• Book reviews for January

    How the Mighty Fall and Why some Companies Never Give In by Jim Collins

    If you have never read anything by Jim Collins do yourself a favour and read a book of his. They are well worth your time.  How the Mighty Fall and Why some Companies Never Give In is a book where Collins and his team track why some companies who once were great fall out of greatness and into obscurity. He says there are 5 stages to this decline:

    1. Hubris Born of Success
    2. Undisciplined pursuit of more
    3. Denial of Risk and Peril
    4. Grasping for salvation
    5. Capitulation to Irrelevance or death

    This is a great book to read for church workers or any other type of leader because it shows the fundamental in all declining organisations is arrogance and it also gives us little snapshots of how you get a company back on track. These lessons can be taken and used in the world of church or business with very little modification.  Buy this book and read it!

    Xealots: Defying the gravity of normality By Dave Gibbons

    Xealtos are people who live by contrarian principles. Xealots are people who swim against the tide (pg. 10). In this book Dave Gibbons is calling Christians to be Xealots, to be people who shape culture who see their hurts and brokenness as gifts. Who seek to find Jesus’ way of being successful. Who live a naturally supernatural life.

    This is a book which has a lot of touching and moving stories. When Gibbons goes into autobiographical mode you get a sense of the pain he has lived with and the change Christ has wrought in his life.  Gibbons puts things in fresh and challenging ways which challenges you to think hard about your life in fresh ways.  Chapter three on success is a welcome challenge to cast success in terms of what God deems to be successful.

    But there are many flaws in this book. The biggest flaw is the lack of the gospel. Now, I am sure Gibbons believes the gospel but it is nowhere to be found in this book. His chapter on pain (chapter 4) is screaming out for a gospel resolution but instead we are told that we should let pain shape our lives. Now pain does shape our lives in profound ways but we should be more shaped by the gospel and its dealing with our pain then pain itself . The gospel is about the one who has taken pain for us and has won us a hope that one day we will be in a place where there is no more pain. That is the story about pain that should shape us. Gibbons’ chapter on the Holy Spirit (chapter 7) is woeful at best and his use of the scriptures a lot of the time leaves a lot to be desired.

    In conclusion this is a book which is promising because we are all called to live radical lives for Jesus. But this book fails to deliver on giving us this great vision of the Christian life because it is not based on gospel as revealed in the bible.

    Ignite: How to spark immediate growth in your church by Nelson Searcy

    Nelson Searcy is a very gifted leader and strategist. He is always flooding my inbox, letting me know of his next coaching session or his next book or blog. This can get a little bit annoying. The other annoying thing that comes out is his sheer pragmatism. He is extremely pragmatic and there is very little deep theological thought put into anything he writes. But if you keep those things in mind and are able to read through those things his stuff is a goldmine of practical wisdom on how different aspects of your church can run. Ignite is about how to get your church evangelising their friends and bringing people who don’t know Jesus into your church. Searcy talks about planning big days where everyone invites at least one person along with, marketing , preaching and planning. There is a lot to take away from this book and fair bit to leave behind. But if you are able to carefully sift through this book and you have the discipline to implement the gold from this book you will find this book very rewarding!

    Engage: A Guide to Creating Life Transforming Worship Services by Nelson Searcy

    Yes another book by Nelson Searcy but I am learning a lot from him! The same criticisms that were levelled at Ignite apply here so I will not rehash them. Engage is a book which talks about how to put together your services in a way which is creative and planned. I was very challenged by this book to think about where we have what preaching series, how far out we plan our services and preaching schedules, practicing sermons before the day and evaluating the services. I will be implementing a lot of what I learnt here in the coming months at Resolved. This a great book for pastors of church and or congregations to read along with their worship pastors or music leaders. It will make you think of how to be more organised and as a result there will be a lot less stress and lot more room for creativity.

    I want to read 50 books this year. So far I have read 4 and I have got 46 to go!


