Church Leadership

Where do we find leaders?

Rhys Bezzant is Dean of Missional Leadership, and Lecturer in Christian Thought at Ridley College
First published in The Melbourne Anglican. Used by permission.

Rhys Bezzant discusses our need to cultivate leaders in the church who can communicate and commend the promises of God to a world without hope, whether in sermons and sacraments, in someone’s home or in the neighbourhood café.

In Melbourne, we don’t do well at spotting, training, empowering, and sending leaders, and the need is increasingly clear. Our city is growing rapidly, likely to overtake Sydney in our lifetime in terms of population. Our city is expanding geographically, calling for new kinds of initiatives where Anglicans are not easily found. Our church is at best stable in terms of Sunday attendance, though this number has certainly declined since the last census. Relative to the size, complexity and composition of our city, we are barely keeping up with shifts in the population. We need more leaders, who will pastor our grand-children and reach out to a city being reinvented even as I write.

Of course, many clergy train elsewhere in Australia or overseas and come to Melbourne to take a parish or to be employed in sector ministry, obviating our need to find leaders here, but just as many leave us for missionary service, for labours in other parts of the country, or to retire gracefully. We ought not to be complacent and assume there will always be a pool of potential leaders to draw upon. It is our responsibility and privilege to tell out the goodness of the Lord to our children’s children and to recount the deeds of the Lord before the nations.

What kind of leaders should we then be cultivating? Those who know Melbourne well are in the best position to encourage vocations of people who can serve in Melbourne. There is clearly a contextual element. However, there is a link between the nature of the church and the nature of leadership to be developed within the church. What kind of leaders should we be cultivating? That depends on what kind of church we are envisioning.

The promises of God lie at the heart of the church. A core Protestant conviction is the idea that God’s voice, or God’s Word, or God’s call come before our response of faith and obedience. God reaches out with his offer of salvation, and we receive his promises with trust. Our Anglican heritage puts the ministry of Word and Sacrament at the core of the church’s life, for the church is a congregation of the faithful “in which the pure Word of God is preached, and the Sacraments be duly ministered according to Christ’s ordinance.” At the heart of the Tabernacle or Temple in the Old Testament was the ark of the covenant, in which the tablets of the law were placed. Christ, as the renewed Temple of God (John 2), embodies the promises of God, and as his body we the church carry his promises to the ends of the world (Matthew 28). Leaders in the church must be people who can communicate and commend the promises of God to a world without hope, whether in sermons and sacraments, in someone’s home or in the neighbourhood café. We want leaders who are clear-minded, adept in speech, and confident in God’s power to speak and to save. Look out for leaders like these!

And at the heart of God’s promises is his desire to draw close to his people, to show them his face, and to assure them of his presence (Psalm 27). Indeed, God’s presence is the second guiding criterion to establish where we find the true church. In the Tabernacle and after that in the Temple, God filled the building with his presence, and in times of disobedience he withdrew his presence from them. Moses pleaded with the Lord to remain with the people in their wanderings despite their sin (Exodus 33). The glory of the Lord eventually departed from the Temple in the time of Ezekiel (Ezekiel 10). In Christ, God has come to “tabernacle” with his people (John 1), and by the Spirit we enjoy God’s intimate presence.

After his resurrection Jesus promised to be with his church until the climax of the ages, and in the Communion service we proclaim the presence of the Holy Spirit with us and offer each other a hand of peace. Leaders in the church must be people who rejoice in the fruit and gifts of the Spirit of God, who empower others to cultivate the fruit and exercise their gifts. Through the Spirit we participate in the life of God the Holy Trinity, no longer observers but players in the divine drama. Leaders in the church are people who train others for active involvement and spiritual maturity, not dependent on the clergy but pursuing their own ministry alongside us. We need leaders like that!

But to preach God’s promises and celebrate God’s presence faithfully, we need to understand the context of God’s purposes, which are to renovate the world through the death and resurrection of Christ, starting with us. Remarkably, the Tabernacle was adorned with images of fruit or trees from the garden of paradise reminding us of the start of the story, and ultimately the Temple became an eschatological emblem of the way the world will one day be, situated on the transformed Zion with all the nations streaming to worship there. Jesus describes his person and message in terms of the Kingdom of God, for in him all God’s purposes are consummated. The church is his bride, and we will dwell with him forever. Indeed, the grand story of history focuses on the Father glorifying the Son, and the Son glorifying the Father, in the power of the Spirit. In the new world, there will be no Temple, for the ultimate purpose of God, announced in the promise of God to dwell with his people forever, will have been realised (Revelation 21-22).

