Saturday, December 31, 2016

2016 Best of...

With this being my first year out of vocational ministry in over a decade, it shouldn't be a great surprise that the amount of posts on a blog focusing on ministry - especially to youth - have somewhat decreased.

But, from what I did write, my most viewed post was Fun will never win, followed by The Leader's Cringe Poker Face.

Here are the other highlights...

Expanding to Two (my most exciting post for the year)

The Ministry of Silence (something that anyone who used to inhabit the inner sanctum of a church knows that they need to exercise)

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Do we up the show for the special services?


All these church services have something in common - an increase in "outsiders" and an increase in effort and execution.

Last night I lead the Christmas Eve family service at my church and there was a good chance that there would be a significant number of guests.

The opportunity got me thinking of these extraordinary services which periodically spring up for those in ministry.

Are they viewed, judged, valued and prepared for differently to the regular services? And, should they be?

Do we value the attendance and opportunity higher for one of these special services?
Do we think those attending would be more or less judgemental or critical?

Are these questions a sign of the dedication those in ministry have to reaching those outside the church or are they signs that they take their usual congregants for granted?

I'd like to say that anyone up the front of a church will place the same value in any ministry, no matter who attends - purely regulars or guest - but I feel that our actions might show that it's the activity which draws in the new faces.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Why you need those who have walked the imperfect path

Perfect leaders don't exist in any church.
They don't exist in any youth ministries.
But we can pretend that there are.

In fact, perfect people don't exist within any area of the church.
Or outside the church either.

If a church or ministry wants to authentically connect with imperfect people, then an incredible resource is imperfect leaders.

So, why do we all-to-quickly reject those with "a past"?

Those who are divorced.
Single mothers.
Those who lived the "prodigal lifestyle."
Former alcoholics or drug users.
Those who've experienced homelessness.

There's many more examples which could be named. 

But, my point is that those with an imperfect past can be powerful tools for the advancement of the gospel.

Because they can connect with those who are doing it tough.
They can genuinely listen with a degree of understanding.
They can speak into difficult issues with authenticity.

I think that young people can use adults, of any age, who can say the following - 
I've gone through something similar...
I remember how that felt...
You can talk with me...
Let me tell you what I did...
I wish someone had given me the following advice...

These phrases have a far deeper impact when said by imperfect leaders.

Better yet, young people have the opportunity to hear - 
God still loves me...
God still accepts me...
God never rejected me...
God still uses me...

In these statement there is both hope presented for the present and the future.

And, these are things which are not only desperately needed today and absent when spoken by those who pretend they aren't imperfect.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Is it good to see the church sausage being made?

Law and sausage are two things you do not want to see being made. No one should see how laws or sausages are made. To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making. The making of laws like the making of sausages, is not a pretty sight.
Otto von Bismarck 

I wonder if church services are like the law.

You want them to be effective.
You want them to be run well.
You want them to be agents of positive change.

But, do you want to really peek behind the curtain?
Do you want to become aware of what's happening behind-the-scenes?

AND, importantly, would it be a positive thing if you saw the church service sausage being created?

Being neck-deep in planning, crafting, executing and reflecting on church services, I've seen both the positive and negative of the processes.

And I've seen people both energised and crushed by the process.

Because it can seem disorganised.
It can seem uninspired.
It can seem boring.
It can be argumentative.

But it can also be amazing to see God work in, through, and even despite of, the planning.
It can be empowering to plot things into the future.

I think those on the fringe of the institution - the young, new believers, fresh believers who have just committed to the church - can both bring powerful ideas to table and be inspiring to witness the religious sausage being made.

I just hope those who are willing to roll up their sleeves get to sit at the table with master sausage-makers.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Would I hire a pair?

I can think of multiple occasions when a couple have taken on a ministry partnership within a church.

Usually this ministry mix is a married couple who do the youth/children's ministry or perform a hybrid senior minister/pastoral care or worship leader mash-up.

While this can work, avoiding the unwritten two-for-one deal which some churches expect (BTW I wrote how much a church should expect a spouse to do at church here), it also comes at quite a risk.

Especially if the couple are "only" dating not married.

The danger?

What happens if they break up?
What happens if the ministry puts a too much of a strain on the relationship?

Of course, a couple formerly in a relationship can remain friends and have a productive working relationship, but... What if they don't?

