Monday, February 17, 2020

One of the greatest threats on Australian Culture in the next decade

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*This article first appeared at Christiantoday.com.au

When unprecedented bushfires ravaged the Australian landscape, I didn’t expect what happened next. Social media went into meltdown. The Prime Minister was excommunicated for having a holiday and not showing ‘real leadership’ in a time of crisis. The Greens were lambasted for not allowing enough controlled burning. The gloves were out. We needed someone to blame. We were angry. We are frustrated.

One journalist called it, ‘The fires dividing the nation’.

Some shouted so loud about climate change, that I think extra carbon emissions were unintentionally spread into the atmosphere. On the other hand, others dug their heels in; they denied a link between climate change and bushfires. They wanted people to cut the Prime Minister some slack. Some felt their buttons pushed and went into defence mode, simply perpetuating their climate-denying rhetoric, but this time with irrational memes and a little added aggression than normal.

Wow.

Just wow.

I didn’t think 2020 would start like I was in the middle of a boxing match between the left and right of an opinionated Australia.

I wasn’t intending to even be in the ring, but it looks like I got a couple of left and right hooks to the cheek nonetheless.  

If Madonna wrote a song today

If Madonna re-wrote her 1984 classic, Material Girl, I think she would write, ‘We are living in a polarised world, and I am a polarised girl.’ While materialism, capitalism, communism and all those –isms still rock our society today, I can’t help but think, that within the next decade, above many other things, one of the greatest threats on Australian culture will be polarisation.

We are living in a polarised world. And I am a polarised man. The forces of polarisation are forcing me into a corner.

Pete, what’s your view on same-sex marriage?
Pete, what’s your thoughts about climate change?
Pete, do you watch the ABC, or do you have Sky News?
Pete, do you read Rubert Murdoch or Fairfax?
Are you AFL or NRL?
Are you Labor or Liberal? Or do you vote for a minor party? Tell me, tell me, tell me.

You cannot help but feel the forces of polarisation!

It’s everywhere

Glance beyond Australia and you hear the trade tensions between the United States and China. You hear about the possibility of a new Cold War emerging between Russia and the United States.  
You wake up one morning and you see Boris Johnson elected with a thumping majority, knowing he’ll finally, ‘Get Brexit Done!’ You wonder what world you now live in. This whole Brexit thing may be in full swing, but then the Scottish people will have their say. The Scots don’t want to leave the EU. And so the perpetual cycle of polarisation continues.

Take a look at the British Royal Family. Meghan and Harry announce their split from the Royals, and the Brits are more divided now than before the Brexit referendum. ‘They’re a bunch of spoilt brats!’ one keyboard warrior writes. 

I think someone wrote that under the pseudonym:‘The Queen’.   

Polarisation is everywhere. It divides. It can hurt. It separates. It corners people. It creates boxes of exclusion.

Moving on from polarisation

As I reflect on this global phenomenon, I am drawn to a different way of thinking. What if polarisation wasn’t the only way? What if we didn’t have to simply divide and conquer all the time?

Let me persuade you to move towards a view expressed in the Bible in 2 Corinthians chapter 5, verse 18, namely that Christ has given us a ministry of reconciliation.

That’s right: Reconciliation.

That’s huge. Let’s make reconciliation great again. That’s my new political slogan.

A move from polarisation to reconciliation is critical in this next season of our lives. When our first response is anger and disbelief, we take a deep breath.

We ask ourselves: How can I bring reconciliation into this discussion? How would I behave right now, if I was intent on reconciling the brokenness, rather than pressing buttons that ignite backlash? How would Jesus respond right now? What’s the best response that brings peace and love into this situation?

Reconciliation brings healing. And it’s worth the effort.

It was the vision of people like Martin Luther King Jr. He longed for reconciliation in a society that was racially divided. In his I have a Dream speech, he bellowed out, ‘I have a dream that one day in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification, one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.’

