This morning I did something I don’t often do. I came down to my local coffee shop to wait for a friend. While here I did some work on the church website, sent out a circular email and updated our facebook site.
I also had a long macc. I always get disappointed when I don’t have a coffee from here, they make a great coffee.
While sitting here outside on one of their funky hispter benches I have had three seperate people come and chat. People from Church, people from Toddler Jam, people with mutual friends. They all stopped and chatted.
It was a nice experience. Having been a part of this community for over 20 years, I know a lot of people. And a lot of people know me. Serving on the local primary school P and C, running Toddler Jam. You know people, and are known.
I was reflecting on the number one reason people come to and stay at a church. It is not the music, it is not the preaching, and it is actually not only the kids programs, although that is huge.
A number of folk told me this week the number one reason is because someone said hello. Not someone who is part of the structured welcome team, but just a regular person. We are all craving real human contact. We all want to be noticed. We all want community.
This is mine.
Music is the soundtrack to significant moments in our lives. It becomes part of that moment. Like a favourite smell, hearing a familiar song takes us back to that moment.
Whenever I hear a ‘Hoodoo Gurus’ track I’m instantly taken back to surfing down at Dunsburough with some mates. High School was done, I had no real idea what I was going to do with my life, and the curling surf off Yallingup was as scary and exciting as the girls watching on from the carpark.
Midnight Oil chanting out ‘US forces” brings to my mind a cassette player someone had on a Scarborough High Excursion. We headed off to Balcatta High School for a volleyball tournament. Heading into that high school felt like we were stepping onto the set of “Grease”. We met and played against teens from a vastly different social group to our own.
Music conjures up memories of significant times.
When someone chooses to follow Jesus, either when growing up in the church or at a later stage in life, the music of that time will be important to them. Is it any wonder the people who found Jesus at a Billy Graham crusade swell with pride and sentiment when a glorious hymn is cranked up?
When I became a Christian one of my favourite songs was, ‘Lord I lift your name on high’. I could sing you all the words right now. It takes me back to those exciting evening services at Albany Church of Christ. But can my faith stay in that moment? No of course not. God changes, grows and refines my faith, deepens it. In fact He is always saying something fresh to the church, bringing new manna. There is no question we should be singing a new song. A new song is for the community as it is now. So often the song we heard and sung when Jesus became real to us was new in that moment as well.
This is where the ‘worship wars’ get real. We confuse spirituality with sentimentality. A new sung does not allow us to be caught up in sentimentality, it pushes us into spirituality. It causes us to ponder, meditate and be swept up in what God is saying now, today, for the community you are part of in this season.
The Babylon Bee website is an increasingly popular website with its scathing and humorous articles which are shared often. It is the brainchild of Adam Ford. He is not the only contributor but is the main one, and the editor.
It is incredible how many people read the articles and believe it is real news. As Christians we have become accustomed to expressing righteous indignation over the latest scandal involving the modern church, modern culture and the erosion of Christian values in our society. Recently ‘The Bee’ did a article entitled, “Mainline protestantism declared a safe place for those offended by the gospel“. A number of people commented on it decrying the gospel being no longer preached. They thought it was a real article. Are we so lacking in awareness that we can’t spot satire from the real thing? Is it possible we have a persecution complex?
This week we heard the awful news that 22 Christians were killed on their way to attend their Church in Egypt. This is persecution.
Sometimes the Bee crosses the line. When they printed this article, “Hillsong United split glory with God” I personally felt they were personal and unnecessarily mean spirited. There is an underlying premise that Hillsong is at least partially ministering for their own glory. Now everyone is subject to critique, but thats mean and personal.
I like having a laugh and clever satire can reveal truth about ourselves which is uncomfortable and humbling. All of us have feet of clay. However the glee at which some share the sometimes derogatory and mean nature of some of the Bees articles concerns me. Ministry is hard enough without unnecessarily harming our own tribe.
All I would suggest is having discernment, with a discernment website.
In my family of origin there were a couple of non-negotiable rules. We were in church on Sunday and there was no television allowed on Sundays. School on Monday morning was always a little awkward as you pretended to know what the other kids were talking about when they discussed the latest video on Countdown or the footy from Match of the Day. It was interesting to see the change in my own family as we grew up. I am not quite sure when the rules changed, but they did. Church was still not an option, but Sunday night drama and comedy, especially on the ABC, became part of our diet.
Its not easy to say no to our children in these days of Sunday sport and birthday parties invitations. Time and time again the number one wish parents have for their children is that they have friends and social acceptance. There has been negotiation and navigation for us as parents. We do not want our children to miss the social formation which they need. Neither do we wish for them to miss out on the heart of the Christian experience. Gathering together with other believers to enjoy the presence of Christ, to hear the word, to fellowship. It is a beautiful discipline that should not be easily revoked. Our children believe and embrace that we do, not necessarily that we say.
As a Pastor it is easy to write this off as the ravings of someone with a horse in the race. Of course I would say this, I want people in the pews. And there is no question I desire for my church to have vibrant and full services. So it is catch 22 for me to even post this.
However the prophetic part of my nature points to the principle that we reap what we sow. It is tough enough as it is to raise a family and have teenagers and young adults embrace Christ and His Church. When we by action give the message that Church is an add on, something to do when it doesn’t conflict with other more important activities, the message will be received and acted upon.
As Pastors and leaders our past hurts will flavour our reaction to present ministry situations.
If we have been criticised, betrayed, let down and disappointed by people, this will cause us to be insecure, reactionary and untrusting in present ministry situations.
If there has been a battle fought and won in a particular area of ministry, when that discussion comes up again we may very well be overtly defensive about it. The pain inflicted by fighting that battle may still be real and present. So we shore up our defenses. It feels like we are being attacked all over again, even if we are not.
The ability to reframe your perspective to your present situation is crucial. The past battles have been done. Its time to trust, hope and believe again.
My church is going through a significant time of growth at the moment. Every week we have people checking us out, coming in and enjoying our times together. We are even seeing people with little or no church background come to our Sunday services. It really is a significant period we are going through.
What I am keenly aware of though is that in order for people to become part of your community, they need to become part of your community. At Inglewood Church we believe we are offering real times of significant spiritual input and opportunities to worship and experience a sense of God’s presence together.
But in our increasingly marginalised and insular society people are still looking for what they have always looked for, friendship and community. Part of being a church is having space and time for relationships to deepen as we journey together on a spiritual journey. Learning, being challenged, serving.
The Apostles Creed is not scripture. However I believe it accurately articulates some important aspects of the Christian faith.
I think theology is important. There are some great theologians, and some that are perhaps less than great. However theology is important, it can inform our expectations of God and life.
Neither creeds nor theology are actually what is crucial to the Christian faith. Jesus Himself made this clear. Love God. Love others.
Love of God, knowing Jesus, having a relationship with Him with all that entails is crucial to our Christian faith. Hearing from Him, listening to Him, worshipping Him. This is essential.
Love of others. Caring about our neighbour, seeing justice on earth, caring for the poor, sharing our faith, helping people say yes to Jesus. This is essential.