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EFAC Australia

Essentials

I'll admit it. I have something of a love / hate relationship with preaching.AndrewKatay.

On the one hand, of course, I love it.

To serve the Lord by opening the Word of God to people, a word which drips with the truth and goodness and beauty of Christ, demands our highest gifts, strongest energies and most insightful thought. It drives us to prayer, for the simple reason that we long for God to use our words for His glory. Specifically, as congregations, including both believers as well as seekers, hear the Scriptures read and taught, we hope that the Spirit will convict unbelievers of sin and righteousness and judgment (Jn 16.8), bringing them to repentance and faith; and at the same time, that the Spirit will deepen believers in their repentance and faith, so that they more and more put to death the desires of the flesh and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit.

At the same time, it would be fair to say that there are times when I hate preaching. It is too much, it is too hard, it is too demanding. My limited insight, my limited time and capacity, and my very limited actual putting into practice what it is that I am preaching about assail me. I stare at a blank computer screen, a sparsely scribbled hand written sermon outline, with open Bible and commentaries strewn around, and wonder when the words will flow. Which of course is part of the dynamic of all ministry and which keeps pastors and preachers humble and prayerful.

I have found a greater freedom in preaching in the last few years, in part by getting clearer on some key questions. It was Rudyard Kipling who wrote: "I keep six honest serving-men / (They taught me all I knew); / Their names are What and Why and When / And How and Where and Who". And it is in that spirit of inquiry and curiosity that I want to ask only three questions of preaching - why do we preach? To whom do we preach? And How do we preach?

Archbishop of Sydney Kanishka  Raffel  is interviewed by Gavin PerkinsKanishkaRaffel

  1. Can you tell our readers a little bit about your own spiritual journey? What did you find compelling about Jesus when you first encountered him in John’s gospel?

I was saved by the Lord after reading John’s Gospel when I was a University student.  I was surprised by the transparent historicity of the Gospel.  As I encountered Jesus in its pages, I was struck by the vibrancy and vitality of his humanity.  He was not a disembodied ‘voice’ of religious wisdom – he was a real person engaged in relationships with friends, enemies, the needy, the powerful and the powerless. John uses the expression ‘at this, the people were divided..’ on more than one occasion and in the Lord’s kindness, he challenged me with this phrase.  I began to ask myself a simple question – ‘Why was I opposed to Jesus?’  When I could offer no good reason, I yielded my life to the Lord.

  1. As you look out on the worldwide church, particularly the Anglican communion, what signs of life and progress fill you with hope for the future?

I am deeply humbled by the courageous and joyful commitment to church planting and evangelism that is evident in the Anglican Churches of the Global South - in Africa, Asia and South America.  I’m struck that in Anglican churches in the majority world there is a great confidence in the gospel, a great submission to the Lordship of Jesus that produces glad obedience and creative and ambitious ministry, and a deep reliance on prayer.  All this, often in contexts of poverty, poor infrastructure and corrupt government, or where Christianity is a minority religion.  

  1. And as you look out, what gives you cause for concern?

In the majority world, there is the challenge of avoiding moralism on the one hand and prosperity teaching on the other.  In the West, the challenges are arguably greater.  Western churches are collapsing as they reject the authority, sufficiency and trustworthiness of God’s Word in a misguided attempt to accommodate themselves to the dominant Western secular paradigm.  This is a fatal error because it mistakenly treats late modern Western secularism as a benign host when in fact, our cultural moment is shaped by agendas that are anti-empirical (prioritising the subjective over the objective), anti-social (prioritising the individual at the expense of social groups including the family) and absolutist (brooking no opposition or diversity of opinion or practice).  

DavidClaydonDavid Claydon

At the St Paul's Cathedral Thanksgiving Service for the life of John R.W. Stott held on 13 January 2012, an insert with the service sheet suggested that John will be remembered 'as an outstanding biblical preacher … as a strategic leader of the worldwide evangelical movement, as a prolific writer, and as a model of Christlikeness and personal friendship.'

