Feel Like a Fool? All Good, God Chose the Foolish Things

Have you ever left a comment online taking a stand for Jesus, only to return an hour later to a barrage of criticism? Or sat in the lunchroom listening to someone unleash on the evils Christianity, not knowing how to respond? 

It’s a common experience. Standing for truth in the public square comes at a cost. Go against the flow of mainstream ideas and you’ll rarely find favour for your faithfulness—more likely you’ll be made to feel like a fool.

If that’s you, then hear the words of 1 Corinthians 1:27. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong.”

“Standing for truth in the public square comes at a cost.”

This is so counterintuitive that it sounds almost ridiculous to our modern ears. God chose the foolish things?

Maybe a contemporary illustration will help. In recent years, billions of people have avoided the mainstream hotel industry to take advantage of AirBNB. They’ve found cheap accommodation in other people’s homes and even made money from their own.

Likewise, Uber has turned regular cars into taxis, to the advantage of passengers and upstart drivers alike. Both of these ‘disrupter’ companies, as they’ve been called—and now dozens of rivals—have upended conventional markets.

“You and I, as followers of Jesus, are ‘disrupters’.”

And here’s the thing: when Uber and AirBNB were struggling to get off the ground, the corporate world probably peered down from lush offices above, scorning them as foolish—if they even noticed. But fast forward a decade, and these companies have sent corporations broke and reshaped entire industries from the ground up.

This is the vibe of 1 Corinthians 1:18-31. You and I, as followers of Jesus, are ‘disrupters’. Here’s the meaning of this passage: A foolish message shared by foolish people is exactly how God has chosen to save the world.

A Foolish Message | v18-25

The gospel is a foolish message. We’ve made the cross a very tame, middle-class, domesticated symbol. We’ve forgotten that it was a symbol of shame and slaughter in the first century.

Imagine a small, golden electric chair dangling from a necklace. Or an atom bomb depicted in a church’s stained-glass windows. Or a noose hung high above a sanctuary altar.

Are you shocked by these suggestions? If so, then you can empathise just a bit more with those who’ve rejected the gospel today. Many scoff at the thought that a crucified Saviour is the hope of the world. The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. (v18).

“The gospel is a foolish message.”

The reason so many see the gospel as foolish is because it confronts the idols in our culture. In Paul’s day, The Jews wanted power. They were waiting for a leader who would liberate them from the Roman Empire. They weren’t expecting a crucified Messiah: to them, that was weak, and it made no sense.

And likewise, the Greeks wanted wisdom. They were looking for the world’s greatest orator or philosopher—someone to rival Plato or Aristotle. They weren’t interested in a shabby carpenter from a backwater province of the empire.

So what does God do? Does he give the Jews and the Greeks what they want? No, he decides to offend everyone. He gives the world Jesus. God in the flesh, hanging on a cross.

“It’s a message to make every culture stumble.”

Jews seek signs. Greeks seek wisdom. In our day, millennials seek image. The middle class seeks comfort. Religious people seek rules. Irreligious people seek autonomy. But we preach Christ, and him crucified, Paul says (v23).

It’s a message to make every culture stumble. With the gospel—with this one simple message—God confronts every sub-culture’s idol. All of our false gods. All of our false salvations.

The gospel declares that the only thing we can offer God is our brokenness. Only then—only when we confess our sins, our weaknesses, and our need for Jesus—can we be saved (v21). This is why the gospel seems so foolish to so many.

Foolish Messengers | v26-31

Not only do we bear a foolish message—we ourselves are also foolish messengers. This is what Paul means when he says, “Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth.” (v26).

Paul uses the word ‘foolish’ five times in eight verses. In the Greek, that word is moros, from which we get the word moron. In case you missed it, Paul is essentially calling us morons.

Yes, it’s encouraging when rich and powerful Christians use their platform for Jesus. But we shouldn’t hang our hopes on this. Fame, prestige and political power have never mixed well with the church. And that’s never been God’s plan to save the world anyway.

“Paul is essentially calling us morons.”

In his mission to bring redemption to this planet, God’s plan is to use really ordinary, average people. Fools. Morons. Us.

It’s confronting to realise that the average Christian today is extremely poor, and is part of an oppressed minority group, living somewhere in a rural or outer urban city in Africa or Asia. They’re the world’s forgotten people.

This might sound kind of gloomy, but only if we’re thinking in a worldly way. In fact, “God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are.” (v27-28).

“God’s plan is to use really ordinary, average people.”

In other words, with God, you don’t have to be strong or powerful or religious or rich or intelligent or spiritual or anything. You just have to be willing.

God uses the little people. God is with the underdog.

From the very beginning, the church has been most effective when it has been a prophetic voice on the margins of society. This is where we thrive. This is where we’re most at home.

“God is with the underdog.”

That’s where Jesus was in his day. It’s where the early church was when Paul wrote this letter to the Corinthians. It’s where we believers in the West find ourselves in this cultural moment.

A foolish message. Foolish messengers.

If sometimes you’re embarrassed by the Christian message, that’s a good thing. Society around us elevates wisdom, intelligence, and brilliant philosophies. But God has chosen the foolish message of the cross to save the world.

If sometimes you feel like a fool as a Christian, get used to that. It’s a good thing. It should feel normal. The world elevates people with power and strength and noble birth. But God has chosen to use foolish messengers like you and me.

I’ve got some big writing and travel adventures planned for 2019. If you’d like to stay updated every once in a while by email newsletter, let me know here.

The Year in the Jungle That Changed My Life

When I was 19, I made one of the biggest decisions of my life. I moved to the jungles of Indonesia.

If you know me now, that may sound like the course my life was always going to take. Let me assure you: it was anything but an inevitable decision at the time.

My mate, whose parents were working for an NGO there, had been bugging me endlessly to visit, and I was more than content to ignore him. I felt no particular draw towards other cultures and certainly no interest in learning another language. Like a hobbit, I had everything I needed in my little shire and had no reason to leave.

“This was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

But then God spoke, and in a Jonah moment, I knew I could ignore him no longer. And rather than a visit, I felt compelled to commit to at least a year and see where it would go.

Over a decade later and I’ve just returned from my tenth trip to this remote region. I’ve now spent around two and a half years of my life in a place that has captured my heart and keeps drawing me back.

