Monday, May 31, 2010

Change survivors

While I'm on the topic of older believers within congregations, a stream at the conference i attended made reference to change. At one point, the presenter mentioned the old excuse of "we've always done it that way" in response to times of transition.

He said that this attitude can be effectively dealt with by the the REALLY old members of the church.

For the excuse of "we've always done it that way" really comes down to perspective.

Given enough time and experience, nothing has constantly been done the exact same way. Things have changed in the past. People have probably just forgotten, or neglect to recall, that this "beloved tradition" was itself a result of change occurring in the past.

Reminders from the elder states-people that change was positive in bygone eras can silence the excuses for change in the present.

Setting the pace

I like the idea of the young people in a church setting the spiritual temperature for the rest of the church. As a youth pastor, it seems like a quality goal to have.

But i wonder how much the passionate faith of teenagers effect the older (particularly retirement aged) members of a church?

Would a church actually be healthier if the "grey-haired brigade" were on fire for God and were setting the pace for the church? Would their modelling of a passionate faith be something that would inspire all generations below them more than the youngsters inspiring those above them?

Just a thought that i hope doesn't put me out of a job...

Hymn euthanasia

Some people are immensely talented at selecting the correct hymns to sing in church that match the vibe of the service, the topic of the sermon, the ability of the musicians and the singing ability of the congregation. There should be a special place in heaven for those people.

I will not be in that section of paradise. In fact, i won't even be able to see it from where I'll be standing.

I don't have to chose hymns. And I'm glad. I would hate the job and would be awful at it.

But i have endured my fair share of painful hymns.

On Sunday i heard a gutsy idea that i would probably only execute in my mind. Euthanizing hymns.

Not every hymn. Just those which deserve to be put down.

I heard of a minister who has halted the awful rendition of a fine hymn and instead invited the church to recite the words together.

If only i had the testicular fortitude...

Evangelism gates

I'll be honest, i didn't get a massive amount from the input whilst i away at a conference last week. I gleaned a few interesting thoughts, but nothing mind blowing.

From the first key note address i did gain an insight into the way that people encounter God, particularly early in their walk with God, and how that has an influence on how we do personal evangelism.

The speaker identified ten "gates" which people engage strongly with the gospel message.

They are...

For Deliverance/liberation
Through identifying with the Suffering of Christ
A sense of purpose and direction - Leadership
Desiring to make a difference - Martyrdom
Transformation to new life
Cleansing from guilt and shame from your past
Having a place to be engaged in ministry - Service
A sense of Peace from anxiousness and turmoil
Forgiveness that results in a new relationship between us/God, each other and creation
Belonging to the Family of God

Each believer will identify with God through a combination of "gates" and will speak more prominently of those connections when they share their faith story.

God relates to each person individually and i was reminded that when i preach i need to give a balance of the "gates" which people encounter Christ.

Sure, you wouldn't chuck all ten into one gospel presentation, but over time you should touch on each one, mindful that other "gates" will be effective on others, even if they weren't overly compelling (but still equally valid and true) for you.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Wristy Data

I've returned from all places Bathurst and i have a stack of things to blog about. I have tomorrow off so i may go blog post crazy (think of it like a mini, mid-year ramble-a-thon)

I should note first the interesting keepsake we received. A 1GB USB wrist band.

I would say that they are really cool. But I'm not that much of a nerd.

Although they are an awesome way to put all the info from a conference into the hands (or onto the wrists) of those who attended.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Go West

This week I'm off to a conference for Pastors and Lay Leaders of my denomination.

I should be packing now instead of blogging.

Maybe that shows how excited i am to have a 3 hour drive ahead of me and a week in Bathurst.

Enemy making

Last night i lead the prayers of the people, and since i had relatively short notice (but not too bad) i trotted out a prayer that i had done multiple times in the past. The five fingered prayer.

Quite simply, each finger on your hand represents a type of people to pray for.

One finger represents your enemies.

Some Christians can feel uncomfortable when thinking about the enemies that they have. They think that they shouldn't have any. I disagree.

When you're living out your faith passionately and it shapes the way you live, the decisions you make and what you will and won't stand for, this should get noticed by others.

And some of those others won't like it.

And they will let you know.

Thus... Enemies.
In fact, Jesus says that his followers will have enemies and they should pray for them.

Perhaps it should trouble Christians more if they DON'T have any enemies. Maybe their faith isn't noticeable enough?

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Inward smile

On my way to work i saw a water meter reader.

My heart lept for joy...

