A dangerous passion for growth

Pastoral Ministry

A deep and abiding passion to see our churches grow is a very dangerous thing.

That may seem an odd observation to make, but it is a critical one. If we run with a passion to grow things without at the same time being aware that it is one of the most dangerous passions you can have, then the passion will destroy us and our work.


Corrupting the code: How do we lose sight of the basics?

Pastoral Ministry

Elsewhere in Issue #413 Archie Poulos masterfully isolated the scriptural DNA of gospel ministry, centred around the conversion of sinners. (The article can be viewed here.) This article is the counterpart to that one, examining how we can corrupt this DNA. Can we identify stress points in ministry that could compromise the gospel of Jesus and bring it into disrepute? Let’s look at three areas: not watching our lives closely, not watching our doctrine closely, and not loving one another well.1

Priceless treasure in cardboard cups

Pastoral Ministry

‘Ministry’ can be a very vague and unstructured idea. The joke that clergy work only one day a week is untrue, but it’s not immediately obvious what they do the rest of the time—are they some kind of spiritual social workers (as the confused mother of my best school friend asked when I quit university to become an Anglican minister)? It’s not really any clearer for those who attend church but are not in paid positions of leadership there. What does ‘ministry’ look like? Lots of coffee (preferably espresso)? Serving on endless rosters? Church politics? (more…)

1 Samuel 8:19-20

Bible 101

But the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel. And they said, “No! But there shall be a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may judge us and go out before us and fight our battles.”

What do you look for in a leader? When it comes to election time, in addition to policy platforms do you look for any attributes in particular? Israel certainly had something in mind for the leader they wanted to replace the aging judge Samuel:

Leading God’s church together

Pastoral Ministry

When Scott and I planted a church as co-equal pastors in 2005, we sat down with pastors from various denominations, of various ages, and with various ministry experiences. Amidst all this diversity, there was one question that every pastor asked us: “You’re two guys planting a church… but who’s really in charge?” (more…)

A ministry manifesto


We had a talkfest here in Sydney recently called ‘The Festival of Dangerous Ideas’, at which participants could experience the frisson of discussing daring and explosive concepts with a soy latte in hand. Most of the ideas were in fact rather conventionally dangerous in a green-left sort of way, although gay activist Dan Savage received special marks for his dangerous idea that abortion should be made mandatory for 30 years to make a dent in the worldwide population problem. (The audience, having escaped the womb safely themselves, felt confident to clap.) (more…)

Paul and leadership

Pastoral Ministry

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…)

Growing through Christian history

Pastoral Ministry, Thought, Sola Panel

One of the quotes that stayed with me from last year said this about historians:

“Without them, our civic life would be a wasteland of forgetfulness, a cultural desert.” [Source]

I think the same is true of our church life. As Christians we need to know something of our history. The basic deposit of our faith is the gospel of Jesus, in the whole inspired counsel of God in the Scriptures. (more…)

Mentoring growth group leaders

Pastoral Ministry

Everyone needs encouragement. It’s pretty tough doing a job on your own without the support of others spurring you along. Growth group leaders are no different. They require training and resources, but they also depend on encouragement. In a church with many leaders, no one person can be relied upon to provide all the encouragement. (more…)

Bible heading fail: “Taming the Tongue”

Life, Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel

When the biblical documents were originally written, the authors didn’t include section headings. The headings that appear in our modern Bibles were added later, by translators and editors. These headings are designed to divide the text into more manageable chunks, and to make it easier for us to look up passages. Although these headings can be helpful, they do have pitfalls. For example, a heading can create a break in the text which prevents us from seeing links between what comes before and after the heading. Even worse, at times, the heading is not an accurate summary of the passage at all; indeed, occasionally the heading implies something opposite to what the passage is saying. (more…)

What has Jim Collins to do with Jerusalem?

Pastoral Ministry

I remember when I was first introduced to the work of Jim Collins, in the form of his bestseller Good to Great. Essentially it is the result of a massive research project (more than 15,000 people-hours) seeking to identify common characteristics in companies that have experienced long-term success. (more…)

An evergreen strategy for Bishops!

Pastoral Ministry, Sola Panel

Multiply the workers. Deploy the workers aggressively. Remember, the work is evangelism! Remember, evangelism means Christ!

The detailed tactics must change in a different time and place, but well over a century later, I reckon this is still a pretty good strategy for reaching a large urban diocese where the vast majority are un-churched.

Praying for Sydney’s Anglican Election Synod


Prayer always brings glory to God, as we express our confidence in his willingness and ability to help us as well as his interest in the details of our life. To think the creator and sovereign ruler of the universe would pay attention to our requests—about the trivialities of our lives—is humbling and exciting. That we can call the Almighty, “Father” is wonderful beyond description.

This week the Anglican diocese of Sydney comes to electing a new Archbishop. Synod will be meeting for a few nights to try to come to agreement about who it should be. It is not the most important decision we ever make, but it is a decision we have to make, and it does affect many aspects of church life.

So this week is an important time for prayer. We want God to bless our decision, and that overriding our desires, he will appoint the man he thinks best suits his plans for the diocese. (more…)

→ What is an Archbishop?


For Sydney Anglicans (and interested observers): Phillip Jensen is part-way through a short series on the imminent election of a new Archbishop. This time is what an Archbishop is:

A good starting place is the Bible’s view of leadership, seen pre-eminently in our Lord Jesus Christ and taught to us in the appointment of elders and deacons in 1 Timothy and Titus. The character and convictions of a man are the mainstay of selection criteria, rather than any particular competencies. The particular competencies listed for Timothy and Titus to look for in an elder, are to “manage his own household well” and to be “able to teach” the truth and “rebuke those who contradict it”.

The ministry of an Archbishop is different to ‘managing the household of God’ but cannot be less than that. It is different, because like Timothy and Titus, the Archbishop is not leading a single church or even a parish but a diocese of parishes and churches as well as all the associated para-church ministries (schools, retirement villages, theological college. etc) that support the parishes in their ministry of the gospel.

If you’re interested in finding out more about the election, the role, and in praying for the candidates and the synod members making the decision, go read the full article (NB. the first article is about the political process, and is worth a read too).