Please Don’t Get Fired Up For Jesus!

Fired Up T-shirt-Christian T shirts

Have you heard of people being described as ‘on fire for Jesus’? It’s pretty hard to exist in evangelical culture for any length of time and not hear that phrase. I remember as a teenager, growing up it was what we all wanted to be – or it was what we were told we should want to be. ON FIRE – pulsating with palpable energy for Jesus… chanting his name JEEESUSSS JEEESUSSSSS…

You know the vibe right?

We would hear about these Christian ‘super-people’ – kinda like the Marvel heroes of faith who were on fire for God and we were told this is the goal – to be like this yourself.

And it took various forms:

You would go to conferences and see these people jumping up and down with hands raised, eyes closed in orgasmic ecstacy looking the part of the ‘fired up’. The message was clear – if you wanted to be ‘on fire for God’ then you needed to be massively demonstrative in worship – exuberant and expressive, dance, yell, wave your hands and generally let rip.

We are told ‘never to lose our spiritual zeal serving the Lord’… But honestly – I was always a bit skeptical of this stuff… because I knew some of these people and I knew how they lived when they weren’t in church or at a Youth aAlive rally. They weren’t particularly nice people – they weren’t people I’d want to hang around with.

They knew how to act the part. You can be ‘fired up for God’ if you learn the ‘actions’ and the language…

Then there were other people who were the ‘real deal’. And these people took faith to the ‘next level’… (oh it’s cliché central around here today…) and what they did was go to live in slums in countries like the Philippines on the basis that the gospel was good news to the poor.

I remember reading about Mick Duncan in a Christian magazine when I was 19 . He had taken his family to live as missionaries in Manila’s largest slum and they were living in the same conditions as the people around them. I wrote to Mick to see if I could go and join them. He never wrote back… So when I was 23 I hopped on a plane to Manila to try and find these ‘Servants to Asia’s Urban Poor’ because I wanted to do faith right and be around other people who were ‘on fire’ for God.

The message was that these people were the hard core – they were serious about faith, doing the things Jesus said and living as Jesus would have lived. Of course the other message was clear again. If you were a real Christian then you didn’t live in a middle class suburb and drive a Prado. You gave that stuff up and went to live in a depressed part of the city where the need was greater. When Jesus spoke of how the sheep and goats were going to be separated it was on the basis of how they treated the poor and marginalised.

And sometimes you would feel that angsty superior vibe from the people in these places who had got faith ‘right’ – who were suffering for Jesus and who could teach us a thing or two if we’d listen…

Dave Andrews was one of those guys who lived for many years among the poor in India – living as they would. Wow… This week on his facebook page he is writing some reflections on his 50 years of marriage to Ange and as he remembers that time he says ‘I was a self righteous bastard’.

He had figured out what it took to be an elite Christian and he was doing it with all his might. I should add that there are many people doing great work of this kind with grace and humility so its not a stab at them.

Bu maybe you can see where this is going?

You’ve heard of the people who lived in radical Christian community – people who have sold their belongings and joined a common purse type of set up, where there is no private ownership of stuff, but they have all in common as they appeared to do in Acts 2.

They have stepped out in faith and are trying to live ‘biblical Christianity’. They hadn’t just fitted into mainstream culture and become hyper-individualised and self centred. Truth is many of these types of communities have ended in tears or abuse as people discover life just isn’t as simple as they’d hoped and that there is still some serious darkness within them.

We are selfish… by nature.

There are those crazy prayer warriors who rise at 3 each day because they can’t survive on less than 8 hours prayer a day… hmmph… ok…Can we watch TV while we pray? Does all eyes closed time count as prayer?

Much simpler is to be a social media warrior – “repost this if you love jesus! Only true Christians will!!” How to enter the ranks of the elite with the click of a keyboard.


Or if all else fails you can do what the spiritually insecure have been doing for centuries… You can ‘go into the ministry’… Go to Bible college and become a pastor – because everyone knows that pastors are on fire for God every day of the week. (Or maybe now they’re paid to be – they will be…)

I’m sure you can think of other examples.

But maybe we just need to hear it one more time – It’s ok not to be on fire for God.

It’s ok not to be on fire for God in any of those senses. You don’t have to get all funky in worship, you don’t have to go live in a slum, or a Christian community or even become a pastor.

