Servant Evangelism in Luke-Acts
- Written by: Gavin Perkins
Luke declares at the beginning of his gospel that he writes of “the things that have been fulfilled among us” (Luke 1:1). In Luke and then Acts he then makes it clear that the people of God’s evangelistic task of global mission is a crucial fulfilment of the Old Testament hope, particularly as expressed in the prophecy of Isaiah. In Isa. 42:6 it is promised that the Servant of the Lord will be a light to the nations. This is expanded upon in Isa. 49:6 where the Servant is to be a light to the Gentiles “that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” With Jesus in his arms, Simeon proclaims that in seeing Christ, God has brought about this salvation long-prepared (Luke 2:30–32). Accordingly, in Luke’s schema the proclamation of forgiveness in the name of the resurrected Christ to the ends of the earth is as much the goal of prophetic hope as the death and resurrection of the Christ.
In Luke 24:45–47, the resurrected Lord Jesus gives his disciples the essence of Old Testament scriptural hope as fulfilled through his ministry. The necessity of prophetic hope created a necessity that shaped his own ministry—it was “everything that must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms” (Luke 24:44). The suffering of the Messiah and the resurrection of the Messiah both took place just as had been prophesied as a fulfilment of Old Testament hope (Luke 24:46). However, Jesus adds a next step of necessary fulfilment, one which still lies in the future as he speaks to his disciples: “repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:47). Just as much a part of the prophetic hope as his own death and resurrection, just as vital to God’s plan, and just as certain to be fulfilled, is the proclamation to the ends of the earth of the gospel of repentance and forgiveness in the name of Jesus.
Furthermore, Jesus promises empowerment by his Holy Spirit for the work (Luke 24:49). In this promise Jesus links the ongoing proclamation mission of the church with his own preaching ministry. Isa. 61:1–2 had promised the Spirit would be on the Servant of the Lord, anointing him to “proclaim the gospel to the poor.” This gospel proclamation would bring spiritual comfort, freedom, sight, and a season of favour and blessing from the Lord. Jesus began his public ministry at the synagogue in Nazareth by preaching these verses from Isaiah, declaring those words to be fulfilled in his ministry (Luke 4:21). Jesus is the Spirit-empowered gospel preacher bringing freedom and spiritual sight as he breaks the chains of oppression. Accordingly, the promise in Luke 24:49 of divine empowerment for mission links Jesus’ evangelistic mission with that of his people. In Acts 2:1– 12 Luke makes it clear that this empowerment is the Holy Spirit, and that power drives forth the church in mission, not just to the nation Israel but to all the tribes and tongues of the earth.
As Luke follows the growth of the gospel word in the book of Acts, he continues to draw on the prophesy of Isaiah as central in shaping the essential and necessary nature of the church’s ongoing mission. Luke recounts a crucial turning point in Paul’s ministry during which he defends his evangelistic strategy by quoting Isa. 49:6 (Acts 13:47). Paul and Barnabas’ heightened focus on Gentile mission was driven by theological and not just strategic or pragmatic considerations. In quoting from Isa. 49:6 Paul declares, “For this is what the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth’” (Acts 13:47; emphasis added). In Isaiah 49 the “you” refers to the Suffering Servant, but in Acts 13 Paul and Barnabas take it as directly referring to them. It is “what the Lord has commanded us” (Acts 13:47; emphasis added)—that is, Paul and his missionary co-workers. The commission to the Servant has become for them a command to engage in Gentile mission. As he and Barnabas are engaged in that ministry of the Servant as they plant Gentile churches, Paul unequivocally sees them as fulfilling the ministry of the Suffering Servant to be a light for the nations and bring salvation to the ends of the earth. In his commission God set Paul apart to proclaim the gospel to the ends of the earth, and he does the work of the Servant, so he will also bear the stripes of the Servant (Acts 9:15–16). Furthermore, he includes in that commission those who partner with him in the work.
