This morning when I checked my facebook thread there were a lot of comments about what I presume is an upcoming Hillsong conference, who was invited and whether they are false teachers or not. I went to a Hillsong conference several years ago and I am not surprised by the chatter, because of what I observed there.
I remember a distinct feeling. A speaker, I don’t remember who, had started the morning with a persuasive argument for the prosperity gospel. Frankly the argument was pretty good but I wasn’t persuaded, and lots of people clapped. The next speaker was Rick Warren who used his talk to pull apart the arguments for the prosperity gospel. It wasn’t aimed at the previous speaker, it just worked out that way and the weird feeling was, I think I was the only person who saw the inconsistency.
It got me thinking if you disagreed with another speaker so strongly on ministry and theology, then how did you get invited to speak at a Hillsong conference, what was the common denominator? Looking through the list, and doing a bit of research, I worked out the only real common denominator was that you were running a church of over 2,000 people. It didn’t matter where you in the world you came from, or what your theological background or convictions were. If you could run a church of over 2,000 you were ‘in’. At the end of the day it is pragmatism that wins out.
But before we start with a sledgehammer on Hillsong on this, let’s look at ourselves, Sydney evangelicals, on this issue.
A couple of years ago I was asked to speak to a guy who was not happy with Sydney Anglicans, and as a Sydney Anglican I was supposed to…I don’t really know what I was going to do and that was probably a good thing as it turns out. The conversation started:
Me: “So, I hear you aren’t happy with Sydney Anglicans, tell me about that.”
Him: “You guys claim to be theologically Calvinists don’t you?”
Me: (In my head my theological John Wayne mounts up, loads his guns and gets ready to defend Calvinism). “Yes, that’s right”
Him: “Then why are all your conferences about strategy and methodology. If you believe that God is sovereign, where are your prayer meetings?”
Me: (Theological John Wayne suddenly feels he needs to be somewhere else) “Ummm….”
I think there is a good place for strategy, methodology and thinking through how to do ministry well. Theologically this is basic, good stewardship. But if we have missed that it is about stewardship, if we have missed that it is about the sovereignty of God, if our conferences are more about methodology than prayer, are we really any better? Or worse because we claim to be more theologically astute.
This guy had exposed our weak spot. Yes, I am theologically persuaded by God’s sovereign power in ministry, and saving people from their sins. But am I more likely to pay $25 to go to a prayer breakfast or $395 to go to conference to hear a great practitioner? (The answer should be I should be at both). Perhaps the answer should be less conferences and more prayer meetings, I don’t really know. But I do while we shouldn’t ignore the Hillsong issue, e.g. as far as I know we are not inviting false teachers to speak, we should also address the issue this raises for us.
I am sure there will be some debate about this, and there should be, but before you post can I ask you to pray for me about this. One could easily say “Pete, you have accused Sydney evangelicals of the same thing you do”. I know that, please pray I will be a better pray-er.
OK, now you can tell me where I am wrong…