That i don't do his job any more.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Theory of Cosby Show

If you didn't get the connection from my last post, it was based off a quote from The Simpsons.

I was sure Claire would know because she is engulfed by the Theory of Simpsonalogy (she even coined the term).

In short, the theory states that everything can be connected to The Simpsons. You just need to know enough of the Simpsons to make the link.

But i wonder, did the same thing happen in the past with other long running, popular television shows?

Were you hip and cool if you could quickly make links to The Cosby Show, MASH or The Honeymooners?

Nothing would say that you are in touch like being able to connect the salvation story to an episode of Full House or Alf.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Missing items

No heat and TV makes Graham go... something, something...

Claire, you know how this ends.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Scripture learning

Tomorrow morning I've got one of the young adults from my new church helping me teach scripture in a local primary school.

I think every young adult should make an effort to try and help teach scripture.


You learn the well known biblical stories, the points they make and gain an amazing biblical overview by teaching the curriculum.

I'll always remember the night when one of the blokes from a previous church stunned a bunch of fellow 18-25 year-olds by his grasp and knowledge of salvation history.

How did he do it? He taught scripture.

Hand stories

During the morning service i gave a short sermonette, with a further introduction of myself to the morning service as one of the aims.

I initially invited the congregation to look at their hands and share the story they tell. It was an idea that only came to me that morning and it worked really well.

Until i got married my hands told a pretty dull tale. I wore no jewelry and had no scars.

Over the last few weeks my hands have started to tell a larger story.

Now that I'm not reading water meters (the aforementioned scar being from a dog bite) I've began wearing my Pop's old ring, which is also identical to one my Dad used to wear.

The ring constantly reminds me of them both and gives me a reason to talk about them when i share the story of my hands.

My new young adult sharing question will be to get someones hand story. Then find out who there Penny is.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

A whole new kind of Hell

After spending the last two days moving all our worldly possessions into our new unit, i now know what the worst or the worst people will be doing in Hell.

Moving a couch into the top level of a duplex, only to have the aforementioned couch fit through the back door (having performed a right-angled turn whilst partially hanging off the rail of the stairway), which opens into the kitchen, but not squeeze through the next set of doors into the lounge room.

Much torment and anguish ensues.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Only 1%

Over the last few days I've been spending some time in the local private schools attached to the church denomination i work for. They are huge. 1100 girls at one and 1975 chaps at the other. When combining these schools with the local public school (another 1485 teens) i am potentially exposed to more than 3500 young people.

I'm always stunned when churches squabble over access, using lack of kids as the excuse. There are plenty of kids to go around.

With the numbers of only three local high schools, i wouldn't be able to cater for even 1%.

If only 0.5% of the closest schools students came on a Friday night then i would have over 50 teens.

I'd be more than happy with that number.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The big questions

Youth ministry in the 80's... answering all the big questions.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Do you need to go to church?

On the back of my post about giving teens additional opportunities to get into their bibles, here is the hand out i gave out last week dealing with church. Remember: The answers aren't designed to be complete... i only have the equivalent of one A5 page (especially once i remove some of the additional study questions).

Do you need to go to church to be a Christian?

Technically? No.

Going to church doesn't make you a Christian. Proximity to a building doesn't make you saved. If it did then sitting in a stable would make you a horse and hanging in a garage would make you a car!

So... Why church?

In short, no follower of Jesus is meant to do it alone. We are a part of something larger and are both meant to receive and contribute to it. In fact, the New Testament goes to of its way to include how we are to interact with "one another's" that also go to church.

We are to encourage, love, serve, honour, accept, bear with, support, admonish one another in the church family (plus a heap more).

But we also should also BE encouraged, loved, served, honoured, accepted, borne with, supported and admonished.

Church is a meant to be a good thing! It is designed to help a believer follow Jesus closer. Just as a soccer player is strengthened by going and participating in training, the same thing should happen with a Christian.

Finally, the bible tells Christians to meet together and not to give up the habit of doing so (Hebrews 10:25).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Festival booths

The annual MindBodySpirit festival is being held this weekend in Sydney and it reminded me of an awkward conversation i had years ago.

When i was engaged i was cornered by a lovely old dear and for ten minutes she told me about a wedding festival that she used to organise. She said that the church should be involved and i agreed.

Unfortunately she heard that i personally wanted to man the booth.

Much backtracking later that week this (thankfully) did not eventuate.

But i wonder how the presence of the church at a wedding expo would go down. Would the other vendors be fine with the message of marriage being about lifelong commitment proclaimed before God and a bunch of witnesses in a church, by a minister be accepted?

