“What are you Doing Wednesday Night?”

Ian Carmichael from Matthias Media offers some thoughts on small groups’.

“You’ve probably heard the old adage, ‘If you aim at nothing, you’ll most likely hit it’. When it comes to small group ministry in churches, not only can there be a shortage of aim-taking, but sometimes a lack of clarity the aim is. Try this quick quiz: A GrowGroup is:

1. A group of people sharing ideas—the leader is discussion facilitator.

2. A place for authentic community—the leader is a relationship enabler.

3. A context for learning the Bible better—the leader is a teacher.

None of these answers are really an adequate description of what a GrowGroup is. There is more to to it than sharing ideas or lives. And while we want the Bible to be the focus of our time together, there’s more to to it than just increasing people’s understanding of the Bible. We want to grow disciples of Jesus. Indeed, we want to grow disciple-making disciples. A GrowGroup is a place where Christians grow. It is also a catalyst for the growth of the gospel.

So the aim of our GrowGroups could be expressed: “to study the Bible together, pray, promote the gospel together, and serve and care for one another, so that we will take on the likeness of Christ as we wait for his return (Eph 4:11-16; Col 1:27-28)”. So the leader is a shepherd and an example of a disciple-making disciple—not just a teacher of content or a facilitator.

“But that broader goal for our growth groups won’t happen without prayer and planning—without setting some clear goals and pursuing them through what you do as a group. GrowGroup leaders (shepherds!), it’s your task to lead your group in that thinking and planning. To get you started, here are some ideas, taken from our upcoming Growth Group Notebook.

Outreach

Connect with your local community by volunteering as a group. Seek to reach a particular group with the gospel Begin by praying for them when you meet, then think about how to reach these people and build relationships with them as a team. Run a group evangelistic activity. You could doorknock your neighbourhood, to do Christianity Explored with you as a group, having dinner together.

Follow-up

Meet one-to-one with young Christians for a term to help establish them in the faith. Visit church newcomers or invite them over for lunch.

Growth

Memorize a Bible passage. Read a Christian book together. Do a course together (e.g. Course of Your Life). Plan social time outside the group to build up your relationships.

Training  Do a ministry training course together (e.g. So Many Questions, which will equip you to address common questions about Christianity,

Here’s one final suggestion: start small. Pick one activity from each category and aim to do one per term”

GrowGroup Leaders (Shepherds), If you’d like copies of Growth Group Notebook let me know and I’ll order for us in bulk.

FAITH  |  HOPE  |  LOVE

Geoff Thompson

 

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The Challenge of Love

This last week has been part 1 of our Sydney Anglican Synod week. It’s that time in October when the Archbishop ‘summons’ the clergy and the lay reps to meet, to consider and vote on how to respond to issues facing our culture. This year the big issues are gender dysphoria (transgender and gender identity stress), the Assisted Dying bill before NSW Parliament, domestic violence, child protection, safe ministry and of course, same sex marriage (all the easy issues!). Theological papers for advance reading are prepared, rigorous discussions and appeals are made, endless amendments to motions, then a vote how our diocese will respond. There is prayer and Bible teaching. There are tears, laughter and joy. Actually, I love it. I love that we as All Saints are part of a responding body of believers who are able to muster a high standard of Biblical, ethical thinking, and speak into culture. Some Christians believe with conviction that we should stay out of the affairs of the world, citing 1 Cor 5 that talks about not being concerned with sins being committed by those outside the church. My response is that in 1 Cor 5, Paul is saying that Christians should not try to be moral policeman to non believers.

Yet, what of the responsibility God has called us to — to protect the vulnerable and to participate in culture by bringing His word to ensure His justice in His world? Last year, Synod moved that parishes support refugees and raised $1 million for caring for ‘the stranger among us’. A large amount of money has also been set aside by our diocese to ensure churches and Christian marriages are safe places which do not tolerate domestic violence. (we held a men’s breakfast recently addressing this topic).

