Category Archives: Church

Saying no to Jesus

One of my biggest battles of the mind has been when people leave. I am preaching from Luke 10 this week where Jesus says that if someone does not receive the message, wipe the dust off your coat and move on.

Seems to me that is easy to say and hard to do. If you love people, and in particular the one you have just shared your life and faith with, it is hard to just shake it off and move on. I am not convinced Jesus had that type of callous heart either. Not when I see Him weep over Jerusalem and long to gather them up in his arms like a mother would a child.

I am reminded of the thought that my role may be seasonal. I may just be a part of their story. Like the 72 in Luke 10 were.

Hoping, believing, trusting and being patient.

Knowing Jesus

I do not believe you can willingly continue in gross and abusive sin and be in fellowship with Jesus.

I have been pondering how some leaders and preachers can continue on in their role while sinning in ways that are a betrayal of the position and authority they have been given. Once I asked a preacher who had been caught what is was like preaching when he was continuing on with an affair he was having with a lady from his church. He told me he was watching revival break out as though a second hand observer, in the third person. He was preaching, people were being saved, but he was not present.

I cannot deny his witness and experience. I cannot deny the incredible grace of God to continue to use His word through people who are not only seriously flawed but also wilfully sinning.

What I do know is that if you are willingly continuing in gross sin particularly as a teacher or leader, you are out of fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Maybe there is skill there in unpacking the word of God. Maybe you have past experiences of God you can draw upon. But you are not drawing on Gods power. The Spirit is sitting on the sidelines waiting for you to hear His convicting voice.

I believe the scripture when it talks of Anninias and Sapphire. Taken out because they had lied to God. I believe Paul when he says that some of you are sick or falling asleep because you have taken communion unworthily. God will not be mocked.

I rejoice in the peace and wonder of knowing Jesus. Of the grace and joy when He forgives our sin. And He does, when we ask. Because He is faithful and just.

But don’t tell me that some in recent days are experiencing the presence and joy of the Holy Spirit while continuing for months and years doing what they have been doing. I don’t believe it.

Trying to understand how and why

The recent reports in regard to Ravi really cause me to rethink again how our relationship with God works. Here is an orthodox and highly talented Bible teacher. Someone who was able to cross over all Christian cultures with insightful Bible teaching. He was incredibly well known and revered whether you are part of a small Anglican Church or a Mega Church. Both saw and recognised a gifting and anointing. In all public appearances he was warm, humble and gracious.

Nothing of course could be further from the truth in his private life. A sordid history of sexual misdemours and what can only be classified as spiritual abuse. Using his position of power to manipulate and control for his own gratification.

I can’t help but again ask the question, how and why is God so gracious? How much of human sin is relative and is God unshockable? Ravi continued his public ministry, presumably with the same power and presence as when he started. Yet his rapid decline into depravity is clear. I truly do not understand how he could rely upon the power of the Spirit when presumably a few moments or days before he had been abusing those made in God’s image and precious in His sight.

Some talk about sin as being sin. It does not matter the depth. All of us who are public speakers and leaders are fully aware of our own sin. It sits there and rears it ugly head. In those moments I once again cling to the cross and console myself that God is good and His love and forgiveness endures forever. However I would be less than honest if I did not say that someone like Ravis depth of sin confuses me. I do not want to be guilty of consoling myself that my sin is far less than Ravis. But to be honest, it is. And that makes me ask the question, at what point am I disqualified? At what point is Ravi disqualified? If God is indeed Holy and Awesome then none of us qualify. None.

Others say Ravi was a celebrity leader and like Bill and others before him he was not held accountable. A general principle I have talked about before is never name a ministry after a person. Unless that person is Jesus. Keep your leaders accountable. However I am beginning to think that is more for the organisations sake than the leaders. Because who can really keep another accountable? You can’t control or monitor my thoughts. A glance here and there goes unchecked as does the thought life of anyone. Ravi and Bill were able to leave behind a legacy of brokenness and pain because the leaders did not watch over them. The leaders and elders are now suffering from their own worship at the altar of celebrity as they survey the smouldering wreckage of a broken organisation. I don’t think God cares anywhere near as much about our organisations as we do. He cares about the Church and it will flourish and the gates of Hell will not prevail against that. Even though the Devil will win some skirmishes as leaders fail.

My main thought though is this. God is gracious and kind. His grace is amazing. I don’t understand that. I appreciate it. But I don’t get the depth of it.

Accountability, before the mess

As I read through the depressing articles coming out about another disgraced former Bible teacher I am aware of how fragile we as humans are. This time it is from a different form of church. No smoke machines or flashing lights at Ravi’s ministry. However the same depressing story of a lack of accountability. A sexual predator and narcissistic leader with non-disclosure agreements and payments made to keep the victims quiet while the incredibly talented teacher kept up his ministry, named after himself.

Here are some basic principles I think we all need as leaders.

Never name a ministry after the leader. Not a hall, not a pen, not a aspect of the ministry, nothing. The ministry should be named after Jesus or the suburb you are in. Simple. The ministry should not be dependent upon one leader, it should continue after they pass on or leave, and it should not be dependent upon their giftedness.

