Serving the Students and the Gospel

Dear friends,

One of the responsibilities that our Parish Council has had for more than 30 years is electing persons to serve on the Campbelltown Anglican School Council. The Council has responsibility for running two schools – Broughton Anglican College and St Peter’s Anglican Primary School. The primary objects of the Council are to educate young people in ways consistent with the teaching of the Bible, the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the doctrines of the Anglican Church in Australia, and to maintain and uphold the Christian faith in teaching and practice.

Members of Council work together to control, manage and conduct the business of the school through finances, policy and governance in accordance with various acts, regulations and rules. It is a complex but enjoyable responsibility and members work with men and women from a variety of churches both locally and around Sydney.

In December a new Campbelltown Anglican Schools Council Ordinance was created and the Parish Council now have the responsibility to elect one person each year to the School Council.

There is currently a vacancy on the Council and we are on the search for people interested in serving. Meetings are held in the evening of the 3rd Wednesday of the month and members must be Christian people who are active members of their church and who have a cleared WWCC. They need not attend our church but ought to attend a Christian church and must be able to sign the Apostles Creed as a declaration of their belief.

Currently the Council is in need to people with financial acumen. The ability to read and analyse a balance sheet and understand accounting reports is a good start but a person who has incisive knowledge of accounting would be excellent. We are also seeking female nominees as the current gender balance on Council is poor. It should also be noted that if you have relatives working for either of the Schools you cannot be elected to the Board.

If you or a person you know are interested in serving on the Council, please encourage them to have a conversation with David Busutel (Council Chair) or myself for more information. If you or a person you know are keen to be nominated and considered by Parish Council for the vacancy on Council, speak to me or a member of Parish Council and we will give you a nomination form that you can fill in so Parish Council can know the credentials and qualities you would bring to the Council. Nominations are open but must be made by the first Wednesday of March.

Please pray for the Schools and Council and Parish Council as they seek to fill this vacancy.

Thanks,
Nigel

Come away together!

It is just 42 sleeps until our Church Weekendaway! We are all heading together on March 22-24 to Waterslea on the beautiful Shoalhaven River just west of Nowra for a weekend of community growth! 

I could not count how many church weekends I have been on but I do remember when they were called a “Houseparty”. The first one I remember as a child was neither at someone’s house nor did it feel like a party! But it was a chance to hang out with friends, meet new friends, learn from the Bible and take time out from the busyness of life in God’s creation.

And that is just what we hope our Church Weekendaway will be for you! 

Come away together to hang out with friends. We will eat meals together, do activities together and spend a whole weekend in the presence of people you know and love! There is plenty of time for fun and games and perhaps even a bit of cycling! 

Come away together to meet new friends. In a church with many services it is impossible to know everyone and it is not uncommon for people to discover that someone they know in a different context goes to the same church! People are often lamenting not knowing others and this is the perfect opportunity to fix that. Young and old growing community together. 

Come away together to learn from the Bible. Richard Chin, National Director of the Australian Fellowship of Evangelical Students and Director at Wollongong University, is coming to speak to us. He is a dynamic and engaging speaker who delights in God’s Word and will encourage us to be increasingly devoted to maturing in Jesus. For me, Weekendaways have been some of the real momentum boosters for my faith as I have had time to listen to God, think and pray over his Word and really let it sink deeply into my mind and heart.

Come away together to take time out from the busyness of life in God’s creation. The views across the river as the sun comes up are second to none across weekendaway sites. For the later risers, the daytime views are not too shabby either! Life can be overwhelming in its busyness and taking a weekend to put normality behind you and rest a little is often more restorative than you expect. There will be plenty of time to sit with a cuppa and breathe deeply. 

Come away together on March 22-24. 

Registrations are open but closing soon.

www.campbelltownanglican.org/wea19 

Don’t miss this.

