kids and the younger sport.

Even within the rollerblading community, smallness has often encouraged a broadness. True, there are some who sink deeper and deeper into a kind of Pharasaical nitpicking (is it right to call a savannah grind an alley-oop backside unity?). But I am observing generally more openness. Few can afford to just celebreate 'aggressive' inline skating: instead we rejoice when we see recreational and roller hockey skaters too! And even within the aggressive community, there has been an openness not just to practice the cool, 'canonical' tricks, but also more goofy 'mushroom blading'. 

So also we Christians ought to defend other minority communities and religions, seeking their protection and respect, for we also know the pain of marginalisation. And even though I really think there is a place for a healthy godly 'tribalism' that cares about theological and ministry philosophy distinctives... there is also a reality that we cannot afford to endlessly divide over secondary matters with our brothers and sisters.

3. Post-persecution fascination

By the time I'd come back to the sport in the 2010s, and began turning up at skateparks swarming with scooterkids, rollerblading was no longer despised: it was unknown. And so the younger skateboarders didn't know they were meant to hate us. Instead of being dismissive: 'That's easy, the wheels are stuck to your feet', I've found they've been respectful: 'That's hard! They're stuck to your feet so you can't jump off when you need to bail!'. They see the unique potential that rollerblades have for spins, flips and grinds.

Part of this is also that kids are now growing up with three popular extreme sports: skateboarding, BMX and scooter. Skateboarding no longer has a monopoly, and so this pluralism has fostered openness, I think. (Also interesting is that skateboarding is not doing all that great these days either)

Some of this is increasingly true regarding Christianity on the university campus. Whereas the Gen X media and lawmakers are like old-school skateboarders — very negative and dismissive about Christianity — 18 year old students who have been raised several generations deep in biblical illiteracy are kind of intrigued by it. 

4. Lifestyle industries

You don't do it to get rich, you sacrifice for it because you love it 

You won't get rich making rollerblades, running a rollerblading shop or trying to 'go pro'. From the skaters right through to the manufacturers (except for those companies for whom rollerblades are just a small part of their overall production, like K2) this is a labour of love. A good example is this guy talking about the pressures running a skate shop put on his family:

When we started, I was able to support Gretchen completely through it, we bought a house, lived somewhat comfortably, and were able to travel a lot. Soon after the decline started, I found myself not being able to take a paycheck. I went years without taking one. Gretchen started working 2 jobs so we would have an income, we had really long stressful days. Struggling is probably an understatement. It was very stressful on us both of us, we joke now how cliche it is, but we literally had top ramen days. That’s all we could afford to eat. But, we always had hope for change. Gretchen also never gave up on me, she never quit on my dream. I am very thankful for that. Most girls would have bounced easy, gone. But, she stuck by me. She stuck by rollerblading.
Our storefront was amazing, it was difficult to let go of for sure. I worked there 6 days a week for 5 years straight. No days off, no sick days. We were dedicated for sure.

... Gretchen called me upstairs. I ran up, and she said I need to tell you something, “I’m pregnant.” That seriously put a lot of things in perspective. One second I’m figuring out the spot list for the day, then the next moment I find out I’m going to be a father. It wasn’t about me anymore or my crap, it became all about my son, Elias. Gretchen has sacrificed a lot for blading, and it was my turn to help her out. She has a really good job at Chandler Regional Hospital that provides a stable income, and health insurance. That is really important, so I told her, I’ll step back from the storefront, and focus on being a dad and be at home to take care of Elias and she can keep her job. The timing was right, our lease was up anyways, so I said, let’s close the storefont, and I’ll focus Revolution to be completely online. It made sense.

Sounds a lot like a church planter story! (for another story about a competition organiser see here)You do this because you love and care about it and are giving. 

In that sense, the wider community and industry is similar to Rory's lacrosse example above. Those who stick with rollerblading and get into rollerblading are lifestyle rollerbladers, not just consumers. 

Intersection of different groups to keep rollerblading alive

Like with the Christianity, there is an 'ecosystem' or people and groups that work together to keep rollerblading going... and provide a brittle skeleton upon which any future growth might happen: competition organisers, shop owners, website and magazine editors, podcasters, Facebook Group admins, YouTubers, manufacturers, other companies being generous to skate manufacturers. All of these have their place in keeping the community humming and giving it a chance of living on.

