The Power of the Personal

Do you want to come to see the new Star Wars movie with me?
Do you want to come to my house for dinner?
Do you want to come to the park with me and the kids?
Do you want to come to the dog park with me?
Do you want to come to the gym with me?

Every day we make personal invitations to others and as we do we invite them into our lives. Into things that matter to us. Into things that interest us. Into things that may interest them too.

Just this week a member of staff said to me, “Do you want to come and see the new Sushi place on Queen St with me?” I felt excited by the opportunity and off we trotted together to check it out and as it turned out, we bought lunch and it was good! We talked, we ate, we did a little bit of life together.

The personal invite mattered and it was powerful.

If he had sent me a text message saying, “Dear staff, I’m heading to the new sushi place. Wanna come?” I would have weighed up how busy I was, what I packed from home and then decided whether to go or not. But the personal made the invite powerful. Do you want to come with me?

If he had posted a message on FB, “Hey staff, heading to sushi. Want to come?” I probably would have missed the invite. But the personal made the invite powerful. Do you want to come with me?

If he had written a note, coloured it in, and left it on my desk for me to find, frankly I would think he had gone bananas. But the personal made the invite powerful. Do you want to come with me?

Christmas provides you with the easiest opportunity in the year to invite your friends to hear about Jesus. Everyone loves Christmas.

You could invite them by text, but it is so easy to say no via text.
You could share a FB event but they may miss it or ignore it.
You could just drop a coloured flyer in their letterbox but if they know you go to church they may think it weird you didn’t at least knock on the door.

Or, you could ring them and invite them.
Would you like to come to church with me on Christmas Eve/Day?

The personal invite is very powerful. It says, this matters to me and I want it to matter to you. it is also proven to be significantly more effective than any other invitational method.

So here is my Christmas week challenge. Make a personal invite. Choose a friend or neighbour, muster up the courage and then call or knock on their door and say:  Would you like to come to church with me on Christmas Eve/Day?

They might just come. They might just hear about Jesus. They might just get saved.

Winding Down, Winding Up

Dear friends,

Christmas is coming!

The busyness of this season is perhaps best exemplified by the queues of people trying to get out of Macarthur Square. The new number plate parking system creates metal snakes of frustrated shoppers with their eyes on the clock and hearts set on getting home to get things done. There are endless lists of jobs at home and work that have to happen at this time of year!

But the end is nigh and you will get some time off. One or two days at least. Unless you work at McDonalds or KFC and have a shift on Christmas Day. Then you won’t! But for the majority, things will wind down. Like the battery operated toy that has been overused on Christmas Day that starts to slooowwwww.

And yet things are also winding up!

As a staff, we have been planning and preparing for 2018 for about 2 months. Here is a little taste of what is in store!

  • We will be starting the year off with Summer Ministry Training Week (Jan 29-Feb 2), providing an opportunity for all of us to refresh and renew our skills, learn something new and think deeply about various theological and ministry topics. Registration forms will come out after Christmas!
  • We will be taking part in a region-wide Mission in March under the theme of Jesus is… This month long engagement with our community will give us the opportunity to preach the Gospel in various ways with help from Moore College students and in collaboration with all the local Anglican Churches. Training and preparation is well underway and through our Growth Groups in early 2018 you will hear more and learn how to get involved.
  • Speaking of Growth Groups, our groups will launch on Wednesday January 31 with a combined celebration evening. Each year this is an exciting evening on which we can catch the vision for a year of reading the Bible and growing together.
  • Throughout each year we aim to listen to God through different parts of the Bible. We prepare our teaching series well in advance and it never ceases to amaze me how God bring the right passages before us at just the right time. In 2018 we will be working through Luke 9-13, Habakkuk, 1 Corinthians and a renewal of our Mission and Strategy.

Things may be winding down but they are also winding up. Please pray as we finalise preparations for 2018.

Please also pray about your plans for spiritual growth in 2018. Will you join a Growth Group for the first time? Will you read the Bible daily in a WhatsApp group? Will you start in a new ministry? Will you learn how to share your faith with friends and family?

As things wind down, spend a moment contemplating how you will wind up in 2018!

In Christ
Nigel

Christmas Hope

Dear Friends,

For about a month now, my inbox has been filled with emails offering me the opportunity to buy gifts online. Of particular interest to me are the offers of discount Gift vouchers at Christmas – perhaps even my computer knows I can be a lazy last minute present buyer! But the concept is brilliant for two reasons – the gift receiver gets to choose their gift, and gift cards point us to what God has done for us in Jesus!

