The cinema release of Jesus Revolution has sparked interest among those recalling the days of the ‘Jesus People’ and their involvement in the launch of the global Calvary Chapel movement of the late 1960s. More than being an entertaining story, it offers some important commentary on churches today. Given its high profile at the moment, it is well worth viewing for three key reasons. Continue reading
Learning from our Past
Each year, the ANZAC sacrifice is commemorated as we recall the World War 1 slaughter of 11,000 Aussies and Kiwis on the beaches of Gallipoli in 1915. What is often missed is that a military error resulted in them being there, a tragic mistake made by one of the greatest leaders of the next world war, Winston Churchill. Our own eventual rebound from failures and misfortunes is possible, too, but it typically depends on what we do with their sting. Continue reading
We Need Easter More than Ever
The Gospel has taken a pounding in recent years from those rightly indignant at the excesses and abuses of some Christian leaders over past decades. Decline, though, just means a bigger mission field and a larger target to hit with a message needed more than ever before.
We can remind ourselves this Easter, too, that flawed messengers don’t invalidate the message.
Faith is attested by archaeological proof of the Bible, by prophecies fulfilled in Christ hundreds of years after being written and circulated, by the positive observations of hostile witnesses in the first century, by the willing deaths of early Christians, and by the transformed lives of many today. Christianity cannot be verified beyond all doubt, but it can be verified beyond reasonable doubt.
This Easter, Christians Australia-wide have an opportunity to live out their faith with pride. Maybe fewer people are Christians today than ever before, but a great many are Christians still. This Winter, the number of monthly churchgoers will still well exceed the attendances at AFL, NRL, A League, and Super Rugby games combined. This reminds us we can still confidently honour Jesus.
After all, people are still coming to faith, worshipping weekly, and proving themselves inquisitive. Recent research shows that four in ten are open to spiritual conversations, a number rising to 50% for younger Australians, and 38% of Aussies are open to being invited to church, 73% by a close contact!
When society rejects religion in the workplace, Christians still connect outside of hours and continue to pray for their colleagues more fervently. When sceptics laugh at the notion of a miraculous Creator, Christians offer a living God more plausible than a causeless universe. When people intimidate with caustic questions or disparaging remarks, Christians respond with dignity and love.
This Easter, we once again proclaim Jesus who is alive. He died to repair our broken relationship with God by taking the punishment for sin (no matter how small) upon himself. His resurrection broke sin’s hold and triumphed over death. Through this, we come back to God, and he grants us access to eternal life. That brings hope, healing, restoration, and grace. More people need him than ever before, so the messsage is therefore also needed more than ever before. Jesus has not been tried and found wanting, even if forms of religion or some of its representatives have been.
Surely, the Good News about Christ is worth celebrating this Easter, but it is also worth proclaiming with conviction and passion by those who have already embraced it and therefore know of its transforming power.
Jesus, Still the Reason for the Season
The sight of millions of Argentinian soccer fans celebrating in the streets after the recent World Cup victory inspired many people globally. Few cared then that in at least two games (against the Netherlands and in the final against France), Argentina had been awarded penalties in regular time after their players simply fell over! Errors are common in sport, but we ‘accept the umpire’s decision’ and move on. In life, we sometimes forlornly hope that a referee will jump from the bushes and right the wrongs we suffer, but Christmas offers a great perspective on viewing our world more realistically and helpfully. Continue reading
A Different Kind of Football?
What a stunning turn of events yesterday. A Christian church board member feels he has no option but to resign from his role as a newly-appointed CEO of a football club because of a sudden firestorm over his association with its conservative views. The Victorian Premier, weighing in, labels them as hateful, bigoted and intolerant, descriptions perhaps more suited to his own divisive commentary. Continue reading
Strengthening the Silent Witness
I used to find that my train rides became very comfortable when I started to bring a Bible with me. I’d begin with prayer – presumably looking like I was asleep – and then, suddenly, it would emerge … big, leather-bound, and gilt-edged. I wasn’t trying to show off, but just to use the Bible ‘on the road’ that I also used at home. My seat-neighbours suddenly got up and moved, and new passengers would rather stand, packed like sardines, than sit next to the ‘bible thumper.’ Once, I cheekily rubbed in this seemingly silly avoidance by putting my feet up on the two seats to my right, still holding two free to my left for anyone who wanted to start using them. Continue reading
Reinterpreting Census Despondency
What are we to make of the new Australian Census finding that just 43.9% of Australians now profess to be Christian? With that number apparently nosediving and the number of ‘no religion’ adherents almost matching it, all might seem bleak for the future of the Church in this nation. To some extent progressive multiculturalism, which has rightly been welcomed in society, has diluted the proportion of Christians and not just the number. Known errors in the census data also play a smaller role, and these perhaps relate to the way some people interpret its questions. Such factors skew perceptions more dramatically than is warranted. Nevertheless, there is also a clear increase in Australian secularism that the Church needs to accept and adjust to. Just what, though, might this look like? Continue reading
Solving the U.S. Gun Problem
Sadly, the U.S.A. continues to protect gun ownership rights against the greater right to be free of the adverse impact of such weapons. This must now change. The leading cause of child death there – at more than 4000 annually – firearms! Last week’s Texas school shooting was finally one too many for all too many. This week, people finally began to turn on the Texas governor, the National Rifle Association, and other gun lobbyists, believing something might at last be done. This issue has stirred more than a little righteous indignation and the once too hard problem actually has some very straightforward solutions. Continue reading
Shaping the Church of the Future – Part 3
This series of posts has us considering how to future-proof churches when we see COVID and other factors eating away at the resilience and viability of many. So far, we have looked at some overlapping elements of tailored discipleship, the development of systems, and the intentional generation of leaders, where usual biblical, prayer, and community foundations are assumed. In this final post, we look at two more of the essential practices of healthy churches, regardless of size, which will guard against demise and actually facilitate health. Continue reading
Shaping the Church of the Future – Part 2
Yesterday, we began looking at the seeds of decline in churches sown over the last thirty years. Not all churches, mind you. Many have bucked the trends around them to maintain cultural relevance without cultural accommodation. I would suggested that there are five important keys that naturally assume prayerfulness, biblical foundations, and faithful commitment to a church family, but they are perhaps the intangible essentials that will future-proof any ‘centred’ church that is seeking to maintain or reclaim its edge. Continue reading