Winner of the first Australian Idol Guy Sebastian told a live audience at Hillsong’s Baulkham Hills campus that before every concert he always gathers with the band and prays, with gratitude, for the platform to minister to people.
The gathering was a Spheres session dedicated to those working in the Arts and Entertainment industries. Spheres is a programme designed by lead pastor of Hillsong Australia, Joel A’Bell, to “mobilise people and create conversations so that they can live a better life.
“It’s a tool to help people live a better life in society, so from a Christian’s perspective it would be helping you to engage in conversation, to shine the light of Christ in your sphere, in your community,” says A’Bell.
Joining the conversation on Wednesday evening were captain of the Parramatta Eels, Tim Mannah, and 90s R&B star-turned-church pastor Montell Jordan.
“The biggest difference between singing at church and singing in the secular industry is that at church it’s not about you.” – Guy Sebastian
Sebastian told the audience, who were being filmed for a segment on the Hillsong Channel, that he grew up in church in Adelaide, where before Idol he did most of his singing in the church choir.
“The biggest difference between singing at church and singing in the secular industry is that at church it’s not about you, you’re merely a vessel. You’re singing but the focus isn’t on you. Then suddenly you enter the industry and you have to think about yourself and the way your career is going to be shaped.”
Reflecting on his sphere of influence, Parramatta Eels captain Tim Mannah said, “I focus on my immediate impact with my teammates.
“As a leader of the team, I feel that God’s opened the door to captain the club. I fully believe that’s a God thing.” – Tim Mannah
“Sometimes Christians say, ‘With your profile you should be telling all Australians about Jesus every day.’ And I understand we have a profile, but for me I really believe God’s placed me where I am for a reason, and those guys I’m around, for a lot of them, we could be the only Jesus that they see, in terms of the way we live our lives, and the way we show love.
“As a leader of the team, I feel that God’s opened the door to captain the club. I fully believe that’s a God thing, and I really want to make sure I use that position among the boys to make sure I’m being the best leader I can be for them. And that I’m showing God to them every day,” said Mannah.
Mannah’s ministry increased when his younger brother Johnny Mannah died after a four-year battle with cancer, at the age of 23.
“When [Johnny] passed away it opened the floodgates for people wanting to know about God. People saw our testimony and our family’s journey and all of a sudden it became a really common theme that anyone who wanted to know about Jesus in our club could always come and see me and talk.
“We had, like, 4-5000 people turn up to his funeral, and hear the gospel. And to this day, years later, we still have people come and ask us questions about God because of something that happened three years ago. I have no doubt that God used that as an opportunity,” said Mannah.
Montell Jordan joined in, via Skype, from his home in Georgia, in the southern United States.
Jordan took the music world by storm with his 1995 hit This Is How We Do It and continued to write and produce music until announcing he was leaving the music business to enter Christian ministry in 2010.
“Scars remind us, they’re not meant to define us.” – Montell Jordan
“I was functioning in what I was gifted to do, but not in what God called me to do. I found myself having great accomplishments but they were empty accomplishments; I had a number-one song, but it was empty; I had something great on the charts, but it was empty; I purchased something, but it was empty.
“God purposed me to do something different.”
That “something different” was leading worship at Victory World Church in Atlanta. But when Jordan announced his departure from the music business, his decision was met with some surprising responses.
“The music business people, when I came and said ‘I am leaving this business for a more passionate following of Jesus, I feel like I’ve found my purpose in ministry,’ the people in the world were like, ‘congratulations on finding your purpose’.
“It was a lot of times the people in ministry that looked at me like, ‘Mmm, are you sure?’ – giving me that side eye. The hater mentality came from a cynical place of ‘We don’t know if you’re really sold out to Jesus or if you’re really going to follow him,” said Jordan.
After a pause, he gave a big smile and said, “they like me now.”
“You’re going to be scarred if you’re going to be relevant.” – Montell Jordan
Half of the evening was dedicated to a discussion of “Battle Scars,” no doubt inspired by Sebastian’s number-one hit, Battle Scars.
And while Sebastian played down the origins of the song as something that just came to him while he was driving through Los Angeles, Jordan leapt on the imagery.
