From Jim Elliot to Saint Patrick, and Gladys Aylward to Harriet Tubman, heroes of the faith can help inform our own Christian walk. We can see the bravery they displayed, their commitment to the Lord and His mission, and the incredible love that they showed to people all over the world. With these things in mind, we can help teach our kids and grandkids the eternal truths of God’s Word, and show them how a life lived in love of God and neighbor can truly change everything.
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See Jim Elliot’s commitment to the Gospel on display as he ultimately laid down his life trying to bring the Word of God to the Waodani in Ecuador.
As Martin Luther boldly stood for the true Gospel against the church that would like to see him silenced, he sparked the flame of the Reformation that would reverberate across world history.
From the depths of the jungle to the American academy, Samuel Morris was an inspiration to all who met him. Because of his faithfulness, countless missionaries have gone on to spread the Gospel all over the world!
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Hundreds of ideas for Christian groups with a wealth of activities, studies, prayers and resources for groups of all ages. Contents are: Ideas for integrated Bible studies; Ideas for Bible studies and prayers; Ideas for church activities – devotional, educational, creative, serving, social, sporting; Ideas for all ages together; Ideas for building relationships.
This book offers a huge range of activities, arranged according to group activities. It provides a wide range of activities for many different kinds of groups. The first section, Ideas for Integrated Bible Studies, gives you four group studies on each of the themes or topics.
How to use this book
Ideas for integrated Bibles studies The Great Experiment
Finding New Life
Living New Life
Great Chapters – Old Testament
Great Chapters – New Testament
Ideas for Bible studies and prayers Bible passages
Bible study methods
Bible reading and relationship building
Bible readings and prayers
Ideas for church activities Program emphases: Devotional, Educational, Creative, Serving, Social, Sporting
Witness and Sharing Weekend
Gifts Check List
Ideas for all ages together Activities involving young children and others
Activities involving older children and others
Family and church family questionnaires
Useful teaching activities
ABC of resource ideas
Simulation activities. Simulation Game: Build my Church
Ideas for building relationships Deep – ideas and attitudes
Deeper – ideals and values
Deepest – ideologies and commitments
What is your main love language?
This book is available in Paperback (print & colour) and as digital eBooks (Kindle and PDF).
See details, contents, photos, and reviews of renewal and revival books on Amazon
There is an old saying: “Anyone can count the seeds in an apple, but God alone can count the apples in a seed.”
How true this is in the story you are about to read. To anyone looking on, Vatsa was just an ordinary ‘apple’. No one would have guessed that the Lord had placed the seeds within this ‘apple’ to eventually produce over 3,000 new churches!
Stop and think of that for a minute. When they cross the threshold of heaven, how many people in history will have disciples from 3,000 churches run up to them and say, “I am here because of you!” Now think of how the crowd swells when all the disciples those 3,000 churches brought with them join the throng. It becomes overwhelming! For those who choose to obey the command, “to make disciples” (Mt. 28:18-19), God doesn’t see apples, he sees orchards!
New Generations is a ministry whose passion is to mobilize disciples that make disciples, resulting in churches that plant churches. Vatsa is one of their workers in Asia.
‘Sir, are you a Christian? Will you please talk to my father?’
When one day two young women came to Vatsa’s door, he expected them to ask about one of the rooms he and wife rent out to students. But these girls didn’t ask about rooms. One of them asked: “Sir, are you a Christian?” Because his town had some very anti-Christian elements, Vatsa was surprised and alarmed. “Yes, we are Christian,” he replied. She quickly got to the point. “Sir, for years my parents have been wanting to know about Jesus. Will you please talk to my father?”
She called her father who eagerly invited Vatsa to visit their village. A week later, Vatsa and his wife took the 120 kilometer (75 mile) drive and found a group of the family gathered, ready to learn about Jesus. Neighbors soon joined in, for a total of sixteen people.
It was a remarkable open door for sharing the gospel. How would they handle this? Where would it lead? In this very first encounter, Vatsa demonstrated to the family how they could make discoveries about God for themselves, right from the Bible. He read Psalm 25:8-9 – ‘Good and upright is the Lord; therefore He instructs sinners in His ways. He guides the humble in what is right and teaches them His way.’
Vatsa asked: “What do you learn in this scripture about God, and what do you learn about man?” “I learn,” said the father, “that God is good, and he teaches sinners. And that man has to humble himself to learn from God.” “And what does it say to you personally?” Vatsa asked. Very quietly, the father replied: “I am a man, and I am a sinner. I need to learn from God, to become humble and to follow God’s way.”
‘We will start a Bible study right here in your home. God will teach you and lead you.’
The father was responsive, and eager to learn more, but he had questions about the next steps. “Where will we go to church?” he asked. “Who will be our pastor?” Vatsa’s answer was a surprise. “We will start a Bible study right here in your home. God will teach you and lead you to start a church with your family members and relatives.” Since that day, not only have six of the family members turned to Jesus, but two more Bible studies have started in other homes.
For those who choose to obey the command ‘to make disciples’, God doesn’t see apples – he sees orchards!
What did Vatsa do that was different?
First of all, he made the effort to visit the family in their own home. This meant taking a full day to do so. He realized the encounter was not about reaching one man or even one family, but about how this man, with such obvious fervor to know Jesus, could be an instrument of God to reach a community.
Secondly, he showed the family how they could learn about God right from the Bible and encouraged them to do that regularly. He then coached the father, through phone calls and further visits, to facilitate the family time together in the Word. Vatsa also taught him to release others to do the same thing in new groups.
“In the past,” Vatsa says, “I would not have bothered to visit this man but would have simply invited him to my church. And I never would have allowed him to become a facilitator and leader.” Since he started implementing this new way of doing ministry, Vatsa has seen 3,304 small churches started, and he’s never going back. “I have seen a great change in our achievements,” he says, “and me and my team have moved to a higher level of personal obedience to the risen Lord Jesus Christ.”
‘I’ve learned that making disciples is not about bringing people to church.’
“I’ve learned,” he adds, “that making disciples is not about bringing people to church. It’s about starting church at anybody’s home or any place. It’s about finding a man of peace and releasing him for making disciples. It’s about a lifestyle of following Jesus’ model and having Jesus’ attitude toward the lost.”
As of the end of September 2019, New Generations teams along with their partners have seen God raise up 70,921 new churches, 1,695,692 New Christ-followers, of whom, 471,813 (28%) are Muslim background. New Generations has now seen God launch 126 Disciple Making Movements (DMM) – 113 in Sub-Saharan Africa and 13 in South Asia. In Sub-Saharan Africa, a people group of eastern Congo reached the DMM threshold with 108 churches to the 9th generation!
Source: New Generations
Joel News International, # 1158, February 10, 2020
Ethiopia: Evangelical Prime Minister wins Nobel Peace Prize
The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize has been awarded to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. He was awarded the prize for his efforts to “achieve peace and international cooperation”.
At 43 years old, Ahmed is Africa’s youngest leader. He made quick and deliberate efforts toward reform when he took office in April 2018. Most notably, last year, he signed a peace accord with President Isaias Afwerki of Eritrea, after decades of political stalemate and two years of violence that cost 80,000 lives along the border. The two countries have grown increasingly open to one another, with resumed air travel and telecommunications.
The prize announcement commended his leadership, saying he spent his first 100 days in office lifting the country’s state of emergency, granting amnesty to thousands of political prisoners, discontinuing media censorship, legalizing outlawed opposition groups, dismissing military and civilian leaders who were suspected of corruption, and significantly increasing the influence of women in Ethiopian political and community life. He has also pledged to strengthen democracy by holding free and fair elections.
As Joel News International previously reported, Ahmed also helped reconcile two branches of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, which split for political reasons in 1991. He also fostered reconciliation between Muslims and Christians in his hometown of Beshasha. In another historic move last month Ahmed announced a tree-planting initiative, to outdo virtually any other country in the world. Ethiopia planted 350 million trees in one day, to combat deforestation and climate change.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (left) and Eritrea’s President Isaias Afwerki at the re-opening of the Eritrean Embassy in Addis Ababa last year
The son of a Muslim father and an Orthodox mother, Ahmed is a Protestant Pentecostal, or ‘Pentay’, like many Ethiopian politicians. His faith is seen as a driving factor in his push for peace. “There is something of the revivalist preacher in the way he evangelizes for his vision,” BBC News noted. “He has the energy, the passion, and the certainty.” Pentecostal beliefs correspond with a sense of hope and ambition in politics, the idea that nothing is impossible. A member of the Full Gospel Believers’ Church, Ahmed told followers after taking office: “We have a country that is endowed with great bounty and wealth, but is starving for love.”
After the announcement of the Nobel Peace Prize on October 11, the Prime Minister tweeted: “I am humbled by the decision of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. My deepest gratitude to all committed and working for peace. This award is for Ethiopia and the African continent. We shall prosper in peace!”
Ahmed is the 24th Nobel Peace Prize recipient from Africa; last year, the award went in part to Denis Mukwege, a Christian doctor dedicated to healing rape victims in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Ahmed was not the only Christian to win a Nobel Prize this year. Professor John Goodenough has been awarded the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his work at Oxford University that made possible the development of lithium-ion batteries. In his autobiography ‘Witness to Grace’ he describes his life, including his conversion to the Christian faith.
