Bren McLean

Personal

CREATING AND CHANGING CULTURE

by on Feb.23, 2016, under Personal

God created the heavens and the earth and everything in it. He said it was “very good”, but God’s masterpiece was mankind. Men and women are made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27) and given the responsibility of ruling over all created things and caring for the world.

As a Christian, I therefore have a particular interest in culture and how we can and should interact with it.

But first, what is culture? In terms of social sciences and humanities, the Oxford Dictionary defines culture as:

The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of a particular people or society

E.B. Tylor says that culture is:

That complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, morals, law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as a member of society

Book

Andy Crouch has a lot to say about culture as well. He defines it simply as:

“What people make of the world”

Crouch has written a few books on the topic and I am particularly inspired by Culture Making (2008). It is an insightful view of culture and the various ways that people interact with it:

1. Condemning

2. Criticising

3. Copying

4. Consuming

All of these postures are reactive. None of them add something to culture.

5. Contributing

 

 

Crouch insists we should be ‘Contributing’ to culture. To add something that changes it in a positive way. This is our calling as Christians. To cultivate and advance the condition of God’s created world into something that will glorify Him.

Culture Making is a worthwhile read. And below is an interview with Andy Crouch, on the subject:

 

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KENYA MISSION 2015

by on Aug.19, 2015, under Personal

compassioninternational

I have known about the ministry of Compassion for years. I have watched the videos and seen from afar the poverty that exists in many parts of the world. Well, I have now witnessed first hand the abject poverty that affects so many people due to a severe lack of water, food and shelter.

In July, I was part of a mission team from St Paul’s that spent 14 days in Kenya. We were escorted by local representatives of Compassion to a number of child development projects all over the country. These CDP’s partner with a church to provide spiritual as well as physical nourishment to the most needy of kids.

The climate was hot and dry. The land dusty and underdeveloped. We also visited a number of slums, including Kibera (the largest in Kenya) and I was shocked by the living conditions. Slums are heavily populated urban settlements characterised by substandard housing, sanitation, water, electricity and other basic services.

Kibera

Walking around, I felt a sense of helplessness. I was shell-shocked and confused as to why there is such an imbalance of wealth. Why is the west so much more privileged than here? God was increasing the capacity of my heart to be compassionate, which took me on an emotional roller coaster. It was life changing. I knew poverty was a complex issue so meditated on what the bible says about it. I know there was a time when humanity was in perfect harmony with God and creation, but the Fall changed all that. Sin and death entered the world bringing all sorts of suffering and persecution. It’s just not fair! But one day Jesus will return to liberate those who trust in Him, reconciling us with the Father.

But what can we I in the meantime? God just wants me to love them like Jesus. To care for the least, the last and the lost.

In Deuteronomy 15, Moses tells Israel that they will be blessed with enough resources for everyone (v4). Moses then says that “there will always be poor in the land” (v11). This reality, echoed in Matthew 26:11 is a result of the Fall.

God works through us to help the children (and in turn families and communities), one at a time. Compassion really are releasing children from poverty in Jesus’ name. But despite the poverty and the suffering, I met so many beautiful, contented people who dearly love Jesus. Boys and girls, men and women, young and old, who hope for more, and are trusting that Jesus will provide their every need. Children were proudly able to quote memory verses like:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD,
“plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
Jeremiah 29:11
 
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:3

I was overwhelmed to tears by their joy and enthusiasm each time we were welcomed. The kids, parents and staff were always so grateful for the ‘visitors’ and were proud to be praying for us. Wow! Their generosity with so little and love for others was inspirational.

The take home message is, like us, they genuinely seek relationship. While a visit from their sponsor was fantastic, letter writing is a powerful communication tool and something that I will be doing more regularly now.

Below are some of my highlights from the trip:

  • Meeting Cindarella (one of our sponsor children) at Life Spring Chapel. We then travelled a short distance to Sinai Slum where she lives with her mum

Kenya - Cindarella

  • Driving through the Great Rift Valley. It was a treacherous road with a breath-taking view

Inline image 1

  • Visiting the Maasai Mara safari park. We were fortunate enough to see ‘the big five’, as well as giraffe, hippo, ostrich, impala, gazelle, warthog, monkey and cheetah. This was a welcome and relaxing break from the mission trip

Giraffe

  • Meeting a Maasai Warrior. It was fascinating talking to Joshua as we hiked around Kilima Camp

  • Sharing the experience with 17 legends, including my wife and 2/4 kids. It was a blessing to spend 14 days travelling with such a warm and friendly team

Border

Finally, I would like to thank God for the ministry of Compassion. I can vouch for the great work they are doing not just in Kenya, but all over the world and pray that more and more people will be blessed by the opportunity to sponsor and be sponsored.

