Sacred Agents

Sacred Agents

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Welcome to the Sacred Agents blog. Learning to represent the great Kingdom of God in the everyday world is an amazing adventure. But it sure isn't easy. If you often feel more like Maxwell Smart than James Bond, then this site is for you! Join in the conversations and...

read more

When Too Easy is Too Hard

Many years ago I was chairing a committee that was tackling a complex problem. As far as committees go, it was a good one, well stocked with highly intelligent people and united in our purpose. It didn’t take too long before they came up with a very clever approach to...

read more

Hey Let’s Be Powerful

The Korean pastor handed his business card to me, and immediately two words jumped out from his vision statement: Powerful church. I found myself recoiling, the words grated on me. ‘How arrogant!’ I thought, judging before even thinking. “You will receive power when...

read more

Taking the Plunge

Let’s get the shameless plug out the way – I’ve a new little book coming soon. It’s called Taking the Plunge: Baptism and Belonging to Jesus, and it’s a guide for enquirers and new believers. Keep an eye out for it! Have you noticed, though, that for many people,...

read more

Welcome to the Sacred Agents blog. Learning to represent the great Kingdom of God in the everyday world is an amazing adventure. But it sure isn’t easy. If you often feel more like Maxwell Smart than James Bond, then this site is for you! Join in the conversations and we’ll fumble our way forward together…

When Too Easy is Too Hard

Many years ago I was chairing a committee that was tackling a complex problem. As far as committees go, it was a good one, well stocked with highly intelligent people and united in our purpose. It didn’t take too long before they came up with a very clever approach to overcome the problem. “Well done! Sounds like a great way forward,” I said.

The next month we met again, and to my surprise the problem hadn’t been overcome. “Oh, I said, did it prove to be more difficult than we thought?” But they assured me it wasn’t, and in fact it wasn’t very difficult at all. They laid out the series of simple steps needed and again I said “Go for it.”

After another month you’d think that this brilliant committee would have knocked it on the head, but once again there was our problem, undented. “Well this one really is mocking us, isn’t it? We just can’t seem to win,” I said. But again they assured me that this problem would really be no problem, no problem at all. Then it began to dawn on me. “Could it be,” I asked, “That you’ve found a great plan for solving the problem, and it’s not that the steps are too hard for you, but rather that they’re too easy?” Their eyes brightened. You see, this group of great thinkers were not great doers. The actual steps, once found, required little thinking, and thinking was their thing.

And it got me thinking about mission, because, well, everything does. Does the mission of our largely white, educated, middle class movement suffer because our task is too difficult? Or is it too easy. People like us – like me – enjoy a good puzzle, a good debate, the wrestling with ideas, but not so much the wrestling with a lawnmower. If there’s a process, and it’s simple, then it should be automated. Done by robots. Or just by ‘others’. Once we’ve thought up a good way, well, the rest is boring.

There are a lot of good books and conferences and discussion groups about mission, but the truth is that the way the Lord has given to us isn’t rocket science. It involves taking an interest in others, sharing meals, asking questions, serving, praying, and the talking needed is hardly ever hifalutin. It’s labour-intensive. God wants to reach out to each person, to connect personally with them, through people. That will take many of us, even for a small suburb, but we prefer to fantasize about God ‘sweeping his hand across the suburb’ and getting it done without anyone having to get their fingernails dirty. But that’s not his way. I’m not saying we should stop reading, or doing great thinking about mission. But if we’re dreaming that our lab will suddenly mass-produce a vaccine to automatically Christianise everyone, we need to wake up. And attend to the patch that the Lord has assigned to us. There’s someone at hand that you can visit, call, share a meal with, share God’s love. Too easy, eh?

Hey Let’s Be Powerful

The Korean pastor handed his business card to me, and immediately two words jumped out from his vision statement: Powerful church. I found myself recoiling, the words grated on me. ‘How arrogant!’ I thought, judging before even thinking.

“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you,” says Jesus at the start of the Book of Acts, “and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” If Pastor Park was arrogant in his vision for a powerful church, then how much more Christ himself?

It’s interesting and wonderful how it takes believers of other cultures to see the ways in which we have sold out to ours. Australians value humility. We really value it, and are at our most powerful when we’re pulling down someone who’s up themselves. We hate pride and arrogance, and sometimes so much that we forget to love God.

You see, we tend to draw a straight line from strength and success to pride and arrogance, so much so that we often can’t tell the difference. Someone who’s successful is obviously proud. And therefore, one way that we can cleverly avoid that deadly sin is to not be successful. To not strive, nor pursue excellence. The words “powerful church” grate on us, because we can make a virtue out of our churches being weak, disorganised and unfruitful. We congratulate ourselves, agreeing that “we’d rather be like this that like one of those try-hard churches.”

