Friday, March 30, 2012

Under the same head

Given enough time at church you'll hear a sermon on 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Or twenty

During the reflection you'll probably hear the following statement... "You are the body of Christ."

One thing which any congregation needs too keep in mind, as well as every minister, is that Jesus is the head of the church, not the one uttering the above sentence from the pulpit.

Both the minister AND the congregation are equally under the headship of Christ.
Both the minister AND the congregation are equally members of the body of Christ.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Servants at the table

Over the last few days I've assisted administering communion during the chapel service of the girls school which uses our church.

In doing so I've been reminded of two things...

First, a lot of people (not just the girls during the week) say thank you when receiving the elements. I wonder who the person is thanking. The person serving them or God? I hope it is the later.

Second, with tradition dictating that those who help serve communion are elders or lay leaders of the church, how should the "assistant" be viewed?

It can be viewed as a place of, for lack of a better word, pride or importance. You are up the front of church.

But, in theory, it should be a place of humility. The communion table is not primarily a meal provided by the church, but by God. It is His table which people are going to.

When we view communion in a meal context, the honour goes to the host, namely God.
The most important people are the guests, in this case the congregation.
Those at the table are helping serve the hosts meal. They are at the bottom of the pecking order.

I wonder if this goes through the mind of those who are holding the bread or the cup???

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Rituals, Teaching or Experience

Yesterday I said that your worship preference was either ritual, teaching or experiential. I also mentioned that your preference will affect the way you enjoy, plan and evaluate church services.

Remember, no matter where you fall in these preferences, none of the options are wrong or unprofitable. You just prefer one more than the others.

If you dig ritual then you enjoy structure. You relish predictability. You get into the flow of a service because you know what is going on and what will be happening next. You love a service with a definite beginning, a middle where you feel you belong and a solid ending. You would fit right into a service with heavy liturgy or prayerbook guided.

If a church service was a success, you would determine that a structured space was created for people to encounter God.

If your preference is teaching, then you get into the sermon and songs which purposefully reveal the character and nature of God. You're a note taker during the sermon and will follow the reading in your bible.

You know you've been to a good church service if the "sermon was challenging."

Finally, if you lean towards experience, then a service which appeals to the senses is what you look for. You want to see, hear, taste, touch and smell what is going on. You value quality music and aesthetics.

A great service for you will "warm your heart."

As I said, neither of these preferences is better or worse than another.

Hopefully, each service a church puts on will involve at least an element of each preference.

But the one planning the service will have a preference and those in the congregation will value one method more than another. In order for all to live and worship in harmony, it is beneficial to keep this in mind.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Worship preferences

If you go to church, you have a worship preference.

It may be influenced by previous church experiences you've had (either positively or negatively).
It may be influenced by the people who currently attend your church.
It may be influenced by the people you desire to reach.
It may even come down to you're effectiveness to successfully pull off a particular type of church service.
Probably a mix of all-of-the-above.

But you have a preference.

You will either lean towards ritualistic, teaching or experiential as a preference.

Note that no preference is wrong. Each has a place. The vast majority of church services will included elements of all three.

But your preference will taint how you view the effectiveness of a church service. The questions you ask will change.

I'll talk about the questions tomorrow.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bacon blogs

For the record: Bacon is amazing. Bacon is the first meal I cooked once I became a father.

Whilst I'm up with Hanna (which I do till 2am each morning), who thankfully has been sleeping (aside from feeding) for the last 6 hours, I decided to trawl around the Internet.

One place that got my attention were the bacon blogs on Alltop (where my blog is also mentioned).

I don't know what the original purpose for the Internet was, but providing people with the platform to solely write about bacon should have been one...

Letting the bible breathe


Sometimes the bible reading can feel like a flood of words.

The introduction blends into the reading.
The benediction flows straight out of the passage.

Last week at uni the lecturer mentioned what should be the headline act of the church service.

It is not the sermon.
It is not the singing.
It is not the prayer times.
It is not the sacraments.
It is not the fellowship or sense of community.

The spotlight should be on the bible, particularly the public reading of the scriptures.

With this in mind, and believing that God reveals Himself through the bible, the lecturer suggested we embrace a lost art of the church service.

Let the bible reading breathe.
Give it space.
Allow space for the Holy Spirit to work
Let it marinate.

If you are going to give an intro to the reading, allow no room for confusion where your words stop and the bible reading commences.
If you recite a response after the reading, leave a gap between it and the end of the bible passage.

I wonder, if you shut your eyes and pretended you had no previous knowledge of church, how many readings would blend so seamlessly into the "This is the word of the Lord" segment that you could mistake it for being a natural part of the passage?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Hanna Cate

The last 18 hours have been... tiring.