If you’re wondering what to do with your gap year; are at a crossroads in life; or are otherwise experiencing your own Jonah wake-up call, let me share with you why this was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

The Adventure of a Lifetime

I’ve always loved camping, but I didn’t know adventure until I lived on this tangle of tropical islands.

I could tell you stories of spear fishing and jumping down waterfalls, of high-speed midnight rides on a car roof (don’t tell Mum), of climbing one of the world’s most active volcanoes (four times), and of getting lost in the jungle for days—and fortunately, making it out alive.

If none of that excites you, I could tell you about the families who’ve hosted me in their dirt-floored, bamboo-thatched homes; stories of suffering and hope that I never imagined I’d hear first hand; and the incredible friends, young and old, that I now have a lifelong bond with.

Culture and Language

I recently heard it said that until you understand a second language, you don’t understand your own. I couldn’t agree more. And I’d say the same about culture.

On return from my first year in Indonesia, I had fresh eyes—an outsider’s view—on things in my own culture that I’d grown up taking for granted. I can’t quantify just how life-changing that has been for me.

In the best of ways, I now question the status-quo I see all around me, and more importantly, the mediocrity inside my own head.

And there’s another link between culture and language worth mentioning. Language embodies culture. When you learn one, you learn the other. Through language, you don’t just learn to speak like your hosts, but to share their values and their outlook on life so that it shapes your own.

Growth and Perspective

When I landed back in Australia, after spending some time with a friend, she commented that I went to Indonesia a boy and came back a man. Maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but I certainly grew a lot that year—not least in my perspective on the world.

Whether it was washing my own clothes each day with a scrubbing brush, tasting the most unusual cuisine from bat to snake to sago grub, or seeing the unparalleled joy of children in the face of abject poverty—there is something about living on the outskirts of civilisation that can only alter your view of almost everything.

I can no longer approach finances like I used to. Or my fears, or my friendships, or my faith. Years later and I’m still unpacking how my interactions with the amazing people of Indonesia have shaped me.

Future Possibilities

Too many people, even those still finishing high school, have been persuaded to focus far too much on CVs and career paths, salaries and ambition. Too few are concerned about the kind of person they’re becoming.

As you make these big decisions about your future, what grid are you using? If it’s comfort, status or security, let me challenge you beyond goals like these that won’t satisfy, and that aren’t particularly attainable anyway.

Let me challenge you away from the path of least resistance and towards the path of adventure, obedience and self-sacrifice—whatever that might look like for you.

Even if it looks like a year in the jungle.


The organisation I serve with in Indonesia welcomes with open arms western visitors who are willing to serve and get behind their vision of physical, emotional and spiritual restoration for the poor and marginalised.

They have a particular need right now for native English speakers to teach in the school (Reception to Year 8), qualified or otherwise. Please get in touch with me if you’d like to find out more.

How Judaism Points to Jesus

Israel. It’s bizarre that such a tiny nation somehow makes news headlines every week. I guess when you occupy the hottest piece of real estate on the planet, the whole world is going to have an opinion.

Today the media buzz is mostly about Israel’s injustices. But if you look back in history, there’s probably no people group that’s suffered as much injustice as the Jewish people. From slavery to exile to the 6 million Jews killed in the Nazi Holocaust, it’s a miracle they’ve even survived.

As Christians, we’re sometimes known for our suspicion of other religions. What if we got over ourselves and asked what we can learn from Judaism—and how it might point people to Jesus?

The Story of Judaism

Judaism is a religion, but it’s also a story: the story of God calling a man who became a nation that blessed the world. God made amazing promises to this ethnic group, along with a high calling to obey his laws in every area of their lives.

So in brief, God’s people obeying his law is what Judaism is all about. The only way for us to understand this faith is to join its central characters on a fascinating adventure through time.

T H E   C A L L :   A B R A H A M

In 1800BC, in today’s Iraq, an idol worshipper hears a voice from heaven: Leave your country and family, go to the land I give you, and I’ll make you into a great nation that will bless the planet. Abraham obeys, and he becomes the founding father of Judaism.

As part of this promise, God expects every male in the family to be circumcised: a peculiar reminder that they are God’s peculiar people—and that his plan of universal blessing will come through their offspring.

“It’s the story of God calling a man who became a nation that blessed the world.”

The promise begins to unfold: Abraham’s grandson Jacob or Israel has twelve sons (who go on to become the twelve tribes of Israel). Like most brothers, they don’t get along so well, and during a low point in the story, one of them called Joseph is sold by the others into slavery in Egypt.

But in Egypt, God turns the tables. Joseph becomes Pharaoh’s chief administrator and saves the region from a devastating famine. Starving and in search of food, his long-lost brothers arrive to a surprising and emotional family reunion.

T H E   C O V E N A N T :   M O S E S

The family settles in Egypt, and their numbers grow so rapidly that a new Pharaoh, feeling threatened, puts them under brutal slavery. But God won’t stand for this injustice, so he raises up a leader called Moses to set his people free.

At Moses’ word, supernatural plagues and storms ravage Egypt, but Pharaoh’s heart is hard like stone. So in a final showdown, God has each Israelite household cook a lamb and smear its blood on their doorframe: the firstborn in every house in Egypt would die that night, and God’s judgment would pass over any home marked with blood.

“God raises up a leader called Moses to set his people free.”

Egypt is left devastated, and Pharaoh, broken-hearted, lets Israel go. Through a parted ocean,  God’s people escape. Meanwhile Pharaoh has changed his mind, and in hot pursuit of Israel, he and his armies are drowned in the engulfing waters.

The nation is finally free. On their journey to the promised land, God makes a covenant with them. He gives Moses their national law or Torah, which will govern every aspect of their lives as God’s people. If they obey it, God will make them prosperous and secure, and the model of a wise and just society. If they neglect it, curses and exile are sure to follow.

T H E   K I N G D O M :   D A V I D

After a long journey camping in the wilderness, Israel finally arrives in the promised land. The twelve tribes unite to form a kingdom, and in around 1000BC, their greatest king comes to power. David is a warrior-poet with many faults—but he captures the holy city of Jerusalem, extends Israel’s borders, and leads the nation with a heart after God.

