The recent Israel Folau furore highlighted something truly shocking. Media personalities, politicians, bloggers, and most importantly, celebrities, all condemned the (now former) Australian Rugby Test player as a ‘bigot’, a ‘hater’, and recently, a ‘non-Christian’!? The Daily Telegraph columnist, Claire Harvey probably speaks for many Australians when she reveals that she has little-to-no-idea about what Christianity really means or what Jesus of Nazareth actually taught. She might be shocked to discover that Izzy simply quoted the Jesus-inspired Scripture found in 1Corinthians 6:9-10! Adding to this picture of desperate confusion is the average Australian’s perception of ‘church’ and the picture that many or most Australians have of Christianity is even more confused. This was revealed during Australia’s recent Federal election when the media escorted Pentecostal Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, to his church (Horizon Church affiliated with ACC) which led to the rather odd media comment that he was giving the “Hitler salute” while singing in church!
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matthew 16:18
WHERE ARE THE STEEPLES AND STAINED GLASS WINDOWS?
Church is not a building. Don’t misunderstand me. I don’t think that a church’s building is irrelevant, or that when the ancients built their centres for housing congregational worship as statements of the transcendence and immanence of the Almighty Triune GOD, they were misguided. But it seems that most Australians only think of ‘church’ as that cold, dark, lofty bluestoned, wooden-pewed, and empty-on-a-Sunday, building that wedding photographers love to shoot in. But the vision of church that its Founder gave is one of people who know God – who hear from God, who talk to God, who experience God, who are set free by the power of God, who are filled continually with the Holy Spirit of God, who learn from God through His living Word, and find their truest delight in worshipping together with other born-again believers each week! In this vision of church, it is not the building that is essential – it is God’s people!
Two years ago we had the privilege of stretching our faith and building a new worship centre that would accommodate hundreds of worshippers each week. We chose to make a statement with our building about how we saw Christ’s vision of the church in our community. It was to be a church without an ‘old-fashioned’ steeple – yet one with a frontage that was tall and pointed toward heaven! (You might remember our last TV ad encouraged people to “look up” as is followed the line of our building’s frontage upwards.) We wanted our auditorium to be light and spacious and somewhat transparent. That’s why there’s lots of glass in it. We wanted the interior to have lots of wood in it. That’s why we have huge exposed wooden portals inside our building holding it up. But the most important thing about the church we are building in Launceston’s Tamar Valley is that it is made up of people who have been transformed by Jesus of Nazareth and filled with His Holy Spirit and power. It is these people who pray, seek God, cry out to the Lord for miracles of salvation, healing and deliverance. It is these transformed and empowered souls who seek to invite the hurting, lost, lonely, and confused, to the life-giving waters we freely offer each Sunday. This is why we are building a church that is supernatural. We are not just about formal ceremonies, or dry religious lectures and rituals. Rather, we are about being open to the Holy Spirit, led by His guidance, and open to the various gifts He manifests including prophecy, tongues, words of knowledge and wisdom.
Now I want you all to speak in tongues, but even more to prophesy. The one who prophesies is greater than the one who speaks in tongues, unless someone interprets, so that the church may be built up. First Corinthians 14:5
¶ “You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.
¶ “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. Matthew 5:13-16
A much-previous Prime Minister of Australia, who claimed to be a Christian, famously said that Australia’s greatest moral crisis was addressing climate-change. No wonder so many Australians are confused about what Christianity is all about when they hear things like this from those who are apparently prominent Christians! Our “greatest” moral-crisis has little to do with driving our cars or boiling our kettles – it is about how we treat God and His Word to us! (When you don’t treat God as He deserves or obey His Word, it is called: sin.) Yet this former PM is not alone in identifying as a Christian and completely confusing what Christianity is all about – and what our Founder stands for! Someone has said that if the God you worship never challenges you to change your behaviour, you are probably worshipping yourself! And many people who identify as followers of Jesus actually sound like they are mistaken self-deifiers because despite Jesus not tolerating sin or endorsing abhorrent sexual practices they tell people that sin doesn’t matter anymore to Jesus!
I hope that when you meet these people, you invite them to our church. And that they experience something profoundly supernatural. And, I hope that this experience is with the real Jesus in the midst of His supernatural Church where the power of the Holy Spirit to convict, convince, reprove, and transform lives freely flows. And I hope that this is your hope too! Perhaps now would be a good time to pray in the Spirit that this Sunday – and each Sunday – will be the case. And if you do, we are being the supernatural church Christ calls and empowers us to be – not just on a Sunday, but everyday!
But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. First Corinthians 14:24-25