Church

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 →


I would never suggest that pastors and church leaders work harder than other people ... but church work has its unique challenges and pressures. Here are five of them: 1. Ministry work is never done. It is open ended. There is never full closure. There is always more to do. It just keeps coming at you - day after day, week after week. There are no finish lines. Finish one counselling appointment and there's another one coming. Get through last weekend and there's another one coming. Preach that sermon and you'll need to start preparing the next one - and it needs to be even better (the continual pressure of forced creativity). Today a baby is born. Such joy. Tomorrow,... Read more →


A Church United

John 17 is the longest recorded prayer of Jesus and it reveals what was important to him. After praying for himself (vs.1-5) and his disciples (vs.6-19), he prayed for all who would believe in him – for the church yet to born (vs.20-26). Nearest to Jesus’ heart was his concern for the unity of his followers. So how are we doing at being “united”, as Jesus prayed? The Centre for the Study of Global Christianity estimates that there were 34,000 denominations in the year 2000 rising to 43,000 in 2012. These are all “Christian” denominations, not those of other faiths or beliefs systems. All declare Jesus as Lord yet each has a distinct approach to areas such as leadership, structure,... Read more →


At a recent conference, I shared a message about "Navigating Transitions". Here is a summary of the main insights I shared: 1. Trust God for the Future. Life is a journey with many seasons. We can have a sense of where we have come from, where we are now and where we are going. Seasons are marked by endings and beginnings. Occasionally, there are unexpected turns in the road. Some things are within our control while many things aren’t. Placing our trust in God is based on a belief that his providence is undergirding everything (Romans 8:28). Trust is active faith, not fatalism. We don't know what tomorrow holds but we do know who holds tomorrow in his hands. He... 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 →


As we move towards Easter, let's take a look at the supper from Mark 14:12-26. Part of our God-given humanity is the instinct to celebrate significant moments with significant meals (e.g. Christmas, birthdays, weddings, and anniversaries). Sharing a meal bonds a family, a group of friends, a team, a collection of colleagues together. The meal says more than words - about who we are, how we feel about one another, and the hopes and joys we share together. It’s not just about the food; the meal says something, it does something. We become a people who shared that meal together, with all that it meant to us. The Jewish Passover celebration was such a meal, linking together generations of families... Read more →


The Gospel of Matthew tells us this about the ministry of Jesus: Matthew 9:35-37. Jesus traveled through all the towns and villages of that area, teaching in the synagogues and announcing the Good News about the Kingdom. And he healed every kind of disease and illness. When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them because they were confused and helpless, like sheep without a d shepherd. He said to his disciples, “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields. NLT Here are a few insights we can glean from Jesus' approach to ministry: Jesus made a... Read more →


There are four kinds of churches in the world today: The Museum Church. They are old and beautiful but empty (like the picture above). No one goes there. They are showpieces of past. Sadly, there is no spiritual vitality within their ancient walls. The Maintenance Church. These churches are a little better. They are almost empty ... but hanging on. Their mission is to survive, to maintain amidst the many drastic social changes. They refuse to change, members are dying off. Sadly, they too will soon become a Museum Church. The Ministry Church. These churches pursue Christian ministry to people within their walls. They have a full calendar of activities … Sunday worship (with free coffee and donuts), Bible studies,... Read more →


Australia has more churches (13,000) than schools (9,500), and more Australians attend a church service each week (1.8 million) than there are people in South Australia (1.6 million). And while the latest Census results show that Christianity is the religion with which most Australians identify (61.1%), well above the second most popular religion in Australia, Buddhism (2.5%), less than one in seven of the Australians who ticked “Christianity” on their census form regularly attend a church. Easter is a time of the year when church attendance increases, but what do the 92% of Australians who are not regular church attendees think of churches, and churchgoing in 2013? Check out Mark McCrindle's recent BLOG post for the latest infographic which shares... Read more →


