Tuesday, December 23, 2008

So Long 2008

I've had hundreds of interesting post ideas over the last few months but have only managed to get a few posted. Busy busy busy. I look forward to attempting to post with more regularity in 2009, say once a week.

Holiday starts today which is outstanding. I am having a month off line and will not be checking, e-mail, surfing, blogging, facebooking or anything else to do with the interweb.

Back online Tuesday the 22nd of Jan.

Have a merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

An Inconvenient Truth

I have just finished watching Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. It is an extremely enlightening movie / documentary. I thought it was outstanding and very challenging. If you have not seen it then you need to go to your local DVD store, hire it out, and watch it. I took four pages of notes.

Quotes (more or less)...

Al Gore - 'There are good people who hold this (issue of Global Warming) at arms length because if they acknowledge it and recognise it, the moral importance to make changes is inescapable.'

Mark Twain - 'What gets us into trouble isn't what we don't know but what we know for sure that isn't so true.'

Click here for more info on the DVD, and again; you need to watch this!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Issues I'm Wrestling With

Here are some of the things I have been thinking about recently. In regards to most of them I don't really know much about them but feel that they are issues I cannot ignore or put aside because of ignorance. My goal of course is to discover a biblical perspective and Christian response to each issue.

Environmental Issues...

- Climate Change
- Peak Oil
- Genetic Engineering
- Food Shortages and the increasing difficulty of growing food in some places

Justice Issues...

- Sweat Shops
- World Poverty
- Western Social Conditioning (that may be extremely unbiblical) and its negative impact on the world

Over the next 6 months I am hoping to have developed a genuine understanding of these issues and how average Joe should respond.

So far I have been talking to people I know that already have a real interest and understanding of these issues. I have been asking them to recommend books, websites, documentaries, etc that would be insightful. I've also been watching a fair bit Discovery Chanel and Documentary Chanel as well.

I'll keep you posted.

Also feel free to recommend books etc that you have found helpful in regards to these issues.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Reflections on Reflecting - Part Two

So how do you get better at reflecting? How do you get better at weighing up all the variables, possibilities, contributing factors, to a situation or circumstance?

Here are a few quick fire thoughts...

1. Understand your biases - we all have them, we are all biased towards all sorts of different things in all sorts of different situations. We have complex personality biases, biases due to nature and biases due to nurture. We have simple biases, some people are more negative than positive, some people all ways take the side of the underdog. Know your biases and take them into account when you are reflecting on something.

2. Ask someone what they think and why they think it - have you ever noticed that different people have different opinions than you on all sorts of things? Have you ever noticed that some of these people (one or two) are intelligent and wise people that you respect? How can these intelligent people draw conclusions on an issue so different to yours? Ask them. It will give you insight into their reflective process and perhaps allow you to see things from a different perspective.

3. Try using different thinking hats has you reflect - this just means intentionally thinking about things from different perspectives. Negative, positive, objective, creative, etc, etc. Make your own (figurative not literal) or use Edward de Bono's.

4. Learn to mull - that is to think over, consider, dwell upon, ponder, muse, contemplate, and weigh. Certain situations require quick thinking, instant consideration of all the facts known, and decisions to be made. Where possible; mull. Take time to consider. It can be over the course of a week, a couple of weeks, overnight, or best off all with some cheese and crackers and a fine Shiraz (all though not possible when you are required to mull over something at work). Basically practice slowing things down where possible to give careful consideration.

5. Converse more - make an effort to have more conversations and more meaningful conversations with the world around you. Learn to ask questions, this will get conversation going and also allow you to hear other people's considered (hopefully) opinions. You'll never know what your learn. As you reflect on what they think, don't just reflect on their theories, reflect on how they may have come to their conclusions and ask them. You'll learn a lot that could help you.

Here are some things to reflect on...

* What are we going to do about child abuse in New Zealand? What could you or I do?
* How green has God called us to be? What part should Christians play in looking after the environment?
* What are the top 10 essentials of every summer break? Will test match cricket make the cut?

I look forward to reflecting on these issues in future posts.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Reflections on Reflecting - Part One

Reflecting on reflecting sounds quite deep and meaningful. Perhaps even complex like looking at a mirror through another mirror back at another mirror, oohh. The whole scenario has the potential to get very complicated, deep and philosophical. A little bit like the comment I recently received from the marker of my latest assignment…

‘The key question is whether the popularisation goes so far as to boil the book down either into inapplicability, or into incoherence?; ‘reductio ad absurdum,’ to use the Latin phrase.’

Now tell me, is a comment like that really necessary? Or even helpful?

Who really cares? Well sadly in the world of academia things like that are just par for the course; or should I say ‘par pro tractus?’ Which I would say except that it sounds a bit like ‘pass the protractor,’ which isn’t really that flash.

Without in anyway wishing to get deep or philosophical I thought I would share a few thoughts on reflection and the need to be able to reflect well.

Reflection is the process of careful thought. It is the process through which considered ideas are formed. It is the process through which we filter that which we hear, see, feel, and experience and then draw conclusions.

It is a process that many people are inept at.

Reflection is an attribute that is sadly lacking in many people. It could be because of the postmodern (everything is true – nothing is true) world that we live in. Why bother reflecting? It could be because of the incredible access we have to information. Why should you think about something when you can just Google it and find the answer waiting for you on the web? It could be because people are in fact generally lazy. Most people don’t want to think for themselves or don’t believe that are ‘bright’ enough to think for themselves, especially about something even remotely complex. ‘Leave that to the bright sparks who write books and speak Latin.’

Whatever the reason – everybody needs to learn to reflect.

For sure some people will reflect on deeper more complex issues than others, but everyone needs to be able to reflect. Especially in regards to questions such as…

- Why do I believe what I believe about __________?
- Why do I react the way I do when __________ happens?
- Why is ___________ a recurring issue or circumstance in my life?

We need to practice reflecting and learn to reflect because…

Not everything you read in a book is true.
Not everything you google or wiki is true.
Not everything you hear in a sermon is true.
Not everything you believe is true.
Not everything people tell you is true.
Not everything that happened was caused by the things you thought caused it.

And so on and so on.

Reflecting is the first stage of learning and will lead you down a path of significant personal growth. You’ll learn humility, to listen, to search, to discover, to balance, and to draw more accurate conclusions.

It will enable you to stand stronger, firmer, more confident, and more certain in life; while at the same time living more teachable, mouldable, and willing to change than ever before.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Postmodern Obsession with Novelty and Entertainment

This is one of the things that I think we all need to be aware of in the culture that we live in. The world is obsessed with novelty and entertainment. As much as anyone else I hate being bored, love to be entertained, and love new innovative ideas, concepts, and ways of doing things.

As a communicator I must appreciate this is the world we live in and look to communicate to the world around me in a way that makes my message as palatable as possible.

As listener to I must appreciate my bias towards being entertained and discipline myself to listen and receive even when the message is not as entertaining, novel, humorous, or as dynamic as I might like.

As a leader I must challenge and encourage those I lead to be disciplined listeners as well. The very thing they may need to hear may be audible if they would tune in but could be missed if they only engage listening when it is easy and entertaining.

God speaks to people in different ways throughout the bible; audibly from bushes that are burning but that are not burning, through donkeys talking, in a booming voice from heaven, through wild men that wander in the wilderness. Our post-modern bent would be towards these kind of messages. God also speaks through still small voices and through ordinary plain men and women.

We must remember that the best message is not always the easiest one to listen to. The best message is the message that we most needed to hear and respond to.

Sometimes you read 10 chapters of an 11 chapter book before you discover in the 11th chapter the answer to a question you had carried for years. Sometimes its late in the second half of a dry sermon that the preacher throws out a line that can change your world for ever. Sometimes its the 4th session of the day in the middle of the afternoon at a conference before you hear a particular point that will turn a situation or circumstance in your life around. Sometimes its the boring lady sharing truth from God's world that will set you free. Sometimes its the funny, humorous, dynamic (shouting even), guy, with video clips, sound bytes, and 3D PowerPoint that has the message you need to hear. Sometimes though he has nothing you needed to hear.

We need to be mindful of our cultures propensity towards the novel and the entertaining. Not everything we need though will be novel or entertaining. Sometimes it will be dull, grey, and boring (a bit like compound interest), but long term it can turn your life around.

