May 12, 2009

Why I Believe in Youth Ministry

80% of all conversions to Christianity take place before the age of 24.

The average age of conversion in the USA is 15, with just under 70% of all conversions taking place before age 18.

A study by Stanford University neurobiologist Robert Sapolsky found that after the age of 23 it is highly unlikely a person will change their taste in music, food or fashion.

What we must recognise is that teenagers, of all age groups, are the most receptive to new things. The teenage years provide the church with a narrow window of opportunity when an individual is ready and willing to make pivotal life changes that will shape their future hugely.

People in their teenage years are like wet cement, who once set in a course of life are then very resistant to any change.

I refuse to build a youth group. EMPIRE is a youth ministry committed to bringing the gospel to the most opportune demographic on earth!

May 11, 2009

Shame & Addiction

Today's Courier Mail ran an article titled 'Cure Addiction at Source', written by retired Uniting Church minister Rev John Tully.

The key point of the article is that most addictions, whether drug, alcohol, gambling or sex, are actually caused by shame and guilt within an individual.

Tully introduces the article:

RENOWNED US clinical psychologist Gershen Kaufman once wrote: "Whenever feelings of shame are encountered, they can be reduced by becoming addicted to something."

After more than 40 years of dealing with people who have been suffering from addictions, I say: "Shame is the engine that drives all addictions."

"...Addiction reduces pain by temporarily making bearable deep-seated, negative feelings. But it reproduces shame and constantly reactivates the shame cycle."

If we are to live free in life, what we need is not a just a program to separate us from our addictions, but in fact something (or someone) to separate us from our guilt.

Thank God that Christianity is more than a behaviour modification program. In His wisdom, God does not instruct us to get a new lifestyle, but instead to get a new heart! (Ezek 36:26). The beauty of the gospel is that it offers more than just motivation for a life change. It goes far beyond that and provides us forgiveness and cleansing from sin and the associated guilt. (1 John 1:9).

The article concludes:

Disgrace shame requires healing. It is overcome only when the original unity within the self is restored. This is governed by our willingness to make confession of our shame and accept our need of a holistic experience of forgiveness that is rarely, if ever, gained in isolation from others. Some form of help or appropriate therapy is essential."

Rev Tully has echoed the words of James 5:16, 'Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed (cured & made whole).'

May 9, 2009

Berlusconi: The Italian Mirror

Earlier today I read a great article by Beppe Severgnini from last week's TIME magazine on Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

In short, Severgnini makes the point that Berlusconi (and his much publicised antics) do not provide a poor representation of Italy, but in fact a truly accurate representation!

In his last paragraph Severgnini sums it up beautifully:

The truth is that Berlusconi is not only Italy's head of government, but the nation's autobiography. He combines generosity, inconsistency, acting talent, stamina, tactical lapses of memory and loyalty. He promises things he doesn't do, and does things he's never mentioned. His Italian opponents — even the best, the most honest and lucid — are right to worry. Not about Berlusconi himself. But about the Berlusconi inside them.

April 4, 2009

Where is God in pain?

Noted Auschwitz survivor, Elie Wiesel, recounted an experience he had while a prisoner in the notorious death camp.

Wiesel, along with the rest of the camp, were forced to watch the execution of a fellow Jewish prisoner. They watched as the prisoner hung on the gallows, refusing to die, struggling and kicking in the throes of death. In hopeless desperation, an onlooker was heard to say, "Where is God? where is He?"

At that moment, Wiesel recounts, a voice within him spoke to his heart, saying, "Right there on the gallows; where else?"

- Sourced from 'Jesus Among Other Gods' by Ravi Zacharias

Napoleon on the Divinity of Jesus

Below is a staggering statement by Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) on the divinity of Jesus:

"Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne and I myself have founded great empires; but upon what did these creations of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded Him empire upon love, and to this very day millions will die for Him…

I think I understand something of human nature; and I tell you, all these were men, and I am a man: none else is like Him; Jesus Christ was more than man… I have inspired multitudes with such an enthusiastic devotion that they would have died for me… but to do this it was necessary that I should be visibly present with the electric influence of my looks, my words, of my voice. When I saw men and spoke to them, I lighted up the flame of self-devotion in their hearts…

Christ alone has succeeded in so raising the mind of man toward the unseen, that it becomes insensible to the barriers of time and space. Across a chasm of eighteen hundred years, Jesus Christ makes a demand which is beyond all others difficult to satisfy; He asks for that which a philosopher may often seek in vain at the hands of his friends, or a father of his children, or a bride of her spouse, or a man of his brother. He asks for the human heart; He will have it entirely to Himself. He demands it unconditionally; and forthwith His demand is granted. Wonderful! In defiance of time and space, the soul of man, with all its powers and faculties, becomes an annexation to the empire of Christ. All who sincerely believe in Him, experience that remarkable, supernatural love toward Him.

