I don’t drink coffee. In fact I don’t drink any hot drinks. (I like to think of it as a financial saving rather than social faux pas.) But what I do enjoy is breakfast. I like it a lot. But I don’t just go wandering around the streets of Brisbane looking for a new café to try out. I wouldn’t want to waste my Saturday/Sunday morning and my coin on some soggy French toast, or sub-par poached eggs. Further, as a non-coffee drinker, it infuriates me that some cafes can proceed without offering any non-caffeinated beverage alternatives. It’s a highly researched activity. How do I do my research? Lifestyle and review sites and blogs: Urban List, Weekend Edition, Zomato and smaller foodie blogs. And then of course there are personal recommendations. Before I arrive somewhere I know from the hungry souls gone before me whether the service is a strength or downfall, the vibe casual hipster or all hail organic free range cold press organic hemp wearing hipster, or perhaps just whether the French toast is even worth trying at all. I know this from the star rating, or equivalent, and the comments left behind. Review sites have changed the way I choose my breakfast cafes, my post-work watering holes and even which food processor I should buy. I could continue with another example from my day job about TripAdvisor and how it’s instrumental in consumers planning their holidays…but I’m hoping you’re with me in understanding the validity and necessity of review sites in ensuring I only experience the best. However, there is one huge gaping hole: Church reviewing websites. After moving to Brisbane a few months ago I shared my experience visiting churches. They are two of the most read pieces on this sporadic little corner of the interweb. I did a lot of research but still it took me visiting 8 churches to decide to go back to the fourth one I visited. Would a review site have saved me some time? I could have read others experiences and determined if it was worth the investment/effort. Last weekend when I was back in Sydney-town losing my wisdom (teeth), I visited the church plant of a few of my friends. It’s in a huge new suburb in development close to Camden. It was a joy to be with them for their launch back in November and, sadly after some delays with council, Sunday was their first week back in their ‘hub’ aka industrial warehouse. One of my friends approached me at the end and said he’d love to grab my thoughts on visiting, particularly as they’re now permanently in their building. It’s his intention to work out where the cracks are and to plug them quickly. He was asking me to review his church! As someone with little entrepreneurial fervour, (to the point I struggle to identify the purpose of this blog in order to grow it) I realised this could be my new thing. I could set up a website, visit churches and review them. Church mystery shopping. Church consulting. In time, I could grow it and have other contributors and even open it up to the general public. How efficient looking for a new church could become and, as some astute business owners do, churches could identify the cracks in their church to ensure visitors have the best experience possible. My church review star rating system? Holy hands. My website name? Scroll up… but promise me your won’t steal it. I don’t want to be poor Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and lose my idea to a zealous Zuckerburg-type. But here’s the thing: while some succeed and others fail, churches aren’t a business. They’re not a service provider that is looking to ensure its attendees have the best possible experience in order to generate new and repeat visitation and loyalty. Churches are a community, a family, an eclectic community of brothers and sisters looking to share the forgiving news of Jesus Christ and emulate him to bring justice, mercy and love to those around us. But churches should be in the business of pointing people to Jesus through everything from how to get there, the people one meets, the words spoken and the coffee served. Churches should want people to have a good, culturally appropriate experience in order for people to feel like they wanted, loved and belong. But I see a church review site similar to reviewing your Christmas day festivities. Everyone’s family has a crazy aunt/uncle who they think surpasses the craziness of all others. A cousin who somehow just doesn’t seem to fit in and an old, not-sure-how-they’re-actually-related-to-you distant relative so far off their rocker you’re just not sure what they’re doing at your gathering. It’s the talk around the office before the holidays, but it’s not the kind of thing you ever want to get back to poor aunt Gertrude. And I haven’t even started on reviewing the food! It’s potentially dangerous and relationally damaging. The thing is there are a few church review sites already in existence (Shipoffools.com, Churchrater.com, Churchfinder.com). While I couldn’t say for certain it’s not the daggy web graphics, they don’t seem to be the next Urban List of churches. They comment on everything from the length of the talk to how the coffee was. But don’t hear me wrong, although I’m not about to go and buy a domain and DIY a website, I do think there is merit in churches analysing their interactions with new and ongoing visitors and spurred on to consider building their community. The Apostle Paul wrote a fair few letters to the new churches of modern day Greece and Turkey commenting on their behaviour, challenging and commending them for their, for example, community outreach, or lack there of.  