Thursday, April 30, 2009

Outsourcing Sermons?

I'm following in the Blogosphere.

Tell me, have we really come to a point where we use the verb 'to outsource' for the noun 'sermon'??

Is it just me, or have we all gone crazy?


Link: Pursell on Early Days in Preaching

Sam Pursell is a friend. He was once a kid in the Youth Group that I used to pastor. So I've known him since he was in Year 7 (Middle School for my US readers). He is now in ministry, training at Roseville East to spend a lifetime preaching Christ. He writes over at On The Way.

Today he writes an honest post on preaching -- a reflection that took me back to 1989. He writes how hard it is to preach:
Why is preaching so hard? I hardly get nervous about anything in my life, but the prospect of presenting the gospel in front of more than 8 people can twist my stomach like a wet sponge being wrung out? How can I listen back to my sermon and be bored at the sound of my own voice? Why does a pulpit make my arms stop acting naturally and instead move like a robot in a game of charades?
I totally remember this. I still have fear when preaching, but not like I did 20 years ago. 20 years ago I would hope, for a whole week beforehand, that the ground would open up and take me away. I found preaching harder than exams. Much harder.

But then Sam applies these thoughts to the Bible, in a way that makes me think that I need to continue to feel like I did in 1989. Treasure in Jars of Clay.


Good work. 

Take a look HERE.

Pic on Flickr by johnontwowhells.

If I ran the Diocese, I'd...

.... talk to Katay first.



Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Link: Earngey on New Calvinism, Jelly and why Mark Driscoll would have been rejected in Geneva.

My virtual friend Mark Earngey (I don't believe we've met in person) writes over at 'Seeing in a Mirror Dimly'. Mark is a Moore College student, and his Blog is a very thoughtful and generous one. Check it out. He's even asking 'What makes a good Blog'?

Mark reflects on the New Calvinism, liking it to a kind of Jelly.
There's a certain slipperiness and jelly-like quality to what's being called The New Calvinism. Terms like Reformed and Calvinist are wobbling around like they've been served up for dessert. But is this a bad thing?
Some good reflections and quotes there. And even a quote on why Mark Driscoll would have been rejected in St Peter’s in Calvin’s Geneva. There is even a suggestion for the way forward.

Read it HERE.

Pic on Flickr by :Bron:.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Link: Duncan Andrews on Reading the Bible

My friend Duncan Andrews writes over at Moments Now and Then

Here is the final verse of a poem Dunc wrote on his experience of reading the Bible:
And yet such joy! For I set myself
to love you more, to love you best;
but when my love stayed on the shelf,
dusty, weak, I heard ‘Child, rest.
It’s you loved best;
in my love you are blest.
You can read it all on HERE.

What is your experience of reading the Bible? Does it move you to write poetry?

Pic on Flickr by MiraM.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

On Contentment: How two good things can become one poisonous thing

No, there is nothing to read into the pic. It is just a funny picture about choice. But we'll get to that...

I'm preaching on Habakkuk at York Street Anglican during May. In Habakkuk 3:17-19, the Prophet claims:
Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer's; he makes me tread on my high places.
Impossible, right?

*No*, and *yet* I am taken to the 'high places'? How is that for contentment?

So... I intend to make some random comments about contentment through May.

Here is the first one: How two good things can become one poisonous thing.

In our very very very very very very very very rich culture, we have choices. Options. And usually good options. Sometimes we are given the option of two (or more) great possibilities on the one issue: The choice of which dinner, which job, which house, which school, which partner, which church.

But instead of seeing them as they are (two great choices), we may deeply believe in our psyches that there is a best option -- one slightly better than the other. And that to get the not-best option would be detrimental in some way.

So we agonize over which car, which holiday destination, which restaurant, which route, which college. And when we choose the thing that we end up perceiving as the lesser of the two, even when we couldn't have known how things would work out, we get upset.

Sometimes devastated.

Advice then: Stop agonising over two great options. Take a joy pill. They are both good options. Tell yourself that. Either will work. Really they will.

And as to the future: you can't control outcomes anyway. So Relax. Be content. Choose away.

Take joy in God alone. Do not take joy in choosing the fig tree over the vines, the olive over the fields, the flock over the herd. According to Yahweh, you be utterly denied them all, and still rise the the heights of joy.

Reminds me of Jesus.


