Church on the Hill
|Posted on February 22, 2018 at 8:15 PM|
I have asked a fair few people over the years if they would mind if I prayed for them. People from lots of different backgrounds, that is. And only a few have ever said no. So I was really listening carefully this week when people around the world reacted to a President's response of "our thoughts and prayers are with you." I have seen God do some wonderful things in prayer- people have been changed, healed, loved, all those things by my choice to think and pray for them. And we as a church have as one of our core values that "honest prayer is powerful."
So what happened when a public figure offered to think and pray for hurting people this fortnight? The story I am referring to is the mass shootings in schools in the US, which has received a lot of coverage in the past few weeks. We each may have different views about what has happened and what should be happening. But the thing which grabbed my attention was the outrage that some felt when the President and others said their "prayers and thoughts" were with the victims of the shootings and their families. I realised it was not that people hate God or prayer necessarily. It was that they hated to see praying used as an excuse for not doing anything. And the Bible agrees with them at this point. In James chapter 2 we read these words
"15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead."
Jesus in this part of the Bible is saying to us that prayer cannot just be good intentions. And our words, thoughts and prayers have to be connected to our actions. When we separate them, the faith, the words, the thoughts, are...dead. So I found myself agreeing with the outrage at that point. And like I said before, our church core value is that "Honest prayer is powerful." It is so important to bring honesty into the process of talking to God. You can't shock God, you can't surprise Him with your thoughts. But you can hide yourselves in a game of token prayers. And when you hide, you disconnect with the love, grace and power of God. He wants us to come out into the light, and meet Him there. I know that is a hard thing to do. People may judge you if you're praying with a group. Or even worse (and this is what I think our fear stems from), God may reject you. A lot of us are petrified by this thought. We know God is powerful, we know God is holy, and so we know that nonsense is not allowed at the table so to speak. But could it be possible that our definition of "nonsense" is upside down when we use prayer as an excuse rather than a cry? I actually think that some Christians, held down by a fear of being rejected by God if they bring nonsense to the table (which is the wrong name they give to their brokenness), bring dishonesty to the table. And in doing so, they end up bringing nonsense.
As an Australian, I remember well the events around the mass shootings in Port Arthur in the 1990s. We have not had a mass shooting like that since 1996 because big changes were made after that event to minimise its chance of occurring. So, I don't get it really. But I do get the outrage when people are hurting and those who can make a change say they will think and pray for you, and appear to make no plans to DO anything. That's the sort of outrage James speaks of in the Bible. He says it's dead faith, when you say (or pray) one thing and do another. It's totally useless.
More than wanting to make social comment on US gun policy, I'd like to allow us to think very personally about the way we pray. Not the words, but the honesty. When you can come to God honestly, with all your stuff, you are off to a good start. When you can come to God and remember that He is God, and He is able to powerfully love and work in any situation, you have Biblical prayer. I would love to see more of this burning passion for honest, powerful prayer, in me and in those around me.
|Posted on February 18, 2018 at 4:20 AM|
Churches historically are lovers of parks... a place for sack races and Sunday School picnics. It's a place all ages can be together in a less formal space. Church on the Hill, however, is not running a Sunday School picnic in the park. We are coming together to worship the living God. And it is not a lack of creativity on our part, it is a very deliberate move to remind ourselves and others who we are and how we engage in worship and community together. Here's why we decided it was a good idea to worship in a park
1. Great exterior designer: Psalm 19 says "the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim his work. Day afer day they pour forth speech. night after night they call him wise". We could NOT, even with hours and days work, create a more beautiful backdrop for worship than this piece of God's creation. And it takes us virtually no time to set up.
2. A park is a level playing field. For young and old, lifetime church members or first time people, the park is a level playinf field. Parks attract all sorts of people for all sorts of reasons. We are among them. We believe, on a practical level, that a park is an easier place for visitors to visit for the first time than our house (we began as a house church). A lot of people don't want to feel like a gate crasher.
3 We save a lot of money on venue rental. I haven't done the figures on this one, but I expect we'd be paying roughly $500-$1000 per year on a venue if we were renting one (things are cheaper in Glocuester). Not to mention the technical gear we may need to fit out a space like this. It is financially a real win to be in the park.
