fbpx

The Importance of Vision

May 5, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine
Pay it forward 2Pay It Forward Some years ago there was a book called Pay It Forward written by Catherine Ryan Hyde. It was subsequently turned into a movie. It was about the concept of doing a good deed and then asking that the recipient pass on the blessing, to pay it forward, rather than paying the giver back. I don’t know what inspired Catherine Ryan Hyde but the idea of paying it forward has a considerable history.

In days before modern communications it was not uncommon to compile a scrap book: snippets of wisdom cut or copied from books or newspapers. One such item is Elbert Hubbard’s Scrapbook. Hubbard was a rather bohemian writer who lived in the early 20th century and died when the liner Lusitania was torpedoed in World War 2. His book contains all sorts of pithy pieces of wisdom from some of the ancients, such as Marcus Aurelius, to many long forgotten C19th worthies. My father was quite taken with it and gave an inscribed copy to my mother soon after they were married. Some twenty five years ago they found another copy on a second hand bookshop and gave it to me, also suitably inscribed. Life’s pressures meant it has remained on my bookshelf under recently when I decided to work my way through it.

I found the following piece from the American founding father, Benjamin Franklin.

‘I send you herewith a Bill for Ten Louis d’ors. I do not pretend to give such a sum; I only lend it to you. When you shall return to your country with a good character, you cannot fail of getting into some business that will in time enable you to pay all your debts. In that case, when you meet with another honest man in similar distress, you must pay me by lending this sum to him; enjoining him to discharge the debt by a like operation, when he shall be able, and shall meet with another opportunity. I hope it may thus go thro’ many hands, before it meets with a knave that will stop its progress. This is a trick of mine for doing a deal of good with a little money. I am not rich enough to afford much in good works, and so am obliged to be cunning and make the most of a little.’

I subsequently found it was written in 1784 to a Benjamin Webb who had asked him for funds. Franklin effectively says to Webb, ’don’t pay me back. Pay it forward’.
Yet the concept is far older than Franklin. In the Bible (2 Cor 8 & 9), the apostle Paul urges Christians in ancient Corinth to give generously to help their fellow believers in Jerusalem who were in distress. Among many issues in these exceptional rich chapters, Paul assures the Corinthians that even though he urges them to be generous givers, they will ultimately not miss out but become part of a cycle of blessing.

He writes: You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God. 2 Cor 9:11

Paul is not saying, ‘give because by giving you will get rich’. No! What he is saying is,

‘You trust God – You are blessed – you pass it on – others are blessed – God gets the glory’.

So here is the concept of paying it forward already in the bible. But here it is embedded in a far bigger concept. The reason you can pay it forward is because of a profound trust in almighty God to supply your needs and a fervent desire to see God glorified by your actions. For more on generosity see my book Giving Generously.

The Importance of Vision

April 4, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine
Easter CrossThe Easter season is with us again. When I was a boy I was excited by the prospect of extra holidays and chocolate eggs and other goodies. I was not raised in a church going home so was only vaguely aware of any deep spiritual significance of Good Friday or Easter Sunday. Nor did I think I should change my life in any way except to monitor my chocolate intake to avoid getting gorged. When I became a Christian the profound significance of Christ’s death for sins became much clearer to me and as a result I needed to change my life from serving myself to following Jesus.
Certainly there are many many applications of the death of Jesus in practical terms in the everyday life of believers especially in the way we love each other. Yet I found that one of the most surprizing applications was the exhortation to be generous, to give money to gospel causes and the poor. I simply wouldn’t have thought of it. Yet it is clearly spelt out by the apostle Paul.

He wrote to believers in ancient Corinth in Greece, encouraging them not to forget to contribute to the relief offering that was being collected for the church in Jerusalem. He held up before them the example of the generosity of the poverty stricken church in neighbouring Macedonia. Despite their extreme lack of money the Macedonians had pleaded for the opportunity to give and had given a breathtaking amount.

