Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Significance of Community Engagement

My last post highlighed that East Taieri Church sponsors an occasional Business Breakfast at Aurora Café in downtown Mosgiel.  This week we had 32 people attend plus a few walk in off the street for coffee.  There was a real buzz in the air.  Breakfast was delicious.  A range of ages attended, including a young person from Youth East Taieri, who helped with sound, and two YET staff.  I think the prize for inviting the most people would go to Joy Davis our community facilitator.

At the breakfast, I gave some background as I welcomed people by saying: You might be wondering why East Taieri Church is sponsoring this business breakfast.  Our vision is to make a holistic contribution to our community.  In addition to helping people discover more about Jesus and grow spiritually, we are a church who works alongside others to develop thriving communities, which includes thriving businesses.  We hope this breakfast will make a positive contribution to your business or career.

Our speakers from Capable NZ gave interesting input for career and business development.
At the end I prayed thanking God for the food and the people there, and asking God’s blessing on them all.  The formal part finished by 7.50am.  Did anyone come to know Jesus as a result?  Not yet!  But there were good conversations and we were definitely working alongside others to develop thriving communities.  If you are local, join us Feb 25th for our next Business Breakfast with Dunedin City Counsellor Mike Lord who will speak about issues facing our region and his personal reflections on being a Christian in the community today.

If some of those words I used above sound familiar to East Taieri people, they come from our recently renewed vision statement which says:
We will be a thriving church, responding to God’s grace and passionately living out our faith, wherever we live, work and play.
Together we will work alongside others to develop thriving communities where people feel connected known, loved and valued.

I think the move of churches to have serious engagement with their communities is significant.  As I think back over the way God has moved in New Zealand, I remember some insights from a conversation with Murray Robertson about three significant periods where the number of baptisms in NZ rose dramatically for a time.  One was the evangelistic crusades by Billy Graham and others in the late 50s and 60s.  Another was the charismatic renewal of the 70s and 80s.  A third was during the 90s with the the rise of church programmes such as Alpha, Network, 40 Days of Purpose, etc.  Interestingly churches who were blessed in one period weren’t necessarily open to what God was doing in the next.  For example, people who came to Christ through Billy Graham, weren’t necessarily open to the work of the Holy Spirit in renewal, saying “All we need to do is preach the gospel in big crusades”.  Those blessed in renewal were sometimes suspicious of programmes.  “All we need is for the Spirit of God to move…” And of course, those who benefitted from programmes can become locked into that mindset, looking for the next programme which will be the solution to our problems.

Could it be that the next move of the Spirit that will bring significant growth in the kingdom of God is through Christians working alongside others to develop thriving communities?  Engaging people in the community in biblically faithful ways.  God is already at work there.  We just need to join in.  These are the settings where our fresh expresssions of church are being born.

When God’s people were in exile in Babylon they often though about God taking them back to Jerusalem so life would be like the good old days.  It’s like us thinking, take us back to the days of the renewal, or the days of the big crusades.  Now, in my experience and understanding, preaching the gospel is still crucial.  The work of the Holy Spirit remains indispensable.  Programmes like Alpha continue to bear fruit.  But I believe Christians today need to confidently engage people in their workplaces, schools, neighbourhoods and community groups.  God’s word came to the exiles through the prophet Jeremiah (29:7) “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile.  Pray to the LORD for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”  In lots of ways we are in an exile situation today, but the Lord is still with us and can make a difference in our cities and towns.

May God bless all the community engagement that occurs whether one to one spontaneous conversations or organised events and programmes.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Business Breakfast at Aurora Cafe

We are sponsoring a business breakfast at Aurora Cafe on Thursday November 5th 2015, 7-8am.

Why is a church doing this?  In addition to helping people discover more about Jesus and grow spiritually, we are a church who works alongside others to develop thriving communities, which includes thriving businesses.  When businesses are functioning in an efficient and just way, the community is being well served, people have meaningful employment, and everyone can enjoy the economic benefits.

