Thom S. Rainer Reflections on Church Leadership

I particularly enjoy the reflections on the life of a pastor by Thom S. Rainer. I don’t share everything in common with his models of local church life, but whenever I read him I feel a sense of the value and worth of the pastor. He honours our struggles and weaknesses.

Some of his posts have particular wisdom to my Melbourne Anglican context. For example, see Seven Ways Churches Should Die with Dignity:

Avoid merging with another struggling church. An unhealthy or dying church merging with a similar church does not equal a healthy church. At best, it prolongs the inevitability of death from taking place.

This observation is latent with wisdom.

His podcast is also particularly encouraging. A recent episode struck a number of chords with me: 10 Common Frustrations of Pastors – Rainer on Leadership #204

Phillip Jensen on Anglican Identity

Excellent article from Phillip Jensen on “Why Anglican?”:

The Prayer Book and 39 Articles of Anglicanism come from a particular historical context—the struggle of Thomas Cranmer in the sixteenth century Protestant Reformation. The Prayer Book underwent several minor editions before taking its final form in the seventeenth century. From 1662 till today it, and the 39 Articles, stand as the one touchstone of genuine Anglicanism.

This is so forgotten in Anglican circles today. The touchstone is the Book of Common Prayer and the 39 Articles.

I enjoyed this reflection also:

We sometimes forget to commend confessional Anglicanism to people. Yet it is worth saying that Anglicanism is our choice and that we believe it is a good choice. Being a confessional Anglican is a privilege and blessing for which we are thankful to God and hope others will enjoy.

I am a happy confessional Anglican.

A Church for Exiles by Carl R. Trueman | Articles | First Things

This recognition of exile and the hope we find in the Psalms permeate historical Reformed worship and theology in a way that is not so obvious in other Christian traditions, even Protestant ones. For example, the worship of the American Evangelical Church of the last few decades has been marked by what one might call an aesthetic of power and triumph. Praise bands perform in churches often built to look more like concert venues than traditional places of worship. Rock riffs and power chords set the musical tone. Songs speak of tearing down enemy ­strongholds. Christianity does, of course, point to triumph, but it is the triumph of resurrection, and resurrection presupposes prior suffering and death. An emphasis on triumph, often to the exclusion of lament, will not prepare people for life this side of resurrection glory. It will not prepare us for a life of exile. I fear we are laying the foundations for disillusionment and despair.

via A Church for Exiles by Carl R. Trueman | Articles | First Things.

If We Believe All the Same Things, Why Do Our Churches Seem So Different? – Kevin DeYoung

This is a wonderfully wise and well put short piece by Kevin DeYoung. It speaks to the problems in my wider context also.

Liberalism is a problem, but squishy evangelicalism is the much bigger problem.

via If We Believe All the Same Things, Why Do Our Churches Seem So Different? – Kevin DeYoung.

Bonhoeffer’s “Life Together” and Small Groups

Here are some Bonhoeffer quotes and questions I wrote for our Growth Group (Small Group) leaders to discuss at BAC:

Reflecting on “Life Together” by Bonhoeffer

This wonderful short book is full of great theological reflections on what it means to be part of a Christian church gathered under the Word of God.

Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor who suffered imprisonment and was martyred under the Nazi regime of WW2.

Our Growth Groups are a wonderful expression of ‘life together’ under the Word of God.

How reading and studying Scripture helps us forget ourselves:

Consecutive reading of biblical books forces everyone who wants to hear to put himself, or to allow himself to be found, where God has acted once and for all for the salvation of men. We become part of what once took place for our salvation. Forgetting and losing ourselves, we, too, pass through the Red Sea, through the desert, across the Jordan into the promised land. With Israel we fall into doubt and unbelief and through punishment and repentance experience again God’s help and faithfulness. All this is not mere reverie but holy, godly reality. We are torn out of our own existence and set down in the midst of the holy history of God on earth. ‘ p38.

1. Is your growth group a place where people can ‘forget themselves’ as they become engaged in the story of God and the lives of others?

The danger of Christian isolation:

In confession the break-through to community takes place. Sin demands to have a man by himself. It withdraws him from the community. The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous is his isolation. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of the unexpressed it poisons the whole being of a person’, p88.

