Mirrors 25th May 2018

  1. Nice to hear @jordanbpeterson talk through his thoughts of particular Postmodernists, rather than a broad brushstroke dismissal.
  2. Tim Keller on the role of parachurches in gospel ecosystems.
  3. Check out the Sydney University Evangelical Union’s ‘Festival’ website. A combination of public evangelistic events and grassroots social events with a Christian conversation edge
  4. Great article. I don’t think it makes a definite case for the strong prohibition in the title (it’s not necessarily wrong to do things that single out some and so indirectly remind others of grief). But raises many important things to be aware of.
  5. Rory Shiner Tweeted: If you’re in Perth, in vocational ministry, and want to be in a high-resolution, fine-grained conversation about how to actually spend your time, steward your energy and get stuff done, come to this.
  6. New podcast from focussed particularly on church planting

Managing Your Ministry Facility For Ministry

The church is the people not the building. We should grow the vine not just build the trellis. The church building is just a rain shelter. So a minister of the gospel should not neglect the ministry of the word and prayer for the sake of caretaking a building any more than for the sake of waiting on tables.

If you have the blessing of owning your own church building (even those of us who rent or lease meeting places and office spaces), you need to be careful that you don’t end up working FOR the building, rather than the building working FOR the ministry!

That’s why we have Boards of Management and Deacons and Parish Councils: to focus on serving the church through giving attention to matters like hire agreements, carpet cleaning, light globe replacing and sound desk training.

BUT there is a danger that the leaders of a church will pay absolutely no attention at all to their church facility, and there are some big problems with this total neglect as well. A few things:

1. Honour, support and oversee those who manage the building

With anyone who is stepping up to serve you church, you need to make sure you honour and support them. No matter how little you personally understand or care about that aspect of the work of the church, you must never dump a job on someone and run. Those who manage the property affairs of the church need to be honoured, equipped and supported in their roles, given our full attention and careful responses when that it needed.

Also, like any other role in the life of the church, those managing the building need to have oversight. At the very least, the leaders of the church ought to receive a report on their activities and have the final say on new proposals. But also in the day to day, and week to week, it needs to be clear who will ensure all the issues related to the cleaning, repairing, improving and managing of the building is done well.

In a smaller church with few paid staff, at least some of this must fall to the paid pastor.  Some time needs to be given to ensure that these jobs are being done to a good standard, with godliness, and with efficiency of time and money.Because much of the work is done by volunteers there may sometimes be gaps or lapses. And since the paid pastor may be one of the people in the facility most often, there a lots of things they may notice.

Day to day things that the paid minister may have to keep an eye on:

  • Do you notice anything inside or out that needs cleaning or maintaining — lights, windows, gardens, signage?
  • Are we managing the public spaces in a way that presents a hospitable impression to newcomers? — We can use our public spaces to drop of stuff for the Sunday school play or to give way hand-me-down clothes. This may be easy and convenient for the exisiting church members… but does it present the best first impression to guests? And does it lull the congregation into think ‘church is for us’ — creating a comfortable in-house vibe?
  • Are we managing private spaces that foster efficient and flexible ministry? — if ministry spaces slowly get absorbed by one particular ministry of the church, so they don’t full ‘pack down’ after their activities… this can actually hinder the best use of this space for others. If staff office spaces are not kept tidy with clear workflow, this can hinder staff working quickly and with clear heads.
  • Are we sending the right messages — what posters are going up on windows and noticeboards? How many brochures and newspapers are on that table just outside the main auditorium? How grumpy are the signs in the kitchen and bathroom?

2. Manage hire agreements with wisdom, kindness and a priority on gospel ministry

There are important issues of godliness and priority that relate to how the church building and other spaces are hired out to others. The leaders o the church need to ensure that there are good guidelines in place for how these decisions are made and how the relationships are managed.

If this happens rarely, such guidelines might be loose, informal, or even made on a case by case basis — in which case the leaders should keep an eye on the precedent being set. Sooner or later more will need to be written down.

