A little interview I did for our church bulletin about podcasts

My home church, Crossroads Presbyterian has been doing literal interviews over the last month with church members who listen to podcasts.

Here’s my instalment:

In our final week of interviews with podcast listeners (and to promote our own Crossroads podcasts -available on iTunes or app), Mikey shares his recommendations, PLUS in this bumper interview, he explains why he took up podcasting about a favourite leisure activity…

In what ways are podcasts helpful to you?

Entertaining, educating, encouraging.

Could you recommend a few podcasts for others at Crossroads to check out? 

The Briefing by Albert Mohler has 30 minutes every day of interaction with articles from newspapers from around the world from a Christian worldview. Mohler is pretty American, right wing and conservative, so occasionally I find myself going ‘Wait… WHAT now?’… but most of this is excellent.

Holy Hacks is started by an AFES staff person in Queensland. Short handy hints for Christian life and ministry, with a bit of theological content too.

First Things is a conservative American Roman Catholic podcast, that has all sorts of intelligent stuff from a right wing conservative Catholic point of view.

Short & Curly is a secular ethics podcast for late primary/early high school kids. Our kids love it.

BBC History Extra has really engaging academic stuff on world history.

Plato’s Cave is excellent film criticism, of both arthouse and mainstream films.

I could go on…

What do you think makes a good podcast?

I have to like spending time with the person. If I don’t enjoy the company of the host I lose interest.

Can’t be too heavily produced in a commercial TV sort of way.

I tend to prefer things with a dominant host, rather than anthology type stuff (This American Life) or interview heavy stuff (Richard Fidler), where I have to readjust every time to a new thing.

Why did you take up podcasting?

Firstly, to get sermons online…. but I always delegate the podcasting setup to others on my staff team (Uni Fellowship podcast here).

I started the Mad Beef Rollerblading Podcast at the start of last year for a couple of reasons…

— partly to learn how to do it, so I can use it for ministry just in case

— partly to ‘give back’ to this sporting community in a way that is relatively easy for me (I talk for a living, so yeah)

— partly as a way to potentially build relational connection with other people in the rollerblading world (which worked: I have friends around Australia and the world now!)

— not a big thing… but I knew I’d weave in Christian stuff off and on when it came up naturally

— and if I get enough Patreon patrons… maybe it can help cover some of the costs of my skate equipment? Or maybe I might get some freebies from time to time? 😛

The benefits of regional cities as training centres? – Apply Now!

We’re praying and planning to increase the number of MTS apprentices training through the AFES ministries at UTAS in Hobart from 2 to 6 in the next 5 years… and we’re also building an internship/Year 13 type program for still more people to have a taste of gospel ministry training.

In the process of thinking this through… we are also keen to invite people from elsewhere in Australia and the world to consider coming and training in Hobart. A beautiful part of the world, a way to contribute to a ‘gospel ecosystem’ in another, perhaps less-resourced place, that is striving to build a momentum of evangelistic, theologically rich, gospel-centred ministry.

But there are also unique benefits to training in a regional city:

  • shorter travel times gives the opportunity to mingle with a whole range of ministries and ministers,
  • regional churches without their own pastors provide extra preaching platforms,
  • smaller overall population gives the opportunity to observe and learn from a whole gospel ecosystem,
  • going somewhere culturally fairly similar, but also different means you can fruitfully serve fairly quickly rather than simply observe as an outsider.

Here’s a Twitter conversation I had with a pastor from regional Victoria who shared some similar experiences:

ME: Would be fun if Tassie became a place people came to serve in mission and train for ministry!

“Uni Fellowship is  planning to start offering a more deliberate Year 13 / Gap Year / Extra Ministry internship with Uni Fellowship (8-24 hours per week)”

HIM: Sounds great! Modelled on an MTS style apprenticeship? Or intentionally different by name and nature as an internship? Paid/unpaid?

ME: Kind of a feeder to MTS hopefully. So more the internship, unpaid type thing. A book list, lots of 1:1, invite to sit in on training and staff meetings, a few key jobs.

HIM: Really formative stuff, and ideal for that gap year where many “don’t know what to do next” but can do something in gospel work with leadership training for life. May it be a feeder for Tasmania and beyond.

ME: I pray so! Could also work for students who have capacity to do even more WHILE studying, especially if they take a 50-75% load. Even possibly older people whose life is in flux? We’ll see…

Seeing ‘explore Tasmania’ tourism billboards on Sydney bus shelters made me realise: us regional types need to turn our weakness into a strength — come for a Tree Change AND do ministry. Almost like short-term mission…

HIM: Absolutely! We see the regions have excellent opportunities to explore ministry experiences that are diverse (and relatively inexpensive on the $). I cut my teeth preaching because regional ministries are crying out for trainee preachers to step in and serve.