Redeeming is gaining or regaining possession of something via an exchange or payment.
And that is just God’s intention in the Birth of Jesus.
Jesus was born to be payment for you – that God may regain relationship with his treasured possession, his treasured creation – his image bearers – with you.

Too often we treat God like we treat Santa and expect of God what we expect of Santa. When it is absolutely necessary we pay him some attention but apart from that we don’t give him a thought and live life doing our own thing in our own way in our own time. We hope he won’t see how naughty we are and he’ll turn around at just the right time to give us every good thing we could possibly imagine. It doesn’t really matter if you’re naughty or nice, Santa will still deliver. Same with God right? Wrong.

You see, the Bible teaches us that nothing so small, so flimsy, so ordinary and so faulty as us, could possibly stand in the presence of God’s immensity, potency, extraordinariness and holiness.
God can’t ignore the way we have treated him.

And yet, here is the Christmas miracle…
You can’t win God’s favour back, but in Jesus, he is willing to give it to you. Read that again – he is willing to GIVE it to you.

There is a pretty popular belief out there that we actually need to earn God’s favour.
So, if we do enough good things to counter the bad things we’ve done, we will earn God’s favour and be able to enter heaven.
Maybe even if we are a bit religious from time to time we will earn God’s favour.

But the Bible, that God has written and given to us, appears to tell us a completely different story.
God’s plan is to redeem us. To take us back.

In the birth of Jesus God comes and offers… and offers… and offers… and offers us redemption, reconciliation and peace. Forgiveness and hope. God does this tenderly, gently, kindly. This is God’s graciousness. This is Christmas hope. May you know it or find it afresh this Christmas.

In Christ,
Nigel

Serving, service and you!

Did the Queen have to tidy her room as she was growing up? I’d like to think yes, but I suspect the answer is no. Well, at least she would never have had to make her bed or vacuum the floor. There would have been people to serve her. To honour and assist her. Not because she couldn’t but because she’s important.

Being served is great isn’t it? In restaurants, at home, at work or at a friend’s house, the one served is being given honour and assistance by the servant.

With that in mind, I wonder if you have thought recently about the fact that Jesus served you?

In Mark 10 he spells out the purpose of his life:
The Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many! 

There is something quite profound about that statement and thus Christianity. In most of world religions, the message is clear: serve long and hard and you might be accepted. In Christianity God says, Jesus has come to serve you, to show you honour and give you help.

John Hindley writes: Jesus comes into our lives to serve us. There is no catch, no small-print, no strings attached – there is just loving, humble, kind service by the Creator of the world for us. Jesus greatness is not that He can command the service of millions; it is that He serves millions.

Anyone who has received this service will tell you that life is never better than when it is lived in recognition that Jesus has served you. For it is then that you see the world the right way up and you know your future with certainty.

Equally, when you know Jesus’ loving service of you, your eyes are opened and your feet become ready to respond by loving and serving others! Knowing Jesus readies you to show kindness, thoughtfulness, generosity, open-heartedness, mercy and grace to others. Your life is shaped by Jesus’ service of you in every part!

So knowing Jesus’ service will change teenagers into respectful speakers; will change church members into warm welcomers of new people; will change the miserly into generous providers. Knowing Jesus’ service of me changes me completely from the inside out and motivates me to serve him in joy, freedom and hope.

Jesus service is life-changing. Our service of him toward others can be too!

In Christ
Nigel

The More Things Change

Dear Friends,

It has been a week for change. Birth will change. Marriage will change. Death will change. Many of us will find all this terrifically difficult and unnerving. It reminds me of the great joke…

How many Anglicans does it take to change a lightbulb?
What! Change!! No thanks!!

Our society and culture undergoes constant change, sometimes more rapid, sometimes like the slow creep of a glacier. How do we respond? Yell? Scream? Ignore it? Weep? All of the above?

Here are a few observations made recently about our society and culture.

  • Saturday afternoons and Sundays used to be family and community time, now they are almost indistinguishable from the rest of the week.
  • Marriage used to be honoured by all but is now an optional extra.
  • Children used to be cared for in the home but now much of their lives are out-sourced.
  • The Bible used to be read on the ABC every night but now biblical thinking is censored in favour of hedonism and sensuality.
  • People used to gather on the street in the afternoons to play and socialise, now we sit alone and watch TV and some even watch other people watching TV!
  • The church used to be seen as a bastion for morality and social cohesion but now it’s an archaic immoral institution.
  • Voluntary participation in community activities was strong but now sports clubs struggle to find helpers.
  • Most disturbingly, there are a whole generation of children being raised who know of no connection between Easter, Christmas and Jesus.

You might say in summary that we Australians have become more consumerist and individualistic in our approach to life. And church. We have changed.

