Monday, December 27, 2004

Rules of church

Found this really interesting post at a cool blog I've just discovered. I've been reading his music related blog for ages, and just found this site. Looks like he's got some good stuff to say. Check it out.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Spirituality of songs

As somebody who doesn't massively connect with God through singing in church-it has always interested me why people do. Particularly people who have no experience of church, always talk about how much they loved the singing. Even at our church, where i wouldn't say singing is a massive focus-people always talk about how they loved the music.

I really connect with God through 'normal' music-but I've never been able to work out why that is exactly. I remember one day just having a massive God-moment listening to Clocks, by Coldplay, when I was just at home. It just seemed to connect with me on a different level.

Stuff like U2, Ben Harper I also really connect with-but thats maybe because those songs often intentionally have spiritual themes.

I was talking to a bunch of Yr12s from school, and they just seemed to know what Iewas talking about when I talked about those moments when we just really connect with a song-when it just speaks of something completely different in our lives.

For many people, just driving around listening to their favourite music is a deeply spiritual experience. There'sjust something about music.

Maybe thats why so many people love Christmas Carols? They crave the shared experience of singing, free from the need to prescribe to the religiopus beliefs implied in the words...

Funny Lords Prayer

Man, this is hilarious! If anybody is offended, then sorry-but get over yourself!

As I said in my comment, i dream of a church that would not be offended by that!

Thats a really cool blog too, dunno who he is-but always writes really well thought-out, relevant stuff.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Christmas

In melbourne there's been heaps in the papers over the last week or so about the over-commercialisation of Christmas and how people have lost the true meaning of Christmas etc. There was a fantastic article in mondays Age (thats a short version) which really sparked me to think.

It was saying a little about why it is that even secular people are mourning the commercialisation of Christmas and the fact that heaps of parents want to teach their kids the true meaning of Christmas-even if they don't follow Jesus as such.

One of the things I get most annoyed at it when schools won't let kids have Santa-let alone Jesus or the Nativity Scene. Whether you believe it or not, its a freaking Christian festival. To me, not letting people celebrate Christmas for what it is, is more narrow-minded and impinges on people's rights far more than letting people acknowlege the true meaning.

It'd be like telling Muslims that Ramadan is just a period of fasting to celebrate life, or giving, or family or whatever other soppy crap somebody decides the meaning is.

I'm not massively keen on using Christmas as a big evangelistic tool-in terms of saying 'Hey Jesus came to die for your sins, follow him etc etc' but I do think Christmas is a fantastic time to reflect on our own lives in terms of how well they reflect the life and mission of Jesus.

What part are we playing in Luke 4:18-19? Are we doing our best to live our lives in accordance with those principles?

Friday, December 17, 2004

A numbers backlash?

Anonymous (?) posted a comment recently along the lines 'since when was Christianity anything to do with bums in pews anyway?'

Now i totally agree with that-but I do sometimes get a little annoyed at the 'I've got a better understanding of the kingdom of God than people in a big church' attitude that I hear a lot.

People just seem to want to start bagging out big churches just cos they're big. I have major issues with big churches, but it frustrates me when people seem to be saying that big churches don't grow disciples, crap theology,too many spectators etc.

I know heaps of people in big churches who have an awesome, life-changing faith and are really making an impact on the world around them.

Basically, what I'm saying is: I do believe that Jesus commands us to go and make disciples of all the earth, not just a couple of people. Of course we can't do it all ourselves, but the way we'll change the world is if a few disciples reproduce their lives into others, and those into others, and so on.

I remember a mate saying "I know its not about numbers, but hey, we've got 20 more kids here being a part of Christian community and hearing about Jesus than we did last year-and surely that can't be a bad thing?" Makes a fair amount of sense to me

Of course, the key is not kids in youth group or people at church, its disciples. But at the end of the day, the more disciples the merrier right?

(sorry if this is a bit non-sensical and rantish, I just needed to try and process these thoughts quickly!)

Monday, December 13, 2004

Influential moments-1

I decided I'd do a series of blogs on some of the big influential moments/experiences that have shaped the way I think about faith/mission/church/spirituality. they're in no particular order either-just as I remember them!

