Sunday, June 26, 2011

Incarnate timing

God became incarnate at a certain time, place, context and culture. It is one of the distinguishing features of Christianity. God became a human.

During the week I was asked about the timing of Jesus. Why did Jesus appear when He did?

My answer revolved around two things. Rome and Jews.

If I was waiting for an appropriate time for Jesus to arrive on the scene, it would be with the onset of the Roman empire. This was of immeasurable benefit for spreading the gospel.

The first advantage was the Pax Romana. Relatively, Christianity rose during a time of unrivaled peace and prosperity. This lead to the second advantage inherited from Rome.

With a "global" empire, the known world was opened up like never before. Transportation, both of paved road and by sea, was made significantly easier, safer and a common language allowed the message of Jesus to spread efficiently.

Until the time of Augustus, no previous time of human history was as appropriate to spread a message to as many people as possible.

And Rome played a part in the Jewish side of the equation. Jesus was a Jew. His initial followers were predominately Jews.

Jesus lived and taught in a Jewish culture and context.

This is significant with both Jesus' fulfilment of prophecy, His claim to be the awaited Messiah and the destruction of the Jewish temple in 70AD (and subsequent fall of an "independent" Jewish nation).

The rise of Rome and the annihilation of the Temple gives God a tight window of opportunity to make the greatest impact on human history (up until that point). If I was God, I would have chosen the same time to become incarnate that He did.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Faith AND Patience

Microwaved youth ministry just doesn't happen.

Aside from my dreams.

Youth ministry and an adequate discipleship process takes time. Loads of time.

Time to build trust.
Time to cultivate relationships.
Time to develop leaders.
Time for young kids to become teenagers.
Time for teens to become flourishing members of the local church.

It takes time for the fruit of a ministry to blossom.

The trouble is, churches (and impulsive youth ministers) often want to see results yesterday. Or at least by the middle of next week. Or the end of next term (at the latest!).

We are called to minister with both faith and patience.

Faith that God will work in the lives of those we minister to.
Faith that what is currently unseen, but envisioned, will be revealed over time.
And patience to be faithful.
Patience to stick around and watch the fruit come into view.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Can-How or Should-Why

I just read this about communicating to those with short attention spans.

One thing that jumped out was that the main point of any talk, 99
% of the time, is...

Can-How or Should-Why.

Either you are encouraging those listening and laying a strategy for them to follow or you are inviting them to change something and then telling them why it would be worth the time and effort.

Simple really...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

When it's not YOUR problem

Last Sunday morning was... Special.

Nothing major went awry, but quite a few small glitches occurred. If only one happened then no-one would raise an eyebrow, but their accumulative affect was significantly detrimental to the overall service.

If any of Sunday's singular hiccups happened whist I was holding the reigns then I would have let them slide. There would be an excuse. A perfectly acceptable explanation.

For our own mistakes we tend to be more forgiving. We understand the back story. We know about the work that DID occur behind the scenes and the angst when it blew up.

But when faced with others problems, we nit-pick. We notice the typos and the off paced songs. We cringe at the miss-fired technology or easily preventable miss-step.

We seem to be less forgiving to others in the same situation. Or at least I tend to be.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Personal defense

Should a youth minister have to personally defend their job?

Given enough time...
Given enough budget cycles...
Given enough financial wobbles...
Given enough "fiscal shrinkage within the pews"...
A youth minister may have to stand before the congregation or church council and pitch to keep their job.

And I think it would be the wrong thing to do. At least long term.

For me, when I look at the question that kicked off this post, the word that jumps out at me is personally.

If the youth minister gives a dazzlingly passionate presentation and retains the job, then I think the focus gets misdirected.

If the church needs to be convinced of the value of youth ministry, then I think it should come from within the church. It is THEIR ministry after all. Not solely that of the bloke with the messy office.

What would happen if the youth minister gets hit by a bus the week after? Does this risk bringing the ministry feasibility down?

If the youth minister needs to dance for his job, I think it might...

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Holding the earthball

The vision for what you are doing should be big. Similar to holding an earthball above your head.

If you've ever tried to hold a 2 metre diameter ball aloft, you'll know you can't do it alone for long.

Sure, you can lift it, but it takes a team to control it. Only with a group of people can the earthball remain airborne.

Unless the vision of what you are doing is shared, and others are willing to come alongside and help bare the weight, then it will be unstable. Or else, when the leader leaves, the earthball comes tumbling down.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Constantly blending the formula

Last week, church was different. Not crazy, untamed different, but unusual compared to the regular Sunday offering.

Should church be different every week?

I wonder...
I wonder because I'm not a huge fan of gimicked church services.
I wonder because I like knowing what to expect.
I wonder because I would hate inviting someone to church by saying "I don't know what to assume. It could look like ANYTHING..."

I'm not advocating copy/paste church services and structures until the end of time. Churches should be a place of creativity and open to alternative forms of expression.

But I can't shake the feeling that church should be about connecting with God, not bells, whistles and flashing lights.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Pulling the strings

So... Who is really in charge of the church?