Our speaker this time is Trish Franklin, a facilitator for Capable NZ.  She, along with local businesswoman Kylie Ellis, will highlight the work of Capable NZ in facilitating growth and career advancement through the recognition of experience and individual needs.  See

Interestingly, Trish's work with people always leads to reflection on the whole of their life, their past experiences and their future aspirations.  This raises deep questions of meaning and purpose, as well as personal talents and qualities.  There is a strong connection in all this with the good news of Jesus which calls us to turn to a relationship with God that affects every part of our lives.  The best response to God's love and goodness to us, is to love God with all our heart, mind, soul and strength, and to love others as we love ourselves.

Make sure you invite someone else and I hope to see you there.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

What's The Story?

Have you been scared off evangelism?  Had some bad experiences?

At East Taieri Church we have drawn together a number of resources that help us relax and naturally share the good news about Jesus and the kingdom of God.  We call the framework "What's the Story?"  It considers three stories:

  1. Their Story: Listening to the other person's story
  2. Our Story: Telling your own story of coming into a relationship with Jesus.
  3. The Story: Telling of God's work in Christ.

These stories don't have to all happen in the same conversation, or in this order, but this is a helpful framework to keep in mind.

1) Their Story:

The idea here is for us to think about who we are in contact with and how we can better listen to their story, noticing and listening to what is going on in their lives and looking for where God is already at work.

Ask for God's help to stop thinking about yourself and what you are going to say, and to have Jesus' eyes and ears to notice what is going on and to listen.  Some fun video clips that can help with this are "Test Your Awareness" and "Test Your Awareness: Whodunnit?"
A more Jesus focused video challenges us to think about what people are going through and to have compassion.  "Seeing with Jesus Glasses"

It can also be helpful to ask some "wondering" questions that invite the person you are talking with to tell you more.  The best questions arise naturally as you allow the Holy Spirit to prompt your interest in the person, but to give you some ideas you can check out these suggestions from Doug Pollock who I think coined the term "wondering questions".

2) Our Story: 
We communicate our story through our lifestyle; through loving actions; and through words.  I remember one university student telling me that another student in her hostel guessed she was a Christian because her boyfriend didn't sleep over in her room.  Often, if we have listened well to their story, people will ask us about our story.  That is a God given moment when you can tell them a simple, short, non-weird "testimony" (story) of what God has done in your life.

My top tips for telling others about what Jesus has done are:

·         Short – 100 words or less
·         Clear – avoid fuzzy generalisations.  One clear plot line.  Don’t have too many characters!
·         Avoid (or explain) Christian Jargon – “salvation”, “born again”, “convicted of sin”...
·         Don’t sound superior or pious (“holier than thou”)

3) The Story:
This is the hardest place to avoid jargon because we want to communicate the big story (metanarrative) of God's redeeming work in Christ on the cross and the here but not yet arrival of the Kingdom of God in the ministry of Jesus.  Most of the time we won't give a pre-packaged presentation of the gospel, but we do need to be able to tell people about Jesus.

Thankfully we have wonderful resources available today at East Taieri Church and on the internet.

This is where it is helpful to have had some training such as XEE, to give you some good illustrations and a framework for sharing the gospel.
This is where all kinds of resources such as books and DVDs can be helpful for people.
This is where programmes like Journeys (a DVD based course from Rob Harley) and the Alpha Course can help.

It can be very helpful to remember the holistic gospel which is so much more than a ticket to heaven when we die.  The good news includes: forgiveness for sins, a life that is being transformed day by day, deliverance from evil, a new heart for others including the poor and disadvantaged, caring for God's good creation, restored relationships, racial reconcilation and justice and peace...   This video clip about the Kingdom of God helps us remember the centrality of the message of the kingdom in the preaching of Jesus.

Finally, the key is building relationships and praying for opportunities.


