• Vibe part 4: What are we doing to get the vibe we are looking for?

    Three months ago Resolved’s vibe on Sunday was down. People found church tiring, we found relationships hard and the services weren’t at the standard they should be.  But things are slowly changing. Here is what we are trying to do to get the vibe we are looking for:

    1. The leaders are working hard at showing their love for people. Sometimes at church we get distracted. We focus more on things then people. We focus more on the seating, lighting, sermon, music, etc then the people. This is one of the things we were doing.  Now what we try to do is make sure that we show how much we love everyone who comes in the door. In this we are letting what we feel about the people come out in our conversations and our manner.
    2. The leaders are working hard at being excited to be at church. We are reminding each other of the gospel and what an amazing thing it is to meet together and what an amazing privilege it is to serve at our church. With this in mind we seek to take these ideas and make them realities on Sunday when we meet. We want to be excited when we meet with Gods people because we do not know what God is going to do when his word is preached!
    3. We are becoming more organised. Being organised means less stress and more thought. This helps us work hard at the things that get forgotten (i.e. people and relationships) when we are not organised.
    4. We are asking the question “How does the gospel spring out of this text to inspire people to live for Jesus?”  I don’t want to inspire people I want the gospel to inspire people. All I want to do is to show them how to the gospel inspires them. I think this has changed my preaching so that people hear about the gospel elements (creation, sin, judgement, cross, resurrection, heaven, hell) in ways that they can see the connections to their lives and also how it inspires or encourages them to live for Jesus.

    Are you working on the vibe of your church service? If so what are you doing to create the vibe that flows out of the gospel?

     

  • Vibe part 1: A definition and why every Pastor needs to think about it

    Vibe can be a dirty word in some church circles and in others it can be thought of too highly. Over the next few days I will be blogging about vibe, how we should think about it, what vibe we should be going for and how to get a good vibe going.

    But first what do we mean by vibe?

    Here is my definition of vibe: Vibe is the atmosphere of a person or place as felt by people in that space or interacting with that said person.

    If this definition is in any way correct then everything has got a vibe. You can have boring vibe, a relaxed vibe, an angry vibe. This vibe can refer to places or people.

    But you may say, “What does this all have to do with church and leadership?”

    Well have you stopped to consider that your church has a vibe and you as a person have a vibe? But what kind of vibe does your church have? What kind of vibe do you have?

    What kind of vibe do you want your church to have?

    When people love a church they usually talk about things that add to the vibe i.e. the music, the welcoming people, the preaching. These all add to the vibe and give your meetings a certain flavour.

    Conversely when people say they are leaving the church sometimes they talk about vibe. They talk about how the people were not friendly, it was boring, how it was disorganised etc. These all add to the vibe.

    So as pastors we have to think about vibe carefully because it is all around us. We have to think whether the vibe we are putting out there is in sync with the gospel we preach.

    Two questions that I think we need to ponder:

    1. What vibe do you as a person give off?
    2. What vibe does your church have?

     

  • The Enemy is Within part 5: The Road Ahead

    Whether or not my assessment of the dangers to the gospel is right or is way off I think we can all acknowledge that there will be threats to the gospel in the future and we need to think now how we, as Christian leaders, work at heading these threats off and killing them before they get out of hand.

    Here is what I think we should do:

    Be more lovingly confrontational – I see, in Sydney, a lack of eyeball to eyeball theological discussion where people say things like “I have heard you say that. Did I get that right?” or “I think you are wrong on this issue and you need to repent and teach correct doctrine!” Instead of this kind of frank discussion where things come out on the table we generally talk behind peoples backs or we talk at conferences about what these people are believing to be the next “silver bullet.” Now this begs the question have I been lovingly confrontational? To my defence, I think I have confronted the people that I think are guilty of the theological errors I have outlined in the previous three posts. I hope these brothers do come away with the fact that I am concerned about the gospel and not some macho point scoring exercise. Hell is too real, Jesus is too amazing and the truth too precious for stupid school boy games like that. We do need to work hard at being loving as we confront our brothers and sisters who we think have strayed theologically. This is something I have to continue to work on please pray for me in this area.

