Sunday, September 29, 2013

Share Their Stories

Amidst politically driven and socially divided opinions about asylum seekers and refugees in Australia emerge remarkable stories from beautiful people who restore a sense of humanity to the discussion.  Here is a snapshot of a few real stories that are indicative of others that are being discovered by those taking the time to positively engage with people seeking to call Australia home:

Ali & Sarah came to Australia about 18 months ago from Iran on a student visa looking for religious freedom.  As cultural Muslims they were tired of living under oppressive Islamic law and believe Christianity to be a religion of "peace and freedom."

Haluel is a refugee from Sudan who escaped the war of Sudan when she was a child and spent 12 years in a refugee camp in Kenya before embarking on a dangerous and complicated journey towards settlement in Australia.
Ihab & Amaal recently left the conflict in Egypt on a tourist visa and are looking for refugee status in Australia due to persecution from a Muslim landlord that led to false charges against them.  They lament the current turmoil in their country and the burning of their Christian churches.

Athula was a Buddhist man who left political persecution in Sri Lanka because he supported the opposition party.  Since seeking asylum in Australia Athula connected with our church, had a revelation of Jesus and is now a Christian man.

Farzana is a student from Afghanistan who is studying a Diploma of Community Services to serve and support asylum seekers and refugees in Australia.  She now volunteers at The Salvation Army and is assisting to establish a multicultural playgroup.

Tahir is a Muslim from Pakistan who is an active member of his local Islamic Community Centre who has a heart to engage in inter-faith dialogue with Christians.  He is a gracious man who wants to deepen the understanding between each others faith perspectives.

These are real people, with real hopes and dreams, facing very real adversity!  Share their stories and stop the dehumanizing of people seeking the same basic human rights that we celebrate and defend in this country.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Client or Guest?

Recent conversations in some ministry networks I am involved with have got me thinking again about the labels we use to describe or categorise the people we engage with in ministry.  In my particular ministry context we refer to people who shop in our Thrift Shop as "customers", people who access our Welfare service as "clients" and the people who attend Church are generically referred to as "members".  While there is nothing inherently wrong with these labels, it is the label "client" that has sat uncomfortable with me for some time.  

A client by definition is "a person or organization using the services of a lawyer or other professional person or company."  Our clients are indeed people who use our services, but is that fundamentally who they are - "service users" (another label that creates even more discomfort in my spirit) and is that the primary purpose for our interaction with them?  The label client is a professional label that has been applied in a community service and church context to keep a professional distance between those who serve and those whom we serve.  Along with this label is usually an environment that reinforces this professional distance between our clients and staff.  This may work in a secular context, but I am seriously questioning whether it really fits in a church context.  

Church, at its best, is all about community and relationship where we participate in personal transformation, whereas, a client culture is all about them and us, where we engage in a professional transaction.  So, what's the alternative?

It was refreshing to here an alternative label used when listening to a colleague share about an exciting initiative of his church that creates community with some of the most vulnerable people in the Adelaide CBD through a ministry called Do Unto Others (DUOs).  He constantly referred to the people they serve as "guests" and the environment created reflects just that!  It is friendly, interactive and all about community, personifying the image I have of the early church.

Maybe if we interacted with the people we serve more as our "guests" than our "clients" we could replace the professional distance with personal relationships that demonstrate the love and grace of Jesus Christ through participation in a transformational community called the church.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Affirming leaders when you are present and empowering leaders when you are absent expands your leadership influence, whether you are there or not.
Affirming leaders when you are present and empowering leaders when you are absent expands your leadership influence, whether you are there or not. - See more at:
Affirming leaders when you are present and empowering leaders when you are absent expands your leadership influence, whether you are there or not. - See more at:
Affirming leaders when you are present and empowering leaders when you are absent expands your leadership influence, whether you are there or not. - See more at:
Affirming leaders when you are present and empowering leaders when you are absent expands your leadership influence, whether you are there or not. - See more at:
Affirming leaders when you are present and empowering leaders when you are absent expands your leadership influence, whether you are there or not. - See more at:

Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Leading an organisation into unknown territory always involves an element of risk and demands courageous leadership to make the call to lead where others fear to go.
Leading an organisation into unknown territory always involves an element of risk and demands courageous leadership to make the call to lead where others fear to go. - See more at:

Monday, September 23, 2013


As a church leader, I am all too aware of the importance of keeping the church mobile to be a dynamic movement in the present instead of a static monument to the past.

