Women, the Change-Makers

Self-help group in Bangladesh; change makers
Heartlands News

Pictured Above: A self-help group meets

Deep Thought

The Change Makers

Melissa Lipsett, CEO Baptist World Aid, explains the impact of women who are empowered to change their world.

It’s illegal, but 40 per cent of girls in Nepal are married before they turn 18, and seven per cent before they turn 15.  The Nepalese government is hoping to eradicate child marriage by 2030, but is this even possible?  Will this ever change?

I believe it will. Here’s why

I recently returned from Kapilvastu in West Nepal. It’s a region that has major development challenges and a general lack of adequate services. For example, there are no toilet facilities or running water in people’s homes. There are few opportunities for people to generate income and, sadly, high levels of gender-based violence and child marriage.

The challenges are overwhelming, but here’s the thing: communities ARE overcoming them. Baptist World Aid works with local Christian Partners who share our belief in the dignity, value and equality of all people (Gen 1:26-27).

Our Partners bring the locals together in community groups, and it’s the locals who lead the transformation of their communities. Ninety per cent of these community leaders are women. They’re known as self-help groups, and they’re courageously changing their world.

Our Partners bring the locals together in community groups, and it’s the locals who lead the transformation of their communities.

What self-help groups do

Working as a committee, with elected positions such a chairperson and treasurer, members collaborate to make the changes they want to see in their community. These women showed me how they had depolluted their pond and water source.

Some of them have started small businesses.  And I heard stories of how they confronted perpetrators of domestic violence as a commanding group of 17! I saw leadership, determination and courage from the same people who were, until recently, considered less than their husbands, brothers and sons.

"Kumari" Self-help group Nepal, change makers

Emerging from poverty

Every one of these women, these “change makers”, has a story. Many married as children and didn’t have the opportunity to go to school. Quite a few are now mothers, surrounded by little people with constant needs that are hard to meet. In the past they might have given a daughter in marriage to ensure she—and her remaining siblings—would survive.  

But the gains they’ve made in emerging from poverty means they now say, ‘No more! We will not allow our daughters to suffer as we did’. And they mean it.

‘No more! We will not allow our daughters to suffer as we did’.

As I travelled through the area, I could see that poverty is effectively diminished and girls attend school.

One extraordinary facet of these self-help groups is that are made up of traditionally antagonistic social groupings, but with no infighting. They are too busy changing the world.

I wonder if what would happen if we were too?

Melissa Lipsett

Melissa Lipsett is the CEO of Baptist World Aid and is the keynote speaker at the coming EmpowHer Day of Wonder in March 2025.

Melissa is a servant leader, playing active roles across the church and Christian humanitarian aid and development sector. She believes leadership matters, and so does the call of God on our lives.  She is an outspoken advocate for the importance of hearing women’s voices and empowering them to use their God given gifts and graces for the sake of our world.

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More Deep Thought

The Sound of Silence by Denise Stephenson
Courage to Make a Difference by Mark Wilson
Just Mercy by Michael Henderson


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This article was first published in reCharge, Nov/Dec 2022

NEWS: November 2022 | December 2022

Change Makers

Demolishing Barriers, Crossing Divides

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Deep Thought

Easter has come and gone for another year. It’s a wonderful time to celebrate the heart of our faith—the death and resurrection of Jesus and the hope that comes with it.  

Now that Easter is over, it’s valid to ask, “so what?”

Sure, it’s a reassurance that death is not the end of it all, but what difference does it make to your life today, tomorrow or next week? 

At Hobart Baptist Church, on Resurrection Sunday, I focussed on the event recorded in Matthew, where the Temple curtain is violently torn, from top to bottom. This happened the moment Jesus died.  

The curtain was a massive fabric barrier made of purple, blue, and scarlet material, interwoven with fine linen. It was about 18 metres high and 100cm thick. Its presence was to set a boundary between the Holy of Holies, the most sacred space where God was present and humans were not, from the rest of the Temple.  

Although God put this barrier in place in the design of the tabernacle, now God sets about destroying it. That’s the significance of it being torn from the top. 

A Holy Place

The Jews thought they understood holiness, and the temple was central. Jesus, however, had a very different vision and that’s what got him killed. He was Immanuel, God with us, crossing that barrier that divides. Sure, God is holy, righteous and pure, just as the curtain illustrated, but not in a way that makes God distant and hateful of whatever is unholy. God is love, pure unadulterated love.  

Image of torn paper with quote: Jesus was Immanuel, God with us, crossing that barrier that divides.

But that’s not all. The gospel writers record a second important event. At exactly the same time Jesus died and the curtain was ripped, the Centurion executing Jesus had a profound “ah-ha” moment.   

As high-ranking officer in the Roman army, he had most likely witnessed hundreds of crucifixions. Yet, this one was somehow different, and he was deeply moved. 

This is profound. Not only because he responded, “Surely this man was the Son of God” (Mark 15:39), but because God met him in a most unholy place. Here, in a pagan setting outside the temple and the city while executing God’s specially chosen Messiah, God is still at work, demolishing the barriers, crossing the divides.  

Image of torn paper with quote: God the Centurion in a most unholy place. Here, in a pagan setting outside the temple and the city while executing God’s specially chosen Messiah

This changes everything and should change our tomorrows. The God who is there, who Jesus revealed through his death and resurrection, is most surprising. Contrary to our expectations… if God can meet the centurion while he supervised the crucifixion of the beloved son, God can meet you anywhere. Your ordinary life, no matter where it is at, is no barrier to God meeting you, if you are willing to meet God.  

This is a “so what” worth celebrating every day.