“Israel finally arrives in the promised land.”

God honours David’s faithfulness by promising him a dynasty that would last forever. From David’s line, God says that an eternal king or Messiah would come, ruling over a universal kingdom—and leading Israel to fulfil its God-given destiny.

In time, Israel builds God a temple. The Jews know God is everywhere of course, but this temple is God’s throne room where they can approach him to offer praise and sacrifices. One day a year, on the day of atonement, the most important sacrifice is made. Two animals are brought: one is killed, bearing the nation’s sin—the other is released into the wild, declaring their forgiveness.

“David is a warrior-poet who leads the nation with a heart after God.”

But this spiritual and political high doesn’t last long. Soon most of the nation, even its kings, are perverting justice and worshipping idols. God sends prophets to remind Israel about the blessings and curses of the covenant—but Israel rejects and kills them.

God has had enough: from the 8th to the 6th centuries BC, the empires of Assyria and Babylon invade and take the Jewish people into exile. It would be centuries before they’d return to their land to restore the nation and rebuild their ruined temple.

T H E   C R O S S   R O A D S

Even when Israel returns many years later, life isn’t like it was. The new temple is small—only a shadow of its former self. Promises of a glorious future for Israel stay unrealised. Foreign empires keep invading: in an act of desecration, a Greek king sets up a statue of Zeus in God’s temple, leading to a Jewish revolt. Then Romans invade with a huge military and heavy taxes.

During this bewildering time, Israel is at the crossroads. There are competing visions for what the future of the Jewish people should look like: retreat to the desert and wait for the end of days? Overthrow the Roman invaders? Meet them with a compromise?

“Promises of a glorious future for Israel stay unrealised.”

There was another option. A peasant from northern Palestine called Yeshua knew the Torah, taught people to love their enemies—and even worked miracles and healed people. Crowds followed him everywhere and some thought he might be the long-awaited Messiah. But Israel’s leaders knew better, and they had him crucified outside Jerusalem in AD30.

T H E   C O N T I N U I N G   H O P E

The solution would be found somewhere else. After the Romans destroyed Israel’s temple a second time, a group called the Pharisees rose to prominence with a vision for how the Jews should live while their temple lay in ruins: the focus must now turn inwards to personal purity.

This would set the path for Israel for the next two millennia. In that time, the Jewish diaspora has taken the Jewish people all around the world. Everywhere they’ve gone, Jews have gathered in local synagogues to pray, sing and read the Torah and other scriptures like the Mishnah to help them obey God and live pure lives.

“For Jews, festivals are a time to reflect on the hardships of their people.”

Today, synagogue creeds and prayers remind Jews of their membership in Abraham’s family, their need to confess sin, their confidence in the afterlife, and their enduring hope that Messiah will come and establish his kingdom in Israel. (For many Jews, this hope has looked more likely since the modern state of Israel was formed in 1948 in the original promised land).

Jews today celebrate many important events. Once a week they rest for Sabbath. Male infants are still circumcised. Jewish teenagers mark their coming of age with Bar Mitzvah. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the temple after its desecration. For Jews, festivals are often a time to reflect on the hardships of their people—and their ongoing hope in God’s faithfulness:

New Year | A sombre day when a ram’s horn is blown to remind the Jews of their need for spiritual awakening and obedience to God.

Day of Atonement | Without a temple there can be no animal sacrifice, but this is still a day when the nation seeks God’s forgiveness.

Feast of Tabernacles | Faithful Jews eat their meals in outdoor tents to remember their time of wandering in the wilderness.

Passover | A special feast is eaten to commemorate God passing over Israelite houses in Egypt and delivering them from slavery.

Pentecost | Many Jews stay up through the night to read and study the Torah as a celebration of the day God gave his law to Israel.

That’s Judaism. Today the world’s 15 million Jews are found in 134 countries, but around one third of them live in the modern state of Israel.

Judaism and Jesus

You need to squint to see Jesus’ fingerprints in other world religions, but his place in Judaism is explicit. Jesus was a Jew—he was part of God’s unfolding story of the Jewish people. In case you missed it, he was Yeshua, the one rejected and killed as a false Messiah.

For the Jews, that rejection has lasted two thousand years. But maybe Jesus is worth another look. After all, he came as a prophet to point Israel back to the covenant and God’s law. Like the Jewish people all through history, even killing Jesus couldn’t keep him down. He predicted his crucifixion in advance, and explained what it would achieve for Israel.

“Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s plan to bless the world through Abraham’s offspring.”

He said he was the passover lamb whose blood would protect them from God’s judgment; that he was the animal killed at the temple to bear the nation’s sin so they could go free and be sure of God’s forgiveness. Could the enduring absence of a temple since the first century be proof that Jesus was the sacrifice to end all temple sacrifices?

Jesus wasn’t just a descendant of Abraham: he also came from the line of David. He claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah that would lead Israel to fulfil its destiny. Yes, he was crucified, but he rose again and has promised to return to establish and rule over a universal kingdom—a dynasty that will last forever.

This is a promise he made to Israel. But it’s also a promise that he extended to all nations. It wasn’t just in his earthly life that crowds followed Jesus: today there isn’t a nation on earth where his followers can’t be found. Jesus truly is the fulfilment of God’s plan to bless the world through Abraham’s offspring.

“Jesus wants to lead the Jewish people with a heart after God.”

Even as Jews regather in the land of Israel today, there is still a sense that they’re a nation in exile, a people wandering in the wilderness. The wailing wall in Jerusalem is a reminder of this. There is no temple; today Israel is still just a shadow of its former self; promises of the future stay unrealised.

That day will come. But until his return, Jesus has a vision for how the Jewish people should live—he wants to help Israel obey God with lives of inward purity. He wants to lead them with a heart after God. He longs for Israel’s spiritual awakening.

The Messiah is here—one greater than Abraham, Moses, and David. And he has come to set God’s people free.

Thanks for reading! If you’d like to support my blog, please like it, leave a comment, and most importantly, share it on social media. To get new posts directly by email, scroll to the bottom of the page and subscribe.

