EFAC Australia

Parish Ministry

James is an Anglican minister in Sydney. He has been in full-time ministry for 15 years and is currently a Senior Assistant Minister at Christ Church Anglican, St Ives.

There comes a day in each parent’s life when the little hand that has instinctually sought yours no longer arrives in your outstretched palm. It’s a sad but vital moment, when a growing child no longer needs your immediate guidance, protection and presence to make their way in the world. It’s a vital moment, because our kids need to grow independent if they are to mature into adulthood. It’s also sad, because the intimate path you made together, hand in hand, now becomes a series of byways with occasional common intersections. In many ways, the maturing of a Christian into whole-hearted discipleship moves in the opposite direction. Having come from outright rebellion and alienation from God in our sin, we now, by grace, journey into ever-deepening dependence on Christ. We need his guidance, protection and presence more and more. We learn to put our hand up and into the Father’s hand each day, becoming increasingly child-like as he conforms us to the image of his Son. (Rom 8:29)

As we consider the minister or any Christian at prayer, I find this image helpful. Clasped hands could equate to so much in the Christian life, but the particular intimacy and common motion equates beautifully with prayer—as does the tension between independence and dependence at the heart of our experience as adult believers. The world trains us to make our own way and sin fools us into thinking we are at the centre of that world. The gospel shatters that lie and the Spirit drives us to God our Father—but the journey into prayerful dependence is uneven and often slow. In my experience, what should be an ‘intimate path’ is too often a series of ‘byways’ with occasional meetings with the Lord! This is not just unfortunate, it’s dangerous—especially if we are charged with discipling God’s people and seeking the lost.