Several weeks ago, I posted a blog entitled Holding the Prophets to Account.  The blog outlined the misuse and abuse of the prophetic gift, especially by the US prophets who declared the COVID19 pandemic would end quickly and Donald Trump would win the election.

Four of these prophets, Loren Sandford, Jeremiah Johnson, Shawn Bolz, and Kris Vallotton, have had the courage and humility to admit they got it wrong (see reference).

Kris Vallotton, from Bethel Church, had posted an apology back in November. Bethel’s leadership told him that it was “too soon”. Kris removed the video apology, only to post a new one on January 9th. Still, many of his followers told him it was “too soon”, “not over”, “the story is not finished”, and the like. Seriously, this kind of gullibility is the sort of thing that leads people to be seduced by cults. And, sadly, many sincere Christians have embraced all sorts of bizarre doctrines and conspiracies in recent times.

Jeremiah Johnson is another prophet to apologise: “I want to go on record: I was wrong, I am deeply sorry, and I ask for your forgiveness.”

After apologising, Johnson became the recipient of terrible abuse from some Christians. He wrote, “Over the last 72 hours, I have received multiple death threats and thousands upon thousands of emails from Christians saying the nastiest and most vulgar things I have ever heard toward my family and ministry. I have been labelled a coward, sell-out, a traitor to the Holy Spirit, and cussed out at least 500 times. We have lost ministry partners every hour and counting … I have been flabbergasted at the barrage of continued conspiracy theories being sent every minute our way and the pure hatred being unleashed. To my great heartache, I’m convinced parts of the prophetic/charismatic movement are far SICKER than I could have ever dreamed of. I truthfully never realized how absolutely triggered and ballistic thousands and thousands of saints get about Donald Trump. It’s terrifying! It’s full of idolatry! (See reference).  I couldn’t agree more!

Rev. Loren Sandford was also astounded at the abuse he received. “Since January 7, I personally have been called a betrayer, a false prophet, a traitor, faithless and some have said they found me disgusting,” he said. “I am way past broken-hearted at what Christians are saying and doing. No wonder the world doesn’t believe us.”

But that’s all the apologies, folks. Out of at least 40 charismatic Christian leaders that predicted Trump’s re-election, only four have had the courage and the humility to admit they missed it.

Others were still holding out for some last-minute miracle from God that would magically reverse the election and install Trump as president on January 20. Hank Kunneman said God had personally assured him there would be a miraculous outcome. Kat Kerr, a Jacksonville prophetess, agreed, saying, “He (God) assured me in 2015 that Trump would sit in the White House for eight years. And God assured me today when He walked into my room at noon — well, almost noon, 11:55 am. — He yelled as loud as He possibly could, ‘Justice will prevail.'” I don’t know what voices Kat Kerr hears, but it wasn’t God!

And these prophets haven’t just missed it with regards to picking the wrong president. In the lead up to 2020, not one prophet suggested anything like a global pandemic was coming. And when it did come, many of them prophesied it would be gone quickly.

Hank Kunneman declared that people would be quarantined from the virus by God’s mercy. God will “give life to this nation, and I give mercy. Do not fear this virus says the Spirit of God.”

Tracey Cooke, along with several other prophets, predicted that COVID-19 would be over by Passover (April 8-16, 2020), “the blood of Jesus” would cause the “plague to pass over”.

On 16 March 2020, Jeremiah Johnson said he received a prophetic dream about President Donald Trump and the coronavirus, “I believe around the time of Passover, we’re going to see [the virus] really slow down.”

Here we are almost a year later, and it’s obvious all these so-called “prophecies” are wrong. The USA has had over 420,000 COVID-19 related deaths. At the time of writing, America is recording over 150,000 new cases each day. While this third wave of COVID-19 has hopefully peaked in the US, there are still many months of sickness, death, and grief.

Let me give you a couple of prophecies that are from God:

This is what the LORD Almighty says: “Do not listen to what the prophets are prophesying to you; they fill you with false hopes. They speak visions from their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD” (Jeremiah 23:16).

“The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations, idolatries and the delusions of their own minds” (Jeremiah 14:14)

I pray these prophets will humbly repent for misleading God’s people and for bringing discredit to the gospel. They have collectively given the charismatic and Pentecostal church a severe credibility problem and have revealed many contemporary Christians’ wafer-thin theology and un-Christlike character.

I had an interesting conversation last week with a member of Bayside Church. The discussion was around the standards we have in place for people in leadership, especially those in worship & teaching, youth & children’s ministries. During the conversation, he said to me, “but surely everyone is equal. Why do you have different standards for different people?” Or words to that effect.

