Posts Tagged ‘Church’

The “U” of Change

Posted: July 5, 2015 in Uncategorized
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The U of changeIn my last post I talked about three hindrances to change. As you move down the left hand side of the “U” through the process of change you may encounter the voice of judgement, the voice of cynicism and the voice of fear. In order to bring about real change it is necessary to let go of these voices. They will take you to a place at the bottom of the “U” where you come to a deeper place of connection with yourself. But change can’t stop there.

As you move up the right hand side of the “U”, providing you have effectively let go of the voices of judgement, cynicism and fear, you will begin to “let come” three new voices that will allow you to more fully take hold of the future.

The voice of hope is the place where you may crystallise the vision. You can start to envision the future more clearly and, having let go of those voices that hinder, are able to be hopeful of what is yet to come.

The voice of grace enables you to explore the future. Someone once said: We need to fail often to succeed sooner. Grace is not an excuse for doing wrong, but it recognises our failures and allows us to move forward without fear, cynicism or judgement.

The voice of faith is the opportunity to step out in practice. Change requires faith because there must come a time when you’re prepared to take a step forward and grasp the future as it emerges.

This process can hold true in organisational change as well as in individual change. It is relevant to the change process that is required in spiritual growth as well as the changes we experience in the workplace, at church and in the home. Remember CS Lewis’ words in my last post: CS Lewis once said: It may be hard for an egg to turn into a bird: it would be a jolly sight harder for it to learn to fly while remaining an egg. We are like eggs at present. And you cannot go on indefinitely being just an ordinary, decent egg. We must be hatched or go bad.

If you’re going through change right now, enjoy the journey and stay strong!

static1.squarespace.comI have been reading Rachel Held Evans’ blogs for a couple of years and have found them, at various times, challenging, frustrating, refreshing, and uplifting. So it was with a sense of anticipation that I bought her new book, Searching for Sunday.

In her very personal blog, Evans shared her spiritual journey, including her frustrations, anger and disappointment with the organisational church and how that impacted her relationship with God and with fellow Christians. With that background I was anticipating Searching for Sunday to be a criticism of evangelicalism and an opportunity to deconstruct the church.

However, the opposite was true. The hurt that led her out of the evangelical denomination she had grown up in was still evident, but over and above this was the deep sense of joy that arose out of discovering that God was still deeply in love with a church that was marred and broken, but inexpressibly able to represent his grace.

While I still find some of Evans’ discoveries quite challenging, I can’t help but be delighted at the way this book shows that even the greatest hurts and disappointments can be healed in Jesus. Anyone who has been disappointed, hurt or damaged by the church should find this book a breath of fresh air.

If the church is like a body, like a bride, Evans says, then its worth looking in the mirror:

This is the church. Here she is. Lovely, irregular, sometimes sick and sometimes well. This is the body-like-no-other that God has shaped and placed in the world. Jesus lives here; this is his soul’s address. There is a lot to be thankful for, all things considered. She has taken a beating, the church. Every day she meets the gates of hell and she prevails. Every day she serves, stumbles, injures, and repairs. That she has healed is an underrated miracle. That she gives birth is beyond reckoning. Maybe it’s time to make peace with her. Maybe it’s time to embrace her, flawed as she is. Maybe it’s time to smile back.

Life is made up of experiences, sometimes dramatic or traumatic, but most of the time simple everyday events that come and go without a second thought.

Eating, playing, worshipping, creating, and sharing become the raw materials that over a lifetime come together to produce a mosaic that we call life, and while we may have missed the significance of some of them at the time, we can look back and realise how valuable they were in the overall picture.

On Saturday night we participated in our monthly church activity, Messy Church, and I had that sense that this one of those moments that made a significant contribution to the fabric of life. It was the last Messy Church for the year and we had a Christmas theme. It was a joy to see people of all ages from babies through to grandparents working together on an activity (I’ll tell you about that in a moment), singing Christmas songs together, playing games, hearing the story of Christmas, praying, and eating together.

These things happen in our own families every day but to bring many families together in this way is what I think the apostle Paul was thinking of when he said, Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. In an age when people seem to be withdrawing into virtual relationships it is great to participate in an activity where real relationships are formed with people across generational barriers.

Now, I mentioned the activity that we participated in at Messy Church on Saturday. We built a Christmas Tree. Have a look at this video to see what happened:

As much as I’d love you, my dear reader, to be at church on Sunday morning, I know it’s not always possible. If that’s the case I would encourage you to listen to JD on Sonshine fm, and guess what? You may hear me. I’ve recorded six three-minute messages that will be played on Sonshine fm on Sunday mornings. Here’s one of them:

Lady Di at Sandstone, Western Australia

Lady Di at Sandstone, Western Australia

Wedge Tailed Eagles feeding off the carcasses of kangaroos were the main feature of a trip I had some time ago between Leinster and Mt Magnet in the Mid West region of WA. So it proved to be a welcome change when we came across the tiny township of Sandstone. There was a mass of white roses along the wide main street and this contrasted with the red dirt and immediately announced that there was something different about this place.

