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Thursday, September 28, 2006


The snooze button

If you are like me then you love the snooze button on your alarm clock/phone/radio.
Every morning when my alarm rings, I groggily flail to find the snooze button.
Usually I repeat this process at least twice, meaning half an hour after my initial alarm I am about ready to arise and face the new day.

Well the other day I came across an idea that I think will revolutionise my morning routine.
I would like to call it 'snooze prayer'.
When my alarm goes off, I still groggily reach for the snooze button. However, instead of trying to grab another few precious minutes of snooze time, I 'snooze pray'.

Now 'snooze prayer' is NOT praying in your sleep. 'Snooze prayer' is giving up (self-denial) that snooze time to connect with God, first thing in the morning before anything else.
I mean really, what is the purpose of snoozing after your alarm has gone off? It is not like the 10 minutes of snooze is making up for the 2 hours of sleep you missed by going to bed at 12:30. Ultimately snooze time is about a process of waking up and getting ready for the new day.

What better way to wake up and get ready for the new day than 'snooze prayer'?

So tomorrow morning when your alarm goes off, what are you going to do?
I know what my aim is.
Leave a comment and let us all know how you got on.

Oh and just for laughs, I came across this on someone's blog and I couldn't help but post it:

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Reconfiguring faith in the face of Gen Y

Don't we all just love generational theories. You know Gen X, the Baby Boomers and all that fun stuff.
I remember going to a large international Christian convention in the USA and being told that we were to be the Daniel generation, standing up to all that was going on around us.
Looking back 10 years later, I wonder just how many of the 3,500 young people at that event are now living lives of Danielic preportions.
When I look at the church I wonder what is it that we are offering?

I came across a blog post a couple of days ago and as good blogging theory suggests, I have been mulling it over for a while before posting on it. Since then, I have come across another couple of blog posts that relate to the whole area of young people, faith and Generational theory and so I am going to try and critique 3 different posts against each other.

The first is entitled How faith reconfigures in Young Adulthood. As the name suggests Fernando looks at faith in young adults.
The second is entitled Generation Y Workers. It raises some issues for bosses who have to work with Gen Yers.
The third is entitled Why your youth no longer care about Evangelism. This post by Mark Sayers, looks at Gen Y and its relation to 'Christian Consumerism' a favourite topic of mine.

Before we jump in, let us just define our terms.
Baby Boomers was the Generation born roughly between 1946 and 1964.
Generation X was born roughly between 1961 and 1981.
Generation Y was born roughly between 1977 and 2003.

Fernando begins with the well known idea amongst those who work with young people in a Christian setting. Most people make faith decisions before they turn 18. However 6 out of 10 young people who are active in the church as teenagers won't be there as twentysomethings.

Fernando makes the point that part of this could be because "Youth ministry tends to be highly relational. As people move out of it they find fewer relational links within the church and more pressure to maintain the links they need within workplaces, family and third places (clubs, social sites, etc)."

He points to this post where the author suggests the reason is actually that the church doesn't intellectually challenge young people and they leave out of shear boredom. He goes on to say that not only does he agree with this, but that Youth ministry is so involved and often experiential that when people move out of it into 'grown ups Church' they miss those aspects.

But then Fernando gets down to the meat of his argument.
He thinks that the key is that in Youth Ministry we are told to be countercutural.
When the young person develops into adult hood, they realise that being 'countercultural' is hard and think that to 'buy into the dominant culture' (ie buy a car, or a house, or get a job) is to sell out from being countercultural.

He then points out that 'countercultural' is the new dominant culture, with advertising buying into the whole idea of 'rebelling.'

The two results he sees are:
  1. we see that the 'countercultural' life we are taught to live in Youth Ministry isn't all that countercultural and so we are suspicious about being 'sold' faith.

  2. we continue to live 'counterculturally' acquiring all the trappings of 'rebellion' (the mac, the cool jeans, the environmental outlook on life) and therefore don't need the church and the faith to be 'countercultural'.

