Category Archives: Spiritual Thoughts

Changing culture, advancing the Kingdom

Jesus asked that we pray, ‘Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven’.

Is the focus and application of this prayer purely eschatological? To actually take place at a future time when Jesus returns? If that is the case what are we to do now? If we take such a view to extreme it can lead to a fortress mentality. A church which hides itself away, protecting itself from a world quickly degenerating, staying holy for the moment when the judge will return. Other consequences may include a view of the earth and its beauty as simply a sponge to be squeezed dry. At its best mission is done because we want people to be rescued and ready for eternity in paradise.

Is the focus and application of this prayer for now? Is the church is to truly become the centre of the social, political and cultural change which sees heaven on earth. Perhaps some see echoes of John Calvins attempt to moralise Geneva. Bible readings with beer anyone? The extreme of this view may be the moralising right with the church wielding its social might to influence politics. We have seen the negative effects of this particular in US elections.

If we reject the notion that Church is to influence culture and cities for Jesus, how to deal with Pauls assertion in Ephesians that the Church is at the centre, the very centre of all things. “The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church.” (Eph 1.23 Msg) It seems to me this verse is both an assertion and an encouragement.

In times when so many assert the church has lost its political and moral voice, this theme of the New Testament should encourage us to keep going. In a winsome and loving way, promote a better way. Not from a position of moral authority, but an attractive and loving example. I am absolutely convinced that at no other time in history has the church had more opportunity for love, mission and good news. Wherever I look I see churches active in arts, music, design and innovation. At no other time has information, music, vision, been so readily available and distributed. With this so many churches are distributing their sacrifices of praise, relevant teaching and art.

From the local church podcasting to the mega church having their worship leaders performing on prime time morning TV. Jesus is everywhere.

Can we, the church, through the power of the Spirit, make the world a better place before Jesus returns? Absolutely. As I pray that prayer I see Jesus working through churches to answer it.

As we wait for Jesus to return in glory.

Change the leader

I think there is great wisdom in the thought, change the leader……or change the leader.

I have been ministering at Inglewood Church for over 22 years. There has been so much change. It reminds me of the thought that we overestimate what we can change in 12 months, and underestimate what we can change in ten years. I am not thinking that we have changed as much, nor grown as much, as what I would have liked. However there has been great change, and for the better. And growth, and for the better.

What is pressing on my heart is the change I feel coming for myself, in myself. Because you either change the leader….or you change the leader. And I feel I need to change if our church is going to continue to change and grow. I cannot stay as I am, because I want a different result. We need different results.

There is nothing within me slowing down, in fact I feel I am about to speed up. Enter into a greater season of ‘fill’.  I pray my character grows along with my skill.

Performance, where is Church headed

Recently a church attracted some controversy (I know right, how unusual) for playing ‘Purple Rain” at the start of their service. Truth be if you are going to criticise a church for using a secular song in their service, you had better criticise me. I often employ secular songs during the service. I listen to them, check the lyrics, how they feel and will often use them for a purpose.

But the deeper question for me, in putting aside those who just like to ‘church watch’, is the question for us church leaders, where is the church heading in this regard? And is that okay? Some churches do now have lighting, musicians and performances of music which are not cringe inducing at all. In fact in the area of visual medium in some ways the contemporary church is leading the way. Environmental projection is one.

At what point do we become a destination for entertainment rather than spirituality? Or are the two mutually exclusive?

If we think back, the best art has always been found at some point, in the church. You only have to go back and look at incredible work in incredible church buildings to see that.

A cursory reading of the book of Jeremiah reveals the best performance drama, authored and directed by God, starring the actor Jeremiah.

The early church put on drama, it was a way to get the message across. It used visual mediums. Performance art. Sculpture. Painting.

For todays Church I don’t think it has to be expensive or high end. But it needs to be authentic, well done, and a reflection of who you are as a church community. Consider the pub musician. No one thinks he needs an expansive light show. A few coloured Leds on a stand and he is away. People enjoy the show for what it is. The smaller church can think about lighting, how to present the gospel in emotive and dramatic ways. We owe the gospel that much and more.

The stadium show, well that is best left to those who have the resources. But perhaps we best not criticise them. Perhaps they are just following the example of so many of Europes great cathedrals before them,

Why I listen to Nova

Over the last few days I have had opportunity to hear from a wise sage in Duffy Robbins. The Masterclass a few friends and I took yesterday at Vose was on communicating to young people. It was challenging and confirmed a practice I have. Duffy talked about the need to speak the language of the children and teenagers in your church.