Who loses the church in the divorce?
How does this vacuum affect a ministry?

Is it worth the risk?

I think it can be, especially in ministry with young people since they need older Christians of both genders - particularly females.

But, the risk remains for those churches which are willing to take the gamble and the pair willing to equally step up to the task...

Monday, December 5, 2016

Untried and untested

"The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried ... The world is full of these unfulfilled ideas, these uncompleted temples. History doesn't consist of crumbling ruins. Rather, it consists of half-built villas abandoned by a bankrupt builder. This world is more like an unfinished suburb than a deserted cemetery." (G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong With the World?, chapter 6)

I don't often put "profound" quotes on here, especially from things I've been reading because a) I think it's a bit wanky and, b) all too often the quotes are taken out of context.

But, I was struck by the quote above - cited by John Dickson on his Facebook page - since it, as John pointed out, speaks loudly to the all-too-common attitude of post-modernity.

We don't try.

Not really.

Not with jobs.
Not with dreams.
Not with church.
Not with faith.

We also don't test.

At least not long enough to reach an informed conclusion.

We give it a half-assed attempt, see that it doesn't instantly cure all our ills or deliver on all it's promises, and then move on to the next new thing.

Someone on the Facebook theme pointed out that this is used apologetically.

While I think this might somewhat fit, I, frankly, don't think that it's identified as a reason for faith's decline.

In order for that to happen, you'd have to be able to stop yourself, consider the culture around you, and have the guts to identify it out loud.

And... most don't have time for that...

Monday, November 28, 2016

What do you do when you hit your final number?

Yesterday I went to the evening service of the largest church in Sydney.

In short, the service was, relatively, what I expected.

But, as they were launching their Christmas services and, with a lot of extra activities like fireworks, Christmas lights, jumping castles, horse-and-cart rides, food stalls, ect, there were heaps of people.

A mean... A. Lot.

More, I hope, than they expected.

Because the time before the service was... interesting.

Whilst the parking attendants were friendly and efficient, we had to park a long way away.

No big deal.

That was borderline expected.

Then we arrived to the entrance doors.

It was hectic.

People were everywhere.

And, without a person inside saving you a seat (with proof provided via a text message) then you weren't getting inside the main auditorium.

Now, while the throng of people trying to enter wasn't exactly orderly, the guy on the door wasn't helpful.

In fact, he was borderline rude.

As an uninitiated churchgoer, I would have, nearly, been put off enough to leave.

But, there's an issue... What do you do when you get more people than you can handle?

Sure, it might be a problem that many only dream of, but, it's an issue which can arise with any event where...

You only have so many seats inside the building...
You only have so many seats on the bus...
You only have so many seats in cars...
You only have so many beds to sleep in...
You only have so many gingerbread house kits...

At any event where you only have "so many" you can hit your "final number."

Then what do you do?

Realistically, there's not a great deal you can do.

Fire restrictions exist.
Transportation laws exist.
You can't create more resources out of thin air.

Eventually, you're at capacity or you run out.

But, you can do one thing.

Be polite.

Not once did I, admittedly in the middle of a stressful situation, hear the guy on the door yesterday apologise.

For the inconvenience...
For the delay...
For the chaos...

The words "I'm sorry but..." would have made a massive difference.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The first decision is to set your limits

Sometimes, faith in the church.
Tragically, even family.

Decisions have a price.
Ministry has a cost.

I think everyone who chooses to work for a church must make a difficult decision.
A decision they shouldn't put off.
A decision which MUST be made before they enter into vocational ministry.

What are you willing to pay AND what are you willing to not pay?

For ministry will, inevitably, demand a price.
Caring for people, through the ups and downs of life, will come at a cost.

The most important question that needs to be considered is how high a price you'll be willing to pay and what cost will be too high.

Monday, November 14, 2016

The three positive messages of "pushback"

Last year I posted on the secret code for pushback.

But, there's a hidden message sent by someone who is willing to push back on what you're saying.

And, perhaps surprisingly, they're not negative.

In fact, they're a game-changer when dealing with criticism or someone with the gumption to challenge you.

The following list, of course, excludes those who are doing nothing but muck-raking or anonymous trolling...

Someone who's willing to make a stand on what you're saying or doing sends three positive messages...

First, at least potentially, it means that they care.

