SEATS School of Mission-03 Making the Good News Good SOM-03-03 Impact: The Relationship of Church Programs to the Good NewsReviewSOM-03-03 IMPACT: The Relationship of Church Programs to the Good NewsA conversation I had with a student pastor a number of years ago revealed his frustrationwith his church. “I’ve counted the number of programs our church has been involved withover the years and it is amazing to see how many of them there have been,” he said. “If onlywe had stuck with one program then our church would be stronger today!”Perhaps all of us can relate to his story. It does raise an interesting question: What is therelationship between a church’s programs and the Good News?The Ultimate ProgramThe ultimate example of a program is described in the Old Testament. One simply needs tostart reading in Exodus and the program will be laid out piece by piece. Check out Leviticusto find how much this program involves not only a person’s religious life but their personallife as well. It was an all-encompassing, holistic program for spiritual, economic, social, andphysical success! In fact, the deal was, if those inside the system could get those outside tojoin up, things would be even better!Then we get to Acts 10 and the story of Peter and Cornelius. Here we discover and earth-shattering truth: maybe the program is not so important after all! Maybe there is something
SEATS School of Mission-03 Making the Good News Good SOM-03-03 Impact: The Relationship of Church Programs to the Good Newsbehind the program that is the real truth we need to understand. This story marks theturning point in the thinking of not only Peter, but also of the entire church up to that point.Let’s find out what happens: Acts 101. Main Characters:2. Main Issues:3. Main Lessons Learned:4. What was Peter’s issue?5. What did God teach him about programs?6. How does this apply to us? We aren’t Jews.Each of us has a box that we fit inside. The question is, ano bang itsura ng kahon mo? [Theultimate Essential vs Non-Essential!]Famous Discipleship Programs Down Through The YearsWe are all familiar with Discipleship Programs. In fact, apart from music, perhaps the mostdivisive of all issues in a local church relates to the discipleship program a church is using,has used, or wants to use. These programs tend to focus on one or another aspect of thechurch: Small groups, Family, Unreached People Groups, Spiritual Warfare, Churchplanting,Men’s Ministry, Holistic Ministry, Cell Church, Escatology, atbp. 1. Internationally Known Programs 2. Local ProgramsHow many of these programs have you experienced?This brings us to the question: What is the relationship between the program & the GoodNews?• Is the program the Good News?• Can a program be bad news?How do we then evaluate our programs? What becomes the defining characteristic of howwe operate our church programs? How can we make sure that the Good News is present inall that we do? (Remember Tim Keller’s quote from last class).Group Assignment: Case StudiesWe have two case studies to look at that will help us work through some of these ideas.They center on a well-known church in Australia called Hillsong. Form and group and read
SEATS School of Mission-03 Making the Good News Good SOM-03-03 Impact: The Relationship of Church Programs to the Good Newsthe following case studies. After reading each case study, please answer the followingquestions as a group. 1. What Gospel is being presented? 2. Who is the target? 3. How does the target respond? 4. What are the criticisms in the case study? 5. Who is making these criticisms? 6. What is your reaction to these criticisms? Case Study #1: God Wears Tsubi at Hillsong www.reportage.uts.edu.au/stories/southside/hillsong1.html by reportage (UTS & ACIJ) Sunday July 17, 2005 at 03:22 PM Young people are turning to evangelical Christianity in their droves. Peta Fitzgerald asks why and what this generation wants from Jesus and who is providing it? Hillsong Church attracts a young, hip, and fashion conscious congregation with over 3000 young people attending services every Sunday. Has anyone seen my Bible? It has a brown leather ‘Herringbone’ cover with ‘Tsubi’ stickers all over it.” This is the question posed by a good looking, well dressed 20- something male after Sunday nights service at Hillsong Church, in Sydney’s Baulkham Hills. To those aged over 30 this question might seem a little strange. Are ‘Herringbone’ and ‘Tsubi’ holy saints that are adorning this church-goer’s Bible? And the simple answer is no. Not even close. ‘Herringbone’ and ‘Tsubi,’ as most of the almost 3000 strong crowd gathered at the Hillsong service will be able to tell you, are fashion labels for the fashion conscious. Tsubi are the designer jeans with celebrity status (and holy price tags of up to $600 per pair) that are wrapped around the toned legs of Sydney’s fashionable elite. And similarly a significant number of people here. While traditional churches may be fighting to survive with dwindling congregations, evangelicals such as Hillsong have struck a chord with the young. As the numbers who turn up at Baulkham Hills and at Young Street Waterloo can testify Paradise Pentecostal Church is the fastest growing Christian denomination with two-thirds of its congregation under 35. While more than 3000 youngsters attend Hillsong’s services every Sunday. With an 18 strong rock band on stage and Australian Idol winner, Guy Sebastian sitting five metres away, who wouldn’t want to come to church? Looking around at the congregation at Hillsong at Baulkham Hills it is impossible not to be struck by the amount of fresh, young faces you see - a stark contrast to the ageing congregations of traditional churches such as the Catholic Church. So why are these churches attracting such young, hip, and fashion conscious congregations? “These Pentecostal churches are re-packaging of Christianity in