Yet St Paul has an even greater example. It is the Lord Jesus himself. In a scripture of astonishing richness the apostle shows how Jesus descended from the most lofty riches to the most degrading poverty as an act of grace; His supreme self-giving on behalf of humanity. This verse in a matter of a few words holds up Jesus’ incarnation, His birth as a human, with His atonement, His dying on the cross. And He did it for us.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.’2 Cor 8:9
My friend and fellow Anglican minister, Ray Galea commented in one of his sermons: ‘There is no one richer than the owner of the universe. There is no one poorer than a man stripped naked upon a cross.”

I have often marveled at how such profound theology could be encapsulated in so few words for such a practical purpose. This scripture is a compact spiritual masterpiece. God’s people should give because the life and death of Jesus are a model of grace and generosity. So this Easter by all means eat some chocolate and hot cross buns, but also find a godly cause and be generous. For more on generous living see my book Giving Generously.

The Importance of Vision

March 22, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine
anna-earl-XBDHmIXvsvM-unsplashDecision Time: You will have heard of a common scenario. St Johns Church has a healthy vital ministry, for example a kids’ ministry based around a flourishing Sunday school. It is really humming. There are 200 kids showing up every Sunday morning. There is a dedicated enthusiastic team of volunteer leaders led by a dynamic volunteer leader who just loves the ministry and pours his or her life into it. The congregation look on and are very pleased. Parents are delighted to know their children are in a great Christian community, making friends and learning the scriptures. Grandparents are thrilled as they see the next generation being taught Christian truth to prepare them for life in a secular age. The minister is delighted to see such a thriving work that contributes to the overall health and well-being of the church as a whole.

But there is a cloud on the horizon. The dynamic leader, a Jack or Jill Jones, becomes ill, or gets a time consuming promotion at work or is transferred interstate. For one reason or another they cannot continue in the role. They have tried to train up a successor and another leader steps in to fill the role and this person takes over. Yet it is not the same. The new person just doesn’t have the leadership capacity. The volunteers start finding reasons why their lives are too busy. The programs don’t engage and the numbers start dropping. In a couple of years the ministry is a fraction of its former size and the congregation look wistfully back to the good old days when Jack or Jill was here.

What has happened? There was a critical turning point when the key leader left. It was a point where things could drift, decline or be advanced to the next level. The simple fact is that people like the original dynamic leader are not easy to find as pure volunteers. Yes they do exist, but not in huge numbers, so that it is unlikely your church will have another A star leader ready to step in even if you have a leadership training program. There are people who have the time but not the capacity and there are others who have the capacity but not the time.

If this is a vital work in your church, my advice to the leadership is to hire a specialist to come onto the staff, full or part time to lead the ministry forward. The role of such a person is to continue the momentum, bring fresh skills, resources and specialized knowledge to expand the ministry. Above all, this person must have the capacity to deal with increased complexity, think on a three to five year time scale, and to cast and execute a compelling vision. It is vital that they must be able to train, multiply and support the volunteers. Naturally this is quite a tall order and an exhaustive search must be undertaken to find just the right person who will fit your church’s ministry and culture. They are out there and you will have to search long and hard, but the rewards of finding the right person are fantastic.

Now this will be a brand new staff position so there will probably be no money to fund this position. But please don’t let that deter you! It is up to the senior minister prayerfully to cast a compelling vision demonstrating what this person will do, why the ministry is important and how it will further the work of the gospel in your church. Sometimes stepping out in faith with no money is more than a little scary but at Figtree Anglican with the support of staff and key lay leaders we did this fruitfully on a number of occasions. You can read about the process in my book Giving Generously. Buy the Book

The Importance of Vision

January 28, 2021Inline Text Rod Irvine

In my book Giving Generously, I have laid out what I believe is a clear, biblical, inspirational and ethical way to raise resources in a local church. This involves transparent communication of biblical principles, a compelling kingdom vison and a gracious direct request for support. In my former congregation I had many generous women who actively supported the ministry financially. So I read with some interest an article from the McKinsey Company written by four women and entitled: ‘Women as the new wave of wealth in US wealth management’. https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/financial-services/our-insights/women-as-the-next-wave-of-growth-in-us-wealth-management. In it they commented that up to very recently, most financial advisors were men and the industry operated under the assumption that men were the primary decision makers with the family finances. This, of course, is changing with women increasingly occupying prominent, well paid positions in the work force. Divorce is also a factor, generally making both parties poorer, but again meaning financial decision making is in the woman’s hands.

