• The Culture of Mediocrity in Churches

    Yesterday I attended an awesome conference called A Dangerous Calling. The speaker was Paul Tripp and I got boatloads out of the conference. I have tweeted some of the things that Tripp said that really impacted me. One of the quotes I tweeted was:

    A lot of pastors are serving up mediocre sermons that are underprepared.

    This hit me because I think it’s sometimes true of my life, and some of my friends in ministry have admitted it’s true of them.

    After I posted the quote I had two comments from brothers on Facebook. Here are the two comments posted in their entirety:

    Commenter 1: On the other hand, more pastors are serving up mediocre sermons because they are only middle of the road preachers. By definition we can’t all be outstanding preachers. Don’t buy into the culture of excellence! God uses the lowly!

    Commenter 2: I’m with [Commenter 1] Hans. Don’t buy into that stuff dude. Paul wrote on this in 1 Cor 1 and it seems our churches still fall into the same mistakes. It’s the word and the spirit that are effective.

    Two issues arise from these quotes:

    1. I am not sure they have got the gist of Tripp’s quote. The issue is not talent but hard work and discipline. The point Tripp was making was that mediocre sermons are served up by lack of preparation, not lack of talent.
    2. I wonder if we have theologised our way into mediocrity. I agree that the Spirit, through His word, does the work, but have we relied so much on that theology that we don’t even try to do our own ministries (music, preaching, pastoral care, etc.) with excellence because we have a theology that says God works even if we suck? Now, I believe that God works even though we suck (in fact I am reminded of this truth every time someone says they found something I did helpful!) but I think we may have used this theology to theologise our way into mediocrity. If God is glorious and we exist for His glory shouldn’t we aim for the best we can do? Isn’t that what excellence is? Isn’t mediocrity doing a job that is less than our best? Excellence is not being as good a preacher as John Piper or Phillip Jensen or William Taylor. Excellence is doing the best we can do for the glory of God. That is what the quote is trying to say and that is what we should be aiming for.

    What do you think?

    Please follow and like us:
  • What people need most from their pastors

    Robert Murray M’Cheyne often said to ministers “what your people need most from you is your personal holiness.” This flies in the face of so much church leadership talk. Because holiness doesn’t really get a mention does it?  M’Cheyne is saying  that the most important thing a leader needs is a holy, loving, Christ-like character. M’Cheyne was a Scottish minister who died in the 19th century. His last sermon was preached  on Isaiah 60:1 – “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee”. He went home to bed sick, and died a week later. After his death they found a letter in his bedroom, here is a quote from it:

    “I hope you will pardon a stranger for addressing you a few lines. I heard you preach last Sabbath evening, and your sermon brought me to Christ. It was not anything you said, but it was what you were as you preached. For I saw in you a beauty of holiness that I had never seen before. You were talking about the glory of our God resting on the Savior, and I saw the Savior’s glory resting on you. That brought me to Christ.”

    The life and teaching of M’Cheyne shows that before being skillful, innovative or gifted, we as christian leaders, need to be holy.

    Please follow and like us:
  • The Seven things all Christian leaders need to have

    Leadership books sometimes make leadership too complex. Good leadership principles, like any other principles should be easy to digest and understand. With that in mind I have distilled my thoughts on what a good leader is, into seven things that all leaders need to have.

    1. Character. This is a given, if a leader does not have character then they can’t be a leader. If they aren’t people of respect, then you can’t respect them and if you can’t respect them you won’t follow them (1 Timothy 3).
    2. Courage. Just like Jesus we need to have courage to make hard calls, courage to say hard things in love when we need to, and courage to go forward when it is hard.
    3. Passion. We need a passion that springs from the gospel. We know that we are doing the most important work in the world and therefore we should have passion for the people that we minister to and passion for the truth of the gospel itself.
    4. Love. Just as Jesus loved and Paul loved we need to love our people. This is hard as some of the people we serve are quite hard to love. But we need to remember that God loved us even when we were sinners and he demonstrated that love on the cross. This message gives us the energy to love those who are tough to love. 
    5. Energy. Leaders need to have an energy about them that is infectious. They need great energy to do all the things they need to do. Energy is crucial in ministry because ministry is a draining work.
    6. The ability to energize. Our people look to us for inspiration and encouragement and so we need to be able to energize by giving them encouragement and feedback. We also energize them by following them up and giving feedback all the time. But we follow up and give feedback to encourage and spur on, more than to rebuke and correct.
    7. The ability to execute. Leaders need to get things done and this is true of leaders in the church. As church leaders, we need to be able to get things done. We need to be organised and plan things. Most of all, we need to do what we say we will do.