The best movies are not all new releases.
The best books were not all written in the last 5 years.
The greatest truth is not always new truth (normally never new truth).
The greatest message does not always come from your favourite preacher.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Mistaking Shouting for Saying Something Worthwhile

The shout seems to have become very popular over the last few years. In some meetings after being asked to shout, (not just me personally, that would be even more silly, but the whole crowd), I have been told I am not shouting loud enough and have been encouraged to shout with more vigor, enthusiasm, for longer, and with spontaneity (right now!).

Now I know that the bible encourages us to shout to God with a voice of triumph; somewhere along the way though I think we have missed it. The shout seems to have become the measuring stick for how much the crowd loves Jesus, a general KPI of the Spirit moving, and a rhetorical device that quiet obviously adds impact and authority to ones preaching.

The reality is shouting is just shouting. It is using ones voice in a significantly louder than usual manner and when appropriated for an extended period of time can be damaging to vocal chords and ones throat.

Sometimes it is an important and significant response to God. Sometimes it adds emphasis and impact to a particular statement or point in a message. It can be helpful when telling a story. However, let's not mistake shouting for saying something important, evidence of devotion to Christ, or a sign of spiritual breakthrough.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Mistaking Hype for the Holy Spirit

The ability to discern the work of the Holy Spirit is as critical to life as a Christian as it has ever been. It is therefore important that the church teaches people how to discern the Holy Spirit working in there life.

I am 100% for large meetings, thousands of people gathering together, lights, multimedia, stadiums, anthems and so on; those kinds of meetings add something massively important to our Christian experience. (I think will find heaven to have a reasonably large crowd with some reasonably impressive special effects). What we must be careful to do though is reflect, (alone with God's word and with trusted friends and leaders), on that which we feel God speaks to us about in the large gathering.

Good questions to ask yourself as you seek to discern the work of the Holy Spirit...

* What have I sensed God has been talking to me about over the last 6 months?
* What has God spoken to me about as I have read his word?
* What do my Small Group peers and leaders think about this?
* Hold lightly and test what you feel God is talking to you about or doing in your life a week or a month after your initial encounter.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Thinking Good Brand Recognition Equals Genuine Witness

I think it is important for the church to recognise and appreciate the difference between branding and witness.

Branding is about creating a positive influence, reputation, and sense of recognition in your community. For a long time the church as been seen as behind the times, against everything, and irrelevant to the issues 'real' people face in the 'real' world. Good branding seeks to turn this around. Church logos, refurbished buildings, community initiatives that bless and make a difference in people's lives are some of the things that help with branding. They create for the unchurched a positive impression and appreciation of the church.

A positive impression with the community though is not the Gospel.

The gospel is the gospel. It's not a logo, a special event, or a better sound system. The gospel is the good news that Jesus gave his life on the cross to pay the price for your sin and mine, that He rose from the dead, and that forgiveness is available as we repent and follow Christ. The gospel is a challenge, it is a invitation, it is a clear message. At times it is a stumbling block and an offense. An offense to a sinful lifestyle as it defines a right way of living and a wrong way of living. Being told you are wrong can be offensive, especially when you think you are all right.

The church must not mistake branding for the gospel.

It must work on its branding, change misconceptions about the church and what it means to be a Christian, present herself as relevant and essential to 21st Century living.

It must continue to preach and present the gospel. A clear challenge to repent from a sinful life and turn to follow Jesus.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Replacing Leadership with Celebrity

Christian culture cannot afford to replace Godly leadership with Christian Celebrity.


- People follow leaders because they lead in the pursit of a cause, in the case of the Christian community the cause of Christ and His church. There is a Spirit of humility that says I'm willing to listen and follow in order to better pursue the cause of Christ.


- People follow celebrities because of their success not their cause. There is a selfish ambtion that seeks it's own success and status.


- People listen to leaders because they offer clearer perspective. They see furthur and they see clearer. They have a Godly ability to define reality and chart pathways forward into what should be and could be. Their perspective is appreciated even if not always easy to listen to.


- People listen to celebrities because they say what people want to hear. Not in the sense that the celebrity nessasarily sets out to do this, rather they only listen to those that say what they want to hear.


- Make mistakes. They own up to it, admit it and grow through it. They look outward when things are going well, they look inward when the chips are down. Followers show respect, their trust in God is not moved.


- Make mistakes. They own up to it, admit it and grow thourgh it. Followers are devistated. They have built up such a pedistile for their Christian hero to stand on that in their mind the world has just gaved in on them. Their trust in God is shaken.

An Unhealthy Fixation on the Large

This is an issue we must be aware of. For too long, too many people in the church (universal) have thought small, dreamt small, acted small and expected small. With all my heart though I believe that God wants to do excedingly abundently above in your life, my life, in your church, and in my church. Its great now that this is becoming more and more the expectation that people carry.

However large cannot be and should not be the measuring stick or focus of all that goes in in Christian ministry. We should never settle for average, we should never stop believing that with God's help we can see our churches and minsirties grow and expanded. Let's not forget though that small can still be outstanding as well.

Small Groups = awesome opportunities for community and authetic relationships to develop. More suited to this than a Sunday in a congregation of thousands or even hundreds.

Small Churches = while all churches should continually seek to grow and expand, most churches simply won't grow to be 1000 or 10,000 strong. Most chruches around the world will never have more than 200 people in them. While we should continually seek to lift this, every church where lives are being transformed, where Christ is being pursued and the gospel is being preached is a key component in the body of Christ, a light to the world. It's all the lights shining together that make a difference, not just 5 or 6 really bright ones.

Small Steps = many people are waiting for their big opportunity with God, in life, in all sorts of areas. Mostly though life is made of of small steps in the right direction that become a long obedience in the right direction. Take the right small steps now rather than just waiting for some 'giant leap opportunity' to come your way.

Large is awesome and is important; so is small. We shouldn't have an unhealthy fixation on either the large or the small. God made elephants and blue whales as well as mice and ants. There is purpose, value, and lessons to be learnt from both the large and the small.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dangers in the Church

Mark Sayers recently blogged about what, in his humble opinion are the 'Top 10 Christian Idols/Untruths/Myths of Our Day', you can read his post here.

All 10 issues he listed are worth considering, the five that stood out to me where...

1. An unhealthy fixation on the large.
2. Replacing leadership with celebrity.
3. Thinking good brand recognition equals genuine witness.
4. Mistaking hype for the Holy Spirit.
5. Mistaking shouting for saying something worthwhile.

As I get time, I look forward to posting some thoughts on each and why I agree with Mark that they are potentially issues we must be aware of.

I also look forward to addressing another five things that I think are dangerous.

- A postmodern obsession with novelty and entertainment.
- A reluctance to reflect and to question.

Why No Posts?

I know, I know it's been nearly a month since I posted. Why no posts? What's been happening?

Well truth be told two kids, (no surprises here), can be a real handful at times. If I was wearing a hat I would take it off to everyone with 3 or 4 kids. You guys are legends. For those of you with 5 plus kids I would shave my hair off if I had an electric razor on me. Pity I don't.

I just haven't had time to blog sorry. Then if I have had time... which would mean the kids are asleep, the house is at least mostly in order, and all sermons currently needed have been written... my eyeballs sting too much from lack of sleep to sit in front of a screen and blog.

We just don't seem to be sleeping much at the moment, it seems if its not Romeo's reflux and inability to burp (he only farts, like his uncle), its Annamari's teeth coming through all at once. This means we are up a lot during the night.

I guess I could blog then but the tooth picks I use to hold my eyes open make my eyelids bleed so I can't see because of the blood. Its lose lose whatever way you look at it.

Its awesome having both Annamari and Romeo. I love them to bits and they are so much fun. Being a Dad is awesome. And being a Dad means blogging is on the back foot at the moment.

Anyway, that's why there are no posts. Too busy with work, study, and parenting.

In saying that, I'm looking to get a few posts going over the next week and then will try to get something up every couple of days.

Have fun for now.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Romeo Alexander Thomas McAuley

Lisa and I had a baby boy this morning. So exciting!

