Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Out of Bethlehem

From the album: Timeline Photos

But you, Bethlehem, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times. Micah 5:2

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Turning the World Upside Down

Turning the World Upside Down is now available as an ebook with a new cover illustration.

Now available on your Kindle and iPad or iPhone. Click here to preview

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Methods change, principles do not

Steve Addison identifies adaptive methods as one of the characteristics of growing movements. In other words dynamic movements find new and more effective ways of fulfilling the Great Commission to “go and make disciples”. For the Primitive Methodists such methods included

1. Using a Printing Press. They used their own printing press to publish items such as the Primitive Methodist magazine, hymn books and in 1824 a children’s magazine. Initially it was based at Bemersley and run and operated by Hugh Bourne and his brother James. This was a crucial form of communication in the early years of the growing movement.

2. Music. One such adaptive method was that of putting popular and often bawdy (lewd and crude) songs to their own words – a method best expressed half a century later by General Booth of the Salvation Army as “why should the devil have all the best tunes?” People hearing the familiar tunes were intrigued to listen to the new words of gospel hymns.

3. Camp Meetings. Open air evangelistic tent meetings were held during the summer months. The famous Camp Meeting at Mow Cop in 1807 was one of the foundational events in the formation of the Primitive Methodist movement. Hugh Bourne and his followers were known as the “Camp Meetingers” and were subsequently expelled from the Wesleyan Methodists for organising Camp Meetings. They were highly effective for many years.

That was nearly two hundred years ago, but over time methods change. Here are some adaptive methods being used by movements of God today.

1. Giving away resources online. Open.LifeChurch.tv make sermon materials, including graphics and video clips freely available to other churches for them to use. Freely available means free. ($Zero). See Open.LifeChurch.tv for more details. This enables churches to run complete sermons series with resources customised to local requirements.

2. Facebook. One of the effective ways churches and growing movements communicate is through the use of Facebook pages and groups. Our church planting movement uses a Facebook group for internal discussion and communication. Simply set up a “secret group” and invite specific people to join.

3. Discovery Bible Study. This is a simple method of Bible study that is particularly helpful for use with those enquiring about the Christian faith. It is being used in rapidly growing church planting movements in Africa and North India.

Here is a brief overview
   1. Choose a Scripture that is simple, not too long and to the point
   2. Read the scripture
   3. Retell the story
   4. Then ask ‘so what?’
   5. Keep it centred on scripture

More on discovery bible studies

Ultimately every movement of God is a movement of the Holy Spirit. Methods are just tools that the Spirit may choose to use. Methods may change, but principles do not.

One principle that never changes is that of impassioned prayer. Prayer is always at the heart of a growing movement of God. One of the key ways that movements grow is through passionate people who pray fervently. Prayer is always part of the package.

To think about:

1. What methods, tools and resources has God placed within our reach?

2. What methods used in the past can be adapted or modified for practical use today?

3. How can prayer be encouraged within the group of which I am a part?

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The best place to be

In Luke chapter 8 we read of three individuals whose life circumstances were very different, but who all came to the same place.

The first was the demon-possessed madman whom Jesus set free and in his right mind. The evil spirits went into a herd of pigs and rushed down the hillside into the lake and were drowned. When the people of the town came to investigate “they found the man from whom the demons had gone out, sitting at Jesus’ feet". (Luke 8:35) His thankfulness led him to Jesus.

The second was a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue. He came and fell at Jesus’ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying. (Luke 8:41-42) His desperation drove him to Jesus.

The third person was a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years. Secretly she reached out to Jesus, to touch him and receive healing. Immediately Jesus knew that power had gone from him. “Who touched me?” Jesus asked. Then the woman, seeing that she could not go unnoticed, came trembling and fell at his feet. (Luke 8:47) Her overwhelming need took her to Jesus.

All three came to sit or fall at the feet of Jesus. What life circumstances will it take for you and me to come to the feet of Jesus, that place of total dependence and thankfulness for all he is and has done?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Preaching is not enough

John Wesley (1703-1791) is rightly known as one of the greatest preachers of the eighteenth century. It is said that “no single figure influenced so many minds, no single voice touched so many hearts. No other man did such a life’s work for England”. [1]

Wesley formed Methodist weekly classes (or small groups) and societies that functioned as a local church. He knew that preaching alone, no matter how powerful, was leaving seed to languish rather than grow in the good soil of mutual support, training, encouragement and discipline. Consequently Wesley left an enduring movement that spread across the world.

