From the Archives: Why the Church Needs to Embrace Change

Last Sunday, Peter Tsukahira preached an awesome message on Change, which really resonated with me. I will post my thoughts on that shortly. In the meantime, here is a post I wrote some time ago about the need for change.

People often ask me: wouldn’t world missions and evangelism be so much easier if Jesus would just show up in person like He did two thousand years ago? He would walk around, do miracles, perform signs and wonders and preach the Word. And wouldn’t His effectiveness be multiplied given that He can now access technology that He didn’t have all those years ago, like the internet and podcasts and Twitter?

I actually think the answer is “no”. If someone showed up in the flesh proclaiming themselves to be God incarnate, your cynicism would likely dismiss them outright. You would say “God wouldn’t look like that”. You would have a certain expectation of His appearance or His status.

It’s just like the Lakeland Outpouring. When I first saw footage of it, I thought: “God can’t be in this. Look at the preacher. He looks like a bikie. And is he punching some old guy in the gut when he should be praying for the guy’s healing?” And we think, “maybe it’s just all hype. Everyone is caught up in the hysteria of it all, but it’s not a real revival.”

In fact, didn’t Jesus face a similar type of opposition when He appeared on earth? The religious establishment had for a long time believed that (in their interpretation of Scripture) Jesus would come as a political figure to free the Jewish nation from Roman rule. They did not expect that a King could be born in a manger, let alone grow up as a carpenter. And then to die on the cross? No way! Jesus could not possibly have been the prophesied Messiah.

And yet (for those us who are born again), we realise that in hindsight, the religious establishment had got it all wrong.

I am reading my signed copy of Frank Viola’s Revise Us Again, a brilliant little thesis on why we need to revise the “Christian script” from which we live.

Here is a pivotal point that Viola makes: “The Lord Jesus Christ will end up coming to us in a way that makes it easy for us to reject Him.”

And Viola says:

We all wish to cling to the Lord that we know now. We all wish to hold on to the Christ that has been revealed to ustoday. But mark my words: He will come to us in a way that we do not expect – through people who we’re prone to ignore and inclined to write off.

Perhaps they don’t talk our religious language. Perhaps they aren’t theologically sophisticated. Perhaps they don’t use our vocabulary. Perhaps they don’t share our jargon or parrot our religious idioms.

And so we cling fast to the Lord that we recognise – receiving only those who talk our language, use our jargon, and employ our catchphrases – and all along we end up turning the Lord Jesus Christ away….

What then does our Lord do when we fail to receive Him when He comes to us in an unexpected way? He moves on. And the revelation we have of Hm ceases to grow.

We see through a glass dimly. No one has a monopoly on revelation. And revelation is just that: it is fleeing, momentary and time-bound. Once it is recorded, set in script and written about, by definition, it soon ceases to be a revelation. In due course, that revelation fades, just like the glory began to fade from Moses’ face.

Paul exhorts us in 2 Corinthians 3:13 that we should not be like Moses, “who put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away”.

So we need to learn to embrace others and the revelation of Christ given to those who are outside our circle. It takes the whole body of Christ (the entire church) to fully represent Christ on this earth. We cannot continue to ignore other parts of the body because they are different. We need them precisely because they are different and fulfill the functions which our part of the body cannot fulfill. True unity embraces our diversity.

And we need to keep in step with the Spirit, not camping around the wonderful theologies and methods of yesteryear, although they were good, but to pursue fresh revelation, fresh insights. That is all part of growing as a church, realising that what we have seen so far is only a part revelation, and that there is more to come. If we fail to embrace change, we will cease to grow; we will stagnate.

Jesus was a revolutionary and we need to capture that revolutionary spirit to advance His kingdom here on earth. We need to embrace change; lest Jesus comes in a way we don’t expect and He passes us by.

Hillsong Highlights – Day 3

Today’s conference for me was quite a definitive one. I felt God speak to me very clearly about commitment to His cause.

This morning Bill Hybels shared on tests of leadership. Test 4 was the grander vision test. As leaders we need to give those we lead a grander vision than they have seen so far. Test 5 is about whether the vision is so consuming that we would be prepared to pay the price to run after it.

