Thursday, October 31, 2013

Featured Blog - Darren Poke

Better Life Coaching Blog:  Why Do You Go To Work?

Darren's insightful questions about your motivation to go to work and the meaning you find from work aligns well with a post I wrote some time ago - Off To Work?

Read both posts and discover a "terrific opportunity to do something truly remarkable with your life."

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Professional Reputation

LEADING FROM THE TRENCHES: Professional Reputation
Make no mistake, reputation is important, but is it important enough to pursue at the expense of core values and character? 
Make no mistake, reputation is important, but is it important enough to pursue at the expense of core values and character? - See more at:

The Paradox Of Care

Over the past five days I have found myself dealing with an unexpected time of incapacitation caused by a random medical situation.  While dining out with a group of people from our church, a piece of steak got lodged in my oesophagus, resulting in extreme pain and vomiting a lot of blood.  After a number of non intrusive attempts to dislodge the steak in the Emergency Department at Berwick Hospital, I was transferred to Dandenong Hospital where I required a gastroscopy to remove the blockage, which also revealed a couple of significant tears along my oesophagus.  Four days in hospital, excellent care from medical staff, the love and support of family and friends, and faith fueled prayers for healing have led to a full recovery.  Praise the Lord!!

During my stay at the Dandenong Hospital it was interesting to observe the ethnic mix of medical staff, reflecting the cultural diversity of the greater city of Dandenong.  I was cared for by doctors, nurses and orderlies from a variety of Asian, Middle Eastern, Islander and African nations.  Beyond the obvious differences in appearances and accents was a universal professionalism and level of care that transcended these cultural differences.

As a sick and vulnerable white Australian laying in a hospital bed in an Australian public hospital, I couldn't avoid noticing the paradox between the care I received from culturally diverse health professionals and the care that is given by Australian political leaders to vulnerable people seeking asylum in Australia.

While our circumstances are very different the contrast in care cannot and should not go unnoticed.  Vulnerable and desperate human beings who cannot help themselves should be treated with dignity and compassion by those who can, regardless of their nationality and circumstances.  It was humbling to be cared for in my time of vulnerability by people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds who experience racial discrimination and may well have family or friends being rejected by a government they are serving through their medical expertise.

In transit between Casey Hospital in Berwick and Dandenong Hospital I met an Indian taxi driver who is studying a Degree in Commerce and drives taxis part time because he is not entitled to the same study concessions as other Australians.  In the ward at Dandenong Hospital I met an Islander male nurse who showed a particular interest in my case because of his training as a doctor back home but who is not qualified to practice medicine in Australia.  Yet, in the bed next to me in the Day Treatment Centre at Dandenong I overheard the phone conversation of a young drug affected Australian making racially critical comments about the staff and service of the hospital.

The experience of being hospitalized this week, while unwelcomed on many levels, gave me a deeper respect for people from culturally diverse backgrounds and a stronger resolve to bridge the growing gap of misunderstanding between Australians and those who seek to call Australia home!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Closing The Gap

Among the many words used to criticise the "church" is hypocrisy, which would probably appear more often than not at the top of the list.  While this may be an overstated generalisation of the church in many cases, it does highlight an unavoidable characteristic of human behaviour that inevitably presents itself by people who profess a certain set of values (religious or otherwise) and behave in a different manner.  

This gap between stated values and actual behaviour is costly for personal integrity and professional credibility, a point well captured by Dr. Brene Brown during her presentation at the Willow Creek Global Leadership Summit:

"The space between how we behave and our aspirational values is where we lose people."

Regardless of the context, people tend to be attracted to people who spend the least amount of time in this gap, and tend to abandon people who loiter there too long.  The same is true for organisations...including churches!

To be people or organisations with integrity and credibility we must close the gap between stated values and actual behaviour so that who we say we are is consistent with what others see.  Closing this gap between values and behaviour builds trust and establishes the foundation for sustaining strong and lasting personal and professional relationships.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Be Strong & Courageous

The Global Leadership Summit in Melbourne was kicked off today with a high octane session by Senior Pastor Bill Hybels of the Willow Creek Community Church.  Amidst a world class line up of leadership speakers, Bill Hybels never disappoints with the opening session each year, setting the tone for the rest of the Summit!

Here are just a few of Bill's quotes that fueled my leadership engine today:

"Courage correlates to every component of leadership."

"Vision is a picture of the future that creates passion in people."

"Every significant vision that is birthed within you is going to put your courage to the test."

"Visions are holy commodities...treat them with utmost respect...don't kill them off with cowardice."

"Your team already know what reality your organisation is in, they are just waiting for you to declare it and have the courage to step up and lead them out of it."

