CityLife Church, located in Melbourne Australia, had three Senior Ministers in the first 50 years of it's history. Richard Holland was the founding pastor and led the church for 20 years, followed by my father, Kevin Conner, who led the church for the next 8 years. I was the Senior Minister for the next 22 years before passing the baton in February of this year to Andrew Hill. [Read my announcement on 28th February 2016] Like any relay race, passing the baton effectively is vital for any organisation, including a local church. I wrote about this a few years ago, in response to many people wanting to know what lessons we had learned from our leadership successions at CityLife. The... Read more →

The BLOG posts from the last few days about worry are a summary of a chapter entitled "Freedom from Worry" in the best-selling book Prison Break: Finding Personal Freedom. The rest of the book contains similar practical teaching about: Freedom from Fear Freedom from Anger Freedom from Depression Freedom from Rejection Freedom from Addictions Freedom from Spiritual Bondages You can purchase a paperback version of this book from WORD Australia OR a digital eBook version from Amazon. The eBook version can be read on the Kindle APP which is available for FREE for all devices (phones, tablets, etc) and operation systems (Windows, OS, etc). I hope you find this teaching helpful and beneficial to your life. Please feel free to... Read more →

Confession time - I love books! There is a certain joy in buying a new book and putting it on your shelf ... even if you haven't yet read the last 10 books you have bought. Book addicts understand this. Other people just don't get it. As a kid, if my parents visited friends and there were no kids to play with, after dinner, I'd sit by their bookshelf and browse through their books. If they had an encylopedia set, I was elated. I loved reading and learning new things. I guess, at heart I I'm a bit of a a maven. So I have a lot of books. Books given to me from family and friends. Books handed down... Read more →

I am priviledged to be one of the judges for the annual Australian Christian Book of the Year. We are pleased to announce that this year's award goes to Child Arise! The Courage to Stand: A Spiritual Handbook for Survivors of Sexual Abuse by Jane N Dowling. Here is the summary: Knowing that God speaks to us when we read the Bible, Jane Dowling prayerfully applies God’s Word to the experience of living with the long-term effects of sexual abuse, including abuse by clergy. Her reflections are gentle, almost tremulous. Jesus shows her the way from ruin and despair to healing and hope. This is a handbook for survivors of sexual abuse and those who seek to understand and support... Read more →

The following titles have been shortlisted for the 2016 Australian Christian Book of the Year Award. ‘Post-God Nation: How Religion Fell Off the Radar in Australia and What Might be Done to Get It Back On’, Roy Williams, ABC Books. ‘Understanding Jesus and Muhammad: What the Ancient Texts Say About Them’, Bernie Power, Acorn Press. ‘Zechariah: The Lord Returns’, Michael R Stead, Aquila Press. ‘Leon Morris’, Neil Bach, Authentic Media ltd. ‘Child Arise! The Courage to Stand’, Jane N. Dowling, David Lovell Publishing. ‘The Anonymous Leader’, Ralph Mayhew. ‘Maralinga's Long Shadow’, Christobel Mattingley, Allen & Unwin. ‘Trumped By Grace’, Peter Stiles, Poetica Christi Press. ‘They Conspire Against Your People: The European Churches and the Holocaust’, Colin Barnes, King’s Divinity Press... Read more →

When I became the Senior Minister of CityLife Church back in 1995, I invested extensive time in prayer, study, research and reflection about principles for building a healthy and effective church. As a result, I was prompted to lead our church through seven "strategic shifts" over the next few years. This has resulted in much positive change and impact. Over the years, I have taught this material to many pastors and church leaders. Eventually, these principles were put into a book called Help Your Church Change and eventually an international version titled Transforming Your Church: Seven Strategic Shifts to Help Your Church Navigate the 21st Century. This was released in the year 2000 and then a completely updated and revised... Read more →

Quite a few years ago now, we conducted a survey in our church. One of the open-ended questions was: "I wish someone would preach about ..." We collated the answers and I have enough to preach on until Jesus comes back! Actually, what surprised me the most at the time was the fact that people wanted to hear messages about dealing with common challenges such as worry, fear, anger, depression and rejection. These weren't subjects we were speaking on very often and as a result we were not "scratching where people were itching!" After this survey, we crafted a series of messages around the theme of "Prison Break". In Jesus' first sermon, he declared that he had come to set... Read more →

