Being a ministry family can be a strange, strange thing. You are for all intents and purposes just an ordinary family who attend church and serve the people of God. But you are also the family of one of the leaders among the people and that often means higher expectations of behaviour, faith and works for all of you.
The whole “fishbowl” effect is largely unavoidable but the way the people of God in the church you serve act and react towards you makes an enormous difference.
It is with great joy that I can say that the way you have cared for us and loved us and prayed for us has been wonderful.
Life in the Fortescue house has not been all plain sailing for the last 10 years. Some of you will know all the stories and some will know a few, but like every family we have had a fair share of grief, sickness and trouble. I can say with great thankfulness that we have been loved through it all and allowed to just be a human family who follow Jesus.
When Michelle was rushed home from Fiji having suffered a stroke in 2016 we were overwhelmed with love, kindness and care. We were very aware that people were praying for her and us. We had meals and care packages delivered to our house. We had people offer to help with Megan, Brianna and Brodie who were all still at school. The staff team jumped in to take over responsibilities and to ensure that I had plenty of time to spend at the hospital and taking Michelle to appointments over the following months. The wardens were generous with their provision of extra time off. All of that was wonderfully generous and kind.
When Nicky’s mum and my Dad died at the end of last year, again the wonderfully generous and kind actions of many were gratefully appreciated. The staff and wardens were once again generous in their work to ensure we had plenty of time to recover and grieve. One of other things I noticed then was the way you rallied around our whole family. I was aware of people not just caring for Nicky and I but for all four of our children, for whom the death of grandparents was a terribly difficult time.
Campbelltown is a place we have grown to call home. Campbelltown is a place where we have grown significantly as a family both relationally and spiritually. Campbelltown is a place that we will forever remember for difficult times during which we were loved. And for that we give great thanks. Being in a great church where our family is loved and encouraged has ensured that we feel at home and now feel sad to be leaving. Nicky and I particularly give thanks to all those who have encouraged us and our children to stand firm with Jesus and to never give up.
Please don’t stop encouraging and caring for your ministry leaders. Please don’t stop encouraging them to stand firm on Christ. Please don’t stop caring for them and all those who will come after us.
For you know, that your labours in the Lord are never in vain.
There are many heroes of the faith – Paul, Peter, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Chappo – the list could go on. (And no doubt you are thinking of big names I have missed!)
But there are also billions of ordinary Christians who serve Jesus, who pray, who toil in the work of the Lord, whose names will never again be spoken. There are billions of ordinary Christians like Tychicus and Epaphras. Colossians 4 tells the story of these two men who wrestle in prayer, encourage hearts, strengthen the church and work hard for the Gospel. My suspicion is that the vast majority of us will never have given them more than a cursory thought.
But that is the shape of Christian ministry. You don’t serve to receive accolades or adoration. You serve because Christ first served you. You serve because all of your time, talents and treasures belong to the Lord and ought to be used to glorify him. You serve because you want to see Christ’s church built up and reach out so that other people may hear of the Lord Jesus and be saved. You serve because that’s just what Christian people do.
And thanks be to God that the Christian people of Campbelltown Anglican Churches have always done just that. Truth be told, throughout our time in Campbelltown I have had many moments where I have been blown away by the willingness of people to get in and serve the Lord. There are too many faithful servants of the Lord to mention and the risk of mentioning some and forgetting others would be too much to bear!
There are people who have served by teaching the Bible through preaching, growth groups, youth and children’s ministry, 1-1 ministry, accountability ministry, mentoring and more. There are people who have served by ensuring everything was ready for us to sit under God’s Word by setting up chairs, managing technology and sound, handing out books and flyers, preparing and providing food, playing music, leading in prayer and reading the Bible and more. There are people who have served by seeking to connect outsiders with the Gospel through Arvo Kids, ESL, Food ministry, Jesus is nights and more. There are people who have served in the background, where you will never see them, during the week and even in the dead of night when the alarms go off. There are people who have managed money, governance and policy to ensure we can keep doing
ministry through Parish Council, Safe Ministry and Risk Management. There are people who have chased up the missing, visited the sick and prayed for the lost. You get the feeling don’t you that this list could go on and on. What incredible servants of the Lord you are. Thank you!