An examination of two key passages in Paul’s letters confirm this link. Paul retells the story of his own calling in Galatians writing, “God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles,” and in so doing recalls the words from Isaiah, “the Lord called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name” (Isa. 49:1). The commission Paul received to preach the Son among the Gentiles (Gal. 1:16) is in fulfilment of the promise in Isaiah that God would bring saving light to the Gentiles. Also, in Romans 15:19 Paul could boldly claim, “from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the gospel of Christ.” Paul continues in Romans 15 by quoting another of Isaiah’s Suffering Servant songs: “It has always been my ambition to preach the gospel where Christ was not known, so that I would not be building on someone else’s foundation. Rather, as it is written: ‘Those who were not told about him will see, and those who have not heard will understand.’” (Rom. 15:20–21, quoting Isa. 52:15). Once again Isaiah provides Paul with a self-understanding that informs his missionary strategy. The Suffering Servant has come and was pierced for the transgressions of the whole world, and so Paul will go to those who have not heard. In this sense Paul is completing the work of Christ as he carries on the work of the Suffering Servant in bringing light to the nations. In all of this, Paul is clear that it is Christ the Suffering Servant who works through him in his own suffering and ministry; it is all “what Christ has accomplished through me” (Rom. 15:18). Strengthened by Christ, and with Christ speaking through him, Paul proclaims light to the nations.
In the second half of the book of Acts (read alongside Paul’s letters) it is clear that the Spirit-empowered proclamation of salvation in Christ becomes not just the task of the apostolic eyewitnesses but also of the churches established through their ministry. The mission strategy of the Apostle Paul is to plant key churches as training and mission centres to further the evangelisation of a wider region, and so has built within that strategic plan an expectation that local church members would follow his lead in using their gifts and opportunities to proclaim Christ to their family, friends, and acquaintances. His aim was to firmly plant the gospel in the key cities of each region through ceaseless work in evangelism and faithful nurturing of the emerging churches into an established maturity. His pattern was then to return to those churches, appointing and training leaders, and envisioning for sustained faithfulness and mission (cf. Acts 20:28ff.). As Paul writes his letter to Rome, he can look out over that great area from Jerusalem to Illyricum and can say, ‘my work here is done’ (Romans 15:19). For Paul, at this point, the gospel has been fulfilled amongst the Gentiles of the East and they are now able to continue the task themselves. He aims to leave churches mature enough to get on with the task of preaching the gospel and furthering the mission without Paul’s ongoing direct support.
In Paul’s ministry as recorded by Luke there is an expected and normal link between proclaiming Christ and enduring hardship. This is important for the church in every age to grasp as they continue on mission. In his letter to the Colossians, Paul writes strikingly, “I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church” (Col. 1:24). The sufferings of the Apostle for the Gentiles are in continuity with the sufferings of the Christ, not in terms of atonement but in terms of mission. Christ suffered as the source of the gospel message, Paul (and those who follow him) suffer in the proclamation of that gospel message. The suffering that is the source of grace is that of Jesus and is perfect and complete, however, the suffering that is the necessary accompaniment to the proclamation of the gospel is incomplete. Both sufferings were anticipated by Isaiah, and so the figure of the Servant finds fulfilment not solely in Christ’s sufferings for the church, but also in the sufferings of those who proclaim the light of the gospel to the nations. In the era of salvation history between the resurrection and the return, the gospel must be proclaimed to the nations, however this proclamation is not done by the Suffering Servant himself (as Isaiah 49 seemed to indicate) but is through the church acting by his commission and power. Christ will proclaim light to the Gentiles as Isaiah anticipated, but it is through his church. As Paul conducts a mission to Gentiles he fills up in his “flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions” (Col. 1:29) as his toil, struggle and suffering for the Gentile church become a necessary part of his continuation of the ministry of the Suffering Servant, whose energy works within him. In continuing the ministry of the Suffering Servant, Paul was the pioneer, but others joined him in the task. Barnabas was designated as one who alongside Paul fulfilled the song of the Suffering Servant, and as Paul taught and trained others he made it clear that the link between suffering and mission was not unique to him. In writing to his young protégé Timothy, Paul reminds him of his teaching and the persecution and suffering that it produced, “You, however, know all about my teaching, my way of life, my purpose, faith, patience, love, endurance, persecutions, sufferings—what kinds of things happened to me in Antioch, Iconium and Lystra, the persecutions I endured” (2 Tim. 3:10–11). Having seen Paul’s ministry up close, there is no doubt that Timothy understood what Paul meant when he writes, “everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). The faithful ministry of the word of God involves persecution and suffering. As Paul stands at the finish line exhausted, but victorious in Christ, he calls back to Timothy, “keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” (2 Tim. 3:5). Timothy was part of the fruit of Paul’s pioneering mission, and now he is called to share both its joys and its trials as he carries on that same mission. Paul planted churches in the Gentile world, but having laid a foundation in Christ, he handed over responsibility for the development of that mission to those young churches. Believers today are recipients of the gospel to the nations and stand in this line of responsibility as the present generation to whom the mission has been entrusted.
