Mirrors 28th April 2017

  1. The management feedback model gone toxic
  2. In their typical world-weary way, @firstthingsmag discuss M. Pence & women at 33 minutes. I largely agree with them.
  3. Michael Jensen says 1) Xns still have lots of social power 2) We should be following The Benedict Option regardless 
  4. Hebrews 9:16-17 is referring to confirming covenants with God by sacrifice, not enacting wills by death of testator
  5. Calvin: The forms of our church life exist to give decency and order. They are ‘arbitrary’ in the sense of not fixed. But these forms of church must never be infused with religious obligation or compared to the worship of God. forms for church are ’merely’ for common help. Still, it’s right to submit to them if they accord with Bible. Institutes 4.10.27-32
  6. Some good advice on encouraging people to be more engaged with weekly church attendance.But the slippery slope argument ‘If ppl attend church less than weekly now what’ll happen in 10rs’? Isn’t strong. I suspect there’s more to this: social change, inaccurate nostalgia, more holistic church life, less rigidity.
  7. A reply to the Gospel Coalition article about church attendance. Thanks Stephen McAlpine.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://ift.tt/2ps5isF (NB: to comment go to http://ift.tt/1FyvdLS)

Clarity about the gospel mission

What is our distinct mission as Christians? What should concern us uniquely as the people of God in these last days?

At our AGM the Vision 100 Network committee adopted, with a slight addition, the new Geneva Push doctrinal basis as an expanded expression of the the doctrine that unites us as a network (see http://ift.tt/2qgPo1d)

We wanted something with a bit more depth, to clarify matters of primary and secondary importance that spell out both our understanding of the fundamentals of the gospel and the realities, consequences and responibilities surrounding the gospel.

I want to quote and reflect on the section entitled ‘The Mission’:

As God's redeemed people there are many important duties and good deeds he has prepared for us to do. However the mission that we are explicitly and uniquely called to and entrusted with is to making disciples of all nations. Christlikeness will include growing in a desire to see all people saved.

We believe that the gospel should be urgently proclaimed to all people so that through the preaching of God’s word by the power of God’s Spirit all people might believe and be saved.

Good deeds provide opportunities for evangelism, they dictate the conduct of the evangelist, they are the necessary and inevitable fruit of genuine conversion and so they commend the gospel to our hearers. But they remain distinct if rarely separate, from the gospel preaching mission itself.

First of all, this item recognises there is more to the Christian life than evangelism.

The many duties of God’s people

There is more to the Christian life than evangelism and edification, prayer and praise. Because although the mission is important, it’s not the entirety of our duties to God and our neighbour. God calls us to love him with our whole selves and live lives of self-denying love to our neighbours 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Christian teaching is about the formation of a Christian worldview. Christian discipleship is all of life discipleship. Our worship of God touches every area of our existence and has relevance to every corner of our world.

The unique mission of God’s people

Among these many duties and opportunities is a distinct and unique mission: the preaching of the saving work of Jesus Christ to all nations. Proclamation of the gospel, and supporting its proclamation has a special centrality and importance for God, and so for God’s people.

So important is our obedience to Christ in the advance of the gospel, that blessings of God’s world are rightly forsaken and good deeds left undone.

The mission is rarely on its own

The relationship between evangelism and good deeds is complex. We often get opportunities to share the gospel in the context of charity or hospitality. So also our credibility is boosted, or damaged by the purity and integrity of our lives.

There are some occasions where gospel proclamation occurs almost in isolation, such as more broadcast forms of evangelism. But normally evangelism and good deeds occur together.

The mission is distinct

Nevertheless, while gospel mission and godly love belong together, and influence and fuel each other, they remain distinct. Gospel preaching is a distinct thing from things that are the good and even necessary consequences of gospel preaching.

Our duty to make disciples of all nations can and should be understood, discussed and pursued with careful clarity and distinction from other possible Christian activity.