“I was more convinced than ever that … preaching like an apostle, without joining together those that are awakened and training them up in the ways of God, is only begetting children for the murderer. How much preaching has there been for these twenty years all over Pembrokeshire! But no regular societies, no discipline, no order or connection; and the consequence is that nine in ten of the once-awakened are now faster asleep than ever.” [2]

The isolated believer is a vulnerable believer. How important it is that we are linked to a body of believers who can support, encourage and help us grow as followers of Christ.

[1] Journal of John Wesley, Introduction
[2] Journal of John Wesley, 25 August, 1763.

Related posts
John Wesley
Why Primitive Methodism?
Primitive Methodism

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Upside down values

The Queen’s birthday honours list reflects the contribution of those held in high esteem by the nation. If that is so, our nation of Australia has an inverted sense of what is honourable.

The award of Companion of the Order of Australia to Professor Peter Singer, philosopher and bioethicist is beyond comprehension. Formerly of Monash University and now based at Princeton, he has been described as the most dangerous man on earth.

Peter Singer is a quietly spoken ethicist whose rigorous logic leads to unimaginable conclusions. One such conclusion is that infants should not be welcomed into the community until they are a month old. Prior to that they are “non persons”, whose right to life is tenuous. Yes, he supports infanticide and the idea made infamous by the Nazis that there is a concept of a life not worth living.

I heard Peter Singer in a TV interview in 1998 state that his intention is to replace the Judeo-Christian ethic that provides the legal and moral framework of many western nations.

If he succeeds, heaven help us.

Award for Singer 'madness'

Friday, June 1, 2012

William Booth speaks

William Booth was the founder of the Salvation Army. This sound clip captures the fire and passion of the man who inspired thousands to dedicate their lives to the service of Christ.

View in YouTube

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Ten conditions of being a disciple

A few weeks ago I had the privilege to hear Rodrick Gilbert, a church planting leader in North India. The movement has grown rapidly to over 220,000 new believers since 1992 in 20,000 churches. A church is defined as a cell of about 10 to 20 baptised believers.

Rodrick identifies ten conditions for disciples. Note the word “if” in the following statements of Jesus.

  1. Cross-bearing

  2. Matt 16 v 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
  1. Self-denial

  2. Matt 16 v 24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
  1. Supreme love for Christ

  2. We are to love our families but always put love for Christ before that.
    Luke 14 v 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple.
  1. Forsaking all

  2. Luke 14 v 33 In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.
  1. No turning back

  2. Luke 9 v 62 Jesus replied, “No one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.”
  1. Being steadfast in the Word

  2. John 8 v 31 To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples
  1. Loving one another

  2. John 13 v 35 "By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
  1. Fruitfulness

  2. John 15 v 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
  1. Dead bury their dead

  2. Luke 9 v 60 Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
  1. Follow Christ with no material expectations

  2. Luke 9 v 57-58 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, “I will follow you wherever you go.” Jesus replied, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”

See also

A movement of rapid growth

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Nearer my God to Thee

Today is the centenary of the sinking of the Titanic on April 15, 1912. On this day the so-called unsinkable ship collided with an iceberg with the loss of over 1500 lives in the early hours of the morning. Only 710 passengers and crew were rescued.

The sinking of the Titanic is an epic story of mistakes, error and misjudgement, including missing binoculars, insufficient lifeboats, and foolhardy navigation in known iceberg waters. It is a story of loss and rescue, fear and courage on a cold still night one hundred years ago.

One of those who went down with the ship was Wallace Hartley, band leader on RMS Titanic. The bravery of Wallace Hartley and the band whilst they played on as the ship sank is legendary. After the collision they played ragtime music. The hymn Nearer my God to Thee has long been associated with Hartley and his band as the last hymn the band played.

Hartley was raised in Bethel Independent Methodist Chapel in Colne, Lancashire. It was there that his choirmaster father introduced this moving hymn to the congregation. For Wallace Hartley, death was not the end, but the doorway to eternal life. Some 40,000 people lined the streets for his funeral.