As Luke writes his two-volume work to show what has been fulfilled through the ministry of Jesus he also displays what is continuing to be fulfilled by Christ through his church, empowered by his Spirit. Evangelism is at the heart of the life and purpose of the church, even as it leads believers directly into the types of hardship that Paul and his apostolic band endured.
How to prepare for an outreach event
- Written by: Sarah Seabrook
Event evangelism. Has it had its day? Not if you look at what is still happening in our churches in the School Holidays, at Easter and around Christmas. We still like to invite friends, family, neighbours, and colleagues to a gathering that isn’t church but where the hope is they might hear something of the gospel or even perhaps a very clear gospel presentation and a call to respond. Getting it right for everyone is pretty tricky. How do we make it outsider friendly? When will the talk be and for how long? What ought to happen around the talk time?
We often put a lot of effort into the event we are holding and possibly not as much effort and time into preparing ourselves beforehand. So, if you do go to an event as a believer, what should your attitude and actions be?
There are 3 things that need to inform our attitude.
1. Be convinced that God will work because Christ came to save sinners and God desires that all people be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth (1 Tim 2:4). He will work through the message of the gospel in power and the Holy Spirit (1 Thess. 5:1, 2:13) and in you ‘to fulfil every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power’ (2 Thess. 1:11-12).
2. Be assured that the message is relevant because the gospel is the means of salvation for every single person and ‘God commands all people everywhere to repent’ (Acts 17:30-31).
3. Be aware that you have a role to play because the message is always delivered in a context. The relationship between the people who are listening is significant. In a very encouraging article about how sceptics have come to Christ, the number one influence was having a close relationship with a Christian who was patient and open with them (J. Harmon, worldviewbulletin.substack.com/p/what-ilearned- from-100-atheists) The New Testament exhorts Christians to live a life/walk in a manner worthy of the gospel (eg: 1 Thess. 2:11, Titus 2:11- 14, Eph. 4:1) speaking and walking in love (Eph. 4:15, 5:2), being wise (Eph. 5:10), pleasing to God and bearing fruit (Col. 1:10). Our friends and family see how we live, and they will have questions for us. It is up to us to be ready to answer them.
As for our actions, there are 6 ‘P’ things to do – two before the event and four at the event.
1. Pray. We know it is a spiritual act to be reconciled to God, to no longer be alienated and hostile to Him (Col 1: 21-22), and to be brought out from the power of the evil one (1 John 5:19-20). Not many come to Christ in one hearing of the gospel. God often draws people to himself over a long time. This event may be one of many things God is using to awaken people. We need to remember it is the work of the Holy Spirit to convict of sin (John 16:8) and that God will open hearts for people to pay attention and believe (as happened to Lydia in Acts 16) so we ask God to do just that.
2. Practice gospel speech. At the event the speaker is going to assume that believers will continue talking about the gospel issues, but often our church people are not ready or keen to do that! A bit of forethought and training does not go astray. A church which has learnt to love and speak gospel truths to one another is going to find it a lot easier to include the outsider in that sort of conversation. We have found it particularly effective at our church to model and expect that parishioners will talk about the sermon after the service and enquire after each other’s spiritual well-being. We also have open mic times of praise for answered prayer. Peter tells us to be prepared to give an answer for the hope that we have (1Peter 3:14-15) so we need to practice. To that end, running a course or including role playing (maybe during Bible Study) where the congregants are engaged in turning conversations to Jesus is very effective. There are a variety of courses around and you can visit the Evangelism and New Churches website to find out more. (encministries.org.au)
At the event:
1. Pay attention to what is said. For a lot of us we can tune out when we listen to a talk at an event, or we tune in to the illustration and miss the point. Try putting yourself in the shoes of the outsider. Listen so that you are internally asking questions of what is said and make a mental note of something that would be a good springboard for conversation.
2. Politely engage in conversation. We are not there to verbally pound people into submission. We want to be respectful and loving, having our conversation full of grace, seasoned with salt so that we can discern how to answer people when they have questions (Col 4: 5-6).
3. Prompt conversation by asking good questions! If you look at how Jesus engaged with people, he spent a lot of time asking them questions. Questions show that you are interested in others. They also allow people to gather their thoughts and provide the space to deal with spiritual things. After all, those invited guests know they’ve come to a Christian event. They know these kinds of topics are on the table. If you apply the above you can ask: ‘I thought it was interesting how the speaker said that the world’s complexity points to God, what were your thoughts on that?’
