Archive for Church

The Pilgrim’s Podcast #27: Steve Chong, Kirkplace, Spiritual gifts, Mentors and Bruce Lee

Posted in The Pilgrim's Podcast with tags , , , , , , , , on March 19, 2010 by stephengardner

Here is the lastest installment in the Pilgrim’s Podcast saga. This is a great episode! Steve Chong is a really great guy who is involved in a stack of really great initiatives.

He is the lead pastor at Kirkplace Presbyterian in Kograh and the director of RICE. Steve has put a lot of thought into how to do church, one of his great passions is freeing up people to use their gifts and passions for God, rather than have a program that people have to fit into. There is stacks to learn from this session about doing church differently!

One of the highlights of the interview was hearing parts of Steve’s story, including those men who have helped shape him the most. He shares with real warmth about his friendships with Matt Chandler and Mark Driscoll and our very own Al Stewart and Andrew Katay.

It was a great privilege for Mark and I to head out to Kirkplace and check out their building, it is one sexy place!

Have a listen

Leading communities III

Posted in Church, Leadership with tags , , , on March 16, 2010 by stephengardner

So far, I’ve suggested, that many of our churches have  a problem; a created divide between those in leadership and the rest of us sitting in the pews. And in the last post I suggested we tend to recreate this problem by the way we train future leaders.

Today I want to begin to flesh out some of the implications this might have for church life. And I want to suggest that one of the symptoms of this problem is when a leader begins to blame his/her congregation. Bonhoeffer takes this accusing back to a misplaced model of ‘visionary dreaming’. He describes it this way:

God hates visionary dreaming; it makes the dreamer proud and pretentious. The man who fashions a visionary ideal of community demands that it be realised by God, by others, and by himself. He enters the community of Christians with his demands, sets up his own law, and judges the brethren and God Himself accordingly. He stands adamant, a living reproach to all others in the circle of brethren. He acts as if he is the creator of the Christian community, as if his dream binds men together. When things do not go his way, he calls the effort a failure. When his ideal picture is destroyed, he sees the community going to smash. So he becomes, first an accuser of the brethren, then an accuser of God, and finally the despairing accuser of himself.             (Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Life Together, 27-28.)

Can you see Bonhoeffer’s point about the danger of visionary leadership?

There is nothing wrong with visionary leadership, in fact we could do with more of it. But there is a problem when a leader’s vision for the church is not met and the leader becomes ‘an accuser of the brethren.’ This is a symptom, of a far bigger problem, of a leader who does not identify as a belonging member of that community.

If the leader’s vision is not met, who’s fault is it? Surely not his! How often,do you hear leaders speak against their congregations, blaming them for the reasons why the church is not welcoming enough, not growing, not looking for ways to serve etc…

There is a place for a loving rebuke from a leader to his/her congregation. But there is something quite wrong when a leader cannot see their own participation and involvement in the community. Bonhoeffer goes on to say:

Because God has already laid the only foundation of our fellowship, because God has bound us together in one body with other Christians in Jesus Christ, long before we entered into common life with them, we enter into that common life not as demanders but as thankful recipients. (Life Together, 28.)

Leading communities II

Posted in Church, Leadership with tags , , , , on March 10, 2010 by stephengardner

In the last post I introduced the idea of how the language used by leaders significantly reveals what they think about, and value, regarding community. I want to suggest that as soon as a leader begins speaking about ‘his’ or ‘her’ church they have effectively dislocated themselves from the community of God’s people they have been called to serve.

To go further, my sneaking suspicion is that many leaders are resigned to the fact that they must dislocate themselves from their communities. And my hunch is that the way we go about training future ministers contributes to this.

What do I mean? Take the example of ‘Joe’.

Joe is in his mid twenties and has had five years experience leading the youth group at his local church. During that time he felt a growing conviction that there was nothing more he would rather be doing with his life than teaching people from God’s Word. He mentions this in passing to his minister who excitedly organises a breakfast meeting for the two of them to discuss what this might mean. Over breakfast, the minister encourages Joe to do a ministry apprenticeship at church the following year. After thinking things through Joe decides to give it a shot!

His time serving at church offers mixed experience’s but he continues to feel increasingly convicted about being a pastor and a teacher, so he enrolls in a theological college for the following year.

After thinking through some ecclesiological issues he decides to enter college as a candidate for ordination in his particular denomination. With this comes a necessary change of church. Joe feels the tension of leaving his home church, where he has been deeply connected for so long, while understanding the benefits this move will bring for having a wide range of church experiences. Joe chooses a church in an entirely different part of the city, and one that is quite a distance from his new home near college.

Joe serves at the new church for two years, continually struggling to juggle college work and student ministry work. More often than not college work and the college community win the battle for Joe’s time and energy. Largely this is due to the distance between home and church; because Joe is only able to serve 14 hours/week in his church; and because he knows he only has two years at this particular church. The result  is that Joe’s theological college effectively becomes his primary Christian community.

This pattern of balancing church and theological training is repeated in Joe’s 3rd and 4th year at college. He then graduates, with first class honours, and quickly finds work in a church in a nearby suburb to his home church. Joe is eager to finally have some time to dig deep and contribute to the life of this new church but he also realises his time here will be quite short. Joe is a candidate for ordination and quite eager to one day lead his own church. He realises that in 2-3 years time he could well be given a chance at doing that, which would mean, again, a change of church.

