Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Why you should put a bunch of faces with a church notice

Church notices are a nessesarily nuisance in churches. Hopefully, they are kept relevant and punchy in order no minimise the disruption of a church service.

The best notices, aside from being applicable to an important chunk of the congregation and encompassing a short timeframe, also include faces.

For, notices shouldn't happen in a vacuum.

Why?

Because ministry doesn't happen in isolation.
Ministry involves people.

So, notices should, ideally, have an invitation for all those who are involved in the ministry activity, if comfortable to do so, to make themselves known.

The reasons are simple.

It gives any enquirer more people to speak with. This is advantageous if the up-front speaker is occupied or, for whatever reason, someone doesn't feel comfortable to speak with.

Furthermore, if the participants of a ministry reveal themselves then it further displays what the activity is like. You instantly get an idea of what age group or life stage, if applicable, who attend/help out.

Finally, from a purely self conscious perspective, lifting the veil of annonomous attendees dissipates the fear that being included would be unpopular. After all, who wants to be involved if you're the only one you know?

When it comes to church notices, relationships are golden. 

The best way to open conversations about a ministry is to nudge those involved out of the shadows.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The divorce post

Yesterday, after more than a year of separation, six months counselling, thrashing out a parenting agreement and letting lots of water go under the proverbial bridge, I got divorced. 

Officially.

That might, if you don’t know me personally, come as a surprise.

But, when everything hit the fan and this started adversely affecting my eldest, it was the best move to make.

Of course, there’s more to the story, but for the most part, my ex and I are amicable, ended up filing for divorce jointly and are both now in new relationships.

So, what does this mean?

Does it trash everything I’ve every thought about marriage or discredit everything I’ve ever written about marriage? I don’t think so. Most of my thoughts on the significance of marriage weren’t based on the success of my own. The majority of it, I hope, was grounded in the bible and, if anything, based on marriages around me, healthy or otherwise.

So, what were the results of this whole messy process?

While my separation started after I left my last ministry position, from the moment it became fairly clear that we would be heading towards the direction of divorce I stepped away from ministry completely, including the intermittent preaching I was doing.

Honestly, that was hard. It still is. I miss a lot of things about vocational ministry.

I’ve lead one bible study over the last year. Nothing else.

Which brings me to church...

Currently, I attend two churches. One with my daughters, another in the evenings when I'm not with my girls.

Speaking of which... What does this mean for my family?

While not living with my daughters 24/7, I'm with them as much, if not more, than when I was in ministry - dropping them off to school twice a week, picking them up two or three days alongside staying over and having complete care every second weekend.

While not ideal, we're making parenting work as best as we can.

What does this mean for my faith? 

Unsurprisingly, it's been tough, but God and I are doing ok.

I've needed to be reminded that, even in my brokenness, God has and does not change. He is still faithful. He is still true. 

Just as much as a decade ago. Or two years ago.

My worth does not depend on what I do, or try to be a part of, for God.

Will I be stepping back into ministry?

Probably not. At least not professionally. Or at least not for a long, long time. Stepping away from ministry has, in many ways, been refreshing.

Training to become a teacher part time, while juggling everything else, has been a welcome change.

Finally, what does this mean for this blog?

In short, from my perspective, not a lot.

I'll still write my Ramblings since, in part, they are for me. They help me process. They help me declutter. They, ever so slightly, keep my mind for God sharp.

Will you continue to read, now knowing that I'm divorced? I don't know. That's your call.

But, one lesson that's been unravelling, and still has a long way to go, has been my change of standing in the church.

I was sitting on a golden ticket.
Young.
Married.
Kids.
In ministry.

Now...
I'm a problem.
I'm someone you need to wonder about.
I'm a marker of your values of "welcoming" and "inclusiveness."
I'm a person where your preaching of grace is on display.

Frankly, being officially divorced for a grand total of one day, I don't know what that means going forward, but I'm as sure now, as ever, that God loves broken people, He remains beside failures, He can and does still use those who are difficult or messy.

For years, I told others this.
For years, I wanted churches and ministries to reflect this.