When I first heard some colleagues talk about the 1990’s as a ‘decade of revival’ I wondered if it was just more wishful thinking aimed at getting Australian churches to take evangelism seriously.
It is increasingly apparent, now, that we live in a ‘kairos’ moment – God’s time for us. Good and evil grow side by side at what appears to be an accelerating rate.
In these times of economic and social upheaval we have the potential of an almost unprecedented audience for God’s action. Our fellow Australians are seeking spiritual answers to life’s questions. Many do so for the first time. Others are seeking a place to belong and want healing from the wounds of life.
At a time of such obvious need and searching we agonize to observe some congregations experiencing decline and, in a few cases, apparent death. Yet, regardless of outward appearances, wherever God’s people gather in worship there is always potential for renewal.
God has a plan for the church. In the past God kept his promise. Even though it would appear whole generations lost a true knowledge of God, he sovereignly renewed his kingdom again when he found willing hearts. Today, God is looking for pure and willing hearts among those who would aspire to leadership in the church.
In preparation for revival and harvest, God is raising up leaders whose visionary zeal is matched by their integrity. Our Master is concerned not only about whether we reach the goal, but how we achieve it. Leaders today are wise to remember that the end does not justify any and every means of getting there. On earth, Christian leaders are servants of a God whose nature is integrity, justice, love and mercy. Our Lord wants his ambassadors to reflect his nature and character in the midst of providing leadership.
For some time I have noted that methods and standards vary greatly in the selection and guidance of church leaders. Within my denomination, I have often been called upon to give advice or rectify situations which are attributable to poor leadership decisions.
My intent is not to reiterate what others have written on issues facing renewal leadership. I would like, however, to underline three issues which I feel must be considered by those who desire to be leaders in renewal. These issues have come out of my experience as pastor and as convenor of the Christian Ministries Network of Western Australia.
Caution in leadership selection
Leadership is a key issue in renewal and revival. The apostle Paul warned against being hasty in the laying on of hands for leadership (1 Timothy 5:22). While this Scripture is often quoted, the importance of its implementation is often underestimated, much to the detriment of the church. Once a person has been placed in a position of leadership that person carries an authority and influence within the Body of Christ which either promotes or hinders its mission.
I have not yet discovered one elder, staff person or leader who, at the time of being selected, was fully mature in the Lord. That is normal. Jesus picked the disciples on the basis of their potential, not their perfection. Chapter three of 1 Timothy provides an essential list of considerations for spiritual leadership. In addition to this list, I often ask the following six questions concerning potential leaders:
1. Have they undergone a period of settling in and observation?
When new people decide to make our Fellowship their spiritual home, we invite them to undertake a minimum three to six months settling in and getting to know us. During this time we ask that they join a weekly home group but refrain from signing up for, or becoming involved in, any of the ministries of the church. During this period our leaders observe their character, gifts, and apparent maturity in the Lord. This brief time of waiting clarifies not only their suitability for ministry but whether the needs and vision of the individual fit our capabilities.
2. Have they dealt with sin or strongholds operative in their lives?
In other words, are they free of habitual sin or do they require ministry, healing, or counselling which will set them free from ungodly thoughts or behaviour? Do they give evidence of anger, unforgiveness, rejection, lust, pride, hurt, gossip, or any of the acts of the flesh noted in Galatians 5:1921? The presence of sin or strongholds does not indicate a person’s ultimate unsuitability for leadership, but it does indicate: not yet!
3. Do they show evidence of having gone to the cross?
Does the nature of Jesus, particularly humility, seem to be evident and growing? Going to the cross speaks of dying to the flesh and human cleverness in our attitudes and lifestyles. Such people will show traits of circumspectness, submissiveness, wisdom, compassion, transparency, patience and prayerfulness. They are humble, teachable, willing to be accountable, and allow others to speak into their lives.
4. Do they have a growing intimacy with God?
In John 15:5 Jesus said, ‘Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing.’ To abide in Jesus speaks of an intimate relationship of prayer and communion; of two best friends who anticipate one another’s moods, mannerisms and responses. Abiding is the process of becoming like the company we keep. The result of intimacy is to bear certain recognizable fruit: the fruit of the Spirit, an ability to discern the Lord’s voice, and a growth in our understanding of God’s nature and the way he brings his will to pass.
5. Are they free of selfish ambition or worldly cleverness?
Selfish ambition is essentially the desire for recognition, power, and control. Worldly cleverness is the means of fulfilling ambition: intellectualism, deceit, power games, manipulation, partiality, and control. Some seek church leadership with hopes of lordship rather than service. Others have a mistaken notion that what made them successful in the business world translates identically to the church.
Our own enthusiasm can never substitute for godly wisdom in decision making, as stated in Psalm 127:1, Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labour in vain. Unless the Lord guards the city, the guard keeps watch in vain.
Those suited to spiritual leadership acknowledge sooner rather than later that prayer, waiting on the Lord’s timing, and following his plan are the only ways to build God’s house.
6. Do they have the same spirit and vision as your team?
Are potential leaders on the right train? Are they willing to work in submission to the pastor and leaders of the local church? Do they hold views which mesh with ours, or are they at odds with our established vision, ethos, and mission?
For some reason, growing churches attract ambitious people aspiring to leadership who lack the discernment to choose the church God has actually selected for them. You must therefore look out for ‘cruisomatics’ flying from church to church looking for the perfect roost. Beware of those practising a ‘gift of correction’ or ministries which they proclaim will ‘get your church on the right track.’ These are the lone rangers, free spirits, and ultimately the self-inflicted wounded whose unrepentant hearts cause untold grief.
When selecting potential leaders it is always wise to narrow the front door, so to speak, by being cautious and getting as many facts as possible on the table. Good things come to those who wait and ask God’s discernment in the selection of leaders. I, and many others, have learned the hard way. It is much easier to refrain from placing a person in leadership than to admit a mistake and have to remove them later.
Unity results in synergy
Unity, especially among leaders, gives impetus to revival. It results in a Holy Spirit induced synergy. The Macquarie Dictionary defines synergism as ‘the joint action of two substances… which increase each other’s effectiveness when taken together.’ While synergism is most commonly thought of in the context of chemistry or metallurgy, it also applies to the church. When two churches and their leaders pray together, relationships bond, cooperation results and the net impact is greater than their previous effect as two separate entities.
The chances of revival taking place within a church, area, or city increase when there is unity within the leadership. John Wimber has noted that one of the signs of impending revival would be a call to unity. This call to unity is not an exercise of theological compromise or ecclesiastical carpentry but comes as the Body of Christ is touched by repentance, healing, and holiness.
Pat Robertson, in his book The Secret Kingdom, writes of eight principles arising from the teachings of Jesus which govern all of life. He calls these eight principles ‘the laws of the kingdom’. One of these principles, which Robertson calls ‘the law of unity’, presents both a challenge and promise to Christian leaders in Australia.
Essentially, the law of unity states that within the Trinity there has always been agreement and harmony. Consequently, unity and harmony in Christ’s Body are crucial to the unleashing of God’s incredible power among us. Great creativity and power for accomplishing God’s purposes are released where there is harmony.
A practical outworking of the law of unity is seen in Matthew 18:1920 where Jesus said, ‘Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.’
Here our Lord calls for agreement based on unity. Since Jesus was among them when they gathered to consider an issue, Jesus’ disciples would be expected to agree with him. As the central focus and inspiration of their fellowship, Jesus would bring his disciples to harmony if they genuinely laid aside their own preconceptions and centred on him.
The biblical accounts of life in the New Testament church further illustrate the power of unity. As the believers continued to seek the Lord together in prayer (Acts 1:14) the Holy Spirit added to their number and confirmed the gospel with signs and wonders (Acts 5:1216).
Early in 1990 I became aware of the existence of Christian networks of encouragement in Australia, England, the United States, and South Africa. These networks focus on unity through prayer and building relationships among leaders. I had the privilege of visiting networks in South Africa and in the U.S.A.
While the setting and composition of each network varied greatly, they had five traits in common:
1. They were built on relationships between church leaders.
2. Those involved had been renewed by the work of the Holy Spirit and believed the Spirit was raising up a strong church to take the land.
3. Those involved came from a wide variety of church backgrounds.
4. All shared a Bodywide vision, putting aside competition and empire building in favour of building up and encouraging the wider Body of Christ.
5. They showed evidence of the spirit of Joshua and Caleb, having the courage to dream and plan great exploits for God.
Inspired by what I saw, I returned to Perth and began to pray about God’s plan for networks of encouragement in Australia. Aware of similar moves under way in the eastern states initiated by the Rev Dan Armstrong and Kairos Ministries, I felt a need to bring leaders together across Western Australia. After inviting some colleagues (many of whom had worked together in organizing Vineyard Conferences) to join in prayer, the Christian Ministries Network WA was formed in 1990.