    Be abreast of what is happening theologically outside of Sydney – that means we will have to read books and not just blogs and have to keep our ear to the theological ground. This takes hard work, discipline and time but as shepherds we need to do this crucial work.

    Train the next generation of leaders – the trajectories that we are on will not come to flashpoints until ten or twenty years down the track. Therefore it is crucial that we work hard at training the next generation of leaders of the church. But not just train them in how to think about ministry, we need to work hard at training them in how they are to think theologically about theological issues of the day. I am surprised at how few internships in Australia have a significant reading component. As Christian leaders we need to be training up the next generation of Christian leaders. What are you doing to train the next generation of leaders?

    I hope I am wrong about the threats to the gospel in Sydney. I hope that Neo-orthodoxy, the New Perspective and the denial of inerrancy don’t make inroads into our churches and therefore corrupt the confidence of our people in the gospel and the scriptures. But I am convinced that the next big threat to Sydney Evangelicalism is not outside of us but the enemy will be found within.

     

  • How to steal sheep well….

    One of the biggest issues with growing churches is what to do with people who rock up to your church but who are members of another church.

    If the person hasn’t been going to another church for a while or they have moved into the area there is really nothing to do. Welcome them and start ministering to them.

    But what happens if they come and they don’t like their old church? Or what if they just want a change?

    I know of some pastors who as soon as they get a new person from another church they try to integrate them into the life of their church straight away.

    But should they do this?

    I am not too sure they should.

    I think if we have a new Christian who comes to our churches we must do the following:

    Discern as to whether there was a specific issue(s) for leaving their last church. This is crucial because if there was an issue(s) at their old church we need to see if there needs to be reconciliation between them and members of their old church. We also need to know what kind of baggage (sin or other baggage) they are coming to our church with because, as we know, everyone has baggage.

    We also need to notify their old pastor of them coming to our church. This is so that the pastor knows that they are being cared for but also to get insight on how he, as their former pastor, pastored this person. This also brings clarity to a situation that could be fraught with charges of sheep stealing.

    At an appropriate time, we need to talk with them about being part of their new church. We don’t want Christians who do not commit and so we want to encourage this new person to be fully committed to their new church. Therefore, we will encourage this person to commit to doing our membership course, committing to a bible study,  and supporting the church prayerfully, financially and by serving.

    What do you think? Have I missed anything?

     

  • You should leave your church when…

    I have been putting this blog off for a while. I wrote a blog a while back called “5 questions to ask when you are bored with your church”. I got a of people emailing me and asking me what are good reasons to leave your church. So here is my answer…..

    What most ministers say…..

    I have heard too many ministers say that the only biblical reason for leaving a church is when the church doesn’t preach and teach the bible faithfully. But that leaves me with a bunch of questions:

    • What does preaching and teaching the bible faithfully look like?
    • What if relationships in the church have been broken beyond repair?
    • What if you have the opportunity of a lifetime at another church?
    • What if you aren’t being used at your church?
    • What if you have tried to fix the problems at your church but no one is listening?

    Saying that the only good reason for leaving a church is because of lack of biblical teaching is unsatisfying.

    You should leave your church when…

    They don’t preach the gospel.. If they don’t preach the gospel and you have talked with the teaching pastor about the teaching and they don’t listen then leave.This is a  no brainer.

    You have a relationship that is toxic to your faith at the church….. If there is a relationship that is toxic to your faith and mental well being I think it is okay to leave provided that you have sought to rescue the relationship by all possible means. If you have not sought to rescue the relationship either because you are avoiding the issue or sin in your own life then God is calling you to stay and be reconciled to your brother or sister in Christ. (Matthew 5:23-24)

    You have a great opportunity at another church which doesn’t exist at your church….. You are offered a great opportunity in training or a job or something else at another church and this opportunity will allow you to minister to others, train you for future ministries and will stretch you to know God in a deeper way then it is okay to leave provided you have cleared it with your current minister and there are no opportunities that are similar at your current church.