Sure, rollerblading could live on with people scrounging Salvos and Tip Shops for old parts and skates. Sure you could have solitary skaters carrying on almost entirely along. But that wouldn't last long.

So with Christianity: while the local church sits at the centre, there are the publishing companies, websites, conferences, theological colleges, parachurches. It would be naive be too quick to dismiss these different things. 

Investment in the industry to keep rollerblading alive

As I've continued on with rollerblading over the last few years, I feel a new responsibility: to do my little bit not only to promote the sport (see previous point), but also to invest in the sport.

So while I'll probably continue to buy skates of Gumtree to be frugal, I can see the sense in buying new skates to support the manufacturers (in case you were wondering if I were to buy a new pair, I'd get a handmade pair of Adapt Brand skates). If I needed to get a T-shirt anyway, I'm inclined to buy a rollerblading T-shirt, not only to help promote but also to help the company.

Even if I don't feel a strong need to find other rollerbladers in Hobart, I post on the Facebook Group, partly for possible evangelistic contacts (who knows?!), but also to keep the Group humming.

When you stop thinking like a consumer, in rollerblading or in Christianity, you realise that you can play a small part in keeping the whole healthy. You don't just attend or purchase or volunteer because it suits you. My financial support, my purhcases, my attendance, my volunteering: these all put economic petrol in the tank.

5. Promoting the sport and but powerless to seek revival

Is this the year the rollerblading will 'come back'? People often ask? We love our sport and would love to have more people be a part of it. Some of us remember the good things about being a larger sport: for skaters, for shops, for manufacturers. But then again, we also remember the sleazy side of corporate influence, and are kind of relieved to no longer be in the rollerblading equivalent if 'Christendom'.

But what would it take for rollerblading to be 'big again'? Pondering this question brings out plenty of parallels to those seeking revival for the church in the West. And why many 'quick fixes' are painfully naive.

Large cultural factors outside of our control

No matter how good rollerblading advertising is, not matter how much money we pour into exhibition performances and competitions in world cities, not matter how we adjust the look of the skates and fashion of the skaters... none of this could or would trigger a rollerblading revival. They might play a part in keeping the sport alive, and drawing in a few new participatngs. They might play a part in a revival once it gets rolling. But they can't trigger one.

Because the thing is, sport popularity is the confluence of so many factors, from media portrayal to streams of cultural zeitgeist. People around the world are scratching their heads about how to make rollerblading, or lacrosse or European handball or windsurfing more popular. But these sports aren't less popular than soccer because soccer is doing more 'right' in its social media strategy and delegation principles. There are larger forces, all governed ultimately by God's will, which determine these things.

Some sports might have in-built limiting factors (expense, entry-level difficulty, eccentricity). Others, due to their geographical base will struggle for global reach (think: Aussie Rules Football). But even those which have been huge, or by all accounts are fairly indistinguishable from huge sports, and have decent bases in the 'right' countries: these things don't guarantee anything.

I remember when Geneva Push was just starting up, someone came to one of our meetings and said 'People say "church planting movements can't happen in Australia". They are defeatist conservatives. I'm going to prove them wrong.'. Ten years later... nothing much. Turns out the defeatist conservatives were right.

We can't engineer a Christianity revival through church planting, social media, cool Christian music labels, 5Ms structures or whatever else. There are so many forces out of our control... and that is just thinking in terms of God's ordinary providence, leaving aside the need for supernatural intervention.


Instead, the best thing rollerblading can do is just not die. We are almost powerless to bring about a revival. But we can make sure that rollerblading still is a thing, so that it can be revived. So also with the church, while we may not be able to engineer revival, we can persist with a faithful presence: holding a candle and keeping it alight.


And in small ways, there are things I can do to promote the sport, which are strikingly similar to much of the evangelism that I think is most effective in Australia. 

