The nutters create fear because we let them, and in some cases because we encourage it.

Reverend Rob Schenck

Reverend Rob Schenck

As I come to the end of my 3 week vacation and another terror attack unfolds on CNN (this time in Germany), I find myself trying to process the very real battle that is unfolding every night on our television screens.

Battles used to happen “over there”, now they happen on streets that look very much like our own and involve people who look and sound a lot like us.

It was easier, a few decades ago. We heard of places like Rwanda and Bosnia, and felt momentary sadness as images entered our lounge rooms on the 6:30 news. Now, though, news is not limited to 6:30 and the images are not just captured by journalists in war zones. They are live streamed, instagrammed or facebooked by ordinary people. We get instant updates on our phones, and everyone has an opinion.

Sadly though, the world the Cable Networks show us, becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. We are drawn to a drama like a moth to a flame. In the same way an accident on the local freeway causes chaos because we all slow down to look, an act of terror draws us all in. A moment of insanity sets a national and international agenda because it is amplified through the echo chamber of Cable News and Social media.

There is a huge pay-off for the  nutters. So they do it again. And again. And Again. Each incident is tragic, but what it more tragic is the fact that we choose to give them so much more power than they deserve.

The nutters create fear because we let them, and in some cases because we encourage it.

ISIS wants people in the West to feel scared and powerless, but the truth is they are not the only ones with this agenda.

Being scared and powerless is great for CNN. They have developed a standard “crisis mode” programming format, where they flash the term “Breaking News” as often as possible and get one of their panel of paid “experts” to sound knowledgeable while playing grainy, jerky video on endless loop. They know that this kind of television gets ratings.

The N.R.A. want you to be scared and powerless, because they have an answer for you: buy a gun.  It doesn’t matter that objective studies prove that “regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.”

Donald Trump wants you to be scared and powerless, because he has an answer for you: make him President. It doesn’t matter that we are actually safer now than we have ever been.

What is strangest for me to observe is that Evangelical Christians seem to be at the forefront of creating a culture of fear, and believe that what is needed is a stronger capacity for violence than the terrorists have. Continue reading

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The scapegoat

Originally posted 2010-06-02 19:00:18. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Having someone to blame

Every few days I have been including excerpts from Jean Vanier’s “Community and Growth” that I have found helpful. This passage talks about what happens when one person is singled out as the scapegoat.

As I reflect on the many groups I have been part of, I find this challenging because I realise how easy it is to blame someone else for the situation in which I currently find myself: Continue reading

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I used to say that annual leave was not biblical… Until I realized how wrong I was.

Leeanne surveying the view yesterday

(This Leeanne surveying the view yesterday

I have been reminded this week just how important it is to get away and get perspective.

Yesterday we took a hike to Grassi Lakes. They were called Grassi lakes not because there was grass there, but after the Italian guy who blazed the trail. About 200m into the walk there was a fork in the road, one path was the easy way and one path was the difficult route.

This is not some metaphor about the road less travelled… We chose the easy path, which ended up being a good idea because we quickly discovered just how unfit we were.

About 3/4 into the walk Leeanne and I were both sweating and wondering whether we would make it. We did.

There is something about standing on top of a mountain and surveying the place where you are staying that helps put things into context.  Canmore looked so small.

Taking time out can be a bit like climbing a mountain. It actually takes effort to stop and reflect.  It is so easy to bounce along with life, moving from one major life event to another, without ever taking the time to work out if you are headed in the right direction.

I happened to be listening to a Harvard Business Review podcast last week where author Anne-Marie Slaughter spoke about the fact that failing to take time off can mean the difference between spending your life reacting and out of control, or spending your life with the ability to make choices.

I used to say that annual leave was not biblical… Until I realized how wrong I was. Continue reading

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If we truly want peace, we need to stop dividing the world into “us” and “them”

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A couple of policemen took some time out today to make a point.

Media outlets in North America have become experts at this.

A tragedy happens, amateur social media videos are lined up one after the other, professional “experts” give their paid opinions and reporters stand in locations they have never been, acting like they know what they are talking about.

Everyone is looking for answers, hoping that this will be as simple as the good guys versus the bad guys. It never is.

Like normal, people are trying to reduce complex issues to simplistic stereotypes. Right now there are loud voices proclaiming that the whole problem is either the police, the #BlackLivesMatter movement or Barack Obama. If it wasn’t so tragic, it would be funny.

The problem is systematic and multi-faceted, but at another level it is incredibly simple. In our worst moments we see people who are not like “us” as the enemy, and then when we over-react because of our fears, we give them the justification to see us as the enemy. This vicious cycle repeats, and repeats, and repeats.

We live in a world that is shaped both by the best of humanity, but also by the worst. The fact that white Western people enjoy a standard of living far beyond the global average is partly due to the Judeo-Christian values that created a culture that produced productivity, but it is also partly due to the oppression of people who are not white.  Any cursory reading of history makes that unpalatable fact hard to deny.

Over the years we have started to acknowledge some of the worst forms of our oppression. We stopped racing to see which country could have the most colonies. We let our women vote. We let black people vote. We stopped stealing aboriginal children. All these things were good and necessary, however oppression still exists.