SEATS School of Mission-03 Making the Good News Good SOM-03-03 Impact: The Relationship of Church Programs to the Good News accords with consumer capitalism” said Carole Cusack, senior lecturer in religion at Sydney University, said. “This enables them to embrace fashion, culture and technology and everything in the broader culture and still argue they are religious or spiritual. “Previously Christianity has been identified with a down-grading of the pleasures of this world in favour of the after-life, holding it to be entirely far superior. This has changed here. The whole set up is different. No longer is it ‘Blessed are the poor’ but instead it is based on ‘God loves the rich.” Chris Murphy, a Catholic priest at Kensington Parish in Sydney’s South, attributes the simplicity of churches such as Hillsong in contributing to their popularity. “They preach a certainty and simplicity that is possibly untrue to the ambiguities of life” he said. “The youth in their idealism are looking for and can be hanging on to simple answers.” Ms Cusack similarly, quotes philosopher H L Mencken’s, ‘For every complex question there is a simple answer. And it’s wrong.’ She sees society as being so complex that most don’t truly understand it nor take the time to really try to work it out. She sees the quick fix-solutions offered by the likes of Hillsong as an almost inevitable consequence of our culture. “People can’t be bothered to immerse themselves in the pursuit of knowledge and finding answers and they prefer even idiotic answers” Ms Cusack said. However young members of the Hillsong congregation, reject Ms Cusack’s views. “We are essentially a bible based religion with all of the same teachings as traditional churches but we are more understanding of what’s going on in a young person’s world,” said 24-year-old Kirsten Grundy. “This is where I fit. Where I feel comfortable. It’s just church done to suit a different type of person. “I had tried all types of religions. I had been to the Baja temple, the Uniting Church, and the rest but found them all too quiet and constraining. I was louder and more boisterous, when I came here I enjoyed it and kept coming. I felt that this is where I was supposed to be.” Ms Grundy came to Hillsong two years ago, ironically, after reading negative press about the controversial church. “I had gone away on holidays with a boyfriend and had a terrible fight. He couldn’t understand my decision to abstain from sex until marriage. “The next morning I woke up to find an article in the Sydney Morning Herald, a negative article about Hillsong. Through all that negativity I could see that this was a young church that believed in young people and I wanted to go.” Ms Grundy gave up her job managing an exclusive home wares shop in Double Bay six months ago. She now works full time for Hillsong Church as “Creative Design Co- ordinator” looking after the elaborate stage settings at the church’s two locations.
SEATS School of Mission-03 Making the Good News Good SOM-03-03 Impact: The Relationship of Church Programs to the Good News “It has been a massive life change, one that my friends outside the church cannot fully understand and it has caused some problems.” One cause for concern amongst her friends, Ms Grundy said was the relatively small amount of pay she received from a church so obviously wealthy. “Ten per cent of every member’s pay goes to the church- it’s a biblical principle,” she said. “While I don’t make a great deal of money the church would never let me go hungry. I have never worked for love of money anyway. “We use the churches money in creating a beautiful church for the second coming. It’s definitely about building a ‘great’ church based on God’s principles. God is the creator of the world, surely he can have a great church! We shouldn’t be limiting God’s capability.’ Ms Grundy was working extra hard when she talked to Southside News as Hillsong was preparing to host the fourth World Assemblies of God Congress called ‘Take the Nation, Shake the World’ at its huge Baulkham Hills venue. The conference ran in May and saw the gathering of church leaders and members from all over the world. Hillsong numbers have increased so much in fact on a regular weekend that a second service is now held on Sunday night at Baulkham Hills. “People love coming to church so much that most come twice or more on a weekend. We are just crammed every service, and I would say out of those that come here, about 70 per cent are under 30,” said Ms Grundy. This is a statistic that alarms Dr Vicki Crinis, Lecturer and Australian Historian at Wollongong University. “This concerns me deeply because this is a time in young people’s lives when they should be questioning the conservative ideals that these churches represent. It should be a time of questioning not a time of sameness,” she said. “In the 70s there was the Vietnam War and we saw young people protesting against conscription and rallying for feminism. Young people could engage in activism. “Today there is a lot of insecurity in the world. Young people feel powerless. This belief in God and the unity they find in these churches empowers them, gives them a kind of activism. It gives them a sense of security and belonging while on the other hand excluding others,” Dr Crinis added. “There is a very anti-gay sentiment amongst these churches and the idea that, like a drug addict they can be saved. “They feel a kind of strength in numbers in these churches that attracts ‘more of the same’. Churches like Hillsong are not really a way of escaping, but a way to have their ideas upheld and supported.” And who better to support your ideas, said Dr Crinis, than those you look up to. The ‘cool’ rockers on the stage at Hillsong, The Australian Idol in the row next to you, and the trendy people to the side of you.