Of course, it's not all the land of milk and honey. For one thing, a non-church venue doesn't work for some people. It doesn't feel like church to some people. And if the weather is too cold....or too hot...or too windy...outdoors can be annoying. You do need an alternative venue which is available at short notice. Which we do have. But for the most part, for most of the year, we love being able to worhip together in a park.
And in case you had wondered this part, I have been really surprised that it has not made people more self conscious when they are singing. We still sing with equal gusto (or lack of it for the non-singers) compared to being inside. So for the time being, we will be in the park at Gloucester most Sundays, and you are most welcome to join the happy worshipping circus!
|Posted on May 4, 2017 at 10:15 PM|
|Posted on April 1, 2017 at 11:05 PM|
i(image courtesy of Crossover NSW/ACT http://crossover.com)
Church on the Hill Easter Sunday Celebration Gathering
Barrington Hall - Argyle Street, Barrington
9:30am April 16th 2017 (Resurrection Sunday)
One of the most significant days in the Christian calendar...actually in the history fo the world really. We believe it is when Jesus rose from the dead, literally living proof that there is a God of love who has both the will and the power to defeat sin. It is a day for celebrating the victory won. Jesus is alive, never to die again. Yep, it's a big deal thing. The first Christians had a tradition of greeting each other with the words "Christ is risen" "He is risen indeed!"
This is what we are going to celebrate this Easter Sunday morning. We will do that in our usual stripped-back, come as you are fashion. We will sing together, we will eat together. Easter is also one of the two times Ty actually preaches during the year, so you will hear an Easter message this year from Ty about "second chances". And for the kids (always important!) there is an Easter treasure hunt after the official part of the gathering has finished.
Come join us- everyone is welcome. For more info contact Ty at [email protected] or just find one of our people and get more of the low down.
|Posted on February 19, 2017 at 6:50 PM|
I was thinking this morning about "fishing and feasting". It was a rhythm we had in church for 6 months last year, which we have not continued into this year. But these two things are still really at the heart of being God's people. So we haven't stopped fishing or feasting. Or to be more honest, as soon as we stop fishing and feasting, we stop being a community who is about the kingdom of God, we stop being God's people following after Him. I know, pretty full on hey! It doesn't mean, by the way, that God gives up on us or stops loving us. His love is totally free and doesn't need anything aside from genuine acceptance of his gift. But 2 Corinthians ch 5 makes it wonderfully clear that God's love doesn't just release you from the power of sin so you can go to heaven. "Christ's love compels us" is what Paul says in this chapter. His love opens the cage which sin has kept us in. His love is like the healing of the lame man, who starts walking and leaping and praising God (Acts ch 3). This love is what compels us to keep fishing and feasting.
Check out a talk on this page by Kirk Delaney called "Both And". He reminded me of the phrase of Jesus "I will make you fishers of men." It is not "I will teach you some skills and then you can do the stuff whenever you feel inspired". It was so much more engaged by Jesus. He will do it. He will come to us and shape us and make us into the people he wants us to be, the fishermen and women needed for the kingdom if we will follow him. It is so good to be reminded that Jesus wants to shape my life.
|Posted on February 2, 2017 at 7:45 PM|
I had a little revelation about one of our core values today. We aim as a church to be "Jesus Destined". That really means Jesus is where we are going. And sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking and believing that Jesus is the vehicle to the place that we are going, not the vehicle and the destination. So our destination can actually be "peace", or "forgiveness".
Those are great things, but they are benefits of Christ, not the destination. And if they become our destination, we will happily jump on a cheaper or more comfortable vehicle if it seems to be going to the same destination. It is a subtle difference, but it really does make all the difference in the end.
Once when I was teaching High School Scripture I said to the youth in the class “who would become a Christian today if I gave you $10?” Not a lot of responses, so then I made it a little more generous and offered $50 (stay with me here, I’m not being underhanded there is a point to the story). At that point a whole lot of kids put their hands up.
So I said “here’s why I’m not going to do that. It’s not that I couldn’t find the money, I’m sure I could find a few thousand dollars for a good cause. And it’s not that I don’t want you to follow Jesus. I want that more than anything. The reason I’m not going to pay you $50 to follow Jesus is that if you buy in for $50 you’d buy out for $100. If Jesus is worth $50 to them, I wonder how much Buddha is worth? Or what I could cash in a New Age belief voucher for?”