It’s a good question and one I thought would be helpful to blog about. Let me say upfront that equality, or the lack thereof, is a constant theme throughout the Bible. The Bible’s revelation is on a trajectory that led ancient people toward greater and greater equality. We are still on that path today, with civil and religious movements speaking up for justice for the marginal. We’re witnessing that in our world right now.

Equality in Church

But in the church, is everyone equal? Should there be different standards for different people? The answer to both questions is a resounding “YES.” All Christians are the same, but different. In the church, as in society at large, different functions require higher standards. For example, we expect more from our political leaders than we do from a labourer. It doesn’t mean that the labourer is somehow less than a politician, it means that the politician has a greater responsibility, which necessitates higher standards.

So it is in God’s church. I believe that “there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). The New Testament Scriptures break down walls of racial, gender, and economic inequality. Sadly, imbalance in these realms is still alive and well in some churches. But we need to realise that, even though all Christians are equal, there are functional differences that demand higher standards.

Gifts Carry Responsiblity

Consider the teaching gift which I operate regularly (even in writing this blog). The teacher of God’s Word is held to a greater standard. So much so that the apostle James discourages people from desiring the teaching gift: “not many of you should become teachers in the church, for we who teach will be judged more strictly.” When I stand before the judgment seat of Christ, I will not only give an account for my own life, but also for what I’ve built into the lives of others.

The apostle Paul goes to great lengths in his pastoral letters to point out the same thing (1 Tim. 3:1-13). Pastors (elders, overseers, bishops) and deacons (those who assist the pastors in caring for God’s people), have a high calling with considerable responsibility. Therefore, there are greater expectations:

  • Faithful to their spouse if married. Celibate if single.
  • Above blame and accusation. Living a consistent life.
  • Free from addictions, self-controlled, and modest.
  • Hospitable and able to teach the Word.
  • Not quarrelsome but gentle and peaceable.
  • Not in love with money.
  • A person who manages their own family and household well.
  • A person of deep, godly character.
  • Not a new convert, but mature in the faith.
  • Of good reputation with those outside the church.

It’s quite a list that I take soberly as I’ll be judged by these standards on the Day of Jesus Christ. While we would certainly look for these same qualities to be found in every Christian, the Bible demands them in those who aspire to leadership.

The Burden of Leadership

And so, at Bayside Church, while everyone is equal and everyone is welcome in God’s church, not everyone will be welcomed into leadership. There are higher standards and expectations for those in the public eye: worship leaders (musicians and singers) and teachers of the Word.

Everyone who serves at Bayside needs to go through a discipleship program and gain a “Working with Children Check”. We have higher expectations for those who serve in children’s and youth ministries because we are on our guard against predators. People who serve God and his church in these ways are held to a higher standard and will undergo a stricter judgment.

A well-known Melbourne building is the Arts Centre. The outer roof of the building is low and wide, then rises in the middle as a 162 metre Spire. This is an excellent picture of the church. As with the Arts Centre roof, the church’s welcome is broad. No matter the lifestyle or background, everyone is welcome. All are equal. But those who aspire to serve in public and leadership roles should not be blinded to the truth that they will be held to high standards in a way that others are not.

In last week’s blog I highlighted something that the church needs to beware of, that is, outraged Christians.  They write blogs and social media posts that others share with little or no fact checking.  All they do is distort the truth, create fear and lead to further outrage which creates an attitude of culture wars.  Outraged Christians see themselves as a minority that has to lobby and campaign for their rights.  How different this is to the way the first century Church conducted themselves in even more adversarial circumstances than we face today (read the Book of Acts).

In recent times, I’ve noticed another falsehood being shared and re-shared by the outraged.  This time it’s about the Doctors in Secondary Schools program introduced by the State Premier of Victoria, Daniel Andrews.  The outrage goes as follows:

Daniel Andrews’ government has launched a program that will allow students to bypass permission from their parents and receive medical treatment, including the pill, without their parents’ or guardians’ knowledge.  The quoted example is of a girl as young as 11 being able to get a prescription for contraceptives from school without the parents knowing about it.

As the father of three daughters, I’d certainly be concerned if this were true. So instead of sharing the outrage on social media, I did some homework and here’s what I discovered:

The people who are outraged are missing the primary purpose of this program that is all about improving the mental health of youth in Australia.  The Doctors in Secondary Schools program is not about providing an oral contraception service to adolescent girls.  As suicide is the leading cause of death for the 15-19-year-old age group in Australia (which accounts for 31% of deaths in this age group), this program aims at removing a barrier and improving the mental health of this vulnerable population.

Regarding the issue of whether a doctor can prescribe the oral contraceptive to a young person without the parents’ consent, the concept of “mature minor” comes into play. [1]

This idea of “mature minor” was first adopted in England after a famous court case in the 1980’s when a mother of five daughters (Mrs. Gillick) took the family doctor to court.  The court rejected her claim, and it was at that time the law was changed in England to reflect this.  Australia followed suit shortly after.  So it has been legal to prescribe the oral contraceptive to “mature minors” for more than 30 years.  This practice goes on in Australian general practices every day.  It is not a new thing.

