Friday, October 31, 2014

Deadlines

I handed in Parts VI and VII of my New Metaphysics this week. Part VI was explanatory -- an addition to Part V -- while Part VII is pivotal. As one surveys the metaphysics of the past, one discovers two basic approaches to human motivation: the Humean and the Kantian. That is, we are motivated by emotion, or we are motivated by reason. In Part VII, I have laid the basis for an integrated approach, which will be expanded upon in Part VIII. It's a draft, so it will inevitably require further work. OBSERVATION: This post is headlined "Deadlines" since I am working to personal deadlines. I beat the latest deadline by six days.

Good And Bad Talk

I have the sense that the risk of false or titillating gossip in a Church is higher than it is, for instance, in a business or a sports club. One would expect the very opposite -- yet I suspect that this is the reason behind it: in a Church, false gossip has far more potential to shock, and there is a breed of person who looks for such opportunity. OBSERVATION: Equally, there may be far more positive talk, for the reason that there is nothing more exalted to talk about than there is in the Church.

Word Processing

I didn't know that word processing was possible, until I discovered that Jimmy Carter was writing his memoirs with a word processor in 1981. The prices were exorbitant, until the ZX Spectrum came along in 1982 -- and the Tasword word processor, also in 1982. In 1983 I connected a ZX Spectrum to an Altronics keyboard, and began word processing with Tasword (see the image). This was loaded from an audio cassette player. However, the ZX Spectrum was vulnerable to spikes on the mains, which caused crashes. To print, I used an 8-pin Epson dot matrix printer, and for neater work, a Smith-Corona golf-ball printer. Click on the image, and you'll see exactly the resolution that one had.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Power And Influence

I have said that, in the Congregational Church, "The minister has influence, not power." I remember discussing with someone a decision which the Church had considered in a meeting, and the notion that the minister had special power. OBSERVATION: But perhaps, in a sense, he or she does not even have influence, in a Congregational Church. My own perspective is that, while the minister has influence, it is not something that he or she should generally* seek to bring to bear on the Church. I would see my own influence as being merely a part of every influence in the Church -- and that, too, will go nowhere except through the influence of God. This is incidentally virtually the opposite of what is called Transformational Leadership, which has been summarised: "Leadership is influence."
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*except to protect the dynamic of the influence of all, where this may be jeopardised. One of the things which has distressed me more than many others in ministry is when the influence of all is compromised.

Tribute To A Pump

This is a tribute to a little pump. I needed to build a house -- which requires a lot of water. But I didn't have a water supply, or electricity. There was a stream about 40 metres / yards distant, or a R20 000 (about $2 000) connection to the local graveyard. I found a ProPump FL35, a 12V self-priming pump, supplied by Rudd Products of Johannesburg, and pumped water from the stream. Amazingly, the pump did put up a whole house, together with a conservancy tank, then it filled my water tanks high up on a stand, and is now on stand-by to keep the tanks topped up (click on the photos to enlarge). OBSERVATION: The pump pumps 3.3 litres per minute, to a height of 24 metres. There is also one available at half the price with a third of the flow -- and there are bigger pumps, too. My pump cost R1 089 (about $100) plus VAT. Rudd's service (Olivia) was exceptional.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Diesel Ignition

I drive what is probably the only primitive diesel on the road in South Africa, the Mahindra Alfa (here being serviced). It only has auxiliary electrics -- a starter motor -- therefore no spark plug or glow plug, and no timing. Alternatively, one may use a rope-start at the back. To start it with the starter motor, one puts it into neutral, raises a decompression lever, cranks the engine with a key, then drops the decompression lever. As soon as there is ignition, one turns off the key (one can even put it in one's pocket -- after this the electrics have done their job). Then one typically waits 20 seconds for the engine to warm -- or longer on cold mornings -- puts it into gear, and releases the clutch in jumps until the throttle engages. Then one is ready to go. To turn the engine off, one changes into neutral, waits 20 seconds for the engine to slow, then raises a stop lever until there is no more rotation (or the engine starts again). OBSERVATION: Mine is probably the only local vehicle which would survive a nuclear blast -- having no integral electrics.