And so Christian programs of education, family life, political or economic structure, artistic expression, legislative reform or charitable effort must not be given the conceptual or spiritual imperative of the Great Commission. Although should be affected by our mission, they are not in themselves our mission.

The outer boundaries of discipleship

In the broadest possible sense, of course, as we make disciples and teach them to obey everything, we teach them to worship God with their whole lives and this touches on all these other areas. Absolutely! So perhaps an additional distinction is needed: there outer boundaires of discipleship that are less clearly black and white, less foundational, and not always necessary for us all to explore. These are the wisdom areas where our disciple-making mission should rightly give the tools to explore, but where we are unable to be as concentrated and dogmatic.

That is, there may are many other things, indeed urgent and important things that grab our attention and draw us to action: matters on a personal, local, national and global scale; ranging from moral, political, cultural, ideological, economic and environmental matters. As Christians we will seek to respond to this things shaped and motivated by our faith. And we may well differ on the best goal, the most appropriate response and the relative importance of these matters.

But while we may differ on some of these matters, what brings us together with a shared commitment and conviction is the wonderful truth of the saving death and resurrection of Christ and the duty and privilege to preach it to a lost world. This is the gospel agenda of God’s people.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://ift.tt/2po6YU1 (NB: to comment go to http://ift.tt/1FyvdLS)

A few notes on power and problematic things

  1. Just because something could plausibly be explained by a framework of power or desire doesn't make this explanation the right one.
  2. A group or person may lose the 'right' to the dominant view on a topic. But it's not true to say "You have no right to comment on this".
  3. Something can be 'problematic' without it necessarily being a Problem.
  4. A word or act can be possibly expressive of a greater abuse of power or corrupt desire, but this doesn't make it as bad (or necessarily bad).
  5. There's something cruel & vengeful about saying someone has no right to suffering if they have previously been (or still are) privileged.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://ift.tt/2pfPzKX (NB: to comment go to http://ift.tt/1FyvdLS)

Analysis of the dangers that lie in Christian ministry ambition

In a great section of Col Marshall and Tony Payne's The Vine Project they say "one of the culture changes that many churches need is a revolution in their level of gospel ambition. Putting it baldly, we need to think big." They make a biblical case for gospel ministry 'ambition'. Yes!

But then they have a few really searching paragraphs that analyse the dangers for finite and sinful people in gospel ministry ambition:

There are of course dangers in thinking big. There’s the credibility danger of creating disillusionment in the congregation by setting some pie-in-the-sky goal that we’ll never achieve. And if we talk big but act small (like not providing for more people on Sunday, or not equipping ministry leaders), then no-one will believe us. 

There are also spiritual dangers in having ambitious plans:

  • you might begin to lust for the glory and reputation that accrues to the minister of a large and growing church
  • you might be tempted to build a feel-good, people-pleasing ministry in order to attract the crowds
  • you might start to treat people like objects, and lose the compassionate inefficiency that leaves the 99 in order to seek after the one
  • you might start exaggerating or fudging the facts to protect your credibility (i.e. by making out that goals are being achieved when they’re not)
  • you might fall into the unprincipled pragmatism that follows any ministry method that ‘gets results’. 

(Page 300, emphasis mine)

'Compassionate inefficiency' is a lovely turn of phrase, isn't it? But the whole thing is spot on. It's helpful to take the time to list these various temptations and corruptions like this. Rather than careless and general warnings, this kind of specificity is really shocking in a good way.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://ift.tt/2pUy4Cw (NB: to comment go to http://ift.tt/1FyvdLS)