What this looks like in practical terms is that very few adolescents under 16 would satisfy the definition of mature minors.  They often do not have a thorough understanding of the risks of entering a new sexual relationship (unwanted pregnancy, STIs, etc.) or the consequences of their actions.  What most GPs do is spend a lot of time trying to persuade the young person to talk to their parents and include them in the decision making process.  They also screen to make sure that someone is not coercing the young person into a sexual relationship.  Older teens would still need to satisfy the GP that they have a complete understanding of the risk and consequences of entering into a sexual relationship.  It would only be if the GP felt that the young person was definitely going to engage in sex that they would prescribe it on the grounds that the risks of pregnancy were greater than the harms of being on the pill.

The concept of mature minor also comes into play in schools.  It is the Department of Education policy that principals can declare a child to be a mature minor and to make decisions about their education.[2]  In the same way that principals would always have the young person’s best interests at heart, so too do GPs.  It would be a very rare circumstance that it was not in the best interests of the adolescent to have their parents involved in decisions about their education or medical care.  GPs want parental involvement too.

Have people been getting up in arms about the Department of Education policy?  NO!  Has it been the policy for years now?  YES!

So this outrage that’s been doing the rounds online is just another example of people getting upset about a new initiative that is not so new but has been occurring for years in a different form.  And maybe this new initiative might save a few lives as doctors, parents and the education department work together to help prevent unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, sexual abuse, self-harm, and suicide as well as to diagnose and treat mental illnesses.

So how should we deal with outrage when we see it?

First of all, rather than respond to or repeat the information, check it out.  Get the facts and see if the outrage has any foundation.  Secondly, how about we (Christians) get outraged about the genuine injustices we see around us?  Where’s the outrage from the church about the mistreatment of refugees and asylum seekers?  Where’s the outrage that leads us to help those who, for whatever reason, find themselves homeless on our city streets?  Let me hear some Christian outrage about domestic violence, human trafficking and the injustices faced by Australia’s Indigenous people.  Let’s start being incensed by the things that anger God.  Maybe then Australians will sit up and start to give some value to the Church again (instead of leaving it in droves) because they will see us not just looking after our interests but also the interests of others. [3]




[3] Philippians 2:4

A 1999 romantic comedy, The Runaway Bride brought back together the couple we fell in love with in Pretty Woman (1990) – Richard Gere and Julia Roberts.  In The Runaway Bride Julia Roberts plays Maggie Carpenter an attractive young woman who is nervous of being married and, as a result, has left three men waiting for her at the altar on their wedding day (all of which are caught on tape), receiving tabloid fame and the dubious nickname “The Runaway Bride.”[1]  Maggie is scared of commitment and conflict and consequently has become a consumer of relationships.

One of the metaphors for the church in the Bible is that of a “bride” with all of the beauty and depth of meaning that is reflected in such a relationship.  But over the past few years I’ve noticed an increasing amount of the same “qualities” in some parts of Christ’s bride as we see in the runaway bride – and it’s not a pretty sight.

Maggie Carpenter wants to be in a satisfying, happy marriage but she fears commitment and thus runs away at the last moment.  I’ve noticed this increasingly amongst some Christians, although I must say that right now at Bayside Church we’re reversing this trend.  I totally understand that some people have been overly committed to serving in their church and have become exhausted as a result.  Sometimes they’re fearful of committing again.  If that’s the case they need to be able to sit and soak in God’s presence for a season to be healed and restored.

There are others though who are just afraid to commit.  They’re happy to receive but not to give and they miss out on all the benefits that commitment brings.  The Dead Sea is dead because it only takes in water (from the Jordan River) but has no outflow.  The salt content is very high and so no plants or animals can live in the sea.  Apart from bacteria and a few microorganisms the Dead Sea is well … dead!  A person who fears commitment experiences the same deadness because they are good receivers but they have no flow out.  They don’t commit, they don’t connect and they eventually runaway often to repeat the same process in another part of Jesus’ Bride.

The second fear of the runaway bride is conflict.  There is no such thing as a committed relationship without conflict – just ask any couple who have been together for any length of time.  The way to a deeper and more fulfilling relationship is learning to work through conflict in a mature, rational and caring way.  Over the years at Bayside Church I’ve seen many people do this and the results have been wonderful.  Sadly I’ve watched others become part of the runaway bride.  Conflict happens and they run – either to another part of the bride (often to repeat the process) or they walk away from the bride completely.  Such people are on an endless search for the perfect church and they are constantly disappointed.

