Guidelines for discerning a Bad Pastor

Found this on the web earlier today… pretty good!


Guidelines for discerning a Bad Pastor

by David Cox

God wants us (His people) to understand what the ministry of oversight is all about, and to make sure that those who are in a position of oversight fulfill their God given duties FAITHFULLY. We can discern from God’s word what would amount to a serious warning if the spiritual leader steps out of line.


Ezekiel 34:1 And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them. 7Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 8As I live, saith the Lord GOD, surely because my flock became a prey, and my flock became meat to every beast of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my flock, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my flock; 9Therefore, O ye shepherds, hear the word of the LORD; 10 Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them. 11For thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. 12As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.This passage of Scripture was written for the Old Testament leaders of God’s people. It is written specifically against “the shepherds of Israel”. “Shepherd” is the same word as “pastor”. This would define what the concept of shepherd or pastor is, as God sees it. Failure to fulfill this task brings railing condemnation against that pastor. From this we too can learn much about New Testament church oversight (i.e. pastors).

Beware when your pastor …
1. Is overly concerned about remuneration and his own life style instead of his preaching.
Ezekiel 34:2

The first and great overriding condemnation by God is that the pastors feed themselves instead of feeding their charge, the flock of God. We must admit that God’s principles are that the local church is to give the pastor a livable wage or salary, and they are to even give him “double honor” if he ministers well, and the pastor is to live of the gospel. But when the balance becomes to great towards “feathering his own nest” instead of tending to his charge, then the pastor is not what he is supposed to be.

The charge of God to the pastor is the same as the owner of sheep in Palestine to a shepherd of sheep, “whatever is wrong, fix it.” What this means is that the pastor should confront all problems and resolve them however it is necessary to do so. A pastor who by-passes and ignores problems in the local church is not doing his job. We must give time to many matters, and we must labor over them in prayer, but some matters need to be confronted and dealt with instead of being prayed over. For example God rebuked Joshua in Joshua 7 because he was praying instead of rooting out sin in the camp. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul rebukes the church for not confronting sin in their midst. Paul’s comparison is that this is like kneading a lump of dough with leaven in it, soon it will saturate the entire lump if not stopped quickly and decisively.

The preacher should preach, and he should do that well. Preachers that do not spend a lot of time preparing, and that includes study, prayer, and meditation, just are slighting their duties. Even the most scholarly preachers still spend many hours on a sermon if it is to be a good, effective sermon. Moreover, when a preacher spends a large portion of his time in other things (such as administration of a Christian school, counseling, writing, fellowship, or entertainment concerns) be careful. A person’s priorities are reflected by his attention to that things, i.e. what he spends the most time, energy, and resources on is his highest priority.

Beware when your pastor …
2. Hurts more people than he helps.
Ezekiel 34:2

The sense of “the diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken” is that he should be building up the flock so that they are not crippled by spiritual disease or sickness. The broken perhaps refers to the difficult crises of life that cause a person to become disabled or unfruitful and unproductive. 

Focus on our task as Christians. We must ask ourselves, “what should the sheep be normally doing that these diseases, sicknesses, and crises (brokenness) would hinder?” The answer is very simple, sheep are supposed to roam around after the pastor eating and feeding all they can get, and they are to reproduce more sheep, and give fruit (wool and milk). Christians then are supposed to go to church and feed on the Word of God that the pastor feeds them with. This Word of God explained (feeding grounds) is supposed to promote the Christian to bear spiritual fruit and to reproduce (evangelism). This evangelism is the mission of the church (Matthew 28:19-20). It is a single mission that must all come under the focus of the local church. The local church must evangelize the lost, baptize them (membership – integration) into the local church, and teach them all God has commanded us (discipleship so that they are just like the rest of the church). This is the work of God, and the sheep are supposed to be doing it, and the pastor is supposed to promoting it, making it happen.

Moreover the Christian is to bear spiritual fruit. Let us mention what the Christians should be moved to produce from their “church experience”.

Gal 5:22-23

Love – The practice and attitude of placing somebody else before their own self. Seeking the benefit of another before your self.

Joy – Happiness (well being) that is not necessarily linked to physical well being. Comfort or thoughts that overwhelms the person even if that person finds himself in conflict, affliction, distress, anguish, agony, or pain.

Peace – The absence of conflict in the soul, even though outwardly the person may be in great conflicts.

