Essential church

The book Essential Church, by Thom S. Rainer and his son, presents recent research that indicates that more than two-thirds of church-going young adults drop out between the ages of 18 and 22. The research was done by Lifeway Christian Resources.


Here are the top 10 reasons:

  1. Simply wanted a break from church.
  2. Church members seemed judgmental and hypocritical.
  3. Moved to college or university and stopped attending church.
  4. Work responsibilities prevented me from attending.
  5. Moved to far from the church to continue attending.
  6. Became too busy though still wanted to attend.
  7. Didn't feel connected to the people in my church.
  8. Disagreed with the church's stance on political or social issues.
  9. Chose to spend more time with friends outside the church.
  10. Was only going to church to please others.

As a result, they no longer saw church as "essential" to their life.

One-third of young adults do stay in the church. Why? Because they see their church as essential to their lives. According to Rainer's research an essential church has four major components:

  1. They have learned to simplify. They have a clear purpose and a clear process for making disciples. They get their structure right.
  2. They move church members to deepen their knowledge of God and his truth. They get the content right.
  3. They have high expectations of church members. This results in high commitment. They get their attitude right.
  4. They are committed to helping their members multiply spiritually. Evangelism, mission, and ministry are part of the heart-beat of the church. They get the action right.

Is your church an essential church? If so, be thankful. If not, what steps could you take to help change it?

56 thoughts on “Essential Church

  1. Wow this gave me a lot to think about..
    I missed church for several reasons and backslide a whole lot but now I am held accountable as such to 2 awsum older ladies that only have my best interests at heart and dont like to see me make the same mistakes in life they did.
    I know a lot of young people like to see genuinity in people.
    If they see someone telling em and not doing it leads to uncertainty and leads to doubt or even If he can do such and such I can do it to.
    Anyone else want to comment??

  2. To be frank, I left the ‘Çontemporary Church’ after I could not get honest answers to honest questions in relation to the God’s Millionaires article (Business Review Weekly, June 2005) and its implications – or to the teaching on tithing doctrine.
    I still have no satisfactory answers to theses – questions … so I will never return. I think that much of what we see in the Contemporary Church is one big con job – Marjoe Gortnor, Peter Popoff, Todd Bentley, Pat Mesiti, Mike G and Hillsong etc, are just a manifestation of what goes on behind the scenes.
    I now go occasionally to a mainline Lutheran Church, unfortunately many of theses great people are getting into the WoF/Hillsong teaching/scene – so I now get alot of my Community from being involved at some level with a Surf Life Saving Club, where there is a sense of family, community service and healthy role models for kids.
    I alos find myself closest to God, in awe of his creation surfing, scuba diving or pondering the wonder of my kids.

  3. I’m so sorry you feel that way.
    Pat Mesiti is a very good motivational speaker as well as a fine Christian.
    I met him in Townsville at a business conferance of which he is involved with.
    I certainly am praying for you Lion Fish.
    I found that comtemperary or not it is still a church ordained by God to Fellowship with his people and He advises us not to forsake it till the day he comes.

  4. T-surrendered, with respect, please don’t patronize me or pray for me.
    I have seen through the veneer of these ‘fine Christian men’. Pray that God will give you the clarity of thought to do some critical thinking and the courage to ask some ‘hard’ questions yourself. (Hint: You could strat by asking for detailed financial statements for all related entities at one Church (eg. Hillsong/CCC Oxford Falls/Riverview Church).
    I remember, being new to the whole Contemporary Church thing, ie. a new member. A late night news bulletin ran the Pat Mesiti “moral failure” story – and I literally felt physically ill.
    It was not the fact that he was caught for moral failure that sickened me, it was the footage from helicopters that were buzzing around his Castle Hills mansion that had “Pat Mesiti Ministries” signage across it.
    I felt ripped off, as a uni student I had contributed to Pat’s collection (when I could least afford it) at a Youth Alive event – and this guy was living the high life.
    I trusted him as a naieve uni student – but this fine Christian man was taking advantage of us.
    This stuff makes me cringe:
    “Announcing Pat Mesiti’s Mastermind Retreat… Who Else Wants To Join Pat Mesiti And His HAND PICKED Team Of Experts At The Luxurious Palazzo Versace Gold Coast For A Weekend Of Inspiration, Motivation And INDULGENCE…” (Oct 2008).
    St Paul warned us to flee from those who would preach the Gospel for a profit and use religion a a means to material gain.

  5. Hey Lionfish.
    I’m sorry you were hurt by the deceptive ‘wealth gospel’ powered by ‘Amway’. What do you expect from an ‘Amway’ based ministry of ‘razzle-dazzle’, of which Pat Mesiti is a part, where you are encouraged to dream BIG and live the high materialistic life!? That is NOT the REAL Jesus that they are representing! Sorry to disappoint you Bianca, but Lionfish is speaking the truth of which he apparently has experienced personally. Shalom

  6. RE: “I’m sorry you were hurt by the deceptive ‘wealth gospel’ powered by ‘Amway’. What do you expect from an ‘Amway’ based ministry of ‘razzle-dazzle’, of which Pat Mesiti is a part…”
    It is as clear as day to us that this is ‘Another Gospel’ so why do you think Pastors such as Brian Houston, ALlan Meyer and Phil Baker participate in these events? Do you thinkj that they are decieved or are knowing particpants (as was Marjoe Gortnor) in the Prospertity Gospel/God’s Millionairres scam.
    And do you think that it is right for people to ‘flee from these teachers’ and this false teaching?

  7. Hey Richard (Lionfish), now you’re opening up a can of worms, and unless you want to start a worm farm……

  8. Oi! I have to stick my nose in here as this has been one of my favourite rants for the last couple of years. I became a follower of Christ in my late teens and have been part of the Pentecostal tradition ever since – i have been deeply disturbed and discouraged by the trend of so many churches and faith traditions embracing the health & wealth Gospel without question. It is like gangrene that is deadly and spreading – and Lionfish, my only contention with your comments would be that it has spread far outside the contemporary, often pentecostal setting, I hear it’s “virtues” being preached in the most bizarre, unsuspecting places and settings…
    My take on it is that people genuinely believe this. Just like Danny Nahliah genuinely believes he has heard from God – and anyone questioning his interpretation therefore questions God.
    I think getting to the root of the problem is complex and layered – and would require a thesis (which i am happy to supply at some stage with the blogger’s permission :)- of course it would be amateurish but it would be a start :)))
    In summary here are my thoughts of why this heretical teaching has gained such popularity:
    1. Poor Bible study – exegesis and hermeneutics that make a glass eye weep. Years of anti-intellectual stance by some traditions have fed this.
    2. Followers that are conditioned not to question, not to “touch the Lord’s anointed”, and who may not read or study the Bible for themselves.
    3. An innate part of human sinful nature that is given to greed and gain. I struggle with this all the time – consumerism sinks its claws into my brain and I have to go back to the words and life of Jesus to get out of hyper-reality. Imagine if I had a theology that would feed my greed ….. I would Love that !
    4. A belief that we can trace right back to Job that whatever happens is a direct results of what we do. Job’s friends, the disciples seeing the blind man, etc. are prime examples of that. This leaves no room for suffering without a Why, disaster without an interpretation, and poverty without choice! Extremely dangerous stuff.
    5. A desire to remake God in our image (Voltaire?) – we like a Jesus who is comfortable, happy, giving, cuddly, easy – don’t like that subversive revolutionary who says audacious things like “Sell all and follow me…”
    6. At some point I actually believe people begin to wake up to this. Like Neo in the matrix. But right then and there lies a huge choice … to go through the painful trials of reconstruction (of thinking, theology, worldview), or to keep things as “normal” (or delusional). This is the part where we begin to sell our soul or follow a rather narrow, difficult, uncomfortable road that makes us question our behaviour and motives. Horrid stuff …. strangely it seems to lead to life.
    I write these things as observations. I am a creature of grace. Needing His grace everyday of my life. I am sure there are people who may preach this stuff knowing it’s deception. I can’t go there or process that – my take is that in large proportion it is preached because it is believed and practiced.

