9 Things Worth Knowing This Week

Dear friends,

From time to time, important things can get missed! We like to keep everyone in the loop so here are 9 things worth knowing this week.

1. We have had many people campaigning on various fronts against the NSW Abortion Bill. I was so glad to go with three women from our church to see Greg Warren MP two weeks ago and hear their stories. Seeing the Gospel in action as we seek to protect the vulnerable is wonderful.

2. James Massey recently took over from Nick Ford in directing Friday Night Youth. James has been a part of the team for about 5 years and is both a qualified teacher and is studying at Youthworks College towards his Advanced Diploma of Theology. Please pray for James and the team.

3. The Wardens of St Andrew’s have begun a fundraising campaign for Olivia Greenwood, a young member of our church with a rare cancer. A fundraising event will be held on Saturday 24th August at 5pm at St Andrew’s. All welcome. $10 entry.

4. The Wardens of St Peter’s are continuing with complex and intricate background work on a potential building project on the St Peter’s site. A recently completed heritage report has been sent back to the Master Planning Architect for consideration. It all takes time but our Wardens are being careful and frugal.

5. The Parish Council recently agreed to take on a Student Minister from Moore College in 2020. We will hopefully be making an offer to a current student to take up this training position in the week ahead. 

6. We are hoping to make some announcements about progress towards a Youth and Children’s Ministry Pastor next Sunday. Thanks to all those people who have pledged towards this campaign thus far. We are hoping to make an appointment with a view to 2020 but more about that next week!

7. We have begun Ministry Planning for 2020 and are really excited about all the opportunities that God has laid before us. We particularly want to see people’s gifts used for ministry in whatever way that is possible. If you have ideas for how you would like to be serving in church, or just know you want to but don’t know where, speak to a member of staff!

8. MEGACHURCH is always a highlight of the year and we will be gathering as one on 20th October at 9.30am. I am so thankful for this annual event where we all do church together. There are no other services in our church that day!

9. As a church, we are starting to engage more significantly with the online world. We recognise the dangers that exist there but we also recognise that many people use social media to start and drive relationships. We want to allow the Gospel to be present there so that people might start and drive their relationship with God. We now have a weekly Sermon Extra and other projects that are about to launch.

Thanks for your prayers and partnership in the Gospel in Campbelltown.

In Christ
Nigel      

Domestic Violence is a Serious Problem – Part 2

Dear Friends,

Prompted by a short but poignant book by Natasha Stott Despoja called On Violence, I wrote last week about the problem with the solutions offered by the world. Essentially, the world needs Jesus if it is going to solve the problem of Domestic Violence.

But we also need to remember that simply being a Christian does not stop or prevent domestic violence. We need to proclaim the Gospel to each other but we must also do more.

First, knowing that such behaviour is contrary to the Gospel and knowing that it is abhorrent, we must call out those who hurt their family. Of course, you can only do that when you know each other well enough to know what is happening in our families; so, ask more pointed and personal questions of people in church. More than “How’s your marriage?” Dig deep with people. Ask the awkward questions about parenting, finances, sex and violence. If you have concerns, don’t ignore them. It is loving to ask. It is loving to rebuke.

If you are the victim of a family member’s violence, please speak to police, a trusted friend or me. If you are the one being violent. Please stop now. Please seek help. 

Second, in our church we need to work hard to create a strong culture of grace and forgiveness in the face of failure. People are going to fail to meet the ideals for life proposed in the Gospel. When they do, will they feel they can talk to their friends or pastor, or will they feel condemned and rejected? Jesus managed to both condemn sin and eat with sinners. There is an ideal to aspire to, and aspire we must to patiently, carefully, lovingly correcting and rebuking. A friend once said, marriage is “one of the first things and most hurtful things gossiped about in churches. At the moment the last place I would go for marriage help is the church”. I’d love to hear our church members saying the exact opposite.

Third, while some pastors have taught and encouraged people to stay in abusive relationships, we need to affirm that the Bible does not justify, endorse, encourage or support any abuse of anyone by anyone. No one should ever be forced to stay and submit to abuse. Some men use the Bible to justify their treatment of their wives, pointing to Ephesians 5:21-33 but they’re wrong. The problem is not the Bible, the problem is their inability to read it and believe it! Challenge each other if you hear that someone has their teaching on marriage warped.

Our response to domestic violence among church members and the erroneous teaching of some pastors cannot only be institutional, committee led, enquiry based and happening later. Our response must happen now. And it must happen from the ground up. In our church, from every pastor and every church member, let us talk to each other with Scriptures in hand, humbly, lovingly, carefully but urgently.

And if you need help, please, just ask.

In Christ
Nigel.