Wallace Hartley was one of a number of Methodists who acted courageously in desperate circumstances over the years. Another is South Australian Methodist leader Daniel Draper who called out to fellow passengers to “make for the port of heaven” during the sinking of the steamship London in 1854, accompanied by singing the hymn Rock of Ages.

When a mine accident trapped men and boys deep underground in 1880, Primitive Methodist Richard Cole stepped to the fore. He ministered as a “dying man to dying men” during the Seaham colliery disaster, when 164 men and boys perished. He wrote in chalk that “every man was ready for glory” after they had had a prayer meeting.

As for me, I know not when or how my last day will come. But this I know, in the words of an old hymn, “Redeeming love shall be my theme until the day I die”.

Related posts
Daniel Draper
Every man ready for glory

Other links
Did faith drive the Titanic musicians?

Nearer my God to Thee
Rock of Ages
There is a fountain filled with blood

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Responding to the New Atheism

This weekend in Melbourne, The 2012 Global Atheist Convention, A Celebration of Reason, will host authors Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and others, the champions of the so-called 'new atheism'. It will be the biggest ever atheist event in Australia’s history.

Already the TV debate between Cardinal George Pell and Richard Dawkins on QandA has sparked significant interest. How should Christians respond to the celebration of Atheism?

Here is one option: Come on Sunday 15 April 7:30pm to Federation Square to take part in


Can you handle the truth?

The night will feature Ben Price, Australia’s best impersonator, who will be doing a comedy routine and sharing his personal story of faith in God. And also ‘Compliments of Gus’, one of Australia’s premier Christian bands.

In addition, there will be several other powerful faith stories, including that of an ex-Marxist/Atheist who is now the pastor of a large and vibrant church in Melbourne, as well as an ex-drug runner for a renowned Australian drug lord.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Learning from Richard Dawkins

Photo by Mike Cornwell

Richard Dawkins is vehemently opposed to Christianity and is perhaps best known for his book The God Delusion. In that book he is surprised at the ignorance of the Bible in our culture. He recommends that we should read it. Sometimes we can learn from our opponents because they tell us the truth.

He recently commissioned a poll of self identified Census-Christians in the UK. Here are some highlights.

• 37% of them have never or almost never prayed outside a church service

• Asked where they seek most guidance in questions of right and wrong, only 10% of Census-Christians said it was from religious teachings or beliefs

• Just a third (32%) believe Jesus was physically resurrected; half (49%) do not think of him as the Son of God

• And when given 4 books of the Bible to select from and asked which was the first book of the New Testament, only 35% could identify Matthew as the correct answer

So in the UK there is a substantial amount of nominalism. I suspect that there is even more nominalism here in Australia. So what can we learn?

In our discussions and conversation we should

1. Assume no prior Bible knowledge. We need to start from square one.

2. Our methods of discipleship need to emphasis first steps such as

  • Daily Bible reading

  • Daily time with God in prayer and reflection

  • Being part of a community of God's people

  • Sharing our faith

Here are some online resources:

1. Youversion - Bible and Bible Reading Plans

2. getbaptised.com - a guide to getting baptised, best used with a mentor

Related posts

Richard Dawkins shares the message of Easter

Richard Dawkins and ignorance of the Bible

Are we becoming Biblically illiterate?


1. Source: Poll carried out by Ipsos MORI for the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (UK)

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Joining the dots

What sort of people does God use?

Let's join the dots.

We have looked at five examples of different people from significantly diverse backgrounds and culture, Moses, the ageing shepherd, Saul, the violent persecutor, Hugh Bourne, the introvert, William Clowes, the extrovert and John Benton, the rough diamond.

We have seen that God can use people of quite different personalities and background. Introvert or extrovert, illiterate or well educated, rich or poor, young or old, and even those who are radically hostile to Christianity and the cause of Christ. There is no single personality style or background that God uses.

So what’s the real key to the question? What is the common thread linking the lives of the five examples of people God used?

The answer is in Acts 4 verse:13 "When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus." The key is that they had been with Jesus.

God can use all sorts.

He can use you and me if we have been with Jesus. Then we must be willing to obey him and do what he asks.

Related posts

Moses the ageing shepherd

Saul the violent persecutor

Hugh Bourne the introvert

William Clowes the extrovert

John Benton the rough diamond

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Can God use me? (Part 5)

What sort of people does God use?

