I've blogged about The Age columnist Catherine Deveny before. She seems to be a God-hating, Christian hating columnist. Anyway, according to her most recent article she recently went along to a Planetshakers church service. She makes a number of interesting observations some of which are fair some of which are not. All though of which Christians should take note of as she is the kind of person we want to come to our church services, experience Christian Community and respond to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Firstly, she makes probably a valid point, although overstated, about much of modern day Christian music.

Lyrics flashed up: "Come like a flood and saturate me now." I wondered what Freud would have made of the disproportionate use of such words as ‘‘come’’, ‘‘touch’’ and ‘‘feel’’, and the phrases "move within me" and "being filled". My favourite was "King of Glory, enter in".

Now, don't here me saying we should only sing the Psalms unaccompanied in church, or even badly written music with solid theological words. But I want, and it seems so do some non-Christians, words that speak more of God and praise him for who he is and what he has done; not songs that remind us of Cartman in a South Park episode about Christian Music.

Songs like In Christ Alone and Jesus Thank You (my current two favourites) are great because they express the reality of Jesus' death for our sins and the fact that we don't deserve that so well and to very moving music.

Next, Deveny moved to critique the infamous pentecostal 'giving talk'.

A pastor banged on about sacrifice and said it wasn’t important how much we sacrificed just as long as we gave as much as we could. No matter how small it was. I didn’t know what he was on about until the giving cards came round. And a little bucket for coins. No lid with a slot. A big open bucket, so you could be shamed by your paltry donation.

She could be misquoting, but... I'm not sure it doesn't matter how much we sacrifice. Like it mattered to God how much Jesus sacrificed, he sacrificed his life. If you're His disciple, then you have to be prepared to do likewise. Mark 8:34 says to follow Jesus we have to deny ourselves, our wants and desires, our right to life a comfortable life, and take up our cross and follow him. I take that to mean it could mean death. When it comes to sacrifice, dropping money into a bucket doesn't really cut it for me. When it comes to money we are to give generously and all that we can (2 Cor 9). Money is no big deal for Christians so that should joyfully and happily part with it for God's purposes. But it should be made clear that we aren't desperate for everyone's money. I've been to a few churches or events with 'giving talks' and I've never heard a good one. All I'm asking is they use the Bible properly.

Deveny continues:

Then there were the plugs for the Mighty Men’s night and Beautiful Women Seminar. Male volunteers were encouraged to get involved with the ladies’ seminar with the promise of ‘‘being able to tell 3000 women what to do’’. Beautiful women. Mighty men. Note: not mighty women and beautiful men.

This is good. This is clearly not a reaction by Deveny to something weird but to a biblical Christian distinctive. Men and Women are different and have different roles and the church encourages both equally to fulfill their roles in ways God has uniquely gifted them as men or women. It is good that this irks Deveny and is ultimately a strength of Christian community.

Following this, she talks about the sermon.

As people yelled, "Yeah!", "Amen!" and ‘‘Awesome!" [To the preaching about 'sheepgate'] I wanted to yell, "I don’t get it". I love the way religion convinces people by making things deliberately incomprehensible and you feel too shy to say ‘‘I don’t understand’’ lest you reveal your stupidity.

I would say here is a great example of why we need to be clear in our preaching. I didn't hear the sermon that Deveny went to so her question may simply have arised out of needing clarification or some points. However, unfortunately, often when Christians preach it does sound like a bunch of riddles and power words joined together to form some kind of wise sounding meaningless dribble. I once read something on a 'famous' young Christian leader's MySpace site (from Sydney) that I could not decipher any meaning from. Yet hundreds of comments had been left saying how it was exactly what they had been thinking or feeling and it was so good to finally have words to express the weight God had put on their heart... Which I found interesting because as far as I could tell it was illogical.

Our sermons should be clear. They should be sound, and they should be backed up from the Bible, and they should preferably eventually point to Jesus' death on the cross and his imminent return rather than aligning the lives and deeds of obscure Old Testament prophets with the power potential of our super awesome next Generation.

The crowd left believing they had been moved by God and touched by Jesus. They hadn’t. They had been seduced by slick video packages and had their emotional desire for love, community and certainty met by manipulation. It wasn’t the Holy Spirit; it was just people.

Unfortunately Denevy failed to meet Jesus and see the power that lives changed by Jesus can have on her visit to Planetshakers. Some of this could be put down to awkward or unclearness of their service (there would be similar problems in all Christian services, so dont' see me as taking a cheap shot at Planetshakers here). Much of it is problem put down to Denevy being a sinner in need of God's salvation. I will continue to pray that God would open her eyes to the love of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ.

Finally, Denevy leaves us with this question at the end of her article:

Aren’t we awesome enough?

The answer is a resounding NO Catherine. Despite our ability to put on cool rock shows, to have great entertaining services, to raise money, to give money, to do good, to be nice, to think, to write, to love, to care we are not awesome at all. Without Jesus, we are hopeless, lost and destined for the most unawesome place (hell). I implore you to repent of your sin, to put your faith and trust in Jesus and to enjoy God forever! That is awesome!