Local Church Leadership

I often ‘fantasize’ about going back…you know back to good old fashion church pastoring. A good mate, Hamo – the Backyard Missionary – he did it. Went back that is. He is heading back to Quinns Baptist Church in the next few weeks to be their main man 🙂

In my fantasy I ponder the kind of pastor I would be in a local church nowadays. So much has changed in side my head as well as in my day to day practice and lifestyle. I commit so much more time to staying around home than I did when I worked for a local church.

Someone once shared with me about a church they are involved with and how their pastor had been doing a series of messages compelling the church to ‘follow the vision’ and ‘get with the program folks’. On one particular week he shared all about leadership and how with him at the helm he expects everyone to follow. God has given him the towel, the mandate, the baton, the anointing, the apointment to lead this church so you should follow, if not bugger off. (my interpretation of the message I was told about!) The illustration was used about a bus. The senior pastor told the congregation that he is the driver and expects all on board to want to go the direction he is going. When the bus stops at the bus stop and you say “i want to go to Hillarys” the driver says ‘you will need to catch a taxi as this bus does not go there”. The pastor told the congregation (so I am told) that taxi wil COST you dearly. NEVER go it alone, this will cost, it is expensive.

Just to drive the point home, another one of the pastors in the church took to the stage mid-sermon to emphasise his blind obedience to the senior pastor and the blessing that comes from being on his bus no matter what, he was thanked by his boss and the congregation assured that no extra pay would be forth coming for this guy for his comments 🙂416FS34YYHL._SL500_AA240_

Now – all this obviously  was shared to me by someone who was present and I have used my own language, but it got me thinking about the book I once read called Renegotiating The Church Contract by Thwaites. In the book he argues that the above model of leadership is very Old Testament. Picture Moses climbing the mountain on the peoples behalf, meeting God on the peoples behalf, hearing from him on their behalf, sharing the message about God and his commandments. Never would they try to presume themselves worthy of seeing God or hearing from him themselves – ohhh no! They sent Moses to do that on their behalf. He was their man, their priest in a sense. They followed Mo and he showed them the way to go according to what God had told him. Get on the Moses bus!

In the New Testament we open to see Jesus model of ministry as he sits in the place of a servant and washes the disciples feet in order to equip them to eat and hear from God about his imminent death. We move further and see a tear form in the curtain that seperated God and man (Read Hebrews). A new way was being formed, a new path for people to gain equal access to God, no longer needing a priest to hear from God for us. We become a priesthood of all believers, then we see an outpouring of the Holy Spirit for all people to enable them to hear God, to call on him, to do his Kingdom work begun in Christ. The leaders of this movement seem to ‘antenna men’. People moving amongst the believers encouraging them hear God, tuning in their radar to be able to discern his good pleasing and perfect will for their lives, on an equal journey confessing sins together accepting that others may provide insite for their [the leaders] own walk with God. Not telling the people God’s will, but helping them hear God. In fact more like a mountain guide taking the church up the hill rather than going himself and returning and saying ‘follow me, this is where God wants us to go’. In fact It looks more like a fleet of taxis driving all over the city doing Kingdom acts, serving people, serving God, loving people, loving God than it does a bus driver calling people onto his bus and all heading off in his ‘God given direction’.

How would I do it different if I was to go back…hmmm I know I have pondered this before. I think I would get the sack inside of a year for not attending enough meetings, not caring about the money in the bank or the budget or the building or the garden or the cafe…ok, I would care about that, not preaching proper sermons, not being in the office, swearing, drinking too much, wearing shorts and thongs on stage…and a shirt 🙂 Not sure about it really. Not sure entirely that I would say no, but not sure I would say yes if the right looking ministry job came along.

I wore shorts and 2 odd socks to preach last week at Quinns, my pants were falling down as I left my belt behind and I forgot to shave…I think those guys overlooked most of that!


Great Thoughts

Matt (OEUp) sent me this link. These reflections are definitely thoughts I regularly ponder!