 

In Christ,
Nigel

 PS. On Sunday March 24 only 8am at St Peter’s, 9.30am at St Andrew’s and 10am Macarthur Indigenous Church will be on.

Be part of the Growth!

It’s Thursday morning and I am still buzzing from the Growth Group launch night last night. Masses of people from all our congregations gathered together to celebrate a new year, give thanks for the opportunity to be devoted to maturing in Jesus and to launch another year of Growth Groups. The message of the night was – get in a group and be part of the growth.

Growth Groups are in many ways the powerhouse of our church. They are small communities of people who meet together weekly to read the bible and grow in Christian maturity together. They usually meet in people’s homes in our local area and have between 8-14 people – some are bigger, some smaller.  I have been in a Growth Group since 1985 and I think there are few things better for regular and steady personal Christian growth than to meet up with other believers around God’s Word. Growth Groups complement the opportunities for growth we have on Sundays.

Simon Twist, our Maturity Pastor, has articulated four purposes for our Growth Groups.

Growth Groups are for…

  1. Learning how to read the bible correctly
  2. Discovering how to pray and develop an active dependence on God
  3. Community, care and encouragement
  4. Serving and Mission

Each group spends some time together reading through the bible passage that will be preached on in the following Sunday services. This helps to have a good look and think and pray about the bible passage along with good friends before arriving at church on Sunday. People tend to get more out of the Sunday message when they have already thought through the issues raised in the passage.

Throughout the group time there are a myriad of opportunities to pray – as you share together about your lives, in response to the passage you have read, and often at the end for broader concerns of the group and church. Growth Groups are able to actively model what it looks like to have an active dependence on God.

In a complicated church like ours with multiple congregations, finding a connection with people is important – we want you to feel at home and a part of what is going on. You will never know everyone in our church but being in a Growth Group gets you connected and gives you the opportunity to know people and to be known. It is great to walk into a big crowd at church and know there are a dozen or so people who are looking out for you each week.

Our Growth Groups are also our primary avenue for care and love throughout our church. We pray that relationships will be fostered in every group that will lead to people genuinely caring for one another, noticing when someone is missing, providing practical support for those in need and upholding one another in prayer. They are also great hubs into which you can invite unbelievers and from which you can launch each other into ministry.

It’s not too late to join a group for 2019 – in fact our groups are always open. Grab a flyer from the membership table, email the church office or ask the person sitting next to you in church. Chances are, they will be in a group already!

In Christ
Nigel

When Under Attack… (Part 8)

Dear Friends,

As we finish our series, considering life in a world filled with outrage, let us give the last word to Ed Stetzer:

We are living in an age of outrage. The world is not as it should be, and it is clear that we are in a unique season of antagonism toward the principles that make the gospel the “Good News”. Worse yet, we contribute to this outrage by sometimes responding poorly to the world around us. But all is not lost. In fact, there is incredible hope for the Christian. Jesus calls us to join our lives with him, follow his lead, repent of our failures, and respond to outrage with radical grace,winsome love, generous compassion, and prayerful hearts that break with the brokenness of the world.

And here is the gospel truth: We were once under God’s wrath. In fact, the only response from a perfect and holy God was outrage to our sin and sinfulness. But God did not leave us. He drew near to us. He engaged us and saved us by sending Jesus to become the very outrage we could not overcome. Jesus took the full and unmeasured wrath of God so that, through faith, we can now have the peace that passes all understanding. While we were still enemies of God, Jesus reconciled us to himself, offering peace and forgiveness. We are now not simply forgiven but welcomed back into God’s family. He adopts us as his children and gives us an inheritance with his obedient Son. As if that were not enough, we are now invited to join Jesus in his mission to bring others back to himself and to set everything right again. He gives us divine jobs as ambassadors of his reconciliation, and he sends his Spirit to empower us to live as missionaries of grace and neighbours who neighbour. And this is just the beginning!

This is the Good News that changes us from outraged spectators to grace-filled participants in God’s redemptive plan for the world. If we honestly and truthfully believe this, it changes everything.