Yes, churches and Christians who make efforts to love the Lord their God with all their heart, all their soul, all their mind and all their strength are obviously doing it wrong! Believers who study the Scriptures hard, pray regularly and work on sharpening their ministry are clearly mistaken and trying to build up Brownie points with God. Don’t they know we’re saved by grace, and our Master loves it most when we bury our talents to show our trust in him?

Sacred agents, let’s try to recognise this idiocy when we see it and repent from it. God is calling us to step up and grow up, strive forward (1 Co 9:24-27), and actively seek his empowering. “Strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees,” says the writer to Hebrews “…so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.” In Christ it is perfectly possible to be both strong and humble, powerful and noble, excellent and gentle. Worth a shot, despite what the Aussies around us will say?

For more on the pursuit of true humility, rather than pride-in-shame, see Dan Kent’s provocative little book Confident Humility. And while I’m plugging books, keep an eye out for Taking the Plunge: Baptism and Belonging to Jesus. Coming soon!

Taking the Plunge

Let’s get the shameless plug out the way – I’ve a new little book coming soon. It’s called Taking the Plunge: Baptism and Belonging to Jesus, and it’s a guide for enquirers and new believers. Keep an eye out for it!

Have you noticed, though, that for many people, baptism is coming a long time after the decision to entrust themselves to Christ? In Scripture we see people being baptised quite immediately upon receiving Christ. In fact, it’s presented as the way of receiving Christ – faith and action, mind and body together.

A similar shift has happened with weddings, that other ceremony of initiation, and I think there’s a cultural correlation. Many used to marry in their early 20s, or even teens, but now wait much longer. Marriage is no longer seen as an initiation into a relationship, but the culmination of it. So what’s happening? Why the mass outbreak of gamophobia (fear of commitment)?

It may be the fear of failure. Divorce is so painful and costly. Why not wait to be sure that your partner is the right one, and that you yourself have the strength to make it work, before ‘sealing the deal’? At one level it’s understandable. It could even be seen as respecting commitment, not just fearing it. But it’s worth us resisting this trend – particularly with baptism. People will never have a better option than Jesus. It’s a pathway we can encourage without reservation, its difficulties notwithstanding.

I like to tell this story: A young woman had a medical condition that made her hands shake continually. She was told that it could be cured, but would require brain surgery. Disturbed by the thought of such an invasive step, she put it off continually and just put up with the shakes. Eventually in later life, she came to her senses and had the surgery. And she was cured! Suddenly some new hobbies were possible for her. But one thing she’d missed: The possibility of becoming a brain surgeon herself and helping others like her. So don’t spend your life deciding whether or not you’ll be in with Christ. Not only is it disrespectful to expect a bridegroom to wait decades at the altar for you, even if he does, you’ve also missed out on some incredible, noble, adventure with him.

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) should rightly overcome KOOO (Keeping One’s Options Open), and people should take the plunge. There is no fuller or freer life than wholeheartedly belonging to Christ, so encouraging people to whole-body-and-heartedly decide is rightly a part of our gospel.

When the Walls Close In

We’re becoming familiar with confinement – in one way or another all of our worlds have become smaller. Our wings have been clipped, options limited, movement restricted and circles tightened. Most of us long to be beyond this, past the labour pains of this confinement, and birthed into the new. But what will that new look like?

For better or probably worse, what Christians are most distinctively known for is going to church. Gathering together has been fundamental to, and the main measure of, our faith. Now for worse or possibly better, all that has been pulled from beneath us, shaken up to reveal what cannot be shaken.

When churches are able to regather in person, the “One per 4 Square Metre Rule” will effectively mean that all our church buildings have effectively shrunk. The chapel that used to seat 100 is now good for 30. The 500-seat auditorium will now hold only 125. When church walls are closing in on us; what room does it leave for our movement?

Given we don’t know yet whether these restrictions will be temporary, permanent or intermittent; here are three thoughts:

1. If we’re broadcasting, we might as well do it online. Where our ministry has been stage-focused, with attendees mainly observers, it’s been relatively easy to transport this online in a kind of ‘verch church’. Don’t get me wrong, this has and can continue to be a significant blessing. The making of strong disciples requires effective Bible teaching, where most of us need to shut up, listen and take notes. We will always need to tune in to gifted teachers and truly prophetic leaders.

2. We need other things as well, however: Interactive spaces where each one can be known and heard, questions asked and lives shared. This necessarily happens in smaller groups (we have the tech to talk to many people at once, but can still only really listen to one at a time). Home groups are great for carrying much of this, but also have their limitations: They can be hard for many to access, and struggle for quality control.