Romeo Alexander Thomas McAuley will be a fantastic brother for Annamari. He was 9lbs7. Mum and baby are doing really well. Here are some photos...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Well Done Moss

Well done Moss Burmester on an outstanding 200m Butterfly final! Moss was neck and neck with Phelps for 150m before slipping back to 4th place. It was an outstanding race and he did New Zealand proud. Well done Moss and well done Michael Phelps!

Friday, August 8, 2008

The Olympics - More Coverage Than We Need

James MacPherson recently posted a short video clip advertising the benefits of radio coverage rather than TV coverage when it comes to the Olympics. It's quite clever. You can view it on his blog.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Top 5 Olympic Events I’d Like to Watch This Year

28 different sports will be on show at the Beijing Olympics this year, with 302 different events within the sports. What are the chances of the top 5 I’d like to watch being covered on TVNZ… in full… at a decent hour? Slim to none? We’ll wait and see.

My top 5 to watch…

5 – BMX; cool sport to watch at the Olympics.
4 – Taekwondo; this is full contact kicks to the head, even with safety helmets, knockouts are expected.
3 – Men’s Indoor Volleyball; awesome sport to watch, way better than beach volleyball
2 – Basketball; Hard to go past watching the Dream Team carve it up.
1 – Gymnastics; Individual All-Around Men, these guys have the most impressive shoulders in the world!!!

What would be your top 5?

Monday, August 4, 2008

Poverty vs Recession

The effects of the current ‘global recession’ are far reaching and inescapable. Without doubt ever increasing fuel prices are changing the cost of living; especially in regards to food. Again though, let’s not forget there is a major difference between a recession in the western world and 3rd world poverty.

World Vision in their Spring 2008 newsletter contrasts the impact of a ‘global recession’ on food prices for New Zealanders verse those living in developing nations.

In New Zealand…

- Food prices have risen by 8.2% in the last 12 months.
- Dairy foods, including cheese, milk and butter, are the main contributors to the price rise.
- Many families are cutting back on luxury items
- The average family income in 2007 was $67,993. Most households are spending 16% of their income on food ($10,878.88).

In developing nations…

- Food prices have risen by 100-200% in the last 12 months.
- Staple foods, including rice, grains and cereals, are the main contributors to the price rise. For many people meat, fruit and vegetables are either not available to buy or unaffordable.
- The average family survives on less than $730 a year and spends $511 of their income on staple foods. Some families are now spending their entire income on food and still don’t have enough to meet their basic nutritional needs.

Please don’t forget; a recession is not a famine and it is not poverty. we are blessed to be a blessing. Nobody can do anything but we can all do something. There are plenty of outlets through which you can give and make a difference in the life of someone who has nothing. Make sure you do what you can.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Recession !?!

Recession seems to be the major adjective used when describing our current economic climate. Global Recession is even bandied around from time to time; a phrase that seems overwhelmingly life changing and impacting, and surely only in a negative way? Without pretending for minute to be a financial or economic analyst of any sort, and without I admit truly having an understanding of what Global Recession means for the world, I’d still like to make some comments on ‘the recession.’

1. It is a privilege for us to be able to use words like recession.

And economy, downturn, exchange rate, share prices, capital gains and so on. In many parts of the word, where millions and millions of people live, these terms are not used in everyday language. Their vocab sounds more like extreme poverty, famine, drought, despair, hunger, sickness and death.

Please, let’s not confuse a recession with a famine.

2. Recession primarily impacts our wants not our needs.

I find it unlikely that due to the economic downturn that New Zealand is supposedly facing some of our citizens will now die from lack of food, lack of water or of exposure to the elements. Recession is something that impacts our wants not our needs. Maybe we won’t get to the movies as much as we’d like, head out for dinner at our favourite restaurant, or stay a couple of nights in a Hotel to ‘get away from it all.’ We’ll survive though, for sure.

3. Recession is a great opportunity for you to simplify.

Our lives get complicated so easily. A recession is a great time for you to simplify your life, what are the things that are most important to you, what do you get the most enjoyment and satisfaction out of? There are so many things you can enjoy for free in life, you don’t have to spend money to have a good time with friends, or in nature.

4. Recession is an opportunity for you to walk in faith.

When things get tight on your wallet we all have to cut back the non-essentials in life. Too many people see giving and generosity as non essential. Generosity, especially in the midst of what seems to be a lack, is one of the greatest keys to freedom there is. Don’t hold on tightly keep being generous. Cut back what you spend on yourself but don’t cut back on what you give to others.

Proverbs 11:24-25
There is one who scatters, yet increases more; and there is one who withholds more than is right, but it leads to poverty. The generous soul will be made rich, and he who waters will also be watered himself.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Hillsong Highlights

It was awesome to go to Hillsong Conference again this year. It is always awe inspiring, encouraging and challenging. It was awesome hearing Pastor Judah Smith for the first time and hearing Pastor Mike Pilavachi for the first time. Judah (29 years old) was amazing. I loved the way he combined God’s word and humour together in his messages and I loved his maturity and heart for people. Mike Pilavachi was outstanding as well. His message on worship, evangelism and justice was incredibly challenging. He was absolutely hilarious as well. Joel Houston ‘winged’ a main session as well, in front of 17,000 people or so, he hit a home run for sure. It was awesome hearing his heart for justice around the world which I felt really captured the heart of God and of a young generation of Christians that is rising up. He did an outstanding job. Brian Houston as always was incredible, Joyce Meyer is fantastic and the worship amazing. As always God spoke to me; encouragingly, challengingly, and directionally. If you have never been to Hillsong before or at least not in a while you need to go in 2009; it’ll be outstanding.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Australia so far...

Been having a good time in Australia so far. Really looking forward to Hillsong kicking off tonight. The opening is always reasonably spectacular.

Went to Hillsong Church yesterday and heard Judah Smith preach. He was fantastic. First time I had every heard him live.

Also went to Parramatta verse Penrith yesterday at Parramatta Stadium. Great game and heaps of fun. Petro Civoniceva is huge!

Rest of the time has been spent in food courts and shopping malls. I'm sick of shopping though.

Really missing Lisa and Annamari but having a good time. It's cool talking to Annamari on the phone though. She just listens and says 'dad, dad, dad,' back the whole time...

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Hillsong 2008

It is exciting to again be heading of to Hillsong Conference. It really is a highlight each year. I always come away inspired, refreshed, challenged and impacted by God in a massive way. I'm really looking forward to God speaking to me over the next week or so.

I'm also looking forward to going to two NRL games while away. Penrith v Paramatta on Sunday afternoon and then Roosters v Titans next Friday night. They're going to be awesome! Go Para and Go the Roosters!

Only bummer is leaving Lisa and Annamari behind. Lisa was going to come but we hadn't planned on her being 8 months pregnant at time of take off. I'll miss her and Annamari a lot. After Hillsong though only 30 more days till baby number 2 is due. That will be exciting. We look forward to having either little Chaz Michael Michaels McAuley if it is a boy or wee Marge Maggie Lisa McAuley if it is a girl. Can't wait!

While I'm away I'll fire in some twitter updates that'll load themselves onto my blog, (singing 'I love technology...'). So you can keep a track of what we are up to if you like.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Five Things I'd Like to Do

Here are five things that I would like to do one day. In no particular order...

* Build the HMS Endeavour - I'd still like to have a crack at building a wooden scale replica of the Endeavour. I'm not the most crafty type guy in the world so I think it would be a challenge I would enjoy. It's a masters level project but why let that stop you.

* Write a novel – I would want it to sell well of course. I like to imagine one day sitting at the airport and seeing someone waiting for a flight, reading my book, that they have just purchused from the airport book store. Probably be better if I stoped imagining that though and started imagining what the book was about; and got writing.

* Catch a Mahi-mahi - Mahi-mahi are a type of game fish, I have heard them described as the champaign fish of the sea. I have eaten Mahi-mahi on a couple of occasions and they are beautiful fish. It would be awesome to real a big one in!

* Play golf at St Andrews - Or Augusta National or Pebble Beach. It would be awesome to have a round of golf on one of the finest courses in the world. I'd want to get my handicap down a little before I played, it would be fun though.

* Sail somewhere - I'd love to go on a long distance sailing trip, like from New Zealand to Fiji or one of the other Pacific Islands. It'd be an awesome adventure.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Five Places I'd Like to Visit

Here are the top five places I would like to visit. In no particular order...

