A tribute to my dad, for the occassion of his 60th birthday

I love my dad.

I don’t just love him, I’m proud of him and proud to be like him in many ways.

I might not say this enough, and there’s years of hurtful stuff (including punches) flung at him while we were both figuring out who I was in my teenage years that I probably should work harder to undo with my words now… but I’m really, really thankful that my dad is my dad.

I’ve been struck, as I get to know my own son, he’s almost 4, at just how much it’s going to hurt me when history inevitably repeats and he first tells me he hates me. Or that I’m stupid, or fat, or apelike… sorry dad. I really am proud of you, you’re not stupid, or ape like, and I’m always told I look like you, so hopefully you’re not ugly.

I’ve also been struck by what I want to, and don’t want to, pass on to and teach my son. And I’m struck by how good a job dad did with shaping me in a way that means, on the whole, I’ve made reasonably good decisions.

I don’t know if I’d be me, or dad would be the dad he is now if it weren’t for those stormy adolescent years either. But I certainly wish I’d been able to see some of this stuff more clearly then, and that while we had slightly different visions for what my life could be, or should be, his was a voice I should have listened to more… this isn’t to say he got everything right, or that he gets everything right, I don’t want to lionise him in de-aping him… but let me tell you, for this auspicious occasion (his birthday was yesterday), some things about my dad. Perhaps you know him, and perhaps these will be some things that you know about him, or perhaps you’ll be surprised by some of this, perhaps you’ve never met him (or me), in whoch case… indulge me.

I’ve come to understand that dad does things excellently because he’s driven by passion — not for himself and his own name — but for the inherent value of things themselves, for the benefit of others, and to the glory of the God who makes excellent things too… whether it’s a song on the guitar, a well crafted table tennis point, a video game or gadget review in a national publication (sometimes when it was too socially awkward to admit dad was a minister I had the fallback option of telling people he was a freelance games reviewer for the Sydney Morning Herald (which was true), sometimes I’d mumble the ‘minister’ bit and rush into the cool job so the conversation I was in would go there), a font (like Foxjump, the font Tourism Tasmania once used to brand the state, or the in house fonts for Mitchelton Presbyterian Church), odd bits of furniture, Bible talks, books (one on the Vic 20 computer and one on preaching)… dad is driven and disciplined and sets out to be a master, an artisan, because small stuff matters, because it says things about big stuff. And, I suspect, cause there’s joy in detail as much as there might be the devil. I realised recently when talking to someone about the experience of eating breakfast at a cafe with dad that he is basically a Platonist… there’s an ‘ideal’ form of everything (including eggs) out there, and all the ‘things’ of this world are opportunities to get close to that ideal (but sometimes they can also be judged against that ideal, so dad’s eyes will be drawn to the smallest inconsistencies)… I think this idealism is part of the drive, it’s not so much perfectionism (perhaps I’m recognising some of this in myself), but a wanting to get as close as humanly possible to these ideals (the difference, I think is one involves a striving for improvement, while the other involves always measuring yourself against unrealistic standards, I suspect it’s a mistake to see these as exactly the same thing). Not everyone sees the world this way, and seeing the world this way would be crippling if it weren’t matched with curiosity, imagination, intelligence, discipline, courage, and ability. What makes dad truly special is his God-given combination of these. What is, I think, the challenge of his ‘genius’ is realising that most of us aren’t wired this way, and it’s not just that we can’t see the world the same way, but that even if we could, we couldn’t do much about it… this difference can be hard, especially if people misunderstand the motives and expectations (even for those of us whose biology and environmental upbringing disposes us to being just like it). I don’t care as much about kerning or alignment as dad (but I care more about fonts than most people, statistically speaking). I, like many of his students, trainees, and staff, have endured robust critiques (according to his standards) of work I’ve produced. I’ve given up trying to write a non-run on sentence and adopted all manner of punctuation quirks like semi-colons, em dashes, parentheses, and ellipses in order to avoid comma pedantry… but mostly these bits of who dad is come together for my good, and the good of others. I’m a better writer (and preacher) because of him and this drive for excellence, and this is the testimony of many, many, others. It’d take me a long time to list out the ways these qualities manifest themselves on the ground in dad’s life, but I suspect this would be the testimony of many witnesses… One of the harder things, I suspect, for dad, is that he’s known as a practitioner of ministry when almost all his practice and preaching is driven by a coherent theological framework that is misunderstood (even by me), and I suspect he’d rather have passed on that, than a love for fonts, design, and 22 minute sermons (ask him about Deuteronomy 30, pronouns in Ephesians, and the destruction of the Temple sometime). I love that I’ve always been encouraged to dig deeply and imaginitively into God’s word, and to look for connections that make Jesus richer and more compelling and interesting. Two people I really, deeply, respect have commented to me recently about just how rare this capacity is, and I guess I’ve always taken it for granted as the way things are done.

I suspect it was not just misunderstanding each other, but also my taking dad for granted (and mum too, but it’s not her birthday) that was actually at the heart of our conflicts in my adolescence… but perhaps this is at the heart of the problems in most relationships everywhere, so that’s not all that profound…

This year at church we’ve been looking at Matthew’s Gospel, and at how Jesus is the archetypal epic hero. There’s this literary convention, or observation of how stories work, called ‘The Hero’s Journey’… the hero’s journey starts with a sort of willingness, a call to adventure, a willingness to take on the status quo and to bring change that is necessary and good. There’s a sort of contrarian streak at the heart of the hero, and dad and a bunch of his mates owned and embodied that streak for some time (within the context of our denomination), and they marked it by wearing red socks to the business meetings of the church. It’s interesting now that dad is no longer apart from the system… he ‘is’ the system… to be someone coming into the same system with the same contrarian instincts, but I do love and admire the way that dad has largely managed to be a gracious and generous contrarian with a modelled commitment to the greater good and even the ‘system’ (even when it is frustrating). The status quo of our denomination, as I’ve entered it, is very different now to what it was then, and this is doubtless a result of the work of the red sock brigade, and I want to honour them, even if they’re now the establishment… dad and his mates didn’t just say what the problems were, they created alternatives, they didn’t just throw stones, they created a Christian journal (before the world of the Internet) that went a little bit global, it seems to me that they did this to love and serve others (and to challenge the establishment.

