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On Praying That God Would Bring In People Not Like Us (via Daniel Darling)

Daniel Darling on church being a snapshot of God’s grace and not homogeneous unit management principles:

Sometimes, in our quest to create cutting-edge churches, we sacrifice our long-term futures for short-term benefits. I’ve often felt this way as I’ve walked into vibrant, well-known churches or as I attend popular evangelical conferences. It seems that we are often creating a church for the young, hip, and sexy. It’s as if we want our message to the world to be something like, “See, church is the place where the cool people gather on Sunday.”
But the kingdom of God takes the opposite approach.
Jesus said it is the poor, the downtrodden, and the marginalized who have a prominent place in the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:3, 20:16). Paul reminded his churches of the shocking ordinariness of God’s people (1 Cor. 1:26). James scolded those in the church of Jerusalem for their tendency to favor the wealthy and powerful at the expense of the poor (James 2:1-13).
Do our congregations look like outposts of this radical kingdom? Do people enter our congregations and wonder to themselves, How did these disparate people get here? What possible thread unites people so vastly separated by age, race, political affiliation, and class? Why is it that old and young, black and white, disabled and able-bodied, rich and poor, prominent and anonymous gather together every Sunday?

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Who Owns The Culture? (via Karl Vaters)

I’ll be getting a copy of Karl Vater’s book Small Church Essentials.
While the main cross-cultural issue is that characterising a congregation of under 250 people as a small church in Australia is an over-reach, the observations about group dynamics in groups of varying sizes should hold true.

This excerpt about who shapes culture in a local church strikes me as true:

In bigger or newer churches, the culture is more likely to be determined by the pastoral staff, with the congregation more willing to follow. In smaller and older churches, the culture is more the property of the congregation and its history than the pastor. The smaller or older the church, the greater impact the culture will have on any new ideas, projects, or changes a pastor wants to implement, especially if the congregation has had a high pastoral turnover.

If this point isn’t taken into calculations cultural change in smaller groups will be a struggle.


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The Difference Between Complacency And Other Causes Of Slow Pace In Church Culture (via Sam Rainer)

Sam Rainer offers some observations about church culture: whether the pace of change can be attributed to complacency or other elements of culture that mean that change does not take place at the same pace as other places.
Wise pastoral leadership will take the time to learn what is behind the church’s culture, and also not expect change to take place at the same pace everywhere on the basis of superficial similarities.
From Rainer:

Every church has a pace built into the culture of its people. Some churches move more slowly. Some move more quickly. While most established churches likely need to pick up the pace, a slow pace does not necessarily mean the church is complacent.
Complacent churches are self-satisfied and are unwilling to address problems. Unfortunately, far too many churches are complacent. But don’t confuse complacency with a slow pace. Some congregations are willing to move forward; it just takes them a little longer. A few factors may influence the slow pace of a church.
The community may move at a slower pace. The church is simply reflecting the greater culture of the community. For example, rural communities tend to change less quickly. A church that moves too quickly in a slow-moving farming community may actually become less relevant.
A slow pace may point to stability, not entrenchment. It’s hard to move rapidly and also be stable. Slow-moving stability can be better for some church cultures. The downside of this pattern is it can create ruts of entrenchment, but it doesn’t have to be the case. When used strategically, stability can advance discipleship, sacrificial giving, and equipping—none of which point to complacency.
Leaders may guide the church methodically. Not every leader is designed to push forward with intensity. Not every church needs a hard-charging pastor full of ambition and ideas. Some church leaders plod thoughtfully, with intention and strategy. Plodding leaders are not complacent leaders.
The season of a church may necessitate a slower pace. When a church needs to heal, it almost always needs to slow down. A church may go through months, if not years, of a slower pace. This intentional slowdown may be the opposite of complacency. It could be the problem is the fast pace.
Passion is not always fast. Restoring an antique car takes time. It’s a painstaking process. The slowness of the restoration process is a sign of passion, not complacency or apathy. The same principle applies to the church. Pastors who revitalize churches may move slowly, but it’s an indicator of their passion and love for the church, not a mark of complacency.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming all slow-moving churches are complacent. In fact, many established churches require plodding leaders who are willing to take the time to revitalize them. These pastors are passionate, not complacent.

