Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Start Strong, Finish Well

At the beginning of this year I set out to Prove It that I was serious about my new year resolutions.  These included some health and fitness goals to engage in regular and intense exercise, so I resolved to "start the year off strong, and let January set the tone for the rest of 2014."

Starting strong was easy for me as I embraced the warm weather, slower pace of the summer break and a renewed enthusiasm for a new year.  However, along the way I allowed the reality of a busy life and a bad diet to sabotage my efforts resulting in a mid-year slump.  As the kilojoules I ate exceeded the kilometres I rode on my bike my waist line expanded and my new years goals diminished!  

Fortunately, I have not finished the year along this same trajectory.

A discontentment with the consequences of my loss of focus and a desire to correct my course of action stimulated a renewed motivation to end the year well.  Instead of writing off my new year resolutions as unrealised good intentions, I determined to make the necessary changes to turn them into reality...at least in part.  The results?  I could mention the number of kilograms I've lost or the number of kilometres I have ridden, but the real result is a restored confidence in my ability to work towards my goals irrespective of my failures or the barriers faced along the way. 

Here is what I've learned this year...

  • Never totally lose sight of your goals
  • Never allow your failures to overshadow your opportunities
  • Never think it is too late to start again or resume where you left off
  • Always remember life happens
  • Always try again
  • Always finish well

While a new year is an opportune time to set new goals, it is not the only time.  If I had waited until January 1st to try again, I would have entered the new year from a position of failure.  However, finishing well establishes a platform of success to dare to set even greater goals and to start strong!  You could say that my resolve to make and keep new year resolutions is stronger because of a restored confidence that comes from finishing well.

In 2015 resolve to start strong and determine to finish well.  Don't let your failures in between discourage you from embracing every opportunity throughout the year ahead!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Christmas - Magic, Myth or Miracle?

It is interesting to observe the cultural and religious sensitivities surrounding the variety of expressions of Christmas at this time of year - from shopping centres to social engagements, the nativity to mistletoe, Christmas lights to Christmas carols, Santa Claus to Jesus Christ.  From my observation, out of all of these Christmas customs, none seems to attract more controversy than the elevation of Santa Claus over Jesus Christ or vice versa.

For some, Christmas is centred around an overweight, jolly man in a red suit from the North Pole.
For others, Christmas is centred around a new born baby in a manger from Bethlehem.

From a cultural perspective, Santa represents the generosity and goodwill of humankind.
From a Christian perspective, Jesus represents the grace and glory of God.

Beyond the historical origins of St Nicholas, Santa Claus perpetuates the magic of Christmas.
Beyond the prophetic origins of Messiah, Jesus Christ personifies the miracle of Christmas.

To a secular mind, the joy of Christmas is found in receiving gifts from Santa.
To a spiritual mind, the joy of Christmas is found in receiving the gift of Jesus.

Santa Claus is a myth wrapped in a red suit given central place in community celebrations.
Jesus Christ is a miracle wrapped in swaddling given central place in Christian worship.

The North Pole has become a Christmas scene capturing the imagination of some.
The Nativity has become a Christmas story capturing the hearts of others.

Christmas movies seek to engender a spirit of belief in Father Christmas.
Christmas carols seek to express a spirit of praise for the Christ of Christmas.

It fascinates me that a sophisticated secular culture chooses an expression of Christmas that perpetuates a myth rather than an expression of Christmas that promotes a miracle.  It seems that flying reindeer, elves and a benevolent old man who visits every child on earth in a single night are more credible than an angel, a manger and a messianic child who came to earth as a part of God's salvation plan.  

It troubles me that segments of a Christian culture have allowed the magic and myth of Santa to hijack the miracle of the Christ child and to confuse the message of Christmas.  It seems that a cultural expectation of Christmas has become a higher priority for many Christians than a biblical experience of Christmas in their festivities and family engagements.

It challenges me to keep Christ central in every expression of Christmas from our church while engaging with our community so that Jesus may be elevated higher than any other cultural expression of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Christmas, A Doorway...

Christmas is a season that captures many meanings and is celebrated through as many customs in the 21st century.  From the commercial to the spiritual, Christmas continues to open a doorway to a sense of joy and wonder for all who engage with this festive season.
At the centre of the commercial and cultural expressions of Christmas is a story that transcends our celebrations by opening a doorway to so much more...
Christmas is a doorway to a SERVANT
"I am the Lord's servant," Mary answered.  "May your word to me be fulfilled."  (Luke 1:38)
Mary was called by God and given a promise that would open a doorway for her to become a servant of His redemptive purpose for humankind.  Her calling to be the servant of the Most High found its fulfillment in two key factors - God's power and Mary's obedience.

