Category Archives: Sydney's Quirky Christianity

Sydney’s Quirky Christianity: The Only Time We Don’t Worship is On Sundays.

(Note: I actually drafted this post seven months ago. But I have just now finished typing a giant email to a mate on this topic, and decided it’s time to go on the record with this. Here’s hoping all my friendships with Sydney Anglicans don’t collapse.)

Good theology can lead to some real hassles.

We know that we should worship God with our whole life, right? Yep. That’s the good theology part.

So, should we call what we do together on Sundays ‘worship’? Many in Sydney say no. That’s the hassle good theology can cause.

In fact, it’s got to the stage where ‘worship’ is being called “the ‘w’ word”. Worship is not a dirty word.

I’ll be blunt:

  • Not calling church ‘worship’ is mainly a Sydney Anglican thing.
  • As best I can tell, it began as a reactionary position; it’s a critique of High Anglicanism.

Who is Being Heard?

Recently, one big proponent of calling church a ‘meeting’ or a ‘gathering’, is Tony Payne from Matthias Media. From all accounts a great guy, and seriously smart. I have read his Briefing articles on shifting from ‘worship’ to ‘meeting/gathering’. They are persuasive in their context, but they do have a specific context – ‘worship’ as doing Anglican liturgy.

Only one article from his series is available at the Matthias website. This article’s big finish is all the great ways churches can ‘be together’ once the shackles of ‘worship’ are dispensed with. He suggests a number of great ways of arranging church services that don’t fit into conventional Anglican liturgy. And they really are great ways of arranging church.

But for Christians who aren’t having an argument about liturgy, who aren’t arguing about the role of a book (besides the Bible!) in shaping corporate worship, who don’t think ‘prayer book’ when they hear the word ‘worship’, his suggestions probably already fit into an idea of creative corporate worship. It’s really a discussion on Anglican liturgy.

Gathered and Scattered Worship

Sydney is pretty quirky in this matter. For most Christians, now and in history, worshipping God is considered something done alone, in groups, and in church. Lately, the catchy titles of ‘gathered’ and ‘scattered’ worship have been used. I like them.

  • Yes, all my life should be lived to God, for God, in His presence, by His Spirit, in and through His Son. All my life should be worship, even when I’m away from other Christians – that’s scattered worship.
  • Yes, when I gather with God’s people, in Christ, by the Spirit, sharing in fellowship with the Father, to do the things that God’s people do when they gather, I am worshipping – that’s gathered worship. And it’s special. It’s different to scattered worship, because it’s gathered, and God’s people have always gathered in, and for, worship.

I Get It, I Just Disagree

Finally, it’s worth saying that not calling Sunday services ‘services’, and not calling gathered worship ‘worship’ has become a bit of a badge that shows your genuine Sydney theological nous. I want to say that I understand the argument, I just respectfully disagree.



Sydney’s Quirky Christianity: We Turn.

Man have people turned on Driscoll! As best I can tell, in exactly one year he went from posterboy to piƱata.

Public opinion really turned when Mars Hill Global was announced. Fair enough, I think MHG is a bad idea. But what he’s being smacked around for now is that he says he is Reformed Charismatic. Is this enough to take someone from hero to zero? Really?

I’ve heard MD mention it, and another (sympathetic) speaker quote him, and a few things are clear:

  1. He’s speaking to specific audiences, who will understand the nuanced meaning he’s going for.
  2. He’s talking about tempering the crazy from both the Ultra-Reformed and Ultra-Charismatic camps.
  3. He’s basically saying that he has a Reformed soteriology and he isn’t a cessationist. He would agree that the Spirit’s primary work is in pointing people to the Son, but also believes that ministry is done in the power of the Spirit, that there is a spiritual battle going on, and that the Christian needs to keep in step with the Spirit. Who’d argue?

Men for whom I have a great deal of respect are arguing it’s impossible to be a Reformed Charismatic. DJPJ at least sees the rhetorical skill in the phrase, fair enough too, given his oratory skills, but he ultimately argues that the title doesn’t make sense.

I’ve got no problem with Phil Jensen deciding he’s not on board with the phrase – his critiques are always thoughtful. But something broader has swept through Sydney. Driscoll has somehow become one of the bad guys, and “Reformed Charismatic” is his weak link to attack. The real message seems to be: He’s not on our team anymore.

I was at neither of the last two MTD Ministry Intensives, so this is based on what filters out, but that’s ok. Only a few are at the day, the rest of us hear what filters out. It seems that the obvious subtext of this year’s conference day was why last year’s was a mistake. If you were there and disagree, that’s great, but I’m talking the message that has actually got out.

That message is that Driscoll is now on the nose.



Sydney’s Quirky Christianity- Part 1. We Agree.

Evangelical Christianity in Sydney has some quirks – things that are pretty normal here that aren’t normal elsewhere. I’m writing a series of posts to look at a few of them, and I want to start with a positive.

Firstly: We agree on just about all of the big stuff.

We tend to forget that, around the world, Evangelicalism is not the narrow term it is here. In the US, churches we would find bizarre, and would disagree with on many, many counts, call themselves Evangelical. The term there is now so broad it has to be reclaimed and redefined in order to be useful.

If you’re an evangelical Christian in Sydney, and you meet another evangelical Christian in Sydney, you can have a fair idea what you’ll agree on. Your new friend probably believes:

  • That the Bible is true
  • That people really are sinners out of relationship with God
  • That the Bible contains one great story of God working to redeem His creation to Himself
  • That the Bible’s big story centres on Jesus
  • That Jesus was fully man and fully God
  • That Jesus really did die for our sin, and really did rise again
  • That Jesus really is Lord
  • That faith in Jesus really saves
  • The news about Jesus needs to be preached for people to be saved

That’s actually a lot to agree on! And for that clarity we’ve got some thankin’ to do.

There are any number of people I could mention, but I want to focus on two in particular – Have you heard of DB Knox and DWB Robinson? If you haven’t, your pastor probably has. This dynamic duo ran the show at Moore College for some time, when ministers from just about every evangelical denomination were training there. Lecturers at Moore College still talk them up. Lecturers at the Presbyterian Theological Centre still talk them up. I’ve heard ‘famous’ evangelical preachers from the US talk them up. Find out about them. Read their stuff.* Thank God for them.

We should give thanks for them because their influence is still stamped all over the way Sydney’s evangelical Christianity reads the Bible as a whole, with Jesus at the centre, and preaches the gospel clearly. Did they start careful Bible reading and gospel preaching in Sydney? Of course not, but their present influence is undeniable.

Sydney’s first quirk – in general, we agree on the big stuff.


*(Relatively) recently, people have compiled Selected Works volumes for both of these men. You can click here to have a squiz at Moorebooks. Or go (as in, physically, actually go) to your friendly local theological college’s library and borrow them!