Taken from – here

Pioneer and/or Pastor

Just at the moment I’m struggling with energy, it’s not tiredness in the traditional sense, it’s more a sense of being de-energised… this morning feeling incredibly down I began to reflect on just why I’ve been feeling so down/depressed for the last week or so… it’s fair to say life isn’t easy, financially things are tricky for us as a family but I began to realise that there is a deeper personal/spiritual issue for me… I’m a Pioneer, a creative etc. I need new challenges, new projects to sink my teeth into, to get my creative juices flowing again.

In the business world it seems accepted that entrepreneurs are always entrepreneurs, they specialise in “blue sky thinking” and they then work with managers and administrators… the worst thing to do with a new product/initiative is to leave it in the hands of the inventor!  Yet in the Church it seems to be assumed that a pioneer will gradually morph into a manager/pastor… I’m beginning to doubt this model.  There is nothing wrong with managing, and we all need to manage to some extent, but as a Pioneer I’m finding it’s killing me!  When I worked in the Theatre a project would last 2/3 months then it would be time to move on to the next challenge, I could never be (and never was) a stage manager who would stay with the show for the foreseeable… I had to move on… I’m beginning to realise this is my nature, I’m energised by risk, by new problems to solve, by the creative dynamic… when left to manage something I stuff it up, not by making a mess of it but because I find myself gradually drained and I lose the energy needed and I get distracted or just thoroughly demotivated… and as hard as I try I can’t find energy from nowhere!    With the creative bit between my teeth I get told off for being a workaholic, without it I can turn into a couch potato!  I’m not sure what the answer is, but it worries me that the CofE has put a lot of work into developing the Pioneer Ministry stream (both Lay and Ordained) perhaps assuming that once they have started new things they will cease to be pioneers and become Pastors… I just wonder how sustainable it is to wind up all these Pioneers if we are going to sooner or later squeeze them into being something they are not?

Future Church?

So what might the church of God’s future look like? Perhaps a snap shot might start to get the imaginative juices flowing. I’m not offering a one-size fits all blue-print, but a few fringe thoughts to get the cogs turning, so here goes:

On Monday Morning, upstairs at the local Pub, a group of professional women and men meet to read the scriptures, relating them to the ethics of their workplace. They pray together and support one another. One of them is a priest, who nurtures and leads this group each week, before heading off to work in an office for the week… A group of single parents meets on Tuesday morning with some elderly widows, one of whom is a deacon, to offer mutual support, have their kids play together, and practise Christian meditation in the midst of a busy week…. Later that day, a group of people with special needs, and their carers and friends, gather in the church hall to sing songs and share fellowship, and to pray for one another as they face the joys and difficulties of life… On Wednesday afternoon, a group of restless young people meet to read the scriptures with some theologically trained middle-aged mentors. They plan ways to raise awareness of injustice and to be activists for good in their local communities… Sometimes the Bishop pops in to offer them encouragement – she has plenty of time, because she’s a self-funded retiree, who has a pastoral ministry to the flock, and is not weighed down by administrative concerns… A congregation of children and their parents meet on Thursday afternoon. They share a meal and Eucharist together, the kids play some games, and they all read the bible together, before breaking off into groups to explore more deeply, each at their own level. A married couple with children are both priests for this congregation, and an older married couple are deacons… On Friday night, a group of creative artists open a café in a warehouse just out of town, where people of all ages can come and explore spirituality through music and art and multimedia. They only share the Eucharist a few times a year, but everyone contributes something to the liturgy from their own creative impulses. Their priest is a 26 year old bare-footed sculptor with dreadlocks, but nobody seems to mind… On Saturday evening, a classic sung Eucharist takes place in the old church-building. People from all sorts of backgrounds show up, including some people who feel marginalised in society, and are looking for a safe place to meet with God… From time to time the local resource priest meets with the leaders and facilitators of each of the 26 congregations in his care to offer advice, accountability and encouragement. Part of his job is be on the lookout for opportunities to plant new congregations, and to encourage and raise up new lay leaders, deacons, priests and bishops. There is a vague rumour that, once upon a time, there were these things called parishes, each with its own building and resident, full-time, paid priest. For the life of them, these Christians can’t imagine how it would have worked.