    You have tried and worked hard to be a positive force for good and fix the problems at your church but no one seems to care…. Every church has issues. But if you have seen those issues that you think are significant and you have worked hard at changing them and you are being ignored then it I think it is okay to leave provided that you have actually worked at the issues. Many Christians point out the issues and expect someone else to fix it and then get frustrated when no one does fix it. This is a sinful attitude. You be the change you want to see. You want to see more fellowship happening you talk with people about it and make it happen. You want to see the music better then you join the band, learn the songs, come prepared and give it your all etc. If you have only sat on the sideline and been a critic without being in the game then  you have no right to leave your church and I would say you may be the problem at your church.

    If you are not being used at your church….. Everyone has gifts and there is nothing more frustrating when you are sitting on the sideline wanting to be in the game and no one will let you use your gifts. Now sometimes your pastor might say to you that he doesn’t want you to use your gift because there is sin in your life or you are not where you need to be as a Christian or in your knowledge to serve like you want to. That is a fair and legitimate reason for you not serving and you should cop it on the chin and see if you can serve in other ways. Also you have to think not what I want to do but what does this church need from me? You may be a great vocalist but the  band at you r church si stocked with great vocalists and your church needs people to do crèche. Well you jump on the crèche roster because working on the crèche is your gift to the church. The wrong question is “what do I want to do?” The right question is “what does the church need me to do?” This is because gifts are there for the building up of the body of Christ not building up of the individual with the gift (1 Corinthians 12-14). If you are not serving in any way because there is no opportunity or no good reason and you have chatted with your minister about it and there is no solution then I think you can leave you church.

    Leaving the church should not be a rash decision. It should be thought out and talked out. You shouldn’t leave your church until you have talked with you minister at length about the reasons you have for leaving and you have worked hard to overcome those reasons or you have sought to fix the issues. Only when you have exhausted yourself trying to fix the issues and they remain can you leave your church and go somewhere else as long as you are leaving on the best terms you can with the other people at your church.

     

  • Why the reaction to Pipers talks in Australia has frustrated me.

    Let me be very clear about a few things before I start.

    1. I think we need to discern and sift teaching to see if it is legit. I think to do so would be absolutely irresponsible for Christians especially Pastors. So I don’t have any issue with anyone lovingly critiquing Piper’s talks in fact I will be doing just that this morning with my staff team. As Piper said we should be good Bereans!
    2. I love my heritage, I am grateful for growing up in an Anglican church and so thankful that I went to Moore college even though I am not an Anglican now by choice. The tweet I put up about Sydney Anglicans was rash and from the gut and sinful and I ask if you have been offended that you would forgive me as I am very sorry for that asinine tweet.

    Here is my issue with the response to Piper’s talks. Piper made it abundantly clear that he was not equating his joy or love for God as a work. He even said that if people took him that way they were ‘wilfully sinning” therefore I was surprised, shocked and annoyed when I saw a post claiming Piper’s soteriology might be Catholic. This frustrated me because the writer obviously didn’t listen to the many times Piper qualified what he was saying but also that he used the one of the most derogatory things a Sydney Evangelical can say about another Evangelical brother. He said the Piper might be Catholic!! Using this word denies what Piper has written and denies his theology it also makes us who don’t want to be Catholic weary of Piper instead of engaging with him. Painting him with the Catholic brush and makes us think that he is a bit off and we should keep him at arms length.

    We need to critique but let’s do it hearing a brother out properly and not misrepresenting him. Also lets not label him /catholic or charismatic or whatever just to be controversial and get people to read our blogs. Aren’t we too old for that?

    The other thing I am frustrated by is our negativity towards teaching from outside. I have been in many conversations about Piper and his preaching and most of the feedback is negatively geared. This is human nature on one level but verbalizing all the things we didn’t like about something will automatically skew our perception of the thing we are critiquing. Piper said a bunch of brilliant things. I think we should be emphasizing what God spoke to us through Piper and once we have thanked God for this great man and his talks then we can move onto lovingly discussing those areas we need clarification or modification. This is how we should talk about a brother in Christ.

