If you are not a runner you probably couldn’t wake up tomorrow and run 5 kilometres without stopping. You probably couldn’t run for 5 minutes! Most people need to work up to a goal of this size, building fitness and stamina over time until the impossible becomes possible.
I wasn’t a runner (and I still wouldn’t describe myself as one!) but I learnt to run this way using the Couch to 5k app. Three times a week I would walk and run in alternating blocks. In the beginning, I did more walking than running. But over time I was running more and walking less until I was running for 30 minutes without stopping and for a total of 5 kilometres!
I’ve noticed that in the Christian life some of the common sermon and Bible study applications can sound a lot like the call to just “go out and run 5 kilometres.” For example:
– “Share the gospel”, or – “Bring a friend to church.”
Yes, some people can do these things easily but many find them as daunting as a 5km run. And everytime they are exhorted to do these things they can feel both guilty and discouraged.
Sidenote: One of the issues here is our preference to encourage people with the “what” but not equip them with the “how”. But I’ll leave that for another day.
Today I want to suggest an alternative. Instead of asking people to run for 30 minutes the first time they put on their running shoes, get them moving in just 30-second intervals. Most people can run for 30 seconds at a time and each time they do, fitness, stamina and confidence grow.
What does this look like in the church? It means identifying areas to grow, then setting smaller goals that are challenging but also achievable.
Hospitality. Have you never had another family over for a meal? Invite one family to lunch next month.
Evangelism. Do you struggle to talk about your faith? Ask one mum at school dropoff if she has a faith background.
Prayer. Do you avoid church prayer meetings? Attend just one this year.
Generosity. Have you never given financially to church? Start giving $1 a week.
Each of these is tailored to individuals and how they need to be pushed. Each of these pushes people just a little bit out of their comfort zone. Each of these requires commitment and action, but don’t sound impossible.
Here are some other examples:
Knock on one door.
Pray for one other person when you pray for yourself.
Pray with your wife for 5 minutes on Friday nights.
Read (or listen to) one Christian book.
Join a small group.
Fast for one meal.
Say hello to someone you haven’t met before at church.
Arrive at church on time.
Serve in a (new) ministry.
Memorise one Bible verse.
What do you think about the Couch to 5K model of Christian discipleship? What other examples of small steps can you suggest?
Each year, Google reports on the top search terms in different countries around the world. Three years ago I shared the fascinating revelation that Jesus topped the list of searches for ‘who is…' in Australia. It was clear that Australians wanted to know who Jesus is.
“I mean to make myself a man, and if I succeed in that, I shall succeed in everything else.” – James A. Garfield
How do you become a man?
Over the weekend I read Play the Man by Mark Batterson. It's very easy to read and explores what a man of God looks like and provides guidance for fathers as they help their sons become men.
Batterson helpfully shares how he sought to lead his sons in a ‘Year of Discipleship' with physical, spiritual and mental challenges. The year culminated in a rite of passage and as a father of two young sons, this book and these practices left me with a lot to think about.
Throughout the book Batterson raises some great questions for self-reflection. They make more sense in the context of the book, but are still helpful on their own:
Is my version of Christianity worth dying for?
What are my sin triggers?
Who am I willing to offend?
Who do I need to goad and who have I licensed to goad me?
How can I be more childlike?
How can I be less childish?
What will my kids remember from their childhood?
What boundaries do I need to put in place to protect myself, my marriage and my family?
What decisions against myself do I need to make?
What am I tolerating?
Who are my pacemakers and who am I pacing?
I also appreciated this reminder:
“You’ll never be a perfect parent but you can be a praying parent.” – Mark Batterson
The problem is, the way we access the internet is constantly changing. Web browsers were once the only and then the main way we accessed the internet. Today, apps provide an increasing opportunity to sin with almost no means of accountability.
For the past two years we've been working on a revolutionary Screen Monitoring technology. This service captures screenshots of your devices, detects sexual images using image analysis, blurs the images, and sends an image report to your Accountability Partner.
This is a great step and I look forward to seeing how this new technology will help us conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Each year at Christmas and Easter I scour the internet for the best videos to show at Christmas and Easter services. As I explained last year, Christmas videos are becoming harder to source (much harder than Easter-themed videos).
That said, here's the latest compilation of Christmas videos for 2018 – hopefully with a new video from the team at Speak Life to come. You can explore videos shared in previous years here,here and here.
Are you an ordinary man? Good! God does great things through ordinary men! God doesn’t look at outward appearances when he recruits men for his purposes – education, wealth, connections. No, the Lord looks in favour on the man who is humble and contrite in spirit, and who trembles at His word.
At BASECAMP 2018, Malcolm Gill will share with us the story Dwight L. Moody – an ordinary man who was used mightily by God. We will be encouraged as we look back on his life, and look forward to how God might use us in our ordinariness to accomplish His great purposes.
There are many apps for reading the Bible, but few that make it possible to listen to the Bible. I spend a lot of time commuting each day and I am often either walking to or from the train station, or too tired to read.
So I was excited to discover Dwell – a new app from the team behind Lightstock – to listen to the Bible and “keep Scripture in your ears and on your heart.”
The app emerged from a Kickstarter campaign and became the 4th most funded app of all time! With Dwell you can listen to the Bible (ESV, with more translations to come) read by one of four different voices, accompanied by original background music.
You can also select a playlist based on themes, stories, passages and plans. The app currently contains the entire New Testament and 7 Old Testament books, with more on the way.
The free version includes one voice and recurring interruptions. There are 3 pricing plans available for all of the voices and unlimited, uninterrupted listening:
$2.99 a month.
$23.99 a year.
$126.99 a lifetime.
Dwell is available now on iOS, and later this year on Android.