Listening to the West Kimberley People

With his arm elbow deep in muddy water Eddie looks up and winks and mentions that if this mud crab gets a hold of his fingers we had better watch out as we will all know about it! We were out on the Mangrove flats that the people of Ngamagkoon belong to. Eddie is part of the Sampi family, made well known by the Eagles player Ashley Sampi, a Bardi from the mob at Ngamagkoon.

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The 5 of us  began our journey in Broome 4 days previous. We were on what we called a “listening journey”, as part of a programme I run called OnEARTH for Global Mission Partners. We were there to listen to country, to story, to legend, to the people of the Dampier Peninsula –

  • Jawi
  • Bardi
  • Nyulnyul
  • Jabirrjabirr
  • Nimanburru
  • Ngumbarl

Before the arrival of Europeans, the natural environment on the Dampier Peninsula provided plenty of bush tucker for the indigenous people.  Creeks, tidal areas and the ocean are full of fish, dugong, mud crab and oysters and the vine thickets provide fruits and berries to make a varied and nourishing local diet.

Dampier Peninsula people still have a strong affinity with the sea and bushland, as we discovered along our journey.

After driving from Broome we arrived in Looma (120km S/E of Derby) with a population of around 400. We stayed with Natasha and Jamie Short, a wonderful couple who pastor the People’s Church as well as look after the community youth centre. They are fantastic people. Jamie is a White fella from Perth and Natasha, an Aboriginal from the Halls Creek area. They have been serving at Looma for about 7 years now and have 2 great kids.

2009 07 28_1108After lunch and a swim down on the stunning Fitzroy River we drove up to Derby to visit the Whites. Paul and Laurel White pastor the Derby Baptist Church among other activities.  They have bought the Aboriginal Training Centre just out of town and have big plans for growth and extension. Whilst there we did some manual labor… we raked up truck loads of dry leaves (fire hazard) and were asked to remove the stumps of 2 recently cut down Boab trees- hmmm??!!

Laurel White looked after us while we were there. She is a great lady, she has a wonderful gift of hospitality and generosity! Paul, her husband and pastor at the church is a pilot and was away in Perth during our stay.  Outside the life and ministry of the predominantly white church Paul and Laurel have some amazing relationships and ministries in Aboriginal communities.

Kimberly Aid – This business has began as a result of RFDS having bigger planes and not being able to access smaller community airstrips around the Kimberley. Paul and Laurel have got a bunch of medical people and pilots to donate their time to assist in evac when RFDS can’t make it in.

Kingdom Aviation – Paul and Laurel run a 3 plane ministry that flies all over the Kimberley sharing their faith, serving the poor and running programs in schools, parent support group, and other training.

Dentistry – Laurel is a dentist nurse and in her work in Derby has made many an indigenous persons dentistry journey easier as a result of special favours and ‘working the system’ that does not always serve people from remote communities very well at all. Her willingness to make all sorts of tough things just ‘happen’ for people who otherwise couldn’t get there was wonderful! She tells a great story too!

After 2 nights in Derby we drove ‘the back way’ on some very out of the way tracks to get to Cape Leveque up on the top of the Dampier Peninsula. Upon check in at Kooljaman we drove over the hill toward our beach campsite, as we rounded the hill the most amazing view was taken in to gasps from all on board – this place was paradise! Kooljaman is jointly owned by Djarindjin and One Arm Point Aboriginal Communities and sits 220km north of Broome. We visited one of these communities on the road on the drive up the Peninsula –