* Portsmouth, England - In Portsmouth you can visit and take a tour of the HMS Victory. This is one of the grandest sailing ships of all time. It was Lord Nelson’s flagship and is famous from the battle of Trafalgar. It is a first rate, 100 gun ship, that was completed in 1765.

* Los Angels, USA – Although I have already been to Disney Land, I’d love to go again and take Lisa, Annamari and the rest of the family. I know they would love it. While there it would also be a grand opportunity to travel a bit further, at least around California.

* Great Wall, China – I have always been fascinated by the Great Wall of China. I think China would be a pretty fantastic place to visit as well. I’d also be interested in seeing the Forbidden Temple, Shaolin Temple, the Terra-cotta Warriors, Chengde Mountain Resort, Shangri-la and the Mogao Grottoes.

* Pearl Harbour, Hawaii - I'd love to vist the USS Missouri, it is a United States Battleship on which you can take guided tours. You'd also be able to visit the USS Arizona Memorial and check out all the other cool things Hawaii has to offer, like the Pipeline.

* Machu Picchu, Peru – Home of the ‘Lost City of Machu Picchu’ there would be plenty to see and do here. The Andes would be awesome to visit as well, especially having already been to the Himalayas. And, if you are going that far you may as well whip across to Brazil and journey up the Amazon.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Five Famous People I'd Like to Have Dinner With

Here are the top five famous people I would like to meet or even better have dinner with. In no particular order.

* Jamie Oliver - Jamie has always stood out to me as being a great guy, it seems that he loves life, loves people and loves having fun. It would make sense for him to cook dinner as well I guess. I'll bring a bottle of red.

* Bear Grylls - Bear is a legend! He climbed Everest aged 23 after breaking his back in a parachuting accident. He is an adventurer, author and motivational speaker. I'd love to spend an evening with him.

* Will Smith - Will has always stood out to me for just plain and simply being the man! He is an entertainer and action star but is obviously the absolute professional business man as well. It would be fun to hit the gym with him as well. He's massive!

* William & Harry (Windsor/Wales)- I reckon these guys are cool. Their life is crazy compared to anyone else on the planet. All sorts of pressures, expectations, difficulties that no one else faces. Also of course awesome opportunities and privileges that not many get. I'd love to hang out. I'm sure security wouldn't be an issue.

* Any of the following sporting legends; Tiger Woods, Lewis Hamilton, Andrew Johns, Matthew Johns, Steve Price, any All Blacks, any Black Caps... Hard to narrow it down...

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Doing Life Together

Every fortnight on a Tuesday I have the awesome privilege of facilitating truth meets life discussions with some of mine and Lisa's closest friends. We get together to talk and journey through our experiences of relationships, faith, spiritual formation, highs & lows, questions & answers, and everything else that makes up this thing called life. It is awesome being able to do life together!

Community, authentic relationship, friendship and people that will journey with you should never be taken for granted. It is amazing the strength they add to your world. Here are a couple of things that I think make our group a highlight every fortnight.

1. Commitment - there is a real sense of commitment amongst our group. Commitment to the group as a whole, to each other as individuals and to being the real deal with each other. As well as that everyone is committed to winning and helping each other win in life; it is easy to trust that others in the group have your best interests at heart.

2. Humility - no one in our group pretends to have all the answers or know everything thing about everything. There is a genuine openness to hearing other people's stories, opinions and experiences with a genuine desire to discover God's truth for life.

3. Honesty & Trust – our group is willing to share with each other, be honest with each other, be vulnerable with each other and trust each other. It sure takes discussion to a whole new level of authenticity and meaning.

4. Fun & Laughs – we are committed to having a good time, to enjoying each others company and having a good laugh from time to time. We don’t just laugh with each other either, sometimes we love at each other (literally, it’s life, you can’t help it) and allow others to laugh at us, (we do, think, say, and go through some pretty amusing stuff from time to time).

5. History – we’ve been doing this for a while now, there is a sense of history. With a sense of history there comes a sense of partnership as we look forward to the future together and all that it brings.

Doing life together is the only way to really live life to the full! Proverbs warns that a man or a woman that isolates his or her self seeks their own destruction. Don’t isolate yourself. Build community into your life and remember it is possible to be in a group with others but still be isolated; take a risk, open up. It is well worth the effort and the investment to build authentic relationships and genuine friendships.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

The Great Feeling of Being Uncomfortable

When was the last time you did something really uncomfortable? Not uncomfortable like said hello to a stranger in a lift or like as a guy told another guy you loved them, not in a man-crush way, just like in a genuine great friendship way. (I thought of this because my cousin Israel yelled that he loved me across our crowded work office the other day, I just yelled the same thing back, I didn't feel uncomfortable though).

I mean uncomfortable in the sense of physically uncomfortable. Like walking home from town in the rain, or pulling out some tree stumps with your office hands, or going for a swim at the beach even though it's the middle of winter. (For all my readers in the States, I know it's summer where you are, and for my readers in the UK, I know too).

There is something awesome about doing something that just makes you feel physically uncomfortable and miserable every now and then. Normally its the hot shower that follows, or the ice cold drink, or the massive feed, or the sense of accomplishment. Its a great feeling though. One moment you were feeling miserable, cold, exhausted, tired, drained and wondering why you did it, the next moment everything is all good and you feel great, and you are glad you did it. As we grow older we tend not to put ourselves in these uncomfortable settings. When we where kids the rain was an excuse to go outside, as adults and excuse to stay in doors, as kids relaxing meant running round or building a fort, now it means sleeping in or reading a magazine with a flat white.

Life's to short for that all the time though. Do some stuff that's really uncomfortable every now and then and enjoy that awesome feeling afterwards.

Here is a couple of these experiences I've had recently...

* Ran 42km, really, really uncomfortable, awesome feeling afterwards.
* Laid some cobles at a local kindergarten, it was awesome to do this and I loved it. Doing it in the rain and wind and freezing cold though took it to another level.
* Worked with my brother in shorts and a t-shirt in the pouring rain, like pouring rain, making artificial damns and brooming water for 1.5hours trying to stop our house from flooding.
* Filled a one ton trailer with two ton of dirt, tried to drive through town but was losing absolute control of the trailer and had to get second trailer and re-shovel one ton of dirt into new trailer on the side of the road. I was one with the spade!
* Sky dived, 10,000 feet!!!

Here is a couple you should have a go at...

* Run a marathon
* Jump out of a plane
* Walk a few km in the rain to the hot pools and then have a swim
* Work on your yard or someone else’s for a full day, you'll be amazed at the results
* Go for a massive hike, make it an overnight and camp out
* Climb a mountain
* Grab some friends and enter a community sport relay event of some sort

Don't spend your whole life in doors, at cafes, in front of screens or warm and relaxed. Get out there. Live a colourful life!!!

Your Sermon in Six Words

James MacPherson, Senior Pastor at Calvary Christian Church in Townsville, Australia, has a blog that I read every week. He recently posted some comments about a website where you can publish a story you have written. Only thing is, it can only be six words long. The great writer Earnest Hemmingway was given this challenge once and wrote the following story, powerful and moving in only six words...

'For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.'

This inspired Larry Smith to launch his website. Thousands of people have posted their story.

I had already been thinking about the need for a sermon to be summed up in a single text message. If people miss the service, I'd like to be able to text them the message and them 'get it' in a single text. This could be a challenge for some preachers, especially if their audience doesn't get the message when they are sitting there live!

Reading James's post challenged me to try and get my sermon down to six words. Even harder.

Here's my message from last Sunday night.

'Living the good-life. Lord's my Shepherd.'

Yes I know I've been creative with the hyphen in good-life but hey, pretty good effort I feel. If you heard the message you be the judge.

My message for tomorrow night.

'Good-life questionable. Lord's still my Shepherd.'

Now that doesn't mean you don't have to come tomorrow night.

If you are a preacher or give talks to a crowd of some sort or another, can you get your message down to six words?

Strategy & Security

Insecurity robs an individual in so many areas and in so many ways. Its negative impact on interpersonal relationships and in team settings is massive. One area where insecurity robs is when it comes to strategic planning.

Some people really get excited by the process of strategic planning and thinking. I guess I am one of them. I love creating pathways that can potentially take individuals, families, organisations, teams, and you name it, forwards into a desired and preferred future to what exists today. I love it. I love the process and I love the potential of a well thought out and then well implemented plan.