The particular issue addressed in the article is the massive transfer of wealth that is occurring within the baby boomer generation. Men are generally older than their wives by about four years and women outlive men by a further seven or so years. This means many women will have around a decade of widowhood where they will control the couple’s share of their often considerable baby boomer assets. This figure is in the realm of trillions of dollars over the next decade. The McKinsey article is written in the context of professional wealth management. It is advocating a client centred approach that not merely takes this shift into account, but is sensitive to the requirements and outlook of elderly female clients who may never have shown much interest in finances before.

In terms of giving, the professional literature also confirms that women differ from men in their motivations for giving. They score higher in measures of empathy, altruism, religious commitment and their self-perceived identity as kind, giving and caring.  The take away from this is that women have increasing control over considerable assets, and seem to respond differently to requests for financial support.

None of this should be interpreted as advocating a minister should target women in some exploitative, manipulative way. However, it is not inappropriate to consider women’s special perspectives when it comes to requesting support for kingdom work. Women have been supporting Christian ministry since before the term ‘Christian’ was in use. The gospel writer Luke, who seems to have a particular interest in the place of women, is the evangelist who tells us of the women who supported Jesus in his ministry. He writes:

the twelve were with him and also some women who had been cured of evil spirits and diseases: Mary (called Magdalene) from whom seven demons had come out: Joanna the wife of Chuza, the manager of Herod’s household: Susanna; and many others. These women were helping to support them out of their own means’. Luke 8: 1c-3

Naturally it would be wonderful to know more than this. How did these women come to give this support? Were they asked directly or did they volunteer? Were men also generous financial supporters? It is not difficult to imagine that they found the person and message of Jesus compelling and personally transforming, and were moved to assist the Master and his disciples. In other words, they saw a kingdom cause embodied in one who was eminently worth supporting.

So how might today’s preachers incorporate an appeal that includes women? Here are some strategies to consider.

  1. Rejoice in and affirm women’s long history of gospel generosity.
  2. Acknowledge that women are increasingly in control of their own financial destiny.
  3. Recognize that there is a growing cohort of women in the senior age groups who have financial control for the first time in their lives. Many will give generously from accumulated assets to a large exciting gospel project.
  4. Consult a group of generous female supporters about what would be an appropriate way to ask for financial support from the women in your congregation.
  5. In sermons on money and generosity, address specifically the women in the congregation who can be moved by altruistic and compassionate goals more than men.
  6. Interview women in the service or during a sermon on the particular issues that concern them when giving.
  7. Remember that while confidence in the benefit of the project and the authenticity of the leader is important to both sexes, it is especially important to women who particularly value personal connection.

Finally and above all, never resort to manipulation or anything remotely dubious, but present a clear vision of how this request will glorify God and advance Christ’s kingdom.

Buy the Book

Woman with laptop Older woman 2

The Importance of Vision

November 20, 2020Inline Text Rod Irvine

KnightThe apostle Paul on one occasion urged his hearers to be generous, to share, and to remember those less fortunate. He quoted some famous words of Jesus:

In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ Acts 20:35

‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’ is a very famous saying. You will notice why Paul uses it: so you can bless others.

If you consult the serious bible scholars, they will tell you that what Jesus is saying is that ‘it is better to give than to amass’. It is better to give out than to store up for yourself. It is better to have a giving attitude than a getting attitude. It is better to have a gracious heart than a greedy heart. It is better to be generous than grasping.

This emphasis comes from the word itself. Consider the classic version of the bible, the King James Version, which was translated in 1611, over for hundred years ago and was the standard version in English for three hundred and fifty years. If you do a word search, you won’t find the word ‘generous’ in it. The concept is there but the term they used was ‘liberal’.

