Monday, December 07, 2009

A Church is like a Restaurant

Lunch in Soho -New York

Recently I was having a conversation with a CEO of a large corporation and I was expressing my concern that the location of some of our church buildings makes them difficult to find. He replied:
“Location does not matter a church is like a restaurant, if the chef in the kitchen is delivering high quality food then people will find it and come from everywhere.”
He has a point, great preachers/leaders attract crowds no matter where they are-that is a fact of life. I want to support high quality chefs and celebrate the large churches that are formed often as a result of God using their giftedness. It is also important that we should aim to produce high quality chefs...

but I have some questions?

  • Should a church have as one of its main strategies, to grow, the employment of a “master chef"?
  • Should we just accept that when a "master chef" moves on church numbers will decline?
  • Does location matter?
  • What do you think of the metaphor –“Church is like a restaurant”?


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Thinking about sermons for next year

Here are my draft ideas for sermons next year.
  1. We're All In This Together -Church Life x 4 Based on John Stotts book The Living Church.
  2. Changed Lives Romans 12-16 x 6 (Finishing the Romans series we started 3 years ago)
  3. Gospel of Mark x 7
  4. Exodus x 7
  5. The Work of the Holy Spirit x 4
  6. 1 Corinthians x 8
  7. Secrets of a Satisfying Marriage x4
  8. Stewarship x1
  9. Passages that Pump me Up x4 (preachers choice)
  10. Advent Series x5
  11. Combined Service x 2
I am looking for catchy titles and examples of ways people have broken up books to preach on. Any other comments welcome.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Stand by me ...I will stand by you

This week I am thinking about some of the issues that make it difficult for a person to stand by Jesus. Jesus in a conversation with his disciples says:

34Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.Luke 21

So what are the issues-anxieties of life -that you think make it difficult to stand by Jesus long term?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Long service leave is over

Well I am back after an amazing break. If you are interested seeing where I have been click here. I hope to start blogging again soon.

Friday, August 14, 2009

How can parents help young people remember God in the days of their youth?

  1. Start young.
  2. Pray, pray, pray.
  3. Read God’s word naturally.
  4. Spend time with your kids, quality and quantity are needed.
  5. Embrace your “distractions” as God’s gifts-it will put them in perspective.
  6. Develop a culture of ministry/serving, as a family.
  7. Invest in your parenting.
  8. Prioritise time – good vs best.
  9. Help your children find other Godly mentors-get to know other families-it takes a village/church to raise a Godly child.
  10. Encourage and pray for those in ministry to children and youth.
  11. Financially support ministry to children and youth.
Ideas welcome, still refining for Sunday

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Three views of toil in Ecclesiastes

I have noticed three views of toil in Ecclesiastes:
  1. Folding of the hands, no toil, hands self indulged, unable to receive a gift. Ecc 4:5, 3:13.
  2. Two handfuls of toil, too much toil, grief and sleepless nights, hands full, too busy to receive a gift. Ecc 4:6, 2:23, 3:13.
  3. One handful of toil one handful of tranquillity, toil, quietness and satisfaction, a hand free to receive a gift. Ecc 4:6, 3:13.
How do we receive this gift? Jesus said:

"Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:29

Friday, July 17, 2009

Already you can feel a pit in your stomach...

The beginning and ending of last Sundays sermon - 9.45am and 5pm

The Beginning,

It’s a Monday morning and you become vaguely aware that the alarm is going off. Already you can feel a pit in your stomach as you realise another week has begun. Why can’t life slow down!!

In the five minutes in the car yesterday, with the person you promised to spend the rest of your life with, you had worked out that every night and day including the weekend was already booked. And that you would only see each other this week on your way to or from another task.

As your feet hit the ground you feel the resentment of having to wake the kids again, they don’t seem to be able to get themselves out of bed anymore. You know that the next hour will be a battle to get out the door and that at the end of the battle you will not have done all the things you intended to do and you will leave home with the guilt of things left undone.

As you start to decide what to wear you feel a growing irritation about the washing and the ironing still to be done. This is only exacerbated as various members of the family start shout at each other:
“I can’t find my pants, my shirts missing, why can I only find odd socks where are my shoes”
As you check your emails, while grabbing a quick breakfast already the mobile is ringing and the home phone has been answered, it’s one of your parents -just wanting to chat…!