Longsuffering – Suffering long, waiting and having patience even though the events and pressures of life would force the person to immediate response, vengeance, attack, rebuke, conflict, or improper speech.

Gentleness – Treating others softly instead of harshly and brutishly. Gentleness means not seeking to hurt others even when it is fully possible.

Faith – Faith is belief. But much more than some doctrinal point somebody ascribes themselves to, faith is spiritual force to wait or go forward when the evidence before ones eyes is to the contrary.

Meekness – This is to approach others as though you believe them to be better and superior to yourself. While it may not be so, still the meek person will treat others with this respect and dignity even though he himself may be a king.

Temperance – Self-control. A control over one’s self so that one does not indulge in sins and excesses of life. This is a strong control over oneself, or perhaps better put, it is a complete rendering of one’s self to the control of God to decide and guide their life, actions and speech so that what a person does is God’s will.


Ephesians 5:9 (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;)The Christian is supposed to have his life full of all goodness and righteousness. Good is free from the element of sin. Righteousness is the opposite of sin. It is what we are supposed to be doing instead of sin. Truth is God’s banner (identifying flag) over us. We are supposed to be champions of the truth. Beware when people claim to be Christians and tell lies to protect or promote their version of Christianity. No obedient Christian will use Satan’s methods to do God’s work. It just does not work.

Beware when your pastor …
3. Drives away people instead of gathering them.
Ezekiel 34:4

KJV Ezekiel 34:4 brought that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost

The biblical pastor will be active in evangelism. Any church or pastor that slights evangelism is making light of the verse heart of God. “For God so loved the world He sent …” Evangelism is hard and discouraging, but it is the essence of God’s work. We cannot get around it. We cannot use the world’s methods, especially not Madison Avenue’s methods to do God’s work. We must use God’s methods.

Some pastors drive away and scatter the sheep instead of gathering them. This is seen by the pastor doing and saying things that drives people away from the Lord for unbiblical reasons. God’s purpose is to change people so that they obey the will of God. When a pastor preaches the will of God, then at times he will drive disobedient people away from the Lord because they will not obey God’s word. This is normal and not what we are talking about here. (Christ said he came to bring a sword into this world). What is a bad sign is when the pastor delights or accepts driving people away when there is no need to do so. For example, the pastor is sarcastic or bitter or sharp with his words when he could have said the same thing in a different way and not offend. The offense must  always be between the individual and God, not the pastor and the individual. The pastor shows them God’s word and they may get offended or repent and follow God’s will.

Another aspect of a good pastor is that he seeks the lost. This goes beyond evangelism. It goes to the pastor’s relationship with his own sheep. When the pastor offends somebody, or somebody just stops coming or distances himself from the church, the good pastor will go out and seek that person seeking to “fix what is wrong” and restore that person into the fellowship as an active and fruitful member.

Beware when your pastor’s …
4. Leadership style is marked with cruelty and force.
Ezekiel 34:4

KJV Ezekiel 34:4with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them

“Force” here means excessive force, vehemence, might, strength. “Cruelty” means to break apart, to break down, to fracture, to use severity or cruelty, rigor. The idea is that the bad pastor is somebody who gets his will done no matter what. He is very forceful, and reserves all right for himself. Seldom is he ever wrong (in his own eyes), and even when he is wrong, he will ignore it and wants all others to ignore his errors, adhering absolute loyalty to his “always right” way.

Beware when your pastor …
5. Decides not to give pastoral counseling and get involved in correcting people’s lives. Ezekiel 34:5

One of the most important points to understand about pastors is that they government the sheep. That “government” simply is that they make executive decisions for the welfare of the sheep. The word for shepherd (ra’ah) means and is translated on occasion, “to govern”. They are personally responsible to God for their charge (Hebrews 13:17). This governing takes a public form in guiding the decisions of the local church, and a private form in personal one on one counseling.

Public guiding of the church is done by preaching and teaching, setting the norms, understandings, and standards of that local church. Also he has the burden of biblically expositing the direction, activities, and work of the local church to set its course. He does not make these decisions privately, and the church simply obeys him, but rather he exposits biblically why and how we are to do what we do, and the church follows his leadership. His “validity” is not found in his authority (position) but rather in his right to “have the ear of the church”. He feeds them daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, with information from God that illuminates the church, and is the pastor’s principal means of governing.

