Chaplains for All!

Little Jonny is throwing money around again and this time he has $90 million to give to state schools to employ chaplains. It was reported on last night’s news that every school could access $20K if it wanted to employ a chaplain.

The Australian reports on it here

Judith Bessant, writing for the Age what we do is secret download free mutant chronicles the download free seems to think this is a futile idea in a pluralistic society, especially if part of the agenda is to promote ‘Australian values’.

How do we as Christians sit with it?

Is it a God given opportunity to influence our nation?

Is it a trap to get in bed with the government in this way and will it cause us to dilute or compromise what we are on about in the name of a few extra $$$?

Is it the right thing to do in a pluralistic society?

It is an issue sure to cause a furore because while the funds are available to all faiths, our Judaeo Christian heritage will inevitably see Christian chaplains dominating.

Of particular interest was this quote from the West Australia: “It costs about $70,000 to employ a full-time chaplain, and Mr Howard said individual schools and the States would be expected to make up the rest of the money.”

I think he may have got his digits mixed up! Last I heard that was double what the average Perth chaplain earns and one reason it is so difficult to get decent long term staff.

Remembering as Visioning

We have just got back from our annual Upstream team retreat in the small cray-fishing town of Lancelin. (If you aren’t sure what Lancelin is like then just read Dirt Music by Tim Winton and you’ll get it!)

It was a great weekend with the guys and really valuable to hang out, chat and remember who we are.

That might sound like a weird thing to say, but I think sometimes we can forget. In the hubbub of life we can lose the clarity of our sense of identity – the distinctiveness of our calling – and begin to go thru the motions of simply doing church.

I actually believe its as we retell our story to one another that we are forced back to the founding charism and the original ideas that inspired us. I believe part of the function of the leader in new church expressions is to be the one who reminds us of identity – to be the one who says ‘remember why we are doing this?’ and who helps people talk about it. I say “as we retell our story to one another” because I believe we all need to be involved in that remembering and visioning process. As people tell the stories their hope and passion re-ignites and the dream gets reborn.

Over the last few weeks I have been reading Joshua. It starts off interesting and inspiring, becomes deadly boring as they divide up the land and then re-ignites again in Ch 24 where at Shechem Joshua takes time to re-tell the people’s story to them.

It has always struck me that the Hebrew people put a huge emphasis on re-telling stories to one another as a way of remembering, so we made that a part of our weekend. Not only does he re-tell the story of God’s care for them, but he calls them again to reaffirm their commitment to God leading by his own example:

14 “Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. 15 But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”

As we caught up on Friday night it was good to reflect on this passage and to take time to tell each other the stories that have brought us hope along the way and to remember that we are part of the ongoing story that Joshua was telling his people.

It was also good to be challenged by his bold words – to ‘throw away our other gods’ and reaffirm our commitment to the one we say we follow. Other ‘gods’ are plentiful for Aussie suburbanites – from wealth to work to family to…

Part of the weekend involved telling our children the story of why we left the hills to come to Brighton. I’m not sure I have ever done this with any sense of intention, but it is my hope that our kids know with clarity that this wasn’t about a seachange, a smaller mortgage or some other reason, but that we came here because there was a sense of God leading us – because there are people here who he is looking to connect with.

And so we come back – refreshed and refocused.

Weekends away are often a chore when you have young kids so to have actually enjoyed it, had space to relax and come back more rested than we left is quite an achievement!

Conciliation and Confrontation

On Friday as I was on the way home from Leederville on the train my phone rang and I finished up in a conversation with Gaz and Stu about how we should behave towards those we disagree with or believe to be in error in some way.

The question that often gets raised is ‘to what extent do we challenge and confront and to what extent do we ignore differences because we are all ‘on the same team’ and ‘unity’ is more important?

Its a tough issue, because there is no question the body of Christ is larger than many of us have ever imagined, yet at the same time there are some core truths that we ought to fight for.