"Staff culture will only ever be as healthy as the CEO or Senior Pastor wants it to be."

"There is a time when you have to transition from casting vision to establishing an inviolable value in the church."

WOW!!  Each one of these quotes deserve a blog post of their own!  Nevertheless, I will contain myself for the moment to one statement that really stood out to me today.

"There is a time when you have to transition from casting vision to establishing 
an inviolable value in the church."

Casting a vision gives the church a picture of a preferred reality, however, establishing a value puts flesh on that vision.  It is relatively easy to stand before a congregation and get them all revved up about an exciting new vision, but it takes an enormous amount of courage to stand before the same congregation and redefine the values and behaviours that underpin the vision.  It takes courage to challenge behaviour that is contrary to where God is leading and courage to disciple people in a counter-cultural way to build a kingdom culture in the church.

Bill's reference to God's exhortation of Joshua to "Be strong and courageous" resonates with my experience as a leader making the transition from vision to values in my current leadership role.  The vision is clear, but some of the values of our church are not in alignment with that vision.  The challenge before me is to have courageous spiritual conversations with our leadership team to define the values that are necessary to drive God's vision for our church.  We must be prepared to model the values that will define the right culture to turn vision into reality.

I agree with Bill that there are inviolable biblical values that need to be central in every church and the lives of every Christ follower.  Today, more than ever before, we need "strong and courageous" leadership in God's church!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

A Franciscan Blessing


May God bless you with discomfort at easy answers, half truths, 
and superficial relationships, so that you may live deep within your heart. 

May God bless you with anger at injustice, oppression, and exploitation of people, 
so that you may work for justice, freedom and peace. 

May God bless you with tears to shed for those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation and war, 
so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and to turn their pain into joy. 

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that you can make a difference in this world, 
so that you can do what others claim cannot be done. 

And the Blessing of God, who Creates, Redeems and Sanctifies, be upon you 
and all you love and pray for this day, and forever more. 


Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Wilful Desires

I love those one liners that capture your attention and cause you to sit up and take notice when you are sitting in a class, listening to a sermon or attending a conference.  A couple of weekends ago, we were blessed at our church to be under the ministry of Major Marney Turner at our Spiritual Retreat weekend.  There were many powerful and Holy Spirit inspired words spoken at the retreat, but it was this one liner that confronted me with an uncomfortable truth.

"When we deliberately sin, we are not weak, we are wilful."
Major Marney Turner

I immediately connected it with an equally uncomfortable Scripture that reminds us that we cannot be tempted by what we do not desire.

"but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed."
James 1:14

When we connect these two truths together we are challenged with the reality that deliberate sin is a wilful pursuit of what we desire!  Ouch!!  This is very difficult to justify or defend if we are to make an honest assessment of any perpetual sin we may struggle with. 

  • Adam and Eve desired the forbidden fruit and wilfully ate it, despite being told not to.
  • Jacob desired the birthright of his brother and wilfully deceived his father, despite the inevitable conflict to follow.
  • King David desired Bathsheba and wilfully pursued her, despite knowing it was wrong.

If you have ever raised children, you will be all too aware of how this works every time they wilfully pursue what they desire even when they are told 'no'.  Or, if you have ever struggled with an addiction, you will know the power of an unhealthy desire that drives your will, despite all the warnings about the dangers. 

The paradox of wilfully pursuing what we desire is that if we change our desires by submitting them to God, then we can wilfully pursue the Spirit instead of sin.  This is affirmed by Paul in Romans 8:5, "Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires."

So, we have a choice:  Instead of wilfully pursuing sin that is driven by misplaced desires, let us instead, wilfully pursue the Spirit of God who transforms the desires of those whose minds are set on Jesus.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

An Unstoppable Force

I'm sitting here watching the movie "Unstoppable," starring Denzel Washington and Chris Pine about an unmanned runaway freight train that is under full power.  It is an intense and action packed movie showing the desperate attempt by authorities to regain control of the train and avert a potential disaster.

I can't help to wonder about the potential for the local church to be an unstoppable force if it too was moving under full power.

Despite all the programs and activities that are coupled together to form the church, it seems that the church is largely running far from full power.  In fact, I think it is fair to say that some churches are just coasting along and others are at a complete stand still.

For churches to be a movement under full power, they must be churches full of the Holy Spirit!  Churches full of the Spirit will be an unstoppable force that can never be derailed by the enemy nor controlled by the religious.  Holy Spirit driven churches will be a movement with such power that strongholds will be broken and lives will be radically transformed. 

