Tuesday, November 29, 2005

My trip to Riverview Church

I have been asked by quite a few people to give an account of my trip to Riverview Church in Perth. Many people were surprised I was going there, and I think some were even upset a bit. Being an advocate of house churches, an anarchist, an emerging church worker and someone very concerned about the poor and the marginalized, I can see how people would wonder about my trip there.

I am also aware that I will most likely not make everyone happy with my response here, I might not make anyone happy, but thats what I get for being such a big mouth. I would point out however that everything I am about to say is very superficial. I spent a couple of hours at this place and a couple more with Phil Baker. These were just my impressions from my limited time there.

Let me first say that I have been critical of the mega church for some time now. I realize that some of this comes from some of the criticism I have received from them, and my natural desire to fire back. I also have felt I need to defend my position, and that this defense will quite naturally result in some negativity towards the mega church. I think that recently, even in the last month or two I have realized a few things, and even felt a bit guilty about some things I have thought and said previously.

Okay, well enough lollygagging:

I met up with Phil Baker almost as soon as I arrived in Perth. I had actually met him once in Melbourne but didn't remember it. He was very nice, and very personable. He talked freely, and I enjoyed our time together. We talked a bit about my life, presumably to get some ideas for the interview on Sunday night as well as to learn a bit about me. And he shared a bit about himself. He shared some of his own issues, and problems that he had faced and seemed to be on the same page as me in some controversial theological areas. He talked with pride about some of the social justice things Riverview is involved in, and I was very pleased to hear about them. My first impression was that he was a very charismatic leader, very inteligent, and was honestly wrestling with some difficult issues. I did notice that he was very careful in the way he said things. I think my first impression would usually be that he was being a politician, but it did not seem this way to me. Rather it seemed he had learned to be cautious because of his position, not in order to attain it.

The next bit may be slightly out of order.

When I arrived at Riverview I got pretty much what I expected at first, friendly greeters, nice building, cleanliness, organization. All of the things that really big churches usually have. I was welcomed by one of the staff and lead to our seats, they explained that things fill up quickly so stay put. Someone brought be a bottle of water which was appreciated.

The service started and to be honest I was a bit taken by surprise. I had actually never been to a service like it. The stage was set up more like a concert, and the lighting and even stage smoke was very concert like, this I had seen before. The music was loud, and very upbeat to start with, again I am used to that. But what I wasn't used to was the stage full of people hopping up and down, dancing and wooping it up. The entire area in front of the stage was immediately taken up by a large group of younger people that were also jumping up and down. Everyone seemed to be very into it. And it was done very well, great graphics on the multiple television screens, the words were easy to read, the musicians were fantastic. My reaction? Well, to be honest, it just isn't my style at all. I felt it was a bit overbearing. I prefer to be lead in worship, but felt almost pushed. I prefer more meditative worship and this was definately not that. Now ofcourse that is what I prefer, I have no problem with others liking something different.

They had a skunk band that was out for a rock festival play a song. These guys were very very good. They had a great sound and I would enjoy seeing them in concert. They actually did play a set after church was over.

They showed a video clip of a church baptism, and Phil told us of another baptism that had just happened that week. Now I am a big softy when it comes to baptisms so I really enjoyed this. Nothing more exciting to me than people giving their lives over.

They took the offering. Now they probably did a bit more of a hard sell when doing the offering than I would be comfortable doing, but I was very happy to see them explaining how giving is part of maturity, and what we do with out money is part of our faith. There was no give so God will bless you, greed manipulation. It sounded nothing like the prosperity stuff that I have heard many times. They also spoke the now standard line, "if you are visiting, please don't feel obligated to give", which I like.

The sermon was challenging. Phil is definately a great speaker. He talked about one of my favorite verses Acts 2:42, and spoke a bit about the unity of the church. I ofcourse would have emphasized the meeting in homes more than he did. :)

He then interviewed me. He asked me some questions to be a bit entertaining, but also asked me some questions to allow me to talk about incarnational mission, and giving up your life to follow Christ. He asked me about luke warm Christianity and I was able to talk about giving up our own lives for others. I did not feel censored, or compromised at all. And it was fun.

Afterwards Phil wrapped things up, did an altar call, and took an offering for me and my ministry. They were very generous.

I talked with some people afterwards and they were very friendly, and inquisitive. Then Phil took me and my friends, one who is a member of Riverview, to dinner at a nice place. We had a few beers and some great food and I grilled him for a while about the church and its small groups and his philosophy of leadership. He was happy to answer all my questions and we had a great chat.

My overall impression: Most of the stuff I didn't like was merely style issues.

