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NSW ACC 2018

 

Next NSW ACC Meeting.

NSW members are being encouraged to attend the National Conference as the 2018 Conference and AGM will be held in Sydney.

Dates: 17 - 19 September 2018

Location: Wesley Church, Wesley Mission, 220 Pitt Street, Sydney

 

NSW Regional Meeting: Hunter Cluster: Sunday 15 April

The Hunter Cluster hosted Rev Ashley Saunders at an ACC cluster meeting at Booragul UC. Ashley is the National Director of Family Voice Australia and gave an encouraging message about defending families in our modern society.

Meeting with the Moderator

A NSW ACC Gathering was held at Grace Christian Church (Panania UC: 206 Marco Street) on Saturday 3rd March.

Among the speakers was the Moderator of NSW & ACT: Rev Simon Hansford, who gave a broad outline about The Moderator’s vision for the UCA with reference to the Basis of Union.

 

2016 and 2017

ACC NSW provided a stall and information service at the 2016 and 2017 NSW & ACT Synod meeting, providing good opportunity to meet members in an informal way and distribute resources.

2015

Report of ACC NSW Meeting: Held at Sutherland UC on Saturday 31st October 2015

A pleasant spring morning at Sutherland greeted 25 people from 7 congregations for a public meeting of the ACC in NSW.  ACC NSW Convenor, Rev. Ian Weeks chaired the meeting and opened it with devotions from Mark 8:27 – 38; “Confessing the Faith – it is important who Jesus is & what we think about Him.” 

ACC National Director, Mr Peter Bentley addressed the meeting on the topic “Marriage & The UCA – Where to from here?” including a report of the UCA 14th Assembly meeting held in Perth in July.  Peter outlined the 14th Assembly’s discussion and resolutions on marriage, with particular reference to the matter of same-gender unions. The resolution of the 14th Assembly to continue the dialogue regarding same-gender unions with proposals to be brought to the 2018 Assembly, had many coming away from the Assembly asking the questions: “Did the Assembly really want to make a decision about marriage?” and “Why was it reluctant to re-state publicly the UCA’s current orthodox statement on marriage?” It was interesting to hear how Wesley’s “quadrilateral” of Scripture – Tradition – Reason – Experience, with Scripture as the determining and defining factor, had been re-shaped over time to become more of an equilateral, or even inverted. Experience has become the determining & defining factor, Reason is now devoid of prayer and spiritual wisdom, and Tradition has expanded to include new ways of doing things even though they are not recognised by the wider church. How can we conduct a rational, reasoned and theologically-driven debate on important topics such as sexuality & marriage when personal experience and secular humanism become the over-arching paradigm? Never-the-less, we were pleased to hear how well the ACC members at the 14th UCA Assembly stood firm in their convictions and conducted themselves with grace and humility in a very difficult environment.

Ian Weeks led a session on “Future Directions for the ACC” with a report from the 2015 ACC National Conference and AGM. The proposal of a “School of Faith” – an on-line teaching resource utilising the preaching, teaching and discipling tools of the various ACC member churches and ministers – was introduced. The School of Faith would be a means by which people can be grounded in the orthodox faith and confessions of the church, particularly for those individuals or congregations who are not receiving such teaching. The important discussion on the place of the ACC in the UCA was also mentioned. The meeting finished with an opportunity for the NSW members present to do some brainstorming and discussion in groups as they answered the question: “What do we want to tell the ACC National Council?, followed by a time of prayer.

We express our gratitude to the Congregation of Sutherland UC for their generosity in allowing us to meet in their centre; and our thanks also to Peter Bentley for his input and service to the meeting. It is anticipated that there will be a gathering of NSW ACC members and interested persons during the next Synod meeting in April 2016.

Ian Weeks - Chairperson ACC NSW , MoW Belrose Congregation

3rd November 2015 

May 2015 - A well-attended ACC Meeting was held on Saturday 9th May 2015 at Panania Uniting Church

NSW ACC hosted at Panania Uniting Church About 40 members gathered at ACC Member congregation Panania Uniting Church on Saturday 9th May to hear Rev. Dr Chris Walker, the National Consultant, Christian Unity, Doctrine and Worship for the UCA National Assembly to speak about Evangelism and outline his hope for evangelism in the Uniting Church and also his vision for the Uniting Church. Chris acknowledged that evangelism has not been a priority in the Uniting Church and is hoping for more in the future.

The Holy Spirit is the true evangelist and we need to be looking to the spirit to empower and encourage us to mission.

Chris led people through a series of questions to help people to reflect on who are evangelists; what is evangelism and how to encourage evangelism, culminating in looking at Being an evangelistic church - becoming a church that is genuinely welcoming. Chris mentioned that every church sees themselves as a friendly church but is this true - is it more for those who are in the church now. How are we really with 'strangers' - with those who visit with us - whether they are part of the faith or interested?

Chris also reminded us that our worship services are an opportunity to call for a response from people - a small and simple matter but it is a reminder that a gospel message is not lost in today's more secular world.

Rev Ian Weeks the convenor of the NSW Committee (Minister at ACC Member congregation at Belrose) presented a report outlining some of the NSW activities for the year, especially highlighting the hosting the 2014 conference and its strategic time of encouragement and teaching. Ian highlighted the role of the ACC in bringing a prophetic word to the UCA - a role of warning, and also a role by providing resources and information to help congregations and individuals as they minister and serve in this world. Elections were held for the committee for 2015-2016. Ian continues as Convenor and Rev Peter Chapman as secretary. 

April 2014 - During the NSW & ACT Synod meeting

October 2013 - First Evergreen Meeting at Pittwater Uniting Church

October 2012 with the ACC National Chair Rev Dr Max Champion at Bexley Uniting Church.

Lamenting the unavailability of the Apostle Paul, the meeting nevertheless made do with two challenging and informative talks by Rev Dr Max Champion:

"Marriage - Heart of Creation; Heart of Redemption": Noting the importance of working ecumenically in relation to marriage, Max drew on the teachings of Pope John-Paul II and Ephesians 5 to show how Christian marriage is a reflection of Christ's love for the church, AND:

"A Confessing Voice: Good for Society; Good for the Church": Drawing on Acts 17, Max illustrated how Paul's engagement with the Athenian public is a model for us as we engage the public sphere of our own time. Max noted that Paul's speech was not met with universal acclaim or great worldly success, and quoting Leslie Newbigin, noted that modern secular culture is in fact a paganism borne out of a rejection of Christianity that is far more resistant to the gospel than the pagan culture that the first Christians encountered.