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Can Multi-Site Work In A Rural Context? (via Jon Sanders at The Exchange)

Since I’m currently overseeing three neighboring churches the question “Can Mulit-Site Work In A Rural Context” is on my mind a fair bit.
Realistically, the be only option for outside ministry to come and work with those three locations would involve one person, maybe in two of them.
Jon Sanders, who is bi-vocational, also works in multi-site rural contexts.

He offers some counsel, including:

You need a commitment to excellence.
I realize the term excellence is kind of a buzzword that came out of the church growth movement and some people are beginning to grow weary of it. But I still believe we serve an excellent God who is worthy of our very best. If it’s worth doing, it’s worth doing to the best of our ability. I believe excellence is simply giving God our very best with what he has given us to work with.
Therefore, excellence doesn’t have to be synonymous with expensive. It’s holding a high standard to take what resources we do have to create the best product we possibly can. The way a rural church will do multi-site (especially when it comes to staffing and technology) will look very different from how a mega-church does it. But that doesn’t mean a rural church has to come off looking sloppy and unprepared. It’s totally possible for a small church with limited resources to produce an excellent worship experience in multiple locations.

Read the rest of the post here.


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A Very Confronting Diagnostic Question (via Karl Vaters)

Karl Vaters’ articles usually have some sharp takeaways.
In writing about ten steps churches should take in order to remain vital he writes we should:

Figure Out Why Your Congregation Should Survive
If your church disappeared tomorrow, what would really be lost?
Yes, that’s hard question. It might even feel cruel and uncaring. But it’s not. It’s essential.
Any congregation that can’t readily answer why they should survive, won’t.

Read the whole post here.


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Revitalising The Adelaide Presbyterian Churches Promotional Video

This promotional video sums up a whole lot of steps that have taken place over the last seven years (or longer) to arrive a point where a new season of hope begins.
The Adelaide Churches Restoration Project.


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Why Tradition Is Good And Why Traditionalism Is Not Good (via Chuck Swindoll)

Chuck Lawless quotes Chuck Swindoll:

Why tradition is good:

  1. It honors God for what He has done. Tradition, by definition, is tied to the past. Ideally, though, it focuses on God and what He has done, not on what we used to do in the church. Healthy tradition is concerned about glorifying God only.
  2. It celebrates the past while pressing toward the future. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating yesterday as long as that rejoicing encourages us to move into the future. My first church had an annual homecoming service that retold God’s work to encourage us to capture God’s vision for tomorrow—and that’s a good kind of tradition.
  3. It grounds next generations in the work of God. Tradition is good when it helps next generations appreciate what God has done through His people in the past. For example, the Hebrews marked places where God worked so their children and grandchildren could know His care and guidance (e.g., Joshua 4).
  4. It offers wisdom when making change. Sometimes, the traditions of a church cause leaders to carefully and prayerfully consider options before making a change. That’s not a bad thing.
  5. It evokes gratitude and unity. Because it celebrates God’s work in the past as a means of faith for the future, our response ought to be thanksgiving as the family of God.

Why traditionalism is not good:

  1. It emphasizes what we (or others) have done more than what God has done. Traditionalism fights to save traditions, but the traditions are what we’ve done . . . what our forefathers did . . . what our denomination has “always” done. It assumes that our preferences are God’s commands.
  2. It elevates the past over the future. Traditionalism is protective and reactive. It guards yesterday’s turf at the expense of making a difference today and tomorrow. It fears the future more than it influences it.
  3. It hinders reaching the next generations. Traditionalism assumes that almost anything new is a threat to the gospel, even if the gospel itself is never compromised. It requires young generations to become us if they want to follow God.
  4. It blocks making necessary change. Traditionalism fights change, often without honest consideration of the options. It doesn’t inform change like tradition does; it obstructs it.
  5. It leads to division. Traditionalism is elevating tradition to the level of commandment as if it equals the gospel. The emotion behind such a position usually creates conflict and disunity.

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