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.


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    November/December 2022

    Christmas Events Tasmanian Baptist churches celebrate! (from 14th December)
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    AROUND THE CHURCHES November 2022 Find out what’s been going on!
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    How did We Do in 2022?

    How did We Do in 2022?

    Does God Really Care?

    Does God really Care? The earth

    From the Mission Director

    Does God Really Care?

    Our emphasis on ‘heaven’ has neglected earth, and turned it into an incidental waiting room for the afterlife.  (Does God Really Care?)

    That’s an important question I was asked recently. It was asked not out of personal concern, but about the future of planet earth. They had attended church for a time, and had heard “the Good News”. But from their perspective it didn’t sound like good news at all because it seemed to have little to say about environment, and survival of humans.  

    There are many in our community who feel the same. The way we tell the story of Jesus just seems irrelevant to their key worries.

    Sometimes our telling of “the Good News” is heard as “believe in Jesus and get a free ticket out of earth to heaven”. When it is heard that way, God sounds disconnected, detached and quite disinterested in what happens in our lives, here on earth today.

    Our emphasis on ‘heaven’ has neglected earth, and turned it into something like an incidental waiting room for the afterlife.

    Setting to Rights

    This is far from what Jesus taught. In his book Simply Christian, N. T. Wright states, “Despite what many people think … the point of Christianity is not ‘to go to heaven when you die’ [rather it is] to put the whole creation to rights”[1]. Paul says the same things when he writes, God’s purpose is “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.[2]

    However, this is far from what Jesus taught. In his book Simply Christian, N. T. Wright states, “Despite what many people think … the point of Christianity is not ‘to go to heaven when you die’ [rather it is] to put the whole creation to rights 
(Does God Really Care?)

    God’s purpose is “to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ.

    Ephesians 2:10 (NIV)

    Paul’s focus is not on getting from earth to heaven. In fact, it is the other way round — it is about getting heaven down to us.

    If we think of all the things that go wrong in the world, it’s easy to picture a huge gap between heaven and earth. But that’s not how the Bible describes it. Heaven is not a long way away; it is very close.

    In fact, Jesus was always on about seeing what God was up to in the world. He often declared the “kingdom of heaven has come near”.[3] But despite all his miracles and healings, people struggled to see it.

    An inquisitive religious teacher Nicodemus came to see Jesus. Although impressed by what he saw in Jesus, he wanted to know more. Jesus said to him that, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again.”[4] To observe and understand what Jesus was on about, to see God’s kingdom at work, Nicodemus needed a new set of eyes.

    “To observe and understand what Jesus was on about, to see God’s kingdom at work, Nicodemus needed a new set of eyes.

    Change Your Mind!

    Think Beyond: (Does God Really Care?)

    And it wasn’t just Nicodemus. We all need a new set of eyes.

    Jesus announced, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Mt 3:3, 4:17). The English ‘repent’ isn’t a great translation of the original Greek, metanoia. But at least it’s better than the Latin translation (Vulgate) which reads, “Do penance! For the Kingdom of heaven is at hand!”

    Martin Luther was sure penance was not what Jesus meant, and translated metanoia as ‘change your mind,’ which is better than our ‘repentance’.

    Metanoia comes from two Greek words, metá meaning “beyond” or “after”, and noeō meaning “perception”, “understanding” or “mind”. So, an even better translation is perhaps “think beyond”. This means Jesus was saying, “prepare yourself for what is about to come—open your mind, your heart, your eyes.”

    Future Potential

    Jesus’ emphasis was not on the failings of the past, but upon the potential of the future

    The Good News is not that Jesus has come to whisk us away to heaven. Rather he came to reunite heaven and earth. His purpose was for heaven and earth to interlock and overlap. To be woven together in a vibrant tapestry which Paul calls “the new creation”[5].

    Jesus didn’t come to make us sorry for our sin, although that is a helpful part of the process. Instead, he wanted us to be excited by a fresh start. His emphasis was not on the failings of the past, but upon the potential of the future.

    God deeply cares about the future of our world, and that is exactly why Jesus came. He calls us to a new life focussed on love for each other in the power of the Spirit. If we all lived that way, then the future of the earth would be ensured. Surely, this is Good News, and surely this is what our world needs to hear.

