Archive for "Pastor Ryan’s Journal"

Be Ready

News, Pastor Ryan's Journal Sep 06, 2017 Comments Off on Be Ready




Luke 12:35-37 “Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, 36 like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. 37 It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will have them recline at the table and will come and wait on them.


One of the most important lessons I have learned from serving as a minister for over 20 years is that God’s people, his church, must do what we can to be ready for God to move. We need to be expectant, anticipating the Lord to use us and use our plans and activities for his glory.

Car Show

In our recent efforts to present ourselves to our wider community during the Father’s Day Car Show, we showed exactly what it means to be prepared and ready for service. We did not run a car show because we love cars. We did not have tons of family activities on site because we thought the community was bored and to have some fun. No, we made our plans and worked hard to see them come to fruition because we anticipated that the Lord would use our efforts to bring himself glory through his people yet again.


And this is exactly what happened. God took our meager offering of time, energy, and planning, and he multiplied our efforts and brought himself fame and renown in our city. We saw at least 5,000 people pass through our church campus last week because the Lord took our preparations and added to them for his own sake.


As great as it was to be a part of that miracle last week, we, God’s church, need to get ready for what is next. We must anticipate, even expect that God will continue to use us for his own purposes and glory.


We need to anticipate that the Lord will send us those people from the Car Show that he has been preparing for this very moment. The Spirit of Christ leads people like you and me to Christ. We are called out and drawn to the Lord by the Lord’s own will and voice. We are given the opportunity to respond with faith as the Lord uses others around us to help us see Jesus and understand the truth.

And because this is what the Lord is doing at all times in the people all around us, we must expect that the Lord is going to continue to call others to himself this week, and next week.

We must prepare ourselves as a church to receive those that will respond to God’s call. We must anticipate that some of the people from last week will return this week to church. They may not know why they are coming along, they might not have any idea what it means to join us as a church, but we must be ready for them.

We must expect that God will send us some of those he is calling to himself over the next few weeks. So this means that we must be ready to receive those who are not familiar with our faith. Who are not up to speed on what it means to be a part of a church. We have to help those that don’t feel a part of the group feel welcome and accepted.

How can we be ready?


Well for starters we can start praying for those that God will send to us. Pray against those obstacles and barriers that will pop up and cause them to question why they should bother coming along to church on Sunday.


Then we can prepare ourselves by choosing to show everyone around us in church love and mercy. Be welcoming and kind to everyone, not just the newcomers. Jesus made it clear that the world will see his love in the way that we love one another. So show this love to the church family as well as to our guests.


Another thing we can do is to make our celebration of our faith more accessible to those whom God will send. We can make sure we explain what we are doing in our services. We can use language that normal people can understand. And we can remove those elements of the service that might confuse those who are just beginning to seek Jesus.


One of the ways we are going to get ready is by pressing pause on our weekly celebration of Communion. This meal is an excellent reminder of what Jesus Christ has done for us in his sacrifice and mercy. But for those who are not up to speed on Jesus yet, this meal can be very odd and even a bit scary.

So, for the next three weeks we will not celebrate communion in our services. But on 01 October we will focus the entire service on the meaning of Communion and bring it back through a special teaching focus. Maybe after the break we will all appreciate the act of Communion a bit more.


The messages that we will bring over the next three weeks are going to be focused on helping those that God sends our way see how to change the outcomes they experience in life by changing their orientation toward God. These will be biblical messages that are reframed so that those with zero background can see the value and benefit to trusting in Jesus.


Over the next three weeks we will still offer to the Lord our worship through song and prayer. But our worship leaders will make the effort to explain what it is in the songs that we should focus on and how this act of praise can help us experience more of God as we turn more of our attention to the Lord.


Another way we can get ready is by making the choice to honour the Lord with our wealth. As a church we are struggling to keep up financially with the demands of being ready. It costs real money to have a church that is open and ready for the Lord to act. Please make it priority to decide for yourself how you should provide this gift of readiness today. If you need the banking details of the church just click here….


