Another Voice 10 Years On

Steve McAlpine and I go back a long way – to under 14’s baptist basketball at Kent St High School in 1976. I liked Steve and his Melville Baptist comrades because they were the only team worse than us and each time we got to play them we managed a win. Steve also came from Northern Ireland so we shared a bit of heritage and Steve still has a twinge of Norn Iron accent if you listen closely.

There aren’t many people you stay in touch with for nearly 40 years, but we are still friends and have shared the road as Christian leaders on some very similar tracks in the small Perth scene for many years now too. I have a deep respect for Steve and his ability to integrate theology and culture and speak of it in a way that makes sense.

Steve has been blogging fairly seriously and prolifically over the last couple of years and is kicking off a series of his own looking at his missional journey 10 years on. He’s had a few ‘real deal’ adventures, including a stint in the UK with Crowded House network and planting his own gig in the hills (The Local), before his latest venture with Providence in Midland, so it will be really good to hear his learning from it all as he approaches the big 50…

Here’s part 1.

Missional in the Neighbourhood 10 Years On – Part V

Ishaping learn by reading, and much of my early introduction to the missional movement was via books. I thought it would be helpful to list some books I would be using with our church congregation now, as I imagine they may be different from what we were reading in the early noughties.

Shaping of Things to Come by Alan Hirsch and Mike Frost was the grenade launched into my stable church leader world and it blew things to pieces in the best possible way. It was an incendiary book, as it called for ‘revolution’ rather than evolution, but I doubt a tame voice would have been heard in the early 2000’s. A polite book would have gathered dust on the shelves of Koorong and made no impact, but this book generated conversation like few others have. More than that it generated debate and often serious argument. And that was good thing – because we can too easily be polite and inoffensive in church world. Not with this book… It came after some of the more high level texts (like Transforming Mission by David Bosch), but it was accessible to all and therefore a little dangerous.

I haven’t read ‘Shaping’ for a long time, but I remember it fondly. I probably wouldn’t hold it up for people to read today, as I think the missional ideas have been well embraced and its prophetic edge will have dated somewhat.

So what would I tell people to read now?… Here’s a selection of books I’d recommend and all are very ‘reader friendly’, because if you want people to read then the stuff you’re giving them has to be accessible. The common thread in all of these is that they focus on helping the individual find their way in mission and have little to do with re-shaping the structures of the church.

Here we go in no particular order:










Sentness by Kim Hammond and Darren Cronshaw – ok its by two friends of mine, but this is a very readable and very practical guide to understanding how we are ‘sent’ as missionaries into our communities. You won’t get confused reading this one.










God Next Door by Simon Carey Holt – this one has been around for a while and won Australian Christian book of the year. Its a very helpful guide for seeing God at work in our everyday life and seeing mission as part of life rather than a new thing to do














Surprise the World by Mike Frost – this one gives people a series of habits that can be learnt and practiced to give form to a missional life. Frosty does say ‘don’t just copy’, and for a long time he resisted giving this kind of information out in the belief it may stifle people’s own listening to God. But I sense this is a concession to the fact that most people still won’t be able to form their own missional habits and this is an excellent starter in that direction.










Next Door as it is in Heaven by Lance Ford and Brad Brisco – I just finished this one and found it very helpful for giving form to a suburban missional life (as distinct from a hipster approach) and for helping people think thru some practical actions. The chapter on eating together was great, but generally I found the book a collection of well formed and helpful ideas that would move people to action.








Sacrilege by Hugh Halter – Its been a while since I read this one, but I remember it as being engaging and inspiring. Halter is a funny guy who tells good stories, but is well able to make his point. This book is worth it just for the story about Halter’s interaction with his neighbour while mowing the lawn.

images (1)






Untamed by Alan & Deb Hirsch – This one’s been around for a while too, but its got some real teeth. It doesn’t just look at missional practices, but it looks at the kind of life that is needed to be genuine missionaries. Al & Deb challenge us to look at every aspect of our life from money to sex and to bring it under the Lordship of Christ. I have given plenty of these away and I have one left…














The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg – This one doesn’t fit into the ‘Christian book’ niche, but it does speak practically to how we learn and implement new behaviours. Well worth a read especially the chapter on keystone habits.

Ok – I’m sure there are others, but these are a good place to start if you want to get inspired to action.


Forever a Rookie?














Recently we took off for a few days down to Bridgetown to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. The actual ‘date’ of our wedding was April 6th, but life was a little too messy right then to be able to get away. But we managed to eke out a few days, leave the kids with mum and dad and head off to spend some time together away from the demands of everyday life.