Mirrors 23rd April 2017

  1. An unrequired love letter to the lost rollerbladers of Brisbane. Nothing to do with 'Christian Reflections' particularly.
  2. Do I lead my ministry/organisation in such a way that it won’t be too bad if I left? Awesome article
  3. Simone Richardson responding to the Twitter hashtag #ThingsOnlyChristianWomenHear. I like how she categorises 4 different types of quote, it makes it a lot easier to hear when quite different things aren't conflated in one stream. I do wonder, regarding 'category 1': what IS the acceptable way to talk about modesty in dress?. And with category 2, I'd suggest it's not just 'wrong view of highest callings' but sometimes rather an 'over-extension of right view recognition of very common calling'.
  4. Nathan Campbell tells us how we can like Frozen BETTER.
  5. John Calvin on Christian liberty (Institutes III.XIX) could have been written yesterday. Still so wise, insightful and pastorally sharp.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://ift.tt/2pRq5WR (NB: to comment go to http://ift.tt/1FyvdLS)

One of the first books on church planting I ever read

Is there anything more gross than this?

It's almost so disgusting it's cool again. It's one of the first books on church planting I ever read. Back in 1999 or something, when Limp Biskit and Korn were considered to be a good idea and every Christian Union in the country was doing Matrix-themed evangelistic sermons. Evidently I thought there was something good on page 33 and 41.

It seems you can still buy the book from Koorong.

I found the book thrilling: it laid out the need for new churches and steps to starting one. It gave warnings about things that could get in the way of a new church thriving and advice on how to help it grow.

I also found the book boring, for the same kinds of reasons I still find church planting plans boring: stuff about demographics and finances. Kill me now. But it also provided a fairly simple way to think about those things.

Thinking about it now, there are clearly things that are dated, just because culture and technology have changed.

But also most of it is the same as every book on church planting since. In the end you figure out what you're going to do, gather people, and do it!

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://ift.tt/2pNqLZI (NB: to comment go to http://ift.tt/1FyvdLS)

Mirrors 14th April 2017

Happy Easter!

  1. Join me in Sydney on 22/5 to discuss a super important topic: 'Living well in God's creation, or dying to self in the last days?'
  2. My @ufc_utas sermon on Hebrews 10:19-39
  3. I've started a podcast about rollerblading :-P
  4. The Gospel Coalition Australia is going to do a series of posts on Tim Dreher's book on the Benedictine Option. Here's the first installment.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://ift.tt/2pzxuX9 (NB: to comment go to http://ift.tt/1FyvdLS)

Repost: Creating Ownership (October 2007)

[Update: The Vision 100 IT Team has indeed grown in ownership and momentume in the 10 years since this was posted. What helped build ownership?

  1. Quarterly 'sprints' getting everyone together to drink V and hang out and get a big chunk of work done in the same space.
  2. Giving people unique 'projects' to own within the wider team
  3. Raising the standards of team members and holding people to account: better a smaller team with high ownership than a bigger team with dead weight

If you want cheap, consistent, ongoing IT help targets at small to medium sized churches and committed to mobilising volunteers, then contact it@vision100.org]


I'm currently overseeing an inter-church IT group. It's a good idea, but I'm not doing an awesome job.

It was a reaction against our small churches having disorganised IT. It goes like this: a whole lot gets done by an over-eager volunteer. Then no-one updates the content. And they get a job interstate. And the domain name is not renewed. And only one person can do the tech support. And. And. And.

We are now much more organised... and are also very unmotivated.

So I'm now trying to think how to, with little available time and energy to inspire and energise the team. Should I send them out to dinner together? Should we take on some mammoth, technically demanding task? Should blow it all up and start again?

I like the idea of us being a virtual IT community, with minimal time wasted on meetings. But the reality is, I think, that if you want high degrees of ownership and empowerment you need to have a human face. You need to be letting down Mikey, not letting down an internet mailing list.

Also, to have a high degree of ownership you need to feel in control and in charge. So the challenge is to correct against the over-correction. I need to let our IT guys get excited about something and make a mess of things... without going to the extremes of old and without controlling them too much.

In the end, I need to channel some of that energy into getting them excited about doing the routine things I want them to do.

And I don't want to put too much energy into this particular group, because I am a preacher and an evangelist, not an IT manager. And I want a pony. And a laser gun. And I want Mark Driscoll to be our associate minister. And I want a gigantic water slide.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://ift.tt/2p9PQ1K (NB: to comment go to http://ift.tt/1FyvdLS)

Mirrors 12th April 2017

Forgot to post this last Friday — sorry!