SEATS School of Mission-03 Making the Good News Good SOM-03-03 Impact: The Relationship of Church Programs to the Good News “It is important to know, however,” Ms Cusack said that Hillsong, “is not the first and definitely not the last of its kind. What people don’t realise is that there is a high turn over of people. “Statistically people spend between 18 months and three years at churches such as these,” she said. She said, people come to these churches in their youth and then move away as they get older. When asked if Ms Grundy’s own mother attended Hillsong too, she said. “No, definitely not, she said she can’t stand the loud music!” COMMENTS [These comments were made on the website – SEATS] Miss RLJ email@example.com 0416 182 108 Curl Curl Beach Hillsong Rocks! May I please point out, that Hillsong is an outrage of fab time and influence on the spirit, in both worship and lessons in the word of God. Also in my opinion, it is about time we Christians took Gods territory back on the face of the earth.........so watch us all move into the fields of influence, and help many others accept Jesus as their Lord and Personal Saviour, and be saved into the Holy Kingdom and Eternal Life. There is a spiritual warfare going on lovely people, and the time is very ripe for choosing your side, and getting saturated in Gods word and Holy Spirit, and getting out there and making a stand. Rock n Bless Rachelxo aka: in the name of Jesus. Miss RLJ has no idea firstname.lastname@example.org One has to wonder at the attitude of Christians like Miss RLJ. Why so belligerent? What are you so afraid of? Criticism of any kind? Your faith can’t be as strong as you claim if every time someone questions your actions and beliefs you react with blind rhetorical ranting. If the message Hillsong has to offer is so wonderful and true then why on earth would people like Miss RLJ be angling to get themselves into positions of influence and make threats about religious war? Im sorry but it seems a pretty basic foundation of any decent society that tolerance and respect for those of different beliefs and values is a given. If members of Hillsong want more acceptance perhaps they should have some more tolerance and respect for unbelievers rather then making reactionary statements that sound Machiavellian in tone. Making these comments because criticism leaves you feeling threatened is one of the reasons people are so critical of a quasi-religious corporation like Hillsong (it has a board of directors and is run and structured like a business with biblical values). Comments like those of Miss RLJ just make the majority of people either concerned or sad. Miss RLJ on the other hand reacts like so many people I have dealt with from Hillsong with rage, Hate, fear and threats.
SEATS School of Mission-03 Making the Good News Good SOM-03-03 Impact: The Relationship of Church Programs to the Good News I also wonder what kind of person could hold such rabidly intolerant and naive views... Is this a born again Christian who found life too hard and embraced the mind numbing mantras of looking good and having material success in order to get a grip on their life? Whatever the reasons for her attitude Miss RLJ should open her eyes to what’s happening in the world around her rather then blindly following the preachings of an organisation like Hillsong and denouncing anyone who might dare to question this. Condescending hypocrites! by Rachel Monday October 03, 2005 at 12:44 AM "It is a Saturday night and ‘this is the best place to be’ " Id love to hear your rationale for writing such a patronising article (yes, we noticed the name of the photo - "hillsong-idiots.gif", i believe) about a place that does only good. What would you prefer young people do on Saturday nights? Go to night clubs, drink, take drugs, go home with strangers to end up pregnant and on the list for an abortion, or perhaps a nice STD, or perhaps just feeling like a whore? Perhaps you think we should be going to parties, where there will be kids smoking bongs and getting as trashed as possible, others sneaking off to the back seat of a car, or their parents bedrooms... My church, like Hillsong, has funded several orphanages in countries like Cambodia and the Phillipines, where they rescue small children who were sold into brothels. Mr church gives single mothers and other struggling people new cars. My church gives young people a place to be on friday and saturday nights with fun normal things to do, keeping them off the streets. Unforunately, money does not grow on trees, and for a church to be able to do good, it relies on donations from its members, so for a church to do good, it can obviously do MORE good if its members are financially doing well. THERE IS NOTHING WRONG WITH THIS! By giving to my church, I support all this good. WHAT DO YOU DO??? Case Study #2: It is a Saturday night and ‘this is the best place to be’ Robert Burton-Bradley goes to church Alison Blakehurst is applying make-up in front of the mirror. Dressed in trendy jeans, a tight white top and pumps Alison is getting ready for a big night out. There’s little difference between this 21-year-old and others smartening up in front of mirrors across the city except one - Alison is getting ready for church. Alison is one of thousands of young people who have embraced the prosperity, preaching and evangelical stylings of the Hillsong church and it’s founders Brian and Bobbie Houston.