Now... This includes me too.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thanks for what I didn't do...

ACTS - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplementation.
SPIT - Sorry, Please, I love you, Thanks.
FULLTILT - Focus, Up, Lay it on the Line, Lap it up, Thanks, I want/need, Listen, Travel.

No matter what method you favour, prayer is a common topic wrestled with by Christians.

Often, we wonder what we need to do or what we should include.

One element which rarely gets a mention, but could drastically transform the way we see our times of prayer, are the things we did NOT do.

All too often, the above statement would be interpreted negatively.

We didn't help others.
We didn't show mercy.
We didn't act lovingly.

But, what about the times we didn't sin?
What about the times we successfully resisted that habitual failing?
What about the times we walked away from gossip?

How would our prayers sound if we celebrated these moments?
Would our spiritual self esteem look better?
Would we draw greater encouragement to resist temptation if we intentionally looked back on the times we were successful in thwarting sins' snares?

When we asked for praise points, why don't we share what we could have easily done, but, with the help of the Holy Spirit, didn't?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Does being small or fat affect youth ministers or teachers?

While I'm no Goliath, I'm the average 6-foot, 70-kilo/130-pound guy.

In high school, I was a shrimp - not truely hitting my growth spurt till I'd graduated - with big friends. While I was ostracised to the front row in school photos, those in the back row were giants.

As a result of my physique, while I might not be the biggest guy in the room, I can't think of an occasion when I've been physically intimidated in a youth group or scripture class.

But, then again, I'm not a petite 5-foot woman.

When faced with a class where half could tower over you, are you aware of it? Does it affect the way you discipline?

When it comes to youth groups which play games, is it intimidating? Are you aware of the size difference when having difficult conversations?

As an average bloke, these thoughts almost never go through my mind.
If things ever got out of hand, I was confident that I'd be ok.

Additionally, I've always been fairly slim.

If you were of a larger carriage/obese/fat (select whichever term you want), would that be in your mind?

Would you be self conscious in front of students?
Would you be afraid that you were being made fun of (which we did to some of our teachers at school)?

At worst, in starting to lose my hair and have a broken nose. These issues don't plague me (at least outwardly!).

But, I wonder, what role does physical stature play in the role of youth ministers or teachers?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Post-Plebiscite ponderings - The church

The world didn't end.
The sky didn't fall in.
Armageddon wasn't unleashed.

During the week the campaign for approving Same Sex Marriage was successful in the marriage postal plebiscite.

So, since the end-times weren't unleashed, what does this mean for the church?

To start, it's a clear statement, if we needed one, that the church no longer owns marriage. If it ever did, the tradition of matrimony now, primarily, resides outsides the churches walls.

Second, this should open up loads of discussions.
And, hopefully, ministry opportunities.

Some churches, and specific ministers, will become known for allowing their buildings to be used for gay weddings or officiating the ceremonies. During that process the church can show the grace and love of Christ and share some of the imagery pointed to by marriage.

Additionally, I'd hope that churches and ministers who are still against gay marriage will be humble enough to point perspective couples to those who will, in faithful conscience, perform the ceremony.

This leads to my third point. This vote allows, in the main, for the church to be grateful losers. We can show that we will accept governmental decisions which we might not completely endorse.

For many, the image of a humble church will be a refreshing, even somewhat healing, change.

Finally, the church, as she always has, should continue to preach the gospel of Jesus. He came, taught, died and rose again for everyone, no matter their sexuality or marital status. No matter how this vote was going to pan out, Jesus is still Lord. He is still soverighn. He is still faithful. He is still good.

At the core, the churches message shouldn't change.

It's up to the people within the church, as it always has been, for the gospel to be spread, conversation to be had, grace extended, mercy and compassion shown and ministry opportunities utilised.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Post-Plebiscite ponderings

61-39... Close enough to the 60-40 I predicted last night.

As of 10ish this morning, the results of the Same Sex Marriage plebiscite came through in favour of the affirmative.

Last night, in all my ponderings, I didn't mention two things.

