One Year On From Leaving LivingRoom - a Personal Update

8 December, 2008 3:01 PM

Today I realized that it's been just over 12 months since our little family moved on from LivingRoom.

As a result I thought perhaps it was a time to do a little reflecting upon the last year as we've transitioned as a family from the community. I hope this jumble of thoughts, experiences and half baked ideas comes out OK :-)

A few significant 'moments' and 'observations' from the last 12 months include:

Moving house in Decmember last year (we celebrated our first year anniversary in the house last weekend and it's beginning to feel like home.

Adjusting to a new area - we've moved from North of Melbourne to East - from a very multi cultural area with a lot of social economic variety to a quite mono cultural area with a more middle to upper middle class feel - from an area where churches have traditionally struggled to the 'bible belt' where there are some very large churches (well large in comparison to LivingRoom).

Our second son, Henri, arriving in June. He's a beautiful little boy and while he's only just started giving us a full night's sleep has been a wonderful little fellow to have in our family. Xavier is now 2 and a half and is growing up fast. He's enjoyed living only a few minutes from grandparents.

New Church - We started attended 'One Community Church'. On some levels it was a logical choice (we have a lot of friends there and it is walking distance) but in some ways it couldn't have been more different to LivingRoom (it's relatively large, their worship style is very 'contemporary', they've just done a big building project etc).

Despite some of the differences the heart of the church is quite similar to LivingRoom with a real heart for mission, some amazing people and a similar Theology.

To be honest when we first started going to 'One' (and a couple of other churches locally) late last year we had quite a bit of 'culture shock'. Despite having grown up in and working in churches quite like it - having been out of that type of church for a few years meant having to make some adjustments on a number of levels.

For example the 'singing thing' was really bizarre. Listening to a monologue sermon for 20 minutes without a chance to interact/discuss/question/reflect/do anything creative was particularly challenging for me. Being a part of a community that had just invested significant time and money into a building was also something I had to get my head around.

However over time and particularly as we've invested more into the relationships in the place we've begun to find ourselves more and more 'at home' in this community. I'm sure a few of our friends have raised their eyebrows at the idea (I've done so myself) but at this point it seems right - at least for now.

'Ministry' - for the first time since my early 20's I'm not either a 'minister' or leader of a church. This perhaps has been one of the bigger adjustments for me. It had been something I'd been transitioning to for a while (I'd not been in paid ministry for a year or two and I'd increasingly been thinking about my work as tied to my faith) but it was a bit of a shift in how I saw myself (and perhaps has been a shift in how others saw me too).

I've continued to see what I do in my work and business as tied to faith (ministry if you want to call it that) and have seen that continue to grow and open up opportunities. To be honest I'm not quite sure what to do with it but I've grown my blogs now to a point where I have the opportunity to communicate with a couple of million people each month.

There's an opportunity there and I continue to grapple with how to allow God to use me in that way. Mainly that looks nothing like what I would have regarded as 'ministry' before - and is relating to and seeking to be there for people.

Interestingly in the last two weeks I've been asked by a few people to do some preaching. I've not done any (a part from writing daily blog posts.... which at times feels similar) for 12 months and am looking forward to doing a little more of it.

One of the other interesting things is that since releasing my book in April (another 'event' from the last year) I've had quite a large number of people wanting to talk about faith and spirituality as a result of the introductory chapter of the book where I talk a little about my background. I only included it in the book to give a little context to my story - but it seems to have connected with people - and stimulated some interesting conversations.

The other reflection that I have about not being in a 'formal' ministry position these days is that on some levels I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. Being able to attend church without feeling I have some responsibility to keep things going, without having to have to prepare anything, being able to sit with my family - all of these things have been very refreshing.

All in all 2008 has been a real year of transition. With the change has come a mixture of excitement and the challenge of adjusting - but all in all it's been a good experience.

Christian SMS Spam?

7 July, 2008 3:33 PM

A few weeks ago I started receiving SMS text messages from an unidentified phone number urging me to pray for different 'issues' in Australia.

  • The first was to pray 'against' polygamy (there was a news story that day that a small group of Muslims wanted the laws changed to allow it).
  • The second was a call to pray 'against' an 'axe murdering spirit' that had come to Australia and that had last visited us in the 1800's.

OK - so the messages were a little 'odd' but I ignored them. I've got nothing against prayer and while I probably spend a little more time praying 'for' situations than 'against' them (a whole other discussion) I just put it in the 'quirky basket'.