Dad also married up. A great example to me and one I’m thankful I learned from. It shouldn’t be all that special to not be insecure about your wife’s brilliance, and, positively, to make space for that brilliance to shine. In fact, I don’t think it’s that special. I take it for granted. It seems normal. It blows my mind that it isn’t. And that’s another good thing I got from dad (still trying to figure out how that works with small children though).

There’s a line dad used in his induction speech last year, when he became ‘the system,’ or rather ‘the moderator,’ here in Queensland; where he said he hoped that his ministry to date, his life, had been marked and defined by ‘zeal for the Gospel’… it reminded me of the phrase from Psalms that people quote about Jesus in John 2,’zeal for your house will consume me’…that is dad. Consumed (maybe sometimes too comsumed, as I’m discovering as I try to figure out where the ministry role ends and I begin) by the work of the Gospel. There’s not, I don’t think, many idle moments in dad’s brain, many moments where he’s satisfied with what is, rather than driven towards what could be, and particularly when he’s not thinking about how to help more people follow Jesus. I’m thankful for this zeal, perhaps mostly because it is a thing he did pass on. By example and perhaps even deliberately. This Jesus stuff really matters. If it is true (and I believe it is), it’s the best and most important, most precious thing that you can give your children… or to anyone. I’m not sure exactly what worked for me here… but something did, and I’m not sure that there was any great parenting strategy on mum and dad’s behalf, other than perhaps to help us see the cost and to explain why the cost was paid gladly (most of the time).

Something remarkable has been happening in my relationship with dad over the last few years, as I’ve entered the family business, there’s a new sense of respect or recognition, that goes both ways. Maybe I’ve become a real person (I haven’t called dad any names for a few years). Maybe parenting has changed me. Maybe grandparenting has changed dad… but some of my favourite memories don’t come from childhood (though I have lots of good ones), but from the sense of serving in the trenches with the old fella. I remember playing soccer with a bloke in his late 30s or early 40s, back when I was a precocious teen, and I chipped away at him once about when he was going to retire. He said his goal was to play a few games with his son. Dad isn’t really a sports guy, but I think I’m enjoying the sort of thing this other dad was hoping for… one of the things that does blow my mind a bit is that the way dad makes space for mum to be mum is also there in how he now lets me be me… I say some relatively outrageous and provocative stuff when I channel the red sock thing, but I never doubt for a second that dad will be there supporting me, championing some things, listening to others, being proud right back at me. I suspect the older-younger dynamic in systems like the Presbyterian Church that have structured themselves to avoid violent inertia always advantages the ‘older’… you could, if you were ‘the system’ never listen to a younger voice, you could have the sense that your time to be influential has finally come, but dad hasn’t done that with me, and he hasn’t done it with others. He’s spent his time this year encouraging others… especially young blokes planting new churches. Though perhaps again this is the fruit of his labours… if you invest your time in changing the system, and training and equipping  young blokes to love the Gospel (and a 22 minute sermon where the Gospel is clearly communicated), maybe when you listen to them they end up saying stuff you’re happy to listen to… even if they don’t get the significance of Paul’s pronoun use.

What happens when you put all this stuff together in real life, under the sovereignty of God, are some pretty great things, for our family, for the church families dad has been part of, and for the denomination (and beyond)… that again, I’ve taken for granted, or appeared to, but, hey dad! I noticed (I’m sure others have too). Thanks for all of this. I’m proud of you, I love you, and I’m more and more ok with it when people say I’m a bit like you.

Happy 60th birthday dad!*

 

*Oh yeah, dad isn’t 60 for another couple of birthdays, but I thought I’d get in nice and early.

 

 

Book Review: Saving Eutychus

Disclaimer/Disclosure statement: The authors of this book are people I know well. One is the principal of the college I study at, Queensland Theological College. The second, if the review process could be any more daunting and personal – is my father. The advice in his chapters is advice I’ve grown up hearing, and seeing applied – though I haven’t been a member of a church that Dad has preached at for 8 years. I received early chapters of this book to proof read, and I didn’t do a very good job of that. I read them. But they seemed fine to me. The book also contains the following paragraph…

Phil and Louise are the parents of four adult children— Nathan, Jo, Maddie and Susie—and they are now learning the art of grandparenting (even though they insist they’re much too young). Nathan’s popular blog www.st-eutychus.com inspired the title of this book.

Which is nice – because as Gary was keen to point out – I don’t really own the copyright on Eutychus…

You can, in the absence of the book actually being released, check out some sample chapters and stuff on savingeutychus.com.


 

The Review

The disclosure should make it obvious that I’m going to have a hard time being objective here – I’m also going to have a hard time coming at this book as though half the chapters are at all novel. This isn’t new to me. It’s bread and butter. It’s how I’ve been taught to preach from my first talk, to a youth group, when I was 16. In many senses it’s how I was taught to write. It’s also how I’ve been taught to preach at college. I think it’s a good model. It meshes with what I know about communication from my profession.

One of the first things you notice about this book, appropriately, is the number of, and caliber of, the guys endorsing the book.