His words didn’t always go down well. Late last year I emailed all the churches/pastors of the churches I visited. I thanked them for having me, let them know I had found a new church and shared my blogs with them. I was anxious. It wasn’t all good news. In some cases, I did have bad experiences. And although I was careful not to identify the churches I visited online directly, it would be possible to work it out. Each of the churches I visited were pointing people to Jesus. But some just did a better job at getting me to church and feeling part of a community. I was telling the people responsible for each of the churches what it felt like to visit! Facilitating a means of commentary has the potential to get ugly; it’s the curse of the old school comments box. But a comment box that’s actually a public community notice board. Is broadcasting the experience of visiting a church for others to read pointing others to Jesus, pointing a society who are fairly critical of the church to the reason why we meet as a church? I’m not so sure it is. I will share my thoughts with my friend on his church because I love him and the others involved, I want it to grow and see lives changed because of Jesus’ love in that new suburb. However it’s not something I’m going to blog about, nor advertise my reviewing services. A church is where two or more gather (Matt 18:20) which means there are always at least 2 people who can consider what it would look like to join the gathering and make it to happen. It’s just whether those 2 people are selfishly worried about solidifying their place or outwardly focused in ensuring everyone has a place. Be one of the latter.     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)
Welcoming is more than thrusting folded paper at the entrance Read Part 1 Church welcoming. Sigh. It’s the roster that no one wants to be on. I’m a long time avoider of it. Let’s pretend it’s because I hate hugs and self-conscious about handshakes and awful at remembering names, so all I can offer is a big enthusiastic, drawn out “hey!” upon one’s arrival and a folded A4 sheet that I know they’ll probably only read during a lapse of concentration in the sermon, then fold put in their hand bag and never look again…ever (Unless you’re older than 50 and then you’ll probably stick it on the fridge where the last 10 weeks are also placed). Ah church communications, I digress. The truth is I hate church ‘welcomers’. I mean, I love them, the people standing there, smiling and pushing paper. Huge hearts. I love them. But I still hate ‘welcomers.’ I hate welcomers because by us giving them a title, we delegate them a role, one that most willingly relinquish. “They’re the welcomers, so I can go find my seat and chat to the people that I know” or “They’re the welcomers, so they can get to church early to speak to visitors so I’m good to rush in during the first few songs, and sit beside my friend.” Put aside what you think welcoming looks like and think inclusive. Reflect on your own personal actions at church, and then the actions of those around you (read: friends) and ask: “Are my actions enabling others to be and feel included?” (Note: there is a difference between perception and reality). After two months visiting churches in search of a new church family, I think too often we get stuck in the routine of church and forget there may be people who have no idea what is going on, struggle to connect and often, sadly, feel or are actually excluded. Me and my big storytelling mouth are right up there with the unintentional exclusion. Being a visitor has allowed me to remember what it’s like to be welcomed and, the opposite, ignored. This is part two of what no one tells you about visiting churches. Join me considering our own actions and failings. I hope it makes you, church regular, stop and reconsider how you can look to the periphery with more intention and confidence than previously. And, you, church seeker, visit churches with an open-ness and willingness to be welcomed, in whatever form it comes in.   It starts with having a plan and executing it with purpose Intention. ‘Live life with intention and integrity.’ If I was the type of person who liked life mottos, that would be mine (but with ‘for Jesus’ tacked on the end for good measure). I told you last time that I didn’t just roll up out of bed and wander in to church. It was a highly researched, planned and executed adventure (x 8). Here’s the next reality: each hesitation, eye contact and apparent loitering was largely intentional. I wanted to talk to you so I tried to make eye contact: during the children’s departure to kids’ church and/or the general ‘welcoming’ moment: “say hello to people around you.” I stood alone in the middle of the foyer/café/drinks stand (without looking at my phone) waiting for someone to talk to me. I intended to wait for 5 minutes before leaving. Sadly, I left three times without anyone talking to me. Perhaps I was a super intentional church seeker because I did genuinely want to find a new church. I hope the visitors to my future church will wait as long as I did! But intention