Second, it means that they're brave enough to actually speak up and should, if nothing else, be honoured for that courage.

Third, it shows that they have been paying attention.

If someone is willing to take the time to talk with you after a service, or make the effort to compose an email - even if it's a little awkward or uncomfortable to receive - it shows that they've been engaging with what you've been doing to such an extent that it's created a response.

When someone displays that they've been listening and engaging, that's an occasion to be thankful.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The lesson for those no-longer-in-ministry

More or less, aside from the occasional preaching gig - like what I'll have next Sunday - I've been out of practical ministry now for a full calendar year.

And... it's been a... challenge.

I've struggled to "be normal" and not be "on" while at church.

I've struggled with not being in leadership and, at least potentially, knowing what's going on.

I've struggled to switch off the more analytical, nay critical, elements of by mind while in churches.

But, most of all, I've struggled doing nothing.

I've struggled not being "the youth minister."

For, over the majority of the last decade, that's what I was.

That's what I did.

That was my identity.

That's what made me unique.

And... it's not the case any more.

But, I have... at least started... to learn an important lesson.

And, I'll readily admit that it's not the most complex truth.
But, it's one that's exceptionally difficult for those now-not-in-ministry to grasp.

Here it is...

Following Jesus is more important than serving Jesus.

I don't want to negate the importance of being an active member of Christ's body, but it's critical that those no-longer-up-the-front to realise that being a follower of Jesus is more important than being in ministry.

This is a lesson I'm still trying to learn...

Sunday, October 30, 2016

REPOST: A response to Halloween

This is the response to Halloween I gave out at church...

I never went trick-or-treating as a kid. It had nothing to do with religion, as my parents didn’t attend church, it just wasn’t done amongst my friends or in my neighbourhood. 
I’m only in my early thirties, but even I have to admit that times seem to have changed. Quickly.
Halloween is getting increasingly difficult to ignore. It’s in shops, day-care centres, kindergartens and (you’ve probably noticed!) schools. 
Each year there seems to be an increasing number of trick-or-treaters.
And… Halloween’s not going away…

So, how should parents respond to Halloween? 

Is it nothing but harmless fun or evil-incarnate? A sugar-fuelled time of enjoyment or a corrupting influence?
If you ask Google, you get approximately 31,100,000 results in just 0.24 seconds.
This short article isn’t about giving you a definitive answer, but instead, provide information to help you arrive at a decision which is most appropriate for what you and your family believe to be important.

Halloween raises, for many, two potential issues resolving around culture and faith…
First, no matter what your beliefs may be, should those in Australia celebrate Halloween, a tradition closer associated with North America.

And, if you’re a Christian, is it appropriate to celebrate Halloween and what options are there to respond? 

In order to make some informed decisions, it makes sense to quickly take a closer look at what Halloween is…

HISTORY... Why Halloween?

Two traditions hide behind Halloween.

Halloween falls on October 31, the day before the church celebrates and remembers All Saints’/All Hallows Day. On this date, the church recalls and recognises the important people of faith, both past and present – near and far, who have been significant in a personal and communal faith journey. Halloween is an abbreviation of All Hallows Eve.

But the oldest tradition comes from the Celts who marked the New Year, and change of the seasons, by celebrating Samhain. Details can be confusing, but it was believed that the spiritual and physical realms overlapped during that night and the spirits could then walk the earth. People put on scary masks and lit bonfires to scare away evil spirits.

Like other Christian festivals, the church utilised a date of previous observance or celebration to mark a significant date on the calendar.

Should this history be a problem?

To begin, if might be wise to consider, for yourself, your family and your neighbours, what Halloween means today. Does it still revolve around Druid rituals?
Unless you have a concern about the dates of other Christian festivals and the symbols used, like the Christmas tree - a tradition which can be traced back to ‘pagan’ customs, then Halloween need not cause immediate apprehension.
But Halloween does raise some modern questions…

CONNECTION... A Safe Opportunity?

To start, is the idea of knocking on strangers’ doors safe for your kids? 
Doesn’t trick-or-treating go against “Stranger Danger”?

Well supervised, trick-or-treating can be relatively safe, especially if done in local communities, amongst people your family already have a relationship with.
If done thoughtfully, Halloween can be a fantastic opportunity to connect with the parents of children’s friends, other families and your neighbours.

Second, do my kids need to dress provocatively?

