Thursday, September 10, 2020

Why adding - as much as you are able - matters

Whenever someone at a church, or any public gathering, gives physical instructions, there is a powerful addition which should be added...

As far as you are able.

Stand for the prayer...

Raise your hands...

Kneel down...

The reason is simple, it communicates safety and acceptance. 

It allows people to participate as far and long as they are comfortable and capable.

Because churches should be a place where people with any ability are welcomed and included.

So they can stand. Or remain seated if they can’t. Either is ok.

They can raise their hands. Or lower them once they get tired. Either is ok.

They can kneel. Or not. Either is ok.

As long as you add the freeing instruction that they can be included as much as they are able and comfortable.


Thursday, September 3, 2020

Breakdown of a healthy church budget

Between working at four churches and being a part of numerous church consultations, I’ve seen plenty of church budgets.

Usually, they breakdown in similar ways...

45% Operational - The nuts and bolts of church life. Insurance, utilities, admin, maintenance.

35% Staff - Ministers for all ages of life.

15% Missions - Outreach locally, global, personal and institutional.

5% Sinking Fund/Debt repayment.

These rough figures are, of course, dependent upon one thing - property.

Your overheads will be higher with property.

Housing and payment of your minister will vary greatly if you provide a manse.

Having a space you can rent out will dramatically increase the funds available to your church.

But, approximately, these ratios keep a church in a healthy financial position and give a congregation an appropriate idea of how much they can spend on staffing.

If you want to pay your staff an appropriate salary, let’s say 70k for a minister, 40-50k for a full-time worker and 15k for each additional part-time placement, then you can work out the healthy budget required.

From the figures above, a senior minister, youth or children’s minister and an admin assistant would cost around $135,000. In order to spend approximately 35% of your budget on staffing, then you’d need a budget of around 385k.

Alternatively, if you have a total budget of around 200k, then you only have around $70,000 to spend on staff.

Now, you don’t have to stick with these ratios. A church with a quarter of a million dollar budget could outlay 120k, or nearly 50%, of their income on staff.

But, it will come at a cost.

Either, mission funding will be squeezed or the church will be vulnerable to financial pressures.

At times, this can be deemed appropriate or manageable but, long-term, messing with these figures will cause pain for the staff members, treasurer and, ultimately, congregation.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

How much pressure would amnesia add to your gospel presentation?

Over the last few months my small group has been doing a study on evangelism, which triggered a tremendous research proposal.

As far as I can tell, no one has seriously looked into the effects of amnesia upon faith.

Do those who loose their memory also “forget” the gospel?

If so, what would this mean for hardcore Calvinists? Assuming the assurance of election and salvation, this would surely mean that those who were authentically saved, even after their brain injury, would again accept the gospel if/when it was presented to them.

But, imagine the pressure...

You know, in the past, that someone with memory loss has accepted the gospel. Now, you’re going to present it again... 

What if they’re not convinced this time?

Frankly, I would feel like an absolute failure. 

Could you, potentially, tell the person that they have believed this in the past, or would you just start anew? 

Would the first technique be manipulative? 

Would you be extra watchful on their reaction, genuinely knowing, that this is the first time they had heard the story of Jesus?

Christian, or otherwise, I haven’t been able to find any data on the faith retention of amnesia sufferers, but I would be very interested...

Friday, August 21, 2020

The two controversies concerning church mission finances

Whenever a church makes their budget, a tension surrounding missions will linger - geographical and personal.

Do they support local missions or beyond?

Do they support people those they know personally or larger organisations?

The tension - born out of the expanding geographic locals from Acts 1:8 - exists because the mission of God exists on many levels - local, regional and global.

But, like all tensions, they are to be balanced.

And, managing the tension is yet another reason why church treasurers deserve a special place in heaven.


Monday, August 17, 2020

Knowing how the church sausage is made does not make you a good eater

Anyone who has been exposed to the inner workings of an industry has their perception of that industry forever changed.

They know how the sausage is made.

They know the ingredients.

They know the hidden stresses.

They know the pitfalls.

They know the hacks to make things run smoother.


This is true for those who have worked for the church.

And it can poison the way they view church.


For, former sausage makers make for rubbish diners.


I think the problem for former sausage makers is that they struggle to maintain the balance between thinking and feeling.


Those who are unaware of the perils of the kitchen, they are able to enjoy the dinning experience more.

They aren’t interested, never mind looking for, the details which make up a service.

Instead, they are there to enjoy the food.


I think a similar dynamic works for the church.

The challenge for those who have experience in putting church services, worship sets, songs, sound or sermons together, need to find a way to disconnect the logistical element of their brain and, instead, enjoy and experience what is happening before them.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Where are you hearing that from?

 We all hear voices.

Voices which say how well we are going.

