You know all those jokes you’ve made your whole life about the attention span of a goldfish? Well you’re not much better, in fact you’re probably worse. Researchers have found that the average attention span of humans has decreased from twelve seconds in the year 2000 (when the mobile phone revolution began) to eight seconds in 2015. (more…)
Whilst many of us were either enjoying an end of year break or contemplating the start to a new year, far away in Burkino Faso a tragedy was unfolding. An unassuming but legendary couple in their eighties from Perth were kidnapped by a militant Islamist group linked to Al Qaeda jihadists. (more…)
Church Planting Webinar – 11am (EST) Wed 4th Nov. 2015
Church planting is an exciting frontier of ministry. There are churches who have been involved for many years in planting other churches and others who are seriously thinking about it. Church planting can be tough, complex and draining. It’s important to share ideas and experience, encourage one another and build supportive relationships.
Join us for our Church Planters Webinar on Wed 4 November at 11am EST. Our guest is Andrew Turner the author of Fruitful Church. Andrew works as a Church Development Facilitator with the Baptist Churches of South Australia and is a valued member of the Crossover Taskforce. Andrew replanted and for 11 years pastored Glen Osmond Baptist Church, during which time it in turn planted several churches. He and his family have now joined a team to missionally reinvigorate a small church in West Beach SA.
The Webinar length is scheduled for between 60-90min. Click on this link to join us: https://global.gotomeeting.com/join/412314997
You can dial in by telephone to participate on this number: Australia +61 2 8355 1024 using the following access code: 412-314-997
Turn To The Person Next To You Affliction
The Apostle Paul said the things he didn’t want to do he did and the things he did want to do he didn’t. Pastors are like that when it comes to the habit of inviting people to ‘turn to the person next to them’. Believe me, I get the whole theory of interaction, but I also get that its best done genuinely, rather than when forced to by someone who possesses the power of the microphone. Once the edict is given you face either the prospect of engaging in a somewhat artificial engagement (which you have no hope of finishing due to time limitations) or looking like the odd one out, or a grump (that’s me..).
Whenever a pastor says that cringe worthy phrase it’s a dead giveaway that their assumption is that the entire congregation are Christians. Otherwise more sensitivity would be shown. If there are people there who aren’t Christians the invitation can be problematic. The next level of ‘turn to the person next to you’ is the one with an added “and pray for them…”
An evangelistic church expects there to be people present who have a range of faith positions from card carrying through to just looking. Subsequently there is a greater mindfulness of how such invitations affect these visitors. We need to view the experience of our worship services from the perspective of the visitor with no faith commitment (and a great degree of nervousness). Expecting newcomers to engage in a level of intimacy they rarely do with a complete stranger sitting next to them is insensitive.
- Secret Buildings
Have you found yourself at a church you’ve never been to before, not sure of where the entrance is, or where you go after finding the entrance? You’ve found yourself at a church for insiders. Insider churches don’t need clear signage because everyone knows the location of everything. Nothing needs to be explained. Signs are a waste of money if everybody knows where everything is.
On the contrary, churches that have invested in clear signage expect to have visitors, and wishes to help them access the building with clear direction.
Signage on the outside of church likewise can tell you something about how much the church values letting outsiders know where it is, what it is, and how to get into it.
You never have to wonder where McDonalds restaurants are; every franchisee will be able to tell you how much they paid for the gigantic sign outside. Marketers say that the Golden Arches are more recognised than the cross. That’s hard to verify but get the picture: McDonalds are in the business of selling burgers and fries and churches exist to hold out to the world the hope of the Gospel. Whilst the presence of a church is felt more significantly through its people signage is important. An evangelistic church makes it easy for people to notice it and access it. An evangelistic church does not assume that everybody attending it is a member, but rather that a fair percentage will be new to the place.
- Bubble world
If your church provides enough events to bring its membership back into the building or in other gatherings on virtually every night and day of the week it may well be a church that exists in the bubble.
A church that takes its missional imperative seriously is sensitive about the amount of time it demands of its members, knowing full well that by drawing people in to wall to wall events, meetings, etc there will precious little time left to be engaged in the community with people outside the walls of the church.
The machine of church is often the primary focus of the heat, light and energy that goes into the place, rather than a broken and lost world. This is quite understandable: life inside the bubble is a wonderful experience for many. People find support and sustenance inside the bubble. As one parishioner bemoaned of me: “Pastor I come here because it’s a place of refuge from the world and now you want to send me back out!”.
It’s all too easy for a church to add layer upon layer of activity that requires ever increasing commitment in terms of attendance. That feeling of business conveys a sense of purpose.
An evangelistic church looks carefully at its calendar and gives consideration to whether or not it is hindering the evangelistic potential of its people.
So how does your church stack up? Are you a ‘turn to the person next to you’ kind of church?
Drive into your church car park as if you have come for the first time and try and experience it afresh. It is clear where you go?
Out of seven days a week how many times are you called back inside the bubble?
Stan Fetting, Crossover Operations Manager.
“We need to rediscover what it looks like to create curiosity arousing lifestyles…equipping people to live lives that are weird, that are odd, that break moulds.”.
Michael Frost in Missional Conversation Series
Is Michael Frost right?
There are many questions here. What business have respectable middle class Australian Baptists got being ‘weird’? Is there a biblical precedence to support Michael’s viewpoint?
A brief look at some of the Old Testament prophets may provide support. We highlight some of these in our annual Easter Offering video HERE.
Strictly speaking the prophets were in possession of a different set of messages than the Gospel, although we share in common with them the commission to pass on a message from God to the world.
Jeremiah engaged in some bizarre behaviour burying his underwear and walking around with a yoke attached to his back.
