Category Archives: Spiritual Thoughts

Why we have ‘Worship Wars’

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.

Your past hurts will flavour your present ministry

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.

What will help our church grow

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.

By your correct statement of faith…..

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.

Ben Cousins will have to deal with his choices

Despite him playing for the team I dislike the most, I could not but help admire the way Ben Cousins played. I remember one derby , which was an away derby, when I was sitting in the stands with a crowd of West Coast supporters. Cousins had worn himself ragged chasing all day and was vomiting on the sidelines. Despite his best efforts his team came up well short.

Now I read the latest in his long line of misdemeanours which has resulted in serious charges being laid. It also appears he is almost destitute with hardly a coin to his name. How he has fallen from those rock star days when he paraded around town as the darling boy of the Perth media.

There is no question his fall from fame, wealth and influence is a result of his own bad choices. A gracious and forgiving father, perhaps too gracious, a fawning media and sublime skills were not enough to ensure he lead a comfortable and privileged life.

But how do we react to this. Do we say its his own fault, his own choice and he deserves what he gets. All that is true. No question.

Yet in the midst of the consequences of his own bad choices I feel sorrow for him. For the plight he finds himself in. It could have been so different. We all make bad choices, everyone of us. And the consequences are natural and our own fault.

But I still feel sorry for him. Just as I feel sorry for myself when I bear the consequence of my own decisions. As a Christian I want to be like Jesus. In the midst of the whole human race making bad choices He did not say, well suffer you lot, you are getting what you deserve. He came down, He cared, and he took on himself the consequence of our decisions. I have to have the same attitude He took to those who are suffering, even suffering because they have made foolish and irresponsible choices.

The Church and Christians are often accused of being judgemental and hypocritical, with good reason. Cousins is just one example of someone who needs grace, not sneering looks.

Skinny jeans, tenure, perseverance, millennials and the future of the church

The blogosphere is reacting to a fairly interesting post on Senior Pastors age. It basically states that only 1 in 7 Senior Pastors Is under the age of 40. (Article) Stephen McAlpine has a typically theological response, decrying the direction of the church here. After a long discussion with a minister from another denomination today I have to say I think Stephen may have a point. The absence of ‘Jesus’ and ‘mission’ in the denomination of my friend (not Stephen) left me feeling depressed and my friend concerned for where his movement is going.

Where Jesus is being preached, the Holy Spirit relied upon, and the people being mobilised for sharing their faith, churches are growing. Where churches rely upon their own human wisdom and disregard Jesus and the Bible, the church is shrinking. Thats reality. (Just one source of many)

I did want to comment on succession and my hope for this coming generation. In my generation of Pastors I have seen so many go. So many fall to the perils of internal church conflict. The pain of expectations of growth and revival shattered. Ministry is not easy. Its like trying to maintain the strings on a guitar. If one of the strings is frayed or broken, the tune does not sound quite right. Having an effective church means understanding that at any point at least 20% of any aspect of your church is probably ineffective. Leading a church takes heavy doses of prayer and intimacy with God, but also takes Godly wisdom and discernment, and human skill.

Some who felt called to ministry are just not suited. They do not have the skills or stubbornness to continue. That is just reality. I do not want to sound arrogant, as though I have it all together. I feel like I am only just starting to grasp at what I need to do.

My hope for the next generation is that they will persevere and pray. That they won’t expect ministry, churches and even opportunities to be handed to them. My fear is that for some of this generation so much has been handed to them that resilience is not something they acquire. For many, knowledge is a click away, music is something to be consumed, and if something does not work it is thrown away. That is not their fault. It is the environment they have inherited.

Church, mission and community does not just get handed to you. The spiritual battle is real. People are unreliable, contentious, have ungodly desire for power and they are sinful. It has always been that way. The expectation of ministry needs to be realistic but not shattering.

My experience of Church is that it has been bruising, wounding, exciting, thrilling, wonderful, terrible, exhilarating, scary and fulfilling all at the same time. I have felt like quitting on Monday more times than I can remember. I have also felt on top of the world on more Sunday nights than I can remember.

The Church has continued for 2000 years and my faith and belief in Jesus and His mandate and presence in this world means I think it will continue until He returns. Young leaders will do more with the next church than what I have ever done or could imagine. They have authenticity, passion and an innate ability to understand culture, peoples emotions and what works far better than the generation that came before. They are innovative and have a sense of what works. They have a strong sense of justice and care for the world and the people they are inheriting.

The best is yet to come.