Check out the rest of this series:

Buddhism  |  Islam  |  Hinduism  |  Atheism  |  Judaism  |  Pluralism


Dickson, John. A Spectator’s Guide to World Religions: An Introduction to the Big Five. Sydney: Blue Bottle Books, 2004, 85-131.

Secrets to a Thriving Young Adults Church

In high school I was shy and awkward. If you told me that one day I’d be discipling hundreds of young adults in one of Australia’s fastest-growing Baptist churches, I would have shaken my head in disbelief.

It turns out that God has a sense of humour. This has been my adventure for the last four years, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I talk to other leaders who feel discouraged in young adults ministry. Youth still in high school flock to events that are run well. But after they graduate and get their license, keeping them in a faith community is like herding cats.

“All of these secrets are totally counter-intuitive.”

It’s a huge challenge for me too. Any of my “success” I credit to the goodness of God. But there are also a few things I’ve picked up along the way—secrets that I think help our young adults community thrive.

All of them are totally counter-intuitive. So brace yourself.

#1 Give up trying to do so much ministry

Like most pastors, I nearly burnt out in my first year. Then I discovered boundaries and learnt the word “no”. I also lifted my eyes and saw a church full of talented young people.

As I began asking their help to get things done, I realised something deeper. Young adults come alive when you look them in the eye, name their giftings, and throw them off the deep end with the words “I believe in you”.

“I lifted my eyes and saw a church full of talented young people.”

Some weeks now I don’t touch a microphone. Other people preach, lead worship, run life groups, and oversee complex ministries. Out of this fertile soil more grassroots ministries spring up—some that are thriving before I even hear about them.

I’m still deeply involved in the life of the community. And I preach often, because that’s my main gifting. But my role has shifted significantly to discipling leaders, and helping them do the same.

“As I’ve had the humility to step down, I’ve seen others step up.”

This is a win for everyone, because if I’m honest, I’m actually not that good at most other things. That’s what all the other people in the body of Christ are for.

Too often, pastors are put on a pedestal. It boosts our ego, but the pressure is deadly. As I’ve had the humility to step down, I’ve seen others step up. And I’ve realised that’s precisely how disciples are made.

#2 Get rid of your best quality people

Right now—and most of the time—some of our best young people are off completing discipleship schools with YWAM or serving on the mission fields of South-East Asia.

When they come back, more will go. Every month we farewell people who join our church plant, or decide to serve at a different church, or who go overseas with a ministry we’re not connected to.

“Long ago, I decided that my goal isn’t to retain young people.”

If this sounds stressful, it’s because you’re not thinking like a millennial. After thirteen years of routine, young people want freedom. We want adventure without a guaranteed outcome—even without the guarantee that we’ll return. And just watch: out of gratitude for that freedom, most will return anyway.

Even if they don’t come back, it’s not a loss. Long ago I decided that my goal isn’t to retain as many young people in church as possible. That will only leave me frustrated. It’s like herding cats, remember?

“Millennials are drawn to this kind of permission-giving community.”

Instead, for the six months or the two years or the decade they are with me, I will pour my heart into discipling them as well as I know how. Then, wherever they go, they’ll be a blessing to others, and a benefit to God’s kingdom. And I won’t feel deflated.

Millennials are drawn to this kind of permission-giving community. That’s why you can keep sending out your best with the confidence that more will come and replace them.

#3 Tell them how hard it is to follow Jesus

Social media is a mirage telling us the perfect life is always just up ahead. The modern world tries to turn this dream into reality and sell us lives that are easy and pain-free.

The church has tapped into this project, and for decades now we’ve tried a seeker-sensitive approach. We hope that if we lower the bar of discipleship enough, anyone will step over it.

“We want purpose. Give us something worth dying for.”

But if you actually talk to young people today, they don’t want a low bar. We want a challenge. We’ve grown up with easy, and it’s boring.

We’ve also grown up with enough pain and mess to realise that the perfect life is a lie. We don’t want perfect; we want purpose. Give us something worth dying for—then we might have something to live for.

“We’ve grown up with easy, and it’s boring.”

Jesus is the answer to this cry. He calls us to die to ourselves daily. To put others first. To take up our cross of suffering and follow him. To live for a cause bigger than ourselves, greater than our comfort, more transcendent than the politics of our age.

Preach that, and young adults will come from miles away.

If you found this helpful, please go back and hit share or leave a comment. If you’d like to receive my blogs by email, scroll to the bottom of the page to subscribe.

For more ideas, check out More Secrets to a Thriving Young Adults Church.

Understand Any Book of the Bible in Ten Seconds

Have you ever read the entire Bible?

It’s a big book. To read it from start to finish takes about three days without a break. With so much to comprehend, it’s little wonder that literally millions more books have been written to explain and apply it.

“To read the Bible from start to finish takes about three days without a break.”

But in an age saturated by information, it’s no surprise that the most helpful resources are also the simplest. I’ve long thought that a resource should exist that explains every book of the Bible at a glance.

I’ve never found one—so I created one. I trust you’ll find these simple outlines personally useful and great to share with those new to the Christian walk. (Download a printable PDF copy here).

If you enjoyed reading this, please like and share it on social media, and scroll to the bottom of the page to subscribe to my blog by email.

I’m indebted to Charles R. Swindoll for many of the book structures, and to Jeffrey Kranz for his simple book summaries.

I’ve Been To Twelve Schoolies and It Gets Better Every Year

The sky was cold and dark in Victor Harbor. Music thumped in the background. Conversations were happening all around me. I looked through the crowd and saw a Year 12 student with a couple of police officers.

She was a little wobbly on her feet and she was wearing her tattered school dress as a costume. With a friendly word, she handed them hot donuts, and they were on their way. The whole scene made me smile.

“Every year I’m on Green Team, I learn something new.”

I’ll let the media write about drunken fights and screaming sirens—and sure, there was some of that too. But I’ve got a different story to tell.

I’m on the Green Team, a group of 500 volunteers from Adelaide’s churches, rallied by Encounter Youth to host one of the safest schoolies events in Australia. (Of the 10,000 school leavers that descended on the south coast this weekend, only one was arrested).

This is the twelfth year I’ve been a Green Teamer. Every year I come home glowing and grateful that God would use me to help bring the light of Jesus into a dark corner of our culture. And every year I learn something new. Here’s what stood out to me in 2017.

