Moved Mountains

Banner - Mt Trio, Stirling Range National Park, Western Australia - (c) 2007

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Rapid Evangelism

You have 3 months to build a relationship with a "not-yet-Christian". In that time you must live, breath and exude the gospel in a secular setting (proximity space????), and by the end of that time the person will hopefully be closer to Christ (if not completely in the kingdom) than they were at the start. How would you go about it?

This is what I face everyday in my mission-field, and it is a huge struggle for me. While there is plenty of opportunity for relationship building and development I am not sure how to concentrate what otherwise can take years into a 3 month period (according to Hirch and Frost in the book I mentioned in my last post on average it takes a person 4 years to go from no interest or ambivilance to the gospel to becoming a believer).

There are always times when our window of opportunity is going to be narrow. A stranger on a bus or in a resturant (my wife had a wierd encounter in Maccas yesterday - I might talk about it later), a person with a terminal illness. How do we present the gospel to them incarnationally when our time frame is so incredibly short?

An old mate of mine, Dominic Steele from Christians in the Media, uses the "two ways to live" approach in his Introducing God postmodern evangelism course. He sees this as the basis for all gospel communication - and I agree. But I wonder how effective this kind of formulaic approach really is for rapid evangelism - for the kind of evangelism that can only take place in a moment or within the confines of a one off conversation with a person we may never meaningfully engage with again?

More questions! Sorry.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Emerging Jargon

I am currently reading an interesting book called "The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church" by Michael Frost and Alan Hirch.

I have just finished chapter 3 which deals with the incarnational approach to ministry over the traditional attractional approach. This is really good stuff - it is pretty much they way we have been approaching ministry in the Kick Start program (a youth drug and alcohol program I run for Mission Australia). The challenge is now going to be introducing it to the more traditional "church" setting in my local community. But one step at a time.

I titled this post "Emerging Jargon" for a purpose - the authors of this book are using some new terminology that I think, in one sense is infuriating (because jargon words bug me) but also helpful in a descriptive way.

So todays emerging jargon phrase is "proximity spaces". A proximity space is basically any place where Christian's are able to interact with yet-to-become Christian's (those we would have traditionally called "lost" or "unsaved") in a culturally relevant way. It involves entering into their communities and interacting with them on their terms in their environment. This is cross cultural ministry without getting on a plane! Exciting stuff.

Questions for discussion
How are you using "proximity spaces" effectively?

Can we mix something of the attractional and the incarnational in creating new proximity spaces? (My answer at this point would be "yes").

Can you come up with a better (less anal) phrase to describe this idea? :)

Saturday, October 28, 2006

The Hypocrisy of Intolerent 'Tolerence'

Imagine that you are a 13-year-old student in a state high school and your class is given an assignment that conflicts with your religious beliefs. What if you were told that by not completing the assignment you would fail the class? Would you be willing to take a stand for truth? Would the state education system protect your rights against religious discrimination?


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why I Hate Prosperity Doctrine - 1

1) Because it guts the Gospel.

Jesus said, where your treasure is that is where your heart will be. Prosperity doctrine makes a treasure of material gain, while forsaking the spiritual treasures of faith, hope and love. - That is faith in the power of Jesus Christ to save, hope in His return and the Kingdom come, and the agape love of God which forms the basis of His work in us and the reason He sent his Son in the first place (John 3:16).

2) Because it becomes a measure of spiritual performance.

I recently read an article that was utter crap on the Kenneth Copeland website. Unfortunately I can't find it now to link back to, but essentially it took biblical hope (hope that rests in Christ and His sufficiency) and turned it into a spiritual automatic teller machine - my paraphrase; "when you hope for something with the fullness of faith here in this world, your faith reaches up to heaven and takes hold of the thing you are hoping for there and makes it manifest here in this world".

The problem is if your "faith" and "hope" aren't manifesting stuff (in Kenneth Copelands case - jet airplanes - this a real beauty) in this world then you just aint spiritual enough brother! You are "tying God's hands" and "preventing Him from blessing you in the way He wants to bless you".

I find this particularly disturbing when I consider the predominance of this kind of extreme Pentecostal, American teaching in developing countries such as Rwanda (where I do a bit of work as an operative) It is aborhent to think of Christians in places like this, stuck in the extremes of poverty thinking they are simply not doing "it" right because gold dust isn't manifesting on their shoulders or dollar bills appearing under their tables.

Part 2 coming soon.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Some Appreciation .... I think?

At least not everyone has consigned us to the "conservative, fundamentalist" bucket (whatever that actually means)! A little appreciation goes a long way. :)

[Read it!]

Monday, October 23, 2006

Growing Christ Centred Youth - 3

Well we have settled on a general answer for Question 1. So now it's time to take a crack at question 2. I haven't had any suggestions yet so please feel free to dive in and get some discussion happening/suggestions flowing. These are important issues!

2) How do we get youth that are churched or do profess a commitment to Christ to look beyond their own (perception of their own)needs?
In the original post I mentioned something I was sensing within EC theology - particularly in publications such as The Exodus Papers. It is consumerism - and I am generalising here and happy to be corrected - In reading the Exodus Papers I saw an attitude that I see every day in many of the young people (and even into the 30-something age group) I work with.