Have a board that asks the hard questions and it not there to just rubber stamp where the leader wishes to take them. Good leaders will have vision. They will see where the ministry needs to go. They should also be allowed to lead. Don’t stifle their gift. But as a balance, do not be afraid to ask the why question and keep the leader accountable. That is for the leaders benefit and the health of the organisation as a whole.

Ensure your leader has the support they need. I personally have a mentor, a psychologist I see, a peer group and an associate who asks me the hard questions. I also have staff that I encourage to give me feedback. I give them feedback and they give me feedback. Encourage a feedback culture. We all want to be better at what we do. Feedback is how we get better.

If you are a leader, ensure you have time to pray and read your bible. It is actually a simple yet profound formulae. The bible is your tool. It is the single most powerful tool you have to see transformation occur in peoples lives. It is also your accountability station. When you read it in the morning you should ask, God, Holy Spirit, work with me here. When our intention to meets the inspired scripture then transformation can take place.

Here is the issue though. You cannot keep a leader accountable. Not really. A leader chooses to be accountable or not. Yes you can sack them, disgrace them, move them on. But as we have seen all too often, in church, like in general society, we allow gifting to trump character. We bring people back in all too soon. We ignore or neglect issues of character, because they are good at what they do. Perhaps a salient reminder is that it is Jesus who will grow His Church, why do we think it is our job? Why do we sacrifice integrity for expediency? Yes we must be His servants and do what we can and if someone if gifted, release them into that. But we also cannot ignore issues around sustainability and integrity.

Finally have courage. Say something.

You are not Jesus and you are not telling off the Pharisees

My observation is that some brilliant Christian minds can also be unkind, derisive and curt. They often write brilliant books with helpful analogies. They are very good at seeing what needs to change and what is wrong. I would not want to doubt their intelligence and giftedness.

However in personal contact including both in life experience, with emails and social media platforms like TikTokRush where they can easily find ways to cut down those with whom they disagree with, or take issue with. Often when a challenge comes to them or a point they make, they seem to take that quite personally. Their response may be curt. They may seek to bring others in to the discussion to prove why the person is wrong. They may also refuse to engage properly with the discussion.

One test for us to be able to examine our own hearts is to honestly say who we see ourselves as being in the biblical narrative.

Often someone with narcissistic tendencies will see themself as Jesus. The suffering servant. The leader of men. The one to whom others come and find wise and insightful teaching. They thank God that they can see things others cannot. When in your heart you believe you are Gods mouth piece, writing things others listen to, speaking out when others don’t, it can be intoxicating.

Jesus points this out when he describes one man in the temple beating his chest over his own sin. The Pharisee is out in front where everyone can see him, thanking God for how good it is. The posture of the weeper is humility, the posture of the Pharisee is self seeking and pride.

Can we truly see anyone be transformed? Of course. It can and it does happen. Perhaps for some it it a journey of deep and painful discovery. I have learnt to ask people what they actually see in me, and then listen.

Key Things in my leadership

Here are some things I am working on in my own leadership style. I have become accutely aware that I am not good at confronting and dealing with small issues. They fester and then can become larger issues. This is super painful for me. To realise things about myself which don’t help others.

Key Cultural shifts

  1. Quick, direct, kind, simple feedback for everyone. Staff and volunteers.
  2. If people love Jesus they will serve, give, be engaged, share their faith, invite people to church and the church will grow in number and influence
  3. If we don’t delegate we control. When we control we limit creativity to our own and miss the creativity which is stored in others. We can have control or growth, we can’t have both
  4. The Bible is the key tool we have to see real growth and change in peoples lives. Our challenge as leaders is to have our people read their bibles for inspiration, challenge, encouragement and exhortation. 
  5. Trusting people means challenging them to say yes to Jesus at every point in their lives. 

Wow, so this is what my church looks like

I am fully expecting that in 6-12 months when the Covid19 Virus has done its worst and the restrictions are lifted that a stack of people are going to come in through the physical doors of Inglewood Community Church and say, wow, this is what my church looks like on the inside. The screen is so huge and the band is massive. That Pastor Mark guy is a little skinnier than he looks on the screen and he moves around a lot.

God is not afraid of a virus and neither should the church be. The past four weeks have been some of the most taxing and difficult of my 25 year pastoral journey. We have battled anxiety, fear, the possibility of financial collapse and a total reimagination of what Church actually is.

The Church is in the business of gathering people. Whether it be youth programs, children’s programs or a Sunday Service, we bring people together for singing, for worship, for teaching, for discipleship and for encouragement and fellowship. We ask them to serve and be served. To help people say yes to Jesus.

Has that been taken away? No. The way we have done it is in recess, as it should be. The path of love in this season is physical seperation. But the gathering? Never before has the Church had such incredible tools available to it to gather people, to reach people, to worship and to serve.

At Inglewood we are struggling under the strain like everyone else. And I do not think the larger churches will cope any better than the small ones. The key to this season is innovation and agility. Being hopeful and purposeful.

Four weeks in we are reaching people we have never reached. We have reconnected with people we have lost touch with. And people are saying yes to Jesus.

Am I looking forward to meeting together again in a physical building? Absolutely. Do I want to go back to how things were. Absolutely not. This season is one to be capitalised. I can’t wait to shake the hands of people for the first time, people I have seen say yes to Jesus.

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