We booked 3 nights in an old renovated barn, kicked back, ate out and generally relaxed and enjoyed the head space that only comes with no one else around. It was on the Tuesday morning as we were going for a walk along the river that I said to Danelle, ‘you know in 25 years of being married & being a pastor, I think I have taught about marriage once.’

I realised I have never really felt like I have had the credibility to say anything significant about marriage – like once I get some ‘runs on the board’ then maybe then I will be in a place to speak to others. I don’t think that about almost every other aspect of life, so why marriage?

A perplexing question…

Its not like we are in a shaky place where my words would be inauthentic or hollow, as we have a good relationship, and we have worked thru some pretty dark times and some challenging issues, but for some reason it seemed a tad arrogant to think I might be able to teach others on this issue. I know that doesn’t make any sense, but it was what I was feeling.

As we walked along I said to Danelle ‘Ok – if not now, then when? When we are in our 80’s and can’t remember one another’s names?…’ It was a short, sharp moment of insight, that this is not a topic that should remain off limits – in fact chances are in the 25 years we have been figuring this stuff out, we may have actually learnt some valuable stuff.

So I made a commitment to do something with this – to move past my own lack of confidence with and just begin sharing what we have learnt in an accessible way. I have a few ideas brewing, so hopefully soon we’ll be able to offer something into the mix.


When Stories Diverge


Recently I was at a dinner party and speaking with a person who expressed an interest in all things philosophy and religion. I found myself in conversation with this bloke for a while, so I began to ask him about his religious / philosophical views.

I asked if he had done any study and he confidently told me he had. I was thinking a philosophy degree or similar, but when I asked he explained that he had been on a weekend retreat back in 2011 with a group called Landmark Forum and it had revolutionised his life and been the basis for his thinking.

‘So… 3 days? Was that it?…’ I asked.

‘Yes, but I could do part 2 – another weekend – if I wanted to’ he added.

I admit I was skeptical of someone who would call a 3 day weekend a substantial amount of study…

As we chatted I heard that the group who held the weekend gathering in question  base their work on the EST movement, a school of thought popular back in the 70’s and 80’s but now rebranded as ‘Landmark Forums’.

I had heard of EST, but didn’t know much – they just fitted in my ‘alternative spiritualities’ category. I came home and did some googling and they get both rave reviews and scam warnings, depending on who is writing and what their experience was.

After reading up on them in various places, the common thread I observed was that the weekend was an intense focused time where people were broken down and then ‘re-built’.  It seems the goal of the conferences are to break people emotionally – to help them see and encounter their own brokenness and screwed-upness and to have them experience their own darkness and failure. In that deeply emotional state people are encouraged to scan their past for broken relationships and damage done that needs fixing.

From there they are encouraged to get on the phone, or set up a meeting to reconcile with those they have wronged.  And then once the ‘past has been dealt with’ they can move forwards. Many accounts describe this as a time of powerful healing and breakthru.

The philosophy has connections to the human potential movement, believing that in yourself you have all the capacity to achieve fulness and completeness – to be fully human.

I found it interesting to follow the train of thought and to see the similarity with my own faith – the belief in our brokenness and the need for healing – the importance of reconciliation, but then to see the divergence when it comes to how wholeness is achieved. In Landmark Forums you are seen as capable of moving yourself into a new headspace and of being your own saviour. All around us today in contemporary spirituality are variations on that theme – you are enough – you are your own authority and source of hope.

Its the dominant narrative of our time and in some places it leeches into our Christian story, eroding and ultimately eliminating the need for Jesus. The guy I was speaking with told me that he felt he had evolved past such a primitive mode of thought as Christianity, a theme I hear in the more recent teachings of Rob Bell, as he talks less about Jesus and more about an evolving consciousness. (And yes – I still listen to Bell – because I like him, find him intriguing and I think he has some amazing stuff to say alongside that which I would despatch)

My need for a saviour actually sounds quite ‘weak’ alongside those who would argue they don’t need anyone, which is probably what Paul was getting at when he spoke of the foolishness of the cross and our only boast being in the Lord. (1 Cor 8)

I guess the ultimate question is whose reality is true, but then that’s not the kinda question you ask in these times either…



Missional in The Neighbourhood 10 Years On Part IV


One of the challenges of inspiring people towards a missional lifestyle and a missional church is that many either find it too hard to translate ideas into action, or they are too busy to cultivate new practices. (Another less flattering option is that we are too self focused to see other people.)