The first, while I mentioned that the topic of SSM won't be resolved immediately, it should remain clearly stated that this result actually guarantees nothing.

All that happens now is a free vote in parliament. Nothing more.

The parliament should follow the will of the people, but they aren't compelled to. 

As for the numbers, while 3 out of 10 voted against, when compared with our elections, usually over 45% of people voted in an alternative way than the winner. 

After an election, we can move on. After this result, surely the same can happen.

Furthermore, any legislation which is passed can be under serious challenge due to the current controversy surrounding the constitutional legality of the make up of the current government.

Second, in all my half-baked opinions, I realise I haven't mentioned the church. I'll do that tomorrow - stay tuned.

In the end, when I woke up this morning, I wondered what it would be like to be gay and wondering what today held.

Truthfully, I was bothered.

I was bothered that my future was placed in the hands of others complete strangers.

People who didn't know me...
Who will, most likely, never meet me...
People, potentially, influenced by some of the things I pondered about yesterday, which are completely out of my control...

I hope, again, without telling you how I voted, that now the nation can begin to move on. 

For, today, no matter which box people ticked, Australian society began to change.



Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Plebiscite Ponderings

In around 10 hours Australia will have the result of the postal plebiscite concerning same sex marriage which, seemingly, as been going on... Forever.

When this massive, and incredablly expensive, undertaking was announced there were fears that the debate would be ugly. And, while the exercise has been drawn out, generally, the whole exercise hasn't left the nation in a smouldering heap.

But the plebiscite has brought a few things to my attention.

First, like with any issue, there have been idiots, nut-jobs and crazies on both sides. As per usual, they have been the loudest voices at the table and the ones who have garnered the most attention. 

Second, I've been concerned with the personalisation of industry. QANTAS, Coke, ANZ, the Australian Medical Association, universities, the AFL and the NRL all took very public 'yes' stances. They were not alone. Nearly every industry and sporting organisation was touched by rainbow support.

This concerned me since, seemingly, their stance insinuated that their entire corporation was in support of 'yes.' Frankly, this could not go the case and I wonder how this affected those against SSM, for whatever reason, within these brands. Could they speak out? Were they annoyed that they, potentially, were misrepresented? Is it proper for a business to back a political or social agenda? If so, they why don't the same companies publicly announce their positions on abortion or euthanasia? Will they back a candidate or political party at the next election? I think not.

Furthermore, this support for the 'yes' vote reached into politics, with both leaders of the political divide encouraging people to cast affirmative ballots and the Lord Mayor of Sydney using thousands of dollars of public funds to decorate the city centre rainbow. Once more, did this ostracise those on the no side of the ledger? Was this appropriate use of taxpayer funds or time of public officials?

And this raises my third concern, where was the public 'no' support? From the start of the plebiscite, it was announced that no advertising companies would produce or run ads for the 'no' campaign. No company came out against the idea. Outside of politicians, very few public figures said they were against SSM. While TV stars, entire programs, radio stations and hosts were quite vocally affirmative, I wonder how many were forced to remain closeted in their alternate view?

Why would they speak up? Look what happened to Israel Falou and Margaret Court. They, for religious reasons, publicly (and fairly respectfully) said they would vote no and they were slammed, shamed, ridiculed and ostracised. 

This didn't seem like open, fair debate.

Beyond this, it seemed that everyone just retreated into their conclaves in order to hear the echo chamber of their position. Very few genuine public debates were had, if any.

As often happens, those on the opposite side of the argument were labelled bigots and intolerant or anarchists and liberals. 

Far too many people were prepared to 'play the man, not the ball.' They were open to criticise the character of a person, not their arguments.

And, from either side, I didn't hear many positive arguments. I heard lots of scare campaigns. A bit of progressive witch hunting. Some warnings of a slippery slope. A dash of eye-rolling at conservatives.

I didn't see or hear much engagement.

If anything, I think the 'yes' campaign lost more votes, in some ways, than it gained. Via the more militant, aggressive arms of their argument, I believe they nudged a sizeable chunk away from their cause. The Australian tendency to push back, or even do the opposite to the desired outcome of a bully - just to 'stick it up them' may have swollen the numbers in the 'no' camp.