In Christ,
Nigel

When Under Attack… (Part 7)

Dear friends,

We’re thinking about responding to outrage online and the need to find a way to graciously and humbly defend and proclaim the Gospel while loving those in outrage against our Lord and his people. Last week we finished with a few observations about the internet itself. Let us turn now more pointedly to the choices we can make as we start striking the keyboard.

Given that Jesus wants us to humbly and lovingly serve others in every human interaction, let us consider:

  • whether we might be investors more than consumers. Is most of your time online spent craving mindless entertainment and soothing your FOMO or connecting in meaningful ways with people and investing in your walk and other’s potential walks with Christ?
  • whether we remember that the person on the other side of the conversation is a person! When we scream correct doctrine at others across the internet are we really being loving? Have we just fallen foul to outrage and reduced the goal of all disagreement to winning, thereby preventing listening and understanding and thinking?
  • whether we might have grace as our default mode of operation on the internet. Grace has a countercultural power to break through fury.
  • whether we can resist the urge to fight every battle. Proverbs 26:4-5 teaches us that sometimes we speak and at other times we don’t. We need to ask if our interaction will be for the good for Christ and those watching on – really…!
  • whether we can resist the urge to comment on everything that happens. Not everyone needs to be a thought leader but we all need to recognise that anyone who speaks can end up being a thought leader. Moreover, recognise that difficult conversations are best held in person and rarely bear fruit online.

These are probing questions that warrant careful personal deliberation. You may just find that you can be someone who can soothe outrage and bring glory to Jesus on the internet. Why not try to cultivate a presence that is:

  1. Encouraging and edifying – 1 Thessalonians 5:11
  2. Loving and kind – John 13:34-35
  3. Missional and engaging – John 20:21
  4. Charitable and forbearing – Colossians 3:12-13
  5. Challenging and humble – James 4:10

In the end, when we logon, we need to ask ourselves, who am I being discipled by and in what direction am I discipling others? Are you on the world’s bandwagon or on Christ’s? So few Christians have stopped to determinedly think about the influence the online world is having upon them. The answer is not to stop going online, but to craft and participate in community and reveal opinions in such a way as to exalt Jesus.

Is that your online goal?

In Christ
Nigel

When Under Attack… (Part 6)

Dear friends,

Prior to Christmas I was in the midst of a series of articles about living in an age of outrage. I’d recommend you go back and start from Part 1 before reading on.

We had acknowledged that the art of dialogue and disagreement has been lost in our society and now we behave in a polarised fashion, taking sides and yelling abuse. In the face of this, even when we are the abused, Christians are neither commissioned to become abusers or to retreat into our buildings to form holy huddles and talk about the good old days. We live in a broken and fragmented world in need of the Gospel; and the God who did not spare his own Son for us has given us a mission focused on the outraged.

Outraging against outrage and retreating from outrage are not Gospel options. Proclaiming the Gospel is what is needed – and we have been thinking about how to do this.

In these last few articles I want us to think about bringing the Gospel to the various spheres in which we live and relate – firstly, our online communities.

It has been said that we are a society in which everything is permitted and nothing is forgiven. Our world constantly preaches that you can do or be anything you want until it is offended at what you are doing or what you are. At that very moment, a switch flips, a mob forms and pitchforks are unleashed. Autonomy and rage spill forth and it is at that very moment that Christians must be “people of the towel rather than people of the pitchfork (John 13:1-17)”. Ed Stetzer continues “People of the towel grasp that Jesus wants us to humbly and lovingly serve others in every human interaction.”

There are several ways I have seen Christians NOT do that:

  • classic hashtag activism (which is really slacktivism) that confuses joining a cause with doing something about a problem;
  • anonymous trolling rather than open, humble, gracious, direct speech; and
  • refusing to say anything critical despite the defaming of the Gospel through false teaching.