  1. Michael Jensen exegetes the first two songs of Ok Computer by Radiohead.
  2. Gnostic liberalism: if you separate personhood from creatureliness you end up with ethical problems 
  3. Pilgrim's Progress appeals to children because it's kind of not quite suitable for them. It's suitably unsuitable
  4. I feel like this article over-corrects, while saying some good things about Mike Pence and the Billy Graham Rule
  5. Love the stuff on publicity in this article, which also talks positively about the Billy Graham Rule
  6. Short round table discussion about the beauty of gender complementarianism 
  7. Wow! Al Mohler battles Bryan Chappell on young earth creationism. Great model of gracious disagreement!
  8. "“Complaining to you allows your daughter to bring the best of herself to school. Instead of being rude or aggressive toward peers or teachers at school, your daughter contains her irritation and waits until she is safely in your company to express it.” A helpful parenting article.

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://ift.tt/2p5G8gw (NB: to comment go to http://ift.tt/1FyvdLS)

Topics for training MTS apprentices or for conference workshops

I stumbled across a crusty old list of training ideas for MTS apprentice training. I don't think I'd looked at the list for years, but it is a pretty good list. This is the kind of stuff you can do with a ministry apprentice (see more at mts.com.au) or even as the topic for a workshop at a conference. Here's what it has:

  • Basic reading a Bible passage and discussing it together — at an MTS apprentice level.
  • Discuss people you are ministering to (Christian, young Christian, trainee):
    • What are you doing with them? What can you do for them practically? What can you learn from them? Where are they at spiritually? What's the next step forward for them? How might you help them get there?
  • Contact evangelism: as above
  • Do some cold contact evangelism and then debrief on it.
  • Adopt a book of the Bible for a long period of time and study, discuss and read other books about this book. Listen to and critique sermons on this book. Whenever you have to do any Bible teaching stuff, try to do it from this book.
  • Assess what role prayer has in your life and ministry.
  • Check in on progress of reading whole Bible.
  • Write and review a reading list of Christian, nonfiction and fiction books.
  • Saying the Hard Things that need to be said.
  • Ministry of the pew
  • Different learing styles
  • Critique different religions
  • Ministry training philosophy and principles
  • The doctrine of the atonement
  • The doctrine of predestination
  • Getting Things Done
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • Manager Tools
  • Duty of Care and Work Health and Safety and Privacy
  • Basics of managing finances for a ministry
  • Ecclesiology
  • How to do one to one ministry
  • How to lead small groups
  • How to do follow up
  • Review different evangelistic courses
  • Men and women in ministry
  • Work in a team
  • DiSC profile/Myers-Briggs
  • Friendship in ministry
  • When something's worth doing it's worth doing badly — when it's right to take shortcuts
  • Counselling
  • Church size barriers
  • Ministry to children, youth, young adults, mothers, workers, middle-aged, elderly, sick
  • Music ministry
  • Diaconal ministry
  • Sexual ethics
  • Church and culture
  • Political theology
  • Biblical theology and systematic theology
  • Visit other churches and critique
  • Why plant churches
  • Rest and holidays and pacing yourself
  • Gospel-driven godliness
  • Church discipline
  • Exegesis — perhaps using something like How to read the Bible for all it's worth
  • Politics and the English language
  • Denominational distinctives: even attend a denominational meeting
  • Time use assessment (write down every half hour for 1 working week how you are spending your time and then analyse)
  • Delegation
  • Coaching
  • Reflect on your trainer's ministry style
  • Preacing, clarity, gesture, posture, vocal use, illustrations, rhetoric
  • New Testament Greek
  • Post college plans
  • Christian heresies
  • Science and faith
  • Technology and ministry

via Blog - Christian Reflections http://ift.tt/2oFVM1X (NB: to comment go to http://ift.tt/1FyvdLS)