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WELCOME 2014

by on Jan.13, 2014, under Personal, Worship

Welcome-2014

Happy New Year everyone! I am excited to be writing my first post for 2014.

After nearly 3 weeks of holidays, I’m feeling totally refreshed and as prepared as I can be for what promises to be a HUGE year of ministry.

This will be my 7th year as Creative Minister at St Paul’s. I still remember that phone call (from John Gray) back in October 2007 like it was yesterday. The awesome news being that I was the successful applicant for the position. WOO-HOO!

Looking back over the last 6 years at St Paul’s, there have been many highlights. God has been faithful (which comes as no surprise) and I am so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of building His church.

They say people start to get bored of their job after about 5 years. Well, that’s definitely not the case here. My passion and enthusiasm for the task ahead has not diminished. If anything, I am more enthusiastic now than ever about our CORE VALUES and purpose:

“to create fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ”

St Paul’s is a great church!

In my time here so far, there has been approximately:

* 312 Sundays

* 1250 Services

* 5000 Songs

(God knows how many Services have been held since the church was established over 150 years ago!)

Praise God for all the volunteers who serve week in and week out. Without them, the church would be an empty, life-less brick building.

“May the Lord bless you and keep you;
the Lord make his face shine on you and be gracious to you;
the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.”

Numbers 6:24-26

 

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COSMETIC SURGERY: PERFECT V IMPERFECT

by on Nov.29, 2013, under Personal

Perfectly-Imperfect

Cosmetic surgery has been around for centuries. A medical procedure that mainly dealt with the reconstruction of damaged bones and skin, now has a new purpose. Nowadays, the motivation for this costly exercise has been driven by the pursuit of perfection. No, the pursuit of a ‘perceived’ perfection.

My friend Josh Hawkins just made this video. Here, he shares his thoughts on cosmetic surgery and how we were created, “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

“We judge on face value, but He loves on faith value”. Love it!

Beautifully shot by Anthony Harrison, ‘Imperfect’ offers a powerfully positive message to those wrestling with one of today’s biggest personal stigmas… body image.

Well done, chaps!

 

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FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

by on Sep.02, 2013, under Personal

Fruits-of-the-Spirit

The ‘fruit of the Spirit’ is a biblical term that sums up nine visible attributes of a true Christian life. Paul refers to these in his letter to the Galatians:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”

Galatians 5:22-23

These ‘fruits’ are qualities that the Holy Spirit equips us within order to live a life that is honoring to God. Tim Keller has defined each of these for us, which can be found on a post by JD Greear:

http://www.jdgreear.com/my_weblog/2011/09/kellers-definitions-of-the-fruit-in-galatians-5.html

In contrast to the ‘fruit of the Spirit’, there are ‘lusts of the flesh’. These are qualities that represent someone who is not living a life that is honoring to God.

What are the ‘lusts of the flesh’? Paul outlines these in Galatians 5:19-21:

“The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”

The importance of these 2 terms is one builds up the church and one tears it down. I think it’s clear which one is which.

As long as sin exists in the world, we will all be tempted to follow the ‘lusts of the flesh’. However, with the Spirit of God in us, we are empowered to pursue the ‘fruits of the Spirit’ with boldness, with confidence, in the name of Jesus.

 

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LIFE QUESTIONS: WHO AM I? WHAT DO I WANT?

by on Feb.19, 2013, under Personal

Here are the two most important and fundamental questions that we should ask ourselves?

who-am-i

1. WHO AM I?

At some point in time, everyone arrives at this question. It is a deep philosophical question that relates to the meaning of life.

MY identity is not defined by what I do, or what others think of me.

I am a dearly loved child of the God of heaven and earth. I was created in His image (Genesis 1:27), and the Creator has a unique purpose for each of us.

One of my favourite Christian bands, Casting Crowns captures this question in the beautiful song, Who Am I.

 

2. WHAT DO I WANT?

Life without God is meaningless (Ecclesiastes 1:2), so perhaps the better question to ask is “What does God want?”

He is sovereign over all and like any Father, only wants what is best for us. Nothing in this world satisfies, so we need to submit to Him to experience any sort of lasting happiness and contentment.

But, how do we discern what God wants? By being in constant communication with Him. God wants to be in relationship with us and by His Spirit reveals Himself to us … if only we would listen.

 

 

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GUITAR & BASS REPAIRS – SALT MINE

by on Feb.13, 2013, under Personal

Anyone who owns a precision instrument knows you have to take good care of it to maintain it’s quality and value. From time to time repairs need to be made and you want it to be handled by an expert.

Recently, my Warwick Thumb 5 needed some fine tuning and there was only one place I could trust.