Ezekiel’s prophetic modus operandi is similarly odd in comparison to our modern day way of going about proclaiming the message of God. Events that stand out is his act of lying on his side for 390 days, and then repeating that. Eating barley cakes baked over cow manure was another
Perhaps Hosea amongst all the prophets would have the most traction today, due to the self-sacrificial nature of his decision to obey God and take on a prostitute for a wife. It’s not the kind of thing in modern times we expect of God – to be told to live such an unusual, controversial and sacrificial life that plays out like a long running drama speaking to the surrounding world of the nature of God’s love for his people and the degree to which they have defiled themselves.
Christians in popular misconception are perceived to be shunning of sex workers. The truth is that of all the people who reach out to street workers Christians across the world are often on the forefront.
Jesus got a hard time from the religious elite for hanging with tax collectors and other people of ill repute.
It can be argued that there is an incarnational logic to the somewhat bizarre ministries of the prophets. Under the direction of God to deliver a message, they didn’t just proclaim prophecies but lived their message out through their symbolic behaviour, be that in in the choice of marriage partners, their clothing or using their bodies symbolically. They took the word of God seriously and allowed it to have a disruptive and transforming effect on their lives.
Is anybody listening?
The prophets of old weren’t at any risk of being ignored. They aroused curiosity and made the message of God a talking point. It seems as if the church on the other hand is routinely ignored, except for when something controversial happens. So what would it mean to us to live lives that arouse curiosity? Do we have to do something outlandish or bizarre to be noticed?
It is important to note that the behaviour of the prophets mentioned wasn’t some grand plan that they schemed and hatched – it was under the direction of God.
Modern Day Curiosities
There are plenty of examples of Christians living extraordinarily sacrificial lives right across the globe, particularly those who minister amongst the poor and marginalised. However, this is not the preserve of Christian believers alone and therefore not necessarily curious from a religious perspective.
Some modern day believers do choose ‘curious’ ways of witnessing to the world around them. Carl James Joseph, a Catholic pilgrim from Detroit, Michigan, has been living without money and depending on the generosity of others for the past 20 years. Carl carries a large cross on his back and is dressed like Jesus. He is barefoot most of the time and lives a very simple life.
Having visited about 20 countries in the world he has now become a well-known figure in the old city of Jerusalem, where he explores the life and path of Jesus Christ.
If you drive down the old Route 66 into Groom Texas you will see a giant cross which attracts up to a thousand people a day. It was built by Steve Thomas of Pampa, Texas in 1995. Mr. Thomas, disgusted with the huge billboards advertising pornography wanted to make a public profession of faith along the Interstate. Originally he wanted to put up his own billboard with Bible verses but could never find the appropriate verse. Instead, inspired by a cross built by a rancher in Ballinger, Texas, Mr. Thomas decided to construct a giant cross. The cross was constructed by a hundred welders in two pieces and stands 190 feet tall.
Alongside the cross is a replica of Calvary, with steps leading to the crosses, and a replica of Christ’s tomb. The Stations of the Cross feature life-sized sculptures of the events leading to Christ’s crucifixion. The Groom Cross is fast becoming a roadside pilgrimage site with the number of travellers visiting the site increasing exponentially.
But what about us ‘normal’ people?
The most elementary way togain traction and cut through is to upset the applecart of expectations.Through perception that is often justified and at other times unwarranted the church and Christians at large in Australia seemed to be pegged when it comes to expectations of attitude and action. Upsetting those expectations arouses curiosity. Here’s some ways I’ve found makes a difference:
- Not judging when you are expected to.
- Taking an interest in others lives and views rather than just trying to ‘push a message’.
- Being found in unlikely places (outside the bubble of the church).
- Learning to build friendships with people outside of your usual Christian networks.
- Being at the heart of a community rather than the fringe.
- Asking questions rather than making statements.
Whilst the examples above don’t attract as much attention as the antics of the prophets or giant crosses it does make a difference one life at a time. Like the prophets, we can submit our lives to God to be used for whatever purposes he wishes and whatever way he wants. The question is, how are we going to respond if he wants us to do something off the wall?
By Stan Fetting (Operations Manager, Crossover)
For more on being ‘Revitalised in Witness’ please read the other posts in this series:
Baptist churches have become very good at connecting with their local community and building relationships throughout their local communities but what about when it comes to being able to explain the reasons for the hope they have found in Jesus? (more…)
You’ve just about reached the finish line of your ministry life, two years away from retirement in a Melbourne church that you have pastored for 18 years. Another two years will make a nice round 20 and you can finally retire and take your foot off the pedal of life. Darrell and Pam McKerlie were in exactly that position but they chose a totally unexpected option. (more…)
Every now and then to impress people I slip in a Latin or French expression. My favourite is a little French word ennui, pronounced ‘ahn-wee’. It describes a feeling of utter weariness and discontent resulting from lack of interest. In other words: boredom. I’ve experienced this state of being at times and I don’t think I’m on my own. I’ve always detected that a not insignificant part of all the congregations I’ve been in, to be suffering from this sense of boredom. On every Sunday morning that I preach, without fail, there are people asleep before I’ve even started my opening lame joke! (I feel comforted by people asleep before I’ve started rather than afterwards.) (more…)
The nicest thing that has ever been said about my spirituality was in my first year as a Christian. A friend said, “I can see Jesus in your laughter.” And it was true. Encountering Jesus at a time when I had wanted to end my life had a revolutionary effect on me. I was filled with hope and my mourning was replaced with joy. I was subsequently an extremely happy young man. I laughed a lot and made others laugh too. Many things have since been said about my spirituality, none of them quite as complimentary (an occupational hazard of pastors). More to the point, nobody has since connected laughter to my spirituality. (more…)