My Top Posts of 2021

I continue to write and seek to express myself and hopefully encourage others along the way too.

This past year has seen my writing develop in different ways, and less so on this blog than I would’ve liked. I’ve been taken up with writing more sermons due to an increased teaching role at my church. And, one of the unique writing projects I completed this year was a weekly review focussed on Supercoach (fantasy AFL) during the footy season. This meant that time and dedication to writing in this space dissipated from previous years. And to be honest, another year of lockdowns had an affect on this too.

Nevertheless, I continue to commit myself to writing. I find it is the best way for me to express myself and to find clarity of thought. It’s also an enjoyable experience to have written, to finally hit publish on a post about an idea that I’ve been mulling away on for a while.

Having only posted 13 times in the past 12 months you’d think people would simply stop reading the articles and posts I have here. However, this hasn’t been the case. There are still a number of popular posts that continue to have traction with people, which is certainly pleasing as a writer! It seems that I had about the same amount view this blog as I did last year, which is to say just over 9200 hits all up.

As to what has been popular this past year, here are the top five posts for 2021:

  1. God’s Love Expressed: Through The Cross
  2. The Lord of The Lockdowns (published in 2021 and on TGCA)
  3. Martin Luther On Complete Forgiveness of Christ
  4. My Theological Library
  5. 11 Things: The Senior Pastor-Youth Pastor Relationship

If you’d like to explore more of what has been popular on here in previous years you can do so here: Top posts for 202020192018201720162015. I also have a collection of writings published elsewhere, which you can find here.

My Top Posts for 2020

After three years of significant growth the last 12 months has seen a little dip on my blog. I’ve certainly had less capacity for writing, and have slowed down my posting and focus. This has had an impact. But then, hasn’t everyone slowed down and felt unfocussed in some form or another at times this year?

I have certainly written less in the past 12 months, less that I have in the last five years. Both my public and private writing has suffered, and as a result I feel like I’ve suffered because of it too. This is not to be dramatic, but it is a result of decreasing in a habit that I find great joy and satisfaction in. Since writing less I have found myself to be less reflective, and in turn less reflective on my heart and soul. You see, there is something about writing that causes us to slow down, to reflect, to take stock, to gather thoughts, and to be precise about what we think and say. Writing enables better thought-processes–all things I have had little capacity for these past 12 months and wish to get into once again.

Having said this, while posting less may have meant less people have wandered over to my part of the internet I am still very thankful that people do read what I’ve written. It surprises me how many people wish to read something I’ve written, and who may even post a comment about it on my social channels. And so I’m very grateful that I get to share something of my life and faith through this site.

Aside from the statistics there is a particular satisfaction I have in writing and publishing posts. Reading posts I wrote a number of years ago is like going back and looking at sermons you’ve written, a harrowing and embarrassing experience. To see the quality of my writing increase in these last few years has been pleasing. And this is reflected in the top posts for the year 2020, which you can read below.

Like any pursuit, creative or otherwise, there is a certain satisfaction in finishing a post and seeing it ‘out there’ on the inter-webs. It is an accomplishment and and encouragement at the same time. As with life and faith, which this blog is all about, writing and blogging require me to plod along. The quality of these things are built on small steps and increases in habits each day, week, month, and year.

So, here’s to another year of writing, hopefully a bit more consistently, and with something that might be of value to you!

Top Posts for 2020:

  1. The Grieving of the (Non) Gathering of God’s People (published 2020)
  2. Your Will Be Done (published 2020)
  3. Make The Bible Project Your Bible Reading Plan for 2018
  4. Martin Luther on Complete Forgiveness In Christ
  5. God’s Love Expressed: Through The Cross

[Top posts for 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015]

Christ In A Curfew

Our city has now been under a curfew for a week.

What an amazing sentence to write.

I’ve always figured that to be under curfew would mean I was living in a country under martial law or something similar; where there would be the threat of violence and war.

Even living in the Middle East for a couple of years, in a country that had numerous political assassinations, bus bombings, a short-lived war with its neighbour, and military checkpoints throughout the area I lived, there was never a curfew.