Recently I have observed a marked increase in the number of interdenominational prayer meetings and in fellowship activities aimed at building relationships between evangelical and charismatic leaders in Western Australia. Politicians, judges and heads of some Bible Colleges are among those beginning to come together for prayer and fellowship. There appears to be a warming of the spiritual atmosphere over the state, similar to the Greenhouse effect.
As the impetus towards unity increases and relationships are built, I am noticing a decrease in competitiveness. Leaders desire increasing cooperation. Pastors talk about such subjects as discovering God’s plan for taking our cities, networking with the wider Body of Christ, establishing the church of the city, and discovering and sharing each congregation’s redemptive gift. I have concluded that unity is bringing a synergy to the Body of Christ in Western Australia.
For further reading on developing strategies for bringing revival to our communities I recommend two excellent books, Taking our Cities for God by John Dawson (Creation House, 1989) and The House of the Lord (Creation House, 1991).
Revival foundations: Jesus and obedience
I believe that one of the reasons why God withholds revival is that he knows our nets are insufficiently strong or mature to contain the catch. Historically, revivals have lasted for about a generation for this reason. Eventually the nets broke down. In the coming revival I believe God wants us to pay attention to the foundation on which we build our nets.
In 1 Corinthians 3:11, the Apostle Paul reminds us that ‘no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.’
We do well to remember this. Many Christians and congregations are unsure of the implications of Jesus as the foundation. We have inadvertently confused Jesus with our doctrines, liturgies, denominational trappings, and social activism. These are forms or expressions of faith and may be valid, but they are not the one and only foundation: Jesus Christ himself.
Many Christians have built their identities and loyalties on the other building materials Paul alludes to in subsequent verses, not on a personal relationship with and loyalty to Jesus. These alternative building materials may look and feel substantial. In the final analysis, however, they do not stand the test.
What does it mean to build on the foundation of Jesus? It means being cemented into him. It involves being more Christlike as his disciples and obeying all he commands (Matthew 28:1820). To build on the foundation of Jesus is to build a church which is nourished in the love of Jesus and gives love in response (1 John 4:19). This kind of church will take the land.
John Dawson emphasizes that, ‘It is not primarily out of compassion for humanity that we share our faith or pray for the lost; it is, first of all, love for God’ (Taking our Cities for God, page 209). Love is the greatest power the world has ever known. As more of God’s love and light flood the world, darkness will be overcome.
This leads us to the vital question: What brings revival to a land? Revival is essentially a ‘soft spot’ in the heart of God, an act of God’s grace and mercy. God sovereignly determines when and where revival will happen. Yet within the scope of God’s sovereignty we can make a response. We see it in God’s word to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:14,
If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, pray, seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.
Perhaps the first act of humility required of us is to ask ourselves: What is our goal in evangelism? Are we seeking to make people ‘churched’ as members of a particular denomination with a loyalty to our ethos and traditions? Or are we making disciples of Jesus? Will the fish we catch be appropriately ‘cleaned,’ that is discipled to become like Jesus and serve him? How do we help new disciples go back into the harvest field to bring others into his glorious light?
In Ezekiel 34:4 we find the tasks of God’s shepherds. They strengthen the weak, heal the sick, bind up the injured, bring back the strays, and search for the lost. When I consider each of these five traits I find there the sum total of what God appears to be training his church to engage in. Here is the culmination of what I understand to be power evangelism, personal evangelism, and making disciples who carry on the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Only Jesus Christ has the authority to draw everyone to himself. Only at his name will every knee bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Only as the sheep hear the Good Shepherd’s voice and sense his touch as ministered through his obedient servants will they be drawn to him in revival.
There are, no doubt, many issues crucial to effective leadership in renewal. These three, however, are foundational to fostering revival. We must be more cautious in the selection of leaders. Our unity, especially in leadership, will result in a Holy Spirit induced synergism which sparks revival in the land. The church must stay true to the right foundation of Jesus and obey him.
(c) Renewal Journal 2: Church Growth (1993, 2011), pages 43-51.
Reproduction is allowed with the copyright intact with the text.
Now available in updated book form (republished 2011)
6 October is remembered as the day when William Tyndale was martyred. For most of us, Bibles are easily accessible, and many of us have several. Having the Bible in English owes much to William Tyndale, sometimes called the Father of the English Bible.
90% of the King James Version of the Bible and 75% of the Revised Standard Version are from the translation of the Bible into English made by William Tyndale, yet Tyndale himself was burned at the stake on October 6, 1536, aged 42.
Back in the fourteenth century, John Wycliffe was the first to make (or at least oversee) an English translation of the Bible, but that was before the invention of the printing press and all copies had to be handwritten. Besides, the church had banned the unauthorized translation of the Bible into English in 1408. Over one hundred years later, however, William Tyndale had a burning desire to make the Bible available to even the common people in England.
After studying at Oxford and Cambridge, he joined the household of Sir John Walsh at little Sudbury Manor as tutor to the Walsh children. Walsh was a generous lord of the manor and often entertained the local clergy at his table. Tyndale often added spice to the table conversation as he was confronted with the Biblical ignorance of the priests. At one point Tyndale told a priest, “If God spare my life, ere many years pass, I will cause a boy that driveth the plough to know more of the Scriptures than thou dost.”
It was a nice dream, but how was Tyndale to accomplish this when translating the Bible into English was illegal? He went to London to ask Bishop Tunstall if he could be authorized to make an English translation of the Bible, but the bishop would not grant his approval. However, Tyndale would not let the disapproval of men stop him from carrying out what seemed so obviously God’s will. With encouragement and support of some British merchants, he decided to go to Europe to complete his translation, then have it printed and smuggled back into England.
In 1524 Tyndale sailed for Germany. In Hamburg he worked on the New Testament, and in Cologne he found a printer who would print the work. However, news of Tyndale’s activity came to an opponent of the Reformation who had the press raided. Tyndale himself managed to escape with the pages already printed and made his way to the German city of Worms [famous for Luther’s stand at the Diet of Worms] where the New Testament was soon published. Six thousand copies were printed and smuggled into England.
The bishops did everything they could to eradicate the Bibles — Bishop Tunstall had copies ceremoniously burned at St. Paul’s; the archbishop of Canterbury bought up copies to destroy them. Tyndale used the money to print improved editions! King Henry VIII, then in the throes of his divorce with Queen Katherine, offered Tyndale a safe passage to England to serve as his writer and scholar. Tyndale refused, saying he would not return until the Bible could be legally translated into English.
Tyndale continued hiding among the merchants in Antwerp and began translating the Old Testament while the King’s agents searched all over England and Europe for him. Tyndale was finally found and betrayed by an Englishman. After a year and a half in prison, he was brought to trial for heresy — for believing, among other things, in the forgiveness of sins and that the mercy offered in the gospel was enough for salvation. In August 1536, he was condemned; on October 6, 1536 he was strangled and his body burned at the stake. His last prayer was “Lord, open the King of England’s eyes.”
The prayer was answered in part when three years later, in 1539, Henry VIII required every parish church in England to make a copy of the English Bible available to its parishioners.
Adapted from an earlier Christian History Institute story.
Bowie, Walter Russell. Men of Fire. New York: Harper and Brothers, 1961.
Daniell, David. William Tyndale, a biography. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994.
Dictionary of National Biography. Edited by Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee. London: OxfordUniversity Press, 1921 – 1996.
Kunitz, Stanley L. British Authors Before 1800; a biographical dictionary. New York: H. W. Wilson, 1952.
Mozley, J. F. William Tyndale. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; New York: The Macmillan company, 1937.
Sampson, George. Concise Cambridge History of English Literature. Cambridge, 1961.
“Tyndale or Tindale, William.” The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. Edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone. Oxford, 1997.
Wild, Laura Huld. The Romance of the English Bible; a history of the translation of the Bible into English from Wyclif to the present day. GardenCity, New York: Doubleday, Doran, 1929.
Pastor Ray Overend lectured at Christian Heritage College, Brisbane. This article was presented as a paper given at the Contemporary Issues in Ministry Conference, October 31, 2002, at Christian Heritage College, Brisbane, Australia.
In 1993 John Carroll, Reader in Sociology at Melbourne’s La Trobe University, brought out a book (published by Fontana in London) called Humanism: The Wreck of Western Civilisation. In it he said that the time that Europe put man on the throne instead of God was the time from which Western civilisation began to decline.
Since then postmodernism (the fragmentation that follows humanism) has made an even bigger impact on the sanctity of marriage, on corporate ethics, on liability insurance…in fact on the whole spectrum of private and social life. Western civilisation—founded as it was on the philosophy of the church—is being destroyed from the inside out! Satan too has exploited the weakness of his prey by launching devastating attacks like September 11 and Bali.
Yet in the midst of the postmodern chaos has sprung up from within the secular world—indeed the academic world—the beginnings of a spiritual revolution! Just last year John Carroll brought out a new book called The Western Dreaming: The Western World is Dying for Want of a Story. Carroll, is right now teaching his students through a mixture of concepts, stories and paintings.
Secular university culture is beginning to change! Indeed it is beginning to throw some bright light on the very foundations of Christianity, and on just why the Church has lost spiritual authority in the world.
