The measure of success

Interesting post over at the Leadership journal blog on how we measure success. The age old question of how we do it, is it a simple measurement based on numbers at events, or are the other techniques that can be used. Check out the article for more suggestions.

For me it has to be a combination of both: you can tell if things are going well or not by the number of youngsters who are attending – you have to question if you are doing something wrong if you suddenly went from 30 young people at a group to 5 people at the group each week. But it isn’t just about that, there has to be a measurement of depth of relationship with God, or where they are on their journey. In a previous church where I worked they used to scale each of the young people on a rating of 1 to 4 to highlight where most of the young people were in the group, and how they could therefore support them in furthering their relationship with God. While it is still fairly crude, and used to lead to discussions on how, with 1 hour of contact a week for some of the youngsters, we could make that choice, I think it brought a sharpness and focus to the groups that I long to see.

As the summer holidays approach it is the kind of thing that I hope to develop some thinking on, with the possibility of being able to implement some kind of measuring – both numbers and depth for next academic year.

John Stott’s preaching preparation

I love discovering how key church leaders organise their week, and do their role, especially the preparation for preaching. Below is the way John Stott does his preparation as on Unashamed Workman:
I. Choose your text
A. It is best to rely on expository book studies for the steady diet of your people, because this ensures they will get “the whole counsel of God.”

B. However, the following may be occasions for special sermons:
1. Special calendar occasions: Christmas, Easter, etc.
2. Special external circumstances which are in the public mind.
3. Special needs discerned by the preacher or others.
4. Truths which have specially inspired the preacher.

C. Keep a notebook to scribble down ideas for sermons, insights, burdens, illustrations, etc. Record them immediately wherever they come to mind, because you will usually forget them later.

II. Meditate on the text
A. Whenever possible, plan out texts weeks or months in advance. This gives the benefit of “subconscious incubation”.
B. Concentrated “incubation” should begin at least one week before preaching. It should involve the following:
1. Read, re-read, and re-re-read the text.
2. Be sure you understand what it means. Do your own interpretive work. Don’t use commentaries until you have formulated specific interpretive questions which you have been unable to answer, or until you have completed your interpretive work.
3. Brood longer over how it applies to your people, to the culture, to you, etc.
4. Pray for God to illuminate the text, especially its application.
5. Scribble down notes of thoughts, ideas, etc.
6. Solicit the insights of others through tapes, talking with other preachers, etc.
III. Isolate the dominant thought
(This is the purpose of section II.)
A. Your sermon should convey only one major message. All of the details of your sermon should be marshaled to help your people grasp that message and feel its power.
B. You should be able to express the dominant thought in one short, clear, vivid sentence.
IV. Arrange your material to serve the dominant thought
A. Chisel and shape your material. Ruthlessly discard all material which is irrelevant to the dominant thought. Subordinate the remaining material to the dominant thought by using that material to illuminate and reinforce the dominant thought.
B. Your sermon structure should be suited to the text, not artificially imposed. Avoid structure which is too clever, prominent or complex.
C. Decide on your method of preaching for this text: argumentation, faceting, categorizing, analogy, etc.
D. Carefully choose words that are precise, simple, clear, vivid and honest. Write out the key sections, phrases, and sentences to help you in your word choice. Stick to short declarative and interrogative sentences with few, if any, subordinate clauses.
E. Come up with illustrations and examples which will explain and convict. Employ a wide variety: figures of speech, images, retelling biblical stories in contemporary language, inventing fresh parables, retelling true historical and/or biographical events, etc. Keep a file of these, especially if they do not come easily to you. Avoid making illustrations and examples so prominent that they detract from the dominant thought. Also, avoid applying them inappropriately or overusing them.
V. Add the introduction and conclusion
A. The introduction should not be elaborate, but enough to arouse their curiosity, wet their appetites and introduce the dominant thought. This can be done by a variety of means: explaining the setting of the passage, story, current event or issue, etc.
B. The conclusion should not merely recapitulate your sermon–it should apply it. Obviously, you should be applying all along, but you should keep something for the end which will prevail upon your people to take action. “No summons, no sermon.” Preach though the head to the heart (i.e. the will). The goal of the sermon should be to “storm the citadel of the will and capture it for Jesus Christ.” What do you want them to do? Employ a variety of methods to do this:
1. Argument: anticipate objections and refute them
2. Admonition: warn of the consequences of disobedience
3. Indirect Conviction: arouse moral indignation and then turn it on them (Nathan with David)
4. Pleading: apply the gentle pressure of God’s love, concern for their well-being, and the needs of others
5. Vision: paint a picture of what is possible through obedience to God in this area
VI. Write down and pray over your message
A. Writing out your sermon forces you to think straight and sufficiently. It exposes lazy thinking and cures it. After you are thoroughly familiar with your outline, reduce it to small notes.
B. Pray the God will enable you to “so possess the message that the message possesses you.”
Some great thoughts. The key from all the people I listen to is the way in which you spend time chewing the cud, mulling the message over so that you know it, and to have prioritised prayer time for it.

