Hard to disagree with this one.
‘The temptation to push for results to the exclusion of other concerns is something that hits all organisations and individuals involved in ministry. It is all too easy (and common) for mission agencies to be so focussed on results and keeping their donors on board that they crush local initiative and set the church back for years on ‘the field’. On a different scale, it is not unusual for pastors’ families to pay a huge price in the search to preach the perfect sermon.’
Steve McAlpine: ‘Perhaps there was something in a whole bunch of people like us who wanted this to be the way going forward, even though at the same time plenty of other voices were saying “No!” So perhaps we are to blame. Perhaps. But let’s not jump straight there. Besides, maybe we are, once again, putting too much store in our own ability both to bring something to life and to kill it. That would seem to be a “God-thing”, if I may use that expression. We’re eager to claim that God brings the church to life, but too quick to spread the blame when a church dies.’
This one starts from the same podcast but goes down a somewhat different line: ‘I wonder if our approach to church planting almost makes it inevitable that we will see these types of spectacular rises and falls. I know of friends who’ve planted with 3 years funding and the pressure of 3 years in which to make the church self sustaining. 3 years! Just think about the pressure that places on the planter and any core team they take with them. We expect results and we expect them quickly and yet Jesus constantly uses the image of seeds sown, trees slowly growing to fruitfulness – which takes years of preparation and tending. Are we guilty of creating something unsustainable, of putting planters and teams under an unreasonable pressure that may lead to warped methods because we need results?’
Dave Williams looks at a fable that was recently doing the rounds on the internet, highlights some of the issues with it and then uses it as a jumping off point for thinking rightly about the Lord: ‘The parables of Jesus do not point to someone who is testing patience, trying to catch out but to a loving and merciful God who overflows with generosity. If God were the employer in the story, he would be there at 7am to greet the employees and to tell them there’s enough wages and work for them all. If this were one of Jesus’ parables then he wouldn’t be waiting to see who turned up for interview and stayed. He would be out there on the street looking for people who needed work.’
My friend, Stephen Watkinson, is all for experts sharing their expertise but wants a little more honesty, humility and thoughtfulness both from those sharing and those listening: ‘I think a more humble and thoughtful approach to expertise in quite lot of training and conferences on Christian ministry could be more productive and perhaps less dispiriting for those listening.’
‘If you have ever been anywhere near a diagnosis for depression, and certain other mental health issues, you will have come across Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). The thrust of CBT is to try and check your thought life against what you know to be true. It is important for those who are depressed because whilst we are ill our feelings are not our friends, they frequently lie to us. The only way to make sure we are acting sensibly is to fact check our feelings – which are fleeting and mercurial – against solid, unmoveable facts that we know.’