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Archive for July, 2009

I have just realised the biggest gaping hole in my theological education, which has been dogging my preaching since.

The goal of preaching is information, inspiration and transformation (1 Tim 1.5). Leave one out, and the thing falls over. Transformation is another way of speaking about sanctification, so that a doctrine of sanctification is one of the most shaping elements in a preacher’s toolkit.

And right there is the problem. I guess we looked at that doctrine, but mostly what I remember was what sanctification was not – not justification, not complete, not perfection, etc – which is all true, but it leaves out the big issue.

In particular, we never got a grip on the the question of how sanctification takes place (not so much the technique, but the spiritual dynamic behind the technique) and I never heard the phrase which has completely captivated my imagination, sanctification by faith.

The thing is, without a really explicit understanding that sanctification is by faith, we naturally revert to either of two things (which turn out to be common in Sydney Anglican preaching I think)

  • almost no emphasis on sanctification (since we don’t know what to say). This is the constant complaint of so many church members – “light on application”.
  • or worse, sanctification by just trying more, working harder, taking it more seriously etc. The irony of this is it effectively becomes ‘justification by grace, sanctification by effort’!

So, here’s the challenge – think back to last week’s sermon (or take note of this Sunday’s) – recall how the sermon was applied to life, and see what spiritual dynamic was expressed that would lead to that change. Was it in terms of faith, or was it more a Nike application – just do it?

The next post will look at how faith not only justifies, but sanctifies.

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This thought is just so crazy it might work!

The whole purpose of Connect ’09 is to turn parishes outwards, from ministering among themselves, to reaching out to the local community. It is the return of the parish system, since it is focussed on those who are geographically surrounding the church.

So, what if at the end of the year, with most if not all churches far more missionally minded, there were to be a mutual covenant for all Anglicans to change church if they were commuting to a church out of area – always a hard ask for their neighbours. By that I mean, say, traveling more than 1 suburb away to go to church. All the Anglicans in a suburb who were currently attending a church somewhere else would get in touch with their local church, as a missional move, and look to move their in 2010.

The mutual side of the bargain would be that the local church would agree to begin a new congregation with these new members – NOT simply bolster existing congregational numbers. There would need to be a minimum number of transfers, say 30 to make it work, but you could then start with a Type 5 (see previous post).

There would be some good reasons not to do it – say extreme differences in style of church / theology – but not much else.

My guess is it would see lots of leaders in larger churches leave, since they have a disproportionate number of commuters, as compared to smaller churches. Them leaving would be hard but good, since it would provide space for new leadership to step up. And it would see dozens of new congregations started.

We could even have a congregation-planting boot camp to co-ordinate and share ideas/resources.

I’m happy to say right now, that if people get in touch with me, we will plant!

Is it too crazy?

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Shapes and sizes

Bodies come in them – different shapes and sizes, and so do church plants. It’s a major  focus for the Sydney Diocese, as we play catch up with Driscolmania. It’ll be interesting to see what model(s) are used.

Here are some I’ve known:

  1. the congregation carve – when you have a large congregation, and carve off a proportion to start a new service in a different place / time slot. Instant congregation, but missionally dangerous, since it will invariably have the same DNA as the mother congregation. I have been part of 1 of these.
  2. the well resourced mega-boom – I know a church in the USA that didn’t even think about starting without US$1M in the bank from backers. This enabled the first 3 years of the 2 crucial full time staff – preacher/senior pastor and worship pastor – and enough money for rent and advertising. Great if you can do it!
  3. the start with small core of randoms / friends, and just get going – I have been part of 3 of these. Risky, fluid, but exciting, especially that first Sunday – who’s going to turn up! Needs to quickly get to critical mass, or can struggle.
  4. the really small house church, a few families together, looking to make connections in their neighbourhood. Terrific intimacy, but may be culturally difficult.
  5. and a final thought idea. Start medium size. The idea here is have in place a structural blueprint for the congregation, involving teams for all the essential aspects of the congregation’s life – outreach, welcoming, small groups, Sunday services / music / ‘worship’, leadership development. Recruit leaders for each of these teams, and then have them recruit members for their teams. Some huge advantages – totally member-driven, not staff driven, real buy-in, since everyone’s making a contribution, and clear areas of responsibility. Could be hard to get the teams up.

So, are there any others? What has been tried?

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Back to business

So, having broken the first rule of blogging – don’t stop – it’s time to get back on the horse.

I’ve been mulling on a few things, and have a couple of areas for exploration

  • a new series called ‘How to grow a church’
  • some thoughts on church planting
  • and I’ve been reading up on Sanctification by faith, which is to my mind, is about as important to preaching as landing is to flying a plane.

From the Diocesan point of view, it’s a pretty interesting time, with the GFC budget process well advanced. Budgets always tell a story, and it will be fascinating to see what that story will be.

I’m looking forward to the conversation!

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Snapshot 2009-07-03 10-14-31I have just spent an evening and a morning with mega-church pastors in Australia.

Last night I heard Mark Conner, Senior Minister of CityLife church, Melbourne (5,500 in church on a weekend, 8000 membership, 1900 new members last year); and this morning Tim Piess (worship pastor of Crossway Baptist church, Melbourne, with 5000 at church on a weekend). Between them, they are the same size as nearly an entire region of the Sydney Diocese.

And I keep asking myself the question, why? Why can’t Anglicans build churches more than 1000 adults on a Sunday?

I’ve got 3 thoughts, all about DNA.

First, it appears to me that these mega-churches (both of which are shades of Pentecostal), have in their DNA an entirely straightforward equation between the Christian life and building into church activities. By contrast, I suspect our emphasis is on a personal holiness which includes church programs tangentially.

Second, it appears to me that these mega-churches have in their DNA a remarkable leadership development intentionality. They throw people in from the get-go, and with the customary emphasis on the gifts of the Spirit, which are discerned by the existing leadership, there is enormous encouragement.

Third, it appears to me that these mega-churches have in their DNA an incredible, sustained accountability at every level of leadership and responsibility. They really do set goals, they really do move people to areas better suited to their gifting, they really do sack people.

Is there an Anglican church that combines these 3?

(And of course, mega-church leaders have to wear their shirts out, but some of us have that covered!)

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Just a heads up: Julie-anne Laird, a superb evangelistic operator, will be coming to CCIW on Aug 7 to talk to us about evangelism.

Julie-anne is both a practitioner and a theorist – the best of both worlds. If anyone wants to hear her (10am-12:30pm, St Alban’s Five Dock), let me know. Numbers limited.

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