God and Life in Tasmania

Fresh wind blow, Tas Baptists, Stephen Baxter writes

Changing Landscape

Noticing the Deep Questions

Tas Baptist’s Mission Director, Stephen Baxter, has had some time out to ponder and reflect from a distance. It’s amazing what a trip beyond Tasmania’s shores can do to shift your perspective!

We are well and truly into 2023. Kids are back at school, church programs get underway, and life returns to its familiar rhythm. Jenny and I have just returned from a time in Spain to be with our daughter, Alice, and son-in-law, AJ, on the birth of their daughter, Koa.

Alice, AJ and Koa, Christmas Day 2022
Alice, AJ and Koa, Christmas 2022

Spain, like Australia, is very secular. This got me wondering what God thinks about all these people going about their lives, without giving much thought to the deep and essential questions of life. The question was heightened by the fact that Alice and AJ are in Spain working with others in bring the good news of Jesus to Spaniards.

My thinking has remained with me as I return to Tasmania.

THE CHURCH: From Spain, to Tasmania, to Marrawah!

Last Sunday I was with the Marrawah church as they celebrated their final church service. It was a day of celebration and sadness. As I looked at the pictures of the past, spoke with people, and heard their shared memories, it was clear that over the years God has been at work in special ways.

But times change, and the church as it was, is no longer viable. Marrawah is a little picture of the church in Australia and Spain. It is no longer the centre of our communities like it was. However, that does not mean it is the end of the church. Rather, it is the end of a certain form of church that worked well for a season, and needs to adjust for a changing world.

Because the world keeps changing, the church needs to be constantly renewing itself

Stephen Baxter

God has given everything needed through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. But because the world keeps changing, the church needs to be constantly renewing itself. As Germain theologian Helmut Thielicke put it,

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.

Fresh wind, B L O W

On the day of Pentecost God did a new thing and the church was born. Whenever we celebrate that day, it is a reminder of the need for constant renewal. A quick survey of church history reveals just that. The Holy Spirit is at work renewing the church from age to age, enabling and equipping it to be the church of its particular age. May it be so here in Tasmania.

Returning home, this is my prayer for Tasmanian Baptists, and I encourage it to be yours too: that God would blow a fresh movement of the Holy Spirit through us, that we might be vibrant churches with a revitalised theology finely attuned by the Holy Spirit to the changing needs of a changing world.

Let me encourage you to join me in praying this prayer.

Stephen Baxter
Mission Director
Tasmanian Baptists

FIND OUT MORE about the Mission and Leadership Development Team and how they can support you and your Tasmanian Baptist church.


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February 2023

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God and Life in Tasmania

How Did We Do in 2022?

How did we do in 2022?

Leadership and Growth

Wins for Tasmanian Baptists

During 2022, the Mission and Leadership Development Team were very busy, supporting Tasmanian Baptist churches.

So … how are Tas Baptists going? Read on to find out.

Click for a MaLD Reflection
    Mission Director

    STEPHEN BAXTER

    On the Front Foot

    As I look forward to 2023 it is with great hope and with a deep sense that significant challenging times lie ahead of us. These challenges are reflected in the significant change to the religious landscape of Tasmania over the past 20 years.

    • The latest Census figures show how those nominating as “Christian” has dropped from 69.9% in 2001 to 38.4% in 2021; and over the same period, those nominating as “no religion/secular belief” has risen from 17.2% to 49.9%.
    • In the five years between the 2016 and the 2021 Census, those of “no religion/secular belief” overtook “Christian” as the largest religious grouping.

    This is such a dramatic change, I’m sure I cannot fully appreciate what it means for our mission and ministry. Nevertheless, I’m convinced God has been preparing us for this moment.

    God has been preparing us for this moment. Stephen Baxter
How did We Do in 2022?
    How Tasmanian Baptists are responding

    These changes have not caught us by surprise. More than a decade ago we deliberately embarked on transitioning to become a mission-shaped movement. More recently, our focus has been on building a team of new generation pastoral leaders. Although there is still more to do, we are making significant gains.

    So, where to from here?

    The Tas Baptist Council is currently in the middle of a review. They want to listen to our churches in this moment, and hear from God, to clarify our next steps. It is hoped a report will be ready to present to next year’s Mid-year Assembly in May.

    My encouragement to us all is the words God spoke to Joshua, “be bold and courageous”.

    Given the changing nature of society, complete with some significant economic challenges thrown in, I suspect the years ahead will be quite demanding and tough. Yet, God is with us, and this turns any threat into an opportunity. We are not caught on the backfoot, but are instead progressing with confidence.