I could tell you this will revolutionise your preaching – but really I have no idea what it looks like to not have some of these tips running through my head, so instead, I’ll focus on some of the bits that I really liked, and let you read it and make up your mind for yourselves when it comes out.

There’s a nice humility underpinning the approach of this book – from confessions about being naturally boring, to constant reminders that preaching isn’t about us. In fact, the very message of the book takes most of the emphasis on the preacher out of the mix, except for this fundamental responsibility at the heart of the book…

“Gary and I are not approaching this book as experts on preaching that keeps people awake. But we are convinced that when attention wanders and eyes droop, it’s more often our fault than our listeners’.”…

Saving Eutychus doesn’t just mean keeping him awake. It also means doing our best to keep him fresh and alert so he can hear the truth of the gospel and be saved. If we have done our job, we will stand up on Sunday ready to deliver a sermon on a Bible passage that we have wrestled with and that the Holy Spirit has begun to apply to our own hearts and lives.

Preaching is God’s work, and any authority the preacher wields comes from the text of the Bible. It’s a nice reminder that no matter how charismatic our personalities are, no matter how engaging and witty we can be as we speak – preaching is ultimately reveals God, points people to Jesus, and relies on the Spirit to be hammered home.

Gary’s answer to this dilemma is prayer.

“Gradually, we seem to be losing sight of the fact that God uses weak and sinful people, and that he uses them only by grace. Yes, we may sow, plant and water—but only God gives growth. That’s true in your local church and mine. It’s also true of every podcast and ebook and conference address under the sun. God doesn’t use people because they are gifted. He uses people (even preachers) because he is gracious. Do we actually believe that? If we do believe it, then we will pray— we will pray before we speak, and we will pray for others before they speak. It’s that simple.”

One of the nice things about the book is how honest both authors are about their own struggles in preaching – and their own lives in pastoral ministry that is preaching driven. There are excerpts from real, recent, sermons, to support some of the practical tips, and plenty of rubber hitting road anecdotes to illustrate how each chapter might be applied.

The chapters are relatively evenly split – Gary does the “theology” stuff, Dad does the practical, but the dichotomy isn’t carried out cleanly the whole way through – both are free to enter the other’s turf, so Dad is “theological” when it comes to how you think of the big idea, and Gary is practical when it comes to how you make real changes in the light of some theological insights.

Dad’s bits are shaped by years of trying to communicate better, driven by a gospel motivated (and personality motivated) perfectionism that I’ve inherited in certain areas – his chapters are the result of constantly assessing what you’re doing and questioning why you do it that way, and how you can make it work better, and be less painful, for your listener. Gary’s bits, are, as you’d expect if you know him, thoroughly Trinitarian, almost devotional (in a refreshing way and substantial way), reference Jonathan Edwards a few times, and are laced with really nice insights that’ll challenge the way you think about church – not just preaching, in a section on encouraging your whole church to pray for preaching he drops this Hanselesque breadcrumb:

“The growth of home groups is, I think, a really good thing, but it doesn’t come without a cost. In my experience, the cost is that the ‘prayer’ part of the home group is always weaker than the study part. The net result is that we pray more for my Aunt Nelly’s next-door neighbour’s friend’s daughter than we do for the proclamation of the message of Jesus. (And it’s not that my Aunt Nelly’s next- door neighbour’s friend’s daughter doesn’t need prayer—I’m arguing for both/and rather than either/or.) So, again, it’s just worth checking—is there a dedicated time during the week when people gather specifically to pray for our core business?”

I’ve been part of bible studies at five churches now, and I’m thankful for the way each have taught me to read the Bible and apply it to my life, but this rings a bit true – normally it’s the newest Christians who are the most passionate prayers when it comes to the core business of spreading the gospel.

Gary spends some time on the dangers of manipulation, and while it’s a really valuable reminder – I’m left wondering where “persuading” – openly, rather than underhandedly (manipulation) fits, but no matter how the cake is baked – the conclusion is worth eating…

“The key to preaching, then, is to make the message of the text obvious. Help people to see it and feel it. Help people to understand the text. Paul is talking about what I would call ‘expository preaching’, in which the message of the text is the message of the sermon.”

But this is a great way of making sure the authority of a sermon is resting in the right place – God’s revealed word.

One of my favourite bits of preaching advice from Gary is this, as a rookie preacher it has been really helpful for me thinking through what I think the “big idea” of a bit of the Bible is and how I might frame it appropriately.

“Expository preaching happens when the message of the text = the message of the sermon. Or perhaps better, expository preaching happens when the vibe of the passage = the vibe of the sermon.”

I could go through this book and keep cherry picking out the bits I like, but that might mean you won’t buy the book, and while my inheritance isn’t riding on it, you know, there’s enough self-interest there on my part to want you to buy it, as well as the belief that the book is really helpful – because it’s hard not to be if you think this is the goal of preaching:

This approach ensures that your preaching will be both predictable and unpredictable. It will be predictable in the same way that the Bible is predictable. At the core of our preaching will be the same message—what God has already done for us in the Lord Jesus Christ.

His chapter that covers doing this well from the Old Testament has been helpful for me, in lecture and chapel sermon form, and it’s nice to have it fleshed out more than I might have managed in blog post form in the past. The chapter includes a really helpful discussion of Biblical Theology and “trajectories” that link the Old Testament to Jesus, to the New Testament, to us…

The book’s format is helpful – chapters contain nice chunks of supporting material, be it passages from the Bible, passages from sermons, anecdotes, or helpful theological and pastoral reflections, and they’re rounded out with nice practical tips, lists, and summaries to help you remember and apply. The conversational tone between Gary and Dad within the chapters (they share a pulpit at Mitchelton and have had a chance to see each other in action for the last year) means the switch between voices is natural rather than jarring, they play nicely off each other’s strengths and weaknesses.

