Its just satire

The Babylon Bee website is an increasingly popular website with its scathing and humorous articles which are shared often. It is the brainchild of Adam Ford. He is not the only contributor but is the main one, and the editor.

It is incredible how many people read the articles and believe it is real news. As Christians we have become accustomed to expressing righteous indignation over the latest scandal involving the modern church, modern culture and the erosion of Christian values in our society. Recently ‘The Bee’ did a article entitled, “Mainline protestantism declared a safe place for those offended by the gospel“. A number of people commented on it decrying the gospel being no longer preached. They thought it was a real article. Are we so lacking in awareness that we can’t spot satire from the real thing? Is it possible we have a persecution complex?

This week we heard the awful news that 22 Christians were killed on their way to attend their Church in Egypt. This is persecution.

Sometimes the Bee crosses the line. When they printed this article, “Hillsong United split glory with God” I personally felt they were personal and unnecessarily mean spirited. There is an underlying premise that Hillsong is at least partially ministering for their own glory. Now everyone is subject to critique, but thats mean and personal.

I like having a laugh and clever satire can reveal truth about ourselves which is uncomfortable and humbling. All of us have feet of clay. However the glee at which some share the sometimes derogatory and mean nature of some of the Bees articles concerns me. Ministry is hard enough without unnecessarily harming our own tribe.

All I would suggest is having discernment, with a discernment website.

Catch 22

In my family of origin there were a couple of non-negotiable rules. We were in church on Sunday and there was no television allowed on Sundays. School on Monday morning was always a little awkward as you pretended to know what the other kids were talking about when they discussed the latest video on Countdown or the footy from Match of the Day. It was interesting to see the change in my own family as we grew up. I am not quite sure when the rules changed, but they did. Church was still not an option, but Sunday night drama and comedy, especially on the ABC, became part of our diet.

Its not easy to say no to our children in these days of Sunday sport and birthday parties invitations. Time and time again the number one wish parents have for their children is that they have friends and social acceptance. There has been negotiation and navigation for us as parents. We do not want our children to miss the social formation which they need. Neither do we wish for them to miss out on the heart of the Christian experience. Gathering together with other believers to enjoy the presence of Christ, to hear the word, to fellowship. It is a beautiful discipline that should not be easily revoked. Our children believe and embrace that we do, not necessarily that we say.

As a Pastor it is easy to write this off as the ravings of someone with a horse in the race. Of course I would say this, I want people in the pews. And there is no question I desire for my church to have vibrant and full services. So it is catch 22 for me to even post this.

However the prophetic part of my nature points to the principle that we reap what we sow. It is tough enough as it is to raise a family and have teenagers and young adults embrace Christ and His Church. When we by action give the message that Church is an add on, something to do when it doesn’t conflict with other more important activities, the message will be received and acted upon.

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.

Oscars mistake

If you haven’t seen the news there was a mistake made at this years Oscars when Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway were handed the wrong envelope and the wrong winner was announced for the most prestigious award of the night, best movie.

It reminded me of the many mistakes I have made from the pulpit. At times I have had the congregation in uproarious laughter for all the wrong reasons, and to my embarrassment. Sometimes I have had no idea why they are even laughing!

To laugh at oneself is human just as to make mistakes is human. All too often in Churches we take ourselves far too seriously. I have found self depreciating humour to be the best type to help people be at ease. With themself. With you. And with your church.

If someone finds it hard to laugh at themself it may be indication that they are not feeling that safe or secure. I am sure God loves me. I am equally sure that all my worries and insecurities will ultimately prove in the eternity of time to be perhaps something I shouldn’t have given so much emotional energy to.

Mistakes are part of life. I hope I can laugh at my own, and even laugh along when my church laughs at them!

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.