  9. “Pat Mesiti is a very good motivational speaker as well as a fine Christian.”
    Pat Mesiti is a ….well…….it rhymes with ‘non-artist’
    Returning to the topic at hand, I would suggest much of the monkey-business that goes on among Australian pastors and the hyped-up wank that the congregation has to suffer through week-after-week…leads to the churchgoer fatigue that results in number one on the essential church list…’I simply wanted a break from church’.
    Why would you need a break from something that is enjoyable or pleasant?
    People can only be harangued about their money, or about ‘not being excellent enough’ for so long.
    It also feeds into number 2 on the list..’church members seemed judgemental or hypocritical.’
    There’s a good example of this involving Brian Houston.
    Hill$ong posted audio of Houston from one of its staff meetings on the net.
    Houston said on the audio that one of the worst things you could do at Hill$ong is point out that the church’s current actions contradict its previous statements on what should be done in a situation.
    He was basically saying ‘swallow and follow’.
    It’s just BS aimed at preserving the pastor’s power-base….and people eventually get sick of such posturing ….swallow hard…and follow their gut feeling out the door….
    A recent internal Hill$ong survey of staff by an independent consultancy found that staff were frustrated that management would not listen to their concerns.
    I’m sure many of the Hill$ong staff are hanging in there in the hope that things may one day change. I think they’re wrong and I think they’re better getting out before they too suffer the emotional consequences of staying too long in a rigidly toxic environment, like many of the Hill$ong staffers before them.
    But I repeat, I’ve never known anyone to want a break from an enjoyable experience….and even if it’s an often-unpleasant experience, like watching the Fremantle Dockers lose, people will still keep attending in large numbers IF, they can see the possibility of breakthrough in the unpleasant situation.
    Churchgoers are ‘simply needing a break’ because they can see NO end in sight, as they know how fixed their arrogant and cocky pastors are in their mindset.
    ‘Can I get an ‘ay-men?
    Wow, you’re all really quiet today.
    No, you can’t get an ay-men, dickhead. I’m a congregation member who’s becoming fatigued by your insecure ongoing need for personal affirmation, which is a personal developmental step that you achieved in your teens or by your mid-twenties at the latest, long before you became a pastor.
    I simply need a break.

  10. Bring it on sister!!!
    Let me guess Nicole, you are the ‘vocal’ one in the family?
    LANCE, mate, this is a Christian website. You can still make your point without the verbal pollution!

  11. And to very loosely paraphase Tony Campolo, are you more concerned that people need a break from church because of all the wank and bullshit fired at them from the church stage…or that I said ‘wank’ and ‘bullshit’?

  12. Hey Nicole my dear friend. You GO girl!!! 🙂 It’s been a fave rant of many others in the Church. Some preachers have re-invented Jesus to become a kind of a Santa Claus with an ‘Amway’ kind of theology that feeds the fleshly greed of their followers right across the board! Not just in Pente circles either! Time for some to take a deeper look at the real Jesus of the Bible. Have a great day on Sunday and enjoy 🙂
    Hey Lance,
    Please keep it clean mate, regardless whether Christians are reading this or non-Christians. You can make a point without being vulgar. You don’t strike me as someone who has a very limited vocabulary. Thanks. Shalom 🙂

  13. Ahhhh… you folks will turn me into a blogaholic with the topics that you discuss!!
    Having indulged in a wonderful gastronomic experience with a lustfully delicious dish of lasagne, a surprisingly tasty glass of budget Argentinian Cab Sav and having just finished watching Slumdog Millionaire, I thought I have another read of that blog thread again before I go to bed. When I read some of those comments slowly, I got a sudden adrenaline rush. Now I’m so pumped that I can’t go to bed and I’m ruined! This blog will prove hazardous to my health.
    Where do you start with the prosperity doctrine? I’ve abandoned my preoccupation against it a few years ago because I thought it is now so overexposed, that it’s an easy target. Let’s look for a more subtle heresy I thought, this has become so obvious now that there are not many idiots naïve Christians left to embrace it. Surely, I thought, all you need is an ounce of discernment and some biblical knowledge and you can see right through it.
    But what do you know? I read last year that sub-Saharan Africa is now buying into the prosperity teaching hook, line and sinker, because apparently ‘it speaks to their poverty and gives them hope’. Yep, famine ravaged Africans who would be the most logical opponents of this teaching, are embracing it. The last frontier has been conquered.
    Thankfully I developed a gastric reflux to the faith movement early on in my faith, but as much as I’m trying to get away from it I have a regular reminder in the family. Two of my relatives are very enamoured by prosperity teachers and one of them has the whole package; healing, wealth, casting out of demons and ferocious evangelism (he witnesses to anything with a pulse).
    Nicole, to all your points I say YES…AND. The ‘and’ is that these teachings have occultist roots that can be found in New Age, Shamanism, Gnosticism (the esoteric knowledge) and ancient pagan fertility cults. One of the ancient statues of the goddess Artemis (a.k.a Diana) that was excavated in Ephesus was a woman with multiple breasts which symbolised abundant fertility.
    The worse thing that I see with this is, that it gives our narcissistic nature a spiritual legitimacy (to borrow from Michael Horton), and it makes the grossly wrong seem right. At the core of the faith movement (health, wealth etc) is the deification of self, where it turns the gospel on its head and it makes everything about ME and not God. By contrast, the native gospel is – in essence – an announcement from another world. Revelation of truth and good news come down TO us, and don’t come from WHITHIN. Truth is revealed not disovered. God reveals, man discovers.
    One of the things that the’ blab it and grab’ it crowd ignores is that those supernatural manifestations and ‘experiences’ have been witnessed by other religions as well. Gerald Jampolsky (a renown New Age psychiatrist featured regularly on Robert Schuller’s Hour of Power program) documented such supernatural experiences in his book Teach Only Love. He claims to have been touched by Indian guru Swami Baba Muktananda, where he began to quiver and shake and stepped out of his body and was looking down at it. He saw unimaginable colours and had such ‘high energy’ that he got very little sleep for months. This he said, revolutionised his concepts about God and love. He heard ‘inner voices’ etc. etc.
    Now if Jannes and Jambres replicated Moses miracles, and if the devil can some as ‘an angel of light’, it is no wonder that counterfeit religion and spirituality have been synthesised with the faith movement.
    Ok, enough cyber-pontificating for one night. My biggest ‘problem’ for tomorrow is to decide what to do with my Lilly Pilly which is dying on me since I repotted it last week. I had to trim its roots off because they had gone through the pot hole and into the ground. I used Scotts Osmocote premium potting mix, Miracle Gro, Seaweed and a Watering Agent to keep it moist in the larger pot, but it’s still withering on me. I don’t like my plants dying. Any tips and advice, feel free to share

  14. Hi John from Brisvegas,
    Regarding your Lilly Pilly. You may want to cut back the foliage so the plant has less work to do as it recovers its root structure. The plants in my (Melb) garden suffered badly with 3 consecutive days over 40C and then 46C. I decided to cut back foliage and give the plants less work to do in feeding its foliage structure. It appears to have worked. Just a thought – no promise it will work on your Lilly Pilly.

  15. Hey R Poynton,
    Thanks for the gardening tips 🙂
    Hey John from Brisvegas,
    You sure do have a way with words and aught to write a book 🙂 Enjoy your weekend.

  16. Nicole,
    I would agree with your response.
    “and Lionfish, my only contention with your comments would be that it has spread far outside the contemporary, often pentecostal setting, I hear it’s “virtues” being preached in the most bizarre, unsuspecting places and settings…”
    Sadly, this is creeping in to even my own main line congregation. Regular speakers have been impoted from local WoF church. ‘Florida outpouring meetings have been rún, Hillsongs Çolour Your WOrld’conference is being promoted to women, John Bevere courses are being regulary held – and great and well intentioned people are lapping it up. people born and bred in a place that encourages deep study of scripture are embracing things because the believe God is present more / moving more in these other places and they wnat a piece of it.
    I have decided that it is a ‘phase’that my Church is going through – like I went through the Revierview experince and things will settle down.
    In the meantime, I will bide my time in Surf Club. 🙂
    I just wish more Pastor would speak out against these things – like they have done with Danny Nalliah.
    Nicole, why do you think that Pastors are so unwilling to speak out publicly against Brian Houston, Phil Baker, Phil Pringle and Allan Meyer on theses things and call it as it is?
    Why does this have to be left to people like Phillip Powell?