Where Green Team is, trouble isn’t

Green Team is by no means the only reason SA’s schoolies is safe. Police, paramedics, the local council and many others do an outstanding job, providing all sorts of services we’re not qualified for. Our role is far more modest—we provide banter, free food, directions, dance moves, and a phone call for help if it’s needed. It’s small, but it makes all the difference.

By the first night of the festival, Green Team has already become an army of trusted allies to the Year 12s. Remove us from a queue, a caravan park or a dark street corner and trouble brews quickly. But when we’re there, even our presence diffuses most problems before they escalate.

A culture of care spreads like wildfire

Mix drugs, alcohol, all-nighters, and inter-school rivalries, and you quickly create a culture of darkness. I’ve just described schoolies in Victor twenty years ago before things changed.

Instead, this year I saw a girl handing donuts to police officers—a scene that captured the spirit of the weekend. It’s hard to imagine unless you’ve seen it, but Green Team sets a culture of care that spreads.

“Green Team is an army of trusted allies to the Year 12s.”

This year a third of our church’s team was brand new. It didn’t matter if they were young or introverted or wide-eyed at the drunken antics. Within an hour, they got it—and they were Green Teaming like veterans. When light shines, it spreads and refracts far beyond its source, and darkness can’t overcome it.

Young people are desperate for trusted adults

I’m going to miss the class of 2017. Many were just a face in the passing crowd, but I won’t forget those I spoke with who came back the next night looking for me, or for someone else on our team who’d showed them love and remembered their name.

“I’m going to miss the class of 2017.”

Young people are crying out for trusted adults. I count it a privilege to be one of those every year, even if it’s just for the weekend. At such a fulcrum moment in their lives with the whole world at their feet, words of affirmation and challenge have a powerfully shaping effect on a teenager’s life.

Australian youth aren’t post-Christian, they’re pre-Christian

Last year’s census told us that Christianity still scraped through as Australia’s majority religion at 52%. That might be true, but the percentage is far smaller among the nation’s young people.

I spoke with one girl from a respected public school who said her whole class experiments with hard drugs. Countless schoolies, as always, asked why we volunteer—and when we mentioned Jesus in our answer, occasionally we had to explain what that word meant.

“One girl from a respected public school said her whole class experiments with hard drugs.”

For decades we’ve been talking about a post-Christian culture in Australia—and that’s still relevant for most generations. But Gen Z has arrived, and many of them are mind-blown and enthralled to hear about a God who created them and loved them so much that he suffered in their place. It’s a refreshing change from rolled eyes.

Community-on-mission is the church’s calling

I think we the church sometimes believe that the end game of following Jesus—the way to graduate as a mature Christian—is to get a career, marry, have kids, and buy a house. Those are all great things, but as Scot McKnight says, the mark of a follower of Jesus isn’t any of that—it’s following Jesus.

“How can we create more opportunities like Green Team to mobilise Christians?”

We’re all on mission as individuals. But what I love about Green Team, and what makes it incredibly unique, is that it’s community-on-mission. It’s groups of believers praying for each other as the day begins, sharing stories of breakthrough on the streets, facing fears and inadequacies together, and getting up to try it all again the next day.

This is how Jesus trained his disciples—remember the 72? This doesn’t happen much in church life anymore. But it should, because it works, and it turns believers into disciples. I don’t have an answer to this question, but you might: how can we create more opportunities like Green Team to mobilise Christians?

Past volunteers forget what they’re missing

Every year, there’s a 40% turnover of volunteers. I’m not surprised that 200 new people want to join the cause every year. But I am surprised that 200 past volunteers don’t want to continue.

Schoolies isn’t for everyone, and it’s not for every life stage (though I am impressed how Green Teamers with kids still manage to get out every year). Even still, a turnover of 200 is far too many.

“Remember the difference you made in so many lives.”

If you’re a past volunteer, can I ask you to consider rejoining the movement? This year, one of our teams was made up of 25 volunteers serving 1700 campers. We need you.

I know it costs sleep and a day or two of annual leave. But remember the difference you made in so many lives. And remember when you thought to yourself that the cost was worth it—because I know you did!

If revival comes, it will be through movements like this

God worked miracles again this year, and a bunch of the schoolies we met were supernaturally healed from sprains and other injuries. Many asked about our church and now plan to come visit.

It’s been said that the closest Australia ever came to revival was when Billy Graham visited in 1959 and many gave their lives to Christ at his crusades. But let’s face the facts: the time is gone when everyday Aussies will fill stadiums to hear an evangelist preach. Now we need to go to them.

“It’s time for us to rewrite the story of the church in this country.”

I don’t know if revival is coming to Australia, but if it is, I know that it will be through movements like Green Team.

It’s time for us to rewrite the story of the church in this country, put God’s mission ahead of our comforts, and step out with prayer and boldness so that His dream will come to pass and Australia might truly become the great southland of the Holy Spirit.

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Read about my schoolies adventures in 2016.

Why My Eleventh Schoolies Was My Best Yet


At 6am this morning, on four hours sleep, some friends and I stepped out onto dewy lawns as magpies warbled and the sun rose, and we surveyed the carnage of empty cans, broken tents and scattered clothing while sore schoolies began to stir. In a few hours they’d be on their way back home from a very big weekend in Victor Harbor.

I’m not a toolie—just thought I should clear that up. I’m part of Green Team, a group of 550 volunteers from churches around South Australia who (lead by Encounter Youth) host SA’s schoolies festival, and partner with emergency services and other organisations to keep thousands of Year 12s safe.

“As the Green Team, we are absolutely unashamed in our witness for Jesus.”

On the one hand, SA’s schoolies event is widely recognised as the safest and most successful schoolies response in Australia—which is an amazing feat considering it’s the only one in the country that isn’t government led or funded. (This year for example, on the Saturday night—traditionally the biggest night of festivities—the police made zero arrests: the first time this has happened in the event’s history).

On the other hand, as the Green Team, we are absolutely unashamed in our witness for Jesus. We sell tickets, give high fives and smiles, hold vomit bags, man queues, dance, call ambulances, hand out pancakes and snags and hot donuts, and sit and chat with those who have lost their friends, or their phone, or both. And our motivation for all of it is to be a tangible witness of the love of God to every person we encounter—every one bearing his image—because he has first loved us.