A famous generosity verse, Proverbs 11:25, is thus translated: ‘the liberal soul shall be made fat, and he that watereth shall be watered also himself.’

‘Liberal’ in this context doesn’t mean the name of a political party or a progressive movement. The meaning is the same as when we say, ‘he put a liberal amount of tomato sauce on his scrambled eggs’. I do that and my wife Helen hates it. She says,’ you shouldn’t drown the eggs in sauce. It is just not right’.

I hope you get the meaning of ‘liberal’. The reason they didn’t use ‘generous’ in the King James Version is because four to five hundred years ago ‘generous’ didn’t mean what it does today. Back then it meant ‘noble’ such as being a member of the aristocracy, having birth and breeding to the manor born. A ‘generous’ person wasn’t a peasant. So if I described you as generous I would mean you were probably a lord or a lady, and I would doff my cap or curtsey to you.

But as the centuries wore on, 1300 1400 1500 1600 etc., the meaning of ‘generous’ changed from describing your noble birth to describing your noble character. If I call you ‘generous’ today I mean that you’re open hearted, friendly giving of your time, helpful. You will be happy to give to your church and needy causes. That is a wonderful thing.

Despite having written my book Giving Generously I struggle in this area but I would love it if you said, ’Rod. He is just a generous person’. That is something I desire to be. Consider the opposite for a minute. The opposite is miser. I don’t want to be thought a miser. The miser hoards, grasps, doesn’t give, doesn’t share. Misers are not just careful with money but tight, skinflint, cheapskate. I would absolutely hate it if you thought that of me.

Further, the miser is not happy. Did you know our word ‘miserable’ and the ‘word’ miser come from the same basic root? They come from the Latin root that means ‘wretched’.

To add weight to this, social science research indicates that generous people are happier, healthier, have more friends, enjoy more benefits, are more prosperous, and thrive in life. The ungenerous miserly ones are poorer, have less purpose, live for themselves, are sicker, and lonelier.

Jesus knew what he was talking about when he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’

So practice generosity. Your giving will be good for you. It will give you great joy. It will bless others but most importantly, it will give God glory.

 

The Importance of Vision

October 27, 2020Inline Text Rod Irvine

Cult StatusMillenials at work

I recently read a review of a book called Cult Status: how to build a business that that people adore. Its author is Tim Duggan, a journalist and co-founder of a digital company called Junkee Media.  It is about modern millennial entrepreneurs and what drives and motivates them. The point is that these types of business personalities are not simply motivated by turning a profit. They want to make a difference. Such individuals and companies did exist in the past. But now the new breed of entrepreneur ‘bakes’ these ideals into their companies from the outset rather than grafting them in afterwards. For boomer companies it may have been a nice thing to do. For these millennials making a difference becomes an imperative. Such young entrepreneurs gather around them a community of people who are similarly motivated.


Such people are passionate. They are committed to a cause and there is an energy and a youthful vitality that drives them. Another descriptor is Impact. How is what they are doing going to change the world and make it a better place? The reason for this emphasis is that the millennials have grown up in a very different world to people a generation or two generations ago. Culture has shifted, seemingly overnight. Ideas and viewpoints that were incomprehensible only five or ten years ago are not merely mainstream, but are now  reinforced , disseminated and even enforced on social media. Such values not only shape the entrepreneurs but also the generation in which they are embedded.


I believe that this emphasis has great implications not merely for youth ministry, but also for appealing to young people to be generous and building a culture of generosity in that cohort. In a church however, these ideas should play out with a distinctly Christian focus. When I was growing up in my Methodist home church over 50 years ago, I didn’t hear too much about the gospel of Jesus. The evangelistic fervour of John Wesley and George Whitfield had largely abated.  I did, however, develop a very strong impression that being a Christian involved believing in God and avoiding promiscuity and alcohol and living a moral life. There was a distinct holiness flavour about this environment for which I am very grateful as I know it stopped me progressing down stupid and sinful pathways.