“Scars remind us, they’re not meant to define us,” said Jordan.
“A scar represents something that you’ve overcome. It can be a sign of healing and victory, and the scar is a reminder that God does heal.
“I think in John 20 there’s this guy named Thomas, and Jesus comes back, he shows up to all the disciples and one guy just happens not to be there. I don’t know what Thomas was doing – maybe he was on tour with Guy or something.
“Then it goes on to say that a week later Thomas is now hanging with the disciples and Jesus shows up again and during that time because he didn’t believe, God had to show him – ‘hey, put your hand in my scar so you can know that I am who I said I am’.
“The beauty of a scar is that for somebody who doesn’t believe, you are also are now able to give them evidence of who you are and what God has brought you through.
“Don’t be fearful of someone hurting you, or that you will go through something because ultimately what you are going through is not even going to be for you, it’s going to be for someone else, for you to be relevant to. You’re going to be scarred if you’re going to be relevant,” said Jordan.
Open to the general public, Spheres is a website, spheres.life, which draws together hundreds of articles by experts in seven spheres – business, arts and entertainment, government, family, religion, education and media. New articles are posted every couple of days.
“…it would be helping you to engage in conversation, to shine the light of Christ in your sphere, in your community.” – Joel A’Bell
“All churches gather people from every sphere of life and … part of our message has always been ‘don’t just preach to people’s Sunday, preach to their Monday.’ So we want people to leave on Sunday knowing that they’re empowered with the great message of Jesus to go out and make a difference in their world and their sphere,” A’Bell told Eternity.
“These topics span so many different areas and we all grow up and we still have many questions,” he says.
“If we could find some people who could write some really great things in business, that could help business people. And then I thought ‘imagine if there were Christians who could write really great articles in the entertainment industry.’
“Wherever you are – on mobile devices, around the home, around work, on the way to work, on the train, on the bus, sitting on traffic, at an airport on an aeroplane – you can connect with experts writing pieces of content in their sphere. There are hundreds of articles sorted by different spheres; you can click on a sphere, so you only get articles on that sphere. At the end of the post you can create a conversation and flick it out to Facebook,” A’Bell explains.
“It’s a tool to help people live a better life in society, so from a Christian’s perspective it would be helping you to engage in conversation, to shine the light of Christ in your sphere, in your community.”
A’Bell says Spheres is also a great resource for non-Christians who subscribe to Christian worldview in that they want to live a good moral life. “They are bombarded by the message of society trying to cause us to be pluralistic and universal and just only look after ourselves. We want to create an apologetic that says ‘you’re in business, you don’t have to cheat the taxman, you don’t have to cut corners, you don’t have to tread on people to get to the top, there are great ways of doing things where you’ll get to the top and feel good about yourself.’
“We will eventually have teams that will try and reach and influence each sphere for Christ.”
“It’s apologetics. For Christians it’s a pre-evangelism tool; for non-Christians it’s the kind of thing that anyone can read and go ‘I can apply this and live a better life.’”
For those who attend Hillsong in Australia or overseas, Spheres also involves sessions in which experts in present their everyday life challenges and what it is like to shine a light for Christ in their sphere.
“We have 28 locations around Australia and 68 services from Darwin to Hobart, so all of our campus pastors are actively involved in creating Spheres sessions on a Wednesday night.”
A’Bell says hundreds of people are now involved in Spheres. Each of the seven Spheres has a leader who is building a team, mainly volunteers, to create content for the website and promote engagement. There is also a crew developing Spheres TV shows for the Hillsong Channel, such as the one this week.
The Spheres website has also featured commentary on current issues such as the Census and the Safe Schools Programme.
“The difficulty with that is the team is very Australian and some of the issues that are global we may be missing in other countries,” he says.
“We will eventually have teams that will try and reach and influence each sphere for Christ.
“In religion we are holding meetings with heads of churches because we want to be at the table and have discussions about what does it look like to have religious freedom and what’s going to happen with different decisions in the plebiscite and so on, and how do we get involved and shape a better Australia?
“And then we want to do that with media, government, family arts and entertainment, all seven of the spheres.”More