Mark Sayers sees the problem of faith in young adults as an entirely deeper problem.
"Generation Y is highly unlikely to see a life following Jesus as a viable option."

Why? Because they live in the now and don't want to wait for growth from discipleship.
Because they live within a consumeristic worldview and "it’s easy to attract a crowd of Gen Y’s to an event; it’s another thing to have them live transformed lives."
Because they are envious of the lifestyles of the people around them and see pleasure as the only way to happiness.
Because what is the need for God when we have the economy promising the 'good life' and society promising everything I want.

The Catalyst blog highlights 4 points about Gen Y workers, that I think very much relates to how they view and work within the church.
  1. Their heroes are the guys who got rich fast, or appeared to.

  2. They will shift jobs 20 times in their life time. It isn't a negative, it is just about gaining new experience and knowledge.

  3. They expect to dictate how and where they work

  4. They expect an open work place where they can have their views heard

Does that sound like the church today?
Does it sound like what the church should look like?
I think there are some positives there, especially the last one. But there is also that 'me' culture and the consumerism coming out again.

So are you depressed yet?

What an opportunity this provides for us to engage anew with what it is to be the church in the 21st Century.

The questions raised are great questions and they are questions that I have been grappling with, and I know others who have been grappling with, for a number of years.

How do we encourage spiritual depth in a generation that strives for the experience of the moment?
How do we 'sell' discipleship, with its journey, struggles and hardship, to a consumeristic generation that seeks instant gratification?

How do we be the Daniel generation that I was told that we were going to be?

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


Favourite 'How to ...' posts from the Group Writing Project

Well, I have just had a great long, long weekend.
Hence why I haven't got around to reflecting back over the Group Writing Project run by Darren over at Pro Blogger.

343 submissions later and we have ourselves a Group Writing Project.
I must admit that I didn't read all 343 submissions, check out my 'How to...' to find out why.

So here is a list (in no particular order) of submissions that I found useful and/or funny.

A great post on How to survive depression from someone who is there.

How to Define Success is a must read, especially for people feeling bombared by other people's expectations.

How to make a good decision, always an important skill.

How to 'buy' happiness raises some good questions and also points out that those who have money are along way ahead when it comes to literally surviving the day.

How to accept mistakes and don't blame others is a lesson we all need to learn.

How to live with teenagers is a laugh.

How to let go and move on is yet another lesson that we need to learn.

How to find a cure for diseases with your computer is an important read if you don't want to die of a preventable disease.

How to participate in the blogging community is a great reminder of what it is to be involved in the blogosphere.

How to overcome fear. Fear is a natural part of life, so is overcoming it.

Click here to see all the submissions in the Group Writing Project.

How to keep your relationship healthy with your wife is another great read.

And last, but not least,
How to be a parent and still have fun.

There we go, just a handful of the 343 submissions in the project.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Dilbert's view on giving to the poor

I love Dilbert.  I also love his/Scott Adam's blog.

Today's post is about how religion shapes our giving to the poor.

Check it out.

Some great comments people have left on his post:

Rick Miller said:
"In reality the guy buying his second iPod just doesn't want to admit to himself that he doesn't care about those distant strangers except when he's in church "being christian". He might even drop an extra dollar in the offering plate to help them, as long as he doesn't have to think about them after he leaves the church."

Charlie said:
"The poor are a gift from God, realized by anyone who has sacrificed to make a difference in their lives. If you choose not to accept the gift that's okay too, but you are actually the one who is missing out.
It's reverse logic, same as a leap of faith. You twist yourself up within your little connundrum and focus on the wrong thing. As good ole Saint Francis said, "It is in giving that we receive." If you don't believe it, just try it. So, number seven would be:
7. I lack enough faith to believe what He said: that in helping others I am really helping myself. But I'm working on it..."


How to make the most of your time online

70% of the blog posts that I read loose my attention after the first paragraph.
I spend a fair amount of time on the internet on any given day.
Sometimes I am bored looking for something to do, but this is not a usual occurence.
Usually I don't have enough time to look at everything that I want to look at online.