It’s interesting for me how many of Dad’s tips are very similar to how good corporate communication happens – it needs to be clear, as geared to your medium, as concise as possible, repeat your key messages, be based on some sort of authority (data in my case, the text when it comes to preaching), and for people to listen it needs to be about people.

“Take a look at the front page of a newspaper sometime. Are interest rates rising? Then you’re almost sure to see a photograph of an affected family. Graphs and statistics can come later. The journalist’s rule is this: if there are no people, there’s no story. So populate your preaching with real people. Use people-based illustrations and people-based application. Where you can, talk about real people and real situations, instead of just talking about abstract ideas. Typically, I’ll scour the newspaper, internet news sources and TV for fresh material. Incredibly, there always seems to be something useful. Of course, if the story involves a member of your congregation then you’ll need to ask permission first.”

This paragraph from Dad comes with a very important caveat in the footnotes:

“In fact, even if it’s about one of your kids make sure you ask permission first! Being a pastor’s kid carries enough baggage without growing up in church where everyone can recite the ‘cute stories’ of your childhood.”

I’ve found this has been incredibly true in the age of the Internet and a “digital shadow” – when my mother-in-law googled me when I started dating Robyn, she found a bit of one of Dad’s sermons that opened “Nathan Campbell has lost his shoes”…

The book covers stuff like pulling a text apart, spoken delivery, receiving critique, putting a talk together – which includes something like a Director’s Cut/commentary version of the sermon manuscript from one of Dad’s recent sermons on Acts. And then, to finish off nicely, there’s a sample critique from Dad, and from Gary on a each other’s real sermons.

I really liked this book, I obviously heartily endorse it, and you should buy at least three. As I was reading it I was pretty thankful – thankful that I’ve been shaped the way I have by a father who wants people to know the ultimate father, shaped to love the gospel of Jesus, and want people to hear it unhindered, and hopefully shaped to be self-aware of my myriad faults and my constant desire to make preaching all about me. This book is a useful reminder for me in that ongoing challenge. And it makes me thankful that in the last few years I’ve been taught at a college by guys of Gary’s caliber (and the caliber of the other members of faculty). I have much to be thankful for, especially the gospel, and the privilege of being a fellow worker in the ministry of the gospel, as a preacher with training wheels on. There’s that old saying about new generations standing on the shoulders and I’ve never felt that more tangibly than when I read a book that spells out so clearly what I’ve been blessed to assume as natural by guys I know. But as impressive as I think those guys are, and as thankful as I am for both of them, it’s the gospel that’s really impressive and powerful to change hearts, not them, not me – but the God who revealed himself in Jesus and his word, who changes us by his Spirit.

AACC Liveblog: Who is “you” and who are “we” – Phil Campbell

This is a proud moment for the Campbell family. The first academic paper to be presented by any of our line for eons, possibly the first ever. Dad has had this idea germinating for some time, so I’m really proud to be sitting here listening to its presentation.

A precis of the argument goes a little something like this:

In Pauline epistles, particularly Galatians, Ephesians, Philipians and Colossians, Paul deliberately employs the pronouns “us” and “you” to distinguish between Jewish Christians (us) and Gentile Christians (you). Commentators have suggested this might be a stylistic alternation. Which doesn’t make as much theological sense as reading the letters as addressing Jewish and Gentile Christians in different passages.

He’s following DWB Robinson, who in 1963, suggested that Paul used “the saints” to refer to Jewish Christians.

Paul consistently uses “we” or “us” language to talk about past bondage to the law. Galatians 3 is a key passage where this reading makes sense. There are plenty of corroborative passages where the language switches from you to us when Paul starts talking about the law. This doesn’t go the other way (from us to you).

Paul more often uses “you” to talk about being foreign to God, or not knowing God, being worldly or uncircumcised.

Passages with a we/you parallelism read better read in this light.

Galatians 2:15 provides an interpretive key “we who are Jews by birth,” while Ephesians 2:11 says “you who are gentiles by flesh.” There are a couple more instances of each of these distinctions.

So who are the saints?

All Christians? Spiritual beings?

After surveying the gospels, Revelation and the Epistles, Robinson found that the use of the term refers to Christians, and particularly Jewish Christians, and mostly the Jewish Christians in Jerusalem.

Robinson on Colossians 1:

“This means that we have an inheritance which ‘you‘ have been counted worthy to share. And ‘we‘ are ‘the saints’.

Robinson suggests the flow of Paul’s logic is:

  1. We, the saints, have enjoyed the blessings of God’s covenant fulfilment in Christ.
  2. You, the Gentiles, have been invited to join us.
  3. Now we, together, are united in Christ

Ephesians 1-2 Case Study

Paul spends chapter 1 claiming the privileges of Jewish Christians. The key comes in verse 12 “we who were the first to hope in Christ.” Paul develops a parallel between the Jews and Gentiles in 1:3-12 and 1:13-14. As a result the Gentiles are to have love for the saints (v 15).

The same logic and contrasts continue in chapter 2. You Gentiles were dead in your sins (2:1), we Jews were also dead (2:4).

In Ephesians 2:6 Paul fuses the two together into one category – using the same prefix on the verbs “made alive,” “raised,” and “seated” (the prefix translates as “together”).

Implications

This idea has some implications for some pretty major doctrines.