Christmas is a doorway to a SON
"You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High."  (Luke 1:31-32)
The Christmas story opened a doorway to two sons.  A prophetic pathway was opened to John the Baptist to declare the coming of Jesus Christ and a redemptive pathway was opened through Jesus Christ to declare the coming of God's kingdom.

Christmas is a doorway to a SIGN
"This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger."  (Luke 1:12)
The baby lying in the manger was the doorway to a sign that fulfilled the long awaited prophesy of the coming Messiah.  God became one of us through the Christ Child who revealed the fullness of God in human flesh and was a symbol of hope for all humankind.

Christmas is a doorway to a SAVIOUR
"For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations."  (Luke 2:30-31)
Upon seeing Jesus in the temple Simeon's eyes were opened to the salvation of the Lord.  The Christmas story is the manifestation of God's salvation plan through Jesus Christ, opening a doorway to a Saviour for all who would believe that Jesus is Lord!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

4 Things You Can't Do...

Recently, we invited a personal trainer to our EQUIP night to talk to our leaders around the theme of 'pursuing a passion for life.'  While speaking about health and nutrition he quoted the well known saying in the fitness industry:

"You can't out-train a bad diet"

This saying resonated strongly with me as I am currently readjusting some lifestyle habits that have allowed bad diet to sabotage my exercise routine.  As a keen cyclist I have lulled myself into a false sense of security to think that the number of kilometres I ride each week will balance out some unhealthy eating habits that have crept back into my lifestyle.  The problem is the kilojoules have exceeded the kilometres and you don't need to be a fitness expert to figure out the consequences.

Interestingly enough, while out riding my bike, I have been thinking a lot about the broader application of the principle contained within this saying to other areas of life...

"You can't out-perform a wrong attitude"

Leadership involves many actions, which are all in vain if accompanied by a wrong attitude.  Our activity reflects what we do, but our attitude reflects who we are.  Both our actions and attitude need to be in harmony to have maximum impact and influence.  The defining difference between two organisations, businesses, employees or volunteers who perform similar actions, more often than not, is attitude.  According to John Maxwell, leadership author and coach, "A leader's attitude is caught by his or her followers more quickly than his or her actions." 

"You can't out-love a divided heart"

Jesus once said, "No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other."  While the context of this wisdom is our relationship with money, it's truth applies to any relationship that requires total devotion of the heart.  Scripture commands us to "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind," and the marriage vows calls a couple to "forsake all others" and "be faithful...as long as you both shall live."  Whether it is the covenant between God and His people or husband and wife, no outward expression of love can compensate for a divided heart.

"You can't out-smart an undisciplined mind"

You have heard it said that "you are what you eat."  It is equally true that "you are what you think."  In an age of instant information and constant visual stimulation, our minds are daily bombarded by a smorgasbord of messages.  These messages are powerful and shape the way we see ourselves, each other and the world around us.  If we are not disciplined in what we choose to fill our minds, our thinking and behaviour will become captive to the dominant influences in our lives.  It is any wonder that the Apostle Paul wrote, "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Are You Leaving Footprints Or Buttprints?

While listening to A Minute with John Maxwell this morning, I was reminded that leaders are 'action oriented people' leaving their footprints in the sands of time as they purposefully make things happen.  In contrast their are a lot of people who are sitting idle waiting for life to happen, leaving buttprints instead of footprints!  Maxwell asserted, "They're not going anywhere, they're not doing anything, they're not traveling, they're not helping, they're not people of action, they're just sitting on their butts waiting for life to happen to them."

Leaders have a 'bias towards action.'  They are people who create movement and build momentum in a team, forging indelible footprints that leave a lasting legacy for those who follow in their footsteps.  A leader's footprints are firm and easy to follow, they are determined and lead to a destination, and they are always pointing forward.

I would rather follow the footprints of someone making something happen than sit in the buttprint of someone waiting for something to happen!  Are you leaving footprints or buttprints in the sands of time?

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lest We Forget...