I am looking forward to what the Lord is preparing our church for at the moment. God is moving in us and through us and we are right where we need to be as a church family. We are actively expectant. We are ready. And we cannot wait to see how God uses us to bring himself glory.

Thanks for being a part of this amazing family of faith.

Ryan Laden


Marriage Stays the Same

Pastor Ryan's Journal Aug 29, 2017 Comments Off on Marriage Stays the Same



Over the last few weeks I have been flooded with questions concerning the upcoming opinion poll being sent out by the elected officials of our national government. And unless you just crawled out from under a rock, you too have heard more opinions on the issue of same sex marriage, or marriage equality, than you ever thought possible.

If you have made the choice to dive into this conversation, then you no doubt have the scars to prove how difficult it is to try and have a reasoned discussion on such an emotionally charged issue. As I have been wading through the questions and challenges of my friends and family, I too have seen just how unproductive and painful it can be to have these debates.


So instead of playing the game of lobbing opinions at one another, hoping to score points rather than have a logical discourse, I would like to address one of the unassailable facts that seems to have gone unnoticed in this whole debate.

No matter what the outcome of the upcoming plebiscite…

No matter the decision of the weak willed Parliament…

No matter the outcome of the appeals brought before the courts…

No matter what you or I think about the rightness of marriage equality…

Marriage will remain the same.

Marriage can be defined by the society at large as being something wholly other to what we now call marriage, and most likely it will, but no amount of revisionism will alter the fundamental truth of what marriage means.


Whether you believe in a god or not, whether you accept the validity of the Christian Bible or not, if you are an intelligent and reasonable person, you will at the very least agree that marriage has been given its definition prior to this moment in history.

In the creation account given in Genesis chapter 2, there is a clear description of marriage as that of a God given commitment between a man and a woman.


This simple definition of marriage has been altered and perverted throughout human history.

Many iterations of this covenant bond between a man and a woman have been proposed and accepted by various societies over the millennia, each with their emotional and cultural justifications. But none of these alterations of the foundational definition of marriage has changed its true nature.


Jesus Christ, speaking to those who would cheapen marriage to the point of being nearly meaningless, reminded his followers that marriage was a gift given to men and women from the Creator and not open to alteration, no matter how much we might wish.

4 “Haven’t you read,” he replied, “that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’ ? 6 So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”  Matthew 19:4-6

Jesus went on to tell those that were challenging the nature and definition of the marriage commitment that if they did not like the definition of marriage that they could simply choose to remain unmarried and therefore avoid the issue altogether.

Jesus did not change the definition of marriage to fit his cultural context. He could not have changed the definition of marriage because it had been established by the Creator and woven into the very fabric of human society.


Rather than waffle on for ages on the background of marriage, I will simply come to my conclusion.

The point I am making here is that the true definition of marriage cannot be changed or altered by the feelings and desires of our modern emotion driven culture.

The people will speak, the government will vote, the courts will decide, the rules will change. But marriage will remain the same.


The world will continue to unmoor itself from truth of all kinds, as it has always done.

Our wider culture will celebrate every step away from what it sees as restrictive traditions.

The world will continue to denigrate and defame anyone who does not gleefully go along with its wholesale dumping of morality.

None of these trends will change, no matter what gets reported concerning the plebiscite results.


However, for those still seeking to follow the wisdom of the biblical message and for those still seeking to follow in the steps of Jesus Christ, marriage will continue to be honored and practiced as it was given to us by the Creator.

Should the state revoke my authority as a minister of religion and a marriage celebrant because I cannot and will not alter the definition of marriage in my church, then I will continue to celebrate the gift of marriage as defined by the Creator with those who share and uphold this truth.


So, I give you my final word on this issue…

The meaning and definition marriage will stay the same no matter what feelings you and I might express on the issue.

It is simply not ours to change.  

