EFAC Australia

Spring 2020


Glenn Hohnberg challenges our practice and thinking about evangelism in this
first part of last year’s Mathew Hale Library lecture. Part 2 follows in our next issue.

Are we reaching Australia with the gospel? According to 2012 McCrindle research, 1 in 4 Australians attended church in 1966. In 2013 fewer than 1 in 14 attended church. The population of Australia has doubled since 1966 and yet there are a million fewer people going to church now than then. Even if a significant amount of church attendance in the 1960s was dead nomi­nalism and a culture of church-going rather than true belief, what the numbers show is that we are certainly not reaching Australia with the great news about Jesus.1

This begs the question as to why. The gospel is the same and God’s power is the same and yet we seem to be going backwards in reaching Australia. This article proposes that there have been profound changes in Australian culture in the last thirty years driven by changes in our working lives which our evangelistic strategies fail to reflect. But this is not the only difficulty. Coupled with this is a failure in our church culture to devote ourselves to the evangelising of Australian adults. And so we are failing to reach Australia.

We will begin by looking at culture changes driven by working changes in the last thirty years and then our church culture. In the next issue we will look at some ways forward for reaching Australia.


Rob Imberger gets people to talk about Jesus.

By far the highlight of my move to Bendigo thus far has been the opportunity to share the gospel with at least five people, none of whom I had previous relationships with. Yes, you may have thought it was the search for decent coffee (see previous column), but no, I have more high-minded and spiritual-sounding aspirations now! (That, and I already found my new coffee haunt within four days).
Anyway: this gospel-sharing has been so exciting, sparking a burning fire that all of these people come to know Christ. Two of these opportunities have arisen out of infant baptism visits, which is (if you’ll allow me to wear my heart on my sleeve) the most convincing reason why churches should offer infant baptism: not to get the babies talking about Jesus but to get their parents talking about Jesus. I’m reading through the Gospel of Mark with one particular family, an outcome neither they nor I could ever have envisaged after our first unremarkable visit. God is good!
Other gospel opportunities have arisen by the by and, as the new kid on the block, it’s frankly easier to be blunt and forthright: I have no bridges built to burn! (I’m only half-joking). I suppose the upshot of all this is Praise God for the awesome privilege of being involved in His work, through believing and promoting that the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes (Romans 1:16).
Now, some of you might think this is a regular occurrence for us ministers. After all, when the sermon’s written and the pew sheets are printed, have we not all the time in the world to evangelise the masses? Strangely not. If you ask me or your own Vicar, we will tell you that we tread a well-worn but necessary path, much of which consists of doing the ordinary mundane administrivia that in fact enables (rather than hampers) the more spectacular work of saving souls. That’s why you’ll see us, for example, writing emails, finalising rosters, having cups of coffee, taking days off, reading books. All of this, in some measure, helps free us up and be poised for the kind of awesome opportunities I’ve had of late.

As he departs the chair, Doug Birdsall reflects on the Lausanne Movement.

These are encouraging days for the Lausanne Movement, as we see the momentum from Cape Town 2010 continue. Let me tell you why I am bullish on Lausanne, why I believe it should command the respect of Christian leaders around the world and why I believe The Lausanne Movement should attract the generous investment and financial support of churches, foundations, ministries, and individual donors.
1. Legacy of truth and trust. Billy Graham and John Stott were two of the greatest evangelical leaders of our time. They shaped the Lausanne Movement and have personified its vision and values. They summon us to be our best selves.
2. Authoritative documents that provide wisdom for the global church: The Lausanne Covenant; Manila Manifesto; and The Cape Town Commitment.
3. Grandeur of vision: The whole church taking the whole gospel to the whole world.

Rhys Bezzant reviews the legacy of the 20th Century’s most prominent Protestant.

