This book, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, was one of my holiday readings. It was nice to read something light and “novelly” for a change, although this was not an idle pick-up-from-the-newsagent read. I was reading it for a reason.

The main (first-person) character in the book, Christopher, has high-functioning autism. It is the insight into this character that is the heart and soul of this book. The plot and everything else serves this end of helping us get inside the autistic mind.

It is this aspect that intrigued me because our son, Samuel, has recently been diagnosed with very mild form of Aspergers Syndrome. Samuel is perfectly able to operate in normal social situations such as school and is a “normal” kid who occasionally needs help as he processes emotions and social situations. The Christopher character has a severe form which completely incapacitates his social and emotional ability. These extremes of Christopher help give insight into the subtleties of others.

The book is written as Christopher’s diary, written, we are told by Christopher, at the urging of one of his teachers at the special school he attends to help him deal with and process the fact that a neighbours dog has been killed. Christopher decides to follow his hero Sherlock Holmes (the title is a Conan Doyle quote) in being a detective to discover why Wellington (the dog) was killed.

In the process he stumbles across truths about his family life that causes him to do the unthinkable and venture out alone on a journey to find a loved one. It is here that Haddon’s skill of getting us into Christopher’s head comes to the fore. Here he describes the situation in a train station:

“And then I was at the bottom of the escalators and I had to jump off and I tripped and bumped into someone and they said ‘Easy,’ and there were two ways to go and one said Northbound and I went that way because Willesden was on the top half of the map and the top is always north on maps.

And then I was in another train station but it was tiny and it was in a tunnel and there was only one track and the walls were curved and they were covered in big adverts and they said WAY OUT and London’s Transport Museum and Take time out to regret your career choice and JAMAICA and British Rail and No Smoking and Be Moved and Be Moved and Be Moved and For Stations beyond Queen’s Park take the first train and change Queen’s Park if necessary and Hammersmith and City Line and You’re closer than my family every gets. And there were lots of people standing in the little station and it was underground so there weren’t any windows and I didn’t like that, so I found a seat which was a bench and I sat at the end of the bench…

And then there was a sound like people fighting with swords and I could feel a strong wind and roaring started and I closed my eyes and roaring got louder and I groaned really loudly but I couldn’t block it out of my ears and I thought the little station was going to collapse or there was a big fire somewhere and I was going to die. And then the roaring turned into a clattering and a squealing and it got slowly quieter and then it stopped and I kept my eyes closed because I felt safer not seeing what was happening…” (Pages 215-216)

Haddon uses devices such as Christopher’s interest with mathematics (the chapters are the sequence of prime numbers) and maps and algorithms. He demonstrates how the completely non-intuitive Christopher interacts with a world that demands intuition. The ending of the book, with an appendix that is Christopher’s full answer of a mathematical proof from his highly-valued A-Level exam, is cause for a wistful smile at a way of saying goodbye to the character to which you have been so closely attached for the whole story.

There is genius in how this book is written. That alone makes it worth the read.


I picked up Michelle P. Brown’s How Christianity Came to Britain and Ireland while browsing at Koorong in my recent mood of getting back into some church history. I won’t tell a lie – I bought it because it was cheap and had a bunch of pretty pictures and reminded me of one of my all-time favourite TV shows, Time Team.

Despite the pretty pictures I found it to be quite a dry exploration of British ecclesiastical history that presumed a lot of prior knowledge. Consequently it was hard to tie the detail into any broader narrative – to gain an overall picture of the history. Simple devices such as timelines or maps would have helped this problem and it is an indictment that they are not included. It as if this book was produced with the coffee-table in mind, under the assumption that no-one was actually going to read it, just browse it and look at the pictures.

Having said that, there were the odd gem to pluck out and savour. For instance, our diocese is currently considering the “minster” model or “hub” model as a framework for arranging ministry in this state. Often this is explained by talking about it’s structure (central resourcing church, outlying ministry centres etc.) and so I was heartened to see the primary description of an “Anglo-Saxon Minster” as a “missionary church to the locality” (Page 32). That’s something to pick up for my own context.