All of this leads to consumerism.  Julia Robert’s character became a consumer of relationships who ran from commitment and conflict and left a trail of broken hearts behind her.  Consumerism is a stain on the modern-day Bride of Christ – and it’s getting worse.  I am so grateful to the committed people at Bayside Church, many of whom have stood strong with us for one or two decades – some for 25 years.  But during this time I’ve also watched an increasing number of Christians driven by consumerism.  I know that the Holy Spirit strategically moves people to various parts of Christ’s Bride.  People move house, change jobs, shift to a different part of a city, a country or even overseas and they will find a new local church as a result.  But others are motivated by consumerism to make sure all “their” needs are met.  They often leave behind them bewildered friends.

Maggie finally meets Ike (Richard Gere) who she also initially runs away from.  “Maggie then explains that she had been running because every other guy she was engaged to was only engaged to the idea she had created for them rather than the real her, but with Ike she ran because, even though he truly understood her, she didn’t understand herself. She “turns in” her running shoes just before proposing to Ike.” [2]  Christians who are constantly “running away” need to face up to the reasons why they’re running.  Like Maggie they need to do some healthy introspection and learn to understand themselves.  Whether it’s consumerism or a fear of commitment and conflict, it’s time to stop being part of The Runaway Bride.  Put down roots, commit to serving and not just receiving, and make a decision to work through conflict.  You’ll be so glad you did – and so will everyone else!


[2] Ibid.

In last week’s blog I mentioned a book I read while on holiday recently: One of Us by journalist Asne Seierstad. In it the author brilliantly presents the story of Anders Behring Breivik, the man who killed 77 people (and wounded many more) in the bomb attack and mass shooting in Norway on 22 July 2011. Breivik was a far-right “Christian” who committed these atrocities because he was concerned that Norway was losing its Christian values due to the policies of the left. That’s why he targeted the seat of Norway’s Government as well as a camp for up and coming leftist leaders.

When I mentioned this last week someone very quickly corrected me by telling me that Breivik is not a Christian, but he called himself one and acted out of his view of Christian values. Consider some of his beliefs …

• He advocated for the deportation of all Muslims unless they converted to Christianity, were baptised and given new Christian names.

• He prayed to God. On one occasion he wrote in his diary, “I explained to God that unless he wanted the Marxist-Islamic alliance and the certain Islamic takeover of Europe to completely annihilate European Christendom within the next hundred years he must ensure that the warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom prevail. He must ensure that I succeed in my mission and as such; contribute to inspire thousands of other revolutionary conservative nationalist, anti-Communists and anti-Islamists throughout the European world.”

• He encouraged the Church to be more forthright, priests to be more like in the old days and the reintroduction of teaching Christianity in schools.

• He viewed the execution of 77 people as a way of preventing the loss of “our ethnic group, our Christianity, our culture.”

• He described himself as “a militant Christian and not particularly religious.” He said, “We want a Christian cultural heritage, Christian religious instruction in schools and a Christian framework for Europe.” He claimed, “I’m a Christian, I believe in God.”

Breivik called himself a Christian, and yet any reasonable person would realise that just because someone calls himself a Christian doesn’t mean he is one. We expect a person’s Christian faith to reflect in a certain way in their life and that certainly doesn’t include the murder of 77 people.

Consider the following words, “In this hour I would ask of the Lord God only this: that He would give His blessing to our work, and that He may ever give us the courage to do the right. I am convinced that men who are created by God should live in accordance with the will of the Almighty. No man can fashion world history unless upon his purpose and his powers there rests the blessings of this Providence.” It’s an excellent proclamation that no Christian would disagree with. But these words were part of a speech given by Adolf Hitler in 1937. History is littered with examples like this. Consider the Catholics and Protestants who were blowing each other up in the Northern Irish Troubles or Joseph Kony (a radical Christianist and leader of The Lord’s Resistance Army) who called for the establishment of a severe Christian fundamentalist government in Uganda and other parts of Africa.

Just because someone carries the title “Christian” doesn’t mean they are one – anymore than someone who calls himself or herself a Muslim or Buddhist or Hindu but don’t live according to the tenets of their faith especially the Golden Rule.

I have a number of Muslim friends and they often tell me how embarrassed they are over the actions of Islamist terrorists. “Please don’t think we’re all like that,” they say to me. “They are not real Muslims and they don’t represent our faith.” My friends are peace-loving people who reflect many of the values of my own faith – they love their family and friends, they help those in need and they love their God.

Being a Christian is not just about wearing a badge or bearing a title. Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” and He’d already taught His followers what those commands were – the love commandments: love the Lord your God, love one another, love your neighbour and love your enemy. The apostle Paul summarised it this way: “Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.” A true Christian will live a life that does “no harm to a neighbor.” Anders Breivik did not live that way!