  17. Hello Lionfish,
    I can only answer this from the wrestling of my own heart – not a very clear, polished answer I’m afraid, but there’s not many of those around in life.
    I don’t like speaking out publically against anybody, I detest it. Obviously there are times when we have to, but that comes with a heavy heart.
    The minute we speak out against someone we alienate them and their community – we are pointing out the tares and declaring them and their communities as dangerous. I deeply, deeply wrestle with this. To me this is the last resort.
    Jesus said the kingdom has tares growing amongst the wheat – are these ‘tares’ people? Or are they paradigms/theology/doctrine/worldviews that we hold that are erroneous or heretical? And if we say they are people then have we just created Jesus in our own making? And we know we have remade Jesus when he hates all the people we hate 🙂 (Anne Lamott)
    I guess I am so very aware of my own journey of grace. The beliefs I once held in naivity and arrogance that I now cringe at. It wasn’t anyone “speaking out against me” that changed me – but a community of friends that loved me but held me to account, and of course the Holy Spirit challenging the motivations of my heart. And I am still very aware that in my life there’s so many more tares to get rid of. So how far do I go in yelling at my brothers and sisters for the specks in their eyes while this damn plank is hanging out of my own eyeball?
    I also observe those obsessed with “tare plucking” – they seem shrivelled, angry, patronising, proud and self-righteous. Obsession with tares and judgement does not seem to benefit in any way:)
    So, back to your question, I find it a far healthier practice that in general we talk about paradigms/doctrines. Let’s talk about the Health and Wealth Gospel – why is it wrong, what does it result in, etc. Place knowledge in the hand of people and then let them make a decision.
    I know this answer is not satisfactory. ANd I know there are times when we have to mention names – but i find that hard…. I walk with a limp…

  18. Thanks Nicole. It is a good response.
    RE: “I also observe those obsessed with “tare plucking” – they seem shrivelled, angry, patronising, proud and self-righteous. Obsession with tares and judgement does not seem to benefit in any way:)”.
    If you are talking about me that’s fine – I am aware of how many may view my Internet persona. It comes with the territory when one needs to be persistent in the face of much “Bullshit” (excuse the language) we are fed from the Contemporary Church (more so the WoF movement) which you correctly point out – is spreading like gangrene into the mainline Church.
    As with the case of (to use your analogy)gangrene – we need people with the knowledge and balls to make the call ‘to cut-off’ the infected part of the body. Too few today are prepared to make that call.
    If you are talking about Phil Powell, I can say that I can empathise with you. However, I will also point out that Phil Powell may lack grace, whilst I would not agree with everything he may say, hwne the ‘God’s Millionairres’ article appeared in BRW, the subsequent month (July) – two responses stood out. One was Brian Houstons arrogant (and when tested against fact) false response – and that of Phil Powell. Phil Powell’s answer was consise and when tested against the facts, his response was honest and truthful.
    Most Pastors’ will gently speak in vague nebulous terms – and while nonone is preapred to take pragmatic action – the gangrene keeps spreading and infecting other parts of the body.

  19. What a better way to end the week than share some thoughts with fellow bloggers, before heading off to the Sunshine Coast tomorrow for one last soak at Mooloolaba beach. Of course I’d swap places with Melbournites anytime in exchange for their max of 21 and cloudy!
    Firstly a big thank you to R Poynton for his/her advice. That’s what my local nursery told me today as well, so I gave it a good haircut and hope for the best.
    I’d like to wedge in between the Nicole-Lionfish dialogue. To avoid any possible misunderstandings, let me say upfront that I’m taking the risk in making some very broad assumptions about both of you based on the very limited information I have from your comments without knowing you personally. I say this as a disclaimer, because I could be WAY OFF the mark. Ok?
    I am bereft of polished answers too, but I’m hoping I can give an honest one. I, likewise struggle with those issues but for different reasons. In fact, some times I limp for so long that I have to spend extended periods in motorised wheelchairs. If there was a church for the spiritually disabled, I’d be on the front row. But – there is a difference between a limp and a bleeding wound, – more on that later.
    Speaking Out Against Others
    Our walk of faith, (and especially for those in leadership) involves some very unpleasant tasks. Confrontation is never pleasant or comfortable but it is necessary. It is far easier to encourage than to rebuke. But BOTH are needed. Some times hard questions need to be asked and decisive action needs to be taken. Speaking out against someone TO others, even though it’s not to the person’s face (Danny Dalliah example) IS a form of confrontation. Nicole said ‘it comes with a heavy heart’, to which I say, IT OUGHT TO. There is something disturbingly wrong when you gloat and take joy in pointing out others’ faults.
    Many years ago, my senior pastor (at the time) was new in that position and was going through some deep challenges with some ‘adversaries from within’. I had him in my prayers for a while and I had a dream about him. I rarely see ‘spiritual’ dreams and even more rarely do I share them with others. Since I wasn’t sure if it was from God or not, I submitted it to his scrutiny and left it with him to decide. The dream was short and basic. The pastor was driving an ‘American’ police car and my attention was drawn to the inscription on the door that said “To protect and to serve” (which is true in real life with Yankee cop cars). If this indeed WAS of God, the dream was not a revelation by a long shot, but a timely reminder of his dual function. Shepherds protect their sheep. He was really eager to ‘serve’ his flock, but in order to ‘protect’ some vulnerable sheep he had to confront some rebels head on.
    I mentioned that because speaking against someone ought to be motivated by the pure desire to [a] protect others and [b] the reputation of the gospel, not to take pleasure in ridiculing or disgracing a person. One the most striking hyperboles of Jesus was to “be shrewd as snakes and innocent as doves” (Matt 10:16) No two different creatures could be compared and yet we are told to integrate the behavioural characteristics of both. Snakes are very clever predators and doves are known for their absence of malice. This is crucial when criticising someone publically because some Christians are better as snakes than they are as doves But being dove-like is a MUST.
    For any debatable issues, it makes sense to start with the Bible. Time and space don’t allow, but discernment and rebuke (when necessary) are not suggestions but commands. The No 1 enemies of the gospel in the physical realm are false teachers also referred to as ‘wolves’. When they’re dressed in sheep’s clothing they’re deadly! Hear the agony in Paul’s words. “For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Phil 3:18-20) I agree with Mark Driscoll here who said recently: ‘We are supposed to love the sheep and shoot the wolves because we love the sheep’
    False teachers have the chilliest warning in the Bible “But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.” (2 Peter 2:1-3)
    Failure to protect sheep from wolves may not be just a weakness in one’s personality but a case of the ‘hired hand syndrome’. Jesus said this of shepherds who don’t protect the sheep. “The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.” (John 10:12,13)
    I strongly believe that we need to focus more on the issue and less on the person. So between person and problem, for me it’s ‘more and less’ rather than ‘either / or’. When a rapist or armed bandit is on the loose, the authorities splash their pictures (and their names if they know them) all over the news to protect the community. Alerting about the dangers of their actions is not enough, people need to know WHO they are.
    Warnings are a responsibility. If you drove off a cliff on a winding road because there was no sign to warn you about the bent coming up so you can slow down, you have strong grounds to sue the council for failing in their ‘duty of care’ to warn you. In our faith journey lurk manifold dangers in all shapes and forms. We need to hear clear warnings. Paul and John were not shy to mention people by name to warn other Christians and also to expose them as bad examples to be avoided. (Hymenaeus, Philetus, Diotrephes, Alexander). So naming someone is quite biblical, but HOW we do it makes all the difference.
    That’s easy enough then, speak out against the wolves to protect the sheep. The tricky part is WHO IS A WOLF? It is my strong conviction that the names we attach to this image is highly critical What’s the definition of a wolf? Someone who deliberately goes after sheep to hurt them. LIONFISH this is something I invite you to ponder on. Is Houston or Messiti a wolf? Only God knows the depths of their hearts of course, but as a distant observer I would say NO. In fact I don’t even consider Danny Nalliah to be a wolf either, just misguided. I strongly doubt Hillsongers set out to dud people. Their philosophy of ministry however is (in my humble opinion) troublesome. My problem is more with their ministry model and less with individuals. The strategically inoffensive preaching, (the message of the cross still remains offensive unfortunately ) misplaced emphases, excessive worldliness defended as ‘relevancy’, deliberate omissions of key elements of the gospel, and non Christ centered. Sure, Jesus gets the occasional mention but mostly as a life coach to help your spiritual makeovers, motivator, problem solver, but rarely as crucified, as redeemer or as the judge of the living and the dead. (I need to ask for forgiveness in advance here, but if I was to sit through one of Bobbie’s ParisHiltonesque ‘messages’ I’d have to be strapped, gagged and knocked out with chloroform)
    Also LIONFISH you mentioned Phillip Powell. He is based here In Brisbane and I know a family who used to go to his church. Phillip has an undeniable passion for truth but has made it his life’s mission to point out the faults of others. It is one thing to exercise discernment, to identify false doctrine and point it out including its source, and another to spend your life uprooting. It’s both unhealthy, unbiblical and at the end you become bitter and twisted and you develop the Elijah syndrome where you think you’re the only one left ‘standing for God’. Elijah’s calculations were out by 7000 (1 Kings 19:14-18) Uprooting is not enough, we need to plant and build up. If you weigh up the gospels and epistles, there is more to preach FOR than AGAINST.
    Finally Lionfish, based on what you shared thus far, you seem to be more bleeding than limping. Again I could be off the mark, but this is my sense. As a walking wounded you can’t get far before you ‘collapse’ from internal haemorrhaging. The things that happened have obviously offended your conscience deeply, even though they were not personal against you. For the sake of your spiritual health, you need to move on. This lifetime will not be enough to sort out the mess of churchville. You may never get the answers you’re looking for any more than Job got answers about his suffering. But we need to trust God with or without answers. Our life of faith is full of bumps and sharp turns. Look at the bipolar mood swings in the book of Psalms, from excessive euphoria to doom and gloom and raining down curses. C’est la vie!
    Forgive those who really got under your skin so you can be free from the tyranny of observing their weaknesses and sinful behaviours.
    Finding solace in the Surf Club is great, as a hobby or an affiliation with people who share common interests. Keep it up. But God has also called you to join his family. You need the warmth of Christian fellowship, the watchful eyes of mature believers who love you enough to set you straight AND encourage you. It took us ages to find a church we felt at home in. Since ALL churches are made up of imperfect people like us, it boils down to which imperfections you are prepared to tolerate and which ones you are not. Prayerful research will help you find YOUR spiritual home.
    I am hoping you will receive my comments with a grain of salt without offense, as they were intended (off the cuff and without prejudice). However, if I have offended you please forgive me.