But why should we speak out against same sex marriage (and in fact direct a lot of money toward it)? Essentially, same sex marriage is not just a neutral move toward fairness. It will be a culture ‘re-shaper’. Marriage, gender and family are all connected and together are building blocks for all of humanity. Marriage redefinition comes with the philosophy of ‘gender fluidity’, that questions the significance of being male or female, i.e., that gender is not fixed and encourages freedom from gender as a limiting social construct. The issue is not only about a same sex couple asking that their union be called marriage, but the impact on the next generations of children who grow up with a blurred understanding about what it means to be male and female.

I know that a brief summary like this will not convince everyone. However, as we consider the pain that exists even in many traditional marriages, and the pain of gender dysphoria, to ‘remain silent’ is not loving our neighbours. So, we will champion all these issues and challenge our society with wisdom and grace, even at the challenging cost of being misunderstood and called bigots. Meanwhile, we will strive to be welcoming and compassionate to all, regardless of sexuality, to be careful with boundaries, to protect, and always concerned for what real love looks like—the renewing salvation through Jesus Christ, the Lord of all.

FAITH  |  HOPE  |  LOVE

Geoff Thompson

Manning the Engine Room

I write this week’s reflection having just returned from our monthly parish prayer meeting at the Dish & Spoon Cafe. Outside, it’s a beautiful spring morning and the river moves slow and glassy on the outgoing tide. Over the bridge the town flows to work. Inside, a dozen All-Sainters huddle around tables, expresso machine buzzing, while customers mill around, oblivious to the miracle taking place— human beings are opening the gates of heaven!  In other words, in this cafe, God’s people are praying for their world, their nation, town and church. For half an hour, this cafe is a portal to heaven (and it’s nothing to do with great coffee).

Why do I love this half hour of prayer? This Charles Spurgeon story sums it up:

“The 19th century London preacher, learned what it was to cooperate with God and see His power transform thousands of people over several decades. People often travelled to his church to learn the secret of his success. Spurgeon would take them to the basement prayer-room where people were always on their knees interceding.  He called this prayer-room the powerhouse of the church.  “If the engine room is out of action,” Spurgeon explains, “then the whole mill will grind to a halt.  We cannot expect blessing if we do not ask”’

Another reason I love this 30 minutes is that it is daring. We are publicly reminding our town that God is still present and there is hope. We are the unexpected witness that Jesus is transforming and renewing our lives, and, can bring change to their lives too. I say unexpected because the world expects us to just get about our business behind closed doors on Sunday—on our sacred turf. But that Christians might pray and laugh and share coffee in public? Unexpected! One might even suggest that these people really believe they have good news to share!

And so once a month, we do this quietly radical thing. We are privileged in the west to live in times when the church is finally being tested. We may feel bullied. Perhaps however, our culture is simply asking questions of the authenticity of our faith. Rather than a time of spiritual recession, it may just offer revival! What a great time in history to have a coffee and pray in public as God’s confident people. Will you be part of this precious half hour?

Meanwhile, we are preparing for Summerfest. You’ll notice at the back of the church there is a 3 mtr long sign up and serve poster. It really will take a whole church to make Summerfest happen now that we don’t have help from outside. I’m convinced everyone has something they can contribute to the smooth running of this great mission in January.

How will you wrap your gifts around Summerfest. Please sign up!

FAITH  |  HOPE  |  LOVE

Geoff Thompson

Making Burdens Light without Making Light of Burdens 

Ruth Baker writes, “A problem shared is a problem halved”—but sometimes a problem shared is a problem now two people have. Paul tells us to carry each other’s burdens and so fulfil the law of Christ (Gal 6:2). We stumble, we fall, our transgressions beat us down. As God’s family, we lift each other up again. In Christ, we are joined together and rise to become a holy temple in the Lord (Eph 2:21). It’s a lovely image—but is it realistic? Jesus’ burden is light, but sometimes we feel like the burdens of our brothers and sisters are heavy. As Christians, we listen to others’ fears and woes, panics and pains, and emotional anguish. We pray and we pray, and walk with them as best we can. But then their problems can become our problems. We think about them, mull on them. “I need to give them time, energy and investment.” There’s your Bible study group, people in your congregation, your friends, your kids — all who need the same. Suddenly we are so burdened we can’t think straight.

Is this what Paul intended? Is this what Jesus expected when he told us to love our neighbour as ourselves? I don’t think it is, which means we must be doing it wrong.

