Who Will Enter the Kingdom?

This is a powerful piece of scripture.

Jesus argues with the religious folks and finishes up telling them that their good intentions and beliefs mean nothing if they don’t result in actions. In fact the ‘bad people’ who live repentant lives will enter the kingdom ahead of them…

Matt 21:28 “What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work today in the vineyard.’ 29″ ‘I will not,’ he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. 30″Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, ‘I will, sir,’ but he did not go. 31″Which of the two did what his father wanted?”

“The first,” they answered.

Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you. 32For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.

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Should the Primary Expression of Church Gathered be Small or Large?

Yesterday I spoke to our church community about why our primary experience of church needs to be smaller rather than larger.

By ‘smaller’ I mean a group where:

a) every person is known by name.

b) where it is not difficult to share a meal together.

Obviously then, a large group is one where we no longer know one another personally and a genuine meal becomes a very challenging prospect. It is my strong conviction that if we are to be effective at making disciples and at fulfilling the biblical understanding of what it means to be ‘church’ then our primary experience of gathering together needs to be in more of a household / familial setting rather than a large community worship & teaching event.

On Sunday we looked at the theological and biblical reasons for a church to be both large and small, as well as the practical and pragmatic reasons for preferring small or large. While you can argue quite convincingly at a pragmatic level for either option, (‘big’ or ‘small’) the exercise we did together showed quite clearly that when we consider the biblical descriptions of church the evidence for ‘small’ is much more compelling.

Perhaps the critical word in this conversation is ‘primary’. I am not suggesting there is no place at all for a larger group to get together or that a large gathering is redundant, but I am seriously advocating that we see the larger gatherings as being of secondary importance. For example, most churches I have been part of say ‘come on Sunday and if possible be part of a home group or similar’, but if you can only do one of those two then choose the Sunday event. I believe it more appropriate to say ‘make sure you are part of a smaller gathering and if you are able, join with the rest of the crew on Sunday – but if you can only choose one, then choose small.

We managed to come up with 8 biblical/theological reasons for the primary experience of church to be small and only 2 reasons for it to be large. See the chart below. We whiteboared this stuff on Sunday as well as looking at the practical / pragmatic reasons for either option.

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As we did this exercise on the whiteboard, the bleeding obvious was that the ‘theological/biblical’ reasons for church being large quadrant was almost empty.

The question that arises out of this, that we will be exploring as a church is ‘what does this mean for us?’ I know many people will prefer ‘large church’ as the main event, but if we are ‘people of the book’ (as we Baptist like to imagine ourselves) then what do we do with the biblical descriptors of church?

So, I am interested to see how others perceive this issue. Bearing in mind the question is about primary expression not ‘only’ expression. I see a sociological value in different size groups and I do see that different objectives can be accomplished by different groups.

But if our primary task is to make disciples I find it hard to see the large group as the first port of call.

That feisty Eugene Petersen has some good stuff to say on this:

“You can’t do gospel work, kingdom work in an impersonal way. We live in the Trinity. Everything we do has to be in the context of the Trinity, which means personally, relationally. The minute you start doing things impersonally, functionally, mass oriented, you deny the gospel. Yet that’s all we do.”

from here

Jon Reid has also added his own thoughts on this matter. Skip over here

to read his mind…

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The Fear

I have noticed this song being played a lot lately while I have been working and found it intriguing enough to google.

Its almost an anthem to consumer living yet the chorus goes:

I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore

I don’t know how I’m meant to feel anymore

When we think it will all become clear

‘Cuz I’m being taken over by The Fear

So I am wondering what ‘The Fear’ is?…

What do you think?

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Start Your Own School!

If you want to send your kids to a private church based school then don’t complain about religious education being taught.

Seriously, if you don’t want your kid to have any religious education then don’t

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send them to this kind of school… Simple… Not rocket science…

Start your own school. Start a private school with no religious framework – go ahead!

But if you do send them a church based school then realise its on their terms and don’t whinge about it.

I am sick of hearing this nonsense…

As you were…

Why Church Must Be Small

This is the topic of my talk this Sunday.

The sub-text says: “In church life it seems that ‘bigger is always better’ but is it really? Perhaps it depends on what we are trying to do… On this day we will try to convince you that for the church to genuinely accomplish its mission its primary expression must be small.”

I haven’t stretched people’s thinking too much in the first few weeks but I imagine this will get some push back…

My observation is that the Sunday event has become the primary

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focus for most whereas I believe that much of what constitutes ‘church’ as it is described in the Bible is very difficult to do in that setting. Its not to say there is no place for a Sunday gathering – a larger expression on occasions – but it is to say that if we are to do the things that church is to do as the ‘family of God’, then our primary expression will need to be in the smaller setting.

So what I am proposing (in theory) is that our first port of call – our top priority – will be our smaller communities – I don’t want to call them ‘home groups’ because that already tags them in a certain way – and our secondary community may well be the larger group, but if you never get to the larger group, or if you don’t want to attend the larger group then that is fine.

I will write more on this later as I have already listed ’13 reasons church must be small’, but the biggest challenge by far is not simply inverting people’s paradigms (although that will be tough).

It is that the secondary expression has snaffled the best timespot of the week! Over the last 7 years in all of our experimenting and tinkering we have discovered that Sunday tends to be the most accessible time for people to come together, especially if kids are involved.

Honestly, I am not sure how to overcome this because we are not about to stop meeting on Sundays in the near future – if ever. But I am not convinced we will actually shift people’s imaginations unless there is a dramatic change in behaviour. If we simply roll on with Sundays as usual and the ‘option’ of re-imagining church then I doubt very many will do the hard yards of actually re-inventing – because it will not be easy.