Monday, July 20, 2015

Guardians of Ancora

One of the challenges of our day is encouraging people to get into the Bible.  Even among evangelicals/charismatics/pentecostals, most Christians are weak biblically.

I give top marks to Scripture Union for developing a world class app for Apple and Android devices.

This game encourages 8-11 year olds to read the bible and grow in a relationship with Jesus.  We publicised this at East Taieri Church yesterday, and I hope children, parents and grandparents will download this free app and benefit from it.  The website can be accessed by clicking on the link below:

There is also an excellent promotional video and FAQ page.



Thursday, July 16, 2015


The extroverts among us will probably find solitude more challenging and yet especially beneficial, but solitude as a spiritual practice can be a significant time for introverts also.

Solitude is choosing to step free from human relationships for a period of time, in isolation or anonymity, to make room for occupation of our lives by God.

Some Hints:
·  Try setting aside 3 or 4 hours at first in a pleasant place (even if you live alone, plan a specific time of solitude).
·  Just observe.  Don’t do anything.  Notice your surroundings – especially if you are outside enjoying God’s creation.
·  Try walking along the beach.
·  You might pray, but don’t make a job of it.  Simply talk to your Heavenly Father.
·  If you are at home and you fall asleep, don’t worry.  Enjoy the rest and talk to God when you wake up. (1 Kg 19:4-9)
·  Solitude is not a private therapeutic place.  Rather, it is the place of conversion, the place where the old self dies and the new self is born.

Some Benefits of Solitude:

  •  It breaks our co-dependency.  Others can live without us and us without them.
  •  We learn to appreciate other people more, without needing to control them.
  •  It frees us from busyness and overwork (and other things that bind us).
  •  It builds trust in God as we take our hands off and allow God to take charge.
  • It provides time to focus on God and to develop other spiritual practices such as prayer and Bible study.

God bless you in these times alone with God.


Friday, July 10, 2015

Fixed Hours of Prayer

Have you ever noticed how a busy day can disappear and you wonder where God has been in your day?  How can we be more conscious of what God might be saying to us and doing around us when there are things that demand our full attention?  In Jewish Culture and through the early church, people practiced fixed hours of prayer.  Christians today are rediscovering the value of ordering their activities around prayer at regular times of the day.

Ruth Haley Barton has written about this practice noting that Psalm 55:17 points to it.  "I call to God and the LORD saves me.  Evening, morning and noon I cry out in distress and he hears my voice."  Daniel prayed three times a day, even when it threatened his life.  In Acts 3 Peter and John were going up to the temple at the afternoon time of prayer.  In Acts 10 Peter went up on the roof at noon to pray.

The idea is that at regular times during the day, morning, noon, afternoon, evening, we pause to pray, ideally gathering with one or two others.  There are Christian communities around the world who follow this practice.  Our ministry team have followed this pattern on retreat, and we prayed together at lunchtime on our last day of prayer and fasting and found it uniting and powerful.  This is especially helpful during times of planning, discernment, or significant change.

Traditionally these times of prayer might contain various elements, although there are no rules!  Like all spiritual disciples, this are tools to help, not rules that must be followed.  Possible components include:

  • A recognition that God is with us.
  • A psalm or a prayer based on the psalms
  • Sometimes another Bible reading.
  • Possibly the Lord's Prayer and/or a creed so people can affirm their faith.
  • There might be some moments of silence.
  • A hymn or song might be sung (or played on CD or phone)
  • A closing blessing.
If you are at work, it may only be possible to pause briefly, but you can still recognise the time of prayer.  Sometimes you will be able to do this with others. 

In his book, Praying with the Church, Scot McKnight wrote, “We are formed together as we learn to pray together. Ancient Jews and Christians uttered sacred prayers together. They did this every day—together. These prayers established sacred rhythms to their days and lives as a community. And they can do the same today. For us. As the Church. As a community of faith.”