Ben Lomenick, of Catalyst, recently posted some thoughts on turning ideas into reality on his blog. A process which is undoubtedly a part of strategic planning. His team massages ideas through the following stages…

Create - The more ideas on the board, the more opportunities for one of those to make it through the process. Criticize - Every idea, in order to stay in the process, has to be critiqued and criticized significantly. And make sure everyone doesn’t take things personal; criticizing an idea is much different than criticizing the person who came up with the idea. Optimize - Anything that makes it pass the criticize phase has to be built on. In some ways, this is a second and third wave of innovation. Validate - Every idea has to be validated; financially, operationally, personnel wise, and direction/vision related. Execute - it all comes down to getting things done. If it has gone through the entire process and made it to this point, the idea deserves the attention and focus to make sure it happens.

The above process provides a fantastic guide to the process that ideas and suggestions go through within strategic planning. This process though requires personal security on the part of the strategists. Taking for granted that the team is mature, critiques ideas not team members, endeavors only to bring the best out of each other etc; the strategic process still requires secure and robust people. Opinions are thrown around, often as gospel, fact and obvious best practice, by passionate and strong minded thinkers, (or feelers). These ideas are going off left, right and centre, team mates are jumping from one side of the issue to the other in seconds, others are playing the role of devil’s advocate, often nobody has the complete big picture of the issue at hand, and often you are trying to take an organisation, team, event or whatever, somewhere you have never been before. It’s exciting!

Insecurity in this setting though will seriously set the process back; it will rob the best from the strategic planning process. I’ll let you figure out why the following is detrimental to the strategic process, it’s reasonably obvious. Normally insecure strategists…

1. Won’t give ground when they argue about an idea or option, often which they see as being their personal case, rather than simply an idea or option.
2. Won’t take critical analysis of their ideas / suggestions personally and so team mates hold back from speaking the truth through fear of offending, or they just charge ahead, upset, and then have to sort out the pieces.
3. Close their ears to the ideas and perspectives of others, at times particular team mates and at times in regards to particular issues.
4. Cannot bring themselves to get excited about ideas that are not their own and too easily dismiss the suggestions of others.
5. Hold back on suggesting what they really think for fear of upsetting or being rebutted.
6. Struggle to put issues, ideas and concepts on the table to discuss while leaving personalities, history, and opinion of individuals on the couch.
7. And I’m sure you can think of numerous others.

Until insecurity is dealt with a planning team will only ever be able to fire at 60%. When insecurity is left behind though, teams can attack issues, not people, all guns blazing and come up with some incredible creative solutions and pathways forward.

Monday, June 9, 2008

RSS Feeds

Tired of checking into my blog or other people's blogs only to discover no new posts or content?

This is a quick not for you readers that don't know about RSS, (I know you exist). It'll save you from loading up a blog only to discover you have read all the posts and it'll save me from feeling like I have to post every other day.

Thanks www.whatisrss.com for the following info...

What is RSS?

RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, blogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.

Benefits and Reasons for using RSS?

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site's email newsletter. The number of sites offering RSS feeds is growing rapidly and includes big names like Yahoo News.

Basically, (if you are using Explorer), all you have to do is click on the RSS icon, (see picture below), on the right hand side of the browser window between the home icon and the print icon.

Then all you have to do is click 'subscribe to this feed' in the yellow box.

You will now discover that my blog is added to your list of feeds (between you list of favourites and history list). Rather than loading my blog or other blogs to check for new content you just click on your feeds list. Any websites / blogs etc with new content will be in bold.

Simple as that...

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Reading for a Change

James Macpherson recently posted some great thoughts on reading for a change. You can read the full post here. His main point was that as the bible warns, knowledge without application 'puffs' a person up, we must read to change. James suggested some thoughts to help you apply what you read...

1. Read with a pen.
Write all over the book, notes and thoughts etc, just make sure you own the book!
2. Talk with someone about what you are reading.
Discussion will help you process the information.
3. Make a list of immediate applications you can make to your life.
How could you live, act, respond, behave differently because of what you are reading? Practice a couple of those things straight away.
4. Read slowly.
5. Reread books.

I thought I would add a few things to the list that help me to get the most out of my reading. I try to read 52 books a year and want to make the most of the time I spend in a dust jacket.

6. Research the author.
Where possible find out a bit about the author before you read the book. Knowing a little bit more about the author can help you process and asses their thoughts on a particular subject more accurately. It might help you determine what weight to put on what they write. Tiger Woods' keys to church growth wouldn't carry as much weight with me compared to his keys for playing better golf. Reading takes time which is limited, especially with kids, so you want to read authors who know what they are talking about.

7. Learn to reflect.
This will lead into my next point. Reading for a change isn't just about taking in information. It is about taking in information and then reflecting on it and outworking it where appropriate. You have to take the time to work out what the information you have just read means to you and could mean to your world, job, organisation etc. What is applicable, a challenge, irrelevant, convicting etc etc.

8. Tick, cross, highlight and question mark.
I find the books I read are either about something I know only a little about but am wanting to learn, eg, The Only Wise God by William Lane Craig (a book about divine foreknowledge and things like that) or Boards that Make a Difference by John Carver (a book on policy driven boards and organisational governance). Or the book is about something I have a reasonable understanding of but want to increase my knowledge or skills in that area, eg, Death by Meeting by Patrick Lencioni (a book on staff and team meetings) or Strategies for Change by Lyle Scheller (a book about implementing organisational change). When it comes to a book about something I am reasonably familiar with I try to summarise either on paper or in my head my thoughts on that subject. Then as I read I tick what I agree with, cross what (after reflection) I just don't agree with, highlight new things I have learnt and can immediately see the merits of and finally question mark the issues the book raises that I need to look into more.

9. Read deep.
Most subjects can be broken down into smaller and smaller pieces. Take leadership for example, there are all sorts of subjects and skills that can fit under the category of leadership. Organisational leadership, team leadership, self leadership, leading through change, leading through transition, vision casting, running meetings, challenging the process, dealing with complexity, strategic planning, inter generational leadership etc etc. Don't just read general books about leadership, know in your mind what makes up that thing called 'leadership' and read deeper in those areas. General leadership books will only scratch the surface and after a few years in the leadership game may not actually add much to you as a leader. Books that go deeper into a particular subject or field though will help you immensely.

10. Read wide.
While you may focus your reading on particular subjects (do diverge from time to time though) read widely on your particular subject. Sticking with leadership, don't just read books on leadership by pastors. Read what sports people write, business people, academics, industry leaders, etc etc. You'll learn a lot by reading wide.

Alex the Kidd

At church the other day, our notices were themed to the classic Sega game Alex the Kidd. It inspired me to hunt around in the garage for my Sega Master System 2 and have another go at the game that brought so much joy as a child.

I had a blast playing the game again and clocked it on my second turn. What surprised me is that it only took me 54 minutes to clock it. The third and final time I played it I clocked it in 42 minutes and think I could even get it down to about 38 minutes if I tried again. I am sure that it took hours and hours as a kid just to get up to the blue castle?

I have just brought Wonder Boy and will now clock that just for the fun of it.

Here are a few of the games that I loved as a kid (20 years ago as a kid when I was 7, and also now as a kid at 27)...

Sega Master System 2
Alex the Kid, Wonder Boy, Double Dragon, Golden Axe, and California Games. There is a full list of all SMS2 games here.

Sega Mega Drive
NBA Jam, Street Fighter 2, Mortal Kombat and X-Men. Full list here.

Star Wars.

Resident Evil, Micro Machines V3, Tomb Raider, Bomberman, Cool Boarders, Tony Hawk, Die Hard Trilogy, ISS Pro Evolution Soccer, Shane Warne Cricket, Jonah Lomu Rugby, Tekken 2, NHL 97, WWF Smack Down. Full list of games here.

Nintendo 64
Golden Eye, Pod Racer

Playstation 2
Stacey Jones League, Guitar Hero, Cricket 2007

Playstation 3
Never really played it.

Tiger Woods Golf

X-Box 360
Never really played it

What are your favourite games?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Cultivating Creativity

Thinking creatively means different things to different people. I remember once when talking about creativity, one of the guys on my team throwing his hands in the air and exclaiming, quote; ‘what even is creativity?!’ Funny thing; he was a musician! You would think that they of all people might know something about creativity?