You don’t have to do anything

The problem with each of these things is the implication that doing the things somehow changes our identity before God. That we become more acceptable to him because we are sitting up straight and behaving.

And Dave Andrews hit the nail on the head. When we decide in ourselves to get fired up – to take it up a notch we actually depend on our own ability to achieve righteousness.

Each of these actions when they are motivated by a desire to be better Christians are nothing more than attempts to put ourselves in a better standing before God and nothing reeks more to God than the stench of self righteousness. There was nothing Jesus had higher critique for than the self absorbed, power riddled religiosity of the Pharisees.

So as a first post for the new year I want to say something you may not have heard much of in church.  ‘You don’t have to try so hard’… In fact God is neither excited nor impressed by you doing your best to live the Christian life and ‘be on fire’ for him. I think he would simply say ‘give it up – you’ve missed the point’


The harder we try to be the kind of people we have imagined we need to be, the further we move from the people God calls us to be.

Ephesians 1 is one of those beautiful grounding passages of scripture – that tells us who we are – more specifically who we are in Christ – and my sense is that if we can just grasp who we actually are – then we can stop playing the one-up-man games that being ‘on fire for Jesus’ seems to evoke.

That chapter tells us we have been loved and chosen before the creation of the world, adopted into his family, redeemed by his blood. We are invited into the mystery of cosmic adoption – not so we can solve it with a few formulaic recipes for how real Christianity looks – but so we can know we are loved and accepted no matter what.

We are of immense value to God whether we try hard or whether we just relax.

So what to do if you aren’t seeking to be on fire for God?

Do we even have a plan for that type of Christianity?…

Maybe just begin by accepting that you suck – that you suck at all the things that you think might make you acceptable but in spite of how badly you suck, the God of the universe loves you.

In fact, ironically it’s when we own our crappiness that we actually get a sense of who God is and we might even get inspired – because he loves us anyway. He accepts us as we are – we aren’t so good at that…

Who is this God who does the unthinkable?

The big problem with the culture of on fire, next level, hard core, marvel super hero Christianity is that it can cause us to pretend – to be who we are not to be seen as acceptable.

I can just see Jesus saying ‘yeh… that’s what I was hoping for…’

Which isn’t to say that when we are inspired by God’s love for us we won’t do crazy things. Those early disciples gave their lives for this gospel – because they were inspired by love and grace – not because they wanted to win at ‘Christian Club’

They simply hung around him, got to know him and realised who he was…

They didn’t hold weekly ‘pentecost fire’ events to pump one another up. They just knew in their hearts that in spite of who they were God loved them enough to bet his son on them.

I believe God’s desire is simply that you be real about who you are and that you relate to God from that place. If that takes you to a place of ecstatic joy and unimaginable wonder then that’s great. If it takes you a place of great wrestling and turmoil and frustration then that’s great too. Maybe you will get both…

God isn’t calling us to pull our socks up and start changing the world – he is saying ‘I love you just as you are.’

I can’t tell you how much ‘getting that’ has changed my life.

But I do know that the key is not trying harder, going to church more often or achieving any of the KPIs that seem to have filled our imagination. They key is knowing you are loved when you are a complete mess just as much as when you seem to be doing well. So if you have just come off the first week of new years resolutions where you have ‘set the bar really high’ for discipleship and you feel weary then just remember Jesus said:

‘Come to me all you who are heavy laden and weary and I will give you a rest.’

It was a rest from religious behaviour and giving the appearance of a righteous life and an invitation into a life that began with being loved and accepted and forgiven and didn’t require anything more of you.

Petersen calls this ‘learning the unforced rhythms of grace’, which is a more winsome way of describing the life of faith.

Random Reflections on a ‘Meh’ Year…

I’m much better at looking ahead than looking back, but truth is it’s in looking back that we make more informed and wise decisions about the future.

