Published: Ecclesiastes For The Student Minister

I’ve had a piece published at Rooted Ministry today.

“Oh how comforting the Teacher of Ecclesiastes is when he reminds us that in a few years, no one will remember us! All that work and toil we’ve undertaken in our ministries will be long forgotten. The weeks and months and years of investing in people, seeking to help them know Jesus and grow in Jesus, becomes a distant memory.

It’s like the Teacher is trolling each of us.”

You can read the whole thing here.

Other published writing can be found here.

We Like It, But Do We Care?

We all see the photos.

You know, those photos that depict the perfect life someone else is living.

matthew-smith-100638Those photos of beautiful sunrises. Those photos of the legs on the beach. Those photos of nights out with friends. Those photos of perfect families, all smiling and joyful and happy. Those photos of food. Oh, those photos of food. The ‘amazing’ smashed avo for breakfast, the ‘delightful’ quinoa salad for lunch, and the ‘huge’ burger for dinner. OMG. Like. Like. Like.

We’ve all seen these photos. They pop up all the time.

And as we sit on our couches scrolling through our phones, feeling sorry for our self and jealous of our so-called friends, I wonder whether we care about the other side…?

Because there is another side.

This other side is the side of people we don’t see while traversing the inter-webs through the 5 different social media apps we have on our phone.

It’s the side of sadness, unhappiness, anxiety, hurt, and brokenness.

A little while ago I was struck by how social media changes my perception the relationship I have with others. I noticed one morning one of my friends was with a new partner. I was stopped in my tracks. The last time I saw a photo they were with their spouse and kids, looking happy. Yet, here in front of me is this person with another partner. It was a bit of a shock.

It’s not a shock because of the relationship breakdown. No, relationships fail and marriages breakdown, that’s not the shocking part. The shocking part is that I felt I was in a position where I could reach out and ask how they were.

In reality I haven’t seen this person in over 10 years. We’ve got no real relationship. Yet, because of the way social media comes at you it makes you feel like you know them, and know them well. What kind of response would they have if I did reach out?

“Oh, you’ve been stalking me on social media”.

“Oh, you’re not really a friend but more an acquaintance, and now you want the goss on what’s happened to my relationship”?

“I haven’t heard from you in 10 years and now you want to connect because something seems to have gone wrong. In my world it’s been heading that way for over 12 months and this is the end result, which every one of my actual friends knows about”.  

None of this comes across well.

We all have friends who we haven’t physically seen in years, and have nothing to do with them outside of our digital world. Yet, because of the nature of social media we find ourselves believing we’re closer to people than we actually are. What we perceive on social media may well be what is happening at the time, but underneath there’s a lot more going on.

There’s always another side.

And so, I wonder whether we actually care about those ‘friends’ with whom we have no outside relationship with?

Where are those friends of ours who don’t post?

Do we think of them?

Do we touch base with them?

Do we care enough to like them too?

Published: The Significance in Engaging Our Students in The Word

I’ve had the privilege of having a post published on the Rooted Ministry blog today.

“Why is it that many of us in youth ministry are hesitant to reference the Scriptures? Do we believe that the Word of God is too antiquated, that it will scare young people away? Have we lost confidence in the meaning and power of God’s Word?

Don’t get me wrong. I too often wonder whether the scripture I use in sermons, talks, and one-on-one meetings is actually helpful or comforting for my students. But one particular experience has made me more confident, relieved, and secure in using God’s Word in youth ministry than ever before.”

You can read it here.

You can read other articles or posts I’ve written elsewhere here.

Spurgeon On Writing

I came across this this quote from Charles H. Spurgeon while traversing the interwebs this morning. What a great comment about writing and preaching.

“Long visits, long stories, long essays, long exhortations, and long prayers, seldom profit those who have to do with them. Life is short. Time is short.…Moments are precious. Learn to condense, abridge, and intensify…In making a statement, lop off branches; stick to the main facts in your case. If you pray, ask for what you believe you will receive, and get through; if you speak, tell your message and hold your peace; if you write, boil down two sentences into one, and three words into two. Always when practicable avoid lengthiness — learn to be short.”

– CH Spurgeon (Sword & Trowel, September 1871)

My Blogging Year – A Retrospective

How do you summarise a year?

I suppose you could use a one-word expletive, which I notice a number of my Facebook friends have used to describe 2016. But, there are a number of factors that make up a year with its various highs and lows. The variables of family, friends, work, hobbies, recreation, health and fitness, and more, make up much of what we call life. Each of these areas we may be able to summarise, but to tie them all together is difficult.

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Over at The Daily Post there is the challenge to summarise my blogging year. And upon reflection there are a few insights we can glean.

First, I had six good months and six poor months of posting content. I obviously don’t like winter very much nor am I inspired during these months. I posted often in the January to March period but soon dropped off before taking up publishing again from October through December.*

Second, the main topic I posted about was ‘youth ministry’. Of the top five most read posts three of them were on the topic of youth ministry. This isn’t too much of a surprise considering I was intentional in what I was to post about this year. Youth ministry was one area I wanted to write more about and this is clear through the posts I’ve written in 2016. The other factor would be the change of ministry role, becoming Associate Pastor for Youth and Young Adults at the start of the year. These things seem to point toward a youth ministry passion and this is being seen in what I write about.