I appreciated the exploration of the so-called “dark-ages” of the post-Roman, pre-Norman (or at least pre-Augustine-of-Canterbury) era which are shown to be not so dark at all. The life of Gildas (Page 55) is an example. The influence of the Celtic church is considered in detail throughout.

I delighted in how the Celtic understanding of episcopal ministry was presented – primarily apostolic and missional. I was also intrigued in the organisation of the celtic church not so much through geography but through networks or parochia of relationships between monasteries. There are many parallels here for today’s context. I suspect there are many lessons to learn but I was not able to through this book.

In the end I was left wanting more. Having tasted this stale bread (involuntarily overdosing on an over-abundance of expositions of illuminations and the legacy of manuscripts and the like) I now need to find a decent presentation of the story of that time so that I can learn the lessons for now.


Peter McHugh was a speaker at a conference I attended a few weeks ago at Careforce Church in Mt. Evelyn, Vic. Speaking to an audience with a high number of church leaders he tackled the issue of resisting the performance bias of today’s culture.

The topic scratched an itch for me. I have had my fill of leadership programs that over-emphasise KPI’s and precise vision statements above the more spiritual (and therefore substantial) aspects of leadership. But that’s not what I heard from this pastor of a successful pentecostal church (CCC Whitehorse). I was impressed with how he spoke of his own journey in leadership and his conclusion that brought his spirituality back to our identity in God.

So I bought his book, A Voyage of Mercy, which is largely autobiographical. Having noted that by any human and ecclesiastical measure, he “began so well” his ministry, he portrays a crisis he faced with respect to his ministry performance that caused him to re-evaluate his faith and his calling.

“I did not see God’s power and presence in my congregation and I was not aware of these things being an ongoing reality for other church leaders and their congregations. I was no longer prepared to bring my theology to the level that justified my experience… I wanted to live out a faith that was incarnate in me, no longer living as someone educated way beyond my level of obedience. I longed for a greater awareness of, and appreciation for, the freedom and transformation that were won for me on the Cross.” (Pages 38-39)

And so he invites us:

“Let’s go on a journey together. We’ll explore the impact of our response to a performance based culture. We’ll look at how this response can produce and feed fear and insecurity in us. We will then examine how this affects the way we live our Christian lives.” (Page 37)

And let’s us know where we are going:

“I have found that the answer to the fear and insecurity I am describing, with its attendant works based, or achivement theology, is found in experiencing the complete acceptance of God.” (Page 41)

The journey touches on issues of family-of-origin (“hard work avoided bad grades and brought affirmation I was seeking” – Page 48) and the presence of an insidious gospel of “justification by works” in church culture. He unpacks the resultant performance mentality and characterises it with a gospel of acceptance:

“Internally a conflict can exist between the importance of God and His place in our lives and a desire for more, bigger, better and breakthrough to meet the unquenchable thirst for significance. Pick me. Notice me. Listen to me. Spend time with me. Include me…
“…performance is concerned with… having to deliver… competition… striving… ideas of God rewarding and punishing… wrestling with shame and guilt because failure is my responsibility…
“…acceptance is concerned with… God is love… being adopted… our inheritance… rest… the pursuit of who He is, who we are in Him and our response to what He has done and is doing.” (Pages 62-63)

I find some personal resonance here (An “unquenchable thirst for significance.” Ouch.)

The journey concludes by showing how this gospel of acceptance impacts “our view of God.” For example, it is refreshing to see someone apply the concept of intimacy with God to leadership!