Voices which say, frankly, how shit we are.

Everyday we hear their call.


When we, or others, hear the internal small whispers/overwhelming shouts we need to ask ourselves an important question...


Where are the voices coming from?


Are they from inside our head? Is this a message you have developed independently?

Are they fed by those who know us - friends or family?

Are they influenced by strangers - those who don’t know details about you or your past- for example, teachers or those on social media? 

Are they fuelled by the world around you - culture, advertising, music, movies, websites?

Is the voice aligning with what the bible says?


When we examine the source and content of our and others internal dialogue, then we can begin to expose the roots of the messages and expose any miss-truths which may be bouncing around our minds.

Monday, July 27, 2020

What were the results from dozens of appeals?

A little while ago I was in a bible study which was discussing evangelism. During that discussion I realised that I could recall no fewer than 10 gospel presentations off the top of my head.

I realised while wondering about the times, over the decade-plus I was in youth ministry, that a gave a gospel presentation.

Although I’m familiar with two handfuls, I would usually stick with one gospel outline. Unsurprisingly, it’s the one I developed.

But, as a consider my ministry years, I wonder how many responded.

Frankly, I can think of three people I know who, at that moment, made a faith commitment for the first time. I’m aware that there’s around a dozen more who made a decision subsequently to my talk (this is what I usually encouraged people to do).

But, a dozen conversions doesn’t seem like a high strike rate from, I’d guess, around fifty appeals.

Of course, every person matters.
Every decision is both life and heaven changing.

Potentially, lots more people - completely unknown to me - made important steps of faith. Speaking at camps, larger events, school chapel services, scripture classes or at other youth groups would give these results. 

Furthermore, advances or recommitment to faith often go unrecorded and the majority of The young people in my ministry (and those in the congregation) were already believers.

And yet... I have the nagging inclination (which I guess a share with many) that my appeals, far too often, were unfruitful.

Sunday, July 19, 2020

I think it was... who said...

C.S. Lewis
G.K. Chesterton
John Piper
Billy Graham
Jonathan Edwards
A.W. Tozer 
Charles Swindoll
Martin Luther
John Calvin
Constantine
Augustine

“I think it was (insert any of the names above) who said... (now insert whatever wisdom you desire).”

There are people within genres, in the above case Christianity/Christian culture/theology, who hold enough influence and have such a depth of literary content which makes attaching a quote to them both weighty and useless.

I could say they same thing about the historians Herodotus, Xenophon, Livy, Tacitus or Suetonius.

Really, you just need to avoid outright foolishness. After that? You can say whatever your heart desires...

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

The four audiences of a sermon

Whenever someone makes a speech or does a sermon, especially one which is recorded, there are four audiences...

The first is those who are in the mind of the speaker, which the elements of the talk are crafted towards.

Second are those who are physically present when the talk is delivered live.

Third are those who access the talk from a geographic distance, be it through a recording at a later time or electronically live.

Finally, there are those who will be the second generation recipients. These people will hear the content of the talk though the recollection of another.

Each of these audiences need to be kept in mind of the speaker since they influence and are influenced differently.

Obviously the first audience influences the content of the speech. But, it is luck or coincidence if they ever hear the words intended for them.

The second audience is influential because they get the physical traits of the speaker and can, through their reactions, influence the flow of the speaker.

The third audience, while not the primary audience, should remind the speaker that their words travel further than the room they are speaking in and the people they are before. Electronically, their words could live forever.

Finally, the marker of an impactful talk is judged by the fourth audience. Can someone else convey the crux of your talk or display the change you were communicating?

Far too often a speaker, especially if they are giving a sermon in a church, only thinks of the second group. 

If anything, due to Covid, they will now be both increasingly aware of the third audience and better at communication to the electronic ear.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Memories over method

I have just completed by first semester of full time study. It’s my third year of study, but the first one with a full load.

Fortunately, in a covid19 world, increasing my studies was done at the perfect time. No in person lectures or tutorials. No in person exams. 

But, I’m aware that I’m getting further and further away from my time in vocational ministry. 

Obviously, this is how chronological time works.

But, it is also clear from the amount that I blog.

The reason, in part, has to do with the climate the world is in. Due to corona, I haven’t attended a church service in around three months and, frankly, online church isn’t as blog-inspiring as in-person services and bible studies are.

But, another reason I blog less is due to the way I think about ministry and church has changed.

I now think about memories over method.

Sure, method still matters and I’ll recognise when things are askew, but I no longer have an active reason to focus on it.

Now, I think of the past.

I remember people.
I remember the good times.
I regret my mistakes.

Now, the major percentage of my ministry thoughts look back, not forward,

Saturday, May 23, 2020

My first Tiny Bible Bit video

Last week I posted my first video on Tiny Bible Bits.

