Tuesday, October 13, 2009


Charles Swindoll, one of the great leaders in the church recently reflected on the greatest lessons he has learned in leadership over the years and I think they're worth sharing:

1) It’s lonely to lead. Leadership involves tough decisions. The tougher the decision, the lonelier it is.
2) It’s dangerous to succeed. I’m most concerned for those who aren’t even 30 and are very gifted and successful. Sometimes God uses someone right out of youth, but usually he uses leaders who have been crushed
3) It’s hardest at home. No one ever told me this in Seminary.
4) It’s essential to be real. If there’s one realm where phoniness is common, it’s among leaders. Stay real.
5) It’s painful to obey. The Lord will direct you to do some things that won’t be your choice. Invariably you will give up what you want to do for the cross.
6) Brokenness and failure are necessary.
7) Attititude is more important than actions. Your family may not have told you: some of you are hard to be around. A bad attitude overshadows good actions.
8) Integrity eclipse image. Today we highlight image. But it’s what you’re doing behind the scenes.
9) God's way is better than my way.
10) Christlikeness begins and ends with humility

Monday, October 5, 2009

Reading the bible

I preached Sunday from Ephesians 4 and over the next two Sundays will work through Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 to unpack some of the wisdom from God to us about the gifts bestowed on believers by the Holy Spirit. This is central to us understanding our place in the body.

I have preached the first sermon and will preach the second and third in the same expository way – unpacking thought at a time what the particular passage in the Bible is saying and then, God willing, we’ll try to apply those things to our daily lives. Bible application is desperately important in preaching and every preacher needs to make sure there is some application of the text in a relevant way. In doing some reading this evening I found this gem about reading and applying the Bible from youth pastor Jeremy Berg.

Instead of "applying the Bible to our lives" (which again assumes we are the fixed center point and the Word is just a holy ointment to be applied to our souls) let's instead try to "apply ourselves to the Bible." Put narratively, let's not let give God a convenient place within our own story; but rather find ourselves swept up in God's much larger Story!

Wow! That is good!

Applying ourselves to the Bible might help us become “doers of the word” as Jesus intended. Applying the Bible to us keeps us in the same human centred ethos we so sinfully fall into time and time again.

Wish I had said it!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

internet church

There is much talk about multisite ministry where video feed from one teacher/preacher is sent to other sites where groups meet. I think the idea is helpful at points as one can then access outstanding preaching in multiple locations. It has some issues too, but that is not what this post is about.

The multisite model has also now spawned the internet church. Here you can meet in forums (cell groups) and listen to live audio or video of the preaching. Whilst this does allow many more people to access the teaching in an informal and even anonymous environment, it has some major problems that many others are pointing to.

We at our congregation have been focusing on fellowship and community. Our love for God HAS to find meaning in our love for others. And this is, in my mind, where the internet church primarily falls short. Whilst one can open up on a forum and seek counsel via email, we've missed something in the personal interaction face to face. To confess sin online to a bunch of fairly anonymous folk is one thing, to bare ones soul to a brother or sister is a lot more real and life changing.

The second issue that I believe is a downfall of the internet church is that it is a consuming model in line with our consumer culture. There is little or no real opportunity to give back, and there is little opportunity to really identify with the community. It is very self serving in many ways and also it's tough to serve with ones spiritual gifts from behind the keyboard. How do I show hospitality, tongues/interpretation whilst we are separated?

I think internet church is helpful to a point...but because it lacks the personal connection and the opportunity to serve it is and never will be church.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Episcopalian church is apostate

The episcoplaian church has been getting more and more liberal as time has gone on. Acceptance of homosexuality, proponents of same-sex marriage and even ordaining practicing homosexuals. But they have now become apostate and are no longer fit to be called a church. According to VirtueOnline a webiste for Anglican orthodoxy at the 75th convention the house overwhelmingly voted to NOT state that Jesus is the only way to be saved. In case your scripture knowledge is a bit rusty:

"And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" Acts 4:12

Here are some excerpts:


The House of Deputies of the 75th General Convention of the Episcopal Church today overwhelmingly refused to even consider a resolution that affirmed Jesus Christ as the "only name by which any person may be saved."