Let me sum it up this way - "if it isn't doing it for me then I will just take my bat and ball and go somewhere else that will". I.e. they will ditch their current church/organisation/job/family etc. to look for a church/organisation/job/family etc. that will give them what they want rather than sticking around and at least trying to make a difference.

In thinking a little harder about this I guess this may not be an EC problem so much as it is a cultural problem - Western culture is a consumer driven culture, but maybe the EC is encouraging it or helping justify it in some ways?

Anyway - start posting answers so we can keep growing the "Growing Christ Centred Youth" list!

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Personality Profiling and the Church

My denomination seems to have gone mad in the area of personality profiling. Most young ministers I know are running around 'casting' DISC and Myers-Briggs profiles like horoscopes. In fact, I think some may even be suffering from profile-addiction!

I have always been skeptical of the benefit of these tests. They seem to be overtly subjective, and prone to giving the kind of results a profilee of average intelligence and above would want them to give. I have had church leaders rattle off their "gifts" after completing a profile, as though they had just been the recipient of a theophany.

"I am a leader," quipped a collegue recently, "with a minor gift of prophecy".

"How do you know?" I replied.

"My 'spiritual gifts' profile told me so" said he.

Recently, wanting to put the process to the test, I undertook a DISC profile for myself. I was determined to answer the questions honestly and not just in a way that would give the result that I wanted ("Gifted and Humble Leader, Destined for Greatness"). After I had completed it I sent it off to be 'interpreted'.

When, a few days later, I received the report I was shocked. The detailed response actually quite accurately reflected my strengths and, to my disapointment, my weaknesses. Unfortunately the section titled " Gifted and Humble Leader, Destined for Greatness" seemed to be missing from my report.

While I am still insistent that personality profiles are not the be-all-and-end-all when it comes to ministry, I am willing to concede that perhaps there is a (small) benefit to be had in using them to help us understand ourselves and improve in those areas of our lives that are wanting.

What do you think?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Colbert Debates The Existence of God

This was pretty funny! So who is this Colbert guy?

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Growing Christ Centred Youth - Part 2

Some ponderances on some of the questions I raised in my earlier post on "Growing Christ Centred Youth". I really would love to hear more comments/suggestions on these questions - I will post some of the responses in the future.

I am also looking for info on using "active learning" in a ministry setting - for both youth and adults.

Question 1: How do we grow/disciple youth in a way that is biblically grounded and "deep" in a culture that seems to think it needs entertainment?

Viktor posted this comment:

Tough questions you have raised. While the issues you have highlighted may have to do more with a developed country, I find similar challenges in emerging youth ministry. I have been a producer for youth programmes and I agree it is not easy to "deepen" the faith of youths. But one thing I have tried to do is to invest my time, resources and prayers into a few that I know God has led me to. Work with those few and pray that God uses them to impact others. It can be frustrating yes but who said God's Word goes back to Him without achieving anything?

I think Viktor is right - and that seems to be what is happening in my experience. I have a core of only 2 or 3 young guys who seem to be genuinely committed - of course they have their struggles, but overall they are growing and they keep coming back. But ... my heart goes out to those others, the ones on the fringe, the ones living on the edge. I feel like I need new ideas for challenging them (not pandering to them or entertaining them - I have plenty of options in that area) and inspiring them and leading them.

So I guess a partial answer to Q 1 is:
"work with the ones that are making the moves in the right direction and encourage them to become "salt and light". A committed few is better than a non-committed, entertained multitude."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

How Faith Reconfigures in Young Adulthood

Barna Group has just released some research that confirms what most of us already know - many people make faith commitments (and also church involvements) in their teens, that then dissolve in young adulthood (news of this report came various soruces, including planet telex).

Interestingly, 61% of young adults in the US, according to the survey, had been churched in their teens. That is quite an impressive figure and says a lot of the ability of churches to attract youth to their programmes. However, come mid-twenties, many are disengaging from church at least, if not from the faith as a whole.


Monday, October 16, 2006

Native Missionaries - A New Way of Looking at Mission

One problem with much of 20th century thinking on mission is that it revolves around things missionaries do in countries other than their own. For just about as long as I can remember I have been challenged by this rather narrow view of mission. Particularly the way in which traditionally conservative churches will support new "church" endeavours in other countries while refusing to participate in or labeling as heretical similar endeavours in their own.

It seems some things are fine for the "mission field" but certainly not for home.

Perhaps the biggest influence on my current thinking on world mission (i.e. mission beyond the backyard) comes from a guy called P.K. Yohannan. I don't know much more about this bloke than what I've read on his bio on the Gospel for Asia website but I do believe that his take on the role of what he calls "native missionaries" is revolutionary.