“To be intimate with God is to place our total confidence and trust in someone we can’t control but who is good and kind. It is being in love with God not just the idea of God. It is like learning to float where we have to let go of the side of the boat. We have to stop standing on the bottom, stop trying to tread water, and stop lifting our head to see where we are going. The performance based mind-set in our inner secret kingdom cannot do this.” (Page 93)

Most of the remainder of the book is taken up with his own personal testimony. This is a little less helpful as we are required to exegete the author as well as consider the principles. There are points of resonance (“Numbers make a difference in the way we are accepted, honoured and treated” – Page 114) and snippets of wisdom despite it becoming a little self-serving and cathartic. Chapter 7 which contains the journal of his time through his crisis and escape from a performance mindset is too long.

The book ends prophetically, challenging church culture to not simply ape the performance bias of the surrounding society. He poses questions such as “What if… church culture is addictive and co-dependent?” and applies some of the principles alluded to. These are some challenges worthy of consideration.

I am glad I read this book. It is refreshingly different to the sort of literary fare that is often put forward in leadership circles. It scratches some of my own frustrations.

There are some niggles with the book along the way. He handles Luther’s view of “justificaton by faith” in a sloppy way, for instance (page 52). And the book is too personal which reduces it’s impact, allows the prophetic punch to be pulled, and gives those who need to hear it an “out” by considering it simply to be “Peter’s story.”

The main frustration I had with the book, however, was a personal gripe. As I was reading it I couldn’t help thinking “It’ s easy for him to say – he already is successful.” His previous performance has given him a place of influence as he heads up a large church – an influence that means that when he writes a book, people will read it, and he will be invited to speak at conferences. Where is the assistance for the up-and-coming pastor, the young gun just off the starting line who has only a small voice and upon whom every expectation of performance is loaded? The principles are not invalid – that young pastor also needs to learn to rest first in the gospel. But this book is post-crisis catharsis, not a pre-crisis encouragement.

I came across a snippet in a Peter Jensen sermon once that said this:

Only through the death of Jesus Christ on the cross can there be forgiveness and redemption; only by abandoning all attempts, even religious attempts to win God’s approval, can I gain access to him. Then I cast myself upon him for his mercy and forgiveness. Here is an experience, the experience of confidence in the presence of God, not based on anything good in us, but entirely on what is good in him and what his has done for us through Jesus.

At the time that small word moved me to tears and encouraged me immensely. I’m glad Peter McHugh has encountered the same truth and is seeking to lead others to it.


My family and I are just about to go away on holiday. I’m going to not be blogging (or rss feed reading) for a month!

But… I will be reading books and writing reviews (which I find useful for myself and my own thoughts) and publishing them later.

And… I will be visiting Ridley College bookshop at the beginning of the holidays.

So… Anybody got any recommendations for books that I can read while I’m away?


Of all the sorts of books that I’ve read since leaving College six and a half years ago books about church history have been in the minority.

It’s rather strange really – I enjoyed studying church history and have found it of immense importance when considering future and present church issues, particular church planting and “fresh expression” strategies. I find a lot of church planting theory irrelevant and/or paternalistic – description invalidly turned to prescription. In general, you can learn more from a good account of real stuff that has happened.

And so I picked up Douglas Sweeney’s The American Evangelical Story on special one day. It is a short book, an overview. It was cheap, relatively light, but a good way back into this part of the discipline. I chose the topic because the contemporary American church is so important but I do not understand it’s roots well. After reading this book my understanding his improved.

It helped remind me that there is nothing new under the sun.

  • We see young guns in 1741 failing to keep connected to the previous generation (“James Davenport… denounced New Haven’s minister from the pulpit of his own church – while he was sitting in the audience!” Page 56).
  • Charismatic experiences of the ilk of the Toronto Blessing are not new (“Signs and wonders appeared all around, as hundreds of worshipers, slain in the Spirit, barked like dogs, jerked uncontrollably, fell into trances, danced, and shouted.” Page 72)
  • The tendency to compromise the gospel for pragmatic purposes is not new (With reference to preaching to slaves, “Some of them promised never to preach on God’s deliverance of the Israelites from their bondage to the Egyptians… the pact they made with these masters led to distortions in their preaching and wound up helping the masters more than it did the slaves.” Page 110)
  • We even have reference to Old and New Calvinism – not in 2009, but 1700’s! (Page 58).