Of course not. You control what they do and don’t wear. You don’t need to allow your child to dress as a ghost, witch, the devil or an overtly revealing costume if it makes you uncomfortable. There are plenty of alternate costume options.

But, is this something we really need to do in Australia?

You have complete freedom to choose what you do on Halloween.
But Halloween is celebrated in many parts of the world, particularly the United Kingdom, Europe and, of course, the United States.

Some would point to the vast number of imported traditions, North American and otherwise, we’ve embraced and see little wrong with Halloween being yet another event in a multicultural society.

FAITH... Discernment and Conscience.

 If you’re a person of faith, Halloween can be problematic with a quick Google search producing 1,3200,000 results for “What should Christians do on Halloween?” Unsurprisingly, opinions differ wildly.
At the core, issues not directly addressed by the bible need to be governed by two things, discernment and conscience.

If, in the surroundings of your family, community and church, it would be unwise to partake in Halloween, then, by all means, give it a miss. God would not want you to do something you cannot do in good faith (Romans 14:3). Instead, stay home and have a quiet night in.

Alternatively, if you can think of no reason which would prevent you from participating in Halloween, or no one who would be hindered by your participation, then feel free to get involved as much as you’re comfortable in doing so (Ephesians 5:15-16, Colossians 4::3).

Being guided by your conscience and the Spirit of God would be a good indicator of what you should do on October 31.
If you’re looking for an alternate way to get involved in Halloween, you might want to check out

The bible says in 1 Corinthians 10:31 - So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.
Our desire in life should be to please God, with Halloween being no exception. 

But whatever you decide, if one has put considerable thought into their participation in Halloween and come to a different conclusion as you, it is not your (or my) place to judge them (Romans 1:1-5).

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Exit interview questions

People change churches. 
People leave ministries.

It happens.
At every church.
Big and small.
Time and again.

Some churches deal with it better than others.

Those who deal with it in the most mature and productive manner will have a system in place to speak with those who are leaving. Most often, this is done through a type of exit interview.

For those heading through the exit door, these are the questions I'd want to ask...

Now, these questions work best with a few ground rules.
First, the church needs to accept that the person is moving on. The aim isn't to try and "win the person back."
Second, all parties should want this to be an opportunity for learning and growth, not a moment for finger-pointing.

  1. What's your first memory of xyz church?
  2. What's your favourite memory of xyz church?
  3. What are you going to miss most about xyz church?
  4. When did you come to the decision to leave xyz church?
  5. What, if anything, changed/caused you to come to this decision?
  6. Are you going to a new church?
  7. What drew you to that church?
  8. What could we at xyz church do better?
  9. What are your feelings about xyz church?
  10. How could we, at xyz church, bless you at this time?
  11. Would you feel comfortable if we kept in touch, and if so, what degree would you like that to be and how's the best way of staying in touch?

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Anatonmy of a dying church

For all of my Christian life I've been a member of a mainline church which is one of - if not the #1 - fastest declining and oldest denomination in Australia.

As such, I've seen and heard about a lot of dying churches.

Generally, they contain a few common traits.

  • They love Jesus (even dying churches are full of people who love Jesus).
  • They don't have a refreshment of people for those who are dying (this doesn't necessarily need to be younger people, just any fresh bodies!).
  • They are stuck in their style of doing things.
  • They have an unhealthy church budget. This means that more than a third is used for staffing, their budget is dependant on external tenancy & offerings are declining.
  • The majority of budget, worship, energy and creativity are directed inwardly.
  • They have, and are often proud, of older communication and offertory strategies.
  • They have a worn out facility.
  • They have no family/children's ministry strategy.
  • There's reduced human resources, resulting in the majority of activities done by the minister.
  • They have quick minister/staff turnover.
No church sets out to be fatally declining, but a lot of churches, when you look at them are at their deaths door.

The challenge is to spot these markers, hear the alarm-bells and do all you can to try and reverse the tide.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Not being disappointed when the wind continued to blow

Last weekend my eldest showed me that she is... Ordinary.

Or at least not divine. 

For, while the wind blew on a sunny Saturday afternoon in Sydney, she tried to stop the breeze. 

Without success.

But, the episode got me thinking... What if...

What if the wind did stop?
What if I were the parent of the divine?
What if my offspring were the next Messiah?