Have you ever noticed that there is so much to learn and so little time! We live in an age of informaiton overload. We don't lack knowledge, just the ability to process it sufficiently and make meaning out of it all. Learning how to read more effectively can be a help as can book summaries. Recently, I came across an App called Blinkist. Blinkist takes great works of non-fiction and distills them into powerful, made-for-mobile units. The blinks, 2-minute-reads built around memorable key messages, give you the main concepts of an entire book in 15 minutes. Choose audio or text. Why not try their 3 day trial and see how you like it. Just sign up for 3 days of... Read more →

We live in a time of rapid change. Yesterday is gone. Today is momentary. Tomorrow is never far away, though never guaranteed. We are called to live in the present, while learning from history and yet looking toward a better tomorrow. Our God is the one who was, who is, and who is to come. The Great I AM - past, present and future are all one to Him. Futurists study the future, yet no one can fully predict what it will be like. Stefan Hajkowicz has been thinking for the last twenty years about how people plan for an uncertain future. With training in economics, geography and decision theory, Stefan is one of CSIRO’s leading thinkers about trends, shocks... Read more →

We live in a time of information explosion. There is so much to learn and so little time to read and digest everything we'd like to know. There is no best way to read but there are a great many strategies you can use. Think of them more as options rather than rules. Try them out and then decide which ones work best for you. Faster reading skills will enable you to read more in less time, have better concentration, understand material with greater depth and accuracy, retain information better and enjoy reading more. My Top Tips for Reading Non-Fiction: 1. Don't believe the lie that you have to read every word. Deciding what is worth reading is as important... Read more →

The Australian Christian Book of the Year Award is given annually to an original book written by an Australian citizen. The award recognises and encourages excellence in Australian Christian writing. The ACBOTY Award carries a prize of $3,000 for the author, and a framed certificate for the author and publisher. Entries are judged with an eye to the: Original nature of the work. Literary style, including suitability for the target audience. Design, layout, cover, text and illustrations. Contribution that the book makes in meeting a need for Christian writing in the Australian situation and in the Australian market. Entries are read and judged by a panel selected by the SparkLit Council. 2015 Winner Captains of the Soul: A History of... Read more →

Jesus once said that the children of this world are sometimes wiser than the children of light. That wasn't a compliment! We can learn a lot from those who achieve and accomplish things in fields such as business, arts, sport or leadership. There is wisdom to be gained from the experience of others. In the business world, the most desired education is an MBA - a Masters in Business Administration. People will often pay a lot of money to earn such a degree, and especially from some of the most reputable universities around the world. Josh Kaufman begs to differ. He strongly believes that self-education can be just as effective and acquired for a fraction of the cost. Check out... Read more →

One of the best books I have read over the last few months is The Essentialist - The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It is a very challenging book that forces you to think through what is most important in life (the essentials) and focus on that, often requiring the elimination of the less important (the trivial). Here are a few excerpts: The Problem We stretched too thin, overworked, busy but not productive, constantly in motion, never getting anywhere and trying to please everyone. The way out is becoming an Essentialist. It’s not a time-management strategy, but rather a systematic discipline to apply every time you are faced with a decision. By applying a more selective criteria for... Read more →

Here is a quote from Gregory Boyd's helpful book Present Perfect: Finding God in the Now. When many Christians first hear about the practice of the presence of God, it strikes them as an impossible discipline. Perhaps supersaints locked up in monasteries can attain this level of awareness, but not us average folk who work nine-to-five jobs and raise families! It’s hard enough to pray ten minutes a day and make it to church once a week! For us ordinary Christians, trying to remain aware of God’s presence moment-by-moment seems like a hyperspiritual pipe dream. Are you awake? If you’re inclined to feel this way, it might be because, like everyone else in modern Western culture, you’ve been brainwashed by... Read more →

