Friday, November 22, 2013

Jonah songs

You Can't Run Away From God

You can run here
You can run there
You can sail a ship
Fly through the air
But God our God is everywhere
So you can’t run away from God.

Jonah, Jonah
What are you thinking of?
Jonah, Jonah
You can’t run away from God.

You can run fast
You can win the race
Get a rocket ship
Blast into space
But God in there in every place
So you can’t run away from God

Jonah, Jonah
What are you thinking of?
Jonah, Jonah
You can’t run away from God.

In the belly of a whale
In the water, on the sand
In a storm at sea
in a ship or on the land
God knows all, he has it planned
So you can’t run away from God.

Jonah, Jonah
What are you thinking of?
Jonah, Jonah
You can’t run away from God.

sar 2013

Something So Wonderful

Something so wonderful
Something so true
When we say we’re sorry
God forgives us, me and you.

Wherever we've come from

Whatever we've done
When we say we're sorry
God forgives our sins each one.

sar 2013

Have You Known A Jonah?

Have you known a Jonah
Who hates God’s kindness?
Have you known a Jonah
Who doesn’t want to share?
Tell them God has love enough for everyone.
So spread the news of Jesus everywhere.


Have you known a Jonah
Who won’t share Jesus?
Have you known a Jonah
Who keeps him to herself
Tell her God has love enough for everyone.
So share the news of Jesus with someone else.

sar 2013

[first drafts. syllables still very untidy.]

Oh Hush Little Baby

Oh hush little baby, put troubles behind you
no darkness, no danger can touch you, my love
The storm clouds are clearing, a new world is nearing
Rest calm in the arms of the Father above.

Oh hush little baby, and dream dreams of wonder
This rain and this thunder can cause you no harm.
Beyond us, tomorrow, a world without sorrow,
Rest calm in the arms of the Father above.
Rest calm in the arms of the Father above.

sar 2013

Easter Hymn

Shouts of joy, the tomb is empty,
Christ has risen from the grave!
Hearts are burning, oh this victory,
Christ’s alive again!

Tell the news to every nation,
Speak this joy to those in pain,
He, the king of all has conquered,
Christ’s alive again!

See oh darkness, you won’t triumph,
See oh death, you will not reign,
Those you hold will be restored for
Christ’s alive again!

Christ's alive and sin's defeated,
stand, oh soul, and battle brave.
What have you to lose in fighting?
Christ’s alive again!

Shouts of joy, the tomb is empty,
Let the whole world sing in praise!
Life has conquered, death’s defeated,
Christ’s alive again

Friday, November 15, 2013

The ESTJ Minister. A Profile.