I was already partly familiar with the early chapters – it is covered in most histories of the Reformation and also the Wesleyan times. It was the last two chapters that I found particular helpful. These deal with the rise of Pentecostalism, and neoevangelicalism – the two broad aspects of American Evangelicalism which have direct effects today.

With regard to Pentecostalism I was intrigued with how the ancestry of Pentecostalism derives quite clearly from Methodism and the influence of the Great Awakening. The characteristic of a “second blessing” spirituality is present:

“The early Methodists maintained a goal of entire sanctification, or Christian perfection, which they believed could had by faith during a supernatural “second blessing” from God. After conversion, Wesley taught, God continues to work within us, putting to death the deeds of the flesh and consecrating our lives for him. However, there comes a point for many when, dissatisfied with incremental progress in the faith, they seek and receive a second work of uniquely supernatural grace that lifts them to a new level of evangelical piety. Now entirely sanctified, they no longer want to commit sin.” (Page 135)

I had not realised this link from the Holiness movement through the likes of Charles Parham, linking up with the momentum of African American spirituality in William Seymour, producing the Azusa Street revival that is considered the “birth” of American Pentecostalism. It was useful to see it and Sweeney does well to show how the Azusa Street revival drew from many differing aspects of the Awakenings that preceded it, crossing denominational, gender, and race boundaries as it did so.

Sweeney continues the path into the post-second-world-war era and shows the impact of Pentecostalism on the mainstream in the Charismatic Movement. We can see the roots of the likes of John Wimber and Fuller Seminary. This is a good perspective. He doesn’t go much beyond this, however, and we do not get an insight into the upsurge in prosperity doctrine moving churches away from classical Pentecostalism in the 1980’s and 90’s.

The final chapter, unpacking the “fundamentalist controversy” of the early twentieth century, gave me insight into the groundwork of “neoevangelicals” like Billy Graham after the second world war. I did not realise the issues that both separated and connected these two generations. Sweeney speaks of

“those who stayed in the mainline until the early twentieth century defending their faith – and seeking to keep control of the mainline Protestant churches – in an age beset by new mental and social challenges (fundamentalists); and those who regrouped after they lost the mainline Protestant institutions, building their own, mainly parachurch, web of evangelical ministries from which they would succeed in reengaging American culture (neoevangelicals)” (Page 156)

It was in this last chapter that I could see a direct influence on, and a parallel to, the controversy within the Anglican Church at the moment. Here are evangelicals wrestling with the priority of gospel ministry, the place of politics and institutional power-games, and the unchanged points of attack from liberalism. Niehbuhr’s quote about liberalism – “a God without wrath [who] brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment thorugh the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.” (Page 161) – speaks from that era to this time.

Not that the evangelical side is completely lacking in blame, however. I was intrigued with the portrayal of how the influence of dispensationalism and premillenialism on the evangelical gospel over-spiritualised it and removed it from grassroots activities and social reform that had previously been motivated by the “postmillenial hopes of many early evangelicals” (Page 163). I think this is a particular aspect I would like to explore further.

Sweeney’s conclusions are strong. In particular his point that “at its best, evangelicalism functions as a renewal movement within the larger, universal church” (Page 184) should be taken as an exhortation to “stay in” and reform: “Otherwise we will lose our impact on the larger Christian church.” (Page 184).

I’m glad I read this book and getting my feet back into the pool of Church History. Sweeney’s overview was a good place to begin.


I was handed a copy of Islam, Human Rights and Public Policy by my Bishop, John Harrower, who is one of the contributors to this book. I came to the book as one who is aware only in general terms of the values of Islam and the application of Islamic religion and spirituality in the public sphere. This book informs, clarifies, warns, exhorts.