It is an uncomfortable truth, but it is the truth, that black people are economically and socially disadvantaged in an economy that is created and dominated by White, Anglo-Saxon, Protestant, Middle Aged Men. First Nations people are also disadvantaged, so are Latinos and so are Women. We might not like to hear it, but it is true. Continue reading

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Belt up

Originally posted 2011-11-03 14:43:30. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I was reading Ephesians 6 today and was struck with just how practical Paul’s metaphor of the armor of God really is.

One of the ongoing challenges for me is to really live a life of faith and I find the picture of the armor asks me some useful questions.

The very first piece of armour is:

the belt of truth buckled around your waist (Eph 6:14)

Truth is uncomfortable, and the kind of truth that Paul is talking about is the most uncomfortable kind of truth. The belt of a Roman Soldier was a huge thing that covered the lower stomach and groin area: the part of our body most associated with our physical drives.

Paul is saying that the starting point of sanity is the ability to tell yourself the truth about what is motivating you, about who you actually are.

Jesus said the truth will set you free, but that kind of freedom is a scary thing. It is easier to live predictably.

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Just walk across the room, but why?

Originally posted 2011-04-21 02:49:18. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

I’ve just finished reading Bill Hybels’ Just walk across the room, a book about evangelism.

The book was set reading for my leadership course and was not one I would normally read.

I had to face some of my prejudice against the mega churches as I read it, and I found it generally to be better balanced than I expected.

However there was one aspect of the book that grated.
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Fantasy that hurts

Originally posted 2010-05-29 19:00:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Not all dreams are good

I’ve been doing a bit of reflection on my own journey with leadership and have realised something:

Whenever someone felt really strongly about wanting to do a particular role, and I let them, it didn’t work.

I also see in me, the times I am attracted to a role it is usually when I am feeling most fragmented on the inside.

I’m realising that even talking about community can be a bit like that.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said:

“He who loves community, destroys community; he who loves the bretheren, builds community.” Continue reading

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What is Leadership?

Originally posted 2010-07-27 19:00:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Which definition is true?

The organisation I work with, Fusion, is in the middle of a healthy identity crisis.

For 48 years, my father was the dominant personality as the founder and leader.

Last year that changed and we are in the process of coming to terms with a different reality.

Part of the challenge facing Fusion is naming what leadership actually is.

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Are we losing our lives to distraction?

internet_addictI have a confession to make… sometimes I find it hard to say no to things that waste my time and take me away from being healthily present to others.

I’ve never really grown out of my capacity to become fixated on computer games.

I remember spending long hours in front of a friends Commodore 64 when I was 14, and now I’m 44 I find myself deleting Madden mobile from my iPad for the 3rd time this week.

It’s not just computer games. I find myself unable to watch just one episode of a television series on Netflix, mindlessly reading news that I don’t care about, or spending hours on end scanning through inane posts on Facebook or Twitter.

I don’t think that any of these things are necessarily wrong, it is just that the percentage of my life they consume is simply not what it should be, and so as a result my relationships, my health and my house don’t get the time or attention they need.

The reason I deleted Madden for the third time, was that I realized I have spend many more hours trying to win a Superbowl than talking to Leeanne. Unfortunately though, this is not the first time it has been like this.

I still remember the shock on Leeanne’s face when she stumbled into the dining room at 4 a.m. in our first year of marriage to discover me completely engrossed in “Sim-City”. She couldn’t understand how it was possible for someone to spend that much time playing a computer game.

When Leeanne started to call my computer “the other woman,” it occurred to me that perhaps there might be something not quite right. I deleted SimCity.  Then I re-loaded it. Then I deleted it… You get the idea.

I don’t think I am alone in this. Apparently the average American spends over 3 hours a day on mobile devices for purposes other than making a call. In case you didn’t quickly do the maths in your head.. that’s more than one full waking day a week.

In addition to that disturbing news is the fact that on average, people my age spend 32 hours a week in front of the television. Twenty one plus thirty two is 53 hours!! 

Why are we spending so much of our lives disconnected from the reality that surrounds us?

Is it possible that these hours might increase as technology becomes more and more engrossing?

I’m wondering whether our generation might be facing a profound question that no other generation has had to face in quite the same way… Are we in danger of losing our lives to distraction?
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Hope doesn’t come cheaply, but there is nothing more precious.

Originally posted 2012-01-13 15:04:12. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

It was Leeanne’s birthday yesterday.

I tried to find the words to describe to her what she meant to me in a birthday card but I didn’t do a very good job.

At my 40th, a month ago, Leeanne spoke briefly but her words had a profound impact on me.

She said that as we were getting married that she knew it would be an adventure but that she was ready to commit herself to taking the ride with me. Those words are simple but I have come to see how significant they are.

I am close to finishing my book on Kingdom Cells and in it I spend a chapter talking about commitment. I received some feedback from one Christian leader saying that because the younger generation don’t commit so much that the book may need to be less focused on what commitment means.

I disagree.

I mean I agree that is what is happening, I just don’t think it’s o.k. Continue reading

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I was wrong… on two different counts.

I was wrong.