applies to church ‘regulars’ too. Some of my friends have been blessed by my soliloquys on this topic before, but being inclusive looks like having a plan when you walk into church, when you have the general ‘welcome’ moments and then immediately after church. Most importantly in the 2 minutes after the service. Scope out your territory and have a strategy. Don’t leave the greeting and meeting to the ‘welcomers’, the pastor or heck, even the extroverts. Don’t let it be an after thought as you see the visitor walk out the exit…most likely 2 minutes after the services ends if no one speaks to them. Here are 10 steps you can take to being inclusive: Get to church early. Smile. (I’m not kidding about this one. Why does church have to be so serious?) Say hello to everyone. Even those you don’t know. We are a family. Think offensive lines. Last week I told you finding parking, the door and then a seat were real challenges. Make them easy. Position people for each of those stages. It will also allow ‘greeters’ to transition into conversations with visitors and tag team with church members who are there (Note: Point 1). Look out for people who awkwardly walk through the door trying to figure out what the heck is going on, or sit down and are reading the church bulletin with the level of concentration one does their tax file declaration. (No church regular reads the news sheet in detail unless the teaching is going too long). If you see someone unfamiliar sitting alone, move seats and sit next to them. Write their name down so you remember it in an hours’ time. Fight the temptation to talk to your friends at church and prioritise visitors as soon as church is over. (Bonus tip: have a coffee with your bff/s before church so you don’t have to catch up after church). If someone else is chatting to a visitor, join them. It’s exhausting, tag team. Relieve them so they can go and discuss whose turn it is to bring supper to bible study etc. Introduce them to others. This may look like others in similar life stages or interests, and your pastor.   I’m as nervous as you While some people have heightened sensitivity to subtle social cues, it is not a prerequisite for being a good conversationalist. Talking and listening is a necessary evil in greeting and meeting people and inviting them in to a church community. Talking to strangers comes easy to some and terrifying for others. Small talk can be awkward. What if I forget their name? What if they give me one-word answers? What do I ask them first? Can I ask them why they’re here? How many questions are acceptable before it becomes an interrogation? Small talk can be tricky but consider this: I’m standing in the middle of a group of people looking for someone to talk to. I know no one. I don’t know where the door is. I don’t know how many people are going to show up. I didn’t know that this church writes all it’s own music and although I am fairly across Christian music I wouldn’t know any of the words and the tall person in front blocked half the screen. I didn’t realise that you transitioned straight from prayer to worship. I still had my eyes closed. It’s now the ‘take a break and say hello to someone moment’ but everyone turned to someone else. I’m wearing a skirt that is on the work appropriate fence and all the other women are wearing knee length skirts. I’m all alone. You think you’re nervous. I can tell you they’re nervous. After my first few visits I realised that some people had no idea how to talk to a new person. They fumbled their way through questions. I’d catch their eye but they’d look away. Or they’d approach, say hello and then remain silent. In answering their single closed question, it took a number of questions to get to the crux of my visit. Often I could see they were struggling. I don’t find conversations hard so by the third church I had a little spiel to assist us all: “Moved from Sydney to Brisbane for work. Looking for a new home church. Living in West End. Checking out the local churches.” It opened a few angles for conversations. Accept that both visitors and regulars are nervous and brush up on your conversation skills: Listen for common topics of conversation. It doesn’t have to be a one-way interrogation, share about yourself. Think tag team. It’s exhausting so tag in and out. “Let me introduce you to xxx, she also (insert: common interest, talking point)” It also means I get to meet more people. Think about your opening question. Make it an open one. “Is this your first visit?” is closed and can potentially be awkward if it’s not. Try: “Hi, I’m xxx, I don’t think we’ve met.” Read this TED article: ‘How to turn small talk into smart conversation‘   It’s not a fine line between stalking and follow up My previous church had yellow A6 ‘welcome’ cards that were in little holders on the back of the church pews. I’m guilty of using them to write my week’s to do list during the sermons. They asked for a name, number, email, service attended. They were out dated (think photocopy of a photocopy), often a little crumpled and very rarely was any direction given regarding their use. I’m not even sure where they were supposed to go. Despite their neglect, they are valuable. We live in a world that our every move, or at least every website visit and 5k run is tracked. I’m sure every second shop has my email, DOB and mobile