Rev Peter Chapman, Secretary

Thank you to Bexley Uniting Church, and the minister Rev Dr Sang-Taek Lee for their hospitality and leadership. Nearly 60 members enjoyed a full and robust day of addresses and discussion.

April 2012  - Sutherland Uniting Church

The NSW ACC Movement met at Sutherland Uniting Church on Saturday 14 April 2012. Dr Jeff Aernie spoke on "Imperial Triumph or Prophetic Procession? Christian Discipleship Then and Now from 2 Corinthians 2:14 - 16". Dr Aernie is the New Testament Lecturer at United Theological College.

The NSW Chair/Convenor, Rev Ian Weeks presented his report to the NSW ACC 2012 AGM, providing an overview of the NSW ACC Movement during the last year.

God is at work - in Ruth, and in us!  A report and reflection: ACC NSW Movement 2012 AGM Report

During the Sundays leading up to Easter, I preached a series of sermons through the Old Testament Book of Ruth. It is a great story of God's gracious and sovereign redemptive plan worked out in the lives of very ordinary people in a particular time, place and culture. In the Godly man Boaz, the widowed and socially despised foreigner Ruth finds a Kinsman-Redeemer in whom she can have refuge, security and a hope for the future. In Ruth & Boaz's union, we see that we too find a Redeemer. For from the family line of Ruth & Boaz, which becomes the line of David, comes the ultimate Kinsman-Redeemer: Jesus. Amazing Grace! God's plan of salvation is at work in the messy lives of people and in the structures of law and culture, even today! In Christ we find our refuge and hope for eternity.

In Chapter 3 of Ruth, I think Naomi begins to question whether Ruth & Boaz will ever get together. It seems that in her directions to Ruth in vv 1 - 4, Naomi is asking that question that I'm sure many of us have asked at some time: "God are you still at work? Why are things going so slowly? Lord have you fallen asleep or forgotten about us?" These are the questions we ask when things don't seem to be going at the pace we would like; when our prayers are not answered in the timing we would prefer.

They are the type of questions that are asked of me quite frequently as I meet with members of the UCA in various places: "Why haven't things changed in the Synod/Assembly of the UCA yet? Why hasn't revival come yet?" They are difficult and testing questions. But I take great comfort as I read the Book of Ruth again, and see God's hand at work in the little "co-incidences" of that story, and in the answered prayers of Naomi, Ruth and Boaz.

We may like to see things changing for the better in the UCA more quickly. We may like to see revival come sooner. And so we keep on praying and keep on working in the Spirit towards these goals. And as we patiently work and wait, we have the confidence to know that God is accomplishing His eternal plans and purposes. As Paul reminds us, as we wait patiently: "endurance produces proven character, and proven character produces hope" (Rom 5:4) I pray that you will keep on enduring and looking to see the gracious hand of our faithful God at work.

The NSW Committee has been seeking to be faithfully doing this also as we have met to try and find ways to encourage ACC Congregations, groups and individuals throughout NSW. We welcome invitations to come and share with your congregation or group about the work of the ACC. It is a real blessing for us to hear of the exciting things that are being done in various Congregations in NSW. What an encouragement to know that there are ACC/UCA congregations in NSW having wonderful Gospel opportunities in their local communities through various ministry activities. This past year our fellowship has extended beyond the bounds of the UCA. ACC NSW subsidized 10 ACC NSW Pastors to attend a large gathering of pastors and church leaders across the denominational spectrum for quality Bible teaching, encouragement, networking and refreshment (Oxygen August 2011 organized by KCC) . It is interesting to note that the organizers contacted the ACC (via Peter Bentley) in order to invite evangelical UCA leaders to the launch of this event concept in 2010. Perhaps the ACC is being recognized as the contact point for evangelical ministries within the UCA by our ecumenical partners? We hope that there will be further opportunities in the future to be involved in similar like-minded ecumenical ventures where evangelical UCA pastors and leaders can be strengthened in their faith and empowered in their ministry
I am grateful for the faithful labours of the NSW Committee in the many and varied tasks we seek to accomplish. I especially thank Mr Bruce Fairhall who has been the Secretary of the NSW Committee for a number of years, and who is retiring from that role at the 2012 AGM. Thank you Bruce for your efficient and diligent work. My appreciation also extends to the other members of the Committee: Alan Russell, Ngan Ha Le, Fatai Slender, Alton Bowen, Mele Fakahua-Ratcliffe, Lupe Tapueluelu, Colin Seymour and Michael Earl who have served during the past year. We are blessed also to have regular access to the ACC National Executive Officer Peter Bentley at our NSW Meetings. Much of the work of the ACC is done by the National Council and its affiliated commissions, for which we are thankful. We must always uphold Peter and the national body in prayer as they work diligently on our behalf.
The AGM is an opportunity for you, the members of the ACC in NSW, to be involved in this encouraging work. NSW Committee members are sought from the membership of the ACC in NSW. The Committee has been meeting four times a year on a Friday morning at Wesley Mission (we are grateful for the use of Wesley Mission facilities for our meetings) in Pitt St, Sydney CBD. Please prayerfully consider your availability to serve on the NSW Committee, and especially if you are able to provide some minute taking-and-distributing skills.
The work of the ACC goes on. Our labours for the Gospel go on. All working together with God's eternal plans of redemption, coming together for His glory and our eternal benefit - that is our hope and prayer.

Ian Weeks

NSW ACC Meeting - October 2011 - Newtown Mission

Over 60 members gathered in inner-city Newtown to hear John Mallison spoke on Developing Relationships in the context of a wide presentation on Evangelism and Discipleship in the 21st Century at the October 2011 meeting.  A summary was provided in the December 2012 ACCatalyst magazine, but if you would like a copy of his extensive notes (by email) please contact the ACC Office.

Ian Weeks presents his first report to the NSW ACC Movement – 2011 AGM. The NSW Committee has met regularly throughout 2010/11. The main business of the Committee in 2010 was the planning and preparation for the Annual ACC National Conference held at Camden UC in September. We express again our appreciation to the Camden Congregation for their willingness to host such an event, their hospitality and ministry of service.

In the midst of that time and energy consuming planning, the Committee also sought to encourage ACC Congregations, groups and individuals throughout NSW. As Chairperson of the NSW movement I had the great privilege of preaching and speaking at a number of Congregation and group events in 2010. I visited Coonabarabran, Grenfell, Orange, and Harden and was greatly encouraged by the faithfulness of the Congregations and members in those places.

