The politics of suffering
- Written by: Joy Sandefur
Joy Sandefur reviews a controversial and groundbreaking book on indigenous life and ministry.
The politics of suffering : indigenous Australia and the end of the liberal consensus. Peter Sutton, Melbourne University Publishing, 2011. ISBN 9780522858716
To understand the pressures that Aboriginal clergy and church leaders face every day in their communities and the stress they work under you need to read this book. When you have, you will have a clear idea of how you should pray for Indigenous Christian leaders. In The Politics of Suffering Peter Sutton directly confronts the question of why so many remote communities are such dangerous places to live in.
The book is controversial among some anthropologists and other scholars. However it resonates with my own experiences. I have been associated with Aboriginal communities in Arnhem Land since 1973. I recently retired with a heavy heart because life in many of these communities is like living in a disaster zone. It is difficult to wrestle with the fact that life is now much worse than it was 40 years ago. How has this happened with so many programs carried out and billions spent by the government?
Peter Sutton writes passionately out of the deep hurt that he has experienced from the many early deaths and suffering of his Aboriginal friends. From his sadness and pain he addresses the question of why life for the residents of these remote communities is so much worse today than it was in the 1970’s when he and others of us first lived and worked in them.
Sex and Marriage
- Written by: Chris Appleby
Five useful books reviewed by Cailey Raffel and Ben Underwood
Married for God: Making your marriage the best it can be
Christopher Ash IVP 2007 ISBN 9781844741892
167 pages, with discussion questions after each chapter plus a comprehensive list of books for further reading
This is not a book of commonsense wisdom about sex and marriage with a coating of Bible verses to make it Christian. Rather, Ash wants to start with God and have God central to his whole discussion about marriage. Recognising that disappointment is one of the biggest reasons for marriage breakdown, he starts with the question, ‘What are proper hopes and aims for marriage?’
Ash calls us to line up our goals behind God’s rather than expecting God to line up his energies behind my goals. His bottom line is: put God at the centre and strive to want what he wants, and you will have a better marriage.
The Diminished God
- Written by: Tim Johnson
God’s Lesser Glory: A Critique of Open Theism
Bruce A Ware
Tim Johnson finds an ally in confronting an evangelical heresy.
It’s not often that I finish a book and decide to contact the author to thank him or her for writing such a helpful contribution to the Christian church. However, after reading ‘God’s Lesser Glory: A critique of Open Theism’ by Bruce Ware I did just that.
Open Theism is an ‘evangelical heresy’. It’s main proponents are from evangelical churches, it presents itself as a legitimate variant within evangelicalism, and its influence is growing very quickly in evangelical churches in the Western world. But what is Open Theism?
Some years back I preached a sermon series on the book of Job. In the final sermon I was particularly emphasizing the sovereignty of God even in the midst of great trials and hardship. As Job himself says to God in Job 42:1, ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’ On Monday morning I received an irate email from a member of the congregation. What I had taught was untrue, he argued. God’s purposes can indeed be thwarted because God’s sovereignty and indeed God’s knowledge of future events is limited. So when faced with atrocities in Rwanda or personal trials and sicknesses we must not blame God. God is doing all that he can to prevent these things but sometimes he is blindsided by events and powerless to prevent them occurring.
- Written by: Justin Denholm
Edited by Michael Bird and Gordon Preece
Anglican Press Australia 2012
Justin Denholm assesses an evangelical response to ‘Five Uneasy Pieces’.
Questions relating to sexuality are fiercely contested and deeply felt. In Australia’s current political and social climate issues of sexuality are frequently encountered. Should the definition of marriage be expanded to include same-sex relationships? Should churches and individual ministers be free to decide conscientiously if they will conduct such weddings? What voice in the public space do Christians deserve on this matter? More fundamental conflicts exist. If Christians oppose homosexual activity, on what basis do they do so? Because God prohibits it, or because it leads to personal or social problems, or because children should live with their biological parents? Even Christians who agree about an issue like same-sex marriage may have very different reasons for doing so and might choose to speak about it differently.