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  • What is Resolved preaching on in 2012?

    Resolved has got a great year of preaching planned this year and I thought I would let you in on what we are doing.

    We are kicking off a series called Be Different this Sunday. Be Different is a series on 1 Peter where we are calling people to be different from the world. We hope to see great changes in people’s lives as they are reminded of God’s call on their lives.

    After Be Different we are doing a series on Scripture. We are looking at the Bible’s trustworthiness, authority, relevance and story. We are hoping that we will see an explosion in personal Bible reading during this series as our people see what a great privilege it is to have God’s word in front of them.

    After Easter we are kicking a series off called Crazy Love (original, I know!). Crazy Love will be a 4-week study on the book of Hosea. We will be pushing this as a series that people should bring their friends to, as we look at God’s crazy love for all people.

    After Crazy Love we are having a series that has the working title ‘The Doctrine of God’ (we will come up with something better than that for the real title!). In this series we will be exploring aspects of God and his character. Topics like God’s sovereignty, love and holiness, to name just a few, will be covered.

    After the Doctrine of God series we are doing a quick two-sermon series on Social Justice. In this, we want to make sure that our people’s view of caring for the poor is grounded in the gospel.

    August through September sees us going through Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount. We are hoping to make this a series that people can bring their friends to, to meet Jesus the master teacher and find out that he is so much more than that.

    Then we are doing two-sermon series on Joy. This will be a series where we are hoping to see how the gospel brings us joy and living life God’s way is not to be done grudgingly but should be done knowing that in this life we can find great joy.

    November sees us kick off a series in Jonah. What a great book Jonah is!!! We will be looking at Jonah and seeing how great God’s salvation is and how we are to be unlike Jonah who had no tears for the lost.

    Leading up to Christmas we are doing a short series called Never Beyond Hope. In this series we are looking at three people from the gospel of John with whom Jesus interacted (the woman at the well, Thomas and Peter) and we will see that Jesus gave them hope and therefore, no matter what we are like, we are never beyond hope.

    What is your church preaching on in 2012?


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  • Why are Christians different?

    I read a Piece by Miroslav Volf titled Soft Difference: Theological Reflections on the Relation Between Church and Culture in 1 Peter today. If you haven’t read it do yourself a favour and read it. Here are some great quotes on why Christians are different:

    “The root of Christian self-understanding as aliens and sojourners lies not so much in the story of Abraham and Sarah and the nation of Israel as it does in the destiny of Jesus Christ, his mission and his rejection which ultimately brought him to the cross. “He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him” (John 1:11). He was a stranger to the world because the world into which he came was estranged from God. And so it is with his followers. “When a person becomes a believer, then he (or she) moves from the far country to the vicinity of God…. There now arises a relation of reciprocal foreignness and estrangement between Christians and the world.” Christians are born of the Spirit (John 3:8) and are therefore not “from the world” but, like Jesus Christ, “from God” (John 15:19).”

    “It would be a mistake, however, to describe this new distance as simply religious. In that case, the terms “aliens” and “sojourners” would have been used purely metaphorically and would indicate “no actual social condition of the addressees.”  Such a view would presume that religion is essentially a strictly private affair, touching only the deep region of a person’s heart. Surely this is a mistaken view. That religion takes place simply between a naked soul and its divinity is a prejudice, one which is nourished today by the fact that in modern societies religion has been pushed outside of the public arena. Yet even in the so-called private sphere — such as the personal life, family or friendships — religion continues to be a social force. [15] Religion is essentially a way of thinking and of living within a larger social context. Religious distance from the world is therefore always social distance. At least this holds true for Christian faith.

    How does this Christian distance from society that is religious and social come about? 1 Peter answers: through the new birth into the living hope. “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into the living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (1:3). The new birth, whose subject is the merciful and electing God (1:2), creates a two-fold distance. First, it is a new birth. It distances one from the old way of life, inherited from one’s ancestors (1:18) and transmitted by the culture at large — a way of life characterized by the lack of knowledge of God and by misguided desires (1:14). Second, it is a birth into a living hope. It distances one from the transitoriness of the present world, in which all human efforts ultimately end in death. In more abstract theological terms, the new birth into the living hope frees people from the meaninglessness of sin and hopelessness of death.