There is a radio station in Perth called Nova. I was introduced to this by my daughter who likes the music, which is not surprising considering she is a pre-teen. There are obvious problems with listening to Nova. In particular the lyrical content of a fair percentage of the music they play. Of course they are seeking pleasure in every form it comes, and with no real sense of a moral compass. Duffy talked about helping young people see how the choices they make affect the rest of their lives. If young people made the choices they are encouraged to make on Nova we would all be in a world of pain.

However, its not all bad, in fact some of it is good. For one thing we know that all people are looking for God, but they have not yet discovered what to call Him. Contemporary music carries with much of it that sense of searching and longing. There are songs about family, about missing parents, dysfunctional relationships and the pain of regret and bad choices. In fact much of the human experience we might find in the book of Ecclesiastes.

The issue for me is language. Not the explicit language. But the language they are speaking. If I am to communicate effectively to even those teenagers within my own home, I need to speak their language. And the teenagers within my church speak this language, I don’t naturally. I mostly listen to Worship Music in my car. Or podcasts. And that is good for my soul. But listening to Nova is good for my mission.

I actually enjoy a lot of music on Nova now. Thats my confession……

When God is doing something

I listen to a lot of music and a lot of worship music. Recently, as any reader of this blog will know, I have been listening to a lot of Elevation Music, and also Bethel Music.

In our church we are doing now around 4 of the songs from Elevation’s new album. And more to come. Why is this? Because they are keenly biblical, singable and most of all fresh. What brings this freshness? This is the intangible element I have been thinking about.

I spoke to my worship pastor about this and she said that many churches are now doing Elevation worship songs. This surprised me, I thought this was our little secret! It can be a risk to go away from what you have always done. A bit like moving from hymns to the ‘Brown Book” all those years ago. (Obscure reference, let the reader understand).

Then I had a long and frank conversation with a key leader in a large church and she too was sharing how they are now doing Elevation material. We discussed why this is.

My conclusion is that when God is doing something, He is doing something. And the freshness comes not from listening to what contemporary secular artists are doing. Although actually that is important to. The freshness comes from hearing what God is saying, to the church, right now. And churches are picking up on this. They are listening for the Spirits voice. Hearing and responding to what God is doing, today. Yesterdays message was wonderful, but it was for yesterday. Todays message is what we need to hear.

I am…..

When God introduced Himself to Moses He said of himself….I am.

Nothing more was needed. God is self evident. Go and tell them ‘I am’ sent you. This contains all the authority and power you need. My name is enough.

How do I describe myself? I know in my darkest moments it may be words such as ‘fraud’, ‘hopeless’, ‘mediocre’ or even ‘unloved’. At other moments I might use words that are more affirming, perhaps too affirming at times!

How would you describe yourself, perhaps not to me publicly, but in those dark moments of insecurity and doubt. Perhaps those moments are far more prevalent than you would like.

For me these moments can be confusing and need courage to come out of. What does God call me? What does He call you? Son, daughter, friend, saved, seated with Christ…..loved and known. These are designations we can take a holy confidence from. That God loves us, that He has the best for us, the best is yet to come.

20 years on….has anything changed

I was reflecting on something a Pastor friend shared with me the other day. He was talking about how a member of his church came up to him after a particularly transformative month. The congregant member said that he had been a Christian for 20 years, faithfully attended and served at his church for decades. However it was not until recent weeks that he had discovered what it meant to hear from and experience the presence of God in his life.

We are called to be people of the bible, to let it shape and inform our spiritual lives. Yet I wonder sometimes if we are reading enough? The Bible is clear that the early church had divine encounters, nudges from the Spirit, miracles from heaven….often. I do want to stress that these are not prescriptive of our faith. There is nothing we have to experience from the book of Acts in order to say we are a completely fulfilled Christian. Apart from believing in Jesus and receiving the Holy Spirit. Of course in the book of Acts this happens in a variety of ways, so let us not make the story of different faith journeys normative for everyone.

However it seems to me that our lack of experience of God sometimes defines our faith more than a simple reading of the scripture. In other words, just because you have not experienced God in a certain way does not invalidate someone else’s experience.

For me, I do not want my faith experience of 20 years ago to define my faith experience now. In fact as God is infinite and eternal, so my faith journey can change, grow, experience something new….every day.

My prayer for my life is that I would continue to grow in my spiritual journey. Experience more of God’s voice and what that might mean, more and more as the years go on. Holy Spirit, You are welcome in my life.

If you want to hear a message from me on this, you can go here.