How about the message of the Christian God at the MindBodySpirit festival? In the lengthy list of
exhibitors i didn't spot a Christian one (although i didn't chase down the links).

UPDATE: It turns out Petersham Assembly of God church is there.

Maybe expo/festival outreach is a ministry that churches should explore. It could be these places that the church needs to speak up and make its case. The people there are either open to spirituality or thinking about a place to make their vows.

More daringly, should there be a Christian booth at Sexpo?

Another meal

If you only ate twice a week you would be pretty sick.

I am struck that this insight doesn't reach beyond the kitchen and our stomachs.

I would feel fairly comfortable in saying that a lot, if not the sad majority, of Christians only eat once (maybe twice) a week. Once at church and then again at a small group.

I want to give the teens i deal with more opportunities to connect with God and think about their faith and how it can impact their world.

Beginning last week, i started producing handouts that the teens can voluntarily take and do at home. Each study is designed to be done in under ten minutes and either builds on what we spoke about on Friday night or answers a chosen question that we won't be touching on at youth group.

Anything that gets kids in the habit of opening their bibles at home and independently engaging with God is a thing i want to encourage...

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Can Christians doubt?

This term at youth group I'm answering a bunch of questions that the teens chose. The condition is that i need to do it in 5 minutes (not an easy assignment when i dealt with the existence of God last week!).

This week the question dealt with doubt.

I think this question is raised because we misunderstand what faith is and, more importantly, what it is not.

We are tricked into thinking that the opposite of faith is doubt. It isn't. The opposite of faith is certainty. With absolute certainty you have no need for faith.

As a Christian, you have faith in and look forward to the unseen. This leaves room for doubt.

And the bible deals with doubt. Through the way God deals with Job and the Disciple Thomas, we catch a glimpse of how we can deal with our doubts.

God's answer to Job is a simple one that we must keep in mind when we have doubt. God is God, we are not. He has all the answers, we do not. God knows what He is doing and we need to trust that this is actually the case. Despite our doubts.

Secondly, when Thomas raises his doubt over the resurrection of Christ, he is answered by Jesus. I think the response Jesus gave is important to remember. Jesus didn't slam Thomas for his doubt. He didn't chew him out. He answered his doubt.

God does that.

He provides answers to our questions.

Sometimes we just need to search for them. Ask God to reveal the answer to you. Pray (and listen!). Read the bible. Trawl the web (with discerning caution). Ask older, wiser Christians.

Our questions have been asked and answered in the past. No matter how smart we think we may be, we aren't so bright that we can pose an absolutely original problem.

Our doubts give us two options. We can use them as an inspiration and an opportunity to grow or we can use them as an excuse to shy away from God and His people.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Secular pilgrimage-ing

Over the last few days the idea of going on a pilgrimage has caught my attention. Strangely, most of the references have had little to do with religion.

Instead the pilgrimages has been to such places as ANZAC Cove, Uluru, Melbourne Cup Day, the first day of the Boxing Day test at the MCG or attending Wrestlemania.

As the thought tossed around my mind i realised that i don't really desire to go on a pilgrimage. I couldn't even think of a place i would really want to go. Not St Peter's at the Vatican. Not Jerusalem or the Holy Land.

At last night's Church Council meeting again the idea of pilgrimage was raised.

This time the concept of a pilgrimage was twofold. First, you actually travel to destination. This is an experience in itself.

Second, you perform an inward journey to a destination where you connect with what makes the place significant.

So i wondered... can those who don't believe in God experiance a true pilgrimage? Can you pilgrimage to the MCG, Lord's, Wembley Stadium or Madison Square Garden?

If so, does this make them more open to the gospel?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Questioning leaders

I don't have all the answers.

As a teen i had questions as i discovered who God was and what role He wants to have in my life. I've struggled to deal with some of the issues that complicate life.

Fortunately, i have asked a lot of questions and have spent time around wise people, hearing, reading and searching for answers.
I believe Christianity makes sense.
Questions are a part of figuring that out.
This term at youth i am answering a stack of questions about God, faith and Christianity.
As i was preparing the questions to be answered, one of my small group leaders was a little anxious about not possessing all the answers. I was totally comfortable with that.
Answers to the big questions exist, but they aren't always simple nor easy to find, but worth seeking out. This is one message i want to teens to hear this term.
If you are given a curly question by a young person and your response is "I'm not totally sure, but I'll try my best to find out and get back to you" or "Good question! Let's ask someone else and find out together."
Either of those are a fine answer in my book.