It’s a strange and sad sentence to write.

And it’s a sentence that already feels like it’s taking a toll.

Christ In A Curfew

I’m not sure how you’re feeling about this curfew and this Stage 4 business, but in conversation with people I know it seems we already feel the weight of it. There’s the emotional toll, coming to terms with the shock and awe of being in such a lockdown again and all the feels that come along with that. There’s the psychological toll, as people wrestle with their own mental health, anxieties and depressingly negative thoughts of what the next six weeks is to look like. And then there’s a relational toll, as the alone-ness continues the loneliness of isolation is felt more deeply. Let alone all the other stresses and pressures this lockdown now leads to–unemployment or lower job security, financial pressure, family pressure at home, and the overwhelming stress from remote learning for young families. It feels like a dangerous cocktail.

Is there a positive in this at all?

Let’s be honest, sometimes it seems hard to see through to one.

Nevertheless, positives or not, there are some truths worth holding on to. Because despite what is happening in our lives, despite the pressures we’re under, and despite the strain of the day, there is still a God who is with us, who cares for us, and who brings hope into our lives.

He Is With Us

Even though we’re all surprised by how 2020 has turned out God is not.

For thousands of years God has been across and involved in the world we live. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He hasn’t changed. He remains steadfast, he remains faithful, he remains a God of love. He remains a God who looks upon his creation and seeks to be with them, to know them and he be known by them.

God has not disappeared. He hasn’t gone on holiday. He hasn’t run away. No, God is with us. He is with us in the confusion and the chaos, just as he is with us in our health and in our happiness.

In John 14:26-27 Jesus speaks with his disciples promising that God will always be with them through the Holy Spirit. He says,

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.”

How assuring to know that God is with us. As followers of Christ we can know that he is with us. That upon his death, resurrection, and ascension Christ didn’t leave this world to its own devices. Rather, Christ has given us his peace, a peace that surpasses all understanding, a peace through his Spirit and worth holding onto in this season.

He Cares For Us 

And just as Christ is with us, so too he cares for us.

As 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us, “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.”

When we feel all is lost, when we’re under pressure, when we’re despondent, when we’re angry, when we’re in tears, when we’re annoyed, when we’re anxious, when we’re fearful, when we’re worried, and when we’re none of the above, Christ still cares for us.

However we might be feeling, and in whatever situation we may find ourselves during this curfew period, Christ cares.

He cares for the overwhelmed parents juggling remote schooling and their own work from home.

He cares for the single person stuck at home with little relational contact with friends or family.

He cares for the bored student trying to make their days somewhat productive but seeing no point.

He cares for the grandparent confined to their home without grandchildren running through their house as usual.

He cares for the worker who has just lost their job who now faces months of uncertainty.

He cares.

Christ cares.

Christ cares for you.

He Brings Hope To Us

This time of curfews and COVID brings with it a loss of hope, a loss of purpose, and a loss of identity. We understand hope is diminished because of all the feelings, the restrictions, and unwanted changes to life. But in Christ we find hope restored. Christ is our hope. He is our hope in this season and our hope in eternity to come.

This hope doesn’t come from some positive feeling, nor even a positive action or thought. This hope comes from Christ and the cross. Ironically, through death comes hope.

Through the death of Christ comes the hope of Christ.

For through the death of Christ comes the hope of knowing we are forgiven, we are accepted and loved as we are, and we are at peace with God.

As we recognise, and perhaps even more so in these strange days, we are not in control we may come to realise that there is little we can do to save ourselves. Whether it be an internal or external struggle we are familiar with the exhaustion that comes from those constant waves beating down upon us. And so as Christ goes to the cross for us he takes with him our exhaustion, our frustration, and our brokenness from life in the world.

As we put our faith in this Christ on the cross Paul reminds us in Romans 5:1-5:

“Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

Are there greater words than this!?