How long would it take for me to notice?
What would be the first hint?
Would I tell anyone?
If I did tell someone, would they believe me?
What proof would others want?
Why didn't I get some kind of sign from God earlier?
Would I be tempted to exploit my daughters powers?
Would our wine and food budgets be drastically slashed?

In truth, I was quietly pleased that Hanna left the weather unrebuked, it raises far too many problems.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Spreading out the gospels

I've written about a few bible reading schemes I've, albeit unsuccessfully, attempted to undertake the last few years (here and here).

Anyone who has attempted to read the bible cover-to-cover, which I have successfully done a few times, will be aware of the stumbling block that hits as you near the end of the Pentateuch.

As you draw away from the patriarchs in Genesis and the thrills of the Exodus, you delve into the Law. Followed by more Law. And then... A restating of the Law in Deuteronomy.

In truth, it feels a tad repetitive.

But, a similar thing can happen in the New Testament if you read from the beginning.

By the time you encounter the third of the synoptic gospels, it can feel a bit familiar.

I know it might seem a near blasphemous, but the accounts of Jesus can feel a little repeated, opening up the danger of skimming over the segments you've encountered previously.

But there might be a wise way around this. 

What if you dispersed the gospels thoughtout your reading plan for the remainder of the New Testament?

What if you started with Matthew, then read Acts-Romans, followed by Mark, then the rest of the Pauline Epistles, then Luke, then Hebrews-Jude, finalised by the gospel of John and Revelation.

I like this structure since it, freshly, brings you back to the life and ministry of Jesus, seeing how this affected the embryonic church and the struggles it faced and avoiding the chronological trap of gospel complacency. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The lens that opens authenticity

A few days ago I read this article about the ways Christians turn people off church and loved the third point - We base community on shared beliefs instead of shared brokenness.

It reminds me of my post on Jenga faith and the activity I did with many of the young adults at my last church.

In short, the point I wanted to impress was that imperfect faith and lives were welcome in church.

But, following on from the relevantmagazine article, I wonder how churches would look if we actually... Dare I say primarily(?)... See each other through the lens of everyone being a broken, flawed person?

How would we treat each other differently?

How would our conversations change?

Would we be more welcoming and accepting of outsiders?

Would we be less socked by each other's flaws and failings?

Would we finally have permission and feel comfortable to drop the perfect Christian veneer?

When it comes to activating the elusive, modern-church enigma, of authenticity, does it all begin with the way we view each other?

Friday, September 30, 2016

You are not exceptional

In my last post I wrote that no one is truly as unique as they feel

This could have been disappointing...

Well, I've got more bad news for you.

You're also not exceptional.

What do I mean by that?

I mean that you, and I, are not the exception.

Even though we might want to be... We are not.

We are not the exception when it comes to the short cuts we think we're entitled to.
We are not the exception when it comes to following the commands of God. They don't apply to everyone else but us.

This is the lie temptation feeds us.

We are told the we are unique... So no one else understands.
We are told that we are the exception... So we can get away with this.

This is how temptation sucks us in and, just like in the garden of Eden, withdraws us from the community around us.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Your story is not unique

Everyone wants to be unique.

Very few people are.

I'd go so far as to say no one.

No one, at the core, lives their life on an absolutely revolutionary path.

For, in reality, others have always faced the same things in the past.

And... That's a good thing.

There's no new questions to stump you.
There's no new temptation to trip you up.
There's no situation that hasn't been wrestled with previously.

Why is this a good thing?

Because you can learn the lessons from others before you...
You can go to people for I've-lived-through-this advice...
You have examples, both good and bad, to glean wisdom from...

Unfortunately, in a culture where everyone wants to carve out their own path, we can miss the opportunity to see that being a part of the rich tapestry of life and faith is a blessing.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

The adult check-list

If they gave out licenses in order for someone to become an adult, what things would they need to be able to do in order to qualify?

I pondered this while performing one of the tasks which should be on that list.

I changed a tyre on my car. Three actually. As you can see here, it's not the first time.

But the ability to change a tyre is only at the start of the list.

Here's what I think you should be able to do in order to activate your adult-card... In no particular order...