“Eleven years is a long time to keep returning for long weekends of sleep deprivation, vomit dodging and a cacophony of depressing scenes.”

Like clockwork, within just hours of the festival starting, I have had schoolies ask me an identical question for eleven years, with the same grateful-but-puzzled expression on their face: “Why do guys do this for us?”

An open door for the gospel. On the back of this question I’ve shared my own story of faith, I’ve listened to students’ experiences of the church, I’ve explained grace, I’ve had apologetics debates and discussed world religions, I’ve prayed with people, and I’ve unpacked the message of the cross.

This year (last night in fact) a friend and I prayed for a schoolie with a fractured wrist which he could barely move. Instantly it was healed and in disbelief he was using it for one-armed push-ups and telling his drunk friends about the healing power of Jesus. An hour later he was entirely sober and committing his life to Christ. This morning we found him telling the security guards and a dozen of his mates about what had happened to him.

“Our motivation is to be a tangible witness of the love of God to every person, because he has first loved us.”

It’s stories like this that keep me coming back. Eleven years is a long time to keep returning for long weekends of sleep deprivation, vomit dodging and a cacophony of depressing scenes. I’m sometimes tempted to take a year off. But then I realise I’ve had 360 days off, and I remind myself of all the reasons I can’t stay away. Here they are.

Jesus is Encountered / Times without number, I’ve been thanked by a schoolie for saving their friend’s life, though they know full well that it was actually someone else on Green Team that I’ve probably never met. When I fix a girl’s deck chair with duct tape or give her a cheese toastie, the next Green Teamer she encounters is immediately her trusted ally and support.

“We are the body of Christ—the hands and feet of Jesus.”

This pattern repeats ad infinitum weekend long, and it has to be experienced to be truly understood. We are loved and appreciated by the schoolies as though we were all the same person. And that’s because we actually are. We are the body of Christ—the hands and feet of Jesus. And it is him that the schoolies have encountered.

Disciples are Made / As a pastor my single mission, given to me by Jesus himself, is to make disciples. I am on the hunt for vehicles to help me fulfil this calling. The greatest vehicle I have personally discovered is leading mission exposure trips to South-East Asia, where I have lived for several years. In three weeks, the unique challenges that young people face, the self-sacrifice that is required of them, and the deep worldview shifts they experience, accomplish what three years of involvement in a church program cannot.

But coming in an extremely close second to such trips is Green Team. I seek to muster as many from my church as I can every year, not because sixty people are needed to cook donuts, but because sixty people come out the other end of a schoolies weekend as battle-hardened disciples. They have fought in the trenches together, prayed and cried and laughed and seen miracles that have transformed the way they view themselves, the church, and God’s mission in the world.

“Eighteen years ago Green Team was born. I can’t think of another phenomenon that has been so powerful a force in reshaping the church’s understanding of itself in South Australia.”

Lives are Changed / Late last night I found myself laughing on the inside. We were standing in a circle: four schoolies and four of us from Green Team. An intoxicated teenager who’d just encountered the power of God told his mates how great God is and how much they needed him. The schoolies decided that we had to pray, so with everyone in the circle in agreement, we held hands, bowed our heads, and were lead in prayer by this stumbling, theologically rough-edged but sincere school-leaver.

All of this happened just hours after a different group of Year 12s, hungry to know more about God, had sat around with one of the guys from our team for an hour having a Bible study. And while a weekend isn’t enough to answer a schoolie’s every question or ensure their adherence to all of the beliefs we hold dear, it’s enough to see a saving work of God take place in their heart, and a foundation laid for them as a new disciple in Christ.

The Church is Renewed / Without fail, what sends shivers down my spine every year is beholding the church as it should be: unified in joy, purpose, love and a single, crystal clear mission. We are living in a post-Christian world. The church is no longer the moral police or the cultural curator. We have been so sidelined that all that remains is for us to become the prophetic voice of one crying in the desert, “Prepare the way of the Lord!” The sooner we get this, the sooner we can get on with God’s mission for us in this time.

“Sixty people aren’t needed to cook donuts, but sixty people come out the other end of a schoolies weekend as battle-hardened disciples.”

In the words of Timothy Keller, the church is to be a counter-culture for the common good. Eighteen years ago Green Team was born. I can’t think of another phenomenon that has been so powerful a force in reshaping the church’s understanding of itself in South Australia. For at least one weekend in November each year, we find ourselves. And we are reminded of what the church is supposed to look like every day of the week.

Once again in 2016, I caught a glimpse of this—my biggest glimpse of it to date.

This is why my eleventh year at schoolies was my best yet.

How Jesus Shaped the West: Heroism

Mosaic of Alexander the Great

Despite its many faults, Western civilisation has lead the world for centuries in technology, education, science, liberty, and more. Why? Lots of reasons. But the greatest force that shaped us, overlooked by many, is a humble carpenter from Nazareth. // Read this series from the beginning, or start here for how Jesus shaped Heroism.

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You won’t often see the names Mother Theresa and Alexander the Great in the same sentence. They were worlds apart, in more ways than one. One laid her life down in humble service. The other took innumerable lives in pursuit of global domination. Yet strangely, each in their time inspired millions, who adored them as heroes.

The ancient idea of a hero as someone with tremendous power was almost universal. Augustus Caesar, who was worshipped as a god, became emperor by putting three hundred senators and two hundred knights to the sword.

Hindu epics praised the military prowess of their gods, and today most Hindu deities are still depicted with weapon in hand. Who founded Islam but Muhammad, a military commander who lead 66 battles and created an empire? Even medieval Europe defined a hero as a knight in shining armour.

“Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.”—The Apostle Paul

Clearly for us in the West, the concept of a hero has shifted dramatically through the ages. In the words of historian John Dickson, “Today, it doesn’t matter what your religious views are—Christian, atheist, Jedi Knight – if you were raised in the West, you are likely to think that honour-seeking is morally questionable and lowering yourself for the good of others is ethically beautiful.”

What changed us?

For a thousand years, church services had been conducted in Latin, a language foreign to the commoner. But thanks to the Reformation, ordinary Europeans now had the Bible in their heart languages, and were reading things about Jesus like Philippians 2:3-5.

“Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had.

“Clearly for us in the West, the concept of a hero has shifted dramatically through the ages. What changed us?”

“Though he was God, he did not think of equality with God as something to cling to. Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being… he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”

Did you miss it? This God who breathes stars into existence became a peasant carpenter. He washed his disciples’ dirty feet, said things like, “the meek will inherit the earth,” and then laid down his life for his friends.

“A single, transforming idea wove its way through the centuries like a scarlet thread.”

Indian Philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi explains, “As masses sat meditating on the meaning of the cross, it changed Western consciousness from within. A brutal, triumphant knight could no longer be an inspiring Christian hero. He was the very opposite of a crucified, humiliated Messiah who died so that others may live.”

Preachers preached about it. Artists painted it. Smiths and artisans made a million crosses until the cross became the symbol of Christianity.

A single, transforming idea wove its way through the centuries like a scarlet thread, and it was this: if the greatest man who ever lived laid down his life for the good of others, then the path to greatness is one of humble, self-giving love.

“Hindu epics praised the military prowess of their gods, and today most Hindu deities are still depicted depicted with weapon in hand.”

According to John Dickson, “That is the influence of a story whose impact can be felt regardless of whether its details are believed—a story about greatness that willingly went to a cross.

“While we certainly don’t need to follow Christ to appreciate humility or to be humble, it is unlikely that any of us would aspire to this virtue were it not for the historical impact of his crucifixion on art, literature, ethics, law and philosophy. Our culture remains cruciform long after it stopped being Christian.”

The founder of Islam was Muhammad, a military commander who lead 66 battles and created an empire.”

If your heroes are world conquering warriors, I stand corrected. But if they’re humble, self-giving servants, regardless of your creed, you’ve been shaped by Jesus.

Continue reading about How Jesus Shaped Education.

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In this series of blogs, I’m indebted to Indian Philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilisation.

How Jesus Shaped the West: Languages


Despite its many faults, Western civilisation has lead the world for centuries in technology, education, science, liberty, and more. Why? Lots of reasons. But the greatest force that shaped us, overlooked by many, is a humble carpenter from Nazareth. // Read this series from the beginning, or start here for how Jesus shaped Languages.

* * *

It was a hot, humid day. We had reached our destination by boat—three brightly painted outriggers carrying dozens of passengers across a turquoise sea. We now sat in rows of plastic chairs; dogs and pigs scratching in the dirt, blue tarp strung overhead, a wall of speakers waiting for the festivities to start.

After an hour’s pause, the birthday party was finally underway for the two inconspicuous children. Parties are different in South-East Asia. Let’s just say a lot of talking and formalities, and not enough pin the tail on the donkey.

Having learnt the language while living there a few years back, I followed most of the proceedings, even if boredom caused me to nod off occasionally. What awoke me was the closing prayer, spoken in an indigenous dialect. Every word pregnant with vowels, it was as distinct as it was unintelligible to my untrained ears. I know about three words of the language.

“We had reached our destination by boat—three brightly painted outriggers carrying dozens of passengers across a turquoise sea.”

But thanks to the hard work of Bible translators, since 2002, this indigenous tongue, spoken by only 30,000 of the earth’s inhabitants, has now been preserved for all time in a Bible and associated language helps.

Some may not be impressed that the Christian gospel is now available in the heart language of this remote people. But all can appreciate that this Bible, like every other translation project undertaken by tireless missionaries around the world, has safeguarded another language for future generations—one that was otherwise on its way to extinction.

“Spurred on by the selfless example of Jesus, Christians gave up their wealth and often their lives to travel to foreign lands and develop national languages.”

Christians stand in a class of their own as preservers of thousands upon thousands of indigenous languages. This is no accident of history. It has deep roots.

It began with Luther and the reformers. They had a vision to democratise language by translating the Word of God into the dialects of Europeans. To do so they ignored every protest and threat of torture from the pope and church officials, who had much to gain by keeping their people ignorant of the Bible.

As the reformers saw it, Jesus didn’t come from heaven speaking a holy, inaccessible language like Hebrew. He spoke the rough street languages of his day—Greek and Aramaic. In the same way, it was time that Latin should no longer hide transforming truth. Knowledge that belonged to the elite must be shared with the masses.

“The continent of Europe marched towards literacy, and a Bible was now found in the homes of most families, giving shape to their language and worldview.”

This stood in contrast to the mood in the East. There, Buddhist monks had little motivation to make the Buddha’s words available in the dialects of neighbouring peoples, since the way to enlightenment wasn’t by filling one’s mind but rather by emptying it.

But the continent of Europe marched towards literacy, and a Bible was now found in the homes of most families, giving shape to their language and worldview.

From Genesis to Revelation, Europeans were reading about this idea of nation—groups of people sharing an ethnicity and language. The days were numbered for the totalitarian Holy Roman Empire. Soon nation-states would dismantle and replace it.

“It began with the reformers who had a vision to democratise language.”

In time, missionaries would take over this epic translation project. Too often, Christians living in the Age of Discovery are wrongly confused with their colonialist counterparts. In truth, colonialists made no profit from studying the native languages of those they’d found to exploit.

Missionaries had nothing to gain either, but spurred on by the selfless example of Jesus, they gave up their wealth and often their lives to travel to foreign lands. There they developed national languages as a channel for vast numbers to hear God speak in Scripture: Hindi, Urdu, Bengali—and many more.

Little did they know, but just like Europe centuries earlier, the languages they systematised would go on to birth nations: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh—and many more.

“Jesus didn’t come from heaven speaking a holy, inaccessible language like Hebrew. He spoke the rough street languages of his day—Greek and Aramaic.”

Today, the earth is home to 6,500 living languages. Remarkably, portions of the Bible are available in almost half of them, with complete Bible translations numbering over 550, making it by far the world’s most translated book. In the most remarkable way, Jesus has shaped the world’s languages.

Continue reading about How Jesus Shaped Heroism.

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In this series of blogs, I’m indebted to Indian Philosopher Vishal Mangalwadi’s The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilisation.

Six Myths Christians Should Stop Believing (Part 2)

Jesus Halo 2

Welcome to Part 2 of Six Myths Christians Should Stop Believing.