LEST WE FORGET…  the selflessness of those who put nation before person

LEST WE FORGET…  the service of those who left a career to join a cause

LEST WE FORGET…  the sacrifice of those who traded life for liberty

LEST WE FORGET…  the suffering of those who still carry the scars of war


LEST WE FORGET…  the selfishness of those who put their ideology before our common humanity

LEST WE FORGET…  the strategy of those who use fear to divide and conquer

LEST WE FORGET…  the silence of those who lack the courage to speak out against violence and oppression

LEST WE FORGET…  the stupidity of those who still believe that armed conflict is a pathway to peace


LEST WE FORGET…  the source of real peace and freedom for all humanity is found only in Jesus Christ!

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Embracing Detours

When I set out on my bike ride tonight I had a clearly laid out plan in mind that would take me for a pleasant ride along the Peninsula Link Bike Trail about a third of the way into my planned route.  As I turned out of the traffic onto the much calmer bike path and headed into the serenity of Pines Reserve, I was confronted by road bunting blocking the trail, redirecting me back into busy traffic.  It would be fair to say that I was more than a little miffed!  

For a few kilometres into the forced change of route I nearly allowed the disappointment of an unplanned detour to overshadow the possibilities of unexpected discoveries.  Instead, the change of scenery presented another perspective that added a new dimension to my ride as I took in my new surroundings.  Embracing the detour enabled me to enjoy the journey while still reaching my original destination.

How often in life and leadership do we set out with a clearly marked out plan for the day, a new year or even a career path and encounter unwelcomed detours that take us off course?  Along the way we have a choice to resent and resist these detours seeing them as obstacles or to embrace and engage them as opportunities.  Keeping focused on your end goal allows you the flexibility to adjust course along the way and integrate detours as a part of the overall journey.  

Whether it be a bike ride or a leadership experience, it has most often been the detours that have presented me with the greatest learning and relational opportunities through the unexpected encounters along the way.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Unveiling The Gospel

Imagine being rescued from almost certain death by a good samaritan who was in the right place at the right time, coming to your aid when it really mattered.  Then, after an initial heart felt expression of gratitude, your rescuer becomes a forgotten memory as you embrace your second chance at life.

Imagine being saved from the bondage of sin through an encounter with the grace and forgiveness of Jesus Christ who demonstrated his love for you in all your brokenness.  Then, after a period of praise and thanksgiving, you live out your redeemed life without any reference to your Redeemer.

Imagine a church emerging out of a time of renewal when the Spirit of God brought revival to a community of believers in Jesus Christ.  Then, after witnessing to the power of God, the church continues to work in His name without mentioning His name or acknowledging His presence.

Unfortunately, in the words of the late John Lennon, "It's easy if you try."  

I don't have to look to hard across the church as a whole to see plenty of evidence of good deeds being done but I am straining my ears to hear very much evidence of good news being spoken.  While the later is incomplete without the former, the former is inconclusive without the later.  In other words, good deeds without good news may demonstrate the generosity of humanity but denies by omission the graciousness of God.  Paul describes this as "having a form of godliness but denying its power" (2 Timothy 3:5). 

God entered our broken humanity through the person of Jesus Christ and "demonstrated his love for us in this:  While we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).  All His miracles, signs and wonders were done for this single purpose - "that you [and I] may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing [we] may have life in his name" (John 20:31).

So, when Jesus said, "let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:16) it is the good news behind the good deeds that needs to shine the brightest!  Otherwise, when the world sees our good deeds, all they will see is us, not Jesus.  We get all the glory, not our Father in heaven.  However, no matter how helpful our good deeds might be they cannot bring salvation on their own without the good news of Jesus Christ.

If you truly want your light to shine, you must unveil the gospel in your good deeds so that those you serve will "see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven."

"Then this city will bring me renown, joy, praise and honor before all nations on earth that hear of all the good things I do for it; and they will be in awe and will tremble at the abundant prosperity and peace I provide for it." (Jeremiah 33:9)

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Global Leadership Summit Highlights 2014

Once again the Global Leadership Summit lives up to its reputation of being a premier leadership event, delivering world class leaders from the church, business, government and non-profit organisations.  This is my 10th GLS and as in previous years I have come away inspired, encouraged and challenged to 'lead with all diligence' in my leadership context.  

Below are some highlights and key learnings that spoke into my leadership journey over the past two days:

Bill Hybels -- Hard-Fought Leadership Lessons
Founder and Senior Pastor, Willow Creek Community Church

"We need to be as passionate about the spirit of our people as we are about the vision."
"The kindest form of management is the truth."
"Don't get too addicted to vision achievement that people feel like equipment."
"Find and develop leaders with a legacy mindset.  Legacy leaders pay the price to fix a broken culture."