    This process of distancing by rebirth takes place through redemption by the blood of the Lamb (1:19) and through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (1:3). People who are born into the living hope take part in the eschatological process which started with the coming of Jesus Christ into this world, with his ministry of word and deed and with his death and his resurrection. Christian difference from the social environment is therefore an eschatological one. In the midst of the world in which they live, they are given a new home that comes from God’s future. The new birth commences a journey to this home.”

    “Christians are the insiders who have diverted from their culture by being born again. They are by definition those who are not what they used to be, those who do not live like they used to live. Christian difference is therefore not an insertion of something new into the old from outside, but a bursting out of the new precisely within the proper space of the old.”

    “When identity is forged primarily through the negative process of the rejection of the beliefs and practices of others, violence seems unavoidable, especially in situations of conflict. We have to push others away from ourselves and keep them at a distance, and we have to close ourselves off from others to keep ourselves pure of their taint. The violence of pushing and keeping away can express itself in subdued resentment, or it can break out in aggressive and destructive behavior. The Petrine community was discriminated against and were even a persecuted minority. Feelings of rage and thoughts of revenge must have been lurking as a threat, ready to rise up either in aggression toward their enemies or at least in relishing the thought of their future damnation. But what do we find in 1 Peter? Exhortation is given not to repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse, but to repay evil with a blessing (3:9)! From the perspective of pop psychology or quasi-revolutionary rhetoric, such a refusal to vent the rage and actuate the mechanism of revenge would be at best described as unhealthy and at worst thought of as worthy only of “despicable rubble.” In fact, it speaks of sovereign serenity and sets a profound revolution in motion. When blessing replaces rage and revenge, the one who suffers violence refuses to retaliate in kind and chooses instead to encounter violence with an embrace. But how can people give up violence in the midst of a life-threatening conflict if their identity is wrapped up in rejecting the beliefs and practices of their enemies? Only those who refuse to be defined by their enemies can bless them.”

    “To be a Christian means to live one’s own identity in the face of others in such a way that one joins inseparably the belief in the truth of one’s own convictions with a respect for the convictions of others.”


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  • 12 things I want to achieve in 2012

    1. I want to grow closer to Jesus. By reading my bible and praying every day.
    2. I want to grow closer to my wife by finding two ways each week to romance her and being more intentional about our relationship
    3. I want to build stronger and more loving relationships with my friends and family.
    4. I am praying to see 10 people I love come to know, love and serve Jesus
    5. I am determined to see a Jesus centered culture of love, encouragement, execution, evangelism and discipleship to be instilled at Resolved
    6. I am dedicated to read at least 50 books
    7. I am planning to spend 5 hours a week practicing guitar
    8. I am planning to spend 5 hours a week working out
    9. I am going to finish the two books I have started writing
    10. I plan to be on time for everything
    11. I am determined to always do what I say I will do
    12. I am endeavouring to enjoy every moment and make every moment count

    What do you want to achieve in 2012?


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  • The best books I have read in 2011

    I try to read a lot. This is hard work for me as I am not naturally a geek. The biggest frustration for me is reading a book which is junk so I am constantly getting suggestions of good books to read. With that in mind here are the best books I have read in 2011. Note that some of them were published before 2011 and these are in no particular order.

    Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins. This is a book every leader should read. In it Collins takes a look at what things great companies do by choice. The results are very surprising and sometimes counter intuitive. There is much to be learnt from this book!

    Humilitas: A Lost Key to Life, Love, and Leadership by John Dickson. Another book all leaders should read. It is different from C.J. Mahaney’s book on humility because Dickson writes about humility from a historical point where as Mahaney writes how humility springs out of the gospel. But, this is not some dry historical survey of an idea for there is much food for thought about the importance of humility for leadership and life.

