About

Stephen has been reading, writing and reflecting ever since he can remember. His first published piece (the school year book of 1974) was his Grade 2 story about a family of mice being terrorised by a shark on the beaches of Perth. A prescient warning if ever there were one.

He is the lead pastor of Providence Church Midland, and in his writing dabbles in a number of fields, notably theology and culture.

Stephen and his family live in Perth’s eastern suburbs, where his wife Jill runs a clinical psychology practice.  In his spare time (aka early in the morning) Steve enjoys running. He loves nothing better than hanging out having coffee with Jill in some urban place.

37 Comments

    1. Hi Nathan – thanks for that!
      Yeah interesting post by Damon. While I do think there is something in it, and I definitely think that in Oz Christianity has suffered down the last century for being “not for the blokes”, I think Damon’s post is subversive, in that it is reframing the whole “manly” Christian thing. In reading the start of 2Peter last night I was drawn to the list of things we are to possess in increasing measure, and “self-control” and “brotherly-kindness” are up there! They are the true tests of being a man and often lacking in our culture. I had dinner last night with some of our leaders and one, who in his past life was a serious brawler talked about this very issue. He is a strong man, but the gospel has made him a self-controlled one too.
      Having said that, I am a little sceptical about the Driscoll approach because it seems to tap into a style of manliness that is more about show-boating than anything else. This tends to bleed into the whole church planting culture too that springs from Mars Hill (Acts 29) or at least it did in the early days. There is enough anecdotal evidence that rugged individualism (baptised as the type of leader we need for a church plant) has caused more than a few problems in Acts 29.

  1. Steve: I appreciate the clarity of your comment on the TGC piece to the effect that today’s nation-state is basically Babylon/Rome/Egypt. It’s very clear that these archetypes in the Bible are still around today.

    Nothing very much has ‘actually’ changed! 🙂

    Thanks very much,

    Anil (Delhi)

  2. Hello! I’ve read through some of your posts and I found it to be informative and also thought provoking. I encourage you to keep it up. I’d love to see more of your works ! May we strive to follow and pursue Jesus more and more.

  3. Between 2 worlds – the daily devotions you did for the bible society have been really encouraging and thought provoking. Thank you!!

  4. Hi, Kevin Donnelly here. The Safe Schools Coalition argues that 10% of students are same sex attracted, 4% are gender diverse or trans and that 1.7% are intersex – are there any surveys or statistics to prove whether this is correct or not? Best wishes.

    1. Hi Kevin
      Cheers for your observations. Something about lies, damned lies and statistics does spring to mind. My qualification on any of this is the almost ubiquitous (discredited) Kinsey “10 per cent” mantra. I do have some statistical info which I will find and get to you. Of course the issue of same sex attraction depends on the manner in which the question is asked doesn’t it? Does SSA mean they identify that as their primary sexual attraction, or that they have, as many kids often do, felt attracted to someone of the same sex. Whole load of philosophical underpinning behind the SSC stats. But let me check

  5. Hi, Stephen. I appreciated your blog post today, “Driscoll and The Bogeyman Narrative”. A few thoughts.

    To some degree, I think you are confusing the glee of the ‘the gospel-less Schadenfreude’ with what is actually a sigh of the collective consciousness’ sense of right, wrong, and the need for justice. Sighs of dismay, sighs of relief.

    About that book…. I think many are waiting for such a book. A comprehensive study is needed. For the sake of the present and the future. The repercussions & consequences are deep and far-reaching.

    You mention that whoever writes it is going to have dig the knife a little deeper than Zylstra was able to. If it is done fairly and honestly, and published as such without the bullying control of the shadowy powerbrokers of Evangelical, Inc., what will be turned up is this: the role of The Gospel Coalition.

    You say, “This thing was not done in the dark, let alone swiftly. The sheep had been bleating – and loudly for some time.

    The problem with church leadership in such lofty settings – and it’s not exclusive to Mars Hill’s set up – is that it is not until the brand reputation is threatened that anything is ever done.”

    TGC enabled Mark Driscoll and used him to further their own pursuits. When he became a liability, when their brand reputation was threatened, they dropped him. Indeed, “The welfare of the broken and bleeding sheep never seems to be the decisive factor in bringing things to a head.”