The book is far from some Christian compendium of anti-Muslim tracts. The contributors are respected, studious, academic, serious leaders. None of them promulgate a phobic line that is sometimes used elsewhere; there is no emotive placing of Christianity as a victim in a crusade-like framework where the Kingdom of God is threatened by hordes of heathen. Rather here is genuine concern about society in general, not just the Christian church. It is an apology for pluralism – but pluralism done well, in freedom.

Peter Day catches the program somewhat in his chapter, Australian Public Policy: Examining the Foundations:

“It should be clear that excessive Islamophobia is a poor foundation for the development of public policy in any field. And it is an especially poor foundation for the development of the sound knowledge bases… on which sound policy ultimately depends.” (page 27)

This book gave me new awareness of aspects of Islam. An example of this is dhimmitude – the tolerance of non-Muslims allowed to live (as dhimmi) in subjugation to Muslims. Mark Durie applies it by considering the tendency of Western tolerance to unquestioningly affirm all spiritualities.

“This is not a healthy way to engage with Islam for those living in liberal democracies. It establishes a framework in which Islam takes on the role of a dominator that expects to be praised and admired. The reaction to deserved criticism, when it manages to find a voice, can be shock, denial and outrage.” (page 34)

The exposition of the subtleties of sharia law were also worthwhile. The apostasy laws, preventing a Muslim from converting to another religion on pain of severe punishment including death are often cited (amongst other things) as an indicator of the “fundamental areas of conflict between Islamic law and Western democratic human rights” (page 66).

A common conclusion was that even partial recognition of sharia within secular society is unhelpful. Abdallah Bahri shows in his chapter on Aspects of Sharia Introduced into Non-Islamic States how concepts of religious freedom and human rights are being undermined because the end-game of Sharia is always towards a “complete way of life.”

“Many Muslim leaders teach that humanly determined laws are not God’s laws and therefore do not need to be obeyed.” (Page 184)

“It is this complete way of life that is embodied in the Sharia. It prescribes everything from the personal and the family to the state level.” (page 185)

And finally the concept of da’wa, or “invitation”, which is often portrayed as the “real” face of Islam as opposed to jihad – persuasion or invitation instead of coercion or force. Paul Stenhouse argues that da’wa is “Jihad with a Velvet Glove” and warns about being

“deceived, as many in the West are deceived, into thinking that abandonment of overt violence means abandonment of the goals of violence… a change of policy, not a change of heart… Through da’wa it hopes to achieve by stealth what will ultimately prove to be unattainable by brute force.” (pages 222, 224)

Bishop John’s chapter, Religious Policy, Multi-Faith Dialogue, and Australian Values looks at the difficulties of the engagement with Islam in “multi-faith” conversations. He notes that the tendency of Government to “promote multi-faith dialogue as a means of developing a spirit of harmony” rests on certain assumptions, and

“Where one or more of these assumptions are not agreed to by the proposed participants, the resultant ‘dialogue’ becomes an opportunity for advocacy of one’s own world view and the dialogue makes no contribution towards a spirit of harmony… Experience in interfaith dialogue has shown to date that the attempt to develop harmony through dialogue is an idealist’s hope that is not often realised.” (page 247)

This is a worthy recognition of the tendency in Western society to insist that religion submit to a pseudo “civic religion” empty of all diversity or proclamation. Bishop John puts forward a better framework.

“Public policy on promoting harmony should be pursued in the context of promoting the nation’s values, rather than requesting discussions between religious groups… The religious context carries with it, inevitably, an agenda for advocacy and the need to protect one’s doctrinal position. What can be encouraged, however, is a secular dialogue on values.” (pages 251-252)

This book isn’t a wrestle or a debate. The issues are handled but not grappled with in the sense that there is very little to-and-fro, exhortation, rebuttal, response. It is primarily educated opinion and observation.