The answer is God. Der.

But who guides the local church? The minister? The people in the congregation? Those outside the community of faith?

I don't know. I can make a case for all three. And a case against.

The minister should lead the people he is called to shepherd over. He is to care for them and discerning the best way that he (and the church) can follow Jesus.

But... it shouldn't all be dependant on the person in the pulpit. Eventually, they will move on. The vision shouldn't walk out as well. The minister could be hit by a bus tomorrow...

So the case can be made that the congregants should be steering the ship. As a collective group they would be a much more effective body of change and transformation. God calls them to work together, as His hands and feet in the community they are called to serve.

But... can this feed the consumerist tendency that often rears its head. Everyone wants their specific needs catered to. People can hold the church at ransom if their whims are not satisfied. And, let's face it, it wouldn't be unheard of for politics and power-plays to be rife in a church.

How about those outside the church? If the church is to ultimately reach their community, shouldn't it be focus? Shouldn't they dictate where the target should lie?

But... is it appropriate for a church to be directed to those who do not hold the same core foundation that it professes?

From my thinking and a few conversations, I'm still fuzzy.

Except for one thing.

Whoever is steering the ship, ideally a healthy combination of all three options (under God), one underlying value must be honesty.

Can the minister HONESTLY stand before his/her people and say that this is where God is calling them to go?
Can the church HONESTLY say that they feel a part of where they are a body of believers is headed?
Does the community HONESTLY feel that their areas of need are being met?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Untwisting the original lie

Over time, it can become harder to finally tell the truth when compared to continuing the original lie.

You don't have to look hard to see this.

I saw it with this guy when we spoke about him at a conference a few weeks ago.
It has been played out with the New York with Anthony Weiner (hehehe) over the last few days.
I can think of deceptions (nothing even close to the two examples above) I have going in my life that would be easier to continue than let the truth come to light.

No matter if it is a whopper of a lie, or a white lie, a common thread exists. Over time, it gets easier.

The second time the lie is told is easier than the first. The third is even easier. The 412th flies off the tongue with little conscience bothering.

As time goes on, the deception becomes wrapped up in your back story. And then destroying your back story is just as hard/painful as the original fib. Maybe more.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011


In the evening service at my church we are currently working our way through the book of Nehemiah. Nehemiah's passions line up with what God desires and he rises up to do powerful things for God, despite hostility and obstacles.

Someone in the service last Sunday made a really good connection from the previous two weeks.

Nehemiah 4 dealt with opposition that will arise whenever you do big, God inspired things. The next chapter, which I preached on, focused on compassion for others being based on their God given value and dignity.

The connection was profoundly simple. When (yes, when, not if), opposition arises for what God is inviting you to be a part of, your response must be clothed in compassion.

No matter who is arcing up at you, they posses as much worth as you have.

No matter how critical they are of you, they are treasured by God.

No matter how crazy their objection, they are deemed precious in the eyes of their Maker.

Sure, they may be off-the-wall annoying (and quite possibly wrong), but this basis of compassion should affect the way we respond to them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

More people, more problems

Life, given enough time, will throw up events that will cause massive turbulence. Some will be good, some will be devastating.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics...

A person is born every 105 seconds (with around 300,000 born per year).
Every 3.75 minutes, a person dies (with around 140,000 dying per annually).
Approximately 1,300 infants (under the age of 12 months) die each year.
More than 2000 people commit suicide in Australia each year.
More than 100,000 marriages and around 50,000 divorces annually.

This doesn't even start to take into account those who have a miscarriage, are diagnosed with a terminal illness, are sacked from their job or a victim of violent crime.

I make these points because churches are massively affected when people in their congregations/youth groups go through these events. Statistically, the more people you have, the more likely/often you will face these situations. In really, people in every service of a large church will be going through these joys and pains.

When you ponder the number of life crisis's that a larger church would need to minister to, the allure of "superstar" pastor, can be far less glamorous.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

What the heck are you doing here?

It boggles my mind that I was at youth group the evening that my wife and I had our first miscarriage.

But I'm not the first ministry worker to be at church when they should have been elsewhere.

We lead church services when our kids are ill.
We stay at conferences when our spouse is stressed.
We visit others when they are sick, but neglect to see our extended family.

Every church needs one person to ask the important question of priorities. Someone needs to ask you "What the heck are you doing here?" and send you home.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

80's leadership

I currently work in the denomination with the greatest percentage of 70+ people in Australia (at least that's what the NCLS survey's say) and it would be fair to say that many of the church councils and decision making bodies are guided by "the grey haired brigade."

Last night, during a meeting, a bloke said "A congregation that relies on 80 year olds for its leadership doesn't only lack a future, but it has little present."

Previously, I've professed my love for watching Parliament Question Time and the best part is the banter for and against the respective respondent to the question.

With the sounds of PQT flooding my mind, when I heard that statement uttered last night, I wanted to heartily respond "HERE HERE!"