A few days ago I got another message from the same number welcoming me to 'PrayerForce 1 Prayer Ministries'). Their goal is to 'take Australia for Christ'.

I replied asking who was behind this new 'ministry' and how they got my number. They refused to do so but said that they are a group of 'christians prayer warriors' who have gathered numbers from a variety of personal contacts, phone books, internet and church denominations.

My ensuing 'conversation' of messages with the nameless 'Prayerforce 1 Prayer Ministries' representative was frustrating at the least.

I attempted to communicate that I felt unsolicited and anonymous SMS messages were perhaps not the best way to promote their organization. To me they come across as spammy and border on being illegal (here in Australia organizations generally have to ask you for permission before they send emails or SMS marketing messages).

The response to this was a little disturbing but also slightly amusing - they said that they would 'treat ur church as illegal & spammy' and they threatened that as they had been around for 20 years that they could 'nform the people 2b wary of u'.

From what I can tell they've either got my number from an old Baptist Union contact list or perhaps from an old White Pages telephone book. I think I've managed to get off their list for future SMS's but the whole deal has left me feeling quite frustrated and annoyed.

So How Would I Promote a Ministry

I was going to leave this post at that - but perhaps I would not be taking my own blogging advice. I have written many times about how when you critique others that perhaps it'd be more effective if you also proposed some constructive ideas. Let me turn my attention to how I'd advise Prayerforce 1 to promote themselves more effectively. Here's two ideas that come to mind.

1. Permission Based Marketing - I think SMS is a potentially very effective way to run a prayer type ministry. It's a fast and effective medium to get messages out there to large numbers of people. However I'd strongly recommend that they get permission before sending these messages. My understanding of the law is that it is actually the law to do so. I run numerous email lists and am required to have people confirm their subscription twice before I send emails - this is as a protection against spam.

2. Be Personal and Identifiable - A personal name and tone in writing and communication goes a long way. The fact that Prayerforce 1 refuses to tell me who they are (ie who their leaders are) leaves them looking a little suspicious. I'm sure they are great people but this approach simply leaves me feeling wary from the get go. Personal introductions and names would help a lot.

I Wrote a Book

10 April, 2008 4:43 PM

probloggerbook.jpgOne of the things that I've been doing over the last 12 months is writing.

"Writing? Don't you mean Blogging" you say...

No, actually writing in a non blogging form - writing a book.

Bouncing off my blog ProBlogger (a book about how to improve your blog and even make a living from it) I was approached last year by an editor at Wiley Publishing to write a book on the topic of making money from blogs.

I'd previously rejected such offers but the timing seemed right this time and so I asked a UK blogging buddy of mine (Chris Garrett) if he'd co-author it with me. While Chris and I had never met (and still haven't) we work well together so we decided to give it a go.

And so the journey of writing a book began. It was a long long journey. We planned, wrote and submitted the book over the last 12 months and in just a couple of weeks (28 April) it will be officially released. A few days later it should hit stores in the US, followed by an international release 4-6 weeks later.

The book is called 'ProBlogger' (it seemed to be the logical choice).

You can already pre-order it at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble (also at Amazon's international stores) with Amazon offering a pre-order discount.

We've set up a site for the book here and have an email list that you're welcome to sign up to if you'd like to sample the book with a free taster chapter. The list also will get you a weekly email with free blog tips from Chris and I. You can of course unsubscribe from it at any point.

Exploring 'Christian Blogs'

11 October, 2007 9:11 PM

Tim Challies just published an Interviewing with Me that explores some of the themes of my last few years of blogging where I've transitioned both in thinking and action from seeing myself as a 'Christian Blogger' to being a Christian who is a blogger. I won't rehash it all here - but will leave you to read it for yourself - enjoy.

Does the Church Need to Rethink Leadership?

24 September, 2007 5:47 PM

In my last post I spoke about the transition time that we're going through as a community at LivingRoom with V and I moving on from the community at the end of this year (it's looking like we'll finish early in December or late in November).

While the transition has been something that we've been thinking about day in and day out for 8 months now it has been fascinating to see how different people have responded to the news in that last post.

Overwhelmingly people have been very encouraging. A few have emailed to ask questions and ask for clarification of rumors they'd heard (it's amazing (and a little concerning) what goes around - none of which has had any truth to them) but in general there has been some really wonderful feedback.

An Emerging Theme

One thing that I've found particularly interesting is the large number of people who have said that they resonate with the paragraph that I wrote about my 'sense of mission and ministry' in which I pointed back to my previous post on the topic of some of my own personal discovery and evolution in understanding of Ministry as being connected to work.