Do you have the same problem that I do?
Too much stuff, not enough time.
If you don't have this problem, perhaps this post might help you understand those of us who do.
If you do have this problem, then read on to find out how you can make the most of your time online.

Darren over at Problogger is running another Group Writing Project and this post is my contribution. (Thanks to Darren for providing ways for us to 'push the envelope' in our blogging.)

1. Understand how much time you have to spend online.
If you don't have a specific end time then you will end up following link after link and end up not getting done what you came online to achieve. If you know that you only have 15 minutes left to find that killer recipe for tonights dinner then you are going to be much more time effective.

2. Prioritise what you want online
Decide what is most important for your internet use, both for a single session and in general.
Some people place Instant Messaging (i.e. MSN) as their most important online activity in general.
However, if you are online tonight researching The Mongolian Horse Fiddle then chatting to your friends will distract you from that purpose. BTW, how many people actually followed that link and proved their need to follow this 'How to..'?

3. Make proper use of Search Engines
Many people think that all they need to do is enter some words into Google and it will spew out what they want.
It isn't that simple. If you are looking for something try entering it into Google. Before following any of the links, read the excerpt from the webpage. Does it sound like what you are looking for?
Before clicking on five of the links and deciding that Google sucks because none of them relate to what you are looking for, try refining your search.
Try adding another couple of words to narrow your search.
If you are looking for an object (i.e. a car) try adding a model, colour or brand.

4. Get an RSS reader
RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. Imagine if you didn't have to check every single website and blog you like just to see if they had updated. Well before you get visions of being so smart, lots of people have thought it before and someone came up with RSS. RSS is where updates of webpages and blogs are sent to you as headlines rather than you having to go looking for them.
Check out Bloglines or Net News Wire if you have a Mac.

5. You don't have to read every blog post
I love blogs. I subscribe to a heap of them. With RSS I am told whenever they are updated. It is not uncommon for me to get up in the morning and find over 150 headlines have been updated overnight. I could never hope to read them all.
The three things I do to determine whether I am going to read a blog post.
a) Look at who the author is. (I have must reads, Dilbert being one.)
b) Look at the title. This is where the vast majority of readers are won or lost. Crappy title = low readership.
c) Read the first paragraph. If someone doesn't know how to grab a reader in the first paragraph, chances are they don't know how to keep a reader for the rest of their post.

6. Most importantly, you don't have to do it all now!
We live in an age of instant gratification. If you want something now, you get it now.
The Internet is one of the worst feeders of this gratification.
When I am on the internet I come across alot of things I want to read, but I know I don't have the time to read it there and then. So what I do is open the page and then minimize it into my dock (sorry to all you boring Windoze users), allowing me to come back to it at a later stage when I have more time.

I hope that you have persevered past my first paragraph.
I hope that this post has been helpful for you, either to help you with your time management, or to help you understand how best to blog for people with time management issues.
Thanks again to Darren at Problogger for another Group Writing Project.
It has been a fun challenge for me to write.

Please leave some ideas and tips for how you make the most of your time online (and don't foget a quick visit to our sponsors, I promise it won't take too long!)


Links to check out

General Coutts Quote
Came across this blog post just then and thought it was an interesting point.

How to write a great blog post
Here is a short article on how to write a great blog post. Some basic points that can be easily forgotten.

Salvation Army Music
Say Tunes is a new website for Salvos to share their original music with each other.

Spiritual Gifts
This blog post raises a great question about Spiritual Gifts.

The same blogger as above has a great post about how we should see Education. He is talking about College (Uni) education, because he is a College professor, but I think the same is true for all levels of education.

How to overcome fear
As the title suggests, so this post delivers.

