Email Fatigue

It seems like email has become a bit passe of late. Have we become bored with email? Or i think more likely irritated by its frequency in our inbox? An email these days is as likely to elicit a response as the phone going at dinner time (which we all know is either a telemarketer or someone calling to tell us our computer has a problem).
Speaking of the humble phone – whatever happening to Hey-tel – it also seems to have become relegated to a thing of the past. It was perhaps the beginning of the end being a kind of halfway house between email and using the phone.
If we really want something done or require an instant response today then shock horror we may actually have to speak to someone in person.
I just hope that after so many years of facebooking and tweeting and emailing we haven’t forgot the art of conversation.
Check out the following quote – it seems that NZ are lagging behind…

“Americans are suffering from “email fatigue.” At least that’s the take away from a new study from marketing service provider Implix, which found that Americans are one of the least likely groups to open emails worldwide. ”

i wonder what the stats might show now?

Unfortunately for some of you – you have already stopped reading because you have what social media commentators are calling “blog Fatigue”

next week it’ll be back to writing telegrams!


28 days later (+ 2)

How time flies…i knew it had been a while since i last posted but where did that month go? The end of the financial year happened, which for me is a busy time with my involvement with our accounts, I preached on the 1st of April (no joke) and life just seemed to get crazy busy.

But the world goes on…or does it? Sometimes it just isn’t worth watching the news on T.V. What passes for being top news in NZ is pathetic. In general I think anything to do with Politics should be confined to the entertainment section of the news, news about the monarchy could be left out altogether, world news articles taken from NBC, CNN or any other American based broadcast or station with three letters except the BBC, should include subtitles that actually explain what is going on without all the spin and the weather should be visual with no irrelevant comedy acts from the weather presenters.

Which basically leaves local news and sport. By the time we take out any sports item involving Sonny-Bill or Dan Carter, sports would be reduced to five or six minutes and if we do the same with local news – that is remove any item involving cute animals or ACC then our entire news broadcast could be 10 minutes.

I could save the networks millions of dollars and I haven’t even started on the ‘pretend to be investigative journalism’ of Mark Sainsbury and John Campbell.

So do i watch the news? Yes I record it and watch it on fast forward – takes 15 or so minutes – give it a try!

Palm Sunday – our response

(A message I gave on April 1st – though having read it again this morning the live version was slightly different, so for those of you who heard it, this edition may not contain some asides, deviations, ad-libs, rabbit trails etc )

Opening slide with Genealogies title

Our response to Jesus.

Good morning

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Shannon. I am on staff here at Gateway and i look after the finances, internship programme and have just begun to look at our connect group area as well.

As you can see we are going to cover the most riveting of topics this morning.

Actually we aren’t – most of you will know that today is April Fools day so i thought i’d just give you all a little scare.

What I would like to explore with you this morning is the importance of days. We are in the midst of some important days in our calendar right now. Significant days.

Slide with real title – Palm Sunday

Today is Palm Sunday. It is not something that is acknowledged in non-liturgical traditional churches that much but it is a significant day.

Let’s take a look at Matthew 21 where we find a description of what transpired on this day.

Powerpoint of below scripture

1-3When they neared Jerusalem, having arrived at Bethphage on Mount Olives, Jesus sent two disciples with these instructions: “Go over to the village across from you. You’ll find a donkey tethered there, her colt with her. Untie her and bring them to me. If anyone asks what you’re doing, say, ‘The Master needs them!’ He will send them with you.”

4-5This is the full story of what was sketched earlier by the prophet:

Tell Zion’s daughter,
“Look, your king’s on his way,
poised and ready, mounted
On a donkey, on a colt,
foal of a pack animal.”

6-9The disciples went and did exactly what Jesus told them to do. They led the donkey and colt out, laid some of their clothes on them, and Jesus mounted. Nearly all the people in the crowd threw their garments down on the road, giving him a royal welcome. Others cut branches from the trees and threw them down as a welcome mat. Crowds went ahead and crowds followed, all of them calling out, “Hosanna to David’s son!” “Blessed is he who comes in God’s name!” “Hosanna in highest heaven!”