number. But despite our personal details being in so many databases, we’ve (the church) has shied away from asking for personal information. Asking visitors to fill out a contact card seems intrusive. Reality check: there are no compulsory fields on a paper card. If they don’t want to, they don’t have to. But not having a connect card, or similar, says you don’t care about following up on my visit. Three churches I visited gave some instructions as to how to connect with them. A well-designed form was provided, the form pointed out during the service and instructions given as to what to do with it. I filled them out each time. Of those, two followed up with an email. One church pastor emailed the following day introducing me to another young professional. But the surprise was the card (albeit a cheesy DaySpring card) in the mail – an actual hand written card. It was two weeks after I moved and no one had my address. Not even my parents. It was a pleasant surprise. The other church followed up with an email from a young professional. It was two and half weeks after my visit. Enough said. I never heard from the third. The five remaining churches never asked me for my details. Although to their credit two church pastors provided me their phone number. Another added me on Facebook through a mutual connection. They left the ball in my court. I contacted one; he invited me to dinner and bible study. I went. He followed up offering to help out with settling in. Back in my uni ministry days we had connect weeks. It was a three-week period following OWeek. Hundreds of people would visit my Christian group’s stall and complete a connect card. Hundreds. The connect cards were assigned to faculties, then from faculties to individuals. I spent many February nights calling 20+ people. Yes, calling with an actual phone. I could have emailed, but I was able to have a conversation. Find out more about them. I often met them for coffee. I often had to call three times before I caught them. Almost every single time the person on the other end of the phone call was surprised by my call. First it was the lost art of letter writing, but now it’s the phone call. If I’m completely open, I craved someone to talk to in those early few weeks. Let’s not forget the power of personal connection. Email is easy. Text messages aren’t intrusive. Yes, a phone call interrupts someone’s day. But that’s the purpose – you want to talk to them. Let’s not be afraid of the phone.   The pastor is important, but not that important I met the pastor at 5 of the 8 churches I visited. One was absent, another announced his departure that service, and the other was Hillsong – so understandable. Each of the men (sigh) were incredibly warm. They cared about me. They asked me where I’d come from. Some asked what I was after. They listened. They looked me in the eye. They smiled. I appreciated them taking the time to talk to me. But as much as I appreciated meeting the pastor, I really wanted to meet other people. I wanted to know about you because you would be part of my family. Yes, the pastor would be leading us (which is why although it was a great church, I wasn’t about to join a church losing it’s pastor without a replacement), but I wanted to get a feel of the vibe. Students? Professionals? All married? Any eligible bachelors? It was evident at all but three of the churches I visited, that many of the people who spoke to me were unsure of what to do next. How did they move me, a church keen bean, from first time visitor to visiting again? One church stood out in terms of inclusiveness. Each person I spoke to invited me to the lunch the young people were having after church. They introduced me to others. They tag teamed well. But no one asked me for my number. The pastor is important. But having other trained equipped people ready to connect with visitors is also important.     Don’t get me wrong; I didn’t have a horrible experience visiting churches. It has largely been a positive experience, a fruitful one. But the there is so much more that can be done. The church is a family, God-willing a growing one. Let’s work together to build inclusive churches. Understanding every virtual and physical touch point and making sure they encourage connectivity rather than exclusion or just ignorance.   Thanks for waiting for Part 2. The third and final instalment will come in another month or so: What no one tells you about visiting churches // Part 3 We’re all baggage carriers. 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)
Six weeks ago I uprooted my life and moved cities. Along with friends, family, netball team and job, I also left my home church. I withdrew from my responsibilities on rosters, resigned from an elected position on the church board, and farewelled many – those I knew by name and others just by their encouraging face I saw from the front. Finding a new local church is a priority in my new city, almost equal to Operation: amigos. (You can read what I think about only making friends in church.) In the last six weeks, I’ve visited eight churches. Different brands, different sizes, different buildings. In fact, of the eight, only two met in a purpose-built building, one of which was a warehouse (FYI, that was the hipster church. It also had wooden pallets. #hipster). I grew up in the church and I’ve been