Christians and Humour

Wee Sen Goh
Wee Sen Goh

There’s no denying it. I love to laugh.

The world would be a sad place if God hadn’t created us to laugh. Laughter means we’re enjoying ourselves. It means we’re enjoying the world. It means for that moment we’re having fun and are happy, no matter how short-lived that moment may be.

Thinking of the physical nature of laughter, it makes our body move, it causes us to make noise, it may even make us cry. Laughter doesn’t only show we’re having fun on the outside but it provides our bodies with activity that is beneficial to our muscles and our brain.

Laughter can help alleviate pain and sadness. Laughter can get us out of awkward conversations. Laughter can help us to not take ourselves too seriously.

This is one of the major problems with people who take things too seriously, they don’t laugh.

I know a number of fellow Christians who don’t really laugh. I’ve never seen them laugh. OK, sometimes my jokes may have been misplaced and not really funny at all but you’d think that we (Christians) would be the people of this world who would be laughing the most.

Laughing gives off a sense of confidence. There is confidence in the enjoyment of the moment and the time. As believers who are assured of life forever and worship and know God himself our enjoyment of him and everything he has provided for us should enable us to laugh. We’re creatures created to laugh.

There are of course different types of humour and some people frown upon certain types. The Australian humour of putting down others and sarcastic comments has been around for years. I can’t say I’m not immune to letting the odd sarcastic comment come out of my mouth just to get a laugh.

The other day I finished reading Stuff Christians Like by Jon Acuff. It’s funny. Really funny. It takes the mickey out of Christian culture and names it for what it is – weird. This book provides a perfect example of Christians not taking themselves too seriously. Well, at least those who read it and find it funny.

Sometimes there are people I just want to say “loosen up” to. They’re never laughing, always talking about serious things, not allowing themselves to enjoy the world.

God created us to laugh. He even wrote funny bits into his Word. Remember that guy who was listening to Paul preach and he fell out the window because he’d fallen asleep. That’s funny. Surely that’s funny. OK, he died, but then God performed a miracle and he was made alive again. The fact that he fell asleep while listening to what many people would say the world’s second greatest preacher (no one’s allowed to trump Jesus, of course) is funny.

Or think of Jonah, he gets swallowed by a large fish! Amazing and funny at the same time.

Ah, well, I enjoy laughing. I hope you do too.

What have you laughed at this week? What have you found funny? Are you enjoying what the Lord has made?

10 Simple Steps To Making A Godly Decision

I recently preached on God’s Guidance. Toward the end I provided some practical steps in how to go about making a biblically wise decision. The steps are outlined below and have been adapted from Kevin De Young’s book, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach To Finding God’s Will.

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  1. God has called us to himself. He has enabled us to know him through his Son Jesus and given us forgiveness and hope.
  2. The Spirit is at work to grow us into holiness and Christlikeness. We are a work in progress. It’s OK. We won’t be made perfect until Christ comes again. Our decision making is going to be flawed at times, let’s keep ourselves in perspective; it may save us from regret.
  3. We are to love God and love others. The first and most important command, this should be relevant to us as we seek guidance and make decisions.
  4. We are to search scripture and keep ourselves in line with the commands and guidance that God gives through his Word.
  5. We are to pray. Just sit down and pray about it to God. Whether it’s once, or it’s every day for the next 10 years. God seeks to hear from us but it may also change us.
  6. We are to talk to people with biblically wise people. In our churches and communities, and our wider Christian networks, who can help you think through issues and make decisions?
  7. We are to know ourselves. By knowing our gifts, abilities, skills, passions, attitudes and desires we can begin to see alignment between them and what God is perhaps calling us to. The question of are we a ‘good fit’ is a good one?
  8. We are to know other Christians. Discernment and guidance doesn’t take place in your own head. It is a communal exercise. Are their close friends who resonate with what you’re suggesting or doing? Does the church give its backing to your decisions and pursuits?
  9. We are to think through the opportunity. On one hand God’s ‘open door’ policy can be good. There is a door open and you can step through it, then you can look back and think of God opening the door for you. On the other hand, the ‘open door’ can be deceptive. The opportunity that comes along may take you away from other possibilities. However, if you’ve done the above then I would hope you’re right.
  10. We are to make a decision. The ball is in your court. Make a call, commit and follow through with it.

