Starting at a new church // Journal of a Magnification Pastor // Michael Morrow

How do you lead people you’ve never met? How do you grow a culture when you’re the newest kid on the block? How do you gain people’s trust when they’ve seen staff come and go for over 40 years? I’ve just started a new job in a church that is over 150 years old. There’s a lot of tradition, and some of the people here have been coming for longer than I’ve been alive. Everything I’ve read on leadership tells me I need to take time getting to know people, and listen—really listen—to what they have to say. That’s hard. It’s so much easier to do what I know will work, what I can do well, what has been tried and tested in the past. But I’m drawing on my past, not theirs. And we need to work out a future together. I need to listen.

But listening isn’t enough: I also need to lead. At some point I will have to say to the teams here: ‘This is the right way, and it’s the way we’re going to go.’ I’ll need to rely on God’s guidance, and what I’ve learnt from the Scriptures and my experience. And I’ll need to make a call. If I’m praying lots, and I know my Bible well, and I’ve been learning from my past mistakes, then it will be the right call. But here is the delicate point: will it be the right call for this church? That’s why I need to listen and take my time. I’m currently three months in, and there’s a real temptation to feel like I should fix a whole bunch of issues. ‘But three months is just a drop in the ocean!’ I hear you say. ‘It’s just a tiny square on the calendar of your life!’ You’re right, but it doesn’t feel that way when you’re in the middle of it.


How do you lead people you’ve never met? With patience.

Finding rest (pt 1) // The Journal of a Magnification Pastor // Trevor Hodge


I've just returned from a few weeks leave from my Magnification pastor role. Three weeks of no calls, messages or emails (if you haven't checked out inbox pausing, you need to!). The rest was palpable. And what I felt more than anything (especially now being back in the thick of it again!) was some relief from the constant pressures of 'this coming weekend'.

Our ministry as magnification leaders is inherently ongoing and incomplete. Our work will never be 'done' until Christ comes again (and even then...but that's a thought for another day...!) Come Monday, or attention must be looking towards next weekend...and the next...and the next...

But this constancy sits sits side by side with the concern that each particular gathering is significant. Hopefully we all are convinced of how encouraging it is when we meet together around Christ. Our gathered times of sitting under God's Word, serving one another, singing and sharing are so important to remind us of the gospel, reorient our priorities and equip us to live out our worship 24/7 in joyful faith, obedience and sacrifice.

And we also should rightly have a concern for those who might join us who are not yet followers of Jesus. Their presence with us on the weekend may be the cumulation of months...even years...of encouragement from their friends and families. We want their first impression of church to be one that is compelling and positive...that they might want to come back again.

So with this constant pressure inherent in our roles, there's a danger we need to be constantly aware of - the danger of looking to completion as the way the pressures or anxieties that come with our role will be relieved. Here's how it sounds in my head..."Once we've got ____sorted...then I'll be able to find some rest."

There always will (and should be!) more coming. So if we're banking on a break from this, holidays will be a taste of relief, but they won't be the answer - its all there when you get back again! We must be able to find rest in the midst of work that is inherently ongoing, and always eternally significance.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
My salvation and my honour depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.”
— Psalm 62:5-8

Don’t look elsewhere - to completion, or approval (or holidays!) - for what only Christ can provide. In the midst of your ministry, and in the midst of anxieties and pressures that come with it, come to him again and again for rest.

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
— Matthew 11:28-30

BOOK OF THE WEEK // ‘Recapturing the Wonder’ by Mike Cosper.

I had the privilege of hearing Mike present on this book at Doxology & Theology Conference in the US last year and immediately I was hooked. Don’t be thrown by the title. This is not a ‘get more disciplined and read your Bible more!’ kind of book. Rather, Cosper goes to the core of why we have lost ‘wonder’ about God in the first place - our cultural obsession with reason and rationality. How can we live a life of faith in such a world? Cosper gently, convincingly, and often humourously reopens the reader’s heart to the absolute transcendence of our God - a God who operates in His own beautiful and perfect ways in His own beautiful and perfect time. That is, in ways and with timing that reason and rationality can never pin down. And that is the unseen economy that we, as believers, have been lovingly welcomed in to. This is the perfect read to start the year. Be prepared to have your spiritual outlook and your heart transformed as you read this magnificent book. //
Greg Cooper
#worship #theology

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BOOK OF THE WEEK // ‘You Are What You Love’ by James K.A. Smith.

So much of modern life assumes that we are what we think. Get the thinking right, and behaviour will follow. Church life is no different, with much of our ministry energy geared towards shaping thinking above all else. Smith skilfully argues that while thinking is important, the heart may be more powerful in shaping behaviour than we give it credit for. Perhaps what the heart loves, the will chooses, and the mind justifies. As Smith says, “Christian essentially counterformation to those rival liturgies we are often immersed in, cultural practices that covertly capture our loves and longings, miscalibrating them, orienting us to rival versions of the good life. This is why worship is the heart of discipleship. We can’t counter the power of cultural liturgies with didactic information poured into our intellects...The orientation of the heart happens from the bottom up, through the formation of our habits of desire. Learning to love (God) takes practice.” I can’t overstate how pivotal this book has been in shaping my thinking on corporate worship. Grab a copy and be ready to highlight a lot! // Greg Cooper
#theology #worship

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BOOK OF THE WEEK // ‘A Diary Of Private Prayer’ by John Baillie.

