Change is inevitable

Change is a function of existence in time – it’s inevitable. Leadership is about positive change. Just to illustrate the inevitability of change I stumbled across an amusing excerpt from a J.John sermon on this – here’s what he said:

“We live in a world of change – it used to be that:

  • A big Mac was a large rain-coat
  • Crumpet was what you had for tea
  • Going all the way meant staying on the bus to the depot
  • A joint was a piece of meat
  • And grass was mown!

Everyone is affected by change – change is inevitable, except from a vending machine!”

Better before Bigger

Andy Stanley has a great leadership podcast that’s well worth subscribing to. He has lots of really excellent practical tips and insights for leaders of any sized organisation. Here’s one particular illustration he gives which I like:

“In the early 1990s, the Atlanta-based Chick-fil-A restaurant was facing stiff competition from the upstart Boston Market restaurant. Chick-fil-A leaders were in a meeting, brainstorming, trying to figure out how Chick-fil-A could get bigger, faster. Company founder Truett Cathy pounded on the table and said, ‘I am sick and tired of listening to you talk about how we can get bigger. If we get better, our customers will demand we get bigger.'”

This ties in with something I read in Howard Schultz autobiography Onward. Schultz is the CEO of Starbuck and states in his book “success is not sustainable if it’s defined by how big you become.” He was aware that he and his team had taken their eye of the ball, so obsessed with numbers, they’d forgotten what they were all about – great coffee.

As Christian leaders we are about a great God and great message. Define success by numbers and you may end up compromising the quality of our God and our message about him. Focus on him as the highest standard of quality, and proclaim him as best you can, and people will demand more.


Baptism and the Covenants

I delivered a paper this week at the Carey Minister’s Conference entitled “Baptism and the Covenants.”

The general outline of the paper was as follows:

– The old, old story: consistent reformed covenant theology = paedobaptist

– Thesis: consistent reformed covenant theology = baptist

– A covenant is: “an oath bound, oath certified assurance of irrevocable grace and promise” – Murray

– The story of the covenant: cov. of redemption, adamic, cov. of grace, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic, New

– The Newness of the New Covenant

  • climax of the story – the eternal king is on the throne, the law is internalized, a family blessing the nations
  • Calvin’s 4 antitheses on 2 Cor 3 – external vs internal (v. 6a); death vs life (v. 6b); condemnation vs righteousness (v. 9); temporary vs eternal (v. 10-11)
  • Owen on Heb 8 – “all with whom this covenant is made are effectually sanctified, justified, and saved”

Signs of the Covenant

  • circumcision – signifying national promise (nb. faithfulness of parents irrelevant to reception of sign); typological projection toward Christ; spiritual circumcision (BUT beware: prophetic application of rite does not necc. equal exposition of its meaning)
  • baptism – signifying death and ress (Rom 6; Col 2); cleansing (1 Cor 6; Eph 5). A sign of spiritual new birth.
  • relationship between the two – Col 2:11-12 (see my article here: Essentially spiritual circumcision performed by Christ is the fulfilment of that which physical circumcision anticipated. Baptism corresponds to spiritual, not physical circumcision.
  • For those who think baptism replaces circumcision note both are going on in the early church (Acts 15, 16, Gal)


  • Is God less kind? (Zwingli) – nope…NC much better promises
  • Acts 2:39 is a covenantal formula. Yes, but what exactly is the promise – that if you repent you will receive forgiveness and the Spirit – and it’s for all those who are far off
  • What about warning passages (eg. Heb 10:29)? Some thinking about how language works and speech-act theory. Warnings are means by which believers are kept
  • What about 2 Pet 2:1? Addressed on the basis of confessed faith – phenomenological faith
  • What about Jn 15? ¬†Calvin says “many are reckoned by men’s opinion to be in the vine who in fact have no root in the vine”

– Critiques

  • everyone is a credo-baptist – reformed paedo-baptists just remove it one generation
  • consistency of confessions – cf. for example WLC 31 and 166, and CSD:2:P2 and CSD:1:17


A consistent covenant theology, tracing the narrative of God’s dealings with men, climaxing in the wonderful promises of the NC is a baptist covenant theology recognising the discontinuity between OC and NC as expressed in Jer 31, 2 Cor 3, Heb 8.


Looking at this outline is looks very sparse indeed – that’s notes for you. Hopefully in the not too distant future you’ll be able to listen to the paper online.


Winning with Woodward

Ok, so I’m a bit behind the times here, but I recently found a copy of Clive Woodward’s autobiography, Winning – The Story of England’s Rise to World Cup Glory published in 2004. It’s not a typical autobiography dishing the dirt and getting revenge in print. It is much more a manual of leadership outlining the deliberate and conscious techniques employed to help the England rugby team toward peak performance and World Cup victory in 2003.

The insight which I have most latched on to is what he calls “critical non-essentials.” These are the little details which in and of themselves are not essential to playing rugby, but put together make a huge difference to preparation and mindset. Things like creating a professional culture, utilising the best facilities, focusing on the details. A couple of striking examples regard kit. First he introduced kit changes at half ¬†time to encourage the players to think about the second half as a new start with blank scoreboard. Second, he suggested to Nike that they develop tighter rugby tops to stop his fast players getting caught by the shirt. Details make a difference. Professionalism wins rugby matches. Are there leadership lessons for all of us in this? As Christian leaders we might not be comfortable with ‘professionalism’ but why not call it ‘faithfulness in every area’ including the details. Surely we must be eager for that?