3. During restrictions at least, what if we kept the big-long-talk online, acknowledging its value (edifying for adults, with good English, Christian background and attention span, less so for others) but no longer centre-of-worship? Some churches may piggy-back on the teaching of others. And what if we kept the prayerful intimacy of home groups with all they offer? But what if we also offered medium-sized services with a short homily, sure, but a stronger focus on communion – and concomitantly on the child, the newcomer, the migrant and the struggling? They could be simple, 45 minutes perhaps, and repeated as needed.

Imagine the discipleship benefits of small, medium and large-format ministries spread across our weeks and across our land? Might these closed-in walls actually open up some wide new possibilities?

Chaos, Tumult, Upheaval and You

Often the life of a sacred agent is simply ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’ (Eugene Peterson) There’s much to be said for faithful perseverance. But what about when the world gets turned on its head? What do good representatives of Christ do in times of upheaval? Here are some preliminary thoughts, given that the heaval is still currently on the up:

Be Still -When everything’s blown apart by a storm, and there’s so much to check up on and so many loose threads to tie down. It’s tempting to go into ‘heroic’ mode, and some of us need to – for instance medical and essential services workers. But weirdly, this particular crisis is calling for the majority to stay put and slow down, which is very hard for heroes. But it can be a great gift to those around you to stand firm, to be still. If this season allows you some rest, take it. There’s no doubt there’ll be much to do before long, needing many good people who are refreshed and ready to go. Sit with Psalm 46 for a bit.

Be Constant -Many people are feeling like the rug’s been pulled out from under them. When everything’s shaking, people look to hold onto something that’s not. Are you able to be unshaky? Keeping to good rhythms, and particularly your spiritual disciplines (holding to One who is unshaky) will help not only yourself, but also those around you.

Be Wise – I wonder whether owls are associated with wisdom because their eyes open so wide. It’s not becoming for sacred agents to be in denial, or to bury our heads in the sand or our hands. The shrewd manager in Jesus’ parable(Lk16) saw what was shifting in his life and made adjustments. If God is using this time of shaking to shake off of us stuff that’s been holding us back, let’s cling to it no longer. Keep seeking wisdom, which is to say, God’s perspective.

Be Kind – Under stress, it’s easy for people to go into survival mode and become ruthless, selfish and sharp. We, whose ultimate survival is guaranteed, need not be drawn down that path. More than ever seeking the Spirit, let his gentleness, peace, joy and love flow through us. We will shine especially bright when we’re determined to respond to unkindness with kindness. Our God fights fire with water.

Be Confident – Sacred agents may well weep and lament alongside the suffering, and in our own suffering too. But we do so still knowing that Jesus’ kingdom will ultimately triumph in a renewed creation. This calls us to be hopeful, and hopeful in a way that is more than wistful or wishful. We should plan. Plan banking on Jesus winning. What might mission and ministry and church look like on the other side of this? Perhaps we were blind-sided by the storm; let’s not be blind-sided by the calm after it!

It’s not downhill from here till the lights go out. No, even in the pitch black, we sacred agents look to the East.


Working for Jesus?

Ten years ago, the driving idea behind this blog Sacred Agents was to remind ourselves that to be a Christian is not merely to be a follower of, but also a representative of Jesus. We’ve looked at how he called his followers apostles (sent ones), not just disciples (learners). Charles Spurgeon has chipped in with “Every believer is either a missionary or an imposter.” I’m constantly saying that in God’s kingdom you get a guernesy, not a season-ticket. We’re players, not spectators, right? All of us ministers, and all of heaven watching.

But let’s grow in our understanding of this. It’s wrong to think that God is active and we are passive (‘We can’t do anything, only God can do things, so let’s get out of His way’). But it’s just as wrong to flip to its opposite (‘We have to do everything, and God does nothing but watch and evaluate’).

To be a sacred agent is not just about doing things for God, but with Him. Active together. We are active precisely because God is always at work. It’s a Pharisee thing, not a God thing, to load people down with heavy burdens and not lift a finger to help.Lk11 You can lift two fingers to that view of God!

Instead, let’s press into actively seeking God’s perspective, God’s presence, and God’s empowering by the Spirit on a daily and situational basis. Let’s look for how God has and is going ahead of us in every conversation, and seek to be on cue when the moment comes for us to play our little part or say our little lines. Let’s not merely be inspired by Jesus, but ‘carried along by the Spirit.’2Pe1

For real movement in our movement, we must avoid both the apathy of ignoring our calling on the one hand, and the exhaustion of trying to fulfil it alone on the other. Both grind us to a halt. ‘But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’Isa40 So in our prayers, let’s not merely ask ‘What do you want me to do?’ but ‘Spirit fill us, surround us, and flow through us. Give us wisdom to know the best path, and also power to make ground along it. For this is your will, and we too are willing.’

