The Disconnect

“The interest of the people of God in transmitting their faith will not be much greater than their interest in the Christian congregation in which they actually live out their faith” Miroslav Volf

I came across this great quote in a Resonate (GIA) magazine tonight and it inspired me to write some reflections.

Being in Christian community is not an option for disciples of Christ. I’ve said this many times because I think it needs to be heard and in the busy/slack world in which we live it sometimes becomes an option.

And by Christian community I don’t mean having a few Christian friends you catch up with occasionally and share a bit of life with. I mean being deeply committed to a local community of people some of whom you ‘click’ with and others who you don’t, some who are like you and some who are very different, but whom you choose to journey with anyway.

Our church is like our ‘family’ (actually biblically it is our family) and like most families there are those siblings and relatives who you have an easier time with than others. This community may change from time to time as we move geographically, but it will always be there in some shape or form. If its not then they were are missing a key element of our faith.

Caveat: I understand people transition for brief periods but personally I don’t see being out of community as having any biblical currency. Argue with me if you like…

But Volf’s quote is where all of this gets really challenging. I’m sure many of us have been in situations where our church community has been less than inspiring, where maybe we feel embarassed or even repelled by our own church. Volf is right that it is very hard to be inspired for mission if the community we are likely to lead people into is one which leaves us cold and disinterested. I know that was my experience as a teenager and has shaped much of my own ministry focus as an adult.

So what do you do?

Suck it up?

Opt out?

Be a change agent?

Well… option one isn’t going to be a long term solution. Unless you are a very patient person there is only so much ‘upsucking’ you can manage before you go insane. Opting out simply isn’t an option. (Seriously I put ‘sucking it up’ as 100 times better than just doing a runner.)

Not everyone can be a change agent and nor should they. Even those who can be, may not feel it is right to impose change on a community who may be blissfully unaware of their own cringeworthiness. But this is one valid option for people who simply don’t want to church hop. Stay around and make a difference. Be patient. Hard.

Then perhaps the other option is to start a new community. I think we have made this way easier than it sounds. On one hand it is easy – very easy. Anyone can gather a group of people, but that group can become as irrelevant as the original group unless there is a very strong sense of focus and clarity of vision. Starting something is not for everyone and brings a whole new set of challenges that can be bigger sometimes than changing an existing group. Try it and see…

But the fact remains that Christians only exist in community. There are no ‘solo’ disciples and nor should there be. However the challenge of being in a community that we can be proud of is a big one.

This is a post with no easy solutions. I don’t believe the answer is a monochrome church where ‘like people’ meet and hang out. The homogenous unit principle has some value in birthing new communitys, but overall I don’t see it as a healthy expression of the kingdom.

If I had to invest all my ‘church’ eggs in one basket I’d throw in the basket of being an exceptionally loving, gracious and accepting community – a place where people are genuinely free to be themselves and where grace is rich. I reckon real love trancends musical style, bad sermons and all the other things that make church hard at times.

These days I really don’t care much what we sing or what order we do things in, but I do care that I am part of a community that oozes love and grace. That’s a winner I reckon.

Blah Blah Blah

I just checked and its been 2 weeks since I last posted anything on here. As someone who used to post twice a day I’m slowly getting used to a different frequency and the blog occupying a different space in my life. Its been a challenge at times, because when you have written frequently to do it infrequently can feel like it is a little pointless, or a failing even.

But… I write because I love to write. I write because I enjoy the interaction of ideas and the debate that takes place, even if lately I haven’t written so much. I write for posterity – one day I might want to come back to my ramblings and my handwriting is so lousy that journalling is a bit of a non-event for me now.

I don’t think ‘blogging’ itself has gone off the boil, but maybe it has changed in its focus/emphasis. These days I often do a ‘facebook share’ of something I previously would have blogged. Its easier than logging in, writing a post and all that goes with it, so maybe blogging is becoming a place reserved moreso for original thoughts.

But lately I haven’t had quite so many of those either. I often blog on Saturday mornings because that is when I am most relaxed and have space, but during the week my headspace rarely allows me to come up with original thoughts let alone get them ‘on paper’.

I have written before about the challenges facing those of us who work regular jobs part time and lead churches part time. Its not just the time available for reflection that decreases, but because of the heavy physical nature of the work I do the tiredness means my brain functions differently. I simply am too weary most nights to think about anything seriously and deeply. Its not that I don’t want to, but it takes more effort than I can muster.

I don’t say that apologetically either. I think its been a fantastic insight into the lives of people who are not in paid church leadership (I still hesitate to use the word ‘pastor’ for my role, because it is such a poor description of who I am). Those of us who lead must learn not to expect the same level of engagement from those who work in regular jobs, but we must also learn to expect an appropriate amount of involvement. This week I worked an unusually hard and long 12 hour day on Wednesday and had scheduled a blokes night out for that evening. I got in at 6.00, showered and left again at 6.20, but I may as well have not been there as I was virtually on life support. It didn’t help that our local tavern took almost 60 minutes to serve a meal! I realise for some people a 6.00pm finish is normal. Ech…

I’m also aware that I am seeing my identity less as that of a paid church leader / paid minister and more as a missionary who expresses his calling in a variety of ways. Right now if you asked me if I was a business owner or a ‘pastor’ I’d have to say ‘yes’. I get similar amounts of joy and pain from both paid roles, but I don’t see one as defining me more than the other. That is different to where I was several years back when life revolved around Christian service and anything else was a means to that end.

