Why start a dedicated Men’s Ministry

I am keen to tell you about the new men’s meeting which will be starting at Redlands CRC in February 2011.

There are important reasons why this is a great step for our church.

Men need a place to talk

    Men need a place where they can talk with one another about life¸ and build good relationships. Women seem to do this more easily: whether it’s over a latte or a chat on the phone, women are way better at talking about family, relationships, struggles and joys. We can call this stuff ‘in here’ because it comes from the heart. In contrast, when men get together, the discussion revolves around work, or the kids, or the traffic, the government, of the footy. We easily talk about stuff ‘out there’ and we’re not too good at talking about the ‘in here’ and ‘from the heart’ stuff. Men need a place where it’s OK, and normal, to talk more about the ‘in here’ stuff.

    Photo credit: iStockphtoto: asiseeit

    Men need to see good communication modelled

      I guess we all know how hard it is for men to talk about the ‘in here’ and ‘heart’ stuff. The problem is that like old dogs, it’s hard to teach grown men new tricks. Especially ones that involve communicating in new ways. This is why this new context for men needs to model how good communication is done. We will do this by giving men the chance to observe men relating in healthy ways. We plan to have some interview style open dialogue between two men who will talk about their story, their interest and their battle. They will be talking about this ‘from the heart’ and not only from the head. The idea is that as men observe other men in open and engaging conversation, they will be encouraged to do the same. Some group discussion will encourage those present to wrestle through the issues.

      God wants his church filled with great men!

        The Bible has some very clear teaching about men. They are to live and lead in the likeness of Jesus, putting the needs of others above their own (Eph 5:23, see 5:1,2; Phil 2:1-5). Their strength is one which imitates Jesus, and not one which exasperates or seeks to dominate others (Eph 6:4). They are to be men of integrity, grace and humility (see James 3:13; 1 Pet 5:5). When the Bible says this is so clearly, you have to wonder why there are not more contexts where men can encourage each other to live this way.

        I’ll work through a few more reasons next time, but for now, men, pray that this new venture will be blessed, and make a commitment to be part of it. There’s nothing better than brothers getting together in unity (Ps 133).

        If you have questions: be sure to ask me

        Grace and peace: Dave

        Why great achievement inspires us to be better people

        Last week we spent some time in Bath, Somerset. Best known for its Roman Baths, still operational after 2000 years, Bath boasts a rich architectural and social history.


        Bath Abbey

        Bath Abbey was founded in the 7th century, and rebuilt in the 12th and 16th centuries. Like most Abbeys and ancient churches, the Abbey presents a visual history of piety, fame and achievement.


        Crypts line the floors while the walls covered with memorials to saints, gentry, and people of note. Sir Isaac Pittman, who invented shorthand notation. Captain Arthur Phillip, leader of the First Fleet, Governor of Australia also features in a memorial.


        Memorial to Arthur Phillip

        I do not know how many memorials there are in the Abbey. Probably hundreds. As I was walking through the Abbey, something occurred to me. Why do we have memorials? Why do we have this idea of achievement? Why do we honour achievement? And perhaps most importantly, why does achievement inspire us? It’s true: If we listen to our heart, we find ourselves drawn to those who make outstanding achievement. A roman architect in the first century AD. Thomas ‘Beau’ Nash (1674 – 1762) who in the 18th century, the town’s celebrated ‘dandy’, made substantial advances in breaking down some of the class divisions in Bath society, even if he di do it through some interesting means. Bishop Oliver King who undertook the building of the current Abbey in the early 1500s.


        The organ in Bath Abbey, fanned arches in background

        There is something in us that yearns to achieve. Every one of us. We want to do whatever we do very well. We want to excel, and develop, and pioneer, and create.

        There is something in us that yearns to achieve. Every one of us. We want to do whatever we do very well. We want to excel, and develop, and pioneer, and create. Even we we do something very well, we still want to do better. It is in is to strive for perfection.

        This desire is from God. The Genesis account tells us that God has placed his image in us. More: We are his image. And this means we want to do what God does. The early chapters of the Bible tells us that God wanted to create. And he did. He excelled. He caused life to abound. He caused the universe and humanity to thrive. It was all very good. It is not surprise that we find our purpose in imitating him.

        We also know about rebellion and the Fall. While these are the natural inclination of our being, it’s not how this life giving, glorious achieving God first made us. In fact, Jesus’ coming is to draws us back to God’s original purpose. That’s why we imitate him, reflect his glory, and direct all our achievement to his wonderful praise.

        Who has inspired you to be more than what you once were? What would to really long to do, or be?

