Jesus, Still the Reason for the Season

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is religion-1907067_960_720.jpgThe sight of millions of Argentinian soccer fans celebrating in the streets after the recent World Cup victory inspired many people globally. Few cared then that in at least two games (against the Netherlands and in the final against France), Argentina had been awarded penalties in regular time after their players simply fell over! Errors are common in sport, but we ‘accept the umpire’s decision’ and move on. In life, we sometimes forlornly hope that a referee will jump from the bushes and right the wrongs we suffer, but Christmas offers a great perspective on viewing our world more realistically and helpfully. Continue reading

A Different Kind of Football?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is dean-bennett-nlttcvknpgq-unsplash.jpgWhat a stunning turn of events yesterday. A Christian church board member feels he has no option but to resign from his role as a newly-appointed CEO of a football club because of a sudden firestorm over his association with its conservative views. The Victorian Premier, weighing in, labels them as hateful, bigoted and intolerant, descriptions perhaps more suited to his own divisive commentary. Continue reading

Strengthening the Silent Witness

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is secret-2681508_960_720.jpgI used to find that my train rides became very comfortable when I started to bring a Bible with me. I’d begin with prayer – presumably looking like I was asleep – and then, suddenly, it would emerge … big, leather-bound, and gilt-edged. I wasn’t trying to show off, but just to use the Bible ‘on the road’ that I also used at home. My seat-neighbours suddenly got up and moved, and new passengers would rather stand, packed like sardines, than sit next to the ‘bible thumper.’ Once, I cheekily rubbed in this seemingly silly avoidance by putting my feet up on the two seats to my right, still holding two free to my left for anyone who wanted to start using them. Continue reading

Reinterpreting Census Despondency

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 62023833_52d5ab6362_c.jpgWhat are we to make of the new Australian Census finding that just 43.9% of Australians now profess to be Christian? With that number apparently nosediving and the number of ‘no religion’ adherents almost matching it, all might seem bleak for the future of the Church in this nation. To some extent progressive multiculturalism, which has rightly been welcomed in society, has diluted the proportion of Christians and not just the number. Known errors in the census data also play a smaller role, and these perhaps relate to the way some people interpret its questions. Such factors skew perceptions more dramatically than is warranted. Nevertheless, there is also a clear increase in Australian secularism that the Church needs to accept and adjust to. Just what, though, might this look like? Continue reading

Solving the U.S. Gun Problem

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is army-1835299_960_720.jpgSadly, the U.S.A. continues to protect gun ownership rights against the greater right to be free of the adverse impact of such weapons. This must now change. The leading cause of child death there – at more than 4000 annually – firearms! Last week’s Texas school shooting was finally one too many for all too many. This week, people finally began to turn on the Texas governor, the National Rifle Association, and other gun lobbyists, believing something might at last be done. This issue has stirred more than a little righteous indignation and the once too hard problem actually has some very straightforward solutions. Continue reading

Shaping the Church of the Future – Part 3

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cross-1772560_1920.jpgThis series of posts has us considering how to future-proof churches when we see COVID and other factors eating away at the resilience and viability of many. So far, we have looked at some overlapping elements of tailored discipleship, the development of systems, and the intentional generation of leaders, where usual biblical, prayer, and community foundations are assumed. In this final post, we look at two more of the essential practices of healthy churches, regardless of size, which will guard against demise and actually facilitate health. Continue reading

Shaping the Church of the Future – Part 2

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cross-1772560_1920.jpgYesterday, we began looking at the seeds of decline in churches sown over the last thirty years. Not all churches, mind you. Many have bucked the trends around them to maintain cultural relevance without cultural accommodation. I would suggested that there are five important keys that naturally assume prayerfulness, biblical foundations, and faithful commitment to a church family, but they are perhaps the intangible essentials that will future-proof any ‘centred’ church that is seeking to maintain or reclaim its edge. Continue reading

Shaping the Church of the Future – Part 1

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is cross-1772560_1920.jpgIn 2008, Washington Post journalist, Julia Duin, wrote about why churches were experiencing decline. Her insightful conclusion was that ministers’ lack of leadership skills, diminished commitments to core beliefs, and an increase in consumerism, were exacerbating an exodus. To what degree are such observations still valid in future-proofing today’s churches? What have the last two years of COVID disruption revealed about way in which churches might best maintain their relevance and impact? Continue reading

Easter and our Renewed Optimism

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is oasis-67549_960_720.jpgThe start to 2022 has brought various sources of discouragement through the Ukraine invasion, the fallout from vaccination and reopening issues, and now the fall from grace of another megachurch leader. Our response to whatever may disappoint us becomes critical, though. Expectations of people can easily be dashed, so it is helpful to remind ourselves of the hope of Easter that fixes our eyes on Christ as a source of faith amidst difficulties. Some helpful lessons come from a timeless story. Continue reading

The Religious Discrimination Bill – Who Needs Protecting?

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is 24107509471_7cab0b8890.jpgThe religious discrimination bill was hotly contested in Australia last week, but social debate seemed to overlook some of the key reasons it was first proposed. Introduced to strengthen protections in the face of state-based discrimination laws, it has more recently become aligned to fears that school students who are same-sex attracted or gender dysphoric will be marginalised. A key to better understanding what is at stake here is been found in consideration of the various freedoms, rights and responsibilities that need to be balanced for all stakeholders, including people of faith. Continue reading