I am not intending to even act on this until we get back from our trip, but I do want to plant the thought seeds in people’s minds and let them know that this is core to our future.

Perhaps the most ‘accessible’ expression of church is Neil Cole’s concept of Life Transformation groups where 3 people = church. It is easy for 3 people to find a time to meet and virtually all the ingredients of church can be present in a small community of that ilk. However I would still argue for a more ‘household’ / ‘family’ orientation in our primary communities so that we experience greater diversity in relationships.

I am interested in whether others have made this paradigm shift in reality rather than in theory and how you have gone about it.


As someone operating a small business I find myself wondering occasionally ‘what is my edge?’ or what is it that I do that makes me different to the 99% of other people who install reticulation and lay turf.

I have pondered this for a while and it seems that the whole notion of ‘over-delivery’ is possibly most in line with my own business ethos and personality.

Every time we have had a tradesman come to our home who has gone the extra mile, or delivered superb service I will keep his card or even enter his number in my mobile, because I value that kind of attitude.

By contrast this week I hired a bob-cat driver to do a very easy job of spreading soil for one of my customers. With a minimum of charge of 3 hrs labour ($240.00) he was in and out in 30 mins and did very well out of it. However there were some areas he couldn’t get to with his bobcat and he needed to use a wheelbarrow. He told me that because he ‘hadn’t quoted’ on using a barrow he wasn’t prepared to do the work. I did it yesterday and it took 5 minutes – literally. The customer thought he was an arrogant dipstick and I would never use him again because he took the opposite approach of ‘charge for everything’.

I’m not into ‘doing it cheap’, partly because it doesn’t pay very well (and I figure if I am going to work bloody hard I want to get well paid for it!) but also because it means I am under pressure to deliver the same quality service in a faster time than is reasonable – or lose time and money. I did advertise for a while that I guarantee to be the ‘cheapest price’ on new installations, but no one ever took me up on it by comparing my price to someone else’s – so maybe price isn’t the biggest factor.

I also have a ‘widow’s and orphans’ policy (generally speaking) so some people get stuff done for nothing or for very little cost because they are more needy. I was going to call my business ‘Robin Hood Reticulation’ at one point – because the money I make off the rich will be used to fund the poor…

But I have pretty much decided that my ‘edge’ will be in the area of:

– a top quality job and not cutting corners

– excellent communication with customers by phone, email etc to make sure they are confident in what I am doing

– punctuality and reliability – starting and finishing on time

– a fast response on any warranty issues (24 hrs ideally)

– going the extra mile in every job, yet not in a way that sees me lose $$

My price is still pretty much the same as everyone else’s but I’d like to think people will feel good when I have finished the job.

Sadly ‘over-delivering’ these days usually involves simply turning up, finishing the job and not being indifferent to the person you are dealing with. There are so many who simply don’t front, do a shoddy job or communicate in grunts.

Anyway just a refection on how I see business developing…

I’d be interested in refelctions of other small business operators. What is your edge? Or how do you function in a way to maximise your business in line with your personality?

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Well it is to me…

Today I was sharing some reflections on what it means to be people of faith and live lives that are attractive to those who we live amongst.

I used Tim Winton’s book ‘The Turning’ and the title chapter to illustrate the point. Sherry is a beautiful woman who lives a life that is appealing and intriguing to Raelene who is doing it tough. She is a wonderful picture of how mission happens well.

I wanted to give copies of the chapter out today, but I didn’t…

The more I read the chapter the more I saw its R rated qualities. There is graphic sex, violence and a fair swathe of bad language. I had a couple of copies for those who wanted it, but felt that random distribution might not be wise.

Ironically we watch this kind of stuff on TV every day without batting an eyelid! Yet a novel requires us to use our imagination and in that it seems there is more power.

Winton has a turn of phrase that is also amazingly potent (and not for the faint hearted). I knew it would offend so I treaded gently, but as I did I realised that the written word has a very different power to the visual image.

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Fired Up

I haven’t commented on the bushfire tragedy here in Oz this week.

Its hard to know what to write without sounding either trite or glib. It has been a shocking and devastating week for many people.

What it has shown very clearly however are the two sides of human nature.

How totally braindead dipsticks can go around lighting more fires while people die and others risk their lives fighting them is beyond me. Surely this is the dark side of humanity – the human race at its worst – ‘sin’ at its most brazen. I don’t know anyone who is anything but appalled at this tragedy and would want to see the arsonists suffer great punishment.

By contrast there is the amazing spirit of support and co-operation from all over Australia to give help to those who have suffered – a beautiful picture of humanity at its best – loving and caring for one another simply because there is need. The generosity has been great to see.

Its a reminder that we are sinful people capable of incredible depravity and yet at the same time created in the image of God and equally capable of acts of kindness and goodness.

of course out in left field (or more correctly ‘far right’ field) there is the Christian leader who wants to see the bushfires as the judgement of God on Victoria for passing the pro-abortion bill… I could write so much more… and I would like to… but I think it best if I simply let you know that he and I do not agree on that one.


“I think the besetting sin of pastors, maybe especially evangelical pastors, is impatience. We have a goal. We have a mission. We’re going to save the world. We’re going to evangelize everybody, and we’re going to do all this good stuff and fill our churches. This is wonderful. All the goals are right. But this is slow, slow work, this soul work, this bringing people into a life of obedience and love and joy before God.”

Eugene Petersen

Why are we impatient?…

Maybe because so much of what we do is about us…

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