I am still concerned about the tendency of big churches to spend too much of their resources on maintaining the church rather than reaching out, but they look at the church as part of their outreach and appear to be very generous and supportive of outreach initiatives.

Community is so important to me that I felt their small groups should be given a higher profile and a bigger push. People would definately not consider their small groups church, but rather a church program or add on.

I think they are really trying to reach out to the people in Perth and beyond. I also feel that Phil recognizes that if they did everything perfect they still wouldn't come close to reaching everyone, and is happy to support and champion other initiatives.

I am scared of how much power a church that size has, and I suspect it would not be good for me to be leading one like it.

Overall I liked Phil, and I liked what the church was doing. I would never go to a church like Riverview, but I know many people obviously would. Infact my friend who has never gone to church, said he would like to return. I hope they will continue to be challenged to be more and more involved in social justice issues, and supporting incarnational mission initiatives. I am also very thankful for their warm welcome, and generous natures. Phil even went to the trouble to read my blog and by me a thoughful gift. I was blessed by Riverview.

the rev


Matt Glover said...

mega church + house church + pub church + footy church + established church + emerging church etc = The Body of Christ.

I think your post is an excellent reminder of that. Thanks for your honesty Rev.

Roo said...

wow rev, it is so refreshing to hear someone from within the 'emerging' scene give a church like Riverview a fair go. There is no doubting their heart and intentions, and that is what really counts with God me thinks. Sure we might like to do things differently, and questions some of their structures etc. but they are in it for the right reasons. Thanks for your honest insights bro. -Roo.

Lance said...

Yep, can only agree that Riverview is an awesome church.

Pastor Skip is great, and Mercy House really helps out those poor unfortunate gay people, but I think Hillary Faye struggles there when she tries to lead people to Christ without her equipment.

I think I saw McCauley Culkin at Riverview too in his wheelchair.

Great that Riverview helps out those non-walking people.

There is no stopping this church.

Rock on!

Lionfish said...

OK Rev,

Because you asked so nicely...

I would like to know what questions were asked of you, particularly on the topic on how the Church should relate to those who have turned their back on the Church and what answers you gave…

The Rev said...

I think I was meant to fit in a bit with the message that was talking about unity, and I was brought on to show how though we are doing totally different kinds of ministry we should still be united in the cause of Christ. But I was also meant to be a bit of an personal interest story.

Phil asked me a little about my bullfighting, and my cage fighting. He asked about my tattoo on my wrist and the one on my belly. The one on my wrist stands for Deny yourself Pick up your cross and follow me.

He asked me about a vision I had, which was very similiar to the river scene in motorcyled diaries. I shared the vision I had received at the UNOH conference, and explained how our programs are often bridges to reaching people, especially the poor and the marginalized, but that God wanted to break down these bridges, because they allowed us to stay seperated from those that were marginalized. That what God wanted was for us to get in the water, risk our lives, and actually live with and among the people.

He asked me about luke warm CHristians and I explained that I most often do not refer to myself as a CHristian anymore, but as a follower of Jesus. And that if we take following Jesus seriously we must be willing to leave all of our comfort and go serve others. I explained how Grace is freely given to us, and that we cannot earn it, yet we are called to go beyond our salvation and actually follow Christ. To do that we must give up our lives, like He did, for the sake of others.

the rev

Lorna said...

fascinating stuff. I'll be back again to read some more!

Rebecca said...

So Rev, do you know how it was received?

The Rev said...

well more than a few people came up to me afterwards and said they were challenged, and thanked me, but really who's to know? I have had people come up to me years afterwards to tell me something I said changed the way they looked at things and that they are different people because of it. I have also preached the greatest messages of all time and no one seemed to care. I have learned after many years, you say what God puts on your heart, and leave the results to Him.

the rev

Lionfish said...

Rev -

it sounds like you did well.

Kitty Cheng said...

I'm sure that God used you to bless the people in that church...hey why don't you use the term 'Christian' anymore? What in your mind is the difference between a Christian and a follower of Jesus?

Anonymous said...

Do you think a nobody like me would get taken for a meal by Phil after church. I dont think so.

The Rev said...

the word Christian has so many meanings now, many think of judgemental, mean spirited, closed mined people, or good two shoes like ned flanders. It has also been used so long as to actually have no meaning anymore. It used to be an insult. When I say follower of Jesus it means something, and makes an impact.

Well my friend, you could be right. But you would get free coffee in the foyer.


the rev

Lionfish said...

Anon, to be fair to Phil, I met with him to discuss some issues over coffee and he paid. I found him to be a gentleman, more ‘human’, fallible, authentic and approachable than expected.