Stephen Baxter

Stephen L. Baxter is Mission Director for Tasmanian Baptists


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Gender Diversity

Gender Diversity. Theology and Culture - a new column in reCharge

Theology and Culture

A new regular offering in reCharge

Your daughter is wearing pants, your son wears nail polish, and you’re not quite sure if the person behind the counter was a man or a woman. Scare tactics and confusion around the younger generations focus of gender is everywhere. How we handle that as Christians matters for the mission of Christ.

By Liam Conway

Gender is the broad characteristics of women, men, girls, and boys that are socially constructed. It includes social rules for what a man does, what a woman does, what toys we give children, and who takes whose last name when we’re married. Gender bumps shoulders with sex, and sexuality, but it is primarily social, the rules and scripts for who does what. Different cultures will have different rigidity between sex and gender, and that rigidity is presently very loose in modern western culture.

A lot of our gender rules come from Victorian era or post-WWII understandings of what men and women do. Men work, women stay home; men do public things, women deal with private things; men are protective, women are nurturing. And whilst there is some biological basis in these divisions, the main reason we have these rules is simply because we have them.

Biblical Context

The Bible’s context for gender is bound in culture. Whether that be the context of Ancient Israel, or the Roman Empire, there was a gendered understanding of family. The Father was the head, and the rest of the family was subordinate. Men could contemplate God, woman were at higher risk of being unclean. Rarely did both sexes mix in religious contexts.

Until Jesus. Jesus is often seen in womanly spaces like wells (John 4:4-42) and he encourages women to sit with him and learn (Luke 10:38-42). Jesus scandalously broke from purely male spaces, and he sat in them, such as the courts of the Temple debating pharisees.

Early Church

In the early church, women sat as deacons, Paul sends greetings to the woman Junia, “apostle with them” in Romans 16:7, women learnt and spoke alongside men in services, a practice unheard of and bizarre to the Roman world. In the early church, some gender norms were upheld, but others were able to be rejected for the sake of the kingdom of God.

For early Christians both men and women all needed Christ, so all were welcome. Many of the earliest followers were women, giving the Faith a sense of being womanly, and unbecoming for the Roman Man. Gender roles and rules have their place, but they have always been flexible within the faith.

What is our Call?

Theologically speaking, our call is to serve and live with God and be conformed to God. Gender can be an element of that. For some of us, it is very important that we are conformed to the rules that our body aligns with most. For others these rules can highlight the effects of sin in our world as they discriminate the image of God, and conforming to them would diminish the ability to conform to God. We should trust in God, and remember Romans 14 that we should not judge, and trust in God’s work in the hearts of those we may disagree with.

Liam Conway

Liam Conway is Associate Pastor at Riverlands, Longford.
He was born and raised in Hobart, graduated from UTas with a Bachelor of Arts, majoring in Psychology. He is now the associate Pastor of Riverlands community church and is studying his Master of Divinity.


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It’s a New Day

It's a New Day. By Karen Wilson

Deep Thought – a bi-monthly feature in reCharge

Working Together in Ministry

Let’s be catalysts to change and transformation

Karen Wilson

Karen Wilson is the President for Baptist World Alliance Women. She lives in Perth WA, and is the keynote speaker for the EmpowHer Day of Courage at Riverlands, Longford on Saturday 18th November.

When I stepped into the position of President for Baptist World Alliance Women 2020-2025, I sensed God asking me to find and/or create spaces for women and men to flourish together.

This would mean creating ministries that are open to both, affirm both, have mutual respect for one another, and give equal voice one to the other.

Silent contributors

For too long, women have been asked to be the silent contributors to the Kingdom. Their ministries and efforts have been greatly appreciated, yet their voices have been hushed. That time has now finished. It’s a new day.

For too long, women have been asked to be the silent contributors to the Kingdom.

Back in July 2019, the Baptist International Conference on Theological Education met in Nassau, Bahamas. The decision was made to not only re affirm the resolution of the Baptist World Alliance entitled “Women”, adopted in Nassau in 1988 but to take it further[1].

READ the resolution here: Recognizing and Affirming the Calling of Women in the Church.

There was a call for churches, and church leaders, to repent from the teachings and practices through which they have prevented women from flourishing as human beings created in the image of God and full members of the body of Christ.

The call went further – to be open to the Holy Spirit to bring conviction, inspire discussion, and provoke transformation in individual lives and communities by affirming the God-given call of women for service in the church, so their stories may take rightful place in the wider story of Christ’s body in the world.

The All-encompassing Challenge

The challenge? For all of us to learn, and then use, language which is affirming to both women and men in worship, communications, and publications. In addition, to work intentionally to create equal space for women in all leadership roles in the church, Baptist conventions and unions, and across the entire Baptist World Alliance.

As I look at the place women have in our Baptist churches, and with this call being proclaimed globally, I believe there is a need for us to understand how to stand together and discuss issues together. As well, we all need to learn how to make room for one another, and how to avail each other of the others’ gifts.

God has a Kingdom-purpose for the entire body of Christ to flourish – male and female alike – and we are being ushered into that era where we will see it come to pass.

I, for one, am excited that we get to not only see it, but be catalysts of change to bring this transformation.

So what do I see?

I see a global ministry where women and men . . .

  • Champion one another and stand together (Zeph 3:9)
  • Understand the responsibility in the Kingdom and encourage one another forward (1 Thess 5:11)
  • Meet regularly (Heb 10:25) and are aware they are not alone (1 Cor 14:26)
  • Gather and await the move of the Spirit of the living God. (Acts 2:1)
  • Stand firmly alongside one another (Gal 3:28), in the one Spirit,
  • Strive together as one for the sake of the gospel (Phil 1:27).

