Monday, 25 September 2006

Recharge ~Elective... Christocentricity

Next up, electives. Now I really wanted to try and engage in some discussion in these electives, and so decided not to take my notebook with me.

So all this is coming from what I’ve remembered, and seeing as though the 4 electives I went to presented by 2 different people, I hope I don’t mix some of them up.

I’ve recently been looking into some ‘alternate’ ideals of the Church. And so chose electives at Recharge which I though would stretch my thoughts on what the Church is.

First up…

Christocentricity - putting Jesus back at the centre of our agenda's

Stan Fetting is a Zambian born Baptist Pastor, having worked in South Africa, the UK and Australia. Someone mentioned to me before I went to his elective that he’s known to be a bit controversial and ‘left wing’. Honestly that excited me all the more to go to his electives.

The Recharge booklet had this little blurb about this elective.

Within the church, fashions come and go, fads rise and die, agenda’s wax and wane. When all the hype dies down we sometimes as Christians and churches find ourselves off-centre, with our energies and passions directed at things other than Christ and His agenda setting teachings. This elective will examine how the Beatitudes contrast vividly with aspects of contemporary Australian spirituality and how we can recalibrate.

Straight off the bat we tossed up the dominant properties of today’s Australian spirituality. In the media, both Christian and secular, who are the main characters representing the Australian church. What do we within the church see as the main aspects that are seen about Aussies ‘religious spirituality’.

I put forward that Australian’s spirituality is music driven, we discussed the music/worship niche; it seems that churches these days are defined by their music. The fact that people can walk out of a church service and ask “How was the worship tonight?” – “Yeah it was a little off tonight hey…” Churches win new people from other churches because their music is better.

Stan (of course) had a list he had prepared earlier. Dominant Christian figures included mainly Anglican and Catholic Bishops, but of course you can’t ignore that these days Brian Houston is probably Australia’s most well known minister. He defined the major themes of Australian Spirituality to include some of the following, power, wealth, blessing, intensity, prosperity, (there were others but I’m sorry they’ve slipped my mind).

I think he was pretty well right on.

We then spent the remaining time looking at Jesus’ sermon. His big speaking opportunity when he takes the time to teach people about his Father.

Matthew 5:3 - Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

What does it mean to be poor in spirit? Does that fit with things like prosperity, intensity? People grieve the fact they are full of sin, sometimes to the point where they don’t want to let Jesus save them. But when they do they receive such joy, because they have come from such a broken spirit. Working from that poor spirit allows a truly humble and God lead Christian walk.

Matthew 5:4 - Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Actually this links in with the first one, Stan told a story about a member of his congregation who heard the Gospel, and came right up to the point of conversion so many times, but never quite crossed over. When he finally did he told Stan that the main reason he hadn’t done it earlier was that he felt so dirty, so terrible about who he was that he knew he wasn’t worthy for Jesus. He mourned his past life, and came through it to find and serve Jesus.

The rest of the Beatitudes speak of the meek, the hungry, the merciful, pure, peacemakers and persecuted.

Do anyone of them fit what the majority of Australian Churches are known for? In the past few months I’ve heard sermons on Jesus the warrior (peace, meek, merciful???), God blessing us with good things (persecuted, meek, hungry, poor in spirit???) and the Church becoming the powerful establishment where famous people turn to, where politicians come for advice (meek, pure, mourning????)

I mean in the West, evangelical churches today look to the letters of the New Testament for their teachings, to the doctrines of the new church. Pentecostal churches take the majority of their messages from the Old Testament, the power and prosperity that God gives to the people who obey him.

But the Gospels teach of the humility, the meekness, the kindness of Jesus. In his own words God tells us how we should live, because these are those who will inherit the kingdom.

So churches, be they emergent, traditional, contemporary, evangelical or pentecostal need to forget the current trends of Aussie Spiritualism and instead take a stand and live the way Jesus spoke of.

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