What's On Your Mind?

As an avid user of social media, I am daily asked the question on my Facebook page, "What's on your mind?"  A question that invites me and 1.11 billion other Facebook users worldwide to share with the international community what we are thinking, feeling or doing at any given moment by updating our "status." Whether it be via Facebook, Twitter or Blogging, the internet provides a very public forum to share our thoughts with anyone who is interested.  

Our mind is a laboratory of values, beliefs and attitudes that combine and contribute to the very thoughts that are so openly shared on social media.  From the flippant to the informative, our thoughts reveal much about who we are and what we care about.  It is any wonder we find so much written in Scripture about our thought life and the importance of nurturing the way we use our minds:

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect."  (Romans 12:2) 

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things."  (Philippians 4:8) 

"We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ."  (2 Corinthians 10:5)

You have heard it said, "you are what you eat," well it is also true that you are what you think.  Given the nature and diversity of some thoughts expressed through social media, it would suggest that maybe there is an unhealthy balance of what is fed into the minds of those expressing their thoughts.  Far from intending to be judgmental of what makes other people think, it's hard to avoid noticing the obvious.  When "what's on your mind" manifests into indiscriminately negative or destructive comments for the world to see, the biblical call for the renewal of your mind is worthy of consideration.  

As a person of faith I embrace the Apostle Paul's call to "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 2:5) so that His thoughts might become my thoughts, that I might imitate the humility of Christ in my thoughts, words and actions.  The climate of social media would have a very different tone if such a mindset was captured every time you shared "what's on your mind."  Just a thought.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Inverse Integration

One of the many things I am passionate about in my leadership and ministry with The Salvation Army is facilitating integrated ministry opportunities between our church and social service programs.  Most of the conversation I engage in about integrated ministry has centred around how we integrate our social programs with the activities of the local Corps (church).  In other words, how do we get the people we serve through our social programs into our church?

Generally speaking, effective integrated ministry has been measured by the number of people from the surrounding community who have integrated into the worshiping community.  While it is the desire of every church leader to see the people we serve coming into Christian faith and the church, I wonder whether we have missed the full scope of integration by viewing it through a one-way lens.  That is, a lens that views integration as primarily them coming to us.  I've recently been rethinking integration from the other direction.  Instead of seeing integrated ministry only as a pathway to connect the people we serve into the faith community, maybe it is more or as much about connecting the faith community with the people we serve?!  What's the difference?

The current approach of integrated ministry is an 'attractional' model where we provide intentional activities and programs to create pathways from social programs into the local church.

The inverse approach to integrated ministry is an 'incarnational' model where we mobilise the body of Christ through pathways from the local church into social programs.

Imagine the local church, full of the Holy Spirit, mobilising church members to step out of the church and use their gifts and abilities to engage with those who are serving and whom we serve through our social programs by forming life transforming relationships.  Now that's integrated ministry!  

When we consider that Jesus commanded the disciples to "go" (Matthew 28:19) and Holy Spirit empowered the disciples to "witness" (Acts 1:8), inverse integration isn't that hard to imagine in the context of the early church.  In fact, the "Incarnation" (God taking on flesh and becoming one of us through the person of Jesus Christ) is the ultimate demonstration of integrated ministry where Jesus left the security of heaven, bypassed the temple, and "made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14). 

Far from advocating for an abandonment of current models of integration that play a critical role in facilitating partnerships in mission and ministry, rethinking integration from the other direction opens up all sorts of possibilities to explore the full scope of integrated ministry.  This also expands the measurement of the effectiveness of integrated ministry through a two-way lens to include how many disciples are actively engaging with social programs as well as how many people from social programs are engaging with the local church.  What an awesome picture we would get of the potential and power of the local church fully engaged in integrated ministry!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Keep In Step With The Spirit


"If you place 32 metronomes on a static object and set them rocking out of phase with one another, they will remain that way indefinitely. Place them on a moveable surface, however, and something very interesting (and very mesmerizing) happens."

A friend of mine posted this amazing link on Facebook and I couldn't help seeing beyond the physics of this demonstration and connecting it to a spiritual principle that is at work in the church.

When Christians who are living out of step with the Spirit gather together, they resemble the metronomes on a static object, in that there is discord and disunity amongst believers who live according to their own desires.  In this static, immoveable environment where the status quo is unchallenged and there is nothing to facilitate a change of momentum, there will never be unity in the church. 

