Thursday, 29 November 2007

What is church?

I've been thinking a bit lately about what is church? Church is a lot more than what we do on a Sunday, however, for this post I will be looking at a church serves. What should it look like? I’ve heard it said that church is people. However, I think it’s more than just a bunch of people. Church its fist and foremost about God- what he has done to call people back to himself thought the blood of Christ. It is a gathering of a community of the people of God- the people he has redeemed not by human effort, but by the cross. Therefore God needs to be in the centre of our view of church.

In Acts 2 42 it says that “they devoted themselves to the apostles teaching, and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” It goes on to talk about everyone being filled with awe, miracles being done amount them, sheering all their positions with each other, meting daily in the temple and regularly in people’s homes and gave praise to God. Now, this is by no means the only verse in the Bible which talks about church, but there is enough in there to help us to think about how we “do church.” If that was about my church, what would it say?

Something along the lines of “they meet once a week for about an hour where they sing a few songs and listen to someone talk, and some of them hang around afterwards to chat. There was prayer ministry available, to those who wanted it- but that was generally only two or three people. Some people would meet weekly for a cell group and sometimes there would be social events.” Okay, maybe that a little cyclical, but the point is that most churches today look more like this model than the biblical one of Acts 2. Some churches might have communion more regularly or have more liturgies and other stuff, but again, not like the acts two model.

In saying that, we also have to remember that this verse is taking about a particular church in a particle context. We can’t simple say that all churches everywhere most follow this exactly. However, that it does give us some basic elements which should bake us gatherings of belies: fellowship, teaching, prayer and the braking of bead as all important elements of a Christian community.

So, what would my ideal Sunday church series look like? His is still a work in progress, but here’s what I have so far. Let’s make it an evening service, cos that’s what I go to. I would have a shared meal every week before the service. Why? To build community. At CU we would go to Courtney central every week after the meeting for dinner and that make a massive impact in the community at CU.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

Hip hop History of the church 101. Plus Jesus on the water revisited

At church on Sunday, we watched a hip hop\rap history of the church. Yes, that’s right, a hip hop\rap version of the history of the church. And yes, it did make me cringe. Now, the idea is not totally a bad one: it introduces church history to Christians who may never otherwise know anything about the churches heritage. I think it is important that Christians today understand the story of the church to see where God had been at work and what mistakes we have made. But apart from being cheesy, at lot of this history was not much more than a bunch of slogans which summed up large and complex parts of church history. True, summing up 2000 years in 10 munities a big ask, and it can be nothing more than a brief summary. But trying to sloganise history is bad history. Furthermore, there was not really any encouragement from what I can remember to dig deeper into the history of the church. Rather the focus was on what role we as the next generation of new Christians will do next. Again, not a bad thing in itself and it presented some good challenges for Christian viewers. But I hope the church will be more serious about understanding where we have came in the last 2000 years than to stop at a bunch of rap slogans. We need to understand both what God has done thought the church and what mistakes we have, so that we can move forward with where God wants us to go and to not make the same mistakes again.

The other thing which I have been thinking about recently is about Jesus walking on the water, and how we interpret it. It seems that we often use it in a metaphorical way for having a lot of faith and it often said in songs that ‘if I keep my eyes on Jesus\ have enough faith I can walk on water.” However, I’m not share that this is the point of the passages. Jesus did not give a universal promise to all his followers that if they have enough faith they too will literally be able to walk on water, Jesus only ever commanded Peter, on this one occasion to do so. Now, this does not mean that we shouldn’t have faith in Jesus to do miraculous things thought us. He does promise us this in a number of separate occasions in the bible. However, at this particular scripture, I think that focus should not be on us and our faith, or even Peter’s faith (or lack of it), but on Jesus, and what this tells us about who he was. The point is this passage tells us that Jesus was not an ordinary person. He was doing something extra ordinary. This passage is to help point us to who Jesus really was: the son of God. I think we need to think more about how we uses scripture and whether or not the way we understand it is the way it was written to be understand: every if the point we are making for it is generally right. We need to be more careful with scripture in this regards.

Just some thoughts.

Monday, 26 November 2007

S.L.C 2007: the end of my time with TSCF.... or maybe just the end of the beginning............

