Thursday, October 27, 2011

How is Your Heart?

Last week I wrote in our Sunday Bulletin about checking inside on the condition of our heart.  I copy it below:
How are you inside? In some famous words from the Bible, “people look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Sam 16:7) It doesn’t mean the internal organ that pumps blood, but the governing centre of our lives – our character, personality, will, motives, and mind.

Taking part in God’s mission adventure means we will do things, but we need to be careful that we aren’t so preoccupied with what we are doing for God (as if he is relying on our help), that we miss what God is doing in us. Every day God will be working to shape us to be more like Christ, if we pay attention.

Want to take a quick heart check up? Here are some things to look for:
• Do I feel mad, sad, glad or scared? Grateful or demanding?
• Am I taking responsibility for how I feel or blaming it on others?
• Do I have a few safe relationships where I seek feedback about my behaviour?
• Do I have time for people, including those who don’t yet know Jesus?
• Am I growing in love for others, or impatience with others?
• Do I think everyone else is wrong?
• Am I falling into all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinking? E.g. if my performance falls short of perfect, I’m a failure.
• Am I picking out a single negative detail and dwelling on it exclusively, so that my vision or all reality becomes darkened, like a drop of ink that discolours a whole glass of water?
• Am I jumping to conclusions without the facts, or making assumptions about others without bothering to ask?

Let’s not ignore the health of our heart,

Some readers might have recognised some of the above reflection which Jim Herrington, Robert Creech and Trisah Taylor offered as some practices for "calming" ourselves amidst the anxiety that can arise in congregations.  They are using the insights of Edwin Friedman and Bowen Family Systems Theory to consider how interactions and relationships can work better in church settings.  Their book is The Leader's Journey: Accepting the Call to Personal and Congregational Transformation (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2003).
I am finding the insights of this systems theory and in particular the concept of the leader being an "less-anxious presence" very helpful.
Will chat more about this,

Saturday, September 24, 2011

One Service - Touch Pause Engage

Last Sunday all 6 East Taieri congregations gathered in one service at the Hislop Hall, in Taieri College.
It was a wonderful opportunity to worship God together and to seek God for the year ahead.  We also appreciated the music ministry of David Lyle Morris, who joined us for the occassion.

I paste below a summary of my sermon notes for that service from Luke 10:1-9


Members of a rugby team are all different, but together they make up the team – each member playing their part.
Together, we make up the East Taieri Church team. We are all different. There are six different services represented here. But together we make up the ET team, each member playing their part.
The mission of the All Blacks is clear – to get the ball across the try line, and stop the opposition doing the same, so they win the game.
What is our mission as a church?

One people in mission for God’s glory
Growing in Christ and making him known in love
through word, sign and deed
Because all people matter to God.

What does that look like? What’s our vision for that in the future?

1) The people were in touch with Jesus (Luke 10:1)

The 72 people Jesus chose and sent out were some of his followers. He knew them, and they knew him. Jesus was sending them out as his ambassadors to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is near. God’s powerful rule as King was being demonstrated in Jesus ministry, and now they were going to do the same kinds of things. Healing people, driving out demons, and telling people about turning back to God. They had seen Jesus do it, now they were to go out and do it themselves. But it came from their relationship with Jesus. Being in touch with Jesus.

Our mission is an overflow of our relationship with Jesus. At East Taieri Church our vision is that we are all close to Jesus. Knowing Jesus, so our lives are changed and we can be a part of Him changing other’s lives too.

How do we stay in touch with Jesus? God took the initiative in sending Jesus, but we also need to respond. There was a woman who had been subject to bleeding for 12 years. She had spent all her money on doctors and none of them could make her well. She thought, “Jesus is my only hope.” She thought “If I only reach out and touch his cloak, I will be healed.” And she was.

You can reach out and touch Jesus in worship. Those of us leading worship are praying, digging deep in the Scriptures, practicing music, preparing creative stuff, getting ready. But all of us need to get ready for worship. We need to come expecting to meet with God in all His love and power. We want to grow in our worship services in the year ahead.

You can be in touch with Jesus in your own of course. Growing in your relationship with Jesus in those quiet moments at home. In the year ahead, I will be teaching about spiritual gifts and spiritual practices that are part of living as Jesus lived.