10As he made his entrance into Jerusalem, the whole city was shaken. Unnerved, people were asking, “What’s going on here? Who is this?”

11The parade crowd answered, “This is the prophet Jesus, the one from Nazareth in Galilee.”

This act by Jesus was truly significant. For those who took part in the parade they knew exactly what was transpiring before them. This was Jesus again confirming that he was the promised Messiah, the king. For those in the crowd they realised that something important was happening but they did not know exactly what.

The authorities response was one of wanting to silence the parade

The challenge for each of the groups was the question “what next?”

Powerpoint slide- what next?

And the question remains the same for us today – what next?

There are a number of responses to a significant event.

The first is ‘so what?’

Powerpoint slide so what

The so what response can come from different angles.

The first angle is one of a lack of understanding. For some who looked on Palm Sunday they did not understand what was transpiring. All they saw was a strange man riding on a scruffy donkey.

They did not read the signs. Late last year Don did a series on semiotics , reading the signs.

Powerpoint slide below scripture

1 Chronicles 12:32 From the tribe of Issachar, there were 200 leaders of the tribe with their relatives. All these men understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.

Ignorance is something we should not be accused of. As followers of Christ we are called to be aware of the times and signs that surround us. Not in a spooky, look for the end times Armageddon style of things but in a way that we are open to seeing significant moments in our lives.

Don and Karen are in LA right now taking a conference on ‘end times’. One of the reasons they asked Don to speak on that subject was because of the hysteria and mixed messages about the world ending this year on December 21st because of what can allegedly be derived from looking at the Mayan calendar. Whilst the contents of Revelation are indeed hard to understand and i certainly don’t claim to know what on earth it is all about, we are called to meditate on the word and try and discern with the help of the holy spirit what is means for us today – yep the question ‘what next?’

When we fail to understand something it is easy to have the same response as some of the crowd, so what?

There are many ‘so what’ responses in the Bible to significant moments. Judas is one who though he was party to Jesus’ most intimate moments, responded with so what. Think about the things he saw and experienced being a close member of the pack. He saw Jesus heal hundreds of people, he saw Jesus turn water into wine yet when it came to his life his response was so what. His desire to serve himself overrode the significance of the time.

He consciously chose to shut them out of his sphere and mind. Was ignorance at play in Judas’ case? Maybe it was but i find it hard to believe that after spending so much time with Jesus that he just didn’t get it.

I guess this is what i am talking about when i said ‘so what’ can come from different angles. So what can be an ‘indifference’ choosing to ignore the implications of a situation, or it can be one of genuine lack of understanding.

I don’t think Jesus has a problem with us genuinely not understanding.

Powerpoint slide below scriptures

James 1.5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Give me understanding, that I may keep Your law; yes, I will observe it with my whole heart. Psalm 119:34

Behold, You desire truth in the inner being; make me therefore to know wisdom in my inmost heart. Psalm 51:6

With the aged [you say] is wisdom, and with length of days comes understanding. But [only] with [God] are [perfect] wisdom and might; He [alone] has [true] counsel and understanding. Job 12: 12-13

So i think that’s fairly clear  – if you don’t know then ask.

Another response we can have to Jesus is what would you have me do?

The rich young ruler is the man who uttered this phrase as he came to Jesus asking what he must do to enter the kingdom of heaven. This was a significant moment for him but what was his real response to this event? That’s right his inner response was ‘that’s too hard’. The cost was too much. The actions required of him were more than he could comprehend. So the advice of Jesus fell to the ground heard but not acted upon.

I wonder how many people on Palm Sunday saw the parade, asked someone what it meant and asked the question what should i do? I wonder how many when they were told that they were to leave what they were doing and follow Jesus responded in their hearts, it’s too hard or it’s too much.

When it comes down to it cost is always a big factor in deciding just what out next course of action will be.

Let’s look at someone who had to risk paying a cost.



Esther, the cost of speaking to the King could very well have been her life. She had a choice to make, knowing the cost . her initial response was the same as the rich young ruler, it’s too much, it’s too hard. But over time, she began to weigh the cost and the cost of not acting became too much as well. If Esther had not acted then and there it would have most likely meant the extinction of her own race.

