All Black church leadership (lesson seven)

  1. Trust your plan/each other
    review regularly
    open and honest communication
    if you are all to trust you all have to do your job reliably

There are obvious connections here:

  • Churches often fail to “really” review their objectives, or the extent to which they are actually working towards the stated goals.
  • Open communication, which “should” be one of our strengths is often a weakness, and in its absence the rumour mills seem to work overtime (the problem here is that often the people making decisions forget (or don’t really think about) who is “in the loop” and/or how to ensure the others are up to date. (This ties back to the vision thing, and how often this needs repeating and reinforcing in different ways.)
  • If we want to rely on people doing their job reliably, we need to reinforce their value and the value of what they do. This does not need a major production, but more frequent small reinforcement. Too often the non-public or less visible workers can feel taken for granted…

All Black church leadership (lessons five and six)

Daniel’s Answer to the King by Briton Rivière (1840–1920)

  1. Attitude is everything
    it’s infectious
    in rugby you have to want to go into collisions
    inspire your mate
  2. Perseverance
    there will be obstacles and failures
    your opponent is also preparing as thoroughly as you

On the infectious nature of attitude one element he stressed was that if a player is not willing to go all out into hard tackles the others know it and it will affect their play, at the very least the way they respond to him. The story of Daniel provides one of many biblical examples of how one person’s attitude can strengthen and encourage others. Again Russell Watts (pastor of Ranui Baptist Church, a church that aims to baptise a new convert every week)  speaking in the evening exemplified this, he expects his people to chat about Jesus, God and the empowering Spirit all the time, his own infectious witness provides an example of this attitude others will follow.

All Black church leadership (lessons three and four)

Sébastien Chabal by .elf (not the ABs, but hey it’s a dramatic photo)

  1. Zero to 100 each week
    Processes/habits are important
    Physical/mental recovery
    What’s the edge this week? (For the ABs this suggests particular motivational videos, like watching what went wrong or right last game.)
  2. Little things matter big
    Everyone’s role is vital
    There’s a small margin between winning and losing

These two obviously transfer to church, except does your church only think of the pastor for #3? What about #2 (the team first) perhaps we could think more about how the whole team, worship, Sunday school, welcomers… get from 0-100 each week…

Which leads into #4, if everyone’s role is vital then we need to remember and take time to appreciate and thank people. Faithful welcoming or newsletter copying as well as the more “glamorous” and obvious contributions.

On vision and team (Tim’s reflections)

All Black Haka (Photo by Kiwi Flickr)

I’ll also post my responses to Ian Foster‘s points rather than just make this a listing.

On vision it seems to me that while most NZ Baptist church leaders have got and run with the need for a clear vision. We have often been less good at the vital follow up work. It neither matches Ian’s advice, example or Scripture to simple work out and announce a vision. It must be shared, and for this there must be buy in, and usually for buy in people need to feel involved.

Sometimes like in Acts 15 the vision does not come initially from the leaders (the conclusion James announces there was almost certainly not what he would have wanted when the “Jerusalem council” started. But he and the others listened and prayed until the conclusion was clear, articulated pretty much by one respected “elder”, Peter (another who was perhaps “on the other side” when the meeting started, cf. Gal 2), and then announced by James. Like in Acts, or in the All Blacks, it is worth taking time and listening so that the final “vision” is shared. “We all agree to make sacrifices for it” in Ian’s words.

Unless the vision is repeatedly reinforced people will forget or drift off to follow their personal goals. Russell Watts (pastor of Ranui Baptist Church, a church that aims to baptise a new convert every week) exemplified this as he spoke about efforts to ensure that all his people remember to gossip the gospel1 all the time. Since in our “secular” Western world this no longer comes naturally he keeps finding neat simple ways to remind people, or draw attention to examples.

On “team first” I have little to add, except to underline how surprised I was that “humility” should be listed as the first quality mentioned when an All Black coach is asked what makes Richie McCaw a great captain. Rugby stars and humility are not naturally associated in my mind ;) Though it seems they should have been!

  1. My term not his. Russell is not a great one for programs, and is not really sold on “evangelism” in the style of the Open Air Campaigners, but he does believe we should all let slip comments in our daily conversations that witness to God at work and the gospel. More on this probably in a future post. []

All Black church leadership (lessons one and two)

Richie McCaw from Wikipedia

Ryan asked about the main points in Ian Foster’s talk, seems fair enough :)

  1. You must have vision
    This was the “obvious” stuff about needing a clear purpose and goal, but also the sometimes less noticed fact that we also need “buy-in” to that vision, unless the vision is a common one the team will falter. But if there is real buy-in then people will sacrifice to achieve the goal.
  2. Team first
    In rugby even the most brilliant player is only really useful if they put the team first. This does not come naturally but needs training and encouragement. It also depends on example. (He cited Richie McCaw, suggesting that this on top of his “humility” were what made him a great All Black and a great captain.)

More later, it’s time to make breakfast for the team now ;)

How to preach like an All Black

Photo from the Stuff article on Ian Foster

Yesterday one of several highlights of a rich day put on by the BoP Baptist Association1 was Ian Foster, Assistant Coach of the All Blacks speaking on things he has learned about leadership in a highly competitive environment (coaching the most successful sports team in the world) and how they might apply to churches.

