Church of Perth Highlights

As you know, we have spent 7 months “shopping” for a new church. It’s actually a long time to be “homeless”; in a way, we felt like Abraham, setting out from the familiar places into unknown territory.

Until 7 months ago, we had never really visited churches except for when we were overseas. Having now visited a number of churches in Perth, I am encouraged to see what God is doing amongst the congregations in this city. I have discovered that different churches have different strengths too and I wonder how much more each church would be blessed if they were able to learn from each other.

So here are some of the churches we visited during this transitional period and some of the characteristics we really loved:

  1. CCC Crawley (or C4). This church is positioned deep in the Western Suburbs in Dalkeith, where every fourth car parked around the church was a Porsche. When I visited this church, I found out that Phil Pringle was considered to be in the top 10 of Australian artists and to generate curiosity, they were going to make the front of the church into a Phil Pringle Art Gallery. What a clever way to outreach!
  2. First Light. We loved the warmth of fellowship, the intensity of the worship and the awesome grace-based preaching. In fact, of all the churches we visited, we lingered in First Light’s visitor’s lounge the longest.
  3. Victory Life. This is the church we would have settled in if we were 60 years old. The older generation here were so vibrant and full of life that they would put the young people to shame. And they have this crazy vision to build a massive prayer tower.
  4. SouthCity. I have some good mates here but again was drawn to this church by its warmth. The preaching was short and punchy, but impactful. After only a service lasting 1 hour and 15 minutes, we still came out feeling full.
  5. Sonlife. We enjoyed this church because of the great preaching and the passion of its people in worshipping God. The congregation easily drowns out the worship team. I also had the privilege of co-leading worship there one Sunday and it was so easy to lead which means someone has taught the congregation well how to worship.
  6. Faith Community Church. This is a church with a great vision for the community and the body of Christ as a whole. Of course, Pastor Benny Ho’s preaching is probably one of the best around (I’m not trying to suck up here, but that really is an honest assessment) and the worship is vibrant.
  7. Metrochurch. The service culture in this church is phenomenal. The Senior Pastor Geoff Woodward (also one of the best preachers around in my opinion), in the middle of his sermon, mentions that it would be nice to have a cup of coffee and before you know it, an offsider shows up at the side of the stage with… you guessed it … a cup of coffee. And even cooler is the fact that Geoff Woodward then spends 2 minutes on stage slowly savouring every drop of the coffee. Geoff’s jokes are great too including my favourite “dad joke” that goes like this: “I couldn’t believe it when my neighbour started knocking on my front door at 3 am in the morning! Good thing I was still up playing my bagpipes”.
  8. Riverview. This is Perth’s flagship seeker friendly church. The creative display is awe-inspiring. Whilst the worship was going on, a guy was painting what looked like a mountain scene at the side of the stage, only to turn it on its side to reveal the face of Jesus.
  9. Churchlands. This is a church which in my view resembles Bethel Church in spiritual orientation: supernaturally focussed with a hunger for God’s presence reflected during their worship time.
  10. JoyCity. I heard an amazingly fresh sermon from a young friend of mine, Nick Chan, entitled “The Church is Full of Hypocrites”. He got my attention! And he delivered. Brilliant worship as well from a worship leader I used to serve with and whom I deeply respect.
  11. Mighty Livingwaters. A church which has a strong prophetic gifting. We missed out on Pastor Rajan, but heard his mentor preach instead.
  12. Influencers. This church has a culture that thinks big and looks big. Even though (I think) they have about 100 people, they are set up with three plasma screens. They also have a thriving international student’s ministry.

So there are some highlights of some of the churches we visited. In a sense, it was a shame we couldn’t visit more, but our time of wandering had to come to an end.

Even though we are now committed to settle down in a church however we intend to take a week off every couple of months just to visit another church and to keep on the pulse of what God is doing in the city.

Blessings Reel – January 2012

Okay, I admit the title to this post is a bit tacky, but I’m in a tacky kind of mood.

I actually can’t believe that it’s February and January 2012 has already come and gone.

During the first sermon for 2012, Joseph Prince shared on “Unceasing Fruitfulness” and one of the things he mentioned was that the tree of life had 12 fruits. These fruits speak of 12 different blessings for each month of the year. Looking back over the last 31 days, I can say that I’ve experienced the blessings of God.

It’s a bit difficult to say which one blessing is the one fruit for January, but here’s some of the things that I’m grateful for in the last month:

  • First day of the year: a brilliant sermon at New Creation Church on “Unceasing Fruitfulness” to set the scene for the next 364 days (actually 365 as this year is a leap year). In the year of drought, I can experience unceasing fruitfulness as I meditate on God’s word! Amen.
  • Ling and I had a great time in Singapore for holidays, with plenty of eating and shopping and spending time with her side of the family.
  • At work, I won a difficult appeal in the Refugee Review Tribunal for a Coptic Christian from Egypt. The Tribunal accepted that Australia owed my client protection obligations. The Immigration Department is now processing the remaining requirements and I expect that this client will be granted permanent residency in the next couple of months. I don’t care what people say about the refugee situation in Australia, but when you sit across the table from some guy whose life is on the line, all the ideological grandstanding about boat people and border protection goes out the window. This guy is extremely relieved!
  • We got to go to the Influencers Conference (or parts of it) and heard some inspiring preaching. A friend of mine had booked for the entire conference and wasn’t able to make it, so Ling got free use of his pass for a whole day!
  • We had a great jam session with some old friends from Full Gospel Assembly.
  • We had the opportunity to meet with an apostolic leader in the city and I sense that God is starting to open new ministry doors in 2012 (even though I feel a bit disenfranchised at the moment not being part of a local church). I’m also privileged to be able to serve alongside Shaw Cheong and Judy Low in some developing projects as part of Grace and Fire MInistries.
  • We started going to Faith Community Church for the month and I was completely floored by Pastor Benny Ho’s sermon last Sunday. I’m on the way towards building a strong, consistent devotional life.
  • My blog is going well. It’s only been going since December and as at 31 January 2012, it’s recorded 1353 views! (Okay some of that was me looking at the blog myself, but most of it was legit!) I hope it’s been a blessing to others so far!

