Wednesday, February 28, 2018

How do you deal with the perpetual eager starter?

I've seen the following displayed across all ages, but it's especially true for younger believers...

What do you do with the believer who has big dreams but little follow-through?
What do you do with the young adult who routinely attaches themselves to the start of a project, but drops out when the next thing captures their attention?

If you work with, or do ministry alongside, those predisposed as being early adopters, bandwagon jumpers or dream embraces, then you'll probably know the risk, and pain, of them jumping on, and then quickly disembarking from, things.

Big events.
Areas of study.

Trouble often befalls the dreamer when they hit their natural enemy - monotony.

This is what they want to avoid.
This is what will have them reaching for the eject button.

So, you have two choices...

First, in the back of your mind, you could only pencil in the early adopter for a burst of initial energy and try to harness this until more people jump on.

Or, you can prepare them for when things aren't exciting.

Because this is life.

Ministries have paperwork.
Activities need to be physically set up.
Jobs have routine.
Education requires study.

Again, this is just a part of life.

Monotony and routine exist, even within dreams.

Leaders need to be aware, especially when dealing with young adults, that for some, their "problem" isn't that they don't know what they want to do, but they just aren't thrilled by the boring parts of their grand plans.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

God's graceful repetitiveness

Blog posts.
Bible studies.

Over the last few months, regularly, I've been bumping up against the same bible passage - the interaction Jesus has with the Samaritan woman in John 4.

Seemingly, wherever I turn, something keeps pointing me back to this section of scripture.

Last week I was in a conversation about how God speaks and I mentioned, amongst other things, that repition is a way God uses to get my attention.

Maybe God just thinks that I'm a little slow...
But I suspect that that I'm not alone.

After a lengthy time, I know why God keeps bumping me against this passage.

As believers, we need to be alert to the repetition of God and, if we resist or miss what God might be trying to communicate, the grace in His use of multiple exposures.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The sermon only needs to be a chapter, not the entire book

"You preached two or three really good sermons. It's just a shame you delivered them all at once."

I've received this feedback after I've preached. Usually, it's occurred when I've edited poorly and none of my "great points" could be trimmed or I've gone off script and rambled/vented unexpectantly.

The danger for those giving sermons is the hidden book lying within them.

When they begin to aquire a batch of information about a topic, the sermoniser can flirt with delivering the whole book, instead of giving only a chapter.

The reason is simple.

In general, people can't absorb an entire book, with the plethora of points and accompanying details in one sitting.

When an entire book's worth of input is given in one sermon then you quickly wander into theological diminishing returns, where your flood of information overwhelms the listeners and any good points made are drowned out by the torrent which follow.

What every minister needs is the discipline to ruthlessly edit and remain aware that, in a pastoral setting, this won't be the last or only time they'll be able to speak on a topic. Thus, they shouldn't feel compelled to download everything they know in one sitting.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Would you be part of a heaven-free Christianity?

Sometimes I like to ask loud questions which you're not meant to ask.

A few days ago I asked if the group I was with, all believers, would keep following Jesus if heaven didn't exist.

In short, I was enquired if they would remain firm in their belief if there was no garunteesguaranteed of future reward.

Of course, this scenario doesn't exist and cannot be accurately envisaged, but the question prods at the heart of faith.

Are we in it for the rewards?
Or, would we follow Jesus if there was no eternal silver lining?

The question matter because it not only investigates the relationship of faith has with blessing/rewards but also begins to expose the other things we value, like the companionship, guidance, obedience or preservance aspects of faith which we hold intrinsically dear.

Fortunately, if the bible is trustworthy, then heaven exists and will await those who have trusted in Jesus, but we need to remember that our faith encompasses more than that and, these qualities, will be the things which help you get through the times when faith and the associated blessings seem absent.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

What's the message of your bible reading?

Depending on your traditions and theology, the placement and execution of the bible reading will send a message.

Is it only done by men? Or one of the elders? Or the minister?
Do you nonchalantly ask for volunteers?
Are the passages, generally, long or short?
Would you have a child read the bible? Or a ESL speaker? 
Would you be bothered if the reader was intellectually slow or had difficult with the reading?

The answers to these questions matter.

They matter because they communicate the importance/reverence you place on the bible.
They matter because they communicate how and to whom the bible is available to.
They matter because they communicate who is included.
They matter because they communicate who is deemed "worthy" of being "up front."
They matter because, potentially, being a bible reader could be the first step someone takes to being involved in the ministry life of a church.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

The intimidating butts in the pews

Your parents.
Your siblings.
Your spouse.
Your kids.
The partner of one of your children.
Your theology lecturer. 
Your first or most influential minister.
Your ministry hero.
Your oldest friends.
Your non-Christian mate.

For a variety of reasons, each of the above people would be intimidating to be in attendance while you preach.

Maybe they've known you a long time.
Perhaps they know all your darkest secrets.
They may be someone you hold in high esteeme.
You may fear looking like a hypocrite.
You may be concerned if they'll agree or how their thinking of you may change.

But, I wonder, would you rather know they were in attendance or be completely unaware?
Would it make a difference?

From the above list, I've preached before quite a few of them - for better or worse.

And, I'd like to say that nothing was changed due to their attendance.

That would be a lie.

I would be mindful if someone of personal significance would be listening.

It's only natural.

But, in every sermon, there's intimidating people.

Someone who is giving church a chance after years away.
Someone who has had a near faith-wrecking week.
Someone who was the former leader of your denomination.
Someone who has preached on this passage previously.
Someone who holds a doctorate in theology.

You just aren't aware.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Non-ministry prayers

In ministry, prayer is fairly easy.
Well, about as easy as it can get.

You have other people to pray for.
You have activities to pray about.
You have events just gone and things upcoming.

Out of ministry, your prayers change.
Other people's needs still exist and church activities are still a concern, but now you're less invested.

So, you enter the season of non-ministry prayers.

Now, prayer is far more personal.
Now, prayer is more localised.
Now, prayer is non-ministry dependant.

And this shift of mindset is... Jarring.

Outside of ministry, ecclesiastical life is far less stressful.
It's dramaticly less busy.
It's nowhere near as nerve wracking.

Non-ministry prayers, generally, feel less desperate.

This makes sense since, to a degree, your employment depends upon results.
Ministry prayers are caught up in the whirlwind of pastoral concerns, events and activities.

Non-ministry prayers are spared of these burdens.

To an extent, it's freeing to praying outside of the ministry bubble.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Why making a video would have been stupid for me


They are cool.
They make notices far more palatable.
They provide excellent hype.

And, in all my years of ministry, I never made a single one.

Doing so would be a big fat waste of time.

At least for me.

In order to create a video, going for only two minutes, would have taken hours of time and a huge chunk of my headspace.

For what?

A video that would, in all likelihood, be fairly forgettable and contain scarse eternal significance.


Because I didn't know how to make videos and doing so would be an incredible misuse of my time.

And, that's ok.

Other people create videos.
People in my congregation.
People on the Internet.
Websites, both paid and unpaid.

Videos in far less time. 
To a far greater quality.

In all jobs, including ministry, there will be peripheral tasks which, frankly, don't provide the bang for the effort you'd need to put in.

Doing these tasks would be stupid.

That would have been me, slaving away at learning software and creating a,  fairly ordinary, video.

Put simply, the energy:output equation never even got close to making sense.