The ESTJ is a very different leader to the ENFP (see last post). People are drawn to follow the ENFP because she is fascinating and imaginative. Inspirational. The ESTJ is no less a natural leader, but he leads through his authoritative, take-charge personality. Think of an army sergeant. The ESTJ is convinced that he is right and he’s not shy about telling others what to do. Those around him appreciate that he has an outstanding ability to get things done. Unlike some other types, he has his feet on the ground - no fanciful dreaming for the ESTJ! He’s concerned about what will actually work. He develops systems. He implements them. Maintains them. The ESTJ values competence and efficiency in those around him. He has very little patience with sloppiness.
An ESTJ minister is a great asset to a medium to large church. He has the organisational skills to steer the ship effectively. He knows how to set up all the necessary structures of bible study groups, welcoming teams and rosters, to make sure that everything stays afloat. He’s not afraid of conflict. He’s able to cut programs that need to be cut. He’ll make sure that everything is aligned so that the church’s vision can be achieved.
Sound excellent? I think so. Often I think I’d love to have a little more ESTJ in me.
But for every strength there is, of course, a corresponding weakness. 
ESTJs often HAVE to be in charge. They can be so convinced that they are right that they don’t feel the need to listen to others. If they don’t keep themselves in check, they can be overly controlling of everyone around them - their spouses, children and churches (dictators!), wanting everyone to step into line. Even if they have managed to not be controlling, people often still view the ESTJ as bossy and insensitive. This comes from the fact that their dominant function is extraverted judging. This means that when they are out and about, interacting in the world, their judging function (thinking) comes to the fore. Unlike their ESTP cousins, they are not there to take in information. They are there to settle things. Make decisions. Apply logic. Solve problems. They want loose ends tied up. They are there to do business. To achieve things. In their interactions with people, this approach can be unhelpful. Pastoral problems rarely have easy solutions. Careful listening is needed. Drawing the other person out. Holding back on the advice. Trying to help the person work out the problem behind the problem. These are things that don’t come easily to the ESTJ. 
ESTJ pastors who have not learned to combine their drive for leadership with good listening skills and pastoral sensitivity will find ministry a frustrating experience. They may find themselves inadvertantly hurting others with their insensitive language and ‘advice’ given out of season. 
They will also need to learn to manage their perfectionistic tendencies so that they are not always hounding others (staff and volunteers) for their inefficiency and sloppiness. 
ESTJs are naturally drawn to leadership positions and their organisational skills are so valuable. Many ESTJs will have had these controlling/insensitivity tendencies pointed out early on, and by the time they are in full time ministry, they will have acquired the patience, listening skills and humility that they need to be the effective leaders that they can be. Alas, some enter ministry unaware... 
Perhaps a less obvious weakness that ESTJ ministers face comes from the fact that they are neither creative thinkers (that it, they are s rather than n) nor naturally in tune with what others are feeling (they are t rather than f). This combination can mean that their preaching lacks both theological imagination (creatively drawing biblical ideas together) and pastoral insight. As such it can fail to connect with people on a deep level. The congregation may hear the content that is taught (and it can be great content), but they might not feel the implications of it for themselves so readily.
ESTJs who have not adequately developed their secondary function of introverted sensing will find it difficult to really read the bible properly. At best, S types tend to take much longer than N types to crack a passage - to see the big idea and make connections with other bible passages, to work out what it’s really saying. An underdeveloped S will find this extra hard and ESTJ’s Jness makes it even harder still. Sitting with tensions and unanswered questions is very unnatural for them. They want closure quickly - often far too quickly, before they’ve have a chance to really explore the options and feel the significance of each of them. Instead of waiting through the uncomfortable uncertainty, ESTJs can shut it down, taking the short cut of jumping into a theological system (say, Calvinism) for the answers.
If an ESTJ preacher does this, his/her sermons will lack theological nuance.
Thankfully though, with a conscious effort, an ESTJ’s sermons can be great. They just need to work hard. Phil Campbell and Gary Millar have some great ideas in their book on preaching to help you crack the big idea of a passage. They also have many little hints like “always use illustrations about people”*, things that other personality types know intuitively, that are really helpful.
If you are an ESTJ with a tendency to short cut and shut down difficulties in the bible, I’d advise you to chuck out your Calvinism and your commentaries and your sermon recordings of your gurus. Discipline yourself to use your sensing function properly. Read the bible. Read it again. And again. And again. Think. Work it out by yourself. If you can’t work it out, get up in the pulpit on Sunday and tell your congregation that you don’t know. It will be good for your soul. 
In my observation, an ESTJ can make a superb ‘executive pastor’: the guy who makes the ship run smooth. In a big church often you’ll have someone like an ENFP/ENTP/INFP with vision and imagination to set the direction and an ESTJ (or similar) to make it happen. A combination like that can really be magic. 
In a smaller church where the ESTJ is the sole pastor, I imagine that he would probably adopt a vision or model of ministry from another church and execute it brilliantly. An ESTJ aware of his pastoral limitations (while working on them) would set up successful systems for pastoral care that take the load off him and share it between gifted people in the congregation.
Through disciplined effort over time, his preaching would be excellent too and I'd love to be in his well run congregation.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Church staffing suggestions #1 - The ENFP pastor

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about how 2IC appointments often go wrong.

I plan to do a few follow up posts with some suggestions for maybe how to avoid some of these problems.

Today I'll look briefly at the ENFP pastor and make some suggestions for him*.

Charismatic ministry leaders are often Myers Briggs personality type ENFP. ENFPs are awesome people: imaginative, idealistic, interesting, inspiring, quick thinking, friendly. People like them and they like people. It is little wonder that they are often in the lead pastor role. Surely they are made for it!

Yeah, they are.

A good ENFP has heaps to offer a church (as do other personality types) but here are a few ways that things can go bad for them when they look to employing someone and a few suggestions.

Problem #1: ENFPs so recognise the contribution that their own friendliness, imagination and quickness makes to their ministry success that their natural inclination is to look for another ENFP to work with them as 2IC. This is a Bad Idea. Many reasons:

a.) ENFPs want their own imaginative ideas to get up. They are dreamers of dreams and in a small-medium church (say, up to 200 people) they get in each other's way.

b.) The ENFP senior invariably employs someone in the hope that that someone will be the one who does the follow through on his ideas. But ENFPs don't really specialise in follow through. They see carrying out the details of a plan as trivial drudgery. The 2IC will feel abused if asked to spend his time executing someone else's dreams while not being able to pursue his own. The senior will feel frustrated if the 2IC doesn't do that which he was employed to do!

c.) 2IC ENFPs tend to be a bit ADD with employment. They find it hard to settle because they feel that there is some job out there that they could be more authentically themselves in.

d.) ENFPs are naturally pretty charming and use their charm to get people to do what they want them to do. Being able to sweet talk is mostly a useful thing, but sometimes it can be manipulative. ENFPs are pretty quick to think of it as manipulative when they see others doing it. And it doesn't work nearly so well on other ENFPs as it does on everyone else.