Men and women alike have a mandate to love God fully and love others with acceptance and dedication. So let’s do this! Let’s:

STAND RESPECTFULLY and confidently together in the calling God has given us.

SEEK OUT spaces of commonality to work for the mutual benefit of all.

OPENLY SHARE tables of discussion for the strengthening of the Kingdom.

LET’S STAND alongside the Next Generation 

TOGETHER SEEK the Kingdom first.

GO INTO ALL THE WORLD with a spirit of unity to proclaim the name of Jesus.

It’s a new day.


More Deep Thought

Expanding Horizons by Stephen Baxter | The God of Bethel by Maddy Svoboda | Being Family Together by Christa McKirland


* This article was originally published in the Summer 2020-21 Heartlands for Women, newsletter.


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[1] https://www.baptist.org.au/bwa-affirming-women-in-ministry/

Karen Wilson, President Baptist World Alliance Women. It's a new day

Karen and Mark Wilson live in Perth WA. In addition to being the President Baptist World Alliance Women, Karen
is also the CEO of the Global Leadership Network Australia/NZ, and this year founded the Women Leaders Network.


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Expanding Horizons

Expanding our horizons

Deep ThoughtA bi-monthly feature in reCharge

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    Expanding Horizons

    Interpreting Genesis in this Era

    By Tasmanian Baptists Mission Director Stephen Baxter

    Just over a year ago, images from the James Webb Space Telescope were released with great fanfare. Orbiting around the sun, the telescope began to peer deeply into outer space, capturing infrared glimpses of distant stars, clouds and galaxies formed billions of years ago.

    With the Webb telescope we can probe the mysterious structures and origins of the universe in new and exciting ways. As its website declares, “We wonder. It’s our nature. How did we get here? Are we alone in the universe? How does the universe work?”

    Imagfe from the Webb telescope.
NGC 1433’s spiral arms are littered with evidence of extremely young stars.
NASA, ESA, CSA, Janice Lee (NSF's NOIRLab)
Image Processing, Alyssa Pagan (STScI)
Expanding horizons
    A barred spiral galaxy with a double ring structure, NGC 1433’s spiral arms are littered with evidence of extremely young stars

    Since the beginning of human life, generation after generation ask these questions. And we continue to ask them in our day even as, and because of, the amazing images the Webb continues to provide.

    Astronomers estimate there are some 100 billion stars in the Milky Way, the galaxy where earth is located. They also guess there is some 2-trillion galaxies across the known universe. That’s a lot of stars. Something like one septillion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. With a number like that, no wonder we continue to ask who on earth are we are.

    Genesis remains adequate

    For millennia, the early chapters of Genesis have inspired millions. Its proposition that our existence came about through the action of a generous, wise, and benevolent Creator is literally awesome. Those introductory chapters of the Bible are a small and unique glimpse into the intentions and desires behind life as we know it.

    Generation after generation have returned to those words for inspiration. Each has brought their own interpretation, borne out of their desires and the limits of their knowledge. Today, in the light of our increasing knowledge through instruments like the Webb telescope, it is time to do our own work of interpretation.

    It’s not that Genesis is inadequate, for it remains God’s revelation to us. However, previous interpretations can seem somewhat inadequate in the light of recent discoveries.

    Is it possible to revisit these first few chapters of Genesis and retell the story of our beginnings in a way that captures and recaptures our imaginations, imaginations shaped by the images of the Webb telescope?

    Expanding horizons

    The first hearers of the Genesis story of creation had little sense of the size, nature, and scope of our world. Let alone the Universe. Over the following centuries as human knowledge grew, each generation reimagined the story of life in the light of their expanded knowledge.

    For example, when people did not travel far from their place of birth, knowledge was limited to, and dependent upon, the place where one lived and upon the information gleaned from visitors. When explorers returned with fascinating tales of distant lands, peoples and creatures, one’s appreciation of the world grew.

    When people did not travel far … knowledge was limited to, and dependent upon, the place where one lived and … from visitors.

    For those who wrote and compiled the Old Testament, their horizon was limited to the Middle East. By the time of the New Testament writers, it had expanded to the Roman Empire.

    Around the time of the Protestant Reformation, the horizon included Europe and parts of Asia and Africa. Then, there was the significant expansion through the nautical exploration of people like Columbus. And as well, through the proposal by Copernicus that the earth revolved around the Sun – not the other way around. The reformation/renaissance period became one of rapid discovery and change. This had a profound and transformative effect on every aspect of Western culture, including Christianity.

    Around the time of the Protestant Reformation, the horizon included Europe and parts of Asia and Africa.

    Our world today is amid a similar period of rapid change. Propelled by technology and space travel, today’s horizon has literally moved out of this world. We are the first generations in human history to look back at earth from outer space. This change of perspective is having a profound and transformative effect on the life of every person living on our planet.

    No wonder we are expanding horizons!

    We are all interrelated

    The 1972 photograph of the ‘Blue Marble’ taken by Apollo 17 astronauts perhaps best encapsulates this expanded horizon.

    "The blue marble" Apollo 17 Crew, Dec 1972
Expanding horizons
    “The blue marble” Apollo 17 Crew, Dec 1972

    This picture of a fragile, vulnerable, and isolated Earth suspended amid the vast emptiness of space, changed the world. As historian Robert Poole suggests,

    “The sight of the whole Earth, small, alive, and alone, caused scientific and philosophical thought to shift away from the assumption that the Earth was a fixed environment, unalterably given to humankind, and towards a model of the Earth as an evolving environment, conditioned by life and alterable by human activity, it was the defining moment of the twentieth century.”