If I must isolate one thing that has been of great joy to me, it is this: from time to time people have messaged or come and asked me, “How can I pray for you this week?” There is no greater act of service than to pray and bring requests and thanksgiving before the Lord. In what way will you be the Tychicus and Epaphras of 2020?
In this week when the Irish global super-band U2 are in town, I thought it was worth reflecting on the way I have seen you loving each other over the last ten years. U2 have more than a dozen songs that feature love. We have more than 700 people whose lives feature love, which has been delightfully encouraging.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) These are remarkable words – it sounds like Jesus is suggesting the need to love one another was a new idea! But there were commandments in the Old Testament encouraging Israel to love others. So what is going on?
What was new here is the kind of love – note what Jesus says: this love is “as I loved you.” It is a love that originates and mirrors the sacrificial love of Christ. In Christ’s death something new happened, a new type of love was on display and this sacrificial love is to be replicated and displayed by us. Marvellously, when we do show this love, other people will recognise us as disciples of Jesus. If we love one another with Christlike sacrificial love, others will see Christ.
I have seen Christ’s love in the love that has been shown around our church and it has been spectacular. Let me share some examples.
The Wednesday Church crew are 30-40 faithful mature folks who know each other and love each other. They often chase people up, they know what is going on in each other’s lives and they visit each other when they are sick. They are not selfish with their time but use it for the benefit of others and warmly welcome new people into the fold.
There are a number of multi-generational families in our church who show sacrificial love across the generations. I see grandparents chasing grandchildren after church; I see sons-in-law offering to help at the homes of grandparents; I see the generations encouraging each other to follow Christ. I suppose that is what should happen in families, but it often doesn’t and I think you can look at these families and know they are Christ’s disciples.
Time and time again I hear good news stories out of Growth Groups as people put themselves out for each other to care for each other and show love to each other. Our Growth Groups are a critically important hub for love and care and knowledge of each other and I have loved every one I have been in.
And then I look around after our services and see people praying together, laughing together, crying together and growing together – not looking to serve themselves but looking to love others sacrificially and to see them grow. It’s often the simple, normal things that are most encouraging!
I could go on and on. I pray that you love for each other does just that into the future!
In this last series of newsletter articles, I am seeking to look back and give thanks for the great work God has been doing in our church over the last decade and beyond. My second observation about our church, that I have rejoiced in and given thanks for, relates to your passion to share the Gospel with others.
Seeking to grow the Kingdom is part of the DNA of our church. One of the many things that excited Nicky and I in coming to Campbelltown was the vision of previous ministers who started schools both onsite and later at Menangle. Coming first from the mouth of Governor Macquarie, the desire to operate schools here is almost 200 years old and the purpose of the schools has always been to educate children in the ways of Christ.
But running schools is not the only strategy for reaching our community with the Gospel. I have been so encouraged by the many who pray regularly for their unbelieving family and friends and who have invited them to come to church and various events to hear the good news of the death and resurrection of Christ.
It was Peter who spoke of Jesus when he said to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humankind by which we must be saved.” It has delighted me that the people of this church that bears the name of Peter (and all the congregations connected to it) believe the same thing. I have been so thankful for the way you quickly embraced many of the crazy mission ideas the staff have come up with. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who invite friends to our Jesus is nights and women’s events. Praise God that you are working towards people believing in and confessing Christ.
So let me encourage you: don’t hide your faith. Give answers for the hope you have. Tell people why you are a Christian. The only way to muck it up is to say nothing! Prioritise praying for people. Pray for God to do a mighty work and save people who are not Christian.
Work at naturally introducing your trust in Jesus into conversation – tell people you went to church, share something you learnt at church, share a Christian perspective on what is being discussed. A great way to bear witness to the glory of God and your faith in him is to offer pray for someone. Someone shares a trouble, a stress, a problem – just say, “Can I pray for you?” It’s a powerful witness to your trust in God.
Invite people to church. Every Sunday is a good Sunday to bring a friend!