    Would you add anything to this list?


    Please follow and like us:
  • The Key to Having Great Meetings

    Most meetings are boring and suck. They leave people unengaged and lacking motivation. That is why we hate meetings. What is the key you having great meetings?


    Yes, conflict

    Not the I hate your guts type conflict or the political type conflict that can plague churches. Healthy conflict is discussion, where disagreements are brought out on the table and these disagreements are talked about passionately, but with respect.

    Patrick Lencioni in his book The Five Dysfunctions of a Team says teams that have good conflict:

    • Have lively, interesting meetings
    • Extract and exploit the ideas of all team members
    • Solve real problems quickly
    • Minimize politics
    • Put critical topics on the table for discussion

    So how do you get healthy conflict as a leader?

    You have to mine for it. You have to make sure that you push people to get what they are thinking out on the table. If you see someone’s body language communicating that they are uncomfortable with what is being said, then you need to get them to put that body language into words. But you also have to jump on conflict that is political or attacking a person. Remember, not all conflict is good you want healthy conflict that is to the point and on task.

    I will leave you with Lencioni on why your team needs conflict:

    “Teams that engage in productive conflict know that the only purpose is to produce the best possible solution in the shortest period of time. They discuss and resolve issues more quicklyand completely than others, and they emerge from heated debates with no residual feelings or collateral damage, but with an eagerness and readiness to take on the next important issue.” (p.203)


    Please follow and like us:
  • What the next Archbishop of Sydney can’t be

    I am not an Anglican, but I have been profoundly influenced by the Anglican Church.  I am so thankful for years of being faithfully taught the bible at Anglican churches and I am thankful for my time at Moore College. The Sydney diocese is a very influential diocese. Not just in the Anglican Communion, its influence stretches to the broader Christian world. That is why the election of the next Archbishop of Sydney is so important. It has been very encouraging to hear of people already praying for and working hard to get the right man for the job. Needless to say, this man is stepping into a job that is too big for him, or anyone else for that matter, so he needs our support in prayer. He obviously needs to be a man of evangelical character as well as a great communicator and leader but is there anything he can’t be?

    I was talking with a mate who I met at Moore College. He is no longer in Sydney but has strong ties to Sydney Evangelicalism about who should be the next Archbishop. He said this:

    “The next Archbishop must not be an egalitarian because every time a diocese or denomination chooses to allow women to be the lead pastors of churches the push to fully accept practicing homosexuals into all spheres of church life is pushed by the next generation. If you capitulate on the women’s issue the next generation will capitulate on the homosexuality issue. If the Sydney Diocese appoints an egalitarian then he will push for women being able to fill any role that a man can and that is one of the paving stones on the road to liberalism”

    We have seen this scenario played out in the Anglican Church but also in other denominations. But what about you, do you think the Sydney Diocese would go down this line if they appointed an Egalitarian as the next Archbishop?


    Please follow and like us:
  • Three Books You Have to Read

    We Become What we Worship by Greg Beale.

    This book is a biblical theology showing how we resemble what we revere for ruin or restoration. Beale shows that this theme is pervasive in the bible which opened up the bible in a new way for me. I also found the book to be very helpful in pastoral situations because I was able to see and show how the idols of our hearts enslave us. The last chapter about the practical application of this study is worth the price of the book.

    When People are Big and God is Small by Ed Welch

    This book is about overcoming the fear of man and it hit me and the Catalyst guys like a tonne of bricks. I didn’t realize how much fear of man was in my life until I read this book. The first section of the book diagnoses the problem and shows how we have unbiblical and unhelpful fixes to our issues. The second half of the book focuses on biblical fixes to the issue of the fear of man and other issues. This book is life changing! Buy it and read it!

    Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

    In this book the uber pastor, Tim Keller, takes aim at the idols in our lives and shows how they don’t satisfy and how the answer is found in the gospel. Everything that Keller writes is GOLD. I found this book extremely helpful in thinking through Idolatry especially as I am preaching through Hosea. It also pointed out some things in my life that are either idols or in danger of becoming Idols. This was a confronting and yet healing book to read.


    Please follow and like us:
  • How to pastor like the Apostle Paul

    One of my greatest heroes is Paul. He was a man who loved
    his people with great passion and intensity and he was a great pastor. In 1 Thessalonians 2 we get a glimpse of ‘Paul the pastor’ as he reminded the Thessalonians of how he cared for them. Therefore 1 Thessalonians 2 is great food for thought and it is a passage that we come back to again and again to learn how Paul did and how we should do our ministry. Here are some of the things Paul did  that wecan do:

    1. Paul cared for and loved his people and shared his life with them. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 says “Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well.” The question is do we love our people like that? Are we sharing our lives with our people or loving and caring for them like a mother?
    2. Paul had courage. He says he preached in spite of strong opposition (1 Thessalonians 2:2). How could he keep preaching in spite of strong opposition? I think it was his confidence in God and who he is.
    3. Paul’s holiness was apparent to everyone. Paul can say “You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed.” (1 Thessalonians 2:10.) If you got up in front
      of the people you lead could you say that? Are you growing in holiness each day in a way that is obvious to those you lead/pastor?
    4. Paul worked his butt off. Paul says “Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you.” 1 Thessalonians 2:9. Pastoral work is very flexible in the hours we can keep. We can coast and cruise through our pastoral ministry and collect a cheque or we can work hard for his glory. We don’t want to be workaholics to be sure but we also don’t want to be lazy. No, we should be like Paul who consistently worked hard for God’s glory for the benefit of those he pastored.
    5. Paul was himself. He didn’t seek to put on a mask so other’s would be more impressed with him (1 Thessalonians 2:5). I have to keep asking myself; is that what I am doing? Or am I trying to be the next Piper, Chandler, Dever, Driscoll etc.
    6. He didn’t seek to please men but God. “For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed —God is our witness.  We were not looking for praise from people,
      not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.”
      (1 Thessalonians 2:3-6). Paul was all about pleasing God first and foremost, he didn’t fear man nor did he seek to please everyone. He never sucked up to people; he always used straight talk (see Galatians 2 if you don’t believe me!). Pastors, who are you seeking to please?
      Other men or God. Are you withholding confrontational sin just to keep people happy? Are you not going to have the hard conversation just because it will be awkward? Do you not preach on some topics because poor culture will hate them? Do you not lead strongly because you are afraid of people getting their noses bent out of shape? Do you suck up to pastors or leaders so you can be in their inner ring or to be getting a bunch of speaking gigs? Paul didn’t seek to please men but God. And as pastors or leaders we should do the same!

    I Love the apostle Paul and I love 1 Thessalonians 2. It is always a challenging read for me as a pastor. How else do you think we can learn from Paul’s example?

    Please follow and like us:
  • How good things become sinful things

    “To make sin even more difficult to see, it often rides on the back of many good things. For example, work is a good thing , but sin can take it and exalt it to the point where it rules us. We become workaholics, we say we are doing it for the kids, but we are really doing it for ourselves. What about financial planning? Isn’t it wise to establish a nest egg for the future? This, too, is a good thing, but it can grow to ruling proportions and we forsake generosity. Most sins are ungodly exagerations of things that are good. As a result, we can supply proof texts to justify our behaviour long after it has become idolatrous.”

    Ed Welch When People are Big and God is Small pg. 101

    How have you seen good things become all encompassing things in your life?

    What things in your life might be an idol?


    Please follow and like us:
  • What is involved in an internship at Resolved?