Though he is very guarded on the way the Church and his associates operate.

hamo said...

fwiw - Phil's a bloody good bloke.

i get sick of people taking pot shots at gifted leaders.

does he do stuff wrong?

sure. don't we all.


gotta be better topics to debate than one bloke doing his best at leading a church

Anonymous said...


Why dont you practise what you preach and go and post on another site.

If you dont like it - go away

The Rev said...

Like I said, he was very nice, honest, generous, and even open with me. I liked the guy. And Hammo doesn't have to go anywhere, neither do you, so play nice little ones.

the rev

Lionfish said...

Hamo, fair call. You are right, Phil is a bloody good bloke.

Personally, if anyone Phil, my own Father, you, the Rev or a charming angel from Heaven came to me and asked me to follow and invest my life and my finances in anything, I would first take a look under the bonnet, diligently ask some pretty hard questions to test its authenticity

My own brother took a risk a few years back, with 14 other families and bought into a business deal. The blokes behind it all were charming, masters of charm and motivation – and as my brother said “they made you feel like you were there best mate”. Great guys, friendly had ‘normal’ families etc. In a ‘Sting’ like operation where everything was done with excellence, full contracts, training, vending machines, promotional materials etc. etc. etc once he and 14 other families mortgaged their houses and hand over the very large cheques to buy their ‘franchise’, these guys disappeared.

Further research had shown that these people had done exactly the same thing before across Australia and New Zealand, and because of some loop-holes in the system pertaining to ‘phoenix companies’ these guys are unable to be prosecuted.

I had a bad-gut feel about the whole thing, and so did our family – but we stayed out of it. And my brother looked so happy for the time he was involved, but it came with a nasty sting in the tail, and he was left with no job and no house.

My brother’s mistake, was that he was not diligent. Did not do his homework on who these people were or ask hard questions or reverse engineer the Business Model.

Lesson Learned – be diligent, look into things and separate the emotion, the charm and relationships from the facts.

I have been asking hard questions of the WOF/Contemporary church, applying upward pressure to get answers to questions – especially since the BRW articles and the response of Hillsong.

Unfortunately, while the music is great, and there are great people within these networked - Churches, I find the lack of accountability, the mystery around the financial arrangements, the refusal to acknowledge that Christians are not obliged to tithe (hence putting pressure on people to extract cash from the scripturally naive and from the poor), the suspicious deals of Hillsong, the exponential wealth created by Senior Pastors via the speaking circuit, the fact that many Churches are handed from Father to Sone (ie. inherited institutions), the Boards made up of ‘friends’ (ie. no elections), a culture where questions of the Leadership or of finances is discouraged (and people/critical thinking is seen as ‘negativity’ or ‘cynicism’) – all something for to be extremely wary of.

I would love to be shown that I am wrong, or the Church make some fundamental changes, but that does not seem to happen. The model appears to work too well.

I would rather be a fool now proved wrong - rather than a fool for life.

I am always willing to change my views in light of the evidence and based on feedback (which is oftimes not forthcoming).

Anonymous said...

I have no doubt Phil is a true believer and is doing his best for God.

I have been around awhile and mixed in leadership circles. At one pastors/leaders breakfast I was sitting at a table. Phil came in late and had to sit next to me. You could see he didn't want to be at our table - he wanted to be with at the BIG pastors table.

You see we were only small pastors and some were ONLY leader but not pastors.

Well trying to get conversation out of Phil was like pulling hens teeth.
He was not really interested in us small fies.

Do I blame Phil - not really

I blame the Church SYSTEM. We have elevated certain Ministers and they subconsciously believe they are better than others.

Look at Phil's book Titles ....Super Achievers. That says it all. If you are not a super achiever you dont make the grade. You are not one of the "happening" churches.

Its nice that Phil met with you guys - but remember he had a vested interest in meeting with you and getting a good report.

Phil is no different than the other super achiever pastors. They all mix togeth and have a superiority complex.

Sorry to burst your bubble, I know what I am talking about , I knew the system well and it still operates.

God bless Phil, and may his church prosper - but I will not pretend that a spirit of superiority doesn't exist.

Lance said...

I could not agree with you more more 'anonymous'....about how Phil switches the charm on (totally on) and off (totally off).

I had the 'hen's teeth' experience many times with Phil.

I've watched him repeatedly go to extra-ordinary lengths to suck up to big knobs, but fob-off people who can't give him or his church something.

My least favourite Phil-ism, was his habit of walking away from people while praying for them...leaving them stranded...and mystified.