We then explored Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 and we observed that the universe is not designed to enable “gain” (see previous post) and that those who attempt to fly in the face of reality can only ever know grief and frustration in the end ”. Instead, the art of living well will involve seeing life as a gift and living in thankfulness to God.

The End

It’s a Monday morning and you become vaguely aware that the alarm is going off. Already you can feel a pit in your stomach as you realise another week has begun, but instead of getting out of bed straight away you spend a moment giving thanks to God for the gift of a new day. You know it will be busy this week and you ask God to give you strength and wisdom to make good choices.

In the five minutes in the car yesterday, with the person you promised to spend the rest of your life with, you had checked that you still had your date night booked and that the day on Saturday had been left free so that you could clean up the house and prepare for family and friends to come over. The plan is to have a long brunch-you had even made sure that there was room for the brunch to turn into dinner. It’s busy but it’s nice to have time to connect.

As your feet hit the ground you feel the resentment of having to wake the kids again, they don’t seem to be able to get themselves out of bed anymore and then you remember that they had been on the church camp and you give thanks for the signs of God working in their lives. Before you wake them you pause at each of their doors and ask that God would walk close to them and that they would walk close to Him.

You know that the next hour will be a battle to get out the door and that at the end of the battle you will not have done all the things you intended to do, but you have worked out by now that that is OK –and you give thanks to God for his heavenly wisdom in helping accept what is.

As you start to decide what to wear you feel a growing irritation about the washing and the ironing still to be done and then a smile comes across your face as you realise that a new program of shared responsibility will be put into action next week. You give thanks for the gift running water and a washing machine..

Various members of the family start shout at each other:
“I can’t find my pants, my shirts missing, why can I only find odd socks, where are my shoes”
You decide not to check your emails and you keep the mobile turned off while you care for those you love and deal with those members of the family who are always losing things, but are wonderful anyway.

The home phone has rung and it's one of your parents -just wanting to chat. You give thanks for parents who still want to stay in contact…

Thursday, July 09, 2009

To all those who try to “gain” from life.

In our sermon series The Art of Living Well we have been suggesting that wise people read life and its patterns well.

Ecclesiastes 1:3 questions:
What does man gain from all his labour at which he toils under the sun?
As the following verses unfold it becomes evident that pursuing gain is futile. Ian Provan, Ecclesiastes pg 63 sums it up this way:
To all those who try to “gain” from life whatever it is they claim to be doing, Qohelet presents stark reality… The universe is not designed to enable “gain” to happen and those who attempt to fly in the face of reality can only ever know grief and frustration in the end”
So this is the pattern of life, how do we apply these insights skilfully to the choices at hand and how do we enact this with integrity and care? Ideas anyone- (for Sermon on Sunday)?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Can you recommend a movie?

I have been thinking about Wisdom lately. I am preparing a preaching series on Ecclesiastes and at the same time reading Mark Strom's book Arts or the Wise Leader. One of the things Mark says is:
wise people read life and its patterns well pg 17.
It occurred to me that I think the best movies are stories produced, written or directed by those who read life and its patterns well.

Movies I would include are:

  • Dead Poets Society
  • Chocolat
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • Keeping Mum
As part of our series my plan is to suggest that people watch a movie together and practice the skill of reading life and its patterns well. Just wondering what movies you think read life and its patterns well? What would you recommend people watch to develop their skills?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Our Story

In preparation for a fundraising dinner a range of people across our congregations are writting our story. They have been asked to write two paragraphs on our history and one about our future. Here are just a few samples:
  • In a congregation as diverse as ours, we see very clearly that the message about Jesus is for everyone. In the book of Acts it says "This promise is for you ... and for your children, and for everyone who is far away" (Acts 2: 39). This is the understanding of the message of Jesus that we want our boys to both understand and to be a part of;….
  • God’s faithfulness and provision has been amply demonstrated in the history of the Parish and this should give us confidence for the future. Change will be inevitable, and the only thing that we can be sure of is that in ten years time the Parish of Macquarie will be very different to the Parish as it is today. Just as the Parish of Macquarie today is very different to the Parish of Denistone East - Marsfield as it once was, God will be working out His good purposes. It is a privilege for us to work as part of His sovereign plans….
  • The inclusion of the Korean Congregation into Macquarie Anglican must be considered the absolute highlight of our time at Macquarie Anglican. They are God’s missionaries to us. They show us God’s word free of much of our cultural limitations and inspire us with their faith, obedience and commitment. God has brought them to us to be an example and an inspiration and we are grateful….
  • Macquarie Anglican is a vibrant church with a pedigree and development that could be the envy of many churches…. A bright future embracing the living hope is dawning. This is from one of our cherished older men :)
I have been very moved by the responses and am thankful to God for his grace and work amongst us. I invite you to say thanks to God too...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