In Chapter 2 of his 2001 book John Carroll says that the Magdalene story in the Gospels is one of those great expressions of Christian worldview that, traditionally, set the direction of European culture. He says that the 20th Century left us without any such story—except for the Princess Diana story, which has, he believes, an interesting, if minor and hidden, parallel with the Magdalene story.
I do not agree with all of Carroll’s insights into the Magdalene story (if you read his book you will be equally surprised at a few things he says), but to meet such a recognition of spirituality and godliness in a prominent 21st Century secular academic must surely be a signpost to encouraging times! Let’s read the original story in Matt. 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9, Luke 7:36-50 and John 12:1-9! We can leave aside the scholarly debates about the details and recognise simply that there was a sinful woman whose childlikeness of heart struck a chord in the heart of God. 
The wisdom of the Magdalene story
Whoever she was, the woman who anointed Jesus in the home of Simon was totally overcome by the wonder of God in Jesus. The importance of the story to Jesus is proclaimed in his words, “I tell you the truth, wherever the gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.” (By the way, how often do we tell the story?) Let me set the scene as Carroll imagines it, taking some of his imagery, as he does, from a Raphael painting:
The scene is Magdala, a fashionable resort town by the Sea of Galilee where rich Romans and Jews own luxurious villas, a town known for its urbane morals and religious tolerance. Jesus has accepted the invitation of Simon, a pious local Pharisee who is intrigued by him. He lounges Roman-style at one end of the triclinium couches that border the banquet table on three sides. Simon reclines opposite, his feet being washed by a servant.
There is a commotion among the servants at the villa entrance. Suddenly, the dozen or so other guests around the table are startled to observe a woman bursting through, and gliding her way quickly and silently to stand behind Jesus. The colours of her velvet dress dazzle the stately marble columned room, a flowing ruby patterned with deep-green leaves, and green sleeves extravagantly fluted, embroidered with gold. One of its loose shoulders has slipped down, exposing silky olive skin. She wears gold bracelets, and red toenails draw attention to bare feet. In spite of the casual restraint of a yellow ribbon, auburn hair spills abundantly down her back. Fiery dark gypsy eyes flash around the room, then settle.
Jesus senses her close behind him—he has been watching the wide-eyed stare of Simon tracking her, the host pale and stuttering with rage. Now he looks around and sees this unknown woman sink to her knees, tears from lowered eyes streaming down her cheeks. He recalls noticing her across the street on his way here, how she had suddenly looked at him and stopped, as if she had seen a ghost. She must have followed him.
She is bent low, loosening her hair, which cascades down, obscuring her face. He feels the tears splashing onto his dusty feet, which gentle hands caress, hair wiping them, then being kissed, then wiped again. She never looks up, and he sees her mouth hanging open in voiceless anguish, so pained and empty that she wants to sink out of existence, at the shame of what she has done with her life.
Was it miracle or curse, that infinitesimal speck of time in the street when her eyes were opened? The instant that changes a life, catching her unawares, has been like concentrated acid dropped on tender skin, the more caustic for him having been no more than the mirror. He senses her fighting against a huge weight of humiliation crushing down on her drained and tainted body.
One hand fumbles to find some hidden pocket, from where she produces a small alabaster flask. She uncorks it, and pours rare and costly perfumed oil onto his feet, tenderly massaging, regularly on impulse breaking her motion to kiss them. Tears continue to flow from bloodshot eyes. The large, airy room is filled with the powerful fragrance of myrrh, enough
to induce a dreamy intoxication in the guests if their host’s darkening mood had not infected them.
Jesus recovers from his surprise. He concentrates, bathing her in his own meditative gaze. Now he knows her, and his own mind. Meanwhile, the resentment of Simon spears at him across the table, the host mumbling under his breath that if Jesus were who he claims to be, he would know the immorality of this woman. And to let her touch him!
So Jesus turns to face Simon and poses a riddle. A man is owed money by two others—one owes five hundred denarii, the other fifty. Neither had anything, so he forgave them both their debts. Which one will be more grateful?
Simon tentatively replies with the obvious answer. Jesus tells him that he has judged rightly, but turning to the woman, he launches into a stern rebuke:
Simon, seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. Thou gavest me no kiss: but she, since the time I came in, hath not ceased to kiss my feet. Mine head with oil thou didst not anoint: hut this woman hath anointed my feet.
Wherefore I say unto thee: Her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much. But to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little
Simon flushes bright red with humiliation and rage and confusion. From the moment this gutter slut violated the sanctity of his home, he has been subject to insult upon insult. The great teacher whom he invited in as his guest of honour has offended him, in front of his closest friends and most prestigious associates, all intrigued to meet the rumoured miracle worker. This so-called holy man now indulges that notorious whore’s excesses as if he were one of her after-dark visitors. Not only that, but he makes fun of Simon by posing him a riddle so simple that any schoolboy could work it out, yet punishes him for solving it. Then he questions Simon’s hospitality, which has been proper, it is true, but then this is a God-fearing household that wastes not. And how can the servants be expected to proceed normally with their washing duties when chaos descended from the moment of Jesus’ entry?
Worst of all is the confusion. Simon is an intelligent man, well read, and practised in discussion. He prides himself on his scrupulous understanding. Jesus has just reversed the logic of the riddle, which had love following from forgiveness, with the more that is forgiven, the greater the debt of gratitude. Moreover, the teacher had repeated that logic in his last utterance. But he has deliberately baffled them with this scandal of a woman, forgiving her because she loved. How can that be: has he got it the wrong way round? In any case, we know the nature of her love.
This dear woman who anointed Jesus was totally overcome by the wonder of God in Jesus. It broke her heart and she cried uncontrollably as she saw divine love. God loved her, even her. But what is unique is the purity of her love. Humanly we cannot possibly explain it. Many people talk about the depth of her gratitude to Jesus for God’s forgiveness. But it seems that the divine beauty in the story is that she loved Jesus before she knew anything about his forgiveness. Yes her heart would receive. But she had not come to Jesus to ask for something, even though it would have been appropriate to do so.
Her love was transcendent. It was worship. She didn’t want in any way to “possess” God. She was utterly captivated by the wonder of God in Jesus. She gave her heart to God. And there was not a spark of self-consciousness about her love. It was utterly childlike. Simply, she was blown away. The disciples would do anything for Jesus, but Jesus had this woman’s heart. I personally am still discovering the depth of this. Her attitude was Theistic! Yes, it was transcendent.
The joy of reflection
During the 20th Century, the culture of much of the world’s cities lost transcendence! In some cases the church lost transcendence! Some people do not have a philosophy. Many people, even some Christians, choose not to be reflective. They don’t ask “big” questions. They don’t ask “why” questions. They don’t get a “big picture” of life and creation, let alone of God. Some people—yes even some Christians—have no conscious philosophy of life. We are going to Heaven but we don’t really know what for! Our life can be guided by certain quite unconscious and never examined presuppositions!
Gaining a reflective understanding of Christian worldview enables us to enter fully into the discovery of divine love. Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”
How many Christians in ministry spend quality time simply beholding the presence of God? Is God more important to us than ministry? Is God more important to us that evangelism and mission? Is the beauty of our relationship with our wife more important to us than our ministry?
This special woman who anointed the feet of Jesus, in opening her heart to pure love, saw God in Jesus. Seeing the wonder of God’s glory and feeling the wonder of God’s mercy and love, she never even thought to say sorry or plead for forgiveness. She was too far down in her life to try any religious tricks. She knew that, within her, there were no answers. But the presence of Jesus captivated her. She was so lost in the love of Jesus and in the vision of God’s purity and truth that her heart simply broke to pieces in a cloudburst of tears. She was totally overcome, transformed and anointed in God’s Spirit (yes, before Pentecost). Her spiritual lights were turned on and she saw God! Heart was plugged into heart. In a staggering moment she saw that God created us first for relationship. I think that is what the story is really about. Unlike Simon she had no religion to overcome.
So is relationship at the centre of our Christianity? Is relationship for the sake of relationship the cornerstone of our worldview? Nothing else will bring the full anointing of God’s Spirit upon us. Nothing else will bring spiritual authority to the church. I submit that Carroll is touching on the very reason why the church has so little credibility in today’s world.
Those who take time out to be reflective will discover a music to life that transcends the wonder of anything they have ever known! We must allow God, by his Spirit, to develop us in philosophical reflection! God wrote the New Testament in Greek and (I suggest) he
planted some of the first Gentile churches in the Greek culture because the Greek people were reflective. In the market place they would sit and talk for hours, in the ancient equivalent of today’s coffee shops. (The Greeks of course also worked!)
Above all else, Christianity means encounter with God. Knowledge without encounter means nothing. But, on the other hand, the most vivid encounter in the Spirit, without a God-given philosophy of life, leaves us almost stillborn. When we talk with people, what do we talk about the most? Do we empathise and discover the person in the person, and the wonders of God in the person? Or do we talk most about the things that we do (which of course need to be talked about too)?
