Our Church is a body of people who are committed to – Proclaiming the good news; – Remembering the good news together; – Humbly responding to the good news; and – Caring for others with good news shaped love.
These are of course the things our church has been on about for generations – since 1823 no less -and I am confident that these will be the things that our church is on about until the Lord returns. I am confident to say this because of the work of the Lord in your lives and in the leaders among you.
It has been an enormous privilege to serve with our staff team. One of the greatest sadnesses in leaving is leaving behind a team that is gospel-centered, cohesive, like-minded, creative, thoughtful, compassionate, and downright fun.
As I said on Saturday night, I have learned so much from each one of them and they have taught me to follow Christ, trust Christ, listen to the Word of Christ and pray. We have laughed and laughed, cried and struggled together under God and in God’s strength to build Christ’s ministry on the solid rock of the Word of God. I am so thankful for it all.
Leanne has been a tower of strength. She has taught me how to love and pastor people. She has demonstrated endurance and grace. She has modelled the Gospel and preached the Gospel with energy and perseverance. She has taught me that a cheeky smile gets anyone a long way and that ministry should be fun. Her prayer life is a constant reminder that Jesus is more reliable than anyone or anything. And her long ministry here that we have drawn alongside shows that Campbelltown is definitely an excellent place to serve, and do life and ministry.
Mick, Kylie, Michael, Sarah, Jason, and Simon have been wonderful servants of the Lord and I urge you to encourage them and everyone who joins in the work and labours at it in Campbelltown. They are carrying on the work of the Lord.
What happens now? Our church will continue proclaiming, remembering, responding to and showing the love of the Gospel. In many ways, it is just business as usual. The work of the Lord goes on!
I am officially on annual leave from December 19 until February 23 and during that time Simon will take over responsibility for managing the Parish. In early February the Bishop, in consultation with the Wardens and staff will officially appoint a person to be Acting Senior Minister from February 24. The Nominators remain hard at work and your prayers for them and our future Senior Minister are important! They will report on progress when they are able.
Friends, it has been a joy and a delight to serve Jesus in your midst. May the grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. My love to all of you in Christ Jesus.
Being a ministry family can be a strange, strange thing. You are for all intents and purposes just an ordinary family who attend church and serve the people of God. But you are also the family of one of the leaders among the people and that often means higher expectations of behaviour, faith and works for all of you.
The whole “fishbowl” effect is largely unavoidable but the way the people of God in the church you serve act and react towards you makes an enormous difference.
It is with great joy that I can say that the way you have cared for us and loved us and prayed for us has been wonderful.
Life in the Fortescue house has not been all plain sailing for the last 10 years. Some of you will know all the stories and some will know a few, but like every family we have had a fair share of grief, sickness and trouble. I can say with great thankfulness that we have been loved through it all and allowed to just be a human family who follow Jesus.
When Michelle was rushed home from Fiji having suffered a stroke in 2016 we were overwhelmed with love, kindness and care. We were very aware that people were praying for her and us. We had meals and care packages delivered to our house. We had people offer to help with Megan, Brianna and Brodie who were all still at school. The staff team jumped in to take over responsibilities and to ensure that I had plenty of time to spend at the hospital and taking Michelle to appointments over the following months. The wardens were generous with their provision of extra time off. All of that was wonderfully generous and kind.
When Nicky’s mum and my Dad died at the end of last year, again the wonderfully generous and kind actions of many were gratefully appreciated. The staff and wardens were once again generous in their work to ensure we had plenty of time to recover and grieve. One of other things I noticed then was the way you rallied around our whole family. I was aware of people not just caring for Nicky and I but for all four of our children, for whom the death of grandparents was a terribly difficult time.
Campbelltown is a place we have grown to call home. Campbelltown is a place where we have grown significantly as a family both relationally and spiritually. Campbelltown is a place that we will forever remember for difficult times during which we were loved. And for that we give great thanks. Being in a great church where our family is loved and encouraged has ensured that we feel at home and now feel sad to be leaving. Nicky and I particularly give thanks to all those who have encouraged us and our children to stand firm with Jesus and to never give up.
