Bill

In my life I have sought many mentors. We need human leaders who challenge us, inspire us, call us to serve Jesus to our capacity.

Every now and then there are those leaders who have been given 10 talents. They don’t hide anything in the soil, faith and risk are their companions as they believe in Jesus for more.

Bill Hybels was one of those leaders, a generational pastor who challenged us all that the local church was the hope of the world. I read his books, went to conferences at his church, invested money in my own development because of his example and words. None of that was wasted. So much of his teaching remains in my heart.

Yet my heart is broken.

I was reading the story of Samson this week and was incredulous at why God would anoint and pour His Spirits power upon Samson. He was empowered and gifted to do incredible acts of strength. Yet when we read about him we find a man easily influenced and manipulated by his base desires.

It is clear to me that when ten women accuse you of similar acts that there is an ungodly pattern and behaviour in your life. It is also clear to me that when you have built such a wonderful testament to Gods power and changed lives, in the midst of such ‘success’, that proper accountability may not be enforced.

Where do we proceed? The women involved need a clear and unequivocal apology. The church, and by that I mean us all, owe them our regret and sorrow that they were not listened to. That the success of one man allowed their voices to be unheard.

Willow Creek Church board have all resigned, along with Lead Pastor Heather Larson and teaching Pastor Steve Carter. I know Steve personally and am saddened that he has been caught up in the wave of protecting Bill. However I support his integrity in stepping down. Heather appears so gifted and in these moments it seems to me the Church has so much beauty. In repentance, godly sorrow and looking to a new day. I pray the women involved feel some sort of peace and hope for the future.  (Story) (Church Leaders Statement)

As a Pastor I have seen the good that GLS and Willow Creek has done. It champions women leaders and pastors. Bill and his team have unapologetically championed fairness and kindness to all. In fact last years GLS started with this emphasis on kindness.  GLS has brought Godly wisdom, knowledge and understanding together in a brilliant package.

I hope that this can continue. Our churches, our businesses, our education, our families…..all need godly leadership. It was never built on one man, it was built on the power of the Holy Spirit.

Hillsong Perth Is 12 months young

In February 2017, I wrote what turned out to be my most read and engaged with post on my blog  as pastors and churches all over Perth heard the news that Hillsong was launching a campus in Perth.

Hillsong Perth

Hillsong Perth have now launched their campus in Perth and recently celebrated their 1st anniversary. In that time they have established a growing congregation meeting at the University of Western Australia, seen multiple baptisms, led people to Jesus and seen people grow in their faith and community.

Some people may wonder why Perth needs another church. I personally feel that Hillsong Perth have added a much needed element to the Church landscape in our city. They are a vibrant, creative and social media savvy Church. Everything they do is done with a contemporary flavour and a relevance that informs other churches. Personally I believe that the humble observer can use Hillsong Perth’s example to challenge the status quo of their own church for the better.

Like many in Perth I have visited their Sunday service to see how they have been building community and reaching out to the community. Whatever your particular culture, whatever music you use, whatever demographic you are targetting, I believe Hillsong have some adaptable values and practices which are worth emulating. We noticed the abundant signage. At my own church we have had visitors remark how difficult it was to find basic amenities. I looked at the clear and well branded signage and have made changes at Inglewood Church They also have teams of greeters. Sometimes we tend to allow people just to find their own seat. In fact it was nice as a visitor to have someone help you find a seat. You did not have to think about it. They were well trained, big smiles and made you feel at home. What is fascinating about Hillsong is how the church feels very similar to every other Hillsong Church I have visited.

One lovely afternoon I met with their campus pastor Chrishan Jeyaratnam for coffee and a chat. What I discovered was a gracious, humble, missional and passionate man. I asked him how they had transferred such a positive culture across the nation, and indeed across the world. His comment was that culture was caught as much as taught. The welcoming attitude starts with the leaders and permeates throughout the church. It was two hours I treasured as I peppered him with questions on church growth, raising up leaders, creativity and the general values of Hillsong which has seen it be the incredibly influential church it is.  He was so generous with his time and vulnerability.