Martin Luther King Jr.’s dream is still unrealised.

The call of God to work for peace in this world is still there for the taking.

One last word

Friends, we’re living in a polarised world. There’s no escaping that. And the polarisation existed well before fires raged across the Australian landscape.
I just hope we can all choose to have a little more patience and a little more grace as we aim to be ministers of reconciliation.

* Pete Brookshaw, along with his wife Jo, are the  Corps Officers (Senior Ministers) of The Salvation Army Craigieburn. He has a Bachelor of both Business and Theology and is passionate about the church being dynamic and effective in the world and creating communities of faith that are outward-focused, innovative, passionate about the lost and committed to societal change. He has been blogging since 2006 at http://www.petebrookshaw.com about leadership and faith and you can find him on:

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Get ready for what God has in store...

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As we move into a new year, I feel a renewed sense of the presence of God. I'm ready for all that God has in store.

2020 is moving fast and I'm getting on board!

I'm ready to be used by God to make a difference in the world. I'm ready to stand tall and partner with others, to transform our local communities.

Just like Joshua, after he took over the leadership from Moses (as recorded in Joshua chapter 1), God said to Joshua, 'Get ready...' Get ready to enter the Promised Land. Get ready for a new adventure. Brace yourself for a journey that will take you where you've never been before! Joshua then calls the Israelites to get ready and pack their supplies, because they're about to cross the river Jordan.

Pause for a moment. I want to say sorry. I haven't blogged at petebrookshaw.com for quite a while. I've been busy serving my local Salvation Army Corps in Craigieburn, VIC, Australia. Though, I feel God is saying, 'Get ready to speak into the lives of others a little more this year.' So I thought it's time to break the drought. I have been writing articles regularly at christiantoday.com.au, but I'm back at my site where I've been writing thoughts and articles since 2006.

Get ready.

Join with me this year, and let's go to another level; another level in our prayers, in our commitment, in our giving, in our serving and in our loving of others.

It's like God is staring at you right now, and saying, 'Are you ready?'

Are you ready for what I have in store? But firstly, are you ready to experience the love of Christ, like you never have before?

Have you experienced the love of Christ?

Have a read of this testimony: Samuel Logan Brengle once wrote these words:

Just as I got out of bed, and was reading some of the words of Jesus, He gave me such a blessing as I never had dreamed a man could have this side of Heaven. It was a Heaven of love that came into my heart. In that hour, I knew Jesus and I loved Him until it seemed my heart would break with love. I loved the sparrows, I loved the dogs, I loved the horses, I loved the little urchins on the street, I loved the strangers who hurried past me, I loved the heathen, I loved the whole world.
You want to know what Holiness is? It is pure love. You want to know what the baptism of the Holy Ghost is? It is not a mere sentiment. It is not a happy sensation that passes away in the night. It is a baptism of love that brings every thought into captivity to the Lord Jesus, that casts out all fear, that burns up doubt and unbelief as fire burns coal, that makes one meek, and lowly in heart.

How about that? You have an encounter with God, and you just walk down the street and you 'love everything!' I want to live like that, especially when the driver in front of me is 20 clicks  below the speed limit.
Brengle isn't the only one that has had that encounter with the love of Christ. Many have over the years: Mother Theresa, Wesley, that person in your church that smiles a lot... 

Open you heart to what God has in store. Get ready. And get ready to transform your world one life at a time with the love of Jesus.

Feel free to make a quick comment and let's encourage each other in the year ahead.
Get ready for what God has in store.
God bless.

Pete.

I've been blessed in recent days by this book (featured on left). Written by the amazing Stephen Court and Olivia Munn:

Grab it at Amazon here:


Thursday, February 14, 2019

5 Ideas to Help Your Church Grow

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The year is coasting along, and as I stood back over January, and hit the ground hard in February, I started to ask some difficult questions.

