Safety and Security of Children and Young People

Dear Friends,

As a church we work with many children and young people and it is important that we treat them appropriately with kindness and Gospel-shaped grace. It is of course important that everyone is treated in this way, but children can easily be forgotten or hurt.

Churches are still coming under fire following the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. In many cases around Australia, including Sydney, adults who were given responsibility to care for children in church settings have used and abused them. We have people in our own church who have suffered under the hands of evil men and women who used religion and religious networks to hide their horrific actions. This must not happen again.

In recognition of this, the Anglican Church requires all people involved with caring for and ministering to children and young people to do two things.

First, all people involved in caring for and ministering to children must do the Anglican Church approved Safe Ministry Training. Many professions require you to do Safe Working with Children programs however, such programs cannot be accredited to replace the Anglican Church Safe Ministry Training. Once completed, a refresher is completed every three years. The full course is now completed online. If you are unsure as to whether you should do the training or where you are up to in the three year cycle, please contact the office. If you are not Safe Ministry Trained or your certificate expires, you will not be able to start or continue with your ministry to children or young people.

Second, all people involved in caring for and ministering to children must apply for a Working With Children Check (WWCC). You start this process by going to www.kidsguardian.nsw.gov.au. You make an application and they send you a WWCC application number. You must then go to the RMS and identify yourself again after which the check takes place and clearance (or otherwise) is provided. You must then provide the church office with your WWCC number for verification. If you do not have a WWCC that has been verified by our office you will not be able to minister to children or young people.

There are some very limited exceptions to both of the above arrangements and if you wish to discuss those, please speak to me or our Safe Ministry Representative, Kerry Olsen.

The best way to protect our children is for everyone to be trained. It is actually our preference that everyone in our church does both the Safe Ministry Training and acquires a WWCC. This not only creates a helpful culture of transparency but also a culture of understanding. The more eyes that both see and understand, the better. If you have any questions about this, please speak to me or one of the Wardens.

Finally, if you see something strange, please say something!

In Christ
Nigel

NAIDOC WEEK AND THE GOSPEL 

Dear Friends,

Our ministry partnership with the Macarthur indigenous Church is one of great significance that we must continue to build and strengthen. To this end, I am so thankful for the opportunity to have combined our 10am Services on Sunday 7th July to mark the beginning NAIDOC week.

The theme this year is Voice, Treaty, Truth. Over the last decade there have been many positive steps forward towards reconciliation in our country. There is an increasing recognition of the damage that former government policies had on indigenous communities. There have also been conversations about how further recognition of Australia’s indigenous peoples might be included in our Constitution. Adding to all this, gladly, National Sorry Day and NAIDOC Week are increasingly prominent times in our nation’s social consciousness.

The theme, however, calls for increased listening (Voice) to indigenous people, their concerns and hurts but also their wisdom and ideas for a better future. Let us not repeat the past when people in power decided on what was best for indigenous people! This is coupled with a need for aboriginal people as the original custodians of the land to sit at the governance table (Treaty) in decision making as we recognise what has really happened in the past (Truth) and create a better future for our indigenous communities.

We can all point to prominent indigenous Australians like Ash Barty and note her success, but she is the exception to the rule. The majority of Aboriginal people are disadvantaged and thus far our governmental and social efforts to turn this situation around have not brought long-term benefit for everyone.

So I think it is appropriate this weekend that we share together in a vision as a church for reconciliation because we know the great reconciler! The Lord Jesus Christ is the one who came into the world to bring about the ultimate act of reconciliation between God and man. This vision must however be accompanied by prayer. Below is a prayer written by Bishop Arthur Malcolm (Australia’s first indigenous bishop) and his wife, Colleen. Can I ask you to pray this prayer both in your personal prayers but with others over the next week?

Lord God,
Bring us together as one.
Reconciled with you and
reconciled with each other.
You made us in your likeness;
You gave us your son, Jesus Christ.
He has given us forgiveness from sin.

Lord God,
Bring us together as one.|
Different culture, but
given new life in Jesus Christ;
Together as one, your body,
your church, your people.