Some things Christians believe are quite strange. Like the Queen said to Alice of Wonderland fame, even I sometimes catch myself believing as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

I haven’t been a pastor long. But I’m becoming convinced that, for my own sake as much as anyone else’s, one of my primary responsibilities as a pastor is to dismantle these strange myths.

One or more of the following every week if possible.


Myth #4: Pastors Are Closer To God

No one says this, but most Christians believe it. I’ve had the unique experience of transitioning from parishioner in my church to a pastor of my church. I’ve continued to grow through this time. But I can tell you first hand that the transition itself didn’t bring me an inch closer to God.

What the transition did was help expose this myth. Those at my church who’ve known me since the beginning of course see me as pastor—but they also still know me as Kurt, with all my flaws and struggles. But interestingly, those who’ve joined our church since only see me as pastor. At least until they get to know me well.

As Paul argues, no part of the body is more important than another—in fact the parts with less dignity deserve more honour.

And along the way, the assumptions I’ve encountered regularly are that I have answers to the deep mysteries of life, effective strategies for healing brokenness in the community, Christian obedience nailed, skills adequate to every counselling situation, a higher connection speed to heaven. In a word, that I have it all together.

I’m working on all of these things, and I’m happy to give any of them a good crack, but the reality is that apart from marginal gains, I’m the same person now as the one I was before I became a pastor. One thing’s for sure: I definitely don’t have it all together.

I don’t resent these assumptions. They’re quite a compliment really. But they’re also a complete myth. So I’ve tried to brainstorm what it actually is that distinguishes pastors from non-pastors. I can think of two things.

The first is that the way we earn a living makes us more available for the work of the kingdom and the needs of God’s people—particularly to teach and shepherd. This is a great privilege and blessing, and one that I relish.

The second is that we’ve been called and appointed by God to this role. This is also a great honour, and one I don’t take lightly. But as reformers like Martin Luther would point out, this appointment by God is only on par with that of other leaders—whether leaders of families, businesses, or government.

And in terms of the gifts God has equipped us pastors with, as Paul argues in 1 Corinthians 12, no part of the body is more important than another—in fact the parts with less dignity deserve more honour. Could it be that we have it completely back to front?

I can tell you first hand that becoming a pastor didn’t bring me an inch closer to God.

In the old covenant, priests were the mediator, or connection-point, between God and his people. But in the new covenant, all of God’s people are priests (1 Peter 2:5) and we now need no mediator other than Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

Point being, pastors are only as priest-like or as close to God as any other Christian. All believers have a direct connection to heaven. And us pastors are only one of many necessary parts of the body—no more, no less. The pedestal we’re put on is but a figment of the imagination.

Pastors aren’t closer to God. Don’t let this disappoint you. On the contrary, it’s good news. It means that if you’re a believer in Jesus, you’re as close to God as any shiny pastor is.


Myth #5: The Church’s Problems Have One Solution

While Jesus is the only name given under heaven by which we must be saved, and this is at the core of my faith, I’ve noticed that many Christians act as if a similarly one-fold solution exists to all problems.

The church would fulfil its calling if. Our nation would return to God if. We would see revival if. Insert your pet phrase: All believers were trained in apologetics and actually knew what the Bible says. We rediscovered the prophetic and had genuine heart encounters with God. Christians really loved their neighbours and took social justice seriously.

This isn’t mockery. I believe every one of these statements. The problem is, many Christians believe only one of them, as though the church’s problems (however defined) have only one fix.

Church, if we pooled our strengths instead of pitting them against each other, who knows what kind of revival we might see in our day?

Jesus railed against those who honoured him with their lips but whose hearts were far from him. So clearly it’s all about the heart.

But James asked what good it was if someone had faith but no works, caring nothing for the needs of the poor. So it must be all about the hands.

But like in Hosea’s day, when God’s people were destroyed for lack of knowledge, Paul had to rebuke the Corinthians for their immature understanding. So it’s all about the head.

What’s God’s point? Which one actually wins out? I know it’s far more complicated than the simple false dichotomies we’ve sucked on for generations, but let me break it down: God’s solution is multifaceted. It’s all about the head, and the heart, and the hands.

Church, if we lifted our eyes, swallowed our pride, and pooled our strengths instead of pitting them against each other, who knows what kind of growth, transformation and revival we might see in our day?


Myth #6: God Likes Me If I’m Good

Surely this one takes the cake. The persisting default mode of the human heart is to believe that our performance determines God’s mood towards us.

We know in theory that it’s by grace that we’re saved, but many of us struggle for years to truly believe it. Sometimes it takes a lifetime for a believer to finally walk in the unyielding confidence that because of Jesus’ finished work, God’s love surrounds them at every moment. Sadly, some never get there at all.

Everything needed to restore us to perfect union with God won’t happen this week. It happened two thousand years ago at Calvary.

There are many reasons for it. But here’s one perhaps we’ve neglected: many churches do a far better job of teaching moralism than they do the gospel.

There’s no shortage of sermons on how to pray or serve or love, what it looks like to be a better husband, wife, employee or citizen; doctrines to believe, Bible heroes to imitate, commandments to follow, three steps to this, seven steps to that.

All of this is good. But none of it is the gospel. And by gospel, I don’t mean a token mention of Jesus dying for sin.

I mean a heart-posture towards God. In all of our teaching about how to be a better Christian, are we declaring even more loudly that everything needed to restore us to perfect union with God won’t happen this week—but happened two thousand years ago at Calvary? That by faith, we are, right now, adopted and deeply loved sons and daughters of the King?

It is finished. That includes all of our striving. Can this message be heard over all the other noise? If not, then what we’re really telling people is God likes them if they’re good. And there’s nothing unique about that. Every religion under the sun teaches it.

Many churches do a far better job of teaching moralism than they do the gospel.

When the crowds deserted Jesus to continue on that broad path of religion, he asked the twelve, “Are you also going to leave?” Peter’s reply gets me every time. “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.”

May we never replace the gospel of grace with good advice.

I’m quite serious when I say that as a pastor, I try to dismantle one or more of these myths— especially the last one—every time I have the opportunity to preach. I would challenge every pastor to do the same.