    So let us move ahead full of faith, hope and love.

    Stephen Baxter

    Stephen Baxter
    stephen@tasbaptists.org.au


    Mission And Leadership Development

    MICHAEL HENDERSON

    Focus on Joy

    Every year feels big (and small) when thinking about church, community, and leadership.

    It’s like thinking about family. There is no winner. Just the time-period of a year spent sustaining a community, growing leaders, deepening relationships, and dealing with setbacks.

    I find it simultaneously rewarding, and challenging. As well, it is easy to let the setbacks dominate any discussion, because they are the easiest to remember. 

    Which is why at the end of every year I focus on what brought me joy. 

    Tas Baptist Pastors and LEADERS’ Musters

    Courage | Presence | Proximity

    I loved our March get together in Hobart, and our discussions on Courage. They set me up for the year in so many ways. I particularly loved our end reflections, and conversations I had with many, as we mutually encouraged one and other.  

    As the year has gone on, our conversations around Presence (Burnie) and Proximity (Launceston) have felt large. It feels like it is a constant conversation at the moment, where we are calling each other into presence and authenticity.

    We are calling each other into presence and authenticity. Michael Henderson
How did We Do in 2022?

    It brings me joy to spend time with you.

    How we have carried courage, been present, and responded to our calling is something that gives me great hope as we head into 2023.

    Blessings and Grace and Peace to you this Christmas.

    Michael Henderson

    Michael Henderson
    michael@tasbaptists.org.au


    Mission And Leadership Coach

    JENNA BLACKWELL

    God’s Invitation to You

    As I reflect on 2022 …

    There is a deep, quiet, and joyous sense of gratitude in my spirit about our Tasmanian Baptist community and what God is doing among us.

    This year I have had the privilege of noticing an increased sense of team among our pastors, and walking alongside people as they courageously choose to follow God and his ways. I have seen an increase in bravery and vulnerability, understanding of self and of God, and a willingness to listen to and follow the promptings of Holy Spirit.

    There is a stirring that God is doing something fresh, and we get to participate and co-create. No doubt there will be more challenges ahead, but what a privilege this is!

    God is doing something fresh. Jenna Blackwell.
How did We Do in 2022?
    As we turn to 2023 …

    I sense an invitation for us to know God better through the presence of Holy Spirit.

    There is an invitation to find guidance for better ways of engaging. To find guidance to better engage with our communities and those around us with hospitable love and transformational grace.

    I sense courage (bravery + vulnerability) and deep friendships will be integral to leaning into the kingdom of God, with patience and perseverance. I also sense an invitation to lovingly and prophetically speak into younger generations. To pull down the barriers in ourselves and our faith communities as we learn to know God and each other afresh.

    Questions for you to ponder …
    • What is God’s invitation to you for 2023?
    • What does it look like for you to carve out time to dwell in God’s presence?
    • Who are the safe people that you can increase vulnerability with?
    • How can you build relationships with people of different generations?
    Jenna Blackwell

    Jenna Blackwell
    jenna@tasbaptists.org.au


    FIND OUT MORE about the Mission and Leadership Development Team and how they can support you and your Tasmanian Baptist church.


    Read ReCharge

    November/December 2022

    Christmas Events Tasmanian Baptist churches celebrate! (from 14th December)
    Deep Thought Dec 2022 The Change Makers by Melissa Lipsett BWA
    CROSSOVER Christmas Resources Helping Baptists share Jesus at Christmas
    AROUND THE CHURCHES November 2022 Find out what’s been going on!
    ANNUAL ASSEMBLY Anthea Maynard reports
    FAMINE In the Horn of Africa Be Informed by Baptist World Aid

    NEWS: November 2022 | December 2022

    Printable (PDF) Issues of ReCharge

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    How did We Do in 2022?

    How did We Do in 2022?

    Being an Imperfect Missionary

    People

    Heartlands Spring 2021

    Heartlands News

    Being an Imperfect Ministry by Jenna Blackwell (scroll down)
    Walk | Pray | Love Events during November 2021
    Baptist World Day of Prayer for Women by Elissa Macpherson

    food for thought:

    Mission in Tasmania

    Jenna Blackwell ponders her frustration about mission in Tasmania

    A friend once asked me when I first heard about mission or “felt the call”. I fumbled for words, speechless. No recollection, just compounding moments and realisations through teachings, coaching and mentoring.

    It made me wonder: Am I a missionary?

