Tag Archives: pastor

A new blog Under The Water

I have started a new blog site called, Under the Water.

I will maintain both sites, but Under the Water will have a more specific and narrow subject as summarised on the About page:

Under the Water is a writing project that I plan to use to tease out some questions about whether a Baptist Church has a place in Australia. Along the way I will deal with practical and theological issues on Baptist beliefs and behaviours. I am writing from the perspective of both a Church Minister (or to use the common Baptist terminology, Pastor) and a potential research student working towards completing a post-graduate theological degree. At some point in the next few years I am planning to write a formal thesis dissertation and the articles on this blog are a way of thinking through that process in smaller, less academic, bite size pieces.

I have kicked things off with a small chat about defining ‘Church‘.

So, add the site to your feedreader or subscription and come along for the ride.

What topics or issues, related to Under the Water, would you like to see or discuss there?



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Posted by on 10/09/2013 in church, Culture, leadership, Theology


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Don’t like your Church? Then leave. Or…


Pastorally, a huge challenge in leading and growing a Church is trying to keep volunteers engaged in the ministry. When you’re small, there’s only a handful of people who are either able or available to pitch in and help. As a pastor I get excited when someone wants to help out. More hands lighter load and all that.

I am also keeping a constant eye on those that are helping to make sure they don’t burn out. This isn’t always possible as some people, for wrong and right reasons, don’t always speak up when they’re getting stretched. That is, until they go past the breaking point and disappear over night. By then, usually, it’s too late to recover and restore them. No amount of, “Why didn’t you say something earlier?” will change things. They’re gone. They might re-gather and get back into things later on, for which I am thankful, but it won’t be with me or at my church. That ship has sailed.

So, for those that are still here, what to do? Being a small Church is still exhausting. And, by small, I mean anything below 200-250 attendance. And by Church I mean a single gathered congregation. Anyhow… The problem hasn’t gone away.

Here’s the typical challenge: By some means, a new person, couple or family shows up (Sunday gathering or smaller group – doesn’t matter). They look around and either on that day or in the couple of weeks afterwards don’t find or connect with anyone with similar circumstances to them. They conclude that this isn’t the place for them. Their needs aren’t being met here. So, off they go. Oh, you’re a nice, welcoming congregation and all, but this is just not what I’m looking for. Bye! 

Challenge 2: This is where it gets worse. Someone else who is regular in the Church sees this person come and leave and realises that they probably could have connected if only they had spoken up sooner or made the effort or whatever. The regular then concludes the same thing. It’s time to go. After all, they’ve stayed here for long enough and anyone that they could connect with doesn’t stay around anyway. Off they go too.

I think both challenges could be taken on by the person in scenario 2. When you’re a regular in a small church, you probably are already half way there. The difference will be whether you sit back or stand up. I have had this conversation every single week of my life in ministry. The regular looks around, they see a gap or a need that just so happens to affect them. They approach the Pastor or Church leader and the conversation goes… “The Church really needs to do something about <this need that I have, but I am pointing at others to make it more urgent>

Instead of simply saying, honestly, “This is something I want for myself, but nobody’s providing it, so I am going to take my bat and my ball and go.” They try to dress it up to sound concerned about others. The technical term for this approach is … Bollocks! Ok, there is a stronger more definite term, but you get the idea. To be fair, sometimes people are this honest. That doesn’t change the challenge or the potential solution.

As argued by Dan Phillips on the Pyro Blog, far more eloquently, in a similar vein, the 2nd person could offer the service they are wanting someone else to give to them. That change in tack is the turning point that moves a Church from small and struggling to small, yet thriving and growing.

Too often, the expectation is that either the Pastor or those already serving in multiple other areas will be the ones to step into this “new” need to breach the gap. And, too often, they try, and inevitably set their own trajectory to burn out or be so busy keeping two dozen plates spinning that they have no time to do any one thing with excellence. It is a recipe for death in a small church. So, if this is the case in your small Church, you could go. Bye! Or, you could see a need, and fill a need! Whadayareckon?


Posted by on 02/08/2013 in church, Culture, discipleship


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Be a better pastor by attending School Career Day

I’ve just got back from a little presentation in my daughter’s primary school class on “People in our Community.” Several parents had come along to the class to tell the children what they did for a job and how they served the community in their job. It was tempting to feel a little sheepish about being a mere Pastor when compared to the Barrister, Doctor, Psychologist and Marine Rescue Officer, however, thankfully my identity does not revolve around my work but my relationship to Christ! As I was listening to each speaker and later spoke with some of them about their work it struck me that Career Day had a lot more to teach me than just what the other parents do for a living.