Leaders in the church are people who guide us towards fulfilling the purposes of God, who are skilled in mission, who encourage us to make connections with the world around us for the sake of our witness, who have a godly impatience with the status quo and have eyes to see how the church is a down-payment on the world to come. The prophetic leader is the person who recalls us to our true mission, and sends us out “in the power of the Spirit to live and work to his praise and glory.” Those are leaders whom we desperately need because they have a clear vision and the capacity to urge us to action. Don’t be scared of their insights and urgings. Promote them!

Where are we going to find leaders like this? In the first instance, there may not be many around. Our job, whether ordained or lay, is to imagine what the people in our parish or sector could yet be, and to take steps to help them see their future in a new way. Who is the person you could never do without? That person is surely a candidate for further training. Who is the person in the parish that others naturally look up to? That person might be the next Vicar of the parish. Who is the person who wants to learn more, is always asking questions, and is offering to help out in ways that are not always natural to them? That person with a servant heart and nimble mind could well be a warden in waiting, if only we cultivate their enthusiasm. Leaders are made, not born, and it is the job of everyone in the church to be finders or spotters, encouraging and equipping the saints for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4).

That also means that as present leaders, who serve for example as clergy or parish council members, we need to develop our own skills in mentoring and training. If we are not doing the job of developing leaders, it is unlikely that anyone else will. We set the mood and culture of the parish. And part of the way that we lead and feed is to think long-term and beyond the boundaries of our parish itself. The ordained, for example, take our part in “the councils of the church,” owning our responsibility for its sustenance and enduring life. We ought not to be embarrassed about investing in a few individuals – after all, the Lord Jesus did. We ought not to imagine that we have nothing to contribute – in a fragmented world, our friends or parishioners are looking for models of integration and wholeness, which even the least trained can offer. We ought not to think that someone else will do the job of cultivating vocations, whether that be the diocese, or the parish down the road, or the colleges. They each have a role to play, but leaders in local settings are in the best position to identify and empower. If you find and cultivate leaders, you won’t get a spotting fee, but you will be honouring God’s promises, presence and purposes for the church. I for one would gladly spend and be spent in that noble task.

Closing the Gap Part 2

Last issue Jude Long identified important gaps between Indigenous Australians and the rest of
Australian society. Here she suggests some first steps for Christians who are keen to see those gaps closed.
Dr Jude Long is Principal of Nungalinya College, Darwin, NT

In my previous article I outlined the significant gap that exists between Indigenous Christians in remote communities, and mainstream English speaking Christians. This gap includes areas such as health, life expectancy, safety, literacy, and resourcing in Christian faith. Obviously this is a huge issue! This article attempts to explore some concrete things the church in Australia can be doing to help reduce this gap.

1. Awareness

Many people within the church are unaware of the reality of life for Indigenous people in remote communities. Few would have an understanding of the significant cultural and linguistic differences that exist between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.

This first step may seem obvious, but it is essential for the church to become aware of the diversity of Indigenous languages and cultures, of the history of engagement between Indigenous and Non-Indigenous Australians and of the situation today. I think this is especially significant for our young people. There are a number of great resources available like “Australians Together” a four part DVD series that is suitable for small groups that can really help this.

The Scholarly Significance of Leon Morris

Neil Bach, having recently published a biography of Australian New Testament scholar Leon Morris, just can’t shake his enthusiasm for Leon and the impact of his scholarship.

Neil Bach is the author of Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth.

My recent biography Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth (Authentic Media /Paternoster 2016) gives a comprehensive overview of the interesting life and fascinating scholarly pursuits of Leon Morris. In considering his significance as a scholar, a worthy exercise in itself, I offer a few observations.

Leon Morris was unusual in having no formal theological education until he arrived at Cambridge aged 35 for his PhD. His lifelong habit was to write straight out of his head and then check what others thought. That he was so confident in theology and yet had been quite diffident in his early studies is a matter of interest.

