Tuesday, October 10, 2017

electives @ NYMC 2017



It was a thrill this morning to present my two electives at National Youth Ministry Convention.  Such a big encouragement to see so many youth leaders here, and so many invested in engaging their students in the Bible Story.
As promised, I've uploaded my slides - so, whether you came to the electives or not, feel free to make use of the content / ideas for your ministry context :)

EXPERIENTIAL LEARNING

BIBLICAL STORYING

... and don't forget about our pilot resource - StoryBites
- or our mailing list - StoryLine

Sunday, August 27, 2017

thinking about australia in indonesia



I'm halfway through a trip to Indonesia as a guest of an amazing group of schools, and as I peer back at my homeland through the curtain of social media, the approach that ex-pat Christians have in Indonesia is nothing short of inspiring.

Here are three observations I'm making:

1. They know they are guests.  
As they live out a biblical worldview in a nation which does not pretend to, my friends here respect the culture they live in - warts and all.  They with-hold judgement when they observe attitudes and behaviour that does not correspond to their own set of values, and they continue to serve - trusting that the gospel has the power to shed light into the darkest of places.

2. They act on opportunities.  
The Christians I have met here seem to live on the assumption that they are most likely on borrowed time as they live out the gospel in a 'Muslim country'.  This leads to an agile and 'in-time' response to opportunities as they arise.  There is no campaigning authorities (and sometimes there's little time for long-range planning!), but there is meaningful, love-filled, faith-inspired action.  There's a slogan for a local hotel here which seems to describe the Indonesian church beautifully: "If not now, when?"

3. They instinctively move towards a 'third way'.  
They may not articulate it this way, but the Indonesian church seems to know it cannot afford to take a diametrically opposing platform to the dominant power structures.  Instead, God's people identify that there's a third way, and they pour their energy and resources into that possibility for the sake of the story of Jesus.  In the case of the friends I have met, this is accomplished through providing excellent education - and the children of the powerful people in the country are being invested in by Christian educators from around the world.

So, that's what I'm learning so far while here in Indonesia - and I long for what might be possible if the Christian Church in Australia takes a similar approach.

Friday, August 11, 2017

'sexual identity' is B-S


‘Who I am with’ does not define ‘who I am’.

The feverish debate tends to paint a different picture - our culture wants to corner us into the belief that our sexuality is the prime ingredient to our identity.

This is not so.

'Who I am' cannot be found in my marriage, my extra-marital conduct, my online habits, my orientation.

'Who I am' is a spirituality question, not a sexuality question.

I've discovered that who I am is a child of the everlasting God. That's it.

My identity is forged in the heart of God through the binding nature of covenant - and my priorities, my vocation, my relationships, my sexuality, my service ... all flow from this covenant.

And this loving Father invites me to reflect who He is - to express the covenant He has entered into with His child.

His identity is somehow woven into the fabric of covenant.

And so is ours.

Who we are will not be displayed through the expression of our sexuality, but through our participation in the unrelenting promise of this relational divinity - who goes by the name "I AM".

I take the personal posture of an open heart to those who long for 'marriage equality', and a firm conviction that what's actually being asked for is 'marriage redefinition'.

My posture is informed by the observation that few of us who are caught up in this debate pause long enough to consider the implications of covenant.

Covenant is the steadfast undertaking of a God who longs to permanently unite us to Himself, and He has initially (and I would say, enduringly) chosen to communicate that through the marriage covenant between a man and a woman.

That's why a re-definition of marriage is so controversial - it messes with an original expression of how God's Story reveals the heart of who God is.

But in the meantime...

A homosexual person's identity is not found in their homosexuality, but in the truth that God has irreversibly pursued them.

A heterosexual person's identity is not found in their heterosexuality, but in the truth that God has irreversibly pursued them.

What this means is that the notion and pursuit of 'sexual identity' is built on the false premise that identity can be found in our sexuality.  Our culture longs for this to be true, but it is not.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Unfollow


Today I unfollowed someone on Facebook.