Hybels shared about how his father had set up a succession plan for Hybels to take over the family business. Instead, Hybels was so gripped by what could be done through a properly functioning Acts 2 church that he gave it all up to start a church. His dad made him sign over all the shares in the company. He said it was one of the things in which he experienced his dad’s disappointment. His dad passed away two years later, never to see the fruit of Hybels’ ministry.

Hybels recalled that two weeks ago, he was baptising converts in his church. It was something he never got sick of. In fact, he still bawls like a baby when he does baptisms. And his lay leader (a businessman) looks over and says “sign me up for another 20 years of this”.

Then this afternoon Louie Giglio ran a masterclass entitled “Being a Visionary Architect”. He shared that people are either leading a vision or under a vision. He shared that we need to be faithful to a vision until God releases us from it. Because you never know when you will hit the multiplication zone.

I’ve gone through a difficult season of uncertainty the last few months in terms of career paths and decisions. God finally led me to a place where I could take up a role to direct and influence the culture of my firm but also to fulfill my role in church ministry. Why not both? I was finally at peace with the decision.

In the context of what I’ve shared above, I’m gripped by a grander vision. Of seeing work as worship and bringing the presence of God to the marketplace. But also to keep running hard in music ministry, to give all I’ve got to see my worship director reach his fullest potential and for our church’s worship to transition to a higher level. Today, I feel that commitment to the cause galvanise like never before. I’m all in!

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Hillsong Highlights – Days 1 and 2

It’s been an amazing couple of days at Hillsong Conference. Amazing and exhausting. I was hoping to get a bit of time between sessions to process and blog some of things that God has been speaking to me but the schedule is way too packed. Either you are running between sessions or queuing up to get into the rallies.

So I’ll probably do some short highlights this week before expanding on some of the points later.

On Day 1, Steve Furtick shared on 2 Cor 3:12ffs on Unveiled Vision. A profound statement he made was that Moses had kept the veil on his face so the Israelites couldn’t see that the glory was fading. We often choose to live in the things of the past by memorialising the past more fondly than it deserves. I think it’s important for us to honour the past, but keep looking towards the future.

This morning, Day 2, Brian Houston shared on instilling culture. I’m very keen now on living out and setting a culture in my ministry (with Dave) and my workplace in this next lap. Culture attaches to everything. You get what you allow. Culture gives everyone authority to speak into each other’s lives so we can align with the bigger picture!

This evening Bill Hybels (who always reminds me of Ps Benny!) spoke a simple message about setting a God-first schedule in our lives. He says that our schedule is less about what we want to get done and much more about who we want to become.

There’s still so much to unpack. I can’t wait to see what God has store over the next three days!

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We are Called God’s Delight

I heard Mike Bickle share this today from Isaiah 62:4

No longer will they call you Deserted, or name your land Desolate, but you will be called Hephzibah, and your land Beulah, for the Lord will take delight in you and your land will be married.

Hephzibah means “my delight is in her”. God loves the world, but He likes – he delights – in his children. And he doesn’t wait for us to grow to maturity before He likes us, He likes us even as we grow into maturity. In fact, our knowing He delights in us is what helps us grow.

Know that you are not only loved, but that God actually likes you!

God’s Glory on Our City

ForrestPlace

Yesterday was Easter Sunday, the day the church celebrates Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It was also a pretty full-on day for me. I had the honour of leading worship at Faith Community Church’s Easter Service, serving with Fantastic Team 3 which is always a joy for me. For the first time in recent memory, our church also had a smoke machine. It was awesome (but not in the frightening sense per Ps Benny).

I then rushed off to do a sound check in Forrest Place, right in the retail heart of our city for the Easter Awakening event, where I was privileged to be one of the worship leaders for the gathering. Looking out from the stage, watching people walk by doing their afternoon shopping or just sitting outside sipping coffee, with buildings all around, I again imagined what it would be like if God’s glory came upon our city. This is something I have been passionate about for some time. See some of my earlier posts on this:

Worship in the Heart of the Perth Cultural Precinct?