Twelve months on the churches in Perth have not seen a mass exodus out their doors into Hillsong Perth. What we have seen is a valuable addition to what God is doing in our city.

Reckless love of God

We started singing Cory Asbury’s song, “Reckless Love” recently at Church. Every new song we sing at Church goes through a process. Some of the parameters are ‘singability’, when it was released, its culture, its feel, its tempo and of course its theology and meaning.

This song has caused some ruckus in the evangelical world particularly over the phrase, ‘ reckless love of God’. Some wonder if God could be described as ‘reckless’. Surely God is thoughtful and considered.

I have a theory that all emotions are helpful in the right context. Perhaps even a sense of recklessness is appropriate if you consider the context. Jesus shared the parable of the shepherd who left the 99 to pursue the 1. The one who had wandered away from the flock. There is a sense of recklessness about this action, motivated by God’s love for every one of us.

I wonder sometimes if we have allowed our Western thought of rationalism to permeate church culture of the point it overshadows the testimony of scripture. To the point we subconsciously think that God considers as we do. Is it not possible to consider the fact that God may be overcome with love, so greatly, so deeply, that His pursuit of us is considered reckless?

Would you say that it would be reckless if I knew I was going to be killed for someone who would not even return the love I was offering? I think you might. Yet this is the type of love God has shown for us.

I love singing a new song, as the scriptures command. It forces me out of sentimentality and into spirituality. To consider again, anew and afresh…the reckless love of God for me.

Who You say I am

The title track off the 2018 Hillsong album is, “Who You say I am”

 

Its lyrics go straight to the heart of our identity as people and Christians. Who I say that I am leads to so many personal spiritual issues. In fact I would say that who we think we are, and who we think God thinks we are is at the heart of nearly all our personal problems, conflicts, insecurities and misunderstandings.

This song is a wonderful affirmation of our standing as children of God. As people who are forgiven. Who have an eternal destiny. People whom God loves and thinks of. We are who we are, because of who He says we are.

“Who the Son sets free
Oh is free indeed
I’m a child of God
Yes I am
In my Father’s house
There’s a place for me
I’m a child of God
Yes I am”

I preached a message on this theme based around 1 Corinthians 13:11/12
Who You say I am

How a local church pastor can be effective in communication

It is probably quite rare that when you are talking to a crowd that they are thinking about you and your issues. Maybe their mum yelled at them, maybe they are hungry, maybe a opportunity is coming their way and they don’t know whether to take it.

Sometimes I’ve listened to a pastor preaching where it seemed like it is a therapy session for them. They are self analysing and self repairing, and they have an audience to observe it.

I can often be envious of a conference speaker, who normally has five or six incredible messages they can give to a large crowd, to much appreciation. The local church pastors role is so much more intense, and Sunday comes around every week.

As a communicator the best and most effective form of communication is when the listener is engaged, interested and finding the material of use. However people are very polite in their response, they don’t always tell you what they are thinking. Especially not in a local church setting.

This is why communication for the local church pastor can be difficult, you are never quite sure the message has connected. When someone says to you, nice message pastor, does that mean you have just given them 25 minutes in which to zone off?

The challenge in giving a message is to stop thinking about yourself and your agenda, and become aware of what God is thinking of, and just as importantly what your people are thinking about.

The solution is to know your people. To know what is really on their minds, what is occupying the real estate in their mind. What are their fears, their anxieties, their joys and their struggles. The reality is Gods word, both written and the promptings of the Spirit have something to say to those realities. The best local Pastor will find where that intersection is and communicate to that. They will communicate to the pastoral needs of their people because they will know what those needs are.

Rethinking Mothers Day in Churches

The truth is most of us love our mothers and literally owe our lives to them. There is also a general sentiment that mothers act sacrificially and lovingly to their children. Raising them with grace and provision. A day to celebrate them and their positive influence in our lives seems appropriate. Churches have embraced this culture and most make special mention of mothers during a Mothers Day service with gifts, special photos, videos and many even speak to their influence during the sermons.