PS: Support the Crossover Easter Offering! It’s the sole income for Crossover, the national Baptist organisation that’s “Helping Australian Baptists Share Jesus.” See crossover.org.au

Better Than Jesus?

How can I put this? That’s the big question of every sacred agent, every missionary, every evangelist. We have such good news, such a wonderful kingdom to represent and invite others into. Such good news, and yet … how do we put it?

It should be straightforward – everyone everywhere should check out Jesus. But so many are oblivious, blinded, suspicious, resistant, biased, distracted and deceived. We have a bit of a go but can quickly get disheartened, feeling that ‘I blew it.’ Especially if the response to our message wasn’t just a cold shoulder but a hip-and-shoulder.

It’s tempting then to retreat back into a ‘gospel lab’, doing mental research-and-development over and over to find the perfect way to share the message of God’s kingdom that will surely succeed. Fail-safe. Fool-proof. Irresistibly alluring. (Let’s pause here to think of youth pastors put under pressure to produce a program that will keep 100% of young people in the church.)

In short, we want to be better evangelists than Jesus. Because if there’s a way of putting the message of the kingdom that will meet with nothing but acclaim, then Jesus certainly never found it.

All sacred agents must either go insane, quit, or grasp this truth: Whenever the gospel is put, there is a double-revelation. The kingdom of God is revealed – you’re giving people a peek at it. But the message of the kingdom also reveals the hearts of the hearers. If you tell the story of the Prodigal Son, not only will an incredibly, scandalously loving Father be revealed, but also the extent to which your hearers are ready to ‘come to their senses’ like the pig-feeding prodigal.

A rejection-proof message that doesn’t reveal hearts is safe, but short of being real evangelism. It’s the difference between saying ‘I like you’ and ‘Will you have dinner with me?’ If people can merely shrug and say ‘That’s nice to know,’ have we really shown them a God who deeply longs for them?It’s not failure to share the inviting love of God and be rejected. But it is failure to not share it in case of rejection. We definitely need some ‘lab time’ so that our ministry is appropriately thoughtful and respectful. But – how can I put this – the fear of causing offense, and desire to represent the kingdom in a suffering-free way – these put us in danger of offending the One whose opinion matters most of all.

Are You Expecting?

It’s the question no man should ever ask! But the season of Advent just sidles up and drops the question shamelessly. Sacred agents, are you expecting?

Me: What? Who? Me? No. Of course not.

Gabriel: Why not?

Me: How did you get into this conversation, Gabriel?

Gabriel: I get around. Now tell me again about how you’re not expecting. God has big plans, you know. Don’t you want to be part of them?

Me: You know I do.

Gabriel: Well then, it’s time to get moving. Your relative Elizabeth is already … oh, hang on, hang on, wrong script. Your brothers and sisters around the world are already busy with kingdom work. So let me ask you again – are you expecting?

Mary: Yes, are you expecting rulers and thrones to be brought down and the humble lifted up? The hungry filled with good things and the rich sent away empty?

Me: Mary?!

Gabriel: Are you expecting empires to crumble while the kingdom keeps growing? Nations and cities to be transformed? Are you expecting churches to thrive? Are you expecting your neighbours, family and friends to be powerfully changed as Christ is birthed and formed in them? Are you expecting King Jesus himself to return in triumph and glory and justice and vindication?

Me: Wow, well … truth be told? I’m not expecting, I’m just a little overweight….

Are Autonomous Vehicles Safe?

It’s the question everyone’s asking. They’re asking it about cars, but I’m asking it about churches. The world’s been talking about autonomy for the last few years. We Baptists have been talking about it for over 400!

The Autonomy of the Local Church is one of the key ideas in the Baptist genius. It keeps us as a grass-roots movement rather than a top-down empire. It allows for flexibility and contextualisation instead of each church being a McFranchise. It provides the Body of Christ with something of an immune system: Bad ideas don’t automatically spread across the system, but can be challenged in each location. And there’s another huge one I’ll get to in a minute.

But the word Autonomy always sits awkwardly, doesn’t it? The idea of ‘completely ruling ourselves’ should always raise Christian eyebrows. Isn’t Jesus Lord? Imagine a vehicle that was truly autonomous and just drove wherever it felt like! Hardly useful.

So sometimes we say Independent, but similarly we must qualify it by affirming that the Body of Christ is actually interdependent. Imagine a vehicle that drove you from A to B without reference to all the other vehicles. Highly dangerous!