The first was a very short conversation I had with a kid from school who's family goes to Gateway-a big uber church up the road from Frankston. I asked him what he thought of the service, his simple reply "Oh its just like Gateway only smaller' really made me think.

I actually disagree for a lot of reasons, but at the end of the day-our basic form is the same: sermons, songs, sitting in rows. I'm not here to bag the format-it totally works for a lot of people-but not everybody, but I'll blog on that later.

Gateway do the 'attractional church' thing really well, they have slick sermons and songs, the services have a great fun atmosphere and are easy to bring people to. I don't have a problem with all of that per se.

My issue is when smaller churches look to those bigger, growing 'successful' churches and try and be like them. It just gives me the irrates. It just frustrates me as to the lack of variety that most churches offer. If people want slick sermons and songs let them go to Gateway or Hillsong or Willow Creek. But not everybody wants that, so why is that the only thing we offer them?

A lot of churches do the attractional thing well, but surely there is room for other, more varied expressions of church?

Saturday, December 11, 2004

I'm very spiritual but not religious

I couldn't tell you how many times I've heard or read people say that, and its really starting to give me the irrates. It just seems like such a cool, post-modern thing to say, which I know many of the people who would say that, would actually have no idea what that means.

Its just become such a cliche, but what does it really mean.

Sure religion (and unfortunately deservedly so) has got a pretty bad rap over the years, but personally I still totally believe it has something to offer. I once heard the definition-your religion is whatever shapes your thoughts, morals and beliefs and helps determine your actions. Thats a defintion I really like. I reckon that whether or not people would outwardly recognise or express it as such, everybody has a religion. Whether that be their friends, movies, the radio, Jesus or John Edward.

The song "Personal Jesus" recently covered by Marilyn Manson says quite a lot to me. Heaps of people beilive in a God, some sort of 'other' the divine or whatever, but people just don't like being told what form that deity takes. Hence the explosion of the New Age and alternative spiritualities where you can basically pick whatever suits you. Far too consumeristic for my liking.

I guess at the end of the day we live in an age where taking up your cross, living for others and following a God that makes demands of us just isn't popular.

Sunday, December 05, 2004

I don't like the Emerging Church

I have been talking to a lot of people recently who have been asking me about plans for next year, so I've been explaining a few of my plans to move away from traditional stuff at Frankston to try something new in the Tyabb/Somy area.

I hesitate when saying I want to create an 'emerging church'. I don't know why, but for some reason i just have this perception that people view the emerging church as the cool new bandwagon to be jumped on, and I react very strongly to doing stuff cos its cool. Its becoming so big now its getting put in a basket i don't necessarily want to jump into.

Its just that I really resonate with the people who call themselves 'emerging church' and the way that they think and approach stuff.

So I guess I'm an anti emerging church person who's into the emerging church...

Angry Christians

I was explaining a little more what I meant by my Black T-Shirts post to a guy at church the other day, and I said "I basically reckon that church has taught Christians to be passive, nice, lovey-dovey people, not enough Christians get angry any more" which was basically what I was trying to say in the post.

He responded by saying that that can also go totally the other way, when you get really angry judgemental Christians holding up placards saying that God hates gays or those who practice abortion.

He also mentioned that we can get in the mindset that its ok to get angry about the stuff that we do, but get annoyed at people who fire up over stuff we're less than keen on-a crime I've been guilty of!

I still totally reckon Christians need to get angrier about stuff, but need to be careful how that anger presents itself.

Friday, December 03, 2004

Jokes

Was just realising how serious my blog has become, so I thought I'd chuck in some funny stuff. But as usual, its interactive, so if you have any more jokes of this ilk, please post em up.

The standard format is "What do you call a guy who..."

Has a rabbit up his bum-Warren
With a shovel in his head-Doug
Without a shovel in his head-Douglas
Is in your pool with no arms and no legs-Bob
Is under your car-Jack
On your front door step-Matt
Lying in a pile of leaves-Russell

Or alternatively, a woman who...

Is standing in the middle of a tennis court-Annette
Has a steak on her head-Barbie
Has one leg shorter than the other-Eileen
A chinese woman with one leg shorter than the other-Irene

Any more out there...