Amazing, but tiring.


At 11:44 this morning darling wife gave birth to our daughter Hanna Cate.

Aren't they pretty???

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Understand before it's cut

In my Christian Worship subject yesterday we looked at some of the elements that traditionally make up a service. In doing so, it was mentioned that each part of the service... the gathering, singing, reading of the bible (which I'll touch on again in a few days), the sermon, the prayers and the blessing... can be connected, but each has value on their own.

The dangerous mindset worship leaders can fall into if they view them as a collective was observed.

The danger?

If each individual part of the service adds something unique, then we weaken what we are trying to achieve by cutting parts out.

In the modern church, we occasionally think it "wouldn't be too bad" if some elements were skipped or the order changed.

In doing so, we may lose some of the richness that particular element brings.

Like so many other things, perhaps if we better understood why items/activities are included, we'd be less hasty to mess with them.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


In order to build suspense....

You'll need to scroll down the page to read the news...

It's pretty exciting...

As of Saturday, 1:47pm AEST...

I'm still not a father.

Instead... The KNOY2012 questions I used during scripture this week (which I posted a few days ago) were used on as this weeks Freebie Friday.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Kony Questions

Unless you've been living under a rock you'll know at least something about the KONY2012 campaign. The phenomenon has spread through millions of people clicking, sharing and posting about the viral YouTube video (which has been viewed an estimated 100 million times).

One important thing has been somewhat absent. Questioning.

This morning I lead my scripture class in watching the film and doing that missing element... Below were the questions (note that the answers aren't given. The questioning is the important element being pushed).

How many people do you think have watched the KONY2012 film?
Have you?
If so, did you watch it all the way through, not just the first 2 minutes?
How did the film make you feel?

Did you feel it was “too professional”?
Did you do anything in response (like, share, post)? Did you help spread the word?
Do you think people have responded too quickly?

Did you know anything about Joseph Kony prior to watching the film?
Did you know anything about the organisation Invisible Children (those behind the campaign) before watching the film?
Have you heard any of the concerns raised about Invisible Children since becoming aware of KONY2012?
If you could sum up the KONY2012 video in one sentence, what would it be?

The film mentions that people “forget.” Do you think people will care as much about this issue in a month? 6 months? 2 years?

Is there a difference between “knowing” and “caring” about a situation? If so, how might they be different?

Has this film changed the way you view the world? Why/Why not?

Is your only source of information about Joseph Kony from the YouTube film?
What did you feel when you saw Gavin (the film-maker’s son) and Jacob (the Ugandan boy)?

Why do you think the film was made? What results are the film-makers after?

What do you want to see happen as the result of this campaign (does it line up with your last answer???)?

Did you/would you give money towards the campaign (either straight donate or buy a kit)?
Would you wear a Kony2012 Bracelet? Would you accept one if it was given to you?
Do you think the film encourages vandalism?

Do you think Joseph Kony is a Christian? Do you know what the letters LRA stands for?

How do you think the church should respond to KONY2012?

From what you know, do you think Joseph Kony is the worst problem in Africa?

Did you recognise any other names on the ICC most wanted list shown in the film?
How would you feel if Joseph Kony was treated the same way as either Saddam Hussein (captured, tried in a court and executed) or Muammar Gaddafi (killed by a vengeful mob)? Is there a difference? Would one be a “better” form of justice?

The lesson ended with the following advice (spawned from this blog) - BREATHE. READ. THINK… act

Monday, March 12, 2012

Not in the manual

Good advice dictates that you should have an action plan for certain emergencies.

Someone talks about suicide, self harm, an eating disorder or abuse.
Someone collapses during a church service.

In the examples above, the response "let me think about this for the next hours, do some research, and get back to you" wouldn't cut it.

Over the last few weeks I've heard numerous stories which wouldn't be in the usual "ministry playbook."

The baby being christened stops breathing.
A member of your congregation goes missing for two days.
Whilst eating at McDonald's, one of the teens you're with gets mugged in the toilets.
The bus that transported you to an event doesn't reappear to return you home.
Whilst the coffin is being lowered into the ground, the lid catches on the edge of the hole and gets slowly pried open.

If you happen to be officiating at this wedding...

I guess it is these times which make ministry... interesting.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Leading the singing

In all my years of going to church I've never sung into a microphone, never mind lead others in singing.

Today I did it.


This was not the plan a week ago.

If I'm honest, the experience was... bearable. Not an activity which I'd long to do again, but not a total disaster.

