I began the journey of leadership at age 20 and have made almost every mistake I can imagine that it’s possible to make. I do a lot of thinking about leadership because most of the unresolved things in my life are related to it. I hope some of that thinking might be useful for you.

The politicians who failed to take action in America, actually made a choice to allow mass shooting events to happen.

We had only been in Canada a matter of weeks when a deranged gunman massacred innocent children at Sandy Hook elementary school. Our family stayed transfixed and bewildered by what we were seeing. We were sure that now, finally, Americans would take action on gun control.  We were wrong. As an Australian, and particularly a Tasmanian, the repeated suggestion that introducing tighter gun control would have no impact on tragedies like this seems wilfully, and perhaps culpably ignorant. We had…

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At a time when politics is incredibly polarised, I witnessed a moment of hope.

On Wednesday I attended a remarkable breakfast. At a time when politics is incredibly polarised, I witnessed a moment of hope. For the last few years, I don’t think anyone would disagree that we have seen the fabric of democracy fraying in a way that seems very serious. The core of the damage seems to be that we have lost trust in the people who are supposed to lead us, and in particular, we have lost trust that those people…

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Social issues really do matter, however they are not the main challenge for the church.

It is interesting coming home into what feels like a highly charged political environment. Things feel very polarised both globally and nationally. There is a strange sense of foreboding at the moment as it looks like America and North Korea are, day by day, inching closer to a cliff and at the same time, a vitriolic debate about same-sex marriage is dominating talk radio and social media. Polarisation is not new, but it does feel like this is different.  It feels like…

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If we are not continually seeking and learning and changing, we are not actually followers of Jesus, and we are certainly not seeking first the Kingdom of God.

It is Saturday morning and I am preparing for my first “normal” Sunday as the Senior Pastor of Citywide Baptist church. As I was reflecting on what my first sermon should be about, I realised that it needed to come back to what has been the central question of my life since Leeanne and I were married: What does it mean to seek first the Kingdom of God? Regular readers of Faith Reflections will know that Leeanne and I had Matthew…

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We shall not cease from exploration and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started…. #TSEliot

T.S. Eliot penned the words of the title of this reflection as part of his poem, “The Little Gidding.” The words have been running around my head lately because it they capture the trajectory of our next twelve months. In 1992 my journey in ministry really started with a journey to the top of Mt. Wellington in Hobart. I was in the city on placement after finishing Fusion’s six month bible college intensive. A friend had challenged me to consider the…

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Anderson Cooper is biased, he just hasn’t realized it yet. (So are you…)

It is hard for an Australian to really comprehend the forces that shape the thinking of Americans. While Australia certainly has it’s fair share of irresponsible media coverage, divisive issues and poor leadership, the country as a whole is actually fairly whole. Pauline Hanson is not Donald Trump (no matter what she believes), Centrelink is not Obama Care and Crikey is not Breitbart. To be honest our politics is much less interesting… in a good way. America is divided in a way…

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Reflecting, learning and listening to that part of you ready for the new adventure that God lays before you today is the only way to having a full life.

This is my favourite week of the year. We had a really enjoyable Christmas day, except for the moment when it appeared that our little dog might be a casualty of the Christmas dinner. My son Josh put together a documentary of the day, including the last minute dash to the vet,  which he would be very pleased for you to check out. (I’m not sure how I feel being on youtube in my dressing gown…) The week between Christmas…

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9 things you need to know about Jesus’ vision for the church. Hybels and Eldredge got it wrong. Bono got it right.

Mega church pastor Bill Hybels claims that: “The hope of the world is not government, academia, business, but the church because it is to the church that God has entrusted the message of salvation, which truly changes people’s lives and hearts.” Bill believes the most important thing about the church is our message. Bill is wrong. The message is important… but it is not the most important thing about the church, or the most important gift the church has for…

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We were reminded by a New York Billionaire that it is words and not ideas that change us.

A while ago I spoke at church about the importance of letting the bible shape your identity. It felt like an important message about how we need to find our identity in the biblical story. On Tuesday, from the comfort of the Lake Louise Chateau Hotel, I watched Donald Trump become  President-Elect of the United States because he had learned to tell a different kind of story. Leeanne and I were in the mountains for the annual Prayer Retreat for the Western Canadian…

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It’s tiring if you play a role to maintain a good image. One day your true character will be discovered.

The major capital city newspaper, writing about the upcoming election, wrote “hate speech has gotten out of control.” While they could have been speaking about some of the more extreme things we have seen coming out of the most bizarre U.S. election any of us have ever seen, they weren’t. They were talking about the upcoming Gubernatorial election in Jakarta where the first ever Christian to hold the office is facing massive and violent opposition from hardline Islamists. I met Governor…

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Ordination, while indeed symbolic, truly does matter, at least to me.

It has been an unusually long time since I wrote a Faith Reflection. This has largely been because I have been deeply engaged with what I have been doing over the last few weeks, but also because it has taken a bit of processing to come to terms with it. You see, in addition to running our first one week Foundations course at the church and leading the church to run three Open Crowd festivals simultaneously across the city, and…

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

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…

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I love the heart, vision, challenge and pathway that I am seeing.