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Some 200 km from Broome, there are two communities very close together with about 60 Aboriginal (Bardi) people in Lombadina (first settled in the late 1890’s by Thomas Puertiollano who sold the land to the Catholic Church) and over 200 in the more traditional Djarindjin. We called in to Djarindjin specifically to catch up with Barry Ennis, the Principal from the Lombidina/Djarindjin School. We had heard through Sabrina 2009 07 30_0986Haan/ABC radio National that the EON Foundation from Perth had been helping the school set up a organic community Kitchen Garden. Barry showed us around the garden but was also good enough to spend time sharing with us the history of the the area. This community is not without some of the usual issues we read about in the media in remote Aboriginal regions, but there was something about the place that we all loved. We sensed a slowness and peace about it, a friendliness that  drew us in.

P6060072 copyOn our first night at Cape Leveque (and every subsequent one!) we made our way down to the Western Beach and watched the sunset – undoubtably some of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen!

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On Friday we went to One Arm Point community (Ardiyooloon). This community is the home of the Bardi and Jawi people who were the traditional inhabitants of the area. These people are still active in hunting around the local area and in most cases still using traditional hunting methods as they hunt for sea turtle or goorlil (we saw the evidence of a fresh catch along the beach!), dugong (odorr), and many many of the amazing fish (aarli) up there. They also collect the trochus shells and make jewellery, oysters, mud crabs and more. These people are proud of their hatchery on the point where they nurture all sorts of creatures in giant tanks.

Here at One Arm Point we stopped and and chatted with a wonderful couple called Brian and Violet Carter. Their son is the Chairman of One Arm Point Aboriginal Community. This lovely old couple can tell some stories! Brian moved to Derby as a pilot in 1956, later married Violet and have lived in One Arm Point community for many many years, to look at Brian you know he is not Aboriginal but to listen to him speak and hear his heart beat, you know he is on the inside! They both sat with us and shared some great insights into the local culture, politics, and … well fishing and tides 🙂  Brian and Violet are both followers of Christ


and asked us excitedly if we had seen their ‘church’. It was a roof and some poles with a piece of shade cloth they were quite happy with – we fell in love with these guys and their beautiful faith and love for life and one another.

P6070117 copySaturday morning saw us pulling into Eddie’s place at Ngamagkoon, just south of Kooljaman. We had asked if Eddie could spend a few hours with us telling us about his people and their culture. He was willing and would even show us the basics of living in a coastal Bardi community. We drove out into the Mangrove Flats and went on foot (with spears) into the thick mud searching (and finding!) some VERY large crabs hiding under trees. After crabbing we headed back to the Melaleuca scrub (not venturing too far in as there were sacred ceremony sites in behind) looking for bush honey and pollen. With our ears against the trunks listening for bees we wandered through the scrub until Eddie found the right spot, cut it open and allowed us to sample the most

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beautiful tasting honey and pollen (tastes like sherbet). Interesting, one white person we met, not knowing or respecting much of Aboriginal culture told us with some disdain that “Aboriginal people set fire to everything!

2009 08 01_0804But Eddie taught us that his people light the bush to thin it, also to make it better for collecting their fire wood, as well as for hunting the stuff in the long grass, such a different window we were now looking through! From there we went out onto one of the most stunning coastal scenes I have seen. The Ngamagkoon people’s land has a creek running out into the ocean where they do much of their spearing and fishing from.

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This site was one of untouched bush and mangrove reaching to long white beaches and crystal clear aqua coloured lagoons. After extracting our car from the soft sand we headed back to Eddie’s place to bid him farewell and be told that we were welcome back to his country and community any time.

