Redemption in the form of a RX8

Back in my younger far more foolish days I purchased myself a Mazda RX4 Couple. I was the proud owner of a 13b Rotary powered car. I spent an inordinate amount of money on the stereo, exhaust system and whatever else it needed. The thing went fast. I knew that as did the police, many times.

When I decided to go to Bible College the car needed to be replaced by something more sensible. Anything would have been more sensible than that car to be honest! I was sad when I sold it, but not gutted because I didn’t know what it was worth, and if I had been asked would have said it was easily replaced.

The past few decades have been spent with different vehicles, one of which has featured on this blog, namely the Zook. Truth is I have always had a keen interest in cars and mechanics. If I had followed my own thoughts at a younger age, pre the Rx4, I would have been a mechanic. But the pressure was on to go to university. I went to Uni and dropped out.

Fast forward a few decades and I found myself car less again having moved to Melbourne and a self described ’empty nester’. Both kids are adults and Melinda has a sensible car.

I set about thinking about what I wanted and toyed with the idea of an Rx7. The earlier ones are out of my budget but not by a lot. However the idea of having an older car which would need expensive rebuilding to make it reliable wasn’t that palatable. The later model ones are pushing upwards of $60,000 now, as are the 1973 onward Rx4’s.

So I pondered the idea of an Rx8 with the Rotary Renesis Motor. The issue with the Rx8 is that you don’t know what you are going to get. A well maintained version will last the distance. A poorly maintained one will not. So I rang the local Rotary specialist and he found me one with a motor which will need some serious work. That means the car itself was inexpensive for what it is.

What I have is a very clean lovely Mazda Rx8 Coupe. Once finished I don’t plan to sell it. Part of me thinks it will increase in value. Not as much as my Rx4 did perhaps!

I have moved to Kew

So I have moved to Kew. It has been almost two months now and a lot has happened. I have left a city and community that I loved, and still do. Left behind life long friends, some of whom I wonder if I will ever see again. I chatted with a good friend on the phone the other day, someone I did life with for years, and we realised we don’t know when or if we will see each other again. That is grief for me. There are lives I will not be a close witness too as I thought I might.

Melinda and I set out on an adventure, and as we all know, an adventure is not comfortable, nor without pain and challenge. There have been moments where both of us have understood loss and grief. 

We have been welcomed into a church community and understood why we are here. A good friend shared some wisdom with me saying, Mark you need to go somewhere that is uniquely suited to your gift, talents and personality. Kew BC is that and more. A church with unique challenges, and a place I have found uniquely suited to my passion of what church can be.

There are many different types of churches, and all of them have their place. Helping Kew find its place is something I am excited about. I am growing to love this church and its people, not as merely a decision to love, but as a reality. I do wonder what Kew BC and what Mark and Melinda will look like in a decade. Will the changes I foresee take place, what will happen, and in what way. Some of that will be determined but my leadership and character, but much will be determined by the will of God and others.

My capacity for friendship, for people and for what God has for me has been enlarged. So while I have some new friends, I have not forgotten the ones I have left. 

If you are the praying type, I would love you to pray with me, that Gods will be done, His kingdom come, in Kew, as it is in heaven. May the Spirit breathe fresh wind, fresh fire, fresh understanding, fresh vibrancy, fresh community and most importantly fresh mission into Kew heart. 

Kew Baptist Church

I had a moment on Sunday night as I preached my first message at Kew Baptist Church. It is our intention under God to have a long term ministry here at Kew Baptist. Its an extraordinary and unique church. The evening service is full of young adults and the morning service holds great promise and hope that it will be a place for young families from the area to connect with each other and the Holy Spirit. I was speaking from Philippians 4 and I came back to verse 1 at the end of the message. “Therefore, my brothers and sisters, you whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, dear friends!”

The only way I can pastor this church is to love the people. People asked me if I would change football teams when I loved to Melbourne. Thats a rather naive question. You don’t change teams just because you move town. However you must change churches. My love which I had and have for my former church is still there. But the focus of my love is now with my new people. That is a emotional pull. But love is in some ways at least a decision. And my heart and love must now be here, and it is.

Five thoughts around long term pastoring and a bonus one

You either change your church or your church changes you.


Of course this is a blanket statement and perhaps it is a bit of both. But when I started there was certainly some patterns, values, structure and most importantly culture at my church that was in serious need of leadership. Leadership in a church context means you call out unhealthy aspects of the body. It means you see what could be and offer a hopeful future. Leadership means you persevere even when there is opposition, misunderstanding, miscommunication and selfishness. There are power dynamics which sometimes need to be challenged and addressed. If a church wants to change they will employ a leader. If they want to continue in their present patterns, they will employ a chaplain.