It's the first time I've done it.

It's not that I don't like the person, it's just that their status updates rile me up.

Whenever this happens, I spend the next 20 minutes thinking about a clever comment to respectfully challenge their view - while remaining convinced that my contribution will add nothing to the conversation.

I know that my craftsmanship will become another inconsequential piece of brilliance aimlessly floating in the eternal void of social media static.

So, I overcame my sense of guilt for reducing the amount of people in my feed who will articulate a different point of view than mine, and I clicked 'unfollow'.

I still love you, but I need to invest my time on this earth more wisely.

I guess I could just put my phone down - or I could blog about it. 😉


Tuesday, May 9, 2017

"Well done, EBC!"


"What can you celebrate?"

The question hung in the air for a while as our new Lead Pastor provided an opportunity for leaders to share encouraging stories with the other teams represented.

There were some exciting reports of God's provision, community engagement, and faith decisions - but as I let the question settle in my own heart and mind, I began to realise that what our church community was experiencing overall was worthy of exuberant celebration.

Healthy transition.

It's easy to overlook, but leadership transition in a church community is hard work, and when it isn't handled well - well, let's just say it often isn't handled well.

As I look back over the last 3-6 months, I am super-proud of Edwardstown Baptist Church.  Saying good-bye to our much-loved Pastor Joe and his wife Michelle so generously, and being able to recognise the "rightness" to appoint Pastor Dale in succession - well done, God's people!

Leadership transition in the life of a church is 'vulnerability personified' - at best, it can equate to stagnation, and at worst - it can be just plain ugly.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that churches are renowned for making transition ugly - and EBC is certainly not immune to that characterisation.

But we are in the midst of seeing what's possible when we refuse to give into the fears that so easily bubble up.

After being on the leadership group for 5 years, I step into a break from the role as Elder with a deep sense of satisfaction - it IS possible for a church community to journey into the unknown together - with trust in God, respect for each other, and a sense of expectation for the future.

I can't wait to see what God has for His people as we accept His invitation into the next season of His mission together.

Monday, April 24, 2017

feeling the Daveron Park love ...

"Good morning, LOSER!!"  12 year old Ryan greeted me with a resounding battle-cry on the last morning of camp - still relishing in his victory over me in chess the night before.  

I knew in my heart that I had been accepted.

Last week I had the immense privilege of spending four days by the river with around 30 young people and their leaders. My brief was to facilitate an opportunity for campers to learn through God's story, but I got so much more than what I bargained for.

Being immersed in a community who are reaching some of the most disadvantaged kids in our city was one of the most enriching ministry experiences I've had so far - here are four lessons these guys helped me with:


1. RELATIONSHIP IS EVERYTHING 

I noticed that any influence the leaders had among the campers was deeply rooted in relationship.  The young people in this community seem to carry an inbuilt resistance to anything that smells like authority - demonstrated by ignoring, talking over, or walking away.

When I heard some of their stories of how authority has been misused in their lives, it is little wonder that they discount any influence a 45 year old, male, teacher-type person might seek to exercise over them.

I found myself constantly monitoring my use of authority in the sessions I had with them, while still trying to facilitate an environment for learning.  Shh-ing never worked, sometimes a hand in the air had some effect,  a few times I found myself entering into the conversations groups were having while I was trying to present - sometimes I managed to steer their attention back to what I was presenting, other times I just couldn't.

What I did notice was that the leaders who had invested time and relational energy into the young people were the ones who were more likely to gain their attention - some of the time.


2. EXPECTATIONS MUST BE FLUID

I've never been one to hinge everything on "the last night of camp" for people to respond with faith decisions to God and His story, but I have found that the story of God often naturally brings people to a point of response.  So, we planned a run for a response session on the final night of camp, but it just didn't go as planned.