Why does he do it? Because they don't matter like a big name, who can give him or his church money or prestige.

So John and Hamo would get the red carpet treatment from Phil...because Phil would see something to his benefit in sweet-talking them.....but if there was no benefit....Phil wouldn't give them the time of the day.

It's just the way he operates, and always has.

Any more insights into the way Phil operates are more than welcome 'anonymous'...because people here seem to be really intimidated about talking about Phil and the church...even long after they've left Revenue.

I'm still trying to get my head around the two faces of Phil.

The Rev said...


You have met me and saw my face, I am not one to be intimidated by anyone, and I am insulted at the insinuation. My experience was my experience, and I cannot and will not say otherwise.

As to your guesses to Phils motivations, I find them hard to substantiate on my part. Who am I? I have a church of twenty people, I work for an agency that can't even pay me, and I have a blog that gets a few views a day. I see no benefit to Phil, or Riverview for being nice to me, or being so generous.

The biblical mandate for dealing with offenses is to go to them directly first. Then if it is not resolved to go with someone else, and then with the elders, and then to the public. Though in this case some things may not work quite so smoothly, I would offer my services to mediate this in some way. Perhaps we can act like the body of Christ and truly seek to grow, to forgive, and to love.

It is my sincere hope that this might be possible, and I will do what I may to see it done.

the rev

Lionfish said...


A little disappointed with your comments mate.

I am not intimidated - I met with him personally to go through my own grievances/concerns with the WOF/Contemporary Church operating model.

I acn look him in the eye, ask hard questions, disagree and see him as a man with failings (as opposed to an annointed one) the same as myself.

But you have refused all offers to meet with him - so methinks possibly you are the one who is a little intimidated. :-)

Lance said...

"I see no benefit to Phil, or Riverview for being nice to me, or being so generous."

You provide infotainment for his church service, and Phil sees value in the style of the emerging church in boosting his own church's image and credentials.

And if I thought there was a point to meeting Phil, I would.

But I don't, so I won't.

Many many many people have gone before me in trying to express their concerns to Phil face-to-face on a whole range of issues, including the church's hard sell on financial giving, and he's unmoved.

I think 'anonymous' absolutely nailed it in his/her assessment of how Phil operates, and today I actually felt a sense of relief that someone finally recognised how Phil becomes the Ice-man if he's decided in his mind that you're not important enough to engage with him.

Lionfish said...

Lance writes:

"Many many many people have gone before me in trying to express their concerns to Phil face-to-face on a whole range of issues, including the church's hard sell on financial giving, and he's unmoved".

Lets wait a few more weeks and I will be in a better position to comment on that one.! :-)

Lance said...

And in the end it's not even so much about Phil.

Much more of a problem is the aloof culture that is right through the Revenue church, from the youth to the lifers.

And there's not much Phil or anyone can do about that, although the example set by Phil and his staff doesn't help.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, as far as corporate culture is concerned, Revenue is worse to deal with than a bank or a Government department.

Lionfish said...

Well relating to change in Corporate Culture, I have to admit that it is unlikely judging by Allans comments on transformational change. I work as as a Professional Business Change Manager - and as I stated the change must occur WITHIN the Leadership themselves...with their beliefs and assumptions...and have tose aligned to the values the organisation wishes to move to.

Unfortunately, if the organisation has not got the courage to say that it current beliefs and practices are fundamentally wrong - then there is no room for change.

Allan refused to be humble and admit he could be wrong about his tithing theology (which I believe is the camshaft which drives the Prosperity theology engine)...then what hope has the Church got for true transformational change?

As they say themselves "everything rises and falls with Leadership"...

I hope Phil surprises me, when he eventually gets back to me on my written thoughts like he promised several weeks ago.

I can see clearly the difference between authentic theology and counterfeit theology (thanks to my Lutheran exposure)...but if the culture does not permit true questioning of the culture or of its leaders - which I find dangerous.

There is little room for melancholy, or mourning, or real critical thinking in this culture...(hence I am labelled a hertic to the cult of optimism) but I understand that this is a product of the Churches origins in the Kenyon/Hagin WOF movement, which was focused on 'thought reform' and positive thinking and has been influeneced by Christian Science. This legacy is difficult to change.

Anonymous said...

I want to comment here about a serious problem that has entered mostly larger churches.
Lets look at James 2:1-9

1My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. 2For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, 3and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, “You sit here in a good place,” and say to the poor man, “You stand there,” or, “Sit here at my footstool,” 4have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
5Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
8If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,”£ you do well; 9but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.


This scripture is never preached in large contempory churches.


