Sunday, February 28, 2010


This morning at church some of the musicians lead a few songs for the older congregation, coinciding with a guest speaker.

The music director that we use in the evening did a great job.

Almost too great.

He waded into the murky depths of over-performing (over-performing: When you do a job, that you secretly hope that your not regularly asked to repeat, in an excellent manner).

I joked afterward that he should have had a few miss-steps just so he wouldn't wow the people and be roped into more break-of-dawn gigs.

In the sinister, inner parts of my being, i sometimes desire avoiding over-performance. I am less critical of how i, for example lead a morning service, because i don't want to constantly hit-the-ball-out-of-the-park (not that this is a major concern!).

If i did, i could be called on more often.

The minister could take long service lead in complete confidence that i could, somewhat, pick up the slack. Or you could be roped into doing the Christmas and Easter school services every year.

And that would be a terrible, terrible thing.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Lobsters or crap

Last night the family worker at my current church and i were talking about fundraising and how it could easily be avoided.

In reality, their should be very few churches that need to do fundraising (unless they are doing a major building project). If everyone in the local church tithed (or even went close!), then the vast majority of local churches would be financially secure.

But this isn't the case.

So we put on fundraisers. Fundraisers that often fall into the category of "crap events."

Actually, churches should use this to their advantage for blackmail.

Each person in the church must give a $20 bill or we will put on a rubbish fundraiser. What will it be? A lobster (the Aussie twenty dollar bill is orange) or a back breaking car wash and church bake-sale?

John's Alive

Happily, i got correspondence from my sponsor kid from the Philippines.

It had been a while and i was kind of concerned that the next letter i received would be from head office informing me that my child has "moved out of the region" due to a typhoon that flooded the parts where John lived.

My kid and his family were caught up in the downpour, and their house was flooded, but thankfully he's still alive.

After being concerned for months, it was nice to get a letter...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Progressive scruffiness

Last night i went to small group and my personal grooming was below par.

I was clean (i should make that perfectly clear!), just not pristine.

I hadn't shaved, nor had i done my hair (how could i have left the house!).

Now that i have been at my current church for almost 8 months, having gone away for the weekend with all of the chaps, my standards have started to slip.

Sure, for church services, youth group, scripture and various meetings I'll be crisp, but not so much when I'm just hanging with the young adults.

If i am ever at a church for more than a decade i could wind up looking like Tom Hank's character in Cast Away (if only i could grow that much facial hair...).

Dr Quinn...

I just got back from a meeting with a fertility doc with Ange and things are looking more positive then they were a few weeks ago.

Without going into mega details, at one point it was possible that Ange and i couldn't have kids (just one of the multiple complications that have infiltrated my life so far this year!), but the news is rosier now.

But the name of our quack got me thinking.

He is a nice-enough bloke called Doctor Quinn.

I wondered... Did the guy hear about the TV show "Dr Quinn:Medicine Woman" the think quietly to himself "Damn. Now i have to introduce myself as Dr Quinn: Fertility Man."

Also, did the same thing happen to Dr Jekyll?
Or to the airline pilot, Captain Kirk?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Ministry boys

Having just got back from Men's convention in Katoomba, I am reminded that, i am a man.

This wasn't always the case when returning from the annual testosterone get-together. Prior to getting married, i was in the odd world of being a-young-man-who-doesn't-have-a-missus-or-kids-with-most-of-his-hair-and-doesn't-always-understand-the-man-chuckles-that-have-occurred-all-weekend.

But now, i am almost in the core demographic. I'm just kids and a mortgage short.

Indeed, I AM A MAN!

Except in the church office where i used to work. There i was a boy.

No matter how old i was, or how often i shaved, or becoming a husband, people wondered (for both myself and my 20yo male co-worker) "What the boys are doing?"

And it bothered me. In the eyes of some of the (well meaning and quite innocent) congregation we would always be boys, not mature men. We would be elevated kids from the youth ministry, not guys in change.

