Friday, April 30, 2010

What the church is...

I posted these two quotes in the Daily Writer blog but I think they're worth repeating here too, since they relate so much to our mission.

Christ summons the Church, as she goes her pilgrim way, to that continual reformation of which she always had need.

Coming forth from the eternal Father's love, founded in time by Christ the Redeemer, and made one in the Holy Spirit, the Church has a saving and an eschatological purpose which can be fully attained only in the future world. But she is already present in this world, and is composed of men [and women], that is, members of the earthly city who have a call to form the family of God's children during the present history of the human race, and to keep increasing it until the Lord returns.
This she does most of all by her healing and elevating impact on the dignity of the person, by the way in which she strengthens the seams of human society and imbues the everyday activities of men [and women] with a deeper meaning and importance. Thus, through her individual members and her whole community, the Church believes she can contribute greatly toward making the family of man and its history more human.

The two quotes above come from the documents of the Vatican II Council. They're quoted on page 72 of Robert Warren's [photo] On the Anvil.

ROBERT WARREN was Team Rector of one of the largest and fastest growing churches in England, St Thomas', Crookes in Sheffield. He succeeded John Finney as the Church of England's National Officer for Evangelism and then was a full-time member of the Springboard Team for five years. He retired in 2004. His popular publication The Healthy Churches' Handbook underlines the vital role in a healthy church of people being helped both on the journey to faith and on the subsequent lifetime journey of faith.

Gardens as Community

In a recent post on her blog, Christine Sine asks Is this a Move of God? What she's discussing is the idea of community gardens, the way in which they help with sustainability, with learning how to feed yourself by the work of your own hands, the way in which many people feel more at home in the garden than in church, and the way in which non-church people get involved - even ask for community gardens to be set up so they can be involved. But most of all the word that stands out is community.

Read the full post for the details, but one particular detail attracted my attention and will be intriguing to older New Zealand readers of this blog. I quote:

Even our good friend Graham Kerr, once known as The Galloping Gourmet, has become involved planting his own garden and working with his church at Mt Vernon on a huge garden project. Graham tells us that he has never before cooked anything he has grown or grown anything he has cooked and it is delightful to watch him enthusiastically discover the delights of this.

If you'd ever wondered what happened to him after he vanished from our TV screens, this tells you. Six degrees - or less - of separation?

Thursday, April 29, 2010

What a Mission Consultant Can do for You

Duncan Macleod wrote the following on his blog back in early April. Much of what he says applies to roles of both the National Mission Enabler, and the Regional Mission Advisor.

Consulting is mostly, I believe, about listening and looking. I like Fuzz and Carolyn Kitto’s suggestion that consulting is lending people your ears and eyes, not the other way around. It’s about finding clues about what’s happening behind the scenes, under the surface, in the past, present and future. Effective consulting in my line of work requires me to develop an intuitive and thorough understanding of human dynamics, sociology and emotional systems. I’ve learned where to find clues about community trends, looking for hard data (facts and figures) as well as soft data (human stories).

Consulting needs to be empowering. It is tempting to just tell people what to do. “Follow these instructions and you’ll be right”. However I’d rather be coaching local leaders to develop their capacity to discern direction and lead a community into the future. This is “power with” rather than “power over”. I’ve found this complicated when I’ve had the capacity to say yes or no to funding. I do come across ministers whose strengths are in pastoral care and conscientious living, but struggle with how to develop fresh thinking (creativity) and action (innovation). Often, not always, there are people around with drive and creativity who can share in the process. I say “not always”, as people with “get up and go” tend to “get up and go” elsewhere when they’re not given room to move and make things happen.
Read the rest on Duncan’s Blog, Postkiwi Duncan Macleod

Business or Spirit?

Many churches struggle between two extremes: whether to run a church on a business model, or whether to run it by relying primarily on the Holy Spirit. And there have been some great business model books that have seemed entirely applicable to the church. In an article on Leadership Journal online entitled Good to Great to Godly, Mike Bonem discusses the value of Jim Collin’s classic book, ‘Good to Great’ for churches. He notes that while it was of great value to him in his work in the business world, and still had good things to say when he moved onto a church’s staff, he also had to redefine his thinking in the light of another classic, Jim Cymbala’s Fresh Wind, Fresh Spirit.