Another alternative we reach for is Competent. But can each church be pronounced competent to organise itself in one sweeping statement? Does every car run like a beauty? Are there really no lemons?

It surprises me, then, that we don’t just say Responsible. Instead of affirming that each congregation has ‘the right’ to do whatever it feels like doing, it would seem far preferable to affirm that each church has ‘the responsibility’ to discern how best to serve and represent Christ locally.

And this is the huge benefit I hinted at. It’s more efficient to simply receive the right answers and the right orders from some sort of HQ – but that leaves us as children. Having to do the work of discernment together, weighing up what’s wise and what’s dangerous, what’s Gospel and what’s fad, what’s fruitful and what’s a waste of time – these challenges form us and grow us up into responsible adults. At least they should. To represent Christ well, we don’t just need answers and instructions like robots. We need wisdom and grace.

When we affirm that all believers are priests, we are speaking not of a right to disregard others, but of the duty to live out the holy ministry that the Lord has entrusted into our hands. We can’t do what we like with it. Or let it run into disrepair. Each church needs to responsibly convey Christ’s kingdom to those to whom we’re sent. Sacred agents indeed.

A New New Deal?

We should measure spirituality by flow, not volume. It’s not “How much of the Holy Spirit do you have?” but rather “How much of you does He have?” Scripture speaks of God’s Spirit blowing like the wind, or pouring like water. He moves, he flows, he doesn’t merely inhabit. When Jesus invites the thirsty to come to him and drink, he immediately says that from those who do, ‘streams of living water will flow.’Jn7

So the question is not merely how much are we receiving, but how much are we giving? God’s ideal is for free flow: ‘Freely you have received, freely give.’Mt10 The servant put in charge of feeding other servants is in trouble if he considers himself rich rather than responsible.Mt24 The servant who receives mercy is in trouble if he doesn’t in turn pass it on.Mt18

So what happens when the flow stops? In the Great Depression of the 1930s a fascinating and awful spiral occurred. People stopped spending. Those with work greatly feared losing their jobs, and so instead of spending their income they saved as much as possible, living as frugally as they could. This meant that sales plummeted and firms making and selling things went out of business, and indeed people did lose their jobs, creating more fear, more self-preservation mentality, and round and round the spiral went. The flow of money stopped, poverty bit hard, and instead of a trusting, trading society it was each person for themselves.

If only people knew that they were going to be OK! If only the fear was overcome, the spiral could begin to reverse. Indeed the new US President Roosevelt famously told his nation “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

The only way to reverse such a fearful spiral was for someone, somewhere to begin spending money with optimism they didn’t feel – in faith. It ended up being the US government, with a scheme called “The New Deal”. It borrowed enormous amounts to guarantee citizens paid work on massive infrastructure projects and bring hope and certainty.

How does that speak to sacred agents? I believe that fearfulness about the prospects of Christians and churches in our society is giving us a defensive and survivalist mindset. There is a narrative of Christianity in decline which is simply not true but widely believed nonetheless. Churches fear closing. We’re reluctant to take risks like adding staff, planting a church or commissioning members to service elsewhere. Even as individuals, when we privatise our faith and begin drawing on God ‘just to get through the week’ rather than to bless others abundantly – we’re continuing a negative spiral in contrast to God’s will.

How do we reverse this? It takes some courageous sacred agents to give more than they can afford to. (I’m not primarily talking about money – but not excluding it). When we give more than we can afford, it leaves us in deficit. But we then call on others to flow blessing to us. And on the Father himself to measure to us with the generous measure that we have used. Do we not know that we are going to be OK? Should we not be the most confident and least fearful of all people? Let us gospel ourselves once more. When we call on the Lord to “open the floodgates of heaven and pour out his blessing” – do we not realise that we ourselves are those gates, and that he is seeking to once again open us?

From the archives

When Too Easy is Too Hard

Many years ago I was chairing a committee that was tackling a complex problem. As far as committees go, it was a good one, well stocked

Hey Let’s Be Powerful

The Korean pastor handed his business card to me, and immediately two words jumped out from his vision statement: Powerful church. I ...

Taking the Plunge

Let’s get the shameless plug out the way – I’ve a new little book coming soon. It’s called Taking the Plunge: Baptism and Belonging to ...

When the Walls Close In

We’re becoming familiar with confinement – in one way or another all of our worlds have become smaller. Our wings have been clipped, ...

Chaos, Tumult, Upheaval and You

Often the life of a sacred agent is simply ‘a long obedience in the same direction.’ (Eugene Peterson) There’s much to be said for ...

Working for Jesus?

Ten years ago, the driving idea behind this blog Sacred Agents was to remind ourselves that to be a Christian is not merely to be a ...

Better Than Jesus?