Susan Cain -- Quiet: Challenging the Extrovert Ideal
Best Selling Author, Viral TED Speaker on The Power of Introverts

"If we want people to be at their best we need to create an environment where they can receive the right amount of stimulation."
"Stop the madness of constant group work...create a hybrid of self and group work to get the best of creative thinking and ideas and stop the conformity of opinions."

Joseph Grenny -- Mastering the Art of Crucial Conversations
Co-Founder, VitalSmarts; Social Scientist for Business Performance

"When conversations turn from casual to crucial you and I tend to do your worst."
"You will either talk it out or you will act it out."
"We often believe the myth that we have to choose between telling the truth or keeping a friend."
"Crucial conversations held well can become a trust building accelerant."
"Candor is never the problem - it is the intent not the content that creates defensiveness."

Patrick Lencioni -- The Most Dangerous Mistakes Leaders Make
Founder of The Table Group, Business Speaker and Best Selling Author

"Reason to be a leader - to sacrifice yourself for the well-being of others, even before you know whether there will be a return on your investment."

Don Flow -- A Grander Vision
Chairman and CEO, Flow Companies Inc.

"Love is what should animate Christian Leaders."
"A part of being created in the image of God is being able to imagine the future."

Wilfredo De Jesus -- A Grander Vision
Senior Pastor, New Life Covenant Church; TIME's 100 Most Influential People 2013

"You cannot let your budget dictate your faith."
"Once the moral condition of your community has been revealed to you you must move to action."
"What is sacred is the message not the method."
"If you are not going to do anything about the answer, don't ask."
"With revelation comes responsibility."

Ivan Satyavrata -- The Power Paradox
Senior Pastor, Assembly of God Church, Kolkata, India

Introductory comment to Bill Hybels, "Thank you for allowing God's whisper to grow to a crescendo so that the world can hear God's voice."
"A leader's power lies in her ability to influence people."
"How do we apply the power paradox to the injustice and evil in our world?  We use the kingdom power at our disposal to confront evil and challenge its structures.  On the other hand we are patient and resolute."
"The power paradox enables me to surrender to God the enigma of unconquered evil."
"Power paradox leaders are level 5 leaders who combine humility with fierce resolve."

Carly Fiorina -- Defining Leadership
Best Selling Author; Political Commentator; Business Strategy Expert

"Bureaucracy crushes the potential of people inside them and the people they intend to serve."
"The highest calling of leadership is to unlock the potential in others."
"Management is the production of acceptable results in known constraints and conditions.  Leadership is about changing those conditions."

Jeffrey Immelt -- Positioning Your Organisation for the Future
President and CEO, General Electric

"It is the horizontal strength that keeps teams together."
"Be around a crisis early in your career, because you can tell a lot about a leader when times are tough."
"In volatile times the best leaders go forward."

Louie Giglio -- Take the Step
Pastor, Passion City Church; Founder of the Passion Movement

"You don't have to know everything to get up the mountain to take the first step."
"The stakes are too high for us to die with a small vision."
"A leader has to be committed to the finish line."

Friday, October 24, 2014

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 13

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 13

JELAMBAR:  Our Mission Trip finished on a high with us visiting Jelambar Corps during a ten hour stop-over in Jakarta on our way home.  We served at Jelambar Corps with a team from our previous appointment at Noarlunga Corps on a Mission Trip three years ago.

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 12

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 12

FUNERAL:  The Salvation Army in Palu takes funerals to a whole new level with seven services officiated over three days for Mr Oskar Hohoy!  It has been an incredible privilege to witness the proceedings and to be asked to speak at two of the services.

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 11

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 11

AVAILABLE:  Today has simply been about being available.  Available to respond and connect where needed as Nyoman and Suni make arrangements for Oskar's funeral tomorrow.

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 10

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 10

EMOTIONS:  Late last night I received a phone call from Major Nyoman Timonuli to inform me that our plans for today needed to change as the Elementary School Principal of Palu School and CSM of Towua Corps, Mr Oskar Hohoy, had suddenly passed away.

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 9

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 9

CHILDREN:  Throughout this Mission Trip we have been blessed by meeting so many children in Salvation Army run kindergartens, schools and children's homes from one side of Central Sulawesi to the other.

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 8

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 8

TEAMS:  After a much needed day of rest and with a couple of team members still feeling a little off colour, today we were given the option to divide into two teams.  One team would take a fairly strenuous trip back up into the mountains on motorbikes to visit schools and Corps in the Lindu District, while the other team would stay local visiting Corps and Centres in the Palu area.