    Stephen Baxter

    Stephen Baxter
    Mission Director
    Tasmanian Baptists
    stephen@tasbaptists.org.au


    [1] (p. 217).
    [2] Ephesians 2:10
    [3] For example, Matthew 3:3, 4:17, 10:7
    [4] John 3:3
    [5] 2 Corinthians 5:17


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    October/November 2022

    October/November 2022

    CHRISTMAS IDEAS For Baptists from Crossover
    AROUND THE CHURCHES October/November 2022
    ANNUAL ASSEMBLY Report by Anthea Maynard
    FAMINE In the Horn of Africa Melissa Lipsett, CEO Baptist World Aid
    PRISON MINISTRY By Cameron Brett of Prison Fellowship Tasmania
    DEEP THOUGHT The Sound of Silence By Denise Stephenson
    SCHOOLS MINISTRY: Mustard Lives Transformed by Jesus
    CHURCH PROFILE: Newstead Baptist
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    Does God Really Care?

    Take Courage in Dark Times

    Take courage in the dark times

    New Perspective in the Dark

    Stephen Baxter suggests we can take courage, even when things feel really dark.

    On one occasion when the Jewish religious leaders again questioned Jesus why he healed on the Sabbath, he replied, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working … the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (John 5:17, 19 NIV)

    These words are the inspiration for my prayer for many years, “Father, help me to see what you are doing so I may be like Jesus, and do nothing by myself, but mimic your work in the world.”

    However, I’ve discovered that sometimes it’s difficult to see what God is doing.

    Let me explain . . .

    The stars shone like diamonds, Take Courage

    It was a dark moonless night in early Spring. I was about 12 years old, and we were holidaying at my grandfather’s farm. A highlight of any stay was staying up late to go spotlighting. On this particular night, just after turning into our first paddock, we got bogged. The ute was up to its axles in mud, and it was going nowhere.

    After my uncle set off to fetch a tractor from the farmhouse a few kilometres away, my brother, father, grandfather and I sat in the back of the ute. While we were waiting, we gazed in awe at the night the sky.

    There are some things about God, and the beauty of creation, which can only be seen and appreciated in the dark.

    It was in the outback, a long way from anywhere with no moon and no lights. The stars shone like diamonds. It was a magical moment as we followed satellites and shooting stars and talked of planets, suns, galaxies and God. The display of beauty and power filled my heart with wonder and awe.

    An unexpected realisation

    Recently, I’ve reflected on how that moment illustrates a profound insight. There are some things about God, and the beauty of creation, which can only be appreciated in the dark.

    This realisation is somewhat counter-intuitive, because we normally associate God with light, and for good reason. The Bible is full of metaphors about God being light, and the opposite of darkness. However, it also speaks of God creating darkness, and darkness being as light to God (Ps 139:12).

    The Bible is also full of people who encountered God in the darkness, not just physical darkness, but the dark times of life. I’m thinking of Job, Jacob, Esther, Jonah, the sisters of Lazarus, the apostle Paul, and Jesus himself.

    Suffering and loss, grief and betrayal are the fertile soil where deep lessons to do with wisdom and compassion germinate and grow.  

    Some things, it seems, can only be learned through dark times. Suffering and loss, grief and betrayal are the fertile soil where deep lessons to do with wisdom and compassion germinate and grow.  

    There are many who suggest we live in dark times. A global pandemic, wars in Europe, Asia and Africa, concerns around the changing climate and culture wars across the West are just a few examples. It is a challenging moment for the Church too, particularly in the West. Our churches on the whole, are shrinking, there is much antagonism towards us, and many are working to suppress our voice and action.

    Our response: to take courage

    It is right to lament and work for solutions to the challenges we face, but there is more to this moment than that. Although our natural reaction is a “fight or flight” response, there is another way – we can take courage.

    In this dark moment we can trust in God’s goodness. We can be assured of God’s love, presence and good purposes. And we can be alert to all God has to show us: things new and profound, things we have never seen before, things we could never see in the light.

    So my encouragement is for us to pray, and keep on praying, “Father, help us to see what you are doing that we may be like Jesus and do nothing by ourselves, but mimic your work in our world, to the glory of your name.”