We need to find a way to graciously and humbly defend and proclaim the Gospel while loving those in outrage against our Lord and his people. Let us therefore consider the following:

  • the internet is just neither good nor bad, it is a tool that God has given that can be used for good or evil. Let us continually ask ourselves if we are using it for the good God desires!
  • our presence on the internet is public. People watch the way we interact online and hold our efforts up against our claims to follow Jesus. Ed Stetzer writes that this also explains “why our never ending rants might be the reason our neighbours are reticent to grab a coffee; why complaining about someone’s theology might be the reason our friends won’t come to church with us; why our passive-aggressive comments about others might be the reason people don’t open up to us.” 

There is more to say here but I will leave that for next week!

In Christ,
Nigel

God Made Man – The Mystery Revealed

When we put our minds to the idea of Jesus being one hundred percent God and simultaneously one hundred percent man, we naturally feel overwhelmed. But the Incarnation is compelling, beautiful, biblically sensible, and necessary. Why? Well, five reasons.

  1. Jesus reveals God in all his glory (John 1:14b, 14:7) – if less than God he cannot truly reveal God and we are still in a mystery as to what God is like. We become agnostic. We are left to grapple in the dark rather than magnify his glory. Without Jesus, we have no true knowledge of God.
  1. Jesus shows us how to be godly – (John 15:12-14, Hebrews 12:1b-3) – he lives the truly human life honouring God with every footstep and word. Demonstrating what it is to life for God and love God despite the circumstance of life.
  1. Jesus sympathises with our weakness (Hebrews 4:14-16) – strength and grace to push on when we fail. God knows we are not perfect and we do not need to fear him or his fury or his perfection for Jesus understands what our life is like and yet strengthens us to live it well. It is such a sad thing when religions breed fear of God.
  1. Jesus mediates with the Father – (Hebrews 7:23-25) being less than God he cannot dwell with God and take to God the human concerns, thus we are left on our own pleadings. Pleading with a God who is absent.
  1. Atones for our sin (Hebrews 2:17) – being less than God and imperfect he can no longer reconcile us to God but must atone for his own sin. If not God incarnate he is irrelevant to our relationship with God. If only God and not man, then he cannot take the sins of man in his own body and bear them away to death even death on a cross. Atonement for human sin would be meaningless. The incarnation of Jesus does not save by itself, but it is an essential link in God’s plan of redemption. The Word became flesh to save us from our sin and to free us to marvel at and enjoy the unique union of divinity and humanity in his one spectacular person.

Therefore, Do not be timid, or intimidated concerning the combination of Godness & humanness of Christ – without it there would be NO Christmas, NO real joy, NO peace with God, much less peace among men – NO Good News, NO Good Will toward Men.

The incarnation displays the greatness of God. Our God is the eternal God who was born in a stable, not a distant, withdrawn God; our God is a humble, giving God, not a selfish, grabbing God; our God is a purposeful, planning God, not a random, reactionary God; our God is a God who is far above us and whose ways are not our ways, not a God we can put in a box and control; and our God is a God who redeems us by his blood, not a God who leaves us in our sin. Our God is great indeed!

The incarnation may in the end be utterly impossible to understand fully. But that’s okay. In the end, the incarnation is not for analysis but it allows worship.

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, extra ordinariness 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

When Under Attack … (Part 5)

Dear friends,

Last week I noted that Christianity in a broken and rebellious world is going to be offensive – however, we are not supposed to be. The Gospel and the love of God is the salve for this world’s pain, brokenness and anger. Ed Stetzer writes:

Christians are called to demonstrate this profoundly attractive love in a way that testifies to the Gospel and counters the lies, brokenness and violence of sin. The way we interact with others will dramatically affect whether the world is drawn to Christ’s love. 

I have been pondering this over the last week and particularly trying to analyse my interactions with unbelievers. Am I through my demeanour, attitude or words actually driving people away from Gospel salve? I hope not; but I am convinced of this – I need to cultivate curiosity, empathy and humility in equal part and insert them into my interactions in this age of outrage.