It got me thinking what if people in our history had said it’s too much or it’s too hard rather than choosing to pay the cost.

What if those men and women who went to war for us had said that? What if martin luther king jr had said that, what if joan of arc or nelson Mandela had said it’s all too hard or what if jesus of Nazareth had said it’s too much.

It doesn’t bear thinking about does it. I don’t want to sound like these are easy decisions because i don’t believe they are but i do think it is up to us to make the most of our significant moments.

The othe party in the mix on Palm Sunday were the rulers and authorities of the day.

And some of the Pharisees from the multitude said unto him, Teacher, rebuke thy disciples. And he answered and said, I tell you that, if these shall hold their peace, the stones will cry out.

(Luk 19:39-40)

What was their response?


Powerpoint slide be quiet


The Pharisees did understand what was happening. They just didn’t want to accept it. If anyone should have known what was going on then it was them. They were well versed in the scriptures. So their response to Jesus was to try and minimise the effect he was having.

Before we get stuck into them it might pay us to examine our hearts when it comes to the noise that God can stir up. Sometimes when God is moving or let’s say entering into a situation we are involved in, it can be noisy, it can be messy , it can be like a parade and disrupt everything around it, drawing others attention. I think it is almost a human reaction for us to want to tone it down a little, not too much exuberance, not too much noise.

Our response can be not now God, or perhaps not in that way Jesus.

I have spent a bit of time talking about how not to respond so it’s only fair that we quickly look at how best to respond when God encounters us.

Ephesians 5 15-17 tells us to

15 Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, 16 making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. 17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is.


So how do we make the most of every opportunity.

I think the first thing we can do is to remember our encounters – mark them in some way. It’s easy to have a ‘conference’ moment of ecstasy and then carry on like nothing has happened. You all know what i’m talking about don’t you. It’s the time when you go to a conference, get all fired up, have an experience with God, resolve to change or do something and then Monday comes and the conference mos’ well not have ever happened.

I want to show you three short video clips. Three events that if you were alive you will remember.

3 videos – moon/9/11/diana

Who remembers where they were on these days cue video. Moon landing (30 secs), 9/11 (45seconds) diana death
(42 seconds)(5 minutes total?)

When major events happen in our world strangely a large number of us can recall exactly where we were and or what we were doing. But how many of us can recall so many details about our encounters with God?

We read time and time again in the old testament about how Moses built altars every time something happened, as did Saul and Joshua.

Obviously we are probably not going to go out the back of our property , gather some stones and construct an elaborate altar – although i am sure it could be fun.

So i am going to suggest something that i am a total failure at!

Journalling… yep – you’ve heard it before. Keep a journal. I think i have heard it at least a couple of dozen times and do you think i can do it.

Actually if i were to pile up all the journals i have started and never continued with i could make a pretty decent altar.

Only once have i kept what could be considered a successful journal but then i read back over it and found it so depressing that i have never really captured the motivation to do it again.

But for me this is a classic example of do as i say and not as i do.

Obviously writing something down is a good thing to do – whether it be in the traditional form of a journal or some other creative form like this polystyrene cone. We made these cones last year for interns. I was actually looking for polystyrene bricks  but hey we made do with cones. On this cone are words and phrases that represent significant days/ encounters in my life. Maybe that might work for you –


Once we have recorded /remembered then we must ask the question i posed a the very start of the message.

Powerpoint slide what next God?

What next God?

This is the hardest question because it requires us to listen not only with our ears but with our hearts also. The answer may be something we don’t wish to hear.


It might be like the answer that follows not long after Palm Sunday. An answer that outlined that jesus would die and be raised three days later. Jesus used the metaphor of the temple to explain it to his disciples but they did not catch on at all. It wasn’t until after the fact that it dawned on them that jesus was talking about himself. Maybe they didn’t want to know, maybe it was just too cryptic for them – who knows.

Whatever the answer may be our challenge is to do something with it – don’t just write it down and leave it for the silverfish to move in.

For some people palm Sunday happened and nothing changed for them – don’t let that happen for you.

Powerpoint slide KONY 2012.

A lot of you will know what kony 2012 is about  – you may have seen the video or heard about it.