This is an excellent article discussing the implications of taking the innumerable business models and adapting them for the church.

Mike Bonem is executive pastor at West University Baptist Church in Houston, author of Leading from the Second Chair and Congregational Change, a Harvard MBA. and a former business consultant.

Challenge of Change (and an apology!)

Just by way of apology: things have been a bit quiet on this blog lately due to a number of other calls on my time at the National Mission Office. Nil desperandum! The blog is not forgotten, and just to prove it, here's a review of a book for you.

The Challenge of Change: a practical guide to shaping change and changing the shape of the church, by Philip Potter.
The following review comes from and is by P E Berry:
I'm an Anglican Vicar with over 15 years of experience in three different parishes/teams and I have to say that Phil Potter's book is probably one of the most important and influential I've read in the whole of that time. Thoroughly grounded on Phil's experience over many years, it is not triumphant about achievements (as so many tend to be) but, rather, incredibly honest and realistic, both about his early days at St. Mark's, Haydock and how he guided this church along the often painful road of change. It's well grounded in a Biblical understanding of what it means to be God's people and also extremely practical in applying those all-important foundational principles on which to help build a healthy approach to change. This book has really 'spoken' into my current situation, so much so that I've bought it for the staff team and will be using it as a basis for a PCC vision day. I don't think I exaggerate when I tell people that it has transformed my ministry. Highly recommended.
(The book comes from an Anglican perspective but can be applied well beyond that. There are challenging exercises at the end of each chapter.)
Published by the Bible Reading Fellowship (BRF) 2009

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


What is today's most undervalued leadership trait? asks John Ortberg. It's prudence.

Ortberg writes: Allen Guelzo has written a wonderful book on Abraham Lincoln, and he devotes an entire chapter to the role prudence played in the life of the man who was arguably the most influential leader in the history of America. Guelzo notes that 2,000 years ago prudence was considered one of the greatest of virtues; a hundred years ago it was part of moral philosophy; today it is the punchline of a joke.

Prudence, says Guelzo, was prized by the ancients because it was linked to shrewdness, to excellence in judgment, to the capacity to discern, to the ability to take in a situation and see it in its wholeness. Prudence is foresight and far-sightedness. It's the ability to make immediate decisions on the basis of their longer-range effects.

Prudence is what makes someone a great commodities trader—the capacity to face reality squarely in the eye without allowing emotion or ego to get in the way. It's what is needed by every quarterback or battlefield general. Thomas Aquinas said it was intelligence about "things to be done."

Using PowerPoint Effectively

Seth Godin doesn't like the way most PowerPoints are used and has been saying so for several years.

Here's his summary of how to use a PowerPoint effectively - it sounds good to me.

Here are the five rules you need to remember to create amazing Powerpoint presentations:

1. No more than six words on a slide. EVER. There is no presentation so complex that this rule needs to be broken.
2. No cheesy images. Use professional stock photo images.
3. No dissolves, spins or other transitions.
4. Sound effects can be used a few times per presentation, but never use the sound effects that are built in to the program. Instead, rip sounds and music from CDs and leverage the Proustian effect this can have. If people start bouncing up and down to the Grateful Dead, you’ve kept them from falling asleep, and you’ve reminded them that this isn’t a typical meeting you’re running.
5. Don’t hand out print-outs of your slides. They don’t work without you there.

Read his more recent post on the subject: PowerPoint makes us stupid.

Photo by Gareth Saunders

Pink Shirt Day: Stop Bullying Now

Well, I'm not wearing what you'd call a pink shirt today - it's more like a reddy-brown - but be that as it may, today is apparently celebrated as Pink Shirt Day, and that relates to Bullying.

