Jesus doesn’t want to ‘take the wheel’, he wants…

He wants you to learn how to drive properly.

We need to keep explaining to Christians what it means for Jesus to be their Lord. Having Jesus as our Lord does mean he needs to rule over every aspect of our lives. Jesus does want all our lives, not just the scraps or even most of it… he wants to rule all of us.

But that doesn’t mean Jesus wants to take over driving your life. It might feel like you’re letting go… but really you’re just choosing to drive the way he tells you to.

 

 

When being discerning becomes disrespecting

It’s good to be discerning. It’s good to listen carefully and question things and consider other people’s ideas from various angles. It’s particularly good to be discerning about biblical teaching and Christian wisdom.

But beware crossing the line from discernment into disrespecting. When you engage only to mock. When we ask questions only to undermine and attack. When we pass judgement on some idea or concept without adequate or fair engagement.

I’m certainly guilty of veiling my disrespect in a cover of discernment from time to time. So let’s not do that.

Why most people get the ‘T’ in MTS wrong…

The Ministry Training Strategy (www.mts.com.au) is an awesome and much needed part of the Australian Christian landscape. But… most people think the ‘T’ in MTS is about being a Trainee… they think it’s the Ministry Trainee Strategy… and they’re wrong.

MTS is very keen on young men and women doing a two-year full-time hands-on word-ministry placement before further theological training and/or Pastoral Leadership roles. The MTS Movement wants to see thousands of people do these Traineeships. But MTS is not primarily about Trainees… the ‘T’ is MTS is really the Ministry Trainer Strategy.

MTS is about young men and women becoming Ministry Trainers – for the rest of their life.

Let me put this another way… if you were an MTSer and you’re not currently training (or recruiting) someone into full-time gospel-leadership… you’ve stopped being part of the Strategy, you’ve missed the point of MTS… that you’re never meant to leave, you’re never meant to stop calling others into full-time gospel-leadership. Your MTS involvement was never meant to end.

Are you a trainee who dropped out, or are you a trainer who’s still part of the strategy?

 

p.s. If you do want to get back on the Trainer “horse”, grab some keen Christians from your ministry and come along to the MTS Mission Minded Conference in Sept 11-13 2015.

You don’t need a mentor

Mentors are great. The idea of an older wiser more mature Christian asking you if you’d like to sit down with them and read the bible and talk about life… that sounds awesome, right? Sounds like a “good thing”?

Great. If you think that’s a “good thing”… go and do it… for someone else.

“But I’m not mature enough”. No. Everyone can say that when they’re looking “up”. So look down instead. Look around. You’re more mature than some people. And even if you’re not… the very fact you’re trying to do something FOR them… that’s Christian maturity right there.

“But I don’t know what to do”. Fine. Get a book about it, read some blogs about it, do a course, or just simply have a go. Take the initiative. Take the responsibility.

“But what about all the things I’m going through? I need someone to talk to about them.” Do you? ‘Cause God’s your eternal Dad, who beckons you to call on him day and night; to pour your troubles on the Lord. (You might need to speak to a professional councillor or psychologist, that’s fine – loads of people need to, so do that.) But you don’t need a mentor.

Good if you do have someone… Great if you are that someone.

Repost: Please criticise after you…

1. Think of a better (realistic not idealistic) alternative.

2. Assume the person you’re about to criticise has already thought of that alternative.

3. Assume that the person has some really good reason (or info that you don’t have) to have chosen against that option.

4. Ask them what that reason(s) is.

Then, please, please DO criticise!!

Most critics don’t even do the first. Some do come up with alternatives, but they assume you couldn’t have thought if it. Very few are gracious enough to ask why you’ve made the decisions you have.

I love those people ;)

Heisenberg’s Church

How’s your church going? How would you test it? What measurement would you use? Who would you ask? What about the individuals? How’s that person going; with godliness, prayerfulness, living out of grace not law, being generous?

But, what happens as you test for those things? What happens when you ask people how they’re going with bible reading? What happens when you ask people about their gospel motivations?

It affects them… it brings an area of their relationship with God to the fore and causes them to dwell on it. And you can never really know where they were at… in fact, they can’t really tell you where they were at with those things – because they weren’t thinking about them.

This is why good churches try to build a culture of people asking each other how they’re going. Those very questions change the results.

*Yes, you might call it “The Observer Effect Church” – but “Heisenberg’s Church” sounds so much cooler…  We’ve just got to work out what the complementary properties of a church are… any ideas?

Love is not Agreement

This should be obvious, but it’s good to keep in your head when people just want you to agree with them. Love does not mean agreement. You can love someone and disagree with them. You can disagree with them about very very significant things. You can even hate the thing they love, but you can still love them.

There’s a likelihood that they won’t feel loved. But… and here’s the important thing… the amount they feel loved is not the measure of your love.

But, if you don’t agree with them just because you don’t like them… that’s not love.

Sermon styles: the synonym preacher

There’s lots of communication tools one can use while preaching; illustrations are the most well known.  Another method of communicating an idea is to keep using different synonyms.  

It’s where you take one idea from the verse you’re looking at and explain it by defining it again and again. 