4. And lastly, prove that what was said out the front is true in your experience. Your ‘story’ is powerful. You are living proof that what the speaker said is true. Find ways to declare God’s excellencies to those around you (1 Peter 2:9-12) so that they know the gospel is transformational knowledge. I find that people gifted in evangelism have no trouble with this part (or any of the others actually!). They delight in telling others about how God has worked in their life. However, for your ‘average’ (especially Anglo) Christian speaking up about the goodness of God to them in salvation does not come as easily. This is where ‘God talk’ is good to model and teach (see point 2 Practice Gospel Speech) so that we are ready to be engaged in it with outsiders.
Sarah Seabrook is a Trainer and Evangelist at Evangelism and New Churches (ENC) in Sydney.
Reflections on the Evangelistic Opportunities of a School Chaplain
- Written by: Louise Davies
I have been a School Chaplain for almost 9 years and am currently working at the New England Girls’ School (NEGS) in Armidale NSW. NEGS is both a day and boarding school, so the evangelistic opportunities I have do not end when the bell rings at the end of the day. They continue as I support and cheer on students at their weekend sporting events, taking students to Youth Group on a Friday night, or simply walking around the school grounds after school with my 2 dogs beside me allowing boarders to love them as they miss their own dogs back home. The role of a chaplain is wide and varied, and the evangelistic opportunities are endless.
I work in both the Junior and Senior School (Pre-K – Year 12) alongside staff, students, and families from a range of backgrounds and religions. Each week I teach Christian Studies to every student from Pre-K to Year 10, run independent chapel services and lunchtime groups for both the junior and senior students, and provide pastoral care to students, staff, and families.
I thought the best way to provide a glimpse into the daily opportunities I have is to detail for you two examples of interactions I have had.
Emma* is a year 7 student who showed enthusiasm and a keenness to learn from day 1. Emma: I believe in God, and I believe that Jesus is God, but how can He be both God’s son and God at the same time?
Me: What a brilliant question! Everyone grab a Bible from the shelf. I want this side of the room to read this passage from Genesis 1, and this side of the room to read this passage from John 1.
(What followed was a discussion where the students were able to compare the passages and see how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit were there at the beginning of the world, and how the Word that John speaks about is actually Jesus.)
Kirrily*: I think my scripture teacher showed me a diagram for this. Can I draw it on the board? (Student then draws a diagram which gives the students a visual prompt as they begin to understand the complexities of the trinity.)
This interaction was in just my second lesson with them, and each lesson since has been an absolute joy. They do not all believe in God, however they are all respectful, inquisitive and are keen to ask the questions they have and discover the answers.
The second example I will give is an interaction between myself and a Kindergarten class.
Context: In the junior school chapel we had been working through ‘The King, The Snake and The Promise’ where we see the big picture of the Bible.
Me: This story is all about what God did to fix the problem of sin. Let’s see if we can remember what we’ve been looking at in chapel, so we know where we are up to in God’s story. What is the first picture we looked at?
A range of students: from there the class then retell the story from creation to exile prompting each other as they went. They remembered every picture and used them to recall the story. I barely had to say a word to help them.
Their teacher and I looked at each other in disbelief because they had remembered so many details!
I have given you an example from both the Junior and Senior School. I did this intentionally. One of the most amazing things as a school chaplain at a Pre-K – 12 school is that there are students who remain at the same school for up to 14 years. So, they are being taught from God’s Word regularly and the chaplains can get to know them and their families.
When you see students in your class regularly each week, in chapel services, at sporting events, youth group etc., you don’t have to rush to get the message of Jesus out there thinking you will never see them again like other areas of ministry. There is time. I am a big believer in taking time to build up a positive rapport with the entire school community. This can happen over a number of years due to the nature of a school. I worked at my previous school for 8 years and was able to walk alongside families during their best days and their worst. I have rejoiced with them at the birth of a new child and mourned with them and helped with funeral arrangements at the death of a loved one. When you ‘do life’ together, the evangelistic opportunities come naturally. As a chaplain, the school community obviously know I am a Christian, they know I am there to teach students about Jesus, but I also hope they see my role as more than that. I am there to love and support staff, families and students day to day. Whether that is assisting a teacher for an hour or two if their class is unsettled, going to the Junior School Disco dressed up as a Disco Pelican (true story) to be an extra set of eyes for supervision, or cheering on students at the weekend sports. It is through these everyday things that the school gets to know me, and I them. When that evangelistic opportunity comes, either formally in a chapel service or informally during a discussion at recess, they tend to listen because they know there is trust there, not judgment. There is a relationship that has been built to support what can sometimes be a hard thing to hear.