Worship in the Heart of the Perth Cultural Precinct? – Part 2

The Transformative Power of a God Idea

Since I wrote about this over a year ago, a lot of people have asked me when it’s going to happen? Honestly, it’s hard to put a timeframe on it. I suppose the Holy Spirit will engineer the right circumstances and the right people to get on board. I’m usually pretty impulsive when it comes to decision-making, because sometimes you’ve just got to do something and not think too hard about it. Over-thinking often leads to paralysis. But other times, things have to be birthed in their natural course of time and not be, as Shakespeare says, “from the womb unduly ripped”.

But yesterday, I began to imagine again what it would be like if we had a full-blown worship event right in the heart of the city. Not performance art, not creative displays, but just worship. Of course elements of art and creativity will feature, but they won’t be primarily directed at a human audience, just at God.

Isaiah 60 (The Message) says this:

Get out of bed, Jerusalem!
    Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.
    God’s bright glory has risen for you.
The whole earth is wrapped in darkness,
    all people sunk in deep darkness,
But God rises on you,
    his sunrise glory breaks over you.
Nations will come to your light,
    kings to your sunburst brightness.
Look up! Look around!
    Watch as they gather, watch as they approach you:
Your sons coming from great distances,
    your daughters carried by their nannies.
When you see them coming you’ll smile—big smiles!
    Your heart will swell and, yes, burst!

I think I caught a small glimpse of this yesterday, leading the small but enthusiastic crowd of believers who raised their hands and voices together in worship in Forrest Place, in full view of passers-by. The promise of Isaiah is God’s glory will break over us and nations will come to this brightness. As James MacDonald says, we were created with a longing for transcendence, and God’s provision for transcendence is His glory. And I believe what bridges us to His glory is full-hearted, passionate worship.

It’s time for sacred space to be redefined!

Why Easter Saturday is the Most Underrated Day This Weekend

Yesterday was Good Friday. On Good Friday, we commemorate Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. It’s a crucially important moment in the history of mankind. As Luther once said, “the cross tests everything”. The cross makes all the difference.

Tomorrow, we will celebrate Easter Sunday, the day of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. But I reckon that’s really the tip of the iceberg.

In our contemporary society, on the day in-between, i.e. “Easter Saturday”, life goes on. We go shopping. Pubs are open. A serve of poached eggs and crispy bacon sounds like a great brunch option. In New Testament times, it was the Sabbath. A day of quiet and reflection.

Actually, on that day, beneath the surface, even though the broken and bruised body of Jesus was ostensibly in the tomb, Ephesians 4 tells us that he descended to the lowest regions. Whilst the body of Christ was most inactive, the person of Jesus was most active on Easter Saturday. He was taking the host of Satan to task, confronting evil and darkness. No longer the meek Lamb of God, he was the Lion of Judah – fierce and strong. He went to hell and gave them hell! From His brokenness issued forth a mystery hidden in Christ through the ages – a new law of grace which completely took the devil by surprise. I don’t know why it took a whole day, but Jesus then emerges with the keys of death and Hades. Now, that was a productive day!

And that’s why I think Easter Saturday is completely underrated.

Calvary Covers It All

The Saviour alone carried the cross
For all of my debts He paid the cost
Salvation complete, now forever I’m free
Calvary covers it all

Calvary covers it all
My sin and shame don’t count anymore
All praise to the One who has ransomed my soul
Calvary covers it all

No power on earth, not even the grave
Can separate us from mercy and grace
He is faithful to save oh, his blood never fails
Calvary covers it all

No one but Jesus
Can make us pure as snow
We stand in Your freedom
Calvary covers it all

I just love this new song by Jonas Myrin and Reuben Morgan. As we reflect on Jesus’ death on the cross today, may we realise the depth of His sacrifice; that on Calvary, Jesus’ death covered it all, paid for it all, ransomed it all, redeemed it all, saved it all, healed it all, purified it all.