For the Body

Pastor Ryan's Journal Aug 03, 2017 Comments Off on For the Body



For the last several days I have had the privilege of being involved in a time of training and equipping that does not come around all that often. Thanks to the confidence and trust of the associational leadership of the Churches of Christ in WA, I was allowed to create a space where 12 Senior Ministers were able to sit down face to face and talk openly and honestly about the joys and pains of leading in the Body of Christ.

It was my goal to have this group of ministers and church leaders work through a series of real life issues that are common to every church. We did not have an outside “expert” come in and lecture us on what we should be doing better, as if that outsider had his or her act all together. Instead we provided our own content. Peers struggling with the weight of leadership, speaking openly about our successes and our failures.


As we moved from topic to topic, we kept returning to one key truth that we all felt applied to the core purpose and reason for all of our striving and straining to be better leaders and better servants in the church. This truth was the framework upon which all of our stories and all of our efforts were to be hung. If we could not find a hook in this truth then we encouraged one another to let the task or expectation drop to the floor so that we might be focused on what matters most.

This framework was provided to us by God, through the ministry of the Apostle Paul. Paul wanted to make sure that his friends in Ephesus understood why their work in the church mattered, why is was necessary for the people to sacrifice and strive toward an amazing goal.

The framework is as follows:

Ephesians 4:11-16    

Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ. This will continue until we all come to such unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.

Then we will no longer be immature like children. We won’t be tossed and blown about by every wind of new teaching. We will not be influenced when people try to trick us with lies so clever they sound like the truth. Instead, we will speak the truth in love, growing in every way more and more like Christ, who is the head of his body, the church. He makes the whole body fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love.

Key Points

There is more to say about this truth than any of us has time for at the moment. But there are a few key points that stand out as relevant to the work of those seeking to provide leadership in the local church.

One. The church belongs to…

We often forget that the work of the minister, the work of the church, the work of all Christian mission, belongs to Christ. I do not own my church. I do not own my small group. I do not own the mission groups that I support. I am not a shareholder. This is not a limited liability corporation.

The church and all of its outworkings belong to Christ. Jesus is the head, the owner, the builder and sustainer of his own body.

When this central point is forgotten, we see a disconnection of the body from its head. This results in a lot of flapping around, a lot of drama, and wasted effort. When we forget this central truth we seek to own other people, we seek to own the leadership of the Spirit, and we seek to own the truth of God’s word.

When we try and take possession of the body of Christ, we wear ourselves out. We assume a responsibility that we cannot bear up under. Can you imagine what chaos might ensue if the hand should claim that it owns the body and that it knows what the head really wants? The body is best when it knows its place. Under the headship of Christ!


The second point to bring up from this truth is seen in the gift given to the church by Christ.

Jesus Christ gives his people, whom he loves, people that are called to provide the church with leadership, direction, wisdom, and discernment. The titles seen in this gift; Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor and Teacher, are not meant to be all inclusive.

There are more people and more gifts given to the church by Christ. But these gifts are given so that the church might see and understand the will of God more clearly as the church moves and changes to adjust to the world we are called to reach.

These titles have taken on legendary meaning over time. We hear these titles and think they are much more specific in their definitions and applications than ever seen in the early church.

  • To be an Apostle was to be one sent out by God for a specific task in the church.
  • To be a Prophet was to be someone who listened carefully to the Lord’s word, whether spoken or read, and to make sure the church at large was also listening to the Lord.
  • To be an Evangelist was not a specific job. It was to be one who carried the good news. Everyone in the church of Jesus Christ was called to carry the good news of Christ to any and all who needed to hear.
  • The role of the Pastor and Teacher, was one job, not two. This was a person who was called to be a shepherd for the church and to be a teacher to those being shepherded.

The meaning of the words used here are not meant to signal that only special people, doing special jobs, were to be working for the good of the body of Christ. In fact the opposite is true. Every part of Christ’s body was a gift to the whole body. Every person in the church was equally called by God to be at work, doing their part, for the good of the whole body of Christ.