Churches like East Taieri are often sceptical of pre-written prayers and traditions, regarding spontaneous prayer as more "spiritual".  It is certainly true that over history fixed prayer routines have sometimes become a meaningless habit that people carried out by rote.  Jesus warns us about babbling away in prayer without our heart being in it. (Matt 6)  However, in addition to spontaneous prayers, we can benefit from praying the great prayers of scripture and the church and really mean them!

Ruth Hayley Barton offers the following as examples of pre-written prayers that her Christian community - the Transforming Centre - have used:

Morning Prayer. In the morning, we begin with praise, affirming and celebrating God’s presence with us, receiving his loving care towards us and committing the work of the day to him.
O God, open our lips and we shall declare your praise.
God said: Let there be light; and there was light.
And God saw that the light was good.
This very day the Lord has acted!
Let us rejoice!
Praise the Lord!
God’s name be praised!

Mid-day Prayer. At mid-day, when tasks and to-do lists are pressing in and human effort is at its height, we stop to renew our awareness of God’s presence, to rest in him for a few moments and ask for his peace and guidance regarding those things that are concerning us. The opening prayer/invocation is always our heart cry:
O God, make speed to save us.
O Lord, make haste to help us.

Oftentimes mid-day prayer will contain some sort of a prayer for wisdom such as this Collect for Grace, which is one of our favorites in the Transforming Center.
O God, by whom we are guided in judgment,
And who raises up for us light in the darkness,
Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties,
The grace to ask what you would have us to do;
That your wisdom may save us from all false choices,
And in your straight path we may not stumble.
Through Jesus Christ our Lord. AMEN.

If you pray that prayer with any kind of sincerity at all, it is guaranteed to change the trajectory of your day!

Evening Prayer. In the evening as the sun sets and the natural light fades, we acknowledge God as the source of our light and greet one another with expressions of peace.
You, O Lord, are my lamp.
My God, you make my darkness bright.
Light and in Jesus Christ our Lord,
Thanks be to God!

In many communities, evening prayer is the longest of the prayer services, offering us the opportunity to place the cares of the day in God’s hands as we make the transition from day to evening.

We praise you and thank you, O God,
For you are without beginning and without end.
Through Christ, you created the whole world;
Through Christ, you preserve it
Through Christ you made the day for the works of light
And the night for the refreshment of our minds and our bodies.
Keep us now in Christ, grant us a peaceful evening,
A night free from sin, and bring us at last to eternal life.
Through Christ and in the Holy Spirit,
We offer you all glory, honor and worship,
Now and forever. AMEN.

Evening prayer typically includes the Gospel reading for the day and may include a brief reflection or homily. Later on in the evening prayer service, we offer up general intercessions for ourselves and others, bringing our own specific needs and the burdens we are carrying for others to God. The fact that the intercessions are written for us relieves us of the need to be so wordy in our intercessions—a helpful discipline given the fact that this is another place in the spiritual life where human striving and fixing can so easily take over. As our personal spiritual journeys lead us to a greater capacity to be with God with what is true about us and to rest in him with our own lives, so we are able to hold others and their needs quietly in God’s presence as well.

Written intercessions (also called Prayers of the People in some settings) allow us to join together in lifting up our shared concerns to God and then to agree together by praying in unison,
Lord, in your mercy.
Hear our prayer.

Night Prayer. When we are together on retreat, we end the day with night prayer in which we celebrate God’s presence during the day and ask him to grant us the rest we need.
May God grant us a quiet night and peace at the last.
AMEN. It is good to give thanks to the Lord,
To sing praise to your name, O most high;
To herald your love in the morning.
Your truth at the close of the day.

Night prayer might also include a time of examen in which we are able to confess our sins and receive God’s forgiveness as an important aspect of letting go of the day, receiving God’s gift of rest, and preparing to receive the new mercies that God will have prepared for us when we awake.

