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January, 2012


Apologetics: you’re doing it wrong


Doctrinal statements annoy me.

In focusing on beliefs, we divide the church. We make it less accessible to outsiders. We make it look like it’s impossible to be a Christian if you don’t believe in, say, the Trinity. Or, yes, I’m willing to go as far as the Resurrection.

Beliefs don’t come first. Love does.

And it’s our own focus on what we believe, the stuff we teach, that leads to that.

I’m embedding a song by Benjamin Jameson Morey which embodies all that from the atheist side:

THIS is the reason why we must spread the word. Not because we want everyone to  agree with us, not because we want to get people to say they accept those matters as true.

And while I do believe most people will agree with that, I also believe that we sometimes try to convince people more than we try to love them and share their burden.

1 Corinthians 1:25  “For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

You can trespass on my turf

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Image credit: Alex J White, reused under CC license

There is no such thing as a decision by committee. As the workload grows, however, there will be more than one person involved in running your organisation. Job descriptions will be drafted, and “territories” created. As they grow, people sometimes restrict themselves to their territories, for fear of not doing what they ought; or for fear of hurting the feelings of others; or simply, out of plain laziness.

If you are working in a team,

  • firstly, do the task you were assigned. If nobody does, then some jobs just won’t get done!
  • take initiative.
  • if you feel it is someone else’s role, let them know about your initiative. If it is something that can’t be cancelled, give them some time to veto it.
  • if it is an unassigned job, get started. Try and involve as many people from your team in this, but do not wait too long because you can’t arrange a meeting.
  • be humble. Just because you can go over someone else’s territory, it doesn’t give you authority over it. You can lead people there, but will always have to submit to the person who was in charge of it.
  • be loving. Do overstep your boundaries to lighten your friends’ loads. Let that be your motivation – not a desire to take their place permanently. Do not try to outshine them.
  • be welcoming. Allow others to come onto your turf too. Invite them, even, when you feel you need to.

Are you comfortable going over other people’s turfs?

What do you do to make sure the people you lead feel comfortable stepping on other people’s turfs?


A culture of consequences

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Many times, I’ve heard people in a position of authority incentivise obedience by explaining what would happen if rules weren’t followed.
Many times, I’ve seen adverts against fraud (either on trains, or tax fraud) focus on the risks that are taken.
A few times, I’ve talked to deliberate fare dodgers who told me that, given the frequency of inspections, they were better off paying the fine when they got caught than if they always paid their fare.

Deal with the consequences?

Image credit: psgreen01 reused under CC license

Living with the consequences of our actions is something we are all taught from a very young age.
Recompenses are built into a societal model where one gets what they deserve, and where that’s what’s right.
The Bible does not speak of right, or of entitlements. It only speaks of duties and of facts.
Receiving the love of God is not conditional on following a set of rules.

No, we did not deserve grace; nor do we deserve salvation, but by keeping on pointing this out, we are perpetuating a culture of deserving rather than one that puts love and duties first without thinking of the recompense.

We need to decouple rights and duties, in order to move away from a model where duties are only filled in order to guarantee those rights.
We need to make sure love comes first.

How do you deal with wrongdoings?
How can we teach what’s right without associating it with the consequences of disobedience? Should we?

Can we still marvel at grace in the same way if we lose sight of our own undeserving nature?

Being a Christian – believing in Christ


What is a Christian?

When I asked this questions to a few people around me, I got a variety of answers. Non-Christians generally associated  it with “someone who goes to church”, or the escapatory “someone who self-defines as a Christian” whereas that answer never featured amongst Christians.


I expected answers from Christians to revolve around beliefs and creeds. A few did (“a christian is just somebody who believes that Jesus came, died and rose again”), but most talked about enjoying a relationship with Christ (either in such terms, or in terms of following Jesus).

This is good, as I think undue focus is put on beliefs, creeds and even doctrinal statements. Being a Christian is a matter of identity, and that identity is pervasive beyond the simple level of belief. For that reason, mission must go further than trying to convince people of the truth of our beliefs. In fact, belief is a very small part of it.

How would you answer to the question “Oh, so you’re a Christian? What does that mean?”

The issue is, there’s little teaching available on Christian identity. It is hard to explain what it means – to unpack what lies behind “being in a relationship with Christ”. Analogies with human relationships are very limited; I’d even argue that rather than trying to understand our relationship with God from our human relationships, we should try and model our human relationships on the one we share with Him.

Being a Christian, to me, means feeling and welcoming the presence of Christ in our everyday life; and letting Him inform our decisions. It means deferring to someone we know is a higher authority.
This can mean naturally turning to prayer and feeling at peace that our life is in God’s hands.
The Bible, and the creeds, whichever they are, help us know more about who God is. But our beliefs are in no way the only things defining us as Christians.


A few years back, I went through a very rough ride which left me completely shattered. So much so that I wanted to be alone. That very presence of Christ which I was feeling, I no longer welcomed. I still believed about the factual reliability of the Bible’s claims; I still believed that salvation was mine; I still believed that God could help us all. But I didn’t welcome it. I wanted some time off.
This was probably the time of my life where I felt most miserable. But I still self-defined as a Christian, just one who wanted to be left alone. I knew, in my mind, that God’s presence was within reach, but stopped feeling it.

Have you ever wanted some time off God?

Would you say that in those days I was a Christian?

How do you lead?


We are all, in some shape or other, leaders: there are always people who look up to us, in the same way that there are people we look up to.

The question is, how do we lead?

Leadership: Weak or Strong?

Here’s what I call weak leadership: making mistakes. Being imperfect. Admitting to not knowing everything and not trying to cover up our mistakes. In doing so, I believe we are making it easier for others to identify with us.

Here’s what I call strong leadership: having a sound, immovable basis for what we are teaching. “Looking” good, as much as possible, or striving to do so. In short, leading by example.

Both have their strengths, both have their risks.

In being a weak leader, there is a risk of growing comfortable with our own shortcomings and making those we lead comfortable with theirs too. It is just too easy to justify our failures with the excuse of “deliberately being more approachable”. There is also a risk of glorifying sin. As Phil Drysdale recently tweeted, “when you call yourself a sinner you are not being humble. You are being full of pride.”

In being a strong leader, there is a risk of growing distant, of being the “perfect person who won’t understand”. There is a risk of discouraging people from taking on leadership responsibilities, because “they’re not good enough”. More importantly, though, we are not perfect. In striving to “look” good, there is the risk of starting to lead a double life. Of becoming two-tongued and of reserving certain behaviour to leadership mode.

Are you a weak leader or a strong leader? Which one would you rather be? Are there other benefits to choosing one over the other?

I want to be a weak leader, because I believe this is the most fertile ground for encouraging new vocations, and because quite frankly, I don’t feel up to the task and responsibilities linked with strong leadership.