  20. John from Brisvegas,
    I salute you! It took guts to say what you said and you did it with love.
    I have my fair share of comments but often cringe at the thought of putting in words my views for fear of rebuke and ridicule.
    It’s quite amusing reading some of the past blogs with certain people admonishing others for uncyber etiquette and cyber language etc. A whole education in itself. Except of course, who made them the teachers? Is there some universal agreement on this?
    I digress. Back to your comments, John. I appreciated what you said and it’s food for thought. Thank you.

  21. As a partner of CityLife Church I have appreciated how Nicole has handled some of the issues mentioned.
    (Quote from Nicole)
    “… I find it a far healthier practice that in general we talk about paradigms/doctrines. Let’s talk about the Health and Wealth Gospel – why is it wrong, what does it result in, etc. Place knowledge in the hand of people and then let them make a decision.”
    Nicole does precisely that. She and the teaching team at CityLife Church provide us with the tools to make informed decisions on what is being taught. It shows we are respected as intelligent beings to use our gray matter to educate ourselves rather than to follow blindly whatever is preached from the pulpit or from other sources. Nicole is the first to tell us to test whatever is taught even from herself or Mark.
    My background has not been one of questioning my sources but I find this is more and more necessary as we now live in an era where deception is prevalent and to trust unconditionally is to be ignorant. I want to thank Nicole and Mark for their great leadership and in equipping a people to withstand what is happening in this current season of our lives.
    My challenge is to press in and learn to use my gray matter more effectively.

  22. Hi Lionfish,
    I certainly did not think or wish to imply you in that comment in any way. Apologies. That comment came as a reflection as a follower of Christ, and how some Christians have turned their anger into this being the sole focus of their existence or even ministry. I have one very short life – and i hope to primarily focus this on telling a wounded world and a broken people the Good News – that God has come to us in Jesus Christ, and He is not angry 🙂 He loves us, and that love can potentially transform our lives. Of course I also have to live repsonsibly in community meaning I cannot ignore heresies and need to speak out against mindsets that engtangle and disguise themselves as “scriptural”
    but that are merely clever principles of selfish gain.
    John of Brisvegas, thank you for your comments and observations – I am hysterically excited about a “waterless” garden I just visited that was part of a nursery. You water the plants when you plant them, 2 weeks later, and that is it!! This was Flora Gospel for me.
    Shereen, thank you for your kind encouragement.
    I am now off to lead our advanced track on Fee/Stuart’s book “How to read the Bible for all its worth!” – a book every follower of Christ should read.

  23. JohnFromBrisVegas
    I hear and consider your post. Mate, don’t worry I am not offended by your post at all. Anyone who has blogged with me over the years knows that I am NOT easily offended. And for the record, when I have been wrong I have been quick to apologise or correct myself.
    RE: “Bleeding”
    As for bleeding … well maybe. Years ago – no need to follow me around with a mop. To quote the great Dark Knight from Monty Python: “It’s only a flesh wound”.
    When I started doing research after the BRW’s God’s Millionaires article I conversed with Phil Baker on the phone – Phil said that he would meet with me “because he understood how the model worked – and if I did not like it I could choose to leave”.
    After this meeting, I left Phil with a document and agreement that he would get back to me on questions that I posed regarding Church accountability, transparency, theological and financial integrity.
    To date he has not provided anything of substance – and believe me I have done my homework. It was obvious that to Phil, preservation and the survival of the organization is more important than the truth, honesty, the individual or even the liberty of the Gospel.
    I do not let this issue ‘take over’ my own life – or faith walk. I am still involved in the Lutheran Church and have a few close friends there. I go to Church once per month in summer – and regularly over the remainder of the year. I believe that there are higher purposes in life than Surf Life Saving and Scuba Diving, and as Christians spreading and living the Gospel. I just don’t get sucked into the conferences, the funding drives, the hype and the ‘encumbrances’ that come with joining a Church.
    The funny thing, in many ways I personally relate better to non-Christians – they tend to be better balanced and less judgmental than most Christians. My point with the Surf Club is that this community feels more natural than the Church.
    My own philosophy has changed or should I say inverted over the years. I believe that Church is like a mobile phone recharger. We should go there to be recharged (which takes a small amount of our overall time) and then we spend the rest of our time out (serving) in the world – living as Christians in our families, in our work places and community groups such as the surf clubs.
    It’s stupid to have a mobile phone and leave it attached to the recharger for most of its useful life.
    This is opposed to spending most of our money and time going to, or getting ready to serve in the Church. Church is a means to an end – not an end in itself.
    Re: Speaking Out
    And its great that Mark and Nicole challenge people to use their grey matter. I urge people to do the same.
    The question I continue to ask “How can we trust spiritual leaders to teach us with important eternal matters when we cannot trust them teach us with respect to temporal and matters such as money?”
    If people do not speak out – especially Pastors, Evil will prevail as good men do nothing.
    This is elf evident as three years after God’s Millionaires, the Mesiti Mafia continue to meet in luxury resorts conning naive punters out of their mullah.
    Personally, I am here for the long haul. These guys expect that people will tire or leave – but despite my own long list of faults, I am incredibly persistent.
    And thanks to the Internet, my own investment in research, and document repository – it now takes very little effort now to keep reminding people of the facts.

  24. I don’t think church is like a mobile phone recharger where you go to get recharged. That seems self-serving to me. I do church coz it’s my spiritual tribe, family. Sometimes i love it, sometimes it irritates me, sometimes i get annoyed or i annoy someone – but when it’s all said and done – i love my tribe. Community is so much bigger than a mobile phone charger. I don’t think Jesus had that in mind when he said “I will build my church”

  25. RE: “I don’t think church is like a mobile phone recharger where you go to get recharged. That seems self-serving to me”.
    You obviously did not read my comment properly. [Batters head against brick wall] 🙂
    I said “We should go there to be recharged (which takes a small amount of our overall time) and then we spend the rest of our time out ***(serving) in the world*** – living as Christians in our families, in our work places and community groups such as the surf clubs”.
    Nicole – What on earth is ‘self serving’ about serving in the (real) world with the majority of your useful life …?
    It seems far more ‘self-serving’ for a “Christian” to spend a large portion of his/her time in Church listening to sermons, buying CD’s, on committee’s, going to classes, holding hands and singing Kum-bah-yah, and socialising in cloistered cell groups.
    This is exactly what leads to the cultic Christian sub-culture – that finds it difficult to relate to real people in the real world.
    A great man could of once said: “Spend most of your time and (atleast 10% of your gross income) to hangout with other like-minded people in this organisation called Church, stay busy, learn lots of stuff, sing heaps, consume lot’s of resources, create lots of paid clergy positions, invest in real estate and build mega Church auditoriums so more people can do more of the same etc. etc”
    Rather this man said : “Go Ye into the (Real) world and make disciples of all people groups” and “Be in the (real) world – but not of the world”.

  26. Hi Lionfish
    What does Christian community mean to you?
    You can only get to lavish love on someone by spending time with them. Isn’t lavishing love on your brothers and sister in Christ one of the core doctrines of Christianity.
    The Apostle Paul said “do not neglect the gathering together as believers as some of them do”.
    Jesus’s prayer in John 17:20-22 That they all may be one as you father are in me, and I in you; they also be one in us that the world may believe that you sent me.
    Jesus indicates that the oneness of the church, the love for one another would be the key to the world believing that God sent Christ.
    Overlooking offences is a stumbling block for many, but for mature Christians it is a must have characteristic.