Lord God,
Bring us together as one.
Reconciled, healed, forgiven,
Sharing you with others,
as you have called us to do.
In Jesus Christ,
let us be together as one.

In Christ
Nigel

What’s Best Next?

Dear friends,

 

At staff meeting this week we continued a discussion about welcoming and helping people connect in with our church so they too can be part of the growing Christian community devoted to maturing in Jesus for the Glory of God. As part of that discussion, Simon suggested that perhaps we need to get everyone thinking about What’s Best Next in your own Christian walk?

 

It is clear from the Bible that being a Christian is not a state you enter into but a process you participate in. The language of the New Testament is overwhelmingly littered with active encouragements to continue changing and growing to be more and more the person God wants you to be in Christ. Just look at the following examples:

 

Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” Ephesians 4:15 

 

But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 3:18

 

He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ.” Colossians 1:28 

 

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7 

 

And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.” Philippians 1:9-10

 

Have a read through any one of the New Testament letters this week and you will see over and over again, the challenge for you to continue growing as a Christian, maturing as a Christian, putting off sin, imitating Christ, shining like stars and learning more and more of the riches of God’s grace.

 

To this end, each one of us should ask ourselves a couple of times a year, What’s Best Next for my Christian growth. The answer for each of us will be different.

 

Unclear on the basics of Christianity and Jesus? Get into Exploring Christ.

Unclear on how to think and live as a Christian? Get into Firm Foundations.

Wanting to understand more of God and his Word? Get into a growth group.

Wanting to be equipped to share the Good News? Get into an Exploring Christ training group.

Wanting to dig deeper into theology? Get into PTCgo!

Wanting to think about a particular topic? Ask for a book recommendation.

Wanting to exercise your gifts and talents? Get involved in serving.

 

That’s just the start. Speak to your growth group leader or a member of staff for help on What’s Best Next for you! 

 

Of course, this has application to welcoming and connecting new people too, but I’ll tell you about some of Leanne’s thoughts on that next week!

 

In Christ

Nigel 

Changing our Annual General Meetings

Dear friends,

As you know, we hold three Annual General Meetings every year – one for St Peter’s congregations including the Macarthur Indigenous Church, one for St Andrew’s and one for the whole Parish. At a recent meeting of Parish Council, we discussed the possibility of combining all three meetings into one. I am writing about this proposal to give you the opportunity to give us some feedback.

Our AGM’s are more than a meeting; they are shared opportunities to think, talk and pray. They are an opportunity for you to hear about ministry plans and vision, to ask questions and to become more involved in the decision making of our church. We elect officeholders, receive reports on ministry and provide time for feedback.

As a church we operate under one vision in multiple locations in a myriad of different ways. We have one combined staff who work together to proclaim the gospel to people throughout our region. We believe this is an effective strategy as different people will be reached by different approaches to ministry; if you only do one thing in one way you reach one sort of person! If you do many things in many different ways you reach may different sorts of people.

More and more we are working together across the Parish and breaking down the age-old barriers that have held us back from collaborative and effective ministry. Holding separate AGM’s retains this division and excludes people from hearing about, praying for and partnering with the complete collection of ministry activities in the Parish.

How would a combined AGM work?
We would meet together in one location and have staff reports, finance reports and reports from some individual ministries. We would vote as if we were at three individual meetings, allowing for St Andrew’s members to elect their wardens, St Peter’s members to elect wardens and parish council and for the whole meeting to elect Synod representatives and Parish Nominators. We would have questions and a time for prayer together. Our commitment is that the meeting would be run efficiently and not be long and boring – currently our three meetings go for a total of 150 minutes but there is significant duplication!

This is more than an opportunity for symbolic efficiency. This is really another opportunity for us to recognise structurally that we are in ministry together for the Glory of God in Campbelltown. We would be seeking to acknowledge that together we seek to be a growing Christian community devoted to maturing in Jesus for Glory of God.

So what now? We want to know your thoughts and questions. Parish Council is going to make a decision on this matter at our July meeting. Please put your comments in writing to me via email (nigel@campbelltownanglican.org) or letter.