    However, upon TGC distancing themselves from Mark Driscoll, was anything beyond that ever done? I don’t recall observing The Gospel Coalition taking any responsibility for the consequences of having promoted Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill. The consequences: lives and relationships ruined, destroyed by degrees.

    But it seems the brand name(s) [“TGC”, and the names-in-branding of its contributors], pet doctrines, and the rewards of revenue streams and personal significance and power are the deciding factors. The human lives at ground zero bearing the brunt of the impact of these things don’t seem to matter at all.

    The influence of TGC and some of its celebrities is huge. Because so many christians and leaders are impressionable minus critical thinking, ideas and methods which Mark Driscoll generated – things which harm people but protect power at the top — have spread far across denominational lines like a virus. Like a disease.

    The Gospel Coaltion and the celebrities it champions have been very irresponsible. They are culpable.

  6. Stephen, I tried to find a place on your blog to email you privately but didn’t see it. I wanted to let you know about a book called “Suffering and the Heart of God, How Trauma Destroys and Christ Restores” by Diane Langberg. As I read your article today about the recent article by TGC and Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill, this book kept coming to mind to an answer to many of your questions. I highly recommend it. In it, Diane Langberg, a psychologist, who also loves the gospel, writes about churches just like Mars Hill and why things like what happened at Mars Hill… happen. Her 40 plus years of experience with pastors and lay people alike who have been traumatized by events similar to what happened at Marks Hill were astonishing and helpful to me in my own healing, coming from a similar experience. Her work and writing is a hidden gem that the church needs desperately in these times of fallen celebrity pastors. I think you will find it fascinating. She also has other resources including lectures available. You can also follow her on Twitter.

    1. Hi Kimberley

      Thanks for that information. I will check it out. My wife is a clinical psychologist and has found a similar pattern to what it seems Diane sees, and what it sounds like you yourself have experienced. I will definitely follow her on Twitter and get that book too for my wife as well as for me. Thanks for the contact.

  7. Hi Steve:
    I’m writing to ask you a favor. I’m wondering if you would be interested in reviewing my upcoming book on your blog.

    I’m a pastor and author. I have a new book coming out on September 18th called: Broken Trust…a practical guide to identify and recover from toxic faith, toxic church, and spiritual abuse. (search: broken trust, remy on Amazon.com)

    More and more people are questioning the tactics of their church leadership. My book is written to help people know what steps to take to leave and/or confront the abuse, find healing, and then, if possible, return to the church.

    Stephen A. Smith, from libertyforcaptives.com, said Broken Trust is the best book he’s read on spiritual abuse out of the countless books he’s read on the topic. That’s high praise, but he’s one person. I’d love to have others review the book as well. (You can read Stephen’s full review on the amazon page for the book.)

    Thanks for considering this. If interested, I will send you a pdf copy of the book.

    F. Remy Diederich
    readingremy.com
    cedarbrookchurch.net
    amazon.com/author/remydiederich

    1. Hi Remy
      Sorry for the late return reply.
      I would love to read it, but probably need to park it until mid to late sept if that is still any good. Does that still work for you? Love to have the pdf and read as it is an area of interest to me (from having had some toxic experiences)

