Category Archives: Stuff I don’t know much about but rave on about anyway

Time Out

A few people have been asking me how I am.

It is a super interesting question because when you answer you are answering knowing that you are trying to represent yourself in a certain way. Sometimes we give an answer to provoke sympathy. We are seeking something that is missing in ourselves. Sometimes we give an answer to provoke respect. We are seeking something missing in ourselves. Sometimes we give an answer designed to halt any further probing. Maybe because we just don’t want to enter into a conversation where we might feel exposed or vulnerable.

Sometimes we give an answer that is just what we are feeling. This is the rare answer. The answer that comes without guile or manipulation. Often there are a select group of people who we give this answer to. If you give this answer you want it to be handled carefully and gently. You are exposing a vulnerable side of yourself.

The best answer is one where we can be aware enough of ourselves, own who we are, who Jesus says we are and own how we are at this moment.

How am I? Well thats a question for another day.

Why Pastors have affairs

I could say this post is provoked by recent events in the life of the global church. As a long time supporter of Willow Creek Community Church and having read all Hybels books and been a part of his conferences, his recent fall has shocked me. The latest allegations coming out of Willow leave me wondering if there is not a systematic issue that needs addressing. But it is deeper than that for me. I have had various mentors, up close ones, who have failed spectacularly in this area. At the cost of relationships and ministries. It strikes home personally for me.

Pastors have affairs because they want to get out of ministry

This may surprise the reader. However it is true. I have seen and observed pastors deliberately compromise themselves because the pressure of ministry was such that they saw this as a way of escape. They could not just say or admit it, ministry is hard, I need to leave. In their mind anything would be better than this pressure. For them to quit would be to admit failure or to say that they were not good enough to keep going. Neither of which appears to be a better option than moral failure.

Pastors have affairs because they wish to rekindle their youth, or perhaps have a youth

This is not unique to pastors, but is certainly true of them. Many Pastors have had a relatively clean upbringing and never took the opportunity to be a rebellious teenager, young adult. They did not hang out at parties, they did not travel the world backpacking, they did not have many relationships apart from the person they ended up marrying. They find themselves in a position where they think they have missed out. They resent the life they have lived up to this point and wish to gain something they never had.

Pastors have affairs because they have disproportionate power relationships

I have only come to realise in the past few years how much power Pastors have that they generally don’t realise. We spend our lives encouraging and supporting people. Generally helping them with their lives, serving. Something changes at some point and many Pastors realise that in fact they have influence over people. It can be a sudden and jolting realisation. At that point the Pastor can choose to use that power for their own means. Whether it be power, money or an affair. We are in relationships where the boundaries can be easily crossed. Where justification can come easy, and denial even easier.

Pastors have affairs because they are bored

If you have been pastoring for a while it can be very tempting to slip into caretaker mode and live off the work of the past. Perhaps the church is comfortable and you are comfortable. In fact the church would prefer you maintained the status quo. There is no compelling reason not to. So the Pastor basically gets bored. They seek after something beyond the mundane. Opportunity arises and they take it.

Pastors have affairs because they are human like all of us

All of us sin, are attracted to people who are not our spouse, and desire something which we shouldn’t have. It can lead to a situation, an affair, which is consensual, but entirely inappropriate and sinful.

Pastors have affairs because they are under pressure and spiritual attack

There are no excuses for moral failure, at some point you make a choice. However there are compelling reasons. Pastors can be under immense pressure to help people in so many areas of their lives, at the same time as balancing the budget, fulfilling administrative requirements (huge these days) and under spiritual attack from the Accuser.

Final Thoughts

The Church, and those who lead it, are God’s blueprint for the gospel to be shared in the world. It is a beautiful body, with the majority of Pastors having incredible integrity, heart and passion for Jesus and His people. The majority of Pastors never have a catastrophic moral failure. Most of them are faithful and loyal people. However when a Pastor fails, so many ripples occur. In my life I have had a number of mentors, both personal and from afar. Unfortunately a number of them have failed in this area. I do look up to people perhaps too much. In those moments where they have failed, it has wounded me, and scared me as well. One of the reasons I have written this post is to just try and make sense of it all myself. In recent days the news out of significant churches just causes me to pray. The Church at times appears so strong, and at other times so fragile.

This post may provoke strong reactions, perhaps disagreements, and perhaps attempted corrections at things I have missed or not stated.

So a disclaimer. These are merely my own thoughts and observations. I am not offering them or myself as some sort of authority. I speak merely as a pastor who has seen, suffered, been disappointed with, different leaders and pastors over the years. All within the context of loving pastors, being supportive, thinking the best of them, and perhaps most importantly, being one myself.

If you have something to comment, please do, but please be kind and frame it within the context I am offering.

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.

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.

Fear

Is there anything more debilitating than fear?

This week I was reading an amazing sermon from Dietrich Bonhoeffer that he wrote and preached prior to the Second World War. A number of things were fascinating. He was a preacher. Not a teacher, although I am sure he could teach. This message was not some dry exegesis. It was forged in the crucible of a country undergoing severe change. He was preaching with the Bible in one hand, and a newspaper in the other.

In Germany change was being driven by fear and false control. Those who knew how to manipulate the peoples hearts were doing what they could to get control. To convince people that there was a genuine reason to fear, and then using that fear to get what they wanted.

Its a stark contrast with how Jesus led. He led with love. He had no position, no control. In fact He demonstrated this when He allowed Himself to be led to the cross. Those who can peak behind the curtain knew He could have called down the armies of heaven to destroy His enemies. But He chose not to.

How do we allow fear to rule our hearts, our minds, our decisions? Its a terrible way to live.
This week I have taken some inspiration from Deitrich and am speaking at my church on how Jesus led. Without the need to stir up fear and manipulate, people gave him authority. They allowed Him to lead them. Because He never forced Himself on anyone.

I know….Jesus wants everyone to live their lives free from fear. The only true way to do that is to accept His love for us. That He wants the best….for you.