Please don’t stop encouraging and caring for your ministry leaders. Please don’t stop encouraging them to stand firm on Christ. Please don’t stop caring for them and all those who will come after us. For you know, that your labours in the Lord are never in vain.
There are many heroes of the faith – Paul, Peter, Augustine, Luther, Calvin, Chappo – the list could go on. (And no doubt you are thinking of big names I have missed!)
But there are also billions of ordinary Christians who serve Jesus, who pray, who toil in the work of the Lord, whose names will never again be spoken. There are billions of ordinary Christians like Tychicus and Epaphras. Colossians 4 tells the story of these two men who wrestle in prayer, encourage hearts, strengthen the church and work hard for the Gospel. My suspicion is that the vast majority of us will never have given them more than a cursory thought.
But that is the shape of Christian ministry. You don’t serve to receive accolades or adoration. You serve because Christ first served you. You serve because all of your time, talents and treasures belong to the Lord and ought to be used to glorify him. You serve because you want to see Christ’s church built up and reach out so that other people may hear of the Lord Jesus and be saved. You serve because that’s just what Christian people do.
And thanks be to God that the Christian people of Campbelltown Anglican Churches have always done just that. Truth be told, throughout our time in Campbelltown I have had many moments where I have been blown away by the willingness of people to get in and serve the Lord. There are too many faithful servants of the Lord to mention and the risk of mentioning some and forgetting others would be too much to bear!
There are people who have served by teaching the Bible through preaching, growth groups, youth and children’s ministry, 1-1 ministry, accountability ministry, mentoring and more. There are people who have served by ensuring everything was ready for us to sit under God’s Word by setting up chairs, managing technology and sound, handing out books and flyers, preparing and providing food, playing music, leading in prayer and reading the Bible and more. There are people who have served by seeking to connect outsiders with the Gospel through Arvo Kids, ESL, Food ministry, Jesus is nights and more. There are people who have served in the background, where you will never see them, during the week and even in the dead of night when the alarms go off. There are people who have managed money, governance and policy to ensure we can keep doing ministry through Parish Council, Safe Ministry and Risk Management. There are people who have chased up the missing, visited the sick and prayed for the lost. You get the feeling don’t you that this list could go on and on. What incredible servants of the Lord you are. Thank you!
If I must isolate one thing that has been of great joy to me, it is this: from time to time people have messaged or come and asked me, “How can I pray for you this week?” There is no greater act of service than to pray and bring requests and thanksgiving before the Lord. In what way will you be the Tychicus and Epaphras of 2020?
In this week when the Irish global super-band U2 are in town, I thought it was worth reflecting on the way I have seen you loving each other over the last ten years. U2 have more than a dozen songs that feature love. We have more than 700 people whose lives feature love, which has been delightfully encouraging.
Jesus said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35) These are remarkable words – it sounds like Jesus is suggesting the need to love one another was a new idea! But there were commandments in the Old Testament encouraging Israel to love others. So what is going on?
What was new here is the kind of love – note what Jesus says: this love is “as I loved you.” It is a love that originates and mirrors the sacrificial love of Christ. In Christ’s death something new happened, a new type of love was on display and this sacrificial love is to be replicated and displayed by us. Marvellously, when we do show this love, other people will recognise us as disciples of Jesus. If we love one another with Christlike sacrificial love, others will see Christ.
I have seen Christ’s love in the love that has been shown around our church and it has been spectacular. Let me share some examples.
The Wednesday Church crew are 30-40 faithful mature folks who know each other and love each other. They often chase people up, they know what is going on in each other’s lives and they visit each other when they are sick. They are not selfish with their time but use it for the benefit of others and warmly welcome new people into the fold.
There are a number of multi-generational families in our church who show sacrificial love across the generations. I see grandparents chasing grandchildren after church; I see sons-in-law offering to help at the homes of grandparents; I see the generations encouraging each other to follow Christ. I suppose that is what should happen in families, but it often doesn’t and I think you can look at these families and know they are Christ’s disciples.
Time and time again I hear good news stories out of Growth Groups as people put themselves out for each other to care for each other and show love to each other. Our Growth Groups are a critically important hub for love and care and knowledge of each other and I have loved every one I have been in.
