“The picture I have of prayer is like Luke 15 and the prodigal son story, where the father ran to him and embraced him; I see prayer more as a hug than a kneeling appeal.” Judah Smith in The One: Experience Jesus.
This excerpt from the interview we did with Pastor Judah really hit home the importance of perception and how it can influence our behavior. Is prayer something that I do religiously because I know I am meant to talk with my heavenly father? Or is it something that I want to do, a natural reaction based on how I view Him and my relationship with Him? Above all else in this life, I want to have a vibrant relationship with him that is open and where I know I can come to Him with any question, request, confession or struggle. I think sometimes we need to pray desperately, but not out of heart that is trying to twist God’s arm to do something for us. It should be more from a position of “Abba, Father, I need your help, I know whatever happens it’s not based on my good works or what I’ve done wrong, but have your way in my life.” I want to see God as the father that runs to us, listens and acts according to His will to our prayers.
Heart and Soul
Am I a person that God can use? That’s a question that has stuck with me for almost 20 years, since joining a small church called London Christian Life Centre in 1997. My family, along with about 50 other people, have seen that church, which later became Hillsong London, expand and grow in an unbelievable way. I remember our pastor Gary Clarke asking “can God look at this church and see people who are willing to let Him use them?” Since then I have learned the importance of doing a regular heart checkup. What kind of attitude do I have? What’s coming out of my heart that would allow God to use me?
As a church we used to have these ‘checkups’ once a month at the Heart & Soul nights. We would eat together, meet people new to church, worship God and hear from our Pastor and a few others. They would talk about the culture of the church, what we value, what our purpose was, how we wanted to make a difference. It was all about the heart of the church and a time to reinforce the Kingdom culture we were creating in God’s house.
Like every other church in the world, Hillsong Church is made up of people who are all on a journey, so it can never be perfect. But the value that has always been placed on keeping a heart healthy is, I believe, one of the main reasons it’s the Church it is today. This value obviously comes from the leaders, both in what they say and how they live. What do they value, what kind of fruits are we seeing in their lives, who are they pointing to when they’re speaking, does it all reflect a heart that wants to point people to Jesus?
After many years at Hillsong London, I was offered the opportunity to become a member of staff. I remember we would have open house days, where pastors from around Europe would come and speak with our different departments about how we did what we did. From those times, I think some pastors wanted to know the “secret” of what made Hillsong Church grow. There are so many elements to this, but what it all comes down to is imperfect people with hearts that say “yes” and the abundant grace of God as He actually does work through those people.
‘Grace’ might just seem like the nice Christian explanation for anything that is successful, but its also the right answer. I know from my time working for church, and in my own day to day life, how easy it is to be busy and get distracted, how we can gradually detour onto a path of self sufficiency, seeking to do it all for God but in our own strength. How often do we ignore the signs and attitudes that are slipping out of unhealthy heart? We can think that neglecting our personal relationship with Jesus is a necessary sacrifice for the greater good and ‘working’ for God, that if we are doing things ‘for’ God then surely that is just as good as spending time with Him.
At the end of the day, we know we’ll never produce the fruit we want to see in our lives if we do it in our own strength. And its really just pride to think we can achieve something for God that He couldn’t do without us. The good news is that we weren’t meant to, when grace is changing and talking hold of our hearts, we start to see the fruit of a growing and abundant life.
As a church leader or as a Christian in general, if you wake up each morning with the sense of “I need to perform today” whether it’s for the approval of the people you lead or for the approval of Jesus, you’ve lost touch with grace. The church needs leaders who are free from the need for approval, but who have a vibrant and healthy relationship with Jesus, and are willing to be used so that they see growth in the church that could have only come from the grace of God.
So it’s a heart issue. Go for a checkup and see what going on in there. Is approval and performance something that is constantly weighing you down? Or is there a great a sense of approval because of Jesus, reliance on His grace and joy naturally flowing out?
Carlos Darby is the Creative Director of Abrupt Media. He worked for Hillsong London producing magazines and then led the team that produced “WORD,” a NT Bible magazine which has been in print for 5 years and distributed to more than 115,000 people globally. He has just released his new book and App “The One: Experience Jesus” about understanding the true nature of Jesus, His character, why He came, what He accomplished, and what it means to your day-to-day life. Visit theoneexperiencejesus.com to find out more and see the video.