It is all to easy as a Pastor to become cloistered and cut off from the real world. Spending time in the study preparing for preaching is paramount but those to whom you preach do not have that liberty. When you preach or counsel you need to apply the gospel to where they live. If you know nothing of their world, how will you make that connection? As you invest much time preparing to preach, what good is it, if upon completion of your sermon, the Barrister, Retail Consultant, Stay at Home Mum, Plumber and Doctor shrug their shoulders and say, “So what?!

Likewise if your ministry is addressed to others in ministry, if you can’t show them how to serve their people where they live, then what?

Now, I’m not arguing for a completely pragmatic approach that only responds or reacts to felt needs or anything like that. What I’m saying is that to be precise in your preaching and counselling you need to know something of what people are dealing with. The Foreign Exchange Dealer that is constantly on edge due to the volatility in fiscal markets; the Barrister that is upset at how people view their role as a defence lawyer in a negative light; the Doctor that is exhausted from working ridiculous hours trying to fit in as many patients as possible; the Plumber that hasn’t had a weekend off since starting his apprenticeship and so on. Bearing in mind also, that stress from struggles are not necessarily directly related to the field or industry where someone is working – I’m talking in generics for the sake of this blog post – but that’s something you need to avoid in your preaching and counsel!

How do you serve them? How does the gospel speak into their life and circumstances? Specifically? You won’t find out by playing around on Twitter as you finish reading yet another e-book on the theory of Pentateuch authorship. Things like Career Day give you a chance to learn about the people in your Church and what fills their week. It helps you understand why they do what they do and whether they enjoy it, find it challenging or stressful. How do they deal with some of the harsher elements of their job? e.g. People in medical and service industries are often faced with death and trauma – how do they deal with that?

I had originally gone along to Career Day as a favour to my daughter to make her feel important that Daddy had come to her class. And, I think that happened ;) But, I think the other thing that happened was a great reality check for me in my ministry as a Pastor. I should quickly add, that this is the sort of thing you also find out by visiting the people in your congregation and getting to know them. This is just another way of doing that. What are some other ways you can get to know your congregation and serve them better as their Pastor?

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Posted by on 13/06/2012 in discipleship, ministry, Preaching


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Announcement – New pasture or should that be new pastor?

For the past 3 years or thereabouts (2009-2012), it has been my privilege to be the Pastor of a Church where I was entrusted with the role of teaching, training, caring for and leading a congregation that ranged in age from new born through to octogenarian and everything in-between. It has been both a thrilling challenge and wonderful adventure. I was fortunate to be part of seeing lives changed for the glory of God and to start a number of outreaches that benefited both the local community and global missions.

Providentially, the Lord shut the door on this ministry opportunity earlier this year and since then, after wrestling with the idea of having to move and many discussions, interviews, appraisals, exams, reference checks and reviews with several different Churches, one in particular stood out for us and we to them.

A few weeks ago the leadership team of that Church asked their congregation to prayerfully consider voting to call and appoint me as their next Pastor. They voted, unanimously, to do so and I have accepted their invitation. I will begin in my official capacity as Pastor of Marsfield Community Church from 1 July.

This transition time held, for my family, many challenges and opportunities, not the least of which involves saying farewell to some dear friends. There were a number of people God used to support, strengthen, pray for and encourage us throughout. I cannot overstate my appreciation for God and you. Thank you! The next ministry is both an immense privilege and solemn charge and I am excited to move into the next proving ground that God has prepared. My first request of our new Church was a 3-fold one I would ask of you as well, please pray for me, my family and our new Church. Specifically that:

- God is honoured and glorified in our ministry together;
– Our hearts are united to God’s Word, His Purpose and to each other as co-laborers in the gospel;
– God would give us great strength and enthusiasm to approach the task of the great commission Jesus has given us.

By the way, so long as you’re not wagging your own local/home church, please, welcome each Sunday at 10:00am for worship. And if you are not a Christian or the idea of an evangelical church seems a bit odd, or you have questions about Jesus, the Bible and Christianity, then the same goes for you ;)


Posted by on 03/06/2012 in church, leadership, ministry


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It’s time to open up a can-o-whup-???

Robert Eberle - Young shepherds with their flock

It is tempting, in the face of sin, defiance and rebellion to respond with imprecations and denouncements. As a parent, sometimes it can feel as though all you are doing is ranting and reacting to a child’s misbehaviour or attitude. But when that happens too often, you will miss the joy of loving them. Imagine if God was as impatient with us as we sometimes are with our children? What horror would ensue.

A blog by Mike Bull and Tim Gallant on Zephaniah 3:17

The LORD your God is in your midst,
a mighty one who will save;
he will rejoice over you with gladness;
he will quiet you by his love;
he will exult over you with loud singing.

caught my eye this morning and I’ve included some quotes below. Take time to read it all. If you’re a leader in the Church, consider how you model grace and love. If you’re not a leader and not a parent, consider and give thanks for the grace and love shown to you by God and your pastor.