I don’t know what impression that story made on them. I hope it’s a help for this question in some way. Peace is a good thing, but it is not the best thing. Love without strings is wonderful, but even it is not the best thing. Here’s what we believe as Jesus people, it’s amazing stuff: Jesus is the best thing. And as the best thing, He holds peace in His hands and gives it as a gift to His people when they make Him their destination. Jesus is even called the Prince of Peace in the Bible (Isaiah 9). And He is the author of Love without strings, so He gives that to us even before we believe, and even more after we do trust and follow Him (see Romans ch 8:38-39 for that one).
Romans 8:38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,[k] neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The writer names a heap of the common strings attached to love, and then says NONE of them will separate us from God’s love.
I get tempted to present God as a means to an end. Just being honest with you. Offering peace, forgiveness, healing and some of the other benefits of Jesus is pretty appealing. Sometimes I accidentally focus on Jesus as the vehicle only, and forget to mention He is the destination. The thing is, though, that Jesus is the source of all the other things. So without Him they don’t hold together. There is no lasting peace without the Prince of Peace, because peace is a theological reality and a choice we make, not a feeling. There is no eternal or wholistic healing without Jesus either, because as Blaise Pascal, the 17th Century Scientist, described, we are all born with a “God shaped hole” in our hearts which only God can heal. There can be healings we receive and ways we grow to know and love ourselves and others without God (or without directly asking God). But if you believe that in the Bible God is telling the truth, then we need our destination to be Jesus if we are to find healing. Or forgiveness. Or peace with God. One of Jesus most famous statements, which would be controversial if people wrote it, but the people who wrote it heard the man who said it, and the man who said it was Jesus. He said “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.” He said to us that He is the destination.
It is a kind rebuke to me from God, to keep my eyes on Jesus and who He is, and let Him take care of all these other things in my life (and in the life of His church in Gloucester) as they take their right place.
|Posted on January 18, 2017 at 5:55 AM|
Church on the Hill has just moved from a Monday gathering to a Sunday gathering. We have shifted 26.5 hours back in the week, and maybe you need to know the story. Our son Xavier says we have sold out. "Everyone else meets on a Sunday, we are becoming just like everyone else!" is what he said. So what's the deal with our 26.5 hour move?
Well, to begin with, the Monday worship time was not about our belief that Monday is sacred. And we weren't trying to be hipsters or conscientious objectors to religious tradition. We are those of the Romans 14:5 mould who believe every day is sacred in the Kingdom of Christ. So for us Monday worked as well as Sunday for those we were planting with and reaching. By year 4, it is not the case, and we chatted with a few of our crew and those who felt strongly all leaned towards Sunday.
So for 2017, Sundays at 3pm is the new Monday. As far as venue is concerned, we are tossing between 3 different places and are asking God about these. And in terms of Fishing and Feasting, we are still on the trail, but these are all things for another blog post.
See you at the Park at 3pm this weekend!
|Posted on November 14, 2016 at 1:45 PM|
In May of 2016 Church on the Hill gathered to pray about how church was going to look in the future. While we loved the journey God had been taking us on up to this point, it was clear a new energy was needed. This is, for better or worse, very normal in the life of a church or any relationship. You cannot move on with only the initial energy, there needs to be a consolidated effort to work on the "marriage" once the "honeymoon" is over. So whilst this was a little scary, it was also exciting.
For the next two months we chatted and prayed about options, and in July decided to make an experimental shift ot a new rhythm. Rather than meeting each week for a church "feast", we would have a two weekly rhythm called Fishing and Feasting. In very broadest terms, feasting was gathering as a church, fishing was being the church without a formal gathering.
This in theory is so solid Biblically. We were always called to be a people who were giving and blessing the community around us. This was to be done separately and together. The church was never called to be an event, but more like a movement or gathering of people who want to change the world by the power of the Holy Spirit. In our rhythm shift, we were allowing this idea into our very structure, giving it structural importance.