This is where the analogy with the movie ends, as churches moving under the full power of the Spirit will not cause a disaster but prevent a disaster of people who are not yet saved spending eternity outside of a relationship with Jesus Christ!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Divine Conversations #3

Lord, I am reminded again of a quote by Dr. Stuart Robinson, from his booklet, The Prayer of Obedience:
“The degree to which we are convinced that all real growth is ultimately a supernatural process and are prepared to act upon that belief, will be directly reflected in the priority that we give to corporate and personal prayer in the life of the church.”
It is from this conviction that we turn to you O Lord, for it is you alone that changes lives; it is you alone who transforms society; and it is you alone who will bring revival to this church!!  The question is, how badly do we want it and are we prepared to stay on our knees until we get it? 

The way I see it, we can labour in vain or we can let the creator of the universe build His house (Psalm 127:1-2).  This is why you told your disciples to wait until the Holy Spirit came before they went out to establish the early church.  And what did they do while they waited?  They prayed together – with one heart and mind!  And what happened when the Holy Spirit came?  3,000 people were added to their number that day!!  And what did they do in response to that growth?  They kept on meeting together in fellowship and prayer!  And what did you do Lord?  You “added to their number daily those who were being saved”!! (Acts 2)

We worship the same God who took on human form “and made His dwelling among us” (John 1:14); we pray to the same Jesus who commissioned the disciples to “go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19); and we receive the same Spirit who filled the disciples at Pentecost (Acts 2:14)!  It seems to me that for this church to experience Acts 2 growth, we need to practice Acts 1 leadership:  “They all joined together constantly in prayer” (Acts 1:14). 

“Consecrate yourselves, for tomorrow the Lord will do amazing things among you”  (Joshua 3:5)

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Journey Continues...

"My prayer also Lord, is that you unite our church together in prayer, that those who haven’t yet experienced the intimacy of meeting with you here will be inspired to do so. Lord, speak into the hearts of your people. Help us become a praying church - a people so passionately committed to seeking your face. Father, I pray for revival in our church, ignite the fire within each one of us, unite us in prayer, for your kingdoms cause. Father, I get so excited when I think about the future of our church and this community as we commit our lives daily to you. I pray for patience, knowing that your timing is perfect. Use me for your glory. Lord, with all my heart I love you, I am yours, I surrender my life to you.”  (August, 2007)

Six years ago, the Lord took me and a group of like-minded Christ followers on an extraordinary journey of passionate and prevailing prayer as we established a 24-7 Prayer Room in the southern suburbs of Adelaide at the Noarlunga Salvation Army. Tomorrow, this journey takes another exciting turn as a new prayer room is dedicated and opened in the south eastern suburbs of Melbourne at the Cranbourne Salvation Army. The prayer I prayed at the opening of the Noarlunga prayer room resonates as deep within my spirit today on the eve of opening the Cranbourne prayer room as it did all those years ago!

Today, I also pray that you unite our church together in prayer at the Cranbourne Corps and pray that those who haven't experienced the intimacy of meeting with you will be inspired to do so.

Today, I also ask that you speak into the hearts of your people and to help us become a praying church - a people so passionately committed to seeking your face.

Today, I also pray for revival in our church. Ignite the fire within each one of us, unite us in prayer, for your kingdoms cause. 

As tomorrow marks the beginning of a brand new journey of prayer, may it also be the beginning of the transformation our church and a revival in our community as we commit to pray for the salvation of our city!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Radical Discipleship

At our church we are currently exploring clearer discipleship pathways to effectively equip people on a faith journey to discover what it means to live as a Christ follower and how to fully engage in Christ's mission on earth as a part of His Church.

In our context of The Salvation Army, this discussion has an added dimension to explore, as we also evaluate the relationship between DISCIPLESHIP (a Biblical imperative) and SOLDIERSHIP (a Salvation Army distinctive).  Are they interchangeable terms in a Salvation Army context?  If so, does that mean soldiership is the primary pathway for discipleship?  If not, what's the difference and what are the options?  What makes this part of the discussion interesting is that there seems to be no uniform definition of what a Soldier is, nor a consistency in the preparation material used to prepare people for such a commitment.  

In order of date of publication, here are just some of the diverse definitions of soldiership and descriptions of being a "Salvationist" I found from various Salvation Army sources:

"To be effective, the warriors of the Cross must be more than saints; they must be soldier-saints!...We are a Salvation people - this is our speciality - getting saved and keeping saved and then getting somebody else saved." - William Booth, Salvationist, January & February 1879.  

"My comrades, you must answer in purpose and character to the name of the great Salvationist.  You must have the self-sacrificing soul-seeking spirit of Jesus Christ, or you are none of His...You are to be a redeemer, a saviour, a copy of Jesus Christ Himself.  So wake up all the powers of your being and consecrate every awakened power to the great end of saving your fellow-men.  Be a Salvationist!" - William Booth, 1879.