  27. Lionfish,
    you obviously did not read my comment properly.
    Sigh! I never said serving in the “real” world is self serving… And obviously your picture of Christian community is very different to mine. I also try not to approach life with this dualistic perception – o now i am in Christian community (church) and then i step into the “real” world – all of life is lived with a primary purpose – Love God, Love others.
    But I agree with you that we have to be careful of not creating “holy huddles” or “cloistered” environments in church. I think we can avoid that by being Theo-centric, not church-centric, and by recognising that God is the great Missionary God – and we are the sent ones.
    Why don’t you stop banging your head against the brick wall now and have some coffee – much better for your health 🙂

  28. Aah, now that I’ve put my two pennies worth in this thread, it’s just continuing to intrigue me. Bear with me as I am less savvy in blogging.
    Sam, your point is valid, however, in the context of what Lionfish said, you come across as judgemental and not quite understanding what Lionfish’s intent is. Nothing was said of not showing love to his brothers and sisters in Christ. He merely says that he is being the salt and light to the world in an environment of non-believers which is exactly what Christians are called to do. Many “believers” attend Church regularly but never interact with their brothers and sisters in Christ, so attending Church does not really qualify them as living in community either. Hope I don’t offend you. It just seemed like you were attacking Lionfish on something he did not say. (Hey, Lionfish, back me up?)
    Mark’s sermon last weekend greatly impacted me. Thanks, Mark, again I was deeply challenged to be a blessing in my community. For a long while, my community consisted of believers. I loved being with all of them. Perhaps it was a sabbatical that I needed so that I can recharge my battered batteries. However, it is now my season to be less plugged to the mobile phone charger and to be amongst my community of people which lately has been business people of varying organisations. The challenge I felt after Mark’s sermon was to really see these people as how Jesus sees them…with love. Sure, I need to network to build my business but in my networking, my focus should be on the people and not the end result. Mark quoted someone who said, “Always preach the gospel and if necessary, use words.” How profound!
    Lionfish, if I were to meet you, would you be the sort to take an interest in me as a person? Would you take the time to chat to me and find out what makes me tick? In your conversation, would you be smiling at me and being open in your body language? If you answered yes to these questions, I’d say you are being the salt and light of this world.
    Talk is cheap. I heard some really hyped up talk in a networking meeting I attended recently. If you believed what was said, you will think you were amongst the most accepting of human beings. Well, put it to the test and hey presto! Words and actions are quite different. When emails are not even acknowledged, well, it’s no wonder people are cynical and hurt, eh? So, to me the challenge is to be what Jesus has called me to be and to reach out to a hurting people even though it sometimes hurts to do that. Real life is not a bed of rose petals, it’s full of thorns and thistles and undesirable stuff. The only way I can survive in an environment like that is if I had a group of people I could turn to for support and I’m glad to say I have that in my Church family and of more importance a great husband!
    Coffee at this point sounds like a brilliant idea! Nicole, love you lots!

  29. Shereen,
    I agree with everything you said except where you said Sam came across judgmental. Lionfish himself has said that because of the faults he’s found with churches he now only attends church once a month (well… in surf seasons, anyway 🙂 Sam simply pointed out that based on the Word of God we should not stop meeting regularly, and that Christians are to love their brothers and sisters in Christ, and we certainly should not stop attending church because of offenses. Her comment was a fair and objective one, nothing accusatory or judgmental.
    Being the salt and light is not only commendable but also the command of Christ, but there is no real discipleship without the presence of the Christian community. It’s not one or the other – we need both.

  30. Hi Nicole,
    Re: “And obviously your picture of Christian community is very different to mine”.
    Yes and No. I agree that one can be Theo-Centric rather than Church Centric – and this I what I was alluding to.
    However, I was writing about people/groups caught in a Church Centric paradigm – ‘Ít’s all about My Church’.
    Ultimately this can lead to burn-out and/or insular thinking. It also means that people can spend much of time and resources in the Church community – having limited real impact in the real world – their places of work, their families or the wider community. I have seen people so involved’’ in their Church that their Children don’t get to be children – they don’t learn to ride bikes or swim – the stuff of life other lids do.
    I have also seen poor-performing employees in the ‘real world’ have a great attitude and put more effort (ie. Serving with excellence) into their Church’. This gives Christianity a really bad odour in the ‘real world’.
    Christianity is my world and the Lutheran denomination is my tribe (to use your language). But like a Venn diagram, I have many communities that I belong too or I am part of – including work, my scuba diving club, fitness first club etc.
    As I see it – being a Christian is my nationality, my place of origin – but like (say) an Italian migrant to a new country, I must participate and live in that wider community. I will attend my ‘cultural centre’ on a regular basis – but will live, work, play and contribute as an ‘Ítalian’ in the new community. I would be pretty unhealthy for me to spend all my free time at my Italian Cultural Centre.

  31. Hi Shareen – you understood my intent precisely. Thanks.
    Hi Broken & Redeemed,
    Hey – to say that I have stopped attending Church because of ‘fault finding’ is misrepresentation of what I wrote and my position.
    I left the Contemporary Church (WoF) movement because of endemic problems with dodgy doctrine, a lack of accountability and transparency and a dodgy operating model that enriches Senior Pastors and their family dynasties. This was done with much heavy heartedness and with much research and consideration.
    I am now attend my mainline Church – however for clarity there are two things I now avoid in my Church Life:
    1) The perpetual treadmill of conferences and things that encumber/suffocate me – and take me away from being the best Father/Husband/Employee/Friend ie. The things God has called me to be. Whilst still attending Church I have learned to de-scope my life from things that may seem important (Church/weekend conferences, reading endless Christian books, listening to endless teachings, and having to feel that I have to serve, attend every week, contribute to every fund raising effort or social event.
    2) The WoF movement or ‘silly’ Pentecostalism and associated fads.such as the Florida outpouring, WoF courses and speakers, books etc.
    I now feel great freedom in being able to attend Church as regularly as I choose, give financially as God has placed on my heart – and to just be me … being a Christian in the ‘real world’.

  32. Brisvegas,
    Haha…Strange I actually wondered why I made that assumption yesterday, as soon as I posted my comment 😛

  33. I agree with Lionfish,as Christians, we should not be totally caught up in christian cottonwool that we forget to reach out to those in the world.
    In order to be able to reach out to them, christians have to be in the world.
    Yes, reading books, attending christian conferences are good, however it is not the most important. The most important is to reach out and touch somebody with love.

  34. SHEREEN, a belated thank you for your kind words two days ago.
    FISHY! (Lionfish), mate you’ve made some great points. The more I ‘talk’ to people online the more I discover how many Christians are in a ‘redeployment pool’ and have been recycled to other churches or denominations (yours truly included).
    I’ll throw in some off-the-cuff comments for one last time, because I need a diversion today, BADLY! I’m having a ‘funny’ week. The axe has fallen hard at work as we’ve been hit by the financial crisis and while I’m confident I escaped the carnage, nothing will be set in concrete until next week. The Lord never let me starve so far and I’m not nervous, but things are a little tense and many good colleagues are already gone, so it feels a little ‘funny’. To top it off, a friend of mine who lives in the States, his 3 year old girl has been battling a highly aggressive Leukaemia treatment, emailed me yesterday to say that she is getting worse and it is now quite evident that medical science cannot save her unless God intervenes. When he describes her symptoms in graphic detail it is gut wrenching. So it’s one of those weeks. My droopy Lilly Pilly stands like a ‘no hope’ omen in front of my house and I might have to get rid of it! (Thanks for the waterless garden tip NC)
    I’ve typed some comments sporadically throughout the day and some thoughts I’ve had in the night (: so you can call today’s post:
    The Ramblings Of A Nondenominational Insomniac
    Voilà (I recommend reading this with a glass of Shardy or Barossa Valley Red at hand. Coffee will get you all worked up and I need you to stay calm!)
    The things you’ve described Fish are some of the most common symptoms of burnout which cause people to walk, other than those who harbour personal offences and have had fall outs with people. It is the gospel of ‘not enough’. You’re always made to feel that you ‘need more’; more commitment, more discipline, more giving, more increase, more books to read, more conferences to attend. None of these things are inherently wrong per se, but their collective impact on Christians who are exposed to continual appeals for ‘more’ is significant, especially when these spiritual vitamin supplements and top-ups are not mere suggestions but are presented as a ‘must’. I’m sure it is not ill-intended. To the contrary, it is done with the noblest intentions of helping Christians to ‘deepen their faith’ or to ‘grow deeper’ or to quote another Pentecostal cliché ‘to go to another level’. But the result is progressive despair from feeling perpetually insufficient toward the endless pursuit of spiritual fulfilment. You’re like a car frantically spinning its wheels that blows lots of smoke and makes noise, but there’s no traction. Just burned and worn rubber. Life goes by and you spend all your energy trying to work out how you can do more for God, without taking time to enjoy what God has done for you. (Some of your fellow Lutherans Lionsfish call this ‘works righteousness’ and ‘subtle pietism’ but I’m not sure yet if I could go that far)
    And here’s my point: Anything outside or in addition to the Bible that becomes a ‘must’ (binding) is legalism (I can hear some choking on their latte already, so I expect some reaction). The crux of the Galatian heresy was that ‘the cross is not enough’ you need to do all these other things to complete what Christ said on the cross that he had ‘finished’. ‘A-ha’ you might say, ‘that was in relation to their salvation, we don’t ask people to do all those things TO GET saved; they ARE saved, this is just to help them grow into a deeper relationship with Christ’. One Scripture I can’t escape is 2 Pe 1:3 “His divine power has given us EVERYTHING we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.” The subtle difference between ‘the Bible Only’ (Sola Scriptura) and ‘the Bible And’ has enormous consequences on our walk of faith.
    Before I provoke any hyperventilating reactions, please understand what I AM NOT saying, which is that any of those things in isolation are wrong or completely unnecessary. What I AM saying is that once those things become ‘the norm’ and Christians feel guilty or inadequate for NOT embracing them, then we’ve put them under the yoke of legalism. (If confidentiality was not an issue, I could list at least a dozen names at the drop of a hat of people I know personally that fit this description)