E.g. (From yesterday’s post) Jesus is the King; the ruler, the sovereign, the all powerful, the master of the universe, the final judge of all things, the most excellent, most praiseworthy, most important, most wonderful and fearsome human who ever lived, and the one you will have to give an account to at the end of time. 

Does it work? Yes and no. 

It’s probably not a great explanatory tool… Every synonym needs its own explaination. But it is a very good focusing tool. It helps our hearers feel the weight of one idea in the verse. It’s like a big sign saying “watch out! Big idea here!”

Therefore, it’s a communication tool to use sparingly. 

Gospel Hurdles: People don’t know what a “King” is

There’re many hurdles to people accepting and believing in Jesus, but one of the commonly ignored hurdles is the concept of even having a “lord” or a “King”. People just don’t get what that means. 

And this is probably a fairly recent thing… Up until the 1940s-50s nations would still go to war “for King and country”, Kings still held complete sovereign power is certain nations. Whereas today, the only all-powerful Kings are despots and military coups. 

It’s no wonder that non-Christians hear us talking about Jesus as a king and then find the idea of repentance so strange. Why would you change your life for someone like Queen Elizabeth?!

The real idea behind Jesus’ kingship is his Lordship; He’s the Master and we are his slaves. And he has become like us to die for us and take us from slaves to sons (Col 1).

Repost: ‘Doing Theology’ is smashing

Exegesis (using sound biblical context of God’s unfolding plan) gives us certain theological ideas; Sin, Death, Love, Atonement, Creation, Humanity, Suffering, Eternity, Jesus, Life, Responsibility, Sovereignty, Power, Spirit, Law, Satan, Time, Guilt, Sex… these are all just topics that you can gather data on – from the bible – and summarise into an intelligent sentence. But that’s not ‘doing theology’ – yet. It’s just good, biblical (systematic) exegesis.

But take one of those ideas; any of them. imagine it as a locomotive steaming down the tracks… then take another one of those ideas; and imagine it on the track, steaming head-on towards the first…

Collide them… imagine the engines disintegrating into each other…

What form do they take? What becomes of them? What necessary truths must we hold as a result of believing A and B together?
That’s doing theology. And that’s where most of our early church fathers, and our reformed forebears did such great work. They showed what the bible said, and they argued the corollary was necessary.

So, go and do some theology.

Joke around, but don’t veil complaints in humour

One of our Staff Team Values is that we love joking around. We love laughing, jokes, sarcasm and generally hanging out together. That hasn’t happened by chance… it’s something we’ve worked hard to protect.

But there’s a type of joking we don’t tolerate. Its the type of joking where you use humour to veil a serious frustration or complaint about someone else. It’s the type of humour where the butt of the joke is left feeling unsure whether people think something terrible about them. Using humour to thinly veil your issues or frustrations towards someone is cowardice.

The flip side of this deeply entrenched value is that when someone does make a joke about you, you can be sure they are never trying to hurt you… they’re really trying to love you.

A different form of Church AGM

We had our Church’s 2014 AGM recently and we decided to try a new thing…

Every year we try to a new way of communicating a holistic perspective of church (helping people realise that church is more than their personal experience of it) – here’s one from last year. This year we tried to go really simple and didn’t include heaps of structures and aspects of church in the design (See the full design here).

But the big difference we did this year was two-fold; seating people at tables, and making it a prayer-night.

We setup the room like a cafe; paper on square tables, cups and water, candles, a plate of finger food.

Our Senior Pastor opened the Bible and encouraged us from Philippians 1 that it’s so appropriate that Christians give thanks for God’s work in us and through us. We prayed.

We opened the AGM with apologies, and a couple of people confirmed the minutes from last year. We heard a 2 min report from the Committee (Elders/Board), asked some questions and prayed. We got a finance summary of 2014, asked questions and gave thanks. We closed the formal meeting, but opened up to further prayer.

We walked though the significant ministries at our church; the Mission activities… and we prayed. The Membership and Maturity activities and groups… and we prayed. The Magnification and Ministry activities… and we prayed.

Along the way we didn’t sing, but we got some of our musos to perform a couple of songs they’d just finish writing. We enjoyed their talent and gave thanks.

It might not have been what people were expecting – it was a bit different to what I was expecting, and I organised it – but by the end of the night it felt like a night well spent. And that’s as good AGM in my book.

Don’t do things for the right reason… Instead, do them for the right…

Christians have an appropriate concern about their motives. We want to do things for the right motivations, and we want our church families to do things for the right motivations. 

That’s a good thing. However, we can get caught up in the reasoning behind the right reasons. Are the reasons too guilt motivated? Are the reasons theologicaly sound? Are the reasons reasonable for where I’m at. 

So, rather than doing Christian things for the right reasons, a better way to approach it might be to do things for the right person. Yes… Jesus. 

When you consider who Jesus is, your forgiver, your brother, your master, your God… It motivates us relationally. We do things for him who died and lives for us. 

Extra-biblical material can be helpful – if you read it wrong

It always seems that Christians are 20 years behind… a new music style comes out, like rock and roll, and “the church” deplores it before eventually incorporating it. Everything from 7 Habits of Highly Effective People all the way through to wisdom from other religious systems… Christians face an internal conflict about how we should listen to such things.