Now i know that there are some questions and controversies surrounding the organisation and its founders but the issue does remain that there is injustice and we are responsible.

This video has had 86 million views as of Thursday last week. It has been shared on Facebook , written about on blogs, talked about on the news.

If Kony 2012 is a palm Sunday event for you then let it change you, don’t just share it on facebook, don’t just like it or watch it on youtube. Let the message change your heart, your behaviour, your attitude to injustice.

Today on this palm Sunday when we are encountered by God let our response be What next Lord?


Powerpoint slide what next god?

The power of Sport and the Simon Doull Mask

Over the past few days i have spent some time among those who gathered at Seddon Park to watch the second cricket test between South Africa and New Zealand.

Now i am not one to go to the cricket to socialise, i am far more inclined to sit with my headphones on and not talk to anyone but the friendliness of those who come to watch makes that a hard prospect.

For the three days that the test lasted i sat with a couple from Palmerston North who had travelled up the country to watch the sport they loved. Each day we met under the same tree, discussed the cricket, among other things and said goodbye at the end of each day.

We were joined by others, three older men, South Africans, who were probably much happier with the result than we were but nevertheless shared a commmon passion for Test Cricket. The second day we were joined by an englishman who readily identifies himself as a kiwi and a new conversation began. We found out his wife is due with their second child in early September, runs an early childhood centre and that he is a big fan of Doctor Who.

Sport has the power to break down social and nationalistic barriers. People are happy to acommodate others when you are all there for the same reason. It’s no problem to squeeze another chair under the tree when you all share a love for the game.

Over the three days only one incident stood out as incongruent to the general nature at the park. A groups of creative but seriously inebriated young men were escorted from the ground. Their Simon Doull masks were well-made, their way of smuggling alcohol into the ground was ingenious but the behaviour that followed drew the attention of the security and police and inevitably led to them leaving.

It becomes obvious to all around when someone or a group of someones is pulling in a direction that the majority aren’t. They make more noise, they draw attention to themselves, they are the one person not wearing green on St Patrick’s Day in an Irish pub.

That can be both good and bad. If it is the status Quo or an injustice that is being challenged then that’s all good but when that group are just plain misguided or wrong then sooner or later the inevitable will happen and the very arena in which they wished to have their voice heard will become off-limits to them.

Shame about the cricket.

The Power of Social Media

WARNING: A rant follows that aims to change the way you think. Beware the power of the blog – the pinnacle of social media!

This week we have witnessed just what power social media has, but I can’t help but wonder if it is really a ‘weapon of mass destruction’. I won’t even attempt to hazard a guess as to how many views the Kony 2012 campaign has managed by the time this post is published. But I can have a guess as to how many people will do anything aside from watch it and feel hatred for the man. – The answer, very few. You see social media does well at distribution but scores poorly when it comes to action.

Our culture thrives on the emotions evoked when we have a cause to ‘get involved in’ but the numbers that actually take any action betrays the general apathy and selfishness that pervades us. Many will say “well I shared the link, I’ve done my part” and for some that will constitue ‘getting involved’ but I ask you; this is not the first time Invisible Children have released a video to draw attention to the plight of Uganda, It hasn’t worked before and the odds of it working this time are equally as remote. Until social media can mobilise  – yes that means move (read action) people then all it will achieve is a groundswell of words and posts on facebook and the like. It will be like a WMD – seemingly threatening but with  no real power to change the status quo.

I watched as the inevitable counter-arguments surfaced after the inital honeymoon period for the video wore off. Out came the accusations of corruption in the very charity that is trying to put a stop to Kony, and from what I can ascertain, the accusations seem plausible; but that is not my point. If we can distance ourselves from having to take action then we will. Sometimes that will take the form of discrediting the most obvious path to action, sometimes it will look like the ol’ “well others are helping – they’ve got it sorted” or the perennial, “it’s just too big a task for me to be able to make a difference”

When something truly affects us, we will be moved to action. The corruption of our own hearts betrays us. In the end most of us are in it for ourselves.

Let’s try and remove all the hype, politicking and populist rhectoric and get real with ourselves. Let the plight of others and the social injustices of this world touch our hearts and instead of just sharing a link on facebook – find a path to action.