In direct contrast, when Christians who are living in step with the Spirit gather together in a dynamic environment where the movement of the Spirit brings the heart and minds of believers into alignment, the church moves in unison with each other.  Like the metronomes moving in perfect harmony, a church moving with the Spirit generates a spiritual momentum and power that transfers to anyone sharing the same space.

I strangely found watching the metronomes coming into alignment an exciting representation of the potential energy and power of a church that moves in step with the Spirit!  The Apostle Paul understood this when he wrote to the churches, urging the believers to keep in step with the Spirit:

"Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires." (Romans 8:5)

"Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all." (Ephesians 4:3-6) 
"So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want...Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit." (Galatians 5:16-26)

Just as the "energy from the motion of one ticking metronome can affect the motion of every metronome around it," the motion of Holy Spirit in the life of one believer can effect the motion of every other believer in proximity.  Imagine the impact of the collective motion of an entire church that is keeping in step with the Spirit can have on other churches...the whole community...a nation...or even the world!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Is Your Church Full Of?

“More than churches full of people, God wants (and the world needs) people full of the Spirit.”  (Clark Pinnock, Flame of Love)

As a church leader I understand the want to see your church full of people.  Empty seats hardly inspire or compare to the thrill of a large crowd gathering for worship.  However, is there more to church than a crowd?  Is there a more important want and need for the local church than full seats? 

Churches full of people look great, but churches full of the Spirit are great!

The church growth movement has offered churches helpful strategies to make congregations more contemporary, outward focused and seeker sensitive.  Are good strategies without the Spirit enough?

Church governance has organised churches with systems and structures to effectively manage congregations to be efficient organisations.  Are good structures without the Spirit enough?

Church programs provide opportunities for churches to socially connect congregations with community through a variety of activities.  Are good social connections without the Spirit enough?

More than size, strategies, systems, structures and social connections, the people of God - who are the church - need to be full of the Spirit of God to be a powerful and positive influence in society.  When the people of God are full of the Spirit the growth and impact of the church cannot be contained, as evidenced at Pentecost when 3,000 people were added to the church that day!  

We can strive for growth or we can submit to the Spirit who provides the harvest.  Results will come through human effort, but REVIVAL will only come when the people are filled with the Spirit and there is a Holy Spirit anointing upon the church.

Jesus At The Center

Every once in a while you hear a song that makes a soul connection with the core of your being, evoking strong emotions while stirring something deep within your spirit.  Recently, I had a spiritually transforming experience at a conference I attended, where I encountered such a song that I just can't get out of my mind!  The words are simple, yet powerful.  The melody is beautiful and the message is clear. 

Jesus at the center of it all
Jesus at the center of it all
From beginning to the end
It will always be, it's always been You Jesus

What does it mean for Jesus to be at the center of it all?  

The lyrics of the song further expresses a passionate desire and declaration that unpacks this meaning - "Jesus be the center of my life" and "Jesus be the center of Your church."

Jesus be the center of my life
Jesus be the center of my life
From beginning to the end
It will always be, it's always been You Jesus

When I sing Jesus be the center of my life I am desiring to give up complete control of my will, my desires and my passions, surrendering everything I am to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  In other words, 'it is no longer I who lives for myself, but Christ who lives in me' and through me for the glory of God.

"I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)

So Jesus be the center of Your church
Jesus be the center of Your church
And every knee will bow
And every tongue shall confess You Jesus, Jesus
Say His name, Jesus, Jesus...

When I sing Jesus be the center of Your church I am declaring Jesus to be the foundation of His church, submitting everything I have to build up the body of Christ.  Jesus is the Rock upon which He builds His church and calls the people of God to be 'united together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.'

"...built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone." (Ephesians 2:20)

Nothing else matters, nothing in this world will do
Jesus You're the center, everything revolves around You
Jesus You
Nothing else matters, nothing in this world will do
Jesus You're the center, everything revolves around You
Jesus You

From my heart to the Heavens
Jesus be the center
It's all about You
Yes it's all about You

Composed by Adam Ranney, Israel Houghton, Micah Massey
Copyright Columbia/Integrity Music

The deep connection I have made with this song testifies to an experience I had during worship where I surrendered myself completely to Jesus through a liberating encounter with Holy Spirit.  I can truly say with conviction that Jesus is indeed at the center of it all!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Friend Of Every Party

Tonight, as Australians ponder the result of this election and the future for our nation under new leadership, I feel the words of Salvation Army founder William Booth in his final speech are apt for such a moment: "I might have tried to improve society by devoting myself to politics. But I saw something better than belonging to any Party - that by being the friend of every Party I was more likely to secure the blessing of the multitude, and the end I had in view."