As a final summary to his book DeYoung concludes with these great words on God’s will, guidance, and making decisions:

“So the end of the matter is this: Love for God. Obey the scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be Holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, wherever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God.”

The Glenn McGrath Bible Reading Plan

Glenn McgrathSo by now you should be a week into your New Year’s resolution of reading the bible this year. Well, if you’re a Christian of some description anyway.

How’s it going? Have you managed to work your way through the chapters you planned to? Did you choose one of those plans that makes you jump between different books of the Bible? Perhaps reading some Old Testament chapters, some New Testament and then a Psalm. Or, maybe you’re working through the Old Testament and so you’d be stuck in the middle of Genesis or thereabouts right now.

Every year for the last seven or eight years I reckon I’ve attempted to read the whole Bible through. I’ve managed it twice in that time. It was probably the first couple of years too where I completed the goal.

One year I was silly enough to choose a plan that required reading 10 chapters per day and took you to almost every part of the bible. Yeah, I managed about two weeks and gave up. It was like reading a short novel every single day. I like reading, but perhaps not that much.

The thing with bible reading plans is that at the start of the year it starts off well but then you realise you’ve got to work your way through Chronicles and 150 Psalms and some prophets, which can be depressing at times. Sometimes it’s the same story over and over again, sometimes it’s just the same genre of writing that can get a bit tiresome.

Don’t get me wrong, I think bible reading plans are good. I think that having a plan or a goal in your bible reading is important. And, if you don’t, what’s that saying about how seriously you’re taking your faith and wanting to hear from God? Hmmm, one to ponder there I think.

So while I hold them up as good there does need to be a sense of reality about what type of plan you’re going to do. At the start of the year we tend to think we can achieve more than perhaps is possible. What’s important in any reading plan, whether it’s the bible or other books, is to break it down into consistent chunks that are achievable. Like with anything – fitness training, writing, art – it requires discipline.

This is where I’ve come up with the very basic idea of The Glenn McGrath Bible Reading Plan.

If you at least follow a little cricket I would hope you know who Glenn McGrath is. If you don’t, shame on you. Glenn McGrath is the great Australian fast bowler who holds the record of most wickets by a fast bowler for Australia, possibly even the world. Throughout his career McGrath bowled line and length. That is, he bowled the ball just short of a good length and in line with the off-stump or just outside. He aimed for the same spot each delivery and made it very difficult for the batsmen. By doing this he was disciplined in not wavering from his plan, he was consistent in his pace and placement of the ball on the pitch, and it just got people out. It was terrific fast bowling, could be considered pretty boring too, but it worked.

And this is the thing with The Glenn McGrath Bible Reading Plan.

The key is consistency, the same process every day.

The bible has 1189 chapters. The year has 365 days. That means 3.25 chapters per day will have you finishing the book of Revelation on New Year’s Eve. You will have read the whole bible through in a year. 3.25 chapters isn’t much is it? That’s like 15 minutes max. Maybe more for the day you’re reading Psalm 119, but I digress.

It’s actually not much per day when you put it in those terms. It’s achievable and even more so when you’ve got your phone and you’re on your way to work or you wake up and it’s right next to you.

This year I’ve planned to read four chapters per day and am simply ticking off what I’ve done. I’ve started at Matthew because most years I’ve started at Genesis and it’s gotten tiring. To make it a habit I’d rather read from Matthew first. If I continue to go with four chapters per day I’ll have finished the bible by September or October I think. After January I could pull it back to three chapters per day and we’d be right for the rest of the year. I’ll make that call later. The important thing is that it’s happening and beginning to become a habit.

How about you? Have you started a plan this year? How’s it going?