    The Hardest Sermons You’ll Ever Have to Preach: Help from Trusted Preachers for Tragic Times. Bryan Chappel  ed. This is a collection of sermons written on difficult topics like abortion, suicide, child abuse, Sept. 11, etc. Some of the contributors include John Piper and Tim Keller. This is an amazing resource for anyone who preaches. Buy it for your pastor for Christmas!

    Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality by Wesley Hill Wesley Hill is a gay man who is also a Christian and because he is a Christian he is not sexually active. This book goes though some of his life which is told beautifully. What is really great about this book is the theology in it. He gives people great hope as he explores this theology and how it relates to sexuality and singleness. I wish every Christian could read this book. Yes it is that good!

    Sticky Teams: Keeping Your Leadership Team and Staff on the Same Page by Larry Osborne. Sticky teams deals with leadership in the church. But this is no theological treatise on leadership in the church, it is a book which outlines how to get leadership, staff and congregational alignment. It is full of humour and great practical advice. Both the elder board and women’s ministry team at Resolved are reading this book together in the new year.

    Justification and Variegated Nomism: The Paradoxes of Paul Carson et al eds I preached through Galatians earlier this year so I dipped into a fair bit of Pauline theology. This book is not a light read as a lot of the arguments go into the Greek text of the New Testament. It argues for the traditional view of Justification by faith alone in a way which shows that this is not a Lutheran idea but it springs from the text of the bible. It also points out where New Perspective authors are helpful and where they are not. If you have been to Bible College and you are going to preach through Romans or Galatians by this book and read it!

    Perspectives Old and New on Paul: The “Lutheran” Paul and His Critics by Stephen Westerholm. Here is another book which deals with the related problems of Paul, the law and justification.  In this book Westerholm outlines the major strands of thought regarding these issues and then in the second half of the book seeks to define what Paul meant by Law, righteousness, grace  etc. A very clear a brilliantly written book. If you want a primer about where scholars land on these issues or you are confused about issues related to Paul and the law buy this book and read it!

    He Is Not Silent: Preaching in a Postmodern World by  Al Mohler. This a great book about preaching. It is not a primer on how to preach rather it outlines theologically what we are trying to do as preachers. The chapter entitled “the Preacher as theologian” is worth the price of admission alone.

    Divorce and Remarriage in the Bible: The Social and Literary Context by David Instone Brewer. Having not done hard work on the related topics of divorce and remarriage I picked up a few books on the issue. This book stood far above the pack. Its aim is to exegete every passage of the bible which pertains to the topic. It is an extremely rewarding book to read on these very important topics.

    Real Sex: The Naked Truth about Chastity by Lauren Winner this is probably my favourite book on sex. It is real, biblical and very practical. It is a book which is written by a woman who became a Christian in her early twenties and then got married later. In the book she outlines how she  thinks theologically and practically about a raft of issues related to sex and relationships. A great book to buy and read if you are preaching on Sex and relationships any time soon or if you want a great book on sex.

    What were your favourite reads of 2011?


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  • What makes a great leader, a great church or a great organisation?

    I have been reading Jim Collins’ latest book called Great by Choice. In it, he looks at a group of companies that have made returns ten to fifteen percent greater than their competition at least ten times over a fifteen year period.

    Now one of the things we must ask when reading a book tailored for the business world is “How much of this is transferable?” How much of this can I take to my church, youth group, band or sporting team? How much of this should be just left in the business arena? These are very important questions to ask and you will have to read the book to find out how much of it is transferable to your context. But here is one thing that is universally applicable.