I quote:

Pink Shirt Day aims to show that bullying is not ok and won't be tolerated. By encouraging the people of New Zealand to wear a Pink Shirt on the 28th of April we can help to raise awareness of bullying and show the massive amount of people who support taking a stance against bullying and believe that bullying should not be tolerated anywhere no matter what the reasons or circumstances are.

I say Amen to that. You can read a good deal more about bullying and what's being done about it on the Pink Shirt site, and also catch up with the recent Massey University study on bullying here. The latter deals primarily with workplace bullying; the Pink Shirt site is more focused on bullying in schools.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Life Together

LIFE TOGETHER: A Conversation About the Challenges and Opportunities of Christian Community with Dave Andrews.


LIFE TOGETHER FORUM: 9.30-4.00pm, at Spreydon Baptist, with Dave Andrews, and friends from Urban Vision, Servants, and the Addington community. Sliding scale entry ($10-30, incl. morning and afternoon tea).

DINNER WITH DAVE ANDREWS: 6.00-8.00pm, at Addington Coffee Co-op, 297 Lincoln Rd, Chch. ($20)

As capacity in both venues is limited, please email to register, indicating which events you will be attending. Registration closes May 5. For more info, contact Ants ( or Jono (

Proudly hosted by the Addington Coffee Co-op, Spreydon Baptist, and Servants to Asia's Urban Poor.

Dave, his wife Ange, and their family, have lived and worked in intentional communities with marginalised groups of people in Australia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nepal for more than thirty years. He now lives in a large joint household with his wife, children, grandchildren and others in an inner city community called the Waiters Union in Brisbane, Australia. Dave also works with TEAR Australia, and is a teacher for the Bible College of Queensland and the Brisbane College of Theology.

Monday, April 19, 2010


One Plus One is a long-established family relationships counselling service in the UK. It's now on the web and offers resources, information and help to those in this area of need.

However, there's another side to the site, one that's more innovative and which is helping a great number of couples to come to terms with difficulties in the marriage or relationship. This side is called The Couple Connection, and it consists of three primary areas: Check it out, Talk it out and Work it out.

The first area is open to all readers and begins the process of assisting with the relationship by asking a number of basic questions to ascertain where the reader is at. It also warns when the site won't be of help and where professional assistance will be needed.

The second section is for people to write something about their relationship: how they're feeling, what's troubling them, whether their partner is being unfaithful and a good deal more. Other readers can comment on these, and there are always a number of trained counsellors reading through these postings to supply more specific help.

Finally there is the Work it out section. This is a completely private area for each reader, and acts as a place where the writer can post all manner of feelings, rubbish, junk, stuff that's hurting them, that's bugging them and much more. It's a place of catharsis, and many readers say that as they go back and read through this material, they begin to see what the real issues are, and can begin to act on them rather than on the peripheral stuff.

In one way the site is similar to the old 'chat over the fence' approach that probably saved far more marriages than we'll ever know. But by bringing anonymity into the mix, and providing hundreds of other people to offer supportive advice, this makes innovative use of the technology now available.

Good and Evil

Umair Haque has written an article entitled, The Case for Being Disruptively Good.

In it he discusses the way in which businesses who used to get away with bad practice are now far more exposed than they used to be, due to the information age - news travels fast, in other words. Purely from a shareholding viewpoint, he notes: being a good guy pays. The best corporate citizens list, which includes Hewlett-Packard, Intel, General Mills, I.B.M. and Kimberly-Clark, had a total return on shareholder value of 2.37 percent over three years. But the 30 worst had a negative 7.38 percent return".

But this is far more than an article about shareholders. It's about the fact that big businesses that are thriving are doing so more because they have decided to follow 'good' practices more than 'evil' ones. But even those who are doing good vary in the extent to which they're doing good.

He lists a ladder with five steps and shows how various well-known companies are learning the ropes of doing good: Pepsi's on the bottom rung, having done a "marginal bit of good"; Nestle is on the next rung, having got itself a 'black eye' for not being as open and honest as it claimed (thanks for Facebook!).