        Grace and peace: Dave

        How to tell people about Jesus (3): …a few resources for answering the tough questions

        In my last post I mentioned some books which I find helpful in addressing some of the common questions people ask. Here are a few titles to consider (feel free to recommend some others you have read in the comment section)

        I may not need to say it, but there are no perfect books out there. You may not agree with everything an author says. That’s OK. People don’t agree with everything you say, either, and we need to relax about that. As always, test all things, and hang on to the good.

        iStockphoto.com

        The Case for Christ – Lee Strobel
        Strobel recounts his own faith journey, and in so doing answers questions about the reliability of the New Testament, the historicity of the resurrection, and the person of Christ. Strobel’s background in law and journalism make this both a great resource and a well reasoned approach. It’s easy to read, and well priced to give away. Strobel writes as an ex-atheist, so you can be sure he knows where people are coming from.

        The Case for Faith – Lee Strobel
        In this book, Strobel builds on the foundation laid in his first work. He addresses some of the common the objections people may raise about believing in Jesus: the presence of evil and suffering; what about those who have never heard the good news? Or how do we explain the goodness of God in the face of the Bible’s teaching about Hell? Strobel opens up the issues of violence in church history. His section on the rarity and role of doubt in a believer’s life is especially helpful.

        The Case for a Creator – Lee Strobel
        Strobel addresses the perceived tension between science and faith, showing how many well respected scientists now see evidence of design in the universe and life systems. There is also a great DVD series which would be a great resource to work through in a small group setting.

        Searching Issues – Nicky Gumbel
        Nicky Gumbel is well known for the Alpha course. This book addresses the seven most common questions raised in Alpha course settings: suffering, other religions, sex before marriage, the New Age, homosexuality, science and Christianity, and the Trinity. There is also a helpful study guide for group work.

        Simply Christian – NT Wright
        A more inductive approach geared towards the thinking agnostic or atheist, while still very readable and accessible. Wright wants to get people thinking about what they see in their world and in the people who live in it. Staring with people’s longings, he looks at how the Bible presents God and the importance of Jesus, and finishes with what it means to be called followers of Jesus and to seek a world that God delights in. Reading this book brings memories of C S Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity’. It’s a brilliant read!

        Books like these can really help others to work through questions that trouble them. They will also help the reader become more effective as they share the message about Jesus.

        Remember:

        it is God who changes the heart, and not the power of an argument

        . So read the best resources, and pray for God to use you

        Q: Which book and resources have you found most helpful for sharing the good news? Leave a comment…

        Grace and peace: Dave

        How to tell people about Jesus (they are probably more interested than you think)

        Before we get to the best things to talk about to help people see who Jesus is, I’d like to explore the hesitation many feel about doing that.

        It is no secret that many people find it hard to share the good news about Jesus. Here are some of the reasons I hear from time to time…

        They imagine people are not interested. Generally speaking however, this is not true. People are quite tolerant, and open to talking about spiritual things. If you’ve already built a bit of a relationship with them, you’ll be able to talk about a lot of things, including your faith. It’s just not true that people don’t want to listen. What they don’t appreciate is an overbearing or judgmental attitude. Come to think of it, God doesn’t want that, either!

        They think they need to know all the answers. It’s good to know some key responses to the common questions people ask. There are some great resources here: Understand, though, that most of the time you will not be able to explain everything. This is OK. Sometimes we just have to admit that we’re not really sure, and that we’re hoping to understand more sometime in the future. Here’s a few additional suggestions:

        Ask them to explore the question with you: work on the answers together. This helps people see that you’re really not interested in cliched answers. It also helps them see that Christians are people who are prepared to apply their mind and their intellect to the troubling questions of life

        Remember to take people back to the core issue of Jesus. If, for example, you are dealing with the question of why evil exists in a world governed by a good God, It’s fine to say something like ‘I have also wrestled with the question of the presence of evil in the world. I know Jesus came to break to domination of evil in people’s hearts. His promise is to bring it to right somehow, and sometimes that will involve us being prepared to engage in the fight against evil. But for me the big deal today is that I can trust God to do the right thing by me, and I can trust him to work the right things through me as I seek to follow him.’

        A third reason people are hesitant to share about Jesus is because they are uncertain about the level of their own Bible knowledge. Having a good working bible knowledge is a great thing, but it will never be enough, really. There will always be things we don’t fully understand. So, just say so. People are more impressed with someone who says ‘I’m not sure’ than someone who has an answer for everything. People just want to engage at the level of the heart, at what matters to you, and why Jesus still matters to you. Sure, sometimes you will get to talk with a person who knows a bit about the Bible, and they may have some questions, but from my experience, these instances are pretty rare. Discussions that turn into arguments about Bible texts are rarely productive.

