Never thought I’d write a headline like that. After all, Christians are against idols, aren’t they? But on Channel 7 tonight, we heard the ultimate conspiracy theory: Christians (namely Hillsong) have infiltrated Australian Idol (shame!) and maybe half of the remaining contestants are Christians who get voted in because of some kind of organized campaign (as if the others don’t have organized supporters).

Now of course, this somewhat light-weight piece was designed more to rubbish Idol (7 against 10) than Christians, but Hillsong-bashing is a great sport too!!!

Let’s have a few facts:

1. the two ‘idols’ most featured (Matt and Tarisai) actually go to my church, Shirelive//, which is a friend of Hillsong but not a branch.  And yes, we vote for them! I think Tarisai has the best voice on any Idol I’ve ever seen.

2. Guy Sebastian was not part of Hillsong when he won Idol; he came from Adelaide.

3. It’s the judges who seem to love Matt Corby and keep backing him, and I don’t think any of them go to Hillsong.

4. The Idol set up encourages organized voting, after all its helps ratings!

So when Christians organize, it’s wrong, a violation of church/state separation, the religious right are coming!, etc. Right?

At least one commentator on 7’s program had it right: Hillsong (and similar churches) train singers, musos , etc so you have to expect them to do well.

Now let’s get serious: we don’t want to turn great young Christian singers into idols! We need to pray for them to keep a sense of proportion and follow Jesus, not fame. May they be credible and vocal witnesses for Jesus in the Spirit’s power!

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I teach at a charismatic Bible school that embraces all denominations. This semester I have been teaching a course called “Ministry of the Spirit”. This involves discussing all the issues involved with experiencing the Holy Spirit’s power and life today. Clearly there are many perspectives on all this, from cessationism on one end (the idea that gifts of the Spirit, especially supernatural ones, are not on offer today) to hyper-Pentecostalism at the other (the idea that if you don’t speak in tongues, you aren’t saved). For a comparative study of leading positions, go to <www.barrychant.com>

As I told my class, I don’t mind what theology on this you believe provided you have the experience! Which sounds very postmodern, but I am actually a “moderate” Pentecostal. I believe that all the supernatural gifts and experiences of the Spirit related in the NT are available to those who will dare to ask and to step out in faith, following the Spirit’s leading, today. I believe in the “baptism in the Holy Spirit” as an experience that all Christians should seek and that it normally causes you to speak in tongues, amonst other things. Several of my students have received this baptism over the last few weeks as we prayed together in class.

This week I am attending a class on Pentecostal and Charismatic History with Dr Barry Chant, the founder of Tabor and the world’s leading expert on Australian P and C history. This class has reminded me that:

  1. God is faithful to His promises and will endue us with power if we ask Him to.
  2. God will use even the most fallible and imperfect people who make themselves available to Him, e.g. Aimee Semple McPerson who built the famous “Angelus Temple” in LA though she was separated and then divorced and surrounded by all sorts of controversies and accusations.
  3. Having the power of God does not guarantee right doctrine or good practices, but Pentecostals need develop good theology to help safeguard the experience without suppressing it.
  4. Many people God has used powerfully have burned out later (or even had moral falls). We need accountability, balance and wisdom to pace ourselves!
  5. Having the power of God does not guarantee unity: quite the opposite. Pentecostals split and divided over personalities, doctrines, racial and gender divides, etc.
  6. But we need the power! Yes, Pentecostal and charismatic churches are growing, but we in Oz are in danger of being respectable and relying too much on music, leadership, organisation, etc instead on the Spirit’s power. Some of the earlier Pentecostals saw huge amounts of healing, for example! God, do it again!

For all the faults we can find among Pentecostals, charismatic and the like, what they (we) stand for and experience (at least to a degree; we are mostly still well short of NT reality!) is the hope of the church and of the world today!