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

To Put it Bluntly

There’s an awful lot of talk out there, but how much of it makes a difference? With so many voices and messages in our lives every day, we have become masters of determining genre – as a way of coping with the on-rush and categorising all the information. What do I...

read more

Re-membering the Body

If we want people to see Christ, we should show them the body of Christ. Of all the ways that we manage to stuff up the mission God has given us, surely taking it on as an individual rather than team event is the most hapless. Our brightest witness, which is being a...

read more

Vision and Vocation

Some years ago I posted here about Vocational Discernment as a vital piece of intentional discipleship. This is the ongoing conversation focused on the question: What is God calling you to do? (And what steps are you taking?) Without a tailored conversation around...

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…

To Put it Bluntly

There’s an awful lot of talk out there, but how much of it makes a difference? With so many voices and messages in our lives every day, we have become masters of determining genre – as a way of coping with the on-rush and categorising all the information.

What do I mean by genre? It’s simply our way of sensing what type of information we’re getting, and so determining which part of our brain it goes into. If we sense that what we’re hearing is a joke, we listen in a particular way. If we pick up that we’re hearing a reminder ‘Don’t forget to socially distance and wash your hands’, we let it drift to the back-of-mind. But if we’re hearing and urgent alert ‘Get out, get out, the place is on fire!’ then back-of-mind is absolutely the wrong place for that.

We determine what genre we’re hearing through a whole bunch of little signals. My kids tell me that I have a ‘joke voice’, even when I think I’m being dead-pan. But it helps them to totally tune out, laugh politely when I stop talking, and get on with their lives. It would be wrong of me to use my joke voice to alert them to the fire and their need to escape.

This of course leads us to think about evangelism. There’s more thirst-for-meaning and openness in people than we think. But it’s one thing for people to be willing to hear our message, and other thing as to how they hear us. For instance, a family may be willing to make a rare visit to church at Christmas, and I’m pretty sure they’ll be exposed to the greatest story and biggest truth. However, if they are in ‘Christmas sentimentality’ mode, then the message they hear may well be headed straight for the Fairy-tale Department of their mind. They’ll smile and nod and thank you for it and change absolutely nothing of their lives.

We can’t fully control what ‘mode’ people are in when they hear us but do have a role in the signals that we send. If we tell the gospel like a fairy tale, people will hear it as such. If we speak with doubt, as though saying ‘Look, this is probably of no interest to you, but…’ it will also be a genre-signal also.

So let’s take into account the tone and other signals that surround our message. The gospel is real news, great newsand revolutionary news. If we truly believe this then if anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God.(1Pe4) We should speak as if our message matters – We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.(2Co5)

We know that some may not respond well to the message and note that Christ himself had people gnash their teeth at, despise and reject him. This will, in fact, be a sign to us that we have spoken in an appropriate genre – who gets upset at a fairy-tale or joke that they don’t like? But none of this excuses us from our responsibility to speak with gentleness and respect1Pe3 – even when we’re being blunt and direct. Sacred agents do it all out of love for Christ and with love for those he loves.

Re-membering the Body

If we want people to see Christ, we should show them the body of Christ. Of all the ways that we manage to stuff up the mission God has given us, surely taking it on as an individual rather than team event is the most hapless. Our brightest witness, which is being a loving community (“by this everyone will know that you are my disciples”), we hide from the world. You hear me bang on about privatised gatherings often enough.

But the other side of it is this: we imagine that somehow each one of us should be able to carry the full expression of Christ. And for this we (rightly) feel deeply inadequate. There are so many things we should be and we should do and we should say and we should feel. We chase a fantasy on the one hand and drown in the shame of not living up to it on the other. There’s a far better way.

You as an individual don’t need to be strong and capable in every way and every aspect. And you don’t need to be ashamed of not contributing things that God hasn’t given you to contribute. That’s the good news. The discipline of the better way is this: The different parts of the body of Christ – we need to talk to each other far better and become coordinated under the Head as we were made and redeemed to be.

Each part of the body needs to discern the contribution that it has been designed for and called to. I call this vocational discernment. It’s amazing when a nostril finally realises it’s a beautiful nostril and stops seeing itself as a ‘weird, dysfunctional, and poorly placed toenail’. That’s Step 1 (and by the way, that step is an exercise best done with the brothers and sisters around you, not individually).

Step 2 is to find out how and where you can fully offer the strengths and resources to the rest of the body to help its overall quest. “I’m a nostril! Hey, any lungs out there needing fresh air? That’s what I do!” or “Hey eyes, I smell smoke. Everything OK?”

We should spend more time thinking about what we can contribute to the mission – and joyfully contributing it – than beating ourselves up about what we don’t have or can’t do. And this leads me to Step 3, an aspect of the better way that can be a real struggle: We need to be able to name not only our strengths and resources, but also our weaknesses and needs. To signal to the other parts of the body around us “Hey, I can’t do this without you.” For instance: “I could help with Youth Group on Fridays – but I’d need some babysitting every other Saturday.” Imagine the nanna in the church who’d be hopeless at youth ministry but delighted to baby-sit. And imagine the delight of the Youth Leader who got a creative ‘Yes’ instead of the typical ‘Too busy.’

There are just so many ways that God’s Spirit sparks among us in love when we open up our lives to one another, to serve each other, give to and receive from one another, and together bring to the world the whole ministry of Christ.

But it will take some intentionality, because it’s counter-intuitive to our pervasive individualistic and fantasy-shame culture. The three ‘steps’ I’ve outlined are more like dance steps to be practiced and repeated over and over than linear ‘finish one and then start the next.’ Yes, you heard that from a Baptist. Dance, church, and show the world the joy of it.

