New Website


I designed and put together the website for Brighton Reticulation today.

I don’t know how useful it will be, but for a small hosting fee and a little time invested in design it might well be worth it. My hunch is that every little bit helps.

I have heard it said that if any trade worker needs to have a website in today’s economy then they are doing something wrong! Probably very true, but then if you can do it…

The Turning – Broken People Broken Country


As much as I am an optimist by nature occasionally I wonder if there is a latent pessimist, or at very least a firm realist…

I rarely get excited by a movie or novel that is pure fantasy, but give me something that is gritty and frighteningly honest and I am strangely at peace. Maybe it feels so much more authentic…

Yesterday Danelle and I went to the 11.00am session of The Turning at the Playhouse Theatre in Perth. It was one of those wonderfully mesmerising experiences where 3 1/2 hours flies past in a flash and you feel like you have genuinely entered another world (along with a whole bunch of seniors on their day out!)

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The Turning is one of my all time favourite ‘novels’, although in truth, it is actually more a collection of stories, loosely hung together. When I saw that it had been turned into a play I was rapt. I love theatre, and it was the quickest $90.00 I have ever spent to buy two tickets to the show.

The adaption for theatre was excellent. The show was a combination of film and acting, with the film usually setting the backdrop for the scene that was taking place and focussing on the natural landscape. In very Winton style it began with the sea, (as one of the characters emptied her dead daughter’s ashes into the ocean) and ended with the sea as Vic surmised ‘maybe be are all part of the sea’. Make of it what you will…

In between acts the words of Ash Wednesday by TS Eliot were displayed on a screen:

And pray to God to have mercy upon us

And pray that I may forget

These matters that with myself I too much discuss

Too much explain

Because I do not hope to turn again

The story itself follows the life of Vic Lang, the copper’s son in the little town of Angelus – somewhere in the deep south of Western Oz… somewhere where there is a whaling station… Ok so its a very thin disguise for Albany…

The broad theme of the story is about the brokenness we all live with and the brokenness of Australia as a nation – because we refuse to face our history and deal with it. Throughout the play we see characters confronted by their own failings, but in almost every case refusing to face.

There is Bob Lang the honest cop who turns to alcohol because he is struggling to survive in a corrupt police force. He leaves Angelus for Kalgoorlie where he lives as a hermit and actually gets off the grog. He is gone 27 years before returning to see his estranged wife just before she dies of cancer. In his regret & grief he goes back to Kalgoorlie and throws himself down a mine shaft.

There is Ernie Lang, the pig farmer, a wonderful redneck character, somewhat caricatured who is a compulsive philanderer and never seems to be able to make sense of life.

And then there is Vic Lang, a somewhat reclusive young boy who grows to be a man but is perpetually hamstrung by his bad relationship with his dad and the things he ‘knows’. The pain Vic feels is very powerful and his solution is to be a compulsive ‘rescuer’ of those in need, taking on one legal job after another in a bid to help the world. At the same time he decimates his marriage and repeats the behaviour of his father.

Add to them Boner McPharlin the small time drug dealer framed by the cops whose life becomes a torment, Jackie his girlfriend who finally finds peace when she admits she is gay and the array of other very messy people and you have a world that is all too real.

‘Was it a caricature of life?’ I found myself asking. But I don’t think so. It was an all too accurate portrayal of what happens when we as broken people don’t pursue healing or when we choose to soothe ourselves with other means.

The ‘turning’ was at the end of the play when Vic (whose body is in torment from shingles and neuralgia – a result of his emotional angst) finally breaks down and admits his own struggle. He seems to start a healing journey just by admitting he is broken. To be fair there are many ‘turnings’ throughout the play as people come to grips with their lives to different extents.

My only criticism was that the ending was a bit sugary for my liking given the rawness of the rest of the story. Perhaps it was just the start of a ‘new chapter’ in Vic’s life, but it was just a bit too sweet to believe.

A real strength of the play was the way it kept the language used by Winton in his prose. He has a way of saying things that few can emulate. Beautiful, powerful language.

If you’re going along then I’d love to hear your thoughts!

I should warn my more sensitive readers that there are plenty of naughty words and sex scenes throughout the play. It is both a comedy and a tragedy but I reckon I’d give it 9/10 for capturing the essence of the book.

Is this the opposite extreme?

I don’t think I actually know anyone who would sign up to the nonsense called prosperity gospel. It is an extreme abberation of biblical teaching suggesting that Jesus will make us happy, prosperous and all will be well.