    The ‘Pale Blue Dot‘ is a similar photo, and just as profound. The 1990 Voyager 1 spacecraft took it when 6.4 billion kilometres away from earth. This photo, together with the ‘Blue Marble’, signifies a defining moment in our expanding horizon.

    The pale blue dot, Voyager 1,
Expanding horizons
    The pale blue dot, Voyager 1

    In the light of this expansion, many old stories we told ourselves, about who we are, no longer seem adequate. The exploration of space, the insights of modern science, rapidly changing technology and the communication revolution, contribute to destabilising old metanarratives.

    Today, for the first time in human history, and despite the remaining differences in language, customs, worldviews and religion, there is a collective “knowing” that we all share the one planet, with the one history and the one destiny. Everything is interrelated, everything is dependent. We need each other. The future is ours together. We can no longer operate in isolation.

    A stark question for Christians

    Contemporary answers to the perennial questions of “Who am I?”, “How did we get here?” and “What does the future hold?” must take the insights of this expanded horizon into account. Any spirituality or religion appearing indifferent or ignorant to our ‘fragile’ world, or displays a reluctance to work ‘together’ for the future, is quickly dismissed. It is seen as out-of-date, inadequate, irrelevant and even dangerous.

    Any spirituality or religion that appears indifferent or ignorant to our ‘fragile’ world . . . is quickly dismissed as out-of-date.

    Christians today face a stark question. Is the story of creation in Genesis capable of giving an answer that will satisfy the yearnings of those who ask them in the light of the Webb telescope? I believe the answer is yes. But we will need to do some deep reframing.

    This is not a new enterprise. The Reformers had to do something similar when they encountered new discoveries and technological advances. They reimagined and reinterpreted the Genesis creation story of their day. Like them, we need to arrive at a narrative big enough and meaningful enough to recapture our imaginations. It will provide a new vision for what God is doing in our world.

    This is the task before God’s people who live in this moment.

    I pray God will enable and equip us to develop a spirituality/theology aware of these expanded horizons which is attuned to the spiritual longings of contemporary Tasmanians. Wouldn’t it be great if this new awareness enlivened searching hearts with the hope, love and joy found in Jesus Christ?

    Stephen Baxter

    Stephen Baxter is the Senior Pastor at Hobart Baptist, and is Tasmanian Baptists Mission Director.

    More Deep Thought

    The God of Bethel by Maddy Svoboda
    Being Family Together by Christa McKirland
    The Sound of Silence by Denise Stephenson

    RESPONSE from Craig Hawkins

    8 September 2023

    Mission Director Stephen Baxter’s “Deep Thought” article challenges readers to “retell the story of our beginnings in a way that captures our imaginations, imaginations shaped by the images of the Webb telescope”. He concludes that “…we need to arrive at a narrative big enough and meaningful enough to recapture our imaginations”.

    It is an incredible claim to suggest that the truth of God’s word is merely the product of how well we can imagine what it is saying. The idea that the Scriptures are confined by human imagination is a denial of the authority and sufficiency of Scripture.   God’s word is bigger and more meaningful than any human mind could have put together. When we treat it in this way, we open the door for compromise on a whole suite of fundamental doctrines. It also confuses passages that are clear in their meaning and suggests that clear statements can not be made in Scripture that are not open to reimagination sometime in the future.

    Stephen appeals to the Reformers who had to reimagine and reinterpret the Genesis creation story but fails to mention that they did so by “Sola Scriptura” – returning to scripture alone and NOT the faulty word of man. They were intent on using Scripture first to interpret the world we live in not the other way around.

    It should be no surprise then that Martin Luther concluded: “Now we know from Moses that about six thousand years ago the world was not yet in existence”.

    Augustine said as early as the 4th century AD:

    Let us then omit the conjectures of men who know not what they say, when they speak of the origin and nature of the human race. They are deceived too, by those highly mendacious documents which profess to give a history of many thousand years, though, reckoning, by the sacred writings, we find that not 6000 years have yet passed

    What has the James Webb telescope actually achieved? It has simply enhanced the Psalmists claim that the heavens declare the glory of God (Psalm 19:1). Did mankind really discover through observation of the 1972 ‘Blue Marble’ photo that earth hangs “suspended amid the vast emptiness of space” when the oldest book in the Bible says: “He stretches out the north over empty space; He hangs the earth on nothing.” (Job 26:7). Doesn’t that suggest the ancients were not limited by their own knowledge in expressing God’s truth, but rather through His divine revelation to us?

    Stephen’s opening statement that the universe “formed billions of years ago”, means that Genesis 1-11 cannot be taken seriously despite his claims that it can. The second that you invoke vast ages is the moment that you must accept that the rocks are billions of years old and that the fossil evidence of death they contain is a result of the actions of the Creator Jesus, not the result of Adam’s sin. Stephen has acknowledged that he sees no problems with billions of years of animal death prior to sin.

    Theologians must realise that the Big Bang is an attempt to explain the universe without reference to God. Science finally caught up with scripture just over a century ago and realised that the universe had a beginning so they concocted the idea of the Big Bang. It has many failings as a scientific theory but for Christians we accept that Jesus Christ is creator and that “He alone spreads out the heavens” (Job 9:8). Given that we do not even understand the physics of Jesus walking on the water, why do we think we can come up with the physics of his most amazing miracle – the creation of the universe? It is a special arrogance of mankind into which Christians should not be drawn.