At the core of a missional identity is the idea of being sent – of our identity being tied up with God’s sending impulse. It starts here, but then it needs fleshing out.

I like the story of Jesus with Zacchaeus in Luke 19 as a picture of how we can live with a missionary focus. And in that story we can derive some simple core practices that could form the basis for a missional lifestyle.

I’ll be speaking on this on Sunday, but for now here’s a summary of 7 things I see:

1. Jesus meets Zacchaeus in the street – in the flow of his everyday life. The story doesn’t take place in the synagogue but in the town, followed by Z’s home. If we see mission as what happens when people come to church then we miss the idea of being sent and we will also wait a really long time for anything to happen.

Practiceengagement – intentionally spend time immersed in the community as opposed to spending much of our free time with church people.

2. Jesus is aware of Z – he is tuned in enough to the spirit to notice him in a tree checking him out. Its easy to not see people – to view them as ‘extras’ in our own story and therefore somewhat invisible or irelevant. Frederick Beuchner says ‘the first step in loving people is to see them’.

Practiceawareness – stop on occasions thru the day and look around. Ask God if there is anyone he wants you to pay attention to. Look back at the end of the day and see where God was at work.

3. Jesus has time for him – he makes himself available to have lunch with Z. He sees the interruption / distraction as part of God’s work in the world and rolls with it. The key is that he is not so flat out that he is unable to create space.

Practiceavailability – assess your life pace and whether it allows for interruptions and spontaneous connections. Each evening reflect on the day that has been and see where you accepted invitations to be with people or where you missed the cue. Choose to eliminate some things from your life to live at a more welcoming pace.

4. Jesus is himself – in that he is authentic and at ease in himself – not needing to impress Z or ‘win him over’. In a recent comment Scott pointed me to some research done by Lynne Taylor who was trying to understand what is happening in the lives of people who become Christians. Her conclusion was that authenticity was the key element in people finding faith – both a desire for an authentic life and an experience of authentic faith

Practiceauthenticity – reflect on the way you conduct yourself around those who don’t have faith. To what extent are you ‘yourself’ and to what extent are you acting a role?

5. Jesus accepts Z as he is – he knows who he is, the way he is perceived in society but he is happy to be with him and eat lunch with him.

Practiceacceptance – spend time with people who make you uncomfortable or who clearly do not share your values. Bring someone into your life on a regular basis who challenges your prejudices.

6. Jesus is vulnerable and willing to put himself at risk – he isn’t controlled by the societal norms that prohibit him from spending time with people like Z. He knows there will be criticism but he is willing to take the heat.

Practicevulnerability – don’t be afraid to spend time with people or go to places that may evoke criticism from other Christians.

7. Jesus was purposeful in his relationship – he finishes the time by declaring “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” Jesus knew what he was doing and wasn’t shy about it. You don’t need to be offensive or brash to be purposeful. Jesus seems to get it right.

Practice – look at who God has brought into your life, pray for them, and seek every opportunity to love, bless, serve and speak of Jesus with them.

I’m hoping that as we put a practical edge to it we may be able to move people into a more natural missional lifestyle. And I imagine that will happen as those practices become automated and embedded in our everyday life.

There’s no rocket science here – just a willingness to listen to God and be a bit uncomfortable from time to time.


Who’s Getting Saved?…


It was a day for energetic conversations and this morning I met with Jennifer, as I do a few times a year for spiritual direction and mentoring.

We began discussing mission and some of what I have written here over the last few posts, then she asked a question that has been bubbling away in me for the rest of the day.

I don’t remember the exact framing, but essentially it was ‘It seems there are people becoming Christians around the place, but who are these people and what is bringing them to a point of conversion? And then…  what is the nature of that conversion – what do they understand themselves to be ‘converting’ to?’

I’d love to find some answers to those questions and I imagine it would form a really interesting and valuable piece of research – more specifically what is happening among those 25 and older in terms of conversion.

Its a somewhat vexed question as defining conversion and reflecting on evangelistic methodologies could be complicated. We seem to have anecdotal evidence for people coming to faith in large numbers in some areas, while others would say its ‘hard ground’ and as tough a time as we have known evangelistically.

But I’d be interested to know if there is any hard data available on this issue as it may be valuable to the wider church. Otherwise I might have to start that masters… haha…



Missional in the Neighbourhood 10 Years On – Part III








As I reflect back on much of what we talked about 10 years ago in regards to church and mission, there was a high degree of structural change being advocated. The church was broken and needed fixing. People weren’t coming and didn’t look like ever coming so a big part of the missional agenda was to consider how we could form more contextually congruent communities that would not seem like such a cultural leap from that of the surrounding society. It was a valid point. Churches could be wacky places sometimes.