Domestic Violence is a Serious Problem

Dear Friends,

I have just finished reading a short but poignant book by Natasha Stott Despoja called On Violence. It sits in the Little Books on Big Ideas series and argues that the global pandemic of violence against women and girls is possible to eliminate. The solution she articulates is for the whole of our society to produce cultural change by speaking out against sexism, gender inequality and violence. Essentially, if we all get on board against it, it will disappear. Stott Despoja is right but her solution is also impossible.

Earlier in the book, we are reminded that the World Health Organisation states that
violence against women ‘is not an intractable part of the human condition’ but the product of complex, yet modifiable social and environmental factors’.

All this makes me want to weep. The book wants humans to speaks out and act but despite acknowledging the problem with this solution the author (nor the WHO) will label the real issue: the human heart. Stott Despoja and others who have written on domestic violence are trying their hardest to hold onto the intrinsic goodness of humanity but to do so is to try and hold a cloud in your hand.

At some point, those who commentate on the world we live in are going to have to
acknowledge what the Bible has been teaching for thousands of years:
There is no-one righteous, not even one; there is no-one who understands; there is no-one who seeks God.” (Romans 3:10-11)

Domestic Violence began in Genesis 4 and there are examples littered through the history of the world since then. The answer to it all is complex and multifaceted to be sure, but it has to begin with new hearts and minds that are only available through the supernatural power of the Spirit of God and the work of Jesus Christ in our lives. Only Jesus can truly change hearts. Only the Spirit can truly reshape lives to be full of peace and self-control. Our world, the violent in the world and everyone else, needs Jesus.

That’s not to say that Christians are never guilty of domestic violence. Tragically, some
Christian are aggressive and violent towards their family. It’s unacceptable. It’s ungodly. It’s horrific. It’s got to stop.

So what should we do?

Keep speaking the Gospel to people. Look around your church and be reminded of the
incredible power of God in transforming lives. Talk to each other about this. Encourage
each other in this. Remind each other that there is no other solution for the world’s ills
than this. And then proclaim the good news of Jesus death for sin and rising again for the salvation and transformation of the world. Proclaim this to Christians and unbelievers. Remind each other to keep in step with the Spirit.

To many such words are nonsense or the stench of death but to those who are being saved they are the power of God. Don’t underestimate God’s capacity to turn violence to peace.

More next week!
In Christ
Nigel

Saving the World

Dear friends,

What are you doing to Save the World?

Have you noticed this language being used about climate change again recently? I have seen it on billboards and in newspaper articles. I have seen it in web searches and online articles. In a recent student march it featured again.

We need to save our world!

Slogans such as “Wake up and Save our Future” are becoming increasingly prevalent (again). They roll off the tongue of Christians and atheists alike as many have genuine concern for the the impact of human life on our planet. My concern is that the eschatology that goes with it is completely contrary to biblical thinking. My excitement is that this language provides you with an easy opportunity to share the Gospel.

Eschatology (put simply) is “what’s going to happen at the end”. Climate change eschatology says that humans are determining, by their inaction, when the planet is going to die and humans, by taking action, can stop that from happening. Salvation by human works. The Bible teaches almost the exact opposite.

All time is in God’s hands and he determined both the beginning of earthly life and he will determine the end. Moreover, this planet we live on will be done away with by God at a time of his choosing (Matt 5:18, 2 Peter 3:10-11, Rev 21:1-4). We cannot save the planet and we cannot ensure our future on this planet. Those decisions are all in God’s hands and he is being patient with the world so that more people might be saved (2 Peter 3:9). God’s focus, God’s greatest agenda for the world is that he might be reconciled with humans. Salvation by God’s will and grace.

To this end, climate change can be one great opportunity for idolatry, error and misguided decision making. Christian people need to be careful that they don’t hide God’s greatest plan for humanity behind humanity’s current greatest plan. Perhaps this might start with choosing different language to use about why you are concerned about the climate. Please stop using “save” language and please never call God “Mother Nature”! It may also mean we need to think carefully about our individual purpose for life on earth and not buy in thoughtlessly to climate change ideology.

But all this excites me. Have you noticed that many, many people are talking about saving the world. Given that is God’s agenda for the world (John 3:16) the opportunities to introduce the Gospel into conversations about climate change are endless. You could inject Jesus into a conversation by saying: “Do you know the bible teaches that God also desires to save the world?” or “God’s plans to fix our world are bigger than ours could ever be!” or simply, “Where do you think God’s plans fit into all this?”

Can I suggest you begin shifting your thinking about all this? I know there are various views about whether climate change is something to worry about – my concern is that whatever your view, Christian people will end up promoting a Gospel that is no Gospel at all by adopting the climate change language or ideology the world promotes or never taking opportunities to share the Gospel with those concerned about it.

Let us be those who promote Christ – his works, his world, his wisdom.

In Christ
Nigel

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