When a pastor comes to a person position in his own life in which he is not willing or able to “risk” giving counsel and getting involved in correcting the wrong in people’s lives and in the church in general, he must be removed, either voluntarily or by the people of that church for failure to fulfill his primary work burden.

Pastors today think that they can split and divide their work such that they personally do not have to do the “dirty job” of dealing with people’s problems. This is the primary burden for the pastor. He gets his validity in everything else because he has helped the personal problems of his people and church.

Bottom Line: Whatever is wrong, the pastor has to fix it however it has to be done.



Bible Burning?

Bible burning in Malaysia?

The threat by a small Muslim group is against the physical book and it is over an argument over form. That form is in the use of Allah in Malay Bibles. I know there are possibly significant substantive arguments that may lead to fundamental truths about God but that is not what the bible burning is aimed at. These Muslims dont have any issues with the teachings per se of Christianity – just the form of lingual expression which they are challenging. Do these Muslims pose a bigger threat than people who perhaps seek to make us hate our neighbours and rebel against God?

The one who burns a bible is not to be feared or fought as one who teaches us to hate our neighbours and disobey God. The command to love neighbour and God (substance) is more important than the physical book (form). The book is only a book. It is what is in the book that matters. The ink and paper dont magically transform into something else because of the message that they carry. If someone wants to burn that physical elements of ink on bound paper – go crazy. But if someone challenges and poses serious issues against what those pages teach, then that is when I take issue. Or more seriously at least.

I hope the churches in Malaysia dont react in a way which makes reaching out ever more challenging. The edict to love our neighbours and love God is not impacted by this threat to burn bibles. Our ability to obey the command  may however, be badly impacted by reaction of the church to this threat.

I say: bake a cake and serve it to whoever is burning a bible. Love him. He isnt burning the bible out of rebellion against God. He burns it over an argument over form. The war should be over other matters. I think.

“And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” – Matt 10:28


Hotch Potch of a Weekend

Apparently the tennis last night went on forever. I wonder if it was Novak’s strategy to cement his place in Melbourne and overcome the love otherwise reserved for Rafa, Federer or anyone local. In any case, I’m glad (in a way) the matches we watched on Friday night didn’t go quite as long. We watched Berdych beat an Austrian (Melzer) in straight sets and then sat through the painful spectacle of seeing Stosur and a young bloke called Saville, being thumped by Mirza, who appeared to be a popular Indian, and Bryan – her very likeable American partner. Thankfully it ended quickly too so we were home by about 11.30pm.

We slept in a little bit on Sat then went to the Station Street Café in Nunawading. It was then the usual rounds of dry cleaners and grocery. Other than to Forest Hill Chase for our usual fruits and veg shop, we drove up Canterbury Road to the Asian grocery shop, where I wanted to check out their stock of pork ribs. They didn’t have any so I just got chicken and Tress got her salmon from there too. We were going to cook for a dinner at Jason and Mel’s that night.

Back home after all the chores and errands, Kiddo waited for her mates who were coming to the house. Tress and I did some work in the garden – we had planned to get rid of a large plant in front of our bedroom window. It was one of 3 New Zealand flax, which was crowding out the little space outside our window and we wanted to add something smaller with more colour.

Near the end of the job I realised we needed a good hoe to get rid of the stumpy bits and the roots. We didn’t have one so it had to wait. We then got ready for a 2pm appointment with some friends for coffee at their home.

Jonathan and Carrie moved to Melbourne from Malaysia early last year and we met and got to know them a little bit as they lived just a few streets near our home. They bought a new place towards the end of last year and had moved in, so we visited them on Sat arvo. They also invited a couple of other families so there we all were – migrants from Malaysia and Singapore all getting to know each other. It’s our ninth year here in Melbourne and spending the arvo with these relatively new comers (ranging from 1-3+ years) made us think about our earlier years here.

We left close to 4pm, and started cooking when we got home. Jason and Mel as usual, had a large group there. There were about 5families there and everyone sat down to a good meal and lusty conversations.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t meet again the next day in church – we went to another church as usual, and while the rawness may have rounded off a little, it was still a sore point to head to another – new – church on Sunday mornings. The pain lingers on.

