Partners in Christian Mission

Framing and Context

Framing and Context

Fuelled by questions concerning the future of humanity, something new is emerging.

While there is much to celebrate, such as rising life expectancy, declining child mortality rates, falling global income inequality, and declines in the number of conflicts(1), we fear the future. The threat from changes in the global climate, the fragmenting of democracy, technology overreach, and places where inequality is out of control, expose the ever-present questions of, "Who are we?" and, "What is life all about?"

Tasmania has the highest number of teenage suicides, and the largest number of children in care, of any Australian state. The Enlightenment proposition that life is purely material has been found wanting. It not only undermines the Judaeo-Christian worldview; it has left us spiritually impoverished and people are feeling it.

Although full-blooded religious belief remains a worry to many across the Western world, more and more people are "coming out" of the cultural closet of secularism, and using the word "spirituality" with a new seriousness.

This "post-secular" search for meaning outside the bounds of science and rationalism finds expression in events such as Hobart's mid-winter festival Dark MoFo. Buried within the many offensive and decadent activities lies a spiritual longing as demonstrated by the thousands who attend the final event. The promotional material for The Burning Ogoh-ogoh, reads:

"Follow the procession around the waterfront in a massive communal ritual of purification and renewal, as we sacrifice our swift parrot-shaped ogoh-ogoh--and our fears with it--in a blazing forest of smoke, fire and noise."(2)

In this notable re-turn to the spiritual, few are turning to the church. For many, any mention of the church triggers moral and intellectual objections - How could a loving God send people to hell? What about the Crusades? How can you say there is one true faith? How can you take the Bible literally? Doesn't the Bible justify slavery? What about science, suffering, and sexuality? Isn't the church extremist and violent, stifling of free thought, and quick to subjugate women?

We live in the middle of a profound tension - new explorations of the spiritual and rejection of Christianity. Many Christians see this as a moment of threat, and it is. But it is also a moment of opportunity! Tasmania is our mission field and God has called us to it.

So, how do we, Tasmanian Baptists, minister to the many in our communities who are concerned and fearful, are searching for meaning and looking for answers. But dismissing the church in their pursuit?

As times change, the gospel needs to be reframed and refreshed to meet the changes. Although Christianity dominated the West for many centuries influencing, and at times controlling, government, art, architecture and literature, etc, that dominance has long gone.

Despite our assumptions, though, the West never had a monopoly on it. Christianity is not a Western religion. Now that Christendom has died, we need to adjust to the new cultural landscape and become adept at contextualisation. As German theologian, Helmut Thielicke noted,

"The gospel must be preached afresh and told in new ways to each generation, since every generation has its own unique questions. The gospel must constantly be forwarded to a new address, because the recipient is repeatedly changing his place of address."(3)

The reformers Hus, Tyndale, Wycliffe and Luther and others were tortured, imprisoned and martyred in their pursuit of making the Gospel accessible to their generation. We live in no less a profound and complex time, and we too need to work with tears and blood, just like our forebears, to communicate the gospel to Tasmanians today.

It is time to reimagine the Gospel for this cultural moment. May God grant us "a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him." May the "eyes of our hearts enlightened" and may we revel in "the hope to which he has called us" (Ephesians 1:18).


(3) Helmut Thielicke, How Modern Should Theology Be? (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1969), p. 10.

Speaker and Content

Given the cultural moment we live in as outlined in the introduction, the format of this year's July Muster will different to previous years. Rather than bringing in someone from outside our Union and state, we will be workshoping specific topics facilitated by one of our own.

The proposed topics are:

  • Is the 'good news' good news? Contextualising the gospel for younger generations
  • Restorative Justice. The life and death of Jesus as Plan A
  • Why does God allow bushfires? God and the nature of evil
  • God, Truth and the Bible. God and the inspiration of Scripture
  • Being Good Ancestors. Eco-theology and God's plan to save the planet

Session Format

Each topic will be introduced by a pastor, or member of the MLT, who has prepared a 15-20 minute framing statement.

This will be followed by a facilitated discussion with a designated note-taker capturing key points, questions, agreement and areas for further work.

We will end with a wrap-up by the 'introducer.'

There will be the option to explore the topic further after lunch on the Tuesday and Wednesday if we elect to do so.

Session Guiding Principles

We will agree to abide by a few guiding principles:

  • "If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone" Romans 12:18. And "Woe to you when everyone speaks well of you, for that is how their ancestors treated the false prophets" Luke 6:26.
  • Begin with a working definition of terms
  • Listen respectfully, without interrupting
  • Listen actively and with an ear to understanding others' views (don't just think about what you are going to say while someone else is talking)
  • Criticise ideas, not individuals
  • Commit to learning, not debating
  • Comment in order to share information, not to persuade
  • Avoid blame, speculation, and inflammatory language
  • Allow everyone the chance to speak
  • Avoid assumptions about others or generalisations about social groups. Do not ask individuals to speak for their (perceived) social group

Program

Monday July 6

3:00-5.00 pm

Arrive

5:45 pm

Camp Briefing followed by Dinner

7:00 pm

Welcome and Worship: "State of the Union" & Communion

9:00 pm

Supper

Tuesday July 7

7:30 am

Breakfast

9:00 am

Worship and Devotion:

9:30 am

Session 1:

10:45 am

Morning tea

11:15 am

Session 2:

12:30 pm

Lunch

2:00 pm

Workshop:

3:15 pm

Free Time

6:00 pm

Dinner

7:00 pm

Evening program

9:00 pm

Supper

Wednesday July 8

7:30 am

Breakfast

9:00 am

Worship and Devotion:

9:30 am

Session 3:

10:45 am

Morning tea

11:15 am

Session 4:

12:30 pm

Lunch

2.00 pm

Workshop:

3:15 pm

Free Time

6:00 pm

Dinner

7:00 pm

Evening Program

9:00 pm

Supper

Thursday July 9

7:30 am

Breakfast

9:00 am

Worship and Devotion:

9:30 am

Session 5:

10:45 am

Morning Tea

11:15 am

Concluding Session - Prayer & Encouragement

12:30 pm

Lunch

1:30 pm

Pack up and leave

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