I am answering the question by looking at five examples of different people from significantly diverse backgrounds and cultures. So far we have looked at the lives of Moses, the ageing shepherd Saul, the violent persecutor, and the founders of the Primitive Methodist movement, Hugh Bourne and William Clowes.

The last of the five is John Benton.

John Benton was a coal miner with limited education, whom God used in the early years of the Primitive Methodist movement from 1810 onwards. He was what we would call a "rough diamond". He became a local preacher and passionate open-air evangelist, who believed Primitive Methodism would spread through all England. It did within fifty years or so.

His command of the English language was inadequate, and his poor use of grammar in public speaking was considered by some to be offensive. He could not put together a grammatically correct sentence and it is an understatement to say he was uncouth in the way he spoke. One local preacher sharply reprimanded him “You are bringing a scandal on the cause of Jesus Christ, you have had no learning, you do not even understand grammar”.

Shortly after this critic made these comments, Benton was preaching on Good Friday. His audience was a group of coal miners and he began with the text “it is finished”. When he had preached nearly half his sermon there was a move of the Holy Spirit in the congregation. Some of his hearers groaned and shrieked whilst others fell to the floor. The Spirit of God was present in a powerful way.

As Benton closed his Bible, and began to pray for those being convicted of sin, he saw his friend and critic, the local preacher, watching in amazement. Benton said to him, ‘This is grammar!’ His astonished critic replied, “I never saw such a meeting as this."

God can use all sorts.

God can use anyone, whatever their formal education (or lack of it).

Related posts

Moses the ageing shepherd

Saul the violent persecutor

Hugh Bourne the introvert

William Clowes the extrovert

More on John Benton

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Can God use me? (Part 4)

What sort of people does God use?

I am answering the question by looking at five examples of different people from significantly diverse backgrounds and cultures. My first three examples were Moses, the ageing shepherd, Saul, the violent persecutor and Hugh Bourne, co-founder of the Primitive Methodists.

My next example is William Clowes (1780 – 1851).

William Clowes was born in Burslem, in the English midlands, the centre of the pottery making industry. Like many other children, he had a limited education, starting work at the age of ten, making pottery for his uncle.

In his youth he led a decadent lifestyle marked by drunkenness, swearing and violence. He was often involved in fights and sometimes had bruises all over his body. He wasted money on alcohol and gambling and ran into debt.

He was outgoing by nature, and in many ways was the “life and soul of the party”. He was also a successful dancer and always seemed to gather a crowd, wherever he went. He had a magnetic personality that drew people to him. He was definitely an extrovert.

God uses all sorts.

William Clowes became the apostle, leading evangelist and missionary pioneer of the Primitive Methodist movement, much like the apostle Paul. Known as apostolic Clowes, he preached in the open-air to vast crowds and saw many men and women come to faith in Christ.

God used this extroverted young man to reach a particular social class, those on the lowest rungs of the English class system, the poor working classes to bring the transforming message of the gospel.

Next post: John Benton - the rough diamond

Related posts

Moses the ageing shepherd

Saul the violent persecutor

Hugh Bourne the introvert

More on William Clowes

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Can God use me? (Part 3)

We began this series by asking “what sort of people does God use?”

I am answering the question by looking at five examples of different people from significantly diverse backgrounds and cultures. My first two examples were the biblical examples of Moses, the ageing shepherd and Saul, the violent persecutor.

My next three examples are men who were leaders in the Primitive Methodist movement. The first of the three is Hugh Bourne (1772 – 1852).

Hugh was one of the founders of this movement that grew rapidly from 10 members in 1810 to over half a million in attendance in their chapels and meeting places by 1851 (as measured by the census in England). There were many radical conversions as violent, angry men became passionate followers of Jesus Christ.

Hugh grew up with an alcoholic father on a remote farm in the English midlands. By nature he was extremely shy, probably because of the isolated location of the farm. He had terrible nightmares as a child of the fear of hell. These lasted into adult years and only stopped when he became a believer at age 27. His conversion to Christ brought joy and freedom from these nightmares.

For Hugh Bourne, public speaking was a constant challenge. Whenever he spoke in public, he put one hand to his face, a mannerism that stayed with him for most of his life. Like Moses, God used him to overcome his fear of public speaking, and become a co-founder of a socially and spiritually significant movement during the early years of the industrial revolution.