Because it exposes the heart of man
and the desire of some leaders to go after the business and "successful" people.

Pastors are making wilful choices to chase the "rich" people.

Rich people do need salvation but the hankering and desire of pastors to speak at business breakfasts etc. exposes greed in their hearts.

I an not accussing every leader of greed. But weekly we hear about giving, prosperity, success - where are the messages about James 2.

The Rev said...

I preach that message all the time, and have sold most of what I have left my home, my friends, and my business, moved to a poor area in order to live that message. What have you guys done to live this message rather than teach it? Now I ask as it is my belief that the living of this message is what will create change, not the critique.

the rev

Lionfish said...

I could go on about how I spent time with the urban poor in an orpahange in the Phillipinnes, on smokey mountain in Manila etc - but that was a long time ago, and I now sit sweetly in a plumb senior management position. I can't compare myself to what you are doing in terms of "radical dicipleship'....though I honestly feel my calling is not doing that stuff. Not yet anyway - and yes I have alot of changes to make in thought, word and deed.

So I will make an effort to stop being critical.

You know, I do like Phil, and RV and the people there, and miss helping in the kids ministry...but as you know based on the dodgy stuff coming out of Hillsong which is a networked Church (Property deals, grants etc) and the fact that the Church I feel puts its financial interests (tithing etc) above scriptural truth, and the wealth that is being generated on the speaking circuit - I can't help but feel that I am getting (to use your own term) 'snowed'.

Trust is the most important part of my Christain walk - and I have to find a place where I feel I can trust the Leadership.

And that in a nutshell, is why I have been angry and critical of late.

Ash Barker said...

Good on ya REV! Surely being a Christian requires us to engage with people who may not seem to be like us. We often have more in common than we expect. I too have had some really good experiences with the River-view crew who visited us here in Bankgok recently.

I wonder if there is a growing maturity in some of the larger churches in reaching out to those on the edge. Think too REV you show evidence of a growing security from emerging church. Think the Body of Christ is the winner in exchanges like this and it honours the risks being taken by both sides. We certianly need more of it if we are to be voice for change in the world. The alternative - that we only talk to our own tribe - is no alternative at all

Lance said...

'Anonymous', something I've been wondering......

You're anonymous for a reason. Obviously it's considered bad form for someone in a pastoral role to be critical of a fellow church leader.

But why?

Isn't it...if you like...part of a pastor's 'duty of care' as a shepherd, to warn people about teachings and teachers who are misleading and misusing people.

I don't understand, why nobody has spoken up until now about Hillsong or Revenue, when countless people have been hurt by them for years.

I know of one pastor who's having to clean-up the wreckage caused by the dodgy pastoring going on at Sunset Coast church in Joondalup.

What exactly is at stake, if a pastor were to publicly put their name to a warning about another church or its pastor.

What are the ramifications for the pastor who's doing the warning, from their own church, from their denomination......or are there no real ramifications...and it's just the fear of what might happen, were one to put their name to a warning about another pastor?

Or does it just work like international relations, where speaking up against another church, is like 'interfering in the internal affairs of another country'.

Doesn't a pastor have a responsibility to warn the community if there's something dodgy happening in a church somewhere?

And what's really galling, is knowing some Christian figures who've privately said that Phil's a dickhead, but are publicly promoting him .

I just don't get it.

The Rev said...

What puzzles me is someone who talks loads of crap but refuses to actually meet with the guy he continuously is berating. I just talked to Phil again, and he is not only going to meet with Lionfish soon, but is and has been willing to meet with you lance. Sounds a bit different than the guy who doesn't have time for such little people as yourself.

Now the more I talk to the guy, the more accessible, open and caring he appears. If you are going to talk so much shit, why don't you man up and go meet with the guy face to face. Not only is that the right thing to do, it is the biblical thing to do.

the rev

The Rev said...

And I might remind you and everyone else that I have not more than a superficial view or understanding of Riverview, and am only just getting to know Phil, but he continues to "do the right thing" as far as I see, and until he shows me otherwise, I will give him respect for that.

the rev

Lance said...

Well, we're not all heterosexual he-men like you Rev.

I'm not man enough to be bought off by Phil either.

The Rev said...

So I was bought off? How convenient for you. Well I guess you can just continue to be a keyboard warrior, good luck with that.

the rev

Troy said...