  8. Hi Steve

    Really resonated with your post today, “Christian Women in Church Who Work” – we are in a very similar position in some ways to your own – & particularly your points iii & iv. It is only because my wife works full-time in a job that she loves that I am able to pastor smaller churches that cannot afford a full-time pastoral salary. In addition to your points (which we thoroughly agree with), we have also experienced a curious lack of engagement and recognition in relation to her work outside the church & also, perhaps consequentially, her involvement in the church. This manifests itself in a number of ways, two being the most commonly encountered. First, it often shows in a complete disinterest in her work – no-one ever asks (generalization of course) anything about the substance of her work beyond the superficial “How’s work?”, nor do they give any hint that they actually want to know. This invariably frustrates her to the point where she will eventually proactively tell somebody what her work entails. She is then usually greeted with shock at the level of her qualifications, the extent of her experience, & the significance of her role. Unfortunately, being married to the pastor may render any work she does secondary & therefore to be dismissed as unimportant. Second is the assumption that she is completely clueless about anything to do with church ministries, governance, the pastorate, etc. This can be particularly patronizing for her, as she is also a pastor’s daughter & has served in a huge variety of ministry capacities for almost her whole life to date. Also implicit within this assumption is the idea that her outside work has nothing to contribute to the internal ministry of the church or qualifies her to give opinions in a specific area. For example, her extensive work in children’s social services, child protection & at-risk children, children’s court proceedings, therapeutic children’s care, etc, etc, etc, apparently give her no helpful insights into the child safeguarding policies or practices within a church setting. It amuses her that she is usually the last person anyone will ask for an opinion on any matters that she has relevant knowledge & experience with! Frustrations aside, however, we know that her work is the foundation on which our pastoral ministry is built – without her & her work we simply could not do the kind of ministry we are currently engaged in. It also makes my care & support of her essential – programming breaks, shielding her from pressure, unconditional friendship, love & understanding, etc. I do know how blessed I am (& the church is!!) to have her.

    Regards,
    Andrew

    1. Hi Andrew
      Exactly – and it’s in those speciality areas in ministry that our professional women could be so helpful, especially those safe guarding practices. I find that Jill could run the Safe Churches material just off her own bat because she’s across all of the issues that churches struggle to get across. It sounds like your wife and my wife have a lot in common. I wonder if there is a place for such women to organise (if they have time) some sort of training/support/event for women to actually talk about this and what it means to be a Christian woman who works in this busy 21st century.

  9. Hi Steve
    Thanks for your work on the blog, and at ‘Kansas’. What a day.

    I introduced myself briefly during the theology of schools seminar. I wanted to ask for your thoughts on the contingency our Christian infrastructure has on the state, especially in regard to our ‘advancing religion’ charitable purpose. It seems to me we have an awful lot sitting on a flimsy foundation, to the extent we rely on those tax exemptions.

    Whatever happens in the next decade or so the Kingdom will prevail, but it would be prudent to prepare for the financial shock, if and when. As an Anglican in Sydney I think we are particularly exposed.

    I wonder, do you know of any work being done to calculate how leveraged we are? Do you have connections to folks that would be willing and competent to do some modeling?

    keep up your good work!

    1. Hi Michael
      Let me have a think about that and the leverage issue. I do believe that things could change very quickly and if that were the case we are way too leveraged! The charitable purpose issue is flimsy as you say, though there is some sense that pragmatic changes will be made, as the govt can’t afford to take up the slack of the costs of education if this loophole were closed. Insofar as schools are concerned, there is something like a 65 per cent between federal and state for each student in many Christian schools, with parents paying the bulk of the rest of that. I think too that it will be prudent to get our houses in order on this one. But let me ask around on this issue, as I have a few fingers in a few pies.

  10. Hi again Steve
    I hope church yesterday was a joy.

    Thanks for your post and the link to The Age article. Someone forgot to tell Perry to stay on script!

    I wonder if you interact with the Equal Voices crowd at all?
    One of the sad and disappointing elements of what we are experiencing is the capitulation of Christians and the campaign by these guys to influence faithful Christians to revise their reading scripture to align with our wider culture. One of their claims has been that the concern for religious freedom is irrelevant and fear mongering we should be ashamed of. So naive!
    Here’s an article they posted – pretty sneaky I think. Would you parse it? Worth a read anyway. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/esther-j-hamori/biblical-standards-for-marriage_b_1540159.html
    Sorry if it’s bad manners to paste a link!
    I’m still keen to hear if anyone you can think of to some research on financial exposure, if you can.

  11. Your latest post about the consequences of being racist – prejudiced in general actually. My sense is that every human has to work hard against prejudice, which comes all too naturally. So I’ll readily own up to being prejudiced in all kinds of ways. God will deal with me.

    On your point about being barred from professions – it’s why I’ve started to not assume I’ll be in employment for my remaining 20+ years of working life. I expect to be filtered out. So I’m not planning on a big mortgage, or a dream house.

    Perhaps Christians, including those individuals considering training for ministry could perhaps get skilled in setting up and running small businesses as a means of getting by. Maybe not cake shops though!

    Thanks again Steve!
    Michael

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