As a pastor you love people, and love them too much to not want to embrace leading them to green pastures. Embracing the idea that you do have something to offer and your insights and ideas might be helpful can be stressful for those without a holy confidence. In this age where pastors have used their power to abuse, bully and control people for their own ends its important to understand that despite those of ill-heart we are still called to lead. Checking your own heart, motives and spiritual connection is vital. As is embracing the wisdom of others when difficult decisions need to be made. Lead, but lead with love and a vulnerable heart.

The biggest change that will occur will be the one in you.

Embrace Personal Development

Does this statement follow on from the previous one? Stay with me. As a keen and present observer of congregation members, myself as a pastor and other pastors here is an observation. As a Pastor God will wrestle with you, challenge your comfort levels, deal with your spiritual health, your upbringing, your choices, your relationships, your habits, your inner being, your psychological welfare, your resistance to change, your propensity to slip into bad patterns, your mind, your spirit and even your physical health. He will also challenge and inform your spiritual view of the world. You will understand the spiritual battle more so than when you are out of ministry.

Ministry has a way of speeding up and deepening your personal development. It brings into focus who you are as a person and makes you question almost every aspect of your character. You will find yourself in situations where you will question whether you are the right person for this role. There will be moments of serious ‘imposter syndrome’ where you wonder when it will be that people realise you are not qualified, spiritual enough, skilled enough or anywhere near as deep a Christian as they or you think you should be.

A variety of friendships and relationships are vital.

Make friends

When I started out in ministry I was fortunate enough to be placed in a peer group. This group has changed members, flexed and groaned as different members changed churches, ministries and life stages. We have been fortunate to not experience any serious moral failures or terminal lapses of judgement. What we have is been able to tell each other at various times and stages of ministry, you are not deluded, at fault or insane. We have recognised patterns in others ministries, the same type of characters and opponents and critics, and helped each other understand what is happening in various ministry situations. Over 25 years we have listened to, prayed for and supported each other. In the early years of conflict ridden ministry this group was indispensable to me and without them I would not still be in ministry.

I have a number of close friends within church. When I first started older pastors told me not to make friends within church. They were right in that having friends within church has proved problematic at times. When I have needed to have a strong word with them, deal with difficult situations, deal with complex narratives, the distinguishing of roles has not always been easy. Taking of my ‘friends hat’ and putting on my ‘pastors hat’ has been something I have needed to do. Crying with a friend who has had a serious moral failure. Admonishing them to be honest and deal with the ramifications of their failure has been stressful and all encompassing. But I need friends. This has not got easier but in many ways more difficult. But I would not change the joy from having friends in my church, even though they are the ones who can hurt me the most.

I have had some of my closest friends serve with me on staff. They have counselled me, listened to me, cautioned me and even warned me. The wounds of a friend are true and a true friend will inflict those wounds truly. Serving in churches with my friends is the most fun I have had in ministry.

There are a number of intentional friendships I have both with christians and non- church people who do not come to my church. I need friends without the pressure of there being any agenda about my church. Friends who do not see me in any way as their pastor but merely as their friend. Friends who love Jesus, and friends who are friends with me despite not sharing my faith. These are people who I can talk about footy, fishing, life, relationships, children and food without any need to reference what takes up a large portion of my time and emotions.

In my life I have cultivated intentional friendships with mentors, counsellors and other pastors. These are both in my city and without. They are not only from my faith tradition but from a variety of Christian churches. These friends have taught me not to take my Baptist tradition too lightly, but also strengthened why I am Baptist. They have informed me that people with different views and interpretations to mine are great people and can help me in a variety of different ways. They have helped me see that the ‘Church’ across my city in all its different forms meets the needs of a much wider group of people than I ever could. Other local churches are not our competition, they are our family. I love Pastors.

Curiosity keeps you young and fresh

Stay humble and a lifelong learner

I may have been in my church a long time, but there are people there who have been there longer, and they will remain after I have gone. That is a sobering point on several levels. I wondered at one point if my ministry would outlive all who where there before me and it hasn’t. That leads me to an application I can truly say I have sought to execute. To remain a lifelong learner and student in every area of my ministry. I have read countless leadership books, attended multiple conferences and intensives and listened to hundreds of podcasts. I have studied the scripture in fresh and different ways. I have looked into colour, style and form of churches. I have installed lighting and computer systems, upgraded our livestream and listened and learned to those far more skilled than myself in all these areas.

I often think about a couple who have attended my church well before me and calculated they have probably heard me preach at least 1000 sermons. The potential for them to be bored by that is likely. But my role is to inspire, encourage, teach and make relevant the word of God in their lives. If my own relationship with my task as a preacher if stagnant, then there is no hope for it to help them grow. Ever year I have tried to change something simple or fundamental or structural about my communication. How I prepare, what I prepare, what media I use, what I focus on. I have never preached a sermon twice. Never. Every week I ask God to help me preach a message that will transform. It is not only about scriptural exegesis, it is also about me as a communicator.