From this standpoint, advocating for prompt return of ballot papers, was a step in the right direction for the affirmative case since it restricted the chance of people changing their minds to, I suspect, a 'no.'

With, reportedly, the response rate being just shy of 80%, it has been shown that, as a nation, we do care about a political question that we find interesting and, again, as a nation, we could move towards either non-compulsory voting or postal elections.

Now, no I won't tell you which box I put an X in.

But, I do have a two predictions

First, I suspect that the vote will come back 'yes,' but it will not be a landslide... I'm guessing around 60-40. If anything, this plebiscite will be a reminder, on SSM, exactly how divided we are.

Second, this issues won't be resolved soon. 

If the answer is 'yes' then the ramifications for religious and conscientious objectors must be secured (an increasing point of conjecture and motivator for some 'no' devotees) and laws ammended. 

If the result is 'no,' while it might kill the issue politically for a generation, I can't imagine the 'yes' supporters will accept the decision. They will question and challenge everything about the plebiscite and its outcome.

I'm not convinced, either way it plans out, that the 'losers' will drift quietly into the night.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Avoiding church nepotism

In general, unless they turn into Satan-worshipping-hedonistic-prodigals, minister's kids are awesome.

I've loved having minister's kids involved in the churches and ministries I've been a part of.

They are talented.
They are invested.
They are... Always around when you need them.

But, this leaves a lot of churches open to the charge of nepotism.

If the minister's kids are in the band...
Or leading at youth group...
Or heading up the children's ministry...
Or taking over when the minister retires...
A tinge of nepotism can exists. 

The minister, even subconsciously, can favour their offspring.

But, how is ecclesiastical nepotism avoided?

In short, if the minister is the sole decision maker, you won't. 

So, as a rule, a minister should never be the one selecting their child. 
Someone else does.

Or, the minister doesn't select their children's involvement in isolation.

For, as talented, faithful and Spirit-driven a minister's kid might be, human nature will make people's mind wander towards genealogical favouritism.

As a minister, they should want to avoided this.
And, for a minister's kid, the accusation of nepotism should be something they never need to answer or wonder about in their minds.  


Monday, November 6, 2017

The questions in a bible study everyone dreads, but needs to hear

Aside from building community and "doing life" together, bible study should be about developing a fuller understand of the bible and how it applies to our lives.

With this aim in mind, two questions which should be freely asked when someone raises an opinion and, if rightly and appropriately challenged, are the following...

How has your thinking changed?
Now what?

When you've discovered something new, you need to hear these questions...
When you've had your mindset tweaked, you need to be asked these questions...

As satisfying as dropping a nugget of wisdom on someone might be, your job of imparting wisdom isn't complete until the person has sat with something a few minutes and then been asked these two questions...

The only trouble is, once you start asking these important questions then those who discover something new can begin to dread their posing since, it's only once they're asked that the true growth and discipleship commence.


Thursday, November 2, 2017

Open invites to every event?

I'm under the illusion that I've always, more or less, been a part of the "cool" group at church. Being on staff has usually helped.

As a result, I've fairly regularly gone out to dinner/the movies/the pub after church.

But, I've been wondering about these informal events.

Should they, if a church is to be truely welcoming, be open for everyone?
Should these events, periodically, be made public?
Should they, if organised before the end of the service, be announced during church or at the conclusion?

The reason I ask is because it's within these informal gathers that cliques are born and reinforced.
It's within this "time of fellowship" that the mindset of "us" and "them" is fed.

Of course, the danger is that new people will want to be involved or, worse still, that a newbie might not like members of the congregation outside of the pews... But, surely that's the price if you're going to be truely inclusive.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Are periods or mental illness too offensive for Facebook?

Last wast week I posted a Tiny Bible Bit, which you can read below and it was fairly popular, so Facebook told me, performing better that 95% of my posts.

So, I decided to fork out a few dollars and pay for the post to go to a wider audience.