Thanks for your partnership in the Gospel in Campbelltown.

In Christ
Nigel

Division in the Church!

Dear friends,

The Anglican Church remains in crisis and there appears to be little hope of recovering biblical fidelity in the worldwide church. Most recently, the biblically faithful Anglicans in New Zealand have acknowledged that the NZ Anglican Church has departed from the faith. Those aligned with the Scriptures have appointed a new Bishop to lead them. How should we think about this and what is the right thing to do? Let me make three observations.

First, there is nothing worse than division in the church.
Jesus prayed that there would be unity among us in John 17:20-21 – “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you.” As the body tasked with taking the Gospel to the world, division is at best a distraction and at worst it causes destruction to our life and witness. Jesus prayed we would be united and we are not. We ought to take this seriously.

Second, there is nothing more normal than division in the church.
We must not romanticise the early church and spend time wishing we could get back there. Within 20 years of the ascension of Christ, division had arisen amidst the 12 disciples and Paul over the place of the Law of Moses in the Christian life. The big issues were whether non-Jewish Christians should be circumcised and obey food and other laws. Acts 15 details the sharp dispute and it is not the first or the last dispute we read of in the book of Acts. Of course, our doctrine of sin ought to tell us this is inevitable even if unpalatable. Sin will always cause division. This doesn’t mean we throw our hands in the air but it does mean we ought not be surprised when it happens in our midst.

Third, there is nothing more important than division in the church.
Paul speaks of division in Galatians 2:1-5 – “This matter arose because some false believers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. 5 We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might be preserved for you.” The preservation of the Gospel is ultimately important. Unity is not the greatest virtue – truth is. Jesus himself acknowledges that he did not come simply to unite people but rather to proclaim the Kingdom and be the truth (Mark 1:15, John 14:6). The Gospel must be preserved from generation to generation so that people may actually be saved. If people are ignoring the Bible, teaching untruths, promoting godlessness or seeking their own glory, we must at least consider dividing in order to preserve the Gospel. Nothing is more important than Gospel clarity.

Only the Gospel saves. And if we lose it, we lose everything.

In Christ,
Nigel

The Privilege of Prayer

Dear Friends,

There has been a lot to pray for this week! We have prayed for 4 new Christians in our midst who have just devoted their lives to Christ! We have prayed for church members who have just discovered illnesses and are coming to grips with their future. We have prayed for Scripture teachers and students in our public schools who hear the Bible taught each week. We have prayed for our youth leaders as they deal with the complexities of Gen Z. We have prayed for numerous others in need…. and that’s just the beginning.

I have always been encouraged by Philippians 4:6-7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

We pray to an awesome and merciful heavenly Father don’t we! But have you stopped to ponder that reality recently? For if we overlook the reality that God is our Father, we will overlook the grace that enables prayer. So we need to be reminded periodically that the privilege of speaking with God so intimately was not even given to the greatest of the Old Testament saints. The Jewish people would never have called God Father – they considered it too familiar as Jesus found out. In John 5:18 we read that the Jewish people try to kill Jesus for calling God his Father.

But this is the privilege that is ours as Christians. On Jesus’ lips it seems appropriate, but on ours, we must realise that it is an amazing and unexpected blessing. That the incomparable, sovereign God, creator of the universe, sustainer of life and judge of all, can be approached by feeble creatures like us as Father – it’s an amazing privilege. But ‘Father’ expresses more than our privileged approach.

We can approach God as Father because he approached us first. In Christ he has sought us out and through faith in Jesus, brought us to himself and made us into his children. He is our heavenly Father, and we are his sons through faith in Christ.

Many people struggle to pray. Perhaps that is you. We hope that our sermon on 2 Samuel 7:18-29 helped you. But there are lots of reasons for prayerlessness – theological, personal, laziness, disappointment with God. We would love to help you to learn pray. Start by asking your Growth Group leader for some direction. Many people find that having a system is helpful too. Perhaps the easiest thing to do is open the Psalms – a book of prayers.

Remember – faith talks. Prayer – give it a go.