Curiosity because the age of outrage encourages a lack of listening and understanding but true communication of the Gospel happens when we actually understand how other people think. At dad’s funeral last Monday one of the wise sages I have often drawn on said to me, the problem with Christians today is that we assume what people think and so preach the gospel irrelevantly into the lives of our friends. I take it what he means is that we don’t know what individual people’s objections to Jesus are because we have stopped being curious with our friends and just go on the attack like everyone else with wild assumptions. Do you actually know why your friends are not believers? Cultivate curiosity.

Empathy because everyone’s belief system is a product of what they have heard and experienced. Empathetic love seeks to understand and relate to the experiences of others and can be powerfully winsome as it draws people in. That is not to say that we sacrifice our revulsion of sin or philosophical clap-trap; rather we approach people knowing the corrosive power of sin and the freedom and relief that comes from know Jesus. Showing mercy and grace towards people and their views at the start will give the gospel a hearing in the end. Cultivate empathy.

Humility because Jesus was humble, willing to engage with sinners in a way that lifted them up without parading himself. Have you ever noticed that Jesus never told anyone to worship him but they did as he demonstrated humble loving service? Humility is not weakness or cowardliness. Humility is being willing to lower yourself in love to listening and understand the culture, worldview and background of those you engage with. This opens the door for communicating the gospel because it reveals you are interested in winning the person instead of the debate. Cultivate humility.

Winsome love moves away from outrage, arrogance and assumption. Especially online. More about that next week.

In Christ
Nigel

When Under Attack … (Part 4)

Dear friends,

You may have heard the story of White Magazine – a popular Australian wedding magazine that was thriving in a tough international market; thriving until the outrage agenda struck. Their explanation for closing the magazine is telling:

“We have been asked repeatedly why our magazine had not yet featured all couples … Recently we’ve experienced a flood of judgement … Instead of allowing us the space to work through our thoughts and feelings, or being willing to engage in brave conversations to really hear each other’s stories, some have just blindly demanded that we pick a side … The result has been that a number of advertisers withdrew their sponsorship out of fear of being judged, or in protest. We have had to recognise the reality that White magazine is no longer economically viable.”

The outrage agenda claimed another scalp. How do we respond?

I don’t think criticising the outraged, their philosophy or their ironic embrace of the Love is Love agenda is the answer. I know they are all for Love is Love and I know that their actions towards the Burrell Family and their magazine is outrageous! But if all we do is call people out and point out their ironic hypocrisy and contradictory thinking, then we just join the parade of the vicious and vocal outraged.

There must be a better way of engaging with our society as it drifts rudderless – and I want to suggest that the Beatles had the answer many moons ago – Love is all you need.

Ed Stetzer writes challengingly:

If we do not actually love the lost around us, we demonstrate that we have missed the point of the gospel itself. No wonder our witness is so anaemic! We don’t appear to understand that what we preach applies to ourselves first and foremost! We disqualify our right to bring a message of love by being unloving in the very way we live and proclaim the Gospel, and so deny the compelling power of the Good News. We cannot reach people and hate people at the same time. 

The community we live in does not understand love despite their assertions and arguments. John instructs us with these simple words: “We love because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19)

Christianity in a broken and rebellious world is going to be offensive. But we are not supposed to be. The Gospel and the love of God is the salve for this world’s pain, brokenness and anger. Again Ed Stetzer writes:

Christians are called to demonstrate this profoundly attractive love in a way that testifies to the Gospel and counters the lies, brokenness and violence of sin. The way we interact with others will dramatically affect whether the world is drawn to Christ’s love. 

So consider your responses to the world’s hypocrisy Have you joined the choir of the outraged and become polarised to you own corner? Or are you choosing the most excellent way? What might that way of love look like? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’ll share mine next week.

In Christ
Nigel