I've received email after email from people in paid ministry who have been coming to similar realizations and discoveries that perhaps God is 'calling' them to a different kind of 'ministry' outside that of paid ministry.

Some have told stories of how they have already made a similar transition to full time 'secular' (I dislike that word more and more) work, other have talked about moving into a part time paid ministry and part time work situation and others have expressed a desire to make the transition.

What interests me is that those emailing come from both emerging communities and more traditional churches.

My reactions to these emails is twofold:

1. I'm really excited and encouraged by it - It's affirming to know that I'm not alone in feeling the feelings that I've had this last year and to see that God's doing something amazing across the globe in his people who are discovering him and his mission in their work. I've heard some exciting stories of what's been going on for people and am increasingly energized by it.

2. I'm left with many questions - On the flip side of this I'm left wondering about 'church' and 'leadership'. While I'm certain that every pastor and minister around the world is not about to get up and leave their communities to go and get jobs outside the church - I do wonder whether we're seeing something happening here that will lead to us as Church to rethink how our communities are lead. I don't have the 'answers' to this - but it's a question we've certainly been pondering at LivingRoom of late and one that I'm beginning to see numerous other churches (particularly emerging ones) grappling with as their leaders feel the time is right to move on.

A Time of Transition at Livingroom

1 September, 2007 12:19 AM

Time for an update on LivingRoom - well overdue I know.

Over the last month we've moved into a transition period at LivingRoom as we consider our future as a community in a time of change.

At the beginning of this year V and I let the community know that we were feeling as though it might be time for us to move on from leadership of LivingRoom. We didn't know for sure but wanted the community to know where we were at and what we were thinking so that we could discern what to do together.

After a few months of reflection we felt that the time was right and a couple of months back we confirmed that we'd be moving on from LivingRoom at the end of the year (probably mid December). We did so in consultation with the Baptist Union and LivingRoom's leadership. I've not blogged about it until this time simply because we wanted the group to be able to begin to process the news and begin to explore what might be next before it 'getting out'.

Since that time a smaller group of LivingRoomies have been gathering together with a BUV leader to put together a way forward. This has involved a number of things to this point including a number of weeks 'looking back' at the beginnings of LivingRoom and hearing the stories of other local emerging communities.

The 'looking back' weeks came out of a realization that V and I were the only two members that remained from the very first group of 6 founding members and that we'd had a real influx of new people over the past year or two who hadn't heard the story of our beginnings and how we came to form our values, style and practices.

So we spent two weeks looking first at the story itself (with lots of story telling from different members sharing how they came to join LivingRoom, their first impressions and why they'd hung around) and the second week looking in a more focused way at our core values.

The idea of hearing stories from other communities (we're currently doing this for 4 weeks) is twofold. Firstly it opens up possibilities to connect with these other local groups but secondly it's interesting to hear what others are doing and we hope that hearing their stories will help us to discern some of our own future direction.

Why are we moving on from LivingRoom?

I guess the question that some might be asking is why V and I are moving on from LivingRoom. It's a natural one.

There are a number of reasons:

I guess ultimately we feel it's just time - time for us and time for LivingRoom. A number of things have come together to give us this feeling.

Family Life - We've moved into a new family stage (our little man is now 14 months) and V's gone back to work a couple of days a week. This means that Grandmas are generously helping to care for him on those days which means quite a bit of time in a car. We've also outgrown our home (who knew that someone so small could get into so many things!). We realized that it was probably smarter in terms of family to be closer to our extended family who live on the other side of the city.

Sense of Mission and Ministry - My own personal sense of 'mission' and 'calling' has evolved over the last 2 to 3 years. While I've not updated this blog much in the last year I suspect that some of you will have sensed this with posts on the topic like Thinking about 'Ministry'. I don't like to articulate everything about it in a public setting (for reasons that I mention in that previous post) however in general I'm feeling that my work is actually something that is closely aligned with my own personal call, mission and ministry. I'd be happy to articulate this more clearly to people individually if they'd like.

LivingRoom - Our goal at LivingRoom was always to have a group that was able to largely run itself and not need to rely upon any one person. For this reason we transitioned in the first two years from me in a paid part time position (funded by our denomination), into me leading on a voluntary basis, to last year a small team leading the group to this year the group running itself even more. In many ways much of the leadership for the group this year has been in the hands of others already.