The last point to be shard is seen in the purpose of Christ’s gift.

The people of the church are all called by God to…

  • Reach oneness in the faith…
  • To become mature in Christ…
  • To reach a place of fullness in our relationship with Christ…
  • To be anchored in the truth…
  • To see lies and falsehood before we welcome them into our lives…
  • To speak the truth to one another from a place of love…
  • And to find our fit in the Body of Christ.

All who are a part of the church are called by Jesus Christ to be fully committed to one another and to the head of the church. The people with titles and responsibilities in the church are not the head. They are the ones who have the job of making sure all the part of the body are working together.

When the various parts of the body of Christ works in concert with one another, the body grows and flourishes. When the parts see that they have the same mission, the same goal, the same purpose in all of their ministry work, the Body of Christ is an amazing gift to the world.


It is my hope and prayer that you will make the decision today to get on board with your local church, your part of the Body of Christ. It is my hope that you will see that those God has called to lead and guide your church are not the owners of the church, and neither are you! We are all unworthy servants honored by the King in our calling to serve the Lord Jesus!







Vanish or Slip Away? What Happened to Philip?

Pastor Ryan's Journal Jul 11, 2017 Comments Off on Vanish or Slip Away? What Happened to Philip?



So Kylie Hofer, our brilliant Children’s Minister (part of an equally brilliant team) was working on the material to be taught to the kids in our services this next week when she ran into a biblical conundrum. For the last 10 weeks or so we have been slowly working through a book on how to read the Bible well (see below).

This study has been teaching us to ask good questions about what the text of the Bible would have meant to those who were hearing the text for the first time. The idea is that we should endeavor to understand what the biblical text meant to its author and to its initial recipients rather than just jump into the question of… What does this mean for me?

Only after we have come to a reasonable understanding of its original meaning (called exegesis) can or should we begin to ask questions about what the text means for us (called hermeneutics). So Kylie was putting these ideas to work on the text to be used in this week’s curriculum when she encountered something that she did not understand.


The text in question is that of Acts 8:26-40 (text given below).

This is the story about how after God used the newly elected Deacon named Philip to preach the gospel to the Samarians (Acts 8:4-8) the Lord sent Philip down the road that leads to Africa from Israel. The Lord gave Philip the direct instruction to go to a man who was in the service of the Queen of Ethiopia ad to speak to him about the Messiah.

Philip did as the Lord instructed, the man was filled with faith in Jesus and sought to be baptized on the spot because of his joy in learning about the Messiah.


All of that sounds pretty easy to understand. To the original audience of Acts, this was a divine appointment. God used his man Philip to go and give Jesus to an influential and faithful member of African royal society. The man desired to be baptized, also not a surprise as in Acts this has been the pattern at Pentecost and again in Samaria.

What comes next is the part that stumped Kylie and brought this issue to me as a point of discussion. After the man was baptized, Philip is said to have been taken away from the Ethiopian caravan and was not seen again until he appeared in another town (Ashdod or Azotus probably about 10-15 miles from where the baptism occurred).


Now the traditional reading of this situation has Philip vanishing into thin air… disappearing like magic from the view of the Ethiopians and then suddenly reappearing in another town.

This is not a problem for those who believe in miracles. Miracles are when God defies his own laws of physics and changes the world to meet his will. So for most Christians this interpretation of the vanishing deacon is no problem to believe and we usually do not give it another thought.

However, Kylie asked a pertinent question when she inquired about how the audience of Acts might have understood this situation. And so we dived into the text and started asking our questions.


The verses in question are given to us in the NIV (2011) as…

39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.


In the English versions, there is nothing that says that this was to be understood as a vanishing act like we might imagine thanks to our love for Sci-Fi movies. It simply says that God intervened and Philip was taken from the caravan unseen and that Philip was not heard from again until he appeared in the next town over.

But we can understand where the vanishing idea comes from. We want Philip to teleport to another town because we think that is cool. So cool that almost all the children’s Bibles in our office push the supernatural element to the breaking point as they teach kids that Philip vanished.