Here are my top five posts:

  1. The Ageing Youth Pastor
  2. Starting Fresh As A Youth Pastor
  3. Why Every Youth Pastor Should Watch ‘Spotlight’
  4. ‘N’ As A Social Media Movement
  5. I’ve Never Been To Aleppo

Third, there was a 30% increase in traffic to the blog in the past 12 months. This has been encouraging and positive. You do expect an increase when you’re coming off such a low base though. 🙂

Fourth, the top five countries where readers come from are: Australia, USA, Brazil, New Zealand and the UK. Four of them are not surprising. One of them is. You can probably guess which one.

Fifth, each New Year that passes brings with it a good opportunity to reflect on the worthiness of writing and blogging. I’m one of those people who enjoy reflecting on events, conversations, experiences and time-periods. Blogging is no different. And while some people are against New Year resolutions, believing that January 1st is only another day, I do find it helpful to reflect and set goals for the next 12 months. These goals don’t need to be anything complicated, but they do need to be specific. My choice to write more about youth ministry seems to have been achieved as I’ve seen a few things here gain some traction with readers. It’s also helped me think through the topics in more depth.

For 2017, consistency will be the key and the main goal for this blog. I seek to me more intentional about writing topics and will also aim at writing at least one decent piece per week. 

If you’re a blogger (or perhaps there’s something in your life you need to be more intentional about) then what would be your main goal for your blog in 2017?

*Another factor here may well be the birth of our second child. Probably can’t discount that variable either! 

My Top Books of 2016

This is the week in the blogosphere where all bloggers release those awful list posts, humbly bragging about what they read this year. It’s an easy post to write, tickles the ego, and promotes faux intelligence. It also makes you feel bad for not achieving your own reading goals, and a reminder of all those other goals you failed to complete this year.

Well, here’s another.

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For me, 2016 was a horrendous reading year. I only finished 11 books. I won’t give you my excuses but will put reading back into its rightful position in 2017.

So for the third year in a row, and in no particular order, here are my top books of 2016:

Do More Better: A Practical Guide To Productivity by Tim Challies

Here’s a little gem, at just over 100 pages, which helps you think through your own productivity system. Much of the advice given can be applied to the different spheres in which you find yourself – work, family, personal, recreation etc. It just helps having a good system and the one by Challies’ outlined here is a good fit for me.

Gospel-Centered Youth Ministry: A Practical Guide by Cameron Cole and Jon Nielson

If you want a good primer on youth ministry, giving theological grounding and practical outworking of that theology, then this is a good book. Every Senior Pastor and Youth Pastor should read this. If you’re in youth ministry as a volunteer it will give you a good idea of the foundational thinking your Youth Pastor should be thinking through, as well as providing you with excellent training in the process.

Each chapter is about a particular topic: making disciples in youth ministry, teaching the Bible, building relationships, forming a gospel-community, partnering with parents, how to make youth ministry inter-generational, small groups, leadership training, music and worship, retreats and events, evangelism, serving the poor, and short-term missions. There’s a lot there and it’s all very solid.

This book would now make my Top 3 Books for Youth Ministry.

Martyn Lloyd-Jones: His Life And Relevance For The 21st Century by Christopher Catherwood

There is something about Martyn Lloyd-Jones that draws me to read about his life and ministry. His own writings and sermons are invaluable themselves, but so are the reflections of others about his life. In this book Lloyd-Jones’s eldest grandson gives a brief precis about his life before delving into topics missed by other biographers. There are the chapters to expect, one on preaching and another on the centrality of Scripture. But, there are also chapters on home life, and how he is relevant and appealing to Millennials and the 21st century.

It’s not a long book and is easy to digest. It’s worth the read.

Luther on The Christian Life: Cross & Freedom by Carl R. Trueman

The ‘On The Christian Life‘ series is a terrific series for those of us that enjoy biography and historical theology. Bringing this together with Martin Luther, one of the most significant figures in Christian history, Carl Trueman does an exceptional job. Albeit I’m a bit of a Trueman fanboy, but he does do a great job in outlining Luther’s life and theological growth, centred on his theology of the cross.

Chapters cover Luther’s life, the Word, liturgy, baptism and mass, righteousness, and living and dying in the world.

Growing Young: 6 Essential Strategies To Help Young People Discover And Love Your Church by Kara Powell, Jake Mulder, and Brad Griffin

I can’t really go through this list without mentioning Growing Young. This is the book I’ve spent the most time in this year, thinking it through and reflecting upon it. To get a better idea of the book you can read all nine reflection posts on this blog if you’re so inclined!

The main premise of this volume is what keeps young people in church. Much has been written about why young people are leaving the church, but this is a piece of research summarised into six core reasons why young people stay.

This is a book for anyone who works with young people in churches. From senior leadership to volunteer leaders to parents and grandparents, this is a good resource to help you think through how to integrate young people in your church.


Well, that’s the top 5 for 2016. If you’d like to read 2014 and 2015 then go ahead and do so.