There was a two week period where I attended two conferences that were quite different but at the same time similar, and influenced by a very challenging author and what I was preaching about at the time. The first conference was the National Assembly of the Christian and Missionary Alliance. That was followed by the Deepening Community conference hosted by the Tamarack Institute for Community Engagement. While I was doing all this I had also been continuing to preach through Ephesians…

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I am glimpsing both the kind of family and kind of church I want to be part of

I loved the week I spent with my two eldest children, driving 2,500 km from Edmonton to Vancouver and back in 5 days. My daughter Maddi needed to renew her passport, which must be done in person and at the consulate. 24 hours in a car gives a lot of time for incidental conversation. It also gives a lot of time to listen to music any anything else we happened to have on our phones. I felt old. We caught…

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Will the Christian church look in the mirror to discover things have changed?

Lately, I’ve been looking in the mirror and being surprised by what I see. The face staring back at me is 10 years older than I imagine it to be. Apparently, this is a normal phenomenon. I have a strong sense that the Christian church, too, is needing to look in the mirror. I’ve was in Calgary participating in a conference run by the Evangelical Missiological Society featuring, among other things, a series of lectures by Dr. Chris Wright (who is the author…

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You think you make your own decisions, but actually that is very rarely true.

Last week I posted a reflection that came from my wrestle with what I was seeing ISIS doing. Last weeks posting was one of the most read ones since I started Faith Reflections in 2010, so I guess that I’m not the only one who has been disoriented by the constant wave of violence we are seeing played out around the world. This disorientation is similar to what people felt after the second world war as the nature of the atrocities committed by…

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Re-orientation is a complicated process

Well it’s been almost a year since I wrote my last entry on this blog. A number of times I have thought I would’ve liked to write more but I found that I didn’t know how to communicate complex reality that I found myself living in. The last five years have been a time of profound dislocation for me. Five years ago I was the director of Fusion’s work in the state of Victoria in Australia. Five years later here…

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Normal doesn’t mean right, it just means normal.

Have you ever had a moment when you had to stop and ask yourself “How did I get here?”, where your picture of yourself doesn’t quite fit with the experience you are having? I’m having one of those moments right now. Leeanne and I, for the first time ever, have left the kids for four days and we are at a Prayer Retreat with 575 other pastors from all over Alberta. As I mentioned a few months ago, I am…

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Is becoming a Pastor like crossing to the Dark Side?

It’s going to take a while for my identity to catch up with where I now find myself. This picture of me is of me sitting at my new desk at St. Albert Alliance Church, where I am the new Pastor for community life and missions. It has been a strange journey. You might have noticed that I haven’t been writing my reflections for a while. That has been largely due to the fact that I just have not felt…

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Building Bridges

On Sunday I had the privelige of speaking at our home church in Edmonton. Our Pastor, O.J., asked me to speak about Acts 10 and 11, which was a lots of fun. If you would like to listen, you can get the mp3 file here. The theme of the sermon was building bridges.

A movement that is actually changing the world

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a fan of U2 and often quote their lyrics. As someone who has been working with a group that calls itself a movement, I have been fascinated as I watch Bono’s intentional efforts to build a global movement to eradicate poverty. Back in 2006 he gave what I consider to be one of the greatest speeches so far in this millennium. He was calling for action. A couple of weeks…

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It’s not so much that the movement becomes an institution, its that it loses it’s verve that is the problem

Last week I wrote the reflection Institutions are anxious, Movements are prepared to take risks and it seemed to get a few people thinking. I received both very positive and very otherwise feedback about the reflection. I have been wrestling with what makes a movement and what makes an institution for a lot of the last decade. One of the things that becomes obvious in the conversation is that a lot hinges on how the words are used and in what…

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Institutions are anxious, Movements are prepared to take risks.

The ministry I have worked with for 20 years, Fusion, has prided itself on being a Kingdom movement rather than an organisation. We would often talk about the danger of becoming like the YMCA, which started with a clear Christian ethos and evolved to simply be a community service organisation. I am loving reading David Bosch’s book “Transforming Mission: Paradigm shifts in mission theology”. In it he says: “There are essential differences between an institution and a movement, says H.R….

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I am grateful for my history, and I’m grateful for the history of those who have gone before me.

Today is my first day without any kind of agenda since arriving in Canada… It’s snowing outside, the Christmas shopping is done (at least for today) and we are enjoying just pottering around with Christmas movies on the television. There is something about this time of year that is just special. I wrote last year that these couple of weeks are kind of like an annual sabbath… a moment for the world to take a breath and reflect on the…

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If we lived in a perfect world, politics wouldn’t be necessary, but we don’t, and it is…..