  • Be able to change a tyre.
Truly, it's not that hard. Anytime someone calls the NRMA to change a flat the service-man should just laugh at them while performing the swap.
  • Be able to check and change the oil in your car.
The second lamest reason for your car to need assistance.
  • Be able to jump start a car.
Inevitably, you'll need to do this. Blowing off a hand whilst doing it would be unfortunate.
  • Be able to drive a manual.
You never know when that's the only kind of car that'll be available.

  • Be able to parallel park.
You should be able to park by the curb competently enough that a group of strangers or your family can watch without cringing.
  • Be able to cook in order to survive.
Trust me, living off food that other people had prepared, gets expensive real quick.
  • Be able to cook a roast dinner.
It's good to have a main meal up your sleeve.
  • Be able to cook a specialty meal.
How else do you really impress a date?
  • Be able to cook breakfast.
For the morning after you've really, REALLY, impressed a date/your spouse.
  • Be able to swim.
You just should be able to do more than just stay afloat.
  • Be able, and willing, to change a nappy.
Any nappy. One AND Twos. Not just your own kid. Without complaining.
  • Be able to do your taxes.
Whilst you might use an accountant, you're both capable to fill in the form yourself and have done so in the past.
  • Be able to change a light bulb.
See what I wrote earlier about changing a tire, change NRMA to handyman, and multiply that by a million.
  • Be able to change a tap washer.
See what I wrote about the oil in your car... Ditto.
  • Be able to iron clothes.
At minimum, you should be able to iron a business shirt.
  • Be able to sew on a button.
For when you notice it missing from your freshly-ironed shirt.
Bonus if you've got more than one knot in your arsenal.
  • Know what alcoholic drink you enjoy and how it's best served.
Of course, enjoyed responsibly.
  • Be able to make quality hot drinks.
Everyone loves the person who can make great coffee or brew a fine tea.
  • Be able to read a map and use a compass.
You never know when you'll need it. But, when you do, you'll be screwed if all you know is how to use GPS and there's no Internet.
  • Know first aid, especially CPR.
See what I wrote about a map and compass, now insert the element of potential-life-and-death.
  • Be able to build and start a fire.
Again, copy and paste from above. Bonus if you can start it without matches.
  • Know how to find or collect water if stranded.
Repeat from above - can you sense a trend?
  • Be able to kill a bug relatively fearlessly.
If you live in Australia, you've gotta know how to handle creepy crawlies. Especially huntsmen spiders.
  • Know how to form a good argument.
No matter where you are - work, home, the pub - this will be invaluable.

  • Know how to give a good speech.
This will put you ahead of a lot of people who hate public speaking.

    • Be albe to spell and use propa grammar.
    This will put you ahead of a lot of people, especially in a professional setting.
    If performing a good speech would put you ahead of others, this will advance you light-years.
    • Be able to tell a good story.
    The hidden secret of good communication.
    You'll always have a source of entertainment if you can draw a half dozen things decently.
    What do you protect, provide and stand for?

    In no way is this an exhaustive list, but I think it's a good start.

    Of the 31 points, I can do approximately 23 (you can speculate which ones I can't do).

    So, if you don't mind, I'll turn in my adult-card once I hit publish...

    Wednesday, September 21, 2016

    The two letters which should be said a lot in church


    If you don't know...
    If you're not aware...
    If you're new here...
    If you're not convinced...

    The word if sends a powerful message.


    Because it shows that you don't presume.

    You don't presume that everyone is a regular...
    You don't presume that everyone is identical...
    You don't presume that everyone is in total agreement with what you're saying...

    All because you use the two little letters which should be said, repeatedly, from the front of the church.

    Sunday, September 18, 2016

    Healthy > Active

    When it comes to ministries, there's a dark secret...
    All too often, active trumps healthy.

    No one would admit it openly, but it's the reality.

    Active = Bodies
    Bodies = Wallets
    Wallets = Money

    Is this equation a tad cynical?
    Yes, but it's quite reflective of decision-making mindsets and budgets.

    But, the measure of success of a ministry should be something far deeper than mere activity.

    More than bodies participating...
    More than a strong social media presence...
    More than being financially sustainable...

    The marker for success should be health.

    Which might not look a lot like "success."

    Health might mean a shrinking in number.
    Health might annoy others.
    Health might be financially costly.

    But a healthy ministry will have a rich desire to cultivate Christ-likeness and be a place of both authenticity and welcom-ness.

    For, these healthy ministries will have a far greater eternal impact, even if they don't always appear to be a throng of activity.

