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EFAC Australia

Essentials

Over the past five years, there has been an increase of more than 15 percent in the number of overseas students from mainland China entering Australia. In 2005 there were 81,184 students and if we add on the number of students from Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South East Asia, the number increases above 130,000.

These students are to be found in our universities, high schools, language schools and other institutions.

In my experience, reaching out to overseas students from China is much easier than reaching out to regular Aussie adults. There is also the strategic importance of reaching out to them.
  1. Those who eventually return to China after their studies here, become influential people who can reach out to their families and friends.
  2. Those who return to China over their school holidays, would be good channels for short term mission trips.
  3. Those who do not return to China after completion of their studies, would be able to reach out to immigrants (increasing by more than 10 percent annually), as well become assets to local Chinese churches.

Paper presented at the 2006 National EFAC Conference

At a conference on "Growing Gospel Passions", my topic is Passion for Ministry – and I must say preparing this talk has made me sharpen my thinking about both passion and ministry. People who know me will say that I'm not a particularly passionate person (apart from the occasional shout at the TV when watching football) and as an adult convert I, to begin with, sort of drifted into ministry…

But over 25+ years of being involved in ministry and observing others in ministry, I have reached the conclusion that ministry and passion for ministry are all about our response to the grace and mercy of God – loving God and loving one another. Let me expand on that – first, by having a look at:

A. Passion

1. Definition - the what question

Passion – what is it? My dictionary says passion is: a very strong emotion; an intense enthusiasm for something – which is not all that helpful as it could describe what's going on in anything from a football crowd to a suicide bomber. It seems to me that words like passion and vision are bandied about pretty freely these days and its generally assumed we all know what we are talking about when we use them – but I must confess that I get a bit muddled at times. So, its been good for me to think through what passion is all about, in the context of ministry.

The New Perspective on Paul

1. What is The New Perspective?

The last twenty-five years has seen a paradigm shift take place in some quarters of New Testament studies by proponents of what is called "The New Perspective" on Paul ('TNP'). TNP re-frames the way we understand the issues Paul deals with in his letters to the Galatians, Philippians and Romans among others. At the heart of TNP is a change in the way we should understand Judaism leading up to Paul's time – called Second Temple Judaism – and the Pauline language of righteousness/justification. This change to represents a significant departure from the Reformation understanding, and has caused great concern amongst a number of evangelicals.

This article provides a brief introduction to TNP and outlines some ministry implications.

1.1 Second Temple Judaism

A dramatic shift took place with E. P. Sanders' Paul and Palestinian Judaism (1977). Sanders argued that Second Temple Judaism was a religion that relied on God's grace, not legalism or works as theologians of the Reformation onwards characterise it.

Paper presented at the 2006 National EFAC Conference

The 'tyranny of distance' is a well recognised feature of Australian experience, and it is an area of pastoral need EFAC is well placed to both recognise and address. One of the goals of the recent National EFAC conference was to assist in connecting evangelicals across Australia, and this was prominent in the discussions as part of the workshop on this topic.

Isolation is experienced in a variety of ways: geographically, culturally, socially and even emotionally. There is also an ecclesiastical version of isolation, where those with differing theological or ecclesiological perspectives can be left out in the cold. While this can be the experience of any who are a minority presence, this article will focus primarily on evangelicals experiencing isolation in Australian contexts, but many of the observations are applicable more broadly.

It is quite possible to feel isolated in a crowd – in some cases, especially in a crowd. One significant aspect relates to a sense of identity. A sense of being a nobody, of being invisible or of minimal significance can be a painful part of feeling isolated. It is important to feel as though you haven't been forgotten. The following suggestions (arising from the workshop discussions) are not in any priority order, but collectively can be packaged as our 'top ten' suggestions.

Open any catalogue from a Christian book retailer and you will find pages and pages of different Bibles for sale. Study bibles, devotional bibles, Bibles for men, women, teenagers, seniors and children. There are Bibles to suit every possible occasion in life – baptisms, confirmations, weddings - with only funerals thus far escaping the ploy of the marketing experts!

Yet although we have plenty of Bibles on hand to own and look at, very few of us really spend much time seeking to read and understand its message. The most recent Australian Church Life Survey showed that only 19% of church attendees read the Bible daily or on most days, with another 46% reading it only occasionally and 37% hardly ever or never at all.
The Bible may be perhaps the most owned (US Statistics point to an average of 6.8 Bibles per household) but least read of any book ever printed.
And not only least read, but also least understood of any book. Those Sunday school bloopers - "the epistles were the wives of the apostles", "Solomon had 300 wives and 700 porcupines" - are humorous, but also are sadly true of many people in our churches for whom the Bible is largely a mystery. The old saying, "Wonderful things in the Bible I see, most of them put there by you and by me", is often an all too common experience.
It was with this in mind that the leadership team of our church devised a 10 week series called the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Bible to help our church members and visitors understand something of the big picture of the Bible and thus make it more accessible and able to be read and enjoyed.

In 2006 there were two editions of Essentials, Summer & Spring. See the list of articles at the left or check our archive site.

I could hardly believe my eyes. Ten years before, I'd spent two hours debating with John1 the Good news of Jesus' death and rising to life, but he left my home still unwilling to accept it for himself.

Prior to that I'd invested two and a half years of intentional relationship building, invited and occasionally got him to attend a variety of men's outreach events, poured out heaps of prayer and spent regular periods providing encouragement to his Christian wife, Carol. All this effort apparently to no avail. Yet here I was, preaching in a different suburb and towards the back were John and Carol both sitting and listening intently!

After the service we caught up and I discovered John was now a Christian and attended church with his wife and children twice each weekend. One part of me (the sinful) wanted to say – "It's not fair, all my efforts and someone else reaps the rewards!" However, the other part of me (the Christian) was rejoicing at the wonder of God's grace.

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