“In Matthew 11:28 when Jesus says to come to him all who are weary and burdened, the word means “loaded up to the point of being weighed down”—think suitcases. Then in verses 29-30 he calls us to take up his yoke for his burden is light. We are to bear each other’s burdens to fulfil the law of Christ. The law of Christ is loving God, and loving our neighbour as ourselves (Mark 12:31). So our focus might be in the wrong place: on the burden rather than the loving.

What might it look like if we loved them, rather than getting caught up in the burden itself? This could include praying with them, praying for them, reading the Bible together, short visits, text check-ins, meals, babysitting, transport assistance, a card in the mail, a care package or a small gift… the options are endless, without fretting in the early hours of the morning. But two things can really maximize the impact of this:

1. What is your personal load capacity?

2. Agreeing with the person what your support is going to look like.

This helps to manage the boundaries, but what about when we feel people’s load heavily? God made us to be emotional beings. This makes us beautiful and wonderful, and also fragile and vulnerable. That’s why Jesus told us to go to him when we are weary and weighed down. When bearing a heavy load, sometimes a re-invigoration of our prayer life can be the key.

We were built to be in community and bear with each other in love. But we need to seek wisdom in this. If we walk together in wisdom and love, there is so much power in the community of believers.”

FAITH  |  HOPE  |  LOVE

Geoff Thompson

Hospitality & the Art of Opening up Our Lives

Bread-Roll-Plate

This weekend half of us are away at camp while the other half meet at 9am combined service, led by Philip Oliver (thank you Philip!).

So, it’s one of those Sundays we hopefully miss and appreciate each other more. For those at camp there will be time to get to know others in spontaneous ways and helping a new person belong a little better. However, not all of us can be away at camp. So what other ways can we invest in a deeper life together? The following is part of an article on the spiritual art of practising hospitality, by Tara Sing.

“One of the marks of a Christian is practising hospitality. Whenever it’s mentioned in the NT, it’s assumed as a staple part of the Christian life. I have heard a wide variety of reasons for why people can’t be hospitable. Here are ten:

1. I don’t have the right place.
2. I don’t know how to cook or bake.
3. Entertaining is too stressful.
4. My house is too messy.
5. I can’t possibly have XYZ over.
6. It’s just not my gift.
7. It’s hard for people to get to me.
8. I’m not in the right season of life.
9. I can’t afford to feed people.
10. I don’t have time at the moment.

These are misconceptions—not excuses, because they misunderstand biblical hospitality. There’s an assumption that hospitality involves mouth-watering 3-course meals served in a living room decorated to look like the latest IKEA catalogue. But when the Bible describes true hospitality, it makes no mention of cake forks or allen keys.

The word used in Greek is philoxenos, which translates to “loving the stranger”. It’s not about cooking, or entertaining. First and foremost, hospitality is about showing love to others. Hospitality is the result of a life transformed by Christ. Both in Rom 12 and 1 Pet 4, hospitality is mentioned as a mark of the Christian life. A practical result of being saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection is that you love everyone, including strangers.

This is because our desire to show true hospitality to others stems from understanding the hospitality that Jesus has shown us. He is the greatest example of true hospitality. For when we were enemies and strangers to him, he invited us into his Father’s house and prepared a room for us. And as people who have been served by the greatest of kings, how can we do anything else but serve others?

So while a good meal and an IKEA dining table may help you to be hospitable, these things are not what hospitality is about. Hospitality is about the heart. It’s about serving people. The focus is not on the meal, or the space, the focus is on loving people and inviting them into your home, into your life. And hopefully they meet Jesus there.”

FAITH  |  HOPE  |  LOVE
Geoff

A Season of Farewells

This week is the McMordie’s last Sunday at All Saints! Officially, the church camp will be their last Sunday, but this is the last time with stain glass, pews and pulpit…and the last time Jai preaches for us. We send Jai and Christine, Amelia, Tobias and Nathaniel out to their new ministry with Soul Revival in the Shire down with our thanks and blessing. If you won’t be at the camp, take time to say goodbye this weekend.