    Resolved exists to impact the city of Sydney with the love of Jesus, for God’s glory. We want this impact to go beyond the lifetime of the current members of the congregation. If God should will it, we want Resolved to be impacting Sydney and the world with the love of Jesus, for God’s glory, for hundreds if not thousands of years to come. With that in mind, we are hoping to train the next generation of leaders of the church so that they may carry the gospel onwards and may train subsequent generations of leaders. One of the ways we are training the next generation of church leaders is to have them come to Resolved as interns. The internship program will go for two years and will be a time where we hope God will use us to grow you to be the leader of the church he wants you to be.

    What does the internship involve?

    Interns will meet as a group with Hans Kristensen (Lead Pastor of Resolved) once a week for three hours, and individually once a month. In these meetings there will be discussion of set readings as well as Bible reading, prayer, accountability and training. You will spend the rest of the time evangelising, growing leaders, reading, pastoring people, leading community groups and being involved in other ministries.

    1. Reading

    Leaders are people who continually grow. One of the main ways church leaders grow is through reading quality books in areas such as theology, human development, leadership, culture and anthropology. We give our interns books and a reading schedule which will have reading to be done each week. For each reading the intern will have to prepare a short 800-word reflection on the reading. This reflection is to be printed out and handed to Hans the day before the group intern meeting. We get interns to do this writing because writing helps clarify thoughts, and helps with all types of communication.

    Here are some of the books you will read if you intern at Resolved:

    • Collins, Jim. Good to Great
    • Collins, Jim. Great by Choice
    • Collins, Jim. How the Mighty Fall
    • Dever & Packer. In My Place Condemned He Stood
    • Dever, Mark. Nine Marks of a Healthy Church
    • Edwards, Jonathan. Religious Affections
    • Fee, Gordon. How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
    • Hill, Wesley. Washed and Waiting
    • Keller, Tim. The Reason for God
    • Lencioni, Patrick. Death By Meeting
    • Lencioni, Patrick. The Five Dysfunctions of a Team
    • Luther, Martin. The Bondage of the Will
    • Machen, Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism
    • Mahaney, C.J. Humility
    • Mathison, Keith. The Shape of Sola Scriptura
    • Maxwell, John C. The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership
    • Morris, Leon. The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross
    • Murray, Iain H. Evangelicalism Divided
    • Murray, Iain H. The Forgotten Spurgeon
    • Murray, John. Redemption: Accomplished and Applied
    • Noll, Mark. Turning Points: Decisive Moments in the History of Christianity
    • Piper, John. The Future of Justification
    • Spurgeon, C.H. Lectures to my Students
    • Strauch, Alexander. Biblical Eldership
    • Strauch, Alexander. Meetings that Work
    • Tripp, Paul. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands
    • Ware, Bruce. God’s Greater Glory
    • Welch, Ed. When People are Big and God is Small
    • Westerholm, Stephen. Perspectives Old and New on Paul
    • Wright, N.T. Jesus and the Victory of God
    • Wright, N.T. New Testament and the People of God
    • Wright, N.T. Resurrection of the Son of God
    • Wright, N.T. What St. Paul Really Said

    2. Personal Development

    1 Timothy 3 says that men and women who are leaders of the church are meant to have exemplary character, therefore interns will be accountable either to Hans as the Lead Pastor, or an Elder or a member of the women’s ministry team. This accountability will involve regular meetings with the accountability partner for sharing, prayer and accountability. It is our hope that through relationships and the preaching and studying of the word, you would become more Christ-like as a result of your time as an intern at Resolved.

    3. Leadership Development

    The Bible is very clear on the requirements of a leader but a lot of the time, Christian thinking on Christian leadership stops here. In the internship you will interact with some of the best biblical and secular leadership and you will also be invited to observe leadership meetings at Resolved. Additionally, you will be able to test your leadership mettle by starting up ministries and leading groups of people. In this way, we hope that you will become the best leader you can be, to the glory of God.

    4. Skill Development

    There are many different skills you have to master to be a good pastor/leader. Skilled pastors/leaders have skills in pastoral care, preaching, leading, and dealing with people. At the weekly internship meetings, Hans will take you through a skill that is pertinent to church work and you will have ample opportunities to practise and use these skills in many and varied ways at Resolved. We hope that when you finish your internship you will be a very skilled leader and an asset to any church you are a part of.