In asking this question I’m not referring to the denomination or style of the church you’re part of (or not part of).  Over my 30 years as a pastor, I’ve observed many “kinds” of people who refer to themselves as “Christian.” I’ve noticed some particular trends in the past few years, some of which seem to be especially unhealthy and not accurately reflecting the church Jesus said He would build.  So, what kind of Christian are YOU?

1. The Convenience Christian treats the church, and their spirituality, like the local convenience store. They know it’s there whenever they need something. They’ll just pop in from time to time when it’s, umm, convenient.  This is the lifestyle Christian who fits God and faith around the more important things of life like sport, time for themselves and catching up with friends.

2. The Consumer Christian attends a church for what they can get out of it, and they will continue to attend (when it’s convenient) for as long as you are able to meet their needs.  They want everything to be just right – the right music, the right songs – at the right volume, the right teaching (as long as it’s entertaining) and the right programs for their kids.  Don’t ask the consumer Christian to do anything; they’re not at church for that. Other people do the things!  You have the consumer Christian’s loyalty as long as you continue to do the right thing and as long as a church doesn’t start up nearby who can do things more right than you.  The consumer Christian is also willing to travel some distance to get what they want.  They are very committed to their needs being met.

3. The Crisis Christian is often a convenience Christian too.  They’re the ones you only see when they have an emergency.  They’re quite happy when all is well. God is kind of “there” and they know the church will always be there too, but it’s only when something goes wrong that God and church seem important.  Their prayer life will spring to life and God is entreated to get them out of the problem and to end the pain.  They come back to church as a bargaining chip with God.  They believe in the doctrine of Quid pro quo – offering prayers to God as a trade: “God, if you get me out of this then I will … (fill in the blank here).”  This is not Christianity at all.  In fact, this kind of thinking can be traced back to the idolatry and religious festivals of ancient Rome (Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning “something for something”).

4. The Crowd Christian just loves to be amongst the multitude.  The bigger the church the better! They often want to be anonymous (which is okay for a while but not long-term).  The crowd is often made up of convenience, consumer and crisis Christians.  This is leading to a modern phenomenon of large churches having more people who attend less often.  It’s easy to build a crowd as long as you have the best of everything.  The crowd will come for an event like a guest speaker, or a band or food.  Just ask Jesus who had a crowd of 5000 men plus women and children when there were miracles and food flowing but only had 120 people at a 9am prayer meeting.

The Conspiracy Christian. knows that there’s lots of dark stuff happening in the world and feels called of God to make sure we all know about it.  Some of the conspiracy theories perpetrated by conspiracy Christians over the years include:

  • Obama is the Antichrist and plans to rule America by sharia law
  • Charles Darwin took it all back the day he died
  • The Birth control pill turns your uterus into a grave littered with teeny-weeny corpses of fully formed babies
  • The Bible is really an ancient computer program
  • Jesus invented the Internet
  • Noah came from Mars
  • The Garden of Eden is hidden under Kansas City
  • The government is setting up concentration camps throughout the U.S. to intern Christians
  • Each year, 1 million children are kidnapped and murdered by satanic cults
  • Gay men wear special rings for the sole purpose of giving innocent straight people HIV.
  • The abortion-mad Chinese eat human foetuses.

Now, I don’t doubt for one minute that there are things happening in this world that we don’t know about. There is a dark side to this, but Christians need to stop fixating on the Illuminati and start focusing on Jesus and the Kingdom of God.

6. The Condemning Christian is much like the conspiracy Christian but his “ministry” is to guard the truth and expose and criticise anyone who deviates in the slightest way.  These people seem to have a massive amount of discretionary time to read and respond to blogs and Facebook posts. They like to disagree and argue and it doesn’t matter what you say they will always come back with why you’re wrong. They are cowards behind keyboards – usually faceless, often nameless.  There are whole ministries set up for the express purpose of keeping pastors, churches & other ministries “accountable.”  They are self-appointed guardians of the truth and they are unrelenting and brutal.  Theirs is the ministry of condemnation. Condemning Christians are like the schoolyard bullies of the Internet and, just like the bullies, they crave attention.  They also exist in our churches. They’re the people for whom nothing is ever right and who have to pick the one statement in your sermon they disagree with and focus on that to the detriment of everything else you said. They strain out gnats and swallow camels.

7. The Community Christian is the person that reflects what Jesus came to build – His Church.  The English word “church” is translated from the Greek word Ekklesia that originally referred to a group of people who were called out from their homes (usually by a trumpet) and summoned to a public political meeting.  Jesus, Luke, Paul, James and John use this word 114 times to describe the community that would result from Jesus’ life, death & resurrection.  The church is not a building, not something you simply “attend,” not an event or a consumable commodity, not a convenience or a crowd to hide in.  The church is a community of believers in Jesus who gather on a regular basis in large and small groups to worship, pray, be instructed in God’s Word, eat together, help one another in practical and spiritual ways, build friendships and grow in grace, give and receive and reach out to a world that God loves and for whom Jesus died (see Acts 2:42-47). The New Testament speaks many times of believers gathering or meeting together as a community.  The writer to the Hebrew Christians was particularly strong on the importance of this gathering: let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.”