— Wendell Berry

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Our lives are shaped by names

Mark Strom in writing winsomely about leadership concludes:
"Our lives are shaped by the names we give ourselves and our worlds.

Our lives are also shaped by how we work with the names others gave and give us. Maturity is in part to move from living out the names others gave us, to living the names we know to be truly and strongly who we are and wish to become.

We cannot act purposefully without naming purposefully. The question is, how truly and strongly will we name ourselves and how intentionally will we open the space for others to do so?" Arts of the wise Leader pg 64
It's insightful and I observe that God's naming of me is having a significant role in shaping who I am becoming. Names that are currently shaping me include son, overseer, elect exile…just wondering what names God is shaping you with?

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Honda Effect & Strategy

I know this article, The Honda Effect, has been around for a while but there is something attractive about the more organic view it proposes regarding the question of strategy. In my view we often develop strategies as a way of trying to control our environments -a very western pursuit. In contrast the article proposes a far more dynamic approach to developing strategies. Here are 2 quotes that I like: Quote 1 is from the article itself and quote 2 is from a paper that discusses The Honda Effect.

"The Japanese don’t use the term “strategy” to describe a crisp business definition or competitive master plan. They think more in terms of “strategic accommodation,” or “adaptive persistence,” underscoring their belief that corporate direction evolves from an incremental adjustment to unfolding events. Rarely, in their view, does one leader (or a strategic planning group) produce a bold strategy that guides a firm unerringly. Far more frequently, the input is from below. It is this ability of an organisation to move information and ideas from the bottom to the top and back again in continuous dialogue that the Japanese value above all things. As this dialogue is pursued, what in hindsight may be “strategy” evolves. In sum, “strategy” is defined as “all the things necessary for the successful functioning of organisation as an adaptive mechanism.".......Richard T. Pascale (1984). “Perspectives on Strategy: The Real Story Behind Honda’s Success," California Management Review
"Western consultants, academics and executives express a preference for oversimplifications of reality and cognitively linear explanations of events … (there is) a tendency to overlook the process through which organisations experiment, adapt, and learn… How an organisation deals with miscalculations, mistakes and serendipitous events outside its field of vision is often crucial to success over time."The Many Faces of HondaRichard P Rumelt (1996). California Management Review, 38, 4. Summer 1996.
Just wondering what you think...?

Friday, May 08, 2009

A Prayer for Mothers Day

Lord we come to you today and pray for all Mothers: Please bless them with wisdom, strength, patience and great love.

We pray that we and our society will affirm and support all Mothers—single, married, divorced, widowed, step and adoptive.

We give thanks for Mothers who have died, and today we celebrate their gift of Motherhood to us.

We pray you will sustain and heal Mothers who are ill.

Lord we recognise that Mothers’ Day is painful to many people: Some have lost a child through separation or death. Lord we ask that you comfort and sustain all those who are in need. For those who experience the lonely pain of infertility we ask you to draw close to them and give them your hope.

We pray for Mothers who are single, divorced or widowed who face the challenge of raising children with limited resources.

We pray for Mothers who have strained relationships with their children may they do everything in their power to forgive and to be reconciled.

Lord we recognise that so much is expected of Mothers and yet none are perfect. We pray that you will help Mothers to forgive themselves for both their minor faults and even their major betrayals. To remember that Jesus forgives all of us and helps us to live reconciled lives.

Loving God, you have given us life and cared for us through our Mothers. We thank you for their lives, their care and the wisdom they have taught us.