It has also been encouraging to get regular reports from the Hunter Cluster of ACC members, who even though at times may feel somewhat insignificant and powerless in the bigger picture of the Presbytery, nonetheless perform a vital ministry of encouragement to each other as they meet and pray for each other and the wider cause of Gospel work.

Much of the work of the ACC is done by the National Council and its affiliated commissions, for which we are thankful. We are even more blessed in NSW to have access to National ACC Officer Peter Bentley who is a welcome and regular attendee at our NSW Committee meetings, We must always uphold the national body in prayer as they work diligently on our behalf.

In NSW, it has been interesting to observe the interaction between the ACC and the Synod, primarily through the Moderator's column in the monthly Synod Insights magazine and subsequent exchanges in the letters page of that magazine, as well as in the ACC Catalyst magazine. A sign that our theological view is heard, even if not welcomed or respected? We have indicated to the Synod that a delegation from ACC NSW is willing and available to continue in dialogue with the Synod as the need arises.

For 2011/12 I want the NSW Committee to continue to explore ways in which we can encourage and support Congregations and Groups within NSW/ACT. To facilitate this I would encourage Congregations and groups to invite us (or a member of the Committee) to visit and share with you in some capacity - listening to your concerns and sharing with you the ongoing vision and work of the ACC.

I look forward to another year of confessing and encouraging our common confession of Christ within the Synod of NSW/ACT.

Yours in Christ's service,

Ian Weeks
Chairperson ACC NSW
April 2011

Resurrection Religion

A number of years ago a minister of a different Wesley church told me the story of one particular Easter Sunday. Perhaps like many other Wesley churches, this one had within the worship space a picture of John Wesley, the one most of us are familiar with; Wesley in his black gown and clerical collar staring back with a fixed and brooding glare at anyone who dared to look at him. Far from being placed in a respectful, yet inconspicuous position, the picture hung imposingly behind the pulpit. So every time the minister preached he had John Wesley literally looking over his shoulder. No pressure. On this Easter Sunday, believing that the focus should be elsewhere, and reasoning that the great man himself would surely have deferred, the minister took the picture down. So that day there was both an empty tomb and an empty wall. He then went on to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus in full voice. What do you think was the thing he received most comments about following on from the service? I'm fairly sure there was another resurrection not long after.

In thinking about what I might speak about today, the resurrection of Jesus and its impact in daily ministry seemed like a good choice for at least three reasons.

1) We're now in the Easter season, only two weeks ago we celebrated the joy of Easter Day and the risen Lord.

2) As a young minister not long out of college ready to take on the world, it's the experiences of resurrection hope in people's lives and their witness to it that have made the most impact on me thus far.

3) The resurrection of Jesus is still the heartbeat of the Christian faith; of all we believe, of all we proclaim, of all we expect, of all we are.

St Paul makes it plain for us in 1 Corinthians 15, "If Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith." (1 Cor. 15: 14). In Athens on Mars Hill it is Paul's preaching of the resurrection that is the lightening rod which invokes the impassioned responses. "When they heard about the resurrection of the dead, some of them sneered, but others said, "We want to hear you again on this subject." At that, Paul left the Council. Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed." (Acts 17: 32-34).

I remember asking a friend of mine who was in ministry and had been for many years, why he ever wanted to do it. Without even thinking he said in a kind of off hand manner, ‘change the world', as if there was no other possible answer anyone could give to that question, and it was so obvious that it didn't really bear any lengthy consideration. When we look at it seriously, I think this is really the answer all of us engaged in ministry give to that same question. We want to change the world for the good. Or perhaps more accurately, we want to take part in God's mission to change the world in the power of the resurrected Christ; to see this same power flow into people's lives and hearts, into our churches and communities, into the world we know.

The British historian David Bebbington tells a lovely story in his seminal work, the rather mundanely titled: Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s, no doubt a big seller down at the local Angus & Robertson. He tells of a nineteenth century Quaker gentleman under his breath one day bemoaning what he saw as the rather repetitive nature of the preaching: ‘The atonement, always the atonement', he said, ‘Have they nothing else to say?!.' Bebbington is probably best known for what has come to be called the ‘Bebbington quadrilateral', a definition of what it means to be evangelical - and he finds four common threads: 1) biblicism, the centrality of the Scriptural witness, 2) crucicentrism, or the centrality of the cross and the atonement (as the gentleman attested), 3) conversionism, the belief people need to be converted, and 4) activism, the expression of the gospel in action in the world.

Ironically, though we could argue that the resurrection is assumed in each of these threads, it is not mentioned specifically in Bebbington's 4 points. The man complains about the constant preaching of atonement not the resurrection. Well, I guess what I'm wanting to say is that it is only through the resurrection of Jesus that the sum of the Christian life and faith, as well as its component parts, certainly the hope we proclaim Jesus holds for the world, have any real meaning and purpose. As was also true for Jesus' earliest followers, ministry & mission only finds its power and prophecy, its transformational character as it is entered into in the power of the risen Christ.

James S Stewart, a wonderful preacher of the last century rightly reminds us that without the resurrection, "Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Good Friday are helpless to save." The atonement itself loses its whole meaning and efficacy without the resurrection. If the Christian story ends on Good Friday, it ends in despair and death, and all the world's hope with it. Yet as we all know when we wake on Easter Sunday and declare ‘he is risen', a new day dawns for us all, one characterized by life, and life in abundance, where death itself and the grip of sin have been defeated. "God intends his pilgrims", Stewart again writes, "to struggle through the Slough of Despond, not to make it their theological home."

I have on my wall at work a photo of what I think must have been the immediate period after some particular funeral from the middle of last century. In the photo are a couple of ministers who surely have the grimmest and sternest looks on their faces you've ever seen. The photo is also in black & white which only adds to the austerity and gloominess of the whole scene. Above the photo, some humourist has written the caption, ‘Rejoice in the Lord always!'. Indeed.

All of us in ministry in any capacity would know, though, that quite often deep experiences of resurrection hope in daily church life can appear more the exception rather than the rule. Ministry with people is still the place where the power of the gospel must be appropriated into real lives and experiences. It's where ‘Thine Be the Glory' meets ‘Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away, now it looks as thought they're here to stay.' And as such it's still the place where our expectations of the difference we can make in the world as ambassadors for Christ are well and truly tested. There are a number of contexts, ranging from the personal, to the congregational, to that of the wider church, through which we might be convinced that we are anything but a resurrection people.