Let me start by saying that your comments seemed to me to be rather childish and completly inaccurate. Obviously you do not know John well. I have started a house church and a recovery community for addicted people. During this time John mentored and guided me in this process. Then when I left this ministry and began training to be ordained as a Salvation Army minister he has remained by my side and helped me through some very rough times. This is despite John believing strongly that the salvos were not the best option for me. Instead of backing off when i made a choice that he didn't agree with he hung in with me and supported me tremendously. He is a caring, passionate, intense and spiritual man, who happens to fight. To question someones integrity because they don't agree with you could be misconstrued as self righteousness. As followers of Christ we need to hold the church and each other accountable, but in holding each other accountable, we need to acknowledge when those same people or churches are walking close with God. If this becomes unbalanced, we aren't making prophetic utterances, we're just bitching. John went to a church and spoke to a man that he basically disagrees with in terms of church model. He wrote of his impressions and then offered those who weren't happy with the church some face to face time with the pastor. From my point of view he is creating unity, not selling out or changing his convictions. Perhaps if we all tried to reach out to each other in unity, rather then firing long range barbs and then not following up when the opportunity presents itself, the church in this country could transform more peoples lives. After all, its not about us, its about those we're mandated to reach out to.

Peta said...

As a recovering alcoholic/drug addict/prostitute I am dismayed by some of the responses to the Riverview Church. i was dying when I was introduced to Jesus and I am now on my way to ordination. When I read this blog I thought of the three and four year old children being sold for sex in Cambodia, of the mentally ill that live on our streets and I wonder what do these words achieve. For me the fact that people are finding hope in God is the utmost of importance regardless of the landscape. I believe that there should be prophetic voices to the body of Christ but many times all I hear is the bickering echo of petty criticsm. Lets get back to the 'boring'basics of Christianity- bringing hope to the world. House church/ mega church/ who bloody cares, Lets Just Do IT!

Peta said...

P.S. I always admire your search for truth John.

Lance said...

"Obviously you do not know John well."

I know him well enough that his style of 'ministry' is to say that someone is 'talking shit'...and accuse them of 'not being a man'.

He's free to have his views, but perhaps others would find his 'ministry' more helpful.

The Rev said...


And could I then suppose your "style" is to call people sell outs?

And just a point of clarification, I never said you weren't a man. I said that you are a man, act like one. Stop talking shit on the internet and actually try to do something in real life, but meeting with the guy you are bagging out.

the rev

kevin said...

I love matt Glover's post at the start - mega church + house church + pub church + footy church + established church + emerging church etc = The Body of Christ.

All of these folks, are doing or trying to do something positive in a negative world. Others who are doing NOTHING BUT WHINING feel like they have the right to critisize and question the integrity of someone who is actully paying a price to make a difference. Godspeed Rev

kevin said...

Yes Peta -Lets Just Do IT!

Let each one workout his own salvation with fear and trembling. The body of Christ is TOO big to see it all from my perspective. What I can see, I appriciate though, even when their sylle is different. Could it be that the plan of god is bigger than a hunan mind can comprehend. It is not "one size fits all" and Jesus is big enough to bridge our cultural barriers.

Jamie Morien said...

I don't have much time right now to post but intend to make a more decent one later. I am the guy who introduced The Rev to Phil Baker. I have attended Riverview on and off since I was saved in a rather dramatic fashion 6 years ago from a lifestyle of serious drug abuse and regular violence. I have read a lot of comments on this blog which just leave me amazed. If Christianity is about truth then why are so many of you determined to believe a lie? I see comments which betray peoples opinions about other large churches cast onto Riverview. Hey there's even some confusion between Riverview and some other church with a Pator Skip and a gay ministry???? Wrong church Lance...wrong Phil too.

Anyway everyone was blessed by the visit including The Rev so great night all round. I'm too angry to write objectively right now so will come back later. Some of you need to have a good hard look at yourselves. If you can live with as much sacrifice as The Rev then these little issues and blatant lies will become much smaller parts of your lives. Make Jesus Bigger and all this smaller. Love ya Rev


Lance said...

"Hey there's even some confusion between Riverview and some other church with a Pator Skip and a gay ministry???? Wrong church Lance...wrong Phil too."

It's a reference to the movie 'Saved'.

The Rev knows exactly what I'm talking about.

I don't like it when someone tells me one thing over coffee, and then spins a carefully-worded version to everyone else.

Lance said...


The Rev said...

What I said to you over coffee I described above, I said it wasn't my style, and that it was weird. The style reminded me of the movie saved. There is no duplicity, other than it is easier to describe something in person without being taken wrong than in writing.

I told you straight up that I liked the guy, and didn't find anything I could disagree with at church other than style. So stop acting like I told you something different, and stop using our personal conversation as some kind of lever. I have not repeated one word of anything you said to me, out of respect for you.

