A time to Zag – Andrew Norton

Andrew is based in Auckland and the following article is based on reflections spoken at his retirement as senior minister at St Columba in Botany Downs.

Down on the farm my father taught me, when everyone is planting wheat it’s time to plant barley. There is no demand for over-supply.

As I think about this in relation to the church’s unique contribution to today’s society, I see an over-supply of some things and correspondingly an under-supply of others.

The decline of church attendance over the years is not because the church is no longer relevant but exactly the opposite. The church looks in every way, just like our society, it is no different to the world we live in.

Kevin Roberts put it this way,

“When everyone is zigging it’s time to zag.”

A time to zag.

There’s too much judging and not enough grace.
Have you noticed how quick the demand is for ‘heads to roll?’ We live in a society that is calls for blood. Sadly, the church has become so much like society that it’s hard to pick the difference. The very people who should be most welcome in our churches don’t feel safe. Why? They are afraid of being judged.

It’s time to zag more radical grace!

There’s too much busy and not enough still.
We’ve taken the bait, hook, line and sinker. ‘Are you busy?’

People are rewarded for unquestioned busyness. How crazy is that!

Have you noticed the shift in regular attendance at church from weekly, to forthrightly and now monthly? Why? My guess is that it has something to do with being exhausted and church has become just another busy place.

It’s time to zag. What if we practiced ‘be still and know that I am God?’

There’s too much noise and not enough quiet.
Quiet places are on the world’s most endangered list. Author and environmental audiologist, Gordon Hempton in his book, One Square Inch of Silence, defines quiet as fifteen minutes of uninterrupted natural sound. By that definition there are only twelve places in the USA that qualify. Noise pollution is making us sick. Go to church on Sunday and what do you get?

How many minutes of quiet do you think is possible in a sixty minute service? If we had more quiet we might possibly hear God speak!

It’s time to zag. Quiet please!

There’s too many statements and not enough mystery.
What is it with our obsession to try to explain everything, even God; awe, wonder and mystery reduced to ‘power points?’

The soul is mystery starved. If ever there was something unique the church could offer, it is mystery.

It’s time to zag. Turn to awe, wonder and mystery!

There’s too much believing and not enough beholding.
Are we promoting a tick box faith? This kind of faith has a series of beliefs to ‘tick’ in order to get across the line or to be saved. A ‘beholding’ faith is an encounter with the presence of God in all of life; Immanuel.

It’s time to zag. Behold the lamb of God!

There’s too much ‘me too’ and not enough ‘you too.’
Over the years I’ve had many conversations with people looking for the ideal church to meet their needs; the right preaching, music, children’s and youth programmes. Get over yourself! It’s not about meeting your needs!

Find some unlovely people (you won’t have to look too far) and start loving them; isn’t that what the church is called to do?

It’s time to zag. Love always looks to the other!

On a personal note it’s time for me to zag.  After 35 years of ministry I’ve retired. My recent experience of cancer has been a real game changer.

As I continue to recover new ventures are beginning to open up before me.
Corporate poet: using poetry to grow leaders.
Photographer: Landscape images for heath and well-being.
Executive coaching and supervision.
Writer. See Facebook Courage: the BIGer “C”.
Volunteer guide at Tiritiri Martangi.

For those who have prayed for and supported me over the past twelve months a very big thank you! Arohanui


4 thoughts on “A time to Zag – Andrew Norton

  1. Very inspirational. The Church of Jesus Christ will never be irrelevant. The model of being church we are currently using seems to need an upgrade.


  2. Lovely thoughts Andrew. I also joined in retirement in February this year, and am enjoying God’s purposes in fresh ways, more quiet, more exercise, and yet spending more time in meaningful encouraging conversations with folk too. Blessings.


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