As I look at my gifts and the needs/opportunities of the group I have been sensing for a while that perhaps someone else (or a group of people) could take LivingRoom to the next level more than I could for the last year or two. My passions and gifting are quite 'entrepreneurial' (I'm not sure it's the right word). I love to dream up and birth new things. I always have done this (since I was young) and much of what my role was in the first 3 years was in this. However when it comes to taking things that are established to the next level I'm not great. While I'm not one to give up - I've increasingly struggled with whether I might in fact be holding the group back from growth and development.

The decision was not a particularly easy one on numerous levels. I think most pastors who have resigned and moved on from ministries that they've invested a lot into would know the conflicting feelings that often face them at these times. However there is an increasing sense of it being 'right' for us to do and so we've moved forward with it.

What Next?

So what happens next for LivingRoom and for us?

in many ways there are unknowns in lives of both LivingRoom and the Rowse House. LivingRoom will continue it's process of discernment that I've outlined above. V and I have bought a new house closer to our parents (our new house is precisely between them) and are selling our current one this weekend (hopefully). The question of where we'll do faith in community is a question that we've been pondering a lot but the answer is probably a few months off (I suspect we really need to finish with LivingRoom before we'll really ponder it seriously).

I've been in 'ministry' of one sort or another now (mainly paid) for 11 or so years now and while I can't imagine not taking an active approach to participating in a community I suspect that a break in this type of leadership might be beneficial to me. While I thoroughly have enjoyed it I would be lying if didn't admit feeling 'tired' and in need of some personal rejuvenation as I consider my own spirituality. I'm very much looking forward to rediscovering what it is to be a follower of of Jesus without the tag of 'pastor'.

I'm sure over the coming weeks and months there will be more reflections to share on the process and transition that we're going through.

Please forgive me if I don't blog the ins and outs of decisions being made and directions being explored at LivingRoom (I've always taken the approach to blog about these sorts of things after they've been decided upon instead of as they are happening as I think it's healthier for the community).

Please do pray for us in this time - I'm sure the community as a whole would greatly appreciate your thoughts and prayers at this time.

LivingRoom and The Trouble With Paris

21 June, 2007 5:20 PM

DvdOne of the things that LivingRoom has been focussing upon in the last few months is a great new resource produced by three mates of mine here in Melbourne titled The Trouble with Paris.

This DVD based resource is fantastic to helping a small group to explore how to live and make sense of faith in the crazy world that we find ourselves in.

The DVD is designed to work over four weeks and include times of discussion, some amazing video reflections, stories and more.

The Trouble with Paris emerged out of a series of talks that Mark Sayers developed a few years back - the talks were originally titled 'How Paris Hilton Made me a Better Christian' and they were responsible for hundreds of young adults rediscovering faith in pretty profound ways.

Bringing the concepts to video was genius and together with Ben Catford (and amazing young presenter) and Room 3 (a video and graphic design studio) Mark's developed something that I'd highly recommend.

It's perfect for young adults - but would be challenging for both younger (teens) and older adults also.

You can check out four of the clips from the DVD on the view page of their website.

I hope you'll find The Trouble With Paris as useful to your community (and your own life) as we did at LivingRoom.

Megachurch Website Launch May 21, 6pm

16 May, 2007 2:30 PM

Those in Melbourne might be interested in coming along to the launch of a new website here in Australia called Megachurch Watch.

It's on at 6pm on Monday 21 May (next week).

I'll be one of a number of speakers during the evening - details are at Megachurch Website Launch.

Forge National Summit - 2007

21 January, 2007 10:29 PM

Ds2-SmallForge is running it's second annual 'Dangerous Stories' National Summit which looks like it's shaping up to be a great event - Australia's Emerging Church Summit.

It's on between 9-11 March in Melbourne and if it's half as good as last year's one it'll be an amazing few days!

There will be many speakers at this event but some of those already announced include:

Brian McLaren
Wolfgang Simson
Darryl Gardiner
Shirley Osborn
Michael Frost
Debra Hirsch
Alan Hirsch

Read their bios here.

A Christmas Reflection for Advent

13 December, 2006 1:07 PM

On Sunday at LivingRoom our group had a BYO worship time with the topic of Christmas (it seemed appropriate). We had a range of reflections and activities brought to us. Mine was the following two visual presentations which I simply played (with some 'Christmas music' behind them). The first one is a 'Flickr Christmas' and is simply a random selection of images from Flickr that have all been tagged 'Christmas'. The second is a selection of nativity scenes depicted by artists throughout the centuries. I made these with Keynote (powerpoint for mac) and have converted them to video (not the highest quality). Hopefully you get the idea from these videos despite the low quality and lack of audio.