Category Archives: Church

Catch 22

In my family of origin there were a couple of non-negotiable rules. We were in church on Sunday and there was no television allowed on Sundays. School on Monday morning was always a little awkward as you pretended to know what the other kids were talking about when they discussed the latest video on Countdown or the footy from Match of the Day. It was interesting to see the change in my own family as we grew up. I am not quite sure when the rules changed, but they did. Church was still not an option, but Sunday night drama and comedy, especially on the ABC, became part of our diet.

Its not easy to say no to our children in these days of Sunday sport and birthday parties invitations. Time and time again the number one wish parents have for their children is that they have friends and social acceptance. There has been negotiation and navigation for us as parents. We do not want our children to miss the social formation which they need. Neither do we wish for them to miss out on the heart of the Christian experience. Gathering together with other believers to enjoy the presence of Christ, to hear the word, to fellowship. It is a beautiful discipline that should not be easily revoked. Our children believe and embrace that we do, not necessarily that we say.

As a Pastor it is easy to write this off as the ravings of someone with a horse in the race. Of course I would say this, I want people in the pews. And there is no question I desire for my church to have vibrant and full services. So it is catch 22 for me to even post this.

However the prophetic part of my nature points to the principle that we reap what we sow. It is tough enough as it is to raise a family and have teenagers and young adults embrace Christ and His Church. When we by action give the message that Church is an add on, something to do when it doesn’t conflict with other more important activities, the message will be received and acted upon.

Oscars mistake

If you haven’t seen the news there was a mistake made at this years Oscars when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope and the wrong winner was announced for the most prestigious award of the night, best movie.

It reminded me of the many mistakes I have made from the pulpit. At times I have had the congregation in uproarious laughter for all the wrong reasons, and to my embarrassment. Sometimes I have had no idea why they are even laughing!

To laugh at oneself is human just as to make mistakes is human. All too often in Churches we take ourselves far too seriously. I have found self depreciating humour to be the best type to help people be at ease. With themself. With you. And with your church.

If someone finds it hard to laugh at themself it may be indication that they are not feeling that safe or secure. I am sure God loves me. I am equally sure that all my worries and insecurities will ultimately prove in the eternity of time to be perhaps something I shouldn’t have given so much emotional energy to.

Mistakes are part of life. I hope I can laugh at my own, and even laugh along when my church laughs at them!

Ben Cousins will have to deal with his choices

Despite him playing for the team I dislike the most, I could not but help admire the way Ben Cousins played. I remember one derby , which was an away derby, when I was sitting in the stands with a crowd of West Coast supporters. Cousins had worn himself ragged chasing all day and was vomiting on the sidelines. Despite his best efforts his team came up well short.

Now I read the latest in his long line of misdemeanours which has resulted in serious charges being laid. It also appears he is almost destitute with hardly a coin to his name. How he has fallen from those rock star days when he paraded around town as the darling boy of the Perth media.

There is no question his fall from fame, wealth and influence is a result of his own bad choices. A gracious and forgiving father, perhaps too gracious, a fawning media and sublime skills were not enough to ensure he lead a comfortable and privileged life.

But how do we react to this. Do we say its his own fault, his own choice and he deserves what he gets. All that is true. No question.

Yet in the midst of the consequences of his own bad choices I feel sorrow for him. For the plight he finds himself in. It could have been so different. We all make bad choices, everyone of us. And the consequences are natural and our own fault.

But I still feel sorry for him. Just as I feel sorry for myself when I bear the consequence of my own decisions. As a Christian I want to be like Jesus. In the midst of the whole human race making bad choices He did not say, well suffer you lot, you are getting what you deserve. He came down, He cared, and he took on himself the consequence of our decisions. I have to have the same attitude He took to those who are suffering, even suffering because they have made foolish and irresponsible choices.

The Church and Christians are often accused of being judgemental and hypocritical, with good reason. Cousins is just one example of someone who needs grace, not sneering looks.

Generational

One of the values of our church is to be ‘generational’. We are a values driven church, which means our values determine our decisions.

I am convinced that this generation coming up will do greater things than the one which has come before. They are different. Anxious and in many ways not thinking they will have it better than their parents. Technology has in many ways failed to deliver what it promised, yet it is something they embrace and utilise with a far greater degree of comfort than any generation before them.