Therefore, the value is for us who have not had the opportunity or the insight to observe these things about Islam or consider them in that way. The things noted are real, relevant and will become increasingly so in the future as worlds collide. It motivates myself, for one, to be further applied to the teaching of Biblical truth that it may find many voices in times ahead.


With regards to the church of God on this planet we are in an era, like many others beforehand, where the up-and-coming generations of leaders are wrestling with age-old questions of “What is church?” It is not a self-serving question – in the end it bottles down to, “What’s the point?” – which brings us to Jesus, and that is good.

This wrestle is often marked by debate about the essential nature of the church, how spirituality is to be expressed, and what mission is to be achieved by whom in what way. As a supposedly mildly-postmodern Gen-Xer I have been caught up in this debate. I have felt and articulated angst against the mainstream, I have been left confused and nauseatingly abandoned by the vacuous left and the experientially pentecostal and hammered by the hardcore conservative rightwing. New Calvinism excites me but I am wary, Rob Bell annoys me but I like to be generous.

You can see from the title of this book, DeYoung and Kluck’s Why We’re Not Emergent subtitled with “by two guys who should be”, how it is a part of this ongoing churn. It’s a valuable part.

The book is a critique of the “emergent church” movement – a movement which resists the term, is wrapped around the personalities and writings of the likes of Rob Bell (of nooma fame) and Brian McLaren, and is characterised by a postmodern spirituality of journey, narrative and discovery. And like it’s subject, the critique is messy and somewhat nebulous. Kevin DeYoung brings a theological mind, handling concepts and issues academically, pastorally. Ted Kluck shares anecdotes and reflections like an opinion page in a newspaper (he’s a journalist). It sort of works. Enough.

They are certainly not playing with straw men. They understand the emergent church culture, the personalities, the catchcries (“EPIC: experiential, participatory, image driven, and connected” (page 18) is one I have used myself), and the inconsistencies. The rhetorical section entitled “Are You Emergent?” was immensely enjoyable:

“After reading nearly five thousand pages of emerging-church literature, I have no doubt that the emerging church, while loosely defined and far from uniform, can be described and critiqued as a diverse but recognizable, movement. You might be an emergent Christian: if you listen to U2, Moby, and Johnny Cash’s Hurt (sometimes in church), use sermon illustrations from The Sopranos, drink lattes in the afternoon and Guinness in the evenings, and always use a Mac… [a page later]… if you’ve ever been to a church with prayer labyrinths, candles, Play-Doh, chalk-drawings, couches or beanbags (your youth group doesn’t count); if you loathe words like linear, propositional, rational, machine, and hierarchy and use words like ancient-future, jazz, mosaic, matrix, missional, vintrage, and dance;… [etc.]” (page 20ff)

Despite the necessary lack of precision they handle the critique well, bottling it down to some useful key issues. DeYoung’s theological training is obvious and I found his chapters more useful. A precis would not be valuable, but two key concepts they tackle are worth a mention.

The first is the concept of whether or not we can grasp God. In the face of a movement in which “It’s really cool to search for God. It’s not very cool to find him.” (page 32) they wish to assert that God, in revealing himself, has made himself knowable (page 35ff). The doctrine of revelation and epistemological angst is at the heart of engagement with postmodernity. They do it well.

Of even greater value, however, is their engagement towards the end of the book with the uniqueness of Christ. Here they tackle the well-worn yet bleedingly-arrogant accusations of the liberal left that would relegate atonement to “cosmic child abuse” (page 194) and cry for self-actualised social justice while scorning any concept that God might actually love humanity so much that injustice suffers his wrath.

“The emergent emphasis of justice and compassion would be more of a helpful corrective if it went hand in hand with a firm, unashamed belief, made central and upfront, in the reality of everlasting punishment and everlasting reward, the resurrection of all men either to life or judgement, and the necessity of faith in Jesus Christ.” (page 187)

Their demonstration of the ultimate gracelessness of the social gospel is helpful and the strongest critique in the book. Their related consideration of overrealised eschatology (page 184ff) highlights the danger of overstepping “incarnational” or “contextualised” mission and moving to the place where we make the church itself, or some social cause, or some self-actualising journey inherently messianic in which Jesus is nothing but a visual aide.