‘From Five Barley Loaves’ – An Interview with Ken Manley

From Five Barley Loaves CoverThis year Global Interaction, the Australian Baptist cross-cultural mission agency, celebrates 100 years since federation and 149 years of involvement in global mission. As part of these celebrations a book has been released highlighting the involvement of Australian Baptists in cross-cultural mission since 1860.

The first five Baptist missionaries sent from Australia were female. At their commissioning service the pastor, Silas Mead, preached from the text referring to Jesus feeding the five thousand in John 6. Drawing on this story Mead made reference to the five barley loaves supplied by the child, the implication being that the work these five women were about to undertake in Bengal would be one where they were few among many. It is from this beginning that the title of the book From Five Barley Loaves gets its name.

Ken Manley, Australian Baptist pastor, historian, and former Whitley College principal, was one of three main editors of this work. He has been kind enough to answer a few questions about the book and let us in on some of the significant points of his research and writing. I’d like to publicly thank Ken for agreeing to share his thoughts, it’s much appreciated.

1. What interested you in being involved in writing this book?

I was asked to act as a consultant to a small group from Global Interaction who were planning the project. There was no expectation or commitment that I would do any writing. I was quite supportive of the book for several reasons. When writing my history of Australian Baptists I had included one chapter on our foreign mission work and realised how inadequate this was. I knew there was a great need for a carefully researched history of the Mission. I also believed that the work of the Mission was the most unifying ministry of Australian Baptists nationally and wanted to see the full story told. My friend Gerald Ball had written a fine thesis on early Australian Baptist work in India and had been asked to write a major history of ABMS (as our mission was then called). I really wanted to help him and was sorry when his health meant that a much wider group of writers had to work on the history. Also, I had always been a supporter of the Mission and had served in minor ways across the years and so was delighted to be asked to help as an advisor. In the end I wrote the chapters on home leadership and mission policy as well as the conclusion.

2. In your mind, what were the most significant findings in researching the book?

This is hard to say in the sense that in broad terms the story was well known. As a group we shared a belief that mission history generally and our story in particular should itself have a strong missiological purpose. As we wrote the history we were constantly seized with the way in which the Mission was led by God and sustained especially in the most difficult times. The way in which various national groups responded to the gospel is itself inspiring and a reminder that all missionary work is in the deepest sense simply telling what God is doing in the world. The depth of the commitment to the work by such a wide range of people right across our churches was confirmed by the details of our research.

3. As Australian Baptists why is it important to know our mission history?

It is a major part of who we are as a people. We did not want to produce a naive devotional narrative that depicted missionary heroes as flawless saints. We wished to avoid any sense of triumphalism or promote a cultural imperialism. The growth of faith and mission among those people with whom the missionaries shared has been a significant and central part of our story, not as a justification or vindication of ‘our’ work but as testimony to the unfailing work of God in mission in the world. That God used ordinary people just like us is a call and challenge for us to serve in our day.

4. Was there anything that surprised you about our mission history? If so, what?

I am not sure that ‘surprised’ is the right word. In broad outline the story was known. Yet the very fact of bringing it all together was itself an inspiration. Here was ‘just’ another story about part of the global phenomenon that is Christian mission. Here was a tale about this small part of the Christian world family seeking to share the truths of the gospel to people of different cultures. Here was the story of both failures and successes, of a slow but steady growth in awareness of the challenges of cross-cultural mission and of experiments in outreach to different cultures in times of dramatic changes in the world. We believe that there is inspiration and challenge in the story but we have not felt it necessary to gloss over mistakes and struggles. A couple of the saddest parts to record were about differences and failures but that was necessary too.

5. How can we be encouraged in our faith through reading this book?

Archbishop Rowan Williams has written, ‘We are always likely to forget that Jesus is different from the Church, not the Church’s possession’. So with this Mission. We were once inspired with the vision of taking the gospel to the ‘lost heathen of the world’. We do not mock the motivation, the sincerity and the passion with which that mission was undertaken. But our Mission’s story affirms that Jesus was never the Mission’s possession to be given from an imagined superiority to the poor benighted people of distant foreign places. Today we clearly affirm that we are partners not propagandists with a vision to ‘empower communities to develop their own distinctive ways of following Jesus’.

