Wednesday, September 24, 2008

10 Ways to make life miserable for your new minister

Mark Layson, the new senior minister at St Matthew's Ashbury started recently (replacing me - and doing a fantastic job.) A couple of weeks before he started, I preached a sermon '10 ways to make life miserable for your new minister' (hoping that the irony was suitably apparent!)

Here they are.

1. Expect that he will be an expert in everything and get everything right the first time.

2. Don't let him use his particular gifts.

3. Assume he'll be the same as your previous minister.

4. Assume his wife is exactly the same as your previous minister's wife.

5. Expect him to remember your name after the first time he meets you.

6. Expect his kids to fit in perfectly straight away - afterall they are the minister's kids!

7. Have the attitude that he will solve all your problems.

8. Don't encourage him to be a godly leader.

9. Don't do anything he suggests.

10. Do everything he suggests.

The sermon is available at   Look for the sermon on August 31 labelled 1Timothy.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

What to do with your 'giving dollar'?

We had a great discussion at Bible study last night about living the Christian life, social and economic justice and money. Great stuff!

One of the questions that came up related to the priority of giving money to Christian organisations - whether they be our local church, mission, social action, child sponsorship etc. Should we as Christians show a preference to where our 'giving dollar' goes?

I think the answer is clearly 'yes' - but I wonder if the order I came up with is based on pragmatics rather than scripture? One of the arguments put forward was that there are a whole lot of people in the world who will give to various aid groups that are not Christian (Amnesty, Medicines san Frontier etc) and so therefore as Christians we should concentrate on the Christian organisations and projects. Afterall, your average bloke walking down Martin Place is unlikely to give money to CMS! Thats not a bad argument, but I always get a bit nervous arguing from pragmatics, so can we do a bit better?

Galatians 6:10 encourages us to do good to everyone, and especially those who are of the household of faith. I'm sure this isn't just talking about cash, but surely it includes cash.

We know that the early church certainly put a high priority on collecting and giving money to other churches (1Cor 16:1-3) and that the local church workers had the right to be paid (1Cor 9:8-12).

And so surely the ministry of our local church and our fellow Christians around the world must figure highly in our giving pattern, which perhaps means when it comes to our giving dollar, groups that are not involved in gospel work should fall to the bottom of our list, or even off the list all together.

Here's a little observation for what its worth. I think most Christians do pretty well at supporting the ministry of their local church. Sure churches could always so with a bit more money and there are always new projects to be done, but on the whole when it comes to the local budget, there are a lot of very generous people around.

But sometimes thats where the giving dollar can stop. The attitude can be 'I'll spend my dollar in my patch and thats that.' I wonder if sometimes we need another reminder of the spirit of 'doing good for those outside our parish boundary'. Whether it be AFES, CMS, MTS or whatever - we need to ensure that our definition of 'the household of faith' is not limited to those who we see at church on Sunday.

Its another way we can work at bearing fruit.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sholla! is now online!

If you are interested, our monthly newsletter (1 page, with pictures!) is now available online. Its called 'Sholla!' which of course is a pun on the Spanish word for hello.

Go to

There is a password for the download - just to add a very minor level of security. The password is the title of our newsletter (no capitals, no punctuation)


Thursday, September 18, 2008

Overcoming apathy towards mission

I have to admit that I'm pretty new at this mission education game, but even in our fairly limited experience we've noticed a significant trend. That is, the major battle we need to fight against as we go around visiting churches and different groups encouraging people to become partners with us in mission - is apathy.

We haven't yet met someone who has said 'I am dead against what you are doing, I think its a stupid and fruitless pursuit!' We've met only one person who has said 'I'm glad you're doing it because there's no way that I'll be going.' We've met lots of people who have said 'what you're doing is great, we'd like to be partners with you!' (which is fantastic). But we've also met a significant group who have said... well... nothing.

Its not that they're against mission or against us, it's just that they're apathetic towards the whole thing. Its as if mission hasn't made it onto their horizon.

For some, it seems that this is the result of the natural self centredness that comes with being a typical person in a certain generation (ie: read: not being able to see beyond one's own iPod).

For others, its that life here is really busy. What with work and the kids and getting study and helping out at church and all the busy stuff of life ... its hard to allow anything else into my head space.

For others its a bit more sinister than that. Their apathy is a result of a comfortable life. Whether its the pursuit of material success or basking in the already achieved success, it just seems that looking beyond to a world beyond, let alone the world of mission is a vista too far.

And so one of the things we're trying to do as we visit churches is to work out how awaken the apathetic.

We've found that easily the most effective method is to have personal conversation. The up front presentations, the flashy powerpoint and video extravaganzas, the snappy and witty interviews (OK- so more snappy than witty) all have their place, but in one sense they are just teasers for the personal and small group conversations that will follow around cups of tea and meals.

So if you are reading this and having us at your church in the next few months - we look forward to visiting your church and to showing you 'our wares', but most of all we're interested in talking to you personally and lifting your eyes from your immediate concerns, to the global concerns of God around the world. Be prepared!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Hearing from God

Frankly, there are a few bits of the Bible that are a little bizarre! Yesterday at church we read one of them in Ezekiel 1.

As Ezekiel stands on the banks of the Chebar Canal with his fellow Israelites in the Babylonian exile, he has a vision  - and what a vision it is!

He sees terrifying and powerful creatures, weird and wonderful mechanics and magnificent views. He hears the sounds of the Almighty and the sound of an army. It is a wonderful sensory overload!

Verse after verse we hear of the awesome and terrifying vision that he has - and all the while we are left to wonder 'What does it mean?'

Ezekiel I'm sure would have had the same sense of wonder and amazement, and perhaps a little bit of confusion - just like us. But there is no doubt about what he understands is happening, and what is the appropriate response.

"Such was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw it, I fell on my face, and I heard the voice of one speaking."  (Ezekiel 1:28  ESV)

Ezekiel knows that as he has his vision, a window is being opened for him, a window to the glory of God. And he knows what is the appropriate response to the opening of such a window - its to fall down, and to listen. As we read on we also learn that Ezekiel obeys what the Lord says to him  - yet another appropriate response.

The point is this I think. To be in the presence of the Lord, to experience his glory and majesty, and to hear him speak - is no small matter.

How often do we hear the saying 'I'd believe in God if he just showed himself to me' by which is usually meant 'I'd believe in God is he would do the party trick which I demand of him.'

Ezekiel didn't demand any party tricks, he didn't put any conditions on God's appearance, he didn't define a box for God to fit into. He let God be God, and he bowed down before him.

Is that sometimes what we need to do? To remember who is God and who has been created by him. To realise his majesty and his glory and to acknowledge him not by demanding things of him or putting him in a box, but by doing what Ezekiel did - bowing before him and listening to him.