For a period of six years from 1907 Sandstone had a population of 6,000 to 8,000 people. It had four hotels, four butchers, many cafes, stores and business houses, as well as a staffed police station and two banks. During this boom period, in July 1910 the railway came to the town, however by 1919 only 200 people remained. The population has continued to dwindle.

As we drove slowly through the deserted streets we spotted someone waving to us and heard a voice call out, “come and have a cup of tea”. It turned out that Lady Di, as she is affectionately known, has lived in Sandstone for 12 years and three days a week runs a sausage sizzle in the park, cooking up her own recipe of herbs and spices to provide a hearty welcome for the visitors who pass by on a regular basis.

So a cup of coffee and a chat with Lady Di was a welcome relief from the long, hot drive and gave us a picture of a community that was struggling to survive, but was welcoming of strangers, and keen to make its contribution to the wider community of travellers.

Communities that look after their own, are wonderful, but communities that welcome strangers and contribute to the lives of those outside have an element that is unforgettable.

There’s been plenty of criticism of the church over the years, and some of that criticism is warranted. But from the first century when the church first came into being, the idea of welcoming strangers was always at its heart. The church was not intended to just be another country club, or a secret society where only those who could recognise the password could enter.

Jesus ate with the people who nobody else wanted to mix with. He identified with those who were outcasts, the people with disabilities, the people whose behaviours made them unacceptable in a “good” society.

Every community needs a Lady Di who is prepared to put up with the heat and flies to offer a welcome to outsiders, but I think all of us need to have that sort of commitment to reach out beyond ourselves to welcome strangers.

If you’re not a part of a local church I’d encourage you to find one that welcomes strangers, a church that offers you the opportunity to grow to be more like Jesus yourself. A community where you can receive the support and help you need for your own spiritual and emotional growth, but where you can become a person who reaches out to others with the love of Jesus.

… Many come into Christian faith with great expectations. They have heard stories of jubilation and salvation, of the power to overcome this world and experience the divine in expressible ways. But once inside the ancient halls of Christianity many are disappointed. Where is the light, where is the illumination? Our hearts seek God and the goodness, beauty, justice and peace we’ve been told he provides, but he often remains hidden behind the shadow cast by an evil world …”

With these words, Skye Jethani launches a brilliant discussion about what has hindered real communion with God, making use of the prepositions, under, over, from, for and with. My holiday reading has included “With – Reimagining the Way You Relate to God”.

ImageJethani talks about four forms of religion that he describes as variations of fear and control, life under God, life over God, life from God and life for God, then introduces a different vision: Life with God. In each of the first four areas, we seek to use God to achieve some other goal.

Life over God uses God as the source of rational principles or laws and ultimately breeds atheism, but Jethani says many Christians practice a faith that has little room or need for God. Life over God seeks control by discovering how the world works and then directly implementing the right principles.

Life under God views God as a capricious deity who must be appeased to gain blessings and avoid punishment. Life Under God tries to manipulate God through obedience to secure blessings and avoid calamity. This requires a list of rules and rituals which, if we follow, will result in God’s approval. Jethani describes this as potent mix of pagan superstition and biblical morality.

Life from God allows us to have our desires granted and is evidenced in the way we try to make God like us, assigning him our personalities, our values, and our biases. Those who follow the Life from God approach are primarily focussed on achieving their own happiness. This is evident in our current consumer thinking and the way consumerism has entered the church environment.  Jethani talks about this type of God as a divine butler, a comic therapist, a holy vending machine.

Life for God uses him and his mission to gain a sense of direction and purpose. For many people the mission of the church has become the most important thing in life, so their whole purpose in life is working for God and doing things for him. This often leads to spiritual burn-out as people come to a place where they find all their work is not achieving any deep sense of satisfaction.

So Jethani comes to his proposal that we should be looking towards a Life With God. For many people, Life With God is difficult to find because people who have tried to live over, under, from and for God, have no reference point from which to start. They cannot imagine what Life With God looks like.  Life With God is so far beyond our imagination that it must be revealed to us.

Jethani goes on to say that Jesus Christ came to shine a light onto a truth about the cosmos previously hidden from our sight. The Life With God posture is predicated on the view that relationship is at the core of the cosmos: God the Father with God the Son with God the Holy Spirit. And so we should not be surprised to discover that when God desired to restore his broken relationship with people, he sent his Son to dwell with us.

This was an excellent read for the start of the new year. I heartily recommend it.

There are a few things that the church should be doing. The church was established to worship but it was also sent out to represent Jesus in the marketplace. At different times in history, and at different locations, the marketplace may differ.  For one person it is their place of work, to another their golf club, to another their school or university, and to another it is with their friends in the coffee shop.