Physical health gives us the energy to enjoy life and carry out our God-given purpose with enthusiasm. God is interested in every part of our being - spirit, soul and body. Health doesn't just happen. It is the result of habits. Habits such as what we eat, the activity we engage in, and the rest we take. I highly recommend Tom Wrath's practical book Eat Move Sleep which is about the big impact of small daily choices. It's an easy read but highly motivational and full of good advice for improving your health and well-being. Well worth the investment. Read more →

The Great Bible Swindle (Australian Chrisitan Book of the Year)

A book that is not aimed at Christians has won the Australian Christian Book of the Year for 2014. The Great Bible Swindle is a book designed for Christians to give to “Uncle Fred”, a relative or friend who expresses curiosity about the Bible. It leads the reader gently into an understanding of the wonder of the Bible. It was written by Greg Clarke, CEO of Bible Society Australia, who in the wake of a long love affair with the Bible, has a passion to share his love of the book, and the big story within it. The “Swindle” in the title is the loss caused to a rising generation whose ignorance of the Bible cuts them off from a... Read more →

Warren Bird and William Vanderbloemen have written an excellent and much-needed book about leadership succession within the local church: Next - Pastoral Succession that Works. The book is based on over 200 case studies and 50 in-depth interviews with pastors and churches who have navigated the succession territory - either effectively or badly. There is much to learn here on this essential topic. Here are a few key insights and facts from the book: Every pastor is an interim pastor. The day when a successor takes over will come for everyone in ministry. Planning for that day of succession may be the biggest leadership task a leader and church will ever face. Everyone wants to talk about succession ... until... Read more →

Two weeks ago, my family and I attended the Les Miserables stage production at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne. It is one of our favourite productions. We have watched the 25th annviersary edition DVD recorded at the London O2 arena a dozen or so times and it never fails to move us (the finale, which is a 30 minute standing ovation and encore that brought the 1985 cast on-stage, is worth the price of the DVD). The Australian cast did an outstanding job too. The story, based on the book by Victor Hugo, is so redemptive and it captures and portrays so vividly the full range of human emotion: betrayal, anger, grief, disappointment, as well as forgiveness, love and transformation.... Read more →

John Ortberg's latest book is called Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You. John is a well-known pastor, speaker and best-selling author from the USA. In this excellent book, he delves into the inner world of our soul, exposing what the soul needs and showing how it can be restored. John, who has a doctorate in both theology and psychology, is an engaging writer, drawing insights from Scripture, human experience, his own personal life, as well as his unique mentoring relationship with the late Dallas Willard. If you're looking for a challenging and insightful devotional book, then look no further. The life of a village depends on the health of the stream flowing through it. That stream... Read more →

Daniel Goleman's latest book is Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence. For more than two decades, psychologist and journalist Goleman has been scouting the leading edge of the human sciences for what's new, important and surprising. In this book, he delves into the science of attention in all its varieties, presenting a comprehensive discussion on this mental asset that matters enormously as to how we navigate life. Attention works much like a muscle: use it poorly and it can wither; work it well and it grows. In an era of unstoppable distractions, Goleman argues that now more than ever we must learn to sharpen focus if we are to contend with, let alone thrive, in a complex world. Here are... Read more →

Confession time. I love books! Yes, there is a certain joy in buying a new book and just putting it on your shelf ... even if you haven't yet read the last ten books you bought. Fellow addicts would understand. Others don't. So, if you are looking for a book to read, check out Christianity Today magazine's list of their book awards for 2014. There's bound to be something in there to capture your interest and its good to keep in touch with what is shaping the thinking and culture of Christianity today. A few other books I have on my reading pile right now include: * Paul and the Faithfulness of God by N.T. Wright. An epic work (2... Read more →

Patrick Lencioni's most recent book is The Advantage: Why Organisational Health Trumps Eveyrhting Else. He believes that all the competitive advantages that businesses have been pursuing over the years are gone - strategy, technology, finance, and marketing. No, those disciplines have not disappeared. They are all alive and well in most organisations. But as meaningful competitive advantages, as real differentiators that can set one company apart from another, they are no longer anything close to what they once were. That's because virtually every organisation, of any size, has access to the best thinking and practices around strategy, technology and those other topics. In this age of the internet, as information has become ubiquitous, it's almost impossible to sustain an advantage... Read more →