Indeed, as the one eventually charged to write about the work of successive leaders, to analyse home support and reflect on the missiological policies of the Mission, I was deeply impressed with several aspects and found my own faith in missions increased. I was, for example, inspired by the way in which during successive periods dedicated workers grappled with challenging problems. Frank Marsh who led the Mission for 23 years summarised his term as a series of crises that ‘add up to a story of repeated deliverance and convincing evidence of Divine care’. His successors echoed this sentiment. I discovered a willingness to change, to follow fresh insights and to adopt compelling mission goals even if this involved risks of misunderstanding by supporters. Most especially, I came to understand more clearly the immense depths of support given by a myriad of loyal, mostly unknown Baptists, whose unfailing interest, incredible generosity, faithful prayers and sacrificial efforts seemed to grow in times of desperate need and which lay behind every advance on the fields. This is the story of such ordinary Baptists at home as well as the hundreds who served as missionaries in diverse locations.

6. And for those tossing up whether to read this history or not, what would you say to them?

It is a long book and you may choose to read it in chunks. It is great value! Every church should have a copy in the church library or available for all to read. The story in each country is found in separate chapters. Reading it will reward you as an individual believer and as a church you will be challenged to extend your commitment to global mission in our generation. Here is our story, not only from the past by right up to date. If you care about the spread of the gospel throughout our world today you will need to read and be challenged!

Any further comments?

One Anglican reader and historian of missions, Professor Stuart Piggin has written about our history: ‘A really quite astonishing record of an astonishing part of the church family which says to the rest of us, “Go and do thou likewise”’.

Silence

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Cristiana Gasparotto

In the early 400s a hermit named Agathon was said to have spent three years with a stone in his mouth to encourage him in his practice of refraining from speech.

Ignoring the fact that Agathon is a cool name and sounds like he should be a character in Lord of The Rings, he was evidently a man committed to silence.

I read this little anecdote in a book I’ve just finished titled, Silence: A Christian History by Diarmaid MacCulloch, the Professor of the History of the Church at Oxford University. As the title implies, it’s a book detailing the theme of silence through Christian history.

Since reading this book I’ve found myself pondering silence.

Silence seems to be elusive in our society, it’s not something we’re generally comfortable with.

After all, most of us, I dare suggest, prefer noise over silence.

As I sit writing this I’m well aware of the noise around me. I’m in a cafe where the customer and the owner are talking quite loudly about what they got up to on the weekend. There is a group of Christians (they look Presbyterian) praying in the corner, some of which I can hear. There are people getting up from the table and scraping their chairs on the wooden floor, and there’s the noise from the kitchen, dishes clanging and chef’s directing.

That’s just the noise from where I sit. It’s a comfortable place to be.

But think of the noise we choose to have in our own lives. This isn’t just the busyness that pervades our diaries, this is the actual noise we have ringing in our ears as we fall asleep, as we commute to work, as we do exercise. In each of these cases we may have the radio or the iPod attached as we seek to multitask and be efficient.

So, how do we bring silence into our lives?

If we go back to the example of Agathon we see his commitment to his cause. It’s radical, it’s extreme. I don’t imagine I could do it.

I think I prefer noise because it helps keep me distracted. It helps me avoid silence.

Silence can be threatening.

When there’s no one around and no distractions it’s only me and my own mind. I can get caught up in my own thoughts. Some good, some not so good. Silence means it’s just me. No one else.

From a young age I’ve enjoyed watching the detective series, Cadfael. Cadfael is a monk who was part of the crusades upon the Middle East but then turns to the cloister in search of a simpler life. In doing so he is portrayed as the worldly monk, competent in medicinal practices and helpful at solving the extraordinary number of murders that occur in and around the Abbey.