The other week I went to my last TSCF event as a student: Student Leadership conference. This year I did stream three; a stream dedicated to people who are in there final year of study and about to enter the workplace or go into post graduate study. We spent a lot of time looking at how to honour God thought our work. It’s not simply a matter of using work as a chance to get only to give to the church and to be nice to people, but we should see our work as an act of worship, and really think about how it glorifies God. We were also challenged to think about how we use our money: doses this glorify God, and spent the week looking at the book of Nehemiah and a lot of time reflecting on who we are.
All this has given me a lot to think about and work thought, which I have not really had the chance to do yet. However, as I reflect on how I have changed while I've bean at Uni, I can see that t has changed me a lot. There are lot of things with CU\TSCF has given me, but two in particular are significant. I think I am a much more thoughtful person, particularly with regards to my faith. I the past I would have gone along with whatever was the in thing in church or Christian circles, without thinking about whether or not it was really God at work. Now I think thought- at least a little- what I see in church. Is the really in line with what the Bible teaches? Is the glory really going to God? And I think my involvement with TSCF\CU has been a large part of this.
Some people would say that this is a bad thing: we must have faith in God and not our own intellect. And to a degree they are right: we should really on God and not ourselves. But on the other hand, we need to make share it is really God we have faith. Therefore we must make share it is God at work in the things we see around us. We must make share we understand what the bible really teaches about who God is and how he want us o live our lives. This is something which I am only being at. And while I think it is health to think thought what I see in the church and the world today, I don’t think became a total cynic is healthy ether. When we see things which are not perfect in the church, I think it is healthy to be thankful that God is still at work in human imperfectness and weakness, and not get cynical at where Gods people are at.

The second is a number of good friends across New Zealand and around the world. I have meet so any fantastic people though CU and TSCF both staff workers and students, some I have gotten to know quite well, some not so. I really hope and pray that I will continue to develop theses friendships, and that God will use them to grow both his kingdom and us as individuals. It’s great to know that if I have to movie to a scary place like Auckland I will actually know some people there. If any of you actually read this blog; YOU ARE ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!!!!!! You really are. Thanks for the good times, the prayer meetings, the mafia, the deep and meaningfully, the committee retreats, the camps and conferences, the road trips, the cell groups, the soccer, the laughter, the hanging out, the whatever it is. I will miss you. Where ever you are, I know that God will continue to use you to bless people and grow his kingdom. And somewhere along this line, weather here or in eternity, our paths will cross. And because of the cross, it will be to Gods glory.

So it’s goodbye to TSCF as a student. Thanks to TSCF, in really it’s thanks to GOD. I will leave with the word of the unofficial anthem if TSCF, IN Christ alone- and song with sums up the gospel of our LORD and savior Jesus Christ. A song with always reminds me of what God has done for me: both thought the cross and thought TSCF.

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

In Christ alone, who took on flesh
Fullness of God in helpless babe
This gift of love and righteousness
Scorned by the ones He came to save'
Till on that cross as Jesus died
The wrath of God was satisfied
For every sin on Him was laid
Here in the death of Christ I live

There in the ground His body lay
Light of the world by darkness slain
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again
fAnd as He stands in victory
Sin's curse has lost it's grip on me
For I am His and He is mine
Brought with the precious blood of Christ

No guilt in life, no fear in death
This is the power of Christ in me
From life's first cry to final breath
Jesus commands my destiny
No power of hell, no scheme of man
Can ever pluck me from His hand
'Till He returns or calls me home
Here in the power of Christ I'll stand

Saturday, 3 November 2007

Harvests 2007: my reflections.

On Sunday night I went, along with a couple of CUers to the last night of the harvest outreach event at TSB Bank Area. There events featured a couple of popular Christian bands: the Newsboys and the Katenas, and a message form evangelist Greg Laurie. While a large number of people responded to the alter calls at the end of the events and I believe God was at work, I was nethertheless left with some issues about some aspects of the event.

 My main issue with it was how very “chruchy” it felt. All the music was what would be considered “contemporary worship.” And while the main message delivered by Laurie was amide at non Christians, there was a lot of talk by other people was definitely aimed at the Christians present. While it was the Sunday night, which I understand often has a more "churchy" feel to it at these sorts of events, and the Meany Christians presents were obviously having a good time, I couldn’t help felling that this would feel very strange and in-groupy to any non church goers present, for whom the event was meant to b aimed at. Furthermore, it was also obvious that a large majority of the people present were church goes, maybe as much as 80% or higher.

So where does this leave us? Do we as a church in Wellington know how to reach the people in our city with the gospel in their language? It felt to me that we were try to reach them with our culture. I mean, the main drew card was the Newsboys, who while massive in Christian circles (well, they are a bit past there used by date now, but they are still well known) are unheard-of by theses outside it. If we want to reach the non- church goers in Wellington with the gospel, filling the TSB arena with Christians to listen to the Newsboys play a few of the “church worship” orientated songs is not the best way of doing it. Sure, a lot of people went up at the end, as I praise God for that. But I feel confident to predict that most of them were already church goers. Which, by the way, raises another issue: what are there so many people in Wellington churches feel the need to respond to the message at an event like this? Are there no opportunities in regular church services to do so? Do we even know how to preach the gospel to those going to our churches, or by we need a big American preacher to come and do it for us?

So my challenge to the church in Wellington is this: How are we going to build on the gains of the harvest 2007 event? How are we going to move forward, to reach the people in this city in their language? How can we share the good knows that Jesus died to forgive them of their sin and that he rose on the third day relevant to them?