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Greek orthodox church

It has been fascinating today and last week at work talking to a guy who is my age who has just completed his first year of a theology degree at a Greek Orthodox college in Sydney. Its amazing how similar, yet remarkably diverse our faith traditions are.

We were discussing why the schism of 1054 happened, which was kinda a short lived discussion as neither of us knew much at all about it! But I'd be interested to hear if anybody can sum up why it happened (in the space of a blog reply!)

He was talking about how they use chanting and prayerful mediatation, stuff which is kinda hip in some circles but ahs been a part of his tradition for like 2000 years. A lot of people bag out tradition, but he finds it meaningful in his services, and i reckon we could learn a lot from those who've gone before us.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Black T-Shirts

Was down at the Island with a few of the crew from Yr12, and was reflecting on the nature of black T-shirts, just the whole culture that is associted with them. So, look out for my next sermon-'Why Jesus would wear a black T-shirt'.

I'll post more on why soon, in the meantime, this link is along similar lines to what I'm thinking.

Monday, November 15, 2004

Totally different paradigm

Was at a 21st of a mate from YITS on Saturday night, which was awesome fun, particularly catching up with the Big Tasmanian.

But I was talking to another friend there about some of my thoughts in terms of looking at doing a church plant next year. She was really positive about it, and asked how the process was coming along, and then asked "So have you got your music team together?"

I almost had to stop myself laughing, because that kind of thought is so completely opposite from where I'm at. It really struck me as funny how different our paradigms were in terms of thinking about church planting.

For me, questions like 'Who will join me in starting, who are we aiming this church at, what community are we trying to connect with, do we even need a specific church meeting?' are heaps more relevant at the moment.


Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Wicked site

Check this site out, man it pretty cool!

I'm already a fan, I'm so glad other people know how to do cool stuff on the internet!
Check it out!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Is Salt and Light enough?

Have just been reflecting on what has been another fantastic year in my work as a High School Youth Worker, its not quite over yet, but nearly.

I had some really fantastic relationships with this years Yr 12s, and I'm genuinely really sad to see them go. I would genuinely class some of them as good friends, and have had an absolute blast at school.

But, I also see my role as a pretty evangelistic one (that is, I'd hope that Jesus would be made real to people in such a way that they choose to follow Him, and I'd hope that God would be able to use me somewhere in that process) and I'm not sure if I've been successful in that.

By no means is my primary aim to 'convert' the whole school, but at the end of the day I'd like to see the kids becoming disciples, cos thats what I believe life is all about.

So, I've hung out with them, gone to all their parties and school events, but their still not following Jesus. Have I failed? I think not, but I still wonder if I've been as effective as possible in my role.

I absolutely hate it when people go into schools with the sole objective of getting kids to church, cos i think thats just manipulative and wrong. You've gotta be in there, get to know and love the kids, and out of that, talk about Jesus. Not the other way around.

And because I know and love those kids, I want them to 'have life to the full' that is, following Jesus.

I guess I'm still exploring new and different ways of doing evangelism, I know what I don't want to do, but still not 100% on what I do. I think you need something more than just hanging out with people, but am really unsure what the next step is.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Means to an end

Was discussing with my Listening Group today the concept of house churches. We've been having some really fantastic discussions in there and I know I've really appreciated it. I think our church is really on the verge of branching out into some new exciting stuff, and I'm really pleased by the level of excitement about mission stuff-as thats totally my passion.

I was questioning the perception that house churches were just a means to an end, the end being hiring out a hall, then buying a building of your own, then trying to attract people to that building... (OK so maybe that bit isn't always expressed, but I think thats often the mindset when you have a building?)

I personally don't see house churches, or smaller services in cafe's or wherever, as only a starting point. The Acts model of church doesn't seem to do house churches just so they can then grow and move out of those houses.

Totally different situation, but the church in China is just growing off its nut, and they only meet in house churches. And us Christendom model churches with our big congregations and sitting-in-rows is in decline. Theres heaps of other factors, but I think thats a contributing one.