In Christ
Nigel

Bible vs the World: Part 7

Dear friends,

This is the final piece in a series in which I want to explain why some Christian people are abandoning the authority of the Bible and why you shouldn’t.

We have come to the point where we can confidently say that the Bible is God’s Word and that he has given it to us that we might know Him and know life. But when you open its pages, the Bible is not always easy to understand. So what is the key? How can we understand the Bible?

The key to understanding any piece of writing is to know what it is about. Emma by Jane Austen is about love, romance and youthfulness at the dawn of the 19th Century. Dark Emu by Bruce Pascoe is about Aboriginal life in Australia before the arrival of Europeans. Knowing this information helps you understand and interpret the words you read.

Sadly, when many people open the Bible they not only deny the authorship of God but dive in looking for rules amidst a disjunctive collection of ancient literature; and so we come full circle to the Anglican world where many have missed the central figure of the Bible and its cohesive story.

To put it simply, if you want to understand the Bible, you just need to know this – it is all about Jesus Christ. This is the testimony of Jesus himself. On one occasion he rebukes the Pharisees for being people of the Bible but missing the main point:

“You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” ‭‭John‬ ‭5:39-40‬

After his resurrection he finds some disciples walking along the Emmaus Road and Luke recalls:

“He said to them, ‘How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Luke‬ ‭24:25, 27‬

The Bible is one story and it is all about Jesus. From beginning to end, the whole story is focused on the events of the cross. The Old Testament sets up the crisis for why the cross is needed. The New Testament tell us what happened and how it matters. Genesis 1-2 tell us God’s plan for humanity. Revelation 21-22 promise us that God’s plan is on the way.

Understanding the Bible can be difficult but when you know it is all about Jesus the whole message is unlocked. This, accompanied by the reality that it is the Word of God, does make reading the Bible critically important for your life and your future. The King revealed within is the eternal King of the universe and he wants you to come and follow him. Listen up!

In Christ,
Nigel

Bible vs the World: Part 6

Dear friends,

This is the sixth piece in a series in which I want to explain why some Christian people are abandoning the authority of the Bible and why you shouldn’t.

Has God really spoken into our world? The writers of the Old Testament and their New Testament counterparts would answer with a resounding yes! God has spoken and continues to speak through his written Word. Last week we saw how the Old Testament believers understood this; they were confident that as they read the Scriptures they were listening to the very voice of God! The New Testament writers not only echo this but see their own words in the same way. Theologians call this “inspiration”.

From Judaism, Christianity inherited the conception of the divine inspiration of the Holy Scripture. Whenever Jesus and His apostles quote the Old Testament, it is clear that they regarded it as the Word of God. They subsequently envisaged the whole Bible as God’s Word; as being breathed out by God or inspired. Not that the authors are human typewriters and not that the authors are inspiring people but that in the Bible we have God’s words through human authors being breathed out. When you read the Bible you are reading the breathed out Word of God.

Of course, this whole reality truly culminates and focuses on Jesus, who is the Word (John 1:1-2, Hebrews 1:1-2). He is the Word and his incarnate form gives a model for thinking about the bible (just as Jesus is God and man, so the Bible is the Word of God and words of man), and he himself gives authority for believing in the concept of inspiration because Jesus believes it. Jesus himself received and endorsed the authority of the OT, regarding it as the very Word of God with ongoing application (Luke 4:1-13).

As we keep reading the New Testament we find that the Apostles endorsed Jesus words and the Gospels as God’s Word (1 Tim 5:18) and they identified their own writings as inspired Scripture (2 Cor 2:17; 1 Thess 2:13; 2 Peter 3:16).

Friends, can you see that we can confidently say: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”  (‭‭2 Timothy‬ ‭3:16-17‬)

Now this is immensely important. For if the words in the Bible are God’s words, who are we to ignore, change, or repudiate such words. It is God’s Word. And he is the King. And he spoke it. And he breathed it. And he gave it. So you might know him and know life.

Of course, that does not make it easy to understand and there are bits in there that are just weird! But more on that next week as we draw our series to a close.

