Training in Evangelism Today
- Written by: Gavin Perkins
How do we best train people in personal evangelism today?
In a recent survey of our church it emerged that the vast majority saw personal evangelism as their individual responsibility (83%). It seems that very few had bought the line that evangelism was only for the specialists or the especially gifted. The average parishioner knew it was at least partly their job. Yet, in the same survey it also emerged that at least half that number had virtually no spiritual conversations with non-Christians in the previous year. Not unexpectedly such a situation leads to an ongoing and constant low-level sense of failure and frustration: “I want to share Christ, I know I ought to share Christ, and yet I rarely do it”. In the same survey most (84%) felt comfortable to clearly explain the gospel, and whether we agree with this assessment matters little in regards to a conclusion that a sense of inability to share the gospel does not represent a primary barrier to speaking.
Editorial Spring 2023
- Written by: Gavin Perkins
The theme of this edition of Essentials is evangelism. The consensus in our context, as observed by Julie-anne Laird, is that when it comes to evangelism things are not going well. It is into that space that we seek to provide some encouragement, inspiration, and hopefully several ways forward.
There are many tasks and projects with which we can keep ourselves busy that are far easier than evangelism, and in the contested space of the post-Christendom West it is an ever-present temptation to focus on those easier things. However, to do so would be to lose sight of the glorious commission given us by Christ.
In this edition Peter Jensen’s article on GAFCON does far more than rehearse the story of a movement, it is a call and a challenge to all evangelical Anglicans to keep gospel mission at the heart of what we do.
We also hear stories of great encouragement from Lou Davies as she shares Christ in a school chaplaincy context. We reflect on how best to train our people in personal evangelism, and hear from Sarah Seabrook as she seeks to help local churches run better outreach events.
Let’s give ourselves afresh to the mission of Christ in the world holding on to his promise that “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.” (Mt. 16:18)
In Christian Fellowship
GAVIN PERKINS, BOWRAL, NSW
The Challenge of, and the Challenge to, GAFCON
- Written by: Peter Jensen
In speaking of the challenge of GAFCON, I ought to indicate, of course, that I myself was present when the idea of GAFCON was born in December 2007 and helped organise the first Jerusalem Conference in June the next year. Following that I became the General Secretary of GAFCON, a position I held until 2018. Thus, I am no uncommitted bystander, although I am no longer present at the key policy-making decisions. However, I can speak with some knowledge about the history and significance of the movement, and I want to discuss something of the challenge that GAFCON represents in the Anglican Communion and a particular challenge that GAFCON faces.
Among bishops and the keen observers of the Anglican Communion, the phrase ‘Lambeth 1.10’ refers to something so well known that it needs little introduction or explanation. It is, of course, a reference to the famous (or, for some, infamous) Resolution of the Lambeth Conference in 1998 on the subject of human sexuality and especially homosexuality. The Resolution was passed by an overwhelming majority of those present and voting, namely 526 to 70.
How Are We Going with Evangelism?
- Written by: Julie-Anne Laird
Recently, in my role as Chair of Lausanne Australia, we gathered 330 key leaders around Australia and I asked people to vote on how we're going with evangelism? In each State, the agreed amount was either 2/10 or 3/10. People really feel like we are failing in evangelism. In my other role as the Specialist Consultant for Evangelism and Mission for City to City Australia, I've been going around to Churches and helping them try and turn around with evangelism. This has been so good! But similarly, people really feel like we are not doing well with evangelism. Here's a few things that I've observed...
1. We Need To Pray
The thing to note is that Christians have a real heart for their non-Christian friends and would love them to know Jesus, but they feel inadequate to speak and they have lost the burden to pray. I often say, it's like we've given up on God, that he could possibly draw our friend or family member to Himself. All revivals start with prayer, and I feel like things are shifting in Australia. We know we are not doing that well now, which is a good posture to have because we know we need God. Really, this should have always been our posture but somehow, we think we can do it without God if we are not praying.
Book Review: Shedding Light
- Written by: Stephen Hale
Shedding Light: a history of St Columb’s Anglican Church Hawthorn through its stained glass windows
Port Adelaide: Green Hill Publishing, 2023
REVIEWED BY STEPHEN HALE
Malcolm Woolrich’s history of St Columb’s Anglican Church, Hawthorn is a remarkable achievement. There are many church histories of particular parishes and each in their own way are useful records of the life of a particular church. Most are reasonably modest publications for understandable reasons.
Shedding Light is remarkable in both its scale, quality and ambition! 500 pages, full colour, meticulous research from a wide range of sources, hundreds of pictures. I was tempted to weigh it on the scales because it is in every sense weighty!
Malcom initially set out to write a book about the 32 stained glass windows in the church. This evolved into using the windows to tell the story of the church and to use the windows to thematically capture the many different aspects of the church and its life, worship and witness since it was founded in 1883. More especially it is a wonderful reflection on the Christian faith as captured in each of the windows.
The book starts with a fascinating introduction on the place of stained glass windows in church history and the journey from the 3rd century to today. It is then broken up into 7 chapters that thematically reflect on the key themes reflected in the 32 windows in the church. If it was just a beautiful book with lovely photos and a description of each window that would have been good, but one could suggest, of limited interest. Rather each of the windows is put into its context and then connected with what was happening in the world (especially two world wars), society and the church in Melbourne and Hawthorn.