Google's just got itself back on the third rung by pulling out of China, avoiding the compromises that would have been required of it, if it had stayed. Apple's on the fourth rung - though Haque doesn't seem convinced it'll stay there, and Wal Mart (surprise!) is on the fifth rung due to its Sustainability Index which 'lays down new rules for every single supplier in its vast, globe-spanning ecosystem.'

Haque doesn't see anyone on the top rung as yet, but is waiting.

The ladder image is only part of what he has to say. Check out the rest: the historic viewpoint, the revolutions, the changes.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Crouch Touch Pause Engage

Crouch Touch Pause Engage?

What in the world is this? The title of some new martial arts movie? Nope, it's the Christian Sports Network (CSN) strategy to help the church in New Zealand take advantage of the World Cup. (I have to admit I wouldn't notice if the World Cup never happened, but I know I'm in the minority here.) I didn't even know there was a Christian Sports Network in New Zealand (or anywhere else for that matter), nor that they have big plans for the people - players and fans alike - who'll be visiting NZ in 2011.

Nor did I know that there were now twelve trained sports chaplains in New Zealand - Australia has 200 and says it could do with 2000. Unfortunately the CSN site is very much out of date: on its home page it's advertising something that was happening in 2008, its news stories all date from 2007, and its one article on a Christian sportsman dates from 2006. Time for a bit of an overhaul, CSN, I think!

It may be that the people running CSN are more interested in getting on with the job at ground level rather than running a website, so it's good that the Vision Network people (who are partnered with them) have done some promoting for them (see the first link above). You'll find more information there.

Photo by digiarnie

Five approaches to leadership

Alan Roxburgh writes: “I have been involved in developing leaders for over 30 years. The answer is simple! You do not develop leadership by learning ‘about’ leadership. You develop leadership by leading. This sounds like the proverbial ‘chicken and the egg’ dilemma. It’s the perplexing question: “Where do we start?” The answer to that question requires a real paradigm shift in our thinking about leadership.”

Alan goes on to write about five different approaches to training leaders to lead:

the ‘learning about’ model,
the ‘throw them in the deep end’ approach,
the ‘learning the gaps’ method,
mentoring leaders,
leadership action teams.

The last three meet with most approval from him, particularly number five, which he explains in more detail in a post entitled Five Approaches to Leadership.

Failure in Pastors

At the risk of being repetitious in regard to the subject of why pastors burnout, I want to write (yet another) post on the topic, this time based on remarks in a recent Pastors' Weekly Briefing.

H B London Jr notes three things that he's found over and over again have caused pastors to fail:

1. Limited time alone with the Lord
2. Unresolved issues at home

3. Inadequate accountability

I'm not at all surprised that he lists 'limited time alone with the Lord' first. One of the biggest problems with being a 'professional' minister is that you lose that room to have time with the Lord, whether by choice, or by circumstances, or for whatever other reason. Lay people have the same problem, but in a very general sense it may affect them somewhat less.

London adds a 'starter' list of other things that cause problems, particularly in the moral area:
  • Carelessness
  • Counselling too much
  • Fatigue or burnout
  • Spiritual defeat
  • Unresolved issues from childhood
  • Entitlement
  • Sin
If these don't sound familiar, I'd be surprised. And if you're suffering in any of these areas, get someone to help. You can't do it on your own.

Monday, April 12, 2010

The complexity of belief

Daniel Dennett and Linda LaScola’s recently released a study called, “Preachers Who Are Not Believers.” LaScola is a social worker and Dennett, a philosopher, is one of the original New Atheists (and the “Four Horsemen”), well-known for his vitriol against religion.

In an article relating to the study, Daniel Silliman writes that Dennett and LaScola have mostly missed the point in relation to the five Protestant ministers who took part in the study. The authors want to see preachers who are secretly atheists; the ministers themselves see their situation are vastly more subtle and complex. These are people who have struggled long and hard with belief and doubt, and who continue the struggle. As one of the men says, “We are not ‘un-believers’ in our own minds.”

