The Difference Between Caring And Doing Something About It

I’ve been reading the biography of the woman who started up “God’s Golden Acre”, troche throughout this week while I was doing training at Oracle, and all that. For those who don’t know about it, God’s Golden Acre is an AIDS orphanage in South Africa, which originally started to house orphans from the civil war and then has since been a refuge from the AIDS epidemic.

It’s not possible to read those sort of stories without having an emotional reaction on some level at least, and this hit me pretty hard – and given that we’ve already established that I’m a cryer, I spent a couple of lunchtimes last week wiping moisture from my cheeks. And something deep within me want to do something. I don’t know what. What skills could an IT worker from Melbourne have to offer to help children who have lost parents to AIDS. Is just sending money enough?

So I’m walking to my train, in at Flinders Street (Melbourne’s central station for the uninitiated) and had someone from “Save The Children” approach me – as you often do in that area. But for some reason I stopped and it didn’t take long for my softened heart to give out my credit card and before you know it I’m signed up to give away 39 bucks a month. Which given that I just recently got a payrise for significantly more than that, won’t actually mean that I notice.

And I guess that’s my point. As far as I can see, considering that I’m ultimately doing fairly well financially, giving a small bit of money doesn’t seem to really be doing anything about it. It’s just enough to dissuade my western guilt, and leaves me feeling like there must be more to this. And there are tonnes of causes that all make me feel like I need to do something, including the teenagers in our community, which I actually am doing something about. So how do you pick your battles. And am I putting the ministry towards teenagers, which is ultimately something that takes a bit of effort but doesn’t really cost me my lifestyle in front of working for AIDS orphans (or something similar) just because it’s easier.
I know that these are questions that aren’t ever going to be answered by my own head – and that it really depends on having some confidence that God has called me to be in the ministry I am in (which I do feel quite strongly) and trusting that he’ll let me know when that needs to change. But the feeling is that sometimes I’m not really that interested in going out of my way to do God’s stuff.

Book Review: “The Quest For The Radical Middle”

I’ve been on training all this week (I’m working towards the lofty goal of being an “Oracle Certified Professional” database administrator. Nerdy nerd nerd), treatment and as a result been afforded long lunch breaks, capsule which has been a great chance to do some reading. So I’ve been getting stuck into a book that I’ve been meaning to read for ages, there and recently got my hands on – “The Quest For The Radical Middle” by Bill Jackson.

The Quest For The Radical Middle (TQFTRM) is essentially a history of the Vineyard movement. As someone who has been a part of a vineyard for the last 8 years, and had an affinity for Wimber and the Vineyard ideas for longer than that, it’s been great to read a documented history of exactly what happened in Vineyard as it went through its early stages. And Bill Jackson doesn’t shy away from the mistakes and hurty bits in the formation of the movement. I don’t think that I’ve read a more honest and open look at John Wimber’s influence in the Vineyard, and it’s that honesty and realistic self analysis that encourages me about the Vineyard’s ability to continue to grow and move in what God is doing.

TQFTRM was such a fun read too. As I was reading through the history of Vineyard, I’d recognise little bits of the story – you’d have heard John Wimber say that on a video, or in the case of stuff like the Toronto Blessing I can vividly remember being a part of a good traditional Anglican Church in the UK that really embraced what God was doing as an overflow from that place.

I think TQFTRM is a wonderful read for anyone who is in a Vineyard Church and wants to understand some of the background of the place, and especially anyone who is looking to plant a Vineyard – I think that this would have to be on the Required Reading list. I loved it.

Forsaking All

Have had an interesting chain of thoughts running through my brain over the last week or so. Met up with a few old school friends last Saturday for a BBQ, store and one of the friends who was there was someone who up until about a year ago would have been someone I’d have asked for advice on spiritual matters and the like.

Disturbingly, help in the past year this friend has joined what ultimately is a cult in Sydney, there albeit one that doesn’t seem to be completely dangerous. but certainly not at all good. And in chatting with her about what had changed about her, and why is living in this community, one thing stood out to me. Above anything, she said that their community was all about forsaking everything to follow Christ. And to be brutally honest, some of the model that this group uses could be a lot closer to the way we should be living than it is in my life at the moment.

They live with about 25 people sharing four houses. And in everything they do, they live simply, opting to forsake the trappings of modern living like computers, or even telephones, and while some of them work part-time, all their money is shared, and no-one’s needs are put above anyone elses. When they are not working, they spend their time witnessing to people (and I’m sure there’s some weird stuff in there, my friend was pretty sketchy on the details), and ministering to the poor.