In reality, it was a devotion I did for the young adults at church, but I also posted it on my other page.

Truthfully?

The message was decent.
The execution was horid.

After doing so many talks in person, I butchered this one on film.

I... Spoke... Soo... Slowly.

I know why.

Usually, when you speak in public, you need to slow your pace down. 

On this occasion, I overcompensated.

And, on camera, the same pace just seemed silly.

So, if you want to watch the video then you're more than welcome to. I think it sends out a pretty good message about the time we are in and the time we are going to enter into.

But, be warned.

It's not my best work.

But, as someone on the young adult church group commented, it did display my strong bookcase game.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Killing the cloak of anonymity

With social distancing restricting people meeting, like many churches, our groups have all gone online.

One of the new initiatives the young adults at church have started is posting an online devotional by one of the members once a week. 

Now, doing a short thought about a bible passage isn’t anything new to me. On Facebook, through Tiny Bible Bits, I’ve been posting a spiel three times a week for years - since October 2011 - equalling roughly 1300 posts.

But, of the 867 people who like the page, only 82 are my friends on Facebook. I assume that many of those 82 remember that I am the author. To the rest of the people, some who interact quite faithfully, I’m a mystery.

They will know a few details about me. 

They will know I’m a Christian.
They will know I’m Australian. 
They will probably know that I’m married and have kids.
They will have picked up that I’ve worked at churches in the past.

But, they couldn’t recognise me in the street.

In a few weeks that may change.

I’m currently wrestling with the option of posting the short video I’ll be making for church.

In reality, it’s not that scary.

But, it will dissolve some of the anonymity I currently have.

People will now know my face.
They will know the sound of my voice, speech impediment and all.

I don’t know if that will be a good thing.

Because, in part, i don’t consider my Tiny Bible Bits as a personal sermonette. It is not about me. 

Due to social media, I am currently just mysterious words on Facebook. 

I wonder, if I change from written content to video - and it will only be a one off - how that will change the dynamics of the post?

Wednesday, April 29, 2020

Why everything must keep touching on the corona

I’m sick of hearing about the ‘rona.

Maybe you are also.

I’m sick of writing about the ‘rona.

Yet, here I am doing it again.

For weeks, every Tiny Bible Bit has been linked to the virus or connected to lockdown.

Frankly, for me, my world hasn’t changed that much.

Sure, my eldest isn’t at school, but my ex is at home from work and, for the last fortnight, Hanna would have been on school holidays anyway.

Work wise, I’m busier than normal, being given additional work/tasks. In this way I’m very fortunate.

My study, which has always been done via distance, has only had a workload increased because I’m now doing a full-time study schedule.

While it’s inconvenient that my gym is shut, it’s not that bad and my church/small group interactions have now moved online.

So, why am I continually stuck in this coronavirus content loop?

Because this is the context the world is in. And, like it or not, this is the world that faith is currently being lived out.

It would be inappropriate and insensitive to ignore it.
It would be foolish to not learn the lessons from it.
It would be silly to produce nothing, depriving yourself of the reminiscing of, what is, a historical time.

While it seems that everything we produce at the moment, even incidentally, will connect with the pandemic, we must remain mindful that for some - many even - wading through our unprecedented predicament is a weight they need help bearing.

Everyone is not as fortunate as me.

And, frankly, not doing vocational ministry at this moment isn’t something I’m regretting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Remember the percentage of your life calendar

If you live into your mid-eighties, which is approximately life expectancy, then you’d live for around 1000 months.

Today I heard someone on a podcast, when talking about a significant event, mention the place it fell within their life calendar.

I like the concept of having a life calendar.

I’m a fan because this viewpoint can give you important perspective.

For example, your years of schooling - 13 years - on your life calendar, take up 8 weeks of an annual life calendar.

A university degree encases around 3 weeks.

In light of current world events, when viewed upon the framework of an annual life calendar, we are in the midst of a bad week.

When it comes to calamities, how would we view them if we transferred our problems to a life calendar perspective?

Do we, in our current life, think that our life will be irreversibly damaged due to one bad week?

Do we imagine that things will never improve?

Do we, in the middle of a busy month of life, think that their won’t be rest or a payoff at the end?

When we remember that current events, which seem large at the time, are relatively small when viewed against our life calendar then this perspective can help us get through and see that there’s a lot more living to do on the other side.

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Where should we place our sins?

With Easter being here, I figure that now would be a good time to post about sin and the cross.

Why do we say that we are placing our sin “at the foot” of the cross?

Surely, we should be putting our sin UPON the cross.
Or UPON Jesus.

Theologically, this is far more accurate.

As a metaphor, we can come forward to the front to leave things at the base of the cross, but this, in most cases can be just as well represented by attaching it to the cross.