Our Australian culture
The conductor of a well-known French symphony orchestra was asked (on ABC FM by Margaret Throsby) how he would like to live in Australia. He said (quite uncritically) that most Australians (including professionals) spend much of their spare time servicing their house, garden and cars. He owns none of these. He lives in a rented apartment in central Paris. Instead of spending their money on the facilities of a busy suburban culture, his wife and he relax and dine every night down on the boulevard with friends, rejoicing in people, life and creativity. He said that it is in this quietly reflective atmosphere that his music receives its soul and inspiration.
The meaning of life
What does Christ show you to be the first purpose of life? Yes one sentence that keeps coming back to me lately is the three-word sentence in 1 John 4: “God is love.” The verse doesn’t say “God loves”, which he does. Rather it says God is love. As we walk with Jesus and enter into the heart of God, so our heart becomes a little like God’s heart. How could a wonderful piece of music be born of anything but inspiration that comes from divine love?
So all creativity is meant to be inspired by the heart of God—everything from building houses to teaching to running a business or governing the nation. Whatever the practical outcomes—and there must be practical outcomes—nothing has ultimate meaning unless it is birthed in divine love and divine inspiration. Everything in life is meant to flow from our relationship to God! This is true biblical Theism. Talking even of the physical universe Colossians 1:17 says that, “in Christ all things consist.”
That is of course why 1 Corinthians 13 implies that what we do is not as important as who we are. In our Australian culture, many (but by no means all) Boomers (particularly men, and that is somewhat natural) find their identity in what they do. But many of the X generation, and more especially of the Y generation, have questioned this worldview. And, thinking of seniors, well, the standard ‘grace’ for food was often “Bless this food to our bodies, Lord, and us to your service!”, as if at any moment of the day life was first about service. In a course last year one student from overseas shared how in the church in which she grew up, Christianity, as she had heard it, was about two things, belief and service.
Yes, we are saved only ever by the grace of God, and through our personal belief in the death and resurrection of Christ. But the great commandment begins with the heart, and then adds mind, and soul (life) and strength. And John Carroll’s book The Western Dreaming is a wake up call, not only to the contemporary culture but also to the church. The Twentieth Century demythologised the heart of our culture. We no longer dreamt visions or saw beyond the stars. Let me tell you a story of a Year 11 student at a weekend Christian schools conference for 11 and 12 students.
At the end of an evening session I invited my group (we were looking at Christian spirituality and philosophy) to wander outside into the vast and beautiful grounds and just, individually, find a spot and do nothing! Next morning I invited some sharing. This Year 11 girl said:
It was really painful. I’ve had a very full year. I love activity, and, sitting there last night, I longed for something to do. I really hated doing nothing, and it got worse, but I was determined to stay there, doing absolutely nothing.
After a while I glanced up and, through the clearest air I’d ever known, I saw a sky like no sky I had seen before. I was overcome by the sheer beauty.
I so began to enjoy the wonder of it all that I could have stayed there for hours. To my amazement I was actually enjoying doing nothing. I had come through something like the pain of the long distance runner.
But then something even more amazing happened. As time went by, in the joy of the stillness, somehow my eyes went beyond the stars. God opened my spiritual eyes and—I saw God.
May I encourage you to stop and look up!
We can be so preoccupied as Christians that we clearly see neither God nor the people in people. And, because we sometimes have no philosophy, we simply get driven by the secular culture around us! So we must discover the wonder of stopping. We must look up. But, too, we must reflect upon life! We must become philosophical. We must inspire one another to reflect! As a Christian culture we must become more philosophical! And, as God has it, you and I now live in a world that is searching for meaning as never before. It is a culture too that is crying out for meaningful relationship, for genuine friendship. A new coffee shop is birthed every four days in Brisbane. In fact in the CBD alone there are one hundred—bustling with relationship. And, increasingly, movies (from Mr Holland’s Opus to Chocolat and beyond) are reflecting the worldview that, while achievement is essential, ultimately, relationship is more valuable than achievement.
Do you recall in Mr Holland’s Opus, this big-hearted music teacher frustrated because he could not help give and give his time to his students of music, even to the seemingly hopeless, yet, because of it, could never fulfil the ambition of his life to complete the writing of his orchestral symphony? Then you will remember that, some time after Mr Holland had to leave the school, he was invited back to hear an amazing orchestral performance. The story of the movie closed with the words from the students, “We are your opus!” This movie, like Chocolat, is typical of the emergent culture in Western cities.
The coffee shop culture only came to Brisbane in the 1960’s, but by the 1860’s in Vienna there were already one hundred coffee houses. By the end of the 19th Century—the finale of the Romantic and Idealistic periods in philosophy, literature, music and the arts—“the Viennese coffee house blossomed into a place where highlights in Austrian culture were written, conceived, drawn and discussed. In particular it was said of the Cafe Central that it was ‘not a coffee house but a worldview’.” (From Edition Skye, published by Felicia Oblegorski, Vienna)
But if you think some of this talk about ultimate meaning is fanciful, listen to Danah Zohar who lectures at Oxford University in their Strategic Leadership program. In a recent book called Spiritual Intelligence (London: Bloomsbury, 2000) Zohar says:
The major issue on people’s minds today is meaning. Many writers say the need for greater meaning is the crisis of our times. I sense this when I travel abroad each month, addressing audiences from countries and cultures all over the world. Wherever I go, when people get together over a drink or a meal, the subject turns to God, meaning, vision, values, spiritual longing. Many people today have achieved an unprecedented level of material well being. yet they feel they want more. Many speak of an emptiness [inside]. The ‘more’ that would fill the emptiness seldom has any connection with formal religion. Indeed most people seeking some spiritual fulfilment see no relation between their longing and formal religion.
What you see as the most important thing in life defines your worldview. Is it friendship with God? (Do you give God friendship?) Is it friendship with others? Is it your creativity? Is it your career? Is it your ministry? Yes, all of these things, and more, are vital. But the priorities you and I set day by day, and the order in which we place them, define our worldview.
Life demands the continual anointing of God’s Spirit. No amount of philosophy in the human sense will bring us to divine truth or divine love. No amount of unanointed reflection will take us anywhere. But because God is love and is truth, in his fellowship we can feel true love and in his fellowship we can see the truth behind all truths. Humanly, this will always remain a mystery. Our mind is like a magnificent violin. Of itself it cannot make music. But in the hands of an artist it expresses love and truth. The spirit within us, plugged into the Spirit of God, is the artist.
A practical definition of worldview
In our cities there are some very well known chains of hairdressing salons. The hairdressing leaders who run these groups of salons have a certain philosophy for recruiting and training staff.
Periodically a chain will advertise for applicants to attend a kind of “discovery” and “selection” week at their headquarters. On the first day the facilitators will divide, say, 100 candidates into small groups. Then one by one in each group the applicants will share where they are from, a brief story of their lives to date, the things in life that excite them most and their dream for their future. Then in their groups (perhaps over coffee) the girls will engage one another as they “discover” their newfound friends. The experienced facilitators will, in one day, select out those girls who enjoy people. Of course we all enjoy people, in a sense. But the hairdressing leaders are looking for those who spontaneously empathise, that is, those who enjoy other people for themselves, that is, those who find it a joy to “discover” the wonders of other people and therefore who make those other people feel good. In other words, the hairdressing leaders are looking for those candidates who spontaneously and unselfconsciously love other people. This is the first criterion in selecting candidates for training.
Tuesday begins with those candidates who have passed the first and most important test. The facilitators explain that the salons are not first about cutting hair. They are first about relating to people, about giving something to people. Then on this second day the facilitators, through a new series of activities, “pick out” those girls who spontaneously love being creative. There is still no emphasis on ability in cutting styling hair. On this second day the leaders want to know who spontaneously loves playing music, or arranging flowers, or designing clothes, or who spontaneously loves the skill and beauty of playing tennis. The facilitators have ways of selecting those applicants for whom creativity has meaning in itself. They are looking for people who just have to create, people who spontaneously love being creative.
So summing up so far, applicants who naturally empathise with others and whose hearts also love creativity, these people will make good hairdressers for the salons—provided they pass one more test.
In the third stage of the week, the job of the facilitators is to discover who amongst the remaining candidates prefers tennis doubles to singles, who prefers playing flute in an ensemble rather than playing as a soloist—in other words, who, amongst all the candidates, is more excited by participatory creativity than by being alone in creativity. The sound that an ensemble creates is far more than the addition of the individual sounds of the instruments. Music goes into a higher dimension as instruments of different tones play in harmony. And the leaders in hairdressing know that when people are happy together in creativity, an atmosphere is generated that is uniquely wonderful..
So, in the way I have described, a selection is made of hairdressing candidates. The chosen ones are then taught the salon worldview—and hairdressing. The salons are not first about hairdressing; they are first about people. I am not saying that leaders’ eyes are not on money. Of course they are in business. (And business is as much in promoting the purchase of hairstyling products as it is in cutting, shaping and colouring hair.) But these leaders in their field see that business is more than money. Another “get rich” book came out in 1999 by an extremely successful businessman, Brian Sher, called What Rich People Know and Desperately Want to Keep a Secret (Sydney: Pan Macmillan), in which we learn that, if money is our first goal, we will never make much money! There has to be a higher purpose.