The monk life enabled regular time for silence, worship, and reflection on God. Silence was structured into the day. Over the course of a 24 hour period there are eight designated times of prayer and worship, while outside of this is space for the individual to be silent.

I’m not suggesting we need to join the monk life, but I am suggesting silence might help us cope with our busy lives. Silence provides a space for reflection, for thinking, for clarity. It enables us to have time to ourselves, to recalibrate our bearings. How long has it been since you recalibrated those rusty bearings?

Recently I’ve found myself enjoying even 5-10 minutes of silence every few days. It’s bought a sense of refreshment and the ability to persevere with whatever is next. For me, incorporating silence into my weekly rhythm will help give me the energy to deal with the week’s busyness.

What about you? Is silence something you avoid? Do you include silence in your weekly rhythm?

Challenge: Spend 10 minutes in your car with the radio off, how do you react?

Just Put It Down

I sat there at the table feeding my 8-month-old daughter porridge. Spoonful after spoonful I dutifully delivered to her the breakfast she was seeking to devour. She was enjoying it and I was enjoying feeding her. She sat there in her highchair, smiling away and looking at me intently, waiting for the next spoonful.

Photo: Anthro Brown Bag

At that point I naturally went towards my phone. This wasn’t to receive a call or check my messages. No, this was to open up my camera app and start putting those priceless smiles and eyes into digital format. After all, I had to capture the moment.

After taking about 10 photos, all very similar of course, I began to think something wasn’t quite right.

Here I was, sitting at the table with my living in-the-flesh daughter directly in front of me, both of us enjoying our time together and the connection we were obviously having in sharing breakfast.

But instead of simply enjoying the moment, I decided to objectify it.

I decided to take this precious moment and stick it in digital format, rather than continue to be mesmerised by my lovely girl. I decided to interrupt breakfast, interrupt our smiling and cooing and eating, and inject some foreign device into the middle of our eyesight all for the sake of capturing another moment on camera.

I don’t think that’s the way I’m meant to be living. I don’t think that’s the way we’re meant to be living.

The wife and I were travelling in Jordan once and we came upon a fellow-traveller who joined us for a desert safari trip for a few hours. He’d been travelling around the country a while and had decided not to take a camera with him. Instead, he asked us (and others he came across) to email him one photo when we were back home and when we had the chance. He didn’t want to be constantly taking photos of what he was seeing, he wanted to enjoy what was in front of him.

I’ve been taken by this idea ever since that trip. It’s counter-intuitive, almost counter-cultural.

Somehow we’ve become OK with interrupting the precious, special, fabulous, emotional (insert your adjective here) moments rather than get taken away with them. We’ve stopped enjoying life because we’re always trying to capture it.

This realisation won’t stop me from taking photos of my daughter, no, I’ll still want to take 10 photos in one hit. I’ll still want to interrupt great moments to video or digitise her for posterity. But what I will do is begin to think through it a bit more. Learn to live in the moment rather than watch it from the sideline. I want to keep engaged. I want to stay focussed for as long as possible. It seems I need to teach myself to just put the phone down. Just put it down.

What about you? Do you do a similar thing? Had similar thoughts? It’d be great to hear from you below.

What I Learnt From Steve Jobs

The other day I finished the biography of Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Incredible.

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This book excels in portraying a man who defined much of this generation. I know he’s certainly transformed the way I interact with the world through the iPhone and iPad, I suspect it’s the same for you.

There is something about reading a biography that provides insight into people you otherwise wouldn’t know. Isaacson’s masterful job of putting together the components of Jobs’ life is a perfect example. A deeper and fuller understanding of Jobs and his character gives cause to reflect on what can be learnt from him. Here then, are my thoughts on what I learnt from Steve Jobs:

1. I learnt Steve Jobs is a douche – There is no doubting it. He was a douche. His personality and the way he acted and behaved were terribly stupid and degrading to others at times. This wasn’t just one-off events every few years, ripping people apart in front of others occurred for sustained periods and made the guy a ripe proper douche. He even admits it himself.

