Monday, June 30, 2014

Two questions to constantly ask God

Over the last few weeks I've taken a number of groups through the F.U.L.L.T.I.L.T. prayer model.

Each time, when I've hit the LISTEN section, I've shared two questions which I think we need to bring constantly before God, listening for a response.

Who am I?

What do you want me to change?

Given enough time, alert to the prompting of God through the Holy Spirit, bible and other people, our lives and spiritual journeys would be transformed if we just kept bring these two queries before Our Maker.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The risk once you open your mouth

If you're going to troll me, this is the post to do it.

Whenever you raise your voice, you open yourself to push-back. Constructive or not.

Whenever you raise your head online and share something, you open yourself to getting whacked by the Internet. Some people will call you out... Warranted or not.

From your first Tweet...
Whenever you share something on Facebook...
When you hit publish on a blog post...
If you ever teach a scripture class, do a youth group talk, lead a church service or deliver a sermon...

You increase your exposure to feeling the reactions of others.

BUT, you also open yourself up to interaction with other people's quality opinions and ideas.

That is the reward that comes with the risk.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

We all have bias

I'm a male, straight, husband, father, Australian, closer to Arminian-than-Calvinist Christian, youth minister.
I have a history, and people, behind me and a whole bunch of experiences which have shaped who I am.

These, and a thousand other things, create bias in my life.

They affect what I write on this blog.
And how I lead church services.
And what I say in scripture classes.
And how I give sermons or youth group talks.
And, hopefully, choices I make.

We all have bias.
Every. One. Of. Us.

And that's okay.
Unavoidable even.

Every author.
Every speaker.
Every teacher.
Every minister.


Every theology book, if written by a person (and most books are), will contain some bias.
Every sermon, if delivered by a person (and most are), will contain bias.
Every news report, newspaper column, blog post, or magazine article, if influenced by a person (and most are), will contain bias.
Every account of history, if seen through the eyes of a person (and most are), will contain bias.

Very, very, few people decide to write or speak on something unless they've already formed some sort of opinion previously or have some foundational beliefs/values to launch from.

We need to be aware of this bias.
We need to consider this bias.
Both ours and others.

Most importantly, where appropriate, we should disclose this bias.

Because I am a male, straight, husband, father, Australian, closer to Arminian-than-Calvinist Christian, youth minister.
I have a history, and people, behind me and a whole bunch of experiences which have shaped who I am.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Bumper Leaders

I previously wrote about Bumper People in the context of gently integrating young people into the decision making structures of a church or denomination.

But, there's another place where bumper people are required.

Youth group.

The reason?

Teens (and young adults for that matter!) can have difficulty flirting.

In fact, especially for guys, teenage flirting can quickly stomp into creepy-town.

So, when it's noticed that a guy (or group of guys) has their eye on a particular lass, it's a good idea to flag a couple of bumper leaders.

A leader, of either gender, who can keep an eye on and ear out for anything too awkward or inappropriate.

The advantage of employing both male and female bumper leaders is that either teen, flirtee or flirter, can be distracted/misdirected and it not be too obvious what's going on.

As powerful as the female attraction can be, the worst result would be for it to backfire because a wannabe Lothario hasn't nailed down his flirting technique and engages all the pick-up advice his gathered from the Internet.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Last one through the door is the scribe

I love what I read here about meetings and is a brilliant extension of a costly no-show.

I short, not only is being absent made expensive, but you delegate a non-desired duty (such as taking minutes) to the poor sole who is last into the meeting.

Sure, it might kill continuity with your minute taking (which, really, how hard is it?), but it'll make sure people are punctual to your meetings...

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Hawk Leaders

When I wrote about Chat Leaders here I mentioned that I produce a run sheet for every week of the children's and youth activities we run at my church.

Last week, I added a new type of leader.


No, they don't glide around on updrafts, looking for small marsupials to pounce upon and take back to their nest.

Instead, they are a few designated leaders (particularly the younger, in-training, ones) who will be strategically placed within the kids during the input time.

Within the kids, they assist in controlling an "more enthusiastic" kids, chat to kids if any sharing questions are used, be an example to the youngsters, supporting the person "up front" and, hopefully, observe enough talks over time that they won't be completely freaked out when their asked to give one.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Three reasons we shouldn't just stick to the Gospels

The lectionary, on the whole, is a fairly good thing.

Over a three-year cycle, a congregation systematically hears (if all assigned readings are read) large chunks of the Old Testament narrative, all the Psalms, the four Gospels and the rest of the New Testament.

Ideally, this should give you a balanced view of the Scriptures.

But... I wonder.

How many churches, who follow the lectionary, primarily stick with the gospel passage? I suggest it is the VAST majority.

And this can be a problem.

First, incidentally, it creates a mysterious aurora around the rest of the bible. Especially if they are read but not referred to, they're nothing more than just snippets of an out-of-context story.

Second, by avoiding the non-Gospel readings, we send the message that the rest of the bible is of lesser importance.

Finally, we miss a valuable opportunity to teach the congregation how the ENTIRE bible fits together, displaying the unraveling Salvation Story, climaxing with Jesus. We shouldn't rob the church a chance to see how any section of the bible was used by God.

I suspect, if a church undertook a two-year audit of all the scripture passages read and sermon topics used (like I just did), they would be surprised at the unbalanced biblical diet they've been serving up to their congregation (and probably need to check out my post on selecting a sermon series).

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Channelling someone else

I just finished setting up church for the evening service, having a fairly good idea for an introduction to Pentecost.

But I’ll freely admit, I’m not very creative.

In order to think up the idea, I wondered what someone I used to work with would do and channelled their creativity.

Sometimes, in areas you’re struggling for inspiration, be it a bible study, sermon, game or production idea, the secret can lie in viewing the situation through the eyes of someone who would excel in that scenario. A worst, you’ll get a different perspective. At best, you’ll strike a golden idea (even if it’s just one you remember that person having done in the past).

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Modern Gnosticism and the importance of Church History

An important element in understanding much of the New Testament is getting your head around the issues which occurred within the early church. One such issue was, and would be for the first four centuries, Gnosticism.

Three books which have Gnosticism firmly in their background are the Epistles of John (which my youth group are currently looking at).

Last Friday I made the point that this seemingly obscure idea of Gnosticism matters because Gnostic thought, even un-named, is still alive and well today.

Gnosticism periodically pops up whenever one of the Gnostic gospels is mentioned in the media, "unlocking" a "secret truth" about Jesus or the early church.

Further, Gnosticism appears in popular films like The Matrix and The Da Vinci Code. Again, these rotate around a person or persons who posses a "hidden" or "secret" knowledge about the nature of reality or institutions. The point of the films are to follow the lead character in discovering the "real truth."

Finally, and most insidiously, the Gnostic belief of separating-physical-and-spiritual is in full force when it comes to the modern separation of body and spirit in regards to sex. Friends with benefits and one night stands thrive within this Gnostic teaching.

This is why church history and the foundational creeds matter.

The same issues which hounded the church in the past are still kicking today.

If we know how the Church Fathers dealt with problems surrounding Gnosticism, the Incarnation and deity of Christ, the Trinity, grace and the nature of Salvation then addressing these issues would be much easier...