  1. Predestination – If Ephesians 1’s “we” refers to the saints of Israel being elected before creation where does that leave us?
  2. A new approach to Christians and the Law – Our position with regards to the previous efficacy of the law (or lack of position) rarely comes into consideration because we often read the OT as Christian prehistory.
  3. A fresh insight into the Spirit – Reading 3:14 and 4:6 in parallel suggests that the role of the Spirit post Pentecost is linked to the Gentile mission.
  4. A need to nuance “every member ministry” – The popular notion of “every member ministry” built on Ephesians 4:11-12 needs to be reconsidered in this light.
  5. A revised view of the Old Testament as Christian prehistory – we don’t need to see ourselves in terms of the struggle of removing ourselves from the curse of the law (our problem, as slaves to sin, was deeper).
  6. A revised Old Testament hermeneutic – Our desire to identify with Israel rather than the gentile nations (like the Philistines) might be misplaced.
  7. Evidence for common authorship of Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians – you may not be aware, but a bunch of academics don’t think Paul wrote these anymore – this theologically consistent use of the pronouns throughout these epistles suggests common authorship.

How to not bring up bitter ministry children

Mikey has posted helpfully on work and rest in ministry recently (while Al posted on play, generally). Mikey’s “ministry as lifestyle” framework is pretty on the money I reckon. But someone in this picture has to think of the children (he did respond (as did his wife) in the comments on that post with some wisdom).

I like claiming to be an expert on things based on my own personal experience. I’m not claiming to be unique here, just claiming that I have a possibly relevant insight as the “son of a preacher man” – if I can’t reach you, then what hope do you have? My dad is a minister at a fairly successful church, he would also somewhat unfairly be described as a (possibly reforming) workaholic. Both he, and my mum, invested their time pretty heavily into their ministry. It’s taken quite a few years for them to appear comfortable taking holidays (and now they can’t get enough of them – they’re currently blogging their way through Europe). I am not bitter, though I can’t speak for my sibblings, in fact I’m in the process of entering the family business… So if you’re in ministry and you’re asking “how do I get my kids to grow up not hating me for making sacrifices for ministry” then this might be a post for you. I don’t want to endorse everything my folks did, nor paint them as perfect parents the nature of raising a headstrong lad like myself meant there were plenty of “interesting” moments. But here are some things they did that I think were helpful (and some things I would change).

  1. Make sure your children know the eternal importance of the Gospel – this is a bit of a given, but it will help them to understand why you (possibly) gave up a much more exciting and lucrative career in order to tell people about Jesus. Frame it as a job of eternal significance. As a little kid there’s nothing cooler than thinking your parents are doing something as cool as the guy whose dad is a fireman or rocket scientist.
  2. Read the Bible together – I’m pretty sure mum and dad test drove some of their Sunday School material on us (including, if I remember our little Bible/craft folders they made for us – the Bible in Ten Easy Lessons/King, the snake, and the promise).  You want your children on board (especially as kids) and other kids will inevitably ask them hard questions running around after church.
  3. Everybody is looking at your family as standard bearers. Everything from the clothes they wear, the shows they watch on TV to how much they know is an area of comparison. And they’re fully aware that this is happening. Other kids tell them. It was my fault that my friends couldn’t watch the Bill, and I was used as a justification in another friend’s campaign to watch the Simpsons. Make it clear to your children that you don’t judge them like other people do, and discourage this paradigm.
  4. Involve your children in your ministry – ask them for feedback, listen, take their ideas on board – two of my proudest moments as a child are suggesting a lolly jar in church, and spotting something significant (a comparison between Psalm 23 and the feeding of the 5,000) that dad used in a sermon (with attribution). Developing some sort of sense of involvement (though a balance) is useful.
  5. Try not to talk about them too much – either in the context of your parenting, or in illustrations where they look silly. For a long time if you googled my name the top result was the text of one of dad’s sermons that said “Nathan Campbell has lost his shoes“…
  6. Make sure your children understand pastoral sensitivity – if you practice hospitality it’s likely your kids will overhear stuff they shouldn’t (especially in a small house with thin walls), or be involved in awkward moments. Don’t leave these unexplained – and make confidentiality a big deal.
  7. Encourage your children to get involved with their own ministries as they get older, let them know that this makes you proud. Don’t ever take their participation in church stuff for granted. Encourage them to participate as members and as leaders, and let them know that you like that they do.
  8. Be available – while your children will no doubt want to take advantage of your presence (probably for games of table tennis) take advantage of the fact that you work from home and recognise that your flexible hours free you up to say yes to doing some fun stuff during the day. Particularly do things that allow for conversation. Talk about theology stuff, answer questions, that sort of thing. This is one of the greatest privileges of being a preacher’s kid – you’ve got your minister on tap.
  9. Give your children access to visiting speakers who are staying with you – access to your own father is a plus, but access to a network of incredibly gifted guest speakers for your own post-event question time is without doubt one of the things I’ve appreciated most. I’ve shared a room with Chappo. I’ve picked the brains of guys like Mike Raiter, David Cook, and dad’s contemporaries, and once I played a game of table tennis with Leigh Trevaskis.
  10. Try not to make sacrifices on your children’s behalf in every area – One of the things I am the most bitter about is how frugal some decisions my parents made were (they once bought me brown shoes and black shoe paint for school – saving $5 on a pair of black shoes and forcing me to paint them fortnightly). For a long time, I attributed this to the terrible pay ministers get, in hindsight we probably sacrificed in some areas so that we could do extra-curricular stuff like sport and music… which has turned out to be pretty valuable.

On the whole I reckon mum and dad maintained a pretty good balance, we always had food on the table and the assurance of their love. In less lucid and more emotive moments I probably felt a bit ripped off by how much time (and other stuff) their ministry took away from me. But the more I understand point 1 the easier that is to forgive. It’s easy (as a kid) to watch how much time your parents are spending solving other people’s problems and how little they’re spending on yours. So I think it’s pretty important (as a parent) to know what’s going on for your kids and remember that they’re members of both your church and your family.