    Stephen Baxter
    Stephen Baxter

    Stephen Baxter is Tasmanian Baptist’s Mission Director


    Deep Thought: Courage to Make a Difference by Mark Wilson, ABM
    Ministry Profile: Matt Holloway, Westbury
    TB Growth: Hobart Vision Church
    Fostering: Your Church Can
    Our Youth: Hobart Baptist
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    Tas Baptist NEWS: June 2022, July 2022

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    Tasmanian Baptists’ Theme for 2022

    (en)COURAGE

    It takes courage to take hold of Reengaging, Reimagining and Realigning

    By Mission Director, Stephen Baxter

    2022 is upon us, but it in Tasmania, it hasn’t been the easiest of beginnings.

    Jenny and I were blessed to attend our daughter’s wedding in Spain in late December. While we were away, Tasmania’s borders opened for the first time in 18 months, paving the way for the COVID virus to re-enter our state.

    (en)Courage
Wedding photo
    AJ and, our daughter, Alice, with their parents. It was an Australian-Nigerian event!

    By the time we returned home in the first week of January, so much had changed. Mandatory mask-wearing had become the norm, and a careful hesitancy by people meant our streets and shops felt somewhat empty.

    Tasmanian churches changed over that time too. Facemasks are now mandatory for church services, although it has been the norm for many around the world for quite a while. Not surprisingly, attendance numbers are down as many, for various rational reasons, have chosen to stay home preferring online services instead.

    God’s promise to us

    It is no understatement to say we live in trying times — for both our communities and our churches. Yet, it is in such a time like this, that God promises not to leave us but to be with us. In 2 Corinthians 1:3-4, Paul says God is the “Father of compassion and the God of all comfort who comforts us in all our troubles”. We are all thankful for that.

    May God comfort you amid all the disruption and uncertainty you are experiencing at the moment.

    This is a prayer we can pray for ourselves and each other. It is certainly my prayer for you. May God comfort you amid all the disruption and uncertainty you are experiencing at the moment.

    I also pray God will use this time to continue the transformation process for all of our churches. The Bible is full of times when God has used difficulties, struggle, and even suffering, to renew the people of God.

    Whether it was the wilderness experience of the Israelites fleeing Egypt for the Promised Land, or their exile experience in Babylon, or the persecution of the church in the early days by the Roman Empire, God is always at work in times such as these. Indeed, for Jews and Christians at all times, God never wastes hard times. Comfort and renewal are at work side-by-side. I trust that is true for us too.

    Reengage | Reimagine | Realign
(en)Courage

    Three critical words

    In 2021 at our May Assembly, we endorsed our new strategic plan which included three key strategies: to Reengage, Reimagine and Realign.

    These words are designed to help us understand and commit to what we sense God is doing among us –

    • To reengage with the mission of God in our communities,
    • To reimagine what church might look like as we take seriously that we are to be salt and light in our communities, and
    • To realign the resources of our churches and union to enable us to be the church God calls us to be.

    It seems to me that God is using this “COVID-moment” to help move us along the transformation path as expressed in our 3 Rs (Reengage, Reimagine and Realign). If that is correct, we can be comforted God is at work amid the challenges. And our response should be a resounding “Yes” to cooperate with God in this transformational work.

    I’m not suggesting this is easy. It takes courage to say “Yes” to God.  

    It takes courage to trust, and courage to keep going. It takes courage to accept God’s compassion and God’s comfort. It takes courage to live with and open heart. It takes courage to love, accept and forgive. And it can take courage to comfort others. As Paul goes on to say, God comforts us, “so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (1 Corinthians 1:4).

    (en)Courage one another

    Our theme for 2022 is (en)Courage.

    It is an encouragement to take courage, to embrace what God is doing amongst us, and to receive God’s comfort at this time. All with a view to not just receiving courage, it but passing it on into our communities.

    We’ll share more about this in the months ahead. But in the meantime, this is my prayer for you, and I trust we may pray it for each other:

    Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God. For just as we share abundantly in the sufferings of Christ, so also our comfort abounds through Christ
    (1 Corinthians 1:3-5).
    Stephen Baxter

    Stephen Baxter
    Mission Director, Tasmanian Baptists
    stephen@tasbaptists.org.au


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    Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast, 2021

    Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast 2021
    Advance Header

    prayer for the state:

    Wednesday 24th November, Hotel Grand Chancellor Hobart

    This year’s Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast brought together like-minded people from across Tasmania to pray for our State, our leaders, parliamentarians, businesses, schools, communities, and community organisations; our families, youth, and children.