A few issues:

  • What kinds of groups and activities are we happy to host in the facility? — secular activities? Alcohol service? Groups with different theology? Other religious or ideological groups?
  • Are there any groups or activities we want to provide the facility for free or cheap?
  • What kind of training and code of conduct do we need of those who manage hiring, to ensure who are firm but kind — not discrediting the gospel, or frustrating fellow believers, by a rigid or scolding manner, or by a sloppiness and slow communication?
  • How do we ensure that property income and hire obligations don’t take over our building use, so that we can no longer use it in the best and most flexible way for gospel ministry?
  • How do we become more systematic in the way the various spaces are use so that multiple ministry and non-ministry activities can take place at the same time without disrupting or detracting from one another?

3. Build, renovate and improve the building to be best for gospel ministry

Building or renovating is, as I have seen and heard and can only imagine, a massive drain on the energy of a church leadership — and even on a whole congregation. And yet we do it, because if that time, energy and money is invested well, the whole ministry benefits for years to come. We can use buildings to provide a massive boost to gospel ministry — like a trellis that helps a vine grow and prosper.

But the tragedy is when this is all done, but bad decisions are made so that the end result is not suitable for gospel ministry, or very far from ideal.

This is why the church leadership need to be involved in this process — from a massive building project to more day to day furniture layout questions — to make sure that it will best serve the purpose of gospel ministry.

The kinds of things to care about and ask about:

  • How is the sound in this space? — Since we are about the ministry of the word and loving communication with other people, we need to ask of all our meeting and mingling spaces. This doesn’t just matter for the main auditorium, but even for foyers, Sunday school spaces and even office spaces. A wonderful little feature of a cry room entrance I encountered in one church building, was that they added two layers of doors, like an airlock, or an entrance into a public toilet. This meant that parents of young kids didn’t need to worry about the sound of crying children distracting the rest of the church, every time the doors were opened — very smart.
  • Are we helping people come in and and find where to go? — we want new people to come into our church building, and find it very easy to both know where to go, and get the help they need. The mundane issue of signage should sit in our heads as having the same kind of importance as coordinating a doorknocking campaign or training up welcomers for the 10am church meting.
  • Does this space help people minister to each other in as many ways as possible? — I know of a church building designed beautifully by architects, that has wonderful foyer. But because the architects aren’t active church members, I suppose they imagined the purpose of the building was primarily for Sunday services. So the foyer is just a passage to walk into the auditorium, and then stand and drink a cup of tea and eat a Scotch Finger afterwards, right? The church leadership needed to work with the architects to ensure that this foyer was much more functional for mingling, hospitality, small discipleship meetings all week long. We need to ask of every space: how can we and might we use it? How can it best help these different types of ministry activity?
  • Are we sending the right sociological and cultural signals by our design choices? Architecture and interior design aren’t neutral. They send all sorts of cultural and sociological signals to us. You can draw all sorts of conclusions about the quality of coffee in a place by the font of its sign and its use of intentional use of milk crates. The layout of a room can subtly push you in a particular direction. There are little things that shrink spaces or make them feel roomy, that make a meeting feel intimate or formal. On a broader cultural note, matters of design create a different impression of what is modern or pretentious, elegant or stuffy…. even what is ‘white’ or ‘Asian’. We need to learn about these things and find others who can help us think this through.
  • We could go on to ask questions of warmth, lighting and other things… those who have worked hard in this area can probably add to this list way better than I can.

Mirrors 18th May 2018

  1. A review of my book The Good Life in the Last Days
  2. What an amazing, creepy, sad episode of the amazing Atlanta’s amazing second season!
  3. Lots of treats here from Capitol Baptist Training seminars: download and use in your ministry!
  4. Intriguing comments on why Catholic Colleges dominate NCAA: history and sociology of the Catholic Church’s engagement with inner city communities. Starting at 9:34
  5. Inerrancy, dictation-theories, reading the Bible literally, genre, ‘complicity’, hermeneutics and much more in this sermon on The Humanity of Scripture
  6. Free eBook: Do More With Less Time.
  7. A pretty awkward and adrupt Q&A interchange with (at 1 min 35) . But kind of fun the way he won’t allow the person to respond ‘Well ok’: ‘NO, not: “well ok”‘ 😛

Christian Leadership Focuses on Priorities… but also does the weeding

I have one of those gravel driveways that over time, especially in autumn and winter, begins to sprout weeds. There will come a point when we’ll need a whole new load of gravel, or worse still, to rip it all up and start over again. But for now, every gravel drive or path needs a steady weeding. Just when I’m out that way, I pull up the weeds I see, just giving 3 minutes to it every day or two.