In fact, it was a part of my decision to move on from my original church and ministry position.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Internal elevation

I annoys me when churches make wise decisions that don't turn out favourably for me...

On multiple occasions, during my ministry wilderness years, churches hired internally. It bugged me, but it made sense.

Particularly for a short to medium-term appointment, elevating a current leader is, i think, a smart way to go.

I think hiring internally makes sense because continuity is significant during a time of change (or at least the boat can be rocked as little as possible).

But elevating an above competent, passionate, Jesus loving youth leader to a paid position (even on reduced hours) you retain an element of stickiness for the kids. In short, they are more likely to hang around.

Also, you reduce the loss of traction due to the leader's familiarity of the church, its members, its structures, its ministries and its culture (providing those are things that you with to keep!).

That's how i got my first gig... And it was an amazing chance.

A chance to get my feet wet in ministry and think that i had some shot of actually doing the job.

I could make mistakes in a place that knew that i was green and was extra graceful and forgiving.

I knew who to talk to when i had questions, or problems arose, or i needed someone to pitch an idea to.

Hiring internally is annoying for someone applying for the job from the outside (trust me!), but in the shorty term, it makes a lot of sense for the church, its leaders and the members who are left behind.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

De-conversion change

Today i wondered about the various people who went to my bible college (both in my year and otherwise) who are no longer, as anyone can tell, Christians (I seem to remember a stat that says that in any year at a bible college, within a decade, a third will no longer be going to church).

I wondered what they had to change.

If someone only looked at my possessions, they would be able to tell that I'm a Christian.

Last night i (finally!) put the majority of my music onto my new ipod. Of the 515 songs, about half would be, at least, nominally Christian.

If i stopped being a Christian, those songs would be awkward to listen to. Do i purge my ipod of religious tunes?

I also have a lot of books. Like $10,000+ worth. And the vast majority of them would be of little interest to a non-believer. I have plenty of bibles and commentaries and reference books and "spiritual literature." What do i do with them? Give them away? If so, why? Why would you share books that held a truth that you no longer hold to be true?

I have hundreds of files on my computer including previous sermons i have given, bible studies that i have written and heaps of apologetic what-not. Do i delete them all?

What do i do with the draws of files that i have stored? Or my college notes? Or the storage containers of knick-knacks from the last 15 years that i was connected to a church?

Do i need to find a new radio station in my car since the sixth FM option is a Christian radio station?

Do i need to become a rabid fan of Sunday night television? Do i fall in love with "So You Think You Can Dance?" because I'm now at home to watch?

(Let's pretend that it could be the case) How much do i need to alter my Facebook page? Do i simply change the status or de-friend anyone associated with my previous faith? Do i act as those i used to go to church with are now almost dead to me? Do i spurn their attempts to contact me and erase them from my mobile phones?

Do i now get in contact with people who used to go to church? Do we need to drink copious amounts of booze in strip clubs since we are raging pagans?

Finally, who do you tell about your de-conversion? Are you more evangelistic about your abandonment of faith than you ever were about telling people about Jesus?

Puzzle pieces

This week, i hope, a stack of life's puzzle pieces come together...

I just got a call, with a choice, which i need to decide on by the weekend.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Pleb advantages

Over the past few weeks I've started going to a small group at my new church.

Well... I've been once.

But I intended to be there regularly. Between Dad's death and funeral and various meetings (including one this week) I've been slack with my actual attendance matching my enthusiastic exclamation of "I'll be there for sure!" on Sunday nights.

Anyway... I enjoyed last week.

Especially since i wasn't leading.

I didn't have to answer questions if i didn't want to. I only had to speak if i actually had something to contribute. I wasn't the one asking the questions and steering the conversation, but the one being taken along for the journey.

It was nice being a pleb.

Monday, February 15, 2010

God's lady-friendly business cards

What is either decorated in floral or time warped straight from the 1980's? Christian "evangelistic(?)" business cards.

