Sermon – How to go to Church: Freedom to Go to Without (1 Cor 9:1-23)

Read the text – 1 Corinthians 9:1-27

As a society we have never had more freedom – yet we use that freedom to serve ourselves. The Corinthian Church know they are free in Christ. Yet they use this freedom to love themselves and not others. How will we, who are free in Christ, use our freedom? Will we follow our society and the Corinthian Church by loving ourselves? Or will we use our freedom to build up the church in love?

In this Bible Talk, Ken Noakes looks how our ‘age of entitlement’ in fact limits our personal entitlements. And for the Christian person there are key responsibilities that come with our gospel entitlement.

Sermon – How to go to Church: FOMO – Fear of Missing Out! (1 Cor 8:1-13 & 10:23-11:1)

Read the text – 1 Corinthians 8:1-13 & 1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1

As a society we have never had more freedom, yet we often use that freedom to serve ourselves. The Corinthian Church know they are free in Christ, but they use this freedom to love themselves and not others. How will we, who are free in Christ, use our freedom? Will we follow our society and the Corinthian Church by loving ourselves? Or will we use our freedom to build up the church in love?

In this Bible Talk, Nick Lindeback looks at the how some actions are permissible for the Christian person and not not inherently sinful, but in exercising that action may cause others to stumble (thus sin) in their faith. The point: consider whether your actions are loving to other fellow Christians before doing them.

Book Review: The Solo Pastor – Understanding and Overcoming the Challenges of Leading a Church Alone (by Gary L. McIntosh)

The Solo Pastor is a book of experienced wisdom from a man with a track record of almost fifty years of consulting, teaching, writing and supporting Pastors in their efforts to lead gospel-minded churches.

The aim of this book, as the title suggests, is to offer some help to those who pastor churches on their own (vocationally speaking). As highlighted, there are particular challenges in this setting, which the author lists and addresses across four parts. There is a logical progression through the book from understanding both the role and the unique circumstances that the solo pastor needs to address (Part 1); the relationship dynamics that the solo pastor needs to wisely negotiate (Part 2); some leadership priorities that the solo pastor should consider (Part 3); and finally some longer terms personal habits that the solo pastor could employ to help them run a long and effective race (Part 4).

It is written with the US church scene in mind and so the contrast is often between the solo pastor church and the megachurch (a distinctive which is less relevant in an Australian setting) – that said, the observations, principles and applications that are offered are insightful and helpful for the non-US setting.

The format is simple and effective. Each short chapter starts in conversation between a solo pastor and mentor figure and introduces the topic of the chapter. The reader will identify quickly their own version of what is being discussed. This is followed by a set of instructional points, laced with helpful reflections, corrections and tips for managing each aspect. His chapters on building relationships (chapter 4) and managing relationships (chapter 5: ‘Stop Playing Fetch’ and Chapter 6: ‘Check Bullies’) are very helpful and reveal some of the authors style in parish leadership. And then each chapter concludes with some questions and practical ideas for implementation to benefit the reader if they are willing to stop and reflect.

The title of the book will attract the pastor looking for help in their solo setting, and it narrows its scope of usefulness. I am not a solo pastor (vocationally), and so in that sense, the title excludes its relevance to me, and yet I found this book very helpful for several reasons. It helped me to understand pastors and churches who operate under a solo model, but more it helped me to reflect on both the differences and commonalities with solo pastors that I experience as a team pastor. And further, so many of the authors instructional points, although directed to the solo pastor, were equally as relevant for me or any pastor in vocational ministry (regardless of the size of their ministry team). I was greatly helped.

The chapter titled ‘Communicate Well’ (Chapter 7) is very helpful in understanding the different ways that people listen (and what needs to be done to ensure that what is communicated is also heard). I was surprised that there was not more said about different generational communication preferences. And the chapter on setting goals and vision (Chapter 8: ‘Establish Direction’) is insightful in listing the mistakes that solo pastors (and church leadership boards/councils) can make. I wondered if a discussion about leadership culture would strengthen the chapter (that said, each chapter is meant to be short and sharp!).

This is not a book aiming to do detailed biblical exegesis, yet often the instructional points raised are biblically referenced or illustrated. In most part this is done quickly, helpfully and usefully by giving weight to the point being made. Apart from a theological parallelism using the story of Nehemiah in the conclusion of the book (titled: ‘Take Flight’) which in my mind is a little overstated, the authors use of the Bible encourages the reader to think about the leadership principles that, if applied, will serve God’s church and support the pastor in question.

The book is published by Baker Books (and is available through most good theological book retailers in both hard copy and ebook). I hope this will be a helpful and encouraging resource for many pastors around the world who labour in serving God’s people. I commend it.