Beginning with the personal, it seems plain that deflationary pressures are not wholly limited to the global economy. The personal deflation of those in ministerial leadership can come about variously and in different quantities; sometimes it might be through what seem like minor intra-church skirmishes and sometimes it can be in things that may have a more lasting impact. Thinking of the former kind for a minute, sometimes it can be in simple things. Just imagine the minister in my initial example greeting people at the door having left it all in the pulpit on Easter Day, wanting those there to take away the joy and hope of the risen Christ with them back into their daily life, only to be confronted with, ‘When are you going to put the picture back?' Or perhaps in my own experience at one of my placement churches during training where, having preached the morning sermon, I was met by a retired minister - always a slightly apprehensive moment for the young and impassioned - and was left with this little gem, ‘Thanks for that Michael. It reminded me of some of my early sermons, gee they were pathetic.' Point taken.

As you reflect on your own experiences in various ministries whether they be in youth groups, in pastoral care roles, in administration, or as an ordained minister, no doubt you have your own catalogue, those times when in big ways or small you've been left wondering, what am I really doing here?
What's more, any person in Christian leadership is constantly confronted by the brokenness and fractured nature of their own lives. Like St Paul, we too may find ourselves reflecting, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. & For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do..." (Romans 7: 15 & 19). Confession is our constant calling.

On a congregational level, again, most if not all of us here are probably aware of some of the experiences that leave us less than rejoicing and somewhat disheartened as to the future prospects of the church. In one of the congregations I work in we have a number of homeless people who come in each service to sit in the comfortable chairs and enjoy the warmth and protected environment. It is one of the great things about a place like Wesley Mission that people really struggling with life still find it a refuge in a variety of ways. What this can mean is that at various points in the service long and loud snoring can be heard for periods of time, sometimes loud and long enough for the whole congregation to hear. While it's wonderful that such folk can find a peaceful place for some rest, in one sense this is everything the church is for, I hope this posture is not a metaphor for the congregational vitality of all UCA congregations.

Lack of numbers, lack of passion, lack of grace and kindness among people. Long and dry church council meetings, petty feuds, bickering and power plays. Moribund sermons, uninspiring worship, biblical illiteracy. Traditionalism, over bearing nostalgia, reluctance to try new things. More interest in buildings than people, in money than mission, in personal priorities than pastoral care. It's a long list.

If, as the UCA BOU suggests, "The Congregation is the embodiment in one place of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church, worshipping witnessing and serving as a fellowship of the Spirit in Christ." (Paragraph 15 (a)), then it should be the driving force of all that the church purports to be, yet so often we fail in this task.

Moving to the wider church within the UCA, things don't seem to get much better. The wider church processes can sometimes be the most frustrating to engage with. The model of conciliar councils, while theologically appealing in certain respects, creates a diffuse and often confused decision making process, and along with the consensus model, the safe place stipulations, and the complex labyrinth of boards, committees and agencies, can too easily be manipulated to serve particular agendas. And however we look at it, I think there can be no denying that almost from its inception the UCA has been over-governed, a fact that has only served to create a sometimes unconquerable gulf between people in the pews and wider church leaders and processes. In recent times, as we are all aware, this chicken came home to roost most powerfully and destructively in the debate over sexuality.

It's not difficult to become disheartened and deflated at the reality of much of this, especially as we consider that the broader context into which we proclaim the resurrection of Jesus is becoming better and better at discovering ways not to listen. I don't know about you, but there's just about nothing I find more frustrating than when Christian references are used for non-Christian means.

To briefly give you three:

1) (very relevant to our topic) The Easter football games that are advertised on TV using the resurrection motif - remember when [insert your team name here] came back from the dead to take a famous victory.

2) In a magazine a few years ago when a cooking article used the Lord's Prayer as a foundation for extolling the righteousness of particular foods - along the lines of give us today our high in fibre, multi-grain bread.

3) In a car magazine I was reading recently a headline extolling the virtues of cubic capacity and horsepower output of boat engines, ‘Water into Whine'.

Much of the wider Australian society simply looks past Christianity now. Churches are seen as relics of a bygone era, totally irrelevant to the real needs of people's lives, useful for weddings and funerals, but not much more, and once disused for lack of attendance turned into coffee or craft shops. Just this last week I was leading a devotion on one of our camps for disadvantaged children and I was asking them what they thought a minister does. One little girl shot up her hand and said, ‘Christens, marries and divorces people.' I reverted to the Meatloaf speculation that 2 out of 3 ain't bad. Engaging spirituality is thought to be found in other places and sadly, for all too often perfectly justifiable reasons, ministers are no longer seen as trustworthy. Militant atheism is on the attack, institutional religion is on the decline, and the church is caught somewhere between wanting to retreat within its own doors where it need speak only to itself, or turning itself into a social services provider, wholly separated from the all encompassing resurrection power and proclamation, where it doesn't need speak to anyone.

Connect this kind of mission field to an already distracted and internally conflicted church, and it seems the prospects for the hope of the risen Lord to be incorporated and appropriated into lives and communities is slim. It could easily appear that Good Friday has actually been the end point; that there is little or no hope beyond the grave.

Yet, marvellously, amazingly, it happens. God works often in spite of who we are, and through his power ministry does make a difference. The world does change. People do find new beginnings and restored lives and deep, deep wounds become cradles of the deep, deep love of Jesus. The new creation that Paul so boldly declared to be the result of Christ's living in us (2 Cor. 5: 17) is a potent reality not a theological nicety. I know this because I've seen it.

We have a man in our evening congregation whom I often take home after the service because he lives literally only 3 minutes from where I do. His name is Francis. Brought up with a nominally Catholic faith, the moorings to his spiritual tradition became more and more frayed and weakened over time. Estranged from much of his family and now into his 70s he has been dealing with the effects of Parkinson's disease for some years. The disease has hunched him over so badly that his whole body stands almost at a complete right angle from the waist. Walking is a serious challenge and is accomplished with a walker frame which acts as both a rest and a guide for him.

Quite apart from the physical issues, his posture and obvious bodily contortion have meant that his self esteem and confidence have been taken down to levels which seriously affected his outlook on life and relationships. Through one of our chaplains, who has been with him and sat with him and talked to him for many, many hours, at a point where he felt comfortable, he agreed to come to church. Like everything else, this was a challenge physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, but he came.