Every Sunday night they taunt me because I'm haunted by girlie Christian advertisements every church service.

They stare everyone in the face, delightfully positioned on the back of the pew in front at the church where i work.

In fact, i once gave a young person the challenge to find me one that wasn't girlie.

He couldn't.

I wonder if anyone has ever come into a relationship with God because they grabbed a fluorescent green and pink printed card that said "TRUST GOD!" with a Bible verse on the back?

I especially wonder what guys think when (or if!) they invite a mate to church and, as they zone out of the service, their eye is caught by a floral decorated piece of cardboard...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

You don't need to know it all

I just finished reading a book about small groups, leading into a meeting of our small group leaders at church later this week.

At one point, the author wrote about the process they used for training their small group leaders. It had two steps... Stuff you must know and Stuff you can learn to know.

At times churches fall into the trap of over training.

Prior to leading a group the leader must know it all and be prepared for almost any situation.

In reality, this doesn't need to be the case and can scare off some potentially great leaders.

Sure, there are things you need to know. You need to love Jesus, have a desire to serve and have a passion for those you minister to. You need to be aware of the needs of your group and have some basic skills to run the event effectively.

But you don't need to know it all (Unless you're thrown in the deep end without a safety net!).

You can learn some things on the go.

You can ease into the up-front elements of the ministry.

You can watch others perform the tasks and be trained over a number of weeks or paired off with an experienced co-leader.

Over time, you can pick up the additional skills that you lacked at the start.

As a situation arises you can ask for help.

Eventually, new things will be developed that you will need to learn anyway.

At the start... You don't need to know it all...

Monday, February 8, 2010

Front sitters

I hate it when people sit in the front row. It shouldn't be done. Especially in church.


Or at least not when I'm speaking up the front.

Last night we had cafe church and whilst setting up i queried the point of placing chairs right under the nose of those up the front. It was decided that they would fill up last anyway (further making my point of their annoyance!).

Actually, I face this problem every so often at church when i preach.

On occasions, I'm preaching on the same week as a bloke (who otherwise does a fantastic job) who leads the service and then sits in the front pew. Right under your nose.

And you can't exactly ask him to move once he's sat down (unless you expect that he may be trampled during the sermon).

Maybe i just need to work a steamroller into the sermon... Or warn the first few rows that they will get wet.

Meeting cappers

I read an excellent meeting idea yesterday.

Medicine balls.

Whenever you are making a point you must do so whilst standing and holding a medicine ball.

Your point must be made before you slouch and collapse in a heap.

Thus, shortening rambling meetings...

Then again... if you REALLY wanted to get your view across you could always get in a strongman to make you point.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Signs of a healthy church

I think a healthy church will have three things... weirdos, smokers and confused new people.

Weirdos - I just like somewhere to fit it (kidding!). Seriously... A fundamental desire for all people is a place to fit in. Particularly teenagers. Here a church can have a powerful impact. They can provide a place that gives value to the person God has made you to be. Thus, a healthy church can be characterised by including those who are a little more difficult to love...

Smokers - If a person at church is comfortable enough to smoke, then i take that as a positive. Not the smoking itself, but the display that people there aren't forced to put on the facade of perfection.

Confused new people - This must be a sign of a healthy church. NEW PEOPLE! Especially people who are new to church, not just that particular place of worship. This points to growth through evangelism, not transfer growth.

Does it pass the Nan test?

I know more stories about Dad that i didn't mention in my eulogy. Heaps more. Others also have stories about Dad.

After the funeral i heard some of them and not all the tales would have been appropriate for public broadcast.

In fact, some of the stories i had about Dad wouldn't have passed the "Nan test."

Simply, my Nan was in the audience, so it was wise to keep it rated PG.

A similar thing happens when i preach. Some stories don't make the grade. Nor do some fitting movie scenes.

Why? They don't pass the Nan test.