That through our faith in a crucified Christ comes the hope of Christ through the love of God. May we know this hope this week. For during this time of curfew we may be isolated and lonely. We may be angry and hurt. We may be disappointed and sad. Whatever we may feel will be what it is. Yet, what we can know and be sure of is that Christ is with us, that he cares for us, and that there is hope.

And perhaps that’s the sentence we really ought to be amazed by.

My Top Posts of 2019

I continue to plug away on this thing called a blog. There are times when I wonder whether any of the words I string together to make sentences and paragraphs are worth publishing. But it seems this year has seen continued growth on this blog, and also some wider writing on other ministry sites, so that’s been encouraging.

In typical fashion I started out the year with a flurry of posts and articles but it seems I went missing in the second half of the year.

Below I list the top 5 posts in 2019 as well as some stats for the year. For those interested in stats from previous years you can read about 20152016, 2017, and 2018.

Top Posts of 2019

The Top Five Posts:

  1. 10 Tips For Reading In 2019
  2. Making The Bible Project Your Bible Reading Plan For 2018
  3. My Top Books of 2018
  4. Growing Young – Keychain Leadership
  5. 11 Things: The Senior Pastor-Youth Pastor Relationship

Some Reflections:

The only post actually written in 2019 was the first one, ’10 Tips For Reading In 2019′. The reason this made it to number one was because it got picked up by a very popular blogger in North America. The traffic that sent to this site was out of this world, particularly compared to usual!

I found myself writing 21 articles or posts for other ministry sites. I don’t get to know how well those did in terms of page views, but due to the sites I wrote for I’m fairly confident the readership will have been larger than I could reach.

The top five posts actually written in 2019 go to:

  1. 10 Tips For Reading In 2019
  2. New Children’s Ministry Initiative Makes Worship Leaders Walk Out Of Service
  3. My Top Books For 2019
  4. The Inadequate Youth Pastor
  5. Christian Blogging And Social Media

Raw Stats for 2019:

In 2019 I managed to:

  • Publish 54 individual posts on joncoombs.com.
  • Write over 29,800 words from those individual posts.
  • Have 11,657 views on the site for 2019 (up from 7700 in 2018).
  • Increase to 185 followers to the blog, as well as 34 email subscribers.
  • Publish 21 articles on other ministry sites.

This is actually more encouraging the more I think about it. I didn’t think I’d posted on average once per week, but it looks like I have. Writing for other sites at nearly every other week is also a pleasing goal to have achieved.

While right now it’s holiday time, and really the last couple of months I’ve not been in the zone to write and publish, I do hope I can continue to plug away at this again in 2020.

Anyway, if you’re a regular reader, thanks for popping by. I hope it’s been useful for you as it has been for me.

Youth Minister ‘But Now’ Series

Each day last week I had a blog post series published at Rooted Ministry. Each post focussed on particular slabs of Scripture that used the phrase ‘but now’. The entire series was narrowing in on the theme of identity in the life and times of a youth ministry practitioner (and others). The round up of each of these posts is outlined below.

Published: 5 Advantages of Gospel Centred Youth Ministry

It’s very pleasing to have had another post about youth ministry published on The Gospel Coalition.

This time I’m written about what I see as the advantages to a gospel-centred approach in youth ministry. It seems odd this even needs to be said. And using the phrase ‘gospel-centred’ when everyone else uses it beings to lose its meaning. Nevertheless, it was a good reminder to write these five points, and I would like to believe it all holds true.

Hope you enjoy it.

You can find it here.

“I can’t help but reflect on the hundreds of teenagers I’ve been privileged to teach and shepherd through the years. Some have stuck with faith and the church. Others dropped off, never to be seen of again.

Without the gospel and an understanding of God’s guiding sovereign hand in this work, I wouldn’t have survived this long. Thankfully, the growing is God’s and the sustaining is God’s—and yet we have the privilege of being a small part of this work through a gospel-centered youth ministry.”

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You can view the whole thing here.

You can read other published articles here.

