Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Five characteristics of a church planting movement

I have been reading about the first great Christian movement, the growth and expansion of the New Testament church, as recorded in the book of Acts. I have also been making notes about the parallels of the stories in Acts with those of the Primitive Methodist movement.

Both were dynamic church planting movements. I identified five common themes each starting with the letter P, as follows:

I will expand on each of these in later posts, to help us in our context today.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Reflections on New Age in Warburton

A couple of weekends ago we decided to go away to stay in a cottage in Mount Evelyn to celebrate my birthday and our wedding anniversary. We also drove out to Warburton, some 70k north east of Melbourne, for a walk along the river. Deciding to stop for coffee, we were once more surprised at the increasing prevalence of New Age.

We went to one coffee shop and having sat down for a few minutes had to make a quick exit – the pictures on the walls seemed to us to be disturbingly dark and oppressive. The more we looked, the more evidence of New Age was all around, such as advertisements for palmistry, tarot readings and the like. There were a significant number of shops displaying New Age influence.

It is so very sad to see some of our most popular venues coming under the shadow of New Age and the eastern mysticism that it promotes. Pray for the churches and Christian believers in Warburton and surrounding areas, that their witness may be strong and powerful.

See also my Reflections on New Age and the Strangler Fig.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Are we heading for the worst case scenario?

In the federal election on August 21, are we heading for the worst case scenario, from a Christian perspective? Consider this:

    • Julia Gillard is a founder member of Emily’s List. This is a pro-autonomy, pro-choice (that is, pro-abortion), pro-euthanasia organisation, who view the Victorian abortion legislation as a great success. This heinous legislation allows late term unborn babies to be aborted.

    • By her own personal example, she does not promote marriage (she lives with her partner). She has stated that Same Sex Marriage is not on the agenda for the next term of government. Given her membership of Emily's List, and her philosophical position, can we trust her assurance?

    • She is a declared atheist.Will she support the rights of churches, Christian schools and similar organisations to teach Christian values in the area of sexuality?

    • She has betrayed Kevin Rudd. Can we trust her?

    • Labour have a preference deal with the Greens.

    • The Greens are anti-Christian, in philosophical basis, and in their policies. Cardinal George Pell has publically stated that he is concerned about the Greens gaining the balance of power in the next Senate. He states bluntly that "Their program is explicitly anti-Christian".

    • The Greens promote Same Sex Marriage, alternate sexuality and the like. They promoted the Marriage Equality Bill in 2009. For more details, see Why the Greens make me see red

    • There is a strong possibility that the Greens could hold the balance of power. This is most likely in the Senate, but is also a possibility in the House of Reps.

    • So in my opinion, the worst case scenario is a minority Gillard Labour government with the Greens holding the balance of power in both houses. If this is the case, what concessions will the Greens extract from Labour?

    • Whatever his failings, Tony Abbott takes a strong stand against abortion, and promotes heterosexual marriage.

    • Other scenarios are

      • a minority Liberal government, with Greens holding the balance of power
      • a majority Labour government
      • a majority Liberal government

Democracy is a blunt instrument, and the responsibility of governing our country is considerable.

Use your vote wisely. Be informed. Be careful with preferences. Pray for our leaders, and pray for our nation at this critical time.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Practicing a shout

A week or so ago, I had the privilege of meeting with some twenty or so church planters in the Western suburbs. I was asked to share on the subject of the Primitive Methodists and prayer, both subjects close to my heart.

For the Primitive Methodists, who were also known as “Ranters”, prayer was at the very core of the way they operated. For them, it was not an optional extra, but a central feature of their ministry. For them, prayer was the engine that powered the spaceship. So I took the opportunity to introduce the idea of dynamic prayer as practiced by the Ranters.

Their prayer meetings were passionate, zealous and loud. In these prayer meetings, new converts learned to become energetic workers for Christ. They learned how to wrestle in prayer for people to become Christians. They learned that their faith was more precious than gold. They learned to pray effectively, fervently and with the kind of prayer that prevailed.

There was one more aspect that often featured in a such a dynamic prayer meeting – the practice of a “shout”. The Ranters knew how to give praise to God in a loud voice. So in a quiet little street in the Western suburbs of Melbourne, we worshipped God with a loud shout, for around twenty minutes or more. We sensed the power of the Holy Spirit as we loudly declared God’s praises. It was a profound moment.

Now I am not saying that the power of the Holy Spirit is proportional to the increase in decibels. To be sure, we can experience God in quietness too. What I am doing is introducing a shout as a valid way of praising God.

There are times when a shout is appropriate. And I think it is more appropriate than we think. Indeed the Psalmist wrote “Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth” (Ps 100:1)

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

What’s in a name?

The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. (Acts 11:26)

Antioch is significant in the book of Acts for two reasons: firstly that Greeks in that place became some of the first Gentile (non Jewish) believers, and secondly that it was there that followers of Christ were first called Christians.

For the Primitive Methodists their “Antioch” was the village of Belper in Derbyshire. It was there that they were first called “Ranters”. It was not a name they would have chosen for themselves. In fact the name was most often used as a term of derision, scorn and abuse. Many a young convert experienced verbal assault as their persecutors and opponents mockingly called them a Ranter.

However, there was an upside to the name. It was most often used with negative overtones. When word got round that a Ranter preacher was coming to town, a curious and sometimes hostile crowd would gather. It meant that you could not ignore the Ranters. You were either for them or against them.

