If the number of conferences and books addressing an issue is any indication of the level of interest or importance of a matter, then ‘leadership’ is the flavour of the moment, both in the secular world and in Christian circles. This interest is, of course, not just theoretical. Many people share a deep desire to improve, shape, strengthen, critique or replace the leadership we have—whether it be secular, sporting, political, Christian or whatever. (more…)
I have to confess that for much of my Christian life, I’d not really stopped to consider the person of Mary and what she contributes to the church today. I knew about the major controversies of church history, and the significant differences between the Roman Catholic understanding and that of reformed Protestantism. But at a personal level, I’d never stopped to ask the question, “What does Mary mean to me?”
Michael Clark, Australian cricket team vice captain, recently confounded his critics by scoring a career-best 168 in a test match against New Zealand. He had every excuse not to. Before the match, he’d had a week that had included a broken engagement to a celebrity model, a dash across the ditch, time away from training, public accusations of lack of focus and commitment, and intense media scrutiny because of it all. But contrary to his detractors’ doubts, it seems that Michael Clark has got mental toughness!
I’m told ‘mental toughness’ is something that frequently appears as a goal of military training. That’s no surprise; we don’t want those defending the nation to wither at the first sign of difficulty or opposition. There’s an equivalent in the world of parenting and education that parenting gurus and school advertisements call ‘resilience’—the emotional ‘surefootedness’ to survive failure and disappointment that parents want instilled in their children to equip them for life.
According to TS Eliot, you know you’re old when you wear the bottoms of your trousers rolled.1 But in Christian circles, it seems, you know you’re old when you start thinking older people haven’t passed their use-by date. It would appear that I’m old, and perhaps that’s why I’m noticing just how much ageism has snuck into our ministry mindset and fellowships.
In the circles I move in, the issue of preaching is, perhaps, top of the list of things churches need to change in order to lift their game. The feeling is that there is a need for more passion, more authenticity, more engagement, and more confidence that God is here, that he speaks, and that his word is powerful to move and change people—whole people, that is, not just their expertise in how to read the Bible.
Now, there may be some truth in these observations. But that’s not my concern here. I want to turn the spotlight around 180 degrees. My concern, as someone who spends my time in the pews, not the pulpit, is that what goes on in our pews is also in need of more passion, more authenticity, more engagement and more confidence that God is here with us as we meet on Sundays.
As a child of ‘Generation Ex’, I was very grateful for Karen Beilharz’s article on the impact of divorce on children—even adult children. It was insightful and practically pastoral. I especially appreciated her honesty about her own reactions and struggles, and the salutary warning she provides to parents (even Christian ones) who might be tempted to think it is better for children to have ‘happy’ parents who are divorced rather than unhappy parents in a miserable marriage. As she rightly points out, the Lord hates divorce. (more…)
1 Corinthians 11 is one of those passages that many of us set aside for a rainy day, when we will finally be able to sit down and try nutting it out. In this article, Claire Smith takes us carefully and systematically through the tricky world of 1 Corinthians 11. It’s the perfect companion for that rainy day.
I watched a program earlier this year that ‘exposed’ a clinic in Melbourne accused of pushing pro-life counselling on pregnant women. The clinic includes graphic descriptions of the foetus’s experience during abortion as part of its pre-abortion counselling. When accused of shock tactics, the counsellor replied “It’s not shock tactics but it is shocking”.
In this age of equal opportunity and storming the glass ceiling, we should expect to see women in the pulpit. Or should we? The way I see it we shouldn’t, unless we’re listening more to 20th-century feminism than the Bible.