Since these prayers are written, there is nothing for any of us to figure out. Scriptures are taken from the lectionary—a reading schedule that follows the Christian calendar—and are read without comment, giving God the opportunity to address us directly through his word in whatever moment we are in. The Gospel readings in particular help us to stay connected to the person of Christ as the model for our life and work. As we pray the hours in community, the Spirit has access to us throughout the day and we are constantly amazed at how God meets us, giving us perspective, assurance, and guidance as we need it far beyond human orchestration.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015


We recently had a day of prayer and fasting at East Taieri Church.  It was a significant time for many people and I believe God was at work in at least two levels.  First, our Saturday retreat about our ministry in the community went very well, so God answered our prayers.  But, just as importantly, God was encouraging people in their discipleship through the experience of fasting.  Some people commented that they hadn't fasted for some time and it was a helpful day focusing them on God.  Others described the way they prayed when they felt hungry.

If you haven't fasted before or not for some time, can I encourage you to experiment with this spiritual practice more.

Fasting is going without food (or some other thing) for a limited time for the spiritual purpose of focusing on God and glorifying Him.  Fasting is not a hunger strike, nor tying to get God to do what we want; nor an attempt to earn our way into heaven, nor a way of appearing to be deeply spiritual.

Some Hints:
·  Fasting usually helps our physical health, but check with your doctor if you are uncertain (e.g. diabetics, expectant mothers should probably not fast.)
·  Fasting and Prayer go together.
·  Begin gently.  Try missing one meal.  Then fast from after dinner until the next dinner, missing breakfast and lunch, drinking fruit juice.  Then try drinking only water.
·  Your stomach will initially complain – especially at meal time.  Try sipping a drink at those times (not too cold).
·  Then consider longer periods.  Headaches from caffeine withdrawal and feelings of weakness or dizziness will pass.

Some Benefits of Fasting:
Ø  It puts the non-essential things in perspective.  “We do not live by bread alone…”
Ø  We affirm and experience another world.  Fasting is feasting.
Ø  We humbly learn to trust God to sustain us.
Ø  It develops self-control over our body.  Our bodily passions need not rule over us.
It often reveals the things that control us (anger, pride…), and begins to deal with them.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Prayer & Fasting for Community Ministry

On Friday 19th June we are having a day of prayer and fasting for the mission of God in our communities.  Why are we doing this? People have many needs – from parenting to purpose in life, from social needs to salvation in Christ.  Just recently we have seen people's homes and businesses damaged by flooding.  As winter cold bites, some people cannot afford to heat their homes.  So we are praying for God’s love and power at work.  And we are praying for the leadership retreat on 20th June when leaders will work on a plan to achieve greater cohesion across our community ministry, discern which high impact activities God is leading us to focus on, and identify how we can sustain our community ministry financially.  We also want to gain greater awareness and support within the church for our community work.

But why do churches these days need to be so intentional about community ministries?

When plagues hit the Roman Empire in the second and third centuries AD, people stood a significantly higher chance of survival if they were a Christian or had Christians living nearby.  Why? Because Christian values of love and charity resulted in showing care for their neighbours and community solidarity.  Plague sufferers were less likely to be abandoned in the street to die if there were Christians around.  Christians would pray for them and care for them.  The Christian Church grew both because of the powerful witness of this loving care, and because more Christians survived.

We need to pray for this distinctive witness and power again.  In our day, at least three key factors reduce our community impact.  First, today’s health and social service agencies, and emergency services usually provide good care so Christians tend to leave it to them.  Christian love for others doesn’t shine as brightly in our communities, even though the principles of the welfare state largely come from Christian values, and organisations such as St John’s Ambulance, Salvation Army and Presbyterian Support clearly have Christian origins.

Second, over the centuries churches became institutions and built buildings.  There is a huge tendency for the time and energy of Christians to be absorbed by the church.  We will care for people…if they come to us.  We need to pray for God to send us out again.  Pray for us all to shine the light of Christ in our communities again.  Pray for us to resist the gravitational pull that limits our Christian life to church. 