"The Salvationist is a soldier, an idea purely scriptural.  'Fight the good fight,' Paul commanded Timothy (1 Timothy 6:12) and congratulated himself on having 'fought a good fight' (2 Timothy 4:7).  We are soldiers in an Army committed to soul-winning.  Every soldier is , therefore, an evangelist at all times, in all places." - Preparation for Soldiership, 1956.

"A Soldier of The Salvation Army is a person who knows Christ as his/her personal Saviour; who believes in the Army's purposes, standards, and doctrines; who has signed the Articles of War, and who has then been duly and properly enrolled as a Soldier under the Flag." - Manual of Salvationism, 1968.

"No one is a full member of The Salvation Army who has not been enrolled and sworn-in as a soldier of a corps." - Chosen To Be A Soldier, 1977.

"Having accepted Jesus Christ as my Saviour and Lord, and desiring to fulfil my membership of His Church on earth as a soldier of The Salvation Army, I now by God's grace enter into a sacred covenant." - Articles of War (A Soldier's Covenant), 1989.

"We call Salvationists worldwide to recognise that the swearing-in of soldiers is a public witness to Christ's command to make disciples and that soldiership demands ongoing radical obedience.  We affirm that Jesus Christ stills calls men and women to take up their cross and follow him.  This wholehearted and absolute acceptance of Christ as Lord is a costly discipleship.  We hear our Lord's command to make disciples, baptising them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.  We believe that soldiership is discipleship and that the public swearing-in of a soldier of The Salvation Army beneath the Army's Trinitarian flag fulfils this command.  It is a a public response and witness to the life-changing encounter with Christ which has already taken place, as is the believers' water baptism practiced by some other Christians." - Robert Street, Called To Be God's People, 1999. 

"Soldier preparation classes are our form of discipleship and the soldier's covenant is our form of baptism and membership." - Geoff Ryan, Sowing Dragons, 2001.

"Salvation Army church members are known as soldiers.  Soldiers worship at their local Corps (church) and may wear a uniform." - Adherent Membership Leader's Manual, 2007.

"Salvation Army soldiership is about developing warriors in the mode of Jesus Christ with the DNA of William & Catherine Booth; people converted, consecrated, and commissioned to declare war on the kingdom of darkness, wherever it may be found." - Salvationism 101, 2008.

"There is no question that one of the distinctives of the Army's identity is soldiership.  We are called to be "a good soldier of Jesus Christ," as the Apostle Paul put it to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:3.  This is a radical call to action against the enemy of our souls, not passive church membership.  We need soldiers of Jesus Christ fully engaged in the battle." - Lt Col James Condon, Pipeline, January 2009.

"Soldier:  A person who is 'converted', i.e. came to faith in Jesus Christ.  Soldiers must be at least 14 years of age and meet with the approval of the census board.  They are sworn-in after signing the articles of war." -, 2012-2013.

"Soldiership in The Salvation Army is about choosing to make a covenant with God; a promise to fulfil God’s work without distraction, to live by the beliefs, values, and mission of The Salvation Army, and to live a life of personal holiness and devotion to God." -, 2013.

Despite the diversity of thought among these individual descriptions, they collectively capture common themes that gives us some insight into the etymology of a soldier:  Conversion to Christian faith, focus on evangelism and salvation, a consecrated life of holiness and sacrifice, radical expression of discipleship, call to action, covenant relationship, fully engaged member, spiritual warrior.  

Scripture describes a disciple as a 'follower' (Matthew 16:24) and a 'student' (Philippians 4:9) whose purpose is to become like their 'teacher' (Luke 6:40) in thought, word and deed (John 13:13-17) and to fulfill His mission to reproduce 'disciples' (Matthew 28:19-20).  

When you bring these two descriptions together, you get a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ who is fully committed to Christ's mission and fully armed and engaged in the spiritual battle against the forces of darkness.  A soldier, therefore, is a disciple who enlists in The Salvation Army and embraces a covenant relationship to sacrificially engage in a radical mission for the salvation of the whole world!  Soldiership is a brand of discipleship that gives a unique expression to a common calling shared by all believers.  

While we continue to explore and discover effective discipleship pathways for our church, a redefinition of this unique expression of being a disciple in The Salvation Army challenges us to rediscover soldiership as a relevant and radical form of discipleship to advance our "saved to save" mission today.  The journey continues...

Published in February/March 2014 edition of JAC:  Journal of Aggressive Christianity
A modified version published in 26th July 2014 Onfire Magazine as - Who Wouldn't Be A Soldier?