I’ve been fascinated by the drama of the U.S. Presidential Election as it unfolded over the past few months. Many commentators are this week indicating their expectation that the gridlock in Washington is about to get worse, with a few moderate politicians being replaced by hardliners on both sides of the aisle. Part of the problem is that both sides are living in a bubble that reinforces their worldview, as now both the Right Wing, and the Left have their…

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A life of ease sounds attractive, but I want to get to the end of my life and know that I made a difference

I have shared in the past how much I like Moses from the Old Testament, mainly because he is constantly dogged by self doubt, which I identify with. I particularly enjoy his initial conversation with God, which was basically a series of excuses: Exodus 3:11 (NIV) But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” Exodus 3:13 (NIV) Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites…

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Any group, any organisation, any cause can be revived with proper leadership, but never with great management.

I’m enjoying my engagement with Taylor Seminary and the courses on Christian Leadership and Systematic Theology. While I have done a lot of reading about leadership over the years, the book that Taylor chose to use for their course, “Launching a Leadership revolution” has been pretty helpful so far. One section in particular really resonated with me, so I thought I would share it with you: True leadership can bring radically positive change to a stagnant environment. It can revitalize…

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We are called outside the camp

In my quiet time this morning I was struck again by the exhortation to go outside the camp in Hebrews chapter 13. I’m still reflecting on my time in the U.K. and the breadth of Christian history that I was able to engage with there. Two images highlight this for me: Columba Bay and Durham Cathedral. Bay is on the Southern Western coast of the tiny island of Iona. It is surrounded by rugged cliffs and covered in pebbles that…

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Identify the hostile soil and begin a building project.

I am sitting on a long haul flight from Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh City, where my son Daniel and I will wait 8 hours before boarding our flight to London. I feel quite relieved to be finally on my way to London, where I will help Fusion with it’s pilgrimage for the Olympic Games, launch my new book (check out www.kingdomcells.org where you can download a sample of the first few chapters), participate in an International forum discussing the…

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There will always be competing stories, and if your vision of the future is not clear then those competing stories will win.

In the last couple of reflections I have been processing the importance of engaging with the reality of the community in which you find yourself, which is so important, but if you want to do ministry your job is to change that reality. Put simply reality changes when how we think about the reality changes. Ultimately the wall of Jerusalem was rebuilt in 50 days by people who had been living alongside the problem and feeling powerless about it all…

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The only way to effectively make a difference in a community is to get past your preconceptions

Yesterday I focussed on the need to actually name the community you are wanting to work in, today I want to focus on what it means to move from idealism to reality. After Nehemiah asks how Jerusalem is going, he allows himself to confront the reality of the situation in a deep and personal way: They said to me, “Those who survived the exile and are back in the province are in great trouble and disgrace. The wall of Jerusalem…

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The land of waffle: where you feel like you are doing something useful but you are just not sure for whom or why it happens to be useful.

I am continuing to reflect on what it means to accept the burden of responsibility for a specific community. Over the last couple of reflections I have unpacked two of the core understandings that I see as foundational for anyone who wants to take on a whole of community ministry: firstly that everything you do comes from Christ, and secondly its not what you do but who you are that is important. The next thing that is essential for someone…

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I am continually surprised at how quickly I lose sight of Jesus and start making my own plans.

Over the next week or so I will be doing a series of posts about what it means to work towards changing a community. As I am preparing to head off to the U.K. to work with people who want to do just that, I want to have a crack at naming what I have learned over the last 20 years of ministry in a way that might help someone who is wanting to make a start. Much of what…

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Leadership that works in Australia

I’ve been busy getting ready for the publication of my new book and the launch of a new website. In conjunction with the new website, I have set up an online bookshop using amazon for the books and dvds that were the source material for the new book.. You can check out the new bookstore at http://astore.amazon.com/faithreflections I have been meaning to share this remarkable piece of research about leadership in Australia for quite a while. A report (you can…

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Movements change the world, organisations run it.

One way at looking at the difference between an organisation and a movement is that movements change the world and organisations run it. Whenever we human beings want to get something done we organise. We have been doing it for thousands of years. At one point we got so good at it that we thought we would build a tower that reached to heaven but God intervened. For many years I thought that the story of the tower of Babel showed…

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Only he can command who has the courage and initiative to disobey

In 1943 Winston Churchill said: “First we shape our buildings, then they shape us.” Churchill could just as well have said, first we shape our organisations, then they shape us.It’s all very well to talk about empowerment one –on – one, but most of us find ourselves within some sort of organisational framework. What does empowerment look like in that context? The assumption built into a normal organisation structure is that order comes through control, and that everybody is accountable…

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Find your real job, and do it!

We have had a great week! We have missed Maddi who has been at the Uluru basecamp, but we have enjoyed staying in Sandy Bay and taking the kids to some of the places that were important to both Leeanne and I. Yesterday we made the trek up to the top of Mount Wellington. It was a significant moment for me as I stood in the place where I had committed to stay in Tasmania 20 years earlier.

We don’t need to become better at doing what we are doing, we need to be ready to play a whole new game.