    Collins noticed two things about the leaders who ran these companies:

    They were:

    1. More ambitious for the company than themselves.
    2. They practiced maniacal discipline.

    More ambitious for the company than themselves:

    It is very easy to want to build your name rather than the team, company, church or band you are working with. I think we see this all the time because it is hard to be ambitious about anything but ourselves, but if we want our organisation or team or church to be successful we need to put our ambitions in the back seat which allows the goals of the organisation to remain number one.

    They practiced maniacal discipline:

    Everyone knows the things they need to do to be great. If you are a musician you practice, are prepared and rock up on time with great gear and a great attitude. If you are a part of a sports team you work hard in practice, are an awesome friend and teammate and work your butt off on the court. But how much of us practice the things we do with maniacal discipline? What are the 5 things that if you did everyday would make the most difference to your organisation/ church/ band/ career? If you did those things every day with maniacal discipline what would change?


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  • What I Wish I Did When I Planted Resolved Part 5: Worked on my Preaching and Prayer Life More

    “That was a lazy way to make that point!”

    This was one thing an older brother in Christ told me over and over as he critiqued my sermon. But his next comment hit harder.

    “Hans, you have potential but if you just rely on your gifts and don’t work hard that potential will be wasted!”

    Cutting words but true words. They were spoken to me a few years before I planted Resolved. But what I found when I started Resolved is that I didn’t work on my preaching and prayer like I should have. I was happy to arrogantly rely and rest on my gifts instead of putting the hard work in. This meant that my sermons weren’t as good as they should have been and that I haven’t improved as a preacher as much as I should have. It also meant that my prayer life sucked and I now am working hard to get it back on track.

    As a pastor my primary job is to be a man of the word and prayer and so I need to give adequate time to these pursuits.  A great sermon doesn’t just happen, it comes about through work and sweat and prayer and reading and thinking and practicing and….well you get my drift.

    It is easy when you plant a church to neglect the things that don’t seem urgent like preaching and prayer. But these things are vital if we want churches to grow and flourish.

    How are you organising your days and weeks so that you can adequately prepare your sermons and you can spend good time in prayer for yourself, your family, your church and your city?

    Let’s not be lazy in these things. Let’s be disciplined!


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  • Things I wish I did when I planted Resolved: Worried about church government later

    I believe that Elder government is the biblical model of church government. But the question is do you need to kick off a church plant with it in place? Does a church plant need some kind of specific church governance structure?

    When I was at bible college I read a bunch of stuff on church governance and I was convinced that the bible dictated church government and so when I dreamt about my church I dreamed of a church with a strong elder board and a strong system of church leadership.  So this is what I started. The only problem with church government is that you need a clear plan of directing people and leading this structure because structure can turn toxic very quickly and they can stagnate the church. Looking back this is what happened. I didn’t know exactly how to lead these groups so I didn’t lead them well and so people got frustrated, things didn’t get done and the church stagnated.

    We are now at a place where we asking some big questions of what an elder board should do in a church our size. One of the most helpful books I have read on this is Sticky Teams by Larry Osborne.

    All this being said I do think that the elder and elder governed model is the biblical model of church government. But I wish I worried about church government later.

    If you are planting a church you do need to think hard about church government. Because church government is biblical but also because getting it wrong can stunt growth and can hurt people. But you also need to think about when to implement the structure. If you get this worng it can also stunt growth and hurt people.

    Don’t implement your church government until you know exactly how it will function and what that looks like for your church.


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  • What I wish I did when I started Resolved Part 3: Been fine with not keeping people happy

    We want our churches to be filled with happy people. Because happy people are nice, they give money, are involved in ministry and bring their friends to church etc. If we, as church leaders, live by this we will be running around making sure everyone is happy.

    This is not the game we are in and this is not the game we are to be playing.

    But it is exactly the game I was playing up until recently at Resolved.

    If someone was unhappy I worked hard at making sure they were happy. I would spend hours with them listening, talking, debating, praying etc. In order to make sure they were happy with me and Resolved. I didn’t want them to leave and I wanted no needed them to like me.