Leon drilled a deep significant mine of truth at Cambridge in his PhD study on the atonement and drew from it throughout his career. It demonstrated his already developed belief in the cross as central to the bible and Christianity. His analysis changed the thinking about the cross and exhibited its power and meaning again. We acknowledge that concepts of God’s love, righteous opposition to sin, Christ’s sacrifice, redemption, righteousness and so on were known before Leon arrived. His application of rigorous scholarship as an evangelical academic pioneer in the establishment of the truth of penal substitution, against more liberal treatments, marked him out.

His significance was marked by his complete and passionate attachment to evidence based conclusions, arising from his scientific beginnings. When once asked of views of another scholar Leon took the man’s book down and looked at a passage in question. He told me that he had reviewed the man’s sources, went behind them to supporting data, but that sadly the scholar’s views were not supported by the sources, in fact some claimed sources didn’t exist. Leon liked evidence and it controlled his interpretative framework.

He was also significant for the way he rigorously searched for the meaning of biblical words. He used the words wider background, moved through the original meaning to the use of such words (and terms) in the bible to determine biblical meanings. My friend Peter Adam develops these principles further in an article referenced below*.

Leon was retiring by personality, but forthright within academia; in his post Cambridge PhD days he trail blazed a rising standard of evangelical scholarship in Australia by his world-class contribution and the institution of a Tyndale Fellowship in Australia.

He put his mind to truths put forward by other scholars that troubled his conservative wing and produced a credible defense of various matters. Only a few evangelicals were available to do this. A small example of his time is his booklet The Abolition of Religion, in response to the honest to God debate. He later wrestled over issues within evangelicalism … the inerrancy debate, women in ministry et al. His conclusions have shaped evangelical thinking.

He was an encourager and mentor of numerous evangelical scholars that followed him. People like I Howard Marshall, Graeme Cole, Peter Adam, Tom Schreiner, Brian Rosner and pastors like John Stott record their debt to Leon. Stott relied heavily on Leon’s view of the atonement in his popular book The Cross of Christ (IVP 1986). Leon’s emphasis remains in a number of modern conservative writings.

It might seem odd to say, but people could understand his teaching and writing. Leon was apparently judged to be more understandable than some of his colleagues. A student at Ridley College, Melbourne, later a successful Vicar, had a fine law degree and had sat under some very astute university lecturers. He was amazed at Leon’s teaching. He said that he could not believe the precision and clarity of Leon’s teaching compared to what he had experienced in his law faculty. This clarity significantly helped students, academics, Christians and non-Christian learners in their understanding.

His influence in teaching students who became Vicars and church leaders across Australia has to be noted. In his Melbourne Diocese his fight for love and truth was most clearly seen and the Diocese is the richer for it.  He wrote so that English, American and other Christians also received great teaching in the central issue of the cross and other truths. When he travelled, extensively until he was 74, he poured his heart out for others in his teaching.

Leon was a scholar who could preach and relate to the church. I argue, and you can assess it in the book, that he turned his mind to helping the church as much as academia in the latter half of his career.  His extraordinary humble servant perspective came to the fore, as even though he was more suited to pure writing, he and his wife Mildred juggled academic and general ministry responsibilities.

Then there is significance as a scholar in having sold some two million books of the depth of Leon’s work. A few years ago in Nashville, I asked a young lady in the main Christian bookshop, did she have any books by a guy called Leon Morris? She fiddled with the computer and said ‘Oh … Oh … yes, we do have a few … would like to buy some.’

In all of this Leon never forgot his roots, and never forgot that people needed to be saved and established in Christ. I outline the connection in Leon’s thinking of the cross of Christ and how it impacted his passion for evangelism in the biography.

Lastly, Leon saw himself as an ordinary human being. There were several major obstacles during his personal life and career, some within and some outside himself.  It was only the deep spiritual relationship he had with Jesus Christ, his God given humility, prayer and love of God and scholarly capital that he had built up over the years that enabled him to get through some of these trials.

You will have your own view of his significance as a scholar. My unashamed view, having spent eight years on and off researching his life, is that in this arena Leon Lamb Morris is an Aussie hero. 

Neil Bach Melbourne, Australia April 2016

*See Peter Adam  ‘Morris, Leon Lamb,’ in Donald K McKim, ed., Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, 2nd Edition, Downers Grove /Nottingham, IVP, 2007, pp. 751-55.