Yesterday Maida Vale Baptist Church was at one of the marketplaces where we have found a spot each year for a number of years. We spent the day at the Zig Zag Art and Craft Festival in Stirk Park, Kalamunda, where we ran a kids craft activity.  It was a full day’s work, spending time with hundreds of kids and their parents and grandparents. We weren’t there to preach, but simply to represent Jesus and to make a contribution to the lives of people and to the community as a whole.

It was a joy to see the smiles on the kids faces as they participated in activities they had never done before, like gluing, creating, drawing, and enjoying the day with their families and friends. And it was good to hear the comments from parents and grandparents who appreciated what we were doing for their families.

It’s good for the church to be in the marketplace.




I loved the comment that appeared on my blog this week: Just a story I would like to share following on from the Fun Factory: Adam was saying to me today that when he went to the Fun Factory activities in the holidays that they told him about a man who lives in the sky and stops bad things happening to people and he couldnt remember his name, I told him it would have been Jesus, he said oh yes it was. I said that some people dont believe in Jesus and he said sternly: ‘Well that’s because they didn’t go to the Fun Factory isn’t it!’

If you’ve been to Fun Factory you’ll love Messy Church that is held at MVBC on the fourth Saturday of each month. The difference is that Messy Church is not just for kids. In fact, more and more I’m thinking it’s what church should be like. Kids and parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, teens and singles, all getting together to work together, play together, worship together and eat together. We do all those things in a pretty informal way and through it all we’re getting to know Jesus better.

In a changing world it’s important that we reimagine the church and look for new and different ways that we can gather together as followers of Jesus, and even as people who are thinking about what following Jesus might look like. Messy Church is one of those options that are available and I suspect we also need to think about other ways we can help people move closer to God.

I’m convinced that the church has served God well over the centuries, but it has changed during that time and needs to continue to change if our world is going to experience the good news of Jesus. I’m loving be a part of that change and looking forward to what may be around the corner.

If you want to get a picture of what Messy Church looks like, take a look at this video from our Grand Final Challenge on Saturday.

One Body

Posted: September 15, 2013 in Uncategorized
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open handsThis afternoon we visited a vacant shop in the main street of Kalamunda with about 50 other Christians of all denominations across the Shire of Kalamunda to conclude a 40 hour prayer vigil.

The event commenced on Friday night with a combined churches prayer dinner which was addressed by Graham Power from South Africa.

Over the weekend, even into the wee small hours of the night, people have dropped into this temporary prayer retreat, a cold and rather drab venue on a very wet weekend, to spend time together or alone in prayer for our community. I have to admit I took the daylight option.

This afternoon, as we gathered together, people from a variety of churches and denominations prayed for each other as the local pastors laid hands on them and prayed for God’s Spirit to fall afresh on the people of our local community.

It was a significant event as we acknowledged the unity that can be achieved through Jesus. It was significant in that we came from churches where there are different forms of worship, different theological views, and different forms of church polity, yet the focus of that hour, and the 40 hours before, was on Jesus.

It’s moments like this that affirm the words of the Apostle Paul:

There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Fun Factory Day Two

Posted: July 9, 2013 in Uncategorized
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ImageOn Day Two of Fun Factory Around the World we had 103 children turn up for our focus on Japan.

Thanks to Rebekah Hunter who drew caricatures of the children in the Japanese style.

Tomorrow we are off to Mexico.


ImageI remember once riding a motorbike in the bush on the outskirts of Kalgoorlie. Alongside the track on which I was riding was a fence and on the other side of the fence an emu began chasing me. This emu may have been confused and upset at the sound of a motorbike, but instead of running away from me, it was running alongside me, constantly crashing into the fence that was clearly getting in the way of its efforts to attack the offending machine.

The emu and its futile efforts remind me of organisations (and I include the church) that struggle with the idea of change. Sometimes the fences are so secure and our view of the world is so narrow that change becomes a painful and frustrating exercise. The result is that change management involves re-educating emus, re-building fences that have been damaged, or are in the wrong place, and learning how to deal with offending motorcycles on the other side of the fence.

Compare this story with that of a caterpillar that has movement built into its body. There have been some fascinating discoveries recently about the way caterpillars move. (You can see a great video of this movement here). It seems that their internal organs move, followed by their legs. As they make their way up a leaf or branch their body maneuvers across all sorts of barriers in a very natural way, and every part of their body, led by their guts, move together to overcome the obstacle.

Too often organisations operate like emus bashing themselves against fences in a futile attempt at resolving problems, instead of being like a caterpillar that has change built into its system, starting with the internal organs. My observation of the way Jesus launched the church is that it is more caterpillar-like than emu-like. But over the years we have changed.  

It seems that for us to address the issues associated with a changing world and changing society, and for the church to survive in this new environment, we need to think of ourselves as being more like a caterpillar. Rather than change being something foreign and difficult, a caterpillar church sees change as a natural part of its existence.  A caterpillar church doesn’t see bumps as obstacles but part of the branch that we have been created to climb. A caterpillar church is constantly moving – gut first.