Coffee Shop thoughts

I was sitting at home in relative comfort eating some spicy breakfast beans and reading the West wondering what I should do for an hour or so before my meeting this morning.

It was the weirdest sense I had from God that if I was going to write a blog post I should leave my warm kitchen and go to a coffee shop and percolate. The coffee is certainly better here, especially since my coffee machine has clogged itself up beyond repair. But it was a unusual feeling of trepidation walking into a coffee shop I have never frequented before here on Beaufort St Inglewood. I found a little table I could plonk my Macbook on and sat down.

It is a smallish place and the coffee is good, as you expect for my area. What is surprising me is the real sense of community and fun here. The crowd is diverse. The bloke next to me is typing away and chatting in a Eurpoean accent to the little boy next to him sipping on his babycino. There are three Mums in sporting gear, no doubt returned from the gym, ‘insert facepalm emoji’. There are two high vis tradies desperate for their morning hit, and the obligatory hipster asking for a single blend.

I notice that there are two people behind the counter. One of them is focused on the small Synesso coffee machine. The other has dyed pink and green hair and seems to know everyones name, except mine of course. In fact she knows more than their names, she knows them and they know her. Its pretty obvious this coffee shop has the formula right.

Know the people, and know your coffee. Be genuinely happy to see someone, beyond the fact they are tapping their credit card on your little machine.

Will Koorong sell the new Kanye West Album?

I must admit the first time I have taken notice of Kanye West is when I mispronounced his name during a sermon. I also like his sneakers.

His new album, “Jesus is King” doesn’t fit into any category neatly. The music ranges from gospel to pop to hip pop, soul and of course rap. What is interesting about it musically is the diversity and range of influences Kanye crams into the playlist. West is a incredibly creative and innovative artist.

In my house it has been on high repeat, particularly as I have been cooking which is always a good sign. I am enjoying it a lot.

As a pastor, father to teenagers, and someone who likes to keep up with contemporary spirituality I am really encouraged by the lyrical content and heart of the album. Kanye touches on various themes ranging from pure worship to prophetic utterance on church, society and life in general.

Is his conversion real? I hope so. How would anyone but Jesus know. Is what he is producing good and uplifting? I think so. I hope he gets some mature and wise leaders and mentors around him. It is scary how quick the contemporary church seeks to use those who have fame rather than develop them. It is clear that with all new disciples they need time for the maturity to catch up with the influence. I am going to pray for him, for his ministry and for our world. We need more positive influence and I choose to hope this is what Kanye is becoming.

The pain of personal growth

When I have been confronted by my own personal failures, mistakes and points of growth….these have been some of my most painful moments.

Isn’t it better to live in denial land where everyone likes you and you like yourself?

There have been moments this year where I have been confronted by my own failings. Moments where I have realised of my own lack of self awareness. I have experienced the pain of seeing something in my own life which I don’t like, something I wish wasn’t there.

The natural inclination in these moments is to run. But how do you run from yourself? Maybe you run from those people who show a mirror to yourself. Maybe you run from moments of sitting and reflecting and allowing God to speak into your life.

I am so aware there is no fast track to personal growth. But I do know it involves pain. All growth does.

On the Bench

The AFL Grand Final is on this weekend and it should be a great game between two fantastic teams of differing styles. In Australian Football there are 22 players selected for game day, with 18 on the field at any one time, and four on the bench. These four players will rotate throughout the game, with most players having a rest at same stage.

This bench time is crucial for the teams success as it allows the players to have a mental and physical break from one of the most aerobically challenging sports in the world.

It is wisdom to think that in our Christian life we have time on the bench. This time is to allow us a breather from being in the intensity of ministry. Serving Jesus can be exciting, exhilarating and demanding. Jesus knew that. He gave His life to serving God, but He also had times He withdrew from the crowd. Times He spent on the bench to recharge, regather His thoughts and have spent reserves replenished. Does this mean He was not still serving, that He was cast aside, that He was useless?

None of those. In fact being on the bench was preparation for the next stage of Ministry. It was also necessary for His sustainability.

I think the worst thing we could do was think because we are not in the hustle and bustle of ministry and church life that God has forgotten us. He hasn’t. I would hate to think a time of rest was mistaken for a goodbye or rejection.