Handing out fliers about rollerblading, holding public exhibition events about rollerblading, or doing walkup rollerblading evangelism at the skatepark wouldn't do much. And could well just irritate

  • Be active: keep skating (keep going to church, reading your Bible, participating in the parachurch group) 
  • Be public about it: Facebook sharing, instagramming, incorporating rollerblading into a blog post on a church planting site. Even just being public as a rollerblader, rather than keeping it to yourself makes it more visible to those around you (the equivalent for Christianity is clear, right?)
  • Be alert to those who express interest: holding forth about rollerblading to someone who is not interested won't do much good. But also be prepared to talk about rollerblading to anyone who asks you. Be ready to engage and woo those who show some keenness ('I used to rollerblade in high school!'). Perhaps bring it up again and draw them in a little more with a cool YouTube clip?
  • Have free stuff: if I weren't a Christian, if rollerblading were a higher priority, I'd definitely keep a swag bag of rollerblades to give to kids at the skatepark who express some interest (so with Christianity: invites to church/Christianity courses, giveaway books, fliers etc?)
  • Set a good example: scooter kids can be absolute twits, and it doesn't really affect the sport because it's in a good place at the moment. But if the only rollerblader in town is an idiot at the skatepark that can really do some damage. So in addition to actually skating well, if I can be Mr Good Vibes at the park, encouraging others with their successes, being friendly and following park etiquette, I won't win people over to rollerblading, but at least I won't turn them off.
  • Invest in the next generation: What's the future of rollerblading? The kids of those who started skating in the 1990s. So me getting me kids on wheels is one of the best things I can do for rollerblading. So also with Christianity: Christian parenting, Sunday schools, youth and AFES ministries are very important.

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Mirrors 20th January 2017

  1. What a hip lady! Alec Baldwin interviews Patti Smith. Among many things, she talks of contentment and family life.
  2. Why you should read multiple books at the same time.
  3. Sassy Wendy's social media manager maverick.
  4. A great article on the great film Finding Dory and not just its portrayal of disability, but of 'disability culture'

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Should we follow the 80% = Full rule for our church meetings?

Dave Jensen started this massive thread in a Facebook Group, by asking:

Is it better to have a room 3/4 full - or actually does it create a better atmosphere, and thus encourage more people to invite their contacts - when the chairs are all being used?

With permission of all participants, I have reposted on sub-thread that I was involved in. Keen to hear your thoughts!

Mike Doyle: that book by that dude that that other dude (Raj) got to come come here from that country (USA I think) suggested that you can think about room capacity in various quarters (as a rule of thumb):

0-25% = uncomfortably empty. Doesn't have critical mass. Feels bad. Won't grow.
25-50% = comfortably empty. Has critical mass. Lots of seats available. But also feels full enough to be energised and a going concern (i.e. - not dead)
50-75% = comfortably full. Feels full, but still room for newcomers. Feels good.
75-100% = uncomfortably full. Too full. Newcomers may come, but won't stay.

The general rule being that - because of capacity issues, a church will stop growing when they reach 50-80% capacity. At some point the regulars feel like it's full, and stop inviting people. And when newcomers come - they feel uncomfortable, too close to other people, and so won't return.

It's all (obviously) fairly rough rule of thumb.

In my own experience - we've stopped growing over the last 3 months. Not quite sure why. Exploring all sorts of issues including capacity, and also basic stuff (like doing better follow up etc)

Dave Jensen:  Yes...the 75%/85% stage has always been what i've been taught. But i'm wondering if anyone has actually seen this in action? I just listened to an interview of Brian Houston where he said they always, always put out less chairs - as a full room feels right - and it looks good to put out more chairs, like a hustle and bustle of growth.

Mike Doyle: I think there's something in that. Certainly in market economies, restricting the availability of a product (seats in church) increases its perceived value. 

Think iPhone releases and other such stuff where supply is limited.

I remember a guy telling us at CBS that the way to increase people coming to our Mid Year Conference was to limit the spaces each year to about 50 below what we think we will get. This will increase demand, and the perception that it's a limited supply item with a huge value.

So I wouldn't write Brian off - I mean - he's done a better job that most of us in filling his auditoriums.

Mick Bullen: Just clarifying: Is Brian's suggestion that we put out 'less' than expected chairs to start... but have good systems in place to put out more as needed in order to create a 'hustle and bustle' kind of effect?