I know, it’s not the most pressing matter in a Coronavirus world, but I’d always wondered why we stick with placing things at the foot of the cross when, in reality, this isn’t where they belong.

Friday, April 3, 2020

Who is the blackest sheep?

Who is the black sheep of the family???

When we usually refer to the pariah of a family it normally has something to do with a long-standing disagreement, moral failing or extended douchery.

But I wonder, when one member of a family has a different spiritual position to everyone else, who suffers most?

Is it the believer or the atheist?

Is it harder to be an atheist in a Christian household or a lone believer in a family of atheists or agnostics?

Who is treated more like the black sheep?

Who misses out more?

I suspect, frankly, it may be the atheist amongst believers.

They are, or could be, excluded from major religious gatherings, which happen to also coincide with the secular holiday periods.

They, potentially, will feel judged - Especially if they publicly left the faith.

For those who are children of ministers, their actions will, by some, be a reflection upon the parent as a family leader and spiritual guide.

It doesn’t really happen in the reverse way. This was my experience.

Families aren’t really judged if their child, cults aside, become religious.

Holidays look and feel much the same if these’s only one religious observant person.

In a time when we may be too quick to play the “persecution card,” I wonder if a “persecuted” believer considers what it may look like being in the opposite position?

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Do you think about the REAL future of the tomb?

I was always under the impression that Jesus was placed in the tomb OF Joseph of Arimathea. According to the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, I am wrong.

It turns out that Jesus arranged to receive the body of Jesus from the cross and placed him in a tomb which he arranged.

there’s nothing to indicate that Jesus was placed in the tomb labelled J Arimathea.

Nonetheless, I wonder what happened to the tomb after the resurrection of Jesus.

Was it used again?

Depending what you think of first-century burial rituals, after a while the bones from the tomb would be relocated into a collective family burial site.

Thus, it was routine for tombs to be recycled.

So, does this mean that the tomb that Joseph arranged was reused?

I ask because, on occasions, we elevate the nature of the physical tomb.

It is eternally empty...
The stone is always rolled away...

Romantically, we sing out these words.

But, chances are, they are incorrect.

Sure, it isn’t the most important theological point, but I wonder what it says about the way we mythicise biblical events.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Can celebrating the past show our one-ness?

Ephesians 4:3-6 - Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirt through the bond of peace. There is one baby and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One.

I wonder, in light of this passage, how should this shape the way Christian denominations treat each other’s practices.

I can think of numerous practical reasons churches have split. When I say this, I’m not referring to elements of belief - even though these will affect our practices - but the activities we do and the way we do them,

Baptism.
Communion.
Church governance.

These are the trinity of division.

We have split over the age and method of baptism.
We have split over the frequency, elements and significance of communion.
We have split over the eligibility, authority and longevity of leadership.

But, we are meant to be one.

So, do we show this in our practice?

Do we acknowledge the faith practices of other denominations? 
Or do we belittle them?

Do we insist that things are done “our way?”
Do we insist that they are done the “right way?”

I’ve been baptised, confirmed and married - twice.

Each of these things in my past can be challenged, even discredited, by those of different denominations.

I wonder, what message the church would send about the overriding unity we have in Christ if we openly acknowledge, celebrate even (!), the meaningful steps of someone’s faith journey in the past, just done within the tent of another denomination?

Friday, March 20, 2020

Are you with me? Do I really want you to answer?

I haven’t been at a church where the preacher regularly asks the congregation for affirmation that they are “with them.”

I am now.

I wonder how sincere the question is.

In the past, I think I’ve only used the enquiry when trying to describe a concept I’m probably doing a rubbish job of communication, like the Trinity. 

But now, every sermon I hear is punctuation with the question “Are you with me?”

I wonder, what if I’m not?
What if the congregation isn’t?

Would the preacher be prepared to describe the point again? 
Could they explain it in a different or simpler way? 
If they could do the later, why would they not have done that the first time?

Furthermore, how many people would need to respond no for a redo to be instigated?

Then again, that’s the danger of putting the question out there from the pulpit...

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Why you should send the words of your prayer

I’ll share with you the biggest lie that christians tell each other... 

I’ll pray for you.

Truth be told, you probably won’t. 

Life is busy.
You have your own problems.

Forgetting to pray for someone isn’t an act or malice. Usually, it’s merely due to forgetfulness or as an avenue to show care for someone else, but commit a short timeframe.

Frankly, we can and should do better. 

One effective way to convey the concern we have for others and show someone we are actually praying for them is the following...

Show them the words.

Send them the prayer you pray.
Let them know what specifically you prayed for.

Aside from showing the person that you’ve actually kept your word, this can also be a source of encouragement for the immediate timeframe and, by the physical keepsake, an encouragement for the future.

When the person holds the words you pray, these can be really impactful.