Jai arrived in a season that would prove to be challenging for All Saints and has served us faithfully and thoughtfully, and with just the right mix of new ideas. His ministry has set us up well for our future together. I have particularly been blessed to serve with him. What may not be so well known is that it has been Christine behind the kids dinner every week at Rock on Sunday evenings. We will miss this little family.

This year is a season of farewells. And with farewells there are also arrivals, and so we welcome Katelyn Herdman to our ministry team. Katelyn is our new front office person. Extend her grace as she gets her head around our complex world of rosters and ministries.

Over the weekend we’ll have Mark Matthews from COACH with us training our first COACH Mentors. Coordinating COACH at the All Saints end will be Helen Mairinger. Helen has joined our congregation in the last 12 months and brings her gifts of admin and leadership and her heart for helping people move forward from difficult circumstances. Get to know Helen, and the new work of COACH at All Saints.
There are many places to serve at All Saints. It is our hope that each of our compassion ministries (Community Care, Open House, Courthouse) flourish and express the new beginning that is to be found in Jesus. Where will you serve in the story of Jesus’ people at All Saints?

FAITH  |  HOPE  |  LOVE
Geoff

 

How to raise Kids who Hate Christianity

No you have read this right, I did just say “how to raise kids who hate Christianity”.

One of my favourite bands are a punk rock band call Green Day. The lyrics to one of their songs hold a very real spiritual truth.

The song is call “Jesus of Suburbia” and it should be mandatory for all Christian parents and Grand-parents to listen to (maybe even all Christians).

Many may not be all that familiar with this song, yet it offers one of the most prophetic rebukes of lukewarm Christianity in the modern age.

It opens like this:

“I’m the son of rage and love
The Jesus of Suburbia
The bible of none of the above
On a steady diet of soda-pop and Ritalin
No one ever died for my sins in hell
As far as I can tell
At least the ones I got away with”

One of the reason I enjoy listening to Green Day, is that they are so anti-everything. However there is something much deeper at play in these words. The lyrics pick up the thoughts of adults raised in families that have the thin veneer of Christian sensibility. Another way to see it is they have been raised with just enough Jesus to keep them away from drugs as they grow from kids, to teens and then to adults. But it was never enough to fully convert the me-focused suburban lifestyles of their parents. They parented with Jesus veneer, yet their lives where never transforms by the gospel, which lead to their children becoming disciples of this lukewarm faith or disciples of the Jesus of Suburbia.

The song continues:

“Born and raised by hypocrites
Hearts recycled but never saved
From the cradle to the grave
We are the kids of war and peace
From Anaheim to the Middle East
We are the stories and disciples of
The Jesus of Suburbia
Land of make believe
And it don’t believe in me
Land of make believe
And I don’t believe
And I don’t care!”

I have been reading a fair few parenting books lately, and may of them are asking the question “what can you do for your child?”. Give them this, don’t pressure them, let them be themselves, hurry up and make sure your child makes a profession of faith and so on… But very few speak about the need for Christian parents and grandparents to repent of our hypocritical lifestyles of self worship and to live out our faith daily in front of our kids first. Otherwise we can give them a billions things, but never Jesus. They may profess faith yet their “recycled but never saved” hearts will end up singing right along with Green Day…

In Christ
Jai

[Edited from an article By Brian Jones]

Why does our ‘worldview’ matter?

christian-worldviewFirstly, when we talk about a worldview, we are talking about the lens in which we view the world around us. Gene Edward Veith helpfully illustrates that a Biblical worldview is “a way to engage constructively the whole range of human expression from a Christian perspective.”

It is then our worldview that helps us to answer the big questions of life: Where did we come from and who are we? What has gone wrong with the world? What can we do to fix it? How now shall we live?

For us as Christians the answer to this first and important question: “Where did we come from and who are we?” gives us a basis for all of our thinking. Our answer is that we were created, this then gives value to every life (regardless of age, gender or race). Because we are created, then there is purpose and there is meaning to every life (as God created it to be). There is a Creator that is outside of our existence who stands over it as the supreme authority.

It is easy to see why our worldview matters? Because it effects every area of life, from money to morality, from politics to art. True Christianity is more than a set of ideas used at church. Christianity as taught in the Bible is itself a worldview. Jesus proclaimed Himself “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6) and, in doing so, became our worldview.