The important distinction to make is that no idea, meme, saying, style or strategy comes in a vacuum. They all come with a system of thought behind them; the author has an intended philosophy. So, when Getting Things Done author, David Allen says, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything” there’s a system of thought behind that, a philosophy of self-fulfilment and personal value. When Buddha is quoted as saying, “No matter how hard the past, you can always start again” that’s the tip of an iceberg of an entire philosophical understanding of our own person and the world.

This means that Christians need to mis-read these ideas. That is, we need to take them out of the context and philosophy they were written from, and then discern if we can say and think them from our own biblical point of view.

So when Mr Allen says, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything”, I am reminded that Jesus uses all sorts of people to achieve his ends in the world, and I may be one of them in ways I don’t even know. And I’m also reminded that Jesus is the one who makes things grow, and that he is the sovereign lord of everything who I can rest in. I re-interpret the intended meaning of the wisdom.

In other words, Christians read worldly-wisdom wrong… by seeing if it can be a helpful application of our own system of thought… and that’s right.

Repost: Abstract and Concrete Ideas in Church

We came across this idea a few years ago… that most churches (ours included) were generally pretty good at communicating two sorts of things… Abstract Theology, and Concrete Details about Church. (Abstract means concepts and ideas, whereas Concrete means times, dates, locations, what to bring, etc.)

So we were good at explaining ideas like Justification, and at the same time, telling people when the next event would be on and where it would be.

But that left two areas of communication largely vacant; Concrete Theology (Behaviours, Habits, Actions) and Abstract Details about Church (Why church exists, what type of church we want to be, How we think about our programs and why we do some things and not others).

How do you see your ministry going at communicating in all 4 of these areas?

Do you pray “from” unknowns or “through” unknowns?

It seems a common shared prayer that God would deliver us from troubles, from risks, from the unknown. It goes something like, “Lord, keep us safe as we travel. Lord, keep us from sickness. Etc.”

These are great things to pray. However, there is another side to these prayers we should consider. It’s the prayer that God would help us be godly and other-person-centred in the midst of troubles and hardship.

If you’re in leadership, it worth re-phrasing some of your public prayers (at GrowthGroup or whatever) to include asking God to help us honour him through our hardships, not just asking him to keep us from hardship. 

When choosing your battles becomes laziness

The conventional wisdom is to “choose your battles” and it makes lots of sense. It’s a good application of 1Peter 4:8 “love covers a multitude of sins”. 

But choosing your battles can easily become and excuse for never entering into battles. 

The Lord’s servant should not quarrel, but should correct, rebuke and encourage. These all involve battles of some sort. 

So, as we choose our battles, we should also be aware of our own temptation to avoid entering battles at all. We are, after all, soliders dressed in the Lord’s armour. 

Out of the box church marketing

“Out of the box” can mean being creative in weird ways, but it can also mean doing things in a stock standard way. 

It’s worth churches thinking through how they market themselves by looking at how other “similar” industries go about reaching their market. 

How could a church leverage these aspects of their nature…

  • Similar to a “debt alleviation” company?
  • Similar to a “life insurance” company?
  • Similar to a “self-help / recovery group”?
  • Similar to an “Adult education” provider?
  • Similar to an “Historical society”

It seems that a church could market itself like any of these… Because a church can be all of these. 

But there lies the issue… If you only market one aspect of yourself, you run the risk of under-communicating, which is just another word for mis-communicating. 

Have you exhausted your discipline muscle?

Making decisions takes effort. Making hard decisions takes more effort. Making decisions to be godly in the face of temptation takes enormous effort (and spiritual power!).

A good word for this is discipline. And I reckon we’re all built with a certain amount of discipline… A certain amount we can handle each day. Just like our other muscles (which are powered by God’s strength), our discipline muscle can grow stronger and can get exhausted.

If that’s the case, it seems wise to…

  • Consider your day; if you’re going to be going out with mates and possibly having a beer, you’ll want to have heaps of disciple energy in reserve…
  • Consider your nights; if you’re not getting enough sleep, that’s going to severely deplete your discipline reserve.
  • Consider the times you’ve sinned; have they been at certain times of the week? Possibly after big draining events (like exams, deadlines, late-shifts, arguments)?

This whole thinking about discipline is why it’s better to setup scheduled direct transfer giving. You decide on your donation when you’re in the best frame of mind, and you follow through on your intentions even when you wouldn’t have the discipline to do it.

What other areas of your Christian life can you do like that?

The Christian Life: Repent & Rejoice, Rejoice & Repent

These are the two consistents we expect to see in one another as we open God’s word. Christians are always repenting, always changing, always transforming, always growing. There is a right concern we should have when we meet a Christian who keeps repentance at an arms length away and repents irregularly. 

At the same time, Christians always have reason to be rejoicing, thankful, hopeful, content. Again, it’s appropriate to be concerned for the Christian who doesn’t want to rejoice, or avoids it. 

The beauty of the gospel is that these two are not extremes in tension. The gospel calls me to a forgiving God in whom we rejoice in our repentance!