But the question needs to be answered by asking our questions to the biblical text rather than to Stephen King. And so I shall.


Question 1.

What does the text actually say?

πνεῦμα κυρίου   ἥρπασεν  τὸν Φίλιππον καὶ οὐκ εἶδεν αὐτὸν οὐκέτι

Spirit of the Lord  snatched/grabbed  Philip     and not   he see  him   anymore

The only part of the text that needs to be examined from the perspective of the original audience is this idea that the Lord grabbed or snatched Philip away.  This comes out of the verb, ἥρπασεν, which is used many times elsewhere in the New Testament.

In most all of those uses the verb is speaking about someone reaching into a group to remove an individual item. In the immediate context of the book of Acts there is a use of the term that should help us understand the right use of this idea with Philip.


In Acts 23:10 we hear the following…

10 The dispute became so violent that the commander was afraid Paul would be torn to pieces by them. He ordered the troops to go down and take him away from them by force and bring him into the barracks.

Here the Apostle Paul was being mobbed by an angry crowd so the troops were sent in to remove him, snatch him, and take him somewhere else. This is the most common understanding of this idea and is the most likely way the audience of Acts would have heard the use of the term in question with Philip.


Question 2.

What was the historical situation?

So here we want to know what else is happening around this situation with Philip. What was the historical context of his encounter and removal?

The Ethiopian man was in the royal court and immediate service of Kandice the Queen of the Ethiopian region.

Kandice is not the ruler’s name by the way. It is a title like Pharoah or Caesar that was handed down and recognized as a vassal ruler by the head office in Rome. Also, her kingdom was not modern Ethiopia but this was a name that covered the Nile region. This ruler was following in the footsteps of her predecessor Cleopatra.

This man was part of the household of the most powerful ruler in Norther Africa. This region is well known for its collection of scholars and educational materials. The library of Alexandria was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.

It would not be hard for the audience to imagine that once Philip was prized as a preacher of truth that he would be “invited” to go with the caravan as the guest of the queen. This is not something that most people could say no to if they valued their necks.

So if we add this to the situation we see that the Lord spirited Philip away so that he would not be dragged off to Northern Africa as the pet of the Queen.


Question 3.

Is there a precedent or does this set a precedent?

God has done amazing things with and for those in his service. So it would not have been seen as impossible or unusual for the Spirit to break the laws of physics and cause Philip to physically disappear and reappear elsewhere.

However, there is no use of this vanishing act motif elsewhere in the New Testament for any of the others who would most certainly have liked God to cause them to teleport to safety.  This does not mean that Philip did not vanish but would the audience of Acts have come to this conclusion over the simpler explanation that the Spirit helped Philip simply slip away and get back to work sharing the Gospel with the people around Jerusalem?


So where does this leave us?

How are we supposed to understand the meaning of Acts 8:390-40?

Well, here is what we can say for sure…

  1. God sent Philip and was directly involved with this situation.
  2. God intervened and rescued Philip from being permanently attached to the Ethiopian caravan.
  3. God helped being Jesus to Northern Africa by sending someone from Northern Africa to present the gospel to his own people in his own way.
  4. Philip went on about his ministry and became an influential evangelist in the port city of Caesarea where he hosted Paul and his companions (Acts 21:8).


It is my opinion, based on the facts presented here, that Philip did not vanish like Harry Potter and reappear in Azotus in a puff of smoke.

Instead, Philip was obedient to God and was sent away from the Ethiopians so that he could carry on his mission of sharing the gospel in and around his home community.

The Ethiopians, North Africans, were spared the dangers of venerating Philip as some sort of godlike figure who would be lifted up as more important that Christ himself as he became the leader of the North African church.

All of these points are far more important than having a single moment of cool in the disappearance of Philip as depicted in our modern reading of this singular event.


The text being studied by the staff is that of:

How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart. Fourth Edition. See the link below to find a copy for yourself.