Christians right across Australia have voiced a variety of political views throughout this election campaign and have expressed deep concern about policies from both major parties that challenge our spiritual and social sensibilities.  Regardless of how we might individually feel about the result of Election 2013, I believe the Church has a prophetic responsibility to embrace the spirit of Booth's political statement in his final speech, and commit ourselves to working alongside every elected member of parliament, despite their political alliance, to advance God's mission for the body of Christ.

Our political preferences need to be subordinate to our spiritual values, social conscience and Scriptural mandate as we engage with the elected political leaders of our nation.  The challenge is ours, as those who are elected and called by God, to build relationships with those who have been elected by the people, so we may be a powerful witness through a godly influence and prophetic voice.

As the People of God, we need to pursue our passion for the LORD with every Party...

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  (Luke 10:27)
"Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will."  (Romans 12:1-2)

As the People of God, we need to pursue our passion for the LOST with every Party...

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  (Matthew 28:18-20)
"For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”  (Luke 19:10)

As the People of God, we need to pursue our passion for LIFE with every Party...

"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked." (Psalm 82:3-4)                          
"Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow." (Isaiah 1:17)

As the People of God, we need to pursue our passion for LEADERSHIP with every Party...

"First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."  (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Civility v's Hostility

"We are losing the art of civil debate in our society, as we secularize...because we are losing the ability to understand the value of the other person.  Voltaire is accredited as saying, "I may disagree with you, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."  That's not the way we conduct the debate at the moment in this country or in the west.  If we don't like someone else's debate now, we demonise the person who puts the idea on the table.  Voltaire understood...that each individual ought to be valued enough for you to say let them put their idea on the table, then we'll debate that idea.  The greater the potpourri of ideas we've got in a pluralist society the better the chance we have of getting good policy out of it.  We will never get good policy in this country again until we learn how to have a civilized debate where we debate the issues and decide the case on the merits, not on, sorry to say it, popular applause." - John Anderson, former deputy Prime Minister

Last night, the Australian Christian Lobby hosted the Make It Count 2013 Election Webcast, featuring a panel of experts presenting a Christian worldview on a wide range of issues being debated during the current election campaign.  While there were many viewpoints expressed of interest to me, I was particularly interested by what former deputy Prime Minister John Anderson had to say about the issue of civility in debating social, political and religious issues.

Secularisation of society has hijacked public debate, demonising and ridiculing any point of view that conflicts with popular opinion.  The freedom of speech we celebrate as a democratic nation and the foundations of belief for people of faith are systematically being eroded by the facade of tolerance and equality.   This is highlighted by a form of hypocrisy emerging from a secular worldview that defends diversity of opinion and lifestyle on one hand, while on the other hand attacking and labeling a biblical worldview as bigotry.  The paradox of the current social and political climate is that it has traded civil dialogue for hostile debate, contradicting the values it seeks to defend.

This critique of the impact of secularisation on civil dialogue, however, must be balanced with the acknowledgement that the same hostility and hypocrisy experienced by a biblical worldview today has historically been inflicted upon society by dogmatic religious views.

What is really needed today is a return to open respectful dialogue by exchanging hostility for civility and embracing a genuine appreciation for diversity of thought that contributes to healthy discussion.  

As a person who holds a strong biblical worldview, it is ironic that I agree with Voltaire's philosophy, "I may disagree with you, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."  Well, I may not literally defend to the death.  However, I have learned to value and engage in dialogue that welcomes a diverse range of social and religious views without feeling the need to demean or belittle those with whom I would disagree, and yet still maintain my faith convictions.  In my current role as a Salvation Army Officer where this desire for civility is played out daily, I am in dialogue with people from other faiths, engage with community leaders who hold contrasting social views and provide pastoral support to those who don't share my moral and ethical convictions.  The impact of this civil dialogue is strong diverse relationships that provide the foundation for healthy interaction between church and community.

Maybe if society was less concerned with "popular applause" and more prepared to embrace John Anderson's call for "civilized debate where we debate the issues" and not "demonise the person who puts the idea on the table" we would have some hope of addressing the complex issues facing our nation.