The Christian bubble is a safe place. It’s hopefully a friendly place, a loving and supportive one. The Christian bubble is generally made of friends who attend church, be it ours or another. It’s a bubble, because, well it’s our little piece of the world. No one else really enters it, no one being, no one than other Christians. It’s an easy place to be. But the Christian bubble is an exclusive place. Not everyone can be part of it. If they support same sex marriage, they’re not invited. If they drink (like more than a single nonjudgmental glass of wine) on the weekends, they’re not allowed. If they’re sleeping with their boyfriend/another person other than their partner, they’re not acceptable. If they challenge your safe, conservative life – yes, the one that we think the bible calls us to live – they’re generally not in our Christian bubble. Yes, the Christian bubble can pretty much be adapted to any religion or interest group. People are naturally attracted to people like them or with the same interests as them.  We set rules around who can sit with us and who can’t. We like to catch up with the people we like, to build relationships. We prefer to become better friends with someone than get a new friend. The latter is the harder option.   But here’s what the Christian bubble isn’t – missional. Jesus does not call us to love safe, exclusive, conservative lives. We’re called to live radically – radically different for the sake of the gospel. We’re called to be radically different, because our lives should not be exclusive. They should be inclusive. We should be looking to the periphery to see who’s around. We should be putting ourselves in situations where there are people who are not like us.  And I’m not talking about people who are boring, non-pub visiting, non-swearing goody-two-shoes. I’m talking about surrounding ourselves with people who do not know about the amazing love their creator has for them. Who do not know the overwhelming hope that Christ can bring their lives. People who have no sense of the stability that comes from knowing God is one our side. People who are dealing with heartbreak, sickness and loneliness without any relief. These people need to hear the gospel, and the reality is, they’re probably not going to just show up to church one week. It’s not the 18th, 19th, or even the 20th century anymore. Less than 10% of Australians go to church each week month Source. We have been charged with going out to find these people. Remember the great commission in Matt 28, Acts 1)?  We have the gift of the Holy Spirit to enable us to share the gospel to all people. But what does bursting our bubbles look like? It’s hard. It’s messy. It’s tiring. It’s inconvenient. It looks like deciding to spend two hours with our nonchristian colleagues outside of work – that’s where the relationship building happens. If we’re talking about Jesus at work, we’re probably not doing our jobs to our best ability. It looks like joining a sports team, and being the kind one – the one who doesn’t grumble at the ref when they make the wrong call (Okay – I totally struggle with this one!). And then openly talking about our faith. Actions are rarely enough. It looks like looking around at church for the person who hasn’t been there before, abandoning our desire to speak to our Christian friends and making a new friend. It looks like doing more than working in our safe Christian organisation, school, church, uni group and sharing the gospel with our students, teaching the bible to Christians and/or praying and paying for the missionaries. We are all the missionaries. Our Christian bubbles don’t protect us from the world, they make us neglect the people of this world. Last night at bible study we were talking about missional churches. We agreed our church wasn’t very missional, there were pockets of missional activities, but on the whole our service was conducive to people already comfortable with church. Not so much the visitors, be it other Christians or  the oh so very rare individual who wandered off the side street, up that dark footpath and into our mid-19th century pew-filled building. Many in the group revealed we probably aren’t ‘sticking around’ for much longer and that being inclusive was low on the agenda. But the reality is the church is more than the geographic location in which we gather with other Christians each week. The church is the body of believers across our globe. As a group of believers, we should be looking to connect (not correct!) with others. And that looks like thinking beyond our own personal circumstance (and plans) and our own intentions – as frightening, inconvenient and tiring as it is. How many friends do you have who don’t know Jesus? Name them. When was the last time you spoke at length with someone who disagreed with you on matters of faith? My number for both answers is way too few. How did you go?   Would you burst your bubble with me?     Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Last week I attended Hillsong Conference – well the majority of it. (I caught up on the bits I missed on Daystar – I didn’t even know that was a thing. So good!) Growing up in a suburban Sydney Anglican church, my first experience of Hillsong (beyond singing Shout to the Lord!) was in the era of Exo Days singing One Way and Everyday. A decade or so on and I’m a little more theologically learned, but still passionate about what Hillsong are doing. I often say: “I probably couldn’t make it my home church, but keen to see what they’re doing – because God’s doing some awesome work there!” Anyway, I’m still processing the week; what I loved, what I disagreed with and what I’m walking away with. I’m hoping to share my reflections soon, but while I reflect I’ve decided to share 13 LOL moments. I hope you enjoy them. Some are funny, some are just random and some are just ‘woah’ moments. In no particular order: 1. Brian Houston before dropping and doing 20+ push-ups midway through his talk: “Let’s all make sure we’re awake and alive and ready for everything that God wants to do in Jesus’ name”  2. Joseph Prince: “You want to reason to clap? I’ll give you a reason to clap. Because when I look at this stage runway, it’s a waste not to use it. *blue steel*  Now I tell you, that’s what you use it for, not for push ups.” 3. The moment Justin Bieber arrived and every teenage girl in the arena went into arm flailing, OMG-ing, take a picture even-though-he’ll-just-be-a-couple-of-pixels-big shock. 4. Pulpit exhibitor in the expo tent. 5. Jenzten Franklin: “Let’s take a praise break” Cue clapping, hallelujah’s etc.  6. Carl Lentz: “How many married people do we have at conference? Wow. Love you and praying for your marriage. And so I know who we’re working with here tonight, put your hand up real quick if you’re single? Alright, keep your eyes on Jesus for a couple more hours. Who’s believing they’ve got one more day left, and you’re gonna find that somebody? Anyone? Yep. “ 7. Bobby Houston before a copy of Brian Houston’s newest book (probably to increase the circulation and get a headstart towards the best sellers list, but still a logistical effort) was given to each of the 21 000 in the arena: “Only take one, hallelujah, okay?” 8. Giving 21 000 people communion on the last night. Think individual sealed communion cups where you peel back the first layer of plastic for the cracker, then the second for the grape juice. Coming to a church near you soon. 9. Joseph Prince during his offering prayer: “I pray for the supernatural elimination of debt tonight Father God.” 10. Jentezen Franklin in a borderline prosperity message: “Who needs a church building?” 11. Conversation between Brian Houston and his son-in-law that somehow went into super awkward territory about him getting more grandchildren. “That’s my daughter you’re talking about!” 12. The arena singing “You turn me on” during the singing competition in the pre-session arena entertainment before the competitor abruptly stopped: “Woah, that’s disgusting! We’re in church!” My favourite: 13. Carl Lentz: “Who has a bible tonight? Hold it up if you do. Look at your neighbour and say ‘My bible is so much better than yours – it’s heavier and it’s real’. And if your bible’s on your phone, I don’t want to see it because if you need a word from God and your phone’s dead, what you gonna do then? Your bible needs to have pages.”   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
We have an election this month. Transport, telecommunications and fracking (I’ve been assured AGL are definitely not doing it in my backyard…) are my bug bears. But then I read this. https://newmatilda.com/2015/03/08/sanitary-pads-‘-fire-hazard’-realities-life-mothers-and-children-nauru Read it. Like actually. Stop reading this now and read that. Then come back and read this. Okay? Good.   Welcome back. This situation is a hangover from a federal election a few years back. It’s atrocious. As atrocious, I realise, is the selfish nature of my election issues. I’m worried about making my trip to work more convenient, my internet faster and, only because it’s in my backyard, the environment.  All of these issues are being addressed. But it’s just. not. fast. enough. for me. These poor souls have no comfort, no safety and no selfworth. I’m halfway through a Lent reading plan titled ‘Jesus, keep me near the cross.’ We’re reading through Lamentations. (Probably) Jeremiah’s reflections on a desolate Jerusalam. God’s wrath on his chosen people. The picture is not far from this picture of Nauru’s (and all the other) camps – the camps Australia has determined best fit for the men, women and children looking for safety, freedom, even a shred of joy. They’ve walked, sold possessions, paid middlemen, withstood storms in leaky boats and stood in lines. They want what we’ve got in Australia. (Even the clogged roads, stagnant Internet and poor energy practises. Crazy, I know?!). But they’re no longer standing. The lines have stopped. There is no line. There are indefinite holding facilities. I mean there are lines, those daily lines to give them medicine, showers, clean clothes, water. But still I worry about me and my life. Jesus, keep me near the cross. Only in seeing the depth of my sin, can I see the unmatched grace and glory of the cross. Gracious God, Forgive me of my selfish desires, focusing on issues affecting me. My comfort. My convenience. My happiness. Focus my eyes on the depth and breadth of brokenness in my community and in my neighbouring lands. Comfort, protect, free these precious souls from their adversaries. The adversaries my nation has brought upon them. Keep my eyes fixed at the cross. The sacrifice. The gift of grace. Have mercy on me. Amen. Yes, we should still be thoughtful as to what matters this election. Considering the priorities of the nmen and women’s names that will appear on the ballot papers in a few weeks. In rethinking the issues that matter to me I may come to conclusion. But perhaps this time round I’ll be considering my neighbours, those who don’t have a voice and the comfort, convenience and freedom of anyone other than myself. What are the issues that matter to you this election? Are they those that matter in light of the cross? Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