Alongside the structural aspect was the personal – where the notion of focusing less energy on getting people in the community to come to church and more energy on getting the people in church back into the community was primary.

And I sense that while we tried to do both tasks simultaneously we spent more time critiquing and re-inventing the church form than we did helping people become effective missionaries in their every day lives. We spoke of cultural distance and the fluidity of ecclesiology, and it was interesting (fun even) for those of us leading churches to consider how they could adapt, but the reality was that most people who found faith didn’t care much for the form of the church. In fact my discovery early on was that when people came to church when we met in a home or a park, they would ask ‘so when do we do the real thing?’

It seemed that if people were willing to go to church then they had a mental image (for better or worse) of what they were signing up for. I sense we spent too much time trying to revolutionise form and not enough equipping people for simple, everyday mission work.

This morning I found myself preaching unexpectedly as one of our crew was sick. I’m not one for simply micro-waving an old message if I can avoid it, so I spent some time yesterday trying to sense what God may be wanting to say to us and I decided to kick off the missional series a week early.

In the teaching we looked at the shifts we have seen in our culture over the last 40 years from being a bunch of people fairly accepting of faith, to now being people (in broader society) who see it as simplistic and primitive. I was in conversation with someone recently at a party and they expressed interest in philosophy and religion so I asked them how they saw the church and God. Their response was that they had ‘evolved past such a simplistic faith based understanding of life… that they were more into logic and reason and not the stuff churches advocate…’ And that’s a fairly normal response – to perceive those of us who subscribe to a biblical worldview as backward and lacking intellect.

I read recently that Tim Keller refers to this period as post-secular, meaning that we have moved from a Christendom worldview, to a secular one and then past that to where we now consider a range of spiritualities, but definitely not Christianity. It is considered too uninformed and narrow for the world today – an analogue system in a digital age – quaint and quirky, but only of interest for its historical value. This guy I was speaking with definitely was a spiritual person and was able to discuss his spiritual experiences, but he viewed the church as more of a morality club filled with people who believed very odd things and without any reason.

So the question arises, how do we live as missionaries in this time when we are definitely not considered credible in any way? As I spoke with this person at the party I sensed that once they knew I was a Christian they eyed me with a degree of disdain – sad that I had been brainwashed into this stuff and couldn’t see a bigger worldview.

In teaching this morning I came back to John 1 as a foundation for local mission. Jesus is sent by the father into the world to be the one who initiates and calls into being the kingdom of God. He ‘becomes flesh and moves into the neighbourhood’, to quote Petersen and the question that raises is ‘so what did Jesus do in the neighbourhood?’ How did he live then and how would he live now if he lived in our neighbourhood.

The one ‘full of grace and truth’ lives in such a way that (some) people are drawn to him and other people are repelled by him, but its not the people you would think in each case. Our focus in this series is going to be unashamedly practical and even instructional at times, but this morning was the time for the bigger picture dreaming and imagining – ‘what would Jesus do if he was living your life in your shoes?’

The shifts in culture have definitely seen the church on the back foot and despite the efforts of the missional movement I wouldn’t say we have seen radical changes in our communities. Perhaps we just batten down the hatches and huddle together praying for Jesus to come back soon… Perhaps we get with the program and let go of archaic biblical ideas that no longer have currency in a clever modern world… Or perhaps we choose the path of adventure, re-imagining what it means to be God’s people in this time – seeing hope and possibilities rather than darkness. If the exiled Hebrews could re-discover their faith in that time of hardship then there is definitely hope for a church that is increasingly feeling its cultural isolation.

John 1 says ‘the light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it’. And it never will. But it means those who bring the light need to be a little more creative and thoughtful about how we bring that light.

Missional in the Neighbourhood 10 Years On – Part II

The title of this series is intentional. Its about mission in the local neighbourhood as distinct from going overseas or to a whole new sub-culture. It’s about being effective where we are.

Paradigm shifting was big in 2006. Part of helping people grasp a ‘missional imagination’ was deconstructing the heavily churched mindset that most of us had lived with for so long.

