Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Radical Chapter 3

The most memorable part of this chapter was right at the start. He tells a story of a church in Indonesia. Potential church leaders only graduate once they have planted a church and reached 30 new Christians. Remember that Indonesia is a majority Muslim country.

I wonder how we would go if we applied that here. I reckon there are many churches that haven't reached 30 new people in a decade - and that's in a majority Christian country.

I think it would be a culture shock. We tend to be focussed around just keep things ticking over, as if existence is the only goal.

Monday, 18 April 2016

Radical Chapter 2

In chapter 2 of Radical, David Platt asks if we are able to discern what parts of our faith are Biblical and which are just American.

He mentions our tendency to manipulate the Bible to our own comfort. In the Bible there is no verse about "praying a sinner's prayer" to "accept Jesus". But quite often that's what American culture reduces Christianity down to.

This "one time decision with no action afterwards", this "one-way ticket to heaven" is a road built on sinking sands. The actual gospel is far different from this (American) cultural version.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Church math

Not sure how a church established in 1870 can say 2016 is its 150th anniversary.

Of course there's probably a more philosophical question as to why a church (in an age when some people think the church is irrelevant to modern life) would go to such lengths to point out that it has been around since before Australian federation, the invention of the car or the Olympic games. But that point is probably for another day.

Today I'm just having a giggle at a sign that says nothing about the church except "we can't add up".

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Should we be like a plant?

So we've all heard of church plants. Where some church people decide to start a new church. Sometimes they're quite successful. So who goes to them? Here's some interesting data on that.

Turns out that about half the people were previously not part of a church. This is a far cry from mainstream church where only about 2% are new to church. Most have always gone to church, or have switched from another church to their current one.

So what's the big secret behind this ability to connect with people from outside? Well there's data on that too. Turns out that the most successful way to connect with people is to invite them.

So if it's so incredibly successful why don't we do it more? Why don't we invite people we know? Deep down I think we know it's because we know they wouldn't like it. Why? Because it's designed for us, not them. We make church this weird thing that only makes sense to people who go. Sure Jesus is great, but church is weird.

We say we'd like more people to come, but we know they won't. We know it would be awkward. So we're not going to invite people we know. Why would we put a friend through that?

So perhaps the first step is to make church less weird. Something we could invite someone to. Something that a normal person could come to. It might be hard, but it could be good practice at thinking less about ourselves and more about our neighbour.

PS. There's also the possibility that we spend so much time in church and doing church activities that we don't have meaningful connections outside churchland. if you don't know any non-churchgoers, who would you invite anyway. More on that another time.

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

What's the difference?

Yesterday I summarised the first chapter of Radical, by David Platt. He wrote about how ignoring Jesus' words can result in church becoming quite self-serving, and a Christian lifestyle that is barely distinguishable from the secular lifestyle.

I recently read the following pastor bio on a church website (name deleted):

"____’s heart has been captured by the love of Jesus, who was prepared to lay His own life down [..] ____ enjoys spending time with his wife and young son, sharing a meal with friends, watching a good movie and playing pretty much any sport."

I'm sure the pastor is a great guy, but this bio is the kind of thing David Platt was talking about. First part: Jesus does something amazing for me. Second part: I live a life of family, friends movies and sport - precisely the same as millions of people who couldn't care less about Jesus.

Yes, I understand that these bios are designed to make the pastor look relatable; a person 'just like me'. But I think there's a case for balancing that with showing some sign of a life that is not 'just like mine'. Otherwise, what's the point?

Monday, 4 April 2016


I'm currently reading Radical: Taking back your faith from the american dream by David Platt. Long time readers may remember how i found this book.

Here's what happened in Chapter 1:

"We have missed what is radical about our faith and replaced it with what is comfortable. We were settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves."
Why do we do this? Author David Pratt says we look at what Jesus asks of his followers, and find it too difficult. We decide (or perhaps pretend) that he didn't really mean those things. We effectively re-model Christianity to make a jesus that wants us to avoid any sort of danger or extreme behaviour. A jesus that comforts us as we live out our Christian version of the American dream.

This makes jesus a lot like us, which is convenient because that's who we're comfortable with. But of course this mean that when we say we worshipping god we're probably just worshipping ourselves.

He talks about the effects of Christians who don't follow God's command to gve to the poor, but instead buy larger homes nicer cars and more stuff. Such Christians gather millions on a nice building cushioned chairs and program to enjoy for themslevs.

David Platt tells of a Christian newsletter. The first headline reads "Church celebrates 23 million dollar building". The second headline declares "Baptist relief helps Sudanese refugees". In Sudan there were 350,000 refugees dying of malnutrition as a result of the war there. The Baptists sent $5,000.

Isn't that just wrong? For every dollar to help the poor and suffering we can find $4,600 to spend on ourselves.

Sometimes I wonder if this is part of the reason church struggles. Why would anyone outside the church go to the effort of joining it, just to live the same lifestyle but with a tiny bit of Christian flavour.

Perhaps if we want people to take Christianity seriously perhaps we should take it seriously first.

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Is Good Friday too good to share?

Have you ever tried to find a church on Good Friday? I tried this year, as my church's 8am service was just too early.

I checked a couple of nearby churches. Both 8am. Out of curiosity I checked about 7 churches. The absolute latest was 9am.

Is this a problem? Actually it's two problems.

Early to rise - early to hide

It's Good Friday. It's a public holiday at the end of a working week. On a public holiday when most places are closed, why do churches think that we want to get up even earlier than on a workday? Particularly on one of the features of Christian calendar - and hence an opportunity to connect with newcomers - why do we schedule services for the most inconvenient time? Are we trying to keep our faith hidden? By the time most people are up and out of the house we'll all be finished and the church will be locked shut.

The war of Good Friday

Even if 8am is the 'prime time' for having a Good Friday service, why do churches battle each other for it. By clashing our services we pit one church against the other rather than working together for the common good.

Imagine a person thinking of going to church over the Easter long weekend. They do a search and find 4 churches all starting before 9. They choose to go to none.

Imagine how that could be different if there were local services at 8am, 9.30, 11 and midday. Perhaps the latter ones could even serve hot cross buns after the service.

Surely this variety of options would increase the possibility of new people engaging with the church and the message of Jesus.