I happened across this clip today on Purgatorio where John Piper takes it in a totally opposite direction. As I watched it I couldn’t help wondering if in his attempt to communicate an important message, Piper hasn’t jumped to the other extreme…

What do you reckon?

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Farewell to Larry

As my recent post on the Waifs/John Butler concert may have shown, I am not into music in a big way, but I was a Larry Norman fan. As a teenager his songs were provocative, prophetic and often on the edge. He was a Christian rock and roller when it wasn’t cool to be one.


Rodney noted that Larry has died at the age of 60. As TSK says, ‘we might not share eschatologies’, (think of his song ‘I Wish We’d All Been Ready’) but he was a helluva bloke.

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The Process of Untransformation

After his year in the UK among the Crowded House, Steve is asking some excellent questions about the way in which teaching and preaching functions in churches.

The normal theory is that ‘good teaching’ makes better Christians but Steve says:

“But as I look around I find myself in somewhat of a quandary. If good biblical teaching is as effective as evangelical ministry and bible training centres say it is, why in general is there not an obvious and qualitative difference in the lives of the people who sit under such ministries, compared with the lives of those people who sit under so called “bad” or “poor” teaching?”

In his next post he goes on to describe the behavioural differences between a solid Bible believing evangelical church and a more liberal church:

“One was a conservative evangelical church replete with a good teaching ministry, while the other was what is often called “evan-jelly-cal” bordering on what many would call liberal, with a (not surprisingly) lower view of teaching the Bible. Yet when it was examined which church had more impact in, and involved itself more self-sacrificially with, the local community and all of its no-go lower socio-economic areas, it was the latter not the former that scored the points.”

I guess the advocates of ‘good teaching’ may well suggest that there really isn’t

good teaching in these churches, but my gut feeling tells me that Steve is onto something important.

There is something about the way we ‘work out’ the teaching we encounter that results in more Christlike lives or not. So it leads to the question that Steve addresses – maybe the issue is less to do with the quality of the teaching and more to do with the way in which is church is configured.

Steve is not working from any empirical data, just subjective observations, but I think he is onto something and asking a very important question.

It begs the question – how we ‘do church’ in a way that actually sees us growing in our Christlikeness rather than our Christ knowledge?

Barna on Alternatives to the Conventional Church

Ok so this is American, but given our tendency to mindlessly follow along its maybe a picture of what is to come in Oz…

These are excerpts from the Barna report – with the full story here.

“For decades, American Christians, who comprise more than four of our every five adults, assumed they had one legitimate way to practice their faith: through involvement in a conventional church. But new research shows that this mind set is no longer prevalent in the U.S. The latest Barna study shows that a majority of adults now believe that there are various biblically legitimate alternatives to participation in a conventional church.”

“The Barna study also found that tens of millions of people are experiencing and expressing their faith in God independent of any connection to a conventional church. In the past month, 55% of adults had attended a conventional church service. During that same month, 28% of all adults who did not attend a conventional church activity did, however, participate in an alternative means of experiencing and expressing their faith in God.”

“In a companion study conducted by The Barna Group among Senior Pastors of Protestant churches, two out of three pastors agreed that “house churches are legitimate Christian churches.” Surprisingly, pastors from mainline churches were more likely than pastors from other Protestant congregations to consider house churches to be biblically defensible forms of church experience. Among the pastors least likely to support the legitimacy of house churches were pastors who earn more than $75,000 annually; African-American pastors; and pastors of charismatic or Pentecostal churches.”

God Next Door IV Suburban Nomads on Steroids

Ok, I’m back to doing some reflecting on God Next Door. Chapter 3 looks at the impact of mobility on neighbourhoods – the ability people have and the associated practice of regularly moving house and not staying anywhere for the longer term.

We certainly are a very mobile lot these days, hence Alvin Tofflers’ reference to ‘nomad’s or Fiona Allen’s ‘geographically promiscuous’ definitely ring true. Danelle and I moved 6 times in the first 7 years of our marriage, before settling in the hills for 8 years and then where are now for 4 ½ years.

Until I started reflecting on the idea of neighbourhood mission I had never paid a lot of attention to the value of staying put. In fact the thought of staying somewhere for a long time has always been somewhat abhorrent to me. I like change and enjoy new experiences so the notion of moving house regularly runs thru my head.

I would like to live in the country for a while, I’d like to live overseas for a while. I’d like to try the inner city, another Australian city… you get the idea… I think I will run out of life before I accomplish these things.

As we look at our own small street of 12 houses we see that after nearly 5 years only 3 original families remain and 23 different families have lived in the street. Those who move on generally do so to bigger homes and/or closer to the city. As they have moved investors have bought the houses and now there are more rental properties in the street than before. Its always harder to find motivation to build relationships with short termers.