Whenever you are prayerfully considering giving to a project of any kind, here are a few creative ideas to consider: 1. Give of what you already have. That could be something from you personal savings and investments or even a loan redraw. 2. Sell some of your assets. We see this occuring in the first church at Jerusalem when Barnabas sold a block of land and donated the proceeds to the work of the church (Acts 4:32-37). Put everything “on the table” making it available for God’s use. Maybe have a garage sale or put some unwanted items on eBay. Downsizing can have a very freeing affect on us, including reducing financial pressure (see Ecclesiastes 4:6). 3. Go without something... Read more →


A lot of organisations conduct various types of fund raising today, including churches. I value the Bible as God’s Word. It is inspired by the Holy Spirit and beneficial for every aspect of personal and church life. We know the Bible has a lot to say about “giving”, but what about “fund raising”? Interestingly enough, the apostle Paul, along with the many other things he did, spent many years raising funds from his churches for some needs in the church at Jerusalem. This is referred to in his letters as “the collection”. He gave some detailed instructions to his churches concerning their giving (see (1 Corinthians 16:1-3. 2 Corinthians 8-9. Romans 15:25-27). Let’s look at how he went about this... Read more →


Yesterday we talked about some lessons from LEGOLAND. LEGO is so simple yet when individual bricks are joined together with others, they can contribute to the creation of something quite amazing and complex. Think about this: Two 8 stud LEGO blocks can be combined in 24 different ways (remember that LEGO bricks can connect at the top and the bottom). Three 8 stud LEGO blocks can be combined in 1,060 different ways. Six 8 stud LEGO blocks can be combined in over 102 million different ways! Like LEGO, we have different capacities but yet with endless possibilities. Connect with God each day and connect with others around you. Be a part of the church that God is building. Everything really... Read more →


LEGO was invented in 1947 by a carpenter from Denmark by the name of Ole Kirk Christiansen. Before this breakthrough idea for a plastic toy, he suffered many challenges and setbacks, including his wife dying, a factory fire, and navigating the depth of the Great Depression. Today, LEGO is one of the top 50 brands in the world, it's a word in our dictionary, it's now a major movie, and most homes would have a few LEGO blocks laying around somewhere. LEGO has become a timeless toy for kids of all ages. Interestingly, Ole Kirk was a Christian and said that his faith in God and the support of his local church helped him through his darkest hours. What lessons... Read more →


A good friend of mine sent me this earlier in the week. I thought it was quite funny but had some good points. Let's always seek to love and encourage those who lead us, in whatever capacity. Pastors have a tough job. They get more kicks than kisses. If a pastor is young, he lacks experience; if he’s grey–haired, he’s too old. If he has five kids, he has too many; if he has none, he’s setting a bad example. If his wife sings in the choir, she’s being forward; if not, she’s not dedicated enough. If he preaches from notes, he’s dry; if his words are impromptu, he’s too shallow. If he spends too much time in his study,... Read more →


Lost and Found I heard an amazing story recently about a young boy in India who accidentally got separated from his brother and ended up lost. His name is Saroo Munshi Khan. He survived on the streets for weeks then was eventually taken into an orphanage where he was later adopted by an Australian family and grew up in Hobart, Tasmania. He was happy yet had this longing for home. Twenty-six years later, he found his way back to his hometown with the help of Google Earth where he was re-united with his family. In many ways, we are all a bit like Saroo. We are lost people longing and searching for something, trying to find our way back HOME.... Read more →


Last Sunday was “Pentecost Sunday” (8th June), a significant day on the Christian annual calendar, yet one that tends to receive little attention, compared to Christmas and Easter. Pentecost Sunday occurs 50 days after Easter and is a celebration of the coming of the Holy Spirit and the birth of the church of Jesus Christ. Just like your personal story is much bigger than the time between your birth and death, in that you have roots and heritage reaching further back in time and hopefully a future legacy lasting beyond your lifetime, so our story as a church reaches back to our beginnings and into the future beyond our time as each generation continues to carry out the purposes of... Read more →


