I didn’t misunderstand my father. I didn’t understand him.
In one of those rare moments when I had his attention we attended a football game. It was his beloved Perth Demons getting touched up well and truly. I was about 7 or 8 years old. We left at half time.
I didn’t understand why we left early. Dad had taken me to the football. It was great. One of those rare moments where we had gone father and son together somewhere.
In later years I began to understand why he was as he was. Someone who wanted to communicate with his son, but was just unable to. He didn’t ever talk to me, not really. And I don’t think it was because he was a bad father. He wasn’t. He was a great father. But things had happened to him when he was a child, nothing abusive, just no emotional connection. He failed miserably at having one with me.
But at his funeral. There was over four hundred people there. Many of them dad had personally led to Jesus, or pastored or led in some way. The effect he had on the kingdom was profound. Out of the youth group he led, in a church which was in many ways dysfunctional, many teenagers grew up to be senior church leaders and pastors now leading all over the state and country. His effect for Jesus was profound.
People talk about him to me, and at my weakest moment a tinge of resentment rises up. Then its pride. And I’m a pastor. His son.
I wish I knew him like others did. But at the same time, I wish I was half the man he was.
Those who are on the margins are generally at the forefront of change.
I was talking with a group of people about selecting songs for a combined event recently. There is no question that Hillsong is now mainstream. Has been for some time. That is no criticism of them. And they have different streams which are more on the margins. But church communities which perhaps at one stage would not do ‘Hillsong’ songs are now doing them. Maybe not from the latest album, but Hillsong has crossed over into general acceptance within the Christian community and has been for a decade.
What is next for the church. Well Hip Hop as a musical genre is huge. I have been musing on how it might be integrated within the church as a new generation grows up with Mcing, slapping bass notes and beatboxing.
Planetshakers have been on the margins for some time. There are some church communities which embrace their music, but it is difficult because so much of it is anthemic, and needs a huge sound to make it work, and generally a huge audience!
This is their latest release. Its on the margins. Its on point for todays youth culture. I like it! I can’t see it being replicated easily. But its worth a listen…and a look!
Recently a friend and myself visited a evening event where the speaker was using a lot of visuals.
We were both quite distressed as the visiting speaker continually made sarcastic remarks to the operator of the visuals. Whoever the poor nameless person was, they were literally a second behind the speaker, earning his passive aggressive remarks.
How delightful it was to listen to Mark Conner speak as a guest speaker at a church and hear him acknowledge and congratulate the volunteer. I have had personal dealings with Mark where he personally went up to the volunteer and checked his slides, put them into the computer himself, and then explain what he wanted. He then thanked everyone. He could not have been more humble.
Watch here at the 6 minute 30 mark for an example of how to treat people well.
As church leaders we deal with volunteers all the time. They serve the church, they serve God and they serve the leaders of the church. They often have their own jobs, they have families, they are busy themselves. Yet they want to serve a greater purpose, be part of something significant. Let us treat them well, acknowledge them with respect.
There is no need to be in charge. In fact being in charge may very well not get you what you want.
I lead a church, have done for over 22 years. I also lead the Annual Baptist Pastors Conference. Recently our church hosted the incredibly wonderful ‘Whisper’ conference.
In these three spaces I have needed to be flexible with authority. In my church we allocate responsibility to be matched with authority. If you take the responsibility for an event, the authority to creatively lead in that space is given to you. Not as a right, but a privilege. My young adults pastor organised the Whisper conference. He did a lot of the heavy lifting of organising teams. It was an incredibly well run and functioning event. Around 250 people from over 25 churches attended from all over Perth. It was our vision and our heart. His creativity, passion and skill led the event better than I could have.
If I had exercised my right to be in charge, the event would still have happened but with none of the skill and nuance my young adults pastor brought to it. I assisted him, resourced him, but ultimately let him lead.
With the annual Baptist Pastors Conference I work under the authority of our Denomination and particularly our leader. He gives me a lot of freedom. A benefit of having been involved in the conference for over fifteen years. And having his trust. If there is something he wants tweaked or changed, it is my role to implement this. I am a person under authority.
In our church I am responsible for the key leadership direction and vision. It is not a role I take lightly. There are times I need to make decisions which may not be popular with everyone. But leading is not about giving people what they want, but what they need. Often people cannot see what I can see, they are just not in that space. And that is okay.
Being able to be flexible with authority, understand where you fit in, and what is best for the kingdom, that is the fine line, the radical middle, the balance I try to walk along.
This morning I did something I don’t often do. I came down to my local coffee shop to wait for a friend. While here I did some work on the church website, sent out a circular email and updated our facebook site.
I also had a long macc. I always get disappointed when I don’t have a coffee from here, they make a great coffee.
While sitting here outside on one of their funky hispter benches I have had three seperate people come and chat. People from Church, people from Toddler Jam, people with mutual friends. They all stopped and chatted.
It was a nice experience. Having been a part of this community for over 20 years, I know a lot of people. And a lot of people know me. Serving on the local primary school P and C, running Toddler Jam. You know people, and are known.
I was reflecting on the number one reason people come to and stay at a church. It is not the music, it is not the preaching, and it is actually not only the kids programs, although that is huge.
A number of folk told me this week the number one reason is because someone said hello. Not someone who is part of the structured welcome team, but just a regular person. We are all craving real human contact. We all want to be noticed. We all want community.
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.