Early Ranter preachers often faced a barrage of eggs, rotting vegetables, mud and worse as they preached in the open air. Violence and opposition was part of the package for the early pioneers.

What’s in a name? A great deal, it would appear.

More: Primitive Methodism Centenary plate Hugh Bourne William Clowes Prayer Bible Reading Discipleship Reflections Statistics

Monday, August 9, 2010

Reflections on a Me centred world

In 1543, a Polish astronomer and mathematician Nicolaus Copernicus published a paper called “On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres”. He proposed the radical idea that the centre of the solar system is the sun, not the earth.

Until this time, the accepted thinking about the cosmos placed the earth at the centre of the universe. For practical purposes, this view of the world worked most of the time, but there were some awkward questions about the trajectory of the planets, that did not seem to fit this world view.

The very idea that the earth revolves around the sun and not vice versa, was truly revolutionary. We now speak of the “Copernican Revolution”, to describe the monumental change in our understanding of how the planets relate to the sun.

Unfortunately there are many today who live with a wrong view of the universe.
They are called Narcissists, or me-centred people. For the Narcissist, it’s all about me. At the centre of this universe is ME. Then orbiting ME is “My Stuff”, and “Stuff About Me”. Somewhere in the outer reaches of the solar system are Others.

Now my concern is not so much with the self-obsessed celebrities in our media dominated culture. Rather it is with “Me Centred” Christians. For the self-centred Christian, going to church and being part of a church community is an exercise in WIFM – What’s In it For Me. In other words, I’m in it for what I can get out of it.

The journey of being a disciple of Christ is learning to put Christ at the centre of our life. Only when we have a right view of the world, does the world make sense. Rick Warren opens his book “The Purpose Driven Life”, with the now famous words “It’s not about you”. It’s not about me, either. It’s all about Christ.

How do followers of Christ change from being “Me Centred” to “Christ Centred”?

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

A Biblical Worldview Has a Radical Effect on a Person's Life

The Barna Research Group surveys religious belief and opinions in an American context. Their results are both surprising and a cause for concern, particularly in our understanding of young adults. I suspect that their results apply in an Australian context too.

This has triggered my thoughts for a series of posts on discipleship, and the importance of helping Christian believers develop a Bibical “worldview”.

One survey, now some years old, from 2003, found that a Biblical worldview has a radical effect on a person’s life. In other words, how we see and understand the world has highly significant effect on our attitudes and behaviour. It seems kind of obvious doesn’t it?

However the research indicated that whilst everyone has a worldview, relatively few people have a biblical worldview - even among devoutly religious people. The survey discovered that only 9% of born again Christians have such a perspective on life.

For the purposes of the research, a biblical worldview was defined as

- believing that absolute moral truths exist;
- that such truth is defined by the Bible;
- and firm belief in six specific religious views, as follows:

  1. that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life;

  2. God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He stills rules it today;

  3. salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned;

  4. Satan is real;

  5. a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people;

  6. the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.

So if only 9% of born again Christians have such a perspective, there is a lot of ground to cover. This statement begs many questions, such as

  1. What do adults actually believe? What is their worldview?

  2. How do followers of Christ grow in their faith to come to a Biblical worldview?

  3. What helps and what hinders the spiritual formation process?

  4. Why do so many self described born again believers not hold a Biblical worldview?

See the full research paper here

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Why the Greens make me see red

Australia has a federal election on 21 August. There is the distinct possibility that the Greens may end up holding the balance of power in the Senate. In addition the ALP have a preference deal with the Greens. It is in this context that the ideology of the Greens and their specific policies should be understood, and in my opinion, be a cause of great concern to Christians.

Cardinal George Pell has publically stated that he is concerned about the Greens gaining the balance of power in the next Senate. He states bluntly "Their program is explicitly anti-Christian".

In 1996, Bob Brown co authored with Peter Singer a book called The Greens, which sets out their philosophical outlook. Peter Singer is the well-known atheist and utilitarian philosopher who supports animal liberation, abortion to term, euthanasia, and in general seeks to overturn the Judeo-Christian ethical foundation of our western society. He also gives qualified support for infanticide. Whilst not necessarily in agreement with Singer on all points, Greens leader Bob Brown nevertheless supports abortion and right-to-die legislation.

At the policy level, the Greens are a mixed bag. There is apparently no family policy, which is conspicuous by its absence. The omission of a policy on the family as the basic building block of our society is telling. On the other hand, they have strong policies on sexuality and gender. They promote same sex marriage and seek to give a range of relationships the same rights as heterosexual marriage.

Their education policies are also an area of great concern. Angela Shanahan writes that The Greens “under the banner of inclusiveness have caved into to the entire gay agenda. Their education policies include giving the state power to give children the ‘right’ to ideological education on ‘alternative’ sexuality.” The Greens would remove exemptions on anti-discrimination laws forcing teachers in Christian schools to teach material with which they disagree.

Writing in Viewpoint magazine, Angela Shanahan warns that “Christians should beware of the lure of the Greens”. (You can read the full article by downloading View Point magazine “Greens: Balance of Power?”).

It is my prayer that in the lead up to this election we will see the candidates, the parties and their policies in their true colours, enabling us to make a fully informed vote.