I first read his book Revolution in World Missions (you can order a free copy of this book here) while leading a small mission team in the central African country of Rwanda. I was right in the middle of the process of setting up a working administration structure with our Rwandan ministry and found that P.K.'s model fit nicely with the direction I was already starting to head. This lead me, over time, to further restructure my own thinking on the way our Australia/Rwanda relationship was to work. Basically it ended up with the flipping of our ministry structure upside down, allowing our Rwandan team to call the shots on how ministry finances should be handled and what projects were a priority. Meanwhile in Australia we stopped viewing Rwanda as an arm of "our" ministry and started seeing ourselves as an arm of theirs - in other words, I started working for them instead of the other way around.

This lead me to further develop my thoughts on the native missionary movement. If this model worked in India and Rwanda and elsewhere, surely it could also work here in Australia (and pretty much anywhere else in the world). At last it seemed many of the pieces of the jigsaw puzzle were falling into place.

In a nutshell - the local church, here in Oz or in GB or the US, is no less capable of turning out native missionaries (that is local "operatives") than churches in third world or developing nations.

So this has become one of the main foci of my ministry - encouraging our own "native missionaries"/"local operatives" to get involved in taking the gospel to the far flung corners of their own communities (yep over the back fence and down the street), while continuing to support financially and prayerfully the work of similarly minded followers of Jesus Christ in other parts of the world.

And, while we are on that topic - I am off to Rwanda again in June with another small team of West Aussies - finances are required for a number of ongoing projects so if anyone feels so led, please feel free to drop me a line! :)

Thursday, October 12, 2006

More Mountain Climbing

I am off for three days down south tomorrow - taking 3 guys from our youth church climbing in the Stirling Range. We are going to take on Mt Trio tomorrow afternoon and then Bluff Knoll and beyond on a day hike on Saturday.

Catch you when we get back!

East face of Bluff knoll (foreground) with Mt Trio in the distance - taken on our last overnighter on "East Bluff" a secondary plateau to the East of the Bluff Knoll plateau.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Missionaries or Operatives?

I think the term Christian Missionary is getting a little old fashioned and outdated. I know I often think of old ladies, crochet circles and cake stalls when I think of mission. So, I have come up with a better word, OPERATIVE. It is the word for 21st century mission. says operative the noun means "secret agent" or "spy" which I think is kind of cool - like Alias but for God! As an adjective it means "operating, or exerting force, power, or influence" and "having force; being in effect or operation" which is a pretty good description of what mission is really all about.

So as a noun it could add a new level of interest to mission in general and as an adjective pretty well describes what missionaries ... I mean operatives ... do.


Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Growing Christ Centred Youth

This is a topic I find incredibly challenging. A big part of what I do involves youth. I work for an organisation called Mission Australia for part of the week where I run a youth drug and alcohol program and the other part of the week for my church where part of what I do involves youth ministry.

Unfortunately I don't have many, if any, answers to any questions in this area, but I do have a lot of questions.

1) How do we grow/disciple youth in a way that is biblically grounded and "deep" in a culture that seems to think it needs entertainment?

2) How do we get youth that are churched or do profess a committment to Christ to look beyond their own needs (this is one area in which I think the EC is failing - it seems to be very "consumer driven" - more on this later).

3) How do we effectively reach unchurched kids in a way that is going to lead them into relationship with Jesus Christ? I certainly don't find it hard to get involved in non-Christian kids lives - I do it everyday and have great relationships with many of them - but I have no idea how to get them to think seriously about eternity.

4) Is it too much to expect this (see question 3)in the teenage years?

5) Why is most youth ministry in my area geared to music, entertainment and crappy, shallow, fluffy "teaching" and why does everyone think this is the "ducks guts" (Aussie slang for "good stuff")?

And finally;

6) What does it mean when we say "the problem with youth ministry isn't that we expect too much of our youth, but that we expect too little"? I hear it, I like it, but what does this look like?

Monday, October 09, 2006

John Piper is Bad

Apologies to John Piper - He's actually one of the few American teachers that I regularly listen to on podcast and I am a big fan - But I found this on and thought it was a hoot! Enjoy!

Climbing Mountains

Isn't she great! This is a pic of my 4 year old daughter, Ashleigh, taken at the Binningup Spring Festival on the weekend. Here she is fearlessly making her way to the top of the rock-climbing wall. Unfortunately my camera battery ran out before she made it to the top so I couldn't get a pic of her ringing the bell - but she did make it! So did her 9 and 7 year old brothers, all making their dad very proud!!!

The Emerging Church


I have recently become facinated by something known as the emerging church. It facinates me because much of what I am learning about this new move within Christianity aligns with the work I felt God calling me to over the past couple of years.

I am challenged - I am a little apprehensive - I am definitely excited and want to learn, learn, learn about new ways of reaching out into my community and growing the Kingdom of God.

I am concerned, by a level of hypocracy that I sense in some quarters of the EC, and by what I perceive to be a move away from biblical orthodoxy within the EC.

I am amused by the obvious cultural rebellion I see in some parts of the EC - particularly in the US (where I am not) and interested in the ways the new/next generation of Christians in Australia (where I am) will rebel against Australian cultural Christianity (if such a thing exists!).

I look forward to exploring these and many other topics with all who happen by this blog.