These personal, God-given gifts were a linking factor in bringing together John Stott and Billy Graham. They came together in 1955 when Dr Graham was invited to lead a mission at Cambridge University and John Stott assisted him. In the years that followed their friendship grew and they expressed to each other the need strongly to promote the most important task for all Christians, namely to be involved in the evangelisation of the world. Their discussions led them to conceive of an International Congress of Church leaders from around the world to meet together and consider how they could all be involved in world evangelisation. Billy Graham's staff team worked on a Congress program and it was considered that the way forward would be to have a Covenant which expresses the most important biblical principles agreed to by those committed to Christ's calling to take the gospel to the world (cf Matt 28:18-20 and Acts 1:8, 11).

Difficult times require real leadership.

However, without meaning to tread on any political toes,I do not think it is unreasonable to suggest that in wider society ours is an age not overly blessed with courageous and capable leadership. We continue to lift up our hands in prayer for our political leaders, at the same time as we often find ourselves throwing those same hands up in despair and frustration.

What then of leadership in the church?

One of the aims of EFAC is “to function as a resourcegroup to develop and encourage biblically faithful leadership in all spheres of life.”. Many of the elements of this edition of Essentials touch on that issue of leadership. We hear from the new Archbishop of Sydney,Kanishka Raffel, as he begins his new responsibility in leading that diocese forward. Andrew Katay and Simon Manchester both reflect on the nature of preaching as a means by which Christians are led to real gospel transformation. Mike Flynn wrestles with the paradox that church leaders matter both more and less than we think.

Alongside these contributions we attend to the sobering reality of failure in church leadership. Such failure may or may not be more frequent in the present moment, but it is certainly being played out in a more public and seemingly disturbing way than at any time in recent memory. Peter Brain faithfullyand calmly guides us through answering that difficult question, ‘what can we say in response to sexual sin in Christian leaders?’. Similarly, Chris Porter draw sour attention to a recent book guiding churches in their healing from emotional and spiritual abuse.

In all of this we turn continually to one who cleanses, defends, and preserves his church, prayingthe Collect for the 16th Sunday after Trinity: “O Lord, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through JesusChrist our Lord. Amen.”

AlanNicholsStephenHaleAlan Nichols with Stephen Hale

During John Stott’s long and remarkable global ministry, he often weighed into the great theological controversies of his day. It would be unfair to suggest he was a controversialist, yet it would also be true to say he was unafraid of controversy.

This flowed out of his overall teaching, preaching, writing and speaking ministry. He was committed to engaging with the Word of God as well as the issues of his day. As he put it in his classic book, I Believe in Preaching (1982 and still in print), ‘the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in the other.’ Stott had a high commitment to seeking to unpack the scriptures but also to the application of the scriptures.

In my conversation with Alan Nichols he reflected on Stott’s approach and impact. In the course of Alan’s long ecclesiastical career he was involved in the communications team at the Lausanne Congress in 1974 as well as many other global and local EFAC gatherings. Alan had the privilege of seeing John Stott in action both up front and behind the scenes. This article is a series of reflections drawn from Stott’s books, his public engagements and the impact these made in particular on social justice, women’s ministry and simple lifestyle.

GlennDaviesGlenn N. Davies
President of EFAC Australia
John R. W. Stott was a well-known evangelist and apologist in the 1950s, undertaking various university missions in England, while ministering at All Souls' Langham Place, first as a curate (1945- 50) and then as Rector from 1950.
Stott's first visit to Australia was in 1958, the same year that both Basic Christianity and Your Confirmation were published. These were extremely influential books in Australia. The first for Evangelicals of all denominations and the second for Anglican young people in particular, as they prepared for their confirmation. The latter was the standard text for a generation of confirmees.

The purpose of Stott's visit to Australia was to lead university missions in Melbourne and Sydney. One student present at Sydney University's mission recalls that on one occasion Stott had suffered a bout of laryngitis, disabling the projection of his voice to the gathered throng. Yet, as God's grace is perfected in human weakness, this affliction did not prevent the Spirit's work in drawing many students to Christ.

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