        People are more impressed with someone who says ‘I’m not sure’ than someone who has an answer for everything.

        Remember: you have the good news! You know who Jesus is! You have a hope that does not disappoint! That is an incredibly positive standpoint, and even though you think your life might be pretty ordinary, when you start talking about why Jesus makes a difference to you, most people will be interested enough to listen. More about this in my next post.

        Q: what is your biggest fear or uncertainty about telling people the good news of Jesus? Or, what have you found helpful in addressing your hesitation?

        Feel free to leave your answer as a comment…o

        Grace and peace: Dave

        How to tell people about Jesus … and be taken seriously (1)

        Jesus says he has come to give life, and give life to the full. If Christians really do believe this (and they should!) you have to wonder why they are not better at passing on this tremendous news.

        This hesitation seems to be a relatively recent phenomenon, at least when viewed alongside church history since the time of Jesus and the early church. Rodney Stark in The Rise of Christianity has shown that early Christians were responsible for the incredibly rapid and effective spread the message of Jesus. Cultures then were very different form cultures now, but the Gospel broke new cultural and social ground on a regular basis.

        If it’s true that we live in a more open and tolerant society, why do Christians today struggle to share the good news?

        Maybe we’ve become too reliant on programs and packaged approaches. If we need to know the program, the outline, or the diagram, but we don’t know it very well, no one will jump when the opportunity arises. We’ve seen evangelism experts hold huge rallies, and the televangelists on the screen. We compare ourselves to these people, and we always pull up short.

        Have you considered that grassroots Christianity is a much more powerful vehicle for sharing the good news about Jesus? Not only that: it is more likely to meet with a positive reception.

        Here’s why: the message of Jesus needs to be observed in the context of friendship, relationship, and the realities of life. When this happens, people see what it means to follow Jesus in the context of their families. They see people doing what they can to live a Jesus honouring life at work. People showing the relevance of Jesus in the context of education or academic pursuit. People talking about the difference Jesus makes as they chat over the back fence to their neighbour.

        In these environments there is so little pretence. There’s very little capacity for ‘saying one thing’ and ‘doing another. Here it is all about authenticity. It’s the sort of glass house that allows people to see what life with Jesus is really like.

        This will take Jesus and his transforming grace into homes, families, workplaces, schools and any number of other social contexts. As such, it represents a tremendous opportunity to reinvigorate western Christianity. Risky, I know, but what an incredible opportunity to revitalise how a watching world sees a loving God!

        In the posts to come, I want to look a little more about how we can do this better.

        Q: Have you ever thought of asking your neighbours over for a meal with the intention of being open about your faith in Jesus? What would needs to change for you to do this?

        Grace and peace: Dave

        Location:Delancey St,Ormiston,Australia

        A Million Miles in a Thousand Years – Don Miller

         

        The story starts when a movie producer wants to make a film about Don Miller’s life. This is all very exciting until Don realises how boring it’s all going to look. So Don and the producers wrestle to develop a storyline that will hold interest. As they wrestle with this, we are drawn into what Don discovers, not only about movies, but about life itself. We start to see how life might work better, both for Don and for us. The surprise this book has for us is how this ‘better story’ might become our reality. 

        A Million Miles in a Thousand Years drew me into the questions of my own life. I wondered about the ‘story’ or my own life, and before I knew it, I was thinking about how it could or should develop. As Don and the people of his book faced their challenges, I thought about how I was facing my own challenges, and whether I would meet them more resolutely, or further seek to avoid them.

        I was also struck with the observation that the restlessness we sometimes feel in life often arises out of an ignorance of what our story actually is. Too often we do not know what sort of character we are supposed to be. As a consequence, we rarely get the idea that identity and meaning are formed as we grapple with the conflicts that inevitably come our way. Surprisingly, this realisation did not get me withdrawing from the challenge, it actually drew me deeper into it.

        Miller’s book does that to you: it is an enticing invitation into hope. You read it and you want to be a better person. I love the way Miller’s warmth and spirituality sneaks up on you, whets your appetite for a fullness of life, and sometimes takes your breath away.

         

         

        I have provided this review as a member of the Thomas nelson Book Review Blogger program. You can be part of it too by signing up at http://brb.thomasnelson.com/

         


        New Year’s Revolutions

        Welcome to 2009

        It may be nineteen days late, but I’ve been on leave for the last three weeks, so this is the first chance I’ve had to express some thoughts and prayers I have been working through for the two months. I have called these ‘New Year’s Revolutions’, because most of them I just want to keep rolling around, returning, reforming and reframing with greater focus.

