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Plain Talk About Church Scheduling (via Rory Shiner at Go There For)

In the time of hiatus (in Australia, at any case) which is December-January Rory Shiner outlines a process of questioning and refining the scheduling of church activities.
At the post at Go There For Shiner provides background and expands on the rationales for each question.
I need to spend time thinking about the smorgasbord versus targeted idea of activities.
The questions:

Why are we doing what we are doing?
Are we working with the natural rhythms of life where possible?

Are you offering a smorgasbord of programs, and trusting people to choose what they need?
Or, instead of a smorgasbord, have you articulated a limited suite of commitments that you expect everyone to be involved in? If so, is that suite reasonable and life-giving?

Do the challenges that come in the preaching fit with the implied message of the scheduling?
Does the value of the event reflect the earnestness of your requests that people be there?

Are the rhythms right?
Are weekday evenings the best time for discipleship?
Does a regular thing need to be a weekly thing?

Read the rest of the post here.

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Sin Demands To Have A Man By Himself

A quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer, which Justin Taylor borrowed from someone else’s book:

Sin demands to have a man by himself.

It withdraws him from the community.

The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation.

Sin wants to remain unknown.

It shuns the light.

In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person.

—Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together in Life Together and Prayerbook of the Bible, Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, vol. 5, ed. James H. Burtness and Geffrey B. Kelly; transl. Daniel W. Bloesch (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1995), 110.

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“Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics” – (via David Cook)

Another post from David Cook, current Moderator-General of the Presbyterian Church Of Australia. This timely message encourages us not to fall into the trap of mistaking statistical increases for growth. I fall into the tendency to look not only at what blessings we have, but also how they measure against last year. There is a place to observe growth, but not if it causes us to feel we’re in a constant competition to better some previous measure of blessing:

From David:

Occasionally I watch Parliamentary Question Time and the truth of the above quote from Mark Twain impresses me again. Both sides of politics can use the same statistic and reach precisely opposite conclusions.

Having been a College Principal for 26 years, I know the power of statistics:

How many applicants do we have this year compared to this time last year?
How many graduates are going to serve overseas?
How much has been given compared to donations for the last five years, can we have a spreadsheet?
Every year may bring a new record number, but it is sobering to remember this year’s record is next year’s bigger challenge.

In business, this year must show an improvement on the last and this applies to the world of church attendance, offertory level and college intakes. The pressure for us can come from Councils, Boards, Sessions, Parish Councils, supporters and from within oneself. We all like to know we are part of a successful enterprise and the measure of success is the higher statistic.

But the real threat of the statistic is that it can drive us to compromise and underhandedness. How about a bingo night to raise more money for missions? How about cutting down on Bible readings and sermons to give a church a more contemporary feel and build up numbers in the congregation?

Every Bible College Principal knows that the pressure of the statistic may drive us to accept the student with little aptitude for ministry, for the sake of the statistic, the applicant is accepted and may well have a harmful influence in the College community and the ministry placement.

Beware of putting pressure on one another requiring new records every year.

How refreshing to hear of a College where applicants have been on the rise, yet enrolments on the decline, because proper standards are being adhered to.

We must resist statistical pressure at congregational level. We may willingly recruit the willing, simply because it’s been a long time since our church has sent anyone to College or to the mission field. The reality is we need more candidates but they must be of the right kind.

The letter to the Galatians teaches us, among other things, that not all missionaries are good missionaries, of those who came to Galatia from Jerusalem, Paul says, “I wish they would emasculate themselves” Galatians 5:12.

Statistics can be an indicator of healthy growth, but they may not be such an indicator.

All those in leadership and those who receive the leader’s report, need to recognise both the value and the danger of the statistic.

When it comes to Christian training Colleges, the most valuable statistic may be, what percentage of applicants to the College become students. One hundred percent may well be the most dangerous statistic of all.

David Cook.