Friday, September 28, 2018

My Sunday Job

I'm reading the Bible at church on Sunday

The sermon topic is: How to Live With Others: Households.

I'll be reading: Col 3:17-4:1 (NIV, unfortunately)

Now off to practice.

Be unprepared

As opposed to the Scouts ('Be prepared') this is the motto for many churches.

To save you a click, here's the nub of it:

Leaders at Hope Life Baptist Church are always careful to pray for their graduating seniors, that the Lord would miraculously stop them from deconverting, even though the church doesn’t spend a single second addressing even basic secular arguments against the faith.
I've written before about the basic Christian reading for any reasonably educated young Christian, but we can go further.

A seminar each month with a 20 month program would equip school leavers for the views, arguments (many are not arguments, just rants), and positions adopted by non-believers.  Just too much effort? How valuable is your children's faith? How valuable is evangelisation? Do we take Paul seriously in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5?

I'll outline the 20 week program some other time.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

Symposium review

The symposium was a cracker. Not as many people turned up as I'd have liked, but a good group of keen participants were there.

The convenor, Jono, gave a wonderful and encouraging talk on work from a number of scripture passages, then we three panelists were asked the questions.

We answered them and people seemed interested. The panelists were a high school teacher, a psychologist, and me.

Great discussion followed.

Now, the important point here was this: we are able to relate our faith to ordinary life in a meaningful way! And, whatever we do as an occupation, we are on mission.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Christians in the workplace symposium

Here are the questions for the symposium I'll be participating in:
  1. What do you do? (where do you work, how big is your team, do you manage people?)
  2. What does it look like for you to be a Christian in your workplace?
  3. What are some challenges that you face when trying to live like a Christian in the workplace?
  4. Do you have any tips for someone in a similar industry or workplace as you for how to live like a Christian?
  5. How can one discuss their faith in the workplace?
Here are some thoughts, skipping Q1, which is just background:
2. What does it look like for you to be a Christian in your workplace?

Being in an executive role, I am in the fortunate position of setting the culture and tempo of my 'Branch' (as my workplace calls large units). My first objective is that it is a happy workplace that people like to come to and feel secure and effective in. I structure all my interactions, and encourage my direct reports to adopt the same principles as we read in Paul's letters: care for others as people is essential, respect, politeness and humility are expressions of this. If someone is not performing, my first step is to see where I can help, not to accuse or criticise.

Also my underpinning view is that I've turned up to work on an agreement to do things: I have to achieve the firm's objectives, I have to contribute to these and I have to develop my team. I expect all my team to perform and to deal with lapses that I draw to their attention in a mature and positive way; because that's how I communicate any counselling I need to do.

3. What are some challenges that you face when trying to live like a Christian in the workplace?

With very high standards of honesty and duty, I seek to work in such terms, and I expect similarly of my staff. I object to creating 'special' groups that attract undue attention to themselves: I want to treat all people equally and not push people into social categories.

I have seen conduct by senior executives that I think is corrupt, but not actually, by the letter of the law, corrupt. I find that very difficult and have worked to get the right outcome despite this. I have also had to face criticism for doing the right thing by my team. Those can be tough experiences. But I've handled them with logical reasoning and politely.

4. Do you have any tips for someone in a similar industry or workplace as you for how to live like a Christian?

Tips are above! And: be guided by your own princples and standards which come from the scriptures, and stand for them. Think through situations where you might feel pressure to conform to something you don't want to do and work out what you might say; talk to your Christian friends about it.

To recap: you must be committed to your job and your employer. You've agreed to take their money  to do valuable work in return. Don't slack off, or shirk work, and on the other hand don't think that you can't stand your ground when you need to, and always politely and in a reasoned way.

5. How can one discuss their faith in the workplace?

The first step is listen to what people are saying and respond to 'where they are'. So I suggest don't 'over evangelise', and make sure you are having a conversation, not preaching or dictating. Telling your own story is a good start if that's where the  conversation goes. Never put down another person's beliefs, and never patronise them.

I suggest that you don't 'wave a flag' about going to church or study groups; be subtle, otherwise it can sound like 'grandstanding' or showing off.

A casual conversation might go like this:

You are asked about your weekend. You might think, great, I'll say I went to church. I'd rethink that. If it is a casual remark, I'd say the ordinary things I did:  some gardening, reff'd a soccer game, had coffee with friends (ie after church). You might be asked where you had coffee. Then you might say, that 'after church we always have a coffee, sometimes in a coffee shop in Gordon, or at church we have free coffee and snacks in the foyer'. This might enlarge, or it might not.

This is about matching the emotional/social 'level' of the question. If you know the person well, and have mentioned your faith, sure mention that you went out/to a seminar/christian group with some  friends, which you love doing...using language that is 'common' rather than exclusive.

If the person want a heart to heart, though, and your careful listening tells you that they want to go deeper, introduce them to more personal aspects of your faith.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Dead or hell?