ME: YES! And travel times mean you can network with a larger number of minister(ries) in a more in-depth way.

HIM: Back in the day (2002) we used to load an old Tarago with trainee preachers from the uni ministry and do a Sunday circuit (also networking AFES). Travel time was debriefing/rewriting sermons for the trainees. Kind of like the speech writing team on airforce one.

ME: I’d watch that Netflix series.

A Dangerous Calling — verbose, judgmental, voyeuristic, simplistic, misanthropic, melodramatic and exhibitionist (an interim review)

We’ve been reading A Dangerous Calling: Confronting the Unique Challenges of Pastoral Ministry as an AFES Hobart staff team this year. We’re 6 months into the year and only 46 pages into the 225 book, and I’ve already had enough. It’s triggered some really helpful discussion, but in a strange way:

  • either we’re generously working to grasp the good point hidden in what he’s saying and how he’s saying it… and having a good discussion about a legitimate issue,
  • OR we’re having a really fruitful discussion as we react to and critique what he’s saying and how he’s saying it.

In other words, the benefit we are deriving from reading the book is largely in spite of Paul Tripp, not because of him.

I wouldn’t recommend the book.

It strikes me as verbose, judgmental, voyeuristic, simplistic, misanthropic, melodramatic and exhibitionist. For a book all about sincerity and Being Real, there’s something oddly disingenuous and unreal about it. I don’t think that it lifts me up and inspires me and equips me. It doesn’t often even challenge me, actually. Rather it presumes to know me and humiliate me and frighten me. Like an unwelcome Pentecostal street preacher or charity mugger or guidance counsellor getting right up in my face and presuming to read my motives.

I agree with its basic premise: we need to be honest about our frailty and brokenness. But there are so many other books out there that help me do this far better. A few things that make me squirm:

There can be terrible secret sins. But not everyone is equally terribly beset with secret sin

We are all sinners. Our hearts are desperately wicked. We should stop pretending we’re not. Yes. But A Dangerous Calling betrays to me a  kind of misanthropy that sees everyone as probably a pervert or addict or abuser. We mustn’t delude ourselves with the naïvety that says “It could never happen here” or “A preacher could never commit that outrageous sin”. But the horror of just how sinful we can be mustn’t lead us to the opposite problem of a paranoia that everyone is therefore as sinful as they might be.

Perhaps this is the unique tendency of those who deal with people at their most broken? By the sheer mass of severe problems they encounter in their consultation rooms, they get a slanted view of the whole. What is a lot of people for them personally becomes counted as a massive proportion of the total number of people.

But I don’t know how helpful it is for me to contemplate (for as long as Tripp wants me to) just how terrible ministry marriages and ministry lives can become. Especially when that is not my current personal experience. I need to face it, absolutely. And I have my own share of horror stories from my own pastoral experience and networks. But Tripp seems to want me to wallow in it. Which is why I say there feels like a kind of voyeurism in the book.

Christian leadership needs humble honesty about our brokenness. But it also requires uprightness and integrity

Tripp makes much of facing and admitting our weakness. He describes the burden of weak and frail pastors trying to keep up a good face. Surely this denies the gospel of grace, he says. We must admit our sinfulness and weakness.

But the kind of grace alone by which we are saved — by grace along through faith alone because of Christ alone — is not the kind of grace alone by which we serve in Christian leadership.* In Christian leadership, I qualify by God’s grace that works with my human will and effort to produce godliness (Philippians 2:12–13). If I am not living a mature and relatively upstanding Christian life, I am not qualified to be ordained. If I do not persist in a certain level of faithfulness in life, doctrine and ministry I can be disqualified. I do not serve as a Christian leader by grace ALONE in the same way that I am saved by grace alone.

This means that there is an unavoidable pressure and burden and gravity to Christian leadership, as James 3 says.

The degree of detail Paul Tripp goes into about his own alarming personal failings is supposed to be an admirable thing. And on one level his openness and vulnerability is courageous. But it is also troubling. Firstly, this is because in another way it is a particular kind of power move. By being so public about such personal matters, and so forthright with such serious weaknesses, he has in a way gained himself a different kind of kudos for his courage. Moreover, he has protected himself against criticism, by beating his critics to it. At worst, a similar ploy can even discourage critics, by making them concerned that they will crush their fragile pastor into despair.