This time with Eddie was more than we could have hoped for and all voted it as the highlight of our trip that was drawing to a close faster than we wanted. We headed back to camp for one more afternoon sleep (a tradition we embraced…or did we start that one?), a fire with some reflections of our time away, and a dinner of local Barramundi, Kangaroo and … cow! Eddie mentioned that morning that there were a few ‘stray’ cattle around 🙂

Sunday morning, time to make our way back to Broome for a 1pm flight to Perth. On our return down the challenging stretch of unsealed road we took time to visit Beagle Bay Community. It was looking very nice and manicured after a week of political meetings discussing a report written by an old school mate Steve Kinnane. I read Steve’s book Shadow Lines while we travelled this week. The book follows the lives of his Grandmother (a Mirrawong woman stolen from Argyle Station in the early 1900’s) and his grandfather (an Englishman) through to today. What a brilliant read! (See below)

The Beagle Bay community is located 120 kilometres from Broome. In the centre of the community there’s a beautiful church, built of stone from 1914-1918 by German Pallottine monks, who settled here around 1901.

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On entering the Sacred Heart Church you can see a stunning pearl shell altar. Coloured windows create a special mood in the building. But, we forgot it was Sunday and church had already started and we had a plane to catch, so we missed the insides 😦

The community’s name was derived from the vessel “Beagle”, which moored at the bay when the priests were looking for a suitable mission place in 1889, ironic really as this was the ship Charles Darwin sailed on. It was much of his work that was used to base most of the atrocities done to our Aboriginal people!


If you are wanting to connect and learn more with the rich lives of the first Aussies, grab a copy of The First Australians (SBS), or Read Steve’s book Shadow Lines (2003, Fremantle Arts Press). One review says that … “Shadow Lines revolves around two people born a world apart, a half caste Aboriginal woman by the name of Jessie Argyle, and an Englishman named Edward Smith. Edward was born in 1891 and emigrated to Australia in 1909 as an eighteen year-old. Jessie was born in the Argyle region in the far north of Western Australia in 1900, and was taken from her family in 1906 under the newly created Aborigines Act of 1905. This book makes the often dry history of Western Australia since white colonisation come alive, and is probably a far better way to learn about the sordid history of this state than by way of the official history textbooks.

What Kinnane has done here is weave together a rich tapestry of historical tales”…read the rest here.

Not everything we saw ‘impressed’ us. Not every road taken in order to work among the people of the Kimberley would be a road I would have taken. This makes neither my road right or the road we observed wrong, just different tracks people take and our reactions to them. We went to look listen and learn from all we encountered, I trust this is what has happened.

Well I have to say that sometimes I love my job – last week was one of those times 🙂

Thanks to The Wembley Downs Church of Christ (where I hung out for the first 18 years of my life! As our new friend Eddie might say “they grew me up”) for making this trip a reality and for those who travelled the journey Dennis R, Steve M, Matt B and Ken V – What a great a bunch of guys to hang out with for a week, Thanks!

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How is The Church?

Well if stats from Melbourne are anything to go by…not good! Do you think we are doing something wrong?

MELBOURNE: 3.6 million people (2006), 248 Nationalities, 289 languages,128 religious faiths

  • 300,000 people attend church weekly, another 300,000 attend about once a month.
  • There are over 1700 local churches of more than 30 denominations and over 80 nationalities
  • There are 60 Chinese, 52 Greek, 41 Italian, 35 Samoan, 30 Vietnamese, 24 Korean churches
  • “NO RELIGION” up 20% in 10 years
  • Under 34s: 1.2million (48%) in population BUT only 48,000 (4%) attend church(=16% of attenders)
  • Over 55s: 819,000 (22%) of population and 20% (122,000) attend weekly (= 54% of attenders)
  • About 5000 people come to faith each year, about 9000 people leave the Church

City population increasing at 90,000pa, here is a net loss of 4,800pa from church attendance.

Thanks Phil for these stats…I think 🙂

The Joondalup Thing Update

I don’t often post on The Joondalup Thing these days based on a request by some for me to shut up 🙂

But in rebellion – I post!

TJT for those wondering, is our little church group in the City of Joondalup…It actually meets weekly in Currambine, not Joondalup, but Currambine is in Joondalup City…. so it counts 🙂

Starting a church intentionally sounds challenging. Accidentally starting one is even more so! What I mean is that when you set out as a pastor or a group of ‘sent ones’ from some church or denomination to intentionally start a church you usually have a plan, maybe some core values, theological imperatives and the like. Then you set out to a given area (that you have done some demographical study on) and hire a hall, set out your chairs, get a band and away you go. OK maybe you will operate out of a different paradigm to that, but yo uget my drift? This from all reports is hard work!