The approach of the hairdressing leaders I have described represents a growing awareness in Western society, and certainly in Australia, that there is a higher dimension to life than what modernism and postmodernism proclaim.
Let’s now think of the three things for which the leaders I’ve talked about are looking for in their candidates. First a heart love for others, a true sense of empathy. When a woman comes into a hairdressing salon, what is she looking for? The contemporary woman, of whatever age, is looking for more than a hairstyle. She enjoys unwinding. She enjoys being able to talk with someone who takes an interest in her, who likes her for herself, someone too who is outside her “circle”. She also enjoys being pampered. She enjoys the atmosphere, where all the girls are having “fun” in what they are doing. They enjoy life; they enjoy styling hair.
In short, they enjoy looking after you! They appreciate you as a person, not as a mere customer. You are welcome.
When a girl or woman first enters a good salon, a hairdresser will approach her, introduce herself and offer her coffee and a comfortable place to sit. Then, in an empathic but very unthreatening way, the girl will ask her a few key questions. “Have you had a good week?” After a short time the hairdresser has a “picture” of what makes this woman tick.
When the client comes to the chair, the hairdresser asks her about a style. If it’s her first time in the salon, she is probably looking for an “uplift” from what she has been getting. She might say, “I want something different, but I don’t know what!” The hairdresser (who knows something about her by now) will open a book of styles, flip the pages and say, “How do you like this?” Chances are the woman will say, “That’s fantastic; let’s try it!” During the process of having her hair done, the conversation (never imposed) develops. The client feels “cared” for. She feels that somebody values her. Many women in our society, though they have family and may have many friends, are inwardly lonely.
Finally the client looks at the finished style. It’s transforming. She steps outside feeling like a new person.
A holistic philosophy
Now these hairdressing leaders may or may not know it, but they are seeking to express some of the foundational keys in the biblical worldview! Implicitly they acknowledge that the first purpose in life is relationship—a giving of one’s self to others. Secondly, the purpose of life includes a giving of one’s self to the creating of things that are good and true and beautiful. Thirdly, the unity of hearts is a special joy in creativity. And these three things cover exactly what Genesis shows to be the purpose of life.!
I am not of course saying that God’s anointing rests on the salons I have described. But, through what John Stott and others call the ‘common grace’ of God (as distinct from redeeming grace), there is some measure of spiritual light in everyone born into this world. (John 1:9)
I have taken some time to open up part of the worldview of some significant hairdressing businesses. Such a worldview we don’t always teach in practical terms in our churches! It gives us a real life illustration of a major part of the heart of the biblical philosophy.
Our secular roles on earth are not simply “stewardship”, though they involve that. At a higher level, all creativity—even the driving of a truck—is a ministry of love to God and to others.
Spirituality in secular dimensions
In her 1998 book An Authentic Life (ABC Books) Caroline Jones records the most significant of her Search for Meaning interviews. Very early in the book come these remarkable but deceptively simple words from Australian writer and cartoonist, Michael Leunig:
I watched a man making a pavement in Melbourne in a busy city street: the concrete was poured and he had his little trowel and there was traffic roaring around, there were cranes and machines going, and this man was on his hands and knees lovingly making a beautiful little corner on the kerb. That’s a sort of love and that’s important, that’s very, very important. That man’s job is important and he’s a bit of a hero for doing it like that. So that’s why love is important, because love involves that as much as it involves what happens between people. It’s about one’s relationship between oneself and the world and its people and its creatures and its plants, its ideas. (An Authentic Life, p2,3)
It seems that the man with the trowel rightly saw what he did as a celebration of life. You and I know that all true creativity is a celebration of—God. This is a form of love. Ecclesiastes 3:11 states that God has set eternity in our hearts. What does this mean? As well as living in the space-time world, we are already, every day, connected with eternity, through God’s Spirit!
When we love a beautiful flower we are actually loving not only the flower, but also God in the flower. As in speaking of eternity in time, this is metaphorical language, but do you get the message? When the man with the trowel loves the beauty of what he is doing, he is loving God in that beauty. A hairdresser said to me just the other day, “I like cutting hair!” Although this gifted hairdresser may not know it, this is spirituality.
So while all of our creative joys and responsibilities on earth are part of our stewardship, they are actually more than that. Ultimately our creativity is part of our love for God. In the highest sense, all secular work is born out of relationship. And this explains why our huge corporations based on humanism are falling apart! And, although Christian, some churches are now suffering from the same disconnectedness.
The prophetic voice of the Church
Professor David Tacey, another academic from La Trobe University, in his 2001 book ReEnchantment, challenges the church to see that it will never impact the world for as long as its philosophy contains a humanistic dimension. He says that people do not want to hear about a God “up there” unless they can see a God “in here” (in our heart).
I submit that the fragmentation around us in today’s world is a wake up call for the church to see that everything in life must be born out of relationship. Proverbs 11:11 declares that the lives of those in tune with God bring God’s blessing “upon the city”. As God’s people walk with God and allow a biblical philosophy to dictate priorities, then, and then alone, will revival come upon the church. It is our hearts and our lives that hold the key to revival, not our ministry (much as ministry is needed). Out of revival in the church would come a new prophetic voice to the nation.
With the new yearning for spirituality that our culture is embracing, Australia could see a revival in our nation transcending anything we could imagine!
Sandra Godde is the Founder and Director of “Excelsia Dance” based in Brisbane, Australia. “Excelsia Dance” is comprised of a Dance School and a Dance Company that seeks to bring heaven to earth and to become a prophetic voice to the nations.
I The Challenge
II A Call to Action
III The Prophetic Task
IV Strategies for War: A Battle Plan
V Barriers to Overcome as Artists who seek God’s Glory
VI The Final Battle for the Arts
I The Challenge
Where is Christ’s voice in the arts and culture? Who is bringing the Word of the Lord to this generation? Where are the Christian artists, visionaries, film-makers, musicians, actors, dancers, and television producers?
Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how will it be made salty again? It is good for nothing anymore, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men” (Matt 5:13, see also Mark 9:50). Beloved, it is time to know the majesty, the sovereignty, the creativity and the power of our awesome God.
We are in great need of leaders who have a vision for the kingdom of God, a vision that inspires the creation of images and artistic works that will lead people toward Jesus Christ. Jesus tells us, “You are the light of the world” (Matt 5:14, see also verse 15,16). The level of peace, joy, compassion, or justice in our world depends very much on whether God’s people are showing it to the world. All of the arts have tremendous subliminal power to affect cultures and shape history.
The church has, for the most part, underestimated and misunderstood the importance of the arts as a medium for the Spirit of God to usher in his kingdom. It is God’s ultimate purpose to bring all kingdoms (even the performing arts arena) under his rulership. Scripture tells us “You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him” (Heb 2:8). And God promises us that he will reign over all things in the future: “the kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he will reign forever and ever” (Rev 11: 15b).
Artistic expression is a part of life. Art in all its forms is pervasive and an essential element of our environment. The works of significant artists are powerful and influential. They often guide and instruct the culture in which they are birthed. Artistic works can weaken or destroy the civilisation in which they were created.
The arts can enlarge or trivialise the imagination. Therefore the arts are not neutral; they impact us, and we need to be aware of what they are doing. Art inescapably affects us. Even unworthy forms are always making their impact on society. So what are we, as believers, going to do about this fact? Our place as Christians in this world is meant to be an active one that affects our generation.
We are in a battle for the hearts and minds of people on a global level. We are being bombarded on every front, especially through the media, with images and ideas that are anti-God. Have you ever asked yourself why Harry Potter and endless movies about the supernatural are allowed to take such a stronghold? Has the false theology of religiosity deterred the artist and the visionary from the midst of contemporary Christian culture, leaving big holes for the enemy to stake his territory? Have we made the mistake of defining ourselves only through negatives? What do we stand for? Are we providing a true creative alternative to the culture of our day?
II. A Call to Action
God has called us to redefine the enemies’ boundaries. “The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8b). We are to be on the offensive in establishing God’s kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Song, dance, drama and the visual arts are capable of being some of the greatest offensive weapons we have in the body of Christ. In a highly audiovisual generation that is becoming increasingly multimedia oriented in its language, God desires to pour out his divine creativity to captivate the imaginations of this generation. He needs willing and devoted vessels to do so. Worshipping warriors are required for the job. Prophetic evangelism is the way of the future.
We have a responsibility to participate in the affairs of humanity in a positive way, to the glory of our Father. The world should be aware of our presence in the earth (Matt 5: 16) and reap benefits from our very existence as Christ’s ambassadors on earth. The promise to Abraham was that he would become a great and mighty nation and in him all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen 18:18).
So we must ask ourselves, how are we serving our generation and leading the way to life and godliness through Jesus Christ? We must understand that there is a spiritual element to all human affairs and history. When God’s people are apathetic and do not intercede or stand up for what is right, evil is allowed to gain control of a society.