Last year in May, after attending with the chaplain on a number of occasions, over a number of weeks and months, and at his own request as he felt he had reached this point, we held a service in which he came forward, knelt at the prayer desk and affirmed his faith in Jesus Christ. Although I had sat with him and gone through the questions the Superintendent of Wesley Mission would ask and although I had reassured him over and over that he was loved and cherished by all who would be there, he was still concerned beforehand that he would not know what to say, and would find himself embarrassed. He was concerned he would shake so uncontrollably that he simply wouldn't be able to get any words out at all. As he knelt and responded, his voice started to waver. It became more and more broken and faint.

As this continued, another man, a regular member of the congregation, a man who had and has his own serious issues to deal with, a man whom our Superintendent had made a deal with that if he could stay sober for a whole year he would interview him on television, which he did, stepped forward onto the platform and placed his hand on Francis' shoulder. It was the very picture of all the Christian gospel is about. The very embodiment of Christian hope.

Today he is as frail as ever, and yet now he describes himself as a powerful man, a man of Jesus' power. For it is no longer he who lives but Christ who lives in him. (Gal 2: 20) And God's power is made perfect in his weakness. (2 Cor 12: 9) He walks around quite comfortably and happily in public on his own. He smiles more. He speaks to people more. And he knows a trust in God that holds him firm in a way that previously has seemed impossible.

It still happens. People are still transformed. Lives are still rebuilt by the grace and healing of God. The resurrection power of the gospel is still that which provides the greatest hope there is. Ministry does make a difference, it does change the world, even if sometimes it seems that it is painstakingly slowly. And I have to say that when I see this happening, I feel reaffirmed in my calling to the task of ministry and mission in the world we know. Another minister has said to me, "Ministry can be brutal, but it's the only game in town." It is the only game in town, because it is the vehicle for sharing the good news of the resurrection of Jesus in word & deed. I don't know what would have happened to Francis if that chaplain hadn't taken the time and hadn't had the faith to sit and share with him for the many hours it has taken up til now. But I'm pretty sure that he wouldn't be the man he is today if she hadn't.

There is certainly an objective aspect to the resurrection, it is an event in history, an event through which God breaks open all history, an event of cosmic significance that finally and fully puts down the powers of sin and death; and there is certainly also a subjective side, where the power that raised Christ from the dead flows into hearts and minds and transforms people like you and me and Francis. It is when the objective and the subjective meet in the daily reality of ministry that the church has dynamite in its hands in a world which prefers to look in any other direction for its big bangs - money, status, greed, influence, particular ideologies, sex etc.

And I believe there is a lesson here for us all. It applies to the personal, the congregational, the wider church context, and that is to make sure that this is our only agenda. Whatever our role, whatever our place in the scheme of ministry, the resurrection is our agenda. We are a resurrection people. It is in the resurrection that Jesus is revealed fully to the disciples for who he is. It is as Thomas is confronted with the risen Christ, scars and all, that he comes to his confession of faith, ‘My Lord and my God.' (John 20: 28). It is in the knowledge that his redeemer lives that Francis is able to say, ‘I am a powerful man.'

It can be very easy in a church like the UCA to become distracted by the frustrations that sometimes feel like they engulf our existence; to become deflated and to feel like the cause is lost and hopeless. But I think that when we look closely enough we can see that glimpses of hope do emerge. There are good men and women of the gospel working away at every level of the church to bring about a better world. The three Presbytery Ministers I have most to do with are good examples of people within the system who haven't lost their theological and missional teeth. Each in their own way, with their own gifts and personalities, wants to see the church live up to its calling to be the witness for hope in the world it is meant to be.

We need to be people who affirm and encourage such endeavour and intent when we see it even if that sometimes means offering a word of support to those in leadership whom we may disagree with on other issues. The biggest crime in politics is not to be the person saying the wrong thing, but to be the wrong person saying the right thing. We must never allow ideological or personal prejudice to undercut our full throated support when the resurrection is proclaimed, wherever and by whomever it may be. And we must be willing ourselves to engage in the processes of the church to bring about change. You cannot criticise from the point of disengagement with any credibility. Tony Campolo and William Willimon are two Christian leaders from the US who have come to experience some of the opposition that arises when resurrection hope and the deep love of God is the only agenda, rather than political postures or personal antipathies.

There are of course many temptations in the face of perceived embarrassment or derision. Water down our message, hold to a diluted political correctness whenever we're in public, hide away and refuse to engage. They're temptations which we all fall into from time to time. But, if you're anything like me, it's the times when you see the change brought about in people's lives, that fire your energy to go on; to go on proclaiming, ‘he is risen'. So, be on the look out! Expect God to be doing things through your ministry and in your contexts. And hold onto them when he does.

I'm not sure how many times Charles Wesley's great hymn, ‘Christ the Lord is Risen Today' would have been sung on Easter Day in churches around Australia, I'm guessing quite a few. I had it twice! But it still speaks of all we are as Christian people. Christ the Lord is risen today, Alleluia. I think Charles would surely have agreed with the minister taking down the picture of his brother John on Easter Day. I'm sure he would have said, there is only one point of focus today and it begins with the words, ‘I know that my redeemer lives.'

So it is for us. We are a resurrection people who exist in the ongoing power of the presence of Christ in the Holy Spirit, to the Glory of God the Father. This is who we are, this is what we proclaim, this is how we hope, this is what makes us new.

Thank you very much.

Rev. Michael Earl, Minister within Wesley MIssion.

 April 17, 2010

Barry Chant on the UCA

http://www.barrychant.com/

 

 

Hunter Regional Cluster

The Hunter regional group meet for fellowship, study and prayer to encourage and support each other within the presbytery region.
The Hunter Regional Cluster group is made up of ACC members in congregations within the NSW Hunter Presbytery area, with about 80 km separating our most distant people. We meet about 10 times a year for fellowship, prayer and mutual support.
If you would like further information please contact Glen Joyce Ph 4957 4834, or email Alton Bowen- .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address); Ph 4957 2722,

Confessions of a Gen-X Evangelical

‘Confessions of a Gen-X Evangelical' - Rev. Peter Chapman
Keynote speaker ACC NSW AGM - Sutherland Uniting Church - 18/4/09
(A slightly edited version of the presentation)