"This type of language was used in 1920s and 1930s to alienate the type of people who were executed. It was called the Holocaust. I understand the intent, but I ask you to allow the discharge to stay," said the Rev. Eugene C. McDowell, a graduate of Yale Divinity School and Canon Theologian for the Diocese of North Carolina.
" The resolution further affirmed "the substitutionary essence of the Cross and the manifestation of God's unlimited and unending love for all persons," while calling on the Episcopal Church to renew its Scripture-based witness to "all persons."

The Rev. McDowell said "In the Episcopal Church we don't do up and down votes on Jesus Christ as Lord, and to do so is potentially a mean-spirited approach, to ask questions that aren't meant to be questions."

McDowell explained that how one lives his life is the more important issue than whether one affirms Jesus as Lord. To place a statement of belief over actions is the essence of "self-righteousness," he said. "Actions speak louder than proclamations...What Jesus calls us to do is to live our lives."

McDowell outlined his basic theology of grace: "Salvation by grace is remembering that we are the children of a living God. Grace is already there. And salvation is realizing we now live into that salvation. And sanctification is the transforming of my life from one that's me-centered to one that's God-centered."

The final tally on the electronic vote was 70.5 percent for discharge (675 votes) and just 29.5 (242 votes) to consider the resolution affirming Jesus Christ as Lord.



So grace and Jesus are separable? It seems pretty clear from the Bible that the grace of God can only be accessed via Jesus - to accept that there are other ways or other saviours is to deny the supremacy and exclusivity of Christ. Please do pray for the episcopalian church - they are in dire need of salvation, as are many others.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

As we forgive

I have just finished a truly profound book called As we forgive. It is about seven people's stories who survived the Rwandan genocide - a trully horrific event. The book is very moving and ones heart breaks at peoples violent anger and inhumanity to each other.

Where I found myself really stretched was in restorative justice vs retributive justice. Perhaps the toughest part was when a violent offender repents and asks for forgiveness, how do we deal with that when the crime has been so bloody, so inhumane? Should there still be retribution and punishment even if they have truly repented of their actions? The real challenge is that by seeking retribution the victim gains nothing. Their loved ones are still dead, innocence is still lost and any satisfaction is only hollow...

I found myself deeply challenged by God's grace through these survivors stories as well as my own sentiments around justice and punishment against the compassion they showed...really worth a read!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

poor preaching

Every now and then I get to watch some DSTV and I see some of the "big" preachers. But I find myself normally walking away feeling very disturbed. This weekend it happened again.

I listened to the pastor of a very large and popular Australian church talk with a worldwide music ministry. I use the word talk because it was NOT a sermon and he did NOT preach. It was honestly one of the worst public addresses I have ever heard in a church and I was deeply saddened. His message was unbiblical at best and heretical at worst. He barely quoted scripture and when he did he twisted it so say what ever he wanted it to. It seems pretty clear that his message is predefined and then he uses the scripture to say what HE wants to say rather than what GOD wants to say.

We all make mistakes and certainly there are sermons that I look back on and I sometimes laugh, other times I get embarrased! But this was something else. I find I must stay close to God's word when I preach becuaseI am not sure that I trust my own opinion enough to work without it.

If you are looking for a church - find one where the preacher preaches God's word - where the sermon is saturated in the scriptures, where the preacher attempts to help you understand the text rather than his or her own ideas.

Preaching is the way that God has chosen to spread the message of Jesus love and atoning sacrifice - so we'd better do it well!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Praying and reading publically

We want to get people involved in praying and reading scripture in public worship to get a better participation. To this end a number of people have said that they are prepared to do this. So I’d like to give them some pointers as it is very different to speak up front than what it is to do so in private.

But in talking with a colleague he related the story of how a young girl recently was given some pointers, but now her praying has become stayed and conservative instead of the slightly ‘messy’ but real and passionate style she started off with.