part of a number over my life, the last for the better part of a decade. I’ve served in many church and parachurch organisations, some that involved visiting other churches. In summary, I feel pretty comfortable in most brands/labels/denominations of church. But that doesn’t make first time visits (with the aim of finding a new home) easy. I’ve learnt so much about the local church over the past few weeks. I’ve been encouraged. I’ve been disheartened. And I’ve been challenged. I chatted with a few friends who have just been through, or going through the same process before writing this. These are our shared reflections. I hope you gain from them. NB: Don’t read “I” as Melanie Pennington. Read “I” as “potential visitor to my church”   It’s hugely encouraging Irrespective of the number of people, the style of music or the volume of said music, I knew I stood with brothers and sisters. I may not have known their names, but through the songs we sung, the book we read and the prayers offered, it was evident we shared a common goal. I stand united with them. The local church is not defined by its geography, but by the necessity it is in our lives. You can move cities, but still the local church remains – a people meeting together, supporting each other in one name, for one purpose. Jesus. Learning: Be defined by Jesus in everything you do   Parking is the first hurdle, finding the front door the second, a seat the third I almost gave up on a church because I couldn’t find a legal parking spot. In the end I parked illegally, walked to the entrance and asked where to park. I ended up paying for parking because the 10mins I had allowed to park and find the entrance had lapsed and the service had started. Another church I drove by twice before I spotted a small A-frame with the church logo. Three others I wandered around looking for the entrance to the auditorium. I was inside the building, but the challenge was to find the door! Another, I arrived about 5 mins late (see above) and I had to sit in the front row because there were no seats left. And it wasn’t that it was full, it was there weren’t enough seats put out. And I wasn’t about to haul a seat off the stack. Learning: Visitors parking Instructions/maps for where to park Directional signage Welcomers/ushers should be more than paper movers   If you’re not online, you’re virtually invisible My old church’s website sucked. Before I left I was helping build a new site from scratch. It’s not easy. I know websites and they aren’t easy. Who is it for? What information does it need? Who will update it? So much to think about, but here’s the hard truth: it’s the first place I went. Actually, Google was: “evangelical / Christian / bible-based / bible + church + suburb.” If you don’t have a website, I can’t find you. Once on the site, I want to know where you are, when you meet, which service is best for me, where to park, what you believe and who your staff are. I also care about your Facebook page. If you don’t update it, delete it. Learning: Go to your church website. Count the amount of clicks it takes to find the service times. Meet in a school hall, warehouse, or performance space? Submit a location and listing on Google maps. Update your Facebook page or delete it. Really. Go to communicatejesus.com. It is one of the best resources I’ve found on church websites (and social media).   Time is money valuable Unfortunately people are busy (but not me!) and time matters. Starting and finishing (or telling people when it will finish) on time shows you value them. Visiting a church is huge ordeal. It takes time and energy to find a church, research it and then plan a visit. It then takes more time to find a parking spot/entrance/seat and strategically plan how long before the service you will arrive. Lingering in the foyer before a service is awkward. Sitting alone in church is awkward. Be assured I have thought about how long before your service I arrive. And waiting 13 minutes for your on-the-hour service to start only puts a bad taste in my mouth. Flipside: I’ve also timed my arrival to allow myself enough time to find entrance/seat and should someone notice my visit, talk to me. If only a regular arrived on time/early to greet me. Learning: Valuing people means valuing their time Start when you say you’re going to start (or explain why you started late. “Windows decided it wanted to update at 10.28am this morning”) Finish when you say you’re going to finish Get to church early. (This is a huge one for me. I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t caused my minister’s a small amount of stress over the years because I would arrive late when rostered to be involved in the service).   I could go on, and I will go on. (Did you notice the ‘Part 1’? Bahaha) Not as a rebuke, but as a gentle and hopefully helpful reminder about what it’s like being new. I am also writing this so I can revisit it in 6 months, 12 months and heck, God-willing, 6 years time to remind myself how I can be like Jesus in my local church. Standing with open arms, ready to accept and pursue anyone the Spirit stirs to visit the local church.   Stay tuned for Part 2: Welcoming, it’s more than standing at the door thrusting folded A4 sheets at people  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 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)