Over the next 20 minutes or so, my aim is to give you a brief look into what it is to be a follower of Jesus from within that much-maligned group within society commonly known as Generation X. In particular I want to give you a brief insight into what has been like being a young evangelical growing up, going through the candidature process, and ministering in the Uniting Church. I want to point out a few areas where you might not have previously been aware of the generation gap being a reality within the church, and
Finally, want to put in my two bobs worth in highlighting the challenges and opportunities we in the UCA will face as we try to raise up a new generation of orthodox believer.
ABOUT ME...
I am 35 years old (making me a late Gen Xer). I grew up in the Hills District of Sydney & attended Galston Uniting Church throughout my formative years in the 80?s & 90?s.
It was at Galston Uniting that I met Carlie, my wife, and we were married 11 years ago tomorrow. Since getting married, we have lived out at Wellington near Dubbo, I worked in the bank and Carlie taught at the local Christian school out there, we lived in London for a year & did the whole UK working holiday thing that is a rite of passage for young Australians these days, before returning home & doing responsible things like getting a mortgage, having kids, and candidating for the ministry.
We have four kids: Bethany 6, Sebastian 5, Elijah 2 & Ethan 4 months.
I candidated in 2001-2, was at UTC from 03-05 and from 2006 until now I have been in congregational ministry at Gerringong.
And I am a self-confessed, card carrying evangelical member of the Uniting Church.
It is always good to be able to laugh at yourself, so before we get started with critiquing others, I thought I'd share this list with you that I found online which might help you to discern if you too are an evangelical...
a. If someone tells you that you are "on fire," and your first thought is not to stop, drop, and roll...you might be an evangelical.
b. If you've ever used the phrase, "I don't think God is leading me in that direction," to get out of something you didn't want to do...you might be an evangelical.
c. If your personal library contains the Left Behind series, the Prayer of Jabez, the Purpose-Driven Life and Your Best Life Now....you might be an evangelical.
d. If someone says "guitar," and you automatically think "worship"... you might be an evangelical.

e. If you say the word "just" more frequently than the word "Jesus" when you pray...you might be an evangelical.
f. If you think drinking alcohol is a sin, but you have no problem helping yourself to seconds of everything at the church potluck dinner...you might be an evangelical.
g. If you think the song "Lean on Me" is worldly when played on secular radio, but worship when played on a Christian station....you might be an evangelical.
h. If your mental picture of Jesus and the 12 disciples is based on flannel board cutouts...you might be an evangelical.
i. If you have considered adding puppeteering, pantomiming, balloon-animal-making, and approaching random strangers as skill sets for your resume...you might be an evangelical.
j. If you've ever considered changing churches based on the potential of finding better-looking members of the opposite sex ... you might be a single evangelical.
k. If your annual New Year's Eve resolution to read through the Bible in a year fails around February when you get to Leviticus....you might be an evangelical.
l. If you've lost sleep worrying about whether you have the gift of singleness...you might be an evangelical.