On for young and old

I subscribe to Dinosaur Comics. I read them most days. I find them vaguely amusing about 60% of the time and laugh out loud amusing about 2% of the time.

Today’s comic, and the associated diatribe about the way old people handle stories about young people and technology made me laugh. The story it’s responding to is this one about a young guy who used an updated Facebook status as an alibi. You can’t get that from the comic…

But the associated editorial spells it all out…

But as that article goes on, it slides deep into “oh man OLD PEOPLE STEREOTYPES” territory. Joseph Pollini, who otherwise sounds awesome because he lists “hostage negotiation” as his primary area of expertise, says that teenage HACKERS could have posted that pancake-centric Facebook update to Rodney’s profile while posing as Rodney at his home computer, while Rodney was actually out busy robbing at the time – which, you know, is possible? But it’s not very likely, and it takes some knowledge. No problem, says Joseph! Teenagers are really good at internet, because “they use it all the time”. “They [teenagers!] could develop an alibi. They watch television, the movies, there is a multitude of reasons why someone of that age would have the knowledge to do a crime like that.”

ABC Radio up here in Townsville has an amusing weekly segment with a local lady in her twilight year (how do you say “old” in a politically correct manner?). Last night she was talking about kids and their fat thumbs that come from an insatiable desire to play the latest greatest games.

I think future children are going to be playing the games their fathers give them. The old old generation miss the point that the new old generation embrace technology the same way the new new generation do. Though I suppose there’s a difference between the way even my youngest sister approaches technology and the way I do.

Mark Driscoll, when he was in Australia, made a comment about faith – one generation wholly owns it, the next accepts (or assumes) it, and the next denies it. I think technology works in reverse.

Let us, for a moment, take a look at my family as a case study…

My dad was a classic early adopter. He was an electrical engineer which put him at the front of the curve when it came to developing computer technology. So far at the front of the curve that he wrote a book about one of the first computers. This, through a variety of circumstances detailed in that link, led to a lifetime of early adopting. His generation (and to be kind, the one before it) built the computer industry.

This in turn meant that I grew up experiencing a heap of new computer products and games. I think I wrote my first assignment using the Internet (CompuServe) in 1994. It was about Rwanda. It was, on reflection, possibly the best assignment I ever wrote (except maybe for the self help guide to writing self help books).  I like technology. I use technology. I find technology incredibly useful. I think, though this hasn’t really been tested, I could function without it.

My generation benefited greatly from the work of the generation previously – and many of us (not me) are now internet millionaires and billionaires because we missed the first dot com boom and caught the second. We are also a generation of hackers and pirates who believe technology should work for us, not us for it.

Meanwhile the next generation down couldn’t really live without it. Lets take little sister number three as an example. I suspect if I stole her mobile phones (that’s right, plural) she’d go into meltdown. She can correct me if I’m wrong.

Her generation have grown up immersed in technology – some of them have one mobile phone with a bunch of different SIM cards based on who they want to call on free deals. They have adopted a new, and very stupid language where words substitute numbers for letters and acronyms and initialisms flourish.

I’m friends with some of her friends on Facebook. And they’re all like “OMG, OMG!!! I’d totally die without my phone? I totes* need to update my Facebook Status with every meaningless thought” and “where’s my pancakes?”… though that’s sans punctuation including apostrophes. Because they don’t know how to use them.

Her generation, well, they write viruses that carry popular internet pranks onto the phone handsets of many of my generation’s geeks. Those people running around with unlocked iPhones.

I don’t know if there’s a point to this diatribe. Except perhaps to highlight how silly it sounds when any generation talks about the next generation without completely understanding where they’re coming from. People older than me didn’t grow up with computers – though they design the computers and the software that I like to play with… To bring in another topic altogether, this is like music. Young people think anyone about ten years older than them must be out of touch with their music and what’s cool – and yet they’re all listening (with the exception of Jonas Brothers fans) to music made by people ten years older than them.

I think it’s sad when people my age are excited by the prospect of seeing Britney Spears (who’s two years older than me) in concert. Don’t they realise she’s just a vacuous example of our generation? Why aren’t they listening to Radiohead or someone respectable.

The other area this whole generation gap expresses itself in is fashion. I want to know if I’m going to suddenly start dressing like an old person – or if what I wear now, or what others of my generation wear now, will suddenly become old person clothing at some point. I can’t wait for vintage vintage T-Shirts to be the clothing of choice for vintage people. As someone who grew up wanting to find grandpa shirts in op-shops I sense some sort of irony in people buying the t-shirts I wear now in op-shops in twenty years. All in a bid to be cool and authentic.

That is all.

*Totes is an actual quote from several of the next generation’s statuses. It’s a dumb word. It means totally. This is the generation gap at work people.

Wave goodbuy?

I scored an invite to Google Wave thanks to Chris – though his blog is defunct and linking to it seems cursory at best.

It seems to be one of those products that will be good once it gets to a critical mass. There’s only so much fun you can have talking to your dad with both of you saying “is this working”…

Once people are using it to collaborate and share files and stuff it’ll be good.

It will just be dangerous if you accidentally type something in one wave that’s meant for another and the person you’re waving to sees it before you delete it. Typing comes up on the screen in real time. Without you needing to submit stuff.

That has the potential to be more embarrassing than reply all.

The interface is really nice and clean, and fairly straightforward. I’ve been flying blind – I haven’t watched any of the video tutorials yet – and so far it has been fairly simple to work out.

If you’ve scored a wave invite you can find my gmail address right at the bottom of the page.