I’m really enjoying this oasis of time in my life. It really feels like a moment to be able to step back, process the last 20 years and prepare for the next 20. One of the things I have been thinking about is just how normal it is to think your assumptions about life are true. One of my favourite quotes is by Albert Einstein: “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we…

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Talking ’bout a reformation

One of the things that I have enjoyed about doing the Arrow Leadership program are the number of ideas that bubble around in the back of my head in the weeks and months following one of the week long residential conferences. Last week Senior Pastor from Barrabool Hills Baptist church, Graham Clarke, made the assertion, that we are on the edge of a second reformation. This kind of talk is not new. In the late nineties a German church-growth researcher,…

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It’s good to hear from people who come from different worlds

I was thinking this morning just how important Arrow has been for me. That doesn’t mean it has been comfortable. I find my paradigm regularly challenged and somehow at the same time I find myself encouraged. You might remember I wrote a short reflection a couple of weeks ago on strategic planning and quoted Will Mancini who said: Have you ever put the wrong document in the paper shredder? There’s no way to get it back. You just can’t put…

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To grow we must confront our own immaturity, selfishness and lack of courage.

We have the afternoon off at the Arrow residential conference so I thought I would take the chance to catch up on a bit of email and record a couple of reflections about what I have been learning so far. Arrow (http://www.arrowaustralia.com.au/) is a program for mentoring and encouraging emerging leaders in the Australian Christian church. I am now into my second year and have found it extremely helpful. The arrow process consists of four 5 day conferences over two…

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The big idea doesnt come from a strategic plan

I am sitting at Sydney airport after a flying visit to catch up with a friend. I have a lot on my mind at the moment, finding myself in a real wrestle to understand what God is up to. I am finding that God seems to bring me books I need when I need them  which is helping with the wrestle. A friend has given me N.T. Wright’s big three volumes on theology which I have found very helpful. Another…

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We need more revolutionaries

I have a dilemma. For 20 years I have been working with Fusion trying to do Christianity differently, but the more I live with it the more I see the problem is not what we do, its  the way we see things. I am wading through N.T. Wright’s “Jesus and the Victory of God” and finding it a very helpful theological overview. I was hit by one page, which was meant to be more of a building block in a…

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Don’t let people do that to you, put you on a pedestal like that.

Our week away came to an end yesterday and as we tidied the holiday house the kids sat down to watch the Super Bowl. I was fascinated as I came in and out of the room to see what a remarkable production it all was. One one of the things that stood out to me was the adulation that the quarterbacks and senior coaches were afforded. Every move was dissected and past greats were referenced with hushed tones. I was…

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Wood, hay and straw are cheap but its the gold, silver and costly stones that matter.

I’ve been thinking a bit about legacy. I’m at a point where I am looking back at 20 years in ministry and looking forward at maybe another 25 years and I am asking myself where do I want to be in 2037? Even writing that date seems ridiculous, as thinking about 2012 must have to my Dad when he started Fusion in 1960. I loved seeing my son Daniel receive his Foundations certificate on Friday. He had done the course…

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Putting yourself on the sidelines while the game still goes on, just doesn’t feel right

I find myself in a most frustrating place. For the first time in 20 years I don’t have direct leadership responsibility. Part of me loves it and another part is going crazy as I see so many things that I think are not being led and for the first time I can’t do anything about it. It’s one thing to trust God to help you fix something, it’s another thing completely looking on and trusting God to fix it without…

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You are called to change the world where you are… you don’t have to go to Africa

We used to think of Missionaries as the spiritual people who went to Africa.  We may not have realised it at the time, but that was a cop out. We are all missionaries in our own particular mission fields.

Real empowerment requires both a whip and a cross

Empowerment  is giving power away, but in a way that results in freedom. Humanity was created in the image of God, and the result of that is that each and every one of us has a spirit. In the first couple of chapters of Genesis we see humanity before the fall. We see people who were created to be in relationship (Genesis 2:18), to be creative (Genesis 2:19), to be responsible (Gen 1:28) and to live in God’s truth (Gen…

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Don’t trust leaders who act like they have it together. They are lying.

An apparent contradiction exists between the clear call to fellowship in the bible and the role of a leader. It is normal that most change begins with one person having a realization, picturing a different future and then telling people about it. The truth is that leadership is a lonely job. A.W. Tozer said “Most of the world’s greatest souls have been lonely”. Author of Spiritual Leadership, J.O. Sanders says, “We naturally enjoy and need the company of others, and…

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We’ve got rid of the people who make us uncomfortable and now we wonder why we are not effective!

Ephesians 4:11 makes it clear that some people are called to a particular kind of ministry. The Apostle was to live on the frontiers, bringing the Kingdom to new places in new and unexpected ways. In their wake they left fledgling groups of Christians who were bringing the Kingdom of God into their particular context. These groups were Kingdom Cells. The Prophet was to speak God’s word into this moment, not only to the church but also to the world….

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The majority of Christian mission and ministry is ineffective. Whats wrong?