Sorry for the cheesy story, but I hope you can see what I’m getting at. The nature of the way ‘Joe’ has had to train for church ministry has trained him to think about Christian communities in a certain way. They are not necessarily long-term, and they are not necessarily places he identifies with. He has effectively been trained in how to disconnect from church communities.

The next post will flesh out what, I think, are some of the possible implications of ‘Joe’s’ formative years of training…

comings and goings

Posted in Life with tags , , , on January 25, 2010 by stephengardner

As I mentioned last post this year is full of comings and goings for Claire and I. Last time I focused on the things that are going, the things I’m really going to miss this year. Today’s going to be a bit more optimistic -here are the things I’m most looking forward to this year:

A new church family

Claire and I started at St Aidan’s Hurstville Grove on Sunday. While we’re both pretty sad to being saying goodbye for now to our family at CCIW, we’re excited about serving in a brand new context. St Aidan’s is a great church with a long history of faithful, Jesus-centred ministry which, as much as first impressions can be trusted, is evident in the current life of the church. Stay tuned for some more reflections on changing churches.

Running a half-marathon

The plan is to officially start training in late April. The program I’m hoping to use promises to get me fit and fast enough to do the half marathon in under 100 mins. I’m really looking forward to the training and to posting my progress (or lack of) updates.

Adventures in the middle east

In April, Claire and I have the great privilege of going to the middle east for three amazing weeks. Some things I’m most looking forward to; exploring the old streets of Damscus, camping out in a Roman theatre in Bosra and walking through the old city of Jerusalem. Cant wait!

Reading some sweet sweet theology

Third year doctrine at MTC focuses on; The person and work of Christ and The Church. So, I’m looking forward to getting into dogmatics,  particularly finishing off  IV.1. and Miroslav Volf’s After Our Likeness: The Church as the image of the Trinity.

I was particularly excited to get stuck into the forthcoming monster Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N. T. Wright as it was rumored to be published this year. But alas, it looks as though its another year away.

Living in funky Newtown

We moved into Newtown last week and we’re loving it. Already eaten our fair share of great food and really looking forward to getting to some of the pubs around here that still have live music. 

The Pilgrim’s Podcast

For me, one of the highlights of last year was doing the podcast with Mark Earngey. We’re all set for another year, looking to begin recording in the next couple of weeks. There will be some new things happening this year, including the launching of a website devoted to all things Pilgrim.

Pilgrim’s Podcast Episode 12

Posted in The Pilgrim's Podcast with tags , , , , , on August 17, 2009 by stephengardner

pplogo2-150x150This week we interviewd Bishop Glenn Davies, grab it here. It was a really helpful and interesting chat. We talked about Glenn’s theological education at Westminster in the Sates, his role as Bishop of the Northern Region of the Sydney Diocese and heard a little about Glenn’s ideas on Baptism and covenental theology. Great stuff! We did not have the time to do justice to the issues we raised so we are hoping to do a part 2 some time down the track.

Have a listen, its not too often a Bishop enters the hallowed MTC media room…next week we’re interviewing the Queen.

Pilgrim’s Podcast: Episode 11

Posted in The Pilgrim's Podcast, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , on August 9, 2009 by stephengardner

Episode 11 of the Pilgrim’s Podcast is now available. Its our best one yet. We chat with Andrew Katay, senior minister of Christ Church Inner West, about his life, church experiences and preaching.

pplogo2-150x150A particular highlight was hearing Andrew’s thoughts on the future of CCIW. If you’re interested in church growth or church planting, be sure to check it out. If you’re looking to get involved in a new and exciting church plant, then have a listen for how you can get on board.

In this episode we also launch another (legitimate) competition. We are throwing out a challenge for someone to create the most entertaining limerick about ‘the other college’ (let the reader understand).

Enjoy and stay tuned…

Vertical or horizontal?

Posted in Church with tags , , on June 5, 2009 by stephengardner

I was involved in a discussion recently concerning the structure of church services and the community’s involvement in the service… One of the values everyone agreed upon was the need for the church community to feel responsibility for one another and to express that as part of their duty to teach and admonish one another.

Initially the conversation revolved around ways in which that responsibility can be expressed in a church service. Including: prayer request moments, sharing/testimony spots, interviews and teaching each other in song – the basic value in each of these was that a variety of lay people should be involved in the service.

Soon after the conversation moved towards getting the balance right between the horizontal and the vertical. What I mean by that is, emphasising the gathering to teach and encourage one another (horizontal) and emphasising the gathering to worship together (vertical).


This provoked a thought; by emphasising the vertical in the church service don’t you manage to hit both anyway? By gathering together for corporate worship (lets not forget that’s what Church is) we, in a sense, enact what it is that gives us fellowship with one another. We come together in awe of Christ at Church, because we come together in Christ as he breaks down the wall that divided us. It is our union with him that has made us one.

I plan to post some more thoughts as to what doing ‘the vertical’ might look like a bit later…But in the meantime, I would be interesting to know how ‘vertical churches’ go at generating strong, healthy communities where people teach and admonish one another.

I’d be fascinated to hear where your church lands on this scale, and how your Church is going at generating a community that has responsibility for one another.

So, tell me…