Wednesday, November 28, 2007

On Hillsong, Discernment and Bribery in the Police Force

Here's a thought.

Everyone who has heard of Hillsong Church in Sydney has an opinion of them. Even Americans do. Maybe that will always be the case. They have grand plans, and anyone with grand plans must allow for rigorous and public scrutiny. The Sydney Anglican Diocese certainly cops it. And perhaps this is a good thing.

Let me say upfront: I certainly have problems with the Hillsong movement. I always have. This is not new or a surprise to those who have known me. I used to be militant in my critique of them. I have mellowed a little over the years, thinking soberly of Paul's comment in 1 Corinthians 3 that 'God judges each person's work', and 'the day bringing it to light.' I also found helpful Jeremiah 23:28-29:
Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?" declares the LORD. "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?
But at the same time, I've been realizing that many people I know have recently been giving Hillsong a free pass . And that's partly because they simply love the music. And they are tired of the critique. And they are willing to forgive a whole lot for the wonder of the 'worship experience'.

So what is my problem with Hillsong?

It isn't that they are always doctrinally incorrect (They aren't, and I have heard a sermon from the youth team that was a good and valid exegesis of Romans 7). It isn't just the money and prosperity stuff (although there are major major issues here.) It isn't that they aren't passionate and it isn't that there aren't great people there (there are many many wonderful people serving there). And it certainly isn't that 'they' don't believe in the Gospel (the ones I know who go there do.)

Here is my biggest problem:

Lack of discernment.

I've been a few times. I've got great friends who are or who have been there. I've read lots, and listened to their messages. I may be wrong, and am happy to be corrected, but one week you'll receive something good; the next, something weird. At one conference, you'll get a good speaker; then next up someone odd. One week, you'll get the promises about prosperity, with verses (used spuriously) to introduce a giving time; the next nothing on the topic. One week will be about Jesus' death, then next will be all about You.

I think that this accounts for some of the confusion we have. It is also a reason many are giving them a free pass. You'll hear people say that it was good when they visited Hillsong, and that they heard nothing inappropriate. And then someone else will go another week, and they will recount some theological and pastoral horror story. You'll go to the conference and hear relatively orthodox speakers like Bill Hybels, and then you'll get TD Jakes! You'll get some music that has little substance, and then some that elevates Christ and his blood shed on the Cross. You'll get great work with the poor, and then news of an investment scandal.

I had some correspondence recently with a friend who is very sympathetic to Hillsong who said that they have heard 4 Hillsong sermons, of which 3 were good, and one dismal. (And by dismal, I don't mean boring).

Now, I don't think that our meetings are always theological and pastorally good. Not at all. I know profoundly how much we get it wrong, and it pains me when we do. But if discernment goes out the door -- in favor of passion and music and the elation -- then the game is over.

Here is the thing: To me, lack of discernment in a church is like bribery in the police force. If you tolerate it at any level, the whole organization becomes tainted. Even the good parts. And that makes me more sad than it does mad.

Hopefully every movement's excesses will be curbed by increasing accountability.

Happy to be challenged on this. (But no anonymous comments allowed on this one)

Saturday, November 24, 2007

In line...

Hmmm. There is an election on today in Australia. Personally, I like how the Prime Minister has to get in line to vote like everyone else (He's the dude the the tie on, with the Liberal Party How-to-Vote Card in his hand).

My wife and I voted on Monday on 42nd St in Manhattan with our friend Rhys Bezzant. This was Laurel's first vote as a dual citizen of the USA and Australia. We had a meal afterwards at Pershing Square at Grand Central. Seriously good burgers.


Friday, November 16, 2007

Great Quote

I ended ENGAGE '07 with this quote. It's a beauty:

"God give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love and single eye, and then let men or devils do their worst."
George Whitfield


How do you answer this?

I'm changing The Boy's name on the Blog. From now on, he shall be called "The Little Man". And the Girl shall be called: "The Little Lady".

Quote The Little Man:
“I don’t know how to be angry (Shrugs Shoulders, arms out). Daddy could you teach me how to be angry?"
How do you answer a question like this?


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Movies about Grace? I count three.

I do not think that it is an overstatement for me to type that most movies are, in the end, really just about Christianity: They usually trace the main motifs that belong to the God and Father of Jesus Christ: love, justice, redemption, hope, fidelity. Even if these sweet intangibles are portrayed negatively, I find that the plot and themes of most movies are still, as they say during election times, 'on message'.

However, there are only three movies that I can recall where the dominant motif is 'Grace':

1. Babette's Feast. (A Danish film)
2. The Widow of Saint Pierre. (A French Canadian Film)
3. The Lives of Others. (A German Film)

The Lives of Others is a subtitled film set in East Germany in 1984. I just finished it now, and I am in tears. Maybe it's the Jet-Lag. Maybe it's because Grace is life to the body and soul.

The Apostle John says: (John 1)

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known.

Incidentally, on Rotten Tomatoes, these three films are reviewed as 100%, 90% and 93% repectively. I wonder if Grace is what our universe needs most. And in particular, the Grace of God.

Have I missed another 'Grace' film?
Is my observation correct?


Friday, November 09, 2007

Cures for Jet Lag??

What are the cures for Jet-Lag?

We've had a great time in Sydney. I came out for the Engage conference, and then had a great time with family and friends. We are flying out and, God willing, will be in NYC on Saturday. We are itching to see everyone at church on Sunday.

But, how to get over Jet-Lag?

I have the ONLY cure.

See the comments.

In the meantime, a pictorial memoir...


Tuesday, November 06, 2007

"Jesus made me into a Puzzle"

OK. Get this:

Who made you?
The Boy:
Jesus made me. Yes. Jesus made me into a puzzle and broke me into pieces and then put me back together in pieces that belong to Jesus.


People say that kids only parrot what their parents say. But I can tell you right now, we have never said that to him. But the Bible says something like it:
Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. Colossians 1:15-17
I'm glad he was baptized.