Or when you meet with a mentor or in a small group. In the past year we had 4 new small groups start, 2 at FUEL, and 2 from the rest of ET, giving us over 25 groups now. People encouraging each other in their life with Jesus. God has good things for us as we draw close to Jesus

2) Pause – Prayer, Reflection, Learning, Growth (Luke 10:2)
Notice what happened before they actually went out.
Before going out, they were to pray. Prayer reminds us that we are dependent on God’s grace and power. We humble ourselves, and ask God to do what we cannot.

So we are making October a month of prayer. We will give you a prayer diary for the month, inviting you to seek God daily. There will be suggestions for prayer and space for you to write down what you sense God saying to you. We will finish the month with a major prayer gathering to worship God together and hear what the Lord has been saying. We will be praying for our whole mission as a church, including that God would draw us all close to Jesus.

Then they were to go according to some specific instructions from Jesus. (Lk 10:3-9) We will see in a moment that the basic idea of our mission is simple. Sometimes we over complicate things. But here Jesus did give them some mission instructions. They were to travel light: no money, no bag, or sandals. They weren’t to dilly dally along the way making small talk to the people they met. There was a sense of urgency to find those people that were open to the good news about Jesus, discovering where God was already at work in a town or village and joining in. (Jesus altered these in Lk 22:35-36).

The second part of our vision at ET is everyone growing in Christ, understanding that the Christian life isn’t just about going to heaven when we die, but living in the kingdom of God now – ambassadors for the King.
(Luke 10:9) Seeing God’s power at work putting things to rights, healing sickness and injustice, bringing forgiveness and reconciliation, changing lives, caring for God’s creation around us... A big view of what it means to follow Jesus as an ambassador of the King of Kings.

There are specific ways you can pause, reflect, learn and grow:
  • There are opportunities for intentional discipleship.
  • This ET brochure, “How can I grow spiritually?” has a menu for spiritual growth: starters, entrees, mains, desserts...
  • This year we put together a ministry opportunities board, which highlights opportunities for you to step out into a new serving experience with God.
  • We will be running the updated Network Course in the new year to help us be clear about our spiritual gifts, personal style and passion, so we understand more of where God is calling each of us to step out in mission.
  • In March next year we are having a church camp which will be a fantastic opportunity to build relationships and grow as a disciple of Jesus.
 3) Engage in God’s Mission: In touch, pause, then go! You and I “go into mission” every day. When we get out of bed – our home is a mission. When we go out our gate, enter school, workplace, or join in with something through ET church or in the community, we are in mission. Our vision is that we all might be in a vital relationship with Jesus, growing in him, and overflowing to others in mission.

And while I’ve acknowledged that we need to be prayerful and reflective, learning & growing, the basic pattern in Lk 10:9 was fairly simple:

 1. Minister to real needs with God’s power,

 2. And tell people where it came from.


 Let me give you a few examples of our strategies for engaging:

 (a) Today, someone from FUEL gave you a brochure that explains the mission and vision of FUEL – a mission work of ET. FUEL is a breakfast cafe church that meets on Sunday morning in Fairfield. Their particular focus is reaching and discipling people not currently involved in church. FUEL has grown to around 30 adults and 20 children every week. We need to pray that God will raise up new leaders, so FUEL can go on and grow.

(b) We want to be a part of God changing lives and transforming communities. Our community facilitator Joy is doing a great job of research, networking, and seeing people join in opportunities that God raises. We want to engage our community.

It will mean building partnerships where we can be an influence for Jesus amidst something that may not be labelled “a ministry of ET church”. This already happens through our chaplaincy in schools... Through the way Christians from ET are involved in victims support, caring for the elderly, night patrols, sports clubs... The Father and Son’s breakfast Ben McK is helping organise. Our vision is that we would all be thinking “God’s Mission” as we go about these activities.

(c) We are going to consciously celebrate the way existing ET ministries are engaging people outside the church family. Sue Todd’s testimony: English for Speakers of Other Languages – Coffee & Conversation Group.

(d) We are going to introduce more people to Jesus.

Two key strategies:

(i) We attract and invite people to fantastic events (such as Christmas Eve – this year lets break the 1000 mark – and perhaps more importantly) and we attract and invite people to quality ministries (such as Mainly Music and the Marriage course).

(ii) We build relationships with people, and speak about Jesus.

Our attractional stuff is going well. But we aren’t great at actually saying something. I’m not saying this to heap guilt on us. But in the year ahead we are going to help you get better at speaking about Jesus in a relaxed, helpful way, using one simple, fun, training course. I’m sure we all have someone we know that we want to introduce to Jesus.

