The 10-10-10 rule

A while back I read James Emory White’s book What They Didn’t Teach You in Seminary. There is one little idea in there which has stuck with me through the year. It’s what he calls the 10-10-10 rule. Here’s what he says:

“It stands for ten minutes, ten months, and ten years, and it speaks of using your brain to address your life in a simple but life-changing way: What are the consequences of my decision in ten minutes, in ten months, and in ten years? That kind of thinking is what your sexual impulses need. Left to themselves, they will only engage the first ten minutes. But it’s the ten months and the ten years that matter most.”

So next time temptation comes knocking think about how you’re going to feel if you succumb in ten minutes time? And where will you be if you keep on succumbing in ten months time? And what about ten years? You can also turn the rule round – how will you feel if you resist and overcome in ten minutes? And where will you be if you keep resisting in ten months time? And what about ten years? As someone somewhere said a deed repeated becomes a habit, and a habit persisted in becomes a character – or something like that. You get the point!

A little treat for small group leaders

Here at GCC, Bedford we’ve been working on something to help our small group leaders develop. If you have twenty minutes a month – any time  any where – this may be helpful for you (or your small group leaders).

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/grace-community-church-training/id581379184

Hope it may be of some use for some people some where!

What Would Calvin say about our Bishops?

This morning I was reading sections 5-6 of Calvin’s prefatory address in the Institutes and couldn’t help thinking Calvin might have some strong things to say about the current squabbles surrounding CofE Bishops. Here’s a (very) rough paraphrase of the sorts of things he says regarding the established church of his own day:

“they who stubbornly reject the truth offered them by God’s goodness have nothing to plead as an excuse . . . Hilary notes that being occupied with foolish reverence for the episcopal dignity, men did not realize what a deadly hydra lurked under such a mask . . . Hilary again “It is wrong that a love of walls has seized you; wrong that you venerate the church of God in roofs and buildings; wrong that beneath these you introduce the name of peace. Is there any doubt that Antichrist will have his seat in them” . . . Yet the church does the same today in venerating horned bishops . . . vain pomp is dangerous . . . they are as appeased by a bishops miter as a barking dog by a morsel . . . those who hawk themselves to the world are a deadly plague upon the church . . . the whole business is a deadly butchery of souls, a fire-brand, a ruin, and a destruction of the church.

Mmm . . . indeed JC, indeed. Perhaps gender should for the moment be put to one side whilst the effects of heresy are dwelt upon.

Some Ideas for Kids Talks Series’

Many of you, like me, will be responsible for trying to come up with fresh and creative ideas for your kids talks every week/quarter/term. And many of you, like me, will find the task increasingly difficult as you run out of good ideas and start scratching round on the internet and friends blogs for your next great idea. Well, here’s a few of the series we’ve run over the last few years at GCC. Each series runs for a quarter (about 12 slots required) – you can fill in the details yourselves:

  • God is like… (lion, lamb etc)
  • The Big Picture (Bible overview)
  • The Word of God is like… (hammer, lamp etc)
  • The Great Escape (Exodus)
  • We Need a Saviour (Judges)
  • Pearls of Wisdom (Proverbs)
  • Bible blockbusters (pick a selection of great stories from the Bible)
  • Around the world (use something like Operation World to find out more about, and pray for, different countries)
  • Catechism (plenty of good kids catechisms out there – a series you can return to over time)
  • Bible baddies (Snake, Pharaoh, Goliath etc)
  • Big words that end in –shun (like redemption, reconciliation, sanctification etc)
  • TTT (This time tomorrow – interview various people about what Monday morning looks like and how their faith impacts their day to day living)
  • Mission unstoppable (Acts)
  • Postcards from… (Corinth, Rome, Philippi etc – a chance to look at some of the themes of Paul’s letters)
  • Horrible Histories (boys love this stuff – Eglon, Saul, Judas)
  • People Jesus met (paralysed man, sick woman, blind man etc – good way to explore who Jesus is and what he came to do)
  • Heroes of History (a little bit of church history – Augustine, Calvin, Lattimer, Ridley, Wilberforce etc)

If you have any other great ideas please do comment – hopefully others in their desperation might stumble across this and find new hope! We tend to keep our kids talks as 5 mins for 5 year olds. Our best kids talks have the ability to span the ages. Many of our new Christians get more out of the kids talks initially as they fill in a lot of the basic Bible background info and key points in the grand story. Perhaps in the next post I’ll put up our top ten training tips for top kids talks.