Some immediate reflections on the year that has been:

Bumping into old friends on LSL

Long service leave was both a joy and a disappointment – The first two-three months were fun as we visited new places and had new adventures, but by the time we had landed in Newcastle it was clear my back pain was here to stay and my chances of enjoying the NSW surf coast was just gonna be a non-event. The last 2 1/2 months were more about working our way home than really travelling. I thought we would run out of time with 6 months, but Danelle (who thought it would be too long) was correct. I didn’t have the experience I had hoped for – which isn’t to say it was a waste of time – although there were moments as we drove thru inland Qld where it did feel a bit like we were wasting time. The highlights of the time away were undoubtedly reconnecting with so many old friends. We were blessed to be able to catch up with people from so many segments of our life. Those were the really joyous moments!

When a ‘once in 20 years’ wave breaks and you are there with one other person… thank you Tassie!

Pain has stepped up a notch – I left home for long service leave with some pain in the gluteal muscle and it just got worse and worse. By half way thru long service leave I was stuck in bed for nearly a week. Seems I have a nerve pressing on L4 /L5 vertebrae meaning sciatica and pain is just the daily norm now. I can still walk and work but with pain. Apparently I walk all wonky, but its just my body adjusting to compensate. It gives my friends a chuckle!

Surfing isn’t even a possibility so that is really taking some of the joy out of life. That pain added to the previous pain I have had for 5 years has kinda dulled the edge of what was promising to be a fun year.

One day I will finish this thing…

Editing sucks – I really enjoyed getting the raw product together for my book The Future is Bivocational, but now I am editing each chapter with the assistance of an actual competent editor. It reminds me again I am a 90% guy who gets stuff done well, but not perfectly. It is agonising having to scrutinise every word, phrase and sentence to try and improve the final product. I am ready to move on but I need to finish this project… I had hoped to be finished and published by March – which would make it 2 years in process, but given my current headspace that is immersed in business, I doubt that will be happening.

I still love my work – We arrived back in Perth early September and we had one month of holiday left. We stayed on leave from church but I was completely ready to pick up the tools and get working again. I missed being productive and the satisfaction of fixing something. My friend Dave did a brilliant job of running the business while I was away and it has been great to have someone working two days a week consistently over spring / summer. I’m not sure how I would have managed otherwise! My body hurts everyday, but it’s either stay at home and hurt or go to work. I’d rather work, and just try and be smart about the stuff that is gonna flare the pain. After 15 years I have so many ‘regulars’ and people I have connected with over the years that half the fun are the relationships themselves. And I think that’s what I always hoped for which is why my business generally brings me so much joy.

I get to weigh some fun rigs!

Caravan weighing’ has kicked off as I hoped – While on holidays I launched a new business – and we are currently running at about 2 jobs/week. If I can double that in 2022 and double again in 2023 then we will begin to establish a more sustainable business. Once we get to 10-12 jobs a week we have a profitable little enterprise. There’s no rush to make it ‘work’ and no pressure either so it’s nice to be able to ‘slow burn’ this thing into existence. While it will supply us with a bit of income in the years ahead my hope is that we may be able to employ church planters who need work to sustain them while they plant churches. So it’s as much a missional project as a personal business venture.

Business futures – I’d love both businesses to be places local church planters can make a decent income while they do their mission work, so I’m happy to step back or step up as needed. In the areas near us there is great potential for new church communities to be established so I’m praying that will happen. The limitation of my businesses is that you need some muscle to work in either, so if you can’t lift heavy things or work hard in hot weather then I can’t use you.

Church stuff – as of today I drop my role to one day a week across both of our churches. On the occasions when we have met as a whole staff team I have sensed the energy of our other younger team members I have just sensed the spirit saying ‘get out of the way.’ So my hope is to be creating space and finance for others to flourish. We have no plans for leaving either Quinn’s or Yanchep but I see my own role being much more fluid in the coming years. I hope we continue to offer really valuable support both locally and to others who want to tread the missionary path in our own backyard. We are a long way from making a real missional dent in this country but I am as committed to this vision as I have ever been.

Empty nesters – crikey… while we were away on LSL our son Sam moved out of home (much to his mum’s anguish) and now lives south of the river working and living with cousins. It’s been a great decision on his behalf and he has really flourished, as he has had to develop his own identity apart from us. Ellie landed a nursing grad program starting in April so she will also be moving out around then. We didn’t expect to be in this space quite so soon! But it’s landed on us so we just have to figure out what life looks like minus kids in the home. We could downsize or we could take occasional boarders / guests for whatever reason. We have a nephew living with us at present using Sams room and that is fun, but we aren’t sure how long that arrangement will last.