If we ask the question: “How often is there something in my life that God could be correcting?” – the answer would have to be, “Always.” Even the strongest believers in this life are en route, are taking a journey in spiritual growth, and are immature in a host of areas.

The shepherds of the flock have a special calling to be aware of the needs of the sheep. And that awareness involves discerning where the flock needs correction and growth.

Occasionally Christians look at other Christians and wonder why the church leadership doesn’t do something. “So-and-so is at fault here and here and here; why aren’t the elders dealing with it?”

Aside from the fact that elders are almost always dealing with things far more than the congregation is aware – pastoral care is an iceberg that is more submerged than visible – there is more to it than that.

Wise shepherds know that not every battle can be fought at once; and they also know that not every battle needs to be fought the same way.

One of the greatest things that the Father does for His children is rejoice with them, and as shepherds who echo His heart and seek to embody the kingdom among the flock, we must take up that happy task with gusto.

When we do, we demonstrate again that Christ came to give life, and that most abundantly (John 10.10).


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Posted by on 19/01/2012 in discipleship, leadership


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Best way to support your Pastor

What’s the best way to serve, support, encourage and enable your pastor to fulfil his calling and ministry as a teacher of scripture?

Money or a pay rise? That would be, except for a few guys on Benny Hinn’s staff, appreciated and go a long way to reducing some of the pressures on his life and family. But no, that’s not the first thing you could be doing.

Stop criticising him, attacking him, gossiping about him, undermining him in front of others and behind his back? Well, again, that would be wonderful for him to not have to suffer the pain of your sinful proclivities and he would be considerably more inclined to listen to you if every sentence out of your mouth wasn’t so offensive. But, that is still not the first thing you could be working on to serve him better.

Get him a new computer? Open up a unlimited charge account with Logos or his favourite bookstore? Give him a new car? Pay for him to have an overseas holiday with his wife and children? etc etc? All of these are nice things to do and might even be necessary in some instances, but they shouldn’t be your first resort.

In 1 Corinthians 4:1-7 Paul talks about his status and relationship with the Church. When considering how people should respond to him, his request is simple.

“that you may learn by us not to go beyond what is written” ~ 1 Corinthians 4:6

He says this in the context of whether they should be critical of his leadership and teaching. While he doesn’t actually say, “Don’t criticise me“, he does caution them against a premature assessment of him. He also wants to ensure that any such assessment is in light of God’s judgement of whether he has been trustworthy with his responsibility to manage the distribution and publication of the gospel. In that case, scripture is the arbiter for his performance measurement. Not tradition, culture, popularity or your opinion – not even his own clean conscience!

The best thing you can do to serve, support, encourage and enable your pastor to fulfil his calling and ministry as a teacher of scripture? Don’t go beyond what is written! Be a student of scripture yourself. Be like a “Berean“. Let the pastor’s sermon not be the only input you receive from scripture. Let it be a highlight and touch point that compliments and enhances your habit of immersing your heart and mind in the Word of God. Labour with him to cultivate and enrich your understanding of revelation so that, instead of being puffed up in favor of one against another, you boast in God as your highest allegiance and deepest devotion.


Posted by on 14/09/2011 in discipleship, leadership, Poems


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The impact of a lifetime

Recently Sam and Karen Keller, celebrated their 54th wedding anniversary.

Sam and Karen hold a special place in our lives. Sam was my homiletics lecturer at Bible College in 1989 and my pastor during my 2nd and 3rd years of College, as well as a mentor, confidant, counsellor and friend. Karen taught Rachel in College and was to her as Sam was to me. We spent the majority of our weekends at the Keller’s. Eating, watching Star Trek re-runs, talking about Louis L’Amour and Robert Ludlum novels and of course stuff related to pastoral ministry. But the main thing that came up every weekend was marriage. They would both talk about how they met, and about their daughters and when each met their future husband. It wasn’t a counselling session, it was just… life. We got to see them laugh together, cry, even argue. To this day, when Rachel and I have a “disagreeable discussion”, at some point, some mention will be made along the lines of… “Mrs Keller said…“, or “I bet Pastor Keller never said/did that!

An incredible impact and impossible to account for the full extent that it has, even upon our own daughter’s life now.

They are not our parents, but I don’t know of any other way to describe the way we look up to them – mentors? Sure, but much, much more. Rachel doesn’t prepare or deliver a Children’s talk or speak to a Ladies Group without thinking of Karen. And I cannot escape Sam’s voice in my head every time I get up to preach. When I have to deal with something in my role as Pastor, inevitably, the thought comes to mind, “What Would Sam Do“. If only I had paid more attention all those years ago!

Tomorrow, with permission, I will post a copy of a letter Sam wrote about Karen on their 54th anniversary.

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Posted by on 22/08/2011 in Family, marriage, Testimony


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