The father of all links posts

Ah, another week, another post chock full of links from the narrow sector of the world wide that I like to call the blogosphere.

I thought I’d get a little bit geographically specific with this little link edition. Just to give you an idea of the spread of blogs that I read (that you should too). This is by no means comprehensive – but here are some of the homes of regular commenters, people I know, and people I reckon you should discover (along with some choice posts from their sites).

Right-o. Lets go.

Starting with those in my own neck of the woods – the Townsville scene… (in no particular order). 

  1. Tim – doesn’t post often and when he does it’s usually a YouTube video.
  2. Leah – is the Andrew Bolt of the North Queensland Christian blogosphere, or perhaps the Tim Blair. She also covered North Queensland’s lost and found saga this week where a local lad from a local church went missing in the bush, and was found a couple of days later.
  3. Stuss – has picked up the pace a little, though most of what she’s saying is about gardening and decluttering. Which is fine. Because both are good things.
  4. Phoebe – hasn’t really said anything for 21 days. I just counted. But no list of bloggers from Townsville would be complete without her.
  5. Joel – if Leah is the Tim Blair of the Townsville blogosphere then Joel is the Piers Ackerman.
  6. Carly – is an education student and gives some interesting insight into the female psyche with pieces like the one she wrote last week about Oprah.
  7. Chris barely posts enough to rank a mention. But he’s a blogger. In Townsville. So he sneaks in.

If you’re in Townsville, and I’ve missed you, let me know in the comments.

Moving south, here are some of the notables in Brisbane…

  1. Kutz – I mentioned his new endeavour last week. It’s been trickling along. I’m sure more comments from nice friendly readers would keep his motivation levels up.
  2. Tim and Amy – The same could be said for these two. They’ve kept a pretty steady pace and you should go over, read what they have to say, and say hello.
  3. Simone – well, I’ve talked about her blog enough for you to know what goes down over there. She gets a prize for being the third blogger to mention my dad* this week. Her little piece of speculation about narrative in the new creation was interesting enough to get my hippocampus firing today.
  4. Will Henderson – gets the prize for being the first to mention dad*, and also for being the first Acts 29 affiliated church planter in Australia – a story that apparently hadn’t received all that much coverage before I mentioned it the other day (based on some posts like this one from Jeff Attack)… check out the website for his upcoming plant. Unfortunately it’s a bit grungy. And we all know how I feel about grunge.

Now, on to Sydney. The city of my birth and home of many good blogs.

  1. Izaac is back from a holiday and taking on the challenge of posting about Christian love and social justice.
  2. Ben celebrated his birthday yesterday – and I promised him a link. Then he posted a story about how the Governator has the Conan sword in his office – that I was all set to feature in my next little string of “Curiosities” posts.
  3. At the fountainside Soph asks the important questions about train etiquette – something we’ll have to (re)familiarise ourselves with next year.
  4. Ben (of the Bathgate variety) lists five things that made him tough(er). I score one on his list.
  5. Dave Miers managed to scoop Mikey Lynch by posting an interview with Andrew Heard, one of the Geneva Church planting crew (another post on the network from Dave), before Mikey could wrap up his series of similar interviews with church planting figures (including Will Henderson and Al Stewart).

Mikey (from Tasmania) was also the second person to, somewhat vicariously, mention dad this week because his name came up in one of the posts from the aforementioned series of interviews.

It has also become apparent – from what Andrew Heard said on Dave’s blog and what Al Stewart said on Mikey’s – that the Geneva portmanteau was only a vicious rumour, and that the name is actually a reference to Calvin’s work in that city. Which is a good thing.

And to conclude, here are my favourite ten posts from my blog this week (including bits from Robyn and Benny).

  1. Benny on Ministry
  2. Robyn on Grammar (PS – you should all encourage Robyn to blog more – she needs some comment love…)
  3. Good bad haircuts
  4. Bad relevance
  5. How to pick a cafe
  6. Cool stuff to do with your photos/iPhone
  7. Tips from a guru (my dad – since he’s the flavour of the blogosphere these days…*)
  8. The one about being wrong.
  9. The one about yawning.
  10.  The one about being a PK, and the follow up about being a PK being a bit like being Harry Potter.

* I should point out that these constant mentions of dad being mentioned are a mixture of patri-pride and because I think it’s slightly funny that he feels a sense of discomfort about being in the spotlight. It’s not because I think he’s super special (though he is). And if you want to join the fan club here’s the video I made for his 50th.

Tips from a guru

There’s a lot of buzz going around about church planting at the moment. You’d have to be living under a rock to have missed it.

Will Henderson is planting the first Acts 29 (Mark Driscoll’s movement) church in Australia. He’s a Pressy. He’s from Brisbane. He’s got a blog.

Until now I hadn’t thought it worth mentioning. But today he interviewed my dad.

He got the scoop with dad’s top three tips for church planters.

1. Work really, really hard at clear bible teaching. This is the foundation. As a planter you will be tempted to take shortcuts in this area, my advice is to do the opposite. Spend up to three days a week focusing on your teaching and do it really well.
2. Do everything else as well as you can. Doing this affirms your commitment to number one.
3. Love people, but be firm and apologise freely.

Here are dad’s bottom three based on my experience having assignments proof read and hearing him rant at my mistakes (especially point two).

1. Avoid run on sentences, run on sentences are two sentences in one without a full stop in between.
2. Make sure your lines are straight – nothing says “sloppy” like a poorly folded bulletin, or a sign with letters out of alignment.
3. Keep it shorter than 23 minutes. Nobody likes to be bored. Especially your wife.

Separated at birth…

This probably isn’t the most flattering thing I’ll ever write about my father.

