3- Plateau

A church in exile

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Over at First Things, Andrew Walker responded to the reports on the Hillsong press conference in New York in which the church leadership has decided not to take a public position on LGBT issues.

Brian Houston has since clarified his position and explained that he was misunderstood. Andrew Walker’s response is still worth reading. Some good insights from a movements perspective.

First, if I were writing the Art of Cultural War, this is the strategy I’d use to bring the opposing side to heel. The steps look something like this: Relativize the issue with other issues. Be uncertain about the issue. Refuse to speak publicly on the issue. Be indifferent toward the issue. Accept the issue. Affirm the issue. Require the issue. Hillsong is currently on step three. I don’t think they’ll stay there.

Second, a non-answer is an answer. Let’s be very clear on that. It’s also a very vapid answer. What we’re seeing in many corners of evangelicalism is a pliability that makes Christianity an obsequious servant to whatever the reigning zeitgeist (spirit of the age) is. With non-answers like this, it isn’t Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Culture is. Perhaps Hillsong would rather abide by a “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy on matters of orthodoxy. That’s their prerogative. But let’s be clear that this is not the route of faithfulness.

Third, this isn’t an issue over whether gays and lesbians should or should not be welcomed in church. This also isn’t an issue over whether young individuals within the LGBT community have faced bullying. Bullying of all sorts is deplorable and should be condemned, and not because the Human Rights Campaign says so, but because Jesus says so (Matthew 7:12). What this issue is about is whether the church models faithful obedience to Christ in a way that both honors Scripture and loves its neighbor. Hillsong thinks it’s doing both; but is actually doing neither.

Fourth, Hillsong thinks itself a contemporary and culturally relevant church. Perhaps it is. But as Christians, we don’t get to define what “relevant” means in terms that are unquestioning of what our culture means by “relevant.” I submit that Hillsong is a church in retreat. A church in retreat doesn’t give answers. It doesn’t storm the gates of Hell. It settles and makes peace where there is no peace (Ezekiel 13:10). A church in exile . . . is one that is faithful amidst the culture, regardless of whether that culture looks more like America or more like Babylon. It knows that it may lose the culture, but that it cannot lose the Gospel. So be it.

UPDATE: Some more wisdom from Andrew Walker following Brian Houston’s clarification. Every Christian leader who wants to remain both faithful to the teaching of scripture and engaged with the culture should take note.

A church in exile

Screen Shot 2014 10 21 at 10 16 26 am

Over at First Things, Andrew Walker responded to the reports on the Hillsong press conference in New York in which the church leadership has decided not to take a public position on LGBT issues.

Brian Houston has since clarified his position and explained that he was misunderstood. Andrew Walker’s response is still worth reading. Some good insights from a movements perspective.

First, if I were writing the Art of Cultural War, this is the strategy I’d use to bring the opposing side to heel. The steps look something like this: Relativize the issue with other issues. Be uncertain about the issue. Refuse to speak publicly on the issue. Be indifferent toward the issue. Accept the issue. Affirm the issue. Require the issue. Hillsong is currently on step three. I don’t think they’ll stay there.

Second, a non-answer is an answer. Let’s be very clear on that. It’s also a very vapid answer. What we’re seeing in many corners of evangelicalism is a pliability that makes Christianity an obsequious servant to whatever the reigning zeitgeist (spirit of the age) is. With non-answers like this, it isn’t Jesus who is sitting at the right hand of the Father. Culture is. Perhaps Hillsong would rather abide by a “Don’t Ask; Don’t Tell” policy on matters of orthodoxy. That’s their prerogative. But let’s be clear that this is not the route of faithfulness.

Third, this isn’t an issue over whether gays and lesbians should or should not be welcomed in church. This also isn’t an issue over whether young individuals within the LGBT community have faced bullying. Bullying of all sorts is deplorable and should be condemned, and not because the Human Rights Campaign says so, but because Jesus says so (Matthew 7:12). What this issue is about is whether the church models faithful obedience to Christ in a way that both honors Scripture and loves its neighbor. Hillsong thinks it’s doing both; but is actually doing neither.

Fourth, Hillsong thinks itself a contemporary and culturally relevant church. Perhaps it is. But as Christians, we don’t get to define what “relevant” means in terms that are unquestioning of what our culture means by “relevant.” I submit that Hillsong is a church in retreat. A church in retreat doesn’t give answers. It doesn’t storm the gates of Hell. It settles and makes peace where there is no peace (Ezekiel 13:10). A church in exile . . . is one that is faithful amidst the culture, regardless of whether that culture looks more like America or more like Babylon. It knows that it may lose the culture, but that it cannot lose the Gospel. So be it.

UPDATE: Some more wisdom from Andrew Walker following Brian Houston’s clarification. Every Christian leader who wants to remain both faithful to the teaching of scripture and engaged with the culture should take note.

Brian Houston issues a clarification

2014 10 16 Hillsong Press Conference NY

Brian Houston has put out a clarification regarding his comments on homosexuality at a New York press conference.

He  explained:

Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage. I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.