Third, in the modern era faith became regarded as a private matter.  Faith joined politics and sex as matters that shouldn't be discussed at dinner parties.  We need to pray for the gospel to become in Lesslie Newbigin called public truth again - able to be discussed and debated in society.

That’s why I called the church to a day of prayer and fasting for the mission of God in our local communities.  We need God's grace and power to tackle these big issues.  And we need the leading of the Holy Spirit if we are to discern the next steps God has for us.  East Taieri Church is involved in the community in many ways.  We need to ensure we are doing the key, high impact things that God is calling us to do.

I often give people the following advice on fasting:
If you aren’t used to fasting, you could try simply skipping one meal and using that time to pray.  Your stomach will tell you that you are starving, but unless you have a health condition that would prevent you fasting, most people can.  Other ways you could “fast” that day are to have a day without TV or Facebook.  Fasting is not a hunger strike, nor trying to force God to do what we want.  It is just one biblical way we can focus on God and put non-essential things in perspective.  Fasting affirms our citizenship in another kingdom, and helps us learn about trusting God to meet our needs.  Fasting develops self-control and often reveals the things that control us like anger or pride.  Fasting is feasting on the things of God.

With you in prayer,


Saturday, March 7, 2015

What is Ahead in 2015?

2015 is the first year of East Taieri Church's new strategic plan.  The plan can be accessed on our website, but I have found it helpful to write down some concrete expressions of that plan which we are looking forward to this year.  But before I include that list, let me acknowledge my belief that all human plans need to be submitted to God.  Our ultimate trust in God, not in human plans and strategies.  That doesn't mean that prayerful planning is wrong.  On the contrary, I believe that prayerful planning is an expression of our faith in God.  As God leads us we faithfully plan to follow.  But it does mean we need to be prepared to be surprised.  I wrote the following in a Sunday bulletin in January:

Do you have plans for 2015?  We have some exciting and challenging things planned for 2015 as a family.  Our Sophie will graduate BA/LLB in May, and she is planning overseas travel.  Tessa continues with her study but is planning a semester on exchange in Spain.  Here in Otago, Sam will be working on a research project in fresh water ecology for his BSc honours.  After completing the beautiful Routeburn/Caples in January, Sue and I are planning our next tramp.

At ET we will be launching our new EPIC youth discipleship focus; reviewing and renewing our 10am worship; exploring new fresh expressions of church that engage new people; stepping out in loving service in the community; using community spaces such as Aurora café for evangelism; identifying what sites and facilities we need for future ministry and mission (including considering a commercial café for FUEL)…  These are some things from our strategic planning work.  Come along to the forum and prayer on Feb 18th to have your say and to pray.

But, amidst all these wonderful plans we need to be ready to be surprised by God.  This week my Bible readings and some unexpected ministry opportunities have reminded me that we are not to be so committed to our plans for bringing in the kingdom of God that we miss what God is doing in front of our eyes!  In Luke 5:26 after seeing the Lord’s power at work, the people were amazed, glorified God and were filled with awe, saying, “We have seen remarkable things today”.  The word is paradoxa – the opposite of what we had thought.  So we plan, but we also plan to be surprised!

Having made that point, I paste below the list of things we believe are ahead for us in 2015:

  1.          Four times a year we will hold our new “The Power Station” gathering the congregations of ET for prayer and dialogue.  This will seek God’s leading and provision in particular areas of our life and gain feedback from the congregations.  First one Feb 18.
  2.          We are launching a new youth discipleship focus called EPIC (Experiencing Power in Christ).  This will gather young people and adults on Sunday Evening for worship and small group discipleship.  We are also seeking to involve 5 adults in the life of each young person.  Our motto is “It takes a whole village to raise its young people.”  This 5 to one ratio means recruiting around 200 adults to be involved.
  3.          We haven’t yet managed to appoint a new children and families pastor, so are seeking to resource this work in other ways.
  4.          We will explore at least two new Fresh Expressions of Church, seeking to engage groups of people we are in contact with in one way or another.  One possibility is families involved in a girls craft group called Sugar and Spice which has up to 70 girls each evening once a fortnight.  We will survey these families and hold a suitable gathering, probably running one a term for the first year.  We are assigning a chunk of our associate pastor, Seb Murrihy’s time to these projects.
  5.          We are running evangelistic events (including Alpha) in community settings such as the Aurora Café downtown Mosgiel.
  6.          We are reviewing and renewing our 10am worship service.
  7.          We are seeking to define what sites and facilities we need for future ministry and mission.   This includes putting together a feasibility study for buying or building a commercial café as a bridging space with our community.  This might well provide a larger venue for FUEL (our breakfast café church).
  8.          Our community facilitator (Joy Davis) is contracted to an alliance of health and social service agencies seeking to establish a pilot programme of a combined referral process for health and social services in Mosgiel.  This will mean people with multiple and complex needs can contact one coordinator who can bring in various agencies as appropriate.
  9.          We are developing consistent communications across all congregations in the parish, and upgrading and redeveloping our website.
  10.          We are seeking to collaborate more with other Taieri churches through leading a new church leaders prayer meeting; developing our collaboration in youth ministry; and focused dialogue with Mosgiel Presbyterian and Maungatua parish leaders (including the issue of future buildings).  We will cooperate with Mosgiel Presbyterian to deliver a joint marriage course.
  11.          We also appreciate prayer for and publicising of the South Island Ministry Conference which we will host May 19-21.  Our theme is “Thriving in Ministry – resilience in the tough times.”  Speakers are Digby and Jane Wilkinson (dean of Wellington Cathedral).
  12.          We will be supporting Kenneth, Kim, Jenna and Shani Fleck as they transition from serving with SIM in Thailand to life back in NZ and worship at East Taieri.
  13.         We will support one of our young graduates, Erica Aarsen, who will be serving as a nurse with Diane and Jim Young in Malawi for nine months of this year.
  14.      We seek to do this within an operating budget which has started the financial year (July) with giving significantly below budget, but thanks be to God, giving is improving throughout the year.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

2015 Theme

At the end of each year I seek God for an overall theme for East Taieri Church for the year ahead.  The Thursday morning prayer breakfast prays with me about it and people share various scriptures and things they believe God is saying to us.  I also consult with elders and leaders.

The theme I have discerned for 2015 is: Streams in the Desert

In July-August we have a 5 week series in all services on this theme.  We will be encouraging life groups and individuals to use an accompanying study guide.  

Streams in the Desert speaks of personal refreshment and renewal in our relationship with God and with others.  Do you feel dry or thirsty? What personal spiritual practices do you find refreshing?  Is there a place you like to walk or sit and pray?  What is your plan or approach to reading and studying the Bible this year?  What might God be speaking to you about this year?  These are some of the questions we will address.

Streams in the Desert also speaks of renewal and refreshment when we meet as Christians.  What has been helpful in the past in worship services or group meetings?  Has it helped you love God and love others?  What might be helpful for you this year?

Streams in the Desert speaks of the refreshingly different life Christ brings.  How can our Christian lifestyle be as inviting and refreshing to other people as a fresh water in a dry and thirsty land?  What new mission steps is the Holy Spirit leading you into and what new spiritual gifts for serving others might he have for you?

May we all experience God’s renewing, refreshing work this year,

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Highlights from 2014

Stepping into 2015 I have felt challenged about my lack of posting on my blog.  I guess 2014 has been a very full year - but no excuses - other things have taken priority.

