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

Disaster Strikes Floods in Pakistan – Baptist World Aid
Around the Churches News and events statewide
Ministry Profile Ben Cochrane, Somerset
Deep Thought 21st Century Mission by Laurie Rowston
From Andrew Turner of Crossover Census Overview
Stand Sunday 2022 Make a stand for foster carers ~ During September
Church Profile Claremont Baptist
From the MLT Achieving Lasting Social Change
Love Beyond our Backyard Three generations of generosity in Wynyard


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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

On Becoming Wise Elders

Annual Assembly attendees Oct 2021

deep thought

Getting Old doesn’t Automatically Make You Wise

Searching for Wisdom

Michael Frost wonders where the wise ones are.

Women at Annual Assembly Oct 2021. Becoming wise elders
TB Annual Assembly 2021

Have you ever wondered why, if our churches are so full of old people, we often have so much difficulty finding the wisdom of elders? You would think all that life experience and Christian living would make us smarter, deeper, wiser.

Especially wiser.

If that were true, the world would be awash with wise elders. We’re living longer than ever. Our retirement villages and nursing homes are full. The aged are all around us.

I’ve concluded that becoming an elder in our society doesn’t happen automatically.

But younger people regularly tell me they can’t find elders they look up to, women and men who can pass on their wisdom and insight. Many older Christians come off as narrowminded, fearful, and suspicious of change.

I’ve concluded that becoming an elder in our society doesn’t happen automatically. It takes intention and focus to become one.

Growing in wisdom

Becoming wise elders
TB Annual Assembly 2021

Sure, the Bible teaches us that, “Wisdom belongs to the aged, and understanding to the old” (Job 12:12). But such wisdom and understanding aren’t automatically conferred by drifting into some easy agedness.

It takes a plan.

As comedian Matt Black once quipped, “We always romanticise that our elders are wise because of their years of experience, but you know what? Stupid people get old too.”

We need older women and men to be humble enough to remain open to God’s ongoing work in our lives – to embrace courage, serenity, peace, gentleness, and to see the work of our late years to be a blessing to others in their contribution to God’s kingdom.

As we age, we do well to see that growth can still occur, but the growing we undertake in our later years is the humble, expansive work of mentoring, coaching, championing, and celebrating others.

Moving into the future

True elderhood is concerned with being poised and willing to be better stewards of what God has taught us and to provide emerging generations with wisdom and models for how to traverse the challenges that confront them.

As the planet bakes, and nations clash, and public discourse breaks down, younger generations rightly swing between anger and confusion over being left with a world that is so deeply scarred and broken.

Where will they find the wisdom to traverse the future?

Intentionally becoming wise elders

One of the elders I’ve looked to for inspiration is Ann Morisy, a British community theologian and lecturer. In her brilliant book, Bothered and Bewildered, Enacting Hope in Troubled Times (March 2010), she says there are nine aptitudes that wise people need to develop:

  1. NON-ANXIOUS: To be a non-anxious presence in stressful times.
  2. SYSTEMIC THINKING: To practice systemic thinking in order to resist the temptation to blame others when things go wrong.
  3. GRATITUDE: To practice gratitude — even in difficult circumstances.
  4. COURAGEOUS: To engage in courageous micro-actions that counter the inclination towards neo-tribalism and fragmentation rather than social cohesion (e.g., the conversation that Jesus has with the Samaritan woman at the well).
  5. IMAGINATION: To imagine ways of breaking out of the constraints of circumstances and have the motivation and discipline to persist with intentional behaviour.
  6. CONFIDENCE: To gain confidence in the viability of the economy of abundance and generosity that Jesus inducts us into, rather than being beholden to the economy of scarcity.
  7. GOING LIGHTLY: To practice sitting more lightly on the planet in recognition of our thoughtless abuse of the creation.
  8. FRIENDLY: To practice compassion and conviviality.  
  9. AFFIRMING: To draw on the enriching memories of eras past in order to affirm the human capacity to repent and correct our errors.

That’s a pretty decent set of objectives for elders to embrace. And it jives with New Testament teaching on wisdom: “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere” (Jas 3:17).

It’s a skill!