If your business, church, life is to be all it can possibly be it is going to take creativity. You are going to face all sorts of unexpected difficulties and challenges. You are going to have to get creative as you look to navigate these challenges.

Here are a few short cuts to creativity and developing your creative side:

* Thinking hats. When you need to get creative in regards to an issue in your world try putting on Edward de Bono’s thinking hats in order to look at the situation from all angles. The red hat has you looking at the situation from a emotional point of view, the black hat pessimistically, the white hat looks at facts and figures and so on.

* Creativity of others. Pull a group of people together and give them the situation, scenario or problem that your working through. For the price of a few coffees or a lunch you’ll find plenty of people willing to share their opinion. They could have the answer that is perfect for you, and they don’t even need to be in the same industry as you.

* Team brainstorm. If you leading a team get them together for a team brain storm. In one of her recent blog posts, Kem Meyer, the Communications Director at Granger Community Church in the States had some interesting thoughts on a team brainstorm. She asked everybody to bring "one-thing" to the brainstorm. Anything. It could have been a cool web site. A random new tool they’ve found. A scripture. A commercial. A prayer request. A new toy. Whatever. Everyone just needed to bring something they though was pretty cool. Just one thing. They devoted the first hour-ish to everyone sharing their “one thing”. It breaks up the “task mode” and gets brains working a little different and gets a different type of conversation going before busting into the actual brainstorm. I was a great brainstorm warm-up to get the creativity flowing.

* Keep at it. Never stop with the first idea you come up with. Keep working until you have three ideas, and then take time to develop them each a little. You’ll be amazed how ideas can trigger ideas. Your first idea is not always your best. Make a habit of coming up with multiple ideas and options. You’ll train yourself to be creative over time.

* Record ideas. You’ll never know when a great idea is going to come to you. Write it down. You don’t always have the time to explore an idea or develop a concept when it comes to you. So easily these are forgotten latter on when you have time to reflect, dream, think and get creative.

* Adapt the world around you. Everything you ever do doesn’t have to be a unique idea and initiative that you have thought of and no-one else in the world has ever contemplated. Chances are it never will be. Don’t be afraid to take things you see in other businesses, industries, organisations and so on and adapt them to suit your purposes. Don’t break copy write of course, just be adaptive. The ability to adapt is a genuine form of creativity.

* Ask God. Ask God for some help. He created the heavens and the earth, he created you. He is quite creative! Ask him to drop a few ideas into your head. Rainbows, pigmy hippopotami, underwater mountains and glow in the dark bugs are pretty amazing!!!

Keep developing your creative genius, you’ll sort it out, solve the problem, circumnavigate the obstacle and take your business forward like you know God has called you to do. Keep at it. Now get creative!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Rotorua Marathon

Well I completed the Rotorua Marathon. My first marathon and at least as I was running it, defiantly my last. Now I am not so sure. Maybe I'll have another crack sometime. My knees gave out after 36 minutes (6km), that left me 36km (4 hours 22 minutes) of extreme pain! My overall time was 4 hours 58 minutes. I was happy enough with that, especially considering the pain in my knees. 5 voltaren and 2 panadol were helpful but I would like to have a another go without the knee issues. I think I could do 4:12 and maybe even 3:59. I'll try to get some more thoughts posted about the marathon, why everyone needs to do one, what I learnt through the process etc and some photos as well. That'll have to wait though until I get back from LIFE 08 conference that I am at this week.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Pastoral Leadership – Part 7 of 7

The integration of personal spirituality and management technique is critical if pastors are to minister with biblical authenticity. Personal spirituality, more than theology and religion is a ‘lived experience,’ inward disciplines privately pursued but publicly outworked, through exegesis, spiritual guidance and the implementation of effective management techniques birthed in prayer. Though at times seemingly overwhelming, a commitment to spirituality as a core ministry and life value, any Christian minister can successfully integrate management technique and personal spirituality. In order for integration to take place a pastor must make priority adjustments in ministry, the journey must become the focus, rather than simply ministry goals and achievements. Prayer, biblical study and accurate spiritual guiding must be primary objectives as a minister. Paradigm shifts in thinking must also occur in order to see successful integration. Pastors must see the possibility of integration, the peace found in humility and the purpose found in following God’s lead in their church. The fast paced life of a busy pastor must slow down through planned use of a diary and day scheduler. Finally the pastor, with the help and encouragement of his staff and team must activate personal discipline in ministry and commit to ongoing spiritual development. The successful integration of personal spirituality and effective management technique will enable pastors to be the leaders they are called to be, biblically functioning leaders connected to God, passionate for people and effective in ministry.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Pastoral Leadership – Part 6 of 7

Finally there must be a determined commitment as a pastor to integrating personal spirituality and management technique, a commitment outworked through a life style of personal discipline and a commitment to learn, understanding that ‘the moment you stop learning you stop leading.’ In any endeavour ‘an individual’s character is the principle determinant of personal effectiveness.’ Sadly though, in pastoral ministry character is often missing. Leaders can often be found impersonating a pastor without being a pastor, impersonating through the simple act of ceremonial attention to public prayer and exegesis. Pastors must be prepared to confront themselves, asking questions like how could I have done this better? Personal spirituality and management technique must be integrated by pastors disciplined enough to take up a life style of spiritual discipline. Pastors must be committed to creating new definitions of normality in lives. Daily prayer must be pursued until it becomes second nature, a habitual way of living life. While at first it creates feelings of unease and unrest, quiet contemplation, pauses for reflection, extra hours of biblical study and the like must be practiced until to not do so would be foreign. Unless there is a commitment to renewed personal spirituality, the pressures of pastoral work, old habits and common practice will drive pastors back to humanistic leadership, rather than a rest and purpose that can only be found in Christ. Pastors must seek the aid of the Holy Spirit as they integrate personal spirituality with management technique. As well as talking with the Holy Spirit though, open dialogue must also take place between a pastor and his elders, board and staff regarding the practice of a pastor.

As a pastor seeks to merge spirituality and management together in the context of Christian leadership it is essential that he has the support of his fellow staff, key team members, board and elders. A pastor’s support network needs to understand the heart of biblically based pastoral ministry, and see along with the pastor the need for personal spirituality to be coupled with effective management technique. Understanding must be established that in the best interests of the church, and in a pursuit of authentic pastoral ministry, not all working hours should be taken up with strategic meetings, planning processes and work that has a tangible outcome or result. As important as these are, the pastor must firstly be employed to pray, seek God, study scripture and thus offer sound, contemplative and revelatory spiritual guidance to his congregation, a major source being a pastors ‘intellectual energy and curiosity,’ A pastor with a team around him committed to his personal development and journey as a leader will have confidence in taking time out of his day to remain centred and connected with the Holy Spirit. Random walks around the church grounds, moments of quiet reflection in the church sanctuary, a late start at the office by a pastor who leads with integrity will be a source of encouragement to his team. Staff and team confidence will grow as the connectedness of the leader to the heart beat of God for the church becomes evident. Staff and team players will flourish in their respective rolls in the team finding significance in the ‘meaningfulness of the experience.’ In turn a pastor will be able to release his staff to take moments aside throughout the day to wash themselves in the reality of Christ and his mercy and grace, thus extending the integration of personal spirituality and management technique beyond the confines of one man.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Pastoral Leadership – Part 5 of 7

With adjusted priorities and fresh paradigms, it is essential that in the integration of personal spirituality with management technique, that the pastor monitors the pace of his life and scheduling of his time. He must slow down the pace of his life, the busyness of his schedule. Holiness is not found in busyness. Peterson explains, ‘how can I persuade a person to live by faith and not by works if I have to juggle my schedule consistently to make everything fit in place?’ Personal spirituality requires a slowing down of time, a concerted effort to relax and step into awareness of the great mystery. The reality is that fast paced contemplation is not a term one would often associate with spirituality. It is important that pastors have the ability to think quick on their feet but it is also essential that they slow down the pace of life in order to remain centered and connected to the Holy Spirit. One cannot be busy and pray at the same time. One cannot be inwardly rushed, distracted or dispersed. The reality is that pastors are as Hybels coined it, ‘too busy not to pray.’