Your DNA is to preach Christ and if I have encouraged you to continue doing that, I am thankful.
One of the delightful things about the last few weeks has been having conversations with people as they reflect on the last 10 years. A number of people have commented to me about how much our church has changed and I have enjoyed listening to their stories and recounts of the way things were and the way things are now. I count any change for the better as a work of God and anything else is the result of the frailty and failings of humans!
Over the next few articles I want to share some personal observations reflecting on what I have seen and rejoiced in as God has done a good work in you. The first one relates to your attitude to the Word of God.
In many churches, the Bible is read and even mentioned in sermons but it is not given a place of authority and importance in the lives of people. Paul commended the Thessalonians saying “We also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” It brings me enormous joy that I can say exactly the same thing about you.
One of the stories I love to tell is about the way the people of our church use the Bible in church. I remember during the first weeks of being here, many people would have the Bible open on their lap while it was being read, but once the sermon started, they would close it and place it back in the pew. We are encouraged to test what we hear (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and that is hard to do with the Bible closed. Some time later, I remember saying in a sermon “Look with me at verse 1” and a multitude of heads bowed to look at the Word of God. What a great delight that was.
Nowadays, I am regularly accosted by Bible wielding people after church who question my understanding of this verse or that. We have a rigorous and thought-provoking question time after 6pm church. Our regular Sermon Extra has been a great opportunity to explore the issues and applications that flow out of Sunday. Our Growth Groups are growing in number continue to be hubs for debate and discussion around the Word.
You are hungry for the Word of God and this delights me enormously. You accept it as a Word that carries great authority. You accept it as God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). You are willing to sit under it and read it and be guided by it. This is wondrously important and you must continue in this. As I have said before, Anglicans all over the world are increasingly discarding the Word of God as a word of previous importance from which we must move on. The destruction such an attitude reaps in the church and lives of believers is tragic.
My friends, whatever you do, please continue to hold firmly to the Word of Life!
I wasn’t expecting to tear up but yes – and thanks to those who noticed and asked – I did tear up on stage at Megachurch! Towards the end, as we were reflecting on the interviews we had during the morning and the responsibility God has given each of us to serve his people and the world, I said something like: Given how awesome this church is, why would you ever think of leaving? My emotions caught me and there was a moment where I could not speak and my eyes became wet before I pulled myself together and carried on.
The question is a good one though: Given how awesome this church is, why would you ever think of leaving?
Being the Senior Minister of a Church is a wonderful and serious responsibility. I have been charged with being a messenger, watchman and steward of the Lord; to teach and forewarn, to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; to seek Christ’s sheep who are scattered abroad, and for his children who are surrounded by temptation in this world that they may be saved through Christ forever. I was exhorted to have printed on my mind how great a treasure is committed to my care. That treasure is you and I have sought to shepherd the people of Campbelltown under God with all my might. So why leave?
There is always a spiritual element to leaving a ministry and going to a new one. We entrust ourselves to the providence of God and his calling and I can say that we do certainly believe that God has called us to a new ministry at this time. There was no flash of lightning or word from God but as we prayed there were many confirmations that this is from God.
There is a gifting element to leaving a ministry and going to a new one. Sometimes this is because the ministry you are in is not one you are gifted for; sometimes it is because you have gifts that ought to be put to use elsewhere. St Ives is a large and complex church and the training and encouragement I have had from you here has prepared me and our family for this next challenge.
There is an Anglican diocese element to leaving a ministry and going to a new one. Our diocese needs people to lead churches and it needs people who are able assistants to take on Senior Minister roles. It needs Senior Ministers in small churches who are able to take medium size churches and some then to take on larger churches as their skill and capacity develops. The diocese is heading towards a crisis of leadership at this time and needs people to keep stepping up to leadership.
Then there is an opportunity element to leaving a ministry and going to a new one. At St Ives there is a very large group of young people who are ready, willing and able to be challenged to consider full-time vocational ministry. This is a work that I am passionate about the opportunity to shape a large number of people for the work of the Gospel in the next generation is something I am excited about.