I'm not poo-poo ing big churches and buildings, just re-iterating my feeling that they are not the only way, and need not be the aim of all church plants.

Sunday, October 31, 2004

Tough Questions

For a number of reasons, started off by the John Safran thing a couple of weeks ago (sorry to keep bringing it up, but still not sure about it all) and a whole bunch of other similar issues coming up, have been thinking heaps about the whole interplay between the spiritual and pyschological worlds.

I firmly believe in the spiritual realm, and know quite a few people who do too, but who all sit at very different spots on the spectrum of their understanding about it all. There are those who lean toward explaining stuff in a more scientific manner, eg People pre-empting themselves to think/react in a certain way and to react in a way that is shaped by their understandings, and then people will say theres this massive spiritual war going on, with all good stuff from God and all bad stuff the work of the devil.

I think I stand somewhere in between these two approaches.

I think people do get touched by God in very supernatural and unexplainable ways, and that there is also negative spiritual forces acting against the will of God. I also believe that people suffer from mental illness, and also a lot of what people would automatically brand as spiritual is sometimes just pyscosomatic/psychological.

I am also aware that people will always bring to their situation their worldview of God and the spiritual realm, which will affect how they interpret their experience.

Probably doesn't make a lot of sense, but am just tryinmg to work through it all for myself!


Friday, October 29, 2004

Why did Jesus die?

Was having this discussion with my Vetamorphus kids yesterday. Why did Jesus die exactly? Was it all part of God's plan-and if so, why did God need to effectively kill himself so that we could have a relationship with him?

Was He just killed because he so badly annoyed the religious officials of his day, was it because the world could not handle such a man that was so open to God, and so extraordinarily loving, that they were so confronted by Him they had to kill him?

I've always heard the easy 'To save us from our sins' response, but I'm just trying to flesh out exactly what that means.

There's obviously a whole lot of prophecies about him from the OT, but is it possible that the Gospels were written in such a way to satisfy these prophecies, to make Jesus more believable to the Jews?

How did people view Jesus before that big Nicene (I think it was that one!) creed where they fleshed out the whole fully human, fully God thing?

Again, big questions, and I'm not even gonna try and answe them for the moment. Any thoughts?

Links

Didn't have any luck last time I tried to post a link, so will try again. Will try and link to one of my favourite sites which is here.

Its a great site, lots of quality stuff, can somebody let us know if it works?

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Missed it

Unfortunately I missed the Mind Body Spirit thing in Tyabb, turns out it was on yesterday! Those kind of things really interest me, because it shows that people are genuinely searching for spiritual stuff, but unfortunately these people are not looking in churches.

Half the reason for this I reckon is because so many Christians are so tight-arse and unwilling to listen to people who think differently to them. I have no problem with sticking firmly to our beliefs, but it just annoys me that so many people are simply unable to have a conversation with these people because they're so freaking narrow minded.

Sure we could sprout on about how all this alternative spirituality is so self-centred, consumeristic, evil, wrong or whatever else we want to call it, but I think people are genuinely searching for God, and we need to involve ourselves in these conversations. My mate Petes written a good post on this here

I was talking to a mate from cricket last night, and was explaining about a guy I know who goes to those festivals and uses Tarot cards to talk about Jesus. Its just all about going on to people's turf, speaking their language and contextualising the Gospel. Classic Acts 17 stuff.

His reaction was all 'But Tarot cards are evil, you can't use them' etc, but I reckon we need to be always looking for new ways to explain what Jesus was on about. A guy called Darryl has explained this well here.

Hope the links work!

Friday, October 22, 2004

Crazy Spiritual Stuff

Was watching the John Safran vs God from Monday night, and I gotta say, its got me thinking-as well as a little freaked out!

Dunno if any of you guys saw it, but John was over in America, and received an exorcism by an American fundamentalist preacher-it was intense!

He was shrieking, growling and writhing around, and was fighting so hard it took 5 massive blokes to hold him down! It seemed to me there was definetely something going on there, but not exactly sure what, which is what has got me thinking.

Have been thinking a lot lately about spiritual issues, particularly in the more supernatural realm kinda stuff.