I could write forever about all the joys as a chaplain, but there are of course challenges too. Students who have no interest in what I’m teaching, the emotional toll of often discussing hard topics and being asked the big questions, seeing students finish school without putting their trust in Jesus. However, the one thing that keeps me going (besides the support of many teachers and families) is knowing this isn’t my work, but God’s. I’m simply the vessel. I do not know what God has planned for the students in my care, but my prayer that I often pray at the beginning of each day on my way to school, is this:
I pray that on that final day when You return or call us home, many of my students, staff, and families, both past and present, will be rejoicing with me together in heaven. And may my work be done for Your glory.
*Names have been changed for confidentiality.
Lou Davies is the Chaplain of New England Girls’ School (NEGS) in Armidale NSW.
Book Review: Hire Right, First Time
- Written by: Paul Arnott
Hire Right, First Time
Peter Corney and Ken Byrne
Reviewed by Paul Arnott
Reading Hire Right, First Time I’m discovering how many things I could have done better when hiring staff. While I am among those who wrote a commendation for this book, I will do my best to review it fairly. Hiring staff is one of the most difficult things any organisation can do. There are many pitfalls, as Corney and Byrne point out, not the least of which is that you don’t know who you’ve got until you’ve had them for six months. By then the probationary period is over and if you’ve made a mistake, it’s too late, which is why it’s so important to do all you can to get it right in the first place. The book is A Practical Guide for Staffing Christian Organisations, which means the process is potentially even more fraught, because of the values of Christian organisations. Corney and Byrne suggest that Christian organisations are by their nature tolerant: “The wish to extend God’s grace in Word and Deed is a deeply held value of the Gospel that can overshadow a hiring agency’s obligations to their existing clients and staff. The desire to do good can lead us to be short-sighted in assessing the risk that goes with a poor hiring choice.” The first chapter of Hire Right, First Time unpacks the many pitfalls of hiring for a Christian organisation. Chapter 2 highlights the importance of writing a position description, which accurately spells out what the job is designed to achieve. Chapter three details how to create what it calls “a compelling attraction strategy.” It isn’t enough to write a great position description, but also an ad that attracts people to the role.
One of the book’s most valuable ideas is contained in chapter 4 – the importance of a structured selection system. The system is a well-thought-out, clearly defined process that all applicants must complete. Chapters 5 and 7 highlight the importance of the interview, especially the role of really listening. Chapter 6 explains how to discover the beliefs and values of the candidate. Chapter 8 details how to do reference checks well and suggests they are often done poorly. Chapter 9 highlights the crucial importance of intuition in the hiring process. Chapter 10 explains how to make the final decision. The next two chapters detail how to keep your best staff and how to dismiss staff. The final chapter reveals how to detect candidates that have a history of child abuse. The book lives up to its claim to be a guide for staffing, as each chapter concludes with extremely practical, commonsense checklists to ensure the ground has been fully covered. Another rich resource is a comprehensive, free, downloadable User Guide. Hire Right, First Time is a potential goldmine for Christian organisations when hiring staff, indeed for any organisation seeking to hire right the first time.
Paul Arnott is the Executive Director of CMA’s Q4: Rethinking Retirement.
Originally published in The Melbourne Anglican in March 2023.
Book Review: Keeping Faith
- Written by: Stephen Hale
Keeping Faith: How Christian Organisations can stay true to the way of Jesus
Stephen Judd, John Swinton, Kara Martin
Acorn Press, 2023
Reviewed by Stephen Hale
This recently published book is an excellent resource for any who lead or serve on the Board of a Christian not for profit organisation or entity. The book is only 140 pages, but it is remarkably comprehensive and covers most of the ground you would want it to cover.
We all know of the organisations that started off Christian and are now very distant from the founding vision. So how do we ensure that doesn’t happen again? And even if you want to remain Christian, what does that mean and how do you make it a reality. None of these are easy questions to answer and the authors offer a very healthy perspective on what this might mean. This is especially important in the Australian context where a surprisingly large percentage of children go to faith-based schools and much of the welfare that governments fund is delivered by faith based organisations.
If you’re a Board member at some point you will be dealing with most of the issues covered in the book. At some point you with have to appoint a CEO and that will have significant on-going implications for the values of the organisation and whether it can stay true to the way of Jesus. A good friend of mine had a key role in a large health organisation which had thousands of staff. She worked with the Board to ensure that there was annual training for all staff (most of whom were not church goers) to enable alignment between their values and their practices. The outcomes were remarkable.