(e) Our vision is to grow our global mission too: Short term mission experiences; Supporting long term missionaries; Building the relationship that has begun with the San Pathong Church in Thailand...


Rubgy is just a game, but our mission is not a game. It’s life instead of death. Grace and truth instead of striving and lies...

My prayer is that these words, “Touch”, “Pause”, “Engage” will echo in our minds and will think of our vision of being in Touch with Jesus, Pausing to pray, reflect, learn and grow, and Engaging with God’s mission to a hurting world.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Mission Visit to Thailand

In June/July, my wife Sue and I had the privilege of travelling to Thailand to visit missionary families associated with East Taieri Church.  One family are members of our church so this was a particular focus.  A long way to go for a pastoral visit, but it was fantastic!  The other two families are also top people and it was inspiring to spend time with them.  All three are doing great work in quite different settings.

Some reflections on our time.  There is a saying "to be Thai is to be Buddhist", and while there is real openness and response to the gospel among hill tribe people in northern Thailand, Thai Buddhists are much less open.  Significant resistance and opposition occurs.  We were aware of principalities and powers also.  Sue & I found ourselves praying a lot.

I am sure we can learn much from the challenge of sharing the gospel in this culture.  One Thai church leader I spoke with said that the issue of Karma and the culture of shame (rather than guilt), required a foundation of loving acts of service before the words of the gospel could be shared.  That has some echos of NZ (though we don't have a culture of shame).  The church in which he is an elder has a significant community development programme underway - even though their church has and average attendance of only around 30 people!

The respect for Buddhism was evident in the people who scored priority seating at the airport! (The first icon is a monk).  I heard on the radio today the way our market economy ranks people in order of importance according to their contribution to
GDP.  This would give more value to the most lowly paid job, than to any volunteer role, or what I would regard as crucial roles of raising children, or caring for aged parents.

Perhaps Thailand has more insight than NZ on some of these priorities.  Certainly older parents or grandparents are well respected.  One Thai couple told us how much they appreciated the sacrifice our missionary family was making in coming to Thailand and leaving their parents back in NZ!

Meeting procedure in Thailand can be very slow (even to this Presbyterian), but it has the advantage of being highly relational.  Again we could learn something here.  One little personal reminder this somewhat task oriented pastor needs occasionally is "people before task Martin".  I sometimes say that to myself.

The importance and also difficulty of language learning was obvious. 

The different culture of missionaries from the US was apparent.  They had more resources behind them, and a different approach to engaging Thai nationals.  As in any church ministry team, missionary teams must work hard at their working relationships.  The health of the team is key.

We were able to begin a relationship with a Thai church near Chiang Mai.  I am excited about the mutual learning and support that will come from this as our relationship grows.  At this stage we are simply praying for each other, but that first step is a good step.  It's importance cannot be overlooked.

Looking forward to visiting again!


Sunday, June 5, 2011

God Space

East Taieri Church recently hosted Doug Pollock on his God Space Tour.  It was a privilege to spend an evening with Doug, who in addition to being a thoroughly nice guy, has one of the soundest, most effective approaches to evangelism in a postmodern context that I know.  You can find out more about Doug at his website

I read Doug's book God Space: Where Spiritual Conversations Happen Naturally in a couple of hours.  A must read for every Christian - at least every Christian who wants to get better at having spiritual conversations so others can come to know the Saviour!  This is an easy read in that it is full of wonderful stories, and practical advice.  But it is a hard read in that Doug's style forces you to apply what you read and to look at yourself.

Key insights:
It starts with us.  "If we’re going to create God Space for others, it has to start inside us.  It takes safe people to create safe places.” p.16
He suggests that the reason we so often have spiritual conversations with people on airplanes is because on airplanes our spirituality has no bearing on where we sit.  It forces Christians to have time with people who aren't Christians yet.  We are fellow travellers on common ground, in close proximity, without distractions of cellphones...  The challenge is for us to find ways of creating this kind of God Space in the rest of life.

We need to notice people and be sensitive to the Holy Spirit's promptings.  Doug gives us some exercises to help us notice - seeing with Jesus' spectacles.

We need to grow in listening.  There are connections here with the Alpha Course, and with Dallas Willard's wisdom on evangelism.

We need to wonder - asking questions more than preaching at people.

