9/29/2010 08:59:00 pm

Sirens and Bright Light

Posted by Tom French |

I was driving home from Bible Study on Monday night with my new British friend, Ant, and as we drove past a telegraph pole in Hornsby, I looked up and saw a bright light. I said to Ant "Look there's someone welding, on top of the pole, all by themselves." I thought it was odd that there would be a person on top of a telegraph pole at 10:30pm doing some welding. But then when I looked further, I saw there was no person up there, just the bright light. I realised that this was electricity, burning brightly where it shouldn't be burning brightly, coming out of the top of a telegraph pole.

This was an exciting discovery for me, this meant it was an emergency. So I said dramatically "We're going to have to call emergency services!" I put on my hazards and did a u-turn to get a better look, used my iPhone GPS to figure out exactly where it was, then dialed triple-0. I reported that there was a telegraph pole on fire, and I think the lady on the other end was happy to have taken such an pivotal call in the safety of the nation and our fight against terrorism and stuff.

Once that was done we parked and wandered a little closer to watch this sparking electrical brilliance. At times is grew very bright, bright like a thousand suns (minus 999.9999 of them) and made a noise some what resembling battle involving multiple lightsabers. We didn't stand too close, as we thought it might explode. That was certainly my hope.

The Fireys and the Cops arrived about 3 minutes after I called. They parked right opposite the sparking thing, so it seemed they weren't too worried about explosions.

I was then hoping to see some action as the fireys set about putting it out but everyone just stood around staring at it. They informed us that you can't really put the fire out, you just have to turn off the electricity.

So it was less exciting than I'd hoped. But still more exciting than a normal drive home.

As it turned out, one of the fire fighters was my friend Wayne who I used to think was awesome when I was a kid, and who I got lost in a canyon with when we all went canyoning with Keith. It was a nice moment.

When we realised nothing more was going to happen, we left. Our work was done, Hornsby was safe in the hands of the NSW Fire Brigade.

9/29/2010 12:03:00 am

Hotness

Posted by Tom French |

I am Australia's Next Top Model!

No... wait... sorry... hold on... I'm feeling a bit sick about this... actually, it's Amanda.

Damn it.

9/22/2010 02:02:00 pm

Lament

Posted by Tom French |

Sometimes I wish I had a girlfriend so we could share our Google Calendars.

9/19/2010 10:58:00 pm

Sleep Don't Weep

Posted by Tom French |

Do what you must do to find yourself
Wear another shoe

Paint my shelf



- Damien Rice

9/19/2010 05:13:00 pm

We Went Running

Posted by Tom French |

After the City 2 Surf Jem, Gem and I got all excited to run the Bridge Run, a 9km run across the Harbour Bridge. I was going to train hard and be awesome.

Alas...

I ran once, a few days after the City 2 Surf and didn't run again. Gem and Jem run only once too.

Today was race day, and we ran. None of us died. In fact we all found it way too easy.

We've decided to do the half marathon.

We're going to train hard and be awesome.

9/17/2010 02:30:00 pm

Why plant a Church? Isn't that arrogance?

Posted by Tom French |

church.jpg

A few days ago Howie blogged about not seeing the need for church plants (i.e. starting new churches). I wrote a comment that was probably longer than anyone bothered to read, but I was glad I did, because it's something that I've been meaning to blog about. As I've written this though, I think it may need to be a two parter. So I guess this is part one of two.

Ever since I told the world that I'm planning on planting a church, people have constantly asked me "Why do we need another church?" The implication being we already have plenty of churches, and most of them aren't full, so why start a new church. While not everyone is down on the idea, I certainly don't have overwhelming support from all quarters, especially from many close friends and family. I'm not offended, and would prefer they told me their misgiving than say nothing at all, or support me to my face, but rip on the idea behind my back. I feel privileged to have friends and family who love me enough to let me know when they aren't all that keen on the idea.

What follows is not a rebuke of those people who disagree with my decision to plant, but rather my thoughts on why people tend to object to the idea of church planting. And they're just my thoughts so obviously I may not even be right.

Whatever the state of the Australian church I think the response to church planting from many people would be the same. Were the Australian church going great guns, I suspect people would say "There are plenty of churches doing a great job, why do we need someone else doing the same thing?" and if the church was doing poorly people would say "Why not build up existing churches rather than start something new?"