Now it is worth adding, this is not THE Biblical model for church. A life of mission and worship is the actual Biblical model for church, but we are not in any way making a declaration about how right we have gotten church (and subtly taking a dig at any other church who doesn't do it our way). No the number of meetings is not the yardstick for Biblical fellowship and church. And there are plenty of churches who in their format look very traditional, but are living an exceptionally missional life as a church (have a look at the work of https://www.htb.org/" target="_blank">Holy Trinity Brompton, Mosaic or New Life Anglican Church, just to choose a few of my favourites). Like all things, it is what is going on behind the scenes which is the real deal. About changed lives changing lives.
We have another church in our movement of Baptist Churches who is doing church this way, so there is some local precedent. But as far as I know, there is no one in our region who is practicing church in the way we do. So we feel brave, sometimes nervous, but also excited. Our friend Des who up until recently has been pastoring a two weekly rhytm church in Kellyville, Sydney, encouraged us by saying that when you really want people to get an idea, it has to have a practical "roadblock" aspect to it. That is, people have to see it and engage with it practically until they really wrestle with it. So we are trying this rhythm, believing God is in it, and also knowing that our calling is not weekly or fortnightly in any case, but daily. So if we decide to change direction at the end of this 6 month testing period, praise God. If not, praise God. We will still be seeking to follow God and learn how to do this together and in our town.
|Posted on October 16, 2015 at 11:40 AM|
So tonight is our last night in PP. Xave, after a later night than usual, has crashed. But I am still up, having one of those times when you swim in thoughts and questions. I'd love these to be questions Christians ask more often in missions or compassionate work. I wish they were things I had more answers to, but I just seem to have questions. None of them dim my belief that God has called us into this, or make my heart weaker. Maybe they just sharpen it because they are the hard details of help which actually helps.
firstly: what do I as a non Khmer have to offer? I mean in terms of cultural understanding, or even being able to say more than " hello! Thank you!" Too quickly the answer comes to my mind as money- but i know how money has the power to help and hurt, and has often done more harm than good to these communities, breeding unhelpful dependence structures. So what are we being asked by God to offer?
secondly: how do I avoid a Hollywood style tendency (which I will admit I get at times) to want to come and rescue the world?
There's a lot more swimming round my head. For those of you who are in our community, I'd love you to think and pray on this. If you are readers, grab a copy of "we are not the hero" or "when helping hurts". If you are not readers, at very least have a think about what the Bible actually says about helping people outside your direct community. I'd love your thoughts on this.
for those not in the church on the hill community here would be a great space for you to share some ideas. I think it is totally worth thinking through how to engage BEFORE we jump in and form a partnership of any sort with someone overseas. I need to repeat really, these things these thoughts are really about sharpening the convictions God has placed in our hearts, not losing them. I have met a good swag of people who have stopped engaging in compassion projects because they were not able to maintain what Martin Luther King Jr called a "soft heart and hard head". The complexities of this issue either hardened their hearts a bit, or fried their brains so the gave up or disengaged in part or in total. This is not our path, this is not the ending God has in mind for us. So it is time to pray, and ask hard questions and wait for the answers He will give us.
Thanks eveyrone one doe journeying with Xave and me these last 2 weeks. It has been such an adventure, and a treasure for me as a dad which I will keep with me for a long time. We love you, we have needed and felt the blessing of your prayers. And we will see some of you in 2 days!
|Posted on October 13, 2015 at 10:30 AM|
we were all set to meet Troy Roberts from Raw Impact today at a cafe called Jars of Clay. We met someone who said this was their favourite cafe in PP. thank you Pchum Ben! Cafe closed, but we still met up with Troy and his team.
he took us to an island just off the coast which he calls Gunty's Island, after his pastor friend who lives there. They have just opened a school there, and it looks amazing...again You will have to wait for pics sorry! The school is already full with enrolments, it is a very needy area with very little good education available. They are working in areas of safe housing, helping people with agriculture projects and work, and even a little hydroponic veggie cultivation (I got some photos for you Robbo). We loved our day with them.
I also was able to find a home for a gift given to us by the Pope family. I have been keeping my eye out, but all the families I have had contact with Re too big! But our tuk tuk driver today became he object of blessing. I asked him how many kids he had, and he said 2 boys about Xaves age (I know, close but not exactly right, sorry Sharee!). So I showed him a pic of he Pope family and blessed him on his way. I wonder if this is a little picture of life with Jesus: we carry in our bags (or hearts) a gift of blessing from Jesus, and we keep our eyes out for the person to give it to. We are surely blessed to be a blessing.