But I wasn’t challenged to make an impact or to be part of a dynamic movement to change the world. And it was only later, in my early twenties that someone challenged me to follow Christ.
This book, Cult Status, says to me that if you want to speak meaningfully to millennials, give them a massive and dynamic challenge. Challenge them to give their lives totally to Christ. Challenge them to a life of holy living, a life worthy of the gospel. And challenge them with a vision to help change the world by preaching and the spreading of the gospel which transforms lives binds up the broken hearted and sets the captive free, in their own homes, in their local town and in the world beyond. Show them how the gospel of Christ crucified and raised makes an impact personally and in society.


Wonderfully, the cause of the gospel has earthly significance. People’s lives can be transformed immeasurably here and now. But the gospel also has an eternal signifance as people are looking and longing for a heavenly inheritance. A gospel cause also ensures this millennial passion gets channelled in the right direction. Some of today’s causes are noble and worthwhile but I suspect others will be shown to be shallow and misguided with the passing of time. The plumb line of the gospel will allow us to discern the gold from the dross.


Finally, as the book suggests, many young millennials are setting up businesses, to make a profit and make an impact. Ministers need to challenge such young business identities to be generous and direct at least some of their resources to a cause that is truly out of this world. And as I reflect on these words, the former Methodist in me kicks in because it all seems very similar to the  way Wesley and  Whitefield inspired people two hundred and fifty years ago.

The Importance of Vision

September 10, 2020Inline Text Rod Irvine

Many years ago, probably from the library of a clergyman entering retirement, I acquired a copy of The Life of Christ by Frederic Farrar who was born in Bombay in 1931, the son of missionary parents. It sat on my shelf for over 20 years and finally I have gotten around to reading it. I have been enjoying the journey immensely. Writing a life of Jesus seems to have been more popular at other times but the shelves of Christian bookshops today are not groaning with modern books on the same topic. Farrar’s book is immense, 770 pages with illustrations and foot notes in fine print. It is extremely erudite. The book was enormously popular in its day, being reprinted many times and being translated into numerous languages.

 As it was written in 1874, it is obviously not abreast of current debates and it is lacking in modern insights. However that is not entirely a problem as the book is refreshingly free from some modern foibles. Further, Farrar had visited the Holy Land so his insights into geography and customs lend the book fascinating insights. Farrar was also an outstanding classical and biblical scholar with detailed knowledge of the views of the Greek and Latin church fathers that don’t often get an airing today. The other astonishing point is that it was written in the spare moments of Farrar’s extraordinarily busy life when he was a very hands-on headmaster at Marlborough School in England

Yet this was not his only labour. He wrote many other volumes. Eric, or, Little by Little was the second most popular book about life at school in Victorian England. Its popularity was immense, exceeded only by the classic Tom Brown’s School Days which I hope everyone will read and not rely on the emasculated television productions that excise all the Christian content for which Thomas Hughes originally wrote the book. Farrar also wrote a companion volume The Life and Work of St Paul which I understand was rated even more highly than Life of Christ. I have it to read on my kindle.

Farrar left Marlborough to become Dean of St Margaret’s, Westminster, later Archdeacon of Westminster and then Dean of Canterbury. He was regarded as one the most outstanding Anglican churchmen of the Victorian age, but was passed over for a bishopric a number of times despite being a preacher who commanded huge congregations. The reason is that he published a series of sermons that were unorthodox in doctrine and challenged classic Christian ideas. Those were the days when being perceived to be at the heretical end of the theological spectrum precluded preferment in the Church of England! Those times seem long gone. Farrar’s unorthodoxy still has its adherents today and at least one of my very good friends is among that number.

My point here is not to defend Farrar on that issue. I don’t, but wish to point out that as the leader of a church congregation he encountered the same financial frustrations as modern ministers. At both Westminster and Canterbury he became the leader of a church with significant issues pertaining to the decay of the fabric of the building. It has been said by a distinguished Sydney Anglican clergyman that the Church of England could be renamed the Society for the Preservation of Old Buildings. Whatever the truth of this comment today, it seems there could be quite a resonance with Farrar’s problems. The issue was particularly pressing at Canterbury Cathedral, which is, of course, one of the most significant sites in England.