Which got me thinking. What’s important and what is not? I’d like to give some direction, but would not want to box or limit the prayers into one narrow-minded style – a couple of people who pray just like me are not what I want!

A couple of key things that I will be looking at are:

  1. Trinitarian prayers – my pet peeve is when people thank the Father for dying on the cross when it was Jesus who died on the cross (you could perhaps theologically argue differently, but this issue is about not being conscious of how we pray)
  2. Repeatedly using some name for God. I know a person who will repeat one of God's names every fifth or sixth word. This is not helpful, we don’t speak like that to our friends, why should we do so to God.
  3. The prayer would be helpful to be spoken in a communal style as is Our Father... not My Father...
  4. We are not talking to those present but are voicing their prayers publically to God...sometimes we sermonize in our prayers
  5. Keep it simple, conversational and directed
  6. It’s OK to write your prayers out – to pray spontaneously is not necessarily more Spirit filled!

What else do you think would be important principals?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sunday notices letter

Dear Friends,

In all of this discussion, debate, preaching and reflecting on the life of the church and what it means to be the church I have found my own understanding hugely challenged by things I have read and other things people have shared. In a moment when was feeling concerned about some of this debate, one of the older and wiser members said this to me “Don’t you think that a whole church discussing, talking, arguing about “love” is great? I may be na├»ve but I think that it only be beneficial.” And I think he is right.

Sometimes we need to go back, rework, discuss, debate and even disagree on things. It’s when we become complacent that we miss the work God is doing. So it has been really good to talk through these things. Our love for God and for each other are of primary importance to us being the church.

This week I have seen the church exhibit love in the following ways: Two people reconciled a difficulty in their friendship. Council and prayer given to a family in a tough place. A member offered a job prospect to another who needs additional work. Brothers and sisters met over a dinner that included some who are not part of Jesus church so as to plug them into Jesus. Some men shared together their deep joys and confusing difficulties and what they are learning from God through these times. People brought food to help those in our midst who are hungry. A father who has experienced deep pain gave a gift to encourage someone who is now facing what he has already gone through. Others have given of time money and resources to bless people whom they have never met outside the life of our congregation.

The church is built on our care and compassion for each other in the power of God’s spirit. I have been moved by what I have seen. Let’s continue from strength to strength making every effort to BE Jesus church in every way!



Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Missional church?

There is a lot of talk in various parts of the world about being missional. Every person has their own interpretation of this, like the other much bandied about word: emerging. But it does reflect a new way that people are looking at how churches focus themselves. Stetzer and Putmun in “Breaking the missional code” reflect this shift in thinking in this way:

  • From programs to processes
  • From demographics to discernment
  • From models to missions
  • From attractional to incarnational
  • From uniformity to diversity
  • From professional to passionate
  • From seating to sending
  • From decisions to disciples
  • From additional to exponential
  • From monuments to movements

This resonates hugely with me as many of these are things our church has been beginning to grapple with. When I started at Protea Valley we where a small church and we have more than doubled in size. But as we have, we’ve had to be more deliberate in the way that we do things. We’ve intentionally not committed to programs but rather are investing into groups where real life change happens. We are beginning to grapple with many of the above mentioned shifts.

Like all things these are journeys and we’re just starting this one.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

New Members Course

Our church had its new members orientation week 1 session last night with 20 people in attendance and another 4 awol. Great to see so many new faces in the system. Our new program is much more comprehensive than before and it will be interesting to see how people respond to the progress.

We’re trying to work pragmatically with different people following different ‘streams’ dependant on their background and maturity of the faith. This is still a work in progress but at the moment it looks something like this image:

It means that we will have everyone go through orientation – 2 weeks to outline who we are, what we believe and what membership entails. Then they will all be interviewed. Those who are devoted followers of Jesus (perhaps transferring from another congregation) would come easily and quickly into membership. Those who are new to the faith would go through some doctrine course to outline the important essence of the Christian faith to ensure they know what they believe and that they have in fact been born again. They would also complete a spiritual gifts course to ensure they knew how they are gifted. Service is not optional but part of being the body.