2. I learnt Steve Jobs had a tremendous appreciation for quality – Everything he sought to do, whether it be his eating practices or the products he sought to produce, was to be of high quality. If they weren’t of the highest and best then they were crap. His push for quality products is what made Apple and Pixar. It’s a shame this wasn’t reflected in his relationships with others, including his parents, his daughters and his wife. Nevertheless, he pursued the best – products and employees. He wouldn’t settle for second.

3. I learnt Steve Jobs didn’t care about money – That’s always easy to say for someone who actually has millions already. But, I think that truly was the case. He didn’t seem fussed about money, it was the product, the A-class quality of a product, that mattered. If he made money by doing this then all the better.

4. I learnt Steve Jobs embodied Apple and Apple embodied him – After leading an organisation for so many years, even with a rather long period of exile, his personality shone through the company. There is no mistaking Jobs’ influence because he was the founder of the company but there is something that happens when you’ve been involved for 30 years. The company reflects your personality, and so it is with Apple. This desire for perfection, for high quality design and products, for pushing the boundaries in what people believe they can do, all comes from Steve Jobs.

5. I learnt that Steve Jobs is an inspiration – There is no doubting it, he’s one of a kind. There won’t be another Steve Jobs and the effect he’s had on Western society is very hard to measure, but needless to say it’s been enormous. His leadership and determination are inspiring. His passion for his industry and product is inspiring. He’s inspired me, through this book, to be a person who is more focussed, passionate, and determined in their work and life. I’ll skip the douche bit but have to say the other character traits are inspiring.

A sixth point would be that Walter Isaacson is an amazing writer. He inspires me to be a better writer and has made this book flow so well I didn’t want to put it down at times. If you happen to get the chance to read this book, I’d highly recommend it.

Are You A Youth Influencer?

From: Salvos
From: Salvos

Everyone is influenced by others. For better or for worse there are influential people in our lives that, well, have an influence on us.

I sat around a table with other youth leaders not long ago and as each of us shared our stories it became evident to me that we’d all been influenced by an older person when we were growing up. It was interesting to hear that the main person for each of us was either a youth pastor or a youth leader in our church.

As a leader of young people and young adults it can be surprising as to how much influence you can have over others. It’s certainly been the case for me where an older person has been influential – a youth pastor, an older friend, a parent, and a member of the church has influenced my faith and life in general.

But, I find that it’s not just the official youth or young adult leaders that have influence on younger people. There are others within a church setting that can influence younger people despite not being an “official” youth leader.

For example:

  • The worship leader who interacts with the younger band members. This can occur on Sunday’s but also at practices during the week and other times. Sometimes the worship leader may have more to do with the younger person than the official leader/s.
  • Young adults who hang out with the high-schoolers before and after services. Not all young adults are going to be official youth leaders but they may still go to the same service that many of the youth groupers go to. After the service is a great time to hang out and also go out for supper. During these times other attenders of the church can be influential without even knowing it.
  • An older member in the congregation who has a heart to see young adults grow in their faith may simply strike up conversation at morning tea. Here there is the cross-generational thing happening but also the influence of an older person toward a younger person.

There are plenty of other examples to use. Perhaps you can think of some that happen in your church too. But the point is that despite not being called a youth leader or a young adult pastor or a lead generation connector, or whatever title you want to give yourself you may actually be a “youth influencer”.

Instead of marking territories in terms of who’s a youth leader and who in the church is responsible for the youth and young adult ministries, perhaps a more wholistic way to look at is that everyone does have there own part to play. Quite often it might be the people you least expect to be influencing the next generation.

Are you a youth influencer?

Why Your Church Service Is Awesome

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Photo: Wiki Commons

In the last 6-9 months I’ve had the opportunity to visit a variety of churches and sit through a number of services “on the other side of the pew”. Since I’m no longer on staff at church I get to observe and participate in services like never before. This experience is great and painful all at the same time.

Today’s post is simply a list of points that have struck me while reflecting on services I’ve been to recently. In other words, it’s a list of points that I think make your service awesome.