Lord help all Mothers hear your voice and see their children as gifts from God and so teach their children to hear and follow the voice of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.

May we honour them with profound respect and by living in your ways .

Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen

Source unknown

Monday, May 04, 2009

God, how do you justify your violent actions in the Old Testament?

We have asked people the question, "If you knew God would answer what would you Ask? Last weekend we tackled the first question: God, how do you justify your violent actions in the Old Testament? This was my approach to an issue I have never heard anyone preach on.

1. Why this is important?
1.1 For some its a stumbling block to believing in the God of the bible (Dawkins)
1.2 It is important because these acts of violence (e.g. Joshua 11:16-23) have been used as excuses for Holy wars (perhaps even contributing to some current foreign policy decisions).
1.3 It is important because there are some deeply disturbing texts in the Old Testament which leave us feeling uneasy.

2. How not to approach the issue.
2.1 The Marcion solution- Press delete for the OT.
2.2 The blame it on the Israelites solution-The Israelites recorded the events to make it look like “God made us do it”.

Both approaches leave us deleting or explaining away the sections of the bible we don’t like. Shaping God in our own image always leads to error. We have to face up to this issue it is genuine.

3. How do we approach the issue of God’s violent actions in the Old Testament? (A framework of thinking about it).

3.1 These acts make up a small part of Israel’s history and do not reflect the whole picture of the OT God, Jeremiah 29:5-7 , Jonah 3:10. - The problem is sometimes overstated.
3.2 These acts are seen in the context of God’s sovereign justice e.g. Deuteronomy 9:4-6 -we may not feel comfortable with this but God is not being inconsistent.
3.3 These acts are to be understood in light of God’s character e.g. Psalm 103:8-14
3.4 These acts are to be understood within the framework of God’s salvation plan. This plan sees a day where violence will cease and peace will reign among the nations Revelation 21:23-25

Very useful resources:

Barry Webb, The Wars of Judges as Christian Scripture
Christopher Wright The God I Don't Understand.

  1. I may have tried to cover to much ground and yet there were other things to be said.
  2. In our question time after each sermon (x5) issues included :
  • Our current views around war and violence.
  • Why God seems to act differently at different times in history.
  • The judgment of God, particularly in regrads to those who had been ordered to wipe out other nations.
  • How God reveals himself.
One women shared how this had been a major issue for her but simply reading the bible for herself had addressed many of her concerns and she now is a committed Christian. Encouraging!

Comments anyone?

Friday, May 01, 2009

EJs and Connect 09

In a garage nearby sits over 6,000 EJs. That is, The Essential Jesus (the Gospel of Luke) produced for Connect 09 - (PDF -here). Our goal is to hand them out over 1 or 2 years in a way that creates opportunities for ongoing conversations about Jesus.

Our first step has been to help people become familiar and comfortable with the material. For 8 weeks we have preached from the Essential Jesus. The lack of verses has thrown some preachers but on the whole it has been a very useful exercise in helping us become familiar and comfortable with the text. Our hope is that as people hand out the books they can genuinely say they have read and considered the material.

A further implication was, that as people arrived at church each week we handed them a new EJ. Our aim has been to encourage people to take them home and hand them out to friends and family, to get us used to the idea of handing out the EJs.

As you might expect while it has worked for some, others have just handed them back or have 8 of them at home. So I was just wondering if you have any other ideas or if you have any comments to make about EJs and Connect 09?

Monday, April 27, 2009

Scientists and churches have stars in their eyes

Blatant promo alert:
Macquarie Anglican Churches is hosting a free evening of star-gazing in Yamble Reserve, Ryde, on Saturday, May 2, as part of the International Year of Astronomy celebrations.

See the Northern Disctrict Times article here,

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Do you acknowledge other Churches exist?

Our vision is to see people, Embracing living hope… in diverse communities, gathering, growing and delighting in Christ. A while ago we decided that this vision included publicly acknowledging that God was at work in other churches in our area. In other words to realise this vision, other churches will need to grow as well.

Once a month we have decided to pray for another local church. This means we write to senior minsters asking how we might pray for their church. The prayer points are then included in our newsletter and people are encouraged to use these points in times of private and public prayer.

Just wondering what you think?