I strongly commend this book. It should be read and studied by all Board members as well key staff teams. It is a very useful resource to think thorough the hard questions that will enable the organisation to stay true to the way of Jesus. The book is thoughtful and challenging but also remarkably practical.
Bishop Stephen Hale is the Acting Vicar of St Mark’s Camberwell and Chair of EFAC Australia and EFAC Global
Global Implications from Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1:10
- Written by: Bishop Keith Sinclair
Global Implications from Lambeth 1998 Resolution 1:10 and Actions Since
This is an abridged version of the address given by Bishop Keith on Tuesday 18th April at GAFCON 4 in Kigali, Rwanda.
Let me begin with the global implications of Resolution 1:10 from Lambeth 1998.
It is important to remember that 1998 was the last time all the Bishops of the Anglican Communion met together as one body to take counsel together. They followed the pattern of earlier conferences, praying under the word of God and sought to express the mind of the whole Anglican Communion, as part of the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church.
In Resolution 1:10 they sought to express that mind in relation to human sexuality. The whole resolution was passed overwhelmingly by 526 to 70. Given the overwhelming numbers and the clear summary of the teaching of Scripture, there might have been reason for confidence that this Resolution would now shape the life of the whole Anglican Communion. The main reason for confidence, however, was that 1:10 did no more and no less than attempt to faithfully summarise the teaching of scripture in relation to human sexuality.
It spelt out;
- In view of the teaching of Scripture (the basis of all that follows), upholding faithfulness in marriage between a man and a woman in lifelong union, believing that abstinence is right for those not called to marriage.
- What biblical holiness meant especially for those ordained and the authorised prayer ministry of the Church;
- It said we “cannot advise the legitimising or blessing of same sex unions nor ordaining those involved in same gender unions”;
- It recognised and committed the whole Church to “recognise(s) that there are among us persons who experience themselves as having a homosexual orientation” and “to listen to the experience of homosexual persons;
- The bishops wished to assure these people “that they are loved by God and that all baptised, believing and faithful persons, regardless of sexual orientation, are full members of the Body of Christ” AND
- And “while rejecting homosexual practice as incompatible with Scripture”, they called, “on all our people to minister pastorally and sensitively to all irrespective of sexual orientation and to condemn irrational fear of homosexuals, violence within marriage and any trivialisation and commercialisation of sex”.
These were bold statements even then, and rightly based on Scripture and the gospel. They called the church to be full of truth and grace built on the word of God.
The resolution in the matter of human sexuality was calling the whole church to the obedience of the whole gospel as revealed in the whole of scripture for the blessing of the whole world.
Brothers and Sisters if we are to commend this Resolution today as expressing the truth and grace of God in the Bible, as I hope we will, let us commit to fully live this truth and grace ourselves wherever we live and whatever our cultural context, acknowledging humbly our own sin, even as we call upon the whole Anglican Communion to live fully in this grace and truth now.
COUNTER CULTURAL CALL
I hope you will agree that Resolution 1:10 gives expression to the call of Romans 12:1-3 in relation to our obedience of faith in matters of human sexuality. All of us are called to remain faithful to the gospel and the word of God.
All of us may find that difficult in different ways according to our own culture.
Different parts of Lambeth 1.10 will challenge our different cultures in different ways, sometimes in difficult ways, but that is what will happen when we do not conform to this world but allow the Spirit of God to transform us by the renewing of our mind.
At all times and in all places we will find we have to be countercultural, including in relation to sexuality.
As we are faithful and where necessary counter-cultural as Lambeth 1:10 invites us following on from Romans 12, then we can by the grace of God transform our own culture.
But faithfulness and cultural transformation is not what happened after Lambeth 1998.
We have heard already of the reaction to this resolution in North America and the consequences in relation to the Instruments of Unity, the Archbishop of Canterbury, the admonishing response of the Global South, and the creation of GAFCON. We have heard of the necessity of drafting and approving the Jerusalem Declaration in 2008.
The well-known words of the Primates meeting of 2003 bear repeating, not least in considering the recent decision of the General Synod of the C of E, 20 years later, and the Lambeth Conference in 2022, when there were for the first time ever in the history of the Anglican Communion bishops present in same sex unions.
This was the Primates in 2003 in response to the consecration of one bishop and the blessing of same sex unions then “At this time we feel the profound pain and uncertainty shared by others about our Christian discipleship in the light of controversial decisions … to authorise a Public Rite of Blessing for those in committed same sex relationships, and by the 74th General Convention of the Episcopal Church (USA) to confirm the election of a priest in a committed same sex relationship to the office and work of a Bishop.”
