Be who you are, everyone else is taken

All of us play the comparison game at some point. This is no less true of Pastors and Church Leaders. How often do I find myself checking out the website of another church to see what they are up to. If it fits my paradigm, if their style is on point, their music is relevant, their carpark is full.

It would not be hard for the carpark at my church to be full. Its not that large!

But in another way and perhaps more seriously, I sometimes find myself comparing myself to other leaders, particularly in the area of what they have achieved in a certain amount of time. Recent events with some high profile church Pastors remind me that quick spectacular success is not as appealing as what it appears. The dysfunction seemingly required in some ministries is a price I am not willing to pay.

My mentor reminded me that I need to lead out of the storehouse God has given me. I might put it that I need to lead with what God has placed in my hand. I like to think I can speak well. I like to think I lead with compassion and understanding. I wish I was more focused and strategic. Sometimes it seems I have led by accident, based on a  ‘gut feel’ of what God is saying rather than a ten year carefully formulated plan.

Then there is the intangibles. God’s favour. Blind luck. A perfect storm of circumstances. These things provide growth and favour which cannot be manufactured.

Who am I? What do I lead out of? Well I love the gathering. I sense the atmosphere with some sense of accuracy. I know what works. What ignites my joy is seeing people engaged with God, hearing His voice and responding to the Spirit. I am confident in my ability to discern people. All these things are not necessarily or exclusively human. They are gifting from God.

I am not someone else. I am me. Out of this I seek to lead. This does not excuse me from needing to surround myself strategically with others who can resource what I can’t. I pray I am thankful for who I am, thankful for who others are, and faithful and fruitful with the time I have. 

Chronos vs Kairos

Chronos: Passing of time

Kairos: Divine moments

There is a sense that the older a Christian is the more mature they have become. Not necessarily. Time does not mean someone will become more Godly. Phillipians 1.6 says God has begun a good in work in you and will continue that….But that wont just happen.

Some of the most ungoldly people, selfish, unyielding people you can meet are those who call themselves Christian and have been for decades. Some of the most godly mature and wise Christians are those who have had God begin a good work in them in recent times.

What does make us more like Christ? Kairos moments, moments when the divine breaks into the earthly and we encounter Jesus. The Spirit speaks, challenges, inspires and refines. Chronos, the mere passing of time, means little without the Kairos.

Imagine though if you have many moments of Kairos. Many moments of God encounters. Daily moments of hearing from, being inspired by and refined by the Spirit. Such a luxury may only be afforded to you by the Chronos that God allows you. That sort of person may indeed be the most blessed. Becoming more like Jesus, every day, as we wait for the day of Salvation.

This is the future of church lyrics

Recently I came across this video from Cold Chisel.

The lyrics are not edifying. Let me say that first up so please don’t be offended. The video was posted by Cold Chisel themself and is featured in their live concerts.

It is probably the most popular Australian Rock song of all time by a seminal group. Most Australians could sing along to at least part of this song, but getting the lyrics exactly right could be a stretch. Its the highlight of any Cold Chisel concert, and its basically a huge sing a long where the band and Jimmy play lead conductor. Bit like a contemporary worship service actually!

Which brings me to my point. Note how the lyrics are displayed. One or two sentences, moving backgrounds, emotive, warm, encompassing, contemporary. Better than most. An example of how sometimes contemporary culture is doing it better. A challenge for the church would be getting the timing just right in order to use such a medium. So often our lyrics are displayed more statically, and we like to have a sense of freedom, where if we want to do the chorus twice, we will! But I am sure we could get around that somehow.

When a Pastor says goodbye…..

Being a pastor is a little like a marriage. It is not a job, it is a lifestyle. There is certainly work aspects to it. Things you need to do. There are moments of boredom, frustration and just plain hard work. There are also moments of spiritual exultation, ecstasy and joy.

It can be intoxicating, invigorating and infuriating, all in the same day.

Yet it is a call. For as far removed as the contemporary pastor may be from their first century counterpart, ultimately most pastors don’t do it for the pay, conditions or perks. Its all about God’s call. In my view, there are far easier and less responsible ways to make a living.

What is a pastor to do when they say goodbye to the church they have loved, cared for, prayed for and agonised over? Thankfully this is not something I have had to think about, and have no desire to need to deal with for the next decade or two.

But recent events involving prominent pastors have prompted within me this thought. How does a pastor say goodbye?

Can I suggest they keep it brief. The reality is that it is about the church. It is always about the church. It has never been and never should be about them. If they leave well, celebrate. And then say goodbye. If they leave badly, grieve, and then say goodbye.

Seeing some prominent pastors splash their grief, repentance, desire to start something new all over their not inconsiderable social media following makes me wonder. Who is this about? Them? Or the church?

