Sunday, 28 February 2010

The Ringelmann Effect

As a former A-level PE teacher I am intrigued by the 'Ringelmann Effect' in sport whereby the effort of a team with less players increases to compensate for reduced numbers. This may more accurately expressed by saying that as numbers increase, effort reduces (originally proposed by a guy named Ringelmann studying tug of war of all things!). Basically, individual effort is reduced as the perception of a shared load increases.

Is this true in church?

As a church grows in size, is it fair to say that the effort of the individual decreases as they perceive their efforts can reduce as there are more to share the load?

My observation is that whilst the Bible calls us to make every effort on our part to walk in His ways, to serve, to work (in the secular sense) (Col3:23) to press on (Phil 3:14), to run the race as though to win the prize (1 Cor 9:24), it is common for believers to make less effort the longer they go on in their faith.
This may be reflected in their serving within the church or in their personal spiritual practices. It is a church stereotype that there are a core of church members who do all of the work regardless of how many other members there actually are. I think that most stereotypes are rooted in truth somewhere which is why they appear common place. This may not be exactly the 'Ringelmann Effect' whereby many who were trying hard (I am not making comment here about our path to salvation but our efforts to stay the course once on the journey) now ease off but rather that the core just mentioned are those 'straining forward to what lies ahead (Phil 3:13), those who are willing, joyful servers who seek first the kingdom (not quite the full context of Matthew 6:33).
If everyone in church retained the willingness to serve literally wholeheartedly then what a difference the local church could make. I know full well myself the temptation to veg in front of the t.v. or to occupy myself with anything that doesn't require me to think of others before myself or to share the load in the life of the church. Some I know appear more conscientious and read/study a lot about the activities of the local church but then fail to actually participate in those activities.

These thoughts are not primarily about work or effort but more about life in general approached through a Biblical worldview. A life given to the 'bride of Christ', the advancement of the kingdom, an appreciation that this life is momentary in comparison to eternity and so to make the most of it. These are grand thoughts that few honestly work out in reality but I am sure that many of us could get much closer.
I have recently felt God's promptings that 'there must be more than this' (O breath of God come breathe within, Spirit of God we wait on you - too true Mr Hughes) and I have been praying again and again for the inspiration of God to lead me on in His plans and purposes and so avoiding my inclination to lethargy or the pursuit of fleeting pleasures.

I am sure that somewhere out there there is some research that investigates this train of thought further but for now these are my ramblings.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Healthy marriage (with male headship)

Although I would have always said I had a good marriage I have always been aware that it is far from perfect and that many of the areas that could be improved rest with me. Last term (as a former teacher I still think of life in terms as do many churches) Beki and I did the Marriage Course at HTB, the home of the course, which was a great experience for us both and highly beneficial. Within the comfortable and, to some extent, intimate atmosphere on the course we were able to talk at length about communication, our family history, sex and other areas of our marriage that had at best been discussed superficially.
I also got hold of a pair of books called 'For Couples Only' by Jeff & Shaunti Feldhahn, that were recommended by Steve Tibbert. Based on extensive surveying of Christian married couples, these books, one addressed to men and one to women, were really insightful and a genuine blessing in how Beki and I understood each other.
I highly recommend both the books and the marriage course to any married couple ALTHOUGH........the issue of headship was not covered which remains one of the challenges in my marriage. I presume that this issue is a little too contentious for a generic course that is accessible to non-Christians but is I believe a fundamental principle in a Christian marriage.

The best teaching on male headship in marriage that I've seen so far has been from John Piper in a 2 part sermon from a series called 'Marriage, Christ and Covenant: One flesh for the glory of God', links below:

Listening to these with Beki was challenging and refreshing and helped us both, it is helpful if you both agree!, come to a better Biblical understanding over the issue of headship and submission within marriage. When you come to appreciate the reflection that marriage is of Christ's relationship with His bride, the church, then some of your personal hang-ups appear very trivial indeed. When you then hold up some of your issues in comparison to what Jesus accomplished through His life, death & resurrection then you are much more able to submit to firstly Him, and then secondly to the role He has asked of you within your marriage.

Already I am seeing the positive repercussions in all areas of my life as a result of making progress in my headship of my marriage and my family (not to say my church leadership).

Praying this snapshot inspires you (particularly men) to investigate this further.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Reading the OT in light of covenants

Having received some training recently on OT theology I've become more aware of reading the OT in light of the covenant the people were living under. It makes for an insightful exercise to first consider the particulars of the covenant before examining the response of the people.
We see in all of the covenants made between God and man that relatively little is required of man compared to the promises made by God. It continues to amaze me that these were days when the presence of God was amongst the people and when God Himself would walk and talk with men. Despite this, the people repeatedly chose to follow the influences of the world around them rather than the God who had literally offered them the world itself (see promises to Abraham in Genesis 17). When you also consider the faithful, unfailing nature of God, the people had no just cause to doubt the fulfillment of the various covenants yet time and again they sought to go it alone, hence the need for repeated covenants with the men that God found righteous amongst them.

I had always wondered why God communicated so many instructions concerning how the Israelites were to live, particularly regarding life situations which we as believers don't support/endorse (divorce for instance, see Deuteronomy 24 amongst other scriptures). Although God does not support such actions, those which are contrary to His intended creation plan, He does provide thorough instructions in order to protect the weak and vulnerable created by such situations. This is how God regulates a sinful society when He had previously made covenant with Noah to never again 'strike down every living creature' (Gen 8:21), a judgement that our deserves.