How can I put this? That’s the big question of every sacred agent, every missionary, every evangelist. We have such good news, such a ...

Are You Expecting?

It’s the question no man should ever ask! But the season of Advent just sidles up and drops the question shamelessly. Sacred agents, ...

Are Autonomous Vehicles Safe?

It’s the question everyone’s asking. They’re asking it about cars, but I’m asking it about churches. The world’s been talking about ...

A New New Deal?

We should measure spirituality by flow, not volume. It’s not “How much of the Holy Spirit do you have?” but rather “How much of you ...

Great Number of Expectations

I’m a fan of the 19th Century missionary William Carey – to the extent that we named our son after him. (I now realise that was a

Looking Down on Jesus?

They must have been difficult words for the Messiah to hear: “Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?” They ...

Where Do I Even Begin?

It’s wonderful to receive the good news of the gospel. But we get to be bearers of it too. What an honour … and how daunting. What if ...

Frank Reflections on the Graham Tour

On February 21st nearly 10,000 people overflowed Titanium Security Arena here in Adelaide to hear Franklin Graham’s message. About 400 ...

The Shame Spiral

For fourteen years Margaret from Accounts had admired Geoff from HR but felt unworthy. For the same fourteen years he felt she was out ...

In Praise of Rosters

I love a good roster. There, I’ve said it. I know many Christians disagree, seeing them as a necessary evil, a secret shame. “Rosters ...

Responsibility Begins with Response

“In the unlikely event of an emergency, oxygen masks will fall from the ceiling.” If you’ve flown before, you know the drill. And the ...

The Justice of Evangelism

There’s two words you don’t see together very much: Justice and Evangelism. Each of them is a buzz-word, a shibboleth (a word from the ...

Slowing Down for Faster Roads

I’m a frustrated commuter. In Adelaide it seems that around every corner is a new set of road works, and the dreaded signs telling you ...

Being a Tool

I’ve been thinking lately about how our prayers give away our real theology. The words we use to God can say not only a lot in ...

The Ministry of Inreach

You can’t reach those you don’t love. Sacred agents find this out sooner or later. If our calling was just to drop off a message from ...

Where Do I Sign?

It’s a massive decision to submit yourself to Jesus and become a Christian. Just think about the sheer magnitude of that event: It ...

A Tale of Four Tables

Just as the Kerrigans at No.34 were sitting down to dinner, in that moment of silence before saying grace, a knock was heard at the ...

The Smile of God

It can be pretty stressful being a sacred agent, a missionary, ambassador, priest or whatever you call it. Sacred agents are used to ...

We Come in Peace

“Don’t be afraid!” It’s the most frequent command in the Bible. God’s messengers – angels and other agents – are all ultimately on a ...

Measuring Mission

I meet a lot of down-hearted Christian leaders – passionate for Jesus and his kingdom, diligent in sharing the gospel message, but ...

Detonator Touching

Sacred agents need to be alert and ready for action. This is the fifth and last in a series on having our senses heightened by God’s ...

Rat Smelling

Sacred agents need to be alert and ready for action. This is the fourth in a series on having our senses heightened by God’s Spirit. So

Eavesdropping

Sacred agents need to be alert and ready for action. This is the second in a series on having our senses heightened by God’s Spirit. ...

Peripheral Vision

Sacred agents need to be alert and ready for action. This is the first post in a series on having our senses heightened by God’s ...

Social Focus is Your Frenemy

Many churches have two mission contexts: A local neighbourhood (mostly strangers who happen to live close to the church building) and a

Flat Pax and Take-Away Nuggets

We have lived through an era of unusual peace, compared to the rest of human history. These patches of peace across history have ...

Whose Side Are You On?

We live in a barroom brawl. A time of big arguments. Old assumptions are being challenged, and some old challenges to even older ...

Learning Greek Learnt Me to Learn

I’m clearly no scholar, but many moons ago at Bible College they tried to teach me New Testament Greek. Twice. I haven’t retained a ...

How Not to Change the World

In a boat, on a lake, Jesus leans over to his disciples and tells them to be very careful. It’s a captain’s safety warning, but it’s ...

Just Common Scents

Jesus sure asked some tough questions. But he also asked some really easy ones, like “Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs ...

Speaking of the Spirit

If you were asked to explain the good news of the kingdom in one minute, would the Holy Spirit get a mention? What if you had two ...

Mending Our Nets

We don’t think of fishing as a team sport. When I think about fishing, the image that first pops into my head is someone standing alone

Cat Whispering

I have worked my cat out and I’m just trusting that he’s not reading this. Whenever I call Ossie he goes in the other direction as a ...

How Does It Go Again?