        So here’s what I am looking at

        1. I want a more prophetic and challenging ministry. That means I want to listen to what’s going on in my life, the lives of people around me, the culture in which I live, and hold that up to God’s call to be a people implementing and anticipating new creation. I want to speak to and expose our blind spots and the complacencies of my own culture. I want this to be decisive, incisive and breathed by the Spirit. Please understand: I do not want to suggest that we are all slacking off. The truth is, there are lots of people at RCRC who are great servants in great ministry. But we do have a tendency to favour what like and want, rather than true needs around us. I 2009 I would love to see that change
        2. I want to see more spiritual passion. I could be wrong, but sometimes I sense that we’re wary about a rich expression of following Jesus in life and worship. Whether it’s a lavish gift, some outward expression of heartfelt joy, or a rich sense of community and acceptance when the community of Jesus followers gather. For this reason, I think it would be good to ask a few questions of ourselves:
          1. Is my celebration of God as expressive as my celebration of great exam results or the victory of the team I love? Which one is better? Which gives me more hope?
          2. Is my welcoming of Jesus followers on Sunday as warm, expressive and heartfelt as the meeting of a best friend I have not seen for a long time? Does our expression of community say something about the wonderful transformation Jesus has brought and is bringing?
          3. Is God really the centre of my celebration on Sunday? How could I give better expression of this with his new community?
        3. I want to lead and preach toward full commitment and Christ centeredness. We all know perfection only comes when Jesus returns so I’m not thinking of dividing us into business class Christians and the economy variety: some Christians who have ‘made it’ and others who haven’t. But let me ask you – and let me keep asking you:
          1. Are you in top spiritual condition? Where do you rate yourself on a scale of 1-10 where 1 is ‘not at all Christ centred’, and 10 is ‘as Christ centred as I think I can be’. Let’s say you give yourself a 6/10. Do you think God is satisfied with that? If not, what do you have to do to move up a notch? What attitudes have to change? What do you need to put to death? What needs to come alive?
          2. Is RCRC in top spiritual condition? What needs to change? What do we need to do more, and what should we be doing less?
          3. Are you in a context where you are being stretched theologically? Where your desire to know God and serve him is really being deepened? Are you seeking greater opportunity to grow? Have you made a goal to nurture your faith significantly in 2009? Have you signed up for Foundations? (watch this space)
        4. I want to see RCRC truly embrace a healthy outward focus. We’ve talked a lot about this: serving our community, being salt and light, being an agent of hope for Redlands. Now we have take it to the next level. I know we are all busy. Me too. I probably can’t do more things than what I am doing at present, so I need to think of the following:
          1. What can I drop or do differently? Letting something go doesn’t mean I no longer agree with it, or that it’s become bad. It may just mean that as I change and meet new opportunities being a good steward means I need to do things differently
          2. What will I do to specifically serve the outward mission of the church? Jesus has given his transforming love to me minute by minute – so how will I implement something of his transformation in my life? You may not be Mother Theresa, but here are 10 suggestions (as distinct from commandments) to start you on your way:
            1. visit some lonely people
            2. cook a meal for the single mum a few doors away
            3. ring/email school chaplains to let them know I’m praying for them
            4. offer to mentor a child at a local school
            5. get involved in something like the Matthew Stanley Foundation or the Melanoma Awareness Foundation – two causes that have been too close to home for many
            6. help Meals on Wheels
            7. pray for the Missional Communities group at RCRC
            8. send regular encouragement to those involved in RE teaching
            9. support RCRC specifically engaged in evangelism ministry
            10. just pray daily for my church to move from ‘in here’ to ‘out there’. Pray for Ministry Team people like Dan Neville, Geoff Hughes and Rod McWilliams as they seek to lead us into this

        And then, a wish: I would love to see some healthy creative ministry develop, specifically for powerful communication at Sunday services. I am not talking about ‘skits’ so much, as well produced, well presented, dramatic presentations that support, add texture, and harmonise with what preachers like me present. These can be so powerful!

        I wouldn’t mind betting that there are a few people in the RCRC family who could run with this – speak to me! What a great way to use your talents and gifts to bring God’s message of grace and hope to people!

        Friends, I know this year will have its share of challenges. We all, by God’s grace, need to pull together and in the same direction. Ours is the rich privilege of taking the blessings God has so richly poured out on us, and using them to bless those who have no hope, or power, or love. God has blessed us with life in Jesus, and this year we get to celebrate it afresh with one another.

        What we need to understand it that the purpose of that life and blessing is to carry it to the community around us, so that the world may know there is a God who is transforming His world through His Son, Jesus.

        Shalom,

        Dave