Monday, April 20, 2009

Being leaders in our community -through prayer

I am committed to our church showing leadership in the wider community. As a suburban church in an area with no central gathering point this is a challenge. So strategically we have started with prayer.

On one Sunday a month, in our network of 7 congregations, we pray publicly for local people and organisations. We write to them first asking how we might pray for them. This often involves personal contact, but not always. Some of the people/organisations we have prayed for include:
  • The Eastwood Police Station
  • The Fire Brigade x2
  • The Ambulance Service
  • The primary schools x3
  • The local high schools (Public &Private)
  • Ryde Council
  • Ryde Hospital
  • State Government politicians
  • Federal politicians ( John Howard our local member at the time did respond)
  • Macquarie University
  • Small business people
Just wondering who else we should include on the list?

Friday, April 17, 2009

If you knew God would answer what would you ask?

My church has just launched a campain that will see postcards delivered to over 12,000 homes. On the postcard is the question: If you knew God would answer what would you ask?

People are being asked to text message (0424 695 943),email, ask online or deliver their questions to us by hand . The idea is that once we have collated the questions we will develop a 6 week sermon series. The series will then be advertised on our website and on the promotional boards outside each of our church centres.

I will keep you posted on what questions people come up with. Just wondering:
  1. What you think the main questions will be?
  2. What questions you might ask?

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The resurrection: What opened their minds?

In the four gospel accounts we have of Jesus resurrection everyone who first hears the news that Jesus has risen from the dead does not really believe it.

On one hand this disbelief brings plausibility to the accounts of Jesus resurrection. These are realistic reactions from the ordinary people it is hard to image people fabricating these accounts. It is difficult to see these accounts as fables, or made up stories with such embarrassingly honest accounts of disbelief and close mindedness.

On the other hand is raises a real question. What opened their minds to the truth that Jesus did rise from the dead? Well God did, but how?

It is natural to want to point to passages that speak of Jesus appearing to individuals and groups but in contrast to this Luke’s account of the women coming to the tomb does not include Jesus appearing. Instead the women are asked to believe that Jesus is alive based on what Jesus has said previously:

Remember how he told you while he was still in Galilee,
‘The Son of Man must be betrayed into the hands of sinful people and be crucified, and on the third day be raised up’.Luke 24:6-7

In other words if you believe Jesus spoke the truth when he walked this earth then you will believe that Jesus was physically resurrected and is alive now.

Simple yet profound.

Perhaps we have given to much ground to scientific rationalism by always wanting to prove the resurrection on their terms. Maybe sometimes we should just ask: Do you believe that Jesus spoke the truth prior to his death?

Just wondering what you think?

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Dealing with Resistance

One of the challenges of being a senior minister is dealing with resistance. Sometimes there is a good reason for resistance (you have it wrong) and other times it appears that the resistance is because people are just plain obscurant.

So it was interesting to come across an article in the Harvard Business Review (way to expensive to buy regularly) which addresses the issue of resistance. The article is entitled Decoding Resistance to Change.

The authors identify resistance as feedback and therefore as a resource which may be used to increase your effectivness. Resistance understood as feedback:

1. boosts you awareness of how change impacts those who may not have had time to internalise the latest change. If you take the time to listen and engage in discussion people may actually be won over.
2. reminds you that explaining why, to those have not been involved in the planning process, is important and needs to be communicated again and again.
3. can lead to better results –perhaps a new way forward that has more people on- board
4. helps identify worries that people have and gives you a chance to address them and in turn people may be more content.
5. may be historical and nothing to do with the current change so it gives you the opportunity to address past misunderstandings and begin at a new point.

One of the things I like about this veiw of resistance is that it is reframes resistance as an opportunity and requires humility and grace from the leader.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Approaches to a Crisis

I had intended to blog regularly but well...

This week I am preaching from Luke 22:39-46 I am currently thinking through "Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done."

Jesus statement is contrasted with the Disciples response to this moment of crisis.

The disciples are asked to pray that they will not fall into temptation. This happens twice and on either side of Jesus statement. In this moment they ignore Jesus, fall asleep and ultimately succumb to temptation.

On the other hand Jesus prays, faces the anguish of the moment and trusts the Father.

One thought I am exploring is that both reflect very different approaches to a crisis -and to the sovereignty of God.