    5. Evangelism

    Matthew 28 is clear – the church’s mission is to make disciples of Jesus. At Resolved, we don’t want to grow through people coming from other churches; we want to grow through people coming to know Jesus. With that in mind, we get all our members to choose five non-Christian friends that they are praying for, that they are seeking to share the gospel with and that they are inviting to church. At every weekly interns meeting we will be reviewing how we are doing in this area. Our hope is that revival would break out in the world and we will hopefully be a part of that as we pray for people, share with people and invite people to know Jesus.

    6. Pastoral Work

    Leaders of the church must care for their sheep. With this in mind, you will be called to care for people in the church. You will also be trained in how to use the gospel to pastorally care for people. Pastoral work is very important and you will see and be a part of the strategy Resolved has for pastorally caring for people and seeing them grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus.

    7. Entrepreneurial Ability

    We will be asking the group of interns to start up a youth group from scratch. There are no high school students going to Resolved at the moment so the interns will have to find a group of teenagers, evangelise them, form a youth group and grow the youth group from nothing. This will take entrepreneurial ability. We will get the interns to do this because Resolved wants to be a church that plants many churches all around Australia and the world and we start by training up entrepreneurial church leaders. We also are seeking to plant a church in the Sutherland Shire in 2014 and so in 2013 there will be a lot of leg-work that the interns will be a part of. Some people are not entrepreneurs and some aren’t church planters; that is okay, but we want our interns to be tested in these areas so that they will know whether they have these gifts or not.

    Are you up for the challenge?

    Ministry is one of the most exciting, challenging, fun, heart-breaking things you can do. Are you the kind of person who wants to start to be trained to do ministry for the rest of your life? If so, I would love to chat with you further. Thanks for taking the time to think deeply about your future and possibly coming to be an intern at Resolved.

    Hans Kristensen




    Please follow and like us:
  • Adultery, Homosexuality and the quest for grace and truth

    If you haven’t heard the latest blow up in the blogosphere here it is. Andy Stanley, a megachurch pastor from Atlanta in the States preached a message called “When Gracie Met Truthie” which was based on John 1:14. The point of the passage is that Christians and churches need to hold both to grace and truth. You can’t let go of one or the other, or you can’t lean to one or the other because Jesus embodied both grace and truth perfectly. Near the end of the sermon he has a killer line “The church is at its best when it embraces grace and truth and refuses to let go of either.” This is a line which all biblical Christians can embrace. Not only that, all Christians can embrace much of the sermon because Stanley spoke very powerfully of the grace and truth of the bible and Jesus’ ministry.

    The issue came with an illustration he used.  In the illustration he told of a couple with a daughter who divorced when the wife discovered that the husband was in a homosexual relationship. The woman then told her former husband and his gay partner to move to another church. They did move. Not to another church but to another North Point location where they volunteered on a welcoming team. The woman later told Andy Stanley that her former husband and his partner were now involved as volunteers in the other congregational location. She then told Stanley that her ex-husband’s gay partner was still married. Stanley then explained that the partner was actually committing adultery, and that the adultery was incompatible with him being on a welcoming team. Stanley told the two men that they could not serve on the welcoming team because one man was still married. The story ended with the former wife’s decision not to live in bitterness but to bring the whole new family (Her daughter, ex husband, his lover, her new boyfriend and her new boyfriend’s daughter) to a Christmas service.

    This is a confusing message, is adultery sin but homosexuality not? I am sure that Stanley would not say that homosexuality is fine. But to use this story and not be clear on all sin is a very confusing message. Would a person who is gay walk away being affirmed in their sexuality but a person who is caught in adultery not?

    The church needs to be welcoming to all people caught in all types of sin and folly but we don’t do it by soft-pedalling sin or telling stories that may show God’s love, but that don’t speak clearly into people’s lives. We need to hold onto both truth and grace. As Stanley himself said:

    “The church is at its best when it embraces grace and truth and refuses to let go of either.”

    Please follow and like us: