Category Archives: Bible

Freedom of Religion

What is discrimination?

“the unjust or prejudicial treatment of different categories of people, especially on the grounds of race, age, sex, or disability”

As someone who has children who have gone through Christian Education I am well aware of the value of a school which shares your values. It strikes me as odd that someone would enrol their child in a Christian School and then be upset when the schools Christian values were offensive to their own. Some have suggested that Christian schools should not be able to hire teachers who share and demonstrate Christian values not only as a good idea but as something deeply ingrained within their soul.

Private schools who receive government funding are an essential part of education across the spectrum. They actually assist the whole of the society in seeing the next generation educated. They are responsible to governments for the quality of education the students receive. And the proof is in the result where often private school students do well in Atar and University placements.

To not allow Christians and all faith groups to practice their faith which would include the raising and education of their children is bigotry. What makes the secular philosophy and values the right one?

Discrimination is something we all practice. We choose our friends, our restaurant of choice and something far more important, the education of our children. This is not unjust discrimination it is choice. Something we should allow in a fair, just and democratic society.

What is often not understood is that the things which make Christian charity, education and social work great is peoples love for Jesus. He inspires, challenges and empowers them. If you take that away you don’t necessarily get the other.

Knowing Jesus

I do not believe you can willingly continue in gross and abusive sin and be in fellowship with Jesus.

I have been pondering how some leaders and preachers can continue on in their role while sinning in ways that are a betrayal of the position and authority they have been given. Once I asked a preacher who had been caught what is was like preaching when he was continuing on with an affair he was having with a lady from his church. He told me he was watching revival break out as though a second hand observer, in the third person. He was preaching, people were being saved, but he was not present.

I cannot deny his witness and experience. I cannot deny the incredible grace of God to continue to use His word through people who are not only seriously flawed but also wilfully sinning.

What I do know is that if you are willingly continuing in gross sin particularly as a teacher or leader, you are out of fellowship with the Holy Spirit. Maybe there is skill there in unpacking the word of God. Maybe you have past experiences of God you can draw upon. But you are not drawing on Gods power. The Spirit is sitting on the sidelines waiting for you to hear His convicting voice.

I believe the scripture when it talks of Anninias and Sapphire. Taken out because they had lied to God. I believe Paul when he says that some of you are sick or falling asleep because you have taken communion unworthily. God will not be mocked.

I rejoice in the peace and wonder of knowing Jesus. Of the grace and joy when He forgives our sin. And He does, when we ask. Because He is faithful and just.

But don’t tell me that some in recent days are experiencing the presence and joy of the Holy Spirit while continuing for months and years doing what they have been doing. I don’t believe it.

Trying to understand how and why

The recent reports in regard to Ravi really cause me to rethink again how our relationship with God works. Here is an orthodox and highly talented Bible teacher. Someone who was able to cross over all Christian cultures with insightful Bible teaching. He was incredibly well known and revered whether you are part of a small Anglican Church or a Mega Church. Both saw and recognised a gifting and anointing. In all public appearances he was warm, humble and gracious.

Nothing of course could be further from the truth in his private life. A sordid history of sexual misdemours and what can only be classified as spiritual abuse. Using his position of power to manipulate and control for his own gratification.

I can’t help but again ask the question, how and why is God so gracious? How much of human sin is relative and is God unshockable? Ravi continued his public ministry, presumably with the same power and presence as when he started. Yet his rapid decline into depravity is clear. I truly do not understand how he could rely upon the power of the Spirit when presumably a few moments or days before he had been abusing those made in God’s image and precious in His sight.

Some talk about sin as being sin. It does not matter the depth. All of us who are public speakers and leaders are fully aware of our own sin. It sits there and rears it ugly head. In those moments I once again cling to the cross and console myself that God is good and His love and forgiveness endures forever. However I would be less than honest if I did not say that someone like Ravis depth of sin confuses me. I do not want to be guilty of consoling myself that my sin is far less than Ravis. But to be honest, it is. And that makes me ask the question, at what point am I disqualified? At what point is Ravi disqualified? If God is indeed Holy and Awesome then none of us qualify. None.

Others say Ravi was a celebrity leader and like Bill and others before him he was not held accountable. A general principle I have talked about before is never name a ministry after a person. Unless that person is Jesus. Keep your leaders accountable. However I am beginning to think that is more for the organisations sake than the leaders. Because who can really keep another accountable? You can’t control or monitor my thoughts. A glance here and there goes unchecked as does the thought life of anyone. Ravi and Bill were able to leave behind a legacy of brokenness and pain because the leaders did not watch over them. The leaders and elders are now suffering from their own worship at the altar of celebrity as they survey the smouldering wreckage of a broken organisation. I don’t think God cares anywhere near as much about our organisations as we do. He cares about the Church and it will flourish and the gates of Hell will not prevail against that. Even though the Devil will win some skirmishes as leaders fail.