  35. Fishy, this one is about those individuals you mentioned that have done things to bring the gospel to disrepute.
    Divisions MUST Come
    One of the most counterintuitive verses in the NT is about something we try at all costs to avoid and stymie. “for there must be factions among you in order that those who are genuine among you may be recognized.” (1 Cor 11:19 ESV) I began to come to terms with this full well when the Danny Gugliemucci scandal broke. I was reading blogs from people saying things like ‘now I don’t know anymore’ or ‘I don’t trust Christians anymore I’m going to stop going to church’. First question: Whom have you been following all this time? Scandals don’t make people fall, they just reveal where they stand. Other questions in my mind were: Why would someone like Danny G not feel ‘safe’ confessing his sin earlier on before it got so out of hand? And how could someone get away with this behaviour for so long without anyone having a clue? What does that say about the people close to him?
    This is where we come back to Nicole’s earlier comments about dealing with the paradigm rather than the individuals. People should certainly be held accountable (for their sake at the very least) but the scandals we’ve been seeing in the last few years are (in my opinion) a by-product of a faulty and flawed church model. The examples you cited Lionfish are the symptoms. The root cause (other than individual sin) traces back to a particular church culture.
    You reap what you sow, and in Quality Management jargon ‘garbage in – garbage out’. That’s what you get when you refuse to proclaim the FULL counsel of God and you feed people a selective diet of feel-good pep talks that puts all the focus on themselves. When you foster a culture of ‘Christian celebrities’ whose spit people wipe off the floor and frame the tissue. When you dilute Biblical preaching with so much pop psychology that it becomes a cheap synthetic substitute, when you replace the good news with good advice, when you avoid explaining the consequences of sin and God’s expectations of holy living, when you entertain the goats and starve the sheep. Then you end up with anaemic accountability structures, little or no fear of God, and a model of permissiveness and tolerance that becomes a petri dish full of ‘bacteria’.
    Again, I AM ONLY highlighting the problem we have when those things REPLACE the core of the gospel and they BECOME the paradigm.
    Ironically, the distinction between paradigm and individuals becomes a chicken and egg order. Are these recalcitrant Christians a product of their Christian culture, or is their culture / paradigm a product THEY created? I think it’s both.

  36. Let’s get personal
    Fish, you opened the door a little so we can get a glimpse of ‘Lionfish’. From the sketchy information you shared about yourself I can summarise the following (and of course I could be miles off the mark):

    • Your frustration and disappointment with the individuals you listed tells me you have a sense of justice. You WANT to see things done RIGHT. To paraphrase a word you used earlier, you want people to have ‘testicular fortitude’ to stand up to those who give the rest of us a bad name and you have asked for accountability. At this juncture if I can offer a brotherly word of caution; discern the difference between expecting and demanding. It sounds like you demand rather than expect. You have no right to demand anything, only God does who bought the church with his Son’s blood. But you ARE entitled to expect.
    • Your decision to join a Surf Life Saving CLUB tells me of your thirst to belong (we are all created for social interaction but some prefer solitude).
    • Your decision to join a Surf LIFE SAVING Club tells me you like helping others sacrificially (you’re putting yourself at risk afterall)
    • Your decision to join a SURF Life Saving Club and do SCUBA DIVING tells me you enjoy and appreciate God’s craftsmanship (creation). Incidentally I do too. It’s my soft spot. Attenborough’s ‘Planet Earth’ documentaries in Full HD announce more of God’s majesty to my senses than any Benny Hinn crusade with testimonies on healing (but then again I’m not ‘normal’)

    Enjoy your new home in the Lutheran church. Lutherans have a very rich theological heritage and they are very gospel (good news- literally) centered. Some of the Lutherans I met online are still into religious tribalism and if you cut them they’ll bleed Lutheranism, but I’m sure you’ll find many that are not.
    But don’t expect your Pentecostal mates (if you have any left) to be excited about you joining a Lutheran church. Most of them (there are exceptions as always) have been brainwashed to regard anything non-modern as antiquated, irrelevant, religious and legalistic. To which of course you can politely smile and say ‘please allow me to give you the phone number of someone who cares’ (Ok maybe you ignore this advice, it’s getting really late!)
    Some Final Parting Thoughts
    Some Christians steer completely clear from discussing anything ‘negative’ about Christianity because their heart palpitations go up and they can’t handle it (they prefer kayaking downstream in that Egyptian river De Nial), and others do nothing else BUT spend time wallowing in the woes of Christianity. Some Christians will fight for nothing (I’m thinking Joel Osteen) and others will fight for everything (I’m thinking Phillip Powell).
    As I said on an earlier post, this lifetime will not be enough to fix the ails of Churchville. Jesus builds His church and since ‘judgement must begin at the house of God’ hold your breath because IT IS COMING. (If you don’t want to be ‘slain in the spirit’ like Ananias and Sapphira, don’t lie about your offering. Told you it’s getting late) By all means where appropriate, rebuke, correct and encourage but don’t get bogged down with all these individual shemozzles that you mentioned. Even if those people came good, they’ll be more and there will be others.
    When dealing with and confronting such individuals, it is my unshakeable conviction that we ought to do it ‘under the shadow of the Cross’. I’m not being rhetorical, but what that means to me is that the cross represents God’s extremes all of which are antithetical and yet enmeshed in divine mystery to culminate the redemptive drama. The cross represents God’s wrath against sin and sinners, and at the same time his ultimate expression of love and sacrifice. All of this wrapped up has a redemptive effect. Translation? Those people we are angry against MAY one day repent and turn around (the redemptive factor). Jimmy Bakker and his late industrial strength make-up wife, were the epitome of Christian shame in the 80’s and yet in prison he found God again. He had a Nebuchadnezzar experience and came to his senses. He felt so ‘awaken’ by the experience that he wrote a sizeable volume called ‘I was wrong’. God had to wound him in order to heal him. If God destroys it’s in order to build not to leave debris laying around (ponder on the order of things mentioned in Jer 1:10) He can do the same with the people you’re disappointed with. There’s always hope.
    To Finish On A Lighter Note…
    Advance apologies to non-alcoholic Christians, but for those who are able to enjoy a drink in moderation, you might care for my honest evaluation of Boags Classic Blonde Low Carb I tried on the weekend for the fist time. 6 out of 10 and not as good as Hahn Super Dry or the best local Low Carb brew (my opinion) Bondi Blonde. I prefer the Low Carb variety because you can still enjoy the taste of a full strength beer without the bloating effect.
    I also tried Calamari fillet for the first time, and was a little chewy and undercooked. I prefer Calamari rings instead.
    The last section of the post was brought to you free of charge as a World Exclusive. Remember you read it here first!!!

  37. Dear Broken n Redeemed,
    I was waiting for Lionfish to respond to you directly. I’m just acknowledging you because I think it’s the polite thing to do. Like I said, I’m less blog savvy. It’s important to me to treat others the way I expect to be treated…albeit sometimes a little late, sorry about that.
    Thanks for responding to myself and to Broken n Redeemed.