Got a link to that interview - I'd be curious to listen to it.

Dave Jensen: hi Mick - I don't think he specified putting less out - but that he'd rather have less than have more, that putting out extras was a good positive feeling for everyone. I'll find the link... 

CNLP 089: Brian Houston On Hillsong 

Mick Bullen: thanks brother!

Craig Hamilton: Yep, they put out less. Hillsong's event planning team take how many people attended this week last year (if you get me) then minus 10%. That's the number of seats they have out for this week to begin. Fill from the front and put out more/ open aisles/ sections as needed. 

I think it's a good plan.

Dave Jensen: I agree. Needs a fairly intensive ushering plan mind you - not a small cultural change to people used to sitting where they want.

Craig Hamilton: Yeah totally. We're about to launch a culture change strategy to do just that. But you're right, you can't just change it and expect people to come with, because in this they definitely won't  :D

Dave Jensen: Craig Hamilton how are you launching the strategy? Platform, or through other means?

Michael Jensen: How does it work with pews?

Dave Jensen: Michael Jensen curtains/ black sheets.

Craig Hamilton: Other means. 

Michael in their chapel, with fixed pews, they just have one piece of electrical tape at waist height down the aisles with the most friendly ushers and as they need more rows they just pull the tape off, rip it shorter, then stick it back on the next pew back.

Craig Hamilton: PS. part of our issue is the only group dynamics we're familiar with is one-to-one and small group dynamics and so we often apply them to medium and large groups with limited success.

There's been a bit of work done in social psychology on propinquity in recent years that has provided some insights on this stuff too.

Mikey Lynch: You can merge Brian Houston and Gary McIntosh's advice this way:
— have less chairs out at the beginning and keep putting out chairs as people arrive
— once the meeting begins, put out more chairs than needed so late arrivals don't feel it's 'Too full' and during/after the meeting people notice 'there's room to grow'

Mikey Lynch: To rely on 'packed to the rafters' market dynamic assumes a massive momentum that Hillsong had/has. WIthout that gravitational pull, the 'put out less chairs' will just lead to the sociological ceiling that McIntosh describes.

I've definitely seen it in practice. I see it in my own mind when I arrive at a church meeting that 'feels' too full.

Mikey Lynch: Michael Jensen — another thing with pews is that they feel 'full' quicker: I'm more comfortable to be closer to someone when a physical chair is distinct between us. Once we're on a single bench that feels weirder.

Also manspreading and handbagspreading is more common in pews.

Mikey Lynch: Final observation: those from highly compressed living circumstance/reserved social interaction cultures (like East Asian cities) are often happier with a 'fuller' church building than your average Anglo.

Craig Hamilton: Mikey one of the interesting things about this practice at hillsong is they do the same thing at their services of thousands as they do at their services of 50. Now obviously the smaller services still get the halo effect of the mothership's momentum, but can that be the deciding factor? They're adamant that it's not.

Dave Jensen: Putting out chairs as people arrive would be a pretty untidy look. Although potential in the second suggestion - depending on the average arrival time of your congregation. If they all rock up 10 min late then you're in trouble either way.

I'm not sure whether the putting less chairs out is the solution - however I'd be interested in the result of an effective usher/ bollard/ black sheet system - effectively cutting off the back of the church and only allowing seating as each row is full.
Mikey Lynch I'm going to go with church growth experts and personal experience over Hillsong being adamant they are not exceptional.

Mikey Lynch: Dave Jensen one can put out chairs with steez

Dave Jensen: Steez?

Dave Jensen: It's interesting: I was discussing the church growth 85% opinion today with a colleague - and we both agreed that the whole idea "the congregation see no need for church to grow" is actually counter-intuitive. In every other respect you are inspired to invite people to things that are well attended, for atmosphere reasons. If I go to a half full footy match or 3/4 full it's never as much fun as a sell out. Why do we think this is different in church?

Craig Hamilton: Yeah I think that's the thought. 

You know Mikey there would have been a time when I agreed with the expert/ personal experience over hillsong exceptional-ness. But I've changed my mind about that.