Prayer is an essential discipline in personal spirituality; a discipline not outworked on the run but with patience and with quiet reflection. Jesus instructed us regarding prayer to, ‘go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly.’ We are instructed to pray in an environment of privacy, stillness and quietness, an environment where unhurried leisure, a quality of spirit can be developed. Prayer has much to do with listening not just speaking. It is a discipline that lies at the very heart of the pastoral vocation. It is a discipline that demands the pastoral pace of life be intentionally slowed, a task not impossible as pastors take dominion over their diaries rather than allowing their diaries to take dominion over them.

Pastors must use their diary to create times for prayer, reflection, contemplation and stillness; they must create margins in their day. A pastor must use his diary, a book that nobody will argue with, to slot in times during the day and between meetings to connect with God and remain centered on the Holy Spirit throughout the day. As long as the pastor gets to his calendar before anyone else, time for prayer, reading, leisure, silence, solitude and creative work can be found, and the rest of life worked around spirituality that leads to a connectedness with God. A well used diary will allow for opportunity to connect with God throughout the day and refresh oneself in his presence.

To be continued…

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Pastoral Leadership – Part 4 of 7

While there needs to be a paradigm shift in how pastors see spirituality in relation to management, there needs also to be a paradigm shift in how pastors see themselves personally. The apostle Paul when writing to the Church of Rome, warns against pride, instructing believers not to think of themselves more highly than they ought. Most pastors do not battle pride in the sense of declaring themselves to be that which they are not or in blowing their own trumpet. Pride cripples pastors as it subtley rises in their private world. Pride rises in pastors with attitudes like, ‘if you want it done right then do it yourself.’ ‘The spiritual leadership approach finds the solution in contemplation, to approach situations with an attitude of discernment rather than one of intervention, acceptance rather than control; letting go rather than holding on; in humility rather than in competence.’ Every time a pastor puts his trust in his own abilities rather than in God’s grace and favour, the seeds of pride are planted. Whenever a pastor carries the burden of church or ministry on his own shoulders, rather than laying it at the cross, pride sneaks in. Jesus describes his yoke as easy and his burden as light and encourages people to go to him for rest. For pastors, pride sneaks in when they put faith in themselves and their abilities rather than Christ, when they try with human effort to grow or expand the church. Psalms warns us though that unless the Lord builds the house it is labour in vain. Carl Green describes senior pastors as needing to take the role of ‘super leaders’ in their ministry and leadership context, yet this concept only adds great expectations to a pastor who likely sets high standards for himself, and realises his congregation and community will be as well. Pastors need to understand that they are not ‘God’s gift to the church,’ God’s gift to the church was the Holy Spirit poured out in the book on the Day of Pentecost. Pastors need to understand that the church is a gift that has been entrusted into their stewardship as a divine responsibility, but at the end of the day Christ has promised that he will build his church if we could but partner with him effectively through personal spirituality. There must be a sense of humility and an awareness of ones own personal shortcomings and sinful nature, with any success being attributed to grace and goodness of God working in their life.

This paradigm shift to Godly humility releases a pastor from trying in his own strength to work the miracle of church growth that only God can do. While using wisdom to apply appropriate church growth principles and practice, a pastor can be released from carrying a burden that they were never meant to carry. This allows freedom to pursue God rather than human success. This leads to a whole shift in the questions that a pastor finds himself asking on a daily basis. Rather than asking questions like; ‘how can I grow the church bigger?’ ‘How do we get more unsaved people through the door?’ ‘How do we improve our systems and take the band up a level, and get more youth and young adults on board with the vision of the church?’ Questions start addressing issues such as, what is God doing in the church at the moment and how do we best respond to that? What is God saying to us? What is God teaching our congregation at the moment? Personal spirituality will lead a pastor to look for the hand of God in the church and congregation with a desire to apply appropriate management technique as a response of faith to what God is doing in the church. Pastors move from initiating human thinking and wisdom to responding in faith to God’s leading and directing. This allows pastors to respond with compassionate attentiveness to the demands of the people around them and with reverent prayer to the demands of God for our attention. Paradigm shifts in thinking allow pastors to see spirituality and management as interdependent skills. It allows pastors to walk in humility free of expectations and the burdens of ministry, allowing them to pursue the hand of God in their church and respond accordingly.

To be continued…

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pastoral Leadership – Part 3 of 7

Nearly every facet of modern-day pastoring will pull a pastor into church management activity such as problem solving, systems implementation, team building and church branding, pastors must ‘learn to set aside urgent problems and concentrate on long-term, important issues in order to achieve better results.’ Pastors must be willing to commit to a redefined bottom line in Christian ministry. What makes one a successful minister in the eyes of peers or modern-day Christian culture can no longer be the bench mark, but rather what makes one successful in the eyes of God; firstly an intimacy of relationship with the Holy Spirit, birthed through personal prayer and study, and secondly the pastoral guiding of people through contemplative exegesis. Even in the corporate world MBA graduates and CEOs are beginning to discover bottom lines that drift away from a sole focus on profit and the marketability of products. With an increased spiritual awareness comments such as, ‘we often spend time worrying about trivial matters,’ are common as understanding of important issues such as integrity of heart, family values and community outreach come to light.

The integration of personal spirituality and management technique will first require a priority adjustment in the heart of pastors. Spiritual discipline and personal spirituality must take precedence over ‘running a church.’ However the reality of pastoral ministry is that much of what a pastor does is ‘running a church.’ The goal must be successful integration of these two concepts. Great management technique is an essential quality all pastors must possess, thus following a priority adjustment to pastoral ministry, a paradigm shift in thinking must take place that allows a pastor too see how management and spirituality can walk hand in hand.

The paradigm shift required in pastoral thought is an understanding that spirituality and management must work together in what could be termed ‘spirit led leadership,’ a leadership style where decisions and strategy are birthed in prayer and in the determined study of scripture, and outworked with professional application. Contemplative study is used to discover truth and biblical pattern for leadership, problem solving, and personal management; that can be applied in pastoral praxis. This concept of spirit led leadership is already understood in the corporate world with many ‘recent books emphasizing the dramatic interest in incorporating spirituality into management theory, management development and management practice.’ Corporate leaders who have experimented with spirituality have found that where they have included God in their leadership they have ‘made better decisions’ and are more ‘sure of decisions.’

Too often pastors swing from one extreme to another, ignoring conventional wisdom running off the ‘word’ of the Lord or in their own strength steering the ship with complete neglect to the leading of the spirit. God gives wisdom freely to those that ask and out of the gift of wisdom a leader can with intuition and understanding lead and make decisions that will stand him and the church in good stead. The gift of wisdom however does give scope to cut corners in seeking God for spiritual direction in your life and in the lives of your congregation. ‘A common obstacle for success is the desire to cut corners.’ Jesus, the greatest pastoral leader the world has known, continually sought the will of God in his life that he would be careful to do that which his father would have him do. Vice-versa this does not eliminate the need to use simple wisdom in pastoral leadership. Jesus grew in wisdom, not to neglect it, but to apply it to his life and ministry. Separating personal spirituality and management technique is a negative result of individualism, privatization and compartmentalization which leads us to think of them as an ‘either-or’ rather than a ‘both-and.’ They must be seen as a ‘both-and,’ one cannot truly be effective without the other.

To be continued…

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

NRL Top Eight

Well we are 5 rounds into the NRL now. Enough time to see what the teams for 2008 look like and thus make predictions regarding who will make the top eight. Here are my predictions for the 2008 season.

My Top Eight NRL 2008

Sydney Roosters
Melbourne Storm
Manly-Warringah Sea Eagles
Brisbane Broncos
Gold Coast Titans
Cronulla Sharks
New Zealand Warriors

It'll be a tough battle for the last 3 spots with the Parramatta Eels and the North Queensland Cowboys just missing out, they'll be close but no cigar.

Sorry to the Canberra Raiders, Newcastle Knights, Penrith Panthers, St George Illawarra Dragons, South Sydney Rabbitohs and Wests Tigers; this just isn't going to be your year.

Hope you are loving each round as much as I am and 'go the mighty Vodafone Warriors!'

What Does That Mean?

Having trouble keeping up with a whole lot of words that are now words but never used to be words? Here are a few new terms with their meanings.