  38. To John from Brisvegas,
    Wow! You got my attention. Firstly, you are welcome and thank you for acknowledging me. 🙂
    I would like to pipe in on some of the things you said. I’m really sorry to hear of your friend’s little girl. It’s heart-breaking. We, as a Life Group at CityLife Church, went through a very sudden death of a young girl about to turn 12 in January. She died very suddenly of an inoperable brain tumour. It was only diagnosed after her death. Without going into personal details about this little girl’s case, I want to say to Lionfish that for all the failings of the Church, when we look at the good that is done, it makes taking the negatives a lot easier. Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not discounting all that you have raised. I know they are valid. In much of what John from Brisvegas has said, I feel the same. Thanks, John, for verbalising your thoughts so articulately. I must return to my train of thought regarding the little girl I mentioned.
    I don’t know if you could begin to imagine the deep emotions that many of us who were praying for her felt. I will speak for myself and say that it was a very difficult time. I wanted to see a positive outcome but I did not want to set myself up for disappointment if she did not survive. I’m being candid, ok. Please don’t attack my level of faith. The point I want to make though to Lionfish, I was not alone during this time. More importantly, this family going through it was not alone. They knew we were praying for their daughter. They were not Christians. The emergency prayer chain was mobilised at CityLife Church to pray for her as well. When my own faith was weak, and my eyes couldn’t focus on God, I turned to my sisters and brothers in Christ for solace. It was not easy. It was heart-breaking but I knew I had my community around me to help me through this. More importantly, this family too knew and saw evidence of caring people who called themselves Christians. The outcome is work in progress but the good news is, the little girl’s Mum is now a Christian and the whole family attend Church. Before any of you respond with some negative comments, let me ask you to think twice before you post your comments, don’t take away from God what is meant for His glory. So, Lionfish, this is the community I see at CityLife Church. We are not perfect but I’d much rather be here than anywhere else, blemishes and all.
    I wonder if any of you reading this, have ever had the privilege of being part of praying for a very sick child and walking with that child and the family? (Or for anything that requires prayer.) Perhaps you have. If not, why do you think you have not been given that privilege so far? Could it just be that the community you are in do not see you as the source they can turn to for something like this? If that were the case, should you be asking yourself the question, why? Why am I not approached by my friends or people in my community to pray for them? Could it be my light is hidden under a bowl? I hope this gets all of you thinking. The difference between a believer and a non-believer is the redemptive power of Jesus Christ and through Him we have the power of prayer. Prayer changes things. God answers prayers and “No” is also an answer.
    I don’t have the staying power of John from Brisvegas. It’s adieu from me.

  39. Howdy Shereen!
    I’m not entirely sure how to interpret your post because I don’t want to misunderstand you. It seems you’re having a go at me but I welcome your comments regardless. I don’t pretend to have all the answers and I expect people to disagree. What a boring world it would be if we all sounded identical. I’ve learned a lot from people who don’t think like me. Healthy dialogue is fruitful (iron sharpens iron) but cyber-trash ad hominem attacks are sickening.
    Please be assured that THE LAST thing I want to do is ‘attack your level of faith’ as you put it. Those who know me well will tell you that one of my greatest pleasures in life is to encourage people. And I’ve done that repeatedly in my professional and private life. If I like the coffee, I’ll tell the Barista and their boss about it. I’d much rather be a Barnabas (‘son of encouragement’) than an Alexander (the metalworker who did Paul a lot of harm). But I also know that for every feel-good story with anecdotal evidence in a church, there’s a bad one that many prefer to NOT discuss. I praise God for the good ones and I lend my ear to the bad ones if no-one else will listen.
    And yes, I have also been in the receiving end of ‘brotherly love’ from the Christian family several times. If it wasn’t for the generosity of those precious saints’ time, prayers and wise counsel I doubt I would have made it. A few years ago I went through a monumental family crisis that can only be described as an eviscerating experience (open heart surgery without an anaesthetic). The only light at the end of the tunnel was that of an oncoming freight train. Their prayers, close fellowship and strong support is what sustained me. They were crying for mercy not justice, and heaven responded! But not every story like mine has a happy ending. God did not show his mercy because I was any godlier than other Christians who go through similar things, nor because I had more faith. Just his sheer mercy!
    I don’t think anyone’s previous post suggested that we want to find the ‘perfect church’. If anyone is that deluded they should exit the planet coz they ain’t gonna find one here! And by criticising a particular ‘church model’ we don’t want to write off every contemporary church either. The church we go to now is a good mix of contemporary expression with doctrinally conservative teaching, if that makes sense. We have the privilege of doing a food drive to the inner city homeless every Monday night, which my pastor’s wife calls her ‘highlight of the week’. We are even more privileged to see many of them come to our Sunday evening services and sit through the whole service and hear about the hope of the gospel. We try and feed their bellies AND their souls. And despite the impression I might have given with my previous long winded posts, I feel very much at home with those folks.
    So it’s GREAT to hear you enjoy your spiritual family, stay encouraged and keep close to burning coals so you can get some their heat!
    Bless you!

  40. Hi John
    Just a quick one, its Michael Gugliemucci, the son of Danny Guliemucci who has the problem.
    Danny is still to my knowledge leading the Paradise church in Adelaide.
    Excellent point about the failings of accountability structures. It would have been a difficult thing to confront Michael being the fact Danny his father was running the church. God exposed the sin though, to him be the Glory.

  41. Hi John,
    Gosh, no, I was definitely not having a “go” at you. I’m sorry that you thought that was how I came across. I did say I lack the blog savvy that you and others have. I’m very glad that you had the grace to welcome my comments regardless. I like what you write. It’s honest and funny and straight from the heart.
    No, it was not you that I thought would ‘attack my level of faith’. And yes, I have discovered you are definitely an encourager. I am encouraged by what you write in response to others and it’s not even meant for me! Sigh, so much better to have an old fashioned face to face chat. Next time you are in Melbourne, come visit us at CityLife Church. We can all meet up and have a good old fashioned tete a tete. And you too, Lionfish!

  42. JohnfromBrisVegas,
    Mate your close in some regards. I was in the Surf Club as a kid and teenager, and have been invloved for four years now – as a ‘parent’helping out with the kids etc. I do love scuba diving and wanted to do that since I was a kid. I”ve been snorkelling for 30 years and scuba for nearly 20 years .. and yes I love nature. I have The Blue Planet on DVD as well as the Jacques Costeau series (my hero).
    I was also raised in the Lutheran Church (albeit nominally). Joined the Çontemporary Church for four years (thinking big = successful in God’s kingdom). Met some great people there and learned some good things – but could not live with the issues I have presented above.
    So Surf Club and the Lutheran Church are a bit of ‘return to my roots’…
    By the way, I am also staring down the barrell of redundancy – but remain positive. I work for a great company but has been hit hard by the crisis. After 12 years I see it as an opportunity to do something different – potentially radically different.
    On another front, I would apprecaitte some Creative Gardening advice.
    Mrs Lionfish and I have been renovating our small backyard. Apart from cobblestone paving, some Sir Waler Buffalo Lawn, a fresh limestone garden bed and charcoal painted fences – we have a çalen slate.
    I like the Sacred Garden concept – but most have Buddhist / Hindu overtones.
    I wnat to create a garden that is tranquil and tends to stimulate a ‘meditative feel’ with a subtle Christian feel.
    So if John, R Pynton or anyone has any advice on what plants or objects I could put in the Garden to create a ‘Sacred Garden’ with a subtle Christian feel let me know.
    There is not much on the Internet. Maybe ‘Christian Zen Gardens’ could be a new concept.