What matters most in 2019? Since I will never have unlimited time, resources or energy, what should I invest my time into in 2019, that would bring the greatest return? What should our church focus on? What matters most? If God were to give me a debrief at the end of 2019, what would I want God to say?

These are the kinds of questions that have been running through my head in January. These are questions every church must ask; lest we run around with a scattergun approach to serving God. Ambiguity and busyness won't grow the church.

And if we're honest, sometimes we equate busyness with effectiveness and tiredness with blessing. Though I think we could do better.

So, I want to give you 5 Ideas to Help Your Church Grow

FIX YOUR ATTENTION

I sense that it is critical where we choose to fix our attention. There are many distractions. There are many things vying for our time. And in some moments there are many and varied thoughts running through our vulnerable minds. Already, I've heard of people experiencing setbacks, or disappointments and find themselves entering 2019 with a less than ideal start.

That's why, I'm saying churches need to fix their eyes upon Jesus. We can't get distracted in 2019. We must keep our eyes on him. We know in Hebrews chapter 12, that Jesus is the author and perfector of our faith. We must fix our attention upon the still, small voice of the Holy Spirit.

Please hear me on this. This isn't just a nice, ho-hum, predictable statement from another church pastor. I am convinced that fixing our attention to what really matters and the Christ of our faith is absolutely critical in 2019.

I just think, at times we've lost the art of fixing our eyes and heart upon the Lord. We mean well. We do ministry. We work hard. And some months go by and we've realised we haven't sat in his presence. We haven't discipled like it really mattered. We just got busy. We just lost our way.

We need to fix. Fix our eyes upon Jesus. As Hebrew 12:1-2 puts it, '...since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.'

Start with that. Now, here's another idea to help your church grow in 2019:


OPEN YOUR HEART

We need to open our hearts to new opportunities. You've heard it said, that the message doesn't change, but the mediums in which we share it does. No church looks like the church in Ephesus, or the early church in Corinth. No church looks like a 13th century monastery. No church is even the same from a few years previous.  People come and go. What society thinks is important changes. The societal issues prevalent in your community shifts over time. The technology in which we connect with people rapidly changes. The theological hot potatoes of our day always move and change with the wind. Every generation has a different outlook on life.

You get the point. We need to be open. Open to new things. Open to exploring new ventures. Open to investing money in a different pool. Open to allowing a younger generation to try something different.

We need to be open to living on the edge of missional exploration. Even if that means some do not understand what we are doing, and why we are so passionate about it.

Leaders: You need to be open to giving people an opportunity to try something new. You then need to shut your mouth if it fails. Then you need to be willing to empower them again. And again. And again.

The danger is that we become so close-minded that we miss the very opportunities that God wants to breathe his life into.

Isaiah 43:18-19 says, '“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?'

So, I'm hoping to stay open to what God wants to do in my church this year. I hope you will as well.

Alright, so there are a few more important ideas for churches, that will help them grow in 2019.


CLARITY OF YOUR MISSION

Never have I felt this so strong as this year. Clarity seems to be a word ringing in my ears of late. Now maybe God's been trying to speak to me for the last decade about this, I don't know. All I can say is that I sense that clarity of mission, clarity of vision and clarity of goals and expected outcomes will be the difference between growing and declining churches in 2019.

In a previous post on leadership development, I said that failure to set goals will mean you will always be in a perpetual cycle of vagueness. And then guess what? Without clarity, you will reach the end of 2019 and be vague about whether you achieved anything, and you'll simply end the year with a whole lot of vagueness.

As Elvis once said, you'll have a whole lot of vagueness going on.

And this is the truth: What happens with vagueness, stays in vagueness.

I've felt that in the past. I failed to articulate any goals for the church and failed to articulate any goals for my own life, and I arrived at the end of the year in a psychological quandary, wondering whether I had achieved anything of value in the previous year.

I'm intent not to feel like that in 2019. We cannot let our churches feel like that.