WE ARE COMFORTABLY COUNTER-CULTURAL...
The first thing I want to emphasise as we explore the faith journey of younger generations, is that if we have grown-up in the church, we (unlike in previous generations) have been being very much in the minority in the wider community.
I have always been one of only a few church-going Christians among my peers.
We are used to being a bit strange, a bit odd, a bit of a novelty because we went to church.
We have always been counter-cultural.
Right from the earliest days at high school, we have been used to defending our faith against everything from a bemused ignorance through to outright hostility.
We have known what it means to be strangers in a strange land.
We know what it is to be sheep among wolves as we live out our faith in Jesus.
So right from the word go, we have known we are missionaries to our own nation - it's not a new concept for us.
OUR PEERS ARE OVERWHELMINGLY UNCHURCHED...
Sometimes I think we who have been in the church for a number of years (of whatever age) allow ourselves to get a little naïve about just how irrelevant the church is to broader Australian society.
We tend to think we're more important/relevant/significant in the community than we really are.
We need to be real about the fact that among people my age and younger, the church is a quaint irrelevancy.
Unless they went to a private school and were forced to endure chapel each week (and that is how it is described among my mates - something to be endured), most people my age are ignorant of even the most basic tenets of the Christian faith.
Here's an example. Recently at Gerringong we started a small group for some young mums who were new to the faith. The leaders started talking about the significance of grace - only to met with a room full of blank looks - they realised then that they had go right back to square one because even the fundamental truths of Christianity are a mystery to my generation.
Another example from Gerringong is the Palm Sunday march the churches used to get together for every Palm Sunday march down the main street with a bloke on a donkey and the whole works to show church solidarity etc to the town. When I floated the idea that we might get it going again with my Anglican counterpart, he pointed out that the feedback he had got form many people was that when they saw it they had no idea what was about. They had no idea what was being re-enacted.
Many people my age and younger do not have the first clue about matters of faith.
And that's if we're lucky!
Once you get to uni you are singled out for outright hostility from both students and faculty alike.
I went to UTS in the mid 90s and the Student Association at every opportunity harassed the Christian groups there.
In the name of tolerance and diversity, we were threatened for even daring to raise the issue of homosexuality and question it as a valid lifestyle.
It is funny how intolerant you can be in the name of tolerance though - have you noticed that?
Whilst the student union were fanatic about tolerance, they took great joy in pillaring the Christian faith - in one edition of the student newspaper, Vertigo, inside the front cover was a picture of Jesus surrounded by children with a caption stating "Have you seen this man?" with the obvious insinuation being that Jesus was a paedophile.
WE HAVE OUR OWN SUB-CULTURE...
Now, I have observed that this sort of marginalisation has had an interesting affect.
What this marginalisation does is create a Christian sub-culture within the youth of today.
We all know there are numerous sub-cultures out there within in the overall Australian culture.
And there is a Christian sub-culture out there with its own music, its own events, its own wristbands, its own clothing, even its own celebrities.
This is particularly the case with the rise of the mega-church where the pastors wouldn't personally know their flock from a bar of soap. I remember waiting in line to see a movie at Castle Towers in my teenage years and some of the big names from what was then „Hills CLC? turned up - it was like Elvis had entered the building or something.
And the more marginalised Christianity becomes, the stronger the identity of the Christian sub-culture has become.
Now, the challenge for those of us immersed in this sub-culture is to stay focussed on Christ rather than on Christianity.
The challenge is to see through all the jargon and merchandising and make sure you are committed to following Jesus rather than simply going through the motions by following the trends of a sub-culture like evangelicalism or any other „ism?.
WE ARE RECKLESSLY POST-DENOMINATIONAL...
The next thing I want to really affirm about young adults today is something which I think we all know in our head, but something that many of us have not fully grasped the extent to which it impacts on God's church.
That is, that my generation (and the one now following mine into adulthood - Gen Y) are overwhelmingly post-denominational.
We have never known Methodism or Congregationalism - we have grown up in the Uniting Church.
In general terms, we don't know or particularly care for the particular traditions of one denomination verses another.
And if you're like me (which most of us are) and grew up in primarily a contemporary worship format, you don't know the hymns. The CD player in the car is our hymnal.
We don't use words like 'Maundy Thursday' or 'lectionary'.
I remember innocently dropping the word 'lectionary' into a conversation with the Baptist minister in town who was my age and who responded: "What's a lectionary?"
When it comes time to choose hymns for our 9am traditional service at Gerringong I look up what others have suggested on the web, and ring my organist to confirm if they're well known or not. It is like learning another language.
I sometimes tell people that ministering to both a traditional service and a contemporary one is like ministering to two different churches. It is another world.
There is a feeling of having to straddle a great divide when it comes to knowing both the traditions of the church and being able to move within the contemporary forms of church.
When push comes to shove, most of us really don't care about the logo on the front door.
It's just a brand name, a label, disposable packaging. And it is irrelevant.
We just call ourselves „Christian?, pure and simple.
Although, even that word has lots of unhelpful baggage these days, and I therefore avoid it when I am describing my faith to someone.
I tend to simply say I am a follower of Jesus.
The reason for this is that Jesus himself still has street-cred, but the church has all sorts of negative connotations for people.
So my advice is to stick to naming Jesus as your God/guru/teacher/healer/guide/light and steer clear of church labels until you have a chance to explain further.
But getting back to the post-denominational nature of my generation, we have to realise it's a church supermarket out there - and there are hundreds of brands to choose from.
And there's not a huge amount of brand loyalty - if you move to another suburb or town and you find a home at the same flavour church as before, well that's well and good, but rarely will young people let it be a deal-breaker if the community of faith they find they're at home at does not have the same badge on the front as their last church.
And in some ways I think that's just as well for the Uniting Church that denominationalism is all but dead among the youth of today - if they were concerned about it they wouldn't often darken our doors.
Sometimes I think it is people's willingness to overlook the denominational stuff that's keeping us in the game, because if they did care, they certainly wouldn't darken the doors of the much-maligned Uniting Church (but more about that later).
WE ARE SHAMEFULLY CONSUMERIST IN OUR APPROACH TO CHURCH...
But I think that this random post-denominationalism approach to church has fed one of the greatest challenges that we face in reaching young adults today. I believe that among young adults today there is a tendency to reduce church to the same level as our mobile phone contract or our internet contract.
I have observed that, even among committed evangelical Christians, church is often seen as just another service provider that offers a product to be consumed at the discretion of the consumer. Churches are having to compete not only amongst themselves for precious market share, but with other organisations offering other services that people might want to consume to make them feel whole/well/happy/content.
Church is there to meet my needs, on my terms, when and how I want it.
"I'll have a helping of that, plenty of that, I'll come to that every once in a while to that, but don't want any of that, and if you come suggesting I upsize my church commitment to include that, I will take my business elsewhere."
We have sadly imported the consumer mindset to church. Church is all about me. Getting what I want out of it. Sadly, there is a lack of commitment to come to church with a mindset of what can I give, rather than what can I get.
Another important consequence of Generation-X's post-denominational nature is that because we don't particularly care for denominations, we are not going to spend our precious time and energy in propping them up.
We are not going to prop-up dying institutions.
We don't go in for committee meetings.
We don't care for quorums or constitutions.
This of course isn't just an issue for the church, but for any membership based organisation - they are all struggling - just ask the scouts, the unions, the clubs etc.
Any membership-based institution struggles to appeal to my generation - we don't join groups or clubs like previous generations did.
Getting young adults or young mum & dads even to take out formal membership is a challenge, let alone getting them to serve on church council.
And I can't imagine even my most committed young mums & dads going to presbytery or Synod - it is completely beyond the scope of most people my age in church.
(And to be honest with you, I'm not going to ask them to - if I twisted their arm they would probably go just as a favour to me - but they would be totally demoralised by our church meetings - in some respects, I see it as my job to protect my young families from the inefficient, irrelevant, dysfunctional, labyrinthine Uniting Church structures. I'm not going to burn up my young adults? time and energy by press-ganging them into roles within the Uniting Church machinery).
This is part, I believe, of the increasing Pentecostal influence on the church - people don't expect and don't particularly want to have a say in running the church - that's what the pastor does, and we come along if we like it - if not, sadly they'll just go elsewhere.
I'm at a point now where I see the way for we evangelicals to reform our church is to let the structures of our church fall in a heap (as they are currently in the process of doing) and rebuilding afresh from the ruins.
WE ARE OVERWHELMINGLY EVANGELICAL...
Now, if all this is leaving you feeling a little pessimistic about the future, I've got some good news for you.
My generation of believer - if they're still in the church - if, despite the culture around them they are still a committed follower of Christ, than chances are they will be evangelical.
Those of us, who no longer submit to the pattern of this world and have been transformed by the renewing of the mind, are overwhelmingly evangelical in our theology.
In fact I would be so bold as to suggest that evangelicalism is so dominant within the church among Christians my age that many are not even aware of an alternative.
I dropped the word „evangelical? into a sentence when I was talking with my Christian brother-in-law. He said: "What does that mean?" He's a committed Christian, grown up in a Uniting Church, been a Salvo for few years & currently attends a Baptist church, he's been overseas on mission, but has never really come into contact with the liberalism that is eating away at our church like a cancer.
They know that out there somewhere in other churches there are people who have watered down the gospel or deviated off the narrow path, but I'm pleased to say that orthodox evangelicalism is still so dominant that many of them have never really had to confront anything else.
Liberal, pluralist, humanist spirituality is everywhere - so if you're a young-adult Christian, you have made a decision to reject that ethos and to embrace Jesus as the way the truth and the life. If you want self-affirming liberalism, you can get it anywhere today. Why would we want it in our church? If you are chasing a vague spiritualism you don't go church to get it. The church is on a hiding to nothing by trying to present itself as a place where people can pursue this sort of spirituality.
Appealing to the liberal, humanist spirituality market might attract some curious interest in the short term, but it won't stick - it won't change lives like the saving grace that Jesus alone offers. The reality is that church is the last place people will want to go for liberal, airy-fairy spirituality.
If the church wants to connect with young adults in the 21st century, it needs to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, pure and simple. The reality at universities is that any liberal presence is dwarfed by the evangelical student unions.
What will appeal to my generation in the long run, what will stand the test of time, is to present this timeless truth.
The Pentecostals know it, the Sydney Anglicans know it, the Baptists know it, and look at them go.
They know what they believe and they offer certainty & hope & life in Jesus' name.
...and their seminaries are packed to the rafters.
Which brings me to my next point...
WE ARE SHUNNING THE UNITING CHURCH...
Unfortunately, although my generation of disciples are overwhelmingly evangelical, they are not sticking around in the Uniting Church.
Two of my mates who I grew up with at Galston graduated from Moore last year and are now in ministry in the Anglican Church.
They made a conscious decision several years ago that they could not remain in the Uniting Church given how far it has become adrift from its theological moorings.
Others of my peers from Galston are in lay leadership roles in Baptist and Pentecostal churches.
My generation, via either a conscious decision to leave or simply via finding a faith home elsewhere are shunning the Uniting Church.
With each Assembly a fresh haemorrhaging of our people occurs.
And it's the young families that seem to have let their feet do the talking.
Why, they ask, should we put up with this rubbish when there are other Biblically-based, Christ-centred, Spirit-filled churches down the road?
When I was discerning my call and sharing it with friends and family, one of them came right out and told me straight up: "Whatever you do, don't stay with the Uniting Church." The problem we face is that the Uniting Church's reputation as a ‘liberal' church, (though we know it's not really the case among most members of our church), it does tend to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.
We are attracting like moths to a flame every disenchanted Anglican and Pentecostal with an axe to grind.
UTC bears witness to this.
In defence of UTC, I must say that I am thankful for my time there in that it helped me to know what I believed and why, and that all the staff there (despite an undoubted liberal bias) are well meaning and hard working.
But when you hear candidates saying thing like "Hillsong has a conference???", you start to worry.
When the culture of your theological college leans so heavily towards a theological, social and political liberalism, it will undoubtedly deter the younger generation of leader (who as we have heard is fairly evangelical). It will have an impact on who chooses to attend and consequently who is in leadership in the church.
Luckily there is a whole world of conservative thought that can be drawn on via the internet. (Series of satirical and thought-provoking posters shown from http://www.spurgeon.org/~phil/posters.htm