This is a problem not unknown by many modern clergy who accept the charge of a local church with an historic building. There is a great frustration that time and effort, energy and finances need to be expended on a structure that is crumbling away but engenders great affection in the congregation and even in the local community. It is difficult not to address the issue. Thirty five years ago I was offered the charge of the congregation of one such wonderful, old, but expensive building. It was one of the factors that made me refuse the offer.

In Farrar’s time Canterbury Cathedral had been running down for centuries and he felt, as he had at Westminster, that he must do something about it. A sum of £20,000, an enormous amount, was needed. Furthermore, much of that sum would need to be expended on behind the scenes, structural items that people wouldn’t see, let alone have an obvious kingdom application.

In the midst of a particularly energetic, parish ministry Farrar raised the money. Probably the most important thing that he did was to throw himself into the task. In my book Giving Generously, I urge that the senior minister is the chief resource raiser. Farrar did not shirk this responsibility. He wrote thousands of letters to prospective donors on both sides of the Atlantic, urging them to give to this cause and not ceasing till the goal was achieved. Farrar was enormously well known in his day because of his fame as a preacher, his notoriety because of his doctrinal controversy and his renown as an author. He was able to use that fame to bring the cause into the public eye. He also instituted a special, annual, thanksgiving service to which benefactors were invited to give thanks to God.

He used the significance of the project to further the cause of raising the money. One of the key issues in raising resources in any but a start-up church, is honouring and celebrating the past. With Canterbury, its historic associations in one form or another go back to St Augustine who came to England in the C 6th AD and the premier churchman in England is still the Archbishop of Canterbury. That is serious history and it is easy to see how restoring the fabric of Canterbury Cathedral might strike a chord with many English hearts.

I have a certain dissonance in writing about Farrar. I am enjoying the Life of Christ immensely yet I suspect if I had met him he might have been too churchy and too theologically adventurous for my tastes. But if you are in a church groaning under the weight of decaying fabric and congregational affection for an ancient building with serious history, Farrar’s story might give some light at the end of your tunnel. Farrar died in 1903 and he is mostly long forgotten. Far more people will be familiar with the name of his celebrated grandson. When she was sixteen, Farrar’s daughter Maud, married Farrar’s thirty two year old curate, Henry, who later became the evangelical Bishop of Tasmania. Together they had at least seven children, the most famous of whom was Field Marshall, Sir Bernard Montgomery, (Monty), the hero of El Alamein. To read more on Farrar, see The Life of Frederic William Farrar by his son Reginald Farrar. For more on Monty, see the superb three volume biography by Nigel Hamilton. Even better, for more of raising resources, see my book, Giving Generously. Buy the BookFrederic-William-Farrar-1880

The Importance of Vision

August 11, 2020Inline Text Rod Irvine
Many writers and speakers point out how vital it is for a church or indeed any organization to have a clear vision of where it should be going under God in the future. The vision brings clarity and coherence. In a former life I used to study physics. You might not be a big physics fan but please bear with me as I always remember a physics explanation that gives a good idea.
Metals conduct electric current which is a flow of electrons along a wire. This is because in metals the outer electrons are loosely bound to their atoms. So when a force is applied, those electrons can move along the wire, jostling around like a crowd moving along a tunnel at a railway station. Because the crowd is jostling it doesn’t move as efficiently as it could. Now there is another phenomenon called superconductivity, where, when you cool the metal down to nearly absolute zero all the resistance decreases dramatically and the electrons flow much more freely and you get more current for the same force. What is happening is that instead of jostling around, the electrons effectively link their arms and march steadfastly down the wire in lock step. It would be the same in a railway tunnel if everybody stopped bustling around, joined arms and moved freely.