I was at an Anglican confirmation service which featured a few surprises:
  1. One of the confirmation candidates was a Hebrew scholar and university lecturer.
  2. I was surprised that R, who I'd known in another parish was a bishop...I had not hitherto connected R and the R I know had been a bishop. 
  3. We recited the new look Apostles' Creed.
The flash new creed

Some of the language I liked, some I didn't.

My favourite version is the Australian Anglican Prayer Book

The AAPB creed

On occassion, the Book of Common Prayer version suits; however, not often.

The BCP creed

All up, I dislike 'creator' instead of 'maker' in the second line; it seems to beckon an idealist theology; maker seems more direct, concrete and realist.

'was crucified, died, and was buried' seems odd, gramatically in the new version. Its all past perfect (completed action) and so, 'was crucified, [was] dead and [was] buried' is better.

And, let's keep 'holy catholic church' and not let the church of Rome get away with its self-conceived dominance. If we don't like the word 'catholic' let's say 'holy church universal'

'Decended into hell' is argued against on the basis of there being no scriptural warrant for this. Perhaps; but I can see the logic: Christ was forsaken by the Father and died. Where else did he go? OTOH, as God the Son, how could he be in 'hell' separated from God when he is God? 'Decended to the dead' does seem better.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

At work

I've been asked to be part of a panel at one of our church's training afternoons. The session is Christians at Work. I've been to work, so I guess I'm qualified.

I'll have in mind the considerations below:
First off, this piece, published in a local newspaper regarding child protection week. A lot of sense for general people relationships.

1. Treat everyone equally as people first. Much like Paul's descriptions:

Philippians 2:3, 4
 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. 
 Phillipians 2:14,15
Do all things without grumbling or disputing; so that you will prove yourselves to be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you appear as lights in the world.
 Galatians 5:22f
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control...
2. Be involved with people, take a genuine interest, and be open to their interest in you. Have interesting things to say, listen to what they say with real attention. Have interests to discuss outside your church involvement (it can be offputting if you always give your weekend report as "I went to church with friends", when people may see a more approachable you if you can say: "I went gliding, with one of my pals..." You get the picture.

3. Go out with work groups at least sometimes. If you don't like the venue, only stay a short time; if you don't want to drink alcohol don't and be firm, polite and confident in refusal (you might tell them its a carcinogen!)

4. Work well, committed to your employer's business.

5. Seek to know and be known, to listen attentively to what people are really saying.

6. As you get known certainly don't avoid your Christian commitement, but ensure that you introduce people to your beliefs and values in an appropriate context.

How to pray evangelistically

What do you pray when discussing faith with a non-believer?

I'll bet its something like "Lord, give me the words this person needs to hear."

I'll bet that's the wrong thing. Here's what might be a more suitable prayer:

"Lord, enable me to listen to this person thoughfully to understand what they are really saying."

Go from there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Christian schools as an avoidance strategy

The Prime Minister was asked about children's exposure to sexualised education. He told the interviewer that he dealt with this by sending them to a Christian school.

Good idea! Retreat!

One reasons ordinary Christians have such little influence in public schools is because they are not there. They've left. They are hiding in Christian schools (and schools of dubious Christian credentials).

Here's the solution.

Send your kids to public schools. Join and be active in the P&C, even if it means scaling back your churchy work.

Start a Committee for School Support for each school, actively monitor curriculum, teacher activity, excursions, external educational visitors. Make sure the relevant teachers and principal know your views at every turn. Have a school prayer meeting weekly with related functions on at the school if possible, elsewhere if not. Keep up a PR storm through every medium available.

Make representations to local MPs and the relevant minister, Premier, leader of opposition and opposition education spokesperson. Don't accept either a 'no' or what salesmen call a 'yes objection.'

Write articles for parent/child magazines, local paper, national papers. Start a newsletter for your school committee and the Council of School Committees, which would be the collective voice of the local groups.

Then keep going. Unremitting.

Monday, September 10, 2018

Faith spam

From the AutoExpert:
Religion is just a system of faith or worship - so it’s broader than just worshipping Jesus or Allah. It’s any system of faith or worship. It all hinges on and devotion. And faith - according to respected critical thinking academic Peter Boghossian (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Portland State University) - is (quote): “Pretending to know something you don’t know”.
He then goes on to attack 'faith' on this straw man definition.

But here's how Christians view faith:

One might think that the first step is Hebrews 11:1:
“being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see"

This does not float in the air, however, but is based on the Biblical history of God's action in history. The certainty, the 'sure'  comes from the reliability of God's doing what God says he will do. Demonstrated capability. The foremost exemplar is the resurrection of Jesus.

If your faith sits on anything less certain, then it is faith by leap; Kierkegaard's 'faith'.  But Christians to not 'leap' to faith. Faith is a reasonable step based on confidence in the evidence to hand.

Boghossian's straw man is the 'common  man' interpretation. Embarrasing for a philosopher to promote this! A philosopher should know better. Faith is extrapolated confidence in something yet to be verified directly. It is  empty if it is not based on reasonable grounds, and futile if there is no possible future verification.