And we need to be able to offer "spiritual appetisers" or bite sized chunks of the gospel peppered with our experience of it.  The challenge here is not to "share our testimony" - one size fits all - but to ask the person if they would like to hear aobut part of our experience that is relevant to the questions they are asking.

What does this mean for ministry at East Taieri?
  1. I will be altering the first part of "Sharpening the Saw" - the training programme we have developed which helps people share their faith with others.  I'll do more on listening and asking appropriate (not pre-packaged) questions.  Interestingly the gospel illustrations we use on Sharpening the Saw, which come from the XEE course correspond well with Doug's idea of "spiritual appetisers", provided we don't force the whole menu on people if they aren't ready.
  2. We need to consider how we are creating "God Space" within our various ministries.  Alpha already does this quite well.  FUEL also creates this over breakfast and during their discussions.  Night Church has been experimenting with this in various ways.  Other services also need to ask this question.  Our community ministries, including things like Mainly Music also need to wrestle with the question of creating room for spiritual conversations.
  3. We need to wrestle with where drinking coffee and eating together fits into our ministry scene.
  4. We also need to consider what physical God space we are offering.  Sometimes this can occur within the church building, but more often it is before and after services, and we could be more intentional about this in our morning services.
  5. It is interesting how directly this connects with the preaching series I have just finished which used a title based on a book by Bill Hybels.  I called the series "The Power of God's Whisper."  It was about us all being sensitive to God prompting us to do or say something, and having the courage to respond.
May we all become more passionate about having spiritual conversations with people who don't yet know Jesus.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Taking Discipleship Personally

Recently I wrote this short article for Candour Magazine and I thought others might be interested in it.

Discipleship as personal interaction rather than programme

In my early days as a Christian I was taken through the Navigator discipleship stuff (the Design for Discipleship Series): Bible study, memory verse, giving my testimony, the whole nine yards. Actually, it was good foundational material that contributed to my Christian growth. But what was most influential was my time with the man who led me through this course. I learned much more from the personal interaction with him than from the discipleship course itself and our relationship lasts to this day. He was an elder in a Presbyterian church and led the youth group and a home group. During our runs together I learned about a pastoral heart when, to my initial annoyance, he would allow our run to be interrupted by stopping to talk to someone we met. I learned about prayer from praying with him. Our prayers became more desperate when his first child had complications during birth. We weren’t sure if she was going to survive. It was a first hand example of trusting God in the midst of a trial, and then praising God together when his daughter survived and thrived.

Character discoveries occurred and rubbed off on me. One Sunday evening I was helping him show a gospel movie at church. We had invited lots of people who didn’t normally come to church. A good crowd had gathered, popcorn was popping and we were all praying, excited at the opportunity for changed lives! The movie was on an old reel-to-reel movie projector (before the days of data projectors) and just as we began, the film began jumping at the projector gate – chunkety, chunkety, chunk. Unless we could fix it, our carefully planned outreach evening was going to be a disaster. In the stress of the moment, I heard my mentor muttering under his breath and thought, “This will be interesting.” I leaned closer to find out what he was saying and heard the words, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!”

My mentor sometimes addressed me “Martin, Martin my son” (from words attributed to one of Martin Luther’s mentors who said, “Martin, Martin my son. I see nothing but a cross before you.”) Once, when I had moved to another city, he phoned me and my flatmate answered. Mistaking my flatmate for me he said, “Martin, Martin my son...” My flatmate called out, “Martin, it’s your Dad!” We laughed, and yet in a 2 Tim 1:2 kind of way it was my Dad.

I have benefitted from many programmes over the years, and I have so appreciated the mentoring that people are able to do from a distant century through their writing, but my most significant discipleship moments have been with people like this man. It takes time, but it is lasting. Their personal interaction has shown me what life is like as an apprentice of Jesus.

We need to take discipleship personally, and not rely on programmes, because it works and of course because Jesus modelled it. But there is another reason. I believe life on life interactions are crucial in discipleship because of the nature of truth we are seeking to pass on to others. A Christian disciple is not someone who simply understands and gives assent to certain doctrinal statements. A disciple is one apprenticed to the master, who said, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

Lesslie Newbigin wrote: "The manner in which Jesus makes the Father known is not in infallible, unrevisable irreformable statements. He did not write a book which would have served forever as the unquestionable and irreformable statement of the truth about God. He formed a community of friends and shared his life with them."  [Lesslie Newbigin, Proper Confidence: Faith, Doubt and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1995), 89.]