There are a million other factors that went into this big decision but I want to assure you that we have not made the decision to leave lightly or carelessly but after much prayer and consultation with friends and mentors. We will depart thankful but with heavy hearts for we know how great a treasure you are!
You will no doubt have seen or heard the media reporting on the Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies’ address to Synod last week. In the view of the vast majority who were actually there, it was a brilliant piece of theological reflection that captured the Spirit of our age and the need for the Gospel to continue to go out into a lost world.
You would think, however, if you simply listened to the media, that Glenn asked anyone who thinks differently to the Bible on human sexuality to leave the church. Nothing could be further from the truth – but if you want to win an argument, you don’t focus on the truth or context of things that are said!
A month or two ago I wrote about the polarising tendency of 21st Century argumentation. We often find ourselves being forcibly isolated into camps such that on any question it is not truth or context that matters but whose side you are on. For this reason, on the matter of homosexuality, same-sex marriage and the Bible, whatever Glenn said, he was going to be lambasted. The way to win an argument in this day and age is not to reason, think, deliberate, consider, ask questions and weigh merits; instead you misquote, pigeon-hole, garner the troops and call people names.
You don’t need thought because you have decided a priori that every other view is wrong.
As an Anglican Synod, we try not to do that. In fact we were urged throughout the week to read, think, consider, weigh up and look at the merits of all arguments around human sexuality. We were all given a book to read containing opposing views.
Despite what you may have heard, Glenn’s address did not urge dissenters in the pews to leave the church. Glenn did not urge anyone with a different view to leave any Sydney Anglican church. But he did urge Anglican leaders who have abandoned the long held truths of the Anglican Church to leave the Anglican Church and start a new church. You can read the whole speech for yourself (www.sds.asn.au) and you will see this clear as day. But the truth of what is said does not matter in arguments anymore. In this day, you win an argument by lambasting the person not their argument.
So what’s the point? Just imagine that the Victorian branch of Greenpeace or Extinction Rebellion started arguing that pouring a little bit of crude oil into the ocean is fine and that more coal fired power stations should be built. I’m pretty sure they would be kicked out of their organisations pretty quickly. This is exactly what is happening in the Anglican Church. Leaders in Wangaratta, Perth and Newcastle are arguing against numerous basic principles held by the Anglican Church and claiming they can stay in that same Church. And the media says Glenn is the bad guy!
At the heart of this whole question is the way you understand the Bible. Does it contain eternal principles for the way we should understand ourselves and God? Or does it contain an expression of the way humanity viewed itself and God, such that we need to find a new expression for this day and age? If God has spoken, are we not to listen?
I am always excited about and look forward to our whole church gathering together for our annual MEGACHURCH SUNDAY. This year we will meet on Sunday October 20 at 9.30am in the St Peter’s Anglican Primary School Hall. Our annual MEGACHURCH SUNDAY gives us the opportunity to give expression to our unity in Christ, our unity in mission and our unity in caring for one another. It is a great opportunity to be reminded about what our most important work is.
Our world, hopes in lots of things, but such things are always hopeless hopes. Sure they might make you feel good for a time, even a long time! But none of them provide you with an everlasting hope. None of the world’s offerings provide you with a sure and certain hope in this life. None of the things people hope in can really, truly satisfy.
But God does. God satisfies us by forgiving our sin, empowering us by the Spirit, adopting us as his children and giving us to each other to share his vision for the world.
What God offers is hope that works. What we as a church do, is offer that hope to the world. We offer this hope because every person in the world starts this life without hope – and God’s desire for each one is that they may be able to approach him with confidence and freedom as their Father and friend. That each person may be gathered into God’s people and gather with member’s of God’s household and grow into holiness by the work of the Spirit.
MEGACHURCH this year will be focused on the way God has equipped his church for
works of service. We will celebrate all that we have done over the last 12 months and look ahead to new opportunities to proclaim the saving word of Christ. It will be a day to remind us with great clarity that we have a God who has spoken to us by his Word and that we can serve him with our whole selves.
Join us for MEGACHURCH Sunday as we call on God to do a mighty work in Campbelltown.
I have just finished reading Stan Grant’s latest book Australia Day. I have been devouring his books in the last three months, prompted by his thinking on identity.