What I find interesting is that I could conceivably run my business full time now, but I find it hard to imagine going back to 5/6 days a week of church work. There are various reasons for that, but one is that I really think many ‘pastors’ lose touch with the reality of people’s lives after a good slab of time in the role and I don’t want to be there again. I also love the involvement in community that my business gives me – and the fact that it pays well.

So, in case you were wondering, the blog hasn’t died. But neither does it hold such a prominent place in my life at the moment. You will still read the occasional rant, you will still find the occasional piece of sheer naughtiness and I hope the fleeting glimpse of original thinking that may even stir your own thoughts.

For now I’m content to let it lob along at a leisurely pace.

Is Islam the New Communism?

Remember the 60’s and 70’s when the ‘red peril’ was in full swing and the western world was worried about communist take overs?

Truthfully I don’t know how real any of it was – I guess it depends on whose propaganda you read. I have a sense it was more fear mongering and caricaturing than actual reality.

But lately I have been wondering if Islam is the new Communism. It certainly feels like it. As I watched a doco recently on the communist fear of the 60’s/70’s the language and sentiment reminded me a lot of the way we talk about Muslims today.

As I understand it Muslims are ‘evangelistic’ in that they want to spread Islam all across the world – not unlike Christians I guess… But like Christians I am fairly sure Muslims are a diverse bunch. To caricature Muslims as all of Al Quaeda ilk is akin to suggesting all Christians are aligned with the Ku Klux Klan. A little unfair for the vast majority…

I write this tentatively because I don’t speak with a lot of experience or knowledge, but I have grown familiar with the smell of fear – often irrational fear and that is what I sense in the air around Oz at the moment.

So the Commies are no longer a threat, but now the Muslims are coming to get us…


I realise this is a hot topic and a provocative one and I am happy to hear some useful input from people (genuinely) in the know. If you simply want to rant your uninformed prejudice then save it for someone who cares.I am neither a fan of Communism or Islam, but I am interested to think thru whether we are reacting from facts or fear.

Why Its Good to Be a Net Cynic

Since logging onto the internet way back in 1997 I have become increasingly suspicious and cynical of anyone offering me a great deal.

Do you remember the email that was circulated telling us that Bill Gates was tracking its progress and would give a free trip to Disneyland for everyone who forwarded it on?… I don’t know how many times I received that email, from people sending it ‘just in case’. As if…

There are the obvious scams that go straight to ‘spam’ – the Nigerian type where you inherit a gazillion dollars from a person you never met – if you will just send $10000.00 and your bank details… Obviously it works because people have fallen for it and been scammed.

Then there are the less obvious scams and they can be harder to detect. Recently an ad for DIY solar power came up on facebook so I clicked to see what it was about. I was interested…

The ad page looked a familiar – a very long page with lots of testimonials and a book to buy to show you how to make your own solar panels. I then googled ‘Solar Panels Scam’ and discovered what others were saying about this product – and it wasn’t pretty. It was clear that the information wasn’t worth the $40.00 even with the money back ‘guarantee’, but the clincher to tell me it was a scam was the pop-up that flew out at me when I tried to leave the page. ‘Are you sure you want to miss out on a great deal!!!??’ it said (or words similar). Now I was convinced…

Any time you come across a very long page full of testimonials, youtube clips and multicoloured font be careful… very careful…

And google the name of the product alongside the word scam. Chances are you will discover some interesting facts. I was recently surfing and came across another promise of great wealth working from home and doing very little. I picked it as a scam straight up but out of curiosity followed the trail. I discovered the names of the people behind it, googled them and saw that they were actually pyramid selling herbalife. Not illegal at all, but not likely to make anyone (but them) rich in a hurry…

The other sites I reckon it would be easy to get sucked into are the ‘penny auctions’ where you don’t actually purchase a product but you purchase the right to cast a certain number of bids. Again this ad popped up on Facebook and with my aging 4 yr old Sony laptop grunting at me I clicked to see how I could get a new macbook air for $9.99… Did I mention it sounded too good to be true?…

I didn’t see the fine print at first and was casually surfing my way thru the ‘sign up’ screens when I got to the one that wanted some $$. It must have been my cynic reflex kicking in because I googled the site and then discovered a whole bunch of people crying foul because they had paid for ‘bids’ rather than a product. Its legal and the fine print does explain it, but its a reminder how few of us can be bothered reading that stuff.

Whew… I reckon I am pretty net savvy and almost got my butt kicked here.

Then there are the stories we preachers tell – often presented as fact – but once ‘snoped‘ we discover that we have been perpetuating an urban myth… Some are so good they deserve perpetuating, but I never like to present as fact something that is clearly a myth.

Of course there are online casinos where you can easily throw some money away, or if you want to explore a totally different money losing option then google HYIP (High Yield Investment Portfolios) and see how a Ponzi scam works. If you get in early you can make some big money, at the expense of those who get in late just before the pyramid implodes.

I reckon its still as simple as that old saying ‘if it looks too good to be true then it probably is’.

I’m sure there are some great legit deals out there and there are some ways of making $$ quicker than others, but the risk is almost always proportional to the return. If it promises 45% / month then don’t expect to see your money in 6 months time…

Of course to draw this back to my own playing field – churches – its amazing how the internet can make a little ‘mom and pop’ backyard church look like a great grand slicko megachurch simply with some great design. I reckon the real challenge of a church in the internet age is to actually live up to their online presence, so that when people join you they experience what they thought they were going to experience.

Anyway rant over…

As you were.