And then I look around after our services and see people praying together, laughing together, crying together and growing together – not looking to serve themselves but looking to love others sacrificially and to see them grow. It’s often the simple, normal things that are most encouraging!
I could go on and on. I pray that you love for each other does just that into the future!
In this last series of newsletter articles, I am seeking to look back and give thanks for the great work God has been doing in our church over the last decade and beyond. My second observation about our church, that I have rejoiced in and given thanks for, relates to your passion to share the Gospel with others.
Seeking to grow the Kingdom is part of the DNA of our church. One of the many things that excited Nicky and I in coming to Campbelltown was the vision of previous ministers who started schools both onsite and later at Menangle. Coming first from the mouth of Governor Macquarie, the desire to operate schools here is almost 200 years old and the purpose of the schools has always been to educate children in the ways of Christ.
But running schools is not the only strategy for reaching our community with the Gospel. I have been so encouraged by the many who pray regularly for their unbelieving family and friends and who have invited them to come to church and various events to hear the good news of the death and resurrection of Christ.
It was Peter who spoke of Jesus when he said to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to humankind by which we must be saved.” It has delighted me that the people of this church that bears the name of Peter (and all the congregations connected to it) believe the same thing. I have been so thankful for the way you quickly embraced many of the crazy mission ideas the staff have come up with. I am constantly amazed at the number of people who invite friends to our Jesus is nights and women’s events. Praise God that you are working towards people believing in and confessing Christ.
So let me encourage you: don’t hide your faith. Give answers for the hope you have. Tell people why you are a Christian. The only way to muck it up is to say nothing! Prioritise praying for people. Pray for God to do a mighty work and save people who are not Christian.
Work at naturally introducing your trust in Jesus into conversation – tell people you went to church, share something you learnt at church, share a Christian perspective on what is being discussed. A great way to bear witness to the glory of God and your faith in him is to offer pray for someone. Someone shares a trouble, a stress, a problem – just say, “Can I pray for you?” It’s a powerful witness to your trust in God.
Invite people to church. Every Sunday is a good Sunday to bring a friend! Your DNA is to preach Christ and if I have encouraged you to continue doing that, I am thankful.
One of the delightful things about the last few weeks has been having conversations with people as they reflect on the last 10 years. A number of people have commented to me about how much our church has changed and I have enjoyed listening to their stories and recounts of the way things were and the way things are now. I count any change for the better as a work of God and anything else is the result of the frailty and failings of humans!
Over the next few articles I want to share some personal observations reflecting on what I have seen and rejoiced in as God has done a good work in you. The first one relates to your attitude to the Word of God.
In many churches, the Bible is read and even mentioned in sermons but it is not given a place of authority and importance in the lives of people. Paul commended the Thessalonians saying “We also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” It brings me enormous joy that I can say exactly the same thing about you.
One of the stories I love to tell is about the way the people of our church use the Bible in church. I remember during the first weeks of being here, many people would have the Bible open on their lap while it was being read, but once the sermon started, they would close it and place it back in the pew. We are encouraged to test what we hear (1 Thessalonians 5:21) and that is hard to do with the Bible closed. Some time later, I remember saying in a sermon “Look with me at verse 1” and a multitude of heads bowed to look at the Word of God. What a great delight that was.
Nowadays, I am regularly accosted by Bible wielding people after church who question my understanding of this verse or that. We have a rigorous and thought-provoking question time after 6pm church. Our regular Sermon Extra has been a great opportunity to explore the issues and applications that flow out of Sunday. Our Growth Groups are growing in number continue to be hubs for debate and discussion around the Word.
You are hungry for the Word of God and this delights me enormously. You accept it as a Word that carries great authority. You accept it as God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness (2 Timothy 3:16). You are willing to sit under it and read it and be guided by it. This is wondrously important and you must continue in this. As I have said before, Anglicans all over the world are increasingly discarding the Word of God as a word of previous importance from which we must move on. The destruction such an attitude reaps in the church and lives of believers is tragic.
My friends, whatever you do, please continue to hold firmly to the Word of Life!
I wasn’t expecting to tear up but yes – and thanks to those who noticed and asked – I did tear up on stage at Megachurch! Towards the end, as we were reflecting on the interviews we had during the morning and the responsibility God has given each of us to serve his people and the world, I said something like: Given how awesome this church is, why would you ever think of leaving? My emotions caught me and there was a moment where I could not speak and my eyes became wet before I pulled myself together and carried on.
