Wednesday, 6 April 2011


The news item this week about paternity leave and the possibily of fathers taking on the care of their child while the mother goes back to work led to a discussion in our house about the presumption that still exists in our society that mothers are the people who care for children. Indeed there is a deeper presumption that mothers are better-equipped than fathers to care for their children.

That led me to think about other presumptions, especially those that operate in Churches: There is a presumption that if the minister is a good preacher he or she will be good at other things too: that he or she will be a good people-person, able to listen and counsel people in need; that he or she will be a good manager of the structures of the Church and be good at change-management. When a nominating committee sets out to choose a new candidate to become minister of a church, they have a list of qualities and skills for which they are looking, but that 'ideal minister' doesn't exist; so they have to pick and choose on some kind of priority scale; let's face it, all they really see of their new minister before their candidate beceoms their minister is how that person conducts a service and preaches; they don't see his or her people skills; they don't see his or her ability to chair a Kirk Session meeting; so the presumption is there - if he can do one, he will be able to do the others!

In fact, in my little example alone there are at least 3 different skill-sets, that are quite distinct. The abililty to preach is a totally different skill-set from that of being a counsellor, or a manager of change. Why do we presume that these skills will all abide in the one person? Then when our expectations of that one person are not met, that one person has to carry the blame for the failure of things that he or she is not very good at anyway!

Here are some other presumptions: We presume that older people hate new songs and that young people love every one of the new songs that are out there. We presume that the people who have been doing jobs in the Church for years are good at them! We presume that people who are the silent majority in a church have no views on any matter or have no skills and gifts to offer. We presume that people who don't express their faith in the language that we use don't have a faith at all. We presume that people who express no desire to come to Bible Study or the prayer time don't read the Bible and don't pray.

These are huge, sweeping generalisations, but....

I'm sure you can think of other presumptions that we make in the life of Churches. Let's challenge these presumptions. Let's build an effective Church for the future.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Life is a peach

The Church is facing a pandemic, a virus. According to Mark Greene is it called SSD. He says "Globally, 98% of Christians are neither envisioned nor equipped for mission in 95% of their waking lives. BUT just imagine if they were..." What is SSD? "The Sacred-secular divide". The Church, he says, is guilty of dividing life into the 'sacred, religious bit' and the rest. We're good at recognising the sacred bit, but not so good at helping people deal with the rest of life. How does the Bible relate to the world of work? How can we help young people develop a Christian view of the maths or the physics they study at school or the books they read for English? How can we help the parents who are bringing up their children and trying to work at the same time?

SSD has limited mission in 4 ways:

  • geographically - usually to within a few miles of the church building and/or far, far away

  • personnel - mission is seen as the province of church-paid people

  • time - SSD tends to confine most people's mission activity to their leisure time, evenings and weekends

  • Scope of the gospel - and the message we share with others, that is no longer about all our life and all our being.
"we have a small percentage of the Church taking a partial gospel to far, far fewer people than are actually known by the Christians in our congregations." "Churches have to realise that the core of their calling is to be disciple-making communities whatever else they do." (Bishop Graham Cray) So why is life a peach and not an orange? Because an orange is made up of segments that you can pull apart and we have been taught to think that God is more interested in the religious segments - prayer, church, worship - and is not interested in work, sport, school, hobbies. The peach is a whole fruit, all together. God is interested in all of our being, all of our life, all of our community. Overcoming SSD can: expand our vision, inspire our mission. release our churches, broaden our minds, enlarge our hearts. nourish our souls, thrill our spirits, free our imagination for faithful following and fruitful living in all of life. I'll lend you the whole essay if you like; it is called The Great Divide by Mark Greene.