The following is an (extended) adaption of my service leading notes from last night. For those who attend church with me, you can ask me offline why I did not deliver it as intended. (Photo credit: Cobbitty Narellan Crows Facebook) In preparing for leading tonight, my dad suggested I brought a cricket bat and put up here in memory of Phillip Hughes. I said, “no way!” Although he knows I have absolutely no interest in cricket, he thought I was being completely unreasonable and ignorant of the state of our nation. I told him tragic death happens every day and we don’t do a full song and dance about that. We had a few more jousts back and forwards before we agreed to disagree. He left with a cricket bat under his arm to take to his church. After he left I began to think: why has Australia been so impacted by the tragic death of Phillip Hughes? In our own church community this week, we have seen terrible accidents that have lead to hospitalisation, and ongoing illness flare. Tragic death, accidents and sickness happen everyday. Why has the death of a cricket player lead to such an outpouring of support: an international social media campaign to silent minutes before amateur and professional cricket matches alike. In my social media feed I’ve seen images of nine year olds wearing black armbands over their cricket whites and my cousin’s Under 17s stand heads bowed across from their opponents. My manager at work teared up talking about it. Death isn’t something that we face all the time. We are a culture who hides from death, a nation who looks the other way. One only needs to look at the SMH home page at lunch time or after work. We like happy stories. We don’t like death. The reality about death is that we all must face it. For those who know the saving grace of Jesus, death should not be feared. But for those we know who don’t know grace, we should fear death for them. A friend on social media flipped the questions this week to ask: why aren’t we so affected by all the deaths that occur everyday? It is true that people die everyday. And that death is always tragic. But this week’s death was unexpected. It was in our face. It was a freak accident from, I’m told, a regulation delivery in our national game. Phillip Hughes’ death has reminded Australians of the fragility of life and how close death really is. The public outpouring of support, the social media memorials are a catharsis for Australians. Today is the first day of Advent – a season of coming, specifically, the coming of Christ. I know I’m particularly excited and starting to get into the festive spirit and like to think of this time of year as joyful and thankful for Christ’s arrival on the first Christmas. But the pain and grief is not out of place in the church’s understanding of Advent. The celebration of Advent is not just celebratory. For Christians, Advent is marked with angst as well as relief. This season of Advent can be a cathartic process for us all. Since from almost the beginning of time, we have been waiting for relief. Relief from pain, from separation, from death. This world is broken. Unexpected deaths happen. War is rife. Loved ones are ill. We are waiting for relief to come. The Advent angst is expressed through brokenhearted waiting, hoping and leaning forward in the midst of darkness. We do not just celebrate that Jesus has come. We lunge with the last shreds of strength toward a distant light in the hope that the glorious Christ is coming again, coming to make things right, coming with a new age in which accidents and tragic death don’t occur. But times weren’t different two thousand years ago. Mary was likely outcast from the reality of being an unwedded pregnant woman. In the days following Jesus’ birth in the faeces-filled stable because a community had no room for him, unreasonable death was thrust upon families in the joy of childbirth. Mothers, fathers and families in Bethlehem lost sons to armed men because of Herod’s horrific orders. Tragic is ordering to kill every boy under age of two because he feared being overthrown by another more powerful man. Through the sorrow of Phillip’s death and the tragic death that happens everyday, we can rejoice even when the tears sting like hell. Jesus came once to bring relief and it is promised he will come again to offer eternal reconfiguration and relief. “The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” In this advent period, even in the wake of tragegy, we should respond to the call: ‘O come let us adore him.” We should share the call to those who are afraid of death, those who are uncertain about what comes after death. Life is fragile and death is permanent. Let us adore the one who brings an offer of life. Come, let us adore him – now and when he comes again. Come again soon, Jesus.   If you haven’t chosen an Advent reading plan yet, there are plenty available online through Bible.com’s YouVersion  App or if you’re a lady, join me with She Reads Truth’s Come Let Us Adore Him. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