Hope some of these are interesting/helpful.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


The 3 biggest challenges facing the Salvation Army

Last night I had the opportunity to talk to an older Christian friend of mine. We were talking about some of the ideas I had about lifestyle choices and what it meant to live out our Christian values today. I was talking as a young person, full of enthusaism and thinking that what I was sharing with this older Christian was so far out of the box, so hip, modern and so alternative that he wouldn’t know what had hit him. His response was “well as a Christian heading towards retirement I guess that is what my wife and I have done. We moved away from where we had lived for most of our life and where we had brought up our children. We decided that we had everything that we needed and so we decided to make a change. We knew that we didn’t need to devote all our time to working so we could buy more stuff. Yes it means sometimes we go without, but it also means we have more time to do what God wants us to do.”

Here was a gentleman, who really isn’t that far off retirement, who was saying something that had just seconds before come out of my mouth. When it came out of my mouth, it sounded like the visions of youthful enthusiasm. When it came out of his mouth, it sounded like the realisation of a man who had the experience to know what he was talking about.

The Salvation Army has always recognised the potential of the young people within its ranks. The challenge today is harnessing that potential and mobilising our young people into responsible leadership.

Young people need to be mobilised in leadership, but they also need to be mentored and have leadership actively modelled to them by older more experienced leaders.

The problem with young people is that we tend to think we know best. We are very good at pointing out what others are doing wrong (just ask any school student about their principal). But put us in charge and we can easily look like a fish out of water. I know from my own experience that it is easy to have ideas about what we want to see happen, but trying to put them into action is another thing all together.

The positives of engaging young people in leadership are self evident. They are passionate, energetic and have some great ideas. Most importantly of all however is that the young leaders of today will be the older leaders of tomorrow and if they aren’t developed then we are in trouble.

As my chat with my friend showed, alot of the time old people do ‘get it’, if we actually take the time to talk to them.

As I have already said, I think that the challenge for the Salvation Army is in providing leadership for our young leaders. Older heads are needed to provide encouragement and critique for the younger leaders. Older heads are needed to provide the framework within which young leaders can thrive. Older heads are needed to assist young leaders in getting on with it.

The wisdom and experience that comes from those who have been there before is invaluable in the development of those who are yet to go there.

The danger for the Salvation Army is that those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


The 3 biggest challenges facing the Salvation Army

Today I had the opportunity to talk to a retired officer who I respect very much.
I asked him what part of discipleship he was most passionate about.
He said to me, "denying ourself to follow Christ. No matter where we go, we can't get past Matthew 16:24"

I am in the middle of looking at what I see as the three biggest challenges facing the Salvation Army.
The second challenge I see is the challenge of relevancy.

In the Western world today, we live in a world of consumerism.
If I want a car, I shop around to find the car that best suits my needs.
If I want take away for tea, I stop and think 'what do I feel like eating tonight?' and then I go and get it.

The problem is, when we talk of the church being 'relevant', more often than not we are talking about the relevancy of consumerism.
What packaging are we going to put on this thing we call church to make it appealing to the person 'shopping' for a church, be they Christian or non Christian?

This is why we talk of 'relevant' meaning the music we play and the songs we sing.
These things are, at best, the wrapping on the outside of our product.

Willow Creek, one of the largest churches in America, began its growth by going out into the community that surrounded its property and asking them what they needed in their community. They then set about building a church building that had all the things the community identified as needs, a community hall, a swimming pool, etc.

This is one of the first steps towards being relevant. Finding out what people want/need.
But, we need to move past a consumerist model of relevancy for the church.

As I spoke to this retired officer today, I was pondering not only our conversation, but this blog entry.
His comment that discipleship is about denying your self made perfect sense for the issue of the church being relevant.

We think the church will be relevant if we give people what they want.
Jesus called his disciples (and by extension the church) to deny themselves, take up their cross and follow him.

Perhaps the relevancy that the Salvation Army is searching for, is this radical call to discipleship.
To be relevant is in fact to be different.
So different in fact that we offer an alternative way of living. An alternative lifestyle. An alternative worldview.

It is only when we approach the question of 'how can the church be relevant?' from the radical position of the cross that we can find a truely Biblical understanding of what it is to be the church.

