• 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 1: Setting the Scene

    When I listen to some leaders from within Sydney evangelicalism speak about what threatens the gospel in Sydney  I hear things like Catholicism, liberalism and the Charismatic movement. These things are touted as what is going to move the evangelical church in Sydney away from the Gospel. The way they talk about these three movements gives the impression that the biggest threats to evangelicalism are from outside the camp.

    But history doesn’t point us that way.

    History points us in a different direction. The most dangerous and subtle challenges to the Gospel usually come from within the evangelical church. For example take the now-dead Emergent church movement. Tony Jones, Doug Padgitt, Rob Bell, Brian McLaren, etc all have evangelical backgrounds. It was their wanting to reach out the postmodern world that caused them to have a look at their theology and change it. It was them, who from within evangelicalism, who have now become liberal. But we see this in other times also. Take Spurgeon and the downgrade controversy in the late 1800’s. His opponents were once rank and file evangelicals who went liberal. Or take Fuller theological seminary, a seminary that was started by evangelicals now has a president that endorses Rob Bell’s latest book, a book where Bell openly flirts with, if not capitulates to, universalism.

    If history is any guide or teacher we are kidding ourselves if we think that the threats to Sydney evangelicalism are outside our fold.

    With this in mind I will be blogging about this all week. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday I will be blogging about what I see the three biggest threats to Sydney evangelicalism and then on Friday I will be talking about what we need to be doing about these threats.

    But to get the conversation started I have two questions:

    1. Do you think my assessment of history is correct?
    2. What do you think are the biggest threats to the gospel in Sydney?

     

  • Christian girls, Facebook and sanitized pornography

    Recently I sat down with a young dude who is struggling to be a Christian. Not struggling because he has some doubt or struggling because he has gone through pain in his life but struggling because he has sin in his life.

    He has the sin all guys struggle with. He has the sin of lust and that sin creeps up every time he goes on Facebook. You see the girls he is friends with on Facebook seem to have their profiles laden with photos of their latest trips to the beach where they are in their bikini’s or photos where they are posing provocatively for the camera.

    I want to ask the question: why if you are a Christian girl why would you put a photo on Facebook or anywhere else on the internet of yourself in a bikini or a provocative pose when you know it is going make a brother in Christ stumble?

    Sure, my friend has a lot to work on. He needs to work on his theology of sin and atonement as well as working on having a huge dose of self control as well as a revved up prayer life.

    But really girls do you need to have that photo on Facebook?

    Do you need to prove to the world how sexy you really are?

    God loves it when women dress modestly.  (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

    That doesn’t mean unfashionably.

    That just means that you realise that your body is not your own and you are to honour God with your body(1 Corinthians 6:20). You also realise that your body is meant to be for your future spouse not for every person to ogle at.

    Girls and guys please lets us not cause our brothers and sister to struggle. Go through your Facebook photos and please delete any pictures which could cause someone to stumble

    Do this because you love your brothers and sister in Christ and you want to honour God with your body!

     

  • Your Sexuality is an adjective not a noun

    I hate grammar but it is important. Here is a little grammatical lesson for those of you, like me, didn’t learn grammar in school.

    A noun is a word that is a person, place, thing, event, substance, idea, etc.

    An adjective is a describing word that modifies a noun. So words like pretty, ugly, dumb, smart are adjectives.

    E.g. That girl is very pretty. Girl is the noun and pretty is the adjective.

    Now you are probably asking what this has to with sexuality.

    Well I hear a lot of people talk about their sexuality or relationship status as if it is a noun. So people say I am gay, straight, single, married, divorced etc.

    But does the fact that you are gay, bi, straight, single, married, etc. Define you?

    I hope not. I hope we cannot boil your essence down to your sexuality or your relationship status. I hope you are much more than that!

    The weird thing I hear Christians pigeon holing themselves by using their sexuality or their relationship status as the noun with Christian the adjective.

    I say this because when some people say they are a single Christian it seems that their singleness modifies their Christianity not other way around.