And... It was rejected by Facebook.

Take a read of the post below and then guess why...

Mark 5:25-26 - And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse.

Periods.
I'm not talking about punctuation.
The other one.

For some of you reading this, they will just be a part of your life. For others, they will be quite foreign.

If you search YouTube for people, primarily men (unsurprisingly!), being clueless about the menstrual cycle then you'll be inundated with results.

I'm guessing, in the first century, the knowledge men held about the female anatomy, never mind the condition suffered by the woman who approached Jesus, was just as foreign.

As a woman, she was an outsider.
With her condition, she was an outcast.
As a patient, she was a mystery.

As a person, before Jesus, she was important enough to stop for and heal.

What might be an equivalent, misunderstood, condition today?
Depression?
Bipolar disorder?

No matter what it might be, remember that those we misunderstand, shun or avoid are welcomed by Jesus. 
They are important enough for Him to stop for.
They are significant enough for Him to transform.

Perhaps we should be more open to engage with those with mental illness because they are the very people reaching out for Jesus.

To quote Facebook "Your advert wasn't approved because it doesn't follow our advertising policies, which apply to an advert's content, its audience and the destination it links to. We don't allow advert's that use profanity, or refer to viewers attributes (eg race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation, name) or harass viewers.

So, why do you think I was rejected?

Is the word period profane?
Is the mesural cycle offensive?
Did I offend clueless men?
Is mental illness a taboo topic?

I don't know, but it seemed to strike a cord for quite a few, and (in a slice of irony I find funny) especially liked by women.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

What to do about the person who MUST answer every question

Some people are super extroverted. 
Few of them reside in churches. 
But they do exist.

And some people are super-charged bible study extroverts.

They feel the need to answer every question... Usually first.
They have an innate drive to add a comment... Even if it occurs prior to fully engaging their brain.

I've been in bible studies with these people.
I've lead bible studies with these people.
I've overseen youth ministries which have included, both as participants and leaders, these people.

At times they are wonderful.
They stimulate discussion.
They keep the study progressing.
They, usually, far exceede silence.

But, they can also, unhelpfully, dominate.
They can be a distraction.
They can steal the train of thought of others or deprive them of feeling that they need to contribute.

So, what do you do with the always-answering extrovert?

As the youth minister, if a leader was dominating their group then I just asked them to slow down. Count to ten before you answer. Intentionally wait for someone else to respond first for every second question. 

As a leader, if a participant is overpowering others giving their input, then there's a few simple things you can do. 

First, you can split people into pairs and ask them to talk about the question, then, intentionally, don't ask for mr/mrs talkalot pairing to respond first.

Second, similar to the first option, you could specifically ask for an induvidual to respond first, or a type of induvidual (such as gender or life stage).

But, always remember, any group should be welcome and enclusive for all. Even those who love to chatter away.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Celebrate the story of the church sleeper

I've done it a few times.
From the back of the church, I've seen the telltale head bobble.
From the front of the servie, it hasn't gone unnoticed.

Given enough time and life stages, everyone will almost drift off to sleep during church.

Kids are tiring.
Jobs are tiring.
Study is tiring.
Modern life is tiring.

One danger is to judge those who are evidently fighting against the sleep monster during church.

I think there's a better response.

Celebrate the sleeper.
Pray for the sleeper.

Why?

Because, chances are, you don't know the story of why they are tired... EXCEPT that, even in their tiredness, they turned up to church.

So, celebrate that the mother with the sick or restless baby turned up.
Celebrate that the student who had to stay up late to finish the assignment turned up.
Celebrate that the middle aged man, when things are really stressful at work, still turned up.

For, it shows, that for them, even in their tiredness, church still mattered.
It shows, even with their tiredness, that they dragged themselves out of bed, because church attendance matters.

This should be celebrated.

Because, one day, it will be you.

And, like them, you'll have the choice about turning up to church. 

And, if you don't judge them, then your church might become somewhere where you'd be more likely to get dress and turn up while exhausted.

What would you rather... The church sleeper stayed home?