1959, the year Billy Graham visited Australia, was a high water mark for evangelical faith in this country, as well as a tumultuous turning point in Western culture. Castro’s revolutionaries took power in Cuba, and Berry Gordy borrowed $800 to set up a recording business to be called ‘Motown’. Texas Instruments announced the invention of the microchip, and the first military casualties were recorded in South Vietnam. The birth control pill was legalised, and the reform-minded John XXIII was elected Pope. JFK announced that he would run for President, and the film Ben Hur was released. An American Federal judge ordered the racial integration of buses and trams in Atlanta, and a Southern farm boy (and sometime brush salesman) from North Carolina filled the MCG (as it had never before or since been filled) to preach that old-time religion.
Graham explained how men and women might be born again, and appealed to the crowds at the ‘G’ to do just that, by placing their trust in Jesus Christ, and in his death for sins and resurrection to new life. And thousands were converted, perhaps the closest thing Australia has come to revival. Churches were filled, theological colleges (not just of evangelical persuasion) experienced increased enrolments, and a new generation of leadership for the churches was born. Some fifty years later, what do we make of Graham’s legacy? This article wants to suggest some lessons that we can draw from his successes as well as his shortcomings, as we examine the big picture of Graham’s ministry, and how it has impacted the world in which we live, and especially Christian culture, US politics and revivalist faith.

One on one with Deb Sugars.
One of my great joys in ministry is meeting one to one with new or young believers. My focus in this article is on discipling new and young believers, often a much-neglected area of ministry. We work hard to bring people into the kingdom—for them to hear the gospel, and respond. It is vital that we continue to work hard to help them become established believers, who have deep roots in Jesus, as their Lord and saviour. What does this look like?
A ‘disciple’ is someone who knows Jesus, and follows Him, someone who has a relationship with Him, has responded to his offer of forgiveness, and has received his grace. Discipling includes people hearing and responding to the gospel, and people growing in faith for the rest of their lives, through these stages. The time frame is different for each person.
New believers are particularly helped to grow In Christ by being discipled. Those who may not be ‘new’ believers, but who have had little exposure to the Bible, and need some help to read and understand it for themselves are also greatly helped.
What goals are we aiming for, as we disciple a new, or young believer? These three Bible passages give us some core ideas:

Julie-Anne Laird offers us her first-timers’ impressions of a global evangelical gathering.

An eighteen-year-old girl got up the front to tell us all that her father had decided to go back to North Korea to tell all his friends and family about Jesus. She hadn’t heard from him for four years. She presumes that he is dead. She has that same burden for her country knowing it could cost her life. There was not a dry eye in the place.
A woman spoke of how her husband, a doctor, had been killed when trying to help the Afghani people with medical aid. Instead of being bitter or angry, she did nothing but praise Jesus.
A guy on my table had been imprisoned for his faith in a country I can’t mention. He had been separated from his family for four years, had lost his home and all his money, and was desperate to be united with his wife and four children. At the end of the week we discovered that while he was in prison all fifteen in the jail cell came to know Jesus through him!
A Muslim guy became a Christian and was a humiliation to his family. He kept on trying to love them and show them what God was like. His father, at this death bed,
said to him ‘I love the God you love, because he is a kind and generous God. But I cannot believe in your religion.’ And then he died.
You could not sit at Lausanne and not change. To see 4000 from all over the world, living for Jesus and worshipping Him together was just amazing. All week I kept on thinking about how if this was what heaven was like, then I cannot wait to get there! But more importantly I long for everyone to be there!
Being at Lausanne was an ­encouragement as well as a ­challenge. I felt more and more dissatisfied with where the Church is at in Australia and the West in general and wondered if fear has totally consumed us when it comes to talking about our faith to those around us. Admittedly it is socially not the right thing to talk about Jesus and people will slowly back away if you’re too enthusiastic (I’ve discovered!) but we do have the freedom to share the gospel. So the question for me was: Why are we so afraid to talk about our faith when we really don’t have anything to lose? Where has our passion and zeal gone for Jesus? Have we lost our first love or are we focused on other things or distracted by life? Have we given over to apathy and don’t have perseverance for the relationships around us? Or are we just so discouraged and have tried and tried to talk about our faith that we end up thinking that God doesn’t really work in people’s lives and have given up praying?
So for me, I came back from Lausanne with a renewed passion for prayer, a renewed passion to talk about my faith with everyone, and a passion to train up evangelists.
If you want an impressive evaluation of Lausanne have a read of Ian Langham’s blog. (http://ianlangham.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/15-things-worth-taking-home/)

Julie-Anne Laird is an evangelist extraordinaire with the Melbourne University Christian Union.