Your first reaction when you found out you were going to be a Father?
We’d been trying for two years when Vanessa came in with that stick for the pregnancy test and was in tears, so it was a very moving time. It was part relief because we’d been trying for a couple of years, with no luck or success, and part thankful because I knew it meant so much to my wife. Then complete nerves for me. I was like 'Oh crap!'
How did you handle not being able to conceive straight AWAY?
I think that is the thing. When you are young, you are told don’t even look at a women the wrong way unless she gets pregnant! Then when you are married you expect it to happen straight away, and that is not what happened for us. It took time. For me it was fine, personally I was OK but the sore point was seeing my wife who was very keen to be a mum. The thought that maybe she couldn’t have kids was getting worse and worse. Every month, when she realised she wasn’t pregnant, it would be a sad time. For example I remember the day she found out her sister got pregnant again and she just burst out in tears. There are those mixed emotions when you want to celebrate with people but at the same time it is really difficult. Now since then, I have met a bunch of people who have been through similar and much more difficult situations where they cant have kids. It’s actually very common but it is something that we just don’t talk about culturally.
What is the most challenging part of being a father?
I am a selfish person and kids require you to be very other-centred. I think consistency is the thing. I can have great moments where I am like 'Yep, we are at the swing, we are having fun, I’m encouraging, I’m pushing' then other times where I am like 'Dude, I just cant be bothered serving you right now!' You have ideals in your mind of great moments and its going to be like this, but the great moments actually require lots of discipline, service, patience and consistency, so I think overall that is what is tricky.
What is the most rewarding part of being a father FOR you?
I love seeing the world through kids eyes again. We are all kids and I think childishness has a beauty to it. Like Zach is just bent on how strong God is.
"Can he beat a ninja?"
“What about 500 ninjas?” and it just keeps going on and on. I just love seeing his little mind play with that. “What if it wasn’t the real God but a fake God- would he win?” It just goes on! Summer was always obsessed with these little flowers and just helping her to see God’s creative hand at work in creation.
WHAT DO YOU MISS ABOUT THE TIME BEFORE YOU WERE A FATHER?
I miss road trips! Like ‘Hey Ness, let’s get in the car and go for a weekend to Torquay!’ Travelling, things like that just becomes more challenging. It now takes four hours to leave the house!
What is your Fatherhood philosophy?
I feel like in God I have a perfect example of love. It’s a love that is consistent, unconditional, other-centred, secure, affirming, strong, discipling when it needs to be. So to me, that is what I look to. I want to say OK my heavenly Father has loved me in these ways; he forgives me, he welcomes me, he encourages me, he equips me, he empowers me. That’s the kind of Dad I want to be.
How do you approach your work as a Pastor of a church with balancing a family?
I think being a Dad has probably helped as I think I have learn more about God from being a Dad. Someone once sent to me that a child will never love their father as much as a father will love their child. You can really feel that. A kid is just there kicking around doing what they want, but you really have this affection for your child and it makes me wonder is that how God thinks about us? Wow,he thinks about us?! He wants the best for us. He says stuff that I sometimes struggle to believe and understand, but now that I get it he probably thinks it is for my best. A lot of those things have really helped me, just understanding that dynamic. Like a good parent, I also want to be a Pastor who leads in that way. So for me that is providing love, encouragement, being present, seeking to serve, seeking to encourage, speaking the truth with love. All of those kinds of things, so it has helped me in that regard.
I planted the church when I was 27. Going through a bit more life experience and meeting more and more people, you just see the complexities of life. Some people have really great seasons, other people have really difficult seasons. I think a good father is going to be there for his children through all seasons and a good leader of church is going to be there through all seasons.
Tell us about role as Pastor of City on a Hill Church. That is a bit non-conventional in today’s world isn’t?
Yeah totally! I never thought I would be a church leader or Pastor. I didn't grow up going to church or believing in God. I became a Christian when I was 16. I grew up like most Australians where there wasn't Christianity in your face and that kind of stuff, so to me it was life changing and I was like ‘man I want to tell other people!’ If you find a great anything in life- a great movie, restaurant, surfing spot, then culturally you want to share that with other people. To me I’d found Christ, or Christ had found me, and totally changed my life and I wanted as many people to know about that as possible. I didn't think I was always going to work in a church. I had worked in media and communications for a number of years, really enjoyed that, but I just thought there was an opportunity to help lead a church to engage with people who didn't necessarily grow up going to church. To create a church that brought down some of the cultural barriers and where people could engage with big questions. I know all of us, whether your religious or not, we’ve all got big questions about life, we all want to know the 'Why?' of life. I wanted a church where we could engage with that.
As a Pastor what frustrates you about perceptions of Christians from those external to the Church?
Well I guess a bunch of them are right! I think Christians are known for what they are against, not what they are for. I guess religious people are to blame for that because they are always up bantering about what they are against. It would be good if people took time to ask ‘ OK what are they actually for?’ because our faith is about what we are for. The enthusiasm that Christians have for sharing what they are about, comes from a good heart. They genuinely love people in a way that I’ve experienced to be remarkable and that doesn't always come across. I guess another is this idea of do-gooders. There is this weird myth that Christians are holier than thou, where actually the centre of our faith is this acknowledgement that we are sinners! So Christians by definition are those that recognise that they are not good, that they are not righteous and they are not holy and it was Jesus who died for them. Somehow we haven't reflected that well, we should be more authentic.