As well as his 9 powerful points, he had a throwaway. The 12 minute rule, which he’s learned from communications experts. Don’t talk for more than 12 minutes before getting people to in some way apply, assimilate or otherwise process what you’ve said. Just brilliant, the teachers in the audience spotted the relevance immediately.

So, how could you practice it in church?

  1. really short sermons (speak less than half as much get twice the response) win/win.
  2. short sermon intro followed by small groups (this may be difficult in a big church if so try #1 :)

Incidentally if you are stuck for sermon ideas, take a leaf out of Stephen Tyrell’s book, throw in a question Sunday, instead of a sermon answer questions (submitted in advance), ours lasted two weeks, and also uncovered a range of topics that need more than a (yes, less than 12 minutes each) quick answer during pastor’s question time. What a good way to cut sermon preparation time, keep in touch with pastoral needs, and get several ideas for future series that will scratch were (at least some of) your people are itching :)

  1. Really, if more people knew just how inspiring they were BoP Association Meetings would be packed out. []

You lost me at…

John Douglas posted this video on Facebook. I’d seen the research before, I’ve even commented on similar work (Giving up on Church)

This time it struck me again forcefully how often “Christians” major on the minors. Blow up things of little importance, but forget the vital stuff. Many of us prattle on about how gay marriage is wrong, but we fail to put real effort into supporting the couples who marry in church, so they can stick together becoming one flesh across the years. Some of us even mount campaigns aimed at persuading people into believing that the world was started in 4004BC, rather than spending the money and energy on helping people celebrate the wondrous creation and so its wonderful creator. We preach and sing interminably about how God is nice and loves us, but fail to address the big questions. Which usually begin with “why”.

To be fair one of the reasons I like South City is because from time to time we have a service where people are invited to drop big questions in the box, and the next week those questions are addressed. Last time examples were:

Sometimes when people pray someone is healed, sometimes they are not, why?

Is it wrong for Christians to spend dollars  on expensive holidays and trips?  Are there scriptures to teach us how to use our
God provided Money? Other than being good stewards, helping the poor and widows orphans tithing etc.

The heresy of exhortation

Photo from Spacemakers

Marking a lot of assignments where students examine different Bible passages, in an institution that seeks to prepare people in Applied Theology, and so expects exegesis to find its natural outworking in application, submits me to a great deal of exhortation.

The vast majority of students reach the application stage of the process, and promptly start telling me how I should try harder. If the passage is Psalm 113 then I should praise God more often, if it is Luke 9:1-6 then I should evangelise more…

Isn’t it strange. Neither passage seems to me to be primarily an exhortation to try harder.

The gospel passage tells how, having himself gone from place to place telling and showing people that the reign of God was breaking into this tired old world, Jesus sent his disciples to do the same with power and authority – there’s nothing about trying harder, and little that sounds like “evangelism”.

It’s true the psalm starts and ends with imperatives: Praise Yah! but the content between is focused on God and on the claim that we have so many reasons to praise God, not least that raising the needy from the ash heap is what God does all the time…

The exhortation to try harder is the preacher’s curse. Not gospel, not even good theology, yet the almost invariable default response to a Bible passage. If “Jesus” is the expected answer to questions asked by Sunday School teachers,1 then “try harder” is the gospel preachers find in every Bible passage.


  1. Teacher: “What is fury, and hops along with a fluffy white tail.” Students: Silence, till one brave lad says, “Well, I know the answer is Jesus, but I’m sorry I can’t work out how!” []

Training pastors

I do like a nice drop of sarcasm :) So I enjoyed this gem from Jason Goroncy at Per∙Crucem∙ad∙Lucem: ‘Simpler Pastoral Education for Simpler Times? A modest proposal’ here’s a short extract to get you hooked :)

Happily, however, pastoring apparently isn’t like that. No, pastoral challenges in Canada today have greatly diminished. You’ve noticed that, haven’t you? Canada is becoming a more and more ethnically uniform country, so pastors need no longer know how to understand different cultures – say, those of India or China.

Canadians are attending post-secondary education less and less, so we don’t need a similarly educated person to help us co-ordinate the gospel with our lives. Just give us a charismatic speaker with great storytelling ability and a big heart.

Biomedical issues, political challenges, cultural currents, financial questions, technological innovations – everything is much, much simpler to understand today, so our pastors can be simpler people too.

Yes, let’s expect less of our clergy and theological schools. Let’s demand, in fact, that seminaries reduce degree requirements, lower standards for their professors, drop their tuition charges accordingly and give our next generation of pastors what they need – an education that is cut-rate, compromised and convenient. (Read between the lines of some of those seminary ads. That’s what they’re offering.)

Sure, those who care for our bodies need the best education we can possibly afford to give them. Can you imagine entrusting yourself or your child to a physician who learned medicine online? The idea is scandalous.

The image is the one Jason used to illustrate the post, I have not found it or a similar “Ministry for Dummies” picture elsewhere, so I believe he should be credited with it too :)