Our world is in love with identity. Having a sharp definition of who you are is said to provide you with greater understanding of and comfort with yourself and a place to stand in the world. Sexual preference, gender selection, family position, occupation, racial history and a myriad of other factors can all be used to define your identity. You only need to look at our fingerprints to know we are unique, but a sharply categorised identity ensures you can proclaim that uniqueness to the world. I heard this week that Sam Smith (famous singer) has asked all his fans to use “they” or “them” when referring to him from now on. His identity is now de-gendered and corporatised.
Stan Grant takes a contrary and profound view to the current cultural milieu. And it is fascinating given he is proudly a Wiradjuri and Kamilaroi man. Grant’s view is that pursuing our own sharply individualistic identities will only divide us from each other. He constantly critiques the (well meaning) identity warriors and draws on a myriad of historians and philosophers to make his case. The more we define the “I”, the more I am separated from the “us”.
In Australia Day he shares the story of the 30 steps that exist between the Australian Constitution and the Larrakia Petition delivered to the Queen in 1972 requesting a treaty in Australia. Those 30 steps are paradigmatic of the way identity as currently formulated divides us.
Grant calls us to eschew the unending grievance that is caused by separatism, and to get on with the “serious business of healing the memory of wounds, resolving the Australian settlement and connecting us all”. Elsewhere, he points to the need for synthesis through struggle; I think that’s how Grant would describe his own Australian identity. He is in an ongoing self-battle to be neither black, nor white but Australian. He also suggests that pursuing love as our paradigm will bring us together. His are wonderfully challenging and profound books and I would commend them to
anyone wanting to know more of the mind, experience and life of indigenous Australians. I think he is close to helping us chart a course through the rampant racism that still exists in our time.
What’s interesting is that the teaching of Jesus is littered throughout his books. He loves the mandate to love and the way Jesus was towards outsiders. Sadly, Grant misses the most profound point that flows from the Gospel – when we recognise that we are all united by our being made in the image of God, we find our true identity in the one who is love – Jesus himself. If we were all to come to Jesus as loving King we would find both truth, identity and love. Ultimately, being united as Australians would be good, but being united in Christ is best.
(This piece was written by Archbishop Glenn Davies)
There is no doubt that the subject of abortion is an emotive topic. When discussing this issue we need to be mindful of those who have had an abortion. It is never an easy
decision, and it is one that we should only discuss with compassion and care for those
who have chosen to have this procedure or are facing the prospect thereof.
Yet, it takes two to conceive a child, and therefore in my view it should not be the decision of the mother alone. The child is not part of her body, as some would argue with the misleading and vulgar slogan of “My uterus, my choice!” The baby in the womb is a distinct, genetic entity temporarily living in its mother’s womb.
This is where we all began – in our mother’s womb. We were vulnerable, but safe; we
were alive, but dependent; growing but not sufficiently grown; awaiting the day of our birth and our entrance into the outside world.
The intentional death of a child outside the womb is not just a matter for the mother or father to decide; it is a matter that concerns all society. A few months’ difference in gestation does not change this perspective.
The Bible is very clear about the value to God of a child in utero. The psalms speak
eloquently of our formation in the womb and of God’s knowledge of us.
For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be. Psalm 139:13-16
Likewise, David recognised not only his personhood from conception, but also his
culpability as part of rebellious humanity (Psalm 51:5). There are dozens of places where the Scripture regularly uses the same language of those in the womb as would apply to those already born (cf Genesis 25:22; 38:27ff). We do the same when we declare: “You’re having a baby”.
Christians have long recognised that where the life and safety of the mother is
jeopardised, then the removal of the baby, the unintentional aggressor from within, justifies abortion. While some Christians may wish to expand the categories of exceptions, the inherent value of the unborn must not be minimised, even if the child does not fit the expectations of a “perfect baby” without chromosomal deficiencies.
Life is God’s gift, and the taking of life should be in God’s hands alone. We honour God in the public arena when we reflect his virtues and stand up for the most vulnerable in our society, and in this case, the voiceless and unseen.