For whatever other misgivings people have about church planting I suspect that much of the discomfort with the idea of church planting comes not primarily from a concern for the established churches, but from a concern with the attitude of the plant and the planters. I think the idea of planting a church, especially an independent one, brings with it a certain air of arrogance. Planting a church has the perceived message of "The established church isn't good enough, I'm going to do it better." Add to this that planting a church necessitates a level of entrepreneurialism, which requires the planter/planters to possess a level of self-belief that says "I have what it takes to make this happen." Then add to this that to plant a church you will almost certainly be taking strong Christians out of the local church they are serving in, to start something new, and you're now saying "The church isn't good enough, I have what it takes to make something better, and I'm going to make other churches weaker to do it." That is arrogance, and if there is anything Australians don't like, it's arrogance.

In the US I think church plants are more easily accepted, because they value, as a nation, the idea that someone can make themselves into something. Anyone can be President, anyone can earn a million dollars. If you believe in yourself it's not pride or arrogance, it's confidence. They are a nation born from people wanting to build something out of nothing, and they've done it. A bunch of pilgrims on boats becomes, in around 400 years, the most powerful nation in the history of the world. And so church planters are more readily accepted (though it would be silly of me to think they're all accepted all the time) because they embody, to some extent, the outworking of the American entrepreneurial spirit.

In Australia however we come from different stock. We're convicts or soldiers, sent by the government to colonise a foreign land. We're not here because of someone's dreams to build something great. We're here because the powers that be decided it'd be that way and we were forced to build a nation. And build a nation we did. We were not a nation that was founded by great men, we were a nation that had greatness thrust upon it. And as a result we value hard work, mateship, and equality. We don't like people trying to be boss, we value the boss being like the common person. We don't say "Let the best man win", we say "Lend your mate a hand".

Our heroes are not great people who led our nation in times of turbulent change and trouble, the are common people who rose to a challenge. We don't have an Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jnr, or Winston Churchill. We love Simpson and his donkey, we love the members of the Rural Fire Service, and the Surf Life Savers. We don't love Anthony Mundine, we love Stephen Bradbury and we love Cathy Freeman.

And so when someone says "I'm going to do something great" we say "Get back in your place".

I may have missed the mark, and I'm sure I have simplified and generalised the American and Australian character*, but these are factors that I suspect feed into our distrust of confidence and our distaste for arrogance which is playing out in the current interest and discussion regarding church planting in Australia.

Now I'm not saying that people are thinking about all this when they have misgivings about church planting. I am saying I think a lot of the people who have issues with church planting, will at some level, be interacting with the perceived arrogance of church planting.

And the arrogance of church planters is not always a misapplied characterisation. I remember talking to one church planter who told me that to some extent or another you need to be ego driven to plant a church. And certainly the line between self-belief and arrogance is a fine one, which is probably often crossed by church planters, especially those of us who haven't planted yet and haven't been broken by the process yet.

For my part I am fully aware of the arrogance of saying "I'm going to start a church." I know what kind of message independent church planting seems to send to the established churches.

I am someone who gels more with the character of leading when leadership is necessitated rather than seeking out positions of leadership. I am never someone who has sort to take on great tasks of leadership. Probably partly to avoid responsibility, but also to maintain an image of humility. God forbid that I should step forward and ask to lead lest people think I am arrogant.

The great thing about youth ministry is that while I led, I was never in it to be a leader, I was in it to be with the youth. And I could very comfortably have been a youth minister for many more years. Youth ministers always have someone over them, they don't have to aspire to greatness, and the buck never stops with them.

But now I'm church planting and I'm very uncomfortable with the idea of me stepping forward and saying "I can lead a church. I can build a church from scratch. I have what it takes."

The truth is I have no idea what I'm doing. I'm pretty sure I don't have what it takes. I don't think I know how to do church better than other churches. I don't want to start something new. I'm scared my plans of having three senior pastors is just a way of avoiding being in charge. If I could do anything I'd be a youth minister again, and I'd do that forever.

But I have been called. I am sure that God has called me to church plant. And so my job is obedience. While I would prefer to take the path of least resistance and I know that church planting will cost me dearly, my greater pleasure is to serve my Lord. So my first, and most foundational answer to the question of "Why plant a church?" is "God has told me to." In greatness or failure, arrogance or humility, church planting is what I'm doing. And I could have got that wrong but right now that's the only obedience I know how to do.



That's part one. Tune in next time for "Why plant a Church? Don't we have enough churches?"


*I'm also aware that, particularly in the case of Australia, I have ignored the non-Anglo heritage of Australia, particularly the Aboriginal history of the country. I do this only because I am concerned with our response to entrepreneurialism, rather than out of any desire to ignore other important parts of our history.

Photo by: PhillipC

9/15/2010 02:24:00 pm

Waiting

Posted by Tom French |

I'm sitting in a school staff room, in between chapels. I finished talking about The Prodigal Son an hour ago. It feels strange giving that talk. I think I originally wrote it 6 years ago, but I'm still trotting it out.
 