    When some people say they are a married Christian it seems that their marriage modifies their Christianity not other way around.

    When some people say they are a gay Christian it seems that their being gay modifies their Christianity not other way around.

    The only noun that we have as Christians is that I am in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17)

    Being in Christ shapes and defines us. Everything else is additional.

    “In Christ” is the noun.

    Everything else is an adjective

     

  • 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.

     

  • My need for humble orthodoxy

    One of the things I lack is humility. But before you close this window because you are thinking “Hans is just blogging about the obvious!” hear me out.

    The contradiction in my life is this:

    I know the truth and yet I am not humble.

    I know the truth about me being a despicable hell bound sinner, who was rightly and justly under God’s wrath. I know the truth about me being saved by God’s glorious grace, for his glory, And I know the truth about the only thing I bring to God is my own sinful life and yet I am not humble.

    I am proud.

    This comes to bear especially when I am talking about the truth.

    I want to know the gospel deeply, preach the gospel powerfully and defend the gospel winsomely. But I find, in my own heart at least, a lot of pride when I do these things.

    But when my pride rears its ugly head the most is when I am talking with someone else with whom I disagree about some theological issue. My pride says to me:

    “They don’t know what they are talking about!”

    “They haven’t got a bachelor of divinity but you have!”

    “They haven’t read all the books that you have!”

    “They haven’t read the right books but you have!”

    “They don’t know the gospel/bible/the text like you do!”

    “They say that because they are New Perspective, Barthian, Liberal, Catholic, Arminian, Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Uniting church, etc.”

    These things that pop into my head bring me great pride in what I know and what I can articulate. How quickly do I forget that the only reason that I believe these things is by God’s grace? How quickly do I forget that is it God who gives me the gifts I have? How quickly do I forget that am saved only by God’s grace? How quickly do I forget about the fact that God loves the person I am speaking to?”

    I need a huge dose of humble orthodoxy.

    It is my prayer that I will stand for the truth of the gospel with a humility that is shaped by the gospel.

    God, may you give me the grace to do just this.

     

  • What I learn from Christians with mental illness/anxiety issues

    My church has recently started up a ministry to people with mental illness/anxiety called Eternal Hope. It is a simple ministry where we read from the bible, share how we are doing and then pray for each other.  But here is the thing.

    I feel like a fake when I am there.

    If we have never met, I am stupidly optimistic and positive and so when I go to Eternal Hope and I hear their pain and struggle I feel like a fake.

    I feel like a fake most when my brothers and sisters at this group talk about heaven. They talk about longing for heaven and how this life is a struggle. Then I think about my life, beautiful wife, child on the way, awesome church and I think “Man I don’t want to be in heaven yet!!!”

    But that is the point my brothers and sisters at Eternal Hope see reality more than I do. They see that their home is heaven and I see what is in front of me. What I learn from my brothers and sisters at Eternal Hope is that I need to be more in love with where I will be spending my eternity.

     

    What about you do you long for heaven or are you content with earth?

     

  • 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. Rappers acceptance speeches and living out the gospel

      I love hearing Rappers acceptance speeches at awards shows. They always go something like this:

      “I’d like to thank my Lord Jesus Christ, Jehovah God almighty, for my number one hit single. It is called “I’m gonna kill your Mamma!”

      There is a bit of a disconnect there isn’t there?

      But I was wondering what about my life?

      Is there a disconnect there too?

      Do people see me living one way and yet talking another. I mean I confess Jesus with my lips but does my life measure up? Am I legit or am I another fake Christian?

      When I read the letters to the seven churches in the Book of Revelation I am ashamed to see myself in each one of them. I see myself not as I should be, imperfect, confessing Jesus with my lips and yet denying him in my life.

      For the glory of Jesus, we mustn’t be like rappers at awards shows we must legit.

      That means taking sin and nailing to the cross.

      And living in response to the cross.

      Knowing that Jesus has paid it all…