Church: There for Us? OR There for Others... - Stephen Baxter
I think we sometimes forget God has entrusted us with the task of bringing the good news of his love, as demonstrated in Christ, to our local community - wherever it is we are.
We can so easily be tempted and fall into the trap of believing the church exists only for us, and conveniently ignore God's desires. In recent years here at Hobart Baptist where I am the Senior Pastor, we have reaffirmed we want to be a mission-oriented church and we are steadily moving more and more in that direction.
To be faithful to our task we not only need a renewed and refreshed understanding of the Gospel, we need to have an insightful understanding into Australian culture. Without it we repeat the mistakes of the past and fail to understand the changing nature of our community.
For decades we sent missionaries overseas to various tribal groups armed with the task of carefully and painstakingly exploring and documenting the cultural narratives and history of their people group with the aim of discovering how best to bring the Gospel to them.
We now understand we need to undertake the same assignment here in Australia. For too long we have assumed we understood our culture and have borrowed heavily from Britain and the US counterparts assuming their approaches would translate into the Australian context. Thankfully, we are now more aware this will no longer do, and have embarked on the process of understanding and appreciating Australia's unique history and culture.
This process is known as contextualisation. It studies the peculiarities of all it means to be Australian and works out how we might best share the love of God as demonstrated in Christ. It takes into account the reality of the vast difference between our culture and the culture of Jesus' day, as well as our culture and that of Britain and the US.
In the face of the ongoing challenge raised by Australia's increasingly hostile secularism, coupled with the growing recognition that British and North American approaches are not always appropriate for the Aussie scene, the Australian church is undergoing a sort of coming-of-age. This maturity is bringing new insights into how Aussies uniquely gain their sense of meaning, security and identity in a world full of fear, meaninglessness and uncertainty.
Australian culture is a complex mixture of influences including our historical roots, regionality, and political structures, our social and economic status, education, religious traditions and worldview. We also have deep historical roots extending back thousands of years through our aboriginal ancestry and ever increasing cultural diversity.
We are, in fact, one of the world's most multicultural societies having adopted multiculturalism as official policy decades ago. Along with Canada we are the only other nation to do so. Our culture, as a result, is more a series of overlapping sub cultures than a united monoculture. It renders a one-size-fits-all approach to mission and evangelism unworkable and encourages us to do our contextualisation at many levels.
Nevertheless, despite our multicultural society, there are definitely traits that are decidedly Australian. If we are to be effective in our mission and evangelism these need to be identified and understood so that our communication of the gospel can be adapted accordingly.
Over the next few months from time to time I hope to explore these traits hoping, God willing, we may gain insights into how we best might fulfill our God-given missionary task to take the gospel to our fellow Australians.
This article has been taken from Stephen Baxter's blog, which is usually updated Monday evenings, and can be found at https://stephenlbaxter.wordpress.com/2015/03/16/church-there-for-us-or-there-for-others/