Now you need to understand I had tons of respect for you, you seemed to be someone who really wanted to make a difference and change things. Please be that person and go talk to Phil, instead of your keyboard warrior act.

the rev

Jamin said...

Man....one needs to take a deep breath in grief over all of these comments.

Firstly, I know Phil, I meet with him occasionally, been to his house a few times, had a couple of coffees (and yes he paid!).

I just want to say he is a great bloke with an amazing heart. What possible motivation could Phil have for going through all the crap that he has to put up with over the years as a Pastor if he didn't feel like it was what God has called him to. I know the answer will no doubt be to make millions out of dumb christians doing a pretty cushy job but that could not possibly be a biger load of crap!

Firstly - Christian ministry is one of the hardest jobs you can imagine - having to put up with crap slinging cowards on the internet, the least of the difficulties!

Secondly, if it was all about money then Phil is in the wrong game. Phil is one of the most gifted and intelligent speakers I have ever met or heard. If he wanted to make the big bucks - he could go full time on the corporate speaking circle tomorrow and be living "The dream". But he's not.

He is making huge sacrifices to be doing what he is doing. Ok, so he's not living in a gutter but compared to how he could be living - he's on the way.

Yes, he encourages giving - and giving big. And yes - he personally gives and gives big. I have heard him say that his desire is to be the biggest giver in his church.

Riverview has a TV program - costs big money - see's amazing results. There are countless stories at Riverview of people getting saved through the TV program who otherwise would never have had exposure to gospel (except for God's grace chasing them down however He could!).

Love Phil. Don't agree with everything he does or says - I don't agree with everything that anyone does or says!

No-one - not a single person - in ministry around the world is perfect. This doesn't mean that there are some who are very close but occasionally forget to smile - it means that we are all fallen, stuffed without the grace of God.

This also means that we all have to trust God, for ourselves and for others. Pray for leaders and pray that God will guide them, speak to them, make them sensitive to His leading.

...one more thing...want to comment on the "Phil not having time for little people thing". First of all, I'm sorry but Phil or even the 100 or so staff members do not have time to take the 3500 or so partners out for dinner after church.

...another response could be...what makes you think you are so important that a pastor who leads a church of 3500 should take you out for dinner after church?

...Jesus after all spent the majority of his time building his team who he then sent out. He had to spend time with the 12 strategically so that he could ultimately reach more people.

...however, once again, if you wanted to meet with Phil, you can ring him up and make a time. that's what I did - sound like that's what lionfish did.

ps. I am not Phil's mother.

pps. Rev, sometimes those letter code things are a little hard to read!

Lionfish said...

Interesting comment Jamin. The fact is many people do have concerns with the lack of accountability/transparency/theological integrity of the contemporary church/WOF movement (NOT the need for/competence of / pressures of Leadership) – the Internet is the place where people across the globe do meet to discuss issues/concerns/raise questions. My experience is that writing to Churches, meeting Church leaders in person is a relatively fruitless exercise.

If you have included me in the ‘cowards’ (plural) comment I would urge you to email me at clan.mackenzie@bigpond.com so that we could organise to meet face-to-face, and so that you may be able to deliver that comment in person and answer some of the questions about the modus-operandi of the contemporary church as a whole. You seem to be close to the action and should have the prerequisite levels of knowledge.

Ironically, those who accused me of having a lack of courage on PB’s site a few months back, failed to call me when I left my contact details – but I had several email/texts of support by people for asking difficult questions.

In the Blogosphere - Church Leaders are also welcome to respond, enter into dialogue answer questions themselves. If they are too busy - then they could nominate somebody as aproxy.

Anonymous said...

Hi All,

I am posting anonymous because I am just a passer-by.

I did a google search on Riverview Church in Perth, as I am thinking of joining up. What I found were a lot of negative comments from 'Lionfish'. One of the sites was this one, and I just felt that I needed to respond.

I can understand that some of us have issues and bad experiences with churches and people in churches, but I do think that as Christians, it is not right for us to publicly gossip and/or slander a person. If you believe the church is preaching heresies, then fair enough, you can warn people of it. The book of James is a good bible reference for this subject.

Nobody is perfect, and everybody makes mistakes and has to fight character flaws. God knows the heart, and the motivation, and this is the most important thing to God. We are not to judge,

“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you (Matthew 7:12).”

From what I have seen of Phil, he is genuinely trying to make a positive difference to the community and the world.

As Christians, let's try to stay positive and remember why we are on this earth. God is good, he is gracious, and forgiving, and compasionate, and may we also try to take that into our lives and be constructive :)

I am not having a go at anyone, as we all struggle with things. In fact, I am guilty of having bad feelings about the leaders in one of my old churches, so I know how easy it is to condemn.