    Some people who were unhappy with me or Resolved were very open to working things out. They wanted reconciliation and wanted Resolved to flourish more than anything else. These people quickly became the members Resolved needed.

    But a lot of the time it didn’t go like this. It seemed like no matter what we did some people were unhappy with Resolved and my leadership. No matter how much we oiled the squeaky wheel it squeaked. Trying to get some people to be happy caused us to waste time, it threw us off our game, it caused emotional strain and stress to us and to them. It wasn’t loving for us to play this game with them because it helped them focus on all the bad things and I am sure made them more unhappy with Resolved instead of bringing resolution. Now I am not saying we don’t talk about the things that need improvement or that we don’t try to mend relationships we must do this. What we cant do is work hard at keeping some people happy when they probably will never be happy.

    But what I was really doing in trying to keep people happy was really selfish and arrogant.

    I wanted people to be happy with me.

    I wanted people to stay at Resolved so I looked good because I was the pastor of a growing church.

    I wasn’t thinking about them and their wellbeing and to top it all off my self-centredness was throwing the whole church off its game.

    I am convinced that we need to let some squeaky wheels keep squeaking. I am also convinced that sometimes relationships have become so toxic that sometimes the best thing we can do to pastor some people is ask them to go to another church. A church where they can get fully behind the leadership of the church, a church they will enjoy, a church that they can bring their friends to. When they find a church like that everyone wins.

    As a church leader our job is not to make people happy but make disciples.

    We are playing for an audience of one.


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  • What I wished I did when I planted Resolved part 2: Worked on our culture

    “Culture trumps strategy every time!”

    We were two and a bit years into our church, we had very talented people, we had big visions, catchy graphics and videos and yet people at Resolved were depressed, tired and burnt out and I was one of them.

    Here was the church I dreamed of planting and I was ready to close it down.

    What was the issue?

    Our culture sucked. Not the outside culture of the world but the culture we had created and let grow in our church sucked.

    Did we preach the bible? Yes

    Did we have talented people? Yes

    But we weren’t growing in anything but despondency and our culture was to blame.

    If you are starting a church please work on the culture of your church because no matter how good your people are or your strategy if your culture sucks your church will suck and it won’t grow.

    Here are the things that I want in our culture and a few things we are trying to do to get each one back on track.

    Evangelistically minded

    As a church we are called to make disciples and so this must be part of our DNA. Next year we are stepping up to the plate with a bunch of different events that people can bring their friends who don’t know Jesus to. We are also letting our people know what sermons in each series will be specifically evangelistic so that they can pray and bring their friends to those Sundays. In doing this we will be emphasizing that ever week is a great week to bring a mate to Resolved but on these specific weeks we will be inviting people to come to know Jesus through prayer or a short course.

    Growth in every area

    We want growth all over the map. We want people to come to know Jesus and we want people to grow in their love of Jesus and grow in their leadership abilities. We are starting small with some one to one discipling and we are doing a thing we call Dig which helps people wrestle with theology in a deep and intelligent way. We are also starting Catalyst which is a training program where we will be training future leaders of Resolved and the church at large.


    We want to foster loving relationships. I am not sure that there is a strategy that we can employ with this one. But to say that right now as I think about Resolved I know that we have people who deeply love each other and this brings me countless joy.

    Honesty and openness

    I think we have always been honest and open. We have tried to do this by talking about what we struggle with when we preach or lead. If I am not honest when I preach or lead why will anyone be honest with me?


    Our generation is more likely to tear down then encourage. We have seen this at Resolved also. We are seeking to point out whenever anyone does something (no matter how big or small) that is good and we will be telling them how encouraged we are to see them doing this thing. I have started this already and I am seeing this catch on which is exciting!

    Do what we say we will do

    We want a culture of execution at Resolved. This means I need to be more disciplined in following up deadlines and making sure things get done. This means I and other leaders to have to play a bit of bad cop from time to time. But this is worth it if we want a culture of execution.

    What culture are you seeking to build?


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