And while I’m not for a moment saying that I’m about to uproot and join this cult (there’s some very, very dodgy theology and ideas floating around, that are not OK at all) it seems to me that if we were to genuinely attack this God thing with ABSOLUTELY no pre-concieved ideas, this could quite possibly be a lot closer to the model we’d start with than even anything as radical as the emerging church forge type model. But ofcourse I’ll still be doing church on Sunday as usual, it’s pretty hard to make a change anywhere other than your head.

A New Challenge

This Friday will be a little bit of a landmark day for me. For the first time in over 4 years, there Friday Night Youth Group will run and I won’t be a part of leading it. I’ve been involved in working with the Year 7 – 9 group since I finished school, site and this year I won’t be involved in running the friday night program. After 4 years, I’ve graduated to working with the senior group.

For the last while my focus has been on running our Sunday morning program, which is where I’ve taken out our youth every second week from the main service, and we do a talk/discussion/discipleship type deal. And I’ve been just another helping hand on Fridays. But over summer (which if you’re a northern hemisphere person is your winter) I’ve been really challenged about where God is calling me to be at the moment, and have felt fairly gradually that it’s time I worked more with the senior guys, which really is much more where my “bent” is.

And there’s been a bit of a hole in our ministry to the senior high schoolers in the area of doing something social. They have a bible study that’s powering on and really meeting lots of the kids where there at, but there’s still definitely a significant group who aren’t really connecting at that level, and who really need to be feeling a part of the wider group. So that’s what I’ll be attacking. I’m really quite excited by the prospect, and the details have all happened in a hurry.

Basically, every 1st, 3rd and 5th Sunday of each month, we’ll be doing a social thing after the sunday morning service. The plan is to have the whole program run on a three week rotation, although we will obviously have to reassess after a few goes. But the idea is to have the first time with us going somewhere. Whether that be something low-key like a trip to the movies, or tenpin bowling, or something a bit bigger like a footy trip or a trip to the beach, etc. The second time we’ll have something low-key: order in pizza or grab some fish and chips and probably just hang around, catch a DVD, play cricket, whatever takes our fancy.

But the really exciting prospect is that on the third sunday we do something practical. I’ve been really inspired to get our teenagers out there doing something for someone who is not themself. So sometimes that’ll be just doing something at the church, and other times we’ll do servant evangelism type stuff, other times just do something to help out people with needs in the community (church and wider). It’s a really exciting prospect and if we can see these guys take a hold of the vision I can really see their attitudes and lives being changed.

It’s such an exciting time, and I’m sure that this entry is mostly self-serving, it’s mostly just getting the ideas really clear in my head, and getting some sense out of my enthusiasm. But in the off chance that someone reading this has ideas or war stories that might be helpful, I’d be thrilled to get any comments.

What Kind Of Christian Am I?

I’m not sure that I agree with what it found, discount but I’ve done a “What’s your Theological worldview?”. I’d feel better if I had a really sound knowledge of what postmodern really means.

You scored as Emergent/Postmodern. You are Emergent/Postmodern in your theology. You feel alienated from older forms of church, you don’t think they connect to modern culture very well. No one knows the whole truth about God, and we have much to learn from each other, and so learning takes place in dialogue. Evangelism should take place in relationships rather than through crusades and altar-calls. People are interested in spirituality and want to ask questions, so the church should help them to do this.

Emergent/Postmodern
79%
Charismatic/Pentecostal
75%
Neo orthodox
71%
Evangelical Holiness/Wesleyan
71%
Reformed Evangelical
68%
Fundamentalist
64%
Classical Liberal
50%
Modern Liberal
46%
Roman Catholic
36%

What’s your theological worldview?
created with QuizFarm.com

Is God Nice?

So here’s the setup, sovaldi I’m chatting with a good friend who is one of those people I really enjoy having good meaty philosophical discussions with, and she comments that she’s not sure that God is nice. Which of course led me to reach for my long list of pat answers, but I couldn’t really find one that fits.

I guess part of the problem with “is God nice?” is that I’m not really sure that nice is a word I’m comfortable with. I relate strongly to the scene in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (which is a great film that you should definitely see) where Jim Carrey says “you seemed nice” to Kate Winslet and she goes nuts at him. Nice just seems like such a piddly little term. Much too baby Jesus meek and mild, halo type of image. “Kind” is almost pushing it.
There’s something deeply right about C.S Lewis’ description of Aslan as “not a tame lion…. but he is good”. And if loving and good is what you are trying to say in the word “nice”, then it is entirely fair to suggest that God is “nice”.