Some things are very difficult. Ranking right up there with licking your elbow and contacting a government department is this: Trying ...

What Dennis Rodman Taught Me About Evangelism

When I coached my daughter’s basketball team, the first thing I wanted to teach them was how to get rebounds. Having the ball makes a ...

The Story of Hiramais Endmie

When we think about church planting there’s often a particular story that plays in our imaginations. It goes something like this: A ...

Embryonic Church

We all lie about our age. Since we only count our years since birth, rather than conception, those first 9 or so months of our life end

That Perfect Opening

One of the thrills of being a sacred agent is knowing that any moment may be an opportunity to represent Jesus. For me, some speaking ...

Halloween – Diabolical Trick or Missional Treat?

Suburbs can be tricky places for mission. Neighbours barely know neighbours. Families are securely locked up behind high fences and no ...

Beyond Aspirational

Every church says it’s a missionary church. The mandate for outreach will be right there in the Core Aims section of the constitution. ...

Moby Dick Mission

Imagine a room. There’s a table, there’s nearly always food, and it’s a safe, friendly place for people. There’s often laughter. It has

To Infinity and Beyond!

Why is it so hard? Reaching Australians with the great news, I mean. Every sacred agent knows more than a few people that just seem a ...

When Mission Goes Pear-Shaped

Sacred agents have a great message. The good news of God’s kingdom stirs us, Christ’s love compels us, and sometimes … our wonderful ...

For the One Who Has Everything?

Abraham Maslow was an American psychologist most famous for developing his “Hierarchy of Needs.” Often presented as a pyramid, it says ...

Catchment or Catching Churches?

How do you feel about a new church opening just a kilometre from your church? We all like the idea of church planting in general – just

Are the Fish Biting?

I remember the stares and smirks on people’s faces as we walked past. It was the middle of the day, I was about 12 years old, and we ...

Where Do the Evangelists Go?

“What would you do if Jesus came to Hawthorn?” read the sign outside an eastern Melbourne church in the late 1960s. Graffiti soon ...

A Multiplying Method

The Hope Chapel movement has planted 700 churches over the last 40 years, so they know a thing or two about multiplying in a Western ...

Second Best Tomorrow

They are three words that changed the course of history. In the summer of 1940, Adolf Hitler was desperate to quickly subdue Britain ...

The Things They’ll Say

How do we know when we’re doing our mission well? What’s our rule of thumb for “good evangelism” over “bad evangelism”? If we judge our

Making Disciples at the Speed of Life

It’s happening everywhere. In lounge rooms and cafes, along beaches and bush trails and in boardrooms. On any given day it may be ...

Missional Straightforwardness

One of the most challenging tasks of sacred agents is contextualization. (Oh the irony, I’ve used a 19-letter word and a 17-letter word

Missional Proximity

Have you ever attempted the Coke-Can Challenge? The idea is to hold a full can of Coke (or indeed any other beverage that is willing to

Bring Him Home

There are deep, strong, and many connections between evangelism and hospitality – far more than I can go into here. One of the ...

Are You Safe to Ask?

It’s a tricky game we’re in. As agents for God’s great resistance movement, just mentioning the movement is frowned upon by the ...

A Deaf Culture? Eh?

I came across someone this week who was talking about the kind of evangelism needed to reach “a deaf culture”. That phrase really got ...

Is It Explosive?

When we think about what the gospel is, quite often we get fixated on the details of how people can be saved. How to get into the ...

Preparing the Village

A remarkable thing happens when a grandchild arrives. The house needs to be “baby-proofed”. It’s been quite comfortable for adults for ...

Knocking the Knockers?

I had a rude awakening last week. It was the height of the December rush, work was incredibly busy, the kid’s end-of-school week was ...

Walking Taller

Anyone who takes seriously their role as a sacred agent – a representative of God’s Kingdom in the here and now – will know the feeling

Getting the Band Back Together

What’s the role of an evangelist? What do they look like and how do they fit in to the church? These are some of the most pressing ...

Easier to Flee Than Follow

They say that we all need heroes, and I suppose that’s true. But in many ways we seem also to be motivated by anti-heroes – ...

Plan It Like a Robbery

I want to tell you about something God told me directly. Now, I’m not normally one to sprout “God told me this” and “God told me that”.

Sunday Morning Evangelism?

Last century many Baptist churches offered two services each week – usually Sunday morning and Sunday night. The morning service was ...

Does Exercise Work?

I need to exercise. Power walking, riding, exercises, weights, even (gasp!) running. Nearly all of us need to take time for exercise – ...

Missional Specificity

It’s been 4 years since Kevin Rudd dropped the phrase “detailed programmatic specificity” to bamboozled translators in Berlin. But I ...