This is what vision does for your church. Instead of spinning wheels or squabbling with each other it as if the church or most of the church links arms and works towards a common kingdom goal. A vision is very powerful. However often ministers search around for a scripture to support this concept. And the one that is often used is Prov. 29:18a which in the King James Version reads:
Where there is no vision, the people perish…

This sounds great but my friend and former colleague Bruce Clarke pointed out to me that this verse could not really bear the weight that people were placing on it. There are a number of issues to be considered here. First, the verse is sometimes quoted only in part. It continues

but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

This makes it seem less likely that the verse really can be directly justifying the importance of an organizational vision. This concern is only magnified when the verse is considered in more modern translations.

Where there is no revelation, people cast off restraint; but blessed is the one who heeds wisdom’s instruction.(NIV)
or
Without revelation people run wild, but one who listens to instruction will be happy. (Holman Christian Standard Bible)

Now the verse was originally written in Hebrew .Thus to get a clearer idea of the meaning I consulted the classic nineteenth century commentary on the Hebrew text by Keil and Delitzsch. Their translation is:
Without a revelation a people become ungovernable; But he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

But just as interesting is Keil and Delitzsch’s comments on the meaning of the verse. They write:

‘While on the one hand, a people is in a dissolute condition when the voice of the preacher, speaking from divine revelation, and enlightening their actions and suffering by God’s word, is silent amongst them; on the other hand that same people are to be praised as happy when they show due reverence and fidelity to the word of God, both as written and as preached. ‘

In other words, this text doesn’t really bear the weight placed on it by ministers trying to run vision meetings. It is far more that when any people don’t listen to the word of God they become a rabble.
So it is appropriate to use this verse to justify a vison process? Yes. However the way to do it is not to point to this scripture to justify vision per se, but to use it to ensure that the vision for your church and your life is in accord with Holy Scripture. That gives a far more powerful and more accurate application. For more physics there are lots of great videos on line!!! For more on Vison in the parish life see my book: Giving Generously. : photo-1571069057711-7f3b008cc2c4

The Importance of Vision

May 15, 2020Inline Text Rod Irvine
Masked man (2)I was speaking to an Anglican minister recently and he was telling me about the changes that had been taking place in ministry with the advent of Covid-19. It seemed like a whole new world. In the course of the discussion, he mentioned that to his surprise, the giving had recently been very good. It is not the first time I had heard this type of statement. Thus I wondered why.  It might be thought natural that with the congregation staying home and consequently not being in contact with their pastor, giving might evaporate. And , of course, in some places it has. Putting on my thinking hat, I have come up with three reasons why an upturn in giving might take place in the current Covid environment.
  1. People may be switching to electronic giving and consequently to more regular giving. It is true that there has been a major shift to giving on-line over the last decade or so. However, many have not opted in. These include people with theological objections who simply want to place their money in a physical plate. It can also include older members who are cautious about technology, regularly attend services and see no need to change. With services cancelled and no definite idea of when meeting physically can resume, some of these groups may have decided that on-line giving via technology isn’t so bad after all.
  2. Ministers are being very creative in thinking about the on-line Sunday services, and making them crisper and emphasizing relevance. Sermons are getting shorter! There is no longer, the same old same old, but a brand new day. A friend even told me he now wears theatrical make-up on his face for his on-camera appearances. This may seem a small point but it shows how this new Covid world has forced us out of old, perhaps staid patterns into fresh ways of communicating. There is a key statement about raising resources. It is that ‘money follows vision’. In the emergency of this Covid era, churches are being forced to reassess exactly what they are on about and sharpen and clarify their reason for being.
  3. People may be feeling more connected. That seems quite counter intuitive. Let me explain. Some years ago when the church at Figtree was attempting to raise significant resources for a new building, we organized a visitation to every member of the parish. The visitors carried a pack explaining the project and an audio message (it was some years ago) from me with a greeting and a further explanation of the project. There was opportunity to share prayer points and give feedback. Almost every attender was involved in some way and it certainly embedded the project in the consciousness of the church community. The whole operation was so well received that we repeated it the next year purely for pastoral purposes.