Planning a Church Building Project?

I’ve just returned from a great visit (with a few others) to KingsGate Community Church in Peterborough. KingsGate is an amazing facility with a 1200 seat auditorium opened just 6 years ago. Here’s some nuggets of wisdom from one of the team who oversaw the project, Tony Goddard:

  1. Vision is everything. For people to contribute sacrificially they have to see that it’s primarily all about reaching the lost.
  2. Pray, pray, pray.
  3. Do your homework – plan properly. Talk to lots of churches who have been there and done it. Find out the pitfalls and problems and learn from their successes and mistakes. Talk to planning officers – present them with your vision of how you could impact the community. Produce detailed business and finance plans. Build good relationships with the people you will need to be working with.
  4. Location is not all that important. In the words of Kevin Costner, “if you build it, they will come.” People will travel to IKEA; they’ll travel to you.
  5. Acquire as much land as you can – that way you future proof yourself for growth. The building does not have to be completely finished, but the main auditorium and more ‘public’ parts do. If you have unused or uncompleted back rooms/storage/extra space or land you have room for expansion when you grow
  6. Employ professionals – architects, interior design, lighting, sound – don’t leave it to amateurs. Do it right; do it once.
  7. Don’t let the senior pastor be too involved. He’s not an architect or project manager. His job is to keep preaching, teaching, pastoring, discipling and casting the vision.
  8. Detail is critical. Pay attention to the smallest details at the planning stage. It will save you money and hassle further down the road.
  9. Don’t bother chasing trust funds – it’s largely a waste of time. Do think carefully about your capital campaign. How much will you raise; how much will you borrow? If you’re going to borrow think about revenue streams your new build might be able to generate to help pay the mortgage.
  10. It will be horrible, stressful, exhausting, traumatic, and worth it.

Ministry to the Elderly

I was at a seminar last Saturday on ministry among elderly people led by Roger Hitchings. He had lots of helpful things to say. Here are some of my notes from the seminar:

  1. The Bible says older people should serve (Ps 71:16-18; 92:12-15; Tit 2:1-6); be served (1 Tim 5:3, 11); be honoured (Lev 19:32; Prov 20:29).
  2. With people living longer we need to further distinguish between the young elderly (retired active); elderly (slowing down); old elderly (frail). We need different sort of ministry to different types of older people.
  3. There are more people in the UK over 65 than under 18. Perhaps senior’s workers are needed as well as children’s and youth workers.
  4. Old age is a time of loss – social, physical, personal. We need to think about needs in these three spheres.
  5. Old age is a time of fruitfulness – see Ps 92:12-15. How do we help to equip our elderly to bear fruit?
  6. Old age is a time to prepare. John Stott said “I knew I had to prepare for eternity but no-one told me I had to prepare for being old.” Spurgeon said “old age is the dressing room for eternity.” How do we teach our folk not only to prepare to die well, but to prepare to grow old well?
  7. The historical perspective on old age is different from the contemporary one. The Puritans particularly taught that old age was a blessing, a time of growth, and time of fruitful and wise ethical witness to the next generation. Are there ways we can encourage the elderly to serve in this way. Perhaps sharing at youth meetings, serving as wise counsel to pastors, training young couples?
  8. We must remind ourselves that being and identity is more important than capacity and function. Dignity is about being made in the image of God, not about ability to contribute or control bodily functions.
  9. We must remind ourselves that ‘independence’ is not a biblical category. The Trinity himself points to inter-dependence.

Much to chew on! Any ideas on how to minister well to our ‘elders’ much appreciated.

One of the Best Books of the Last Fifty Years

Ok, so I told you that to draw you in! But Kevin Vanhoozer did list David Bosch’s Transforming Mission as one of his 5 essential theology books of the past 25 years, and Christianity Today listed it in their top 100 books of the 2oth century. That’s surprising because before embarking on my latest studies I’d never heard of it, but having read it I’d have to agree with Vanhoozer’s assessment – it really is a tremendous read. It covers massive ground in an impressively thorough way and is educative and informative across a wide range of disciplines. As a church leader I wish I’d read it sooner. It covers the debates over the scope and definition of mission; New Testament models of mission; historical paradigms of mission from the ancient church, through medieval, to reformed, puritan, and contemporary models; and offers reflections for contemporary missiology in its broadest scope. It’s a demanding but rewarding read. Here are a few highlights:

“Christianity is missionary by its very nature, or it denies its very raison d’etre.”