    P.S. I lumped Michael Kellahan’s critique of Piper in with my criticism on Friday. This was wrong, his blog was done generously and lovingly. It had all the hallmarks of a good, fair and loving critique. I apologize to Michael for sinning against him and I ask for his forgiveness.

     

  • An open letter to Al Stewart, KCC and the Oxygen team

    Dear Al, KCC and team,

    Brothers and sisters thank you so much for putting on Oxygen. I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose. There was so much that God challenged me about.

    I loved how John Lennox kept emphasizing that we will not get the church growing unless we get the word growing. In a world where technique is held as the thing we have to nail to get our churches to grow I was very encouraged by this! He also encouraged me in my evangelism by being so enthusiastic to tell his friends and colleagues about Jesus! I now have a greater love for the book of Acts and I cant wait till i preach through it!

    I love John Piper’s passion(who doesn’t?), but I also loved how he showed me his arguments from the grammar and the syntax of the passages he was exegeting. I came away thinking “It is all so clear!!” But also thinking that I need to show more of my work in my sermons! I loved his passion for Joy in his life and my life and how that cant be divorced from hard and right thinking!

    I loved the music!!! Trevor, Greg, Owen, Rowan, Faith and the other singer and the keys player did an amazing job! The songs lead me to consider the deep truths of the gospel and the music was brilliantly executed. The room was big and had so much natural reverb and yet the mix was always done very well! Great job guys!

    I loved my two electives. I went to one lead by Phillip Jensen who challenged pastors to guard the gospel and protect our flock. Which I, as a natural evangelist, can neglect! I also went Andrew Heard’s great seminar on gospel dreams and realising them. In both there was much food for thought about leadership, vision and motivating my people at Resolved.

    I loved the book pack! I love how generous your sponsors were in giving the conference delegates a bunch of new books! I also loved your generosity in giving away all the talks for free. KCC could have made a mint form the talks and yet you guys are more into blessing the world than making money! I love that about KCC!

    Should Oxygen be a movement? Yes it should. I hope that Oxygen becomes a conference that comes up every year or two. It was amazing. Thanks to all who worked so hard to put it on!

    Your brother in Christ,

    Hans

     

  • As a pastor you need to encourage and inspire your people!

    There is something about the Sydney evangelical culture that makes it very hard for us to give specific encouragement that actually encourages. The word we throw around in Christian circles is helpful.

    “That was a helpful sermon.”

    What the hell does that mean?

    We need to get over our britishness, get some emotional intelligence about us and learn to encourage and compliment well. I have devised four steps to direct, specific encouragement

    1. Choose your adjective

    Step one is choosing your adjective. Make your adjective count, go over the top because that will communicate better. If you go with words like helpful, good, faithful they will encourage somewhat. But if you use words and phrases like amazing, biblically inspired, gripping it communicates more directly.

    2. Be specific

      What was it about what they did that was encouraging? Tell them. You may say “I loved the way you led us in singing in church especially the way after the second song you read that passage from scripture and helped us reflect on the cross and then you led brilliantly into that new song from there.” Once again far better than how you led the singing was good or helpful

      3. What did it do to you?

      Tell them what affect what they did had on you. For example, you may say I loved your sermon or you could say “I loved your sermon because it made me consider Jesus in a new and it encouraged me greatly in overcoming a specific sin in my life.” The specificity is the thing that will make the compliment mean something because it shows how they have impacted you.

      4. Inspire them

      The final thing you want to say is something inspirational like “Man I am so looking forward to the next time you pray in church because I was so encouraged. Thanks for doing amazing job.” This rounds out the encouragement and it also is inspirational.

      As Christians we need to be encouraging and so working on this is something we should be doing. Especially if we are in leadership

      Who should you encourage at church this week?

