Author: Peter Collier

Not busybodies (Peter Collier)

So I sit down to read the Bible one to one with a young bloke. I decide we’ll look at 1 Thessalonians; it’s a good entry level book with no Old Testament quotations; it’s not overly difficult to understand and it is not too difficult to apply appropriately to our day and age. However, I don’t expect to learn too much. We look at it each year on the Tim Course, I’ve preached on it, written Bible studies on it and done many other one to ones looking at 1 Thessalonians. At our first meeting we read through the whole letter and discuss what struck us, what questions we have and what it means for us.

As my friend and I think about what strikes us as we read the whole book, we chase through a few threads about ‘working with your hands’ and ‘not being dependent on anybody’. We then have a look at 2 Thessalonians 3: 6 – 12 where Paul encourages people to work and earn their own living.

And then the living, active sword strikes.

2 Thessalonians 3:11 ‘For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies.’

Recently I made Facebook my homepage. This has certain advantages. But it also has disadvantages – especially at work. It is so easy to be distracted from the things I ought to be busy with and idly be a busybody about what everybody else is doing. Which, as one ‘in the Lord Jesus’(v12), I ought not to be doing.

Ouch.

Back to work. And perhaps I’ll change my homepage. I’ll certainly need to change how I act at work so I am busy at work rather than being a busybody on Facebook.

Next week we look at 1 Thessalonians Chapter 1 – but of course, I know what that is going to say, I’ve read it hundreds of times before ….

Atheist preacher turns heads (Peter Collier)

It is not uncommon to hear Christians complaining about preaching. Not simply the boring sermon that they heard last Sunday, or the inability of certain preachers in particular, but the entire medium of the proclaimed monologue. In the internet age with all its computer graphics, viral Youtube moments and 140 word tweets, it is felt preaching is to communication what horses are to modern warfare: outdated, cumbersome, irrelevant and only esteemed by those guaranteed to be on the losing side because they have not kept up with the times. However Australia’s Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, gave a stinging rebuke in Parliament in 2012 which demonstrated that the proclaimed word has lost none of its potency in the internet age; if anything, it can now pack a meaner punch.

As with any speech, the context of Prime Minister Gillard’s speech is important. At the time she was leading a government that was languishing in the polls. Her personal approval ratings were at an all time low, only matched by those of the leader of the Opposition. She has been nicknamed Ju-liar. Her minority government was hanging by a thread in parliament and facing a motion to have the Speaker of the House resign over allegations of inappropriate text messages about women. The Opposition leader was leading the call for the Speaker’s resignation and along the way seemed to be improving his poor image in relation to women.

And then Prime Minister Julia Gillard gave her speech. She began, ‘I will not be lectured on misogyny by that man. Not now. Not ever.’ She then proceeded to offer a stinging and detailed rebuke of the sexism she perceived the leader of the opposition hypocritically displayed. The rest is history. You can view the speech here (http://youtube.com/w/?v=wfo3SGIiSE0).

The speech is worth Christians listening to in order to get an insight into what many in our society regard as sexism. Several of the critiques are valid, some perhaps, in the light of Scripture are not. This is not suprising since Prime Minister Gillard is a declared atheist. However few of the critiques will be new to any Christian living in the West who is engaged with their community. The greater lesson of Prime Minister Gillard’s speech is the ringing endorsement it provided to the medium of the proclaimed word. To say it was potent would be an understatement.

Within a day, the speech had been picked up on by media outlets across the world, from the Spectator to the New Yorker; from the Guardian to the Telegraph. Overnight, the speech went viral, receiving 300,000 hits in its first day and easily surpassing a million Youtube views within a week. Overnight, facebook was awash with comments about the speech; virtual posters were being made quoting it. Prime Minister Gillard went from being nicknamed Ju-liar to being referred to as Julia Caesar.

But this was no flash-in-the-pan effect. Now three months on from the speech, the Prime Minister’s approval ratings have risen across ages and genders; the Leader of the Opposition’s ratings have done the reverse. He has stepped back from being an attack dog and delegated that duty to his Deputy (another Julia). As 2012 closed and newspapers provided their reviews of the year, Julia Gillard’s speech rated as one of the defining moments of the year, and certainly of politics and her leadership. The Macquarie Dictionary updated its definition of misogyny from ”hatred of women” to ‘entrenched prejudice of women’. It is not difficult to imagine that in years to come Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s ‘misogyny’ speech will be published in books of collections great speeches, both in Australia and abroad, about politics and beyond. In short, a 15 minute monologue given with great clarity and conviction did what no amount of advertising or political spin could do. It turned a tide.

What was fascinating to watch in the day after Prime Minister Gillard gave her speech was that most of Australia’s highly astute political commentators missed the significance of her speech. Indeed, several, who would later acknowledge the significance of it, criticised her for it at the time. They did what is so easy to do: they missed the great significance of a very powerful and persuasive speech, no doubt because it was all too familiar. Although they mostly saw the speech live, they are used to watching speeches in parliament. Perhaps they think that Parliament is boring and 15 minute monologues are out of place in the internet age.