‘Accidentally’ starting a church, in my opinion is even harder. Trust me, I think we did this. A group of friends…well actually in reflection, not all of us were even what you would call friends, we had some connection with one another, some were very close friends, some had worked with others, some were friends of the friends of those guys. Anyway a group of friends over time were all  thrown together for varying motivations. Some came early when it was a small group attached to Whitford Church, some plugged in later on. Some said early in the piece “this constitutes ‘church’ for me”, others said, “I will go to ‘real church’ on Sunday and come here on Wednesday”. Some said “if this is Church we need more ‘stuff'”. Still others suggested that if we added more ‘stuff’ they would not be comfortable.

Four or so years down the track and it feels a bit more formal than it did back in the begining, yet many still hold to a flexible dream, a loose…dare I say “organic” approach to church. No set leader, no building or fixed liturgy. We have a loose plan of what we will do each week and recently we have gone away on a … again, dare I say … strategic planning weekend!!!

Well it was a weekend at which we dreamed about who we were, what we were about, could we continue with such diversity of theology and opinion and issues and if we did what would it look like?

Well, we did not get through all of those things, but we did manage to discuss some very deep issues, personal issues deeply embedded in the very fabric of what church is (should be?) about.

How is this for one topic;

If I say our church is about “eating food together” as it’s base core value – anyone can come an feel welcome so long as they eat food…at some point in their life 🙂  BUT it makes moving forward as a group and agreeing on some stuff difficult. Why, I might suggest we study the stories of Jesus, and ‘Abdul’ suggests that he came for the great food, not wanting to ever hear about Jesus.

So we lift the bar a notch and say our group is about loving God and loving others. Good, but what about the fact that any religious person could just about say ‘yes’ to that. So do we lift it higher? But the more we add, the more we restrict. We could go high and say we believe in a trinity God, that His will is revealed in the inerrant scriptures, that … you know?

So I am not telling where we ended, but I am telling you that it was a great ‘chat’!!

One thing that did come out of the weekend was a further 2 nights of discussion.

Night One – We asked on butchers paper the following questions;

  • What do you see as our strengths, Weaknesses, Threats and Opportunities?
  • At our best, what do we look like?
  • At our worst what do we look like?
  • What would you say are our core values? Practices?
  • In your wildest dreams what do you see for The Joondalup Thing ?

Some great discussion flowed from that night and since.

Night Two – We asked (all, including kids) What would you like to see happen on our fortnightly Sunday gatherings?

There was some wonderful and creative expressions brought forward for our ‘gatherings’ on every second Sunday.

There is still a part of me that wants to ‘package’ this whole thing. For two reason I suggest;

1. So I can have it all neat and tied up with a string to simply give me (others?) boundaries so we know why we are, what we are and where we are going…but maybe God has much of that in hand and I should trust Him more for that rather than making it all up for Him and pretending He led me/us to do as such 🙂

2. So I can replicate it. I would love to ‘franchise’ this. That is a secular term for multiply, plant, replicate whatever. I just feel that something in there that we have is too good, or could be too good to keep to ourselves, even if it is just ‘the love of God’…I guess people have been trying to ‘package’ that for 2000 years and look where that has got us!! But I would love to see small ‘organic’ relational groups/churches who are committed to loving God and others, following Christ and making a Kingdom difference all over the shop.

Anyway, where are we at? I think we all agree that we are a group of committed friends that dare take up the radical call to live out the Kingdom of God on Earth as taught by Jesus of the Gospels in the midst of the empire! [thanks Lance!]

We will keep working on something like that and see what happens hey?