People will continue to surprise you

Love People

In my ministry life I have been threatened with violence a couple of times. There is no comparison with Jesus and others who have been truly persecuted for their faith. However it is indication of the feeling that having a spiritual authority figure can provoke in some people. For a reason I cannot explain people can get weird with power dynamics in churches. If you seek to lead a church and provoke change, you may provoke anger disappointment and resentment in people. Knowing what battles to pursue, which to put on hold and which to leave is a question of wisdom. It is not something I have always been wise with, but is something I have grown into.

I have sat with people crying with them because they have done something seriously out of character. I have watched from the sidelines as people make foolish decisions around serious issues within their life. I have made some serious mistakes with people particularly around confrontation. I have allowed my own insecurities to govern my decision making, thus not doing what was was wise. I have watched as they walk away from my church and ministry over both a perceived offence, a real offence and as they have refused to extend or receive forgivess. I have also had to deal with some people whose time at my church has needed to come to a conclusion. Churches and pastors hurt people. Sometimes I have worn the sting of how I have hurt someone, and sometimes I have worn the sting of how a previous pastor hurt them. People often bring that hurt with them. I have been seriously hurt as people have ghosted me, misrepresented me and walked away when all I gave was love and care.

I have been amazed as I have seen people step forward for Jesus, say yes to Jesus, be baptised, take up serving, care of others, love people in extraordinary ways and teach me about Jesus. I have watched with wonder as people get lost in praise, pray without ceasing, love without measure and challenge my conscience around finances. They have amazed me as they show grace, fruit of the Spirit and give of themselves way beyond what I thought they would. People have surprised me with their grace and love towards me and their forgiveness.

The Call

Embrace it

A old mentor once said to me, ‘if you don’t like the smell of the sheep, don’t be shepherd’. I don’t know if that is true. There are plenty of times I have not wanted to be a pastor and not liked people. I once advised a group of Indonesian Pastors to not encourage their children to go into the ministry. Ministry is not easy and why would you encourage your children to choose it as a life career? I am not digging ditches in the heat of a Australian summer and probably couldn’t. However a ditch digger does not go home with the weight of congregants issues and the issues of the church on their mind.

I sometimes wish I was not called to be a Pastor. But I am. I love ministry, I love people, I love the church and I love Jesus. With all my heart. I am so glad I am called to ministry. It is a privilege beyond what I deserve. However at times the only factor which has kept me in ministry is the call. That unexplainable word from the Spirit, this is what I have called you to.

This was originally done as a letter to a dear friend and ministry colleague who asked me for five learnings after a long term ministry. I asked for permission to publish it publicly

Not Marking Time

Just a few brief weeks and my time at Inglewood Church draws to a close. It has been a while coming since I announced the news. The last few weeks have been a whirlwind of Spirit inspired activity with baptisms, life changes and some really good ministry.

The normal whirl of Church Social activity is whirring around me as we march relentlessly on towards Christmas. I often say to other Pastors that Sunday comes every week. Christmas comes every year along with Easter. This seasonal activity is meaningful and we look forward to it. But it is also relentless. I won’t be working at Christmas this year, my first one off for over a decade.

I am not slowing down, but I am aware of the impending finish. Taking every opportunity. Thinking of last words in a range of different contexts.

In Between

It has been a while between blog posts.

After 28 years of ministry at Inglewood Community Church, 25 of which were as Senior Pastor, my season at the church is rapidly coming at a close. My wife and I sense quite strongly that our season here is complete. Not in the sense of being perfect, but in the sense that we are finished.

During a time of Long Service Leave earlier on in the year we both prayed and sought God and it become obvious that the disentanglement needed to begin. I can truly say it has been wonderful. You forget all the strain and broken relationships. The conflict. People ghosting you. You try to forget your own mistakes and missteps in leadership.

I can say that I have always loved the church and given myself to it. I have not given up. Even when problems of my own doing occurred, I apologised, brushed myself off and moved on. There have been some very troublesome people in church. For whatever reason the power of influence in a church is attractive to some. There have been others who have died, moved state, and moved on for good reason. I think if everyone who had been a part of the church during my ministry was still there, we would need a much bigger building and multiple services! I am a highly relational person. My strength and my weakness.

My prayer life and general resiliance has kept me going. As has the unwavering support, love and skill of my wife. Along with some amazing staff and volunteers.

Where to next? In Genesis 12 God asked Abraham to leave, and go to a place He would show him. In my life the leaving has always come before the showing. God has never seemed to take my comfort as seriously as I wish. Right now there is some anxiety we are dealing with. A wonder if we have what it takes, and if God thinks we have what it takes.

It is the in-between season. Appreciate your prayers.