    I looked out the window at the blistering wind and thought of the people in my city, Jenna Blackwell, Food for Thought

    Recently, I was sitting in my lounge room on a rainy morning, heater on, cup of tea in hand. I looked out at the blistering wind and thought of the people in my city – those without homes, without food, without heating, without safety, without peace.

    Without.

    I sat there in my frustration, guilt, and sadness.

    Is it as easy as just going out into the streets and filling my lounge with people for a night, so they can get out of the ice and wind? What about the next night? What about the people fleeing domestic violence? What about those who are grieving loss?

    There is so much hurt! How can I call myself a follower, while I sit in my comfort? Please, tell me you’ve wrestled with this.

    Called to GO

    As I reflected, I was reminded of my friend’s question about mission. We often think mission is about being overseas, or just for ‘really special’ people. But aren’t we all missionaries?

    We are called to go – to the hurt, to the broken, to the lonely, to the messy. Jenny Blackwell, Food for Thought

    My workplaces are mission fields – full of opportunities to show the character of God, and to connect people to the Kingdom. But I so often fail my own expectations. There is still something in me that desires perfection.

    While there is a balance needed, and while I cannot do everything, I also cannot excuse my own laziness and selfishness.

    We are called to go – to the hurt, to the broken, to the lonely, to the messy. While I know this to be true, it is uncomfortable. So many of our churches are full of middle-class people. Have you wondered why? Have you considered how to change this? Do you even want to?

    Recently, Denise Stephenson challenged us to consider “unfiltered” selves, and an unfiltered church. Maybe there’s a connection between this, and our comfortable churches. I like comfort. I like safety.

    But God does not call us to be comfortable. He calls us to follow the feet of Jesus, who did life with those who are messy, who others thought were unworthy, and no one wanted to be around.

    The hard work of WRESTLING

    I am an imperfect missionary.

    As I’ve sat in my lounge over the last few weeks, soaking in Luke 10 and contemplating all of this complexity, I have wrestled – with myself and with God.

    After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go. Luke 10:2 (NIV)

    It’s been uncomfortable. But I have resolved to not be unattached and ignorant of those most vulnerable in this city. I may not have the right words or actions to understand this fully yet, and it is terrifying! But there is nothing about me that makes this easy or special. Just a hesitant willingness to follow God into the difficult, heartbreaking and vulnerable places.

    I don’t know what it is to live and relate without privilege, and I don’t have all the words, or a 12-step plan. But I know following God must mean changes.

    My next step is to learn to be in the places my privilege resists, and do it out of an overflow of God’s presence. To be an imperfect missionary.

    God’s presence is key

    After spending time in Luke 10, it suddenly hit me one day that immediately following Jesus sending the 72 out with power and authority, he told a story about a foreigner/outsider being the one to sacrifice and help someone in humiliating need. (Luke 10:25-37) In so doing, he challenged the one who thought he was right to take that same position of vulnerability and humility.

    Doing is not the goal. Rather, it is about doing as an overflow of being. Jenna Blackwell, Food for Thought

    Jesus then challenged the balance of being and doing. He reinforced that being at his feet was most important. To take the position of a humble learner who spends time and their teachers’ feet is to know the teacher and the ways of the teacher, so much so that everything one does is an overflow.

    If life consisted of only being at Jesus’ feet, I think I would be at peace with that. It is my natural reflective state, and I could spend days in God’s presence. The challenge for me is to act, to do. But as I have been challenged to do, God has reminded me that doing is not the goal. Rather, it is about doing as an overflow of being – spending time at the feet of Jesus, in God’s presence, so that my life and actions may be an overflow, an extension, of the One that I live for.

    Your call

    I am an imperfect missionary, drawn to safety and familiarity. I am someone who, without compounding understanding, would not have called themself a missionary. But we are not on this Earth for ourselves.

    We are called to be an extension of the Kingdom of God here on Earth – to spend time at the feet of Jesus so we may be filled to overflowing and transformed by his grace, ready to go about our daily lives, extending transformation to those around us – in our workplaces, in our homes, in our streets, in our cities and towns.

    How is God calling you to be an imperfect missionary?

    • How is your balance of being and doing?
    • What does being look/sound/feel/taste like?
    • What does doing look/sound/feel/taste like?
    • What’s your next step?
    • Who are you doing the journey with?
    READ Jenna’s POEM, INSPIRED BY THIS ARTICLE
    Jenna Blackwell

    Jenna Blackwell is the Tasmanian Baptist Mission and Leadership Coach
    jenna@tasbaptists.org.au


    Read more in the July/August 2021 ADVANCE | step by step