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Should you utilise the church spy?

During my ministry career I switched churches on three occasions. 
Over the last two decades I've seen around a dozen ministry agents come and go - both as a congregation member and as the only other staff member.

In ministry, people transition.
Additionally, in ministry, people know many others within churches.

My pondering is about church spies. 
Should you use them?

Should a prospective or incoming minister "get the goss" on the new church or secure the "inside word" on where they are going?
Should they, like I did at times, chat to the outgoing ministry agent?
Should they, innocently or not, connect with a member of the congregation?
Should they check the responses the interview panel gave with the real "lay of the land?"

As a professional, it makes perfect sense to go in with as much information as possible.

But, do you threaten to poison the well before you arrive?
Do you expose yourself to unhelpful, or even untrue, preconceived ideas?
Shouldn't those in a new church deserve, more or less, a clean slate with an incoming minister?

Frankly, I rathered going into a place with my eyes open.

But, interacting with someone - be it the church council chair, treasures, secretary, lay leader, church gatekeeper, or ill-regular attendee - might work better if you don't go in wearing the lenses of your church mole.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Our problem is not the cost of living

As a resident of Sydney, I live in one of the most expensive places on the entire globe. On top of that, I live in one of the wealthier parts of the city.

Now, under no circumstances am I obscenely rich, but in the lottery of birthplaces, I lucked out.

This morning at church I was having a chat with a few, similar to me, parents of young kids.

It was noted, as privileged as we all are, we don't really compare to some of our neighbours.

As someone who reads gas meters across properties in Sydney, I see some truely incredible units and houses. 

My lifestyle doesn't even compare.

One of the parents at church observed, wisely, that the real expense in Sydney (one mirrored in much of the West) isn't the basic cost of living.

Our problems are driven by the cost of want.

Our wants are expensive.
Our wants keep us in debt.
Our wants ensure that we always need to work longer and earn more.

Food. Water. Shelter. Basic comfort.
For many of us, with hard work, these are within reach.

Our wants, especially in a keeping-up-with-the-Jones'/projecting-a-perfectly-filtered-life-on-social-media culture, are the genesis for our obsession with money and the basis which leads us towards currency idolatry.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Mourning the hymn book

It occurred to me last Sunday, now that I've moved away from my home denomination, that there will be something which, potentially, I'll never have to use again.


A hymn book.


Now, admittedly, if I stayed in my denomination, choosing a church which had more relaxed services or solely going church in the evening, I could still have avoided the songbook, but now that I've made the denominational turn, I can now go years without a hymn book in my hand.


And... I'm going to miss it.


Not always.


But, sometimes.


Why?


Because, chances are, I won't sing the familiar hymns that the oldies loved.
I won't sing the trusted hymns that I'd turn to when leading a morning service.
No longer may I sing songs rich with hymn-depth theology.


And this comes with an element of sadness.


For, with all its faults, I grew up in a hymn book church.
My maturity as a Christian was marked by attending a service that sung hymns.
I worked in churches full of people who loved and cherished the hymn book. 
I still, at times, have hymns that randomly pop into my head or are triggered by something in church.


Really, last Sunday, I mourned a part of my tradition that has now slipped by...

Saturday, September 23, 2017

When and why to set things right once you've made a preaching mistake

Preachers make mistakes in every sermon. Usually, they will be mistakes in delivery. Hopefully, on only the rarest of occasions, they make a factual error.

Sometimes these will slip harmlessly by because they're obscure or inconsequential.

At other times these goofs will be fairly obvious or pointed out due to someone in the congregation being more knowable about a topic than the preacher.

My most public error was at bible college when I used the name of the wrong King during a preaching assignment. 

So, how should a situation like this be handled?
Should a correction be made, and if so, how should it be done? 
Need it involve an apology?
Does the medium of the correction matter?
If there's a correction, what message does this send to the congregation?

Ideally, the mistake isn't a major point of theology - like you've said that there's four in the trinity or you're saved by good deeds - so no ones salvation is in jeopardy of their image of God clouded.