Having said all of that, the continuing theme of every covenant is consistently that, 'if you (the people) will walk in My (God's) ways' then the people will know the favour of the Lord. This remains true today and demonstrates God's continuing grace towards us despite our continuing failure to stay the course - thank you Lord.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Big Questions

Talking of questions ( I seem to be doing a weeks worth of blogging in a day!), I watched 'The Big Questions' on BBC1 on Sunday morning and have to say that I quite enjoyed this topical debate show. Unlike others of its genre, namely 'The Wright Stuff' where the host clearly has an agenda, often anti-Christian if not anti-religion altogether, and stifles any discussion in opposition to that agenda, Nicky Cambell as host allows differing opinions space to be aired and mediates well between those viewpoints.

This weeks show included discussions on 'should marriage survive infidelity?' and 'should the Anglican church split?'. I particulalry enjoyed the Bible believing Christian who opposed the gay vicar and (probably) feminist Christian panelist during the second of these debates.
Worth a watch

'The Big Questions'

Unanswered questions now answered

On the weekend I listened to a John Piper sermon on the role of husbands in marriage ('Lionhearted & lamb like') and came away not only deeply challenged but also with an answer to a question that i'd never received before.

Q. Why will there be no marriage in Heaven?

A. Because God's institution of marriage, Genesis 2:24 , is not a means to an end in itself. It is a copy/type of Christ's relationship with the church, the 'mystery' revealed by Paul in Ephesians 5:31&32.
'"Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife,
and the two shall become one flesh." The mystery is profound, and I am
saying that it refers to Christ and the church.'

As Christ will be with His church when the world is made new, there will be no need for the copy, no need for marriage.

Thanks Piper - why couldn't anyone have explained it that simply before.

Book Review

'What on earth is the church for?' - Dave Devonish

Just finished reading this challenging, informative and helpful book about the role of the church both from a Biblical perspective and in a culturally relevant way.

A while ago I was thinking that although since becoming a Christian I have always been within New Frontiers (NF) churches, I dont actually read much from leaders within that movement. Since then I have regularly followed blogs of men within NF and read this book.

Dave Devonish is great at encouraging the church to be missional in its DNA rather than do mission and demonstrates this clearly from scripture. He gives numerous examples of his own experience in each chapter and manages to merge the theoretical, theological and practical into a cohesive, common sense argument.
There are clear implications here for those who feel God is calling them to specific mission (overseas for instance), to those involved in church planting a have unique opportunities to shape the culture of their church now but also to all those who take the local church seriously and seek to play their role in its activity. Bill Hybels is commonly quoted as saying, 'the local church is the hope of the world' and this is the recurring theme of this book.

I found this book inspiring not only for my vision of the local church but also in its implications on all parts of life. There is a great section on your workplace as your mission field.

I highly recommend this read.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Must see 80's films

Having spoken with a number of younger in my church, there seems to be a huge hole in their knowledge and experience of classic 80's films. For me this is a 'rite of passage' of sorts that involves exposure to lessons in life from cinematic quality such as 'Ferris Bueller's Day Off', 'War Games' (completely random that they are both Matthew Broderick films), 'Tron' and others.

So the list begins here and I invite you to not only list your film choices from this era but also the life lesson it teaches:

War Games - nobody wins in thermo-nuclear war

Ferris Bueller's Day Off - life is for living

Tron - if life were a computer game it would be even more dangerous, particularly if you happened to find yourself in one of today's violent offerings

Ghostbusters - (the first film I remember seeing at the cinema) 'I aint afraid of no ghost'

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Half the gospel

Have been reading 'What on earth is the church for?' by David Devonish and was provoked by this quote:

"It is important, therefore, that we have a kingdom theology as well as a church
theology. Sadly, I believe many Christians have neither, but only a 'personal
salvation' theology."
This struck me as being a subtle yet widespread truth in the local church. Alpha and our inherited personal discipleship methods tend to focus primarily on the individual and then later challenge that individual into service, ministry and mission. This is only half the gospel that also fully includes becoming part of the body of Christ, where each member has a different yet equally significant role to play (Romans 12, Ephesians 4:16), and also a call to mission, whereby the kingdom is brought more and more into the world.
To embrace the full gospel is not to preach worldly prosperity but as Jesus puts it:
"Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of
evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is
great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you."
(Matthew 5:11&12)

There is no promise of an easy life in the Bible once you have put your faith in Jesus but there are an abundance of promises that more than compensate (seems a huge understatement) for this such as the eternal love and relationship of the living God.
There has been a recent rising of faith that revival is around the corner in the United Kingdom but I believe that God's primary tool for doing this is faith-filled, motivated Christian 'missionaries', us for want of a better word! This will only happen when believers accept the call to live as part of a community that includes the local church but also the wider community where they live, work and play. This will require sacrifices of time and energy as well as putting aside our selfish desires for self-gain and self-promotion and replace them with compassion for the lost and a heart of mercy for those who have yet to receive Jesus into their lives, essentially living without hope and heading for an eternity apart from Him.
That is a snapshot of the real gospel, which does include that Jesus died for MY sin but also embraces that Jesus came for all people.

Last word to Dave Devonish on this:
"Sometimes it seems to me that a gospel is presented which is not much more
than an alternative method of self-help, focusing on my personal needs and my
personal prosperity rather than my commitment to God's programme in the
Harsh but fair?

Monday, 1 February 2010


Hello to anyone/everyone out there - this is my first ever blog post and I hope many more will follow that will stir your interest and your comments.

I've linked to the website of my church which is the focal point of pretty much all that I'm about and what primarily takes most of my time and interest.
Emmanuel Church is where I worship, lead and work full time. The local church is my passion and my calling and what I will spend lots of time talking about.

I'll also attempt some book reviews, some comment on contemporary issues and some fun. I guess there might also be a fair bit of sports on here as a leftover from my PE teaching days and my love of sport.

I look forward to speaking with you all again soon.


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