I had wanted to give the browning lawn a bit of watering on Sunday morning but an injured bird on the lawn forced an unplanned visit to the RSPCA to drop that bird off. We then headed to Edge Church again and then went to Madam Kwong’s at Box Hill for lunch and stopped by Bunnings on the way home, to get the hoe I needed to finish off the job. We got rid of the plant altogether, and then whiled away the rest of the day – including giving Scruffi a couple of walks, first with Tress and I and then with Kiddo.

One that wouldn’t go away

I’ve just read the below article from the Christianity Today website, and it really is an issue that would not go away anytime soon…

Is there more to it than simply saying it is a sin and like all other sins, we love the sinner but do not stop calling it a sin, or take extensive steps to help the sinners continue to sin?

I need to understand the basis of all these views a lot better…

Hope for the Gay Undergrad

More and more groups connected with Christian colleges openly reach out to students with same-sex attractions.

Allison J. Althoff

When Jordan enrolled in Wheaton College in Illinois, he wouldn’t admit to himself that he was attracted to other men. Raised in a conservative Baptist church and a student at a conservative Christian college, Jordan (who asked that his real name not be used) hesitated to identify with the gay community, which he perceived as flamboyant and sex-obsessed. He attempted to ignore what was in opposition to his Christian beliefs.

"I would sit in Wheaton’s prayer chapel, staring at the cross, and beg God to please just let me be attracted to girls," Jordan said. "I used to pray for it every day: ‘Heal me!’?"

Jordan waited for a chapel series at college, a sermon at the Anglican church he attended, or a fateful meeting with that one person who would change his orientation. "I just thought I’d naturally be attracted to a girl and get married—everyone says that’s what happens," he said.

When that didn’t happen, Jordan was faced with the dilemma of addressing his same-sex attraction as a student at a school that prohibits any sexual activity outside of heterosexual marriage. Jordan and others like him point to the recent experience of Wesley Hill, a Wheaton alum, professor at Trinity School for Ministry in Ambridge, Pennsylvania, and author of Washed and Waiting, as one example of a gay Christian’s choice to live in celibacy to address same-sex attraction.

‘Celibacy is a hard choice, and if churches are not willing to hold it up as an honorable pursuit and support it with practices of friendship and hospitality, I’m not sure it will seem viable to many sexual minorities.’—Wesley Hill, authorLeaders at Christian colleges and universities around the country told Christianity Today their schools are rethinking the way they address the needs of these students on campus. Recently, Wheaton’s administration provided forums for dialogue about human sexuality and encouraged students to be more open about their experience. "I’m very hopeful for the current climate at Wheaton," said dean of student care Melanie Humphreys. "There is always someone wrestling with this. But they need to feel a sense of community—this issue won’t be resolved at arm’s length."

Students from several Christian colleges who spoke with CT said behavioral codes, which often forbid homosexual behavior in addition to alcohol and tobacco consumption, sex outside of marriage, and erotic dancing, inhibit their ability to be open about their sexual struggles or experiences. They fear disciplinary probation and being ostracized by peers.

"When I enrolled as a freshman, I would never have said I was gay," Jordan said. "I wanted to keep it quiet for fear of my guy friends being freaked out by me. You hear gay jokes around campus and you’re afraid if you come out people will look at you differently."

Jordan often felt lonely during his four years at Wheaton, but insisted his experience was positive overall, especially after he made the decision to reveal his struggles with gay porn and same-sex attraction to his discipleship group and some professors, administrators, and close friends.

"When I first came out to my small group, they laid hands on me, prayed for me, thanked me for confessing deep, dark things, and said they’d be there to support me as I struggled through it," Jordan said.

Two months after graduation, he was faced with the challenge of coming out to his parents. "When those words came out of his mouth, I truly felt like I’d been gut punched," said Jordan’s mom. But Jordan’s family reassured him of their love, and turned to prayer to deal with their conflicted feelings.

Not all such stories end this way. Some students with same-sex attractions align with pro-gay student and alumni organizations. Others have left the faith altogether. In a few extreme cases, students have taken their own lives. All in all, dealing with same-sex attractions is a lonely road for many Christian students, and Christian colleges are trying to become places where these students don’t have to struggle alone.

Identity Reconsidered

The debate over homosexuality on campus is being recast by new research on sexual identity, which goes beyond a person’s hetero- or homosexual behavior and orientation.