    Tuesday, September 13, 2016

    Why the church should always provide pew bibles

    Last Sunday night I visited a church and noticed something missing which I, incidentally, raised with the senior minister when he introduced himself to me.

    They had no pew bibles.

    Once it caught my attention, and I brought it to the attention of a few people around me, the more I realised the disservice that they were providing.

    First of all, the absence of bibles strips those in the pews, especially those visiting - and expecting pew bibles - or new to church, the chance to physically handle the word of God or be able to take one.

    Now, I know that anyone with a smart phone has a bible at their fingertips, but that leads me to my second point..

    For, secondly, if you're expecting those attending to either bring their own bibles or look up the passage online, then you deprive the church of a unifying scripture translation. This complicates both the content of preaching and the focus of the bible reading.

    On multiple occasions last Sunday the preacher switched from the translation which was read due to his comfort with an alternate. This bugged me. And it could have been easily avoided.

    But, furthermore, the practice of allowing for innumerable bible translations just opens the door for more translation questions to be raised which you might not delve into. Why would you encourage this?

    Additionally, I was bothered when the congregation was encouraged to look up another part of the bible since I couldn't quickly flip to it. Having the bible in your hands allows you, if you're biblically proficient, to easily follow any random trail that might spring to mind or be able to see on the page the wider context of the passage.

    Finally, and most importantly, the pew bible - or lack-thereof - sends a subtitle, yet powerful, message.

    Can you say that you, as a church, really value the bible if you don't provide one, ensuring that it's available to all?

    Sunday, September 11, 2016

    Tilting the odds

    This morning I, once again, lead the service and preached at a local church.

    This was different from last week.

    Not only were I not up the front of a church service, but I skipped church altogether in the morning.

    Because it was Father's Day... And I wasn't given a solid enough reason to go to church over having breakfast with my family.

    I know... Stone me. Drag me out into the street and have me flogged because I chose to have a big breakfast over attending a church service.

    But, I wasn't given a special incentive to select church over bacon.

    And, somewhat shamefully, bacon triumphed.

    On special, family-based occasions, I think that the church service needs an extra hook.

    Now, I know, attending church - meeting with both God and His people - should be enough... But the draw of family breakfast can be awfully alluring.

    So, I would put on breakfast for the parents on mother's or Father's Day. Parents knew that French toast or bacon would await them.

    In the end, a simple idea like this gives church an extra lift when people are deciding what to do before they open their flowers & chocolates or socks & undies.

    Wednesday, September 7, 2016

    The best evangelistic steps: Appeal. Think. Chat.

    I wrote that my go-to gospel presentation could be summed up by three letters... FTH.

    But, when it comes to delivering an evangelistic appeal, it can me summed up by three words... Appeal. Think. Chat.

    Make the Appeal - Present the gospel message.

    Give an opportunity to Think - Provide space, be it a few moments, overnight or longer to reflect on the gospel message.

    Encourage a Chat - Since discipleship happens in relationship, encourage someone who wants to respond to the gospel to speak with a mature believer (be it minister, youth minister, volunteer leader).

    I think this method works better than the eyes-closed-raise-hand-walk-down-the-front approach which has been so popular since it not only gives time and space for the listener to truely weigh up the implications of the gospel, but also connects then into a wider discipleship process/relationship, hopefully closing the vast backdoor of many large evangelical ministries.

    Monday, September 5, 2016

    The bible reader should have this important trait

    Now that my primary public ministry is the occasional church service leading and preaching, I've been giving a lot more thought to the practicalities of the church service.

    Yesterday, during church, my mind pondered the bible reading.

    And, I confess, all too often I did this a disservice.


    Because I'd randomly ask people to do the bible reading once they arrived at church.

    Put simply, the bible deserves better than this.

    And, in putting so little purposefulness into the reading of the scriptures, it sent the message that they we're as important as the other elements of the service which would be meticulously rostered and prepared.

    But, as often as was practical, I did do one thing right.

    I ensured that the bible was read by the laity.

    The importance of this, again, revolved around the message which it sent.

    The bible should be read by those outside the paid church staff because it communicates that the bible's not so sacred or complicated that it's reserved for the "experts."

    One remarkable advancement from the Reformation and the printing press was that it put the bible into the hands of the commoner.

    It would be a shame if we started to reverse that progression...