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 7

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 7

REST:  After a week of full-on mission activities and adventures taking us all around Central Sulawesi, we were all feeling a little weary!

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 6

ADVENTURE:  Our mission trip today took us on an adventure high into the mountains to the remote Tamodo Corps in West Palu.  Due to limited road access, we changed vehicles half way up the mountain at Dombu Corps, climbing onto the back of motorbikes with local riders for the last hour of the trek along very rugged, steep and narrow roads.

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 5

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 5

REVIVAL:  The much anticipated Youth Revival Meeting commenced at 10.00 am with youth from six Corps and seven Outposts gathering in the Pantolobete Corps hall for worship. 

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 4

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 4

RFA:  Our day started early with a long trip to West Palu for some more school visits enroute to the Lalundu District Youth Camp, where we stayed the night.

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 3

CONNECTIONS:  The words of Don Moen's song, "My soul follows hard after thee, early in the morning will I rise up and seemed apt as we arose very early this morning to get ready for the 6.00 am Holiness Meeting at Towua Corps.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 2

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 2

CONTRASTS:  Today we hit the road for a visit to three schools run by The Salvation Army in the East Palu Division.  Our trip took us along some pretty windy and rough roads into the mountains where our senses were overloaded with unfamiliar sights and smells of rural Central Sulawesi. 

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 1

Mission Trip Reflections: Palu Mission Trip - Day 1

RECEPTION:  Our mission trip to Palu commenced with a series of overwhelming welcomes from the staff and children at the Palu School.

Read more about our Mission Trip...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Palu, Here We Come!

Tomorrow, together with our mission team from the Cranbourne Corps, we embark on an exciting adventure to serve our friends and colleagues Major Nyoman and Captain Suniati Timonuli at The Salvation Army school and Towua Corps in Palu, Central Sulawesi, Indonesia.  

We trained together with Nyoman in Melbourne 18 years ago and this will be our third mission trip serving him and his family in their ministry context - Denpasar in 2009 and Jakarta in 2011 with the Noarlunga Corps mission team and now Palu with our mission team from Cranbourne Corps.

We will be engaged in a variety of mission activities, including - preaching, teaching, pastoral visitation, prayer ministry, school ministry, youth ministry, painting and assisting with a building project.  Most of all we get to partner with other Salvationists in advancing the kingdom of God in their part of the world, building relationships and encouraging each other on our faith journeys.  

We are passionate about serving God through the international vehicle of The Salvation Army and are excited about joining in with what Holy Spirit is doing through Bala Keselamatan in Palu, Indonesia.  If you would like to follow our mission activities while we are away between the 9th and 23rd October, you can read my mission trip reflections at the following blogspot:

Tuhan Yesus memberkati anda!

Monday, September 29, 2014

International Coffee Day

In celebration of International Coffee Day I have created a collage with a selection of my Instagram photos

"Coffee is a language in itself"
Jackie Chan

"I am a coffee fanatic.  Once you go to proper coffee, you can't go back.  You cannot go back."
Hugh Laurie

"I was taken by the power that savoring a simple cup of coffee can have to connect people and create community."
Howard Schultz

"I love coming home to Melbourne.  The first thing I do is have a coffee.  It's just so much better here than anywhere else.  It's better than in Italy and I travel a lot."
Curtis Stone

"When I visited coffee farms in Ethiopia, the farmers could not believe we spend a week's wages in their country on a cup of coffee in ours, because they see so little of the profits. 
Oxfam's fair trade campaign helps right this wrong."
Colin Firth

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Engaging With Other Religions

Over the past three years, I have been on an extraordinary journey of discovery as I have dared to entertain the idea that God is at work through other religions.  Even now, writing such a realisation still feels a little strange as I have grown up in an evangelical culture that says, 'you are either of God (as Christians understand Him) or of the devil,' and there was no grey area to allow for the possibility of divine revelation occurring in an interfaith context.

Scripture unmistakeably records God declaring, "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.  You shall have no other gods before me" (Exodus 5:6-7); Jesus affirming, "I am the way and the truth and the life.  No-one comes to the Father except through me"  (John 14:6); and the Spirit's relationship in the Godhead, "When the Counsellor [Holy Spirit] comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me [Jesus]" (John 15:26).