Geeking - Overly excited about a simple thing; excited about something that most people would not find exciting. I’m totally geeking that I got that bean grinder off trademe.

January Joiner - Someone who joins the gym in January as part of a New Year's resolution and by February is back to being a couch potato. I can't get a treadmill until February because the January Joiners are all using them.

Subwoofing - sitting in your car playing your stereo with your mates in a parking lot but not driving. You just sit there and act cool with the windows rolled down. You want everyone to know how awesome your sound system is. Hey guys, did you see Mike and Nathan subwoofing in the parking lot? They have a mad sound system.

Digital Native - A person who grew up in a world with computers, mobile phones, and other digital devices. Young Tommy is a digital native, he’d be lost without his iPod.

Peaknik - A person who believes that the world's oil reserves will soon peak and that subsequent oil shortages will devastate civilisation. Johnny is a real Peaknik, he’s so scared that an oil shortage will end the world.

Pastoral Leadership – Part 2 of 7

Integration of personal spirituality and management technique begins with priority adjustments in the ethos of the leader. We live in a world where having the largest church in the city, speaking at major conferences, and hosting fast paced multimedia services so easily become the goal and the benchmark of successful ministry. Pastoral leadership committed to personal spirituality though, marches to the beat of a different drum and lives a lifestyle that may not be as popular today as it once was. A lifestyle of humility and trust in God. A lifestyle where the instructions of Paul to the church of Philippi, that nothing be done out of selfish ambition or conceit, but rather in lowliness of mind each esteems others better than himself, would be outworked in graciousness and love.

There is nothing wrong with the goal of packed services and expansive building projects or the dream of leading a church known throughout the city for its positive impact on the community. To one day have speaking invitations sitting in your in-tray from various churches around the nation would be a huge compliment. These things though, should only ever be the by-product of a far simpler and quite unglamorous private world of devotion to God. The journey of a long obedience in the right direction must be the major driving force in pastoral ministry, with commitment to walking that journey with integrity of heart and faith in God.

Priority adjustments must be made that see pastors re-committing themselves to the venture of faith that lies at the heart of Christian ministry. The adventure of ‘connecting and co-ordinating’ people with God and his mercy and grace. This simple and basic devotion as a pastor to be a physician of souls must take priority over ‘running a church’ and ‘building your ministry.’ Making disciples must take preference over building a crowd. A heart for worship must be the foundation for a desire for great music. Listening for the guidance of God must come before any strategic implementations one can conjure up in ones own strength.

To be continued…

More From LarkNews.Com

Remember these are just for fun; its good for Christians to laugh at themselves from time to time.

Calvin Grads Dominate 2008 Pastors Draft

COLORADO SPRINGS — Big names and big surprises converged before a nationwide audience at the 2008 Pastors Draft on April 15.
"I've been waiting a long time for this," said Alvin DeWalt, 26, of Fuller Seminary, pacing his apartment in Pasadena and watching the draft on the Daystar network. His wife had made guacamole, and thirty friends were on hand to see which church picked DeWalt, one of this year's top ranked prospects.
In the first round, Geoff Parsons and Rick Benson, of Westminster and Calvin seminaries respectively, went first, as scouts had predicted they would. Parsons heads to a struggling mid-sized Methodist church in Memphis, Tenn., which had the top pick this year. Benson was drafted by a mega-church in Casper, Wyo., which had traded two mid-career pastors for a higher pick. Both draftees say they are ready to "help their teams."
Calvin Seminary overall showed surprising strength, placing two dozen graduates at leading churches around the country, plus sending many more to minor league ministries. Of the Big 10 schools, last year's leaders, Dallas and Asbury, showed less strength. Both call this a "building year" and say their classes of 2008 will be much stronger. Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Westminster say they were "pleased" with how many grads they placed in respectable positions.
The mammoth North Shore Christian Church of Reston, Va., selected wildcard rookie Pat Jameson, who has struggled with morality issues, but is still considered a major league talent. Jameson, speaking at a press conference wearing a North Shore polo shirt and cap, told reporters he was "ready to make a clean start."
Church on the Rock (Houston, Texas), known for scooping up mid- and late-career pastors at low salaries and getting impressive results, traded a first-round pick for two associate pastors with "executive pastor potential" according to a widely respected scouting report.
A number of pastors near retirement entered the free agent market, having been traded for early-career pastors.
"They'll miss my experience in the pulpit," says one elderly pastor who was traded for two rookies and a youth pastor.
One highly watched rookie, David Humphreys of Luther Seminary, went lower than expected, due to what many consider unreasonable demands including an outsized automobile budget and eight weeks of "sabbatical" per year.
DeWalt of Fuller Seminary was picked even higher than he expected by a Florida church which is "transitioning to a purpose-driven model" after years of stagnation. He slumped on the couch, smiling as friends congratulated him.
"I'm just happy it's over," he said.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Pastoral Leadership – Part 1 of 7

Spirituality, a long-neglected dimension of leadership in the corporate setting, has been experiencing a renaissance over the last ten years. Meanwhile leadership practice in the Christian Church has been moving away from its biblical foundation of spirituality. Christian leaders are embracing secular practice with open arms, and seemingly little thought to the spiritual side of their work; yet as a 21st century Christian minister neither personal spirituality nor professional management technique can be neglected. It is critical that one successfully integrates these two skills into effective pastoral leadership. Pastoral leaders must seek a continued development of their management technique and praxis without laying aside traditional spiritual values of intimacy with God through spiritual discipline.

Pastor and author Eugene Peterson, offers many valuable insights into the need for ministers to hold firmly to the biblical foundation stones of pastoral leadership through a commitment to personal spirituality, (defining personal spirituality as a leader’s prayer life, their study of scripture and the process of spiritual directing). Christian leaders must understand that there is no need for there to be a schism between these traditional ministerial values and modern management techniques. Skills such as corporate vision casting, team building, branding, marketing, accounting and forecast projection, must be worked and applied to Christian leadership. Understanding that ‘leadership involves inspiration, passion and higher moral purposes,’ pastors must develop a deep commitment to Christian spirituality. Spirituality must be integrated into everyday life as a ‘lived experience’ rather than simply theology.

Successful Christian leadership requires a pastor to integrate personal spirituality into all areas of church management. Though a seemingly daunting task at times, with a commitment to spirituality as a core ministry and life value, any Christian minister can move from what seems to be a juggling act of differing priorities, to a seamless parity of melded tasks. This integration of management technique and personal spirituality will require a pastor to make priority adjustments in ministry and paradigm shifts in thinking, while monitoring pace-setting in scheduling and personal discipline in devotions. There are four distinct responses to an understanding of the need to bring biblical shape and pattern into their role as a leader. The apostle Paul instructs Christian leaders to lead with Godly edification, from a pure heart, with good conscience and sincere faith. These are qualities found in a leader committed to deep spirituality and an alert awareness of God’s initiating action at work in our lives, churches and communities.

To be continued…

Thursday, April 10, 2008

The New Seven Deadly Sins

For 1500 years the 7 deadly sins, (pride, gluttony, sloth, lust, greed, envy and anger), have stood the test of time as the foundational sins to all other sins. Ever since Pope Gregory the Great, with the help of Thomas Aquinas and Dante, formalised the list they have been the bad boys of all sin.

Recently though Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican released an additional list of 7 deadly sins, this list being the sins of society that separate one from another, the deadly sins of the 21st Century.

1. Genetic Modification
2. Human Experimentation; cloning
3. Polluting the Environment
4. Causing Social Injustice
5. Causing Poverty
6. Becoming Obscenely Wealthy
7. Taking Drugs

My take…

While the bible doesn’t talk about a list of 7 deadly sins, I think the original list is still the list that we should be working on. The original sins are foundational or at the core of all other sin and have given rise to much of the violence, crime, hurt and devastation that we have in our world today. In fact; if the original 7 deadly sins were still regarded as sins and if society shunned those characteristics and behaviours the second list would likely not be necessary.

Perhaps today is a good opportunity to reflect on the 7 deadly sins and whether or not there are issues you need to deal with in your life. We would hate to think there would be, but perhaps some of what we regard as smaller issues we are working on stem from the foundation that is one of the 7. Thank God for His grace and mercy and ask for forgiveness and for the Holy Spirit to help you face that which may need adjustment in your life.