He is the greatest, because He became the lowest. And He lifted us up to enjoy His fullness. I’m grateful that I am in His righteousness, my sins don’t count against me and I have a new identity as a child of God. When I fall, I fall in the realm of family; into grace.

Thank you Jesus for showing me grace and always giving me a second chance. Thank you for making all the difference.

The Oak Stump

In my previous post (The Worship Leadership Masterclass – Day 2 Roundup), I shared about how as I was teaching my class, I felt led to release a word to one of the students who was preparing for missions work in Japan. This is James Benjamin’s post from his blog Crossing the Boundary in which he shares how that word impacted him. Thanks James for letting me post this here!

The Fisherman's Horizon

So little yet so much has been happening in the last couple of weeks.

The beginning of this is a couple of weeks ago when I was getting swamped with pressure to do my thesis research and I got rather overwhelmed, and I decided to take a mini-sabbatical, taking a few days off to just relax and not think about it. I spent my time (not watching anime or movies, or playing games because I’m still on the 40 day fast, which ends in one day!!) reading books I had just recently obtained from Overseas Missionary Fellowship. The book of particular interest is “In Japan the crickets cry”. A story about Steve Metcalf, who grew up in a village in China, called to serve in Japan, and faithfully walked into unknown territory serving and preaching God to the people in Japan. After reading this book, I started to ask God…

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The Worship Leadership Masterclass: Day 2 Roundup

It’s been a pretty exhausting day. For some reason this week, it just took that much longer to get all the material ready for this morning’s sessions and I didn’t feel like I slept properly last night. Perhaps it was nerves.

But I’m glad I pushed through! We had a great time this morning during the Worship Leadership Masterclass, going through more building blocks of a worship set, namely the exhortation/call to worship, Scripture reading, spontaneous singing, worship and intercession and releasing the prophetic word. Then we went through some practical tips on how to work with musicians, hand signals, vocal cues and using your worship space properly.

For me, today’s sessions were important ones because they reflected an element of worship practice closest to my heart: how worship and intercession fuse together to release God’s will for the nations on the earth – the missional aspect of worship.

We then talked about emerging trends in the worship landscape, including a rediscovery of radical grace, worship in a flattened structure and a redefining of sacred space.

A highlight for me was as I was sharing about a short term mission trip I led some years ago to Japan to conduct a worship seminar, I felt prompted to release a word to one of the student who was preparing to become a missionary to Japan. I felt a little silly actually interrupting the session to release the word, and I wasn’t even sure if it was relevant, but the student has since shared about the encouragement and impact that the word had on him. I will share more about that in a later post.

We then finished the session by teaching on how to cultivate the gifts. Remember that we need to remain teachable and humble, and to champion the calling of others in our circle of influence. My prayer is that through these classes, God will awaken the calling on the lives of some of the students in worship ministry and that they will go even further than I have ever been. My only request was that when they become world-famous worship leaders, they would still let me do backing vocals for them!

Hope you guys enjoyed the sessions as much I enjoyed teaching them!

Worship Sunday 2014

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I really love the direction that Faith Community Church has been heading in as Ps Benny has been leading us into the intentional disciplemaking blueprint. What I love about it is that we are culture-setting in a way which affects our own values and at the same time, seeing some visible changes in the way we do church.

The holy-moley Christians don’t like cosmetics much. They emphasise on heart. And to some extent, rightly so, because the Lord always looks at the heart first.  But heart usually expresses itself in outward appearances. So, as long as we get the order right, I say “why not both?”

We have been blessed in recent months with the appointment of an awesome couple, David and Mary Lynn, who are looking after media, production and Sunday services. These guys are consummate professionals who serve hard! Under their stewardship, our church services have been looking more and more, well, amazing.

So when it came to Worship Sunday, Dave, Susan and I sat down to brainstorm a creative way of carrying a worship-focused message. We decided to put together a special time of worship, where there would be no visible human worship leader, emphasising the point that Jesus is the ultimate worship leader and that each member of the congregation has a responsibility to bring their own offering of praise to God.

This morning’s service started with a video setting out different theological definitions of worship. The video finished with Paul’s powerful statement in 1 Cor 2:2:

For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.