The question is a good one though: Given how awesome this church is, why would you ever think of leaving?
Being the Senior Minister of a Church is a wonderful and serious responsibility. I have been charged with being a messenger, watchman and steward of the Lord; to teach and forewarn, to feed and provide for the Lord’s family; to seek Christ’s sheep who are scattered abroad, and for his children who are surrounded by temptation in this world that they may be saved through Christ forever. I was exhorted to have printed on my mind how great a treasure is committed to my care. That treasure is you and I have sought to shepherd the people of Campbelltown under God with all my might. So why leave?
There is always a spiritual element to leaving a ministry and going to a new one. We entrust ourselves to the providence of God and his calling and I can say that we do certainly believe that God has called us to a new ministry at this time. There was no flash of lightning or word from God but as we prayed there were many confirmations that this is from God.
There is a gifting element to leaving a ministry and going to a new one. Sometimes this is because the ministry you are in is not one you are gifted for; sometimes it is because you have gifts that ought to be put to use elsewhere. St Ives is a large and complex church and the training and encouragement I have had from you here has prepared me and our family for this next challenge.
There is an Anglican diocese element to leaving a ministry and going to a new one. Our diocese needs people to lead churches and it needs people who are able assistants to take on Senior Minister roles. It needs Senior Ministers in small churches who are able to take medium size churches and some then to take on larger churches as their skill and capacity develops. The diocese is heading towards a crisis of leadership at this time and needs people to keep stepping up to leadership.
Then there is an opportunity element to leaving a ministry and going to a new one. At St Ives there is a very large group of young people who are ready, willing and able to be challenged to consider full-time vocational ministry. This is a work that I am passionate about the opportunity to shape a large number of people for the work of the Gospel in the next generation is something I am excited about.
There are a million other factors that went into this big decision but I want to assure you that we have not made the decision to leave lightly or carelessly but after much prayer and consultation with friends and mentors. We will depart thankful but with heavy hearts for we know how great a treasure you are!
It was Boxing Day 2009 when we
decided that we would accept the invitation of the Nominators to come and join
the ministry at Campbelltown Anglican Church. A month or so earlier, Stephen Bomford,
David Busutel, Chris Main, Sarah Manning and Jan Tripodi had brought a cake
from Willis Bakery to our house in Naremburn and Nicky and I shared an
excellent evening with them. We never imagined leaving Naremburn Cammeray
Anglican Church but God led us on a journey that has been enormously joyful.
As I begin a series of reflections
on our time in Campbelltown I want to begin by thanking those Nominators for
entrusting us with the responsibility to grow the Gospel here. They took a risk
on a young couple with a young family who were passionate and excitable but had
never lived in western Sydney and needed to learn the culture of both the
church and community. They took a risk on someone who did not even own a
clerical shirt! Despite these things and more, we are so thankful they took
that risk and I want to express our whole family’s thankfulness for the
privilege of being involved in your ministry here for almost a decade.
We left a thriving growing ministry
to come to Campbelltown because this was a growing area and the church was
faithfully seeking to reach people of all ages with the good news of Christ. We
came because there was a great relationship with the Parish Schools and there
was an opportunity to continue to grow the Gospel through those connections. We
came because people were keen to continue to grow in their knowledge of God’s
Word and to be enthused for mission. We came because God laid it on our hearts
to come and lead the ministry here for his Glory. And it has been a delight.
A lot has changed in 10 years and a
lot has stayed the same. Jan Tripodi showed me around the site in my first week
and issued my keys – it will be a sad moment to hand those back and remember
the faithful work Jan did (including as Warden and mentor of women). Trevor
Richardson showed me how communion was done and talked me through the 8am
service – his encouragement and support has been invaluable. James Locke and
John Davis introduced me to our brilliant Wednesday service and I loved served
alongside them. Stella Vernon helped me understand cemeteries, archives and
everything historical. I’ll mention all the staff
in a future article but Leanne was patiently willing to
help me understand everything and everyone in those early days! There are many
many more people to thank!