The right response to this is not to lament and have conversations that begin with the words “I remember the good old days!” The right response is to pray. To pray for ourselves and our friends who do not know Jesus that we would have the wisdom and courage to share Jesus with them.

What people need right now is to understand that there is more to life than what you see in this world and more to Jesus than you might have assumed.

Have you prayed this week for marriages?
Have you prayed this week for the terminally ill?
Have you prayed this week of our governments?
Have you prayed this week for church leaders?

The more things change, the more we must commit all things to our God in prayer.

For the more things change, the more things remain the same – Jesus is still on the throne and still rules really.

In Christ,
Nigel

Yes or No and what to do about it…

Dear Friends,

I love how God always does things at the perfect time.

Over the past few years, we have planned our sermon series in November for the following year. We set the dates on which every passage will be preached on and who will preach; and (somewhat unsurprisingly) often we find that the Word we are studying speaks right into the moment we are living in. Right now, I feel like both our Reformation and 1 Peter series are preparing us week by week for the events of the week ahead.

We will return to 1 Peter next Sunday but this week, be reminded of these words:

But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 1 Peter 3.15-16

Peter is concerned that the ordinary, normal Christian person might be able to humbly and respectfully defend their hope in Christ. It is this hope that sets us apart from unbelievers. It is this hope that our future rests upon. It is this hope that is focused on Jesus and speaks of Jesus.

My suspicion is that sometime after 10am on Wednesday you will have a chance to speak humbly and respectfully of Jesus love with all godliness, gentleness and respect.

We are not to withdraw. We are not to stay silent.

We are to live life openly as Christians in the midst of the unbelieving world and be prepared to explain why we think following and obeying Jesus matters. Our lives should be characterised by godliness and we should treat people we speak to with love and kindness even if it is not reciprocated.

Now I am no prophet and nor am I the son of a prophet. I don’t know what way the vote will go but when the decision is released the pressure to capitulate to the world standards and views no matter which way it falls, will be enormous.

So what are we going to do?

Well, we are not going to panic.

We are just going to get on being a Growing Christian community devoted to maturing in Jesus for the Glory of God.

We are going to get on with thriving as a Christian community.

We will meet for church next Sunday as per usual and we will do what we always do – praise God, encourage each other, listen to his Word and celebrate the opportunity to gather in God’s name for God’s glory. I’ll be there and I hope you will be too.

In Christ,
Nigel

Welcoming

Hi, I’m Nigel.

A few years ago, the Fortescue’s walked into a church in New York expecting an awesome morning. We had coffee in hand and we arrived early looking forward to meeting people and having a great experience of how church is done. The welcome we received was not great.  The first words someone said to us were: “You can’t bring coffee in here, drink it outside.”  So we did. Suitably caffeinated we went in and a few people said hi but that was all.  No one helped us understand what was happening. No one explained what happens with kids or anything. After the service only one person spoke with us and only as we were exiting. He was another minister from the Eastern suburbs of Sydney who was also visiting New York.  

Christians are called to welcome and love like our God. It didn’t happen.

Unfortunately, in the last week, I have heard some sad stories of the same thing happening at our church. Visitors being ignored. Even people who have been here 9 months being ignored.

Friends, if we are committed to being a growing Christian community, we need to all always have a mindset of welcoming and loving every time we gather. We need to come to church ready to welcome and love. As a church grows, the reality is you never really know who is new and who is not. So we need to have our minds engaged and be active in welcoming every time. This is not someone else’s job, this is your job.

God has placed you here to love others.
You belong here to love others.
You are loved here so love others. 

If you have a mouth, please use it and talk to someone. They don’t have to be new, just breathing. If they’re new and breathing, that’s doubly fantastic. Be friendly and inviting.
If you have hands, please use them to serve someone, do something for them just as God has done for you just what you need.
If you have eyes, please if you see something that needs doing, do it.
If you have feet, grab a friend and walk over to someone sitting or standing by themselves and welcome them and love them like our God loves us.
If you have a house, invite someone over, someone you know and someone you don’t know well and have tea or a cake or a dinner or a lunch. Be hospitable. Welcome those you don’t know.

We are called to welcome and love like our God.
If you are good at it, grab someone who is hiding in a corner and take them with you to show them in how to welcome and love. It’s not natural to all but it is necessary for all.

In partnership for the Gospel,
Nigel

Jesus is __________? 

Everyone has an opinion on Jesus. Everyone. Yep, everyone. So what is their opinion?

In March next year we are going to take part in a region-wide mission that will have at its heart this question:

We’re interested in people’s opinions – “Jesus is _____.”  What goes in the blank?