I wonder if you added up all the hours that were spent in ministry or mission in the last week around the world, what the number would be? If all those hours are spent serving God, and seeking first His Kingdom, why doesn’t the world look much different? In the United Kingdom, many churches are gearing up for the London Olympics. They are seeing it as an opportunity to connect with their communities in new and innovative ways. Thousands of…

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If you want to be a leader you are potentially dangerous. Forget the title and do the real work

As a 21 year old I remember the dawning realization that I could be a leader and how excited I was at the prospect. I wanted to be a leader. I have met a number of people like me, people who wanted to be leaders. I’ve also met people who wanted to be writers; people who wanted to be youth workers; people who wanted to be radio announcers; people who wanted to be teachers and people who had idealized pictures…

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George teaches me what actually matters

I was reminded today of a lesson I first learned in my first six months of ministry with Fusion. Have you ever met someone fresh out of bible college? They are usually full of right ideas and full of themselves. As I look back, thats certainly what I was like in 1992. A fellow graduate and I stood on the bow of the boat taking us down to our placements in Tasmania and engaged in a serious discussion about what…

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Lets be troublemakers

Leeanne has just finished reading “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne. I read it last Christmas and it had a significant impact on me but I have a terrible memory so can only remember fragments and the general theme. I think I need to read it again. It has interested me to watch Leeanne engage with the book, and at the end say “That’s the kind of Christianity I want to be part of”. In flicking through the book I…

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Together not alone

I will depart from my series of posts reflecting on Bonhoeffer’s book today as I departed Poatina for the day over to be with our team in Victoria for the day. It was great to be back with the team that I led between 2005 and 2009 and hear a little bit of what has been happening. We had a meeting we call the State Coordinating Group, where leaders from different Fusion centres get together to plan and lead the…

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Leaving with a bit to reflect on

Well I’m now at the end of my time in South Africa. It has been a great week and I think has helped me personally get some perspective on what is important. Tonight I had two special interactions. One was with Jayne. I was sad that Jayne was unable to be with us this week at Foundations because she is a Paralympian who will be representing South Africa next year in London and has an athletics meet this week. Tonight…

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Transition time,

I am coming to the end of my time in South Africa. In many ways the time here has been a gift.. The course I came to teach has turned out to be smaller than was expected which has meant I have had some time to think, read and write. It has been good to have the space. I realized this week that my prayer life has slipped a bit in the last couple of months.. Its been great to…

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Hope in Western Australia

I’m sitting in the departures lounge of Perth airport preparing to board the ‘red eye’ flight that leaves at midnight and arrives in Melbourne at 5:30 a.m. Its been a great weekend. I arrived in Perth on Thursday afternoon and then drove up to Geraldton with my friend Andy, who is the state director for Fusion of Western Australia. Western Australia is much warmer than Tassie! As I wrote in preparing to come, traveling to new places often helps put…

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No place like home

I’m feeling a little weary.. As I write I am sitting in the dining room of a campsite in Geraldton. It is a privilege to be here, I have heard so much about this place since Fusion first started work here in the early 80’s. I am here for Fusion Western Australia’s State Conference. It is my job to share a bit from the bible and do my best to encourage the team, which won’t be hard because they encourage…

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Grasping for something that’s just out of reach

We have just come back from a wonderful holiday. Each year we try to get a couple of weeks away in the middle of the year which makes a big difference in how we manage the second half. This holiday featured a lot of fishing, watching season two of ‘the Mentalist’ and lots of reading. I read N.T. Wright’s book ‘Surprised by Hope’ and found it stimulating, encouraging and extremely frustrating.

Out of the box

I am sitting at Melbourne airport. I have been here since about 3pm. It’s now quarter to 8 and I’m here until 9pm. I actually don’t mind the wait… its giving me a bit of space to process what has been quite a significant week. I have spent this week rubbing shoulders with other leaders from Christian organizations and churches at our first of four conferences over the next 20 months. It has been a very important time for me.

Forgiveness as a basis for Leadership development

I am enjoying the reading for my Arrow Leadership course. I wrote earlier about my reflections on Bill Hybels’ book “Just walk across the room”, and how I agreed with much of what he was saying but was concerned about the motivation behind evangelism that seems to come through the book. Another book I have just finished is “Growing Leaders” by James Lawrence. Much of the book is written about the practicalities of leadership and I wish I had read…

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Time Off

I had a great day today. We took the day off and went for a family day. We went for a walk on a boardwalk to a pretty Island and then visited a place called Grindewald where I gave the boys a game of mini golf while Leeanne took Sophie and our visitor to the jumping pillow. My daughter Maddi is on the Uluru Pilgrimage and she is studiously avoiding letting us know how she is going.. I think she…

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Changing the Story

I am sitting in a lounge room in CapeTown, South Africa. I am sitting at the back of the room while a class of black and colored South Africans watch “Invictus”. It is fascinating to watch the impact of the movie on people who are living in the reality of post-apartheid South Africa. In our training with them we have been talking about the fact that we all pick up a life script in the early years of our lives…

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Different Days

Nice for a change Today is a different day. Its been raining for most of the day and the weather has been coming from the east – which is very unusual. It’s also different because there are no meetings, training sessions or phone calls I need to manage. It is a day without much of an agenda at all.