Understanding sexual identity is a continual process with many stops and starts regardless of a person’s religious convictions, according to William Struthers, author of Wired for Intimacy and a research psychologist and professor at Wheaton. He said that the traditional labels (such as gay or straight) concerning sexual orientation are outdated and inaccurate. "Human sexuality is a lot more complex than four or five letters."

For celibate singles, affirmation from a church community is crucial to their well-being.He continued, "We’re being forced to think more deeply about what role sexuality plays in life. All of these categories we thought were hard and fast really aren’t. There’s a nature to it. There’s a nurture to it. It’s how the brain develops." His research has focused on sexual arousal, addiction, and pornography. "Sexuality is about a lot more than just who you want to have your orgasms with," Struthers said.

He said churches would benefit from the experience of people like Jordan. They choose to forego their own sexual desires through celibacy because they see something beyond themselves. To Struthers, this is a sacrificial display of loyalty to Christ.

But as a student, Jordan found himself in the minority of his peers with same-sex attraction. According to Jordan, many individuals who took part in a same-sex attracted small group during his senior year expressed desire to pursue same-sex relationships upon graduation. Many join liberal congregations that affirm gay orientation. Others may leave church altogether.

"If I could redo my life and like women that would be great, but I’m happy I’m gay," Jordan said. "God might change me, and I’m fine with that, but the experiences and conversations I’ve had have drawn me close to God and revealed him to me in awesome ways."

The prospects for change of sexual orientation remain extremely controversial. At the pastoral level, Mario Bergner, founder and director of Redeemed Lives Ministries, is a deep believer in the ability of gay individuals to change.

Bergner encourages students to identify themselves as individuals before God, apart from their sexual desires. Bergner said, "I see them as a person first, and as a Christian, if that’s how they self-identify." As a young adult, Bergner actively pursued a gay lifestyle before participating in pastoral care and therapy groups that enabled him in time to enter into heterosexual marriage. "The embracing of celibacy is a legitimate Christian option, but then again, so is embracing a dynamic process of sanctification," Bergner said.

Still, this is not the choice of some students, and when it isn’t, colleges still try to reach out. Brent Persun, a 2011 Cedarville University graduate, is one example. Shortly after enrolling at Cedarville, Persun found himself in the dean’s office during his freshman year to discuss his same-sex attractions.

Persun said, "Sex in general was not often talked about in my church or family, let alone homosexuality, so I hid it for as long as possible." After his parents discovered him accessing gay porn on his computer as a teen, he began attending sessions designed to change his orientation. He continued this treatment while at Cedarville.

"The dean knew that I struggled with same-sex attraction, but this was mostly contingent on the fact that I was struggling and trying to change," Persun said. "I still appreciate my time at Cedarville for the education I received and the friends I made."

When CedarvilleOut, a pro-gay alumni organization, hosted an off-campus meeting during his junior year, Persun met with founder and 1984 Cedarville grad David Olsen to discuss the integration of faith and homosexuality.

After the meeting, Persun decided to embrace a homosexual identity. Persun now lives an openly gay lifestyle and also is a member of Old South Church in Boston.

Olsen said, "Initially, I said if I could make one life better it would be worth it. Now, it’s done more than I ever thought it would." CedarvilleOut has not collaborated directly with Cedarville University, but hosts off-campus events, such as the one Persun attended.

Cedarville’s vice president of student life Carl Ruby said the institution maintains a healthy dialogue with CedarvilleOut. "I was assigned to be Dave Olsen’s mentor back when we were students together at Cedarville in the early 1980s," Ruby said. "We have major differences of opinion about what we believe the Bible says about this topic, but I consider him a friend. We have tried to model what civil conversation looks like."

Expanding Dialogue

Christian college administrators have found that small group meetings and campus-wide forums about same-sex attraction are overcoming the reluctance of students to openly discuss sexuality and sexual behavior.

In 2006, Calvin College began hosting a sexuality series that includes events, speakers, and book clubs to help students better understand topics affecting homosexual and heterosexual students. According to Calvin’s 2008 Statement on Homosexuality and Community Life, homo-sexual orientation is not inherently sinful, but sexual behavior belongs within the bounds of heterosexual marriage.

Calvin communications director Tim Ellens said gay students are able to be honest about their sexuality while being accountable to the code of conduct. "Calvin teaches incoming freshmen to be loving, open, and kind about gay people," junior Joel Betts said. "I’m friends with people who are gay, and it’s not a big deal at all."