Coming from a pretty conservative background this kind of stuff is very much not part of my experience, nor am I quite sure about it all.

Got a 3 week series on the holy spirit at church at the moment, and I think I tend to try and over-analyse it all.

Plus there's this Mind Body Spirit festival happening in Tyabb on Sunday, it all seems to be happening at once, not sure how I'll navigate my way through it all, but we'll see.

I'll keep you posted.

But did anybody else see the episode? What did you think?

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Theology and Church Growth

"Yeah but that kind of theology doesn't grow churches" I remember about Christmas last year, going to my cousins church and going up to speak to the preacher to air some differences of opinion I had with his sermon.

Having just completed the most faith-screwing-with year of my life, I was at a stage where I pretty much didn't have any idea at all what I really believed, and was having enough trouble with that as it was, then this. I think I raised some questions that were racing around in my head re the Bible, how we got it, who wrote it etc, questions I still mull over.

And then he said that. Now for me, as someone who is massively passionate about seeing people come into relationship with Jesus (yes I still believe that despite the cliche-ness of it) this totally troubled me.

I have always held that it is God who calls us to him, that if chrches grow, its because of God. So... Would God not grow a church I was leading because I didn't think the right thing? That question massively screwed with my head.

So should I just conform to standard Christian belief and ignore all of my questions? I crtainly hope not.

You look at a guy like Spong, somebody with ome pretty 'different' understandings of God to what you would find in most churches. And in the area over which he presides church attendance has halved int he time he's been there.

Then you look and see the churches that are often pretty conservative, maybe fundamentalist (crappy terms, but I know what I mean by them) in their theology, and they seem to be the ones growing.

I think maybe there are some sociological reasons behind this, in terms of people's need and desire to have answers, and to avoid difficult questions without solid answers and to know that they're right etc, but I still reckon God plays a massive part in churches growing.

And before anybody starts ranting about numbers not being the measure of success or whatever, i am well aware of that. But at the end of the day i think the world would be a better place with 100 switched on disciples rather than 10, and at the moment, churches are the main places producing passionate disciples of Christ.

Sorry about the long post, but its abig one for me.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Thats why I do youth ministry

Had youth group tonight, and had a couple of our younger guys organise the night for the first time, one of whom was just recently baptised and massively raw in terms of Christian experience, but keen as anyway

The night itself was pretty normal for us, a whole bunch of games and running around, some worked some didn't and a bit of food and hanging out. We didn't even have a devo or anything remotely God like explicitly mentioned.

Then we had a bit of a de-brief and one of the younger leaders shared about how much just being in Christian community, being able to come and hang out with friends, and be entrusted with a bit of oppurtunity had really helped her grow lately. This didn't come about because we had a really top quality program or great stuff on every week, it came about through relationships.

And thats what ministry is all about.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Little Aussie Battlers

I'm speaking at a youth service for a friend of mine on Sunday, its like a commissioning sending off ritual kinda service, so should be pretty cool.

I want to talk about how our understanding of faith will change as grow and leave school, it be expand, be challenged and tested, and we will always need to be looking at how exactly we live out our faith wherever we are.

Got chatting to my mum about this, and we got onto the topic of why it churches always seem to celebrate the baptisms, the people who've made new commitments etc (and quite rightly so) yet we often are not so good at validating and honouring the journeys of those who've been around for ever. For some people Christianity has just always been a way of life, there's been no conversion story, no spectacular moment when you first fall in love with God.

So how do we honour those people, how do we honour their lifetime of faith despite struggles and doubts? They've seen friends and ministers come and go, sat through all of the various fads of church life, and still turn up faithfully every Sunday.

I remember hearing a friend say she was almost embarrassed to share her testimony, as she'd been to church all her life and never really strayed from it. I told her not to be so silly, but could understand why she felt that way. Maybe we spend too much time honouring the amazing at the expense of the everyday?

So fight on all you little Aussie battlers of the faith, stick at it!

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Communion?

Had an interesting service at Funkytown Church of Christ last night, on Awe and Reverence to God, which was all well and good, but the communion talk really got me thinking.