  43. SAM good pick up!! Thanks for setting the record straight. (that’s how bad rumours start:))

  44. SHEREEN – Thanks for clarifying:)
    I wouldn’t worry too much about ‘blog savvy’. The most natural way to communicate your thoughts is in coffeehouse conversation style. Eventually, the more you write the more comfortable you become.
    You’re the second CityLife person to extend a personal ‘coffee invitation’ to me when in Melbourne. Sounds like you guys are into your coffee:)

  45. Lionsfish – re garden tips. It sounds like you and Mrs Lionsfish are on a good start anyway.
    I haven’t thought of a ‘subtle Christian feel’ in a garden before…unless you want to plant a row of crucifixes, but that wouldn’t be too subtle (LOL)
    I use the net for a lot of research but gardening is not one of them. I prefer going into a nursery and chatting in person. Most Bunnings stores have a fully qualified horticulturist on staff these days. If I don’t know them, I usually fire off a ‘test question’ and see how they answer it. If they answer all excited with a twinkle in their eye, I know I hit the jackpot! They are the ‘horticultural freaks’ and they’re the best value for money as far as advice goes because they know their subject matter really well. And if you ask for them by name, they feel honoured. I stay away from ‘boutique nurseries’ because they don’t really cater for the average garden and they’re a little up themselves.
    Jamie Dury’s books at Dymmocks are good to get ideas from because he puts a lot of thought into his designs. But magazine photos are not easy to replicate unless you pay professional landscape artists to do it and I’m a DIY guy. Ultimately, a garden (in my opinion again) has to complement its surroundings rather than detract from them. To look ‘part of’ rather that ‘added to’. So the state you live in, type of house you have, pool – no pool, the kind of neighbourhood, hills or near water etc. all need to be taken into consideration. There’s no point for example creating a showstopper if you live in a nondescript street. It’s better to have something that blends in, nice but not ‘loud’.
    I also get ideas from observing other gardens when I drive around. If something impresses me enough, I knock on the door and ask how they did it. Most people oblige because they feel honoured that someone admires their exhibits.
    As far as plants go, I’ve experimented with a lot. I inherited a thirsty garden from the previous owner and tried to drought-proof the place as much as I could and I almost have, except for the hedges because they are well grown and give us privacy.
    The lowest maintenance are generally the Aussie natives but not necessarily the prettiest. Grass trees (aka ‘black boys’) are great for contrast and a dramatic effect. No maintenance at all. They are a little expensive to buy but you’ll get your money back over time with the lack of maintenance. Anything with flowers is usually high maintenance (pruning, watering, feeding, insecticide spraying). The safe bets for me are the Yuccas, Dracaenas, Cycads and Cordylines (type these names in Google Images and you’ll get an idea). They need little water, don’t shed leaves and they have colour variety.
    Limestone is great as it has a natural feel about it. One of my neighbours dressed his fence wall with a chipped edge limestone and it looks spectacular. They come in sheets as well and you can’t tell the difference. From the tranquil / exotic variety, Balinese style fits the bill but again it depends on all these other peripheral factors.
    Yea, I know…this is a Christian blog!!
    Hope this helps. I better go and minister to the wounded…it’s been a bloodbath at work, lots of people lost their jobs. This climate opens up ministry opportunities as people are shaken up and insecure.
    All the best with you.

  46. Hi John,
    RE: “A Row of Crucifixes”. LOL 🙂
    Hmmm, Not so subtle – yet so very creepy … 🙂
    Thanks for the gardening advice. I have gone to one pub ‘the Botanic’ which has similar ‘hardware’ (ie. Limestone wall Garden beds, brick paving etc. I have also gone for a viewing of a neighbours house who has an immaculate small garden.
    From these I have some idea’s of various plants eg. Golden Robinia’s (sp?).
    I have also been searching the Internet on Sacred Gardens’. Most have New Age, Shinto or Buddhist tones – but you can also get some idea;s from these.
    The Catholics also seem to have a few Gardens that feature things such as sculptures of the Stations of the Cross. There is also one gradening book by an Anglican priest – that I am thinking of borrowing from the library.
    I still think there is a huge hole in the whole Christian Sacred Garden concpet. Many of the Display homes have the same Bali/Buddha themes.
    I am thinking at the momment of
    -Possibly procuring and weatherproofing an old church pew as a áprk bench to be placed against a wall with pot plants on either side.
    -Including a few plants specifically mentioned in the Bible – an olive tree, pomegranates, grapevine etc.
    -a small water feature to symbolise ‘living waters’.
    Have also inserted weather proof speakers into my alfresco to provide some abience … Im thinking óf pumping out the ‘Chanting Monks of New Norcia’ CD when its all finished. 🙂

  47. Just some thoughts from my own experiences and life. Reading this post made me think about some of my own life choices, why I fell away from church and God and why I came back to both. So being a blog, I thought I’d share in case somebody out there in blogland can get something from this.
    I was brought up in church my whole life, from CityLife (Waverly Christian Fellowship as I knew it…) in Victoria as a kid to Christian Outreach Centre in Central Queensland when we moved there in the 80’s.
    As a child who grew up in a Christian home, I went to church and listened and behaved myself (most of the time I think) because it’s what my parents wanted me to do. I went to childrens church and again it was because that was what was expected of me.
    In my teen years (after moving to Rockhampton QLD when I was 9) I was involved in the whole community aspect of church, I attended youth group, I did the weekly bible studies, I was on the music team and the sound production team and probably a multitude of other things I can’t think of right now.
    As a child we go to church because we are told to. Sure, I loved it, I had friends there, I used to sit in the church and colour and draw, I would play and learn about God and I had a sense of God in my life through it all. And I would take in the teaching I really wasn’t listening to, remarkably to come into my head at the most opportune moments, And in my teen years I’m sure this was a similar thing for me, I went because mum and dad told me to go. Again, I loved church and I loved God and I have more than one memory of receiving a touch from the Lord. When I moved away from home and was working in Brisbane (a BIG city for a guy brought up in a town of 50k people) I just drifted away from church. I don’t think there was a conscious decision made to fall away, it just happened over time. I got busy with friends, I enjoyed sleeping in on a Sunday morning. I found the alcohol was fun and drinking with my friends was fun. (Sin HAS to be fun, otherwise it’s not going to be tempting!)
    As a reasoning mechanism to myself, because it just can’t be that I’m lazy and couldn’t be bothered going to church, I started getting hangups about certain things in pentecostal Christianity. Hillsong was a major hangup for me for a number of years. I had problems with their supposed lack of transparency, with their music hitting the secular charts, with their music in general, with Christian music in general. The list goes on! And I had problems Pastor’s I had known, people who had in my mind done me or my family wrong. Bad doctrine or Pastoring that hurt people. Basically a whole list of things that covered, in my mind, the reasons for not being involved in a church family.
    But the bottom line is this, I moved back to Rockhampton my home town a while back and I started catching up with some old friends who I hadn’t seen in a while, and I went back to my old church to see people. And I remember thinking to myself clearly in the middle of a sermon “Shawn, all your excuses and reasons are just crap. You love God, you love these people, get back here.” So I did. I made that decision, a conscious act, to ignore my own arguments and just worship God with my church family on a regular basis.
    Now I serve and I lead (which is really the same thing with a job title) in my church and I love it. I love the people and I love God. And in the end, that’s all that really matters. God and others.
    I didn’t lose all these hangups or arguments, I’ve worked through them over time, some I still haven’t. But my hit-list of issues with Church is getting smaller.
    Hillsong Issues – I started by stripping away everything I thought and went back to basics. I subscribed to Brian Houston’s podcast and I really enjoyed it. Great teaching and nothing I could find that was heresy like I thought it was. And then I got to my issues with accountability for their finances and realised that at the end of the day it’s none of my business. I argued back and forth with myself for ages about this and I came to the conclusion that I don’t go to Hillsong, I’m not a member of their church, I don’t have any right to demand to see their books. I’m not even a member of their denomination. It’s up to God and the AOG executive to judge Ps Brian and the team on how they spend the money they raise. And I can’t see anywhere where it’s wasted or thrown around wrongly. And the positives of Hillsong far and away outweigh the negatives. They do a remarkable work with teens in Sydney and around the world, they lead souls to Christ week in and week out. Their music goes around the world and ascends to heaven when people worship God with it. Their missions work in Africa is a massive task. It’s so easy to focus on the negatives and make them massive.
    Past hurts – Some I’ve dealt with, some I haven’t. I had the urge to pray blessing on a particular person who had really hurt my family. And that was HARD. I did it, but it was hard. And God knew I didn’t mean it at first, I just said it because I felt He wanted me to. But I do mean it now, something about proclaiming things out loud is awesome. And I realised just a few weeks ago that I really do love those people, I won’t serve under them and I wouldn’t put myself under their authority again, but I really do love them and I pray for blessings on them constantly now. They do a marvelous work – God has and will continue to bless them for it. And doors have opened for better communication (at the least) and better cooperation between our two churches in this town. Prayer is awesome!
    I hope that what I’ve written makes sense! On a sidenote, I was drawn here when I was trying to find my roots again as a Christian, getting back to the foundations of our beliefs (long story short – I was reading and studying with a book of your Father’s “The Foundations of Christian Doctrine” which I was left by my Grandmother when she passed away, which got my thinking about Waverly and my childhood, which lead me to google, and the name change of the church and now this blog.)
    Pastor Mark, thanks for your words and spirit (and your podcasts which I now get too). I get much out of them on a regular basis.

  48. Shawn, thank you very much for sharing your heart and your world.
    WOW!!!! What an encouraging testimony! Bless you.

  49. Hi Mark
    I don’t know. I also noticed that the web page no longer works. Not sure what happened.

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