    So Christians take heed of Paul’s warning:

    “20 O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called:21 Which some professing have erred concerning the faith.” (1 Tim 6:20-21 KJV)

    The Big Bang is false scientific babbling which Christians should avoid, relying rather on God’s power as expressed in Psalm 33:6

    By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, their starry host by the breath of his mouth” (Ps 33:6 NIV)

    The claim that Old Testament writers were limited in their knowledge to the Middle East is also false on a number of levels. Firstly, mention of Tarshish (Europe), Cush (Africa) and the travels of Solomons fleet, abroad for 3 years, suggest much wider knowledge of the world.

    However, more importantly, the Scriptures come to us as a result of revelation.

    In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe.” (Hebrews 1:1-2 NIV)

    In Exodus 33:11 we learn: “So the Lord spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend.”  

    Do we know more than Moses? Jesus himself gives us a stark warning about this: “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me.” (John 5:46 NIV)

    The Hebrews 1:2 verse also highlights that God has spoken to us through His Son. When Jesus comments on marriage, that in the beginning God made them male and female, it actually means “in the beginning” not 13.6 billion years after it as Big Bang timeframes would currently require.

    Baptists have always been a movement who have highly prized the truth of Scripture. Spurgeon was one of few voices that opposed Darwin in his day. “If God’s Word be true, evolution is a lie. I will not mince the matter: this is not the time for soft speaking.” (Spurgeon 1886). It disappoints me to read an article in our Baptist news on such an important topic that includes no scripture references at all.

    Perhaps the thoughts of long-age astronomer John Eddy can shed light on why Christians get drawn into the idea of vast ages. He said:

    I suspect that the sun is 4.5 billion years old. However, given some new and unexpected results to the contrary, and some time for frantic recalculation and theoretical readjustment, I suspect we could live with Archbishop Ussher’s value of the earth and sun [6 thousand years]. I don’t think we have much in the way of observational evidence in astronomy to conflict with that”. (John Eddy PhD (astrogeophysics), Solar Astronomer, High altitude Observatory, Boulder Colorado. In Geotimes, vol.23 1978)

    It is important to note that Eddy states his belief in billions of years but admits that it is not because of the observational evidence. Rather, it is due to his underlying belief system upon which he then builds his picture of history. Christians are in the fortunate position where we can rely on the words of the one who was there at the creation of the universe and who told us what He did in His word.

    The James Webb telescope is an amazing example of human ingenuity and engineering that helps us explore the wonders of creation, but it most certainly does nothing to cause us to compromise our clear understanding of Biblical Creation.

    I want to sincerely thank Stephen Baxter for a frank and friendly discussion on this topic.

    Craig Hawkins
    The Point Baptist Church | Creation Research – Tasmania | Creation Discovery Centre Tasmania


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    Expanding horizons

    Deep Thought April 2023

    The God of Bethel

    Deep ThoughtA bi-monthly feature in reCharge

    The God of Bethel

    While Maddy Svoboda was away on leave over Christmas, God used the time to help him recall some moments of big impact in his life.

    In the Scriptures, there are familiar beats and rhythms that get hit on a regular basis. Examples include: “The Lord is compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”, “I will never leave you nor forsake you”, and “Do not fear”.

    Another one of the regular rhythms and sentences that comes up throughout the narrative of the Hebrew Scriptures is this refrain, “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”. It comes up in some significant places.

    Over my recent time of long service leave, I was reading through Genesis and came to another phrase in Chapter 31 that, for the first time in my life, stood out to me: “I am the God of Bethel, where you anointed a pillar and where you made a vow to me. Now leave this land at once and go back to your native land.” (Genesis 31:13 NIV)

    I was familiar with the refrain of “the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob”, but not so much “the God of Bethel”.

    What was happening here?

    Yahweh is speaking these words to Jacob, a man who had an incredible experience of him in a place he would name Bethel.

    In this place, he had a dream that there was a ladder or stairway going up to the heavens. There were angels going up and down the ladder. God reaffirms the promises made to his grandfather and father and they are made to him.

    When Jacob wakes, he cries out: “Surely the Lord was in this place, and I was not aware of it’ (Genesis 28:16 NIV). He anointed the rock he slept on as a pillar, and called the place Bethel or ‘house of God’.

    Moving right along

    Fast forward to Genesis 31, and we see God identifying himself as The God of Bethel. All of this is deeply personal to Jacob. Yahweh meets him where he is at, in order to call him to the next step of obedience.

    This is the beauty of the incarnation of Jesus: he meets us where we are at by becoming one of us and dwelling among us (see John 1:14).

    For me, he encountered me on the banks of the South Esk River in Hadspen after a horrendous 18th birthday party. Again, he encountered me at a Christian group camp shortly after where I was overwhelmed by the love of God.

    Questions for you

    As you reflect and pray, have a think about the following questions. You could even use your journal to write down your immediate responses.

    Perhaps God will meet you with the next step of obedience, as God did with Jacob.

    • How did God meet you where you were at?
    • What does this mean for your involvement in the mission of God?
    • What does this mean for those in your life, who Jesus loves and you are in relationship with?
    • How might God be wanting to meet them where they are at?
    Maddy Svoboda

    Maddy Svoboda is the pastor at Summerhill Baptist, and represents the Greater Launceston churches on the Tasmanian Baptists Mission Leadership Team.

    More Deep Thought

    Being Family Together by Christa McKirland
    The Sound of Silence by Denise Stephenson
    A Change in Thinking for Changing Times by Laurie Rowston
    Courage to Make a Difference by Mark Wilson
    Just Mercy by Michael Henderson


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    Being Family Together

    Deep Thought March 2023

    Being Family Together

    Deep ThoughtA bi-monthly feature in reCharge

    Being Family Together

    Dr Christa L. McKirland is a lecturer at Carey Baptist College, Auckland, and spoke at the recent Tasmanian Baptist Pastors’ Muster in Hobart.