Real community is life changing as reflected in this email I received from a guy in Bayside Church last week:

“Hi Rob.  Thanks for last Sunday it was absolutely amazing.  When you showed the video interview with the guy from Open Doors, and he spoke about the 12yr old girl who was persecuted by her father, I found it very difficult to comprehend.  What came next was even more powerful. You asked us to get into groups and pray for the persecuted church. I was in a group of 4 and I felt like I needed to start off but I burst into tears, overwhelmed by Gods presence and how that 12-year-old girl had been treated. I prayed, then the lady next to me started crying when she prayed and so did her husband, and the guy next to me was also in tears.  Then we worshipped God some more and that was amazing. And then we had a pray line so I headed straight out, still crying by the way.  I went down for the count and God was all over me. Awesome!  You know I woke up that morning and straight away I heard the Holy Spirit say ‘honour me.’  You see that day we had no kids so we were going to skip church and do something together. I went instead.”

So which one(s) of the above seven kinds of Christians best describes you?  Be honest and, if you’re not reflecting the qualities of the Community Christian then it’s time to make some changes: “The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed.”  



Rob Buckingham is the founding pastor of Bayside Church, a thriving faith community located in the Bayside suburbs of Melbourne.  Welcoming people from all walks of life, Bayside Church invites all people to experience the Christian faith and God.  For more information about Bayside Church:

What to Expect


Bayside Kids

Bayside Youth


More Blogs From Rob Buckingham

There are over 100 references of the word “gospel” mentioned by several authors in the New Testament.  But it wasn’t a new word that they made up to describe what was accomplished and offered by Jesus.  It was a well-known word in classical Greek (euangelion) referring to a message of victory, or other political or personal news, that caused joy!  It was a word that was commonly used by people in the Roman Empire.

When Julius Caesar was assassinated on March 15, 44BC in the Theatre of Pompey, a period of political unrest followed.  The Roman Republic struggled for a time in civil war until Julius Caesar’s nephew Octavian (later called Augustus) took the throne in 31BC.  Caesar Augustus is the earliest figure of the Roman Empire mentioned in the New Testament as he was the emperor during the time of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2).

Caesar Augustus was called the “son of god” who was the great “Saviour” of the whole earth through bringing an end to civil war and ushering in the Pax Romana (200 years of “peace” to Rome).  The themes of freedom, justice, peace and salvation permeated his reign. Whenever the great deeds of Augustus were proclaimed, they were presented with the Greek term euangelion.  His deeds were celebrated with poems and inscriptions, coins and images, statues, altars and structures.

An imperial quote stated, “All the cities unanimously adopt the birthday of the divine Caesar as the new beginning of the year … the birthday of the god [Augustus] has been for the whole world the beginning of good news (euangelion) concerning him [therefore let a new era begin from his birth].”

Caesar is depicted as having been born, and therefore as human, but also in some mysterious way, he is also divine.  The poet Horace put it this way: “upon you [Augustus] however, while still among us, we already bestow honours, set up altars to swear by in our name, and confess that nothing like you will arise hereafter or has ever arisen before now” (Epistles 2.1.15-17)

So to summarise: Augustus was seen as a god in human form who ushered in a new era of peace. He was called the son of god and the Saviour. His birth changed the calendar and his deeds were celebrated as good news, or gospel, that brought joy to people.  In the midst of this, Jesus was born – the one referred to as the Saviour, the Son of God who would bring peace and good news that will cause great joy for all the people (see Luke 1:35; 2:10-14).

No wonder the introduction of the Christian faith brought such a clash of cultures that resulted in Rome persecuting Christians for the best part of 300 years.  Author Edward Gibbon put it this way: “By embracing the faith of the Gospel the Christians incurred the supposed guilt of an unnatural and unpardonable offence. They dissolved the sacred ties of custom and education, violated the religious institutions of their country, and presumptuously despised whatever their fathers had believed as true, or had reverenced as sacred.”

Throughout the centuries the radical teaching of grace and love by Jesus and His followers has continued to create a clash with the culture of the day – and life today is no different.  In this age of entitlement, the “like me” generation that is looking for its “best life” clashes severely with the teaching of Jesus to “love your neighbor as yourself.”  Emphasising only the internal aspects of the gospel has raised up a generation of selfish consumer-Christians who stop at Jesus being their “own personal Saviour,” while neglecting the fact that the gospel is not just something you experience – it’s something you live!  The gospel of Jesus is not just about “me” – it’s about “us” and it’s about “others.”