And so it’s a good pushback into this generational, ecclesiastical wrestle. It’s good that it’s written by a couple of young guns which means it never comes near to reading like some pietistic elder-guru intoning dogma.

It has some flaws. I think they should stick with “emerging” or “emergent” rather than interchange these labels which are becoming more concretely used to demarcate between those that want to share a journey (emergent) and those that want to share a gospel (emerging).

And I am surprised that there is only one mention of Mark Driscoll (page 165). That’s a nice surprise for me actually as it shows that you can talk about this stuff without talking about Mars Hill Seattle. But it’s interesting that for a very recent book (2008) they haven’t considered reflecting on things in the light of New Calvinism and the Driscoll brand of emerging (not emergent) church.

In the end, and from the broad vibe of the book, my greatest appreciation comes from a resonance with my own feelings of the moment. I’m really quite sick of all the “missional” gumph. I’m tired of jumping through cultural hoops that never seem to work and are usually just shots in the dark by a few know-it-alls. I’m not smart enough to figure out which way the Holy Spirit is blowing and my heart is not big enough to contain the burden of those around me who need Jesus so much. Right now I just want to keep it simple, preach the gospel, defend the poor, and rest in God. I see that here:

“…my hope is that we could be marked by grace and truth, logical precision and warmhearted passion, careful thinking and compassionate feeling, strong theology and tender love, Christian liberty and spiritual discipline, congregational care and committed outreach, diversity without doctrinal infidelity, ambition without arrogance, and contentment without complacency.” (page 251)

Pastor DeYoung, Amen.


Insightful post at the Resurgence:

Almost every lead pastor I know deals significantly with loneliness. I think the struggle is even more difficult for church planters…

Church planters and pastors must make biblical, life-giving community a real priority. Proverbs 18:1 says, “Whoever isolates himself seeks his own desire; he breaks out against all sound judgment.” As pastors, we cannot buy the lie that we don’t need the community our people need. Our enemy, the Devil, loves it when church planters/pastors isolate themselves. We become easy prey when we try to stand alone. Our wives and children become easy prey when we try to make them stand alone. Build a strong community for your family.


In a previous post I noted: “I would identify my burden as ecclesial and generational – I want to see young people (Gen X and younger) worshipping God in a healthy Anglican church.”

My metaphor for explaining that in the past has been nautical. My burden would be expressed as wanting to see a church that is akin to this…

…become something more like this:

But in the end that’s unhelpful. “Fixing up the ecclesiastical boat” is all about refurbishing the system, the machine, the institution. It’s about procedures and policies. Leadership becomes about directing and motivating the deckhands on which bit to fix, paint or polish. And you end up, as someone said to me recently, re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

The problem is not the institution, the “boat.” Institution can go wherever you want to drive it. Institution simply reflects the (beating or otherwise) heart and health of the organic thing that inhabits it.

I’d rather go towards Ezekiel 16 and to other biblical imagery – the church as the Bride of Christ.

It means we have to talk about the real issues – rebellion, idolatry, lack of belief, hard-heartedness, and unfaithfulness – rather than the excuses of broken systems. It means we have to put forward and invest in gospel, calls to repentance, mentoring for growth and also discipline and holding to account. It’s about leading spiritually rather than clinically, through sharing in sufferings rather than precision of committee meetings. It’s about demonstrating remorse, and repentance for the sin and unfaithfulness of the church and being honest about how true our worship is.

It’s not about “Have we followed correct procedure?” but “Have we followed the King?”

So my metaphor is now:


And, cheesy photos aside, my prayer continues to be something of an echo of Exodus 32:12 perhaps:

Why should the world point at us and spurn your name?
Don’t let us die, what would the nations say about you?
Forgive us, Lord, and make us your own.