Wise elders must commit themselves to the task. We need a plan for developing elders to embrace the things Ann Morisy lists. We need the wisdom that comes from heaven. And we need training programs in elderhood.

As Stephen Jenkinson writes, “Getting older is inevitable, becoming an elder is a skill.”


Michael Frost is the founding director of the Tinsley Institute, a mission study centre located at Morling College in Sydney. He is an internationally recognised missiologist and one of the leading voices in the missional church movement.

He is the author or editor of 19 theological books, the best known of which are the popular and award-winning, The Shaping of Things to Come (2003), Exiles (2006), The Road to Missional (2011) and Surprise the World! (2016). His latest book is ReJesus: Remaking the Church in Our Founder’s Image (2022).

Deep Thought March 2022


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April/May 2022 ReCharge

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Around the Churches
Pastoral Profile: Dan Evenhuis
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Deep Thought: Mike Frost – Becoming wise
Being Strong and Courageous
Wynyard Baptist Food Drive
Church Profile: Citywide

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Becoming wise elders

Deep Thought, March 2022

Just mercy header image

DEEP THOUGHT: A new bi-monthly feature in ReCharge

Just Mercy

Embrace your brokenness as you live in close proximity to others

By Michael Henderson

JUST MERCY

Bryan Stevenson: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Bryan Stevenson

Over the summer I read Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, an American lawyer who works with people on death row. It is a beautiful and brutal read, full of heart-breaking stories of injustice and prejudice right beside stories of grace and mercy and redemption. The book is powerful, but the podcast interview with Stevenson on the “On Being Podcast” is more accessible (and free).  

HUMAN-FOCUSED

Something Stevenson repeats is being a human-focused leader. This thread is also a priority for Tasmanian Baptists this year, including at our March Muster.

Being a human-focused leader feels obvious. A leader helps humans. It feels so obvious that we shouldn’t need to think about it. Stevenson, as a lawyer and his work within the justice system, seems geared toward humans. Yet what he found was a justice system that was often set up to deny people their humanity, that lacked compassion and mercy, and ultimately justice. 

Are we becoming more like Jesus, full of hope and grace and redemption for all?

Churches, in practice, can end up in a similar position. Our theory is we are human-focused and God-focused. Love God and love your neighbour as yourself. However, what we can end up with are events and programs and Sunday services and an organisation that has lost sight of humans.

Yes, humans are present, just like they are in the justice system, but are they helping humans? Are we becoming more like Jesus, full of hope and grace and redemption for all? Are we carrying that out into our towns and cities? The way many in our culture view the church suggests the answer is no. 

WE CAN CHOOSE

Just Mercy: Embrace our broken natures and live in close proximity to people.

Stevenson’s solution: Embrace our broken natures and live in close proximity to people. He believes we have a choice. We can deny our brokenness, deny our humanity, which results in a lack of compassion and mercy. Or, we can embrace our brokenness, our humanness, our shared vulnerability and imperfection, and let it fuel our capacity for compassion and mercy, and how much we rely on Jesus for everything. 

And, when we live in close proximity to people, we see people, and it fuels our ability to be human focused leaders. At a distance from people we can lose sight of compassion and mercy and love, and focus more on just getting things done. Because, with a busy life, it is actually very easy as a leader to forget about humans. But the call of Jesus is to live in close proximity to the people in your church, AND in close proximity to those in our community who are currently far from Jesus. 

OBVIOUS AND EASY?

Embrace our brokenness, and live in close proximity to others.

It seems obvious and easy. Yet, that is not Stevenson’s story. Nor is it ours. But, with purpose and being intentional, and allowing Jesus to empower us into it, it can be done, and done so that humans actually benefit. 

Michael Henderson

Michael Henderson, michael@tasbaptists.org.au
Mission and Leadership Development
Tasmanian Baptists

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Just mercy

Just Mercy is available at Koorong for $32.99 (plus postage). JUST MERCY is the #1 New York Times bestseller and now a major motion picture, starring Michael B. Jordan and Jamie Foxx. A powerful true story about the potential for mercy to redeem us, and a clarion call to fix a broken system of justice; from one of the most brilliant and influential lawyers of our time.


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