2013 Resources of the Year

The highly recommend Outreach Magazine has just announced its 2013 Resources of the Year. Here are the category winners: Evangelism ...

Personal Exegesis

If you’re a preacher or a regular afflictee of sermons, you’ll know what exegesis is. It’s the practice of very ...

O Soldier, Soldier, Will You Marry Me?

I remember learning this song in primary school choir, do you know it? O soldier, soldier, won’t you marry me With your musket ...

Time to Split?

Some Christians have been thrown to the lions. Some disciples have been burned at the stake. Some sacred agents have been imprisoned ...

There’s No ‘I’ in Msson

The mission of God is, wonderfully, a team sport. Jesus is never recorded as sending out his disciples individually. And yet somehow so

Making an Entrance

Can people get into your church? Bear with me. I am aware that mission is not just about getting people to come to your church. It’s ...

Australia Loses Faith? Seems Not!

The headlines screamed “Australia Loses Faith”. But is that what the recent census data really tells us? I had a conversation with ...

The Road Trip That Changed the World – Book Review

Why is it that on some road trips, time slows down and you think you’ll never ever arrive, and on others you seem to blink and ...

A Fish in Hand…

Sue and Brett were fisher-people Keen as keen could be Spending every waking moment With their net dipped in the sea They’d been doing ...

Sowing Seeds or Wild Oats?

How often have you heard it said about evangelism: “We just sow the seeds, and we’ll never know how they might grow. We may never see ...

The Curvature of the Earth

Here’s an easy little diagram I’m finding useful when trying to explain the kingdom of God – you might too… This is the shape that ...

When There’s Nothing Happening

The life of a sacred agent isn’t like the movies. It’s a lot slower. (And more expensive.) Great Christians and great churches take a ...

Popcorn Theology

Evangelism – articulating the gospel – might not the biggest part of our mission (remember 90% of success is showing up), but ...

Ninety Percent of Success

This Sunday our church will commission our dear friends John & Amanda Bethell, with their family, to plant a church in Port ...

Christougenniadendraphobia

It’s the fear of Christmas Trees. And it’s more serious than you think. This week North Korea warned its southern ...

Can You Point To Your Country?

Former US Secretary of State George Shultz had a tradition for commissioning new ambassadors. He would call them into his office, stand

Knowing the Gospel by Heart

Nearly all of us have trouble expressing the good news about Jesus. I’m often asked to recommend tools or to teach evangelism ...

Getting the Message Across

There was a time when “evangelism” was all about getting some certain information across to people. It was the era of the ...

Stealing Your Identity Back

The value of identity of course is that so often it comes with purpose – Richard R. Grant* Every church wants to be more ...

Boogity! In Appreciation of Pastor Joe Nelms

If you have an internet connection (and I’m taking a stab that you do) it’s likely that you’ve seen this prayer by ...

A Laughable Gospel?

[I was called upon at the last minute to write an article for PRAC magazine about the use of humour in mission. I dashed out to the ...

The End of Church Planting?

In his blog “Reclaiming the Mission”, David Fitch recently posted this provocative article: STOP FUNDING CHURCH PLANTS and ...

Quote of the Week

The value of identity of course is that so often with it comes purpose.  – Richard R Grant Do we see ourselves as Sacred Agents?

Structural Engineering for Churches

In 1943 Winston Churchill said “First we shape our buildings, and then they shape us.” How true. Politicians who moved from

Quote of the Week

Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.  – ...

Know Your Neighbourhood with Mappage

My friend Eric Love has developed a really – really – useful site called Mappage. Eric is a brilliant Sacred Agent ...

Less Fuzzy Evangelism: Kids

This is my final post in the series “Making Evangelism Less Fuzzy”. In the introductory post I suggested 3 broad contexts or “fishing ...

Church Planting the Nike Way

[Robin Carter passed on to me this article from Evangelical Alliance blog – thanks Robin!] The plans for planting Northside ...

Less Fuzzy Evangelism: Neighbours

This is my third post in the series “Making Evangelism Less Fuzzy”. In the introductory post I suggested 3 broad contexts or “fishing ...

Less Fuzzy Evangelism: Friends

This is the second post in the series “Making Evangelism Less Fuzzy”. In the introductory post I suggested 3 broad contexts

Making Evangelism a Little Less Fuzzy

Leading a church into more effective evangelism is no easy task. Many church members have strong feelings (inadequacy, fear, confusion,

A Benedictine Prayer

All mission begins with God and any fruitful missionary will have their roots deep down in God. Here’s a great Benedictine prayer

The Signals We Send

When Jesus first appointed the Twelve he gave them a title. We call them disciples (followers), and our mental picture is of 12 blokes ...