Pic on Flickr by Anyjazz65.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Preaching Programs and the Dilemma of Giftedness

If you've been on a ministry staff team, you know this dilemma well:

To publish or not to publish the name of the preacher at services.

Myself? I'm not a fan of publishing. Why? Because coming to church is not about hearing your favourite preacher. A mature approach to gathering is about submitting wholeheartedly to God, worshiping and testifying to his grace; it is about Word and Sacrament; expressed in loving community, with an eye to the city in which you live.

Something like that, anyways.

Publishing the preaching program seems to work when each preacher at one church is as gifted as each other. But when one of them has outstanding gifts, it becomes more difficult.

I've been told (yet to verify) that Andy Stanley (Mega-Church in Mega-Christian Atlanta) didn't like the fact that people were showing up just to see and hear him. So he began sharing the 'pulpit', and so they stopped publishing the preaching program. Numbers fell. That, of course, affects giving, and that affects the jobs of many on staff. So back he goes, to the pulpit. And in remote locations. And in Hologram. If that's all true, I do admire Andy for at least trying.

At Mars Hill in Seattle, they just video the gifted guy. Easy. But troubling in some ways.

Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City chose not to go for the video. So Dr Keller, whose gifts are remarkable, preaches 4 out of 5 services, and one of the other pastors preached at the 5th. When I was in NYC, they published the name of the preachers. I see now that they have stopped doing that. Although if you are in NYC, you can be assured of hearing Dr Keller by going to the 6PM East Side Service. See here:
Each Sunday at all worship services, Redeemers Preaching Team will preach from the same Scripture text. Our preaching pastors rotate locations weekly, and our Senior Pastor Tim Keller will always preach at the 6:00PM East Side evening service at Hunter College, unless he is out of town that weekend.

Redeemer does not publish or share the preaching schedule for any of the worship services, so please do not call the offices to to inquire about this information. Instead please take this opportunity to help us utilize the available seating at the 6:00PM worship service.

And here are some questions to get you going:
  • Does your church publish?
  • What is the wise way forward?
  • Would you prefer to know? And for what reason?
  • Does even asking the question trouble you?
Pic on Flickr by Ganotronic.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Today at City South and City North


At our York Street Lunchtime Forum today, Bishop Ray Smith (Senior Associate at St Philip's) will be teaching on 'What Christ Thinks of the Church'. He will be opening up Revelation 2-3, with special reference to his recent trip to Turkey. Should be fascinating. Something to bring friends to, becasue it will have the historic component, as well as the challenge component.
  • Today, 1:10-1:50pm
  • St Philip's York St.
  • 3 York St, Sydney (Corner Jamison)

At the same time, I am serving my new friends at the City Bible Forum (South) today at 1:10PM. It will be a summary of the three messages I gave at the City Bible Forum (North) these last three weeks. A whirlwind tour of Habakkuk's reflections on suffering.
  • Today, 1:10-1:50pm
  • Upper Chapter House, St Andrew's Anglican Cathedral
  • Corner George and Bathurst
Love for you to come to either.

Pic of Ephesus on Flikr by GrafWilliam.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A New Web Address for York St

Why I battled with the old address. (
  1. It felt too cumbersome.
  2. Is 'st' a street or a saint?
  3. Is St Philip's one l or two ls?
  4. And where has the apostrophe gone?
  5. Anything with a dash in it becomes too complicated.
  6. When I think of .org, I think of a charity, which we are not.
  7. I don't mind the .au, but it adds another layer to the address.
Why we chose the new one. (
  1. Although it is a similar length, it doesn't feel cumbersome to me.
  2. It tells you where we are (York St)
  3. And it tells you who we are (Anglican)
  4. No one has to remember how many l's in Philip?
  5. No dash.
  6. No .org
  7. No .au
There were other options, but this one seemed best.

Thoughts on the address?

(First 5 to email me at my new address will get a specific link to their Blog sometime in the next week.)

Pic of St Philip's by Dan Anderson.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Our Thursday Lunchtime Forums> Ideas to reach the city

I just wrote a little about being a Sydney Cabbie and about ministering in the City of Sydney HERE. Which leads me to this:

We are growing our Lunchtime Forums, which I am excited about. Last Thursday, I lead a ten minute 'brainstorm' on how this little group (90 on our email list, 40 who regularly come, 30 each week) could create a space where Christ could be honoured and proclaimed, and the Kingdom grown. Here is the results of the brainstorm. Of course, it is a work in progress.