So, have your church consider these questions:

What is your mission?
What is your vision?
What are your values?
What are you going to stop doing?
What do you need to start doing?
What do you need to invest your time in most this year?
What goals do you have, and what actionable steps will you take to reach them?

Take a verse like Acts 4:12, 'Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.' Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 4:8) and then was able to articulate clearly what his mission was. He had clarity. And I tell you, clarity will help your church grow.

Clarity is critical. And I'm beginning to be convinced that it is the big difference between healthy churches, stagnant churches and declining churches.

UNDERSTAND YOUR CONTEXT

Comparison will kill you. Nearly every church leader has been there on one day or another. Smaller churches compare themselves to bigger churches. Traditional churches compare themselves to emerging churches. Cell group churches compare themselves to other cell group churches. Churches with worship bands compare themselves with other worship bands. Leaders compare their effectiveness to other leaders. And so on, and so on.

The thing is: Every church is different. Every church has a different set of problems to address. Every church has a different living and breathing kind of DNA.

Every single church.

See remember, churches are living and breathing organisms. People. People who journey together. Who try to change the world together. We cannot compare. But we can do one thing:

We can seek to understand the current context in which we minister. We can seek to learn the history of our church (each unique even to the church down the road). We can seek to understand the complexities that exist and discover how to address them. We can celebrate what God is doing, that is always unique to the church in the adjacent suburb.

I am challenged. Instead of spending my mental energy trying to compare how effective or otherwise my church is compared to other denominational success stories, I want to spend my energy understanding my current context.

Who has God called us to reach?
How has God called us to evangelise?
What social issues are the ones we need to invest our time and energy into?
What would good discipleship look like in my context?
How do I develop a passionate, faith-filled, worshipful community amid God's people?

I can't compare my church to yours. It's different. It has unique challenges. I could though help you ask the right questions. I could help you stop so that you can seek to understand your context. That would be key for you and for me.

Ok, so we are nearly there. I want to give you one more important idea to help your church grow in 2019. Here it is:


SHARE YOUR JOURNEY

I want to be honest with you right now. I think when I was younger in ministry, people were projects. I desperately wanted to see the church grow, but people were just numbers.  People were there to be pastorally manipulated to achieve ministry outcomes. Volunteers helping in church ministry were just there to tick the box, so that I felt good that we had 'been successful.'

I feel like in recent years, my heart for people has grown. Relationships are now key for me. This is about people joining together, to make a difference and to do it together in the context of community. People are not means to an end to fulfil a ministry task. Rather, God's people join together to change the world.

We encourage one another (1 Thessalonians 5:11).
We love each other (John 15:17).
We mutually encourage each other in the faith (Romans 1:12).
We pray for one another (James 5:16).
We carry each other's burdens (Galatians 6:2).

And this my friends are all biblical ideas scattered through the letters of the New Testament.

We do ministry in the context of relationship. We share the journey together.

Would it be helpful for your church to consider the following:

What are we doing to build strong relationships?
What are we doing to connect with each other?
How do we integrate new people into our community of faith?
What avenues do we have for people to find care, discipleship and friendship?
How do we take an inward-focussed church, to be an outward-focussed church?
What relationships will I invest more time into?

A FINAL THOUGHT

These are just some ideas that will help your church to grow in 2019. And if you hadn't noticed, these five ideas spell the word FOCUS. I sense that's going to be incredibly important for the local church in 2019. We need to be a people of focus. So let me recap:

Fix your attention on the Lord.
Open your heart to new opportunities
Clarity will develop as you ask some deeper questions about purpose and direction
Understand the context in which your church does ministry
Share your journey with others as a church community  

If you've been blessed by these ideas on how to help your church grow, please share this blog, via Facebook or Twitter. Or leave a comment. Or if you're subscribed to this blog, send me an email. There is much more to say and I'm keen to hear your thoughts.
 

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