Marriage – we ticked over 30 years of marriage in April which is fair effort and as we left on holidays it was with the expectation that we would have a blast together. We did for a bit but then we started annoying each other. I think being with one person 24/7 while on the road was harder than either of us expected. Back home we rarely clash, but the trip took us to some interesting places (and I don’t mean travel destinations.) We made it thru, but it was a reminder that there is still work to be done on our marriage if we intend to enjoy life together rather than just being housemates. So we are very much a ‘work in progress’.

Focus – I am big on ‘focus’ even if I am very flexible on method. I still blog at this location ( because that is still who I am. I want to help Australian people get a vivid sense of who Jesus is and call them to give their lives to him. It continues to be a stretch and while I haven’t lost that focus I’d say I have become more relaxed in my approach. I’m happy to tell you straight what I am about, but I’m not worried if you aren’t interested either. I feel like I have shifted in my view of mission to seeing it as more something God does and we join in with as needed, rather than something we do on his behalf. So if he ain’t at work then we might as well chill as there isn’t anything gonna happen anyway.

60 looms. I’m 57 at the moment and pain has been my friend for the last 5 years in various forms. This year I am going to actively – maybe even aggressively – pursue surgical help, especially for the current nerve issue. I can’t surf or lift heavy stuff so my life has been really curtailed by this issue. We just have to bite the bullet and get both issues fixed – whatever it costs. We haven’t had health insurance for all of our married life – a conscious choice – but we may need to sign up for a bit to get some of this work done… of course the penalties for being a health insurance non-conformist are astronomical! It’s like having a mortgage again…

pure joy

New Interests – I like to learn, explore, delve into at least one new thing each year. Since coming home I have started watching the NBA basketball on Kayo, with the Brooklyn Nets my team of choice – solely due to the presence of Patty Mills. I jokingly tell people that the Aussie Boomers bronze medal win in the Olympics was the happiest day of my life. Having followed the team since 1981 and having seen so many opportunities slip thru our fingers, it was incredible to watch the boys pull it off. And you couldn’t not be inspired by the leadership and energy of Mills. So I’ve decided to engage with something new and the NBA is a growing interest. What’s bizarre is that as I watch I find myself wanting to play again – wanting to do those things they do – but my last (brief) experience of playing was a stark reminder that I no longer am able to do those things 🙂 I also bought a Stand up Paddle board to try and compensate for my inability to get to my feet on a surfboard. My hope was that I would be able to replace surfing with SUPing – but it turns out the muscles used to SUP are still not usable until I get my back renovated. Bummer…

Looking Forwards – I’m hoping this year will be the one where I get the body sorted. I’m weary of the way things have been for the last 5 years so it’s a time to solve some problems. I’m gunna be very disappointed if I am in the same boat this time next year. So that’s a priority.

My book will be finished this year – ideally around July – but maybe that’s overly ambitious… I have another two books on the backburner but I really do need to just finish this one…

It’d be nice to travel again – although I’d really like to go somewhere different – out of Oz… Somehow we won a $2k travel voucher, so once there’s a chance of heading overseas I reckon we’d be up for it. Europe might be the go if we can navigate the COVID situation.

I feel like I’m in a place of figuring out what kind of ‘pastor’ / missionary I am going to be in the years ahead. The ground is shifting but I am not yet sure what will end up being solid and firm. I don’t see us moving house any time soon, so whatever we do will be locally focused and ongoing. The balance of energy and points of focus may shift somewhat, but the picture isn’t clear yet. I think it’s just a case of walking the path and seeing where it leads.

In a similar vein I am shifting the time I spend ‘hands on’ in business and trying to do a bit less, but that’s a more complicated challenge, partly because I really enjoy being hands on, but also because it’s tricky to find good people willing to work seasonally.

when you live in one of the most beautiful places in the world it helps you keep everything else in perspective

Hey – it’s been a ‘meh’ twelve months, but compared to what so many in the world go thru my life is a breeze and a purposeful and meaningful ‘breeze’. So my choice will be to continue to focus on the things that make life awesome and beautiful rather than on the difficulties. That has been a challenge this year and I’m feeling weary from the struggle, but here’s to a kickass 2022!