Hawthorn in 1883 was an outer suburb and it grew rapidly. As the suburb grew so did the church. In its heyday over 500 people filled the pews at each of the three Sunday services. It had a huge Sunday School and groups for just about anything you can think of – sporting, social, welfare, musical, educational, women and men, the wealthy and the needy. We all know it was a different world from today and it is a remarkable insight into the nature of that era. We tend to assume that it was a time when church attendance and involvement was not connected to deep faith, but more a standard part of middle-class society. The book dispels that myth with the stories and depictions of mission endeavour, both local and abroad. There was a keen sense of worship, growing in faith, as well as a desire to serve and actively support the needy and the marginalised.
The book is full of surprises like the outreach to the Chinese market gardeners and the challenges offered by the clergy in responding to our first nations people, which must have been controversial in their day. I did like the line on page 241 ‘parish leadership appeared unconducive to good health’, which went on to describe a bout of illness suffered by Rev Nash.
The book tells the stories of hundreds of people and their lives, faith and actions. The decline of St Columb’s in the late 20th Century is described as well as its renewal under the leadership of Rev Neil Bach and those who have followed on from him. St Columb’s distinctive and unbroken commitment to being an evangelical church is also captured. A fascinating appendix tells of the Nash controversy in the 1930’s!
Shedding Light is full of theological and pastoral insight, especially as it describes the wonderful windows which capture the range of the words and actions of Jesus. As such it is more than history, but a beautiful work of devotion as we seek to respond to and live out Christ’s example and teachings today.
Bishop Stephen Hale is Chair of EFAC Australia and EFAC Global.
Book Review: Biblical Critical Theory
- Written by: Tim Collison
Biblical Critical Theory
Zondervan Academic, 2022
Reviewed by Tim Collison
I was in Koorong with every Australian Christian’s favourite present: a Koorong Gift Card. I’d recently heard Dr Christopher Watkin speak about why Augustine’s ‘City of God’ was the first critical theory. My plan was to buy his most recent book, which I had heard many good things about. In my memory it is the most talked about book in Evangelical circles since Timothy Keller’s ‘Reason for God’.
This seemed to be borne out when I went to the counter to request a copy, after finding none on the shelves. The sales assistant thought they had put a lot out that day. They were selling fast. It is difficult for any book to live up to such pressure!
My short review is that ‘Biblical Critical Theory’ is worth reading. It may take six or seven weeks, but it rewards the time spent in it. Dr Watkin defines what he wants to do in his introduction: a critique of our culture. Then how the story of the Bible helps us understand, unpack, and critique it. He does this by ‘interweaving reflections on the unfolding biblical storyline with examinations of modern life and culture’ (p.25).
Dr Watkin’s pedagogical background shows in how he scaffolds understanding. Each chapter has a series of questions to help the reader engage with and reflect on what they have read. It also means some (very intense) small groups would find this an interesting way to explore this book.
All readers will find something that will interest them in this book. Dr Watkin builds his narrative through the book, but it is possible readers could read a section out of order.
The usefulness of this book is also found in its ability to make the reader think. There will be ideas or thoughts which may be new to the reader, or difficult to understand. The reading will stick with you and provoke new ideas and pathways of thinking. Or at least it did for this reader! The final quarter of the book was where I found the most mileage. Dr Watkin has the same ability as Timothy Keller to synthesise and share from his own engagement with authors many of us would never read. Many people will be familiar with the inevitable quoting of C.S. Lewis, but he also engages with and exposes the reader to a wide range of other thinkers running from Arendt to Zizek. In the final quarter I found his engagement with Foucault around the idea that ‘sexuality has become more important to us than our soul’ (p.515) particularly compelling.
While Dr Watkin hopes that this book will also help non- Christians engage in a fresh way with Christianity. Like Keller’s ‘Reason for God’ and Lewis’ ‘Mere Christianity’ it will be most helpful shaping the thinking of Christians for their discussions with those who don’t yet know Jesus.
Tim Collison, is curate at St Mark’s Camberwell, Melbourne
Book Review: Who is God: The Big Bible Series for Kids
- Written by: Ben Underwood
Who is God: The Big Bible Series for Kids
Vanessa Chappell. Illustrated by Poppy Lindsell.
Reviewed By Ben Underwood
While involved in church playgroup ministries for over 20 years, Vanessa Chappell wanted to read the young families an unadorned Bible story that stayed close to the biblical text; stories that were well illustrated but without any framing, and a series long enough to extend through the whole year, but she could not find it. And so began the work of creating accessible Bible stories that minimised paraphrasing and application, and instead, built familiarity week by week, were short enough to captivate the attention of the very young child, and ultimately revealed God’s gift of grace in Jesus.
The result of her labours, and those of illustrator Poppy Lindsell, is Who is God? The Big Bible Series for Kids. The four books align with the four school terms and provide a big picture overview of the Bible. They are produced at a good size for use in read-aloud Bible Storytime in school, church, or home environments. With these uses in mind, Vanessa has also developed digital colouring-in pages for further engagement with the story, and eBook formats for easier projection or display on screens. The illustrations are colourful and lively.
Check out the website www.whoisgod.com.au to shop directly or find out stockists.
Ben Underwood is Rector of St Edmund’s Anglican Church, Wembley, WA