  • Have more options
  • Perhaps breakfast time meetings
  • Make the venue more obvious and visible
  • Make use of the church's noticeboard
  • Catered lunch
  • Breakfast
  • Create a setting in which attendees feel anonymous
  • Have more public forums and open discussions
  • Create a name for meetings that help attendees to know that meetings are for them
  • Hand out of invitations 30 minutes before meetings
  • Train for existing participants on how to connect with and invite others
TOPICS (Focus on issues that intended participants face):
  • How do in my demanding schedules as city workers fulfill my roles and obligations to my spouse and children?
  • How do I as a boss get the most and best out of my workers?
  • How do our wives/ partners have their expectations met?
  • The Credit Crunch
  • Coping in the present climate
This is just a start. I'm looking forward to more discussion.

Want to add to the discussion? Comment away.

Pic by Bill Ruhsam.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Being a Sydney Taxi Driver (Two Things I Discovered)

I spoke at a retreat for Moore College Graduates last week. 'Twas a delight. You can read Kamil's blogging of that event HERE. Tom Harricks interviewed me on Tuesday, as asked me what I had discovered about Sydney as a Cab Driver (many moons ago). Below is the gist of what I said. And that conversation formed part of THIS blog post in the Sydney Anglican News Section. Here you go:

I drove a taxi while at Moore College. All up, I drove for about six years.

Quite frankly, I needed the money.

And yet, I discovered two significant things about the Australian cultural landscape.

1.  The first thing is how secular our individual ethics are. Most of us ‘make it up as we go along’.

For some reason, people think of a cabbie as being invisible (if in the back seat) and as a priest (if in the front seat). So I listened to people as they figured out their sexual ethics between Kirribilli and Killara. I brokered arguments from Wynyard to Strathfield. One boomer shed tears from King’s Cross to Five Dock about ‘killing a man’ (he was referring to Vietnam). I left a semi-famous television presenter drunk on his front yard while insisting to me over and over ‘Do you know who I am?!’ I listened to men boldly lie to their wives about their whereabouts. Most heartbreakingly, one woman hadn’t told her parents over Christmas that she was working in a brothel.

The truth is, of course, that all these people were very normal. Very nice. And very Aussie.

2.  The other thing I learnt: the city is profoundly not-Christian. Many of my customers found out that I was a Christian (I was studying theology), and yet over a period of six years, I would have had only four or five say that they were Christian. The rest looked at me blankly, as though I was a dinosaur of Old Europe.

I think that the old term ‘post-Christian’ describes Australia (if we ever were). A friend thinks that if you want to reach Sydney for Jesus, you’ve got to think of her as being Paris. Christian-no-more.

Mark Driscoll often says that Seattle is one of the least-churched parts of the US (‘More Dogs than Christians’ etc). But I preached in Portland last year, and people were engaging in conversation with me all night about Jesus. I realised then that even in the Pacific North West, Christianity is still part of the American national dialogue. We have no such dialogue.

So, all of us who are interested in winning Sydney for Christ:

1. Is Australia a Christian Nation? And does this matter?
2. Is it worth fostering a ‘national dialogue’?
3. How do you speak into such a secular culture?

I’m here on York St.

Give us a clue.

Or comment over HERE.

Pic on Flikr by rtse.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

7 Rector's Blogging: Katay on Building Church with Care.

Andrew Katay, from Christ Church Inner West Anglican Community is has a new Blog called: "Gold, silver, Costly Stones" (Being careful how we build).

So, we now have 7 Rectors:
  1. Shane Rogerson -Minister at Cook's River Anglican
  2. Michael Kellahan -Minister Roseville East Anglican
  3. Dominic Steele -Annandale Anglican
  4. Chris Braga - Summer Hill Anglican
  5. Roger Bray - Macquarie Anglican Churches
  6. Andrew Katay - Christ Church Inner West Anglican Community
  7. Yours Truly - York St Anglican
Go over and say Hi. Make a comment.

Pic on Flickr by BarneyF.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Advice> Good Books on Marriage

Do you marry couples? Or are you married and read good books on marriage?
  • What books are you recommending at the moment?
  • Are any good ones for those who do not share a Biblical Worldview?
I want our marriages to be strong. And your help will help.


Pic on Flickr by Ron in Blackpool.

Mark on Good Friday.