One of the consequences of this constant mobility is a distinct lack of genuine connection. It takes a long time to get to know people well enough to call them friends or to trust them with your kids. Nomads are people who don’t have baby-sitters for when they want to head out to dinner, or people who don’t have anyone to drop them at the airport when their flight leaves at an odd time. The absence of these simple friendship type links must be difficult. For those of us in churches we tend to have a ready made support network that often makes life somewhat different.

When Geoff & Sherry visited we spoke a lot about the importance of stability in mission – of the need for people to bed down for a very long time if we were going to have influence and effect in neighbourhoods. They used the phrase ‘staying is the new going’, an interesting thought for those of us who would prefer to move regularly.

As one who reads the real estate section each week and surfs property websites, the idea of staying put is both invigorating and disturbing. It is invigorating in that if we around for long enough, we may actually get to see some of the things we dream of start to happen. In my darker days I often want to just leave and move on to more fertile soil, but then I wonder if the seeds we have planted aren’t actually slowly germinating and to move would be an act of impatience?

Staying put is disturbing because I tend to associate that kind of permanence with a settling down generally – a move away from adventure and risk and towards the kind of comfort and predictability that would make life boring.

The arrival of kids – especially kids who attend school has also thrown a new ball in the air for us. Now, to move is not just to unsettle our own relational network, it is to do it to the kids as well. I know they adapt etc, but it is another reason to be more circumspect in these kinds of ruminations.

When we first moved to Brighton I had 5 years notionally in my head as the time we would stay before moving on and starting over. Of course one of the assumptions that sat alongside that was the existence of a good sized Christian community that would no longer require the kind of leadership we would offer.

The journey to this point has been so unlike what I expected that I am unsure what the future may hold also. I regularly vacillate between choosing to live here long term and choosing to be geographically promiscuous because that opens the door to new experiences and satisfies my inner lusts.

Whatever the deal, I am a strong believer in the sense of God’s leading and responding to that. However life so far has taught me not to predict the future as God often surprises night at the museum 2 battle of the smithsonian movie download


We had a great weekend with the two different Forge intensives, but today I am feeling the effects. Phil McCredden was over to help us launch ‘Re-imagine’ and after a full day of seminar on Friday we drove to Busselton and back on Saturday followed by the Sunday of Forge and church that evening in our home. Phil has some brilliant insights to offer for churches wishing to think creatively about their future. His stuff gets better and better each time I hear it.

I got up this morning for a retic day, not really wanting to do much at all.

The first house I rocked up at had fixed the problem but not told me… ‘thanks :)’

The next house was a lovely old couple from the local Baptist church with a real mess of a retic system. Its one of those jobs where I don’t think I will make any money, but it’ll be nice to help them out. Because it was a big job I told them I’d come back tomorrow.

Then I went down to the main job for the day – a beachfront house in Quinns where ‘Scotty’ lives – a retired cockney Londoner. I was due to install the front retic and hook it up to his bore. As I arrived I could see the ground hadn’t been levelled. Part of me was a little annoyed and another part of me saw a great way to have a day off! So I stopped and had a tea and a chat on his front verandah for an hour or so before heading back home.

I’ve had my morning coffee so I might go back to the old folks home and see if I can make sense of it all…

Then there is another freebie for a friend, before kicking back for the evening.

Sometimes days don’t turn out as planned – sometimes that’s ok too isn’t it?


Occasionally people come along who fit in the category of ‘statesmen’, leaders of note who by virtue of character and moral authority stand head and shoulders above the crowd.

Noel Vose is one of those people and I had the privilege of enjoying lunch at his home today. Noel was the founding principal of the Baptist Theological College in Perth and has been a much respected leader for many decades in our city.


A few weeks back I was preaching at Quinns while Noel was present in the congregation. We spoke briefly afterwards and Noel asked if we could catch up as he wanted to know more of what we are doing in Brighton. At 86 years old he is genuinely interested in what is happening around the church and what new ideas and innovations are being practiced. Today he told me that he wants to know more of what Steve McAlpine, Jarrod McKenna and I are doing…

I hope that at 86 years old I am half as receptive to new ideas.

Over lunch we discussed the changes Noel had seen in 60 or 70 years of involvement in Baptist churches. We discussed theology, church history, family life and Jesus. It was an inspiration to me to meet with a man who has lived a life of faithful service and who is still as vigorous in his faith now as he was 50 years ago.

His advice to a young (relatively) missionary?…

“Stay close to Jesus”

What can you say?