Secondly, I am troubled by Tripp’s confessions, because I find it hard to piece together the timeline of his various disclosures. There seems to be a series of them, and in between he seems to also tell stories where he is the hero. So I find myself doubting at points whether he is even a credible teacher? Or is he still ‘in process’? Should he be presuming to tell me how to live my life and conduct my ministry or does he need a bit longer to work through his own stuff?

This is far from the example of the apostle Paul who commends himself as an example in his sincerity and uprightness and faithfulness. Yes he is frail and continuing to press on in his own faith, aware of his weaknesses and dependence on God’s grace. But he is not oversharing his ongoing secret sins… is he?


*incidentally that’s the problem with that song Grace Alone by Kings Kaleidoscope: it conflates saving grace with common grace, sanctifying grace and empowering grace and robs the word ‘alone’ of its meaning.

Pastors, and even pastoral counsellors, must be careful about presuming to know and shepherd another person’s heart

At many points, Tripp challenges the reader with long paragraphs of searing, searching, stinging questions aimed at the depths of our hearts. He tells stories of doing similar things in his classes, and then coming up against defensive and overwhelmed students. He expects us to be shocked at the defensiveness of these proud students. But I am just as inclined to sympathise with them — I’m feeling that way just reading the book! But he then tells us that he comes up eye to eye with these students and challenges them still further. I think we are supposed to applaud his prophetic insightfulness. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but as I read these stories on the page, they strike me more as invasive encounters, where he oversteps his proper place.

A danger with the Gospel-Centred-Christian-Counselling movement is that it emboldens counsellors, pastors and parents with the duty and confidence to shepherd the hearts and motives of other people. Yes we should ask probing questions, and yes sometimes we should boldly point out inconsistent beliefs or challenging underlying loves. But we must do so very cautiously, aware of our enormous limitations.

Our primary duty is to set forth the truth of God’s word, plainly and persuasively, and trust the Lord to apply this word specifically to the hearts, minds, motives, loves, secrets and decisions of our hearers. Primarily our roles in the lives of our friends, children or congregation members is an external role that God might use to do an internal work.

Disbelieving the gospel is not the only problem and embracing the gospel is not the only solution

This is another tendency that I encounter often in the Gospel-Centred-Christian-Counselling movement. It’s also a major theme of Tim Keller’s teaching. And it has a lot of truth in it. The gospel is a central and ordering truth for our theology, ethics, spirituality and even our psychology. But the narrow truths of the gospel of salvation by faith alone through grace alone by Christ alone is not the whole counsel of God.

Some sins are not primarily about ‘not believing the gospel’, and the amount of ethical and psychological acrobatics that have to be done to prove that in a sense they are fails to ultimately convince. Worse, it takes away from a clear vision of what the gospel, and gospel response, primarily is. Sometimes the primary driver for sin is actually an area of frailty or brokenness and the primary way to rectify it is through cognitive behavioural therapy, or good boundaries or better health and life routines, possibly even in concert with medication.

And some solutions are found on other levels than ‘believing the gospel more deeply and truly’. I may be a devout and sincere believer who still really really struggles with anger or anxiety or lust or greed. And there might be other courses of reflection, repentance and progress that lie in different or even more external approaches than a deep dive in the glory of God.

This is why the book also comes across as simplistic. It doesn’t reckon well with the complex physical, social, psychological and spiritual creatures that we are. It reduces us, it seems to me, to merely gospel-believing-spirits surrounded by repulsive pathologies.

Mirrors 25th June 2018

  1. Some more on Dark MOFO by EternityNews with me saying stuff ABC didn’t quote me on in their published piece.
  2. In 18 years of public ministry, I don’t THINK I’ve ever preached on Job before. Here’s chapters 4-11.
  3. Having experienced a teeny tiny revival here in Tassie in late 1990s it wad fascnating to listen to this conversation.
  4. Live in Perth? I’d love to have you join @Roryshiner and myself at the ‘Productive Pastor’ event at the end of July!
  5. A hippie Christian family band in the thick of the 90s alternative secular music scene, Danielson were something special. I remembered them tonight and shared a few music videos with Esther. Which, of course, she loved. Just brilliant.
  6. Good analysis from @mpjensen I prefer responses like this which focus on the gospel rather than those which focus on outrage at progessive blasphemy. But there are truths in both perspectives of course.
  7. Talking @abchobart this morning with @rykgoddard about the Dark Mofo inverted crosses again at 1 hour 51 minutes.
  8. I don’t think I saw this article back when it was published: why Perimeter Church, Atlanta stopped doing multi-site.
  9. Stephen Fry on same team of this debate on Political Correctness as Jordan B Peterson. “Many people said I must not appear on same team as JBP … which is precisely why I believe I should”