In our leadership of corporate worship, it all has to start with us, and our own relationship with God. Every single day. This devotional from Scottish theologian John Baillie was first published in 1936 and draws on rich and evocative language (think the Pslams!) to allow us to see both our own neediness and God’s beauty in wonderfully fresh ways. As the very first prayer in the book says, “Eternal Father of my soul, let my first thought today be of you, let my first impulse be to worship you, let my first word be your Name, let my first action be to kneel before you in prayer.”
At times in recent years when I have not been able to find my own words to pray, I have so often relied on Baillie’s. What a gift he and this book are to the church. I can’t recommend it highly enough. // Greg Cooper

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BOOK OF THE WEEK // ‘Encountering God Together’ by David G. Peterson.

Praise God for David Peterson and his tireless academic work in the area of corporate worship. His seminal work ‘Engaging With God’ lays the groundwork for a biblical paradigm of worship in which we approach God in worship on His terms, not our own. ‘Encountering God Together’ - a more popular level book - applies much of Peterson’s thinking to the context of the gathered church. What is really going on when we meet as God’s people? How should we think about encountering God through his Word? And edifying one another through song? David argues that as we gather, “God ministers to us, and we respond to God as we minister to one another.” If we really believe this is what’s going on, then the practical implications for church life are significant, as the book outlines. We were privileged to have David speak at the Team Pastoring Conference in 2017, and we are deeply thankful to be able to continue learning from his wisdom and insights. // Greg Cooper

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BOOK OF THE WEEK // ‘Mountains of the Mind’ by Robert Macfarlane.

Something a little different this week... Language matters. Language shapes thoughts. Language shapes reality. And church leaders are in the business of using language well and creatively to help shape hearts and minds. So this book - about the history of mountaineering - is, in my view, a masterclass in the use of language to convey concepts of grandeur, majesty, and glory. “Great height gives you greater vision: the view from the summit empowers you. But in a way, too, it obliterates you. Your sense of self is enhanced because of its extended capacity for sight, but it also comes under attack - is threatened with insignificance by the grand vistas of time and space which become apparent from a mountaintop.” As I have read this book, I have felt challenged to always search for a better word, and to think about how I can share God’s holiness and glory with more creative language. I hope you might be challenged likewise. // Greg Cooper

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BOOK OF THE WEEK // ‘Resounding Truth’ by Jeremy S. Begbie.

I first heard Jeremy Begbie speak on the theology of music around 10 years ago. It was a cold winter’s night in a small lecture room at the University of NSW. To my surprise, this gifted academic was also a concert pianist. He paused his lecture every few minutes to illustrate his spoken word through musical ideas on the keyboard. 
And this book is no different. Begbie explores the beautiful interplay between theology (the study of God) and music as a depiction of the Creator. Exploring the ways that harmony and melody can orientate our lives to God, he argues that “the most basic response of the Christian towards music will be gratitude... None of it had to come into being. But it has, for the glory of God and for our flourishing. Gaining a Christian mind of music means learning the glad habit of thanksgiving.” // Greg Cooper
#worship #jeremybegbie #resoundingtruth

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Muscle Memory and the Christian Life

Muscle Memory and the Christian Life

Greg Cooper

Earlier this year, I sat in Rod Laver Arena watching the Australian Open tennis. Normally, it's one of my favourite things to do over summer. But not this day. The temperature in Melbourne was 39 degrees Celsius, and about 50 degrees Celsius on court.

The New Year's Narrative

The New Year's Narrative

Greg Cooper

As I prepared to lead singing at church on New Year’s Eve 2017, I was already experiencing ‘that New Year’s Eve feeling’. The one that involves a mental narrative of questions: Did I even achieve anything this year? How will I improve on who I am next year? How will I focus on my goals more next year? And for the Christian – will I be any more godly next year?

Song selection - meals and diets

Song selection - meals and diets

In some ways, thinking about song selection is like thinking about preparing a meal - but how often do we take the opportunity to step back from the 'meal by meal' urgency and take time to consider our longer-term diet of singing?

Dinnertimes and discipleship

Dinnertimes and discipleship

Trevor Hodge

Whether we’re intentional about it or not, lives and characters are being formed.  We rehearse the priorities and values that will become natural and second nature in our lives

Excellence, Servanthood and the Wedding Reception Dancefloor

The question should not be whether or not we choose to do things with excellence. Instead, the question should be: to what ends, and for who's glory, will our excellence and skill serve?