When Jesus began His ministry He did so by reading from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah in a synagogue on the Sabbath Day.  He presented the gospel – a message of victory that caused joy!  Jesus said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.  He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour.”

Jesus taught that living the gospel message would mean that He and His people would bring:

  • Good news to the poor
  • Freedom for the prisoners
  • Sight for the blind
  • Freedom for the oppressed

He finished the reading by saying that the gospel was a proclamation of the year of the Lord’s favour.  Interestingly enough Jesus stopped reading halfway through a sentence.  The next line says, “and the day of vengeance of our God.”  Jesus announced that this was the time when God is willing to accept people.  The original word refers to an amnesty – a general pardon for offenses, often granted before any trial or conviction, as well as an act of forgiveness for, and the forgetting or overlooking of any past offense.  What wonderful news Jesus proclaimed for all people.  All of us who have been changed by the gospel are carriers of good news that should bring great joy to others.

“Born again!” It’s a familiar term that’s been done to death in recent times.  If you google it you come up with all sorts of things from movies to songs, albums to books, and of course the Abba tribute band Bjorn Again.  “Born again” is a hair product, a beauty mask, a motorbike restoration business and a fashion show.  It’s an American activist group and a comic book. Right here in Melbourne, you can even cover your concrete slab with “Born again floors.”  Born again is an Elvis impersonator in Sydney, and rapper Snoop Dog said he was born again after visiting a Rastafarian Temple in Jamaica earlier this year where a High Priest told him, ‘You are the light; you are the lion.’  He now refers to himself as “Snoop Lion”. I kid you not.

But when you mention “born again”, most people think of the Christian term – and it’s not always positive. In research that Bayside Church conducted last year, those that don’t attend church saw the term as fanatical, cultish, brainwashed, the vocal minority, a crutch or as referring to the American Bible belt.

Those that were in the church saw it as somewhat more positive:  renewed in Jesus,

Jesus as Saviour, saved, life-changing, forgiven/redeemed, freedom/new start and restored.  Some in the church viewed “born again” less positively as meaning: I’ve arrived, powerfully divisive, misunderstood, polarising, confusing, confronting, severing ties, isolating, segmenting, or a 70s and 80s term.

So, what is being born again really all about?  It’s first found in the third chapter of the book of John in the Bible where Jesus is having a discussion with a senior Jewish leader, Nicodemus, who recognises Jesus as “a teacher who has come from God.”  Jesus ignores the flattery and tells Nicodemus, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” Nicodemus understands the term because it was well known in the Hebrew culture of his day, but he was confused by Jesus’ use of it because Nicodemus had already been born again four times.

There were six ways a person was considered born again in Jesus’ day:

1. When a gentile converted to Judaism

2. Being crowned king

3. At the Bar Mitzvah (coming of age ceremony) at age 13

4. Being married

5. Being ordained as a Rabbi (at age 30)

6. Becoming the head of a Rabbinic academy (at age 50)

“Born again” referred to all of these major life stages after which one would never be the same again.  The first two of these didn’t apply to Nicodemus but the last four did.  There was no other way, in his thinking, that he could be born again and so he asks Jesus, “How can a man be born when he is old? Surely he cannot enter a second time when his mother’s womb to be born!” (John 3:4)(NIV).  In other words, the only way I could be born again was if I entered my mother’s womb and started the process all over.

It’s at this point that Jesus starts to help Nicodemus with his confusion: “Jesus answered, ” I tell you the truth, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit. You should not be surprised at my saying, ‘You must be born again” (John 3:5-7) (NIV).

Jesus refers here to the two births – natural birth and spiritual birth.  “Born of water” (referring to when a woman’s waters break) is the same as being “born of the flesh,” that is, natural birth that makes us a part of a natural family.  When your parents conceived you, you became part of their family. You became their son or daughter.  But Jesus goes one step further and says there’s a second birth, a spiritual birth where “Spirit gives birth to spirit.” At that time you are adopted into the family of God and become His son or daughter (see Ephesians 1:5).  God becomes your Father and Jesus is your older brother.  That’s why Jesus taught us to pray, “Our Father in heaven” – He included us in the family of God.  What an honour. What a privilege.

The apostle Paul reflected on this amazing truth in his letter to the Galatian church, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son … that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir” (Gal 4:6-7) (NIV).

When you accept God’s Son, Jesus, as your Saviour, you are born (again) into God’s family, you receive the full rights of a son or daughter, you call him father (“Abba” is an Aramaic word which denotes warmth and relaxed familiarity), and you also become an heir inheriting all that God has for you in this life as well as the life to come.

I hope by reading this you realise that Jesus’ use of the term “born again” was intensely positive. If you have accepted Jesus as your Saviour, then delight afresh in who you are as a child of your Father God. If you aren’t born again, what’s stopping you?