Mirrors 8th June 2018

  1. Amazing article from Al Mohler about the scandals surrounding the Southern Baptist Convention
  2. More on the Southern Baptist Convention. Ed Stetzer is super helpful in this podcast.
  3. Great article on broad and narrow complementarianism from Jonathan Leeman at 9 Marks.
  4. Helpful discussion with Wade Burnett and Ray Galea about multi-site. Needs care wisdom.and attention to ecclesiology… but has unique benefits and opportunities
  5. Some quotes ABC Radio Hobart took from me in the discussion around this year’s MONA ‘Dark MOFO’ festival installation

 

Mirrors 5th June 2018

  1. What’s the fuss about Jordan Peterson, and why are Christians unsure whether to cheer for him or to reject him? David Höhne and Tony Payne discuss in this podcast.
  2. A great, open and holistic discussion about anxiety from the experience of a Christian pastor.
  3. A new review of my book on
  4. From a rollerblader about planning a skate tour: “Make sure the women folk feel safe”. Men should take responsibility for respecting and caring for women. Well played
  5. Great, must-listen stuff from Andrew Heard… similar to many of the themes in my book The Good Life in the Last Days.
  6. Great to talk with Ryk Goddard on ABC Hobart local radio morning about my recently published book The Good Life in the Last Days
  7. Some great articles on evangelism from Geneva in this free eBook (yes, it comes at the price of signing up for an account with Church In A Box — no such thing as a free lunch!)

Please create some gimmicky apps for church and campus ministry expo stalls

If you’re a church, you often have opportunities to have stalls at community festivals, or you choose to set up a stall at a shopping centre or near a train station. If you are a campus ministry then there a several times a year when you want to be have some kind of expo stall, and you aren’t selling beer and you don’t want to spend all the time and money on cooking sausages…

We have a few tried and true activities:

  • Write on our huge blackboard your answer to this question (last time we did ‘What Makes You, YOU?’)
  • Complete this brief multiple choice quiz on our iPads

But I’m always on the lookout for new things. I asked on a few campus ministry staff Facebook Pages:

Any recommendations for fun websites/apps activities that communicate some aspect of the gospel?

And I got a few recommendations:

Most of them seem to be props to help people in personal evangelism conversations. They’re not really much of a self-contained app at all, they’re really just a few slides on your screen. Which I understand: if you are going to invest in an app, you want to invest in something that helps you do one of the main things you are committed to, and any thoughtful campus ministry or church will be super interested in equipping their members to get gospel conversations happening.

BUT this means that these apps aren’t so helpful for the expo stall context. They are not FUN enough, they are too obviously a prop for an agenda — a gospel conversation. They rely too much on the Christian leading the interaction with the app.

So can someone please create some more gimmicky apps that are good for expo stalls?

I want something that gets people thinking about meaning, faith, religion, Christianity.. and something that maybe even teaches a few things… but I want something that’s not primary and evangelism tool, but a pre-evangelism tool. Something that is:

  • fun and interesting
  • visually appealing and easy to use
  • able to be used without being facilitated by a Christian

The Perspective Cards is definitely almost entirely what I’m after (top points for the gorgeous visual aesthetic!)… and the Two Ways to Live app is definitely the worst on the list… so I reckon we’ll probably run with Perspective Cards in Semester 2… but it’d be great to have some more options, or a version of something similar to this which doesn’t rely upon a Christian leading the conversation.

Please someone out internet, please make more of these kinds of things! By the by, I reckon if you sold it for under $5 you’d sell a fair few hundred (or even thousand?) units, from all the campus ministries and the churches who might like to use it.

 

About Xian Reflections

Xian Reflections is written by Mikey Lynch.

Mikey graduated from the University of Tasmania with a Bachelor of Arts in 2002. In 2000 he became one of the founding leaders of Crossroads Presbyterian Church where he was the lead pastor for 7 years from 2003.

Mikey now works as the Campus Director of the University Fellowship of Christians, University of Tasmania, Hobart. Mikey is the chairman of The Vision 100 Network (Tasmania) and a founding director of Geneva Push (national) – both church planting networks. He is also a chaplain at Jane Franklin Hall and the chairman of New Front Door: the Church IT Guild.