Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Thanks for what I didn't do...

ACTS - Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplementation.
SPIT - Sorry, Please, I love you, Thanks.
FULLTILT - Focus, Up, Lay it on the Line, Lap it up, Thanks, I want/need, Listen, Travel.

No matter what method you favour, prayer is a common topic wrestled with by Christians.

Often, we wonder what we need to do or what we should include.

One element which rarely gets a mention, but could drastically transform the way we see our times of prayer, are the things we did NOT do.

All too often, the above statement would be interpreted negatively.

We didn't help others.
We didn't show mercy.
We didn't act lovingly.

But, what about the times we didn't sin?
What about the times we successfully resisted that habitual failing?
What about the times we walked away from gossip?

How would our prayers sound if we celebrated these moments?
Would our spiritual self esteem look better?
Would we draw greater encouragement to resist temptation if we intentionally looked back on the times we were successful in thwarting sins' snares?

When we asked for praise points, why don't we share what we could have easily done, but, with the help of the Holy Spirit, didn't?

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Does being small or fat affect youth ministers or teachers?

While I'm no Goliath, I'm the average 6-foot, 70-kilo/130-pound guy.

In high school, I was a shrimp - not truely hitting my growth spurt till I'd graduated - with big friends. While I was ostracised to the front row in school photos, those in the back row were giants.

As a result of my physique, while I might not be the biggest guy in the room, I can't think of an occasion when I've been physically intimidated in a youth group or scripture class.

But, then again, I'm not a petite 5-foot woman.

When faced with a class where half could tower over you, are you aware of it? Does it affect the way you discipline?

When it comes to youth groups which play games, is it intimidating? Are you aware of the size difference when having difficult conversations?

As an average bloke, these thoughts almost never go through my mind.
If things ever got out of hand, I was confident that I'd be ok.

Additionally, I've always been fairly slim.

If you were of a larger carriage/obese/fat (select whichever term you want), would that be in your mind?

Would you be self conscious in front of students?
Would you be afraid that you were being made fun of (which we did to some of our teachers at school)?

At worst, in starting to lose my hair and have a broken nose. These issues don't plague me (at least outwardly!).

But, I wonder, what role does physical stature play in the role of youth ministers or teachers?

Friday, November 17, 2017

Post-Plebiscite ponderings - The church

The world didn't end.
The sky didn't fall in.
Armageddon wasn't unleashed.

During the week the campaign for approving Same Sex Marriage was successful in the marriage postal plebiscite.

So, since the end-times weren't unleashed, what does this mean for the church?

To start, it's a clear statement, if we needed one, that the church no longer owns marriage. If it ever did, the tradition of matrimony now, primarily, resides outsides the churches walls.

Second, this should open up loads of discussions.
And, hopefully, ministry opportunities.

Some churches, and specific ministers, will become known for allowing their buildings to be used for gay weddings or officiating the ceremonies. During that process the church can show the grace and love of Christ and share some of the imagery pointed to by marriage.

Additionally, I'd hope that churches and ministers who are still against gay marriage will be humble enough to point perspective couples to those who will, in faithful conscience, perform the ceremony.

This leads to my third point. This vote allows, in the main, for the church to be grateful losers. We can show that we will accept governmental decisions which we might not completely endorse.

For many, the image of a humble church will be a refreshing, even somewhat healing, change.

Finally, the church, as she always has, should continue to preach the gospel of Jesus. He came, taught, died and rose again for everyone, no matter their sexuality or marital status. No matter how this vote was going to pan out, Jesus is still Lord. He is still soverighn. He is still faithful. He is still good.

At the core, the churches message shouldn't change.

It's up to the people within the church, as it always has been, for the gospel to be spread, conversation to be had, grace extended, mercy and compassion shown and ministry opportunities utilised.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Post-Plebiscite ponderings

61-39... Close enough to the 60-40 I predicted last night.

As of 10ish this morning, the results of the Same Sex Marriage plebiscite came through in favour of the affirmative.

