Monday, 31 August 2015

Judging Success...

I struggle with judging success when it comes to my ministries... what measurements do I use? Is it purely a numbers game, or are numbers not important at all?  I would love to measure it by a depth of spirituality, but how does one quantify that, especially when it seems some people may be going deeper in their faith only to then turn around and walk away all together?

I do think numbers play some role.  Even just last night at church, nearly everyone involved with the young adults ministry was there - the numbers brought a greater feeling of belonging and purpose, just because the room was filled, and I wasn't left wondering where different people had gotten to, and if there were issues keeping people away I was going to have to work through.  Growing numbers is also a good sign, especially if it is coming through those already there inviting and bringing along new people - I think that points to the depth of the group as well, that they are receiving from whatever ministry it is, seeing its worth, and sharing it with others.

But when that's not happening, is it my failure, or is it a hardness in the group, or is it some other element outside the scheme of control?  That's where I struggle to judge where things are going right or wrong.

It's hard to set Key Performance Indicators on such a organic community, which is hopefully being designed to follow the Holy Spirit - and not so much set goals defined by the group leader.  It's also hard to set KPIs when they would be dependent on the individual relationship people are having with God - I can teach and encourage, but that is ultimately up to them to maintain.

It's not a new problem I know, but I am wondering if anyone out there has some tangible measurements they use, or ideas for implementing things with ways to reflect on the success or failure of the workings.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

A little more than useless

There's a Relient K song that says:
And sometimes I think that I'm not any good at all
And sometimes I wonder why, why I'm even here at all
But then you assure me
I'm a little more than useless
And when I think that I can't do this
You promise me that I'll get through this
And do something right
Do something right for once
We often feel useless... and label ourselves as useless. And in some senses that is correct; on our own - depending on ourselves - we are pretty much useless.  But to actually label ourselves that denies that God has anything to do with our lives at all.  God sees us as 'more than useless' because He chooses to input into our lives, all of our lives whether we recognise Him or not.  He sent Jesus so that we would not be useless.

So don't deny God the recognition of what He puts into your life... you are more than useless!

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Concerns on the social media worldview

Social Media is a fantastic tool, a great way to connect with people from all over the globe.  I love that I can talk with people I served on the mission field of The Gambia with - or old school friends - or American friends who have headed home - or even just church friends during the week in a much more relaxed way.

But time and time again I am reminded that I have to make sure I don't view the social media world as equivalent to the real world.  There are many things that make the world of social media a dangerous place if you take all of your experience and information from it, without regarding what is going on in people's real life.

People say things on social media (both publically and privately) they would never say in person.  It's very easy to type out a harsh comment, or not consider the circumstances or intent of how their words will be received.  It's also very easy to misunderstand someone's social media post, because it's tough to gauge emotion, sarcasm, intention and intent from written words.

There certainly is a need for 'real world' communication to supplement and, ultimately, complete the conversation that may start on social media.

Also just as it's easy to amass a large following of people whom you hardly know... it's easy to disconnect from people you know, but find yourself in conflict with.

In times of conflict it is very easy to find the 'unfriend' button, or maybe just the 'unfollow' or in those moments of complete anger the 'block' button. But that doesn't stop the real world does it.  It's not so easy to disconnect when you are seeing the person in person.  However it does create an awkwardness... I know that I notice when people have 'unfriended' or blocked me on different social media platforms and it becomes a little strange when you go to interact in the real world knowing the person has purposely disconnected on social media: do they actually want to talk to me? should I resolve some conflict I am not really even aware of? are they still a friend here in the real world?

So as amazing a tool social media is - it has to be used carefully, and with a correct intent.  I have a few rules about what and when I post (I may share those in another post sometimes - **update** I have written that post... here), but I think everyone needs a reminded now and then that what happens on social media will affect your real world life, so you need to consider that in all things you do online!

Friday, 14 August 2015

Praying for the Mission to be Seen!

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
~Matthew 28:18-20

This passage is at the heart of everything I write here on "Working on the Mission", because it is one of the key verses that outlines the very mission we as the Church are commissioned to work on.

I find myself constantly lining up the things I am doing with passages like this... "is what I plan to do today conducive to the mission I have?"  I admit to sometimes doing my own thing, going my own way (don't we all), and those days there are times I look back and think "what a waste" - and there are times it takes me days to realise my eyes have turned from the mission.

But how are we as the Church doing? There are probably many individuals who are focused on the mission, but what about the Church as a whole?  In a wide sweeping generalisation I don't think the Church is as focused on the mission Jesus gave it as it should be.  At least in Western countries you see (especially in the mainstream media) an organisation, not a body of Christ. You see money making schemes, not disciple making.  You see people falling from grace and not teaching to observe Jesus' commands.