There… I’ve said it and I can’t take it back.

I have almost finished the best book I have read about relationships… Which is not a small thing to say because I’ve read quite a few.

It’s also a painful thing to say because it is a book written by someone I was prejudiced against.

I have already acknowledged that I was biased against Bethel church, so it was a bit of a shock to find such balanced, helpful and confronting words penned by one of their leadership team.

Danny Silk has written two books that I now highly recommend.

I’ve already written about the Culture of Honor, but as I now come to the end of Keep your Love on, I find that I am even more challenged.

What I have found so instructive about both books is that they paint a picture of what healthy relationships look like… in detail.

I love the training from Fusion because it is so practical… teaching people how to listen, give feedback, manage conflict and avoid dramas. Silk’s work paints a picture of how all those skills work together to create healthy culture and healthy relationships.

If I am to be honest, part of me would like to write the Bethel church off as “airy fairy” (Australian for not very grounded in reality), but these books show that the leadership of that church have been doing the hard work of naming what it means for people to actually be in healthy relationship.

As I start to acknowledge my prejudice, and announce my “discovery” of Danny Silk, I find that many people have known about him and valued his writing for many years now. Turns out i’m just slow.

The timing of discovering the books has coincided with our sermon series on Ephesians 4, where the Apostle Paul makes it clear that the whole purpose of the church is to reflect the wisdom and nature of the God in whom all things hold together.

Paul’s basic premise is that we are all created as unique, however we reflect the wisdom of God in the way we live our lives together.

As I think about it it shouldn’t really surprise me that Bethel have had to work on how to relate healthily to one another, because the more charismatic edge of the church has a strong focus on the unique gifting of God for each person… which creates a very big headache unless relationships are managed well.

So… I was wrong in my prejudice.

Last night I discovered that I have been wrong about something else, and something that has had significantly more negative impact in my life.

I haven’t been very good at keeping the right boundaries in place.. and I have sometimes named my mistakes “ministry”, and felt good about my sacrifice.

It’s not good to have to write that. Continue reading

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He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone

Originally posted 2012-03-10 10:41:03. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a very special person. Earlier this year I read his “Life Together” reflection on community and wrote a couple of reflections about it. My Auntie Anne has also been reading it and copied out some of the bits that really stood out in a fresh way to her. She sent them to me and as I read over them again I thought they might be useful to post for you to reflect on.

The connection Bonhoeffer makes between community, sin and confession is very important, not surprisingly, often avoided….

He who is alone with his sin is utterly alone.  Christians, not withstanding corporate worship, prayer and fellowship may still be left to their loneliness.

The final breakthrough to fellowship does not come because though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, the sinners.

The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.  So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.  Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that  all are sinners. Continue reading

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Strategic Mission: Connect

Originally posted 2010-07-14 19:00:08. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

Getting to where the people are

So…… if you are committed to a people or a place, you are actively praying and have done the work to know the questions… its time to connect.

There are two mistakes that Christians seem to make over and over again when it comes to connecting with people:

1) Either they are unaware of the affect of their behaviour on the people they are trying to reach, resulting in people being alienated.

2) Or they don’t think strategically and spend loads of energy on reaching out to a very few people.

The Apostle Paul was very intentional when it came to connecting with those he was trying to reach.

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Proof of God

Originally posted 2010-11-13 16:09:36. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

My Auntie has been doing a bit of thinking and sent me this yesterday:

It struck me…

Not thinking about anything in particular, the other day it struck me, that one of the things that makes me believe in God, is the similarity and difference between man and animals.

I love watching the many, many programs about the simply amazing creatures on this planet. Most recently, Stephen Fry’s visits to rare and endangered animals. The monkeys, the gorillas, the lemurs…just beautiful and fascinating.

Then as someone talked to Philip Adams about the 98.5% sharing of genetic makeup between man and animals, it struck me that indeed, I believe we are of the same dust and design. What makes us different is the breath of God, which took an animal and made it something of God.

The differences between man and animal can’t be explained by the 1 ½% difference in genetics. Some gorillas, great apes, can imitate speech and show social skills and affection that reflect our own. But the differences are so vast, that they really require explanation. Continue reading

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Family is a place of grace. The church is meant to be that too.

Originally posted 2011-12-25 21:55:00. Republished by Blog Post Promoter

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Its Christmas evening and we are relaxing in front of National Lampoons Christmas Vacation. it’s a very deep movie…. (not!)

Today has been a special day.

Last night we stayed up and watched the carols, and then did the obligatory late shift getting organised for the morning.

There was the normal moment of disorientation for me as I heard excited voices from the lounge room at about 6:30 then I remembered what day it was.

The kids loved their presents, although I’m noticing that each year the gifts decrease in physical size and increase in cost….

A highlight for me was being with four generations of my family.

My grandmother is 94. She grew up without electricity and can remember the events depicted in “the Kings Speech” movie.

Ollie is 2, he loves bubbles and wants to be a musketeer.

The rest of us fit between those two (apart from Bridie who was born this year in the U.K. and couldn’t be with us).

As I looked around the table, and remembered family members who couldn’t be with us, it struck me just how important family is.

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