And then “If his consecration proceeds, we recognise that we have reached a crucial and critical point in the life of the Anglican Communion and we have had to conclude that the future of the Communion itself will be put in jeopardy. This will tear the fabric of our Communion at its deepest level.”
We appear to be in a place where the Church of England is now proposing to do on the recommendation of the English House of Bishops and the Archbishop of Canterbury what the Primates said in 2003 should not be done.
INSTRUMENTS OF UNITY TO 2008?
Before we consider briefly what has happened now in the Church of England, it is worth asking ourselves how throughout the intervening period the so called instruments of unity have tried to find a way to repair this tear. Has there been an attempt to find a way to walk apart given that the divisions on both sides recognise this as not being adiaphora?
It soon became clear in North America before and after the consecration of Gene Robinson, that those arguing for a change in the doctrine and practise of the Anglican Communion believe this to be a matter of justice, invoking all the prophetic words on the subject in scripture in support. Those Provinces following TEC and the Anglican Church of Canada, in New Zealand, Brazil, Scotland, Wales have rejected Lambeth 1:10, and declared that the blessing of same sex unions is not contrary to the teaching of Scripture and those in such unions may be ordained and consecrated as Bishops.
A Commission was established in October 2003 by the Archbishop of Canterbury at the request of the Anglican Primates. As we now face the continuing consequences some of the Commissions’ comments still make for salutary reading; it said in 2004 “However, if realistic and visionary ways cannot be agreed to meet the levels of disagreement at present or to reach consensus on structures for encouraging greater understanding and communion in future it is doubtful if the Anglican Communion can continue in its present form.”
“Should the call to halt and find ways of continuing in our present communion not be heeded, then we shall have to begin to learn to walk apart.”
But these words were not heeded; the moral authority of Resolution 1:10 was not recognised and the tear worsened.
INSTRUMENTS OF UNITY 2008 TO LAMBETH 2022
What I find extraordinary is that since that time, nearly 20 years ago now, and with another Lambeth Conference in view (even delayed by the pandemic) there has not been another attempt made to repair the tear, no intra Provincial commissions to find a way forward even if it means finding a way to walk apart. Rather after the Primates Meeting in 2016 the Archbishop of Canterbury appealed to “good disagreement” which seemed to mean that both these convictions about the “teaching of scripture” could be permitted within the Anglican Communion without any decision being made between them. This view became explicit during the Lambeth Conference 2022. A call to reaffirm Resolution 1:10 seems to have been introduced into the Call on Human Dignity (at the last minute) only to be hastily withdrawn after protest.
Here is John Stott in his book “Same Sex Relationships” quoting Wolfhart Pannenberg (Professor of Theology at Munich) with approval “The biblical assessments of homosexual practise are unambiguous in their rejection!” He (Pannenberg) therefore concludes that a church which were to recognise same sex unions as equivalent to marriage “would cease to be the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church”.
For a tremendous assessment of the Lambeth Conference 2022, please see the superb Communique from the Global South and its reaffirmation of Lambeth 1:10 in its entirety, its call for a resetting of the Anglican Communion and its call for visible differentiation from those Provinces which have impaired communion by departing from the biblical faith.
CHURCH OF ENGLAND
What of the Church of England?
It seems that what was permitted at Lambeth 2022 is now being promoted within the Church of England. The plea for unity is made constantly without regard for the truth which is at the heart of Resolution 1:10, the teaching of scripture.
There are however still many orthodox and evangelical voices in the Church of England who uphold that truth and have not accepted the claim that unity can be divorced from it.
The church which God used to bring the gospel to so many parts of the world because of her faith in that scriptural revelation, now seems to have succumbed to the very cultural captivity it appealed to so many to renounce.
Formally it remains to be seen how the Bishops’ will respond to what has been said globally and in England. At the Lambeth Conference 2022 the Archbishop said “the validity of the resolution passed at the Lambeth Conference 1998, 1:10 is not in doubt and that whole resolution is still in existence.” The question on the lips of many in England and around the world is “valid to whom”? If this is still true, then surely the revised prayers and guidance which the Bishop’s will bring to Synod, must explicitly demonstrate they are within Resolution 1:10, which must mean there can be no blessings of sexual relationships outside heterosexual marriage. We are praying that the Archbishops and Bishops will draw back.