       

    1. How I use my time

      The last two days I have written two blogs entitled “Preparing for a Preaching Series” and “How I Prepare my Sermons”. For those who haven’t read them I put a lot of time into preparing for preaching series and preparing for individual sermons. In response to these blogs I have been asked questions like:

      • How do I find the time?
      • How long does it take to prepare a sermon?
      • What time do I start and finish work each day?
      • How many hours do I work?
      • Etc….

      As you can see there were questions about time. The following are just some principles of how I use my time. But firstly a word of caution……

      What I don’t intend to do

      I don’t want to tell anyone about my working hours or how many hours I work for a few reasons. Firstly, I will be damned by two groups. One group will read my working hours and call me a workaholic and the other will see the hours I work and call me lazy. Also, God has given me a particular brain and body coupled with a particular drive that allows me to work the hours I do. God has given some people the ability to work longer hours and sleep less and he has given other people a body that needs more sleep. This is all from the hand of God and so we must praise God when brothers and sisters of ours are able to get three hours sleep and work flat out for the other twenty one hours of the day and conversely we must not look down on those men and women who need more sleep and rest time then us and yet are able to work with all their might in the time God has given them.

      Principles of how I use my time:

      1. I work my butt off – I really work hard at using the time I have at my desk well. I do like YouTube and reading blogs but I find once I start down these rabbit holes I can end up wasting hours. So I try to be intentional about how I use these great blessings from God. When I am at my desk I am there to work and I try to push everything else aside to do that.
      2. When I get bored or my mind drifts I take a break – I am sure I have undiagnosed ADHD so I cannot sit down and work solidly for 4 hours. I have about 40 mins to an hour in me before I either need a break or need to talk to someone (I am a massive extrovert!). So I try to work until I need a break or a conversation and then either take a brisk ten minute walk or call someone that I need to call. After this I am usually ready to get back to work.
      3. I use the iPhone app 2Do – This allows me to put all the things I need to do into an app which will then allow me to assign each item to a specific day. This allows me to remember everything I have to do and also gives me a list to work off and gives me satisfaction as I cross off each item on the to do list.
      4. I read for an hour a day Monday through Friday – A friend asked “How do I find the time to read?” I replied I schedule it in my day. On my to do list is a recurring item that says “do one hour of reading”. It is something I do because I make it a priority. I also read widely to vary it up and I try to finish books before I start the next one. For me, finishing a book gives me encouragement to start the next book and a sense of achievement.
      5. I budget in about 15 hours a week for meetings – I try to have a meeting each lunch hour so I can eat and have a meeting at the same time. I also allow 15-30 mins of prep time for each meeting so I prepare what I want to talk about. I want every meeting I go into to have an agenda (not necessarily a written one) and also specific outcomes. If I want to have an agenda and specific outcomes for each meeting I need to prepare.
      6. I get people to do the things I suck at – I suck at grammar (as you can tell from my blogs) so I get others to put together the newsletter.  I suck at power point so I get someone else to do slides and all that. I could tell you all the things I suck at but you get the point. I make sure I delegate where I can so I can do the three things God has called me to do preach, lead people and pastor Resolved

      There are some principles of how I use my time. How do you use yours? What guiding principles do you have as you go about your day?

       

    2. Leaders chart the course

      We all want direction in life.  When we are in an organisation whether a church or somewhere else we want our leaders to have a vision for us as individuals and for the group collectively. We want no need leaders to chart the course.

      But what is charting the course? What is having a vision? Is it being able to predict what will happen in two weeks, two months or two years?

      No, I don’t think so, for two reasons. Firstly I don’t know what is happening tomorrow so how can I predict what will happen down the road? Secondly, this practice is based on outdated 1980s style business management which the business world has done away with.

      What I think we need to have a vision for is who we are as a community. So maybe we need to talk not about vision but identity. Leaders need to be able to define who we are as a community, who we want to be and how to get there.

      This identity then permeates every aspect of the organisation so that everything is refreshed and pushed forward by this identity.

      So as a leader do you have an idea of who the community that you lead is meant to be? Do you have an idea of how to get there? Does the identity of your community affect and shape everything you do?