Last night, in all my ponderings, I didn't mention two things.

The first, while I mentioned that the topic of SSM won't be resolved immediately, it should remain clearly stated that this result actually guarantees nothing.

All that happens now is a free vote in parliament. Nothing more.

The parliament should follow the will of the people, but they aren't compelled to. 

As for the numbers, while 3 out of 10 voted against, when compared with our elections, usually over 45% of people voted in an alternative way than the winner. 

After an election, we can move on. After this result, surely the same can happen.

Furthermore, any legislation which is passed can be under serious challenge due to the current controversy surrounding the constitutional legality of the make up of the current government.

Second, in all my half-baked opinions, I realise I haven't mentioned the church. I'll do that tomorrow - stay tuned.

In the end, when I woke up this morning, I wondered what it would be like to be gay and wondering what today held.

Truthfully, I was bothered.

I was bothered that my future was placed in the hands of others complete strangers.

People who didn't know me...
Who will, most likely, never meet me...
People, potentially, influenced by some of the things I pondered about yesterday, which are completely out of my control...

I hope, again, without telling you how I voted, that now the nation can begin to move on. 

For, today, no matter which box people ticked, Australian society began to change.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Plebiscite Ponderings

In around 10 hours Australia will have the result of the postal plebiscite concerning same sex marriage which, seemingly, as been going on... Forever.

When this massive, and incredablly expensive, undertaking was announced there were fears that the debate would be ugly. And, while the exercise has been drawn out, generally, the whole exercise hasn't left the nation in a smouldering heap.

But the plebiscite has brought a few things to my attention.

First, like with any issue, there have been idiots, nut-jobs and crazies on both sides. As per usual, they have been the loudest voices at the table and the ones who have garnered the most attention. 

Second, I've been concerned with the personalisation of industry. QANTAS, Coke, ANZ, the Australian Medical Association, universities, the AFL and the NRL all took very public 'yes' stances. They were not alone. Nearly every industry and sporting organisation was touched by rainbow support.

This concerned me since, seemingly, their stance insinuated that their entire corporation was in support of 'yes.' Frankly, this could not go the case and I wonder how this affected those against SSM, for whatever reason, within these brands. Could they speak out? Were they annoyed that they, potentially, were misrepresented? Is it proper for a business to back a political or social agenda? If so, they why don't the same companies publicly announce their positions on abortion or euthanasia? Will they back a candidate or political party at the next election? I think not.

Furthermore, this support for the 'yes' vote reached into politics, with both leaders of the political divide encouraging people to cast affirmative ballots and the Lord Mayor of Sydney using thousands of dollars of public funds to decorate the city centre rainbow. Once more, did this ostracise those on the no side of the ledger? Was this appropriate use of taxpayer funds or time of public officials?

And this raises my third concern, where was the public 'no' support? From the start of the plebiscite, it was announced that no advertising companies would produce or run ads for the 'no' campaign. No company came out against the idea. Outside of politicians, very few public figures said they were against SSM. While TV stars, entire programs, radio stations and hosts were quite vocally affirmative, I wonder how many were forced to remain closeted in their alternate view?

Why would they speak up? Look what happened to Israel Falou and Margaret Court. They, for religious reasons, publicly (and fairly respectfully) said they would vote no and they were slammed, shamed, ridiculed and ostracised. 

This didn't seem like open, fair debate.

Beyond this, it seemed that everyone just retreated into their conclaves in order to hear the echo chamber of their position. Very few genuine public debates were had, if any.

As often happens, those on the opposite side of the argument were labelled bigots and intolerant or anarchists and liberals. 

Far too many people were prepared to 'play the man, not the ball.' They were open to criticise the character of a person, not their arguments.

And, from either side, I didn't hear many positive arguments. I heard lots of scare campaigns. A bit of progressive witch hunting. Some warnings of a slippery slope. A dash of eye-rolling at conservatives.

I didn't see or hear much engagement.