I remember saying things like ‘it’s not that God’s church has a mission, but that God’s mission has a church’. We spoke of Christology shaping missiology which in turn shaped ecclesiology (which in essence meant Jesus inspires us into mission and from there we allow our church communities to take shape). In that time paradigms did need busting, the church needed something of a kick up the bum to get back into the world and ‘revolution rather than evolution’ was the order of the day for the church. I loved that period and the energy that went with learning new things and being challenged to figure out how we do mission in this changing landscape.
But we’re not there any more. Pretty much everyone would sign off on the importance of the church getting back into the community and the importance of a tangible gospel rather than just a five minute spiel. We would agree on contextualisation and thoughtful interactions rather than just spewing a gospel message on people.

So my sense is that these days the issues are far more practical and pragmatic than philosophical. I imagine that’s why Mike Frost’s Surprise the World ‘workbook’ has been so successful – because people are convinced of the importance of mission but not sure where to start. Frosty offers a collection of practices that give shape to a missional lifestyle and I will be taking a similar approach with our crew.

I sense we need to more and more help people move into action and to form a missional lifestyle that is true to who they are. Not everyone is good at caring for the poor and needy, nor is everyone good at hosting parties. So helping people to play to their strengths and developing intentional missionary practices will be a part of what we do.

Our teaching series will only run for 7 weeks but it will be largely practical and each week will offer some tangible expressions of mission that people can pursue.

One of the things I have noticed in church leadership is that presenting people with a concept and allowing them to ‘join the dots’ and come up with their own missional idea rarely results in action – it seems to get filed in the ‘too hard basket’ but… plain old telling people what to do does get traction. Maybe that’s unfortunate but you also need to accept reality and play the hand you’re dealt.

It’s the difference between ‘think of a creative way to bless your street’ and ‘go knock on your neighbour’s door and invite them around for a meal’. Of course you have to cover that with a caveat that says you don’t HAVE to invite people around for a meal if hospitality isn’t your strength. But if we present enough clear practical alternatives then people will realise they can do stuff.

I get the sense we have come out of the dark ages of evangelism – think wacky door knocking and zany street preaching – but we aren’t sure what we are to move into, or how we are to do things in this context.

I’m all for discussing and reflecting on the higher level missiology stuff with those for whom it inspires and makes sense but I tend to think most folks just want some help to get practical and effective as the people of God


Missional in the Neighbourhood 10 Years On – Part I

forgeIt was 2006 and we were in full swing with Forge and some experimental church communities, working hard to poke and prod the missional imagination of the church and see if we could ignite some new thinking and practice around the core issue of mission. We had moved beyond simply being antagonists to being a voice worthy of a hearing, albeit a feisty voice. To be fair I’m not sure a tame voice would actually have been heard in an environment dominated by church growth thinking and where the biggest players still had the most credible voices. Now here we are 10 years later and what was once provocative is now mainstream – what was once disturbing is now acceptable.

This blog was born several years earlier when I realised my own identity was formed primarily by the missionary calling. Stepping into the Forge tribe in its early days was like coming home to a long lost family and those were great years as we mused, experimented and reflected on what a church shaped by mission would look like in Australia. A tough reality was that while the missional theory sounded good, the practice still came hard. Both churches and individuals were difficult to change.

Things are the way they are for a reason… (the path of least resistance) and significant change felt like a constant uphill battle.

In 2009 I finished up in any offical capacity with Forge and returned to a local church to lead and implement the things we had been speaking of. As we kicked off at QBC it was with the hope of growing a community of people committed to appropriate contextual expressions of mission and committed to being a church flexible enough to adapt to the environment. It was all the ‘Forge stuff’ that I hoped to get traction with among a local community.

A couple of years of plain hard slog followed while the church imploded and any outward energy got shunted to the backburner in deference to survival techniques. And then when we came out of that ‘ice age’ we were tired and weary, just needing to recoup and catch our breath. The dreams and ideals of the Forge era seemed like a distant memory and while I sometimes spoke about mission it was from a head that knew rather than a heart that was inspired. Raw information rarely moves people into action,with anywhere near the energy that comes from inspired information.

For a few years I felt myself simply rolling with the regular church agenda of doing Sunday church, running the usual programs and hoping that as we focused on simple discipleship people would find their way to a knowledge and experience of God and his church that they were happy to share. Interestingly the ‘results’ have been no more or less inspiring than when we were pushing hard into the missional ideas.