    In the past few weeks, I’ve had the joy and privilege of speaking at three different conferences across this amazing country. The content of those talks was also hard-hitting and in many ways, controversial.

    Having never visited Australia before, I wasn’t sure how those talks were going to land, but as I prepare for my flight home to Aotearoa with my family, I returned encouraged.

    Faith and passion

    Speakers at the No Limits Conference

    Starting at the No Limits conference hosted by Baptist Women of the Pacific, I had a chance to hang out and learn from sisters from all over this hemisphere. Intentionally hosted in Brisbane, the only state where Baptists don’t ordain women, I was inspired by the faith and passion of women who are hungry for depth in our teaching and to live without limits, by the power of the Holy Spirit. This was a sacred space and deeply encouraged me.

    I was inspired by the faith and passion of women who are hungry for depth in our teaching

    My family and I next travelled to Melbourne, and then on to Tassie, where I had a chance to speak on women’s roles in the church, as well as ways to engage the LGBTQIA+ community with a heart toward unity within our diversity of views.

    What struck me, especially with the amount of discussion time we had at the two-day Muster in Tassie, was how important these conversations are to have—out loud, and with those who disagree with each other.

    Tas Baptists Pastors Muster Feb 2023 - Being Family Together
    Some of the attendees at the Pastors and Leaders Muster, Hobart. 20-21 Feb, 2023

    Today’s challenge

    I believe we are part of the church because of our belief in the resurrection of the God-human, Jesus Christ. But beyond that, our being in the same family is not based on our same beliefs. Instead, it is based on our sharing the same Spirit of adoption—the Spirit of adoption given to us because of the death and resurrection of our firstborn brother Jesus.

    However, resisting echo-chambers is a massive challenge in our day. It would be much easier to stick with people who agree with us. With those who hold to the same interpretations of Scripture, who vote the way we do, and who fear the same things we do. But that is not what it means to be the church.

    The church is the “gift of the given other” (to quote Tom Greggs from his Dogmatic Ecclesiology). How we treat the gift of the given other is a testament to the Gospel. And I truly felt like we experienced a taste of valuing that gift at these two conferences. The bravery of folks to show up knowing that we were not all on the same page. The willingness to sit in discomfort. The openness to hearing other views.

    The bravery of folks to show up knowing that we were not all on the same page. The willingness to sit in discomfort. The openness to hearing other views.

    Being family together

    These are some of the muscles we need to develop if we are truly going to be family together. If we are to be known by our love for other another (John 13:35), a great way to test this is loving those with whom we (even vehemently) disagree.

    By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.

    John 13:35 (NIV)

    That way of loving does not simply mean “speaking the truth” as we understand it—but forfeiting our priority of being right over being family.

    I hope these experiences can become more common across our churches not only in this hemisphere, but globally.

    Christa McKirland, originally from the US, studied her Doctorate at St Andrews University in Scotland, and has lectured at Carey College since 2020. She now calls New Zealand/Aotearoa her home, along with husband Matt and their two children.

    More Deep Thought

    The Change Makers by Melissa Lipsett, BWA
    The Sound of Silence by Denise Stephenson
    A Change in Thinking for Changing Times by Laurie Rowston
    Courage to Make a Difference by Mark Wilson
    Just Mercy by Michael Henderson


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    February/March 2023

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    Being Family Together

    Deep Thought Oct/Nov 2022

    Deep thought, Denise Stephenson Oct 2022

    The Sound of Silence

    Or perhaps, the ‘Fear of Silence’?

    Deep ThoughtA bi-monthly feature in ReCharge

    Maybe we fear silence because we think it will be empty.

    By Denise Stephenson
    jesus was in the stern sleeping on a chusion. Mk 45:38 (NIV) 
Fear of Silence, Denise Stephenson Deep Thought Oct 2022

    Each morning I listen to a short, guided meditation using the Lectio 365 app. Every day, the morning begins with these words:

    “As I enter prayer now, I pause to be still; to breathe slowly, to re-centre my scattered senses upon the presence of God.”1

    These words fall on me, inviting me to detach myself from all that has been happening, and all that will unfold during the day, inviting me to turn my attention from the storm of life and curl up beside Jesus in the stern of the boat. (Mark 4:35-41)

    I long for quiet spaces. Constant noise, whether it is chatter, traffic, background music, exhaust fans (the worst!) makes me irritated, unsettled and distracted. But quiet spaces are becoming rarer in our public and private lives. People are, it seems, uncomfortable with silence and go to great lengths to avoid it.

    Having been a Spiritual Director and Retreat Leader for over 22 years, I have seen how unsettled people become when a moment of silence begins to draw out from seconds to minutes. Many people become restless, anxious and fearful. The pressure is on to bring the silence to a close. In a group of people, someone often seems compelled to say something to end the silence.

    Why do we fear silence so much?

    Diving through the ‘surface’ of ourselves, of the noise and chatter of our lives, we find a deeper current of peace

    Maybe it is because when we quiet our mouth, our mind goes into overdrive. All the thoughts buried under busyness have space to express themselves and they hammer at the door of our mind, demanding to be heard. This feels overwhelming, but if “we allow our mind to simply listen, we perhaps begin to hear our heart speak – faintly, beneath the clatter. It says, ‘I am so weary, so lost. I have no energy to redeem myself. How I long for rest.”2

    When we dive beneath the surface of a stormy sea, we leave the turmoil on the surface. Only a few meters down, the water is perfectly calm. This image can help us as we come to prayer: diving through the ‘surface’ of ourselves, of the noise and chatter of our lives, we find a deeper current of peace.