    Over 400 people attended this, the 16th annual Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast. It was attended by Church and business leaders, aid agency representatives, and many other Christians from across the state.

    A record number of State and Federal politicians attended, 26 out of a possible 40. This included the Premier Peter Gutwein, the Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff, and Leader of the Opposition Bec White. Jacquie Petrusma MP welcomed all as the Parliamentary Host.

    Tasmania’s Young People

    Prof. Patrick Parkinson speaks at the Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast 2021
    Prof. Patrick Parkinson

    The breakfast was chaired by Stephen Baxter (Tas Baptist Mission Director), who oversees the TPPB organising committee. The newly formed Calvin School Choir, pictured below, performed for those gathered.

    Prof. Patrick Parkinson, the speaker at the recent Tasmanian Baptist Annual Assembly, gave an overview of some of his achievements. He spoke about the care and nurture of young people in Tasmania, and presented some concerning statistics. Having suffered childhood abuse, and his current blended family, he spoke into those numbers with heart-warming vulnerability and authority.

    Framing

    Stephen Baxter

    As usual, Stephen Baxter gave a very insightful framing to begin the morning. It is reproduced here for you . . .

    Let me take a moment to explain why I believe we are here.

    We gather in the name and spirit of Jesus to pray for our state and its people. From the oldest to the youngest, those doing well and those not so well, those who lead and those who serve.

    Across this room we are a rich and diverse tapestry of culture, experience, outlook and belief, believers and non-believers alike. We do life together on this magnificent island, Tasmania – lutruwita. We are wrapped in the world’s purest air, graced with magnificent forests and magical lakes, lined with epic coastlines and surrounded by crystal clear water. It is a slice of heaven. We are truly blessed.

    Yet, our lives, public and private, could be better. Perhaps, more than ever, we are rightly aware of the wrongs of the past, sensitive to racism and injustice, and conscious of the need to care for our environment. But the same time we are distracted by fear and anger. It shapes our lives.

    A damaging polarisation is at work. We see it in the rage and resentment that prioritises victimhood and grievance over community and resilience. We see it in the violence – verbal, written and physical – that seeks to silence the opinions of others. The result sadly, is division, conflict, and animosity, even between good people. And it solves little.

    At the same time, we are losing the art of forgiveness. We dredge up things from someone’s past suggesting it defines them today – conveniently forgetting each of us is more than the worst we have done.

    Some advocate the removal of faith from the public square. They do so unaware that true faith nurtures confession, repentance, and the potential for redemption and restoration. If we are to overcome the significant challenges we face, I am convinced we need to include faith.

    As a spiritual leader I appreciate you might be sceptical. I am deeply aware the Church, in its various forms, has let our community down in so many ways. I know I speak for many when I say I’m sorry.

    Churches are not exempt from the need for confession and repentance. We are always learning and relearning how to follow Jesus. His execution by the authorities of the day, which included the religious, was a brutal form of cancel culture. They did not like what he said so they silenced an innocent man.

    We all can learn from his response. It was not resentment or rage, but a cry, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing”. We all need forgiveness. The resurrection of Jesus reveals God is willing to give it.

    Love, acceptance and forgiveness. It’s what holds our lives and families, our communities and our future together. Every day, inconspicuously and unheralded, thousands of Tasmanians just ‘do it’. They don’t seek wealth, power, or fame, but quietly do what needs to be done: lending a hand, sharing a meal, volunteering at emergencies, caring for the forgotten, and courageously standing for what they believe.

    It’s spiritual. It is what lights and sustains the fires of excitement, passion, vision and sacrifice.

    It is the spiritual that will help us learn afresh how to respect one another, how to engage in civil dialogue, and how put aside our differences for the sake of the common good.

    That’s why we come to pray.

