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.