Look for character

How to make this year different I am coming to the end of my week of reflection on the year ahead and there is certainly a theme emerging. One of the things I will be doing differently this year is going back to school.. well kind of.. I have been selected to participate in the Arrow leadership training course. The Arrow website says: Arrow is Australia’s peak body for Christian leadership development. Strategic in its approach, Arrow identifies the nation’s…

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Structural Grace

Happy New Year I love this time of year. It’s a time to stop and breathe, to reflect and to plan. It’s a time to try to make sense of all that has been and all that will be. New Year for me is a kind of structural grace. The promise that the past can be over and there is a whole year ahead without any major mistakes, crisis’ or blemishes.

How Jesus built a movement

Recognising, Reframing and Networking I love this time of year. Every year about this time I go to officeworks and buy two things: a new journal and a new 12 month planner. I love starting a process around now of looking back on the past 12 months and trying to understand what God is saying to me, and then looking forward to the next 12 months and setting goals. As part of the process I love to read a few…

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The grass is very green

Making the choice to play I am sitting in my rather warm office/shed as the sun streams through the huge window that overlooks my backyard. Today I mowed our backyard. Now that’s really not that big a deal, in fact at the moment it seems to need to be mown every 7 days! It’s just that when I mowed it, I took a little extra time when I finished to mow in a practise cricket pitch. As I survey the…

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Writers Block

Writing to lead I need to write. I have lots of different documents that I need to produce at the moment, and yet I find myself unable to get them out. When I do sit to write, the words that come out are hollow and lifeless. I wonder if the Apostle Paul ever felt that way?

To thine own self be true

Purity matters Have you ever noticed how easy it is to write somebody off?  How easy it is to come to a conclusion about their motives and to feel justified in doing so. Motivation matters.. as I pointed out we are quick to judge other people’s motivations, and usually less quick to judge our own. Proverbs points out: All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the LORD Today I finish my series of posts…

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Follow my Faith?

The wrestle I am continuing my series of posts based on Timothy 4:12, where Paul lists the qualities by which Timothy should set an example. First comes speech, then life, love and now Faith. I feel a bit daunted that I should be setting myself up as an example of faith. Paul certainly didn’t mind getting people to follow the example of his faith as he says in 1 Corinthians 11:1: Follow my example, as I follow the example of…

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Whats love got to do with it?

Love hurts I am continuing my series of posts about Paul’s charge to Timothy in 1 Timothy 4:12. After speech and life, Paul exhorts Timothy to set an example in love. Its been a while since I last wrote.  Since then I have been to Canberra and South Australia. All the while I have had in the back of my head that I had to write my next blog about love. For me love is a bit of a daunting…

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Whole life

The little things I am continuing my dialogue with Paul’s challenge to Timothy  in 1 Timothy 4:12. One of the things I notice about Paul’s list is that none of the things he mentions are issues which you could ever get to a point where you don’t need to work on them. The second thing he counsels Timothy is to set an example with his life. Interesting that this comes second in a list of five things. In some ways…

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Words can hurt and words can heal

Speech matters I am continuing reflections on 1 Timothy 4:12 where Paul lists a series of characteristics through which Timothy is to set an example The first one is speech. I have been very aware of  speech from an early age. I remember seeing my Dad on a stage and thinking “I want to do that”. As I grew however, I became more self conscious, and I distinctly remember the horror of having to do a soliloquy from Hamlet while the whole of…

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What leadership means

Setting an example I have been in leadership, of some sort or another, for most of the last 18 years, and for most of that time I have battled with feelings of being inadequate for the task. I think it is because of those feelings that I read the Epistles of Timothy over and over again since starting with Fusion in 1992. One verse in particular has been a touchstone for me, and as I read it again this morning…

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Signs of Soul Erosion

A do it yourself check up A friend send me a link to this article which I found helpful so I thought I would re-publish it here. You can find the original at: http://drbilldonahue.com/2010/10/signs-of-soul-erosion/ by BILL DONAHUE on OCTOBER 5, 2010 My friend Gordon MacDonald has great leadership insights. Some time ago, teaching our Willow staff, he warned of soul erosion and the attendant signs. I used this framework (an appropriately attributed it to Gordon) in a talk I gave this past weekend. It…

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Solitude and Leadership

A friend sent me a link to this article and I thought I would share it with you.. I found it very helpful food for thought: Solitude and Leadership.

Stop shrinking your world

How big is your vision? It was great to spend time with our Advanced Diploma students wrestling with ‘the 8th Habit’. One of the things that struck me was a truth that Covey first communicated in his book, “7 Habits of highly effective people”. As we look at the world there are two boundaries that affect what we see and how we experience it. The first is our circle of influence, namely the things we can actually influence or change….

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A charter for a paradoxical life I have noticed how so many of the deep truths in life are actually a paradox. In preparing for our Advanced Diploma students to arrive this week I came again across the following list of “paradoxical commandments”, which basically give a template for effective leadership. Each one spoke to me, I hope they also speak to you. The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent M. Keith People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.