Thankfully we can read in the scriptures what Jesus did and taught, and the effect Jesus had on those around him. But when we are discipled we experience another dimension to learning that is beyond reading a book. Michael Polanyi observed that the skills of a master are lost if they are not passed on first hand to apprentices in the next generation. The line of apprentices who made violins like Stradivarius has been broken.

"It is pathetic to watch the endless efforts – equipped with microscopy and chemistry, with mathematics and electronics – to reproduce a single violin of the kind the half-literate Stradivarius turned out as a matter of routine more than 200 years ago."

"To learn by example is to submit to authority. You follow your master because you trust his manner of doing things, even when you cannot analyse and account in detail for its effectiveness. By watching the master and emulating his efforts in the presence of his example, the apprentice unconsciously picks up the rules of the art... " [Michael Polanyi,  Personal Knowledge  (London: Routledge, 1958), 53.]

That sounds a lot like discipleship to me.

In my current role I contribute to discipleship in a variety of programmatic and structural ways. I preach, pray, lead worship, foster small group life, and ensure a range of programmes are running, including intentional discipleship using material such as the Omega studies. However, my most lasting impact is probably still time intensive, life on life discipleship. I think of the delight in seeing young ministry interns mature in Christ and go on in Christian ministry. I think of the challenges and joys of seeing people (including my own children) take steps in following Jesus. This doesn’t impact big numbers of people quickly, but I remain committed to having at least one person I’m relating to in this way. I’m taking that personally.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Inspired by the Good News of Easter

Maundy Thursday communion at East Taieri Church was thoughtful and meaningful. Easter Sunday was a great celebration of the resurrection of Jesus. All my children had great Easter Camps. I had some quality time with Sue. I even enjoyed some Easter eggs. However the most life-transforming moments for me this Easter were those I spent in the Milton Prison.

In January, David, a member of East Taieri Church, told me he felt prompted by God to form a prison ministry team. God has clearly been in this, and to our delight a team came together easily and has been inducted and joined the roster of churches taking service in the Otago Correction Facility. I am a member of that team. The first service I was involved with was on Good Friday. I feel that God spoke to me in several ways through it:

1. All the unknowns forced me to lean on God and not to trust on my years of ministry experience. That was a great reminder for me. I also felt very appreciative of the Prison staff and the other members of the team as we made our way through the security checks into the facility.

2. I was struck by how young the prison congregation were. In contrast to many church congregations around the country, I would say the majority of these men were in their 20’s. This is a sad reflection on the choices being made and situations faced by young men in our society. (43% of prisoners are younger than 30 years old).

3. I was encouraged by how friendly they were. Sadly I have visited churches where people have been much less friendly than these men. They walked up to us, introduced themselves, and thanked us for coming.

4. I was in awe at how carefully they listened to the Bible Reading of Jesus dying on the cross (Mark 15:22-39). Familiar, even routine words, which many church congregations on Good Friday may have taken for granted, rang out with fresh relevance as Mitch read them in that setting. One prisoner near me said, “Mean story!” at the end.

5. I was astounded at the openness of the prisoners in talking about Jesus dying for us all. I had more conversations about the sacrifice of Christ after that service than after any one church service in 20 years of ministry. Forgiveness, a new life, and the promise that there is more to life than this, truly do make for good news!

6. The importance of participation was highlighted for me by the prisoners taking ownership of the music and leading us in three worship songs.  They were great!

7. As senior pastor, one of the most inspiring things has been the way this enthusiastic prison ministry team has come together.  One church member felt prompted by the Holy Spirit.  He was supported by ministry leadership, who had hoped for such a team for some years and had invited the prision chaplain to preach at ET.  After the opportunity was promoted in one church service, others felt called to join the team and now it's underway.  This encourages me that God is speaking into the "missional imagination of the congregation".  By this I mean that God is prompting us to think like missionaries to Mosgiel, living the good news in our surroundings.  See Alan Roxburg's book The Missional Leader (San Francisco, Jossey-Bass, 2006), p.151.

May you also be inspired about the good news of Jesus dying for our sins!