Vision and Vocation

Some years ago I posted here about Vocational Discernment as a vital piece of intentional discipleship. This is the ongoing conversation focused on the question: What is God calling you to do? (And what steps are you taking?)

Without a tailored conversation around each individual disciple’s unique shaping, gifting and calling by God, discipleship mentoring so often loses intensity in the following ways:

1. It gets lost climbing the asymptotic mountain of theoretical perfection. The trainee is measured up against a long list of ideals and spends huge energy trying to make 1% improvements towards an imagined ‘ideal Christian’ that God does not expect of any of us individually.

2. It wastes time and energy shaping the trainee into a body part they’re not made to be – often the part that the mentor is.

3. It gives a false impression of non-urgency where the trainee has their whole life to plod towards general ‘fitness’, rather than training for an event (or events) that God has entered you for in his great Games.

Years later I still passionately believe this. But I’ve come to see that Vocational Discernment is just as important for churches as it is for individuals.

Typically churches use the term vision to describe the bigger and future direction for a church. But I think vocation is better. It asks the question “What is God’s vision for this church?”  “What has he put us here and called us together for?” It helps in the following ways:

1. It centres the process outside of ourselves, reminding ourselves that there can be a significant difference between what we’d like to do and what we ought to be doing.

2. It invites a uniqueness and contextualisation of ministry, rather than every church trying to be a replica of some other (often imagined) ‘successful’ church.

3. It lasts longer than the current leadership. Often in our churches there’s a new era and a new focus with each new pastor. But where a church knows its vocation, it has a reference point for the appointment of pastors and other leaders.

So what’s your vocation? And your church’s? And how do they intersect?

Don’t Hold Your Breath

Our kids have a weird tradition whenever we drive through the tunnels on Adelaide’s South-Eastern Freeway: They hold their breath until we’re out the other side. Why? I don’t have time (or importantly, a good answer) to get into that.

I have a feeling that the coming New Year’s Eve is going to be celebrated with greater than usual gusto. 2020 has been a hated year and become a reviled number. Again and again we’ve seen on social media comments like “2020 strikes again.” It’s like we’re collectively holding our breath until we get through these last few weeks.

I get that it is some sort of coping mechanism, but let’s admit that it’s unhelpful and childish, just when the world needs help and maturity. It is victim language, as though this year is just something that happened to us. Putting everything onto the arbitrary year-number is a powerful form of fatalism, and the problem with fatalism is that we resign from responsibility. When you think about it, holding one’s breath is about the most passive thing one can do.

The other problem, of course, is that there’s no guarantee that the dawn of Friday January 1st is going to usher in peace and prosperity. It’s putting our hopes in sheer luck – it is actual astrology.

When you think about yourself as an agent, and agent of God’s kingdom, no less, you simply can’t go down that path. We are responsible agents. It’s true we can’t fix everything, but it’s also true that we can wake up each day and ask the Lord ‘What can I do to help?’.

Even in a pandemic; even in economic and political upheaval; even if China, or worse, New Zealand take us over, then there’s plenty for us to do, and we can see 2021 as a year of worship and a year of mission. Instead of holding our breath, are there people we can encourage? Real hope we can share? Instead of counting the days, let’s make every day count.

Nudging Them In

Announcement: The wait is over! Taking the Plunge: Baptism and Belonging to Jesus is off the press, in stock and ready to be sent to you. But you’re already baptised? This book is still, especially for you – to keep on hand (why not a few copies) for those you know who are coming to faith, or close, or raised in the faith and coming of age to own it for themselves. Order at: sacredagents.net

Smartphones have ruined our lives in many ways, and not least among them is that it’s no longer acceptable to spot someone standing by a swimming pool and just shove them straight in. We’re reticent, too, to do this with baptisteries.

Baptists like me are keenly aware that you can’t force people to believe, that people should only be baptised according to their own faith, not someone else’s. We’ve been wary, therefore, of prompting people to be baptised. The ideal scenario, when you follow that weird logic, is that we should be completely silent on the subject, and wait for the people coming to faith and kids in the youth group to suddenly come to us and request baptism. ‘That’s how we’ll really know that it’s genuine faith,’ we tell ourselves, ‘if we had nothing to do with it.’

Of course, we don’t consciously tell that to ourselves quite so clearly, because it’s clearly ridiculous. As I’ve mentioned once or two hundred times here: passivity is not purity of mission. God involves us in sparking faith in others, not merely to wait for spontaneous combustion. We should mention baptism more, not less. It’s right there in the Great Commission so it should absolutely be normalised as something that lots of people do, and have across the history of the church and around the world. There are many ways we can regularly offer opportunities for people to explore baptism, and stop short of coercing people.

Even if – especially if – your church has not had a baptism in quite some time, might you consider setting a rhythm of offering baptism discussion sessions once per quarter? Even if – especially if – every last person in your congregation has already been baptised, might it not indicate that it’s time to invite others in? And if you know someone who wittingly or unwittingly is standing a little too close to the pool of faith, why not smile mischievously, put your arm round them … and give them a copy of Taking the Plunge?

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.


From the archives

To Put it Bluntly

There’s an awful lot of talk out there, but how much of it makes a difference? With so many voices and messages in our lives every day,

Re-membering the Body

If we want people to see Christ, we should show them the body of Christ. Of all the ways that we manage to stuff up the mission God has

Vision and Vocation

Some years ago I posted here about Vocational Discernment as a vital piece of intentional discipleship. This is the ongoing ...

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 ...

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