Dave Jensen: In fact, from a personal perspective: there is no difference. When I was a parishioner I felt more comfortable Inviting people when it was chockas. Better vibe.

Dave Jensen: Yep. "Church with lots of people" vs "church experts + individual preferences".

Dave Jensen: Craig Hamilton +1

Craig Hamilton: Yeah like obviously there's places where we'll diverge from hillsong, we can only go with them so far. But when it comes to managing people in medium and large groups they pretty much are the experts. From spending time with them my conclusion isn't that they are exceptional, it's that they are intentional. Fanatically so. And it's their fanatic intentionality that makes them exceptional, not the other way around.

Mikey Lynch: I look forward to hearing all about the outcome guys! May God bless it!

Dave Jensen: Craig Hamilton that's v good. In this nieuwolf interview with hhouston he speaks of his hatred of mediocrity. It's a great point.

Mikey Lynch: "And it's their fanatic intentionality that makes them exceptional, not the other way around."

False dichotomy. Andy Murray is fanatically intentional AND exceptional. So also Hillsong.

Craig Hamilton: Haha It is a false dichotomy: it was your dichotomy. You said instead of being intentional like them and doing the intentional practices like them we should ignore those practices because they're exceptional and that's the deciding factor.

My point was that it was both/and. They are exceptional and intentional and one feeds the other. Their exceptionalness isn't a reason to not follow their practices, it's the reason why we actually might.

So you're right! Haha you did set up a false dichotomy  :D

Mikey Lynch: Not quite. What I'm saying is that at this point it's their exceptional qualities at work.

Craig Hamilton: haha not convinced

Robbie Hayes: This is a fantastic thread to read along - some great young guys interacting with all sorts of different traditions and backgrounds, all in a positive but challenging way. Love it!!

 We're trying to set out comfier chairs towards the front as a way of bringing some people forward... seems to be working. We also deliberately put out the back rows later - and at bigger events, cover sections with black fabric. 

Oh and we've made some wall to ceiling curtains that can shrink the size of our church hall by about a quarter on each side, to help with smaller services.

Dave Jensen: Robbie Hayes where those black curtains $$$?

Robbie Hayes: Not really, at least not in pure $. We were blessed in that a member of our congregation volunteered to sew and hem and do all the other sewing related things (that I clearly have no idea about) - that saved us heaps! So we just paid for material (not the greatest quality, but more than does the job), wire and the rings that they run on.

Our next plan is to create another moveable curtain to cover the ugly back storage area of the church, which can be dragged away on the few big occasions when we clear the place for max seating capacity.

Mikey Lynch: I was wondering if I could have the permission of everyone in this sub-thread to repost it on my http://ift.tt/2jt4FMa? If I only get permission from some, I will remove the not-authorised comments  :-)

(Robbie Hayes? Dave Jensen? Craig Hamilton? Mike Doyle? Michael Jensen?)

Michael Jensen: Yep

Robbie Hayes: Sure!

Dave Jensen: 

Craig Hamilton: Yep

Mikey Lynch: Thanks! One catch: in my retelling, Im 6'3", dashing, twice as smart and have lots of Sorkinesque comebacks. And the rest of you are kind of Crabbe and Goyle.

And there are zombies.

Craig Hamilton: That's how I remember it.

Mike Doyle: For whatever I offered - feel free to repost. Remove the swear words first  ;-)

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Mirrors 15th January 2017

  1. Season 4 of the StartUp is especially amazing: it explore the rise and fall (and plan to rise again) of possibly psychopathic entrepreneur Dov Charney, founder of American apparel. Amazing study of power... and how someone can do great good in one area (worker's and immigrant's rights) while do heaps of bad in other areas (sexual harrassment).
  2. So weird listening to a discussion of some of your formative experiences as recent history. A great discussion of the 'Young Reformed and Restless' movement. My twentysomething staff read this recently to grasp what had happened in our church circles just prior to them getting active in ministry.
  3. What goes around comes around. They've made a movie of The Shack. We're going to have to resurrect all the critiques of that again.
  4. My (Mikey's) year in books, TV, movies and podcasts.
  5. Wow. This made me sad. Extremely sophisticated talk about privilege and feminism... but just seemed naive in the end.
  6. Good stuff from Rory Shiner about church scheduling.
  7. A new movie about a gay right activist who became a pretty far right Christian pastor. Most reports suggest that Gus Van Sant is preserve the integrity and ambiguity of the story: not damning the main character, but just presenting his story.