There are pockets of the Church doing amazing things for the mission, but on the whole the secular world has infected the church to a point that the world now sees it as a corrupted and old fashioned enterprise.

I can't feel responsible for the actions of others, but somehow I do - my heart breaks when I see news articles slamming churches and seeing that there might be some validity in their reporting. I get angry when I hear of grand expense used on material things in churches when people are going hungry right next door. Yet I feel I have no influence to change the wider church...

...except to pray.

I will continue to preach and teach about observing Jesus' commands, I will strive to make disciples, I will rejoice as I get to baptise them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And I will pray that God impacts the Church in a global sense to turn back to Him, for the gardener to prune the vine where needed and fertilise where needed - for the One with all authority in heaven and on earth to change the hearts of those who claim to follow Him and proclaim His Name.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015


I think many people believe a pastor should always be motivated to work at his job, because his job is played out as service to God. You know what I agree, and even on the tough days it is that idea of service to God that motivates me.  But that doesn't mean I am always energised and enthusiastic.  Some days I just can't get started, or I wonder why I bother, or if what I am doing is actually going to matter to anyone.

Last Sunday I preached from Matthew 22:34-40 "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all of your soul and with all of your mind."  That's a pretty clear directive for our lives isn't it... and Jesus telling us to do something should be enough to motivate us into action.  But how many of us can actually say that every moment of every day we feel motivated to do that?  Even our Saviour imploring us to love Him with all our hearts isn't enough for us to actually do that without ceasing.

So it goes both ways I guess, we have to recognise that there are times that our motivation fails us and it's part of our human nature - at times as a pastor I have to recognise that some people just are not motivated (because of personal life, current situation, tiredness, spiritual dryness and many other reasons) and to be encouraging and up beat instead of coming across as an old drill Sargent pushing for things to be done.  But also people should realise that sometimes pastors struggle for motivation too, and being upbeat all the time takes a heavy toll, being involved every week takes a heavy toll, and sometimes it means that we just don't feel like doing something (even though I know most of the times pastors will still do it)... it's sometimes the expectation that it will just always be done that drains even more, and people just understanding that sometimes things are tough makes things a bit easier.

Someone posted this on Facebook last night, and though I am not their pastor, it was encouraging to think that people do think like this.  I'm not sure which stats I sit in personally, but they are definitely worthy of thinking about and considering - and wondering how you might be able to care for your pastor this week.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

Encouraged and reminded by example.

I can't get enough of the things Francis Chan says at the moment. This quote probably sums up why, because everything Chan does points to Jesus.

It's a challenge that I try and keep right before me. I know I don't meet that challenge very well most of the time, but I am also so thankful for the grace that my life sits on, because when I fail to point to Jesus His grace continues to bring me close to Him when I repent.

My whole life is Jesus' - He has bought it, it's completely paid for by His blood.  Though I wrestle it back at times, I willingly hand it back when I realise the error of my ways. My life is not a great example continually pointing to Jesus, but my life is a fantastic example of God's grace at work.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

Don't let conflict fester

"Christians in community are never to give up on one another. We must never tire of forgiving (and/or repenting) and seeking to repair our relationships. Matthew 5:23-24 tells us we should go to someone if we know the person has something against us. Matthew 18:15 says we should approach others if we know that we have something against them. In short, it is always your move to repair relationships in community, God always holds you responsible to reach out to repair a broken relationship. A Christian is responsible to begin the process of reconciliation, regardless of how the distance or alienation began."
~Timothy Keller, Gospel in Life, p69

Conflict is a big thing.  It's such a destructive thing.  It is something that cannot be avoided, but can be dealt with.  Some conflict breaks into anger, disagreement and action - I find that conflict can be dealt with, because it is very visible, and everyone can see the need to fix it, so work towards resolving it.  The scary kind of conflict though is when people just disconnect and refuse to talk or work with each other - and refuse to even acknowledge each other.  This kind of conflict festers, and it creates awkwardness, so much so that everyone ends up walking on eggshells and no one is really willing to even mention the conflict, let alone address the issues and start the road to restoration.

That's why I feel Keller's quote above is so important.  It is each of our responsibilities to initiate the reconciliation, whether we were in or wrong, or were wronged.  And we follow the procedure of approaching the person, but if that doesn't work finding someone else to come with us and approach them again. I find with 'quiet conflict' someone usually doesn't even admit there is a problem, so if someone raises the issue with them they dismiss it... finding someone else to come back with you and address it again makes it much clearer that yes there is something that needs to be sorted.

But all in all we are to never give up on one another.  NEVER. If we are a group of believers we have to be expecting that we are going to be spending eternity with each other - so how can we give up on someone?

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