There were a few contributing factors, not the least of which was when the time came for me to invite the community to consider trusting God for the first time, there were a group of girls nattering away about something completely unrelated, and if I put pressure on them to be quiet it would have completely blown any relational traction I'd gained with pretty-much everyone in the room - so I wrapped it up.

The whole week was a journey of me (and the other leaders) constantly adjusting expectations.  What was really cool, was that often we were surprised by responses we weren't expecting - leaders told stories of how kids accepted me as a story-teller, or how they engaged with some of our learning activities, or even how the campers were happy for the leaders to pray for them.


3. VALUE THEIR FOCUS

Something that I really appreciated was the conversations I had with the kids - talking about their interests, their dreams - but it was usually in short bursts.  More than once, campers would bowl up to me and start chatting, then, after a few sentences (and sometimes in mid-sentence), they would walk away.

It was during these momentary bursts of interaction, that I realised that often their focus would be fleeting - so rather than get frustrated with their 'lack' of focus, I began to intentionally capitalise on the focus they did give me, and I found I was gifted with some unique opportunities to speak into their lives.

This insight also shaped how I retold the Bible stories we shared with them.

When setting the scene for our Bible narratives, we usually give people a 'narrative hook' - short stories about life that introduce some of the feelings experienced in the Bible narrative.

During this camp, I found it far more effective to use the narrative hooks for large group retells than asking questions from the content of Bible narrative - my theory is that this at least replayed their experience of the Bible narrative through their association with the narrative hook.


4. CELEBRATE THE 'SMALL WINS'

The leaders at camp were exceptional at noticing and celebrating the contribution of the kids to the community.

One example of this was when some of the kids walked out on my session.  Instead of just leaving the room, they asked their leader, John, if it was ok for them to go.  As he allowed them to walk out, John had the presence of mind to validate them in the fact that they thought to ask - rather than lamenting the fact that they weren't in the room, John noticed this shift in their behaviour, and celebrated that as a contribution to the culture of the community.

All week, I was so encouraged by leaders noticing the small things of kids doing duties, looking out for one another, or lasting longer before relational conflict - and they celebrated the small wins.

This not only became a rich source of affirmation for the kids, but it provided the leadership team with some tangible examples of transformation - for many contexts these examples might be considered small and inconsequential, but here there is genuine cause for celebration.


There's probably a bunch of other things I still have to learn from this amazing community, but this is what I have for now: RELATIONSHIP IS EVERYTHING; EXPECTATIONS MUST BE FLUID; VALUE THEIR FOCUS; and CELEBRATE THE 'SMALL WINS'.


I will never forget the love I felt from my new friends from Daveron Park - and I've come away with a deep assurance that God is at work in this community.  Who knows how these kids might change the world?!

Monday, April 3, 2017

the mind of Christ


What difference would it make in our world if the thinking of Jesus held sway?

It might be in the midst of an impossible moral complexity, or a corrupt system of power - something that amplifies the human ache for things to be made right.

What would it look like for the thoughts and activity of Jesus to penetrate the complexity and corruption of our daily experience?

It would look like the fruit of people who are yielded to the life that God promises.

1 Corinthians 2:16 - for the Scripture asks, “Does anyone know the mind of the Lord well enough to become His advisor?” But we do possess the mind of the Anointed One.

In the midst of the Corinthian mindset of "possessing higher knowledge" and rampant competition and celebrityism among each other, Paul unravels their sense of self-importance with the statement: "we possess the mind of the Anointed One."

That's quite a statement - Paul discounts our ability for us to ever know God's thoughts, then He asserts that as followers of Jesus, we can "have the mind" of this same God.

Moral complexity and corrupted systems are no match for a people who have recognised who they belong to.  Human pain and confusion can find resolve and peace through the wonder, clarity, and compassion found in the mind of Christ.

The way of His thinking is available to us - albeit mysteriously - through the Person described in the Bible story as the 'Spirit'.

Check out a talk on this passage/theme here