The Scholarly Significance of Leon Morris

My recent biography Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth (Authentic Media /Paternoster 2016) gives a comprehensive overview of the interesting life and fascinating scholarly pursuits of Leon Morris. In considering his significance as a scholar, a worthy exercise in itself, I offer a few observations.

Leon Morris was unusual in having no formal theological education until he arrived at Cambridge aged 35 for his PhD. His lifelong habit was to write straight out of his head and then check what others thought. That he was so confident in theology and yet had been quite diffident in his early studies is a matter of interest.

Leon drilled a deep significant mine of truth at Cambridge in his PhD study on the atonement and drew from it throughout his career. It demonstrated his already developed belief in the cross as central to the bible and Christianity. His analysis changed the thinking about the cross and exhibited its power and meaning again. We acknowledge that concepts of God’s love, righteous opposition to sin, Christ’s sacrifice, redemption, righteousness and so on were known before Leon arrived. His application of rigorous scholarship as an evangelical academic pioneer in the establishment of the truth of penal substitution, against more liberal treatments, marked him out.

His significance was marked by his complete and passionate attachment to evidence based conclusions, arising from his scientific beginnings. When once asked of views of another scholar Leon took the man’s book down and looked at a passage in question. He told me that he had reviewed the man’s sources, went behind them to supporting data, but that sadly the scholar’s views were not supported by the sources, in fact some claimed sources didn’t exist. Leon liked evidence and it controlled his interpretative framework.

He was also significant for the way he rigorously searched for the meaning of biblical words. He used the words wider background, moved through the original meaning to the use of such words (and terms) in the bible to determine biblical meanings. My friend Peter Adam develops these principles further in an article referenced below*.

Leon was retiring by personality, but forthright within academia; in his post Cambridge PhD days he trail blazed a rising standard of evangelical scholarship in Australia by his world-class contribution and the institution of a Tyndale Fellowship in Australia.

He put his mind to truths put forward by other scholars that troubled his conservative wing and produced a credible defense of various matters. Only a few evangelicals were available to do this. A small example of his time is his booklet The Abolition of Religion, in response to the honest to God debate. He later wrestled over issues within evangelicalism … the inerrancy debate, women in ministry et al. His conclusions have shaped evangelical thinking.

He was an encourager and mentor of numerous evangelical scholars that followed him. People like I Howard Marshall, Graeme Cole, Peter Adam, Tom Schreiner, Brian Rosner and pastors like John Stott record their debt to Leon. Stott relied heavily on Leon’s view of the atonement in his popular book The Cross of Christ (IVP 1986). Leon’s emphasis remains in a number of modern conservative writings.

It might seem odd to say, but people could understand his teaching and writing. Leon was apparently judged to be more understandable than some of his colleagues. A student at Ridley College, Melbourne, later a successful Vicar, had a fine law degree and had sat under some very astute university lecturers. He was amazed at Leon’s teaching. He said that he could not believe the precision and clarity of Leon’s teaching compared to what he had experienced in his law faculty. This clarity significantly helped students, academics, Christians and non-Christian learners in their understanding.

His influence in teaching students who became Vicars and church leaders across Australia has to be noted. In his Melbourne Diocese his fight for love and truth was most clearly seen and the Diocese is the richer for it.  He wrote so that English, American and other Christians also received great teaching in the central issue of the cross and other truths. When he travelled, extensively until he was 74, he poured his heart out for others in his teaching.

Leon was a scholar who could preach and relate to the church. I argue, and you can assess it in the book, that he turned his mind to helping the church as much as academia in the latter half of his career.  His extraordinary humble servant perspective came to the fore, as even though he was more suited to pure writing, he and his wife Mildred juggled academic and general ministry responsibilities.

 

Then there is significance as a scholar in having sold some two million books of the depth of Leon’s work. A few years ago in Nashville, I asked a young lady in the main Christian bookshop, did she have any books by a guy called Leon Morris? She fiddled with the computer and said ‘Oh … Oh … yes, we do have a few … would like to buy some.’

In all of this Leon never forgot his roots, and never forgot that people needed to be saved and established in Christ. I outline the connection in Leon’s thinking of the cross of Christ and how it impacted his passion for evangelism in the biography.