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Re-post: Epiousios = ‘bread for tomorrow’? (from 2007)

I have heard several preachers (including a guy at the recent MTS Challenge conference) argue for a different the meaning of 'Give us each day our daily bread'. Often it is boldly claimed that the verse literally reads 'bread for tomorrow'. What do we think?

  1. Like a lot of claims made from the Greek text, it is a little inaccurate to claim 'oh it literally says this', because a literal word-for-word translation doesn't necessarily convey the phrase's intended meaning in social/literary context.
  2. How much more inaccurate is this claim when this particular word is so rare in ancient literature that Origen could suggest that Matthew and Luke (or Jesus?) coined the word.
  3. It is true that quite a few early commentators interpreted this request in an eschatological way - bread for tomorrow = spiritual bread = foretaste of heaven. But we must be careful with early church exegesis. Sometimes early church commentators can claim a spiritual/eschatological meaning of the text without necessarily denying its immediate literal meaning. See Paul's discussion of Oxen in 1Corinthians 9 as an example.
  4. The Lord's Prayer becomes a very limited prayer if 'daily bread' is interpreted spiritually. It becomes: "God be praised. God's kingdom come. God sustain us spiritually, restore us spiritually and protect us spiritually. Amen". It's possible, but it feels a little narrow.
  5. The prayer is otherwise quite prosaic. It is strange to find a slightly obtuse metaphor in the middle of it.
  6. Eschatological bread is not a really explicit and dominant theme in either Matthew or Luke.
  7. The spiritual importance of daily provisions as we serve God in this life is a dominant concern in Matthew and Luke.

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A believable fiction tale of conversion from Tim Winton

Eyrie is the first Tim Winton book I've read in a while. It's great for lots of reasons. Here's one of them.

I've always felt that portraying religious conversion positively is difficult to do in modern Western fiction. Cultish conversion or hypocritical conversion or tacky conversion: yes. But the kind of genuine and noble conversion that I see and recognise from my own Christian experience: I rarely see it done well.

So I admired this passage:

Forty years of hurt and bafflement and not once had he heard the man [Wally] offer a harsh word about his [the main character, Keely's] father.

He'd only been a boy when things went wobbly between Wally and Nev. In the days when most tradesmen were happy to work for the council or a government works department they'd gone into business together, made a go of it on their own. Just a pair of working-class blokes, they were, but they went hard at it, balls to the wall, and had begun to make some headway. Before Billy Graham and his groupies showed up. Before Nev and Doris went all 'different'. Before Wal was left holding the rag. By all accounts the divergences hadn't been gradual. Not that it was acrimonious, just bewildering. For the Keelys it was a sudden, radical shift, a total explosion of reality. Happened to lots of people those years, often only a momentary enthusiasm, but for Nev and Doris it was deep and lasting. In the wake of their religious conversion they were fundamentally realigned. And even for Wal, who bore the brunt, whose life was overturned in a manner less joyous, it was impressive — even frightening — to witness.

Nev did nothing in half measures. He was an all-out, open-throttle bloke, and in one blinding 'Just As I Am' moment he was letting the dead bury their dead. And the partnership, if not the friendship, was chaff to the winds. He just walked from the business and went out saving souls with Doris. No one could blame Wally for feeling bitter, not after what it cost him to save things singlehandedly and press on. Said it was twice the work and half the fun. He'd survived financially, but without his mate in it with him it was suddenly just work. Nev was lost to Christ. Yet by some miracle of agnostic tolerance the friendship endured. And even if Wal's teeth were gritted he did his best to give Nev his profane and tender blessing....

Oh, the sight of Wal in church. The only time he ever came. Staring up at Nev in the pulpit. Wal's face blank and closed like the ex at the wedding. That's how he'd looked at the graveside, too. Like a man spurned all over again." (p. 121–122)

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