If you don’t do that, sooner or later you have a driveway or path (or cracks in the concrete) full of dandelions.

Now weeding is not a high priority for me in life. It is not a high priority for my family life. It is not even of first importance in home maintenance. But if I don’t do it regularly it becomes a Big Job. Or you’re living in a jungle of weeds. And nobody wants that.

There are those things in life, right? And what’s true of home maintenance or personal care is also true of ministry leadership. Our churches and ministries need leaders who will help us manage the weeding so that it doesn’t get out of control.

Many of us who are in leadership don’t like this kind of stuff. We didn’t end up in full-time Christian leadership because we are good at this type of stuff. And perhaps we are even the type of (in general) guys who don’t notice or care much about actual weeds or ironed shirts or vacuumed floors… and this obliviousness flows over into the ministries we lead!

Some of the weeding that we need to oversee in church life

The list is endless really, isn’t it. The literal and metaphorical thorns and thistles we have to take spring up all over the place. A short and non-representative list:

  • Actual weeds and other cosmetic and simple repairs of your church facility — even if you are hiring a building you care how it looks and you maybe be the impetus for regular upkeep by the landlord.
  • Keeping databases and other admin up to date an culled of duplicates and out of date data.
  • Ensuring website, announcements and advertising material are all up to date.

You don’t need to do it yourself

It’s not your job. You shouldn’t have to do it. You should focus on prayer and the ministry of the word. Sure. But you need to ensure that it’s done. And notice that it’s done, so that you provide encouragement and accountability for the person who is overseeing such things.

 

 

Guest Post: #4 More on the Future of Campus Ministry

I love praying for missionaries directly involved in creative and reflective evangelism. Not only do I get the joy of partnering with them in their work… but I get to learn from them and steal all their ideas that they share in the prayer newsletters!

These little notes were sent out by Paddy at the end of last year. Bear in mind they are very much sketches of ideas sent out to prayer supporters, not fully-formed articles and arguments, so read them with that in mind. They are reprinted here with permission.

You can support Paddy Benn

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Here are four more reflections on the future of campus ministry:

  1. Training others: Being in a large campus ministry group, and having a large staff team is often a wonderful privilege and opportunity. However, one of our particular responsibilities should be to have an almost continual focus on training in all that we do. I was reflecting just last week that while we work hard at training others in their personal evangelism I have not done as much as I could have, to equip them to be training others in evangelism. So, rather than having 50 people per year really well trained as personal evangelists perhaps we should also aim to have those 50 as evangelism trainers so that as they serve in the wider church they can replicate what they have been taught. If we were to commit to this then it would require us to write a different style of material, and also to work more closely with some of our key people. However – it may encourage more to consider becoming ministry apprentices – as they are a key way in which we train others. But what impact could it have? How might it change and shape the culture of our local churches?
  2. Engaging with the current culture: Unless you have been in hiding you will appreciate that our country is continuing to move further away from a Judeo­-Christian value system. And I suspect that it will continue on this trajectory for the near future. While this will be potentially more challenging with regard to evangelism (see item 4) what is clear is that we need to keep helping EUers rightly see the trajectory of our culture and remind them that the gospel is unchanging and speaks powerfully into this culture. We are not yet at the point of significantly preparing our students in retreating from the public space, but we should consider what this might look like.  Please pray that as staff we would be diligent in training our students to use the gospel to diagnose their culture, and to know the gospel to speak into their culture.
  3. Less-Reached, Less-Resourced opportunities: One of the wonderful successes in the last few years has been the work that Celia (a fellow senior staff member) has been doing in encouraging EUers to consider serving in Less Reached and Less Resourced (LRLR) places. An increasing number of pastors recognise that this is a key value of the SUEU. One of our future challenges is how to increase the numbers of EUers keen to move to LRLR places – and what encourages them to actually leave and stay in an LRLR place. Please remember to pray for the nearly 220 EUers heading off on our 16 LRLR missions in the next two weeks. Please also pray that EUers would consider moving to LRLR places to serve in their local church.
  4. ‘Cross cultural’ evangelism: For many (myself included) we often think that cross cultural evangelism is cross­-ethnic evangelism. This is a massively important and key thing for those of use living in Sydney! However, one of my more recent observations is that for many students as they speak with their friends their conversations feel like cross­-cultural ones in that they have very little in common with their friends worldviews, etc. What might it look like if we trained all our students that in our post­-Christian world all their conversations will be cross-­cultural? How might this change the manner in which they relate and engage with their friends? What impact might this have in their evangelism? What could be learnt from experienced cross-­ethnic practitioners?
  5. Conscience : This one is not directly related to the campus but from some thinking I did on study leave recently. Have you noticed how in the current debate around religious freedoms that Christians have appealed to a ‘freedom of conscience’ approach? This argument often runs along the lines that I, as a Christian, should be excused from a particular action because that action goes against my conscience. However this argument is weak and misunderstood in two ways.  Firstly, the secularist understands conscience simply as one aspect of the decision making process which is inevitably driven by emotion – and if it is felt then it must be right. Therefore why is your Christian conscience any more valid than my secular one? Secondly, it underplays (and misunderstands) the significance of Christian conscience which is that sense of wounding and the causing of pain/guilt that occurs after we have committed an action that is contrary to God’s good word. My suggestion. As you speak with people about conscience try this line – “If you ask me to carry out this particular action it will be against my Christian conscience, and this will wound me and cause me pain. Because what you are about to do will be painful for me could you please re-consider asking me, and perhaps ask someone else.”