Of course one of the immediate issues we need to deal with is our own assumption that we are the ones who are correct on any given issue… always tricky.

The older I get the fewer are the issues I will fight for. By the same token if I’m going to get in a scrap then I’ll be going in hard and there may well be blood on the floor as a result. I don’t fight much, but I do fight hard.

One of the generally recognised functions the ’emerging church’ has in the global arena is that of a prophetic voice – calling the church back to the main issues and challenging indulgence, excess and mistaken priorities.

(I interrupt this post for a caveat – there are many generalisations in this post – if that bugs you then stop reading or get over it :))

So the question that comes up is ‘how do you serve as a prophetic voice while also keeping relationship with those who you are sharing the journey with those who are brothers and sisters?’ And then perhaps even more critical is ‘when do you choose to make a call that will result in division? What is really worth fighting for?’

I like a much quoted Hirschism (although he probably snaffled it off somebody else) which says “that which you criticise you must first love” and also a Richard Rohrism, “the best critique of the bad is the practice of the better“.

I agree with Rohr, but I also see the need to sometimes say ‘enough is enough’. There are times when we allow pure heresy to co-exist alongside truth because it is easier. Perhaps the classic example is ‘prosperity doctrine’ in all its various guises. I’m happy to come out swinging on this one because it is the antithesis of the gospel and it needs regular kicks in the goolies.

But then there are other issues that really do require some critique but which seem to receive less attention. Do we ask the question often enough of why we have such huge dedicated worship buildings, why we spend so much on paid staff (who often serve us), why pastors are regularly put on a pedestal and treated as super-saints, why tithing is preached as though it were law, why ‘excellence’ glorifies God more than a bloody good try, why the primary KPI’s in churches are bums, bucks and buildings, why radical discipleship seems like optional discipleship, why… I could g on and you could form your own list.

Now before you get ancy about my list, I’m not really interested in debating the merits or de-merits of some of those things, but i am interested in debating how we know what we ought to go into bat on. What is worth a stoush and what is worth leaving alone?

The guys asked me whether my own choice to usually walk a more conciliatory line was because of funding from denominations – a fair question. And to be honest, while money makes our lives much easier and helps us do our ministry better if it ever came to a question of compromising or softening our message so we can eke a few more bucks out of established church leaders then I would pull up stumps and walk away.

We have been faced with that already. We have had threats of funding being withdrawn because we don’t tow the party line. The funding is essentially my salary, but as far as I concerned if we have to kiss somebody’s butt to get it then they can keep it. No issue. God has always provided us with $$$ and we certainly aren’t about to bow and scrape to get it.

My choice to (generally) take a conciliatory tack is less about unity per se and more about the fact that the world we live in has some realities that do constrain us. While ideals are wonderful and essential I am well aware that ‘we do need to meet somewhere‘ and that our meeting place can’t always be someone’s home, that someone needs to lead and often that person invests more time as a consequence and so it goes on.

Perhaps its when our realities take the place of our ideals that I get most toey – when we make church based decisions based on business principles rather than imagining how a family may function. Sadly I think this is the case for many churches in the western world and this does require a rocket.

I am still pondering this one as its a really important question.

Its too easy to put yourself out there as a ‘prophetic voice’ and only be prophetic about the things that annoy you! We all have blind spots and areas where we are plain ignorant, that we would not be prophetic about.

So any time we stand up to offer a critique of our brothers and sisters, it must be done with great humility and awareness of our own fallenness. Arrogant, opinionated people rarely get heard.

Buying a Laptop on E-bay

A simple word of advice.


I bought my still non-existent Sony Vaio for a very good price way back on September 19th, paid for it that night and asked if it may be able to be shipped a little faster because we were going on holidays on Oct 4th.

The seller agreed to ‘do their best’.

It is now obviously October 27th and still nothing has arrived. The seller seems unable to read email and rarely responds directly to specific questions – although he has responded on occasions.