Not Comfortable With Driscoll

I was given a book by Mark Driscoll recently, Confessions of a Reformission Rev. I plan to read it soon. But I must say that I was once a big fan of this hard hitting preacher guy. I liked his smash you in the face style, his anti-Pharisaical approach. He enjoys a beer with the best of ’em! In fact in a recent article in the NY Times one member of Driscoll’s congregation was quoted as saying ; Driscoll’s theology “changed how I view women,” Conklin says. He quit going to strip clubs and now refuses to tattoo others with his old specialty, pinup girls (though he still wears two on one arm, souvenirs from earlier, godless days). Mars Hill [Driscoll’s Church] counts four of the city’s top tattoo artists among its members (and many of their clientele). While other churches left people like Conklin feeling alienated, Mars Hill has made them its missionaries.

But, a lot of Driscoll’s stuff leaves me feeling that he has taken a picture of Jesus as a soft limp wristed boy band lover and simply reversed it rather than corrected it. He has made Jesus out to be a macho footy loving, head kicking, violent ‘dude’ who quite frankly I would rather not want to meet. The end result of making your view of Jesus as a head kicker is a theology and an ecclesiology that looks like this;

Driscoll has little patience for dissent. In 2007, two elders protested a plan to reorganize the church that, according to critics, consolidated power in the hands of Driscoll and his closest aides. Driscoll told the congregation that he asked advice on how to handle stubborn subordinates from a “mixed martial artist and Ultimate Fighter, good guy” who attends Mars Hill. “His answer was brilliant,” Driscoll reported. “He said, ‘I break their nose.’ ” When one of the renegade elders refused to repent, the church leadership ordered members to shun him. One member complained on an online message board and instantly found his membership privileges suspended. “They are sinning through questioning,” Driscoll preached. John Calvin couldn’t have said it better himself.

Hmmm, not happy with that Jan!

The NY Times article finishes with;

Others say that Driscoll’s ego and taste for controversy will be Mars Hill’s Achilles’ heel. Lately he has made a concerted effort to tone down his language, and he insists that he has delegated much authority, but the heart of his message has not changed. Driscoll is still the one who gazes down upon Mars Hill’s seven congregations most Sundays, his sermons broadcast from the main campus to jumbo-size projection screens around the city. At one suburban campus that I visited, a huge yellow cross dominated center stage — until the projection screen unfurled and Driscoll’s face blocked the cross from view.


Emerging Missional Church…Working?

Recently at Forge we have taken a long hard look at ourselves and some of our history, our early claims and our dreams and hopes.

I think some of us hoped that ‘breaking up’ big churches and forming more relational little faith communities might just be what attracts hundreds of people and would be the answer to people’s claims that the church is irrelevant. (not nec Forge policy – to break up big churches!) Some years down the track this seems not to have been what happened. What has happened, at least in part, is many of these small communities have rescued people who may have ordinarily fallen away from fellowship with believers (Church) and maybe even with Christ. Some people on the fringes of faith may have been restored or introduced to Christ and some hard core ‘pagans’ who might never have graced the doors of a church have indeed met Christ over a beer and BBQ.  We at Forge are tweaking who we are (yes, we are big and ugly enough to see we can morph and grow as we get older!) whilst still holding to our passion for training people in missional ways individually and encouraging and fostering the growth and development of new experimental versions of ‘church’. Heck we always said it was a massive experiment founded on a passion for Christ and his Church, we want to keep experimenting! But we are also wanting to work with existing churches of all shapes and sizes and traditions in helping them re-imagine themselves as missional communities.

Articles like the one in Out of Ur by Dan Kimball spurs me on to make sure my focus (particularly as a worker for Forge Aust and a member of a type of Church I think Kimball is describing) is on building God’s Church, not just in having nice fellowship and good times, but really seeing the Kingdom of God impact everything it comes into contact with. I don’t feel comfortable with everything Kimball says in his article, but I think I agree with more of it than I care to admit quite frankly. I am not sure about –

“But for now, I would rather be part of a Christ-centered megachurch full of programs where people are coming to know Jesus as Savior, than part of a church of any size where they are not.”