Available for Australian purchase here

Available for US purchase here

Reviewed by Ken D Noakes (by request)

Sermon – A Confounded World: Jesus’ Directive (Matthew 9:35-10:15)

Read the text – Matthew 9:35-10:15

In this Bible talk, Gary Haddon, speaks about how Jesus had compassion on those who did not know him, those who were lost. And how Jesus helped his disciples to see the need, pray and then go and show them Jesus. Do as I have said and done – save the lost sheep of Israel. Save those who have long awaited the kingdom of heaven, and waited for their messiah, their good shepherd – for in Jesus, the time had come.

How do disciples today, proclaim the good news, not as an apostle, but as a disciple commissioned by Jesus to go out to the nations.

Sermon – A Confounded World: Jesus’ Goodness (Matthew 9:18-34)

Read the text – Matthew 9:18-34

Whilst Jesus appears to have the power to do anything, he uses it to demonstrate his compassion on all who come (regardless of their station in life) – and the outcome: faith. In this talk, Dave Swan, considers how Jesus shows his goodness and compassion to those who had faith during his time on earth, and they were healed. Just like those who met Jesus during his time as a man, everyone should also put their faith in him and trust his goodness. Not everyone does.

Book Review: Busy – Tackling the Problem of an Overloaded Christian Life (by Ian Carmichael)

I enjoyed this book.

Whilst not a book that helped me be less busy, it is a book that helped me to be well-directed in my busyness – and that is Ian Carmichael’s stated goal.

Over eleven quick chapters, Ian takes us through a systematic treatment of a biblical view of work and rest. Each chapter finishing with a set of reflection questions (helpful if reading this book individually, with someone, or using it as a discussion guide for a group) and then a progressive chapter by chapter summary (helpful when returning to each chapter). At times it is most insightful, both on the biblical text and of the culture that shapes me (and feels very ‘busy’). Across the book we move from theology to application. And with this biblical framework, Ian suggested ways for me to make day-to-day decisions about what I make myself busy with – so that I might be effectively gospel minded with my time, relationships and energy (the time and relationships audit is a helpful tool).

If you read this, make sure you read the footnotes where Ian’s refreshing and self-depreciating sense of humour emerges most clearly. And whilst the book finishes on page 135, there are another 46 pages with three very valuable appendices on a) Paid Employment (with some helpful comments about vocation and calling), b) Church (often a source of Christian busyness), and c) Family Life (which can rightly and wrongly make us busy).

Do yourself a favour. Buy this book. And make some time to read it with a friend.

Purchase from Matthias Media – here

Reviewed by Ken D Noakes

Sermon – A Confounded World: Jesus’ Mission (Matthew 9:1-17)

Read the text – Matthew 9:1-17

Jesus is confounding. Reading through the Gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus do some extraordinary things and the result is that some follow and some turn their backs on him. That is not so different from today. We often expect the extraordinary before we allow ourselves to believe something. As such we settle for the normal and mundane, all the while wishing for the extraordinary. Jesus came into the normal and mundane, but he did that which was extraordinary. He does what we hope by doing what we find hard to believe! How confounding.

In this Bible Talk, Gary Haddon looks at how Jesus’ mission was to save sinners, not the righteous (or those who think that they are righteous!) – after all “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick”. Yet how do we know that Jesus could indeed save sinners?

Sermon – A Confounded World: Jesus’ Authenticity (Matthew 8:18-34)

Read the text – Matthew 8:18-34

Jesus is confounding. Reading through the Gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus do some extraordinary things and the result is that some follow and some turn their backs on him. That is not so different from today. We often expect the extraordinary before we allow ourselves to believe something. As such we settle for the normal and mundane, all the while wishing for the extraordinary. Jesus came into the normal and mundane, but he did that which was extraordinary. He does what we hope by doing what we find hard to believe! How confounding.

In this Bible Talk, Nick Lindeback looks at the chaos of life and shows us how Jesus holds the power over chaos. If you know Jesus is in control, then you can live in faith rather than fear. Are you willing to rest in this storm, and are you willing to trust him when the chaos of this life overwhelms you?

Sermon – A Confounded World: Jesus’ Authority (Matthew 8:1-17)

Read the text – Matthew 8:1-17

Jesus is confounding. Reading through the Gospel of Matthew, we see Jesus do some extraordinary things and the result is that some follow and some turn their backs on him. That is not so different from today. We often expect the extraordinary before we allow ourselves to believe something. As such we settle for the normal and mundane, all the while wishing for the extraordinary. Jesus came into the normal and mundane, but he did that which was extraordinary. He does what we hope by doing what we find hard to believe! How confounding.

In this Bible Talk, Dave Swan looks at the unparalleled authority which Jesus demonstrated – his ability to heal a man with leprosy, the servant of the a Roman centurion, Peter’s mother-in-law, those who were demon possessed – all people who suffered because of their circumstance, but also because of there status as outcasts under Jewish law. He heals, and in doing so he fulfils what the prophet Isaiah said the Messiah would do.

This should encourage us to examine our faith in Jesus, by looking at how an encounter with Jesus shaped the belief of others.