I suspect something similar to the above reasons, is happening in many good churches at the moment. Pastors understand the danger of disconnection and so have made extraordinary efforts to have pastoral teams ring around the church contact list on a regular basis. People who have never gotten a call for years are now receiving contact and offers of care, all the time. I can’t remember a time when I have felt so loved. As an introvert I almost feel over-loved!!! (I am not really complaining.) There are phone calls, texts, suggested prayer points, zoom prayer meetings, home groups and evangelism on zoom and I am sure much more. As a result I suspect many people are feeling more connected than ever. When you feel connected, giving increases.

There may be many other reasons for an upswing in giving. I would be happy to hear them. However, if you are a minister in a church where the giving is going the wrong way, it could be of course that your congregation is suffering from unemployment or cash flow crises and in need of more pastoral support. But if that is not the case and the giving is flagging, maybe paying more attention to some of the points above,  may get the curve going the right way again. For more information on raising resources in a church setting, see my Book Giving Generously. Buy the Book

 

The Importance of Vision

July 15, 2020Inline Text Rod Irvine

Never sell

Recently I was browsing at the financial section of the newspaper and I came upon a comment from a business writer. He commented that there was a mantra in market circles, ‘Never sell CSL.’

He was referring to the darling of the Australian stock market, listed company CSL. This is a biotechnology company specializing in blood plasma and vaccines among other products. It is responsible for the flu shots we all get in April and is involved in the search for a vaccine to immunize us against Covid-19.This company was founded in 1923 as The Commonwealth Serum Laboratory and over the years has worked treatments for diabetes, diphtheria, polio and HIV.

In 1994 it was floated on the stock market for $2.30 per share. As I write the share price is a whopping $328 having reached $350 just before the pandemic disrupted the world. $10,000 invested in 1994 would be worth $1.3 Million today with dividends of $140,000. I have heard stories of grateful investors who have bought houses for their children from the profits. There are a number of reasons for CSL’s success. They do business in a segment of the health space that is growing and profitable. They have made some judicious acquisitions that has positioned them well in overseas markets such as the USA. They do not pay big dividends, constantly recycling profits back into the business.  A significant proportion of those profits are spent in Research and Development, constantly ensuring a pipeline of profitable new products.

However what caught my eye was the following statement about the CEO Paul Perreault, who was speaking at a Health Care conference in San Francisco (The Australian 18/1/2019).

 CSL’s success comes down to a single sentence Mr (Paul) Perreault uttered at the conference:

‘We continue to deliver.’

Investors, whether they are intuitional investors or just mums and dads, will continue to buy shares in a company that year in and year out delivers consistent returns and just keeps on getting better. This article is not about the stock market. I certainly don’t have any desire to imply that I have any expertise in investment. I am not recommending buying or selling CSL. However I do believe the words, ‘We continue to deliver’ are an appropriate aspiration for any church leaders.

Church leaders desire people to support, or ‘invest’ both time and money in the ministry. Parishioners have many different calls on their time and are being wooed by many worthy causes for their dollars. So if you, as a church leader, want your parishioners to support your local ministry, you have to make it worth supporting.

Now I completely agree that all true spiritual fruit come from God. St Paul wrote:

I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 1 Cor 3:6

But that does not deny ministers’ responsibility to persevere, to labour effectively and productively to ‘continue to deliver’ as much as it relies on them.

Thus I always believed that if I wanted people to support the ministry at Figtree, I needed to project a tangible life changing, God glorifying vision of the future and demonstrate year in and year out that we were making demonstrable progress toward that goal. If you do this, people absolutely love it and will give their resources to support it. My desire was that every year we would make a specific advance in our ministry so that more people in different demographics were being blessed and hearing the life changing message of Jesus and growing in their faith. In addition there was always some form of building improvement to support the ministry advancement. People could both see and experience progress.

So how about you? If you haven’t done anything like this, start small, pray hard, make sure you deliver, celebrate success and thank supporters. Thus you will build trust to make further advances the next year and the next. If you do this consistently it is unlikely that lack of money will be a problem in resourcing your ministry.

The gospel of Jesus is far more powerful than a vaccine. So perhaps, ‘We continue to deliver in God’s strength could be a good slogan for you too.

For more on this topic see my book Giving Generously. Buy the Book.