Its about where you look

Hope or rubble? Have you noticed that whether you have hope or not usually has very little to do with what is actually happening. I enjoyed teaching Nehemiah this week. Nehemiah helped a rag-tag bunch of misfits become one of the most remarkable building teams in the world.. constructing a massive wall around a whole city in 52 days! Along the way there were plenty of setbacks, which could have caused them to lose hope. There is one moment in…

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Put up or shut up

Forget the power plays I recently was surprised to discover just how much political power plays are part of life. My favourite television show is the West Wing, so it probably shouldn’t have surprised me as much as it did. I also realised how easy it is to respond to politics with politics, with the agenda moving to building coalitions rather than building the Kingdom. A quick survey of church history shows that politics is almost never the way to…

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Have a Holiday all the time

Welcome to the spacious life We had an eventful day yesterday, that mainly was the result of a bad parenting decision I made. I woke yesterday morning, to my sons practising tackling. After telling them it wasn’t appropriate behaviour inside, they immediately asked the obvious question: “Can we get dressed and go outside then?” A number of things went through my mind, the main one was that one of them would definitely get hurt. It is interesting to know as a parent…

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Taking a break is the most important work

Stop the world, its ok to step off As I said yesterday we are very much looking forward to tomorrow morning. Tomorrow we will pack the car, say goodbye to the dog and the rabbit and head to a shack on the East Coast of Tasmania. I love holidays! Sometimes I wish every day could be a holiday! The truth is though that I love my work. You don’t have to talk to many people who spend their time looking…

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Playing Politics

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber.  ~Plato As you are probably picking up I am enjoying engaging with the book of Ecclesiastes. More and more I am gaining insights for almost every area of life. This year I have discovered that though my favourite television show is “the West Wing”, I am actually pretty hopeless at the game of politics. In Ecclesiastes chapter 8 Solomon gives three…

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All I want is a couple days off

Taking a break How do you go with taking a break? Sometimes it feels like the world is divided into two groups: those who don’t know how to rest and those who don’t know how to work. For many of us who find ourselves in the latter group we have become quite skilled at rationalising why it is that we need to work as hard as we do. The biblical principal of Sabbath has come to mean lots of things…

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Why do I get it so wrong?

Start living I am sitting in my new office.. My in-laws have been here for a week and put down brand new floorboards in my shed which has been transformed. For the first time since moving to Poatina most of my books are on shelves and I have a desk (I have been working on our bed for the previous 6 months). I love the promise of emerging order in my life! At the same time as all this renovation…

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I’m telling a story about you

The search for identity Today is a big day for me. I get to teach the book of  Ecclesiastes for the first time in our Certificate IV class. I have two weeks with the students to take the journey of a book which asks the fundamental question of life: “What is the purpose of our existence”? What I love about the book is the way it challenges a settled view of reality. If you are comfortable with how you see the world…

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The Fifth Frame

The point of leadership Yesterday I was sharing about the book “Reframing Organisations” and how the authors propose that an effective leader needs to be able to see the world through all four frames. Today I want to propose a fifth, and in my view, more important frame: Faith.

Reframing Leadership

Looking from different angles As I was saying yesterday, the organisation I work with, Fusion, is on a journey to name what is needed in leadership. About a week ago I mentioned the passage from 1 Peter that I have been challenged by since discovering it about 15 years ago: 1 Peter 5:2-3 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not…

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What is Leadership?

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.

Forget Policy and Procedure

Not because you have to I’ve just been chatting with a friend about the difference between serving from a spirit of willingness and serving because you feel like to have to.. I have been challenged for quite a while by 1 Peter 5:2-3 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it…

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Allow yourself to hurt

Letting yourself care I found myself moved and challenged on Sunday when one of our diploma graduates shared his story. He spoke about travelling through a little country town near Poatina on his way here for training and wondering who on earth would ever care about a place like that. He then spoke about discovering his diploma placement was actually to that area and praying that God would let his heart be affected by the community.

A dream that worked

Leadership that imagines the future. Our little village threw open the doors today for our 15th birthday celebration. As I stood up the back of the hall listening to the stories and performances my mind wandered back to the meeting where we decided to purchase the village. There were a number of people who were deeply concerned about the idea. People told us all the reasons in wouldn’t work. I remembered being a little concerned that it might not work……

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Learning from Basil

A man who changed the world It is easy to think that somehow people who didn’t live in the current times are somehow less developed than we are. One person from the very early days of the Christian church (about 300 A.D.) seems to be to be someone who we need to be learning from rather than feeling superior to. Basil of Cappadocia is fast becoming one of my heroes. We in Fusion talk about establishing Basilan Monastic Model communities,…

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Leadership in Community

The founder’s dilemma Leading a community is no small task,  and no one has all that they need to do the job. My Dad was the founder of Fusion and of Poatina. Growing up as his son I saw how he carried the burden of both of these things. I also saw clearly that neither he, nor anyone else has all that they need to do the all of the job of leadership. Vanier talks in his book, Community and…

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South Africa Pilgrimage: Homeward Bound

Making sense of a remarkable experience I am currently sitting in seat 54F on the South African Airlines flight to Melbourne. I am sitting next to Andrew Braun who helped coordinate the Pilgrimage and has been back and forth between Australia and South Africa seven times in 18 months. Yesterday we met with the team who pulled the event off. It was great to be able to celebrate what worked well and name what could have been better. At the…

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South African Pilgrimage: Robben Island

In the shadow of greatness Today I met a great man. I couldn’t quite understand his name. I wish I could. Trying to make conversation I asked him whether he enjoyed doing the tour. His response was immediate “No – its depressing”. Yet he still shows up.