As a CoC one of our big things is to do communion everytime we meet as a church (which makes me wonder, if the church is the people, shouln't we by definition take communion every time we hang out together-why do we only think its necessary on a Sunday night...?)

But what does communion really mean? Is it more than just an invitation to share a meal at Jesus' table? What does it mean to 'remember' Jesus-is it more than just a cognitive recall thing? Who should take communion? Who shouldn't? Do we have the right to tell people they can't take it? Do we need to tell people in as many words, that the meal we're sharing is communion?

And more specifically related to my yet to exist footy-church: Could the meal we have after training be seen as communion? If we're all sharing a meal at a home after training, do us 'Christians' have to tell the 'Non-Christians' that for us this meal is communion?

Just thinking through all those questions has tired me out, so i may try and answer some of them later-but I don't think I'll have too many answers!!

Woo-hoo!

I so feel like a little kid in a candy shop! This blogging is so much fun! It full gives ya such a buzz to see that other people have bothered to comment on your site!

Rock on!

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Calling

One of the big things I'm really trying to get my head around at the moment is what it means to be called to a particular ministry?

How do we know when we're called to something, how do we know its God and not just ourselves calling us somewhere?

Is the fact that we're passionate, gifted in, 'good at' or are told by everybody else that we should; good indicators of a sense of calling?

Does God call us to places we hate? I used to think not, but then you look at that story of Abraham in the Old School Testament (Gen 22) who is asked by God till kill his son Isaac (which he doesn't end up having to do). Now Abraham was clearly not passionate or excited about the prospect of killing his own son-I daresay he was downright opposed to it! But it seems that God was merely testing his faith.

I guess for me, the issue comes down to whether or not your own passions and desires are a useful tool in hearing your call-I have always thought so, but am now beginning to doubt that.

Maybe some things are a case of "If you are faithful with a little, you will be trusted with a lot" (Mt 25:21)

(I never thought my blog would be one where I'd end up quoting a whole bunch of Bible verses, but those two are quite relevant to my thinking about this)

One helpful quote I've heard is "Your call is when the world's deepest needs meet your hearts deepest gladness" Another is "Do not simply ask what the world needs, but find what makes you come fully alive-because if nothing else the world needs more people fully alive" I may have slightly misquoted those, but I hope you get the gist.

Those of you who know me well will know what all this relates to, so I won't bother explaining it all, but the wider concept of what it means to be called is more what I'm interested in.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Footy Club as 'church'

Had my footy club presentation last night, and don't even ask how I went-it was absolutely heinous!

There was the usual Best and Fairest, so congratulations to Matty Julz and Ash (Word up Flacky-awesome speech bro!) and then onto the thanking of numerous people who help out around the club, and its just amazing how much time and effort so many people put in to get us blokes out on the track.

Two of our club stalwarts were honoured with Life Membership for all the effort they've put into the club-well done Bretty and Val. I was sitting back and reflecting on how the footy club is, for so many people, their 'church'. I mean this in terms of the club gives us a form of identity and purpose, it helps give meaning to our lives and the social group of mates there really helps us shape how we live. As you can see, I totally see myself in this category sometimes.

One of the guys at the club once said, yeah thats because people worship football, not God, which I think I agree with to an extent, but don't completely.

So many people are so much more committed to that club than a lot of people are to their churches-which I think says something both ways, and the community there can be a very helpful place. There are of course a lot of negative, life-diminishing aspects to the whole footy club scene, but its not all bad as i think a lot of people would like to portray it.

Dunno what any of this means practically, just some thoughts running around my head last night!





Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Losing my Bloginity

Hey dudes!! I just recently stumbled upon how easy it actually is to do this whole blogging thing-so here I go!

I must admit I am a little ashamed that my first official words in cyberspace are 'Hey dudes' but I couldn't think of anything cooler to say, except maybe purplemonkeydishwasher, but thats been used already...

I'm gonna use this as a bit of an online journaly type thing to chuck down whatever questions or thoughts seem to be runing around in my head. Usually this revolves around theology, church, mission, football and music. So if any of these topics interest you at all, or even if they don't-check out my site. If nothing else it will make me feel loved :)

Stay tuned...