Published: You’re Not Wasting Your Degree In Youth Ministry

A little while back Tim Gough of YouthWorkHacks.com wrote a couple of posts encouraging greater training for those in youth ministry. The first, ‘Why Train For Ministry?‘, gives a number of bullet point-like sentences on how training can help in the formation and learning of a youth pastor. The second, ‘How To Pick A Youth Ministry Training Course?‘, gives a brief framework on what to think about when considering a course for further youth ministry study.

I enjoyed reading both pieces, which made me reflect on how my Master of Divinity studies have helped me in the youth and young adult ministry I’ve found myself. I was inspired so much that I ended up writing a guest post which Tim posted recently.

You can read it here.

“I have found, possibly because of my education, that I am not viewed solely as the Youth Pastor but as one of the pastoral team. This could be unique to my church of course, but I suspect that because of the wider training I have, I can be a voice and make respected theological contributions to conversations the church is having. There is a sureness in my thinking and preaching because I am able to wrestle and converse with various aspects of Scripture. I’m not just seen as the guy who can run a good game of dodgeball and deliver a sex talk when needed.”

You can access other guest posts I’ve had published here.

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Published: The Stories Behind The Stories

The surface level small talk and the triviality of much of life, thanks to social media and the busyness of life, makes it hard to take time and listen to others. Recently I’ve been pondering this, particularly after observing the way people around me use social media and their devices. My ponderings made it into an article, which was then published on TGCA.

“Often it takes something significant to disrupt our regular practices and habits. The other week I had two funerals to attend. If there is ever something that will disrupt us, get us looking up and out from ourselves, then memorial services for the dead are the way to do it. For there in front of us is the reality of life and death. There before us is the end. And reflecting on the end can jolt us back into what really is reality.

Our social media stories give us a picture of a life in front of us. And however momentary this picture is, it depicts a false reality. For behind that picture is a person, and in that person is a heart, and in that heart is the desire of things greater than can be captured by a phone.”

You can read the whole thing here.

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You can read more of my recent publications here.

Published: Fighting for the Joy of Our Students

For many of us there is the daily fight for joy, to find something to be joyful about in our day-to-day and week-by-week existence. As youth ministry leaders we also have the opportunity to fight for joy for those in our church and youth group. In fact, given the pressures on teenagers, and the ever-increasing stress and anxiety rising within the generations, we can play a part in fighting for their joy too.

With this in mind, I have written a piece that’s been published on Rooted Ministry. You can read the whole thing here.

“How often and how easy it is to lose heart. A dysfunction in the family. A relationship breakdown. A disagreement with friends. An unexpected medical result. Whatever it might be for us and our students, we are called to fix our eyes upon Jesus. Through stories of believers of long ago, we are given examples of faithful people persevering to the end. But in Jesus we find something greater, an everlasting joy that is gifted to us through the work of the cross. As we seek to take hold of this joy for ourselves we also call others to do the same. For our students, the teenagers in our churches and in our homes, we call them to come and take hold of this joy.”

Other pieces published elsewhere can be found here.

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Published: Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry

I recently read the book Gay Girl, Good God by Jackie Hill Perry.

It’s a book I’d highly recommend. And it is a book I found time to write a reflection on to better process some of the content.

As it happens, I’ve had that reflection published as a book review at The Gospel Coalition Australia site. You can read it here.

“I couldn’t be more different from Jackie Hill Perry.

I’m a man, she’s a woman.

I’m white, she’s black.

I’m from the wealthier side of Melbourne, Australia. Jackie is from a rougher area in Chicago, USA.

I’m hetero, she’s a former lesbian.

There’s a few differences, yet at the same time we now find ourselves brother and sister in Christ. No matter the differences of the past, or the differences now, our stories intersect as part of God’s grander story in Christ. And what a privilege that is having now read Jackie’s memoir, Gay Girl, Good God.”

I found it to be a great memoir, exploring the intersection of God’s story upon Jackie’s story as she wrestles with her sexuality and upbringing. It’s well worth reading if you have the time.

The full review can be found here.

Other books I’ve read recently, and written short summaries on, can be found here.