As a Christian, I hold firmly to these Biblical truths and an uncompromising belief "that there is only one God, who is infinitely perfect, the Creator, Preserver, and Governor of all things, and who is the only proper object of religious worship" (The Salvation Army, Doctrine 2).

However, I also recognise that "since the creation of the world, God's invisible qualities - his eternal power and divine nature - have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse" (Romans 1:20).  I understand that faith comes from God:  "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith - and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God - not by works, so that no-one can boast" (Ephesians 2:8); "Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith..." (Hebrews 12:2).  And I affirm that Holy Spirit is already at work in the world - "in the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people" (Acts 2:17) - revealing Jesus Christ - "He [Holy Spirit] will bring glory to me [Jesus] by taking what is mine and making it known to you" (John 15:14).

Therefore, I have come to believe that Holy Spirit has planted a seed of faith in all people, and religion is a human response to a partial revelation of God, forming a framework of understanding around what has been revealed.  This means that my interaction with other faiths is not to bring God where He is already present, but to discover where God is already at work and join in a conversation that has already begun.  From this posture I can share a fuller revelation of God by pointing people to Jesus Christ, because "in Christ all the fulness of the Deity lives in bodily form" (Colossians 2:9) and "the Son [Jesus] is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word" (Hebrews 1:3).

For me, this has radically changed my view of and approach to evangelism!   Evangelism is not so much a proclamation of truth, but an interactive relationship that gives witness to the incarnational truth that "the Word [Jesus] became flesh and made his dwelling among us" (John 1:14) so that "whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life" (John 3:16).  Clark Pinnock describes the nature of such a relationship: 
“We should watch for whatever Spirit may be teaching and doing among them. This posture creates the possibility of a dialogical relationship. We can enter into the faith of others and acknowledge truths and values found there. These are our fellow human beings, seeking truth as we are. God is reaching out, and people are responding. So let us watch for points of contact and bridges of communication” (Pinnock 1996, The Flame of Love, p. 205).
From this vantage point I now find certain "evangelical" language an affront to the Spirit's presence and activity in other faiths.  To suggest that people are 'heathen' or 'godless' is to deny God's sovereignty.  To renounce the 'god' of any religion or to pray against the 'demonic spirit' of a religion, dishonours other people's spiritual journey, dismisses the work of the Spirit, disregards a partial revelation of God, and does little to foster a dialogical relationship where Christ can be revealed.

  • What if the 'god' of a Muslim is a partial understanding of the Creator of the universe?
  • What if the 'faith' of a Buddhist is a genuine response to prevenient grace?
  • What if the 'religion' of a Hindu is an attempt to live out a divine consciousness?

Let me be very clear at this point!  I am not suggesting for a moment that other religions are an equal or alternative pathway to God.  I am not denying the reality of a spiritual battle between the God of heaven and "the god of this age [who] has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God" (2 Corinthians 4:4).  Nor am I suggesting that all aspects of religious practice are Spirit-led or God-honouring.  Every religion, including Christianity, has embraced false or incomplete beliefs about the Creator and have demonstrated behaviour that is contradictory to a holy and just God!  Pinnock expresses well what I am suggesting:  “We have to say yes and no to other religions.  On the one hand, we should accept any spiritual depth and truth in them.  On the other hand, we must reject darkness and error…The key is to hold fast to two truths: the universal operations of grace and the uniqueness of its manifestation in Jesus Christ” (Pinnock 1996, p. 202).

With a new wave of religious extremism emerging in our world today, we must be very careful not to reject the work of the Spirit in fear of the work of Satan.  We must not assume that people seeking God through another faith perspective are the enemy.  We must be careful not to shut down the dialogue with people from other religions or cultures.  We must seek to strengthen relationships with people on a faith journey rather than segregate ourselves from them.  We must not exchange a spirit of humility for a spirit of superiority.  We must keep a posture of learning and openness to wherever and with whomever the Spirit is moving.  We must "in [our] relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.  And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross…that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:5-11).

With eyes wide open to the ministry of the Spirit within other religions I am better positioned to “seek [and] discern the Spirit’s presence and activity in other faiths” (Amos Yong 2005, The Spirit Poured Out On All Flesh, p. 247) and recognise that “The Spirit’s mission is to bring history to completion and fulfilment in Christ" (Pinnock 1996, p. 194).  Then, like Paul who dialogued with the men of Athens about their altar "to an unknown god" (Acts 17:22-27), we might evoke a similar response from our interfaith dialogue, "We want to hear you again on this subject" (Acts 17:32).