South Africa Pilgrimage: Durban and a bus

Everything is the same but different I am sitting on a coach. Actually its more like a metro bus with five seats across rather than the regular 4 and not a lot of leg room. I have been on the bus since 6:45 this morning and will be on it till 8:45 tomorrow morning. Already it has been great to be here. I find it hard to imagine a place that you only see on tv. Somehow being here makes…

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Who are you??

Find yourself I am continuing the journey with Matthew chapter 10 and we heard yesterday that Jesus is calling us into conflict. I pointed out that often conflict can come because of the way I see myself rather than the issue at hand. In this passage Jesus builds on the whole notion of personal identity and basically says “Get over it!”:

What are you worth?

The Prince of Peace? Really? As I have been sharing, God had me in Matthew chapter 10 for much of the early part of last year and it really confronted the way I had been seeing the world and my place in it. I really identify with the disciples who thought the Messiah was going to bring a political Kingdom with political power. It is easy for Christian mission to fall into the trap of wanting to bring Christendom (dominion…

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A different kind of freedom

What would Jesus really do? A number of years ago a trend was for Christians to have the letters WWJD? emblazoned on jewellery, pencil cases and bumper stickers.. It’s a good question. Turns out what he would do is come and be a model of a completely different value system than our world values. Turns out that he is asking us to also model that same value system. And know what? Turns out he doesn’t think it will help us…

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The plan for global transformation

You call this a plan? I have been sharing a bit of my journey with Matthew chapter 10. This chapter comes as Jesus sits the boys down and says, “Guys this is what you need to know if you are really going to be effective”. It is basically a one chapter training school I have been teaching about Christian Mission for 18 years, and very rarely have I come close to outlining a plan the way Jesus seems to here….

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Be here!

Stop trying to “get there” I am continuing to unpack just what it was that hit me so hard about Matthew chapter 10. It started to dawn on me that the whole chapter was like an intentional training school. It was Jesus trying to prepare the disciples for ministry. I started to notice that a frequent phrase I used (and still use) is “we are getting there”. “There” was a destination that I as a leader spent most of my…

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The end of consultants

A journey to rediscover the true meaning of leadership At the start of last year I came to a series of significant personal revelations. I think I was feeling a bit as though I had pushed hard for four years and that it was time to take it a bit easier. God seemed to have other ideas, and wanted me to change the very way I thought about what I was dong, A starting point in the journey was that…

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Fantasy that hurts

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…

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Be careful what you wish for…….

The crutch that trips you up As I mentioned in a previous post, I love the way Moses related to God.. mainly because I find it easy to identify with. One of the moments I find most easy to relate to is God’s initial calling of Moses. I also think it is one of the funniest sequences in the Bible:

Because you are willing

A different kind of leadership I love leadership. I love the creative challenge of trying to work out with God what the future might be and how we get there. I must say though, that there are lots of times when I want to give up, and even more times when I feel “driven”. There was something I noticed in 1 Peter chapter 5 that surprised me as I thought about leadership:

People are different

First posted 27th May 2010….. The journey towards understanding I know saying that people are different is like saying the sky is blue.. obvious (unless of course you are English in which case the sky is rarely blue : ) ). But it is this fundamental observation which I think I am only slowly starting to understand. I began my journey with this understanding with my wife. She would say something, and I would assume that she meant what I…

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Fed Up

Telling God where to Go Do you ever find yourself getting fed up and very angry with God? I love Moses. Time and time again he lets God have it, responds to him with complete unbelief, anger or fear, and yet God gently responds each time without condemnation. My favorite interaction is in the book of Numbers chapter 11, translated in the message. Moses sounds exactly like I feel some times.

The movement I can believe in

I have been doing a lot of chatting with people about leadership and how they build teams. One of the things that is getting clearer and clearer for me is that a central missing ingredient when a team isn’t growing, is a vision or a story. I came across a story about Pixar and Disney studios, in H.R. Leader magazine, and what they said I really found helpful:

Is it really better to burn out than to fade away?

A friend sent me a quote a couple of days ago about burnout: Burn out comes not primarily from doing too much, but from doing what we don’t really want to do – so that one foot is moving forward and the other foot is trying to run away’. – (from a book: sleeping with bread, holding what gives you life). It got me to thinking and I started talking to other friends about it and looking around.

John Wesley's Small Group Questions

I taught our students some of the story of John Wesley and came across a number of the questions he asked his small groups to engage with. Imagine asking these questions in a group of 6-12 people every week! 1. Am I consciously or unconsciously creating the impression that I am better than I am? In otherwords, am I a hypocrite? 2. Am I honest in all my acts and words, or do I exaggerate? 3. Do I confidentially pass…

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