WHERE TO FROM HERE...
So, where to from here for my generation of believer?
Well perhaps, just perhaps, the wheel has started to turn full circle?
Has the church bottomed out in terms of its presence in society and maybe starting to gain ground once again?
For my children's sake I hope so.
I see glimpses of it every now and again in popular culture.
A couple of good examples come from the positive impact our Polynesian brothers and sisters are having on Australian society.
There are some high profile believers, for example, on the rugby league field these days and in popular culture like Australian Idol who are very positive role models for the youth of today.
And what about the ACC - what can we do to help our church reach my generation?
Well, I think the first thing is to note is that we are not going to go looking for the ACC or any other body that represents denominationalism and attend meetings like this.
I think the best thing we could do is visit churches individually.
One of the hallmarks of our post-modern age is an emphasis on the local and a distrust of hierarchy. We need to go to them rather than expecting them to come to us.
If we can say to a congregation: "Can we come and visit you to let you know who we are and what we're passionate about?" then I think we'll have a much better chance of recruiting the young believers (as well as the older ones) to our cause as we seek to reform our church.

 

 

Nature of the Confessing Movement - Rev. Ian Weeks

Confirming Our Confession - Characteristics of a Confessing Church - 1 Cor 1:1 - 9

An address given by Ian Weeks at the NSW ACC Meeting Sat 11th October 2008.

Writing to the Corinthian Christians, the Apostle Paul gives thanks to God "... because our testimony about Christ was confirmed in you." (1 Cor 1:6 NIV) What was this testimony that Paul refers to? In Acts Chapter 18 we discover that while in Corinth, Paul "reasoned in the Synagogue, trying to persuade Jews and Greeks... that Jesus was the Christ" (Acts 18:4,5). Paul's testimony that was confirmed in the Corinthians was about Jesus: the Christ/Messiah.

Reading on in 1 Corinthians we also note that Paul's preaching and teaching was about Christ crucified (1:23 & 2:2) - the power of God & the wisdom of God (making nonsense of any suggestion that the cross represents the failure of God!) - the fundamental confession of the Church. As a Confessing Movement, we join with Paul in this testimony - Confessing the Lord Jesus Christ - as our "motto" declares.
Paul thanks God that the Corinthians received this good news about Jesus the crucified Messiah - but how was it confirmed in them, and how is it confirmed in us? From 1 Corinthians 1:1 - 9, can I suggest five "fruits" or characteristics of a Church that confesses Christ crucified.

Characteristics of a Confessional Church:

1. Sanctified in Christ - Holy in identity (v 2). We are unholy (sinful) people rescued by God's grace in Christ and declared holy by God. This is the wonder of the Gospel! The guilty are declared innocent. The stained are washed pure through the amazing grace of God in Christ's death and resurrection by the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

2. Called to be holy - Holy in action (v 2). Having been declared holy by God, we are now called to be holy, to live out this holy new life in Christ. We are to demonstrate transformed lives by holy living - a change in behaviour (c/f 1 Cor 6:9 - 11 "...what some of you were. But you were washed..." ).

I was greatly encouraged and excited to read the 2007 annual report of the ACC Discipleship & Evangelism Commission who stated their affirmation of "5 Christian disciplines......

1. Close study of the Scriptures
2. Daily prayer
3. Regular participation in the worshipping community
4. evangelical doctrinal integrity
5. an accountable lifestyle consistent with scriptural holiness"

O, how much we need to be reminded of these things, and live out the holiness that God calls us, so to bear witness to the testimony of Christ crucified! What a transformed denomination we would be if these 5 disciplines were taught, modelled and expected in our Churches!

3. Recipients of God's gifts (vv 4,5,7) The Church has been enriched in every way, and blessed with every spiritual gift necessary for us to live out God's calling upon us. I am convinced that even the smallest congregation has been given all the spiritual gifts necessary to function as the confessing people of God in that place. Rather than lamenting a seeming lack of "gifted people" in our small congregation, perhaps our challenge is to seek God's leading in how God's gifts can be identified in the congregation and used in testifying to Christ crucified.

4. Hopeful - Eagerly awaiting the Lord's return (v 7). The Church is to use these gifts in ministry as we wait for the Lord Jesus to return. We long for that day when "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, ..and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord..." (Phil. 2:10,11), at the same time reminded that we are accountable to the coming Judge.

5. Confident in God's Faithfulness (v 8,9). Finally, we wait with confidence knowing that God is faithful and will bring us to that promised end. God wants us there! Not only this, but Paul writes that God will strengthen us for the journey - the perseverance of the Church based on the faithfulness of God!

If we are serious about being a confessing movement, a confessing Church, then let us continually plead with God that we might display these 5 characteristics.