In verse 1, Paul says that “I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God.” In the context of a worship service, it could be said that we did not come with beautiful melodies and superior musical abilities. Instead, our focus was Jesus and Him crucified.

As the video ended, the piano faded in. And then, in the midst of complete darkness, a 3 metre-tall suspended cross was illuminated in the middle of the stage. Apart from the piano, there were no musicians.

Before the service started, six singers with mics were planted within the congregation, as a spiritual statement that indeed there was no worship leader in any position of prominence, but rather, there was only one giant thousand voice choir to bring a God-honouring sung offering as they were confronted with nothing but the cross. And so, we began to sing.

Even before the first song started, tears were already streaming down the faces of some of the people who had gathered. It was a holy moment, not because of the really cool-looking cross, but because we were taken in our mind’s eye to Calvary’s cross, on which our Saviour hung to redeem our worship for the Father.

I don’t think our church has ever sung louder than this morning. Sometimes, the band and singers can do all the worship for us. But this morning, as all the props of worship were stripped away, we were left with passionate hearts overflowing with love for God. Broken, imperfect hearts. But hearts hungry for His presence.

Even after we finished the last song of this opening set, there was a wave of spontaneous singing that washed over the congregation.

And then, after the offering was taken, Ps Benny came up to introduce our preacher, Dave Wong. Dave grew up in FCC, and at the age of 23, took up the role of Worship Director. I love that Ps Benny has a vision to raise up the next generation of leaders in our midst and even in the last year, we have seen more and more young leaders come up to take the pulpit.

Today was Dave’s first time preaching in the main service. Dave is a guy full of depth and conviction. He taught today that worship is not about the music (although music is part of worship) but about offering ourselves as living sacrifices. He said that right perspective makes for right worship; that worship doesn’t flow from a knowledge of God, but from a revelation of God.

When Dave was done, a full band came up on stage for an extended time of worship. When we get the emphasis right, putting on a full band is like adding fuel to the flame. It brings an added extravagance and bigness to our individual and corporate praise offering.

In putting together the band, I was mindful that it should be intergenerational, so I asked for worship leaders from different zones in the church to co-lead with me: Tae from Kinetics, Joe from Vibe, Diana from Young Adults and Ps Yoy from the Adult Zone. That richness of the different generations merging together exploded in passionate praise.

Not only were there tears, dancing, bowing, clapping and shouting, but I even heard a report of one person being “slain in the Spirit” and being instantly healed of a shoulder injury!

So why did we have such an awesome time of worship this morning? Yes, it was because we put together an interesting, confronting program. It was because the musos and singers worked hard to make sure we played and sang well. It was because of the beautiful staging. It was because the Word of God through our preacher brought forth revelation. It was because we had sown heart-felt prayers over the weeks into this morning. But above all, it was because of God’s presence sovereignly converging with all these elements. Each of these things built and encouraged faith in us to expect God to move and turned our focus to Him.

And God’s showing up made all the difference.

Here is this morning’s setlist:

Set One

// When I Survey the Wondrous Cross (D-E)
// Worthy is the Lamb (A)
// How Great Thou Art (A-Bb)

Set Two

// In Christ Alone Medley (C-D) (Diana/Yoy)
// You Alone (A) (Me)
// Jesus Son of God (A) (Tae)
// Christ is Enough (A) (Joe)
// You are Good (A) (Yoy)

Here are the recordings for Set One and Set Two.

I want to take this opportunity to thank and honour the leadership of FCC for entrusting us to do something different; to the amazing singers and band members: (Vocals) Yoy, Diana, Tae, Joe, Sunray; (MD) Luke; (Guitars) Luke, Kelvin, Mark; (Bass) Addie; (Drums) Caleb; (Keys) Delany, Sam Ng; (Sound) Senny, Sam Oh; and (AV) May; Ps Jon for his sensitive chairing; Dave Wong for his amazing leadership of the Worship Ministry; and of course David and Mary Lynn for the amazing production.

May God continue to take our worship to the next level as we encamp around His presence!