Jesus is God's example of what it is to be relevant.
Jesus incarnated God.
The Word became flesh and pitched his tent amongst all our tents.

In the early days of the Salvation Army we had what became known as "Hallelujah Lasses". These were young, unmarried women who went and lived in rough situations. There were the two teenage lasses who went to the mining fields of Western Australia. Rather than asking 'how can the church be relevant?', these two lasses took 'the church' to the roughest community imaginable. One of them died within the first few months of being there.

What would the Salvation Army look like if we honestly asked the question "what does it mean to be relevant?" from the perspective of Matthew 16:24?

Wednesday, September 06, 2006


The 3 biggest challenges facing the Salvation Army

Yesterday I started a look at what I see as the 3 biggest challenges facing the Salvation Army into the future.
Today, I want to focus on the first challenge, maintaining our own theology and organisational distinctives.

We all know the story of the ugly duckling.
There was a little duckling who was unlike all the other ducklings in his family.
He had big feet and he couldn't quack.
All the other ducklings made fun of him.
All the bigger ducks were so disappointed that he wasn't like the rest of the ducklings.
As he grew he just become more and more different to the other ducklings.
Then one day some swans came to the lake and the duckling realised that he wasn't a duckling.
He was a cygnet, a baby swan.

I want to contend that the Salvation Army is like that ugly duckling.
When our movement is put alongside other churches, we don't fit in.
We are the ugly duckling compared to the other ducklings, we can't quack and we have big feet.
The other ducklings look at us and make fun of us.
They laugh at how we look (our uniform), they laugh at our quack (our two pronged mission strategy, wholistic mission) and they laugh at our big feet (our organisational structure).

In Australia our response is to try even harder to be like the other ducklings. We apologise for who we are and we try to become something we are not.

I heard a Salvation Army officer say that the distinctives of the Salvation Army only make sense when we are engaged in mission to the marginalised.

Our theology was shaped pragmatically. The two questions William Booth asked of anyone wanting to do something new in the Salvation Army was "is it Biblical and does it work?"
When we remove the Salvation Army from ministry to the poor and marginalised, it is no wonder that our young people no longer understand Salvation Army theology, instead chasing after the theology of other denominations.
When one works with the poor, one sees God in the poor.

When I went to India last year I came to a greater understanding of the Salvation Army as an international movement.
Other than the Catholic church, we are the only Christian movement that can rally its members on a world wide basis.
The upcoming prayer weekend for victims of Sexual Slavery is a case in point. The General has directed Salvationists from all over the world to come together and pray for an issue of Global impact.
A global problem requires a global response.
The Salvation Army is able to respond to this issue primarily because of its organisational structure.

Now this doesn't mean that there aren't problems with the structure of the Army, but that comes under tomorrows challenge.

The Salvation Army's theology and its organisational structure are key challenges in the future of the Salvation Army.
They are key challenges because to get them wrong is to be the ugly duckling.

When I sit and read Booth's "In Darkest England" I realise how it all falls together.
Booth set forth what became known as the Cab Horse charter. (Remembering it was written in a time before cars)

If someone sees a cab horse fallen over in the street, their first reaction is not to ask "how did it come to fall over in the street?" We don't stop and ask whether the horse has come to fall over due to exhaustion due to overwork. We don't stop to ask if the horse has fallen over because it is lazy and decided it couldn't walk any more. We don't stop and ask whether the horse is deserving of our assistance.
No, we immediately go and assist the horse to its feet. We find an apple or some sugar and feed the horse.
Booth then asked, why is the same not so with the people we see in destitution around us?

The theology and organisational structure of the Salvation Army only make sense when we are engaged in the lives of the poor and marginalised. The theology and organisational structure of the Salvation Army only make sense when applied in a local context, but realised on a global scale. The International Salvation Army is required to operate so that our local Salvation Army can operate.