In these extreme cases the correction must be made, publicly, ASAP. If possible you should communicate on the next level up from how you first communicated. If the error wasn't in person, then you should seek to make personal contact, increasingly directly depending on the first medium.

If the point is minor, then I think it can be addressed as widely as the platform you've used. If your mistake was heard purely in the ears of those present, then a simple email blast can suffice. If the transgression went out online, then social media might be the best avenue for clarification.

All that needs to be communicated is what you said, the facts, and a quick apology. No harm, no foul.

But, should you then address it the next time you speak/write?

I can't see why not. If it's just a two sentence correction then it won't take up too much time, but can also communicate a powerful message.

You're not perfect.
You make mistakes.
You're open to correction.

This is especially powerful if you're able to openly acknowledge that a member of the congregation was the one who pointed you in the right direction.

An admittance of your error and apology, even quickly, is both deeply humbling for the speaker and receiver. These words show that the leader is just as infallible, correctable and prepared to be vulnerable before everyone as they humble themselves, with grace offered by those who, themselves, aren't above reproach,

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

How we develop our theology and ethics

With Australia currently going through the tribulations of a same sex marriage plebiscite, the topic is everywhere. 

E-v-e-r-y-w-h-e-r-e.

I cast my vote today, but, as yet, I won't tell you which box I ticked (I'll do that when the voting closes and even share which way I think the survey will go).

As I've been considering my vote, watching and listening to people on both sides of the subject and thinking about how people engage in healthy debate, it's become clear that we must keep in mind the most important thing in dealing with topics of theology or ethics.

How and why do people come up with the things they believe.

Fortunately, I'm not the first to wrestle with this issue.

John Wesley, when pondering how people developed their theology, developed the paradigm of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral.

In short, when trying to establish what we believe, we put a topic through the filters of scripture, tradition, experience and reason.

When faced with an ethical or theological quandary we weigh it up against our source of truth - be it the bible, Koran, Dawkins or science textbook - cultural and personal history - including family, social circles and structures - and our intellect/logic.

When we consider how these four things influence what we believe and how they might affect the worldviews of others, then we can be in a place to have a respectful and empathetic depiscussion, even if we're in disagreement.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

In the common shadows of the Reformation divide

Last Sunday morning I went to the first communion of my niece. Accompanied by my five year old, I knew going in that things would be different to what we were used to.

The whole service reminded me of the difference between the rugby codes.

For, while I follow both rugby league and rugby union, I know others who only follow one.

And, if they only follow rugby league, then, frankly, they are lost at times.

At times, on Sunday, I was a little lost.

I didn't know the responses.
I was unsure when to stand.
As was noticed by my five year old, the building was quite different (she liked the pictures of the stations of the cross and the colourful statue of Jesus).

But, also, plenty of things were familiar.

They spoke about Jesus. 
They spoke about forgiveness.
They spoke about reconciliation.

Similar to both rugby codes sharing the dimensions of the field, ball, tries and aim to score the most points, both sides of the Reformation share core things.

Sure, Catholics and Protestants may differ and appear different due to interpretation, history and structure, the central things are held in unison.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The missing element in a liturgy-free church service

I've shared in the past that I'm not the biggest fan of written liturgy during church services. From my experience, it's easily open to ecclesiastical-monotonal-fakery.

Sure, with disclaimers about the importance of liturgy or intentionally inviting a connection with the words before reciting them can make liturgy more engaging. In general, I don't see it as the most effective way to draw people into an experience of God.

But, liturgy does have one significant advantage - structure.

One criticism I faced when consistently leading an evening church service was that, without the structure of liturgy, an intentional time of confession would be omitted.

And, from what I see in many contemporary church services, intentional communal confession is the first victim once you stray from a set liturgy.

I'm sure it's not intentional.
I'm sure confession gets "touched on" in other areas of the service.
Maybe it's because the leader doesn't want to drag the mood down...

But, whatever the reason, regular, intentional, communal confession is dying out, seemingly sacrificed upon the alter of modern service structure.

Perhaps, as a church, it's something we need to confess...