“In the final analysis it was not the miracles of itinerant evangelists and wandering monks that impressed the populace – miracle workers were a familiar phenomenon in the ancient world – but the exemplary lives of ordinary Christians.”

“Mission is not a ‘fringe activity of a strongly established Church, a pious cause that [may] be attended to when the home fires [are] first brightly burning . . . Missionary activity is not so much the work of the church as simply the Church at work'” (citing Power)

“A church without mission or a mission without the church are both contradictions.”

“the church can be missionary only if its being-in-the-world is, at the same time, a being-different-from-the-world.”

“the church is both a theological and sociological entity, an inseparable union of the divine and the dusty. Looking at itself through the eyes of the world, the church realizes that it is disreputable and shabby, susceptible to all human frailties; looking at itself through the eyes of the believers, it perceives itself as a mystery, as the incorruptible Body of Christ on earth.”

“To participate in mission is to participate in the movement of God’s love toward people, since God is a fountain of sending love.”

Andy Stanley’s Deep and Wide

 

I recently finished reading a great new book by Andy Stanley called Deep and Wide. Andy leads one of the largest, fastest growing churches in the US and is a mine of great leadership tips and ideas. Here are some of the highlights:

  1. Environment matters – aesthetics, smell, sights, sounds, clutter, decor etc – it all communicates something to those who visit your church/homegroup/explore course/mums and tots group etc.
  2. Presentation must be engaging – do whatever it takes to make people engage with what’s being said. They don’t have to agree, but you do want them engaged. Stories, stats, points of tension, questions all force listeners to engage with what’s being said.
  3. Content must be helpful – specific application – not just abstract head knowledge, but applied truth that works.
  4. “The key to successfully engaging unchurched [and churched] people in a weekend message has more to do with your approach and your presentation than your content.” (230) That one’s controversial and on first reading makes me bristle slightly, but when you stop to think about it, visitors are coming with all sorts of baggage and barriers. Stanley is simply observing that unchurched people engage first with a person/approach/style, and secondly with what you have to say. If they like you they’ll listen; if they don’t they won’t. Why do so many people listen to white-teeth and perfect hair prosperity preaching? First, because the style is easy to engage with; second, because the message is all too palatable. The alternative isn’t to shout hell-fire and damnation at people using all the technical jargon you know. The alternative is to speak truth with a wonderfully engaging style. Those two things aren’t mutually exclusive. The offence should be the content of the gospel, not our approach or presentation. Wouldn’t it be terrible if our presentation and approach hinders people engaging with the content of our message?
  5. Great opening lines for your church gatherings to make visitors feel valued and welcome:
    • If you’re not religious – good; neither are we
    • Our aim is to create an environment where people of all sorts love to attend
    • If you’re visiting relatives, and they said you had to come to get lunch, sorry; we all have a long way to go
    • Relax – we don’t want anything from you; but we do want something for you
    • We might not all believe the same things, but we all struggle with the same things
  6. On leadership and change Stanley observes: any system will conspire to maintain the status quo and resist change – “New ideas are good ideas as long as they don’t require anyone to actually do anything new.”
  7. Marry your mission; date your model. In other words don’t move from your core commitments, mission, and raison d’etre; but do be flexible in how you apply and work out your core values. The mission is permanent; the vision is long term; the model is mid-term; the programming is short term. Keeping these things in proper perspective helps keep the main thing the main thing, and prevents programs from becoming sacred cows.

It’s a great book, well worth a read. You certainly won’t agree with everything in there, and he does at times fall into unhelpful dichotomies, but all in all there is much helpful gold to be mined.

The Upside Down Empire of Outcasts

Here’s some more goodness from Andrew Wilson’s excellent book If God, Then What?

“We tend to think highly of people who are rich, powerful, intelligent, beautiful, confident, famous; Jesus spend almost all his time hanging out with the poor, oppressed, marginalized, hurting nobodies . . . I love this subversive God and his upside down empire of outcasts, prostitutes, slaves and lepers, where even the twelve disciples were made up of sceptics and terrorists and tax cheats and northern boaties who smelled of fish. I love the idea that the universe is run by someone who sees through our insecure power plays and celebrity culture, and who knows that, underneath the razzamatazz and social hierarchy, we’re all broken and we all need healing just the same”

If you haven’t yet bought yourself a copy (and one to give away) visit here now.