Some Reflections on Church Visits

This past week Neale M and I have been hosting 41 youth leaders and pastors from Youth Vision Australia on a tour of Melbourne Christian Churches/communities/gatherings/expressions/eccleisal meetings/congregations/faith groups…and what ever else we heard what Christians call themselves.
We visited (and had ‘conversations with’);

  • Planet Shakers City Church
  • St Pauls Anglican in Emerald
  • Youth dimension Base
  • Telstra Dome and the Chaplain to the Demons
  • Connection Church of Christ
  • Northern Community Church of Christ
  • The Living Room – Daren Rouse
  • Kardinia Christian Church
  • Urban Neigbours of Hope (UNOH)
  • Waverly Christian Fellowship/City Life Church

Such a contrast between them all. I could not say that there was any theme…well – Jesus?
Some were all about ‘soul winning’, one church said ‘what’s soul winning? I have never heard that expression’
Some were all about community transformation.
I guess there was a noteworthy trend toward actions and demonstrations of the love of Christ in community. A move away from programme and toward ‘out there’ love and action. This was impressive.
Some of the churches had the good old ‘submit to the senior pastors vision at all cost’ deal, others were more of an empowering nature – ‘you go before the Lord, find his vision for your life and ministry and we the pastors/leadership will come along side and equip you for the task’.
Some, like UNOH, tended to just be the people, the full incarnational deal. Man, was that an emotional day for me. These people enter into the lives of refugees, disabled, poor etc etc. They don’t just ‘love bomb and leave’. They stay. They take a vow to only earn the poverty line or below of their local community. (About the equiv of 2 days wage). They were broken by the lives of those they advocated for. These people are modern day heros in my mind. They will no doubt never be famous, and certainly will never have seats saved for them in the front row of a massive Christian conference! They can’t afford to leave their own street, or past a good bike ride, not to mention getting to a conference! I stood and wept as we watched photos of their community life.
The other moving time for me was hearing Darren Rouse of the Living Room share his story and the story of his experimental community. There was no building to meeting in so we borrowed one, a contrast to the recently extended (at a cost of 6 mill) Waverley City Life that we toured.
Funny the contrast was just a bit too much for me. I just had to leave the City Life tour and wander out for a walk to process my thoughts. It’s odd that we (me included) get so facinated and impressed by fancy buildings and the latest sound recording equipment, the big auditorium etc. I wonder what Christ, or one of the apostles would think of us wandering corridors of multi million dollar buildings and gauging our success by them. I have to say, amny good things happen in these buildings, lives are changed forever – WONDERFUL! I mean it. I just sit uncomfortable at the moment with some of this. (I am understating this a tad, just to keep peace, and acknowledging that it may just be me and a stage I am going through and al that stuff)
One church expression grew with 80% coming from other churches.
One church did’nt know how many people were involved at all, he said we don’t measure that stuff, just how we are doing against our core values based on Micah 6:8 (justice, mercy and walking with God) etc.
I recommend this kind of thing to any person or group serious about Kingdom issues and faith communities. If you want to chat about this or ask questions then make a comment or email away. I will answer… after the snow next week!

Well the Eagles just won and are into the grand final and Neale has just offered me a beer so I am gone!

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7 thoughts on “Some Reflections on Church Visits

  1. Hey Vawz!
    Mmmm, very interesting thoughts, does sound amazing to be able to explore all the different ‘styles’ of christianity (for lack of a better term).
    And when my heart breaks for the gorgeously cute kids in Africa who are starving, I wonder about spending gazillion dollars on a church building and the lastest high-tech stuff…
    the only thing I can come up with is that God wants a ‘nice church’ – and now before I get pelted by everyone, hear me out… Back in the day, we worshipped in temples, gorgeous temples with gold and other expensive nice things.. and I think that was what God wanted. So we could say the whole ‘new covenant rules this out’ but even Jesus let the woman wash his feet in expensive oil… when she could have sold it and given the money to the poor. So when it comes to us, we can do without, but when it comes to God.. well, I guess doesn’t He deserve the best?
    [Besides, on another completely mind-twisting line of thought, God is in control of all the money in the world]
    I think you probably knew all this already…
    kezza. the mad scienstist. PS. Does anyone want baby bunny rabbits?

  2. wow that’s an awesome take on it.

    I spent my time in Africa, with the cute little kids, and sharing in their church which by our standards is pretty basic.

    Comming home i felt so rich looking around Whitehill Church of Christ and i was certainly wondering about how much $$$$ we spend on our church ‘facilities’.

    God tore my heart out while we were visiting UNOH last week, it was something pretty close to my heart and to see people living out their ministry – like wholely giving their lives to that cause – it won me over.

    But again, looking at Cardinia, their church and ministries were amazing as well, and they were a large church.

    It certainly gave me a real broad idea of what ‘church’ can be – and also an idea on just how traditional Whitehill is (even when it’s trying not to be). And i’m sure that’s probably the same with most churches.

  3. Broady here – just wondered “Mad Scientist” if you could clarify your thoughts for me a little – I don’t want to misread you! Are you suggesting with the comment “God is in control of all the money in the world” that God is therefore content with and behind current allocations of resources and wealth distribution? Thanks for your time.