2. Is your group a place where a community welcomes people out of isolation and temptation?


On the loving nature of a ‘severe rebuke’:

Nothing can be more cruel than the tenderness that consigns another to his sin. Nothing can be more compassionate than the severe rebuke that calls a brother back from the path of sin. It is a ministry of mercy, an ultimate offer of genuine fellowship, when we allow nothing but God’s Word to stand between us, judging and succouring. Then it is not we who are judging; God alone judges, and God’s judgement is helpful and healing’, p84.

3. Is your Growth Group a safe place for people to be rebuked in love? How often does this happen?


How God uses difficult Christian fellowship to grow all of us:

A [Christian leader] should not complain about his congregation, certainly never to other people, but also not to God. A congregation has not been entrusted to him in order that he should become its accuser before God and men. When a person becomes alienated from a Christian community in which he has been placed and begins to raise complaints about it, he had better examine himself first to see whether the trouble is not due to his wish dream that should be shattered by God; and if this be the case, let him thank God for leading him into this predicament’, pp17-18.

4. Do you grumble about your group? Does your group grumble about others at BAC outside your group?

Exercise: In groups of 2-3 discuss one or more of the above questions for a few minutes.

Youtube is the Lingua Franca of Christian praise music

Something that I noticed at my old church and confirmed at my new church is that Gen X/Y church musicians use Youtube as the major form of sharing and spreading new songs for church.

In fact I first noticed this a few years ago when wedding couples were using Youtube to lookup different processional tunes from a list I had given them.

Hillsong and many others have all their material on Youtube, including updated arrangements. New band members don’t know that song? Email them a youtube link. Or watch it on Youtube from someones smart-phone at the music practice.

Would be great if other evangelical stables of church music would follow suit: Sovereign Grace Music, EMU Music, Colin Buchanan. Copyright paranoia is limiting the spread of great content here. I own every Colin Buchanan CD/DVD/Music Book – but you can’t beat the simple ubiquity of Youtube.

In fact Hillsong take it a step further – they not only put on their official material but they don’t take down other people/churches/bands putting up arrangements of their music. (though I just noticed an official HillsongVEVO channel that blocks the content to AU – fail)

Recent Sermons: Galatians

I have a bunch of mp3 sermons on the HTD web site that I haven’t linked here.

Earlier in the year we worked through Galatians in the evening congregation. This was very challenging and good medicine for us as a church. The rebuke to righteousness as a form of rebellion comes through most strongly in Galatians.

Justification By Faith Not Works – Galatians 2:15-21

Abraham’s Blessings Through Jesus – Galatians 3:1-14

Law and Gospel – Galatians 3:15-29

A Tale of Two Mothers – Galatians 4:21-5:1

Douglas Wilson, Canon Press – Full View on Google Books

It looks like all of Douglas Wilson’s Canon Press published books are ‘full view’ on Google Books.

Well worth an online read, you’ll end up buying some of them!


Future Men

Reforming Marriage

Mother Kirk

The Paideia of God and Other Essays on Education

Heaven Misplaced – Christ’s Kingdom on Earth

Angels in the Architecture – A Protestant Vision for Middle Earth

A Serrated Edge: A Brief Defense of Biblical Satire and Trinitarian Skylarking

Recent Sermons: Messianic Psalms

I’ve loved preaching this series on Messianic Psalms. Covered 2, 110, and 132. Others were doing 16 and 8. Would have liked to have covered Psalm 45 also. Jesus is all over the Psalms!

January 24, 2010 One King to Reign Forevermore (by Wayne Schuller) Psalm 132:1-18 (Part of the HTD Messianic Psalms 2010 series preached at Morning Service) . January 17, 2010 One Kingly Priest at God’s Right Hand (by Wayne Schuller) Psalm 110:1-7 (Part of the HTD Messianic Psalms 2010 series preached at Morning Service) . January 3, 2010 One King to Rule Them All (by Wayne Schuller) Psalm 2:1-12 (Part of the HTD Messianic Psalms 2010 series preached at Morning Service) .