My main thought though is this. God is gracious and kind. His grace is amazing. I don’t understand that. I appreciate it. But I don’t get the depth of it.

Accountability, before the mess

As I read through the depressing articles coming out about another disgraced former Bible teacher I am aware of how fragile we as humans are. This time it is from a different form of church. No smoke machines or flashing lights at Ravi’s ministry. However the same depressing story of a lack of accountability. A sexual predator and narcissistic leader with non-disclosure agreements and payments made to keep the victims quiet while the incredibly talented teacher kept up his ministry, named after himself.

Here are some basic principles I think we all need as leaders.

Never name a ministry after the leader. Not a hall, not a pen, not a aspect of the ministry, nothing. The ministry should be named after Jesus or the suburb you are in. Simple. The ministry should not be dependent upon one leader, it should continue after they pass on or leave, and it should not be dependent upon their giftedness.

Have a board that asks the hard questions and it not there to just rubber stamp where the leader wishes to take them. Good leaders will have vision. They will see where the ministry needs to go. They should also be allowed to lead. Don’t stifle their gift. But as a balance, do not be afraid to ask the why question and keep the leader accountable. That is for the leaders benefit and the health of the organisation as a whole.

Ensure your leader has the support they need. I personally have a mentor, a psychologist I see, a peer group and an associate who asks me the hard questions. I also have staff that I encourage to give me feedback. I give them feedback and they give me feedback. Encourage a feedback culture. We all want to be better at what we do. Feedback is how we get better.

If you are a leader, ensure you have time to pray and read your bible. It is actually a simple yet profound formulae. The bible is your tool. It is the single most powerful tool you have to see transformation occur in peoples lives. It is also your accountability station. When you read it in the morning you should ask, God, Holy Spirit, work with me here. When our intention to meets the inspired scripture then transformation can take place.

Here is the issue though. You cannot keep a leader accountable. Not really. A leader chooses to be accountable or not. Yes you can sack them, disgrace them, move them on. But as we have seen all too often, in church, like in general society, we allow gifting to trump character. We bring people back in all too soon. We ignore or neglect issues of character, because they are good at what they do. Perhaps a salient reminder is that it is Jesus who will grow His Church, why do we think it is our job? Why do we sacrifice integrity for expediency? Yes we must be His servants and do what we can and if someone if gifted, release them into that. But we also cannot ignore issues around sustainability and integrity.

Finally have courage. Say something.

Key Things in my leadership

Here are some things I am working on in my own leadership style. I have become accutely aware that I am not good at confronting and dealing with small issues. They fester and then can become larger issues. This is super painful for me. To realise things about myself which don’t help others.

Key Cultural shifts

  1. Quick, direct, kind, simple feedback for everyone. Staff and volunteers.
  2. If people love Jesus they will serve, give, be engaged, share their faith, invite people to church and the church will grow in number and influence
  3. If we don’t delegate we control. When we control we limit creativity to our own and miss the creativity which is stored in others. We can have control or growth, we can’t have both
  4. The Bible is the key tool we have to see real growth and change in peoples lives. Our challenge as leaders is to have our people read their bibles for inspiration, challenge, encouragement and exhortation. 
  5. Trusting people means challenging them to say yes to Jesus at every point in their lives. 

The Spa Man

The Spa Man visits our church every now and then, depending on how many Baptisms we have at church. He drops off the spa we use for our Baptisms in the former factory building we call church. Apparently he does quite a few churches. The spa comes with no heater or bubbles, but that suits us. We use the water from our own tap and it is always a good week when we know we have a Baptism coming up.

Last week the Spa Man picked up the spa on Tuesday as he normally does but this time it was different. He wanted to chat, at length. I don’t wear a collar or robe, but he knows I am the minister. Turns out Spa Man has cancer, and not the type which is dealt with quickly and dispatched. I ask him how old he is and its obvious he has lived life to the full. He has grandchildren and wants to see them grow up and get married and be a part of the next season of their life. This may not happen.

So I listen and ask questions, and don’t offer up solutions. Spa man wants to chat to this Pastor who he probably sees two or three times a year. There is anger there, frustration at misdiagnosis but mostly a overwhelming sense that there is not much he can do in this situation. Apart from seeing doctors who have disappointed him. It is a precious time, and not what I expected to be doing on a Tuesday afternoon.

Finally I speak up and ask Spa Man if I can pray for him. He says yes of course and keeps talking. I ask permission to interrupt and say, actually Spa Man I want to pray for you right now, is that okay. He mumbles yes and I place my hand on his shoulder. I spend a few precious moments asking for the Holy Spirit to heal him. For the doctors to have wisdom. For him to have years ahead of joy, peace and strength with his grandchildren.

Is he healed, is he okay. What has happened. I look forward to our next baptism to ask the question.

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.