    Stephen Baxter, Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast 2021
    Calvin Choir sing at the Tasmanian Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast 2021
    Calvin Choir sing

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    September/October 2021 No. 1

    Released 9th September 2021

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    • Brave New World Reading the signs of the times – Stephen Baxter
    • Church Profile City Baptist Launceston
    • Engaging with your Community – Michael Henderson
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    September/October 2021 No. 2

    Released 23rd September 2021

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    • Food for Thought Bob Goolsby (George Town) considers Our Divine Purpose
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    Released 21st October 2021

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    Bringing the Kingdom of God to Tasmania

    Reengage | Reimagine | Realign
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    mission-shaped:

    It’s time to …

    “Reengage Reimagine Realign”

    What the newly adopted strategic plan might mean for us as Tasmanian Baptists

    Seeing Tasmania infused with the salt and light

    When Jesus taught about the kingdom of God (or kingdom of heaven in Matthew) it was more immediate and grander than just securing a place in heaven for people after death. The kingdom of God is the rule of God here on earth. It exists in part now and will exist in fullness when Jesus returns.

    Jesus taught of something new entering into our broken world. His presence among us, along with his miracles and healings, was evidence of God’s rule coming to this planet. After his resurrection he charged his disciples with the responsibility of keeping the project going. Ever since, when the Church has been at its best, it has been an agent of this kingdom.

    What we hope for

    We acknowledge it “is not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church” [1]. God has a job for his church in Tasmania. As Tasmanian Baptists, we are committed to becoming a union of churches who willingly “lay aside our personal preferences for the sake of the community being served” [2].

    It “is not the church of God that has a mission, but the God of mission who has a church”

    Rowan Williams, former Archbishop of Canterbury.

    This is the heart of the new vision that we adopted at our May 2021 Assembly. It is to see “Tasmania infused with the salt and light of the kingdom of God.” We believe this is God’s hope for the state of Tasmania; it is our hope too.

    The Church needs to adapt

    The vision goes on to note that our contribution to the realisation of this vision will be through “facilitating and developing innovative, diverse, and transformative member churches and faith communities living out the Gospel.”

    By stating this, we acknowledge how many in our communities do not consider the Church a place to go to for assistance with the issues they face. Our inherited form of being and doing Church needs to adapt to the changing world. This is not a something new for God’s Church. At many points during the past 2000 years, the Church has undergone renewal and reformation as the Spirit has remoulded it for successive generations.

    Three key strategies: Reengage | Reimagine | Realign

    With that in mind, the newly adopted strategic plan outlines three key strategies: to assist our churches and members to reengage in God’s mission, to reimagine the church for our time and to realign our resources (time, finances, buildings, organisational structure) towards these ends.

    This is no mean feat and will not happen overnight. As I’ve said a bit lately, it took God weeks to get Israel out of Egypt, but 40 years to get Egypt out of Israel. Like Israel, we can fall into mourning the loss of the past, rather than embracing the opportunities God has before us. Yet this is the call of the journey of faith, to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us [by] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”[3].

    “run with perseverance the race marked out for us [by] fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith”.

    Hebrews 12:1b-2a

    We live in a profound moment in the history of the world. In declaring Jesus is Lord, and praying that God’s kingdom may come, and that God’s will may be done in Tasmania as in heaven, we are not only aligning ourselves with God’s purposes in our world, but asking God to use us.

    I trust you can say “Amen” to that.

    Stephen Baxter
    Stephen Baxter

    Stephen Baxter
    Mission Director, Tasmanian Baptists
    stephen@tasbaptists.org.au


    [1] Former Archbishop Rowan Williams

    [2] Church of England, charge for candidates for Pioneer Mission

    [3] Hebrews 12:1b-2a

    ADVANCE | step by step – Jul/Aug 2021

    My plan for your future has always been filled with hope.
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    My plan for your future has always been filled with hope

    Based on Jeremiah 29:11

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    HOPE. Across the globe this Covid-19 season, we hope like birds in cages.

    We HOPE the virus will dissipate; that vaccinations will help; that loved ones are kept safe.

    How important to remember Jeremiah’s words:
    “God has plans to give us a HOPE and a FUTURE”.

    Take hold of hope by joining the National Prayer Gathering for the Covid Situation on Tuesday 31 August. Find out more below.