I acidentally made the mistake of saying, in one if my illustrations talking about the last night of a camp, "I found everyone sharing beds and sharing doonas." For a bunch of year 7 and 8s this was just an invitation to giggle about the supposed mass orgie I had discovered. I tried to recover but gave up and moved on. For the record I should have said "sitting on each other's beds and sharing doonas".

In about 10 minutes I talking about Jesus and superheros to the primary school, so I should go focus on that.

9/11/2010 02:08:00 pm

Watermelons and Pride

Posted by Tom French |

Last night at youth group I was speaking on Evangelism as a value for our youth group. I talked about our need to share the good news of Jesus. This gave me the perfect opportunity to talk about our love of sharing dumb videos and to show two of the most watched videos on YouTube this week.

Seeing as I love YouTube, this was perfect.

First I showed this one, because I think it's brilliant:



Then I showed this one because it seemed to have been the biggest thing on YouTube in the previous 24 hours. I'm not normally a fan of people getting hurt videos. Actually I am, but I try not to be. But I showed this not to laugh but to make a point about the uselessness of the things we share. Still, I may have laughed a bit:



Anyway, the talk itself seemed to go ok. I gave the kids an opportunity to become Christians and what was great is that two of them indicated that they wanted to become Christians! So in hindsight, the talk went brilliantly.

But despite the kingdom success I didn't feel all that good about the talk. I came home thinking I spoke too long, that it wasn't interesting enough and it was a bit of a mess. One of the leaders told me they found my gospel presentation "interesting". They clarified that it wasn't wrong or heretical, just interesting. I didn't quite know what this meant, so I worried then about my presentation of the gospel too.

So I came home feeling a little depressed. Which is highly dumb. I'm sure it was partly due to the fact that I was coming off the back of another big week of Bible talk preparing and giving, so I wasn't feeling real happy.

Still, it was dumb. Here I am, two kids have believed the Gospel for the first time and prayed to become a Christian, and I'm worrying about whether my talk was good enough. How full of pride I am that my primary response after my talk is not "How amazing God is that people gave their life to Jesus!" but "Oh dear, I don't think my talk was good/funny/interesting/short enough."

Less of me. More of Him.

9/11/2010 12:24:00 pm

Question

Posted by Tom French |

If you had to choose between being a dophin who could talk, or a mute human with flippers for arms who could swim like a dolphin what would you choose?

9/08/2010 05:31:00 pm

Work and Laziness

Posted by Tom French |

I'm writing a talk at the moment on work and laziness in the book of Proverbs. It's for a school. I was asked to do it. I didn't realise I could have picked another topic. This is a shame because work and laziness are not very exciting ideas. I'm not passionate about people working hard. I especially don't want to be the guy who turns up to school and says "Work hard and you'll achieve stuff", I hated those speeches at school. And the "Don't waste your education" speeches, I hated them too. I don't want to be that guy. I want to stand there and say "Don't open your HSC. Don't stress. Go out late at night. Only do the homework you want to do. You are not your education." Though I'm pretty sure I wouldn't get invited back.

I might try and find the middle way. I might tell them all to become plumbers, cause plumbers are awesome.

9/07/2010 11:09:00 pm

Sov Grace

Posted by Tom French |

I went to the launch of the Sovereign Grace Sydney on Sunday. I was there because both my housemates are part of the core planting team and I wanted to cheer them on. I also wanted to see how it'd all go down. I've never been to a church launch before.

It was a very enjoyable experience. The service was smooth (except perhaps for the tempremental keyboard at the end). The music was good. The preaching engaging. The people welcoming. It was a well executed first service. It felt very much like they'd been preparing for months and now they finally got the chance to pull it off, which I guess was the case.

Dave Taylor, the pastor, gave a good message on keeping the gospel central. He was passionate, Jesus focused, and he had the ability to keep everyone engaged for the whole message. Most importantly it moved me to love Jesus more.

I did really enjoy the sung worship. We spent half an hour singing four songs. It was the kind of charismatic-esque worship I don't get to do much of these days.

At one point I was sitting there thinking, "If I was a little more flaky, I'd quit my church and come here." Not because I don't like my church, I love my church, but because they did everything really well in a way I really liked. My guess it's not too hard to do everything well. They're the first plant in Australia from a large, successful US based ministry. They can pick a quality pastor from their worldwide network to come out and plant the church, and then, because of their reputation they can attract a good core of people for their core team, and they can pick a bunch of the most talented, highly functional Christians to do the plant with. If they weren't doing things well there'd be something wrong.