However, forgiveness is needed to let go of bitterness and move on to have the happiness and peace that God intended for us.

thanks for taking the time to read my post.
May God be with us all, and give us the strength to be positive and encouraging, and pray for one-another. One day we all hope to be in heaven, together, and this is the common goal that we all press towards, even if it's with different ways/means/churches etc.


Anonymous said...

We are all here for the same reasons right? To see people lead to and have a relationship with our creator???
There is no need for critisism of other churches...
Churches are always going to be different in the way they do stuff... there are so many variables.
I think its great that riverview is awesome at bringing people to christ, and another church is better at discipling there people.

Over and Out

Anonymous said...

You write our comments off as being 'negative'- yet you never resond with logic, fact or accuracy...

Do your homework before you join a religious group to make sure that you are not joing a cult ...

have the courage to make an enquiry about the financials of the Church:

Why are the financials not distributed in detail?
Why elects the Board members?
What rights to 'partners' have under Western Australian Incorporations Law?
How much does Phil Baker and his family make from Riverview Church?
How much money is paid to speakers from other Churches on the reciprical networked speaking circuit?
Who is marjo Gortner? Why did people trust him? Why did they give money to him?
How does Phil Baker differentaite himself from Marjoe Gortner - when he refuses to provide financials upon request?

Don't take my word for it .... do your own homework as it is a case of Spiritual consumer beware ...

"Avoid as you would the plague, the clergyman who is also the man of Business"
St Jerome (AD 325)\\


Anonymous said...

I am very perplex reading those comments... sometimes full of bitterness and lacking of real wisdom. i guess it is always easy to judge a person through personal cues or impression without actually taking time to know this person (PB). i do know him personally and i am a good friend of his. i have actually read a lot of very bad things about him before i even had the opportunity to meet him... then again i could have just stick to what i have read and form an opinion about him... instead , i ve chosen to meet the person and get to know him. i was a ' nobody' from overseas, yet he took the time to get to know me... i think a lot of the issues raised in those comments come from a lack of courage and honesty. if you want to get to know someone, you find a way. of course it is a big ask to ask a pastor of over 3000 people to connect with every single member of his congregation. we , in the real life can't connect with everyone for obvious reasons: culture, personalities and so on... May this new season allow people to focus energy on lifting people up, making a difference in this world instead of spending time focusing on human kind failures. Life on earth is just too short to be wasted on bad mouth and criticism...
i won't open a debate here althought anyone disagree with me is free to answer but i just thought it was important to me to clarify some things here...

Gracelee said...

Every church has its purpose and its followers, I understand that finally. Riverview was where I was born again and although I did not get to know Phil, other than through my Bible College studies many years ago, I did meet his wife Heather and she was paramount in helping me through a frightening and dangerous situation. I love that woman and her gentleness yet strength that is willing to stand - not over, by alongside. I doubt Heather would have married a cad. Lets face it she's one hot Mamma and one lady whose beauty is inside as well as out.
I reckon they could do with your love, support and prayers right now.

Thanks Rev for your comments, I am also a follower of Jesus, (for the same reasons you have mentioned). I stopped Theological studies to study Community Development and Social Justice and Human Rights are so important to me, as is the building of communities, one person as a time - so I like where you are coming from.
Can you suggest a church in Perth where there is quiet reverent worship and where Social Justice and Human Rights are not just taught but where they are put into practice.
Thanks Rev - I think maybe I shall call you RevHead.

GraceLee said...

I would even settle for a church who acknowledged, Christians can and should be involved with such things as Human Rights and Social Justice.
Its sad we waste our time infighting. Really when I left Riverview I did feel this sense of abandonment, as my life there was so intimately tied to the team, the people, the kids etc.

But its like when you leave home, there is also that sense of abandonment - and its when we get out of our nappies and toddle out into the world.

I always think there is a time for every season under heaven. God needs people who will grow and be willing to take our turn in the furnace of life. We don't always grow in safe territory where we are coddled. Thats for babies - and my gosh, Riverview does look after its babies. Last I heard - thats its purpose.

I'm sure glad they coddled me, cause after many years of whingeing and whining, I finally realised, its up to me to build my relationship with God, not someone else. Thats what its all about I reckon.

Love to all my brothers and sisters out there and to you Rev.

The Rev said...

Have you been introduced to the folks at peace tree community? I would suggest finding them. Or just move here to Long Beach California :)


atheist said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
atheist said...

The only true god I believe in is the true and only Invincible Incredible Hulk.