And to cap it all off, on the last day of January 2012, a friend told me that Pastor Benny Perez had tweeted my blog. In fact, his church had tweeted it first, and then Benny Perez retweeted it. What an honour. I’m actually not sure how twitter works exactly, but I’m thankful that at least on this occasion, my writing has gone half way around the world!

So looking back through January, I’m thankful for all that God has done for me. I’m deeply loved, highly favoured and greatly blessed!

One Thing is Needful

As some of you may know, we’ve been spending a few months now visiting different churches throughout Perth. Since the start of the year, we have made a more concerted attempt to settle in a home church so for the last couple of weeks, we have started going to Faith Community Church (FCC) to absorb a little of the culture there.

Because it’s a church full of South-East Asian migrants, the congregation has been at about half strength. This week, Pastor Benny Ho returned to the pulpit after a three-week break.

The service was extraordinary. We liked FCC at half strength, but today the worship was pumping and Pastor Benny hit the sermon out of the ball park.

I’ll get to the sermon a bit later, but one of the things we have been looking for in a church is a strong sense of the presence of God in worship. Now, apart from the manifest presence (e.g. cloud, gold dust, unusual miracles etc, which seldom happens now within a contained Sunday service in the Western church, except maybe at somewhere like Bethel Church in Redding), I appreciate that it is very difficult to gauge the strength of God’s presence in any church setting. There are many different things that trigger that “sense” in you, and what does it for me may not do it for everyone. But I’m wired a particular way, and the elements in FCC’s worship today simply pushed all the right buttons.

I was completely engaged and I can say that it’s been a while since I’ve been able to just jump and close my eyes (not at the same time of course, as that would be dangerous) and just focus on God. At the end of the worship, I realised my car keys had flown out of my pocket onto the floor 2 seats away!

Here’s one of the songs they did that really spoke to me: Here in Your Presence by New Life Worship:

After the worship, Pastor Benny preached on “Realigning Your Relationship with God” from the following passage in Luke 10:38ff:

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Therefore tell her to help me.”

And Jesus answered and said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Now, before I talk about the sermon further, I want to make a quick comment about sermons these days. Recently, I attended the Influencers Conference. Now, I only went to two night sessions and I also heard a Sunday message streamed from Paradise Church on Sunday. Whilst the types of messages I heard were really inspiring, I found that they were almost devoid of Scripture. There might be one starting passage, and then one keyword becomes the springboard for a number of tangential thoughts the preacher may have. A lot of what ends up being shared are great life principles which could just as well have come out of a motivational book. Now, I’m not saying this is necessarily bad, but what I’ve found is that I am personally more inclined to more Bible-based teaching.

Joseph Prince is a brilliant example. Whilst he is sometimes controversial, and I don’t always agree with everything he preaches, no preacher I know uses as much Scripture as Joseph Prince. That is comforting because if he errs, he is less likely to err spectacularly.

So back to FCC. What I’ve always admired about Benny Ho is his ability to combine both Scriptural exegesis and personal application with inspiration, conviction and a good smattering of humour as well for good measure.

Opening with the text in Luke 10, Pastor Benny said that most people interpret this passage to suggest that waiting on God is superior to working; that Mary’s example ought to be extolled above Martha’s. But Pastor Benny refused to believe that, so he studied the Scripture further and he concluded that in fact, the passage doesn’t teach that one is better than the other. Instead, the passage is about the many things that distract us; the some things that are necessary for us to do; and the one thing that is needful.

The one thing, being a strong devotional life, helps us determine what the some things we need to do are so we are not distracted by the many things. Wow, what a great reading of this passage.

It is out of a strong devotional life that ministry is released, i.e. ministries are not built; they are released.

In that context, it is possible to be completely rested even whilst we are working because resting is not a physical posture, it’s a condition of the heart.

I loved how Pastor Benny illustrated the point by flipping the story on its head: imagine Martha serving out of a place of rest; joyfully cooking, greeting guests etc. Mary may be sitting at the feet of Jesus, but if she is not at rest, she might start to criticise or resent Martha in her own mind. Who is at rest in that scenario?

Pastor Benny makes the point: “I like Martha before dinner, and I like Mary after dinner!”

Pastor Benny then concluded his message with a powerful prophetic word from Genesis 2:10-15:

A river watering the garden flowed from Eden; from there it was separated into four headwaters. The name of the first is the Pishon; it winds through the entire land of Havilah, where there is gold. (The gold of that land is good; aromatic resin and onyx are also there.) The name of the second river is the Gihon; it winds through the entire land of Cush. The name of the third river is the Tigris [Hiddekel]; it runs along the east side of Ashur. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.

The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Eden (meaning “pleasure”) was the place God had planted Adam and Eve to work. There can and should be pleasure in ministry! But the streams that feed the river are significant.

  • “Pishon” means increase;
  • “Gihon” means to burst forth;
  • “Hiddekel” means powerful and strong; and
  • “Euphrates” means fruitful.

This resonated with me with the theme of this year preached by Joseph Prince at New Creation Church: in the year of drought, we will experience unceasing fruitfulness. But not only that, it’s increasing fruitfulness that bursts forth and is replete with the power of God.

The key is a strong devotional life, or as Joseph Prince says, godly meditation for good success. I am challenged to build a strong devotional life, so that Godly empowered ministry will flow from me for the edification of others! This year is going to be a great year!