Solution #1 : Don't employ an ENFP as your 2IC.

Problem #2: ENFPs are relationally idealistic. They want the perfect working relationship and will be disappointed in others easily.

Solution #2 : a.) Get your expectations sorted and keep reminding yourself that a relationship doesn't have to be perfect to be good and functional.
b.) Before the appointment begins, write a detailed job description for yourself and for the 2IC. Make everything as clear as possible. Have others look at it as well. Ask the 2IC what he thinks. Is this possible time-wise? Would it be fulfilling for him? Does it play to his strengths? Review it after 3 months.

Problem #3: ENFPs are puppy dogs for praise. They want to be accepted. They want to be loved. They want to be told they are doing a good job. This can make being a boss hard.

Solution #3:
a.) Get over it. God is the one you are working for. Look forward to the 'Well done good and faithful servant' from Him.
b.) Don't expect your staff team to be your fan club. This isn't a healthy. Church will be better off if there is respectful disagreement from time to time between staff.
c.) Learn to say what needs to be said in criticism of your 2IC well and trust that, although awkward, your relationship can take it.

Now of course, all ENFPs won't have these problems but I think the personality type lends itself to these sorts of issues. And they certainly aren't insurmountable at all. I think probably being aware of them is a large part of it. Thoughts?

*As with the last post, I'm talking about guys working with guys here - hence all the masculine pronouns.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Don't blame God. This one is on us.

There could be ten thousand people dead in the Philippines after typhoon Haiyan. Yes, it was a big storm. But ten thousand?

No doubt in the coming days and weeks people will ask how God could have let such a thing happen. What kind of God could have caused such a loss of human life and property? People will say they don’t want to believe in a God who is so evil.

But I think this is just making excuses. Shifting the blame. 

This one is on us.

God put us humans in charge of the earth. He gave us the intellectual and physical resources to foresee storms like this one, to design strong houses, to predict the areas that are most likely to be affected, to transport people to safety. It is possible for a category 5 cyclone to hit with little or no loss of life. It didn’t have to be like this. 

If we had spent more time and energy in the last 100 years working cooperatively to better each other’s lives and less time and energy exploiting one anther or blowing each other up, maybe fewer people in the Philippines would been killed. 

Erotic Romance

My article is up online. Read it here.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

If I ran my own primary school...

Science would be taught for half an hour a day, 5 days a week for half of the year (every second month). 2 of the days each week I'd read the kids interesting information books on the topic or show them interesting videos. On the other days they would do experiments, do their own research or reading, and write in their journals. I would know that I'm teaching well if the kids are fascinated by what they are learning and looking for ways to find out more, if their knowledge base is expanding, if their are asking good questions and getting better at designing/carrying out experiments.

History would be taught for half an hour a day half of the months when Science wasn't taught. For two lessons a week, we'd read books getting an overview of our topic. For another lessons, we'd look at primary source documents. In the other lessons, the kids would respond to the reading in various ways...

Geography would be in the non history/science months. The kids would learn that England is not part of Asia and that Melbourne is not a state. I know there is more to Geography than this, but basically I wouldn't care if was all just maps, maps, maps. There are basic things that everyone needs to know.

Music would be taught for half an hour each day following a (seriously accelerated) Kodaly model.  From year 3 students would be expected to be learning an instrument privately. There would be orchestra and concert band and choir of course.

PE would be taught for half an hour a day with two lessons a week run by a specialist. Two of the non specialist days would be pure cardio training. Get out there and swim/run/skip. If you aren't puffing, you're not working hard enough!

Maths would be taught for an hour each day by someone who understands it and likes teaching it. (I understand it, but hate teaching it to kids who don't. get. it.)

English would be taught for an hour and a half each day. 15-20 minutes of that time each day should be spent listening to a story. 20 minutes should be spent on spelling. Two days a week should be spent on skills training - comprehension, grammar etc (Texts that are used for comprehension tasks should be carefully graded so that kids are working at a good level for them. They should also be worth reading.) three days a week should be spent in more creative, interesting, analytical... joyful pursuits. Poetry must  not be taught by people who have no interest in poetry. Kids who are struggling to read and write should be assessed by educational psychologists, speechies and OTs to work out exactly what is going wrong and plans put in place to help them progress and remain engaged with learning despite their difficulties.  

Visual art would be taught by a specialist for 2 hours a week. 

Dance and drama would happen within English and PE and also have intensive bursts with specialists a couple of times a year.

There would be only 20 kids in each class.

Homework would be minimal. Home readers would be worth reading. Technology would work.

Happy utopia.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013


I woke up this morning thinking it was Thursday, the last day of my working week. Turns out it is only Wednesday. Oh well.