I'm guessing you struggle to spend time with God and would like this to be better. I say this because it's true for me and for many Christians I speak with. I say this because as I discovered 6 years ago:
2 out of 10 Australian Christians are engaging with God on a daily basis. This isn't 2 out of 10… Click To Tweet
If you want a better devotional life I've been working on a new resource to help us. My Time With God will share the stories of how Christians around the world spend their time with God. My prayer is that this will be a practical and inspiring resource to revive the devotional lives of Christians of all ages and life circumstances.
“When we relegate our intentionality with God to a minute fraction of our time, it’s no wonder we feel distant from him during the times we happen to be thinking about him and lack power during all the other times. Whatever we focus most of our conscious time on will invariably dominate the way we think and feel.” – Jared Wilson
Glen's reflections were a great encouragement to me, and I pray will be to you also.
The Fatherhood of God
When my prayers are dry, nothing brings refreshment quicker than quoting Matthew 18:3 to myself:
“Unless you change and become like a little child, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
My default is to come as a battle-weary soldier to a Sergeant-Major. The reality is that I'm a child — a little child — coming to my Father. That changes everything.
The Priesthood of Christ
Probably the central image I have in mind when I think of prayer is Christ's prayer life before the Father (Luke 11:1). He is my Aaron, spreading incense in the Holy of holies and I am carried on his heart before the LORD (Exodus 28-29; Heb 7:25). I don't have to yell up to heaven, I'm at his right hand, whispering in his ear. It's not my prayers that need to ascend to heaven (which is good because my prayers are rubbish). Christ has ascended and I am in him (Col 3:1-4).
The Spirit's Intercession
I'm always late to prayers. That's because there's been a prayer meeting going on for a very long time. And the Spirit sweeps me up into it — I now participate in the Son's communion with the Father. So now the Spirit cries in my heart, Abba, Father. This is my new spiritual heartbeat. Once again, this is not a communion with God that I have to establish. It's given to me. The Spirit is praying, now I get to join in.
The World's True Nature
I'm constantly tempted to feel that the world is a factory floor and I need to pull the right levers to get stuff done. Even with ministry I can feel like I must ‘build the kingdom', brick upon brick. But I'm not meant to pull levers or lay bricks, I'm meant to abide in a Vine that is, by nature, full of life and fruitfulness. As I pray I'm telling myself (and living out the truth) that “Without [Christ] I can do nothing.” (John 15:5)
When Hannah did not pray out loud she seemed like a crazy drunk to the high priest (1 Sam. 1:12-14). Who even does that? Who prays silently? Apparently no-one in Israel ever did that. But today in the west, we default to this madness. We even call our times with God “quiet times”? Are we insane? Do we want to ensure that our thoughts will definitely drift in a thousand distractions? Do we want to turn our time with God into introspection — a descent into the self? No? Then pray out loud. And while you're at it, read out loud too (Revelation 1:3). Seriously, don't have quiet times. Talk to God.
Pray the Psalms
There are 150 prayers in the middle of your Bible. Pray them. They've been given to us for precisely this reason. They involve the interplay of the LORD, his King/Christ, the righteous and the wicked. Figure out what interplay is going on in the Psalm in front of you and join in, playing the appropriate part. If you want real help, check out the Daily Prayer app from the Church of England which will help you pray through the Psalms every month and they give excellent model response prayers at the end of each one.
Remember The Point
Prayer is not the point. God is. Prayer is not a thing that you do, a task you tick off, a rung on your ladder of spiritual self-righteousness. There's the old line, attributed to a number of different saints, that ‘I don't pray for longer than 20 minutes, but I don't go longer than 20 minutes without praying.' There's something to that. I used to psyche myself up to hours long prayer marathons and then condemn myself when I failed at it. Why? What was my goal in attempting this? Looking back I think it was mainly spiritual pride and a sense that I wanted to pray my way up to God. Our Father doesn't want anyone to pray their way up to him. We are not meant to be strong pray-ers but weak pray-ers, feeling our littleness and yet knowing our welcome nonetheless. Aiming for prayer marathons when you're not even praying for 5 minutes is almost certainly a sign that you're missing the point. The point is to talk to your Father. So if you're not doing that. Try 5 minutes. And if you're praying for 5 minutes, how about 8? (Here's a great app that helps you remember things to pray for). Things will build but not because you're trying to flex some kind of prayer muscle. The point is not to be a good pray-er, the point is just that prayer is good. Because God is good. He's the point.
If you're interested in more resources like this, please subscribe to My Time With God.
The way we use the internet is constantly changing so the way we build church websites cannot stand still. If we want to serve people well we need to create websites that meet their needs and deliver on their expectations.
Here are 12 statistics about online behaviour to drive the development of your church's website.
More people visit websites from mobile devices (52.64%) than desktop computers
Impressions about a website are formed in the first 50 milliseconds
The visual appeal of a website is established incredibly fast – within 50 milliseconds. However, a case study by Nucleus Church revealed that 96.2% of church websites fail the first impression test and 8 out of 10 church websites failed more than one part of the first impression test.
On average, people only read one quarter of text on a page
Most people scan text on a website – reading 28% of words on an average visit. This means that the use of headings is particularly important to help people who are scanning to easily find what they are looking for.
People spend most of their online time on sites other than yours
Your church website is just one of many sites that people will visit. This means that, as Jakob Nielsen writes:
“Users prefer your site to work the same way as all the other sites they already know. Design for patterns for which users are accustomed.”
85% of the internet users in the U.S. watch videos online
64% of consumers expect companies to interact with them in real time
Immediacy is an increasing expectation – 64% of consumers and 80% of business buyers said they expect companies to respond to and interact with them in real time. This means that there is both a growing expectation (and opportunity) to serve people – especially answering their questions – while they are on your church website.
78 percent of consumers in the United States read reviews before making a purchase decision