    This issue includes . . .
    FROM THE MD: Stephen Baxter with treasures new and old
    INTERVIEW: Liam Conway Ministry Apprentice at Hobart: he is a gift!
    HOSPITALS IN PNG: Prayers answered to avoid closure (a gift of PPE)
    FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Jenna Blackwell wrestles with being a missionary in Tasmania
    CHURCH PROFILE: LifeWay Devonport, now ministering in the South!
    MERGE YOUTH: Citywide are kicking goals
    REGIONAL ROUNDUP: City, Latrobe, Westbury, Claremont, Citywide and Hobart
    NATIONAL PRAYER GATHERING: Nationwide prayer against COVID-19
    CONVERGE CONFERENCE: Advocating to our government leaders
    NEED TO KNOW (news):
    GATEWAY turns 145! | EmpowHer Northwest walk | Request from Library Aid International | Tas Baptists’ website | Fostering Hope devotional-zoom | Australian Christian Literature Awards | Baptist Basketball Grand Final | Stand Sunday | Farewell PETER CUTHBERTSON | Ray’s Poem

    You can read all these in the download-able version

    Be blessed this week!

    Jenny

    Jenny Baxter, God's love poured in to you

    Jenny Baxter
    Communications Manager
    Tasmanian Baptists
    jenny@tasbaptists.org.au

    Treasures New and Old

    Treasures new and old
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    comment:

    From the Mission Director

    Stephen Baxter

    Treasures New and Old

    After seven parables in succession, Jesus asked the disciples if they understood. When they replied, “Yes,” Jesus responds with a one-sentence-long parable.

    “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” (Matt 13:52 NIV).

    It’s a comment on his teaching of the Kingdom. Jesus explained how his teaching drew on the rich tradition of the Hebrews and the scriptures of the Hebrews, yet was also full of fresh, new insights that he brought.

    EVERY TEACHER . . . brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old

    Matthew 13:52

    His teaching on God’s kingdom through the parables did not ignore or reject the past, rather he built upon them to explain how God rules in new and engaging ways.

    And then . . .

    To illustrate the point, Matthew explains what happened next. Having finished this teaching session in parables, Jesus journeyed to his hometown and taught in the synagogue. The people were astounded and wondered where all his wisdom and miraculous powers came from. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son,” they asked, “Isn’t his mother’s name Mary?”. (Matt 13:53-56 NIV)

    No wonder Jesus resorted to parables. What he taught was just too hard for some people. The final verse of the chapter notes the outcome: Jesus “did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.” (Matt 13:58 NIV)

    Treasures New and Old

    They thought they knew Jesus, but their familiarity was a stumbling block. Their inability or unwillingness to see it was an act of unbelief and they missed out. The “wisdom and miraculous powers” of Jesus promised them a new future but they were unable to receive it.

    The Kingdom Comes

    The heart of all Jesus taught was about the rule of God on earth. He taught his disciples to pray, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). Then, as they prayed, Jesus demonstrated what it looked like. The “blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is proclaimed to the poor” (Matt 11:5).

    Every healing changed people’s future in an instant.

    This was the kingdom coming and it made a profound difference. Every healing changed people’s future in an instant. And not just for themselves, but for the whole community. A healed leper, once shunned by family and community alike, could no longer be treated as an outcast. Their life, and the life of the community, was changed forever, and everyone needed to adjust to the change. Sure, the old familiar ways of living were there, but something new was in the air. Every healing was a small social revolution. Life could never be the same.

    A Call to Believe

    Treasures New and Old

    Everything Jesus did and taught was a call to believe in the possibility of a new and open future for both individuals, and their communities. He called us to trust that things can change, newness can come, and inexplicable gifts will be given. Yet, the people of his hometown took offence. They settled for the familiar and dismissed the new, fresh kingdom transformation Jesus was bringing. Their “lack of faith” meant they missed out.

    Your Choice – to be like Him

    At the Tasmanian Baptist May Assembly this year we introduced, and received, a new strategic plan. Its key strategies of Reengage, Reimagine and Realign are a call to our churches, and everyone in them, to exercise our faith in Jesus. It is an invitation to trust in God’s goodness and power, and not be content with the familiar. God is not mute or impotent in the face of our current realities of decline, decay and death.

    But do we believe it? Will we embrace the new things Jesus Christ is bringing into our world through his church? Like the people of Jesus’ hometown, we have a choice.

    Our lack of faith will limit what God does in and through us, but it does not limit God. Despite the “unbelief” of his hometown, Jesus was not deterred. He went on to fulfil all that God called of him despite their lack of faith.