A film, even if the specific scene may not be laced with violence or profanity, could (overall) send a message that your Nan wouldn't be okay with (the same can go for songs by various musicians).

A story, even through it may illustrate the point that you are making, could occur in a setting that is distracting.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Remembering Dad

This is the eulogy I gave at my fathers funeral today...

When Mum, Jo and I met up with the assistant to the funeral director after Dad died I was given a list of things to say in a eulogy. On that list were details like date of birth, the date of passing, where Dad grew up and went to school, what his work history was and any historically significant events that Dad did while he was alive.

I'm not going to say any of those things. If you knew my Dad, and were around him for more than a few moments, you would probably be aware of many of the main incidents of his life. If nothing else, the guy knew how to talk.

Instead, I want to describe the kind of man my Dad was. I want to tell you what I would tell my kids. What kind of husband he was. What kind of father he was.

To start, Dad loved Mum and was dedicated to her for more than 30 years. (To Mum) He loved you. I know that on this day he would have wanted you to hear that. It's fitting that you were that last thing that he saw when he was alive.

As a family man he showed that he would support the decisions that you made. Even if they weren't the exact choices that he would make, or he didn't absolutely understand the conclusions that you came to, he would be there. He would back your judgement. He would drive you to rugby and watch every game, even of you weren't all that good. He would miss your only try in a dozen years playing rugby union because he was picking up your sister from gymnastics, trying to be in two places at the same time.

When i think of the kind of man my Dad was, one of the first words that spring to mind is friendly. He was the guy who would chew the ear off your mates. He was the guy who you would want to share a cubical with at work and would invite you to join him for a beer once you knocked off.

He was down to earth. For years, whenever my wife Ange came over, you would hear two things. First, my Mum would answer the door and say "Hello love," and then, Ange would meet my Dad, sitting on the couch, drinking a Diet Coke. Each time the same thing would happen. Ange would say hello to "Mr Baldock" and my Dad would reply "Call me Dave." That's the kind of guy my Dad was.

Since turning 18 I had the privilege to get to know my Dad beyond the role as my father. I'm at the age where you parents, seemingly overnight, get personalities and all these odd interests. Over the past decade I began to relate to Dad as a fellow adult, husband and potential father.

For my 21st, both Dad and I got the same gift from my mates. We both received a snooker cue. But the gift i actually got wasn't a piece of wood, but it was time with my Dad. Time to share a beer and beat him over a snooker table.

He loved sharing a beer and hearing how life was going. Delighting in your joys and helping you through the difficult times. In fact, that sums up the last meaningful conversation i had with Dad. Once Dad was told that Ange and a were having trouble conceiving, he gave me a call, and asked if i wanted to come up to the hospital and join him for an ale and a chat. When i asked him of that was allowed, he said it didn't matter... we should do it anyway.
Most of you would know that the last few months of Dad's life were pretty tough, but he always made the effort to be in high spirits. He would smile, flash that gap between his teeth and greet the grand-daughter that he was so proud of.
When describing my Dad to my kids, when telling them what he was like, the best i can do is say that i would be proud if they grew up to be just like him.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Sinking in

Over the last few days the reality of Dad dying has begun to kick in. I've started to go through the process and I've seen my Mum and sister begin to come to grips (kind of...) with what has happened.

It sinks in when you're having the promised Tooheys Old night that you would have once Dad passed away.

It sinks in when guys who are usually jerks to you pass on their heartfelt commiserations.

It sinks in when you find Dad's wedding ring at Mum's house.

It sinks in when you pick the color of the casket.

It sinks in when the funeral place chats to you about what you want Dad dressed in and if you want him to have a shave and a haircut.

It sinks in as you buy a black suit for the funeral.

It sinks in when you hear it announced in church.

It really sinks in when you read the obituary in the newspaper.

Tomorrow it continues to become a reality when my sister and i meet up to plan the eulogy that I'll be giving at the funeral the day after.