Ministry to the unknown

A few years ago we visited Saddleback Church in Los Angeles. A lot of things impressed me. I remember the army of 60 volunteers who gave a few hours of their time every week to assemble thousands of newsletters for the next day. I was impressed with Saddleback’s commitment to see their vision, mission and values applied right across the board. I know some people find some of Rick Warren’s canned and contrived, but their alignment to their vision has really worked to make this huge church an effective community of mission and ministry.

One memory is particularly inspirational. As we walked from the car park to the worship centre we were met by one person after another whose ministry was to make us feel welcome. It was as if their passion was to minister to the unknown. We were unknown to them, but they greeted us like family. Like we were old friends. I remember one particular greeter, a young girl of about 11 or 12 years old. Newsletters in one hand, the other outstretched in a gesture of welcome, smiling warmly toward us, “so nice that you’re here today, welcome to Saddleback!” It was beautiful. I thought I might have seen something of heaven in that moment.

People who welcome others to worship or other gatherings of Jesus’ community have such a critical role. Theirs is a ministry of first impressions. This is always important. But the stakes are way higher when people who might be far from God are entering a place of worship for the first time.

So the people in these roles should be the warmest and most relational people available. People who delight to minister to the unknown, and who will love people they do not know. Not only will these people give others a powerful reason to return and a positive first experience, they will also be revealing the character of a seeking God to those who may be seeking him.

Q: how can you draw those involved in greeting ministry at your church into a more Christlike expression of ‘ministry to the unknown’?

Grace and peace: Dave

Location:Sturgeon St,Ormiston,Australia

A good mentor is rich, dark soil

Tonight I sat in a room with ten very special people. They have volunteered as mentors. The want to help others navigate the journey of life as a follower of Jesus.

I never really had a mentor in my earlier years. There was the occasional teacher who stood out as someone who I could connect with. A scout leader. A church pastor. I also had a mentor for six months in my first congregation as a pastor. Apart from these incidental engagements, mentoring was not really on my radar.

From where I sit now, I think that’s a pity. I would have loved to have one of these ten people to lead me through the hills and dales and around the corners of what life lay before me. We could have talked about relationships, adjusting to pastoral work, doubts, disappointments, celebrations. While on the whole I think I did OK, a mentor would have helped me do better.

So these ten people represent an incredible opportunity for growth, encouragement and development in the lives of others. A good mentor is rich dark soil, life giving, fruit producing.

Ten mentors. In time, those mentored may go on to mentor others. And I find myself thinking about the capacity of great mentoring to change the ethos of church community, as well as add value to people’s lives.

Q: who were the people God used to impact your life and lead you to growth? Do you think this growth could have come some other way?

Leadership, Vision and Policy Free Zones (1) #ausvotes

I am disillusioned with this political campaign. I am waiting for some vision, some passion and spirit. I want to see leaders with a captivating vision for our great country. They are nowhere on the horizon.

Excuse the romantic language, but I love my country, I love my community. I want to see my country prosper and thrive. I want to see people and families happy and safe. I want my country to be a world leader, and not so much a world beater. I keep praying that we’ll become more compassionate, increasingly sustainable managers of our resources, and that we’ll speak up for the weak and stand up for the broken.

So, what is this captivating vision? I don’t profess to have many answers, but there are several issues which will capture my vote and perhaps even my heart. The problem is these issues are getting little attention from Julia Gillard or Tony Abbott. I don’t know why it is that way, but guess the policy advisers think they are not vote winners. True, maybe these aren’t your typical hot button election issues. But perhaps that is just as much a reflection on a shallow minded electorate as it is on shallow minded parties. True leadership, I believe, is not always doing what people want (that’s actually following, not leading). True leadership is about doing what people, and in this case, our country, needs.

So, here are the issues I believe our politicians, and our country, needs to address:

Homelessness: Homelessness Australia reports that last year 105,000 people experienced homelessness in Australia. Each day nearly 1 in every 200 Australians is homeless, without safe, secure or affordable housing. One in every 39 children aged under 4 slept in a homeless service. 23% of Australia’s homeless are children – almost one in four homeless people is under 18. Of every 42 Australian children under four, one has experienced homelessness. Every day, half the people who request immediate accommodation from the homeless service system are turned away. Two in every 3 children who need support are also turned away, as are almost 80% percent of families.

This is a growing problem and I don’t understand why it is a non issue for those who are seeking to lead our country.

Murray – Darling Basin: On July 28 the Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced a special program to trap storm runoff in Adelaide. That sounds like a great idea until you realise that this Prime Minister, the previous Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd) and the Prime Minister before him (John Howard) have done precious little to end water harvesting along the Murray Darling Basin. We hear regular reports that the Murray mouth has not been open to the sea for years. I can imagine there are significant complications where state and federal governments have to cooperate to act on this. But how hard is it, really? What is the point of winning an election but losing an ecosystem? What will that teach our children about environmental responsibility?

We need a government that will act decisively to restore the Murray Darling system. Even if this means the acquisition of properties along the Murray Darling which are depriving the system of life. Even if it means spending lots of money. The Murray Darling needs to live. Adelaide needs a reliable water supply. Isn’t this a matter of national importance? Buy the farms back, I say.

Refugees & The Boats: No one doubts we need to protect our borders, but on the global refugee and illegal immigrant scale, our problem with boats is actually very small. It seems that about 90% of those ‘illegal refugees’ who seek asylum end up having their case upheld by the authorities. The number of actual illegal immigrants who are eventually rejected is a very small figure. I think both major parties are pumping our fear to prime our vote.

I don’t know what the solution is. I doubt that the authorities of the nations where the boats originate have the desire or the capacity to help us with our little problem, and I suppose that means the boats will continue. We don’t want people to drown on the high seas, and we’re well nigh powerless to turn the boats back. It would be so refreshing to see our response governed by values of justice, responsibility, and compassion. There is no value in a response driven by fear.

…more to come