Saturday, March 12, 2011

Search and Rescue

We won't easily forget the images of the Urban Search and Rescue USAR teams working through the collapsed buildings to save people trapped after the Christchurch earthquake.  In the early moments volunteers like Ahsei Sopoaga desperately tried to free people from under the rubble.  Then the professionals moved in.  I had to wipe a tear from my eyes when I saw footage of the international USAR teams coming to help.  Now it is New Zealand's turn to help after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

I applaud these brave rescue efforts.  They challenge me to bring greater ugency and focus to my efforts to see people rescued from sin.  My friends and neighbours are not trapped under fallen rubble, but many are trapped in a fallen world and do not know that Jesus can save them.  Oh that Christians would feel the same sense of urgency and motivation that Ahsei Sopoaga demonstrated.  Oh that we would have the same professionalism and focus that the USAR teams show.

One key way East Taieri is helping people discover the rescue that Jesus offers them is through the Alpha course.  We have run Alpha for many years now, but in recent years Alpha has been gathering more momentum for us.  Currently our night church are using the student Alpha material with over a hundred people attending last Sunday.  Every time we run Alpha people are set free from sin and from other things that have bound them up.  People discover the Saviour and grow as disciples.

This year we are seeking to build momentum even more as we host a regional Alpha training day, and as we organise an Alpha reunion for anyone who has done Alpha in the past.

Isn't this something we need to be urgent and focussed about?  I believe a key issue for the future well-being of our nation, and the demonstration of the kingdom of God, is our passion for seeing lost people rescued.  If we really believe humans need redeeming (rescuing) from sin, and that the wages of sin is death, then we would have the same passion and urgency the rescue teams demonstrated in Christchurch.

Now I realise that Christians sometimes feel inadequate and are scared off evangelism.  To press the analogy: just as we need USAR specialists, we need people with special gifts in evangelism.  However, everyone can help lift some rubble, and every Christian can invite a friend or neighbour to Alpha.  I actually believe every Christian is called to be able to say something about their faith in Jesus, but leaving that for now, surely we can all invite someone to a dinner.  That's all Alpha requires of us.  And yet, personal invitation is the key for Alpha.

Looking forward to week three of Student Alpha at night church tomorrow... and also looking forward to the next Alpha dinner.  Who will you invite?


Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Another Tragedy for Christchurch

Hard as it is to believe, another earthquake has hit Christchurch.  It is clear from news reports that the damage is worse than the September 4th earthquake, and because it occurred in the middle of the day when many people were in the CBD, casualties are high.

What can we do as a church from Otago?
First we can pray!  I know people are praying individually, and in groups.  In particular, those people trapped in collapsed buildings need our prayers.
We are opening East Taieri Church for an extra time of prayer at
Wednesday 23rd February.

Second, people with specialist skills may be needed to assist emergency services in Christchurch.  I know that medical folks from ET Church have already been contacted about relieving staff in Christchurch.

Third, we need to check in with friends and family here in case they have loved ones badly affected by the earthquake and so need our pastoral support.  Talking and praying together can be a great comfort.

Fourth, we need to be sensible and safe ourselves in our desire to help.  We will not help the people of Christchurch by clogging phone lines and roads by rushing up there in an uncoordinated way.  In due course we will be talking with contacts in Christchurch such as through Horby Presbyterian Community Church to offer assistance as we did after the September 4th earthquake.  At the appropriate time there may be need for teams to assist with the clean up, or people willing to host Christchurch people for a break away from the city.

Finally we need to place our trust in God who can see us through all things.  God's love and mercy comes to us even in the difficult times (like the valley of the shadow of death in Psalm 23).  As I wrote on my blog after the first earthquake, it is not helpful to suggest that this represents God's judgement on Christchurch.  Jesus didn't equate people dying in a disaster with their sin (Luke 13:1-5).  In Dunedin, we are as much sinners as people in Christchurch.  Rather than making simplistic judgements, let's offer our compassion and our prayers.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

ET Leadership Summit - Lead Where You Are

I'm looking forward to our first East Taieri Leadership Summit on Saturday 5th March. This is an opportunity for everyone who gives leadership to sharpen their skills! Whether it is parents leading in the home, students setting the tone at school or with their mates, people giving leadership in the workplace or business, or an obvious church ministry.

Our speakers are:

Bill Hybels who will speak on “From Here to There” - leadership lessons from over 30 years of leading a growing church. Bill is the founding and senior pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington Illinois and the bestselling author of more than twenty books. He helps inspire church leaders around the world.

Jim Collins’ topic is “Never, Ever, Give up”. Jim is a world class business thinker and bestselling author of “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap and Others Don’t” and “Built to Last: successful habits of visionary companies.