I have emailed continuously, started a dispute thru ebay, threatened with legal action and today I actually tracked him down thru the NSW phone book and rang him up. It was a last resort as I wasn’t sure if it was actually his home number… but it was… and he was home…


I had many things I wanted to say most of which I would never write on here… but if you are imagining me kindly enquiring then you are on the wrong tack.

It turns out it only left America on October 13th… and it still in transit. The seller told me he ‘isn’t worried about it because sometimes these things take up to 4 weeks…’ @#$%!

I think I made my point with him and he has refunded $200.00. He seems honest, but just absolutely bloody hopeless.

Would I do it again for a cheap laptop?



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WCA DVD Conference Review

‘BJ’ a youth pastor from one of our local Baptist churches picked up the free WCA ticket and here is his review of the event:

The conference was held at CCC Hepburn Heights which is a good facility and there was a large projection screen which was good for the DVD’s of the speakers. The morning started with a time of live musical worship lead by a team of people from the church. All the delegates received a booklet with an overview of all the sessions and also a space for writing notes. This was a great thing because it meant that you didn’t have to take notes if you didn’t want to or if you weren’t a super quick note taker.

The booklet was professionally put together as you could expect from Willow Creek. The speakers for the sessions were really good. It wasn’t your usual leadership conference and it was definitely targeted at higher level church leadership like Senior Pastors and team leaders. It was very business oriented in its focus for a lot of the sessions. They gave you team time after each of the sessions and there were questions in the booklet to go through with your team. As I was on my own this was a bit redundant. Also, because of the cost I could imagine that a lot of people wouldn’t be able to afford to bring their whole team. Not to mention the fact that you can buy all the DVD sessions and the booklet to reproduce for only $180.

I went to a Willow Creek conference in Sydney a couple of years ago and it was a really great conference. The speakers were actually there in person and there were targeted workshops in the afternoons. I’m not really sure why they choose to get people together in one place to watch a DVD when they sell the DVD for the same price as the ticket and you could show it to your entire team and church for nothing. If you couldn’t buy the DVD’s after the conference for so cheap then I may consider getting an early bird ticket to the conference but when I can buy the DVD’s for the same price as 1 ticket then I doubt that I would go again.

Willow Creek do great stuff for the church and I appreciate who they are but this seems like a bit of a strange concept and I think they would do better to market the DVD’s and allow more people to experience what they have to rocky ii movie download

Reaching Out to Christians

I was sitting at Greens cafe with Scott and Tim today just chatting when we noticed the cover of Tim’s Marketing magazine (Oct 2006 edition) where one of the feature articles was ‘How to reach the Christian Market’.

I only had time to skim the article but if Tim remembers to scan it and send it thru I will post it on here.

Its interesting that marketers have cottoned on to the fact that there is a whole niche of consumers out there just waiting to be evangelised to their products!divx cadillac man


There are certain ‘brands’ of theology that insist that the key to a godly life is good BIBLE teaching, MORE good BIBLE teaching… and… yes you guessed it EVEN MORE BIBLE TEACHING!

I caught up with a good friend recently (who shall remain nameless), but who is a great Bible teacher and would fit theologically into those ‘brands’, however… he doesn’t display the same anal fixation with ‘good teaching’ that seems to be the defining characteristic of so many others.

As we spoke another friend asked him ‘why aren’t you as obsessed as the rest on the whole Bible teaching deal?’

His response?…

‘In my experience and observation simply offering better Bible teaching has not produced better disciples.’

Or put another way – ‘it hasn’t worked’.

Now – some would argue its obviously not better Bible teaching if it doesn’t change people… or we could also argue that there is more to the picture than ‘better Bible teaching’.

I am a firm believer in the value of scripture to guide us into godliness, but I have at times been frustrated by those who see the answer to our woes as simply ‘more Bible’, so the reponse from my friend (who’s been around the block a few times) was quite telling.