Same-sex attracted students at several Christian institutions have attempted to start on-campus organizations with varying degrees of success. Seattle Pacific University’s Haven is an "unofficial club" organized by students. It hosts weekly meetings on campus to encourage honest conversations about sexuality while holding to the school’s "Lifestyle Expectations" regarding sex outside of heterosexual marriage.

"Haven is recognized by the university administration, but not as a recognized student club through the student government system," vice president of student life Jeff Jordan said.

"Haven has applied a couple of times for official club status through student government, but they have not attained that status. So administration has said, if indeed what’s important is having a safe place on campus for conversation, and you’re willing to work with university administration, whether that be through me, which is how it was for many years, or through an umbrella organization, then we’ll work with you on this."

According to faculty advisor Kevin Neuhouser, the meetings function as support for same-sex attracted students on campus as well as a forum that hosts speakers who address human sexuality. "There are gay students on every Christian campus," Neuhouser said. "What’s fundamental to respecting and caring for them is providing them a place they can feel safe. The main concern is the student, not the orientation."

In California, some student organizations, like the Biola Queer Underground, advocate for acceptance of same-sex practice and provide anonymity for their members.

"As an lgbtq student, you have to be constantly aware of how others perceive you, even off-campus," an anonymous Biola Queer Underground representative said. "It’s a sad reality that students could very well turn in students to administration for discipline or expulsion."

Biola’s dean of students, Danny Paschall, said there is a difference between students identifying as homosexual and those acting on their attraction. The community seeks to come alongside same-sex attracted students, not ostracize them.

Paschall said in a statement, "When a student approaches us and communicates that he or she is struggling with same-sex behavior or sexual identity, we aim to offer a safe environment that promotes openness, dialogue, and care. If students are engaging in same-sex behavior and are not taking into account their commitment to Biola’s community standards, then we will have a conversation about their status as a student."

Freedom from Fear

In the same vein, Wheaton’s Humphreys insists her institution is striving to become a safe space for students.

"Our policies are truly restorative," Humphreys said. "If we have a student wrestling with sexuality, we’re not going to kick them out—we’re going to bring them closer to help them think through how they understand it." This year, Wheaton’s student government has endorsed a student-led, confidential community group for those who experience same-sex attraction.

For celibate singles, affirmation from a church community is crucial to their well-being.

Author Wesley Hill told CT, "Celibacy is a hard choice, and if churches are not willing to hold it up as an honorable pursuit and support it with practices of friendship and hospitality, I’m not sure it will seem viable to many sexual minorities."

He added, "The congregations that give me hope are ones where I see married people and single people, older people and younger people, all sharing meals and ministries and small groups together."

Allison J. Althoff is associate online editor at Today’s Christian Woman. Follow her on Twitter (@ajalthoff).Additional research by CT news intern Bryn Sandberg.

Aussie Open 2013

We’ve been living in Melbourne since 2004. Melbourne hosts the only tennis grand slam tournament this side of the equator and these days, all of the top players in the world make the effort to participate, unlike many years ago when the top players skip this tournament to have an extended holiday over the Christmas and New Year period.

And so this has become a significant and sought after tournament. And yet, although it is more or less at our doorstep, we’ve never attended any matches – other than an early round match I attended back in the summer of 2005 with the law firm I was with then. So this year, I got the family to agree to go watch some of this world class tennis.

I now have on my phone, 3 tickets for a night match starting 7pm tonight. It’s the 3rd round singles matches and I’m looking forward to it. We’ll remember Australian Open 2013 the better for it…


Wither New Base

Conveniently, we were in NZ the first couple of Sundays of the New Year. While Tress did ask if we should look for a church to attend on the second Sunday, when we were at Christchurch, there was only one other occasion when the issue of church attendance (here in Melbourne) came up. Now that we’re back to (more or less) regular routines, I have again thought about what to do with church.

A church we have attended a few times is still in its holiday program. The other, we felt required more cultural realignment and demographically, is more suited to people with young families. Someone like us – two Gen X adults with a non-resident adult child – would likely not slip in easily, although as Kiddo pointed out, that would not be a major factor mostly.