Christine Caine will speak about “Leading on the Edge of Hope.” A passionate, out of the
box, and empowering speaker, Christine has been part of Hillsong Church’s key leadership team for over 20 years and is Director of Equip & Empower Ministries and founder of The A21 Campaign, an organization dedicated to the care and healing of victims of human trafficking.

You have probably guessed, that we won't have these speakers in person, but are using the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit DVD. These are world class speakers however who will inspire and equip us in leading where we are. After each session there will be opportunity for us to discuss the material and identify the principles which will transfer to our own situations.

Saturday 5th March 2011, In Oak Lounge
9am - 3pm,
Morning Tea and Lunch provided.
To register the Office 489 6308
Registrations close 1st March
No Cost
Register & come along if you possibly can!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Copland Shelter

During the holidays my 17 year old son Sam and I climbed to Copland Shelter in Mt Cook National Park, along with a good friend and experienced mountaineer, Andrew.  The plan was for us all to climb up from the Hooker Glacier to the Shelter (1,960m  or 6,430.4 ft), and then the next day we would climb the remaining 190m to the Copland Pass.  Sam and I would walk out the Copland valley to the West Coast and Andrew would return down the Copland Ridge to Mt Cook Village.

The day up to the Shelter was beautiful - almost too hot - but sadly a westerly front came in sooner than we hoped and the winds coming over the main divide were too strong to allow us to go over the pass safely.  That second day we all returned to Mt Cook Village, tired, a little frustrated that we only did half the trip, but delighted to have had time in such fantastic alpine country.

My reflections?
I value that kind of time with my son Sam, and our friend Andrew.  Great talks, testing ourselves against the mountains, trusting each other...

It taught us more about peseverance.  I was fairly fit, and Sam was even fitter, but our legs felt the test of the 7 and a half hours walking and climbing.  We were very glad to see the Shelter at the end of the day.  We got there because we kept on going, even when it was hard, even when I got cramp, even when it was a bit airy scary.  Yes, we stopped to rest.  Yes, we refueled with meusli bars, chocolate, nuts and water.  But we kept on going.  It was a lesson in pressing on no matter what.  It's amazing how far our legs can take us if we keep on going.

But it was also a reminder of our limitations.  The shelter is a 4 bunk, round drum. Without it we would have spent a cold, uncomfortable, even dangerous night in the wind.  And it was that wind that convinced us to return to the valley below and wait for another time when the weather would be better.  Against the splendour and power of God's creation, we are quite small and weak.

It also taught us about the importance of disciplines and procedures.  We filled out our intentions with the DOC staff.  One of those staff checked in at the scheduled radio call.  We carried our share of emergency gear, GPS, Satellite phone, first aid kit...

And yet there was also risk.  We managed the risk with safety gear like ropes and helmets.  We avoided unnecessary risk by chosing our route carefully.  We treated the weather with respect.  And yet there were risks involved in our climb.  There are always risks in life.  Not always obvious risks, but risks are present if you look hard enough.  The obvious danger we faced reminded us that as long as we are alive we face threats of some kind.  The Macaulay Clan motto is dulce periculum, "danger is sweet."  It reminds us we are alive!


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Looking ahead in 2011 at East Taieri

Over the quieter January period I gathered this list of ministry activity that contributes to the overall mission of East Taieri Church which we describe as:
 One people in mission for God’s glory
Growing in Christ and making him known in love through word, sign and deed
Because all people matter to God.

A memorable summary of this is:
...Growing in Christ and Making Him Known...Because All People Matter to God

Much of the fruitfulness of our ministry at East Taieri Church comes from faithful ministry by the whole body of Christ. Week by week people gather together, drink deeply of the living water Jesus offers, are changed from the inside out, and then overflow in mission to others around them in the Holy Spirit’s power. This occurs in both ET programmes and through one to one contacts. This is the Lord’s key strategy – disciples making disciples.

However, we do plan some special events, strategies and programmes for the year. At the risk of missing some out, let me name a few:
• We are going into the year with a revitalised creative ministries focus in morning services.

• Alpha has been having a steady impact at ET for years and it is gaining momentum. We want to build further momentum by:
         o Praying regularly in services for the people in our bundle of prayer cards.
         o Hosting a national Alpha Training Day at ET on April 2nd.
         o Night Church will begin the year using the Alpha material and ET congregations inviting people.
         o We a holding an Alpha reunion on April 14th for people who have come to Alpha in the past.