As a church we are committed to giving young people real responsibility, real authority and real weight to their ministry. I don’t believe in tokenism. There needs to be a sense that they could fail, otherwise what is the point?

And I believe they will rise up. They have a sense of justice and goodness and self awareness that my generation did not have. They believe strongly in authenticity and are not tied in any way to organisational dependency.

The flame will pass on.

The bigger the church

The bigger the target.

For the Pastor, the church people, the ministry.

It moves me when I see Pastors and churches fail. Moral failure, burnout and conflict can all toxify a church to the point of its demise.

Bad decisions lead to conflict, staff unhappy, people leaving.

Some churches demise is a slow burn, others is an explosion that rips the community apart.

I’ve been part of a church where moral failure led to the thriving and growing church basically disintegrating. The ramifications from that are still felt in the town it is in, 20 years later.

A church is ultimately a community of people. And moral failure, other types of failure, burn out, depression and just plain boredom can destroy something which was good.

There is nothing new about this. But it is Christ’s bride. It is the hope. It is still something which thrills me, challenges me and spurs me on toward personal and corporate growth.

Skinny jeans, tenure, perseverance, millennials and the future of the church

The blogosphere is reacting to a fairly interesting post on Senior Pastors age. It basically states that only 1 in 7 Senior Pastors Is under the age of 40. (Article) Stephen McAlpine has a typically theological response, decrying the direction of the church here. After a long discussion with a minister from another denomination today I have to say I think Stephen may have a point. The absence of ‘Jesus’ and ‘mission’ in the denomination of my friend (not Stephen) left me feeling depressed and my friend concerned for where his movement is going.

Where Jesus is being preached, the Holy Spirit relied upon, and the people being mobilised for sharing their faith, churches are growing. Where churches rely upon their own human wisdom and disregard Jesus and the Bible, the church is shrinking. Thats reality. (Just one source of many)

I did want to comment on succession and my hope for this coming generation. In my generation of Pastors I have seen so many go. So many fall to the perils of internal church conflict. The pain of expectations of growth and revival shattered. Ministry is not easy. Its like trying to maintain the strings on a guitar. If one of the strings is frayed or broken, the tune does not sound quite right. Having an effective church means understanding that at any point at least 20% of any aspect of your church is probably ineffective. Leading a church takes heavy doses of prayer and intimacy with God, but also takes Godly wisdom and discernment, and human skill.

Some who felt called to ministry are just not suited. They do not have the skills or stubbornness to continue. That is just reality. I do not want to sound arrogant, as though I have it all together. I feel like I am only just starting to grasp at what I need to do.

My hope for the next generation is that they will persevere and pray. That they won’t expect ministry, churches and even opportunities to be handed to them. My fear is that for some of this generation so much has been handed to them that resilience is not something they acquire. For many, knowledge is a click away, music is something to be consumed, and if something does not work it is thrown away. That is not their fault. It is the environment they have inherited.

Church, mission and community does not just get handed to you. The spiritual battle is real. People are unreliable, contentious, have ungodly desire for power and they are sinful. It has always been that way. The expectation of ministry needs to be realistic but not shattering.

My experience of Church is that it has been bruising, wounding, exciting, thrilling, wonderful, terrible, exhilarating, scary and fulfilling all at the same time. I have felt like quitting on Monday more times than I can remember. I have also felt on top of the world on more Sunday nights than I can remember.

The Church has continued for 2000 years and my faith and belief in Jesus and His mandate and presence in this world means I think it will continue until He returns. Young leaders will do more with the next church than what I have ever done or could imagine. They have authenticity, passion and an innate ability to understand culture, peoples emotions and what works far better than the generation that came before. They are innovative and have a sense of what works. They have a strong sense of justice and care for the world and the people they are inheriting.

The best is yet to come.

Budget Principles for a Church

Some thoughts on important values in a Church Budget

Budget not to survive the year but to save for future years

We must spend on things important to our values and goals. If we don’t spend on these things, we decrease our chances of achieving our goals. Therefore, ensure we are investing in that which will help us achieve our goals

Each dollar spent justifiable to achieve our goals

Spend with thrift and creativity. Do not take the easy route. Don’t make unresearched spending just because it is easier. 

We do not always need the best, we need what will achieve our goals with maximum result and minimal spend.