The NIV 2011 text of Acts 8:26-40 is given below:

 26 Now an angel of the Lord said to Philip, “Go south to the road—the desert road—that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” 27 So he started out, and on his way he met an Ethiopian eunuch, an important official in charge of all the treasury of the Kandake (which means “queen of the Ethiopians”). This man had gone to Jerusalem to worship, 28 and on his way home was sitting in his chariot reading the Book of Isaiah the prophet. 29 The Spirit told Philip, “Go to that chariot and stay near it.”

30 Then Philip ran up to the chariot and heard the man reading Isaiah the prophet. “Do you understand what you are reading?” Philip asked.

31 “How can I,” he said, “unless someone explains it to me?” So he invited Philip to come up and sit with him.

32 This is the passage of Scripture the eunuch was reading: “He was led like a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he did not open his mouth.

33 In his humiliation he was deprived of justice. Who can speak of his descendants? For his life was taken from the earth.”

34 The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?” 35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus.

36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” 38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him. 39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing. 40 Philip, however, appeared at Azotus and traveled about, preaching the gospel in all the towns until he reached Caesarea.

Value of Communion

Pastor Ryan's Journal May 02, 2017 Comments Off on Value of Communion

This article was recently published in the On Mission Journal which can be found here…

I wanted to share this reflection with you and make you aware of the great resource available in this monthly publication.

Thanks, Ryan 



Look at this picture. Does this remind you of something? Your schedule? Your life? How you feel when you walk into your local church service?

Truth be told, we all feel like we are spinning plates. We jump from one potential disaster to the next, hoping that we can just keep moving long enough to get to that next, wobbly looking problem at the end of the day.

Oh, and let’s not kid ourselves, we can often feel like this when we are supposed to be spending time with God. We struggle to pause and reflect on the deeper, more spiritual aspects of our walk with the Lord because every time we quite down and start to listen to the Lord, we can hear the faint sound of one more plate getting dangerously out of control.

What we need is some forced reflection. We need the Lord to give us something to do that will help us focus and train our busy minds and ears on what is real and true in our faith. We need something more substantive than a song, something more hands on than a sermon, and something that speaks loud enough to get our attention in the midst of a busy world.

This is where the gift of communion steps in. When we participate in the gift of communion during a time of purposeful worship and reflection we find a point of connection that is tailor made for our modern world.

The physical act of holding the bread and the cup in our hands does wonders for our ability to stop spinning plates, juggling schedules, and fidgeting with nervous energy. When we have the opportunity to pause during a gathering of other like minded Christ followers so that we might work through the meaning and the message of this God given act of worship, we are able to do something that is not found anywhere else in our world.

During the few precious moments that we celebrate communion, we are able to focus on the symbols of the bread and the cup to the exclusion of all other influences. We are given the freedom to focus on what we are holding, tasting, and consuming. The physicality of the bread and the cup force us to be present with the Lord in that moment.

When we hold the bread, we are reminded of so many truths. As this bread is real and physical, so was the Son of God. As the bread has been broken for us, so was the Christ. As the bread feeds us, so Jesus reminds us that he is the Bread of Life (John 6:35) that the Father has sent to all who call on his name.

When we take the cup in our hands, we are able to see the sacrifice made for each one of us. Jesus shed his blood on the cross, the greatest gift ever given and we cannot ignore this message while we are trying not to spill it down the front of our shirts.

There are a million amazing truths and points that can be said about the value and the meaning of our shared times of communion but the one that I need the most is this…

I need my times of communion to help me stop focusing on all that is moving and chaotic in life so that I can, for a few moments, focus on the one reality that actually matters for the rest of eternity.

I hope that we all experience this gift during our next opportunity to feel that bread and hold that cup. I hope that the physical stuff of communion will draw us into the present, the now, this moment with God. We all need to experience this gift as often as possible.

Ryan Laden

Board Chairman, Churches of Christ in WA

Senior Pastor, Warnbro Community Church