Category Archives: Theology

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.

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.

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.

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.

Manna is only good for that day

In Exodus 16 we have the story of the ‘Manna’ coming down from the sky as a miraculous provision from God. This wonderful bread like substance was white like coriander seed and tasted like wafers made with honey. The interesting aspect of this story is that Moses told the people “No one is to keep any of it until morning.”

It did not matter how much the people gathered, they had enough. God provided enough sustenance for them for that day. If they did not use what had been given for the day, try to store it, it went bad. Except on the Sabbath where miraculously the substance was preserved.

There is a real application for me in the above story. As a general principle God provides enough spiritual nourishment for the day, for the season. He speaks, he works, he challenges, he inspires. With what we need for that season.

The problem comes when we try to store up spiritual provision and hold onto it for the next day. It was good then, so I want to keep that, stay with that. The problem is that God provided for that moment, in that moment. And now, that moment has passed. Gods provision in the past provides hope for the future that He will provide when we need it next. But our relationship and ministry is always in need of provision for that day, because yesterdays wont suffice, unless we are stuck in yesterday.

Creativity comes and flows out of challenge. Some of the most creative people I know are those who don’t have much. They need to be creative, so they make out of the little they have.

My application is this, what God provides is to be used in that season. I often sense and receive words and thoughts flowing from creativity and a desire to hear from God. The temptation for me is to store those gifts from God up, to keep them. Sometimes, I confess, because I don’t trust that the next ‘manna’ is going to come. It is only as I use that which God provides for this season that I make room for that which God is going to provide for the next season.

So many church plants

There is a plethora of church plants occurring in Perth at the moment. It seems like every week on Facebook there is a new shiny church springing up at a community centre or high school near you. The websites look good, the worship team seems fully formed and the pastors are passionate about reaching our city for Jesus.

Studies tell us that percentage wise more people become Christians during the formative years of a church than at any other time. So perhaps this is a good thing.

Some in church leadership have the gifting and the charisma to be effective in church growth. One easy measure of effectiveness in ministry is people on pews. This measure is not to be disregarded. Generally speaking we count what is valuable to us. Indeed the early church was well aware of the number of people who came to know Jesus on a particular day (Acts2.41).

New churches springing up is something we should celebrate, just as we mourn the passing and closing down of churches. Unfortunately  in a dying churches history they have moved from vision and growth to management. Once a church has moved away from the upward scale of mission they plateau and move into the downward cycle of maintenance. Creatives move from such churches and are naturally attracted to the new, the fresh. They take their energy with them. Those who stay in dying churches decry this but only have themselves to blame. For them, the pain of change is too much to bear, so they choose the pain of slow painful death. Without change, a church will die. And the life will go elsewhere.

Likewise though, we cannot only keep moving from the new thing to the next new thing. That is exhausting and a waste of hard gained resource. Instead, somehow, the vision and the mission must be kept in the drivers seat. Creativity and passion must be stoked.

Character is actually the answer for balance. Character will cause you to make decisions which are contextual and yet have the same result. In some case, new life must rise from the ashes. In other cases strength will push new life out in new ways. In other cases the little strength you have will be able to be harnessed through deep painful change.