Silliman goes on to say:

All of the preachers in the study have struggled, primarily, with denominational dogma that tries to strip down belief much as Dennett does. They have wrestled not with God so much as with particular doctrines, particular understandings of God, and, especially, with the conventions about what can and can’t be discussed openly in church. Three of them insist that, though they have rejected their denominations’ dogma, they still believe in God; they just say it’s complicated. The other two seem to accept that they, in fact, are unbelievers, that the line drawn by fundamentalists and the New Atheists is right, and they fall on the side of not believing.

Wherever they end up in their answers to the question of belief, all five of these men have taken belief seriously. They have not simply accepted or rejected imposed definitions of what faith means. They have struggled and tried to be honest about it.

The de-churched

Skye Jethani has written a second post on the subject of Who are the de-churched? In it he explores a couple of kinds of de-churched people (that is, those who have been churchgoers, but have dropped out for various reasons), in particular those who have left the church because they had received a false gospel, and those who have left because they’ve encountered the true gospel.

The first group have heard a gospel that says if we do the right things everything will go okay - God has to act 'properly.' His second group are people who've found that the institution has become more important than the people (and he quotes a relevant paragraph from a review on the book, The Trellis and the Vine, by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne). These people feel stifled, unloved; they're only 'wanted' because of what they can contribute to the institution.

He offers two ways of dealing with these issues, with the warning: Taking either approach seriously may result in fewer de-churched Christians…or your head on a platter.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Going (or not going) on a retreat

Over the holiday weekend I read an article on Rowland Croucher's site regarding the retreats he does with individuals. I baulked at the price of these - $1000AU - until I noticed that he doesn't take any of this money; it's sent onto a charity that works in both Victoria, Aus. and Thailand. You might still think $1000 is a lot of money for having six hours worth of a listening ear; it may depend on how much your spiritual health requires such an ear.

However, the price isn't really the interesting part of this article, which is divided up into several sections. Firstly, Rowland lays out an FAQ which gives answers to most of the questions you'd be likely to ask initially, and gives you an idea of the way in which the retreat is conducted. "Usually, the retreat lasts from late afternoon (about 4.30 pm, then a couple of hours over dinner) one day, and resumes about 9.30 to about noon the following day. Bring your walking shoes!" So it's not a long period of time, and it's definitely not silent. This is a talking/walking retreat - and you, as the retreatant, will do most of the talking. It's a spiritual health check-up, basically, which is not necessarily the same as having a spiritual advisor.

The second section of the article covers the 19 questions that might be covered during the retreat. Rowland helpfully provides these so that you can think about them yourself without necessarily visiting him. (Though obviously it would help to have someone else to think them through with.) Spending some time over a few weeks reflecting on these questions would help most people's spiritual health, I suspect, as long as they gave themselves some room to think about the 'answers.'

The third section is a moving story written by a woman who did the retreat at some point. She affirms Rowland's earlier comment that:
a lot of male problems go back to inadequate fathering or initiation into manhood. A lot of women's problems go back to their non-affirmation by fathers etc. There's a second 'story' on a different link.

The fourth section offers a spiritual audit not necessarily covering the same ground as the 19 questions. This would also be a good thing to use in terms of setting aside some time regularly to reflect on your spiritual health.

Print the 19 questions or the spiritual audit out - and take some time to use one or the other.

The photo by Jessica Charlesworth is entitled Two Men Walking Seriously, a great title in view of the subject matter in this post.

Not so Godly business?

In an article entitled, Good to Great to Godly, Mike Bonem looks at the way in which Jim Collins' business principles have been extensively applied in the church. However, his concern is that the church isn't a business, and running it on business lines rather than God-led lines will ultimately cause it to fail. (He isn't denigrating Collins, by the way, whom he obviously admires.)

At one point in his article he writes:

There are also congregations that make no pretence of seeking God in their decisions. The leadership core may have been selected by virtue of tenure or financial contribution rather than spiritual sensitivity, or the church's culture may simply be "all business."

If you don't read anything else in the article, reflect on this one paragraph alone. It says a huge amount about how many churches are run - and possibly exposes why eventually they fail.