With our last day of ministry in
Campbelltown being in mid-December, the current Nominators will begin their
work of selecting a new minister for our church soon. They will be very
thankful for your prayers and encouragement and patience. The task of
discerning who might be best to lead our church is a difficult
one but you can be assured that God remains sovereign over the whole process
and the time in between our leaving and a new person’s coming. Please do uphold
the Nominators in your regular prayers.
You will no doubt have seen or heard the media reporting on the Archbishop of Sydney Glenn Davies’ address to Synod last week. In the view of the vast majority who were actually there, it was a brilliant piece of theological reflection that captured the Spirit of our age and the need for the Gospel to continue to go out into a lost world.
You would think, however, if you simply listened to the media, that Glenn asked anyone who thinks differently to the Bible on human sexuality to leave the church. Nothing could be further from the truth – but if you want to win an argument, you don’t focus on the truth or context of things that are said!
A month or two ago I wrote about the polarising tendency of 21st Century argumentation. We often find ourselves being forcibly isolated into camps such that on any question it is not truth or context that matters but whose side you are on. For this reason, on the matter of homosexuality, same-sex marriage and the Bible, whatever Glenn said, he was going to be lambasted. The way to win an argument in this day and age is not to reason, think, deliberate, consider, ask questions and weigh merits; instead you misquote, pigeon-hole, garner the troops and call people names. You don’t need thought because you have decided a priori that every other view is wrong.
As an Anglican Synod, we try not to do that. In fact we were urged throughout the week to read, think, consider, weigh up and look at the merits of all arguments around human sexuality. We were all given a book to read containing opposing views.
Despite what you may have heard, Glenn’s address did not urge dissenters in the pews to leave the church. Glenn did not urge anyone with a different view to leave any Sydney Anglican church. But he did urge Anglican leaders who have abandoned the long held truths of the Anglican Church to leave the Anglican Church and start a new church. You can read the whole speech for yourself (www.sds.asn.au) and you will see this clear as day. But the truth of what is said does not matter in arguments anymore. In this day, you win an argument by lambasting the person not their argument.
So what’s the point? Just imagine that the Victorian branch of Greenpeace or Extinction Rebellion started arguing that pouring a little bit of crude oil into the ocean is fine and that more coal fired power stations should be built. I’m pretty sure they would be kicked out of their organisations pretty quickly. This is exactly what is happening in the Anglican Church. Leaders in Wangaratta, Perth and Newcastle are arguing against numerous basic principles held by the Anglican Church and claiming they can stay in that same Church. And the media says Glenn is the bad guy!
At the heart of this whole question is the way you understand the Bible. Does it contain eternal principles for the way we should understand ourselves and God? Or does it contain an expression of the way humanity viewed itself and God, such that we need to find a new expression for this day and age? If God has spoken, are we not to listen?
It is with heavy hearts that we share the news with you that the Fortescue Family will be finishing our time of ministry in Campbelltown at the end of 2019. After much thought and prayer, we have accepted the invitation of the Archbishop to take up the leadership of Christ Church St Ives in early 2020.
The last decade at Campbelltown has been an absolute delight. We have rejoiced in seeing many of you come to know Jesus as your Lord and Saviour. We have given thanks to God as we have together sought to be devoted to maturing in Jesus for the glory of God. We have an incredibly gifted staff team who we love and are very sad to be leaving. But you are in very safe hands and they will continue to teach, encourage and care for our growing Christian community.
We have been so very thankful for the support and encouragement you have been to us as we have been through the most difficult times of our lives as a family.
Change is never simple and often comes with the complexity of grief and heartache. We want to encourage all of us to pray for each other over the months ahead that God would strengthen and encourage us to continue serving him. Pray for the ongoing good work of the gospel here in Campbelltown. Praise God for all that He has done and will continue to do. Please pray for us as we experience a mix of emotions amidst enormous thankfulness for our time in Campbelltown.
There is much more to say and no doubt you will have many questions. The Wardens and Parish Nominators (the group of 5 elected to choose a new minister) will be in communication with you about the process of selecting a new minister soon but do feel free to ask them or the staff about any questions you have.
In Christ, Nigel, Nicky, Michelle, Megan, Brianna and Brodie