There has been much celebration in the past few days as Pope Benedict XVI in St. Peter’s Square in Rome canonized Sister Mary MacKillop. Saint Mary MacKillop of the Cross is Australia’s first Roman Catholic Saint.  I’m thrilled for Australian Catholics as they have something to celebrate as members of a church that has received much bad press in recent years – especially because of paedophile priests and accusations of child sexual abuse and it’s cover-up by some church officials.  Interestingly, Sister Mary was excommunicated for a period five months in 1871 for exposing an Irish paedophile priest’s abuse of a child.

There is no doubt that Mary MacKillop had a genuine relationship with God and her faith was the springboard for a life of service to God and people in need.  The Australian Catholics website has this to say:“Mary’s deep interior union with God is the key to her greatness. She believed that God knew her intimately and loved her. She responded by giving all her love and her whole life to God. She felt sustained by God’s love, and the courage and strength she drew from God helped her to pursue Christ’s mission of bringing hope to the marginalized, particularly the young.”

I’m not a Roman Catholic, but I have no problem with a great saint of the past being honored by the church.  The Bible is full of great men and women of faith being honored – read Hebrews chapter 11 for a large list of them.  All four Gospel writers record the story of another Mary who anointed Jesus with oil just days before his death.  Jesus said of her, “wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her” (Matthew 26:13).

I do believe, however, that the Roman Catholic practice of sainthood in some respects goes too far and in other areas does not go far enough.  I will explain …

I believe it goes too far in that Catholics pray to the saints. It is the official position of the Roman Catholic Church that Catholics do not pray TO saints or Mary, but rather that Catholics can ask saints or Mary to pray FOR them. The official position of the Roman Catholic Church is that asking saints for their prayers is no different than asking someone here on earth to pray for you.  The challenge is that many Catholics do pray TO Saints and this practice is found nowhere in the Bible.  Effective Biblical prayer is always addressed to God the Father in the name (authority) of Jesus with the help of the Holy Spirit (See John 15:16; Romans 8:26-27).

Secondly, I believe the Roman Catholic practice of sainthood (canonization) does not go far enough in that it has strict qualifications of who is and is not a saint. In official Church procedures there are three steps to sainthood:

1. Venerable – a deceased person recognized as having lived heroic virtues.
2. Blessed – in addition to personal attributes of charity and heroic virtue, one miracle, acquired through the individual’s intercession, is required.
3. Saint – Canonization requires two miracles or Martyrdom.

While the Bible teaches strongly on the blessings of living a virtuous life – and death (martyrdom), nowhere does it specify these as qualities for sainthood. The Bible uses the word “saints” 69 times and it’s always plural.  It refers to the company of people – living and dead – who have faith in God and have lived lives of mercy, goodness and holiness in community with other believers.  In other words, there are millions of saints and YOU could well be one of them!

Praise God for Mary MacKillop.  Let us rejoice in the honor that has been bestowed on her because of her life of faith and good deeds.  But in the honoring of Mary MacKillop let us not think that sainthood is something that is not obtainable for us.  If Jesus is your Savior and you’re living a life that truly reflects your faith in practical ways, and you’re doing this in community with other believers, you’re a saint too!

Ever met a judgmental Christian?  You probably have, there are plenty around – people who are ready to point out something that is wrong in someone else’s life, making the person feel put down, excluded, and marginalized.  It baffles me as to why some people feel that they have a right to judge others when Jesus taught on several occasions “Do not judge” (Luke 6:37; Matthew 7:1).  It doesn’t get any clearer than that, does it?

Christians are to assess things according to the Word of God but we must never condemn people with the Word.  We need to express God’s truth without being judgmental and condemning.  We can feel strongly about something but we must never be arrogant or lacking in compassion.

Next time you’re tempted to be judgmental ask yourself:

  • What is my reason for wanting to correct or judge?
  • Is it for their benefit or to satisfy my pride and self-righteousness?
  • Am I more focused on condemning people than helping them?
  • Is love for them my motivating force?

“Love endures long and is patient and kind…it is not arrogant and inflated with pride; it is not rude…it is not self-seeking.  Love…is ever ready to believe the best of every person…” (1 Corinthians 13:4-6AMP)

And remember, Jesus doesn’t judge people.  He said, “I did not come to judge the world, but to save it” (John 12:47).  And so if we are like Jesus, we won’t judge people either: “Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.” (Romans 14:4)

The Bible asks a great question in James 4:12, “who are you to judge your neighbour?”  Nowhere are we told to judge our neighbour.  Quite the contrary, we are instructed to love our neighbour as we love ourselves.

God sees us as less than perfect and responds to us with grace and not judgment!  Should we do any less for others?