It’s taken me a while to decide whether to publish this because in part it exemplifies the very issue I’m trying to bring to fore. Alas, I have spoken to a few people, prayed and decided I would. If you take issue, bring it up with me – I’d love to talk further. A number of months ago I was chatting with a young single sister- and an older brother-in Christ, one that I respect and have learnt a great deal from. The conversation flowed about the struggles of relationships, singleness, strong-willed women and in jest he commented, “Well as a first year single guy, I would have been intimidated by you both!” I laughed it off and moved on to another topic. I moved on so quickly I missed his apology for his remark. However, my dear friend standing with me went silent. I didn’t notice. We spoke later and she admitted she was hurt by the comment. Today a dear sister shared her anxiety after disagreeing about an action decided upon by a brother she is in a ministry partnership with. Deciding not to speak up, “Mel, I don’t want to intimidate him!” She isn’t interested in him, but still conscious of her actions. I’ve had other conversations of a similar nature. Strong young Christian women confused as to how to live as a disciple-making-disciples, serving in ministries, often in leadership positions, without intimidating the godly young men they meet. I myself have been labelled an “outspoken single adult,” and wondered at the time what to make of the comment. In a wife I might be described as contentious and far from temperate, the exact opposite of what a wife is called to be. I know it’s unhelpful to have a part of the body so confused as to how to respond and so here’s just a small insight into what’s going on inside the intelligent minds and huge hearts of so many young Christian woman. Before setting out on a longer-than-usual drive on Sunday I pulled up The Village Church podcast and saw Matt Chandler’s most recent talks were on women. Strong-willed, judgemental Mel was fired up: ‘Ah a married Southern man talking about the role and downfall of women – this is gonna be great!’ I pounded my finger on the play icon and pulled out of my driveway. Standard stock introductory music and then Chandler boomed out of Penelope’s speakers: “A man teaching on the purpose of women. What could go wrong?” Huh, way to go brother, at least we agree on that. The first 30 minutes were fairly standard; wives, submission, husbands, male headship. It wasn’t anything new (although he explained ‘helpmate’ in a quite a helpful way). He then moved away from role of women in the family and to their role in the local church. Things heated up. “Now let’s look at the church. What we see clearly in the New Testament is women are as needed and necessary in the flourishing of the church body.” In Acts 8:4, women are almost certainly included in the list of disciples who went everywhere preaching the gospel. Older women are to teach younger women. We see that in Titus 2. Priscilla helped her husband Aquila teach Apollos. In Acts 18 Philip had four virgin daughters who prophesied. The women prayed and prophesied in the gathering at the church in Corinth.” Damn straight. “Women are not only needed and necessary, but they are indispensable and essential in the life of the church.” Men and women are created equal and we should see that play out in the local church and in other areas of life. He had set things up well. He moved on to single women – ah yes, here we go. “Let me tell you what [a helpmate for single women] doesn’t mean: it doesn’t mean you’re supposed to sit around and wait for a husband. In the Old Testament, the blessing was children. In the New Testament, the blessing is disciples. So don’t sit around twiddling your thumbs waiting for some man. Please don’t do that. The kingdom of God is at hand and you’ve been called to actively play a part.” Amen brother. Amen. For a while now, as I attend more weddings in one year than my non-Christian friends and colleagues will attend in a lifetime, tour the new homes and apartments of friends and as I awkwardly rub the growing stomachs of my pregnant Christian sisters, I’ve refused to sit and wait. From getting involved at church, to making independent financial decisions, understanding superannuation and investing in relationships far and wide. I’m not waiting. I may not be waiting but I also haven’t discounted serving God with a husband. I’ll happily admit I notice young men. I notice Godly young men. I notice Godly young men who are theologically sound, serving the church and can stand on their two feet (and preferably mow a lawn!). I notice them and sometimes* I wonder why they don’t notice me. I know I’m not alone but it’s also not something I’ve ever heard spoken of ‘from the front’ – until Sunday (via my car’s speakers). “If you’re a single woman in here and you’re like, “Chandler, if I go strong like that, if I get deeper theologically, I’m nervous that young men would be intimidated and wouldn’t approach me.” Now, I don’t struggle with confidence. I am confident in how God has made me. The gifts he has given me. The passions he has instilled in me. The go-get attitude I use to serve the church. But I’m guilty of thinking this – and so are my friends. Perhaps if I’m less assertive, less opinionated, less keen to grapple with God’s word, less vocal in trying to understand women’s role in the world, less enthusiastic in trying new things, less change-happy. Perhaps [insert any number of attributes] I’d be more attractive to a male suitor. Matt’s response was on point but the statement he had made just previous to it changed its weight. His response: “Practice and exercise your gifts to make disciples for the glory of God. Be the type of women who are iron that sharpen the iron of your husbands and male friends. And young men, don’t be intimidated by women who are more theologically informed