In the last 5 years some people have become Christians, some Christians have ditched discipleship, some folks have moved ahead in faith and some have dropped the ball or stagnated. It sounds like any church anywhere…


So a couple of months back we decided to focus again on the theme of mission and to lift the energy around our missionary practices as a church community. And the questions it raised for me were:

  • 10 years on what do I believe and see as core to mission in a local church community?
  • What would I see as essential for people to grasp and what am I prepared to let slide?’
  • What and who would I encourage people to read?
  • Who are we and what are our specific challenges in mission?
  • And what would I reasonably hope for as tangible outcomes?

I have more books on the subject of mission than anyone could ever need. I have files and files of stuff that I have produced as well that I can draw on, but the question of what is needed for these people at this time is what I am pondering.

My church would be all but unaware of the missional conversation of the early 2000’s and most wouldn’t care. By and large they’d like to see people come to faith. They’d like the church to grow thru new converts and they’d like to know that what we are doing as a church is making a difference.

That probably sounds like almost any church anywhere – you’d hope… But if I were to consider who we are then we’d need to see:

  • A large immigrant contingent with approx 50% of the church having lived in Australia for less than 7 years and most of them either South African or British.
  • The larger South African group come from a highly Christian culture which is quite conservative and many are still adapting to the secular mission field that is Australia.
  • Busy people often working long hours and many playing ‘financial catch up’.
  • Suburban people often commuting and having the ‘dormitory’ experience of their local community
  • People open to fresh ideas and experimentation – our church has repeatedly shown itself to be willing to ‘try things’.
  • White middle aged and middle class – by and large this describes us so all of the aspirational baggage of middle class living needs to be processed as we consider mission and discipleship.

What I want to do in this series of posts is articulate how I would go about equipping this local church for mission in this local context. I imagine that if you are a church leader then what you may do with your people in your context might be quite different so this is not a ‘how to’ by any means. No doubt there will be common concepts and transferable ideas, but I’m really more allowing you into the machinations of my mind as I try to come to grips with the thought processes and practices that I hope will equip and inspire people to be effective both individually and corporately.

I’m not sure how many posts there will be or how often they will be added, but I imagine they will flow as the ideas flow…


The Real Work of Leadership


So much of what is written or spoken about in Christian leadership seems to be about the organisational task of moving a church towards its ‘vision’ or intended direction. Not wrong and I agree that there is that element to leadership, but anyone who lasts a while in ministry knows that the real work of leadership and ministry is actually done in the micro-setting – one to one in personal relationships.

It’s as we help people grow and develop that our ‘organisation’ actually becomes what we want it to be. More specifically its as we help people become more like Christ that the church takes on the shape it is intended to have. ‘Equipping the saints’ may have a ‘skills’ aspect to it, but I am increasingly convinced it is more to do with shaping character and helping people tap into what God is up to in their lives.

You just can’t do that anywhere near as effectively by running a program or preaching a sermon. Even a small group has a limited impact. But as you sit with someone and spend time fully engaged with them, you have the potential to make a significant difference.

These days I tell people I have 3 simple roles leading, teaching and meeting with blokes – just 3 things. I’ll also meet with women where its appropriate, but by and large the most important stuff I do is in those purposeful connections with men. Its where the bulk of the ‘leading’ gets done.

I remember as a young pastor knowing I needed to catch people one to one and doing it, but not really knowing quite what I was doing, why we were meeting or what I was hoping for. I often felt awkward and like I was spinning my wheels, and even wasting people’s time because unless it was a Bible study, I lacked a sense of purpose and I also didn’t feel genuine permission to ask significant questions of the people I was meeting with. I’m guessing they felt it too – nice to see you, but so what?…

I can’t say I feel that now, nor do I have many meetings where there is no sense of purpose. Sometimes the purpose is simply to catch up and shoot the breeze. Many of those in our church community are my good friends and its nice to have lunch and talk cars, caravans and surfing. But most often if we are meeting one to one it will involve deliberate inquiry as to a person’s life trajectory, particularly their spiritual formation, and then helping them reflect on their experience of God and prompting them to consider what God may be saying in their life. Its not about how often you’ve read your Bible, prayed and gone to church. Its focused on helping them pay attention to the work God is doing in their own experience and as they encounter scripture. Its intentional and unapologetically, direct at times.

Of course people can do this themselves but sometimes its easier when someone else is guiding and prompting than just listening to your own thoughts.

I’d say that any Christian leader who isn’t spending intentional one to one time with a small but significant number of people is actually neglecting the core work that is required to shape a community and lead it purposefully. Preaching only makes sense if we know the people we are preaching to, leading only takes form when we know the people we are called to lead.

Its the real work of leadership that we have been called to – helping people form into the likeness of Christ and then seeing what takes shape out of that.