This year was no exception. However I must admit the unease I am beginning to feel. There are many women for whom mothers day is a reminder of what they have not been blessed with. As we celebrate mothers and single them out in church it brings to their mind a sense of inadequacy, that somehow they are less than what they should be. Other women, and men, may reflect on their experience of a mother. She may have been absent, violent and just plain mean. This week one lady shared with me how her mother had abandoned the family at a young age. Others shared with me that they stayed away from Church at Mothers Day because it is all just too much for them.

At Inglewood Church this year we certainly did what we could to navigate what is for some a  conflicted and difficult day . I spent some time coming out of our praise and worship just praying for those for whom this is a painful day. I cannot possibly understand the depth of some emotions, pain and lack. We also distributed a small gift for all the women not necessarily singling out the mums. Womanhood is a gift from God, no matter whether the blessing of children come or whether it doesn’t.

I suppose all I am saying is in the midst of celebrating all that is good, we also are aware of all that is not.

Another mentor bites the dust

There is really no point being too reserved with this post. So hold on to your sensibilities.

My first real pastor was a passionate preacher. I used to buy his tapes (take note Millennials)  and listen to them in my RX4 coupe. He was a funny and impressive communicator. It was him who gave me the example of what a pastor could be like. He also discipled me and led a great young adults bible study. To be honest, some of the phrases and devices I use today were totally from him. He was my first real spiritual mentor.

Unfortunately when I got back from Bible College, after being away for three years, the church had changed and my Pastor was gone. He had had a affair, which he never really admitted or dealt with. I saw him years later and had a great deal of affection for him. However it was not the same. Alcohol and adultery change you. Many years later I found out about some of the unhealthy leadership which had put immense pressure on him. Amongst the success of the church there where many who did not look out for him. But he must take responsibility for the choices he made.

A few years later I found myself in ministry myself and leading a church. I was desperate for some keys to see the church grow. This is what I had been asked to do. I sought out another mentor. He was a fairly recent addition to his church and saw almost immediate and spectacular growth. The church went from about 40 regulars to over 200 in a short period of time. I asked him how he grew the church and he said, ‘one person at a time”.

I was not that long after that that rumours started to surface about my new mentor. Turns out he had at least one affair, probably more. His ministry at that church was terminated and it was pretty messy and pretty public from that point on.

There have been a few others which have affected me, but affected their marriages, churches and communities a lot more.

Which brings us to the latest very public scandal enveloping someone whose hand I have shook, but thats about the extent of our relationship, at least from his side. He is someone whose books I have read, leadership podcasts I have subscribed to and conferences I have travelled around the world to be a part of. This latest scandal is far from clear. Some of what he has been accused of, while inappropriate, does not seem to me to be anything worth the effect it has brought. Other stories however do seem far more troubling. And I must admit the patterns of behaviour are concerning.

Either way, he is now out of ministry, guilty of at least a severe lack of wisdom, by his own admission. However at worse a pattern of behaviour that has weaved its way through his ministry. I actually don’t know what to think about this latest one. People of real integrity have different views on both sides.

Do any of these stories discount the positive effect every one of these ministers and mentors have had on my ministry? Perhaps they do, to be honest. Right now I am feeling pretty disappointed. People may say, trust in Jesus, follow His lead. And that is entirely correct. But God in His wisdom, has given us as other humans to learn off, to grow with and even to follow. Somewhere along the line they will all let us down.

There are now young men and women in my church who only have known me as their pastor. I literally have pastored in the church before they were born, and they are now early ’20’s. Today a great family who used to attend Inglewood years ago returned for a visit. I asked the teenage children if they remembered me. Of course they said, we know who you are!

Lord, my feet are made of clay. Let me stay the course, be a mentor, not let You or others down to the point of discouragement.