Go … the ironic path of a reluctant church planter
When I think back about why I chose to learn at The Pines, it really wasn’t to learn how to plant churches. (Sorry).
I had felt for quite a while that Australian churches weren’t really impacting Australia, like we could or should.. like what happened in the Bible. I couldn’t see the blokes at high school coming along to youth group (though ironically some of the tougher guys did And I was frustrated with the lack of progress I was experiencing with the guys at work.
There was no way that the blokes there would come along to church or home-group!
In fact, I wasn’t even interested in getting them to church. Most of the blokes I dealt with had a low view of Christians and Pastors and churches. And church attendance wasn’t exactly in their diary.
That’s not to say I don’t think they didn’t entertain the idea of a biblical God existing. Nor have an appreciation of those who gave selflessly to help those in need. But they did have a problem with …
- Hypocritical Christians
- Preachers telling them what to do when they themselves had big expensive churches, flash cars, asking for money and getting caught in compromising scandals.. and that they were telling others what not to do … all when there are starving kids and people who need help.
- The paedophilia scandals
- Religions causing wars/terrorism
- Evolutionary and other belief systems and lifestyles, that were largely God-gospel resistant
- Christians’ lack of tolerance for alternate belief systems, and other lifestyles
- Bad experiences with a Christian
- And why God would let innocent children suffer
[note : I am referring to perception, without addressing the validity of the perceptions]
You’ll have to forgive me, but back then I was kind-of a long way off considering church planting when it seemed to me that the average un/pre-churched Aussie had such a low opinion of Christians and the church.
To be honest, I would have killed just to see a slight change in people’s underlying negative perceptions of Christians, the Church and … ultimately our Creator. That being said, I can guarantee you that the average Aussie can pick the ‘real thing’ faster than you can say, “Can I tell you about Jesus..” and has a finely tuned ‘bulldust filter.’
Part of our problem is that they can see through us better than we can see ourselves.
But when the then Training Director brought some Pines students to help our local church at Kawana, I said to myself… ‘Here is a group of (young) people who could change the world.’
And to me, they were dynamic and different to the young denominationally-trained pastors I had come across. I thought the young pastors I had met were awesome and committed Godly people and effective at what they were trained for.
But I saw these Pines students as people that could relate to and impact normal average Aussies (perhaps a bit like school chappys were doing). From where I sat, they were down to earth, full of life and love .. and had something different. And I figured that something good must have been going on, up the hill at The Pines.
And I wanted to get some of whatever they had, into me …
If there was one aspect of The Pines’ training that I found most helpful, it was the cross cultural ministry training that I received. (Indigenous Theology, Ministry relevant to Australians, and Cross Cultural Ministry).
The trainers explained how we could integrate and gain acceptance into different cultures and then transplant ‘the gospel’ … and allow the gospel to transform ‘their culture.’ (Hopefully not us transferring ‘gospel + our culture.’) But this required us to bridge the cultural barriers and challenges, which is hard work.
Then I began to realise the cultural divide between average Aussie culture … and our Australian Church culture. And every time we ask someone into our church culture, we are expecting them to bridge the cultural gaps.. and for them to become like us. We don’t realise how crazy we are
I’ve learnt that there is a spiritual dynamic at work, and that when I jump on the train .. or go to a community, that I need to acknowledge that God is above every power and authority, and that it is ‘His’ work .. not mine. If I can get away from my distractions, and do this .. I have found it amazing how He brings things up and generates Godly instances, that I couldn’t concoct.
And I have had a revelation of God’s desire to extend his ‘grace and peace’ to us, and through us .. to the world.
I realise that we (.. or maybe just ‘me’…) are perhaps better at putting our laws and values and expectations on the world… and ultimately our judgements … rather than extending His Grace. If a person gets more acceptance and appreciation and love at the local bowls club or rave dance club or bikie gang … than the church they walk into, we have a big problem.
If they receive Grace there, and judgement and exclusion in our churches because they haven’t met our cultural norms, then we have a problem. And we’ve got heaps of norms for them to navigate, haven’t we?
I now view the sporting clubs and my workplace as a foreign tribe, that I need to integrate with … learn their cultures and ways … and then look for God-created opportunities that allow the things of God to be transplanted into that culture. I apply cross cultural and missionary principles to the Aussie communities I am a part of.
Have I seen any conversions? … No. Well, actually I have … but they are micro-conversions, of hearts and minds and perceptions and attitudes. One could say that they are small increments on the evangelism scale.
To me, we simply have to ‘Go’ … and just ‘hang-out with them.’ We might have to risk compromising our holiness (ha ha! Go and do their stuff with them, in their environment. For me, that meant going to a ‘buck’s party’. For me, that means riding a motorbike, risking death and painful injuries… crazy stuff.
An outward gospel.
We need to ‘wrestle’ with them … on their turf, and gain their respect somehow. We need to find out what tends to open doors in that culture, and what closes the door in that culture. To become one of them, that we might win them… whilst somehow remembering that we are an ambassador for Christ.. representing Him, and His kingdom.
Jesus lowered himself and hung-out in a sinful grotty world that really grated against Him… and literally killed Him. And in doing so, He won that world for His father. I suspect that we need to do that, in the cultural microcosms that we interact with.