With so many questions like these being asked, it is essential that Christians be equipped to respond and engage in a faithful and respectful fashion. We need to be well prepared both to speak clearly and carefully into the world outside the church, while also ensuring that discussions and decisions with our brothers and sisters inside the church are faithful to the message that we have been given. Critically, we need a robust and intelligent understanding of what the Bible has say to say about sexuality and homosexuality in order to engage with these questions in a faithful way.
The PEACE Plan
- Written by: Beverley Churchward
Pastoral care by everyone for everyone. Jill McGilvray shows the way.
God’s Love in Action: Pastoral Care for Everyone
Acorn Press 2009
‘A new commandment I give to you: that you love one another as I have loved you’ (John 13:34). Caring for others is not an optional extra. Jill McGilvray’s booklet God’s Love in Action is a relevant and valuable resource. It is the culmination of a pastoral journey undertaken by McGilvray and the people of St Matthew’s Anglican Church, West Pennant Hills, Sydney.
It has been written for use by individuals who want to develop their skills in caring for others within the church context, but also by small groups or as part of a weekly training course over four weeks or as a seminar.
In section one McGilvray looks at the concept of God as our shepherd and people appointed by God, as shepherds of one another. She also reflects on the ‘one another’ verses in the New Testament as a hallmark of Christian community as well as on the ‘God of all comfort’ from 2 Corinthians 1 and 7. Personal bible studies and reflections are included and her suggestions on ways to practically show love are especially worthwhile.
Youth ministry that lasts
- Written by: Lisa Brown
According to Mark DeVries, to build a lively youth ministry you first have to get the boring stuff right.
Sustainable Youth Ministry: Why Most Youth Ministry Doesn’t Last and What Your Church Can Do About It
InterVarsity Press 2008
If a strong, healthy, sustainable youth ministry was a product you could buy at a Christian bookshop it would be in the ‘most popular’ section. Most churches would love to have one but the sad reality is that there are many youth ministries that are unsustainable in the long term.
While this may be attributed to the person in charge of the youth ministry, Mark DeVries points out that the longevity of a youth ministry has a lot more to do with the church as a whole. A common misconception is that if you want young people in your church then the first step is to employ a good youth minister. Unfortunately this quick fix solution can be just that, a quick fix without lasting impact or results.
DeVries’ accurate diagnosis is that the strength of a youth ministry has a lot more to do with overall leadership and structures within the church rather than just the youth minister. He points out that growing a sustainable youth ministry and discipling the next generation of young people is the responsibility of the entire church.
DeVries does not offer any quick ‘fix it’ solutions but his years of church consulting experience says that ‘building a sustainable, thriving youth ministry is not only possible, it’s actually predictable’ (page 11). He highlights key structures and patterns for success in youth ministry; noting two key components of systems thinking:
Architecture: the structure of sustainability; and
Atmosphere: the culture, climate and ethos that sustain the health of an organisation or ministry.
Most youth ministers will not be too excited to hear that creating a strong foundation for a sustainable youth ministry comes through establishing sustainable systems: i.e. by doing a lot of administration! This book is an encouragement to work ‘on’ the youth ministry to make sure the foundation is healthy, rather than putting out fires ‘in’ the youth ministry. A great tip for producing a strong foundation is to ensure that clear vision documents have been developed for the youth ministry; a mission statement, measurable goals, statement of values. This will produce a purposeful structure and clear direction to start building upon.
DeVries likens the foundation of the ministry to a dance floor. If it is repaired and maintained then the talented, trained dancer will be able to succeed. Often churches blame the lack of success in youth ministry on the ‘dancer’ or youth minister rather than looking at the dance floor which is often in disrepair. DeVries points out the reasons why many dance floors in are in disrepair and gives practical steps to help the foundation become strong. A great place to start is by making sure that the youth minister has a clear job description and by ensuring that there is a documented process for recruiting volunteer leaders.
An excellent read for anyone who is interested in seeing their church’s youth ministry flourish over the long haul.
Lisa Brown is a faculty member of Ridley Melbourne, where she trains youth ministers. Lisa is married to Phil, lives in Maribyrnong and has recently discovered the joy of growing things in her garden.