Ironically this very blog is a great example of what I am getting at. Many of you will agree with my thoughts, some won’t. Some of you will share it, others will read it and move on. I hope that maybe some will make a decision to embrace the thoughts and ideas and do something with them.

But I know me, so I know something of you, until it affect me personally i will remain blissfully unmoved – how about you?

The art of asking questions

The Art of Asking Questions.

For those of us who lead primarily discussion-based groups, the art of asking the right question is vitally important. We all know those awkward moments when the set of questions we have spent so much time crafting is met by a simple yes, no and the conversation is over in five minutes thirty seconds.

What can seem like great conversation starters often elicit ‘pat’ answers and don’t draw the attendee into the realm of sharing on a shallow basis let alone exposing their heart to the group. So how can we get people to feel comfortable about answering questions?

The following suggestions are taken from a site designed for student ministry I have adapted them for our purposes.

  1. Think through the questions ahead of time (and I would add, think through the questions that your topic might cause others to ask). Try to eliminate questions that can easily be answered with a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’.
  2. Ask questions that are easily understandable and use everyday language. How many times do we ask a question only to find that the next ten minutes are spent by people trying to clarify what we meant by the question?
  3. Use your imagination. Find ways to ask questions that stimulate people’s imagination. Something visual can open up new ways of looking at things and sometimes allow people to answer questions in different ways.
  4. Maintain eye contact. Looking down at your notes is unlikely to encourage others to jump in, they will instead wait for you to carry on with your notes.
  5. Don’t settle for the ‘correct’ answers. If someone does give you the ‘pat’ answer then press them for details. We all know the right answer but what do we actually mean by them or do we even believe them?
  6. Tension is good. Don’t be scared of disagreements or diverging opinions. Obviously it is important to manage these well. Some personalities will just argue for argument’s sake, however when pressed you may find that they don’t actually believe what they are saying.
  7. It’s okay to say “I don’t know”. If you don’t know the answer that’s fine. It is a great opportunity for others to jump in and give their opinion. It also avoids the trap of people becoming reliant on you as their “leader” with all the answers.
  8. Be focussed. Keep everyone on track. Rabbit trails can be fun but they are often mired in trivialities that whilst interesting, may just be a way of someone avoiding having to answer a pertinent question.
  9. Answer first. You set the bar for the level of sharing that will occur. Early in your discussion model what you want, hopefully others will follow your lead.
  10. Seek multiple answers. Even if the first person who answers covers the majority of the topic at hand, ask others for their response. This will stop one person dominating the group.


I hope you find these helpful. If you would like the original document, I am happy to scan it and email it to you. Let me know.


Alpha and modern-day evangelism

Yesterday i spent my Saturday listening to Jonathan Hesp, the National Director Of Alpha. Alpha has been around for more than two decades. It is a course based on teaching the foundations of the christian faith to both those who believe and those who don’t.

Whilst the format has changed over the years from VCR to DVD, the message remains the same.There is much i could expand on regarding content and the influence and reach of the course but what perhaps struck me the most was that only 11 people were in attendance & of those 7 came from one church from outside of Hamilton.

For me the questions and thoughts go like this…are we not concerned about reaching the lost anymore? Are we too cynical about running programmes? Have we become so ‘post-modern’ that we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater and are afraid to ask people what they might think of Jesus in case they disagree with us?

Of course they will disagree with us…but that should be okay, at least we are engaging in conversation. Today people like to talk about what they believe in and contrary to what most of us christians think they are actually quite okay about us not sharing the same beliefs as they do.

One phrase that stayed with me from Saturday. is to not say no for people, this tied in closely with inviting people. It is so easy to say no for someone else, especially when that ‘no’ lets us off the hook.

The power of an invitation is unmeasurable and let’s face it, the worse case scenario is a ‘no’. Perhaps it is about time that we realised that we have something to offer people. Whether you want to call it hope or acceptance or grace it doesn’t really matter, the main thing is that we take the plunge and give people a chance to receive that which we already know.

A course like Alpha is a tool – it makes it easier for us to progress after the invitation but regardless of course or no course, relationship will always be the opener for conversation. Our challenge is to open our mouth and our hearts and let God do the rest.