We may at some point change this, like I mentioned it is a work in progress, but we believe that we are on the right track...It also means that people who do not get through the system for any reason will go into pastoral counseling so that they can be pastored into the system rather than lost as in the previous way of doing things.

What do you think?

Community and faith

In an article on churches and reaching the iGen , the 20 somethings, John Peacock who ministers at Willowcreek said this:


“People belong before they believe or behave”


Very powerful and this is where old school membership gets the horse before the cart, because belong never features at all. Homegroups are key tools in instilling belief and behaviour in people. The old model of Sunday worship is the church is only effective to a point. Makes for some really interesting reflection...

Friday, July 31, 2009

Drama, video and preaching

Well respected preacher John Piper makes some really interesting comments about the use of video and drama to suppliment preaching. I have from time to time used music and video to very good effect in assisting my preaching. But he raises a very serious question about our belief in the power of preaching.

check him out on youtube

Pipers comments get me thinking on another tack. The deeper question in my mind is what about the 'form' of preaching.

Let's say that preachers A and B both preach the exact same sermon to their respective congregations who are for all intents and purpsoes identical. But preacher A is not very engaging whilst preacher B is very dynamic. Which preacher is more powerful in being used by God to change lives?

I'd love to say that it is the content and not the form that is important, but more and more I am not enitrely conviced...

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Membership part II

OK so we're conisitently revisiting this membership thing and we've had some comments and some good suggestiosn made. On of the key issues is what does a follower of Jesus look like. If we know what a folower of Jeuss looks like then we can make teh entrance requirement the desire to strive towrds being that kind of person.

A follower of Jesus is NOT just someone who can say Jesus is Lord. Our churches worldwide membership lists are full of people who confess that truth but whos lives show no regeneration at all. They don;t fellowship, regulalry attend worship or live lives that seem to be changed by Jesus.

What do you think of what I believe that a fully devoted follower of Jesus would look like?

1. Repent of their sin and make public confession of a Trinitarian belief and be baptized

2. Regularly worship Jesus privately and publically

3. Live a holy and moral life

4. Study the Scriptures both Old and New testaments

5. Be diligent in prayer

6. Love the church through fellowship and community

7. Serve in ministry according to their gifts

8. Commit to witness to the lost

9. Would give financially to God’s work in this church and elsewhere

Friday, July 17, 2009

Church membership

We recently decided to tie together church membership with home group attendance. We are trying really hard not to create hoops for people to jump through. But what we do understand is that home groups are the key places where we live authentic Chrisitan fellowship and where we can serve those who are our brothers and sisters.

Of course this has not met with everyones approval - but we were prepared for that and we will continue to move forward with this becuase we think it is the most effective way to produce devoted followers of Jesus. As leaders that is our aim - names on a database is pretty meaningless.

What do you think?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


OK it has been some time since I blogged here....I think I need to dust off a few things :) Perhaps if the few folk who read this blog could add some comment we'd get some more discussion going....so please add your 2 cents!

Anyhow we've been journeying through Galatians and particularly looking at the major issue of law vs. grace that Paul tackles elsewhere too. It is such a struggle to accept grace - that God is in fact not the cosmic bean counter.

2 Corinthians 5:18-19 "All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation."

So many Christians find this truth so tough to absorb - that Grace is the answer and not right action. Perhaps one of the most moving and challenging books on this is Philip Yancey's "what is so amazing about grace" is definitely worth a read!

The tension is that whilst we cannot be made right by the law - we are expected to live as if we where under it. I guess when we get it right we thing we're especially blessed and when we think we've essed up that we are cursed - yet Grace works beyond and above both those realms. It is a fundamentall difference between our God and other religions.

What an awesome God we serve.


This Sunday being Pentecost we're talking about...well, tough guess, the work of the Hoy Spirit!