I don’t know that this post has really made much of a point. But the question forced me to really think about the character of God, and to take seriously who I believe I think he is. Naturally, none of this was actually wrapped up in the original comment, my friend was just expressing frustration at her inability to see God’s plan in her present circumstances (which makes it all sound more dramatic than it really is). But it’s always worth having a think.

SS ‘06 – Pride and Leadership

One of the most memorable and challenging workshops at Soul was the Leadership seminar held by Mike Pilavachi. Now Mike has a lot of good things to say, buy viagra and I have a huge amount of respect for him and what he has done, sickness but my expectations of his seminar were fairly low. Rocking up to Soul Survivor every year means that it is fairly rare for Mike to stray too far off stories and messages that you’ve heard before. But Mike’s seminar really challenged me to take a sober look at where I’m at.

Obviously it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that a big part of Mike’s talk was about the attitude that leaders need to take, thumb and the sort of person who should be in leadership. But Mike took a really straight-shooting approach. He went with the line that if you’re the sort of person who looks for opportunities to lead, and that you see something being done and you think about how you’d do it better, then you’re not called to leadership. And at face value that is an easy thing to fob off – “sure that’s not me”, but when you’re forced to step back and take a look at you own attitudes, it can be quite confronting.

So I’ve started being very deliberate about checking my motives for leadership. And seeking to avoid situations where I am likely to get suckered into putting myself on a pedestal. It’s so easy to want people to notice what you’re doing. But in Christian leadership your motivation has to come from a heart of compassion towards those you are leading, from desperation to see them helped, and out of love for the father. Any other drivers can only end badly.

I was super-encouraged though. I dragged a couple of my up-and-coming-leader type youth along, one of whom has a fairly upfront role in church. And despite it not entering my head, she came to me straight after and was really questioning her own motives for leading, to the point of contemplating stepping back. It’s so nice to have your teenagers take a serious look at their own pride issues, and it certainly takes a lot more maturity than is often prevalent in lots of Christians.

Soul Survivor ‘06

Well I’ve been meaning to post earlier but it’s been a bit crazy back at work which tends to make for not much enthusiasm when I get home. And while Soul Survivor was spiritually refreshing, sales the poor old body takes a little recovering. But on with the post…

I must admit that my expectations for Soul this year were pretty low, not only was there the law of diminishing returns with respect to youth festivals, but I was going as the only one on our youth team who could make it this year and so was expecting to do a fair bit of hand holding, particularly given that we had a few year 7/8s who were rocking up for the first time.

But on a personal level Soul really delivered. God came and dealt with some issues that have been lying around for quite a while, in particular to do with fear, and also really freed me from some of the crap that is still lying around from the break-up. I had a chat on Saturday night with the ex, just because things were a bit weird and I really needed to get some of that junk out of my system, and then we both ended up going to the late night worship (separately). And in that time God just really broke off the last strings that were tying me to that relationship and helped me to see the girl as just another person. It really was one of the most real experiences of freedom I’ve ever felt. God was so amazingly in it.

I really got heaps out of the workshop program this year as well, where there was some high quality stuff, and I’m desperate to hear some of the seminars I didn’t make it along to. Fortunately I’ll be able to do that because the Soul Survivor team were selling the recordings of every seminar and session in MP3 onto a CD. Which will be so good! I’m already watching the mailbox for it to come.

Hopefully I’ll post again, slighly less personally and slightly more topically because there was some real thinkers that Soul Survivor brought up in me. But for the moment, it’s probably enough to say that God is just really really faithful.

2005 – The Year of the Humanitarian?

With Time Magazine naming Bono and Bill and Melinda Gates as “Persons of the Year”, the worlds compassionate response to the Boxing Day Tsunami, the global event that was Live8 and (still is) the Make Poverty History campaign. And the really encouraging thing is seeing the way that church leaders, and christians in general, are right there in amongst it. You never know, the words of Christ might almost be a chance of coming true:

“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35 (NIV)

Still Learning

Ever have that realisation that some of the things you’re teaching might actually be true? I’ve been teaching the youth every second Sunday morning, help and found that I’ve been relaying the thought that god works best in us in our hardest times, site and that those are the times that you learn. It’s such an easy thing to say, and even though I’ve always believed what I was saying, it hit me hard the other day, when I’ve actually been going through the process of an unexpected (although still amiable and certainly not the messiest ever) breakup I’m actually finding that it’s true!

So as hard as this time has been, (which is my poor excuse for not blogging) I’ve been seeing God’s hand in all of it. God has been blowing me away, and while I’m not saying I’ve been altogether throughout this, and there’s still a lot of nagging questions, and my fragile self-esteem has taken a hit, God’s been walking me through it. This whole relationship deal isn’t just made up! Epiphany!