>>HERE is Mark's post on our Good Friday Service here at York St.

Thanks Mark.

Pic of St Philips by Dan Anderson.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Are there only Six Sydney Rectors who Blog?

Mike Jensen has a Blog roll of all the Moore students, teachers and alumni who Blog.

But is there a list of Sydney Anglican Rectors (Senior Ministers) who have personal Blogs?

I can find only these six who have personal Blogs:
  1. Shane Rogerson -Minister at Cook's River Anglican
  2. Michael Kellahan -Minister Roseville East Anglican
  3. Dominic Steele -Annandale Anglican
  4. Chris Braga - Summer Hill Anglican
  5. Roger Bray - Macquarie Anglican Churches
  6. Yours Truly - York St Anglican
(If it's not too forward, I'd like to see Dominic and Chris make comments outside of their specific contexts. They are good men who have so much to say. And Roger, mate, keep blogging, brother.)

Are there any others?

Pic of St Philips York St by Dan Anderson.

My Sermon and my Outline have no 'chemistry' - they need counselling.

My friend Luke Woodhouse weighs in on the Usefulness of an Outline. Click HERE for very funny and insightful little piece. He says of the relationship between his printed outline and his sermon:
They’re not the best of friends. Maybe we should think about separating them. Or they should at least get some counseling. Maybe the printed outline might have more fun dating a lecturer or an OH&S seminar presenter.
Go over to Luke's Blog and make a comment.

'Yea' or 'Nay' to the Outline?

Pic on Flickr by Old Shoe Woman.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Beyond a Predictable Sermon

It's interesting how the word 'predictable' has negative connotations. And yet it is a neutral term, isn't it? When something is predictable, it simply means that you can basically know what will happen.
  • It is predictable that the sun will rise tomorrow on Easter Sunday. That's good.
  • It is predictable that I will get meatloaf for dinner every night of my life. That's bad.
  • It is predictable that my pay will come in each month. That's good.
  • It is predictable that Keanu Reeves will never make a good film. That's bad.
Well, you get the point.

I am speaking to some Moore College graduates next Tuesday at their reunion.

The topic: "Beyond a Predictable Sermon."

So, help me:
  1. Do you want your sermons to be predictable in some ways? In what ways?
  2. Do you want surprises? Twists? Turns? Unexpected things.
  3. Have you seen some unpredictable sermons that are dishonoring to Jesus?
  4. What are some unpredictable things you've seen in sermons?
  5. How did those things help you or hinder you?
Help me, help them.

Pic on FLickr by Pastelhearts.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Good Friday on York

You know what?

At York St, we run a pretty traditional liturgical service on Good Friday. I am looking forward to it: Sobering words. Classic Hymns. A link with historical Anglicanism. A dramatic reading of John 19 (also my sermon text). Saints who show love.

Bread broken and wine poured out.

I can't think of a better way to remember Christ Crucified.

9AM tomorrow morning, if you would like. And pray for services everywhere tomorrow.
Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.
Pic on Flickr by ANotherPruFrock.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Watch Channel 7 on Friday April 10 at 1pm

Life of Jesus trailer from CPX on Vimeo.

Apparently I am the Face of Suffering...

Pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name.

For the record, I am speaking today, and for the next three weeks at the City Bible Forum. They've asked me to speak on Suffering. And Habakkuk is one of those books that deals explicitly with the subject.
  • 12 Noon and 1PM for the next three Wednesdays (And also Thursday 23rd of April)
  • At the Conference Room at Angel Place Office Tower
  • 123 Pitt St, Sydney. (Near Martin Place)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Two People...

Here are two people that I am proud of (if this be not condescending):

Michael Jensen and I have been friends for over 20 years (since High School). He recently spoke on the ABC (Australian Broadcasting Commission) about his new book YOU. Do yourself a favour: take 20 minutes to listen to >>>THIS. MPJ has found a voice that is evangelical, honest, gracious and true. It's new apologetics.

Luke Woodhouse is a dear friend and he was one of my MTS guys at St Ives. Love Luke and his wife Vicki. Luke gives warm testimony to Sydney Anglican preaching >>>HERE. It is worth your time for a 2 minute read - "Five Things I Love about Sydney Anglican Preaching". Luke's Blog is shaping up. It might be worth you making his Blog a regular.

Working on the ten posts on travel.

Pic on FLickr by Thetruthabout....