In Christ
Nigel

Bible vs the World: Part 5

Dear friends,

This is the fifth piece in a series in which I want to explain why some Christian people are abandoning the authority of the Bible and why you shouldn’t.

I remember door knocking once and a man said to me that he would believe in God if God came and spoke to him right now. He was after a tangible and physical experience of God and nothing else would suffice. Many Christian people hanker after the same and some even believe that as 21st Century Christians we are ripped off because God does not speak to us audibly and appear physically as he did in the OT.

I understand the feeling but it rests on the mistaken belief that God predominantly revealed himself physically and audibly to his people. Certainly, God did speak to Abraham and Moses and Samuel and the prophets but the ordinary, normal experience of God for the Israelites was through the written word.  

The law was given to Moses and this Word of God was passed on either verbally or in written form. This was God’s expectation of Moses as he says in Exodus 21:1. From the beginning it was God’s plan to have his Word captured in human words for all to hear through human authors. This is what theologians call inspiration. Human authors write the divine Word.

It is God himself who commands that his word be written down and that it become the authoritative guide and criterion of judgement for his people. In fact, God himself is the first to present his word in written form (Exodus 31:18). In these written words God confronts his people, challenging them and comforting them as directly and effectively as when he spoke to Moses in the cloud. They are not merely a record of God’s self-revelation—they are that revelation. What is more, their divine authority and reliability is in no way diminished by the fact that God used very human writers in the process. God does not bypass the mind or personality of each writer, for those things too are his creation. Through the work of his Spirit, God enables them to write his word, not just their own (2 Peter 1:20-21).

So Moses wrote in Deuteronomy 30:9-10: The Lord will again delight in you and make you prosperous, just as he delighted in your ancestors, 10 if you obey the Lord your God and keep his commands and decrees that are written in this Book of the Law and turn to the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

The Book of the Law was more or less the first 5 books of our Bible and from the beginning that was treated as the very Word of God. In fact all of the OT writings were to be carefully recorded so they could be consulted, memorised, transmitted to children in the community, practiced and obeyed.

Where other nations carried with them visible forms of God, Israel had the word of God. And they had it in a book. Can you see that your experience of the voice and character of God is actually the same as those who have gone before!

In Christ
Nigel

Bible vs the World: Part 4

Dear friends,

This is the fourth piece in a series in which I want to explain why some Christian people are abandoning the authority of the Bible and why you shouldn’t.

What is the Bible? You can actually answer that question in a myriad of ways can’t you! It’s a book. It’s a religious book. It’s a collection of books. It’s the books of the church. It’s a book about God. It’s a book about Jesus. It’s a fairy story. It’s a lie.

It’s an age old question and one that has become more and more central to the life of the church in the 20th and 21st century. What I mean is that there are a variety of different versions of Christianity doing the rounds today that have departed from the mainstream and you can distinguish them based on their view of the Bible.

Mormons say the Bible is good but there is another book that’s better. The Roman Catholic Church says the Bible is good but not enough. Modern Liberal Christianity says the Bible was a good starting point for understanding but we must also listen to everything else.

The list could go on and we ought to note that the battle for the Bible has been going on for centuries but has become clearer in the last 50 years with the implications playing out in the church. As an example, I think it is fair to say that as a Christian your view on homosexuality and whether you support gay marriage will be defined by your view of the Bible and you can tell what someone’s view of the Bible is by their view on such things.

Ultimately, I am leading us to this question: who thought the Bible up, breathed it out and wrote it down and why?

For Christians through the ages, and certainly since the reformation, the evidence of the Bible itself gives ample reason to claim that the Bible came from, was spoken, by God. Indeed, the teaching of the church has been that the Bible was given, not sought and not invented. God was not at the mercy of human whims, but rather in and through the personalities of human authors, God spoke and God still speaks. So when we talk about the authority of the Bible, what is being asserted is that it has divine and human authorship so that we trust it as the Word of God in human speech.

Where does this idea come from? The clearest articulation is 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
‭‭But it also comes from the mouth of Jesus for whenever he quoted the Old Testament it is clear that he understood that he was speaking the very Word of God.

More next week!

In Christ
Nigel