Anyway, none of this is a bad thing. I was impressed, and tempted toward church lust. I wonder if it's a similar feeling that married men get when they see a young, hot lady pass by and know they can't have her. That said, I'm not dissatisfied with my church, but I know the issues of my church, I don't know the issues of Sov Grace, all I see is the shiny, alluring, first day, launch specialness. If we're still going with the marriage metaphor, Sov Grace had on it's wedding night lingerie on Sunday while I'm pretty sure I'm at the stage with my church where they're not embarrassed to wear the grandma undies in front of me.

Hmmm, I should probably end this metaphor now.

All this to say, I'm sure Sov Grace will grow quickly and I pray they do and they fill up with people meeting Jesus for the first time and people coming back to Jesus after some "time off". They're going to be a good gospel witness in Sydney. I'm not going to quit my church for them, but I will cheer them on from the sideline. For my church I'll pray that we'll also can be a good gospel witness and that we too can look hot in some ecclesiastical lingerie.

9/07/2010 06:34:00 pm

It's Done

Posted by Tom French |

Well I'm pretty pleased we have a government now. That was, however, a very enjoyable 17 days.

I think Rob Oakeshott is a bit of a dude.

I was amused that right after Oakeshott and Windsor announced their intentions my Facebook feed filled up with people proclaiming the imminent ruin of Australia. I'm pretty sure, whoever they sided with, Australia wouldn't get ruined. As far as I can tell neither Labor or the Liberals would set about turning Australia into a police state, or legislating forced abortions, euthanasia and gay marriage. Neither of them are going start burning books or merging Australia with North Korea. They're just going to plod along making good decisions and bad decisions none of which will immediately send Australia into Zimbabwean territory. We're rather blessed to live in a country where we can survive in a country where we have no government for 17 days and there are no riots, no military coups, no assassinations, we just keep going on our way and make amusing websites.

I was similarly amused by the article on SMH that said that Rob Oakeshott "held Australia hostage" because he took 15 minutes to tell the press conference that he was siding with Labor. Giving the man 15 minutes after he's spent the last 17 days trying to sort out the next three years of Australian government for the country is a small ask. I'm very thankful for the diligence and care that Katter, Windsor and Oakeshott put into their decision. I don't think anyone should accuse them of taking their role lightly, though I'm sure they will.

What has interested me in all this is the vast difference of opinion that Christians can have in politics. You can get a bunch of Christians together who all have basically the same views on the Bible, on persona morality, on their theology - but then you get them to talk about politics, and they'll be people all over the political spectrum.

In my house there are three of us, we are all pretty much of the same view of things in our faith, we all believe in the authority of the Bible, we're all pretty much reformed in our theology, as far as the churches practice and message goes we probably all have the same view on abortion, gay marriage, care for the poor, etc. But I think we each voted Liberal, Labor and Greens or maybe one of them should be changed to Family First. This makes me happy. I love that loving Jesus doesn't make you vote one way or the other. And I love that it's rare that people will question your faith just because of who you choose to vote for.

I'm thankful for democracy. I'm thankful for politics. And I'm still thankful for Mike Kelly's moustache.

9/05/2010 11:55:00 pm

Guess Who?

Posted by Tom French |

Yesterday I had a work event on and there was a guy there who I went on camp with last year. I was the speaker and he was on of the leaders, he came up to me to say "Hello" but I couldn't for the life of me remember his name. It was the old "Hey Tom, how you going?" "Heeeyyyy, not too bad, how are you?"

I thought he must have been one of the directors of the camp because there was a camp directors' weekend on there at the time. As we talked I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what his name was and what else I knew about him. Then I remembered that both the directors were studying medicine, or were doctors or something. I thought, "Great, I'll ask how that's going and it'll be clear from the question that I remember who he is" and that could make up for the obvious fact that I completely forgot his name.

So I said "How's your studies?"

And he replied "I finished last year, I'm working now."

Me: "Oh so are you saving people's lives?"

Him: "I'm not sure you save many lives in the media."

Damn! Now it's freakin' obvious you have no idea who he is, dig up! Dig up!

Me: "Well... you know... Jack Bauer, he saves people's lives, and he's in the media, sort of, well, he's a fictional character, portrayed in the media, who's saving people's lives... actually he kinda kills more people...yeah..."

Idiot!

9/03/2010 05:20:00 pm

Love You Love Me

Posted by Tom French |

I sometimes worry that my acts of love and kindness are motivated not by love and kindness but rather by pride. I'm not so concerned for other people, as I am that other people will think I'm a loving, kind person. I do good so that people will think I'm good. And I don't do bad, because I want people to think I'm good.

This isn't so good.

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