Mutually encouraged

I have been dwelling on Romans 1:12 for the last day or so. I meet with Anthony, one of my young people, to read the Bible together, and yeseterday we started on Romans. I love the way in which Paul writes:
“that you and I may be mutually encouraged by each other’s faith.”
That is what fellowship and bible study should be about, we should be building each other up, a relationship shouldn’t just benefit one person but both. I am always challenged by how much we can learn from other people, I love spending time with others, hearing their thoughts and heart for things in their life.

Jonathan Edwards’ journey of faith

Various people (Tim Abbot and Sarah Brush) have suddenly picked up on some stuff to do with Jonathan Edwards who has begun to question the faith which he acknowledges helped to motivate his sporting career. A more reflective, agnostic Jonathan shares his journey away from faith here.

Do check out their thoughts as this is a key discussion to be having with our young people about how do you decide what to believe in, and what makes you sure of your faith.

How would you share the gospel?

The latest 9Marks newsletter includes an article where they asked a roundtable of pastors and theologians two questions:

  1. You are standing on stage before 100,000 people from every nation on earth and asked to share the gospel in 100 words or less. What would you say?
  2. You are standing before a small crowd from your church’s neighborhood and asked to share the gospel in 100 words or less. What would you say? [Authors were asked to include a couple of words describing their neighborhood. We have included these in italics when provided.]

Answers are from:
Peter Adams—Melbourne, Australia
Greg Gilbert—Louisville, KY
Liam Goligher—London, England
Michael Horton—Escondido, CA
Michael Nazir-Ali—Rochester, England
Frank Retief—Cape Town, South Africa
Ed Roberts“—Central Asia
Mack Stiles—Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Adrian Warnock—London, England

It is well worth a read so go check it out, and then think about what you would have answered.

Massive sale on Piper books

According to the Desiring God blog, ithey are about to have a massive sale! Every book in the Desiring God Ministries online store (i.e. John Piper and others) is on sale for only $5 (at current rates, about £2.50!) on Wednesday 27th and Thursday 28th this week.

I presume it is still okay for international customers, so give it a try and see what happens. I am certainly going to be there adding a couple of books to my collection.

3 million people waiting to be asked to go to church

Tearfund has published some research showing that three million people in the UK think they would go to church if only there were asked in the right way. The survey revealed that a personal invite, family or a friend attending or difficult personal circumstances, are most likely to encourage people into church.
The survey shows that 7.6 million adults go to church each month and one in 10 adults attends weekly. One in four (12.6 million) attend at least once a year. Go here to download the full report.

Hardcore Good Friday service

David (who has updated his template but not his blog!) pointed out to me that parents were asked not to bring their children to a Good Friday service at in Newcastle which depicts the hours leading up to the crucifixion. Pastor Mark Elder, of Heaton Baptist Church, warned his Good Friday service should carry a 12 certificate. He believes Christ’s suffering has been forgotten, and the message has lost out to commercialism and chocolate. During the service, scenes from the controversial Mel Gibson film The Passion of the Christ were shown. In someways it isn’t great when a church limits who can attend their service, but it is great to see a church trying to remind people of the pain and suffering of the first Easter.

Church fails to spread message

The BBC is reporting that the Church of England is guilty of “corporate failure” because it has not properly spread the message of Christ, the Archbishop of York has said. Dr John Sentamu said the Church had instead become engaged in “endless debates” about issues like the ordination of homosexual priests. “The Church has not been very good at clearly spelling out what the message of Jesus is about,” he told the BBC. “It is a corporate failure of the Church, not actually doing the ministry of Jesus Christ out in the world,” he said. “All of us as members of the body of Christ need to do more. What we should be about is telling people that God in Jesus has come in a human form, died, rose again and his presence, in terms of the spirit, actually transforms lives.”

Some aweseome quotes – the Archbishop of York is really great at saying some refreshing stuff that the church, and not just The Church of England, really needs to hear now.