My observation is that knowledge is only useful insofar as it reshapes how we live.

Knowing the Bible inside out, upside down and back to front is on a par with the bloke who built his house on sand. Jesus declared the difference between him and the other guy was simply that the ‘wise man’, was the one who ‘hears my words and puts them into practice’.

I love learning and love knowledge, but honestly, if it doesn’t reshape life then it isn’t worth a pinch of poop. In fact it ends up doing more harm than good because it creates an illusion of godliness.

I hear many people looking for churches with ‘good teaching’, but I am yet to hear anyone seeking a church that is committed to ‘doing the Bible stuff’.

I dream…

A Very Helpful Question Indeed

Kevin Miller at Out of Ur asks a very helpful question: Who is more spiritual? Emergents or Traditionalists?

I have offered my comments over there so I won’t repeat them here.

On second thoughts I will have to because apparently my comment was too lomg for the Ur fellas. So here it is:

Well of course the emergents are more spiritual. Absolutely no bloody contest!

Everyone knows that, but no-one is willing to say it. So – there – I have.

Now before you traditionalists get your big black King James all bent out of shape hear me out.

Emergents win on number 1 because have a huge range of spiritual practices that extend well beyond the daily quiet time (does anyone actually do it DAILY?!). They actually ‘practice the presence of God’ every minute of every day (which surely is much more spiritual than 10 mins in the morning) and they welcome every tradition as a way of expressing their spirituality. No contest.

The fact that emergents don’t actually do many of the things they write about is not a fair reason to dismiss them. They do like the ideas very much.

As for social justice, well who could call gazillions of dollars worth of buildings ‘just’? Traditionalists just don’t have a clue on this front. Billions die for lack of food, but we have comfortable new seats, 3 big screens and staff for every conceivable need or is it ‘want’?.

OK – so traditionalists were the ones who responsible for establishing hospitals, schools, overseas aid agencies and mercy ministries, but what about a ‘cup of cold water in Jesus’ name’ or visiting the prisoner?… Oh ok prison fellowhship came out of trad churches too?


Emergents kick butt on mellowness of spirit. Those crusty old traditionalists who frown at every teenager who wears a baseball cap in church could really learn a thing or two from gracious emergents. Just go read their blogs and see how ‘mellow spirited’ they are. (Actually email me first so I can give you a suitable selection..) And if they sometimes seem angry then traditionalists just need to know that its righteous anger – usually fuelled by traditionalist critiques.

When it comes to community its still no contest. ‘Emergent emergent emergent’ the crowd chant down the back straight. Is sitting in rows at 10.00 each week community. Where are the couches? Where is the coffee? The beer? The wine? The party?

I could go on but I won’t…

Nonsense questions like these really do bring out the less mellow side of me because they only serve to polarise a discussion that at times has hope of being helpful and mutally informing, but can also degenerate into the drivel I wrote above.

Come on Kevin. Please…

If we’re to be the church and love each other then posts like these really don’t help anyone’s cause.

That’s More Like it!

Ah – about time…

Finally a revised Bible for those who don’t like all the icky bits about dying to self, trusting God, forsaking wealth etc in the original Bibles. This’ll fly much better in suburbia!

Here is a quote from the developer:

“According to Chairman Mr. De Rijke the foundation has reacted to a growing wish of many churches to be market-oriented and more attractive. “Jesus was very inspiring for our inner health, but we don’t need to take his naïve remarks about money seriously. He didn’t study economics, obviously.”

According to De Rijke no serious Christian takes these texts literally. “What if all Christians stopped being anxious, for example, and started expecting everything from God? Or gave their possessions to the poor, for that matter. Our economy would be lost. The truth is quite the contrary: a strong economy and a healthy work ethic is a gift from God.””

Thanks to Grendel for the tip.

Now all we need is a Bible that replaces church attendance with coffee drinking and we can welcome you back in 🙂