Grace and Peace

Jai

Does It Really Matter?

The announcement of the plebiscite has generated a lot of heat. Worn down by media pressure, the Christian may ask, ‘Does it really matter?’ or, on the other hand that this must be fought out tooth and nail as the most important thing. Sandy Grant, Senior Minister of St Michael’s Wollongong Cathedral offers a little more light than heat. He writes,

“Finally it seems to have come to a head. There’ll be a postal plebiscite on marriage redefinition. Lyle Shelton, MD of the Australian Christian Lobby, tweeted: “Well, it’s game on to save marriage, freedom & gender. This is the fight of our lives.” Regulars here know I am committed in this debate. I have written and spoken publicly in multiple venues in favour of classic marriage, on radio, newsprint, blogs and lectures. However, Shelton is wrong. The marriage definition debate is not “the fight of our lives”. The fight of our lives occurred two thousand years ago. And we did not win it. Christ won it for us, when he died on the cross – for the sins of people like you and me – whether black or white, male or female, civilized or wild, straight or same-sex attracted! And whatever happens in the Australian marriage debate, Jesus will still be on his throne.

By that resurrection, Jesus was publicly declared by God as King of his Universe, far above all earthly powers and authorities. No politics can change that! And Christians will still be able to live out their marriage vows as best they can, struggling to be faithful, to care for their kids, and offering forgiveness when we each fall short. But God has placed us as citizens in a democracy. So we ought to vote and advocate for what is best for humanity. And God’s ways are good!

Two more things. Where same-sex marriage has been legalised, legal action followed against schools, wedding businesses, civil servants etc., who do not wish to be involved in the celebration of such a relationship. So if it is to legalised, then we ought to advocate for robust protection of minority conscience. This is no different from the fact that a gay or lesbian printer should not be forced to print a leaflet defending traditional marriage.
Lastly, as followers of Jesus’ we must speak with complete respect and love. And the way Jesus protected the woman caught in adultery teaches me three things.

1. It’s good to protect people from bullying.

2. You can treat those with whom you disagree with compassion and non-condemnation.

3. You can still challenge people to change. (John 8:1-11). Jesus did not merely judge. He displayed courage and compassion that touched people”

(full article avail online fb)

Faith | Hope | Love
Geoff.

Don’t be Afraid

infant-hand-holding-on-to-adult-fingerWhenever God talks to His children in the Bible, do you know what He usually says first? “Hello”? “How do  you do”?

No. He says, “Don’t be afraid!” God must not want His children—not for moment—living anxiously or afraid. He wants His children to trust Him.

Are you worried about something today? Is something frightening you? God says to you, “Don’t be afraid. I am with you. I will help you.” Whatever it is, you can put it in God’s hands.  “But Jesus spoke to them at once, ‘Don’t be afraid’ he said. Take courage. I am here”  Matthew 14:27

Taken from “Thoughts to Make your Heart Sing”

Our David Woodbridge

This week we say goodbye to Rev David Woodbridge. Husband to Cammie, father to Rebekah and Deborah, grandfather to Jacinta, Kelly and Danika. Pastor,  teacher, confidante and tender friend to the rest of us.

David was a gentle inspiration to us at All Saints, and he constantly amazed our ministry team. He picked up the language of smart phone and social media just as he picked up the Creole language in Ngukurr in the Northern territory and Groote Eylandt in the sixties. He was not content until he knew people had a strong understanding of the gospel, and a strong invitation to find peace in Jesus. When David spoke the Comfortable Words from the Prayer Book, “Come to me all who labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” Matthew 11:28, you felt that he really wanted you to know the comfort and security that he knew in Christ.

David is with Christ now, and waits for the trumpet to sound the resurrection. The day of the trumpet will be the day we are reunited with him, in Christ.

David’s funeral will be on Friday 11th Aug, 1pm at All Saints, and burial at Shoalhaven Memorial Gardens at 3pm. Afternoon tea will follow, back at All Saints.

We give thanks for the life of David, and hear the voice of our saviour say, “Don’t be afraid”

FAITH  |  HOPE  |  LOVE

Geoff