SEATS School of Mission-03 Making the Good News Good SOM-03-03 Impact: The Relationship of Church Programs to the Good News “I only found out about Hillsong a year ago through a friend at uni. But since then it’s become a huge part of my life, I’ve only missed a Saturday service twice,” says Alison with pride. Alison says the church offers a way for her to go out and have a great time while still being close to God. “It’s such a great way to maintain balance in your life between different areas of obligation, you get to go out with friends, listen to really good live music and worship God at the same time.” Hillsong claims to be the largest church in Australia estimating attendance to be 17,500 at weekend gatherings across its two centres, one in Waterloo and another in the Hills District. What has made Hillsong stand out among the plethora of churches trying to attract young parishioners is its trendy image embracing of values that idealise financial success and looking good in order to feel good. Alison was raised in a secular household on Sydney’s affluent North Shore and says she did not see herself as a particularly religious person. “My parents always taught me to question everything in life and not to accept things at face value so it’s not like they [Hillsong] threw open the doors and a lot of sheep wandered in, I’m there because I’ve made an informed choice.” Alison says she does not see this attitude conflicting with Hillsong’s Christian teachings which ask believers to accept more on faith than evidence. “I realise that must sound contradictory but I can’t really explain this to someone who has never been and experienced church at Hillsong like I have.” I ask Alison if I can come along and she readily agrees. When we arrive at the entrance to Hillsong’s Waterloo church I feel rather conspicuous. Everybody seems to be friends and all are clearly excited about the night ahead. Alison introduces me to a group of well -dressed twenty-something’s clustering in the foyer. Everyone smiles and introduces themselves. The mood is casual and relaxed. I feel like I’ve arrived at a trendy inner-city pub, that is until I notice how many people keep mentioning Jesus and the bible in mundane conversations about uni assignments, rent and boyfriends. One of Alison’s companions introduces herself to me with a flashing smile. “Hi, I’m Cara, is this your first time? You look nervous,” she says with a look of concern. When I explain I’m here to write an article as an observer she looks at me like I’m a lost puppy. Alison quickly manoeuvres me away and into the main auditorium where the service takes place. We take our seats in a middle row while Alison’s friends and a multitude of other people mill around in a space at the front of a large stage. This is the best place to be, Alison explains. “You get to be right near the stage where you really feel connected to everyone and God.” On stage a choir and backing band is waiting in anticipation. Music is central to Hillsong’s success and seems to be the backbones of the program. Its choir’s CDs sell in the millions. A few minutes after our arrival and the auditorium is filled to capacity. A young man in his early twenties jumps up to the stage, mike in hand, congratulating us all for being here. “Who’s excited to be in church tonight?” He yells to the cheering crowd. Everyone is standing now and Alison quietly compels me to join her as the first ‘pop hymn’ begins.
SEATS School of Mission-03 Making the Good News Good SOM-03-03 Impact: The Relationship of Church Programs to the Good News A young woman takes centre stage and leads the choir in a power ballad dedicated to the glory of heaven. Except for the religious overtones it seems remarkably similar to something you would expect to hear on commercial radio. Between songs there are sermons and what seem like motivational speakers from a real estate convention all of which the crowd happily listen to and politely applauds, but it’s the music that gets everyone out of their seats. After a couple of hours I’m ready to leave. When I look for Alison and her friends to say goodbye I find them in the middle of the throng swaying and singing along with the performers, their hands lifted up in what looks like a state of bliss.Group Assignment: Our ChurchLet’s now apply what we have learned to our own church. In your groups, please answerthe following questions: 1. What specific programs are we running to proclaim the good news? 2. Who are we hoping will hear this good news? 3. How are they responding? 4. How can we improve?