Lastly, Leon saw himself as an ordinary human being. There were several major obstacles during his personal life and career, some within and some outside himself.  It was only the deep spiritual relationship he had with Jesus Christ, his God given humility, prayer and love of God and scholarly capital that he had built up over the years that enabled him to get through some of these trials.

You will have your own view of his significance as a scholar. My unashamed view, having spent eight years on and off researching his life, is that in this arena Leon Lamb Morris is an Aussie hero. 

Neil Bach

Melbourne, Australia

April 2016

*See Peter Adam  ‘Morris, Leon Lamb,’ in Donald K McKim, ed., Dictionary of Major Biblical Interpreters, 2nd Edition, Downers Grove /Nottingham, IVP, 2007, pp. 751-55.

Knowing the Truth of the Cross Produces a Thirst for Evangelism

Neil Bach reminds us of the life and impact of the Australian New Testament scholar Leon Morris ahead of the publication of his biography of this man who loved the gospel of Christ crucified.

Neil Bach is the author of a recently published biography of Leon Morris entitled "Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth."

Sixty-five years ago the embers of a spiritual battle burst into flame. After a lecture at Cambridge University a young Australian courageously stood in front of a very great churchman.

‘I don’t think you were right in that, sir.’

‘Oh’ he said. ‘Why?’

I said one or two things.

‘Would you write that out for me?’

Between one lecture and the next the young man had a session with the churchman Michael Ramsey. He tried to explain to Ramsey that the scholar C. H. Dodd was wrong in eliminating propitiation from the New Testament. He thought the old boy was most interested. We know that young man. He was Leon Morris. He remains the greatest New Testament scholar Australia has produced. He wrote extensively about the cross of Christ, with his book The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross still a fantastic read, summarizing the truths of propitiation, redemption, covenant and so on that he unearthed in his Cambridge studies. In a new biography, soon to be published by Paternoster, called Leon Morris: One Man’s Fight for Love and Truth, I tell his life story and the impact of his teaching ministry.

Church Planting: A Critical Issue for an Anglican Future

Is church planting normal for Anglicans? Is it worth the trouble? And how can we make a decent fist of it for the sake of churchplanters, their teams and the cause of the gospel? Andrew Katay gives answers.

Andrew Katay is CEO of City to City Australia and Rector of Christ Church Inner West Anglican Community in Sydney. He presented this paper at the 2015 Anglican Futures Conference in Melbourne.

When you hear the words ‘church planting’, I wonder if your gut response varies somewhere between skinny jeans and chai lattes on the one hand, or penicillin and a cure for cancer on the other. Is church planting just a phase that we’re going through, like the other phases that come and go periodically in church life? Or is it the answer to everything, the solution to all problems and the only gateway to a glorious future?

Actually it's neither. It’s not a mere trend or fad, for the obvious reason that ‘one-another life’, and therefore church, is central to the purposes of God for his people. And every church that exists had a beginning, which if you like agricultural metaphors, you could call church planting. At the same time, church planting comes in many forms, from independent churches to congregation plants and everything in between, green fields as well as brown fields, and has many specific risks as well as advantages, and is only a part of what God is doing in and through his people.
I want to unpack the challenge of church planting in an Anglican context under three headings - its normality, its net results and how to nurture it.

Closing the Gap

Jude Long shares some insights about some of the crucial issues for Indigenous people in the remote parts of Australia

Jude Long is Principal of Nungalinya College, Darwin, NT

We hear a lot today about closing the gap between Indigenous and non–indigenous Australians. Government policies are developed, and decisions are made about how we (usually meaning non-indigenous people) are going to do that.
“The gap” has become a shorthand way of describing the inequalities in Australian society between the first and second peoples of this country. The gap exists across Australia, but it is very different for urban Indigenous people compared to those in remote communities. I can only talk from the context of Nungalinya College where most of our students come from remote communities across the Top End and down into the Centre of Australia.

Health Gap

Here is a story to illustrate the health gap for people in remote communities. We had a student come in to an intensive with a sore foot which had been burnt in a fire. Her community did have a clinic but it was currently closed because a 14 year old girl had committed suicide by hanging herself outside the clinic and so everyone was too scared to go to the there. She showed her foot to our staff who thought it smelled not so good so took her along to the hospital. It turned out that she had gangrene and had to have 3 toes amputated.

Life Expectancy Gap

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