  • Your worship or service leader is genuinely interested in welcoming me as a visitor. Because your service leader is so good I now know their name, I know what’s happening in the service, and what to expect in the coming hour. This is very good to know and I appreciate this information.
  • Your time of singing is an appropriate length and there has been thought put into the song choices. The words of the songs and the number of people singing in the service gives a good indication that your “song picker” knows what it means to gather as a church. They evidently know that the words of songs are important and there is a focus on the gospel and the theme of the whole service, particularly the sermon. While I know there are plenty of people who all have different preferences for songs you’ve been able to focus on the essentials in the choosing.
  • Your announcements are given by a real person, who tells me their name and highlights 2-3 points from the bulletin that are important for the church. I appreciate that it’s a real person up the front delivering the important announcements in good time. This shows me that you know it’s important to communicate with the church and also lets me know what I should take note of among all the other newsletter items.
  • Your pastoral prayer is spoken on behalf of the church for believers and non-believers around the world, throughout this country, and also for those within the church. In some ways the pastoral prayer can be a tricky one because there are so many options to pray for. Yet, the person who is praying this in your service has thought deeply about how to pray for people around the world. This gives the impression that your church is focused on the whole world and has a global worldview. Praying for your country and for those within the congregation also allows me to see that you care about your community, both inside and outside the church. It is in this prayer that the focus of the church is most readily shown.
  • You have a bible reading. This is brilliant. Not only do you have a bible reading but the one who speaks these words over the congregation introduces the text in such a way that if I didn’t know where to find the particular passage I am led by the reader to it. This is either through the mentioning of the page number, where it is in the bible (OT or NT), or being directed to the table of contents page at the front of the bible itself. Thank you for taking the time to do this, I know it must feel weird if you’ve always been around a bible but it is helpful to see you thinking about others. With this your reader has also given me ample time to get to the passage and is happy to stay silent while people “page flick” to the right spot.
  • You have a preacher who actually reads, explains, and applies the bible. Your service is awesome when this happens. It is one of the main reasons for gathering together on a Sunday, to hear the Word preached, and your service has a preacher willing to do so. This is excellent. Not only that, but they introduce themselves and seem genuinely concerned with wanting to get across what the bible is teaching. I’m not too concerned about how long your preacher goes for if he’s teaching and applying the bible, it’s just good for them to be doing so.
  • You have people in your congregation willing to talk after the service. To have a welcoming team or people who are on the look out is great. I appreciate that. To have people in your congregation who are willing to turn around and say “hello” off their own bat is even better. This makes your church look like a friendly and welcoming place, somewhere I’d think about coming back to.

So, is your church an awesome church?

How Do You Measure Failure?

I’ve been struck this morning by reflecting on how we measure failure.

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Photo: Honda News

In preparation for my first sermon in 9 months the passage of 1 Thessalonians 2:1-12 causes a change in thinking about success and failure. Failure isn’t not succeeding it’s not being faithful.

The best and most recent example of success and failure is the Olympics. For many competitors any result bar gold is a failure. We saw in the coverage, swimmers, gymnasts, and athletes, who came second or third weren’t looking overly happy up there on the podium. Yet, for other competitors simply standing anywhere on the dias was a massive achievement. Even competing in the games was an achievement (Think: competitors from third-world countries or Eddie the Eel from a few years back).

Yet, for Paul in his letter to the Thessalonians success wasn’t measured on the number of converts or how many he preached to or what connections he had with authorities. Paul’s success came in being faithful to God and the mission that He had called him to.

In evaluating whether he was a failure the passage gives us the impression that if he was to seek glory for himself, be greedy, or try to trick people into believing in Jesus then he would’ve been a failure. Not only would this mean his attitude and motivation for the mission would be skewed away from God’s priorities, it would also mean he failed in his task. Yet, in the face of opposition and persecution he remained faithful to the mission, faithful to God, and faithful to the gospel.

It seems that faithfulness isn’t failure, forgetting God is.