    Quiet prayer tunes in to the deeper current of our innermost desires and fears. When we bring this deeper self to God in prayer, God speaks in ways that bring healing, hope and strength.3

    Counter-cultural?

    "Gazing in silent wonder at the expace of a glorious sunset or sinmrise we feel our smallness in the face of God's greatness." 
Fear of Silence, Denise Stephenson Deep Thought Oct 2022

    The unsettling, uncomfortable experience of silence, or quietness, that we may experience arises from our unfamiliarity with this space.

    Places that were once quiet (libraries, cinemas, churches) aren’t anymore. Quiet spaces are counter-cultural and becoming rare, and yet we need these spaces to give meaning to our lives.

    Without the silent listening after our words of prayer, we cannot hear God’s speaking to our heart:

    – A pause following a friend sharing from the heart, allows the words to be honoured. It stops us hurrying carelessly to words.

    – In the silence, after someone breathes their final breath, we hear the release from pain and the sense the soul’s ending.

    – In the quiet of waiting for another to arrive we experience our longing for connection.

    Sitting in the stillness

    Practicing stillness, quiet, and silence, grows a sacred space within

    Maybe we fear silence because we think it will be empty. But silence can be rich with meaning, and emotion. It takes conscious intention to notice the quiet pauses in daily living.

    It takes practice to sit in the stillness. You may think there is nowhere quiet in your life. You might be surprised. Moments of quiet are all around us – but we need to tune in to where these moments are. Turn off the tv, just for a moment – mute the sound during the ad breaks; take your earpods out and stare out the window; lift your eyes from the screen as you drink your coffee. Just take a quiet moment.

    Practicing stillness, quiet, and silence, grows a sacred space within that resonates with the Spirit’s presence in us.

    So, let’s pause to be still; to breathe slowly, to re-centre our scattered senses upon the presence of God.4


    Denise Stephenson

    Denise Stephenson

    Denise Stephenson is a Spiritual Director and Retreat Leader, who completed her formation training at Wellspring Centre (Melbourne) in 2000. She continues to practice as a Spiritual Director, leads prayer days, retreats and workshops, focused on introducing contemplative spirituality and practice to those who have not experienced it.
    She has attended LifeWay Baptist Church for most of her life, being part of the Leadership team for many years, working as Office Manager, and then as Pastor for Spiritual Formation 2018-2020.
    Since moving to Lymington in the Huon Valley in 2021, Denise and her husband Mark (in partnership with LifeWay Baptist Church) are exploring growing a community of faith centred round their Long Table, food, hospitality and contemplative practice.


    1. Lectio 365 app https://www.24-7prayer.com/resource/lectio-365/
    2. Henri J. M. Nouwen
    3. Margaret Silf, Taste and See: Adventuring into Prayer, Darton Longman and Todd, London, 2000pp10-11.
    4. Lectio 365 app

    More Deep Thought


    A Change in Thinking for Changing Times by Laurie Rowston
    Courage to Make a Difference by Mark Wilson
    Just Mercy by Michael Henderson
    On Becoming Wise Elders by Mike Frost


    Read ReCharge

    October/November 2022

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    FAMINE In the Horn of Africa Melissa Lipsett, CEO Baptist World Aid
    PRISON MINISTRY By Cameron Brett of Prison Fellowship Tasmania
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    October 2022 NEWS | November 2022 NEWS

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    Fear of Silence

    Deep Thought Aug/Sept 2022

    Deep Thought September 2022

    Deep ThoughtA bi-monthly feature in ReCharge

    A Change in Thinking . . .

    . . . for Changing Times

    Mission in the 21st Century is necessarily very different to the mission of yesteryear.

    By Laurie Rowston

    The preaching once heard from evangelists of the past such as Henry Varley, which was used so effectively to tell people about Jesus, has lost its persuasiveness in part because the language of religious experience is increasingly unfamiliar.

    Give the Holy Spirit Space

    If we keep using methods that worked for them to talk to non-church attenders about Jesus, we might see some fruit. But we can be quite certain we’ll lose the vast majority, and we’ll lose the vast majority under age 35.

    Further, even the great and thoughtful preaching of that era, such as sought after by Congregational Church preachers, will not fill a church, as much as we wish it would and think it should.

    What is more, it is harder today to put together a good 20-minute sermon than a prattling 40-minute conversation. On the saw-dust trail, it was a case of bringing folk to Christian faith in a limited time frame.

    Keeping the mission alive

    So, in the post-Christian, post-modern age in which we live, the method of evangelism must change in order to keep the mission alive.

    Here are a few pointers . . . and they have more to do with the subject of evangelism generally, than the week-by-week preaching in church. For these ideas I am indebted to Carey Nieuwhof, who is pastor of one of the most influential churches in North America.

    Embracing the question is as important as giving an answer

    Evangelism used to be mostly about helping people find answers but, often, in the process of providing an answer, we fail to really embrace or honour their question.

    Steering the conversation is better than pushing for a conclusion

    We should not step away from people’s questions. We need to learn to listen without judgment. We need to affirm a person’s intentions. Being open is more effective than being certain. We can be certain. Ultimately, we must be certain because our faith is certain. Our faith stands on a sure and certain ground. But, when talking to others, coming across as certain is far less effective than coming across as open.
    The person who is always certain thinks they’re being convincing, when the opposite is often true.

    We need to learn to listen without judgment.