What do you think?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


The 3 biggest challenges facing the Salvation Army

I know everyone has a ping at this topic every now and then, but this morning as I was walking along I was pondering what I see as the three biggest challenges facing the Salvation Army in 2006.

Today I will just outline the three challenges and then over the next few days we will unpack each of them a little bit more.

1) Maintaining our own theology and organisational distinctives.
I talk to a lot of Salvos and the more I talk to, the more I realise that we don't understand what our theology is anymore.
Alot of the debates that take place in the Salvation Army would not be needed if we truely understood the theology of our movement. This doesn't mean there wouldn't be debates, they just would be different debates.
The idea of maintaining our organisational distinctives is a complex task. What is the core DNA of the Salvation Army?
Obviously there are things that as an International organisation we need to keep uniform (just travel overseas to see the need for and strength of shared identity), but also as an internation organisation we need to allow for adaptability of our distinctiveness to suit the context. I would contend that perhaps that is our core DNA.

2) Being relevant.
This relates to the organisational distinctives. In the Salvation Army the idea of being relevant has been reduce to one of two things. Firstly, worship styles. Secondly, corps versus social centres. Both of these debates are distractions from the work of Salvation that the Army is called to do in our world. For an Australian context, the only place outside of the church where I go and sing songs is the Football (round ball variety). And the singing, chanting football supporters are in the minority of the fans of that sport. What songs we sing is not an issue that is going to stop or start people coming into our churches (maybe the 'coming in' bit is part of the problem). Again, corps versus social centres, the debate is being played out by those inside our organisation, instead of spending the time and energy on engage with the people who we are supposed to be doing our best to 'reach'.

3) Harnessing responsible leadership from our young people.
The Salvation Army has always recognised and encouraged the potentional of the young people with in its ranks.
The challenge for the Salvation Army today is to encourage the young people to be leaders, but also give them guidance and frameworks within which to lead.
Young people have great passion, vision and enthusiasm. But young people are also arrogant, short sited and narrow minded.
We need young people in leadership positions, but we also need wise old heads sharing their experience as well.
Those who don't learn from history are bound to repeat it.

Stay tuned for a more in depth look at each of these three challenges.

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Values: 'Little minds, big lessons'

Today's Age ran an article titled 'Little minds, big lessons.'

The preamble to the articles says:
"Prime Minister John Howard has accused state schools of being 'valueless' but, as John Elder discovered, students throughout Victoria are charting a path through life's moral and religious minefields."

The article then looks at a number of different schools and how they are teaching 'values' to their students.
Now as many of you know, I have an interest in schools.
My job takes me to three different high schools, all with different characters and cultures.
As many of you also know, I have an interest in values and especially the way they are 'taught' to young people.

Tonight in our discipleship group we had an interesting discussion as to how we view the bible and the point came up that we learn best from stories. This point also came up in the article, "instead of being told the moral of the story ... the students have to work it out for themselves." The best learning is done when a person 'works it out' for themselves, usually by observation and experience.

It got me to thinking about how young people learn the 'values' of our country that John Howard is so keen to instill into them.

I heard about a young person who yelled abuse into the face of another young person's mother recently.
All I could comment was 'what had happened in that young man's life that had led him to think that that was acceptable behaviour.'

While I agree with the idea of 'values' being taught in a communal environment (schools, churches and community groups), I think we are fighting an up hill battle until the values of our adult society are changed.
How are kids and young people supposed to value diversity and engage with people who are different to them, when all they hear at home is how 'all muslims are terrorists' or 'all aboriginals are bums'?
How are kids meant to learn about saving and sound financial management when all they see at home is mum or dad coming home with the latest gadget, or worrying over the credit card bill because they have bought so much on impulse?

And what are our young people supposed to think about Australian values when they see the very things we are supposed to value, freedom of speech and the presumption of innocence, being denied to Australian citizens by the Government?
The Jack Thomas affair just highlights the hypocricy and short sightedness of a nation that speaks one thing and then acts in complete opposition to the rhetoric it espouses.

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