Maybe someone reading this needs to hear, you are not forgotten, you are still part of the team. It is time to start moving again getting ready for when you are called back onto the field.

Going the extra five percent

Just a short thought.

Vulnerability, sharing the extra little piece of you. Being a little awkward.

Saying what others may think, but would never say.

I think we sometimes hold back from saying that little extra because we don’t want anyone to be uncomfortable. Or we don’t want to be uncomfortable.

However it is in those moments that people relate to us, and listen.

Particularly as communicators.

Stating the truth about Bill

I have written before about Bill Hybels. In brief he was a very significant leader and someone I looked up to. Unfortunately it is without doubt that he has been guilty of abuse of power and position in various ways which you can read about if you so desire.

What is on my mind at present though is how we as churches and leaders deal with allegations that happen within our community, and beyond that, explanations of what has happened. Once something had been determined to have happened how do we deal with the aftermath? How do we deal with leaders in Church who have failed, sinned, been abusive.

In the Willow Creeks Church case some of the people who have been victims have been very disappointed that the elders have not named what has happened. Initially there was denial. Many of the victims were named and spoken of in a disparaging way. Now that it has been determined than in fact the balance of probability clearly points to the abuse accusations being accurate. The Church recently held a healing service about the whole issue to try and move on. However many of the victims think that the actions of Bill was glossed over, not dealt with or confessed properly. (Here)

I do not envy the Elders at the Willow Creek Church. They are the ones having to carry the burden of leadership at that Church. In many ways they have taken huge steps to resolving this. And great people such as Pastor Heather Larson and Pastor Steve Carter have taken responsibility and left the church. They have met with many of the victims and heard their stories.

However it is also obvious that a significant amount of hurt and pain remain. And remains unresolved in any significant way.

I cannot make a judgment on Willow Creek and how they have dealt with the victims of Bill’s abuse. It is so complex, for me to voice a view would seem involving a higher level of responsibility and authority than I have.

However in general terms it seems to me that as Churches we have this mistaken notion that to be Christian and loving is to sometimes protect people from the truth. One of the most provocative things Jesus ever said was that the truth will set you free. He meant this in a multi-faceted way. The gospel is the truth, and sets us free from sin and death. The truth sets us free in a wide range of life experiences.

Did the Apostle Paul hold back from the truth? I don’t believe so. He wrote letters which would be read aloud and in public at not only the church he was addressing, but also at various other churches as well. In these letters he named names. He publicly rebuked and chastised members who were sinning, had theological issues, who needed to resolve differences. He made it clear that the church should deal with the church as far as possible.

If I was going to give an analogy I remember when first starting out in ministry I opened up the old Baptismal which had been unused for years. When I opened up the old covers to the light, the cockroaches scattered. I cleaned and scrubbed that dirty old concrete until it shone and smelt hospital clean. We then celebrated new life as young people declared their commitment to Jesus.

Until you name something you cannot be free from it. And I suspect as Christians we are far too polite to name it. But it needs to be named. I understand the need to only share information as far as is appropriate. But here is the thing about the Willow situation. Bill’s original rebuttal of the accusations was streamed online, to literally anyone who wanted to see it. The original statements from the church, which have since been retracted, were released online, to anyone who wanted to read them. Now. At a church service for the members and adherents of Willow Creek, suddenly the elders will not name what has so obviously happened? That is probably as far as I would go in stating what I think needs to happen.

The truth will set you free.

Knowing your place

The trap of comparison.

Every day I find myself flicking through instagram at the food people are cooking, the clothes they are wearing and perhaps more pertinently, what they are preaching about and where.

Many churches now post their highlights from the weekend just gone and just like influencers and regular posters we generally see the highlights. We don’t see the stumble over words, the words spelt incorrectly on the screen or the song which did not quite work. We present ourselves how we wish to be seen.

What this does to me can tempt me to the place and trap of comparison. Why isn’t God bringing in that crowd to my place, why don’t I have that zinger of a comment which cuts through the noise like that celebrity pastor.

Jealousy has become so much easier in this age of instant connection and visualisation of reality.

The solution is to know my place. To what God has called me to, and indeed what I am to aspire to. This does not lead to sluggishness or lack of initiative. God has called me to know my place in the Kingdom. That is a place of satisfaction but also a place of holy discontent.