    May we be found faithful in life and ministry, just as he was. And may we continue to listen to his treasures, new AND old.

    Stephen Baxter

    Stephen Baxter
    Mission Leadership Director, Tasmanian Baptists
    stephen@tasbaptists.org.au


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

    Approaching 2021 with Love in our Hearts

    From the MD - Approaching 2021
    Mission Director Stephen Baxter reflects on the year ahead

    Winners and Losers …

     … Or Something More Profound?

    As we are approaching 2021, the 24-hour daily news cycle reminds us we live in unsettling, even dangerous, times. But perhaps we can come with some love in our hearts?

    By Mission Director Stephen Baxter

    Although somewhat removed in Tasmania, technology connects us to the rest of the world. Recent events in the USA, the increasing bully-like antics of China, and a small virus that continues to bring the world to a standstill, are reminders of the unique moment we are living in.

    The relative peace experienced in much of the Western World over the past 50 years or so makes it all feel somewhat “unprecedented”. Recent McCrindle research1 reveals only 10% of those over 75 feel any long-term negative effects on their mental health due of Covid-19.

    Yet, among those aged between 18-40, more than half feel the affect has been harmful. McCrindle suggests those over 75 have lived through similar times, like WWII, and have a resilience not known in younger generations.

    No wonder the younger ones are struggling more than the older generations.

    Stories make sense of the world

    Global interconnectedness, which many hoped would usher in a world of increasing peace and harmony, has delivered something like the opposite. The world is full of anxiety and fear, and social media has intensified the rage and polarisation. Now, as we begin 2021, we want to be hopeful, yet it looks like this year will contain as much disruption as 2020, and perhaps more!

    In times such as these there are always different stories competing for the hearts and imaginations of humanity, endeavouring to make sense of our lives.

    One such story, fuelled by fear and inadequacy, is a tale of “winners and losers”.

    Driven by a sense of scarcity, life is a competition and many take sides. The world is divided into oppressors and the oppressed, aggressors and victims. When one believes the path to peace, security and happiness comes by “winning”, violence is an inevitable outcome.

    Jesus’ radical contrasts

    Sadly, the church is not exempt from the temptation. We too can retreat into an “us and them” mentality built on assumptions of scarcity, competition, and opposition.

    Jesus told a different story. He did not view the world through the lens of scarcity, as we can do when approaching 2021, but of abundance. Instead of winning, he talked about serving, stewardship, generosity and sharing where everyone is a winner–for there is enough for all. God, he taught, is a good God full of grace and provision who causes the rain to fall, and the sun to shine, upon all people, both good and evil.

    Jesus did not divide the world into winners and losers. His vision for humanity was based on acceptance, grace, and forgiveness. He called every person to love their neighbour as themselves, and even to love their enemies! Life is not a competition fuelled by scarcity, but cooperative empowered by abundance.

    But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

    Matthew 5:44 (NIV)

    The result over the ensuing centuries was a slow, gentle revolution. As people believed in Jesus and lived by his teachings, the poor were healed and empowered, and society became more like the one Jesus envisaged. Life was not a competition, and people no longer lived as victims. As co-heirs with Christ, and willing agents in the spread of the Gospel, the world changed for the better.

    Love in our hearts and grace on our lips

    Society was transformed not through their compliant submission to those who “lorded it over them”, nor through violent revolution and revenge, but by their nonviolent resistance to scarcity, and “winning” through a life of service and self-giving, that transformed the world.

    Let’s be Jesus’ agents. This is what our troubled and unsettled world of 2021 needs. Jesus still calls us to be agents of transformation and positive change in the world. His metaphors of salt, light, and yeast help us appreciate who we are called to be. We are those who do not believe life is a competition. We are those who do not withdraw from the world but are active agents within it.

    As well, we are not activists, but respectful, welcoming, loving, patient neighbours to everyone, including our enemies and call them to come believe in and follow Jesus. We don’t set out to win but to bless. We set out with love in our hearts, and grace on our lips.

    As we are approaching 2021, may the Spirit empower us all to be witnesses for Jesus in Tasmania.

    Stephen Baxter

    Stephen Baxter
    Mission Director, Tasmanian Baptists
    stephen@tasbaptists.org.au

    1 Australia in the wake of COVID-19 – McCrindle, accessed January 26, 2021

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