But, in watching the West Wing again I am further struck by the often eery similarities both in distinguishing features and facial expressions between dad and Toby Ziegler. There are lots of things that aren’t similar. But sometimes it’s just scary.

I’m just saying…

Why Redeemer Lives

Justin Moffat (another one of my favourite bloggers – his series on things he’s learned about preaching is worth a read) has a list of ten things he observed about Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church during his time in New York (where he worked in a church plant).

Here are my favourite bits from his list:

3. Redeemer seeks to ‘exegete’ the city. They ‘walked the streets’ early on to breathe in and consider the needs, drives and fears of New Yorkers. They didn’t generalise, patronise, or assume that they knew the needs before they began their project. But when they decided, they were specific.
5. They assume that people can be involved in a ‘service project’ (Mercy Ministry) without sacrificing their commitment to the Gospel.
6. They speak in church as though new people and not-yet-Christians are always present.
7. Tim Keller is positive, insightful, and a good example of the new apologetic. He has clearly identified and articulated certain ‘defeater beliefs’, and he systematically goes about answering them.

It’s a useful reflection – though doesn’t touch on the whole theology/idolatry of the city issue (though he teases a future post on the matter in the comments.

I was going to mention this the other day – but didn’t – but dad paid Redeemer a visit once upon a time during a whirlwind visit of the states – and wrote this useful article about Missional Churches (PDF) (back in 2004 before it the buzzword reached zeitgeist status) – he also wrote something about Redeemer that I can’t find on his old, abandoned blog (again in 2004 before blogging was cool – isn’t he such a trendy/geeky dad) … but I’ll keep looking.

Reality bytes*

Video games these days are so much more fun than they were when I first picked up a console controller. I can’t remember which came first – the NES or the CD TV – it’s all a bit of a blur. Having a father with a casual gig writing games reviews had its perks. Actually, it must have been a NES. Unless the Vic-20 counts as a console…

It did, from memory, plug into your TV… in fact, as a delightful tangent – I should point out that Dad’s game reviewing gig came after he wrote and published this book – unavailable for GBP4.95 from The Book Depository – for those of you who aren’t link clickers it was called “Beyond Simple Basic – Delving deeper into your Vic-20”. Seriously, with a father like that what chance did I have of not turning out as a geek.

Anyway, that’s a significant digression from my original point – but the Vic-20 was an 8-bit machine, so it’s tangentially related. My point was – games are now better. And I’m going to suggest that graphic violence is what makes that so. So it warms me to the cockles of my heart to see this Flickr set – of 8-bit characters rendered beautifully and experiencing graphic deaths. Here’s the demise of a Goomba – cleverly titled Goombash…

There are plenty more where that came from. Including this Pac-Attack…

* the title is only vaguely clever if you know that there are 8 bits to a byte. I have actually always wondered why 8-bit machines weren’t called one byte machines. I might have to look that up…

Funniest home videos

I spent last Saturday morning going through some old family home videos ahead of dad’s 50th birthday (on April 12). I have to edit them down into a nice little family video production. Dad has set the video production bar pretty high – as you’ll see on his design4church blog. Here’s the MPC promo video for this year’s “Rechurch” theme…

Oh the shame. My parents recorded some very cruel things that will no doubt come back to haunt my two sisters who have not yet celebrated 21st birthdays. Tomorrow I will resume this task.

I wonder if there are ethical problems with posting videos of your younger siblings doing embarrassing things on YouTube without their consent and many years after the fact?

Would it balance it out if I posted skeletons from my own closet? Like the matinée performance of my starring role in our fifth grade (at school not a comment on quality) musical performance of Oliver.

Sermonising

I’m writing my sermon for Sunday in Google Docs. It’s on 1 John 1:1-4.

Here’s the Google Docs analysis of what I’ve written so far:

Counts Selection Document
Words: 3815
Characters (no spaces): 16912
Characters (with spaces): 20720
Paragraphs: 82
Sentences: 524
Pages (approximate): 5
Readability Selection Document
Average sentences per paragraph: 6.39
Average words per sentence: 7.28
Average characters per word: 4.43
Average words per page: 763.00
Flesch Reading Ease: [?] 84.78
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: [?] 3.00
Automated Readability Index: [?] 3.00

That’s the formula (from this test) that gives a readability level of 3. I guess that’s good. It’s probably not helped by the number of sentences. I write punchy sentences for sermons. I also speak naturally at about 160 words a minute (that’s the broadcast standard for journalism) – but should slow that down. At that pace this sermon should go for about 23 minutes.

Here are the stats on the passage itself:

Counts Selection Document
Words: 103
Characters (no spaces): 433
Characters (with spaces): 535
Paragraphs: 1
Sentences: 5
Pages (approximate): 2
Readability Selection Document
Average sentences per paragraph: 5.00
Average words per sentence: 20.60
Average characters per word: 4.20
Average words per page: 51.50
Flesch Reading Ease: [?] 78.33
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: [?] 7.00
Automated Readability Index: [?] 9.00

I think it’s a good thing that my sermon is more simple than the passage right? Shouldn’t an explanation be easier to understand than the thing you’re explaining? Otherwise it would be pointless.

Out of interest I pulled one of dad’s sermons off the MPC website and ran a comparison.

Counts Selection Document
Words: 3032
Characters (no spaces): 12835
Characters (with spaces): 15893
Paragraphs: 58
Sentences: 276
Pages (approximate): 4
Readability Selection Document
Average sentences per paragraph: 4.76
Average words per sentence: 10.99
Average characters per word: 4.23
Average words per page: 758.00
Flesch Reading Ease: [?] 82.04
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level: [?] 5.00
Automated Readability Index: [?] 4.00