But maybe I do…I guess I have sustainability issues, resource use issues and a whole host of other questions about that statememt personally, but if people are genuinely coming into the Kingdom, and following Christ and making a difference to the world…is any cost too great? Or does that question take me back to a place that ends in all sorts of dark corners 🙂 I guess the whole Husdon Taylor story…perservering in tough missional ground without seeing the fruit yet holding faithful to the gospel year in year out – this is the fly in my ointment. What if … what if we are just so used to “just add water” solutions in our “have it now” society, what if… Could be just my excuse… hmmmm

Here is a taster… the whole thing is here.  Al Hirsch has made some great comments regarding the article here, but I have added a teaser from them at the bottom.

Dan Kimball’s Missional Misgivings

Small, indigenous churches are getting lots of attention, but where’s the fruit?

I hope I am wrong. For the past few years, I have been observing, listening, and asking questions about the missional movement. I have a suspicion that the missional model has not yet proven itself beyond the level of theory. Again, I hope I am wrong.

We all agree with the theory of being a community of God that defines and organizes itself around the purpose of being an agent of God’s mission in the world. But the missional conversation often goes a step further by dismissing the “attractional” model of church as ineffective. Some say that creating better programs, preaching, and worship services so people “come to us” isn’t going to cut it anymore. But here’s my dilemma—I see no evidence to verify this claim.

Not long ago I was on a panel with other church leaders in a large city. One missional advocate in the group stated that younger people in the city will not be drawn to larger, attractional churches dominated by preaching and music. What this leader failed to recognize, however, was that young people were coming to an architecturally cool megachurch in the city—in droves. Its worship services drew thousands with pop/rock music and solid preaching. The church estimates half the young people were not Christians before attending.

Conversely, some from our staff recently visited a self-described missional church. It was 35 people. That alone is not a problem. But the church had been missional for ten years, and it hadn’t grown, multiplied, or planted any other churches in a city of several million people. That was a problem.

Read the rest here.

Al Hirsch says –

* I centainly don’t believe that attractional is not working.  What I have said is that it has appeal to a shrinking segment of the population, and that persistence  with a church growth style attractionalism, is in the long run, a counsel of despair. Are you suggesting that we simply stay with what we have got?  Surely not bro?

* If we persist with our standard measurements for mission, we will miss the point.  The issue is what idea of church is more faithful to the Scriptures. Genuine fruitfulness, surely, cannot simply be measured by  numbers but by ‘making disciples.’ How does one measure that?  By all accounts, current churches are made up largely of admirers of Jesus but few genuine disciples/followers–this is not a biblical idea of fruitfulness!

* Besides, the early church would not measure up to the current metrics!! If Rodney Stark is right, there was only 25,000 by …. (read the rest at Al Hirsch’s blog)

Willow Creek Revealed

The dream is that we fundamentally change the way we do church

Greg Hawkins, Executive Pastor – Willow Creek Church.

I have just finished watching this video of Greg Hawkins talking about the results of Reveal, a research study into 31 churches including their own, Willow Creek Church.

When I watched the video, I got some goose bumps, the language he uses sounds like Jamison (A Churchless Faith) and shades of Fowlers stages of faith. There is still a strong ‘Invitational’ feel which is understandable in a church like Willow – ie, what would you do with all those buildings if people stopped coming! But there is a genuine passion to discover what do with the people Jamieson identified so clearly (6 or so years ago!) as exiting the church in droves – committed believers, leaders, staff. It is encouraging that Willow has taken on similar research that Jamieson did (it was too hard to swallow for many senior leaders back then, they just rejected his findings and called them dangerous and divisive) and that Willow, with such a strong mainline appeal, may just shake something into many people who count their success by bums on seats and money in the bank.

At Forge we are wanting to take these comments by Willow seriously and determine just how they may help to serve the Church to grow genuine missional disciples.