I can’t answer the question when is it too soon to come back from a moral failure. It seems far too complex to be prescriptive to any one formula. Every situation truly is different.

But say goodbye. Move on. Allow the church to move on. It was never about you. Even when it was.

Hope for holy citizens in a foreign land

When the people spoken to by the prophet Jeremiah were taken off in exile it would have been easy for them to have two attitudes.

To wait for their salvation from the land. To focus purely on their return to Israel. To view it, the land they were exiled to, and the people that surrounded them, as foreign, irredeemable.

To set themself up in ghettos, fortresses, to make it clear to those around them that they  would have nothing to do with them. To make it clear that the people whose land they were in were not going to be a part of their story. Their culture was not going to be something they embraced.

Perhaps God saw this happening with the exiles. Maybe this is why He instructed the prophet Jeremiah to say this in chapter 29, ““Build homes, and plan to stay. Plant gardens, and eat the food they produce. Marry and have children. Then find spouses for them so that you may have many grandchildren. Multiply! Do not dwindle away! And work for the peace and prosperity of the city where I sent you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, for its welfare will determine your welfare.”

They were to find hope for their present life, for their family, while in exile. While holy citizens in a foreign land. Did God say to them the foreigners were holy? No. But does he indicate they should marry, plant, be a part of their community?  A resounding yes.

And so if we are going to use the exile analogy for us today, and the church in a culture which is foreign, perhaps we need to review the biblical analogy from an Old Testament time. Perhaps the answer for the church is not to retreat. Nor put all our hope for today in a coming salvation. Instead. To be a part of our culture. To plant, to have homes, to marry, to have hope in the One who is with us now, and has allowed us to be where we are for a reason.

Perhaps waiting only for a future salvation of this world might lead us to neglect the salvation of this world today.

Being appreciated

I think that people will just about do anything for others if they feel appreciated.

I had a former Pastor tell me once that he did not compliment or express appreciation to his staff or volunteers very much because if he did it would cheapen it when he did finally express something. The reality is though that people generally don’t hear appreciation anywhere as much as they hear  criticism. What I mean is that in practice I think when a leader expressed gratitude, appreciation it is not heard anywhere as much as what the leader thinks it is.

I was talking to another Pastor and he was telling me what a good ministry a staff member was doing. However I knew how the staff member felt. They did not feel the Senior had ever really expressed appreciation or gratitude. In fact they described in detail how the Pastor continually made them feel unappreciated and unsupported.

Now there needs to be a balance. Some staff members are insecure, cannot take critique and need to be handled gently. That can be really painful in a leadership position. Reality is in a church context there needs to be robust feedback. And this need not be taken personally. We all want to be better.

People will generally rise to greater heights when you express belief in them. They may not even feel that they are qualified or able to achieve results. But your belief in them as their leader will mean they will aspire to be who you see them as.

Fremantle are having a better year than West Coast

The title is to attract my Freo supporting friends and annoy my West Coast supporting friends.

Three weeks ago so many commentators were saying that  2016 was a year horrible for my Freo Dockers.  And such a view could be supported with the winless Dockers languishing at the bottom of the ladder. In the last three weeks Freo has beaten a depleted Essendon, a disillusioned Brisbane and a disappointing Port Adelaide. With the best midfielder in the AFL out for the season, arguable the best ruckman on the sidelines and an All Australian backman injured. In fact just this week Coach Ross Lyon had 25 fit players to choose from. In his own words a ‘tipping point’.

Two or three chilled chardonnays down the road in the Rangie, West Coast’s season could best be described as ordinary. Some FTB (flat track bully) wins at home in front of a ageing but vocal booing crowd, some disappointing losses away, West Coast sit just inside the top eight heading for another finals  appearance. Kennedy is a A grade forward kicking from everywhere with characteristic confidence. With the skilled but patchy LeCras backing him up.

However who is better placed? As I have come to realise, all that matters is winning the Grand Final. Not making finals, not winning preliminary final, but the big dance. Something Fremantle came close too, but have never done. Yes that stings.

Making finals means nothing unless you win the big dance. Will West Coast make and win the Grand Final this year? Very doubtful. If someone offers you odds on Freo not making the Grand Final, take them. Fremantle wont even make the finals.

But here is the point. Fremantle is better placed. A fine young crop of young players are getting valuable games in them. The best player in the AFL will be back in 2017 ready to fire. As will a host of other players rested up for a great tilt. And a lower place on the ladder means more opportunity to grab some great players.

West Coast on the other hand will fall over the line into another finals appearance. If they finish high enough they might even win a home final. But will they win the Grand Final? No. In fact their mediocrity will mean they continue to top up and believe they are in it. They are not.