When in the USA recently, one of our church staff members visited two large, well-known churches. The facilities and church services were first class, but at both churches ... no one spoke to him. Sadly, this is all to commonplace today. Have we become high-tech and low-touch? Here is a great article by Will Mancini called Smiling is Not Enough: Top 10 Mistakes of Church Greeting Teams. The team at Auxano enjoys playing the role of “secret worshipper” when we take a church through our visioning process called the Vision Pathway. We call it a guest perspective evaluation. As I prepare to debrief a church again tomorrow, I want to share some general insights on welcoming ministry and hospitality for... Read more →


A recent article from the Barna Group: March 18, 2014 — He was the most talked-about person of 2013 and winner of TIME’s “Person of the Year” award. Google Translate coders have set his name to translate as “a better world.” Yet Pope Francis insists that he is “a normal person,” and has no desire to be “a superman or a star.” Some religion columnists and commentators attribute the public’s esteem to his humble insistence that he is ordinary. In fact, humility may just be the pontiff’s paradoxical trademark. The Washington Postsummed it up in one headline: “Like Pope Francis? You’ll Love Jesus.” The Post is not alone in pointing out that the pope’s actions, words and demeanor are often... Read more →


A sobbing little girl stood near a small church from which she had been turned away because it was too crowded. “I can't go to Sunday School”, she sobbed to the pastor as he walked by. Seeing her shabby, unkempt appearance, the pastor guessed the reason and, taking her by the hand, took her inside and found a place for her in the Sunday School class. The child was so touched that she went to bed that night thinking of the children who have no place to worship Jesus. Some two years later, this child lay dead in one of the poor tenement buildings and the parents called for the kind-hearted pastor, who had befriended their daughter, to handle the... Read more →


Predicting is as much of an art as it is a science. And if any prognosticator is honest, he or she will tell you that they don’t always get it right. I know. I certainly don’t always get it right. But I don’t pull my predictions out of thin air. To the contrary, each of them has a reasonable explanation. For these seven predictions, I gleaned from several sources: Data-based research, particularly LifeWay Research. Trends that are already underway and gaining momentum. Conversations with hundreds of church leaders. My own experiences, based on 25 years of consulting and research of American congregations. This year I am adding a new feature, a confidence factor. For example, if I said I had... Read more →


During the month of November, many churches around the world set aside time to prayer for the persecuted church. Believers in countries such as Egypt, Eritrea, India, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan and Vietnam face violence, imprisonment and even death because of their faith in Jesus Christ. There are other places in the world such as North Korea where acts of persecution take place, but we don’t see or hear of it. Brother Andrew of Open Doors once said: 'Our heroes are not with us simply because they are in prison.' IDOP is a time set apart for us to remember thousands of our Christian brothers and sisters around the world who suffer persecution, simply because they confess Jesus Christ as Lord.... Read more →


Any church with over 50 people needs some form of small group ministry so that genuine relationships are developed and discipleship occurs. Whatever form of small group ministry you may, have is a helpful article on small group leadership by Mark Howell: Whether you use a low or high bar of small group leadership, I think all of us have hope that our leaders will do more than open their home, facilitate a discussion or convene a meeting. And … I think some of us have begun laying the foundation for a kind of leadership pathway. See also, Raising the Bar, Lowering the Bar, or Open Bar and Steve Gladen on Saddleback’s Leadership Pathway. Not long ago I noticed a... Read more →


The ministry of prophecy is to be an important part of the local church and the development of every church leader. This is a biblical concept and was used often in the appointment of leaders to various roles and ministries in the early church (see Acts 13:1-3. 1 Timothy 1:18-19; 4:14). The Prophetic Ministry A prophet is someone through whom God speaks His heart, mind and will. The Old Testament concept of a prophet is “one called (by God) to speak for God”. God spoke to and through prophets. A prophet was not independent. They spoke God's message, not their own. Prophets were referred to as: God's mouthpiece (Jeremiah 1:9), God's messenger, God's representative or God's interpreter. Their primary function... Read more →


A friend pointed me to a very good article recently in the Huffington Post religion section by Jamie Bruesehoof to parents with young children in church (especially relevant when kid's church is having a break during the school holidays!). Here is it: You are doing something really, really important. I know it's not easy. I see you with your arms overflowing, and I know you came to church already tired. Parenting is tiring. Really tiring. I watch you bounce and sway trying to keep the baby quiet, juggling the infant car seat and the diaper bag ('nappy bag' for the Aussies) as you find a seat. I see you wince as your child cries. I see you anxiously pull things... Read more →