Rob Bell's latest book is called What We Talk About When we Talk About God. Mark Galli, editor of Christianity Today, has recently reviewed the book and offers these insightful thoughts ... As far as I can tell, any classic, middle-of-the-road Christian can offer a hearty "Amen" to a great deal of Rob Bell's theology. The former pastor of Mars Hill Church believes God exists and can be experienced and yet cannot be contained by rational explanations. He affirms the divinity and humanity of Christ, as well as the Resurrection. He believes the Spirit is active in our lives and in the world. He believes the Bible is authoritative at some level—that is, he always tries to understand his life... Read more →

Here is a challenging message from Jesus to the church at Laodecia: Revelation 3:15-19. I know all the things you do, that you are neither hot nor cold. I wish that you were one or the other! But since you are like lukewarm water, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth! You say, I am rich. I have everything I want. I dont need a thing! And you dont realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. So I advise you to buy gold from me—gold that has been purified by fire. Then you will be rich. Also buy white garments from me so you will not be shamed by... Read more →

Believe it or not, Christmas is only four weeks away! For followers of Christ, and especially for those of us who pastor a church or speak from time to time, Christmas presents another excellent opportunity to communicate the good news of Jesus Christ. But how do we share this timeless message in new and fresh ways that capture people’s attention and interest? J John from the UK has put together a variety of resources specially related to the Christmas season. Check out his web site for further details. Of note, is the recent release of the book Proclaiming Christmas, a compilation of Christmas sermons from communicators all around the world. I was privileged to contribute my message from a few... Read more →

By Alistair McGrath for The Telegraph With simplicity and elegance, he captured the imagination of a war-weary generation. Today it will be announced that a memorial to the poet, literary scholar and novelist C S Lewis (1898-1963) is to be placed in Poets’ Corner at Westminster Abbey next November, 50 years after his death. He joins a select group of poets, playwrights and writers to have been buried or commemorated there, including Geoffrey Chaucer and William Shakespeare. I would argue that Lewis certainly merits inclusion among these greats of English literature. Has he secured his place because he was a poet? He certainly had early aspirations in that direction. Born in Belfast, he hoped to become an “Irish voice” in poetry,... Read more →

With over 1,500 new books about Jesus being published every year, why read another book about Jesus? John Ortberg's latest book Who is this Man? The Unpredictable Impact of this Inescapable Man is well worth reading as it gives us a fresh and inspiring look at Jesus and his impact on history. New Testament scholar and historian N.T. Wright says this about it: “One of the big lies of our time is that Christianity has been part of the problem rather than the source of the solution. Most people today don’t realise that things we now take for granted, like education and health care, were reserved for the rich elite in the ancient world until the Christians insisted on providing... Read more →

Everyone has a weakness. Mine is books. There is a certain joy in buying a book and putting it on your shelf ... even if you haven't read hte last 10 books you bought. Fellow addicts will identify with me right away. If you don't love books ... well, you just don't understand. Fellow book-lovers, I have a host of articles for you on the topics of 'Books.' Just click here to get started ... and I promise you'll have an enjoyable time. And when you're done reading, it won't have cost you a penny ... unless you choose to buy a book I've recommended, of course. Enjoy your reading! Read more →

They say that "leaders are readers" and "readers are leaders." Without doubt, each of us can only give out what we have inside. We fill our inner world through prayer and reflection on God's Word, through meditation and grappling with our own thoughts, but we are especially aided by engaging with others. Books are a terrific way to stimulate your thinking and help you engage with a wide variety of relevant issues. Leadership Journal is an excellent Christian magazine for leaders in every sphere of society. They recently released their list of book awards for 2011. If you're looking for some new books to read, their list is definitely worth a look. Click here to access it. Read more →

Tom Wright (also known as N.T. Wright) has achieved global recognition as a biblical theologian through his academic and popular publications. He is a leading New testament scholar and former Bishop of Durham in the Church of England. His most academic work is his Christian Origins and the Questions of God series, of which three editions have been released so far. These include The New Testament and the People of God, Jesus and the Victory of God and The Resurrection and the Son of God. Tom also has also written a commentary series on the entire New Testament called For Everyone, as well as a contemporary translation. His more popular books include Simply Christian (likened to C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity),... Read more →