I hope you’re 2016 reading was better than mine, but if it wasn’t then why not try this awesome reading challenge for 2017?

reading-challenge-2017

Jesus Invites You In – A Christmas Poem

Below is a Christmas poem written by someone who attends Rowville Baptist. It was written and shared last week at a local retirement village. I had the privilege of having it emailed to me and received permission to share it here. Enjoy.

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Jesus Invites You In!

Young Mary with Joseph a journey did make

Tho’ pregnant with child, this risk she must take

There were thieves along the way, the road was rough

By the time they reached Bethlehem they had had enough

They were hungry and weary, the babe was due any minute

When they saw the inn they hurried to get in it

They knocked on the inn’s door and asked to lodge there

The innkeeper refused, for their plight he didn’t care.

“No room” he said, you cannot stay,

“Go to the stable, go sleep on the hay”

The tills were overflowing, business was good;

Take in these straggling strangers? Couldn’t see why he should

But he paid a price when “No room” he cried

He missed big time when the shepherds arrived

He never got to hear how the heavenly host did sing

He missed being at the birth of our Saviour and King

We recall this story each year for a reason

Lord, help us reach out to others this season

As the day approaches and we are all set to rejoice

Help us remember those who have no voice

Lord may we not reject with a word or a glance

And say “We have no room”, not give others a chance

With your heart and your eyes help us to see,

And pray for the suffering, for those who aren’t free

We pray for ourselves to do unto others

Remembering always they’re our sisters and brothers

Lord we think of the many souls that are lost

We thank you, you saved us at such a great cost

How thankful we are that You made Yourself known

Visited us as a babe, left behind Your own throne

We are so thankful Lord Jesus, that you love us so much

Others who don’t know You, they too need Your touch

Now as Christmas approaches, You stand at the door

Saying “Come in, come in, there’s always room for more”

– Marlene S

Of Masks and Men

stingProfessional wrestling seemed to peak in the late 90s, while I was finishing up high school. I remember nicking off from school to go watch Main Event: WrestleMania at a mate’s house, hoping to get a glimpse of Sting come down from the rafters and scare the hell out of everyone in the ring. Ah, fun times.

Sting was one of those wrestlers that wore a mask. He wouldn’t wear a corny one that looks like a piece of lycra with some holes in it. No, Sting’s mask was painted on, a white paint with some black flowing stripes. It showed enough of his face to know who it was but also hid something behind it, enough to leave some mystery.

Like entertaining wrestlers we too live behind masks. Probably more than one.

A wrestler does it for entertainment, for their work, to become someone they’re not in real life. Much like an actor playing their role in a biopic. We, on the other hand, seem to hide behind masks because we’re fearful of what others might think of us.

I wonder what masks you wear?

In Matthew 23:25-26 Jesus rebukes the Pharisees for wearing masks. He says,

Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean.

Jesus condemns the Pharisees and scribes for their two-faced hypocritical lives. They elevate the law and commandments and self-made rules above loving God and neighbour. They wear masks as they walk around pontificating about their own righteousness, shown by their outward signs and condemnation of other ‘sinners’. Yet on the inside these Pharisees and scribes are as unrighteous, sinful and dirty as the prostitute, tax collector, and leper.

It is hard to take our masks off. Like a woman taking off her make-up, scrubbing hard to get the foundation and blush and lippy off her face so too it is hard for us to scrub our masks off and reveal our true self to the world. If we expose our blemishes to the world we fear what people will think, we fear we will be judged, we fear we will be rejected.

Thankfully we have one that knows our true self. Thankfully we are known by Him who accepts us, blemishes and all. As much as we turn away, hide and put Him aside, God sees all of us and accepts all of us. Despite our faults and imperfections God stands with open arms accepting us just the way we are.


This post is a free writing exercise in response to The Daily Post topic ‘Mask‘. 

Another Year Begins

It’s a New Year.

A time filled with expectation, excitement and possibilities. 

For me this means a couple of changes, particularly early in the year. I currently have seven more days of leave before I begin as Associate Pastor for Youth & Young Adults at Rowville Baptist Church. In early March there will be a new addition to our family so that will change things up a bit too!

With the turn of a new year brings the opportunity to take stock of what’s important and bring some focus to the year.

I find I’m not very good at resolutions but I do enjoy taking time to think, pray, and plan the coming weeks and months.

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With this in mind there is always the goal of writing and blogging more. I found last year a bit difficult in this regard, mainly due to personal reasons, as can be seen by my posting patterns. Yet, as 2016 has come upon us the writing vibe has gradually been increasing and I hope to see this as an avenue for more blogging.

If you hang around here over the coming months I hope you will see posts about the Christian faith, youth ministry, sport, and some reflections on what I’m thinking through or teaching. It’s a random assortment of material, which isn’t exactly the advice given by the blogging gurus out there. But nevertheless, I do hope it will be a benefit to you as readers as it will be to me the writer. 🙂

2015 In Review

The WordPress.com stats monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Considering I’ve hardly written at all this year (7 posts in all) I’m pretty happy with these. Here’s hoping for a better writing year in 2016!

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,800 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 30 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.