As Christians we are to be concerned about the fundamental issues of life and the moral and physical condition of our society. What was going on in the spiritual realm during the tragic events of September 11, 2001? What was God saying in the aftermath when many stopped to listen? What is the Lord saying today – to you, your family, your community, and your nation? Beloved, we need to know something of the heart of God regarding these issues if we seek to be relevant to those around us.
III The Prophetic Task
The prophetic task of the arts is to break the silence and speak the truth. It is to let the world know that Christ is alive and he is not silent. So, what does God require of us? Micah 6:8 tells us “…. to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God”. By our obedience we can help establish justice. By our boldness and our devotion to Christ we can unveil injustice and oppression and expose social, political and religious evils.
We can preach repentance to win people back into right relationships with God, and with one another. We can speak of his endless love and mercy. The prophetic task also involves energising God’s people by offering them God’s version of reality: His perspective is the ultimate reality.
We can only know this by His Spirit and through prayer and the study of His Word. We can show God’s possibilities through faith; offer God’s hope in hopeless situations; and encourage people to walk in new levels of obedience and abundant life. By following the ways of God there is indeed the possibility of real justice, love, acceptance, forgiveness and healing. There is a great need to restore God’s people to fullness of life and implant a living hope within them that will withstand all the storms of this life.
The means of mass communication is expanding and what is transmitted through the air waves is vying for your attention. We need to continually pray that God would raise up an army of creative artists and visionaries to lead the way back to the Lord and to conquer and outwit the enemy in his plan to steal the hearts and minds of this generation. We have a mandate to be the voice of God and speak his truth to our own generation. Our message must embody what God is doing now and proclaim what God is saying to this generation. His love endures forever and His character is utterly consistent but He is also creative and unpredictable in the way He reveals Himself. We need to be constantly in prayer to know the heart and mind of God and to be able to know and implement His strategies.
The arts can indeed be on the front-line in global evangelism, winning hearts and minds to Jesus Christ. The enemy of our souls understands the importance of creativity and uses it to compel mankind to rebel against God. Are we going to allow millions of young people to fall under the spell of the Dark Prince? How can we prevent this? We need a vision of the infinitely, superior, awesome Creator who sings a much sweeter and deeper and purer song to captivate our hearts and our souls.
Beloved, has not God promised his children power to transform their society by calling into question the world’s ideas and philosophies (Rom 12:2)? We have been given spiritual weaponry to bring down every thought and idea that exalts itself above the knowledge of God. We need a vision of the awesome, loveliness of Christ; the earth shattering power of a holy God; and the universal power of the cross of calvary. Where there is no vision, the people perish (Prov 29: 18).
The eternal plan of God is the summing up of all things in Christ, things in the heavens and things upon the earth (Eph 1 :9-10). In the times to come, creativity and boldness will exemplify the front-line in the battle for mankind. And it will be the people who know their God that shall be strong and do great exploits to the glory of God (Daniel 11 :32b). The reward of the harvest will not be for those that sleep or doubt or criticise but for those who turn to God with a glowing faith and allow Him to be all in all.
IV Strategies for War: A Battle Plan
Our objective is to take the gospel to all people throughout the world and to make disciples of all nations. We must constantly refocus our attention to make sure we are on track. We are to win people to Christ and help them become obedient to all that God has commanded. Battles are won when we concentrate our efforts rather than dissipate our energies in too many directions. So seek God for your place in His plan and then be careful to obey all that He shows you. Remember that God has a body of believers and we are all to play a significant part in His overall plan.
Security involves knowing about your enemy and having continual protection against him. It also means having a final line of defence past which the enemy cannot penetrate. For us, this is the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony. I believe there are very specific powers and principalities that have controlled the performing arts arena for a long time, and we need to identify what these are and advance forward to conquer these ruling authorities and dislodge them from the high places of power.
We can’t afford to waste time and energy fighting the wrong enemy, for example, criticizing and competing with one another. It’s time to know the real enemy and expose him, for our fight is not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers in the spiritual realm (Eph 6:12).
V Barriers to Overcome as Artists who seek God’s Glory
The following ideas are taken from Scott MacLeod’s book entitled Snakes in the Lobby in which he documents a vision the Lord revealed to him regarding the state of the Christian Music Industry and the powers that were seeking to weaken their witness to the world. I believe they apply equally to the whole performing arts arena. Let’s now look at the enemies of our soul with the purpose of identifying and uprooting that which is holding us back from being all that God intended for us to be as artists. In order to reflect the glory of our Father we need to be cleansed, purified, and yielded to God so we can mirror His eternal nature.
Scott MacLeod’s vision entailed a lobby full of Christian artists talking and networking with each other and also showed a plethora of snakes which represented different powers or spirits that were present, drawing people away from a pure devotion to Christ.
The largest snake was SELF PROMOTION. This snake inspired his victims with a hunger to be bigger and bigger. His influence seemed to be ubiquitous. This could be otherwise stated as SELF INTEREST, an excessive longing to be known and recognised by others. It is the main barrier between us and God’s kingdom. It is the striving to establish our own kingdom instead of building God’s kingdom. I believe that to overcome this very deep, magnetic pull that we all struggle with, requires a very deep and real knowledge of God’s love for us personally. When we understand who he is and how infinitely superior he is to us, we can rest in his love for it is more than sufficient for us, and we are content to be hid in the beloved, and then we concentrate fully on building his kingdom, having been fully convinced of his worthiness and greatness. Our own need is met in him.
The second snake to appear was LUST. This was the charmer, the chameleon, changing colours and appearance according to the desires of those under its power. This snake had a hypnotic quality, drawing in its victims by deceptive flattery with the promise of gaining attention and power for themselves by drawing upon his power. Again, this snake appeals to the self-conceit in all of us and must be resisted by reckoning ourselves dead to self and self interest.
The next two snakes were intertwined with each other and they were PRIDE and INSECURITY. These spirits are characteristically found together and cause their victims to vacillate between the two.
One minute they are puffed up with pride and self importance and the next they are wallowing around in the dust with a woeful self-image. Both extremes are ungodly and lack humility. These spirits of pride and insecurity bring misery to those ensnared by them and unfortunately it is hard to break loose from them because pride won’t allow the victim to admit any kind of weakness, insecurity, or feeling of failure. Humility and contriteness of heart is the key to deliverance from these strongholds. Humbling yourself before Almighty God will allow you to receive a healthy self-image based on God’s Word and a reverential fear and respect for The Lord of Hosts.
The next snake to appear was THE FEAR OF PEOPLE. This spirit caused its victims to only be concerned about who was who and how they were being perceived by others. It is a very nervous and agitated spirit that ensnares the one it holds in its power. It is a spirit of bondage that leads to death as the fear of man prevents us from rightly fearing God. It often causes its victims to be paralysed with fear. The remedy to the fear of man is to fear God – to have a revelation of the holiness of God that causes you to reverence him.
On the roof of the lobby was yet another snake called JEALOUSY. This is the spirit of envy that causes its victim to bum up inside with fury and covetousness. It attacks the high places because it wants these high places for itself. It spurs one on with a competitive spirit which is contrary to the spirit of Christ.
There were other smaller snakes hovering around the periphery of the room. They were bitterness, criticism, unforgiveness, self-pity, and self-righteousness. All these spirits cause spiritual blindness and make us helpless and vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. This vision was revealed to show us how we all unknowingly can fall under the powers of the Great Serpent.
The most respectable snake to appear was the SPIRIT OF RELIGION. This snake had a thirst for power and control and included many of the other qualities of pride, insecurity, lust, jealously, self-promotion, fear of man etc. They were all hidden in this big white snake. It is the spirit of self-righteousness and religious pride, an insidious and deceptive power that creeps into the church from time to time. Unchecked this spirit will lead to a spirit of murder. It causes people to do evil or tolerate it, and all along believe they are doing right and even doing God’s service.
Later the SPIRIT OF DEATH made an appearance and caused its victims to be overcome with despair and hopelessness. It causes people to give up, to lose faith, and can result in suicide or other self-destructive behaviour. It can only be overcome with the blood of Jesus and his resurrection power.
Now, we are all probably familiar with these spirits because they have sought to overcome us all at various times. God, in His mercy, reveals these things to us that we might understand and know the poverty of our own spirits and turn to him with utter dependence and reverence. Our gracious Lord reveals these things in our own hearts first, so we can uncover all that is contrary to faith and walk in his light which is the truth that will set us free. God’s conviction comes so as we can choose him and be free from our sin, our self-life, and this world. Being cleansed by his blood and appropriating the power of the cross delivers us from all this wickedness and anti-God sentiments that try to control us.
Humility is something we are required to cultivate. Don’t ask God to humble you – humble yourself under His mighty hand. Humility leads to grace and grace leads to real love and compassion for others who are still spiritually blind. The true light of God’s piercing Holy Spirit renders all other powers inoperative. These snakes are not afraid of you when you are hiding in your own darkness and deception but when you confess the sin in your heart and turn from it, God’s holy presence takes over possession of your soul and sin cannot survive in that environment. Then, you are equipped and prepared to face the outside enemies.
Serpents don’t engage with you in battle when they see you are properly clothed in the armour of God. They are scared of the blood of Jesus and the Word of God spoken with faith. Your faith and fearlessness is terror to them because they know of their condemnation by the righteous judge.