Pulpit Shocks

I was just about to step into the pulpit one Sunday (that is, mere seconds before I did) when the Church treasurer said to me: "I don't know where your next salary is coming from!" As it happens, that salary, and hundreds thereafter, were paid on time, every time. However, the point of this post lies elsewhere. That Sunday stays in my mind because on that day I decided how to deal with shocks before entering the pulpit. Such shocks are not uncommon. It was (I think) Charles Spurgeon who said that this is a classic spiritual trial in ministry. I decided that I should keep in mind that I was bringing a spiritual blessing to others, and I should be prepared before doing so for any shock under the sun. I don't think a shock has affected me since.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Writing And Ministry

This post is in fact about writing for ministry. A minister's creative output is enormous (although it varies a lot). During a week on duty, my creative writing for ministry has seldom been less than about 4 000 words, and from time to time about 8 000 words. That last figure represents the equivalent of one book per month. OBSERVATION: To achieve that, one needs some kind of method. Mine seems rather obvious:  write down ideas when I have them and return to them, space out the writing day by day, and try to have periods of complete switch-off in between.

Christian Conferences

Many years ago, I attended a world conference in the USA. I asked the president what the purpose of the conference was. I expected him to say something about the conference programme -- but he said something like this: "It is the Lord's opportunity. He forges friendships He will use in His Kingdom." Since then, Christian conferences, for me, are not so much about the programme. Also, I now routinely plan time next to conferences -- often not knowing what for -- because it is likely to be God's time more than the conference itself. OBSERVATION: However, I don't agree with author Keith Ferrazzi, that one should select "primary targets" at a conference. I believe one needs to depend on God to make the connections. Through the above conference, incidentally, the president himself became a friend, which had a major bearing on my life in the years that followed.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Mighty Kids Arise

Here's a photo that somehow escaped my blog. I took it last year, at an event of Mighty Kids Arise – a combination of child evangelism and ministry by children, and an aspect of the global focus on the 4/14 Window – that is, children between the ages of 4 and 14.

A Work Of Faith

In my experience, ministry is a work of faith. Perhaps more importantly, it is a work of faith in the face of no faith. If one were surrounded by people of faith, then faith might be little required on one's own part. I would estimate that, in a spiritually strong Church, perhaps 10% of the people might have faith for the Church (as distinguished from saving faith). Another 80% might waver at any given time, and 10% might be definitely opposed to faith perspectives. OBSERVATION: Some of the challenges to faith: "Where will the money come from?" "Did you notice who's missing today?" "Where will we be in three years' time?" "What did we achieve?" And so on. With faith, such things do not trouble one. However, in an important sense, faith cannot be made, if one doesn't have it.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Congratulations

Congratulations to my cousin-in-law A. on her appointment as primaria (head girl) of Cedar College of Education at the well known Kwasizabantu Mission. Two years ago I dropped her at the bus station, destination Kwasizabantu, with nothing but a suitcase, a one-way bus ticket, and trust in God -- and God provided. A. is here in my three-wheel pickup, in the neon green T-shirt. Spot wife E. You may click on the image to enlarge.

Forging Ahead

This week I handed in Part V of my New Metaphysics, one day past my personal deadline. Society editor and author of the "complete crash-course in philosophical thought", Philosophy for Dummies, comments: "It's looking really good." OBSERVATION: I picked up some conceptual flaws in an earlier essay on the same subject, not serious. The trouble is, that essay has become popular -- errors and all.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Leadership Backlash

"Leadership backlash" is an important ministry concept, which seems, however, to be little known -- better known, however, among long-serving ministers. It is the strange phenomenon of a minister receiving complete and unqualified support in moments of crisis (or a leadership reaching full consensus), only to be followed by severe negative reactions and even the disintegration of a leadership team. I have experienced this in various degrees in ministry. OBSERVATION: Before I studied it at postgraduate level, and the first time I heard of it, an experienced minister warned our leadership that this was about to happen. Two of our leadership were very angry about that -- but shortly after, they fell to leadership backlash. Today, I am able to recognise it and predict it, more or less. It is a slow yet powerful dynamic -- almost unavoidable I think, except perhaps through spiritual warfare. In my experience, it takes about one year for backlash to set in, although this may vary a great deal, and individuals do not succumb to it all at the same time. (One of my past professors describes leadership backlash in a much-cited paper at The Making of a Leader -- see page 6).

Fearing Fear

Franklin D. Roosevelt, in his first inaugural address, said: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Some point out that Sir Francis Bacon said it more than 300 years earlier: "Nothing is terrible except fear itself." Some think Roosevelt's words to be inspirational, others daft. However, it was surely the Bible which said it first: "Do not be afraid of sudden fear" (Proverbs 3:25). The difference between Roosevelt, Bacon, and the Bible, though, is that the Bible grounds the saying in a living relationship with God -- and an "interventionist God", to use a theological term. "Do not be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from being caught."