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EFAC Australia

Essentials

To look through the collection, see the article list on the left.

Publishing of Essentials is made possible by a paid membership so if you're not currently a paid-up member/subscriber we encourage you to become one so we can continue to fund this very worthwhile journal. Our Membership form is here.

JohnStottBundle at Koorong

 In conjunction with EFAC and Ridley's Conference celebrating the 100th anniversary of the birth of John Stott, Koorong is offering a bundled pack of two books, Through the Bible, Through the Year with John Stott, daily readings and reflections covering the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and John Stott, Pastor, Leader and Friend, a collection of stories, insights, and personal appreciation for what John Stott brought to the life of the church, along with a short biography. You can order this collection through the Koorong website

DamascusDamascus
CHRISTOS TSIOLKAS
ALLEN AND UNWIN, 2019

I was compelled to read Damascus after hearing its well-known Australian author, Christos Tsiolkas, speak at the Perth Writer’s Festival. Only knowing Tsiolkas as the author of the controversial, bad-language-peppered novel The Slap, I was bracing myself for the session to be an atheistic, disdainful, mocking critique of biblical Christianity; at best annoying, at worst blasphemous. How wrong I was.

Tsiolkas spoke with warm humility about his persistent, genuine fascination with Christianity that he has had throughout his life. Having been raised Greek Orthodox, in his teenage years he was invited by an evangelical friend to study the Bible. He was drawn to the love and graciousness of Jesus, and Christ’s care for the outcast.

However, his growing awareness of his own struggle with homosexuality drove him away from the faith, which he believed had no place for him. Today he still rejects the “Christian myths” but continues to have an abiding attraction to Christian ethics and the Bible, which he understands is the foundation of Western civilization. (I was shocked at his rebuke of a young audience member at the Writer’s Festival, who claimed never to have read the Bible so was unsure if he would be able to understand Tsiolkas’ new novel. Tsiolkas, without hesitation, replied that such ignorance of the Bible as a foundational cultural text was pathetic. A non-Christian gay man defending Bible reading – I was gobsmacked!).

MarksSonOfManThe Son of Man in Mark’s Gospel: Exploring its Possible Connections with the Book of Ezekiel,
DAVID FORREST MITCHELL
ACT MONOGRAPH SERIES,
WIPF AND STOCK, 2019

This book achieves what many would have assumed to be unattainable. Despite the immense amounts of scholarly effort invested in the study of Jesus’ use of “Son of Man”, David has contributed something that is not only new but also worth saying—and he has done it in less than one hundred pages! (This is the published version of the dissertation for which he was awarded the Master of Theology by the Australian College of Theology.)

The only surprise about what he says is that it needed to be said. There has been a long-standing consensus that Jesus derived this unusual self-designation primarily from the vision reported in Daniel 7. This leaves many thoughtful Bible-readers wondering why the scholarly eggs have been confined to this one small basket, when there is another that is much bigger and surely no less worthy of attention: the fact that the Lord never addresses Ezekiel by name but always (ninety-three times!) calls him “son of man.”

ComeLetUsSingCome Let Us Sing: A Call to Musical Reformation
Robert S. Smith
LATIMER TRUST, 2020

Reformation. That’s a rather strong word isn’t it? Are things that bad in Australian Evangelical congregational singing that we need reformation? I suspect different readers will have different perspectives on this. Some churches have grabbed the ball and run with it in the last decade or so, seeing wonderful development of music ministries and young, gifted musicians engaging in this high-profile component of church life. Others have tended to take a more conservative approach, but have still worked to clarify their theological position with musicians and congregations, encouraging growth in music ministry where possible. Across the board though, what many churches have achieved is improvement in relation to the cringe factor. Where I visit, things seem to be better than they used to be in terms of how the music is led, how bands and small ensembles are being used, and how creativity is achieved in musical arrangements.

Still, having said all this, I am not surprised at Rob Smith’s call to reform. I feel that many Australian Evangelical churches may be missing the wood for the trees when it comes to congregational singing. I say this having worked full time as a music director in a large church for 12 years, seeing much growth in music in that time, but also an ever-growing need for growth in myself as a leader among the people of God. Ironically, we have grappled deeply with some aspects of the theology of gathering and singing, and yet, in a lot of churches, congregations still don’t seem to be singing. Or at least they don’t seem to want to be singing. The interesting qualification to this is, of course, that during the season of COVID, many evangelicals have deeply missed singing together (where it has not been possible) and have craved the days of opening our mouths together in song.

Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind
Dominion
TOM HOLLAND
LITTLE, BROWN, 2019

So how did we get the culture, structure and morality of the Western world? Where did it come from? For many of us there is a vague feeling that many of the good things we appreciate in the West started in Ancient Greece but came to fulfilment in the Enlightenment. At that point in history humankind awakened to its own sweet reason and became aware of self-evident truths such as, for example, “all men are created equal”.

Not so, says eminent historian Tom Holland in his tremendously written book, Dominion: The Making of the Western Mind. These so-called ‘self-evident truths’ are not self-evident at all. Having written extensively on Ancient Rome and then having turned to Islamic history, Tom Holland has swum in different historical cultures, cultures that show no indication of seeing the self-evidence of such truths as Thomas Jefferson wrote about. Christianity is the towering force that has shaped the Western mind and continues to have impact even in institutions and societies that have long rejected, or even spurned faith. It is from Christianity that springs all the many concepts we have long taken for granted, such as women’s rights, freedom, science and secularism just to name a few. Many a Christian has suggested as such but Holland, who interestingly, is a bit slippery about his own conviction of faith, writes with passion and persuasion.

To the elders among you 1 Peter 5:1-14

Scott is Youth Minister at St Lawrence’s, Dalkeith, WA

“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: 2 Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; 3 not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

Although Peter is speaking to the elders, or leaders of the suffering churches, what he says is important for every believer. Perhaps you’re on a staff team, or involved in volunteer youth leadership, serving in the music team, kids church, Bible study or any other church ministry? If so, how should you lead? What do we expect from our leaders and how can we pray for them and encourage them?

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