 

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You can support Paddy Benn

Guest Post: #3 The Future of Campus Ministry by Paddy Benn

I love praying for missionaries directly involved in creative and reflective evangelism. Not only do I get the joy of partnering with them in their work… but I get to learn from them and steal all their ideas that they share in the prayer newsletters!

These little notes were sent out by Paddy at the end of last year. Bear in mind they are very much sketches of ideas sent out to prayer supporters, not fully-formed articles and arguments, so read them with that in mind. They are reprinted here with permission.

You can support Paddy Benn

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As I get to the end of ten years on campus here are some thoughts as to the future of campus ministry:

  1. Personal Bible reading and prayer. Like many growing ministries, we can be in danger of thinking that we need to keep developing and ‘fixing’ our programs. However, we need to remind ourselves to work towards personal growth in character and Christian maturity as we follow Jesus. I am keen to keep encouraging people to develop their Bible reading and prayer life and for this to be deeply embedded within their expectations. I sometimes find this difficult but need to remind myself that it is ‘core business’ so have tried to work more proactively on personal Bible reading this year (I used the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan). Please give thanks to God that I have spent more time in personal Bible reading and prayer this year. How is your prayer & Bible reading going? Do you have a plan for the next few weeks? Have you found the right time that works for you?
  2. Time with non­-Christians. We continue to encourage EUers to be spending good amounts of time on campus so that they would have time for their academic studies, time for EU activities and time to relate and engage with non-­Christian friends. I think that this will become somewhat more difficult especially if the culture of the day moves increasingly further away from our current culture (the EUers feel like they have less in common – which creates challenges for evangelism). Spending time with non-­Christians will continue to be a pressure point for our students, but we have found this year that having more time on campus as an ‘all­-EU’ goal has produced great benefits, for example more people in small groups, more people at Public Meeting afternoon teas, and more evangelism. Please pray that the EU would keep developing a culture of looking outside itself and seeking to reach the lost with the gospel of Jesus. Please pray that I would continue to rightly encourage students to develop and deepen relationships with their non­-Christian friends.
  3. Having a vision for local church. How do you encourage students to participate actively in local church, especially when they could be spending more time on campus? We need to keep navigating this so as not to fall on either extreme (all church no EU or all EU and less church) and help students make good decisions – since the decision making learning will help them in years to come. As I interviewed a graduating student last Friday he mentioned that he and another EUer had started an evangelism team at church to do local cold contact evangelism. Another student last year organised and ran a mini­-festival style mission at their church. Both of these are modelled off our evangelism strategy and practice within the EU. In both cases it was in great discussion and with the blessing of their ministry team at church. Praise God that these students were innovative in undertaking these evangelistic endeavours. The ministry that we are doing has an immediate impact but can also serve and strengthen the local church. Please pray that we might continue to train and equip our students to be loving and generous servants of their local churches (now and for the future).

Please continue to thank God for His great kindness shown to the EU and the ministry that is being undertaken on the campus. Please ask that the Lord might continue to raise up more workers for this harvest field, and that all our financial needs for 2018 and beyond will be met by our Lord – our great provider.

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You can support Paddy Benn

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.