We await the final proposals, pastoral guidance and prayers in July or later this year. We are told that what is proposed is not a departure from the doctrine of the Church of England. The General Synod have required the Bishop’s to ensure that this is the case.
Let me finish with words from the prophet Jeremiah who has become a bit of a familiar friend over these last years. These words became something of a watchword for Bishop JC Ryle first Bishop of Liverpool. I am sure he would echo them now in relation to the Church of England and the whole Anglican Communion
Thus says the Lord: Stand at the crossroads and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way lies; and walk in it and find rest for your souls.
Bishop Keith Sinclair has just finished up as the National Director of the Church of England Evangelical Council and is an EFAC Global Trustee and retired Bishop of Birkenhead.
The Bishop as Preacher
- Written by: Paul Barker
I preach every week, often more than once, and it takes me over 18 months to get to every one of my 82 parishes. Preaching is a highlight of my week, something that energises me and challenges me. I try hard to fit the expectation of length of sermon (between 12 and 35 minutes) and I have enjoyed the challenge of preaching shorter than I used to. I now use a stopwatch when I preach as it helps me keep to time better.
Maybe 60% of my parishes use the lectionary readings, which I fit into, preaching just one of the readings rather than something on them all. The remaining parishes are roughly split between asking me to fit into a sermon series or I have free choice.
My aim has been to write twelve new sermons a year, a low bar but the extreme busyness of the role, plus the ability to reuse older sermons, means I do not always succeed even to achieve this goal. In reusing older sermons, apart from adjusting the length of the sermon, I am trying to reshape the introduction and application to be more relevant to this particular congregation.
WHAT I MISS FROM BEING A VICAR
I have been an itinerant preacher for almost fourteen years, the last 6.5 as a bishop. I still miss two key things. Preaching to people I know. I always want to preach with love, and that was easier with people I pastored week by week. In addition, preaching to people I knew meant I could be more accurate and deeper in application.
I also miss preaching a series, building week by week through a portion of scripture. Each sermon now for me is very much standalone, and to a different congregation week by week. I miss the personal growth from working through some consecutive portions of scripture. I miss the more frequent opportunities to preach from the Old Testament. I have tried to create a few opportunities for additional preaching, with Lenten series on Sunday or midweek nights, a winter midweek Old Testament series, and the occasional camp or conference.
Being itinerant has advantages but also challenges. I am more explicit about Christ, especially in Old Testament passages. When I was a Vicar preaching a series, I could hint and suggest, I could anticipate the next week and build up to a series climax. Now, in standalone sermons, I have to be more explicit and make sure people see where the passage fits and leads to.
Being itinerant means that when preaching on a passage that has developed from earlier passages, I often have to do more unpacking of those earlier passages as I cannot always assume people see the passage in its literary context.
The other challenge is not knowing my people well. At least as bishop I return after a couple of years and get to the know the parishes gradually. However inevitably the application is broader and perhaps weaker. I rest comfortably with that, because I see other priorities in my preaching, which I come to below.
When I was consecrated, I pledged to ‘maintain the Church’s witness to the resurrection of Christ from the dead, to protect the purity of the gospel, and to proclaim Jesus as Lord’. I take this seriously. My priority in preaching whichever passage in whatever church is to do exactly this.
I want people to have confidence in the gospel and an enduring commitment to Jesus. Many in our churches are uncertain in faith, inarticulate in theology and wearied in discipleship. In a societal environment increasingly hostile to Christianity, and in a global church environment that is conflicted on doctrine, I want above all to affirm Jesus, his sufficiency for salvation and his cosmic Lordship. By and large I do not seek to do that combatively or adversarially. Lifting up the glorious gospel of grace, highlighting the splendour of Jesus, in as compelling and attractive way as I can, is confidence-building, comforting and, I hope, convincing. It is what our church needs.
I stick to one Bible passage. Indeed I always have done. When I have taught preaching, I have argued that using other biblical references should only be for adding clarity or conviction. But I also stick to one text because I believe that people need confidence to read the Bible.
Cross-references, including floating through three or four lectionary readings, can erode confidence, as most people feel inadequate jumping round scripture. But as people see one passage opened up, being shown what is simply there, then my prayer is that they begin to see that the Bible is comprehensible.
I do not use my Sunday preaching in parishes to be about pragmatic issues or ministry, compliance, governance, mission action plans or diocesan priorities. They are primarily for preaching scripture, bearing witness to the risen Jesus that people may be drawn to him in faith, love, discipleship and witness, for his glory.
Bishop Paul Barker
Assistant Bishop, Diocese of Melbourne.