Therefore, to walk in the authority needed to resist evil, one must be fully surrendered to God.
Let love and truth conquer you first before you venture out to conquer spiritual territory for the cause of Christ. You cannot do it on your own. You cannot do it without Him. Learn to allow God to live in you and make his abode in you. Learn to love as the Father loves. Can you love your enemies yet? Can you bless those who curse you? Can you forgive those who have offended you? Are you careful to preserve the bonds of fellowship within the body of Christ? Don’t attempt to do the work of God without the power of God. Let Christ have his way deep in your soul, transforming your character into His likeness, and equipping you with power from on high.
VI The Final Battle for the Arts
The present reality is that the prince of darkness is operating like the Pied Piper in the performing arts realm. He is the power behind a large portion of the music and video industry seeking to shape people’s perception of reality according to his anti-God sentiments and his hatred for the saints of God. There are many ensnared by the hypnotic trance of this prince that was once the covering worship angel of God. But now Lucifer has become Satan and his perverted gifts have brought him down to earth with a fury. His goal is to obliterate anything precious to Almighty God who has become his arch enemy.
Many follow God’s enemy, singing the songs and doing the dances of Babylon. The ways of the world are opposite to the ways of God. If you love the world, the love of the Father is not in you (1 John 2:15). Even many of the sons and daughters of God have chased after the creativity of the world and are now under the curse of the prince of the power of the air. They have become the tail and not the head. They have stolen glory for themselves and not given glory to God. They have used their gifts for their own gain, worshipping and serving worldly things like prestige, popularity, money, music and dance. They have coveted the praises of people instead of the approval of God. They have had divided hearts. They have left their first love. And God is grieved.
God is looking for worshippers in spirit and truth. His eyes roam the whole earth looking for hearts that are perfect toward him. The Pied Piper is hungry to keep his spiritual territory because he knows the tremendous power of music and the arts.
Beloved, the Lord is calling us to “come out of her”. The Lord is calling His artists to come out of Babylon, “the ways of this world”, and tap into the infinite, creativity of the true and living God.
The Lord is calling all those who have ears to hear to stand before the presence of the Living God, and drink in his revelation and wisdom and inspiration to take the Word of the Lord and feed it to the people, lest they perish under the spell of the Dark Prince. God is looking for people to be his voice. Are you willing? I believe we have to understand what it means to fear God, to walk in his wisdom, to hear his voice, and to speak it boldly and without fear.
The Holy Spirit is wanting to inspire his people with songs and dances of deliverance, healing, and comfort. When we tap into the inspiration that comes from heaven through prayer, our creative works bring life, and connect people spirit to spirit. People can then taste and see that the Lord is good.
All of creation groans for the sons and daughters of God to arise and take their proper authority in the earth by allowing the Lordship of Christ to rule their lives and take over their wills. True worship involves all of our beings and all of our faculties. It is a matter of Lordship – unashamedly declaring Christ as Lord of all. We are transformed as we worship. The Holy Spirit of God brings genuine love in our hearts for others and a sense of community and harmony with one another.
When we seek God for our creativity and inspiration, he charges us with new energy; when we wait upon the Lord, he renews our strength and causes us to rise up on the wings of an eagle. The song and movement of praise and rejoicing in heaven is contagious. There is no fear, no self-consciousness, no inhibitions or bondage. Praise frees us.
Spiritual strongholds are demolished, walls of hostility and division fall, resentment, bitterness and unforgiveness cannot breathe in the atmosphere of heaven and praise. God restores our soul. We begin to laugh and dance and sing like carefree children again. Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17).
God is calling forth an army of worshipping warriors who have first conquered the battle in their own hearts and unequivocally given the reigns of their lives to Christ and are ready and willing to follow the Master’s bidding. Soldiers must be obedient. They must be trained, disciplined, and ready to follow commands. The call comes forward from heaven “Let my people go” so they might worship me in spirit and truth.
We must disentangle ourselves from this world, from self, and from sin and be wholly aligned with the purposes of the Most High God. Then a powerful and unified army of holy warriors will emerge all over this earth to cover it with the Word of God and the good news of the gospel. Then he will Come! Christ will return. But not before his gospel is spread all over the earth.
Music and art are primary ways of communicating within our culture. Art is a language that transcends barriers of age, religion, sex, politics, etc., and reaches to the heart. It is a language that uses images, symbols, colour and sound to evoke universal responses from our psyche. We cannot afford to dismiss this means of communication. Our enemy certainly has not.
The anointed arts are one of the most powerful evangelism tools the Lord has given us. May his artists, filled with the inspiration of heaven, the power of the Spirit, and the glory of God resting in their characters, carry the message of the gospel and the presence of our Lord to every corner of this earth. Who will stand and volunteer for the job?
Reference: MacLeod, Scott. 1998. Snakes in ihe Lobby. Morning Star Publications, Charlotte, NC. U.S.A.
The great Christian revolutions come not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when somebody takes radically something that was always there –
H. Richard Neibuhr
Challenges facing the church, its leadership and each of us, have always been there – in Scripture, in Jesus’ call and commands, and in the Spirit’s persistent regenerating and renewing of people and communities.
One of the great challenges facing Christians is how we understand and exercise leadership. We all lead. It may be in the home, with our children or youth, in the community, and in the church. Leadership in the church is not just from the platform or pulpit. We’re all involved, and can all take initiatives such as contacting people by phone, over coffee, in home groups or in a huge range of activities such as taking food to the sick or bereaved.
Jesus demonstrated and insisted on servant leadership. To lead is to serve. We lead by serving. Kingdom leadership is fundamentally different from leadership in society. Jesus emphasised this when James and John wanted recognition or prominence (Mark 10:35-45). How do we demonstrate kingdom leadership here and now?
The timely, significant articles in this issue of the Renewal Journal explore some of these challenges in contemporary ministry facing us in the church.The articles were presented and discussed as papers in 2001 at the first annual Contemporary Ministry Issues Conference hosted by the School of Ministries of Christian Heritage College at Citipointe International Christian Outreach Centre, Mansfield, Brisbane.
This conference demonstrated many responses to current challenges. Keen to interact, teachers, students and visitors packed the seminar lounge at Rivers Café, an integral part of Citipointe Christian Outreach Centre at Mansfield. All the conference speakers are involved in leadership and ministry, not stuck in libraries. Most of them are so ministry and people-focused that their research is constantly tested in the lively interface of practice and theory.
Irene Brown examines the transforming power of the kingdom within: the kingdom of God is within you. We can be liberated from the prevailing bondage to Christian law, and made free to really love and serve one another. Jesus insisted on that as the true mark of his followers: “By this shall everyone know that you are my disciples, if you have love for another.” Irene emphasizes that approach in her Christian counselling courses.
Jeannie Mok challenges churches in multi-cultural Australia to embrace our changing context with courage and sensitivity. Our ethnocentric pride or prejudice can increase barriers between people when the churches should lead the way as radical bridge-building communities of compassion and equality. Jeannie co-pastors the multi-ethnic International City Church in Brisbane and is principal of the Asian Pacific Institute which offers a range of multicultural courses. These include the pioneering Pentecostal external studies from Manchester University in England to masters level.
Sue Fairley tackles some sacred cows enshrined in our church traditions. The place of women in ministry and leadership raises temperatures all over the world. Tradition easily suppresses fresh movements of the Spirit who calls and liberates women as well as men to be leaders, missionaries, pioneers, and equal partners in ministry. Many traditions need to be challenged, and Sue does so in her ministry as Principal of Trinity Theological College in the Uniting Church in Queensland. Her article may surprise you!
Susan Hyatt reports on a significant international conference on women and religions. She emphasizes a return to a biblical pattern of equality in ministry and service in her writings and speaking, including ministry with her husband in seminars and publications. Susan’s report provides further insights into the place of women in Pentecostal and charismatic ministry in addition to those quoted by Sue Fairley in her article.
Mark Setch, senior pastor of a progressive Uniting Church in Brisbane, applies his doctoral research on leadership to ministry. He takes seriously Jesus’ command to make disciples – not just make church members, pew sitters, or meeting attenders. Mark is also pro-active in united prayer and ministry among pastors and churches in the Redcliffe area of Brisbane where some leaders pray together regularly, some churches now gather for combined services, and some pastors exchange pulpits.
Sam Hey has been researching and teaching about biblical renewal and revival movements which confront the secularising pressures on all Christian institutions. He applauds Harvey Cox’s conversion from The Secular City thinking of the sixties to the Fire from Heaven thinking of the nineties! A longer version of Sam’s article is available in the Contemporary Ministry Issues Conference Papers, 2001 ($20 including postage). There he gives a slice of his current Ph.D. research with 80 footnotes. Here we reduced that paper considerably, with only 30 footnotes!
Global Reports continue to highlight current developments in revival worldwide and the Book Reviews cover three author-published books which all contain detailed discussions of their renewal and revival themes.
This issue of the Renewal Journal provides inspiring, informative articles which we pray will help you understand and embrace what the Spirit is saying to the contemporary church.