• Using the H2O evangelism programme with Mainly Music Mums

• Continuing to train and challenge us to speak about Jesus to our friends. [Friends for Life – March, Sharpening the Saw, XEE]

• Joining the “Essential Jesus” campaign as a follow up to the successful E100 Bible Reading Challenge

• We are holding our first ET Leadership Summit called “Lead Where You Are” on March 5th using Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit DVD. This is for equipping people at ET for leading in their home, business, ministry...

• On May 16th we are hosting Doug Pollock from Athletes in Action USA here as part of a nation-wide tour to help prepare the Church and individual Christians to use the Rugby World Cup as a unique opportunity to reach out into their communities.

• Our South Island Ministry Conference in May has Murray Talbot from Hornby Presbyterian as keynote speaker – “Let My People Grow!” Murray will address the challenges for churches breaking through growth barriers.

• We will be conducting a detailed Mosgiel Community Profile looking at needs and resources in the community – aiming to develop a significant community development project in Mosgiel in partnership with other organisations.

• We will be running the Marriage Course at ET beginning May 27th

• We will use a mix of Days of Prayer and Fasting, and Weeks of Prayer, to focus our prayer together as a church.

• We will gather all ET congregations for “One Service” for celebration and vision casting (probably at Taieri College) on September 18th, with David Lyle Morris.

• Christmas Eve will again be a key evangelistic opportunity.

• In partnership with FUEL, Fairfield school and a YET youth ministry intern, we will seek to develop a youth ministry programme in Fairfield.

• Develop our overseas mission focus in Thailand. Martin and Sue visiting the Fleck’s, Potters and Robertsons. Short term mission project.

Some great highlights ahead for us!


Friday, January 14, 2011

Reviewing 2010

In many ways 2010 was a hard year for East Taieri Church with staffing issues, a drop in numbers of people attending morning worship services, and financial pressures amidst the recession.  In behind these presenting symptoms of course lie deeper issues about mission, vision and expectations related to that; our Sunday worship and expectations about that; and how we relate and communicate together within the church.

Having acknowledged the challenges, I found it spiritually uplifting to review some highlights:

• 13 Adults were baptised including a whole family of 6.

• Two ET families stepped out into Ministry Internship training at the start of the year (Harrexs and van’t Wouts). Always hard to see quality people like this go, but they have been a blessing to the churches where they are doing their internship this year.

• At the end of the year Deborah Bower accepted a position as pastor in the Wakatipu parish (Queenstown, Frankton and Arrowtown).

• We held our first church camp for a few years, with around 150 people attending.

• Joy Davis stepped into a full-time community ministry coordinator role, developing new connections in the community, “Where is God on Monday?” programme, the Parenting Matters group, Christmas Dinner (90 people attending in an excellent partnership between ET, the RSA, Community Board, a community trust, and other organisations and churches).

• 150 church leaders at our inspiring South Island Ministry Conference in May with Paul Windsor as keynote speaker, and Tony Robinson taking one session.

• Global Missions weekend with Jim & Diane Young from Malawi.

• We have 5 young people on a summer mission experience with Teen Mission (2 in Uganda and 3 in Argentina)

• We Hosted the awesome World Vision “Girls Night Out” with Petra Bagust and Julia Grace.

• We took up the E100 Bible Reading Challenge. 235 individuals and 32 families participated plus some extras who joined in along the way.

• The One Service in September at Taieri College with all ET congregations participating.

• We have trained people in evangelism and put it into practice, one to one, and in Journeys and the Alpha Programme.

• Held a difficult but helpful forum to help elders and leaders hear from the congregations about issues facing ET.

• Following our forum in November a reinvigorated group of people met to discuss resourcing creative ministries in 2011.

• Fantastic Christmas services that reached around 1000 people. Huge number of community families at the children’s services. In the later two carol services many people responded by coming forward to write light candles or leave written prayers.

All this is to say nothing of the consistent week in, week out, gathering of children, young people and adults to worship, discover more about God, build community together and reach out to others, in Sunday services at ET,  FUEL, CCC (and in retirement homes); youth ministry and children’s ministry, chaplaincy, life groups and pastoral care ministries... Youth East Taieri for example connected with over 250 young people a week in 14 youth programmes.

So, amidst the challenges I find myself encouraged and hopeful - Happy New Year!