Jesus himself once asked those around him, “Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29). His disciples had a variety of answers then and people in Australia have a variety of answers now. I suspect that there would be a variety of answers to that question among our church community but that each one of them would point back to Jesus being our unique Saviour.

During March 2018, we want to be asking this question of people over and over and over again. Why? Because it’s one of the most important questions you could ever answer.

During the month local Christians, young and old, from many different backgrounds, will be asking our communities into a conversation regarding Jesus’ identity. There will be events and church gatherings but the core of the mission will be you engaging with the people around you. It will be you having conversations with the people you know and love to introduce them to Jesus who you know and love.

Other churches have participated in a similar style of mission in the past and what we know is that people will say all sorts of things: positive, negative, or just plain quirky. That is all part of the the way it works. You want to engage people in honest dialogue about Jesus. You want to hear what they think so you can respond with what you know. It is scary. It takes courage. But it is super exciting. Sometimes people who have never shared about their faith in Jesus have the chance to share with a friend who they think Jesus is.

So just stop for a moment and think about it – what would your neighbour say? What would the person across from you at work say? What would your children or grandchildren say? Perhaps you can’t even guess! But you can pray. When people become followers of Jesus a grand spiritual work has taken place and we need to pray that God will enact this work in the lives of people we know and love.

Soon we will get you to think about people you can be praying for. We want to pray with you!

But we don’t have to wait till March to pray or to get started. In fact Sunday at 6 will be engaged in a week of mission at the end of November. More information about that next week. Please pray that people would engage with Jesus in November and for courage for our Sunday at 6 crew.

Our vision is that we would be a Growing Christian community. May God make it so, using us to glorify him!

MEGACHURCH – OCTOBER 29, 9.30am

Dear Friends,

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 29 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 members of God’s household and grow into holiness by the work of the Spirit.

MEGACHURCH this year will be focussed on the moment 500 years ago when a revolution began in the church because the Scriptures were opened and people found hope in Christ again. It will be a day to remind us with great clarity that we have a God who has spoken to us by his Word.

Join us for MEGACHURCH Sunday as we call on God to do a mighty work in Campbelltown.

In Christ,
Nigel

Domestic Abuse Apology

Dear Friends,

This week at Synod, we made an apology to those who have suffered domestic abuse in our churches and not received adequate care and support. I was privileged to be a part of the apology. The wording of the apology is: 

That this Synod grieves with victims and survivors of domestic abuse, and prays for their healing and recovery. We give thanks to God for those women and men, clergy and lay people, who have faithfully supported, cared for and protected such victims in our churches and communities. 

We grieve that God’s good gift of marriage can be distorted and dishonoured through the sin of perpetrators. We pray for their repentance and restoration to faithful living under Christ. 

We also deeply regret that domestic abuse has occurred among those who attend our churches, and even among some in leadership. We apologise for those times our teaching and pastoral care have failed adequately to support victims and call perpetrators to account.

I gave a speech during the consideration of the apology, some of which follows.

Moving to Campbelltown was an eye-opening experience for my family and me. For the things that were hidden on the north side behind closed doors, high walls, thick make up, and societal politeness are on display in our streets.

At least once a month I hear couples fighting in the park just outside my office window. Sometimes alcohol is a factor but often it’s just broken people in broken relationships trying to make sense of this broken world. Both of those people there, out the front of my church are someone’s children and I can guarantee neither they nor their parents ever thought they would end up like that.

Sadly – I admit, that sometimes I have been too busy or too preoccupied or too slow to go out into that park and speak words of hope into the hopelessness.

It is for this reason and more that I am so thankful to speak to this apology – not just because I feel personally that I need to make it, but because we Christians are the people who know from the Scriptures what family and community should look like and we have not always pursued what is best for others, protected the vulnerable and helped the oppressed.

Domestic abuse is in the homes of our church members. Members of our church are caring for people right now because their Christian spouses are aggressive and violent towards them and their family. It’s a Fact … It’s unacceptable. It’s ungodly. And I need to do better at helping people. I am still learning how and I encourage you to encourage our staff and your growth group leaders to learn with me.

One of the many things I have learned is the need for constant and caring but not overbearing follow up. In the busy-ness of parish life we clergy can forget to freshly enquire about how things are going for someone, we can forget to ask what we can do to help and we can forget to pray for and with the people involved. I have forgotten to do these things and I am deeply sorry to those who I have failed.

I hope this apology might go some way towards all of us lifting our eyes, increasing our care, taking responsibility for failure and signalling that we will pursue what is best for the people in our midst in the future for the Glory of God.

Nigel Fortescue