So... what did I learn?
  • Leading singing is not worship leading. I (to a questionable degree) lead others in when to start and cease singing, but didn't purposely strive to lead people into the presence of God. Here the difference lies.
  • When you lead singing, you need to know the ACTUAL words, not the ones you think you know.
  • Thus, I had to focus on what I was doing much more than I normally would when singing. When leading singing, you need to read the words as they are projected. As a result, this activity has elements of an eye exam.
  • I covered for my weaknesses. The songs we sung were well known. I sung before a bunch of people who were used to singing said songs and the band were awesome, especially the saxophone, which shielded the church from any notes outside my one tone, three note range.
  • The added duty changed, read hindered, the prep I had to do for both services. For the first service, the sermon was under-rehearsed and, as I was set to lead the second service, a clear order of service was under-prepared.
  • Finally, I exposed a skill which, although I suspected I could perform, I never had in the past. Now, potentially, I'm an emergency singing option at church. This was never the plan.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Apples & Oranges?

I have just finished reading a book about contrasting worship styles. In the book, six different styles are presented and then the case is responded to by those holding a differing view.

One response caught my attention this morning.

Some authors in the book make an apple and oranges argument, according to this response, whilst others contained a right or wrong slant.

He rightly observed the important difference between the methods.

In an apple/orange argument, the two options are similar and, individually, quite useful. Sure, the significant differences may result in one being a more appropriate fit for what you are trying to achieve, but either can be productive. As he says, "both can fit in the fruit salad."

Alternatively, arguments which hold one position to be correct and the other in error do not leave space for this. One is clearly better than the other. One is not only... a little different... or on the right path... but a grave mistake.

I wonder if we do this when describing alternative ministry strategies.

When we hold both up to be inspected, does our language compare apples and oranges or right and wrong?

Do we see the value of each viewpoint (in it's unique context) or do we just look to shoot it down in flames and raise our specific style on a pedestal?

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Pushing the schoolyard

This year I have pushed something which, previously, I'd let sit idle on the sidelines.

Christian ministries in schools, especially lunchtime groups.

Over the last few months my eyes have been progressively opened to their benefit, having looked at ways to engage kids "on their turf."

I don't think that lunchtime groups are the silver-bullet-of-youth-ministry-growth (as a growth strategy it can work, but building relationships within 30 minute lunchtime blocks is difficult), but they do serve an important purpose.

First, their school is a natural mission field. Christian teens are exposed to literally hundreds of other students who need to hear the message of Jesus and see faith lived out.

Second, in light of the vast (or daunting) opportunities which do exist in most schools, believers can gain a lot from knowing they are not alone. Although the harvest is plentiful, it's good to know their are other workers.

And third, ministries held on the school grounds are a natural first step for someone who is seeking and is a non-confrontational first step. It is much easier to ask someone to come to a classroom during lunch, then rock up to a church on a Friday or a Sunday.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Youth Ministry: Job, profession or craft?

Head on over to MorethanDodgeball to read my Guest Post about the nature of working in youth ministry.

Check it out here.

Fashion police

My wardrobe consists of... Two pairs of jeans, two pairs of pants, a half dozen dress shirts, half a dozen button up shirts, a half dozen Polo shirts, fours suits and a heck of a lot of T-shirts.

If I'm honest, I have around 20 outfits which I'll cycle through and switch about.

When I teach scripture or speak in chapel I dress "up." Long pants and a collared shirt if I'm going onto a school campus, business attire of I'm up front for chapel.

In vain, I'll try to avoid a nearly inevitable awkward situation.

I'll attempt to swap the order of shirts I wear for chapel (making sure I don't pick my favourites in the repetitive Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday order). If I'm desperate, I'll throw in a shirt I'm not particularly fond of, but will have the hint of originality.

Why go to all the effort?

To dodge the one question that haunts me...

"Graham, didn't you wear that last lesson?"
(Fortunately, if this member of the fashion police is in their school uniform, my answer is normally... "So were you!")

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Brand baggage

A few weeks ago I wrote here that it can be tough to invite people to something if they have already had a poor nibble of it.

But there is another, unavoidable, obstacle which you may need to overcome.

Brand baggage.

Baggage that comes, not from a negative experience of the event you are actually putting on, but baggage from a previous event with the same (or similar) name.

Honestly, there are only so many names we use to call our activities (hopefully not including a z where there should be a s).

Some will inevitably overlap.

There is more than one church with a "KidsChurch," "Impact," "Life Group" or "Sundayatwhatever-time-the-service-is."

You hope it doesn't happen to you, but occasionally, someone will have a bitter taste from the name you share with an unconnected ministry elsewhere.

Often we consider how our actions will effect the "brand" in our local patch.

Perhaps we need to lift our eyes and recognise that the "brand" we can damage is beyond our own turf. If we mess up, the damage can draft well beyond the boundaries of our local suburb.