So I wonder where we’d end up this and the next few Sundays. A voice inside me somewhere is saying, just sleep in and go to the beach. Years of spending Sundays in corporate worship however, make that hard. No doubt all it’d take is a few weeks of succumbing and I’d be less disinclined to be hedonistic about it all but hopefully, this Sunday would not be that Sunday when I do succumb.

But where do we go to stay away off that no doubt slippery slope?

The aforesaid holidaying church is no different to the two million or so churches in the neighbourhoods of the eastern suburbs here in Melbourne in that it keeps a skeletal existence at home base while its members trot around from Bangkok to Barbados or from Madrid to Miami, with an unmuted display of the present strength of the AUD. (Or it could be from Byron Bay to Merimbula, in which case the might of the AUD hits the holidaymaker). Often, the minister (or Senior Pastor) isn’t excluded from the gallivanting tribes. Somehow, the flocks need less tending in January of each year. Thankfully, I am not in the business of providing such care nor am I any longer involved in providing support to those who do.

So until January disappears along with the late sunsets and February sees us wake from our long siestas, we can’t be sure what we see is what we get, in the churches we are assessing. “Get” not as in receiving, but as in the church as it stands, to let us know what we are in for. Very likely, these local groups in full flight from the end of February onwards, can look and feel significantly different from the muted January versions.

Maybe it is an opportunity to skirt around the edges without indication of commitment. Time to wait can be a luxury I have yet to learn to appreciate.

Where’s the Green Green Grass of Home?

Melbourne looks so dry now. I came back from work early yesterday arvo, and a bit later took the little fellow out for a walk. It was very warm and I thought he looked less excited and enthusiastic than his normal self. Perhaps he too was readjusting to coming home after staying with another family for the 2 weeks we were away.

There are 4 sports fields near our home. The one directly across the road is the one we normally bring him to and use mostly because it is a fenced in oval and he could run freely without us having to keep too close a watch on him. He’s alright for the most part to be left alone but occasionally he like to come up to kids and play with them and we have known parents who don’t like that.

Further ahead, there is another field but it is fenced in and gated and is sort of a private area. The Nunawading Soccer Club (I think) uses it. To its right is another oval, which is an open area and further to the right is the last field and social soccer and cricket happen there.

Each of those four fields looked dry and very brown. I guess that week of very hot conditions has taken its toll. After traversing two of the four fields yesterday, LBJ and I walked a few more blocks around the neighbourhood and most lawns looked really brown and dried out. In fact compared to these homes, our lawn – which I had thought looked terrible for being so dry and lifeless – looked healthy and not quite dried out.

Not too long ago I remarked to Tress it was wonderful to see the luscious greens of the ovals and playing fields across out home. They’ve all turned for the worse, or so it seems. I hope the wetter conditions return soon.

Land of the Long White Cloud

When we were all keyed up and excited to leave for NZ on 1/1, the slight delay (30mins) was enough to provide a little sigh but little did we know, that it was a miniscule prelude to the incredibly long delay we were to encounter on our journey home, on 14/1. Sandwiched in between these faux pas however, was a wonderful holiday. Tress, Kiddo and I were immensely blessed to immerse ourselves in the beauty of NZ, and to experience this display as a family.

We got in at Auckland, went up to Mount Eden with an ex-colleague of Tress’ now working in Auckland, and then made our way towards Waitomo (the caves) and then to Mata Mata where we took in the magic of Hobbiton and The Shire. After that we headed towards Rotorua and took in the scenes and experience of the hot springs and geysers before driving to Wellington.

From Wellington we took the inter-islander to Picton, drove to Blenheim in the Marlborough region to enjoy the famous NZ Sauvignon Blanc, and then drove to the east coast town of Kaikoura. From there we pushed down to Christchurch and then to Twizel and relived the Pelennor Fields experiences. Then it was Mount Cook and the Tasman Glacier before moving more southward to Queenstown for a few days.

From Queenstown the plan was to then go to the West Cost and see Fox Glacier but at Lake Hawea, we were told some roads had been washed out and that part of the west coast we were heading had become inaccessible. So we turned around and headed to Dunedin instead, after which it was back to Christchurch and back to Melbourne.

The whole trip was unforgettable for its beauty, majesty, purity and invigorating nature. The 10+ hours delay by Virgin Airlines at Christchurch only dampened the experience very slightly, such was the magnificence of Aotearoa.

I hope to return soon, as do Tress and Kiddo I’m sure.