This phenomenon is unaccountable; it is altogether beyond the scope of man’s creative powers. Time, the greatest destroyer, is powerless to extinguish this sacred flame; time can neither exhaust its strength nor put a limit on its range. This is it, which strikes me most; I have often thought of it. This it is which proves to me quite convincingly the Divinity of Jesus Christ."

April 2, 2009


Sarah and I are taking on the leadership of Empire Youth in Kings. We're so excited about working with our teenagers during the next huge season of Kings, which kicks off on April 17th with the launch of Kings One.

Artie Shepherd and his wife Alana led Empire Youth & Young Adults brilliantly over the past 18 months. Thanks to their work, Sarah and I have the privilege of taking on a strong, passionate youth ministry with a gun leadership team who are sharp, switched on and ready to do anything!

I am convinced that teenagers are not the church of tomorrow, they are the church of today. The Bible illustrates constantly that God goes looking for young people when He wants to change a nation, and our prayer is that he would look no further than the teenagers of Kings.

Exciting times ahead!

Believe & Behave

Just doing final preparation for tonight's lecture at Kings Leadership College on Ephesians. Chapters 1-3 of Ephesians deal with theology; chapters 4-6 deal with conduct. In a sense, Paul spends three chapters declaring what he believes about Jesus, then the next three chapters on the implications of this on the way we behave.

One commentator of Ephesians summed it up succinctly:

"As with other epistles of Paul’s, Christian theology is followed by Christian conduct. All conduct is built upon theology, and all theology is incomplete and underdeveloped without conduct."

Will be a great night!

March 31, 2009

Andrew Bolt Blog

Since watching the ABC's Q&A program last Thursday night, I've become a reader of Andrew Bolt's blog. Bolt is a regular columnist for the Herald Sun and was a guest panelist on Q&A last week; his input made the show an excellent viewing. His straight shooting manner makes his blog an entertaining and thought provoking read.

March 30, 2009

Changed by Prayer

Sometimes I find myself mistakenly thinking that my prayer will change God's mind and course of action in my life. Most often however, prayer causes me to change more than anything (or anyone) else.

See the example of Jesus in Luke 9:29, 'As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening.'

On this point, Matthew Henry writes:
The waterman in the boat, who with his hook takes hold of the shore, does not thereby pull the shore to the boat, but the boat to the shore. So in prayer we do not draw the mercy to ourselves, but ourselves to the mercy.

March 28, 2009

Aid and Business in Africa

The March 23rd edition of Time Magazine featured '10 Big Ideas Changing the World Right Now'. Idea #6 is 'Africa, Business Destination'.

For me, the article provided a new perception of both aid and Africa.

"...In Africa's case, the perception has long been that where you are renders all but irrelevant what you do. Africa is hopeless, a place of war and famine seemingly populated almost entirely by tyrants and children with flies in their eyes. According to this view, if Africa generates any kind of growth, it is in suffering — and in the overseas aid sent to address that, now a $40-billion-a-year industry. Naturally, with a new appeal every year and a new disaster every other, some people have begun to wonder if all that money is doing any good. They argue that aid creates dependence, fuels corruption, undermines democracy and stifles development. They have written books with titles like The Trouble with Africa: Why Foreign Aid Isn't Working (by an ex-spokesman for the World Bank in Africa) and Dead Aid (by a Zambia-born former Goldman Sachs investment banker).

In 2006, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, foreign investment in Africa reached $48 billion, overtaking foreign aid for the first time. That gap has only widened, reflecting a quadrupling of foreign investment since 2000.

...Perhaps the most compelling evidence that Africa is now a business destination is China's new love for it. While the old superpowers still agonize over Africa's poverty, the new one is captivated by its riches. Trade between Africa and China has grown an average of 30% in the past decade, topping $106 billion last year.

...part of the explanation for China's zeal for Africa is a new way of looking at Africans. "[The Chinese] are not setting out to do good," he says. "They are setting out to do business. It's actually much less demeaning." And that gets to what, for Africans, is the emotional heart of the matter — and why joining the business world means so much. Though it rarely occurs to Westerners who've been instructed that Africa needs their help, charity is humiliating.

...long-term charity, living life as a beggar, is degrading. Andrew Rugasira, 40, runs Good African Coffee, a Ugandan company he set up in 2004 to supply British supermarkets under the motto "Trade, not aid." He is emblematic of a new generation of African antiaid, antistate entrepreneurs. For Rugasira, aid not only "undermines the creativity to lift yourself out of poverty" but also "undermines the integrity and dignity of the people. It says, These are people who cannot figure out how to develop." Aid even manages to silence those it is meant to help. "African governments become accountable to Western donors," says Rugasira, "and Africa finds itself represented not by Africans but by Bono and Bob Geldof. I mean, how would America react if Amy Winehouse dropped in to advise them on the credit crisis?"

And if that's a striking inversion, consider another one. Look back at the African growth figures once more. Compare them with this year's forecasts for the developed world. Who's the basket case now?

You can read the entire article here