I was asked a question on how the church can stay relevant in the context of gay marriage being legal in the two states of the USA where we have campuses. My answer was simply an admission of reality – no more and no less. I explained that this struggle for relevance was vexing as we did not want to become ostracized by a world that needs Christ.

He urged people to read the full tex of what he said not just the newspaper headlines.

Good to have the clarification. Even better to be clear from the start. This issue is not going away.

Brian Houston issues a clarification

2014 10 16 Hillsong Press Conference NY

Brian Houston has put out a clarification regarding his comments on homosexuality at a New York press conference.

He  explained:

Nowhere in my answer did I diminish biblical truth or suggest that I or Hillsong Church supported gay marriage. I challenge people to read what I actually said, rather than what was reported that I said. My personal view on the subject of homosexuality would line up with most traditionally held Christian views. I believe the writings of Paul are clear on this subject.

I was asked a question on how the church can stay relevant in the context of gay marriage being legal in the two states of the USA where we have campuses. My answer was simply an admission of reality – no more and no less. I explained that this struggle for relevance was vexing as we did not want to become ostracized by a world that needs Christ.

He urged people to read the full tex of what he said not just the newspaper headlines.

Good to have the clarification. Even better to be clear from the start. This issue is not going away.

The sound of silence at Hillsong

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According to Jonathan Merritt

At a press conference for the Hillsong Conference in New York City today, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Houston to clarify their church’s position on same sex marriage. But Houston would not offer a definitive answer, instead saying that it was “an ongoing conversation” among church leaders and they were “on the journey with it.”

Houston says that he considers three things when evaluating the topic: “There’s the world we live in, there’s the weight we live with, and there’s the word we live by.”

He notes that the Western world is shifting its thinking on this issue, and churches are struggling to stay relevant. The weight we live in (sic), he added, refers to a context where LGBT young people may feel rejected or shunned by churches, often leading to depression and suicide. But when Houston began speaking about the word we live by or “what the Bible says,” he refused to offer a concrete position.

Merritt adds

Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong’s New York City location, made similar statements on CNN in June, saying Hillsong in New York City has “a lot of gay men and women” and he hopes it stays that way. But he declines to address the matter in public because, in part, Jesus never did.

“Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent,” Lentz told CNN. “And I’m still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people. You won’t find it because he never did.”

Lentz’s wife, Laura, chimed in: “It’s not our place to tell anyone how they should live. That’s their journey.

Have Hillsong decided to go all Brian McLaren on us?

I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look good.

The sound of silence at Hillsong

4773502817 f9fdcbb5e4 z

According to Jonathan Merritt

At a press conference for the Hillsong Conference in New York City today, Michael Paulson of The New York Times asked Houston to clarify their church’s position on same sex marriage. But Houston would not offer a definitive answer, instead saying that it was “an ongoing conversation” among church leaders and they were “on the journey with it.”

Houston says that he considers three things when evaluating the topic: “There’s the world we live in, there’s the weight we live with, and there’s the word we live by.”

He notes that the Western world is shifting its thinking on this issue, and churches are struggling to stay relevant. The weight we live in (sic), he added, refers to a context where LGBT young people may feel rejected or shunned by churches, often leading to depression and suicide. But when Houston began speaking about the word we live by or “what the Bible says,” he refused to offer a concrete position.

Merritt adds

Carl Lentz, pastor of Hillsong’s New York City location, made similar statements on CNN in June, saying Hillsong in New York City has “a lot of gay men and women” and he hopes it stays that way. But he declines to address the matter in public because, in part, Jesus never did.

“Jesus was in the thick of an era where homosexuality, just like it is today, was widely prevalent,” Lentz told CNN. “And I’m still waiting for someone to show me the quote where Jesus addressed it on the record in front of people. You won’t find it because he never did.”

Lentz’s wife, Laura, chimed in: “It’s not our place to tell anyone how they should live. That’s their journey.

Have Hillsong decided to go all Brian McLaren on us?

I hope I’m wrong, but it doesn’t look good.

The turnaround of the Australian Christian Churches

hillsong.jpg For the first forty years of its existence the number of ACC* attenders and churches grew steadily. Something changed in the late 1970s and the movement took off.

Attendances grew from 9,446 people to 215,000 between 1977-2007 — a staggering 2276%. The number of churches grew from 152 to 1120 — or 736%.

Despite this history, the number of ACC churches has recently fallen — from 1133 in 2008, to 1073 in 2011.

If the number of ACC churches continues to shrink, so will attendances.

What could be at the heart of this dramatic turnaround?

The ACC may be suffering from is the “failure of success.” In their early stages, movements risk everything for the cause they believe in. Success can change movements. They become risk averse. They have attained a place in society, they have resources, their clergy are increasingly educated and respected. They have more to lose.

In a plateaued movement, the next generation of leaders would prefer to be on the staff of a large successful church, than take the risk of planting a new church. Larger churches would prefer to reproduce what they know works, rather than risk planting new churches.

Growing something bigger is safer than starting something new. Success is measured by the size of a church, rather than the number of generations of new churches it has produced.

The challenge for the ACC is to make an innovative return to the best of its traditions . . .

*The Australian Christian Churches was formally known as the Assemblies of God in Australia