Recent Sermons – End of Acts

Finished preaching through the book of Acts. Great to get through the whole book in three ‘blocks’ over three years.

December 13, 2009 The Kingdom of God at the Ends of the Earth (by Wayne Schuller) Acts 28:11-30 (Part of the HTD Faith on Trial – Acts 2009 series preached at Morning Service) . December 6, 2009 The Shipwreck (by Wayne Schuller) Acts 27:13-44 (Part of the HTD Faith on Trial – Acts 2009 series preached at Morning Service) . November 29, 2009 Trial Before Agrippa (by Wayne Schuller) Acts 26:1-32 (Part of the HTD Faith on Trial – Acts 2009 series preached at Morning Service) . November 22, 2009 Trial Before Felix (by Wayne Schuller) Acts 24:1-27 (Part of the HTD Faith on Trial – Acts 2009 series preached at Morning Service) . November 15, 2009 Trial Before Sanhedrin (by Wayne Schuller) Acts 22:30-23:11 (Part of the HTD Faith on Trial – Acts 2009 series preached at Morning Service) .

Genesis 1-3 sermon series

Just finished a series on Genesis 1-3. Glorious beautiful chapters for which my weak reflections hardly scratched the surface. Nevertheless I gave it an attempt.

Every church should come back to these foundational chapters every couple of years. A highlight of going to Bible college was working through these chapters very carefully in Hebrew with a great teacher guiding me.

What I also particularly enjoyed was seeing God as Trinity and the expected incarnation/exaltation of the Son of God in these chapters. Happy to have read Calvin as my main commentary (Wenham secondarily).

2009 – 06 – 28-06-09 AM – The God Who Creates by His Word – Wayne Schuller – Genesis 1 v1-31.mp3

2009 – 07 – 05-07-09 AM – The God Who Creates Work and Marriage – Wayne Schuller – Genesis 2 v1-24.mp3

2009 – 07 – 12-07-09 AM – The God Who Punishes Sin – Wayne Schuller – Genesis 3 v1-24.mp3

via Sermons –

Stolen generation of church planters | Youth & music ministry |

Give Jodie a medal for his insights below. If local churches could apprenticeship people and keep them involved whilst at 4 years of full time college, that would be very effective IMHO.

The danger might be that the person would never properly extract themselves from their plant to devote themselves to study. That is what often happens with part-time theological students.

In my view it might be better for us to change the culture that encourages (or demands) people leave their home church during their theological education.

If many of our current church leaders did their catechist position at their home church, then perhaps we might have given our Sydney Driscolls the opportunity to have long-term ministry during their most entrepreneurial and adventuresome years?

It won’t work for all people. The big churches usually generate more people than they can possibly keep.

But, if we allowed those who planted their own church during their ministry apprenticeship to remain as the main leader, whilst still attached by an umbilical cord to their mother church, then perhaps we might not have missed out on many opportunities to take a young church into maturity.

via Stolen generation of church planters | Youth & music ministry |

Long term assistant ministers

A letter to the Sydney Anglican newspaper:

Underneath this is an important goal – promoting the option of long-term assistant ministers. But the way to do it is not to pretend they don’t exercise a similar kind of spiritual role in the congregation to the rector, and therefore not ordain them as presbyters. Ironically, it could have precisely the opposite effect than the intended one, and make it less likely that people will remain long-term assistant ministers. This would be significant, since one of the reasons we Sydney Anglicans seem incapable of growing genuinely large churches (say, more than 1000 people) is that we struggle to keep long-term senior assistant ministers.

The Rev Andrew Katay
Ashfield, NSW

sc articles – Letters to the editor September 2008

I personally am really enjoying being an assistant minister – I’m about to enter my 6th full-time year of it. Going into my third year at Holy Trinity, we are getting an MTS full time apprenticeship going, I’m running mission teams, doing lots of training of parents and marriage preparation, supervising and supporting other staff and generally lots of training and bible teaching. I wouldn’t get to do all this if I had the administrative and other acute pressures of being the senior pastor – especially a senior pastor in a small church (who deserve medals).