His education was limited and much of what he learned was self-taught. In later years he wrote prolifically, and taught himself Greek, Hebrew and Latin. He was a rigorous thinker, and used techniques like Edward De Bono’s “thinking hats” to test an idea. He tested ideas by pretending to have a courtroom where the defence and prosecuting lawyers laid out the case, for and against the proposition. He was forthright in open debate, and he was well-known for his short temper.

God uses all sorts.

God used this introverted, self taught farm boy to begin a movement that transformed the lives of hundreds of thousands of poor, illiterate working class men and women and children. Those whose lives were hopeless found hope in Jesus Christ.

Next post: The extrovert

Related posts

Moses the ageing shepherd

Saul the violent persecutor

More on Hugh Bourne

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Can God use me? (Part 2)

I began this series by asking the question “Can God use me?” By that I also mean “can God use you?” or to put it another way “who does God use?”

I am answering the question by looking at five examples of different people from significantly diverse backgrounds and cultures that God used. My first example was the Old Testament figure of Moses.

My second example is that of a man who was as hostile to Christians as it is possible to get. Saul wanted to kill Christian believers, male and female alike, and was actively seeking to send them to prison. He breathed murderous threats against the followers of Christ, zealously persecuting the church. It is difficult to find someone more violently opposed to Christians than this man. (Acts 8:1, 9:1-2, Phil 3:4-7, 1 Tim 1:12-14)

On the positive side, he was well educated, and without question was an expert in Old Testament law. He had studied long and hard as a Pharisee. Sadly his training had caused him to become a hypocrite, using violence and murder to uphold the law, thus contradicting his beliefs by his actions.

By background he was Jewish, from the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews. He was also born a Roman citizen, a status which bestowed rights and privilege in the world in which he lived. He possessed a unique blend of culture, language and education that God used when he had a dramatic encounter with the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. (Phil 3:5, Acts 22:27-28, Acts 9:1-19)

When Jesus spoke to this angry, violent blasphemer on that dusty road, Saul the persecutor of Christians, became Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. The angry young man became one of the greatest ambassadors for the gospel of Jesus Christ.

God uses all sorts.

Today there are violent angry atheists in our world, spitting venom and hatred towards Christ and his followers. Some of them will be transformed by the Spirit of God though an encounter with the Son of God to be the most ardent, fervent followers and advocates of Jesus Christ.

Next Post: Hugh Bourne, the lonely introvert

Related posts

Moses the ageing shepherd

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Can God use me?

I think that is a question worth asking by all of us.

I don’t know the specific answer to similar questions such as “where will God use me? or “how will God use me?”. (When I say “me” I mean “you and me”, if you see what I mean!). What I do know is that God can use all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds, cultures and life experience. The possibilities are infinitely varied.

I want to use some examples of people God used, from the Old and New Testaments, and from the Primitive Methodist movement.

  1. Moses, the ageing shepherd

  2. Saul, the violent persecutor

  3. Hugh Bourne, the lonely introvert

  4. William Clowes, the exuberant extrovert

  5. John Benton, the rough diamond

Each of them was used by God in remarkable ways, yet they came from significantly different backgrounds and life experience.

When God appeared to Moses at the burning bush, and called him to go to Pharoah, Moses was an old man of eighty years, a humble shepherd, in a no hope, lonely job with zero career prospects. His life was not going anywhere in particular. His future looked unexciting and hopeless. He was a nobody going nowhere. (Ex 3:1-10, Ex 7:7)

On the positive side he had grown up in a privileged environment in the palace of Egypt, he was well educated and spoke both the Egyptian and Hebrew languages. He knew Egyptian culture and palace protocol, even though he was Hebrew by birth. He was in a unique position of being both a Hebrew and an adopted Egyptian who had been raised in the courts of Pharoah. He knew Egyptian ways and customs from the inside.

He tended towards being an introvert. He shied away from public speaking claiming to be slow of speech (Ex 4:10). He was also fearful and timid when challenged to go and stand before Pharoah (Ex 4:13).

Yet God used this introverted, timid, fearful man during the last decades of his life to be a bold, confident leader who fearlessly confronted Pharoah and the might of Egypt. He was used by God to set the Hebrews free from their slavery and oppression.

Next: Saul the violent persecutor