Month: July 2010

Megachurches on Radio National

I’ve just listened to an interesting program from two Sundays ago on Radio National’s Spirit of Things.  The Spirit of Things often seems disconnected from the evangelical/pentecostal world, and it was good to see this intelligent engagement with it. It starts out with an excellent critique of the megachurch phenomenon by Marion Maddox, including its fixation on wealth, its individualism and its many backdoors of people leaving disillusioned. (There I am cheering Marion on.) But then there’s a twist, with an articulate defence of the movement by Jacquie Grey, ‘young’ (was Rachael Kohn being condescending or complimentary?) academic dean and OT lecturer at what was Southern Cross College but is now named after some star. I’m not a convert, but Jacquie responded very well to what she must have known what was not going to be the most sympathetic interview, recognising the movement’s shortcomings and its shifts and attempts to address these problems. (Nothing is more gracious, in my opinion, than recognising your own shortcomings. It’s something I’ve never heard one or two evangelical movements do.)

It bugs me how influential megachurches are on the wider evangelical movement. It is now almost compulsory to aspire toward being a megachurch, at least from what I’ve heard about Baptist churches in my neck of the woods.

Megachurches are antithetical to Anabaptism, that’s for sure. Anabaptists hate crowds, for a start. (Tongue in cheek, I offer this facetious comment in lieu of a full blown discussion, as I’m not up to it right now.)

The early church and war

Back on my ANZAC Day post, there was some discussion in the comments about the early church and war. I haven’t done much reading on this, but The Mennonite has a good introductory article by David Brattston, putting forward the case for a strong witness against participation in the army by Christians in the first three centuries.

The Uniting Church

I’ve sometimes wondered how the very different theological traditions represented by the Presbyterian, Congregationalist and Methodist churches managed to come together in the Uniting Church. The Pressies are Calvinists and the Methodists are Arminians, for a start. I found this interesting statement of the marriage on the Uniting Church in Perth website, and I think it represents the best vision of how the traditions should come together:

We celebrate the pastoral leadership of elders, the close relationship between minister and members, the focus on worship of almighty God, and the commitment to global mission, which has come to us from our Presbyterian heritage.

We celebrate the emphasis on congregational participation in decision making, the affirmation of the ministry of women, the openness to the community, the generosity of sharing, and the commitment to developing new churches which has come to us from our Congregational heritage.

We celebrate the congregational cultural diversity, the willingness to be doers, taking risks and being innovative,the emphasis on both social justice and evangelism, and the commitment to serve the most needy in our city, which has come to us from the Methodist heritage.


Tuning into God

If we want to die well, to die into God, so to speak, we need to start working on our relationship with God (and with others) while we are young and healthy, rather than waiting until death is knocking at the door. Developing a relationship with God takes time and sacrifice, conversion and repentance, discipline and prayer – just as it takes time, discipline, practice, and self-sacrifice to reach proficiency in a sport, in music, or in a profession. Of course, God is always present, closer to us than our own jugular vein, as the Qur’an says. But the problem is that usually we are not tuned into God. To use an analogy: we are surrounded by radio and television waves, but if we do not tune in a receiver we can’t hear the message. So also with God. God is always present, but without a tuned receiver we can’t communicate with God. Tuning into the receiver means tuning ourselves into God. And this means eliminating self-centredness and moving toward God-centredness. Jesus calls this move repentance or conversion, a total change of mind and heart. Usually this takes years of prayer and discipline, not just weeks and months.

– Terence Nichols, Death and Afterlife: A Theological Introduction (Brazos: 2010), pp. 13-14.

I like this quote because it provides a good possible explanation for people’s  failure to have a strong sense of the presence of God.  I also like it because it gives me a picture of what I might strive toward in learning to ‘tune in’ to God.