SaltmineWeb

Salt Mine Repair Services is owned and operated by Matthew Bulluss. Those in the industry know Matt as a craftsmen and all around good guy who use to work at The Bass People. If you are in Sydney, look no further for someone to service and/or repair your guitar.

His work on my Warwick has brought it back to life. It has new gotoh tuners and new strings as well as polished frets and a setup. Love it!

Warwick Thumb 5

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JOB TITLES: DIRECTOR MINISTER PASTOR

by on Feb.04, 2013, under Church Life, Personal

What’s in a title?

Gesch‰ftsmann mit Visitenkarte

Just recently, it was decided that job titles for staff members at spch would be standardised. Instead of a range of titles used such as ‘x Director’, ‘x Minister’, ‘x Pastor’, ministry staff are now all ‘x Minister’. It’s a pragmatic decision, that is primarily based on our location and denomination. The word ‘Director’ is more common in the corporate world, and ‘Pastor’ is more common overseas and in charismatic churches.  This does not mean that there’s anything wrong with those titles, in fact I personally prefer the title ‘Pastor’. For reasons of consistency and clarity, ‘Minister’ is the word of choice at spch for now.

My personal job title is therefore CREATIVE MINISTER. Does that mean that the other ministers are NOT ‘creative’? Ha, of course not. I oversee the Creative Department, which programs all of the volunteers and elements of our Sunday Service’s. The title could have just as easily been ‘Music Minister’, or ‘Worship Minister’, but again for pragmatic reasons ‘creative’ was decided as the most appropriate for me at present. My job description hasn’t changed, just the title that I use on written, online and verbal correspondence.

Go HERE for a full list of staff members at spch.

Over the year’s I have come across some unusual job titles. Here’s a sample of some of the most creative ones:

Director of First Impressions – Receptionist

Head Honcho – Owner/Proprietor

Garbologist – Rubbish Collector

For other interesting job titles, check out:

Business Insider – 50-weirdest-job-titles

 

Bren McLean

Creative Minister

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NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS

by on Jan.01, 2013, under Personal, Worship

You’ve heard it all before. Next year I am going to:

“Eat less”, “Drink less”, “Quit smoking”, “Exercise more”, “Spend more time with the family”, ….

All well intentioned resolutions that rarely last the month, let alone the year.

What if you aligned your plans with God’s, so that they were more according to His will rather than yours?

God knows what’s best for us. We are made in His image and if we truly desire what He wants, our lives will be more fulfiling and honorable to Him:

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Jeremiah 29:11

Consider Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane:

“Yet not as I will, but as You will.”

Now, there’s a new year’s resolution worth making and with God’s help worth keeping.

 

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ETHICS: CHRISTIAN VS SECULAR

by on Dec.05, 2012, under Personal

Ethics is defined as ‘moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior’. It is closely associated with morality, which concerns things like our character and belief systems.

Ethical decisions confront us every day, but what are the key factors that influence our decisions in terms of right and wrong?

 

SECULAR ETHICS

There are ‘four poles’ in modern ethics:

1. Values/Virtues – settled patterns and habits of good action and proper emotions

2. Rights – what we feel is essential to our humanity

3. Rules – commands/laws/codes of practice

4. Results – the end point/consequence/outcome

 

The problem with a secular view of ethics is consistency. The approach to the ‘four poles’ will vary from person to person, particularly in a post modern society where matters of truth and justice are subjective.

 

So, what does the Bible say about ethics? There are two common views on how we should view the Laws in the Old Testament:

i) Theonomist – God’s word is eternal. Everything is binding

ii) Antinomian – God’s word is no longer relevant (we live under grace, not Law – Romans 6:15)

 

Andrew Cameron suggests there is a third, better way to view laws in the Bible:

iii) Christian Wisdom – Applying knowledge of the Bible

A ‘unified field’ of moral reality whereby Jesus Christ unifies the other influences

 

CHRISTIAN ETHICS

‘Five poles’ for Christian thought about ethics become a ‘unified field’:

1. God’s Character – eg. Justice, mercy, steadfast love. God lives out this triad throughout salvation history

2. Created Order – man is made in the image of God (Genesis 1:27). Humanity sustainably cares for and uses what has been created

3. Commands For Love – principles that determine how we should live together

4. New Future – new creation, promise fulfilled, eschatology

5. Jesus Shaped Community – discernment to consider the effect Jesus has on all the ‘poles’. God reconciles us to Himself so that our relationship with Him and others is healthy


This view of ethics is directly from Cameron’s book, Joined Up Life: A Christian Account Of How Ethics Works. Being aware of and applying this unified field theory enables us to make good decisions in our every day lives.

 

 

 

Click HERE for the Matthias Media review of the book.

 

Jesus is a game changer! Christ’s death and resurrection is significant for humanity and should influence everything that we think, say and do.

 

 

 

 

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