AS A PREACHER You're essentially a full time communicator- how do you approach that?
To me everything about Jesus is super engaging and life impacting, creative and colourful. So I just want to do a really good job at expressing that. To me, it should be colourful and creative and thoughtful. I hate the idea of a boring sermon or a boring dull church. As a communicator I love words, so I love to think creatively about the words I will use. Words are powerful. For either good or bad! I also love story. Post-modern culture looks to story. Story forms who we are and the generation we are in. We see it throughout scripture, Jesus was a phenomenal story teller. I want to let those things come through, I suppose because I enjoy them first and foremost but also because its important in my role.
WHERE DO YOU FIND INSPIRATION?
I have always been inspired by people who want to make a difference. Outside of the scriptures, I love people who just give something a go. I have always found it difficult with people who just want to exist versus those who want to live. It brings to mind that quote from the great philosopher William Wallace who says “Every man dies, but not every man truly lives.” I love that! You’ve got to live for something. Now that doesn't mean that I agree with everything that everyone lives for, but at least I agree with the premise that you should do something, create something, build something, write something, stand for something! Life is a tremendous gift and here in Australia we have so much opportunity so I think ‘Man, lets do something!’ So I am always encouraged by men and women who do that.
HOW WOULD YOU DEFINE CREATIVITY?
It is taking something that is nothing or bland and moulding it and shaping it into something that is beautiful. Art should move you. Does it move you to thought? Does it move you to tears? Joy? Does it take you to your childhood? Does it take you to a fear? That’s what I think art does. Whether it is music, a great painting or a poem, it doesn't matter it should move you in some direction. Christians should be excelling in this, and there have been seasons where Christians have, because we believe in a God who has created out of nothing- the world! If you look at how the world is, you cannot help but see that God is creative. Everything that we do, our creative works and creative actions, are just a mirror of his creativity.
What do you think about your own Dad-Do you think he did a good job as a father?
My Dad is an amazing man. I always looked up to him. He’s a great storyteller and has an amazing ability to relate to people. He was a really well recognised photographer, he worked with almost anyone you can think of- Presidents, Prime Ministers, Celebrities. I’ve met Mick Jagger with him! He photographed Audrey Hepburn, Nelson Mandela, all these phenomenal figures. He had kids pretty young. Mum and Dad were young when they got married. My Dad got pretty caught up in the alcohol and clubs and drugs that went with the party scene and celebrity lifestyle. So he wasn't around a lot when I was growing up. My parents separated when I was 9 so if you had of asked me then, he was very spontaneous but he wasn't there. We have always kept our relationship. I had been praying for him for many years and he became a Christian two years ago. Just seeing how God has transformed him and changed him has been amazing. Honestly, I believe in God, but I thought that was too big for God. Yet his life was changed, legitematley changed. It was an amazing experience.
HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR KIDS WILL GO GROWING UP AS SON AND DAUGHTERS OF A PREACHER MAN?
I didn't grow up going to church, my parent didn't go to church so I don't have a lot of models to look to. I am often meeting with other pastor kids and I just find that there are a great variety of responses. Some kids hated it, especially if their parents were hypocritical, so I am absolutely committed to authentic living. What I preach from the front I want to live through the week. I do not want to give my kids a false representation of faith, that’s a big one for me. I also want them to know that Christianity is something to enjoy and to be excited about and have fun with. I want them to realise they’ve got to make their own decisions and take responsibility. So I seek to disciple them in the sense of teaching them about Jesus, answering their questions and all that sort of stuff.I suppose though, I just want them to have a normal upbringing.
What do you think is the most important thing every Dad should be doing?
I think the question of priority is really important. To raise a kid you’ve got to sacrifice a lot, so I always find it a challenge to get the order and priority right. What I want and aspire to is to say; first and foremost I live for God. Second, my wife. Third, my kids and fourth, career etc etc. Now that is easy to put in an order like that but in reality those things flip around all the time. I think our day and age is so fast paced, so driven for success and so career orientated that kids just get left to the side. As it has always been said, kids grow up fast! My daughter is 8! That staggers me. I want to be there. I want to create good memories. I think that’s very important- it’s not just providing for them practically its providing good memories.
HOW DO YOU WANT YOUR KIDS TO REMEMBER YOU?
I hope they remember me as someone of enthusiasm, fun and empowering. What I mean by that is I always sought to help them fly and flourish. Over and above everything, I want them to see me as a man who loved Jesus with everything I’ve got, loved other people as much as I could and was very committed to family, their mother and obviously to them.
As a father, what do you see your biggest challenge ahead?
think it is just the concept of presence. It goes back to that priority thing. Church life is very demanding, it's a lot of people! City on a Hill is now 1500 people and it's growing. It’s kind of endless, it's like a painting you could just keep working on and developing, it is never finished. And I love it to! That’s the other thing. So there is much there that could lead me away but I know that the best thing for my church, and me too, is to love and lead my kids well. I’ve got to keep reminding myself that but its just a constant challenge on how do you get that balance right? They're just stepping into a crazy world. There are so many challenges, new challenges that I just hope I have good relationship with them so we keep the conversation going.