If anything, I think the 'yes' campaign lost more votes, in some ways, than it gained. Via the more militant, aggressive arms of their argument, I believe they nudged a sizeable chunk away from their cause. The Australian tendency to push back, or even do the opposite to the desired outcome of a bully - just to 'stick it up them' may have swollen the numbers in the 'no' camp.

From this standpoint, advocating for prompt return of ballot papers, was a step in the right direction for the affirmative case since it restricted the chance of people changing their minds to, I suspect, a 'no.'

With, reportedly, the response rate being just shy of 80%, it has been shown that, as a nation, we do care about a political question that we find interesting and, again, as a nation, we could move towards either non-compulsory voting or postal elections.

Now, no I won't tell you which box I put an X in.

But, I do have a two predictions

First, I suspect that the vote will come back 'yes,' but it will not be a landslide... I'm guessing around 60-40. If anything, this plebiscite will be a reminder, on SSM, exactly how divided we are.

Second, this issues won't be resolved soon. 

If the answer is 'yes' then the ramifications for religious and conscientious objectors must be secured (an increasing point of conjecture and motivator for some 'no' devotees) and laws ammended. 

If the result is 'no,' while it might kill the issue politically for a generation, I can't imagine the 'yes' supporters will accept the decision. They will question and challenge everything about the plebiscite and its outcome.

I'm not convinced, either way it plans out, that the 'losers' will drift quietly into the night.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Avoiding church nepotism

In general, unless they turn into Satan-worshipping-hedonistic-prodigals, minister's kids are awesome.

I've loved having minister's kids involved in the churches and ministries I've been a part of.

They are talented.
They are invested.
They are... Always around when you need them.

But, this leaves a lot of churches open to the charge of nepotism.

If the minister's kids are in the band...
Or leading at youth group...
Or heading up the children's ministry...
Or taking over when the minister retires...
A tinge of nepotism can exists. 

The minister, even subconsciously, can favour their offspring.

But, how is ecclesiastical nepotism avoided?

In short, if the minister is the sole decision maker, you won't. 

So, as a rule, a minister should never be the one selecting their child. 
Someone else does.

Or, the minister doesn't select their children's involvement in isolation.

For, as talented, faithful and Spirit-driven a minister's kid might be, human nature will make people's mind wander towards genealogical favouritism.

As a minister, they should want to avoided this.
And, for a minister's kid, the accusation of nepotism should be something they never need to answer or wonder about in their minds.  

Monday, November 6, 2017

The questions in a bible study everyone dreads, but needs to hear

Aside from building community and "doing life" together, bible study should be about developing a fuller understand of the bible and how it applies to our lives.

With this aim in mind, two questions which should be freely asked when someone raises an opinion and, if rightly and appropriately challenged, are the following...

How has your thinking changed?
Now what?

When you've discovered something new, you need to hear these questions...
When you've had your mindset tweaked, you need to be asked these questions...

As satisfying as dropping a nugget of wisdom on someone might be, your job of imparting wisdom isn't complete until the person has sat with something a few minutes and then been asked these two questions...

The only trouble is, once you start asking these important questions then those who discover something new can begin to dread their posing since, it's only once they're asked that the true growth and discipleship commence.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Open invites to every event?

I'm under the illusion that I've always, more or less, been a part of the "cool" group at church. Being on staff has usually helped.

As a result, I've fairly regularly gone out to dinner/the movies/the pub after church.

But, I've been wondering about these informal events.

Should they, if a church is to be truely welcoming, be open for everyone?
Should these events, periodically, be made public?
Should they, if organised before the end of the service, be announced during church or at the conclusion?

The reason I ask is because it's within these informal gathers that cliques are born and reinforced.
It's within this "time of fellowship" that the mindset of "us" and "them" is fed.

Of course, the danger is that new people will want to be involved or, worse still, that a newbie might not like members of the congregation outside of the pews... But, surely that's the price if you're going to be truely inclusive.