I also really love working in a great team, under a great senior pastor, and following and supporting him in his vision. It is invigorating to me knowing that I am trusted with key responsibilities and oversight in order to release the senior pastor to travel and work on wider projects.

My wife is happy that I don’t have the pressures some of our great friends have who have taken the gutsy move of being in charge in difficult parishes or places. At some point we will go down that track, but in the meantime we are thankful to God. I can see why some assistants get the itch to hold the reins, and that happens to me sometimes – then I simply remember the benefits of being an assistant and I praise God for this great opportunity.

Recent Sermons: Exodus

Just finished a series on the book of Exodus. Only in 8 weeks. If I’d had 2-3 more weeks I would have done more from the second half of the book, especially more law, the party of chapter 24, and Moses glory request and covenant renewal in 33-34.

It was helpful having been to the MTS preaching conference last year with David Jackman on “preaching Exodus”. I referred to my notes from that conference several times (and stole many sermon titles from there).

It was only in the last week or so that someone showed me the new IVP Moore College lectures book on “Exploring Exodus”, edited by Rosner and Williamson. I read the final three essays and found them excellent. I’m sure the rest of the book is good quality.

Commentary wise I didn’t use many – I would often refer to Durham to help me with Hebrew but found the comments lacking theological insight. I should have bought Enns on Exodus, which I might do at Ridley tomorrow.

It is a wonderful book of Scripture – God is glorious, jealous, holy, consuming, on-the-front-foot, loving, and terrifying all in one. Salvation is clearly a work of sovereign grace from beginning to end.

2008 – 09 – 21-09-08 AM – What’s in a Name (Qtn) – Wayne Schuller – Exodus 2 v23 – 3 v22.mp3

2008 – 09 – 28-09-08 AM – Clash of the God-Kings – Wayne Schuller – Exodus 10 v1-20.mp3

2008 – 10 – 05-10-08 AM – Protected by Blood – Wayne Schuller – Exodus 12 v1-13.mp3

2008 – 10 – 12-10-08 AM – Keep Still, the Lord Fights for You – Stephen Hale – Exodus 14 v1-25.mp3

2008 – 10 – 19-10-08 AM – Complaining about God – Wayne Schuller – Exodus 16 v1-20.mp3

2008 – 10 – 26-10-08 AM – Meeting God – Wayne Schuller – Exodus 19 v1-25.mp3

2008 – 11 – 02-11-08 AM – The Golden Calf – Wayne Schuller – Exodus 32 v1-35.mp3

2008 – 11 – 09-11-08 AM – The Portable Temple of God – Wayne Schuller – Exodus 40 v1-38.mp3

Sermons –

Barnabas Fund News


Between Two Worlds: Free John MacArthur!

The best way to promote any electronic media is to give it away free with no strings attached.

If you require money or even just subscription/password details, people are always going to go for the unconditionally free electronic media every time. Even if your content is 100x better than the unconditionally free stuff.

I’m sure this move by “Grace to You” will result in a long term increase interest Macarthur book sales and interest in his ministry.

At HTD we offer all our sermons for free download under a Creative Commons license. People can repost them, and spread them as much as they like. Our CC license we have chosen precludes commercial reselling or editing, but even this I have no personal problem with.

I’m told that starting next Wednesday, November 5 (the day after the election), Grace to You will announce a new policy, effective immediately, that all of their mp3 downloads of John MacArthur’s sermons will be completely free.

That’s 3500 sermons for free–with no strings (like required registration) attached.

Between Two Worlds: Free John MacArthur!

Sydney Anglican Synod

Some bloggers are sharing opinions on Sydney Anglican Synod currently meeting:

Sydney Synod Day 2 Missional is the new black « …that great city

daiskmeliadorn: live-blogging sydney synod! (sort-of)

my two cents blog – Chicken or the egg?
But there was some controversy. Bishop Davies stood up and severely criticised the report, saying that despite it’s many fine qualities, it was fundamentally flawed. He pointed out that there was an absence of the language of praise and worship, and also very little in the report about the sacraments. He moved that Synod merely “receive” the report, rather than “welcome” it.

Craig’s Blog: Synod – Day 3