  4. Hey Broads, yeah I’d love to answer ya!
    What I’m saying (and by no means do I have the correst answer, this is something I’m continually exploring as well) is that money is not a problem for God. But God is not content with how the world is today, that’s pretty much our fault. However, if He wants money to be directed to something, it’ll happen. God can, at any moment, step in and make things happen, but for the most part, free will and all explains the state of the world right now. The other thing to consider is for places like third world countries (dare I say this) money isn’t the issue. This isn’t a battle between flesh and blood. What places like African nations and India need is prayer. To change corrupt governments, to release people into the freedom of Christ.
    I don’t know if this helps, or even makes sense… all we can really do is be accountable of ourselves and the resourses we have at our disposal. cheers, the mad one.

  5. G’day there again the Mad One – thanks for replying. I agree with what you say about God being able to intervene at any point, however, I think history and the Bible shows that predominantly He chooses to work through His people. My concern (and I’m not saying you are doing this) is that those of us living in the wealthy west can take a statement like “if He wants money to be directed to something, it’ll happen. God can, at any moment, step in and make things happen” as justification for our lifestyles and inaction in the face of massive global inequality and injustice. The bare, unpalatable facts are this – EVERYDAY 30, 000 children die due to the effects of poverty. That statistic is made worse, I think, by the fact that 20% of the world’s population use 85% of its resources (and those of us fortunate enough to be living in Australia are part of that 20%.) Confrontingly for us the Bible is jam-packed with references (both New & Old Testament) highlighting God’s love for the poor and His love of justice and mercy and expectation that we will share the same. It has been said that we (those of us living in the developed world) live the way we do because they (those who live in the developing or third world) live the way they do. Many of the world’s systems, particulalry when it comes to trade rules & regulations are weighted heavily in favour of wealthy countries, making it virtually impossible for poor nations to “climb off the canvas.” It is my belief (and I think one strongly supported by Scripture) that we, the Church, must have something to say about poverty – and those words must be backed by radical, drastic action. I agree that prayer for those in the developing world is vitally important, but disagree with your statement that it’s not about money – I think it is! I am the father of two beautiful boys and even thinking about not being able to feed them makes me cry. God-forbid that I ever find myself in that position, but if I did, without doubt I would argue very strongly that money is, in fact, the issue.
    Sorry this is so long – thanks for taking the time ot read it!

  6. Hey Broads (ahh, so we should just chat about this on our own sometime instead of taking up Scottie’s site… sorry Vaws!)
    Ok, lots to reply to.
    YES! God uses His people to implement change. And part of that is, I believe, God calling His people to give specific amounts of money, or calling them to sell everything and give to the poor… and that’s a main way I believe God is in charge of money. I agree that God wouldn’t be happy with the distribution of wealth, and so perhaps that doesn’t gel with my theory, but it’s still being refined in my head so there are some issues (like that) that I’m grappling with.
    I fully FULLY agree with your concern, how us middle-class western christians can be just so complacent. And at the same time, I’m struggling to not be judgemental when it comes to my brothers and sisters in Christ who aren’t concerned with justice and poverty. Isn’t that our calling? But then, God is gracious, He has been so gracious with me, that it’s not for me to judge them for not doing the stuff I do. So, once again, I guess what I’m saying is we can only really be accountable for our actions and our heart.
    Money is an big problem, yes, but I still find that I don’t think it’s the issue. It’s more like a symptom. Yes, it needs to be fixed, but what’s to stop it coming back if the root of the problem isn’t healed? I’m not saying that Africa is inherently evil and are paying because of it, no, I think we are all paying for it but in different ways. The symptom of Western society is complacency. This doesn’t affect our immediate lives, in fact it usually makes us feel ‘better’ (for lack of a better word)… but it is tearing us away from the heart of God, making millions of people not bother to care or question what life is.
    Sorry if I’ve offended by comparing our complacency to the thousands of children (and adults) who die each day by preventable things (because believe me, my heart is breaking for them and I am doing what I feel God is calling me to do about it)…
    So possibly I am just naive, I have no kids to worry about and lack of money has never been an issue for me so perhaps (and in fact, probably) I am not really qualified to discuss this position with any authority, I guess I’m just exploring, questioning, challenging what I believe about God and who He is.
    You say, “Many of the world’s systems, particulalry when it comes to trade rules & regulations are weighted heavily in favour of wealthy countries, making it virtually impossible for poor nations to “climb off the canvas.””… I think this is where Prayer is so important. Campaigning and the like are great, but once again, this isn’t a battle between flesh and blood. The devil sure doesn’t want equality for the nations of the world. BUT, at the same time, yes, deeds are important. Without heroes of this generation stepping up in Faith, saying that NO I won’t put up with that, then the prayers are (possibly) not effective (once again, not a bible college student here, so don’t really know how this all works…). I think James 2 says it all, faith without deeds is nothing, just like deeds without faith is futile.
    Ummm… what was the question again? :S
    kezza.
    PS. I think my reply was even longer than yours! 😛 Feel free to check out my blog for a rant about MTV and God.

  7. Hey, don’t apologise for using up all this space. This kind of conversation is just what the blog comments are for. Great thoughts. Just for the record, I know I can’t just move into a mud hut in Joondalup, but I regularly feel embarased by my life style. 4/2 big shed, nice car. Kids in nice school, listening to my mp3 player, resources to travel…I am in Melbourne right now! We are so ridiculously well off and we don’t often even know it.

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