Five thoughts
1. If there is only one thing that I'm not looking forward to in a day, I shouldn't dread the whole day because of it.
2. Forums are dead. Real discussion is to be had on fb.
3. It is November and the weather up here is still very pleasant. No really hot days yet.
4. Yesterday someone came to our place while we were out and opened the side gate. One of the dogs went on tour of the neighbourhood.  could have ended badly but didn't.
5. I really need to go and get ready for work. My first class arrives in 58 minutes.

Monday, November 4, 2013

baptism prayer

Loving Father.

In your great mercy you’ve given new birth to x, y and z. We thank you for the way you’ve sovereignly guided their lives, putting them in the right place to hear your gospel. We thank you for opening their hearts so that they could turn to you. But most of all we thank you for Jesus, whose death and resurrection freed them from your wrath and welcomed them - along with all who believe - into eternal life. 

Father, it is a joy for us to see x, y and z professing their faith in you today. Please hold on to them through the trials and challenges ahead. 

Father, your love for us is unchanging, but we acknowledge that we are so quick to turn from you. In a beat, our hearts move from passion to complacency. Our lips, from praise to cursing. Our hands so quickly stop building up and start tearing down. Father, despite the professions that x, y and z have made here today, what is certain is that they will sin. Thank you that your forgiveness is even more sure than their failures. When they sin, teach them to repent quickly. Lead them to the cross of Jesus so that they can find peace with you and wonder again at your mercy that makes fresh start after fresh start possible. 

Father, please protect x, y and z from the snares of the devil. Provide them with friends who will speak your word to them. Gift them to serve in your church. Let them shine as lights in the world so that the name of Jesus may be known and honoured.


Saturday, November 2, 2013

I have a new theory on preaching

Here it is.

If you have a doctrine kind of a mind you should preach from shorter passages.

If you have more an exegetical kind of a mind, you should preach from longer passages.

Neither is bad. Just different.

Most preachers in my circles are big passage guys. They are engineer types who glory in logic and structure. At college they felt more at home in OT and NT lectures than they did in systematic theology.  In their preaching they have taken very naturally to a Stott type approach of preaching a passage from one end to the other. If an idea is not in the passage directly before them, they'll generally leave it out. They are big on context - but seeing the passage that they are preaching in the context of the book it comes from more so than seeing the passage in the context of the whole bible.

Most of my minister friends try to preach like this. But for some of them it is really unnatural. They read a verse and their minds jump to other parts of the bible. They find that a chain of logic doesn't make their hearts sing, and at the thought spending 20 minutes showing how 2 chapters of Matthew's gospel hang together perfectly... well they yawn.

In the old days of preaching from a 'text', guys like this were in their element. It came fairly naturally. I'm not suggesting we go back to that. Single verse, out of context, pious reflections... who wants that? But. What I think guys like this need to do is simply preach from shorter passages. Maybe just 8 verses instead of 30. Take the time. Explore them closely. Go on that excursion round the bible that you always want to go on. If you are only preaching a few verses it needn't detract from your big idea. Give us depth. Really apply it.


Friday, November 1, 2013

Erotic Romance...

I have a longish article in this months' edition of the Briefing. It looks at the the phenomenon of Erotic Romance fiction and compares it with the sensuality of the Song of Songs. It then offers some thoughts on why this stuff appeals. I'd love your feedback on it. You can buy a copy of the Briefing here on Kindle. The article will probably be online somewhere in a few weeks. Here's how it starts.


A couple of days ago I had a moment. Okay. It wasn’t just a moment. It was a few hours. I could tell you how it wasn’t really my fault. How I just followed a link from someone, read about her passion for fiction and clicked on a book in a series that she’s into. I could tell you that I downloaded it onto my Kindle reader without thinking because it was free and because I thought that maybe it would be SciFi or Fantasy (my regular genres of choice).  I could tell you all of that but the truth is that a book called Kiss Me, Please* is unlikely to be SciFi. A series of books where the first one is free and the next six are $3.49 each is unlikely to be high quality literature. 

What I downloaded was presented as a fun, young adult romance novel. But if I was to categorise it honestly, I’d call it an erotic romance. Pretty soft as far as these things go (it was written for 14 year olds) but plenty explicit enough. The descriptions of sexual feelings and physical manifestations of those feelings started on page two and continued with increasing intensity through the chapters I read. By chapter 5, the descriptions were not just of sexual feelings, but of sex acts. I wish I could say that my interest in it was purely academic - looking at plot structure, grammatical features, poetic expressions etc - but I (like most people, I suspect) am not immune to the grubby charms of this kind of thing. Despite the paper thin plot, the terrible grammatical errors and the mundane language, the book was enjoyable - in much the same way as eating through a block of homebrand chocolate is enjoyable. There’s the buzz of the sugar and caffeine, followed by a bad aftertaste and a good amount of guilt. 

* not the real title. I don't want you looking for it!