and educated than you are.” Awesome. But he had just made this condition: “The only caveat we ever see in the Bible around this is that women don’t exercise their gifts in a way that emasculates men or usurps their authority…[so] quit waiting around for some doofus to ask you out.” While I openly joke when discussing the role of men and women, and throw around the term feminism, hear me when I say I appreciate the role God has designed for men – that’s some serious responsibility thrown in their direction. With a sociology major under my belt, I also accept the sociological reality of a man’s impact on the stability of family and children’s wellbeing. Despite my ongoing struggle in understanding the term, God designed women as a ‘helpmate’ for men (Genesis 2:10). However, God instilled a desire for knowledge and understanding, He gifted me in a way that sees me speak up when I don’t understand/agree. He designed me in a way that people may label me as “outspoken”. Matt Chandler suggests we should not wait for a doofus, nor should we exercise our gifts in a way that usurps the authority of men or less diplomatically – emasculates them. It is this very statement that leads me to start thinking perhaps I should curb by words, think more, listen more, speak less. I seek to live life that pleases God and follows his teaching in his Word, the Bible. Now I do not uphold a particular pastor or teachers words as truth, rather I look to the bible and it’s teaching. It just happens that Chandler was the first pastor I’ve heard to address this issue. There is a great deal written about women and here’s just a few passages that address how a woman should live: A gracious woman attains honor, And ruthless men attain riches. // Proverbs 11:16 It is better to live in a desert land Than with a contentious and vexing woman. // Proverbs 21:19 Women must likewise be dignified, not malicious gossips, but temperate, faithful in all things. // 1 Timothy 3:11 Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain, But a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised. // Proverbs 31:30 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored. // Titus 2:3-5 The bible is punctuated by honourable woman who have served the Lord faithfully. Faithfully with honour, dignity and goodness. Their temperament patient, encouraging,  kind, loving, generous; temperate. These are the things a woman should be. We read about those who worked with Paul in the early church as “fellow workers.” We see  women used powerfully for God’s glory and growth of the church. Mary Magdelene, Lydia, Tabitha, Mary, Phoebe, Priscilla in the New Testament.   We also see single woman passionately standing up for truth, for social justice, for unity. Single women, and married women, are integral to the church. But here’s the challenge where we get caught up thinking, ‘I don’t want him to be intimidated.’ We actively are trying to balance living as biblical women and serving the church with our gifts, while also allowing men to fulfil their roles. We want them to live as Godly men and so we’re left questioning the impact of our thoughts, words, actions. Am I fulfilling my role? Is he fulfilling his role? Am I doing too much? Am I preventing him from fulfilling it? These woman I speak of aren’t after a doofus. We want a husband fit for his role. We want brothers serving faithfully. Now this is not a call out for help, I’d like to think I wouldn’t go to my little corner of the internet to do that. I don’t wish for you to come up to me and pat me on the back and say: “The Lord has someone picked out for you,” or “Patience sister,” or any other patronising statement. I’m good. I’m better than good. Many of you may want to help so it’s worth considering what will be helpful for single women. There are too many unhelpful articles, too much ill-informed advice and weak prayer going on. This isn’t about me and my future, rather the healthy, fruitful service of this part of the body of Christ. I’m also not calling young men to be stronger in how they live and serve our God. I would be out of place doing so and I also don’t think it’s the solution. It’s the unhelpful thought that is pervading young Christian women and holding them back. It’s a thought that makes me question the ministries I’m involved in. It’s what distorts my thinking and question why the attractive, (and before you all jump, not physically) godly, faithful brother isn’t interested. It’s about a confusion that is pervading the thoughts of strong Christian single women unsure how to serve God best. As we live, prayerfully serving and considering how best to do so, it’s worth considering and praying for the confused sisters around you – whether you’re married, single, man or woman. I don’t know if we’ve made this fear of ‘intimidation’ up or whether it’s legitimate, but without resolution these woman, and I, just continue. I continue praying with a confessing heart. I continue serving with a generous spirit. I continue running; running with perseverance the race marked out for us. May we all.   Listen, read or watch Matt Chandler’s talk ‘Woman’s purpose‘. (I also recommend his next talk ‘Woman’s hurdles‘ and look forward to his most recent ‘Woman’s redemption‘.) *Please don’t think I’m wallowing in my singleness, or it consumes my thoughts. I am trying to be honest. I look forward to seeing and praising God for the great things single woman and I could do without the added responsibility of a husband and children. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)