One of the helpful disciplines I have adopted is to give thanks to God for some highlights from the ministry year at East Taieri Church.  I find it encouraging to list the highlights and at the risk of being unintelligible to those outside of the church I post them below:

Some Highlights from 2014 – 200 Years of Good News
  •          The year began with a large short-term mission team going to Thailand.
  •          Sebastian Murrihy was appointed as our new Associate Pastor, and has given leadership at FUEL this year, and will lead the exploration of new Fresh Expressions in 2015.
  •          Rodger has had a year of growth as an intern and been appointed as our new youth worker – beginning 2015 – replacing Erin as she moved back to teaching.  Carolyn (as well as getting married) has stepped up for us in taking on Outram Oasis as well as Ground Zero/Summit – which of course has gone fantastically well.
  •          The role and significance of the Pastoral Care Team was developed, including ordaining some new pastoral elders. (Seb, Joy, Pam Crosbie)  Pam Grant has carried a significant pastoral load over this year, especially with her wide knowledge of who is who.
  •          Visit of the Kenyan Evangelists to Dunedin and East Taieri hosting Charles & Maggie Ng’ang’a
  •          We developed a partnership with Aurora Café for community evangelism events, including the Alpha course.
  •          Ed led the computer upgrade project replacing our old Windows XP machines and our old Windows 2000 Network Server.
  •          Strategic Plan 2015-2020 developed. (Ed and Everyone)  In particular our one hour forum/prayer meeting.
  •          Simplicity: we have found some ways to combine or simplify things so we don’t exhaust ourselves and we model a simpler lifestyle.  E.g. the simple One Service at ET, and combining thanking volunteers with the lunch on the day of the Annual Meeting.
  •          With the help of the Synod Mission Advisor we have engaged in a process with Coast Community Church about their mission and their future.  In 2015 we will trial a mutual discovery together, Bible Study Format on Sunday morning at CCC.
  •          Brad Thorn’s visit combined with Brooke Hooper’s baptism was a wonderful occasion.
  •          Joy has facilitated the initial development of a combined referral process for health and social services in Mosgiel.  The fact that we were asked to do this shows the respect Joy and our community ministries has earned in the health and social service sector.  This project is also lifting Joy and ET into conversation with a higher level of decision makers and policy setters in our community.
  •          Alastair held the fort for some months for us with the 2pm congregation, but now under Joy’s leadership this congregation is moving on and linking with wider church and community.
  •          Jeremy and his team have laid the groundwork for our new EPIC youth discipleship focus to launch on Sunday evenings in 2015.
  •          Making Space for the Gospel – Theme series for the year.  We linked in with the 200th Anniversary of Samuel Marsden’s sermon, and our celebration of that this Christmas.
  •          We have stepped up our efforts to collaborate with other churches – meeting with Mosgiel Presbyterian elders, youth leaders, and addressing the dysfunctional TCMA.
  •          As Ed and Louise are particularly aware, our giving is behind budget.  They don’t have control over that, but have ensured we have the information we need to be able to make course corrections.  While this has meant we have delayed appointing a children and families pastor, we were blessed to have Jess step into a leadership role for a time, and we have been able to recruit Philippa Lord into volunteer leadership for Kidzown and are exploring other ways to engage children and families in our community. In fact, the number of children at worship actually grew over the 2013/2014 year.
  •          Leeanne gave great leadership to the big events of the year. Ministry Conference went very well.  Christmas Eve also went very well.  Leeanne has grown in participating in the Ministry Leadership Team.
  •          Good result in resourcing our community ministry including youth – this has been achieved in a difficult environment.  Well done with funding applications Jeremy, Ed and Joy.
  •          We have begun to address some of the tough issues, including: how we run CCC, how we can address the culture of R4M, and what are the leadership challenges at FUEL.
  •          We have talked about Network Course for some time, but this year we have nailed that.
  •          In the midst of all that ET coped just fine with Martin being away for a month of study leave.
  •          In addition there were many other moments: baptisms, Christmas Lunch @ RSA, General Assembly, Sound System Training, Turning Point Parenting programme, Service of Hope, Martin’s Leadership booklet, Taieri Youth Showcase, Excel, OT and social work students projects Community Expo.
   Thanks be to God.