Research in America shows that 59% of millennials (also known as Gen Y) drop out of church after attending regularly as a teenager. For the past decade, Barna Group has been working to understand this important age group. After interviewing more than 27,000 millennials and conducting 206 studies of this group, they have amassed a significant body of knowledge on millennials. Now they are sharing that knowledge via a special section of their web site that contains research, articles and carefully curated information on this elusive and often confusing age groups. Check it out at barna.org/millennials. In many ways, Australia is a unique environment that has major differences to the American context, but there is much we can learn from... Read more →


Life as Adventure Have you ever thought of your life as an adventure? Our kids used to love reading the Choose Your Own Adventure book series when they were younger. The stories are formatted so that, after a couple of pages of reading, the reader, as the main character in the story, faces two or three options, each of which leads to more options, and then to one of many endings. The number of endings could range anywhere from 12 to 40. This allows for a realistic sense of unpredictability, as the reader chooses their own adventure. Life is a lot like that! Every adventure starts with a calling or mission then proceeds through various challenges and struggles to an... Read more →


In his most recent book, What Makes Us Tick?, Australian sociologist Hugh Mackay observes that “from the family to the workplace, from the school gate to the local coffee shop or pub, and from religious, political or sporting affiliations to friendship circles, both online and offline, we are as socially interdependent as ever. Our default position, as humans, is together, even for those of us who cherish time alone ... We need to belong.” He goes on to say that “this desire to belong drives our attachment to two kinds of groups: herds and tribes ... The herd, typically comprising seven or eight people linked by friendship, a common interest or purpose – nurtures our confidence and self-respect, and wraps... Read more →


Lifeway Research reports: While the majority of churchgoers desire to honor Christ with their lives and even profess to think on biblical truths, a recent study found few actually engage in personal reading and study of the Scriptures. "Bible engagement" is one of the eight attributes of discipleship identified in the Transformational Discipleship study conducted by LifeWay Research. The study produced the Transformational Discipleship Assessment, which measures an individual's spiritual growth in each of these areas of development. The survey found 90 percent of churchgoers agree "I desire to please and honor Jesus in all I do," and 59 percent agree with the statement: "Throughout the day I find myself thinking about biblical truths." While the majority agree with both... Read more →


Jesus had John write another letter to the church at Sardis. Revelation 3:1-6. I see right through your work. You have a reputation for vigor and zest, but you're dead, stone dead. Up on your feet! Take a deep breath! Maybe there's life in you yet. But I wouldn't know it by looking at your busywork; nothing of God's work has been completed. Your condition is desperate. Think of the gift you once had in your hands, the Message you heard with your ears - grasp it again and turn back to God. If you pull the covers back over your head and sleep on, oblivious to God, I'll return when you least expect it, break into your life like... Read more →


Here is a copy of a letter from Jesus to the church at Ephesus in the first century, as given to John as he was in the Spirit praying ... Revelation 2:2-7. "I see what you've done, your hard, hard work, your refusal to quit. I know you can't stomach evil, that you weed out apostolic pretenders. I know your persistence, your courage in my cause, that you never wear out. But you walked away from your first love - why? What's going on with you, anyway? Do you have any idea how far you've fallen? A Lucifer fall! Turn back! Recover your dear early love. No time to waste, for I'm well on my way to removing your light... Read more →


It always concerns me the amount of so-called ‘Christians’ who spend their time throwing mud at other Christian ministries, claiming that so-and-so is a false prophet or spreading heresy. Jesus does call us to discern ministries (by their fruit) but to go beyond this and place a judgment on a person is something we are strongly commanded to NOT do (see my previous BLOG post 'Discern, Don't Judge). To quote my previous post, Derek Prince recommends five key things that we should look for when discerning whether any church, ministry or so-called “move of God” is genuine or not (from his booklet Uproar in the Church published by Derek Prince Ministries). Here they are: The fruit of repentance. Are people... Read more →