    Arrogance, smugness and superiority are dead

    For too long putting the case for Christianity has been carried with a tone of arrogance, smugness and superiority. It was the case with Billy Sunday. There was a triumphalism in his words. This triumphalism continued in “Moral Majority”, and today continues in the preaching of imaginative TV preachers. 
    Arrogance is so ingrained in many Christian cultures that Christians don’t even see it or hear it anymore. Humility is attractive. Humility is what makes Jesus so much more attractive to people. Spreading the kingdom does not mean hell-fire evangelism; it means living a Christ-like life.

    Humility is what makes Jesus so much more attractive to people.

    The timeline is longer

    Give the Holy Spirit Space - the people who come to faith in their own timeline tend to be flourishing years down the road.

    We like to conclude everything in about 35 seconds; revivalists did, within the hour. Increasingly, evangelism doesn’t work that way. People who come to faith when pressured often leave it after a few years.

    Conversely, the people who come to faith in their own timeline tend to be flourishing years down the road. It took the disciples three years to figure out who Jesus was, didn’t it? We need people and leaders who will take the time to go on a journey with people.
    But for the revivalists such as Billy Sunday, it all had to be done in the time frame of the particular revivalist meeting. People were there to hear the message, respond to the message, acknowledge their sin, repent and commit.

    We need people and leaders who will take the time to go on a journey with people.

    It is true we are not to lose our sense of urgency in the mission, as we should not raise doubts where there are none. But we need to give people space, and we need to give the Holy Spirit space to do His work.


    Laurie Rowston

    Laurie Rowston is Tasmanian Baptists’ historian. His latest book, Tasmanian Baptists, Lessons from Our First Twenty Years, will soon be available.

    To find out more about the book, or to place an order, please get in touch with him: lrowston@tassie.net.au

    Give the Holy Spirit Space


    More Deep Thought


    Courage to Make a Difference by Mark Wilson
    Just Mercy by Michael Henderson
    On Becoming Wise Elders by Mike Frost


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    August/September 2022

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    Courage to make a difference

    Deep Thought July 2022

    Courage to reengage reimagine and realign

    Deep ThoughtA bi-monthly feature in ReCharge

    Courage to Make a Difference

    During 2022 Tasmanian Baptists are engaging with the concept of (EN)COURAGE,
    as we REENGAGE, REIMAINGE and REALIGN with the Gospel in our own communities.

    In this Deep Thought reflection, Mark Wilson has some thoughts to inspire you to take hold of that courage.


    As Christians, we are called to be different. Not only in who we are, but in the difference we make. It’s a daunting challenge!

    Ephesians 5:8-9 “For once you (followers of Christ) were full of darkness, but now you have light from the Lord. So live as people of light! For this light within you produces only what is good and right and true”

    Be the Change

    As followers of Christ, we are different by nature to make a different impact.

    The Kingdom of God requires us to be different: Courage to make a difference

    When we embrace the same values, lifestyles, practices, and priorities as the world around us, we have nothing to say of any consequence to that world. We may see the brokenness, the pain, the anxiety, and the shame, but when we are both in the world and like the world, we can offer very little to bring change.

    The Gospel fundamentally calls us to be the change. Grace beckons us to be conduits of transformation. The Kingdom of God requires us to be different. It’s a requirement that is not for the faint-hearted.

    Our spouse needs us to be different. Our children need it. And our workplaces need it too. By God’s grace, change comes first to us … and then through us.

    So, different how?  In what we watch, how we parent, in our language, in our priorities, in how we treat others, how we lead. Different in love, in hope and in compassion. In forgiveness, in peace-making, in spending, in web-surfing and in just about every way we can imagine.

    Learning from the Martyrs

    Richard Rohr, in his book Everything Belongs, writes:

    Richard Rohr Everything Belongs

    “Underneath the language of orthodoxy and obedience (is) fear of a God who has not been experienced. Teaching and community without the necessary experience of the Holy One, often creates dry, ineffectual, and disappointing Christianity.”

    Pre-Constantine, with Emperors like Nero (54-68 AD), Decius (249-251 AD), and Diocletian (284-305 AD) countless followers of Jesus were martyred for their faith, often in brutal and unspeakable ways. Perpetrators and executioners conceived shocking acts of violence, as Christian women and men bravely stood firm for Christ.

    In the fourth and fifth Centuries, various church leaders and theologians reflected on the blood-soaked era of the martyrs. What did they learn? How might those deaths inspire us to live differently; to live better?

    They generally concluded that those faithful martyrs could teach us at least three things.

    • Firstly, endurance built their faith and character.
    • Secondly, the faith of the martyrs ensured their eternal salvation.
    • But thirdly, and very importantly, the church fathers wrote about the martyrs receiving the gift of parresia, a Greek word meaning boldness or courage.

    This courage was not the product of parental training. Nor did it come from natural grit and determination. Rather, parresia was a gift (a grace) from God; special courage that was needed for the moment to remain faithful, and to fulfill the will and plan of God.

    The martyrs – thousands of Christian sisters and brothers whose names I do not know, but who are deeply known by the Father – encourage me to think that their extraordinary boldness and courage came as a gift from God, just in time. It was courage to make a difference in the world around them.

    Giving God Glory

    Whatever challenges you are facing, pray that Christ would grant you this same grace, this same courage. Not that you might emerge as a powerful person, but that God might receive glory and honour through you.

    Few of us are called to martyrdom, but many of us will be called to stand boldly for the King and His Kingdom, in our marriages, workplaces, schools and communities.

    In this, we will be truly different!


    Rev. Mark Wilson is the National Ministries Director for Australian Baptist Ministries.

    mark.wilson@baptist.org.au


    More Deep Thought

    Just Mercy by Michael Henderson
    On Becoming Wise Elders by Mike Frost


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    Courage to make a difference