Christians sitting in churches hearing 15 minute monologues on the Word of God which they think are boring take note of these commentators mistake, and learn. If the Bible is the Word of God it is not the message which is the problem. Julia Gillard’s speech showed the problem is not the medium either. That leaves two options: the messengers or the hearers.

Avoiding the annual leadership crisis (Peter Collier)

I was talking recently to a lady who has been involved in a wonderful ministry for years. I asked her whether they needed extra helpers and her response was interesting. She said that at the start of each year they are always quite desparate to find people to take the different roles the ministry requires.

I’m sure that is quite a familiar situation. Whether it is the youth group, Sunday school, Bible in schools classes or Bible study groups – as the new year gets underway, the need becomes increasingly more urgent – even desparate – to find people who will lead and be involved in running these ministries.

Ultimately it is the Lord of the Harvest who provides workers for these harvest fields, and so the first thing we ought to be doing about this need for leaders and people to teach God’s word is be asking the Lord of the Harvest for workers. However, rather than asking rather desparately the night before first term begins next year – it is worth asking the Lord of the Harvest earlier on than this, perhaps even asking Him in the year before!

What we ought also perhaps do is change our thinking about the ministries we are involved in. There can be a tendency to be needs driven rather than resource driven in Christian ministries. Let me explain. Let’s say a church had six Bible study groups last year, and three leaders will be stopping leading this year. It can be thought the three new leaders are needed so we can have six groups again next year.

However, instead of asking how many leaders are needed to keep doing what we’ve always done, we can perhaps ask a different question. And it is a particularly good question to be asking at the end of October as ministries have been operating over the year and hopefully the buds of fruit are beginning to be evident. The question to ask is, who do we have whom it would be good to invest time into in order to train them further in the ministry of the word of God? That is, who do we have from our ministries who are faithful, available and teachable?

Perhaps from our six Bible study groups we can identify four people who are faithful, available, and teachable at this point. What ought we do with them? Train all of them in ministry so they might be able to be Bible study leaders! It may be that all four are then able to lead a study – in which case we’ll then have seven groups; or perhaps only two will be able to lead – but then our groups we should still be able to have just as many people studying the Bible only in larger groups – and hopefully we’d have two other people who could step in if they needed to occasionally, having been trained up.

But the key issue is that rather than being driven by a desparate need in February, we are being driven by thinking about how we can further spur keen Christians on to love and good deeds in October – November (or indeed, earlier in the year!).

But if we identify people who are godly, eager and available to learn and be trained in Christian ministry – how do we train them?

There are many good things we could do with people. However, an excellent thing to do for people in this position is to encourage them to attend YLC in the first full week in January each year (ylc.org.nz). YLC is a week-long conference which has as its aim training Bible teachers. People who attend YLC will learn how to read, understand and apply a passage of the New Testament for themselves, and then teach it to others. If people return in following years they will learn the same skills for a passage from the Old Testament (year 2) and on a topic (year 3). In addition, delegates will hear excellent talks on the parts of the Bible they are studying and be further equipped as they mix with like-minded and enthusiastic people eager to be trained as workers for the Lord’s harvest field and also attend various workshops on ministry.

The pastor, youth group leader or ministry director who prays, plans and sends godly and faithful Christians to YLC in the spring may find that when February the following year comes there are still leadership shortages in some church ministries. However, the Lord of the Harvest may also have provided more workers for His harvest fields in ways they never expected.

The people on the bus go…

Winter School holidays in Christchurch means Kidsfest for many people. We had a family outing on the She Chocolat double decker bus trip which we greatly enjoyed.

The bus is not only a vehicle for chocolate and fun, however. It also proves to be a vehicle for some sort of New Age religion. So on the bus there are tracts available which speak of this. Also, towards the end of the commentary on the bus, a couple of videos are shown which speak about how we are all connected (the man on the video speaks about how the chocolate tree connected with him and gave him recipe ideas!) The final video has an animated bear singing a catchy song (our James loved the tune) which has as its punchline that we all have sunshine inside of us. The nice tour guide lady on the bus spoke about how, whenever she’s having a bad day, she just has to remember she has the sunshine inside. The bus has two big signs on the back encouraging people to love and care for each other. It is not difficult to see the appeal of such a message. Especially when it is combined with chocolate! Continue reading

Auckland YLC Intensive

I’m pleased to announce there will be an Auckland Intensive of the Youth Leadership Conference on July 28th at Grace Theological College. I’ll be teaching at this one day intensive on Matthew 11 – 12. You can register for the conference on intensive.ylc.org.nz.

The Youth Leadership Conference is an inspiring and challenging week of Bible teaching that aims to equip leaders with skills to lead Bible based groups. In previous posts, Wally Behan and Joe Fleener have given many motivations for attending the conference, which included that the Gospel of Christ taking centre stage, its unique combination of modeling and practicing, learning how to read and handle the Bible properly and the skills to teach others. The Conference, held in the first week in January each year in Christchurch, has been a rich source of encouragement and equipping of the saints. The 2013 conference promises to be no different with Jay Behan and Justin Mote providing the Bible teaching (see here for more info). Continue reading