John Wilson, current moderator-general of the Presbyterian Church of Australia remembers the time forty years ago when the Presbyterian Church of Australia continued after the departure of those who formed the Uniting Church.
It was a season in which the desire to continue had to be matched by a vision of what was worth the struggle of continuing.
After some history and some observations John includes six questions that are posed as challenges to a denomination that has no reasons to rest on its proverbial laurels.
Here’s the sixth and final challenge:
Notwithstanding our generous giving to support cross-cultural work here in Australia, world mission and relief of the poor, the PCA is not free from the love of money. Somewhere … between our personal wealth and congregational accounts and our denominational resources … we have enough wealth within PCA to securely fund 600 first-inducted ministers and then 600 assistants to the ministers and then to fund 600 church plants. (Spending time working alongside our colleagues and friends in India and Africa has shown me that). But we have our wealth tied up in seldom-used property, worldly investments, material comforts, insurance safety nets and superannuation nest eggs. We still have a holding mentality (holding reserves for a rainy day) instead of releasing funds for expansion, church planting, new works and different works for the kingdom (refreshing our memory of my point 2 above).
Question: Can we be content with less, for the advancement of the kingdom (1 Timothy 6:7)? Are we really free from the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10).
Read the whole post here.
Jon Bloom writes about the nature of the church at Desiring God.
Church is never an extension of our agenda.
It’s the place where our agendas yield to the purpose of growing like Jesus.
Jesus did not design the church to be a place where our dreams come true. Actually, it’s where many of our dreams are disappointed and die. And this is more of a grace to us than we likely realize, because our dreams are often much more selfish than we discern.
Our personal expectations easily become tyrants to everyone else, because everyone else fails to meet them. When we are more focused on how others’ failings and foibles obstruct the ideal community we want to pursue than we are on serving those others and pursuing their good and joy, our expectations can kill love, which impedes the real mission.
Jesus designed the church to be a place where love comes true, where we lay our preferences aside out of deference to others. It is meant to be a living laboratory of love, a place where there are so many opportunities, big and small, to lay down our lives for each other that the love of Christ becomes a public spectacle.
That’s why when it comes to church in this age, the picture of community we should have in our minds is not some utopian harmony, but Golgotha. In living life together, we die every day (1 Corinthians 15:31). We lay down our lives for each other (1 John 3:16).
Read the whole post at Desiring God.
The church does not exist for the sake of pastors; pastors exist for the sake of the church.
It’s a helpful reminder of who is supposed to be serving who.
Shane Lems refers to this quote from Francis Turretin:
“…Now the church is superior to pastors, not pastors to the church; the church does not belong to the pastors, but the pastors to the church. ‘All things are yours,’ says Paul, ‘whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas’ (1 Cor. 3:21-22). Here he rebukes those who gloried in men as heads and for whose sake they raised dissensions and parties among the Corinthians. He shows that they acted falsely because the church is greater than and superior to all. Hence pastors are called servants and ministers of the church: ‘We are your servants for Jesus’ sake’ (2 Cor. 4:5).”
Read the whole post at The Reformed Reader.
Ordinations in the Presbyterian Church of South Australia are rare. Most ministers who serve here have usually been ordained and served in other places before coming here.
We’ve been blessed to have hosted three ordinations at MGPC over the last forty years.
The latest is my colleague Mark Lewis, ordained and set apart for ministry tonight.
The first of two posts by Steve McAlpine interacting with the basic ideas expressed in the post by Murray Lean I linked to last week called The Creeping Trend Of Church Absenteeism.
Two significant points that I liked were firstly; McAlpine’s reservations about motivating people to more frequent attendance through guilt or greater effort.
And secondly; the observation that lower involvement levels are not simply that time spent at church is being invested with non-church organisations, because all organisations note greater difficulty in engaging younger people.
It calls for a rethink about the nature of church life and how we communicate what being part of church is.
For a start he [Lean] points out that growing secularisation is a part of the problem. Well it may be, but let’s be clear: it’s not just church that has seen a dramatic collapse in participation rates in the past forty years, it’s every form of volunteer organisation across the board in the Western world. And that issue runs far deeper than merely people not being bothered to turn up any longer.
We can hardly blame secularisation for secular organisations rapidly dwindling membership and loss of volunteer hours. Something deeper is going on at a cultural level that is enervating people and seeing them shy away from the growing complexities that volunteer organisations require. Deep structural changes in the culture are wearing people out, even before they get to work on a Monday morning.
Clearly something has changed in the wider culture than merely an increased list of busy activities that Christians, especially young families, find themselves signed up for.
Read the whole article here.
Helpful article about church absenteeism by Murray Lean at Gospel Coalition Australia.
It’s most pitched toward leaders, but the content is helpful for everyone concerned about personal and corporate spiritual growth and well-being.
Among the accessible content is a list of the downsides that sporadic attendance cultivates:
- Loss of the “spurring-on effect” of regular interaction with other believers
- Gaps in the continuity of systematic Bible teaching
- Inability to commit to serving in Sunday ministries, especially children’s programmes
- Impact on children who miss the regularity of involvement in their weekly Sunday groups
- Increase in the workload on the “committed core” who are faithfully there week by week
- General discouragement of the rest of the church family who miss out on the fellowship of friends
- Poor example to children and less mature Christians
- General devaluation of the Lord’s Day
- Weakening of overall connection with and commitment to the local church family, and enhancing the privatizing of faith
And there’s also a list of suggestions about how to respond pastorally:
- Remind people from the pulpit of the positives of regular attendance, including its impact on others in the church family
- Preach relevant passages that reinforce commitment to the local church, and also the harm caused by absenteeism
- Ask yourself whether there are good reasons why people can’t be in church regularly e.g. Does the time of the service need to be more family friendly? Is the preaching boring?
- Make a note of people who are irregular attenders and speak personally (and gently) with them about it. Some might have good reasons for their irregularity. (This obviously requires some form of record keeping.)
- Use elders, small group leaders and pastoral carers in this process
- Work at building fellowship within the church family e.g. meals, hospitality, creating a space for mingling after services
Read the whole post here.